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  • Right-wing pundit and congressional candidate Seth Grossman posted bigoted commentaries about Black and Muslim people

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Seth Grossman, a Republican pundit who is running for Congress, repeatedly posted bigoted commentaries about Black and Muslim people online. Grossman claimed he knew “of many Africans who wish their ancestors had been taken to America as slaves,” promoted an anti-Black piece on a white nationalist website, and called Islam “a cancer" that has "already infected a billion people."

    Grossman is a lawyer who has also been a radio host and a newspaper columnist. He heads the nonprofit organization Liberty and Prosperity 1776 Inc. and writes commentaries on its website. Grossman won the Republican nomination for New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District on June 5.

    The Republican commentator has been under scrutiny this week because of recently released remarks he made at an April forum in which he said, “The whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American.” That remark was captured by American Bridge 21st Century PAC (American Bridge founder David Brock is also the founder of Media Matters).

    Before he started running for Congress, Grossman also frequently posted bigoted and racist remarks about Black and Muslim people in commentary pieces and on social media, according to a Media Matters review. Here are numerous examples:

    “Blacks were not enslaved by whites. They were enslaved by other blacks and then sold to whites. … I do know of many Africans who wish their ancestors had been taken to America as slaves.” From a March 7, 2017, post on Grossman’s Facebook page:

    Fifty years of welfare programs, public and college ‘education’, and media and Hollywood pop culture run by ‘progressive’ Democrats did far more long term damage to blacks in America than 230 years of slavery.” From a July 17, 2016, post on Grossman’s Facebook page:


    “Democrats today constantly talk of wrongs done by some whites to some blacks more than a hundred years ago. The purpose is for blacks to blame whites for their problems instead of the liberal officials and policies that are truly responsible.” From an April 4, 2012, piece by Grossman in the Current and Gazette newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May counties, which was also posted on libertyandprosperity.com:

    As I got older, I paid attention to the conversations of the adults at the Passover dinner. My grandmother was always amazed at how much our family enjoyed both holidays, and how lucky we were to live in America.

    In bits and pieces I learned how my experiences with these holidays were so different from hers. To my grandmother who lived in Moldavia, a Romanian-speaking province in the old Russian Empire, Passover and Easter were holidays of fear and death.

    There was no First Amendment in Russia. The government and the churches were run by a dictator called the Czar. His officials used the churches to get people angry at Jews, rather than the corruption and incompetence of the government.

    What they did was like how Democrats today constantly talk of wrongs done by some whites to some blacks more than a hundred years ago. The purpose is for blacks to blame whites for their problems instead of the liberal officials and policies that are truly responsible.

    Grossman promoted a piece from a white nationalist site that claimed Black people “are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike.” On December 30, 2014, Grossman posted a link to a piece on the white nationalist website American Renaissance. The piece’s author wrote that he is “a public defender in a large southern metropolitan area” and his “experience” has taught him “that blacks are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike.”

    “Islam has nothing in common with other modern world religions like Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, or Hinduism.” Grossman wrote a July 18, 2016, piece on libertyandprosperity.com that purported to explain why Muslims “attack and kill us” by listing “12 simple facts about Islam.”

    Grossman’s list including virulently anti-Muslim claims, including that the religion has “nothing in common with other modern world religions”; “Islam is stuck in the barbaric, cut-throat world of Arabia 1,400 years ago”; and “Good Muslims who believe and support these principles of Islam cannot be good Americans. Only ‘bad’ Muslims who reject their religion can be good Americans.”

    "Islam is a cancer. The fact that it already infected a billion people is even more reason to fight it every way we can.” From a March 27, 2016, post on Grossman’s Facebook page:

    “Why are we inviting thousands of Muslim immigrants to our towns and neighborhoods when we are in the middle of a war with Islam?” From a February 28, 2015, post on Grossman’s Facebook page:


    Grossman shared a graphic that attacked then-President Barack Obama for having “flooded our cities with Muslims.” From a January 10, 2016, post on Grossman’s Facebook page:

  • Trump's newest national security staffer spread anti-Muslim sentiments and wrote that Bush was vindicated about Iraq having WMD

    John Bolton hired Fred Fleitz at the NSC. Here's what you need to know about him.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fred Fleitz, the new chief of staff for national security advisor John Bolton, comes from an anti-Muslim hate group and has fearmongered about Muslims during his numerous appearances on right-wing media outlets. He also repeatedly questioned the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to support Donald Trump and claimed former President George W. Bush was vindicated in his lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

    Fleitz worked as Bolton’s chief of staff when Bolton was serving as undersecretary of state during the George W. Bush administration, and he was a CIA analyst prior to that. But more recently, Fleitz was a senior vice president at the right-wing Center for Security Policy, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designated an anti-Muslim hate group in 2015, describing it as “a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States.”

    Fleitz is in good company with Bolton, who chaired the Gatestone Institute -- which NBC News described as “a nonprofit that has promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news” -- from 2013 till March of this year, just before Trump appointed him as national security adviser.

    In a December 2015 Fox News appearance, Fleitz echoed a baseless right-wing media narrative that neighbors of the terrorists who shot and killed 14 people and wounded numerous others in San Bernardino, CA, saw suspicious activity by the shooters but didn’t alert law enforcement over fears of “racial profiling,” saying, “If someone had spoken up and said they saw this suspicious activity, … 14 people would be alive today.” During a March 2016 appearance on Fox, Fleitz helped host Neil Cavuto push the debunked right-wing myth of Muslim “no-go zones,” referring to them as “safe havens in Europe.”

    And in a June 2017 Breitbart News Daily radio appearance, Fleitz fearmongered about Muslims in the United Kingdom, saying some communities of British Muslims “are deliberately not assimilating, are being taught to hate British society,” and claimed, “We may have generations of radical Islamists in the U.K., until the British government wakes up and stops the situation.” Fleitz also said that “there are enclaves of Muslim communities in Michigan and Minnesota that concern me,” blaming them for a measles outbreak in Minnesota that year. Conspiracy theory website WND (formerly known as WorldNetDaily) had previously pushed this smear, blaming the low rate of immunizations of Somali Muslims in the area on the Quran. But The Independent explained that the Somali Americans in Minnesota used to vaccinate their children more than other Minnesotans” until the mid-2000s, when the rate began dropping because anti-vaccine activists repeatedly visited the area to convince the community of the debunked claim that vaccines can cause autism.

    Fleitz’s public anti-Muslim attitude and his senior position in a hate group aren’t the only problems with his appointment to the National Security Council. In several op-eds posted to right-wing media websites, Fleitz repeatedly questioned the intelligence community assessment from early 2017 that Russia meddled in the presidential election to help Trump -- an assessment recently backed up by the Senate intelligence committee -- calling it “rigged” and a “politicized analysis to sabotage an incoming president from a different political party.” Fleitz also said in a December Fox Business appearance that “the collusion thing” between Trump’s team and Russia “is just such nonsense,” citing the Trump administration’s sale of arms to Ukraine as proof.

    Fleitz also incorrectly argued in an October 2014 column on the Center for Security Policy’s website that a New York Times report on old chemical weapons found in Iraq proved that Bush was right about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:

    Revelations last week by the New York Times that U.S. troops found chemical weapons in Iraq – about 5,000 CW warheads, shells and aviation bombs – but the size of this find and injuries from these weapons to American soldiers were covered up by the Bush administration has caused experts on both sides of the political spectrum to scramble to answer one question: does this prove President Bush was right that there were undeclared weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the 2003 war?

    I believe the answer to this question clearly is yes.

    Others in right-wing media also spread this fantasy. But as the Times article noted, “the discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale,” because they had all been manufactured prior to 1991 and were “filthy, rusty or corroded,” thus not backing up Bush’s claim that Iraq “was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program.” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker also explained that the Bush administration “staked its WMD claims on an active, on-going program that was restarted after the Kuwait conflict," and stated: “Anyone who claims that the New York Times story vindicates George W. Bush-era claims of Iraq WMD automatically earns Four Pinocchios.”

  • Get a load of this wild Sinclair town hall discussion on “youth & morality” 

    Sinclair says such discussions are a “significant public interest benefit” for stations it buys

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Last night, Sinclair Broadcast Group station WJLA hosted a “town hall” discussion on "youth & morality" featuring morally bankrupt media personality Armstrong Williams, young conservative talking heads Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, a campus carry activist, and a Daily Caller reporter (among others) -- and Sinclair wants you to believe it’s for the public good.

    The town hall was branded as both an episode of Sinclair-linked commentator Armstrong Williams’ show and a part of Sinclair’s ongoing town hall discussion series. The town hall does not appear to have yet aired on WJLA and it’s not clear if it has aired or will air on the WJLA-operated local Washington, D.C., cable channel News Channel 8, but it’s posted in full on WJLA’s website.

    Sinclair touts its “Your Voice, Your Future” local town halls as a public service and an opportunity to “alert, inform, empower and engage our audience.” Here’s a quick clip to give you an idea of how that went:

    For this event, “morality” actually meant Christianity specifically

    Though the panel was titled “Youth & Morality,” it was advertised as largely focusing on one study that showed dwindling millennial identification with Christianity, which WJLA characterized as a sign of “unprecedented moral decline.” The panel discussion was filmed at the Museum of the Bible.  

    Two minutes into the town hall, host Armstrong Williams asked the audience to raise their hands if they believe in God. (Williams also asked for audience members to raise their hands if they were atheist; one person did and panelists grimaced.) Williams’ first question for the panelists followed from there: “Can you be moral and good and not believe in God?” (Most of the panelists agreed that it was possible but not as easy.) Within eight minutes, panelists were equating “objective truth” with a belief in a Christian god and arguing that the inability to identify objective truths was “cultural Marxist.”

    At one point during a commercial break, Williams can be heard joking on a live mic, “Don’t fall asleep on me!” The panel returned from that break to listen to Charlie Kirk talk about “the distinction between Christianity and other religions.”  

    The “morality” panel was hosted by the notoriously morally challenged Armstrong Williams

    The town hall was hosted by conservative pundit Armstrong Williams, who has significant ties to Sinclair. Williams hosts a weekly show that airs on the Sinclair-owned News Channel 8 in the D.C. area and is syndicated on other Sinclair local TV stations across the country. Williams also owns several local TV stations through his holding company, Howard Stirk Holdings, which in turn sends business back to Sinclair through operations agreements.

    Williams is a close confidante of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson, even doing public relations work on behalf of Carson while continuing to also work as a media figure. (He also served as a Carson presidential campaign adviser while maintaining his weekly hosting duties.) Recently, Williams has aligned himself with other members of the Trump administration, joining Sinclair CEO David Smith in meeting with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai -- who was then a commissioner -- to advocate for pro-industry policies the day before Trump’s inauguration. About two months later, Williams hosted Pai on his show for a friendly interview.

    Back in 2005, Williams used an earlier version of his syndicated show to promote Bush administration education policies, failing to note he was paid $240,000 by the administration to do so. The Government Accountability Office subsequently found that the Bush Department of Education had violated federal laws about covert government propaganda by paying Williams for the promotion.

    Williams has also settled at least two sexual harassment suits -- one in 1997 involving reports that he “repeatedly kissed and fondled” a former producer for his now-defunct radio show over the course of nearly two years, and another in 2017 alleging that he groped and sought sexual favors from a former employee and later retaliated against the man.

    During the panel, Williams talked about his daily prayer routine and decision not to “use profane language” at work because he is the “moral leader” in his office.

    Several participants also seem to struggle with morals

    The panel featured eight participants in addition to Williams, the majority of whom were young conservative media figures who fall at various points on the spectrum from extreme or blatantly racist to embarrassing or just boring.

    TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens both participated in parts of the town hall. Frequent Fox News guest and conservative “boy wonder” Kirk is the founder of TPUSA, a group best known for a misguided 2017 protest in which its members wore adult diapers to “trigger the libs,” but whose stated mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Kirk, Owens, and TPUSA frequently fearmonger about suppression of conservative speech on college campuses while themselves leading a McCarthyist doxxing effort against liberal professors. Meanwhile, TPUSA has defended at least one professor with ties to a white nationalist group and several of its leading members have been outed for expressing patently racist sentiments, e.g. the group’s former national field director making the statement “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE.”

    Owens, TPUSA’s communications director, is another Fox News regular and “a far-right vlogger and conspiracy theorist” who has lately garnered media attention after rapper Kanye West praised “the way Candace Owens thinks.” Owens gained attention from far-right MAGA trolls after she posted a video in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville, VA, “Unite the Right” rally in which she dismissed white supremacy as a narrative pushed by the media, leading to her appearance on conspiracy theory outlet Infowars. Owens has also called for all DREAMers to be deported and has argued that immigrants directly harm the black community.

    During the town hall discussion, Owens lamented that conservatives were allowing themselves to be “silenced by liberal outrage” and said that younger conservatives and Christians ought to “punch back.”

    The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey also participated in the discussion. The Daily Caller is Tucker Carlson’s sexist and racist brainchild, which frequently dabbles in anti-Semitism, anti-trans rhetoric, far-right conspiracy theories, and celebrity bikini photo slideshows, and makes light of sexual assault. Athey herself has tweeted anti-Semitic jokes, and repeatedly used the slurs “fag” and ”faggot,” and, in one case, “nigga$.” (Athey has since deleted the tweets, but they are available via archive.is.)

    During the town hall discussion, Athey complained, “There are a lot of ideas on college campuses that -- if they’re conservative or they’re religious, they’re considered taboo and you’re not allowed to say it. Otherwise you’re considered a bigot.”  

    Town hall participant Antonia Okafor describes herself as “one of the country’s foremost advocates of concealed carry on campus” and has previously appeared in NRA media. Okafor makes regular media appearances pushing NRA-backed myths about campus carry, arguing that carrying concealed firearms would make young black women safer. In reality, the presence of firearms in domestic violence situations, for example, puts women’s lives -- and especially black women’s lives -- at significantly greater risk. And household gun ownership in general only increases the risk of death due to homicide, suicide, or accident; Okafor’s agenda would put women in greater danger.

    Rounding out the participant list are right-wing media figures Jason Russell, an editor at the conservative Washington Examiner, and Shermichael Singleton, an aspiring conservative pundit who briefly worked at Carson’s HUD before he was fired for anti-Trump writings. Preacher and lobbyist Quadricos Driskell and American Legislative Exchange Council-affiliated conservative attorney Shelby Emmett also participated.

    Sinclair cites town halls like this as evidence its expansion would benefit the public

    Sinclair has used its “Your Voice, Your Future” town halls -- also the platform former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka used to decry “black African gun crime” last fall -- to argue that Sinclair-owned and -operated local TV stations are providing greater services to the public. In one Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing, Sinclair pointed to the discussion series as evidence that its planned acquisition of Tribune Media would create a “significant public interest benefit.”

    The FCC is currently reviewing the Sinclair-Tribune deal specifically to ensure it would benefit the public and has signaled it will make a decision following a comment period that ends on July 12.

    Eric Hananoki contributed research to this post.

  • Cable news outlets are largely ignoring Mike Pompeo’s anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ record

    While briefly mentioning these issues a few times, Fox News has never substantively discussed them

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Since President Donald Trump announced he would nominate current CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state, weekday cable news shows have virtually ignored Pompeo’s anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ history. MSNBC and CNN have made occasional note of his anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ record, but neither outlet has offered much substantive discussion of Pompeo’s bigoted views. Fox hardly mentioned Pompeo’s bigoted views and largely downplayed Democratic criticism of his record as manufactured outrage designed as an excuse to block his confirmation.

    But Pompeo’s record of espousing lies about Islam and denouncing LGBTQ rights has led some lawmakers to question whether he could credibly represent the United States as the country’s top diplomat to other nations.

    Pompeo has a cozy relationship with both renowned Islamophobe Frank Gaffney and the anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America, which awarded Pompeo its highest honor in 2016 for being “a steadfast ally.” Pompeo has also spread a number of lies about Muslims, calling them a “threat to America” and claiming that “they abhor Christians.”

    On LGBTQ rights, Pompeo has called the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage a “shocking abuse of power,” disparaged same-sex parents, attacked workplace protections and inclusion efforts for the LGBTQ community, and in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage, lamented that “we’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.” Pompeo also has ties to the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), having appeared on the group’s radio show at least six times, and has earned support from a number of other anti-LGBTQ hate groups.  

    Experts have explained that Pompeo’s views of Islam could hinder his ability to conduct diplomacy with Muslim-majority countries and even galvanize the followers of terrorist organizations. LGBTQ advocates have emphasized the secretary of state’s “crucial role” in advancing LGBTQ rights globally, noting that Pompeo’s confirmation could “result in the United States overlooking, minimizing, or ignoring even the most blatant examples of human rights abuses abroad.”

    From March 13 to April 23, Pompeo’s anti-Muslim views came up only three times on Fox News: two passing mentions on Shepard Smith Reporting and one on The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino when a guest chalked up the criticism to Democrats nit-picking in an effort to block Trump’s nomination. Comparatively, MSNBC had just eight mentions and CNN had six, the majority of which did not include details about Pompeo’s views. MSNBC aired one segment in which host Ali Velshi outlined how Pompeo has “chummed around with some very deeply anti-Muslim groups,” offering examples of Pompeo’s alarming history.

    As for Pompeo’s anti-LGBTQ record, it came up five times on Fox between March 13 and April 23, with no detailed discussion of the issue. MSNBC mentioned his anti-LGBTQ views briefly six times and discussed it at length just once in a panel. Similarly, CNN mentioned them briefly four times and held just one panel discussion that provided deeper context.

    Nearly every mention of Pompeo’s anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ views on Fox came with the suggestion that Democrats were raising the issue only to obstruct the confirmation of Trump’s nominee, a talking point that occasionally shined through on CNN as well. But Fox’s silence on Pompeo’s record was particularly jarring, with some Fox contributors using airtime to lobby senators to confirm him.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream between March 13 and April 23 for “Pompeo,” “Muslim,” “Islam,” “Frank Gaffney,” “ACT for America,” “Brigitte Gabriel,” “gay,” “LGBT,” “LGBTQ,” “homophobic,” and “same-sex” and counted all mentions of Pompeo’s anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ views on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC from 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays. 

    Brianna January contributed research to this report.

    April 24, 5:35 pm -- This post has been updated with two additional mentions.

  • Republican figures and clickbait websites have been promoting an anti-Islam fake news company on Facebook

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A Media Matters study found that Facebook pages of some mainstream conservative media outlets, Republican media figures, and even apolitical clickbait sites are part of promotional campaigns involving websites with a history of promoting anti-Islam fake news and conspiracy theories.

    Liftable Media owns three sites that have pushed anti-Islam pieces: Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal, both right-wing propaganda sites, and it’s inspiration content site Liftable.com. Media Matters tracked links from Facebook to one of the sites, Conservative Tribune, and found 74 pages posting URLs with codes indicating that the links were part of a promotional campaign seemingly coordinated with Liftable Media. They included pages for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Fox News contributor Herman Cain, former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, and conservative commentator Dick Morris, among others.

    Fifteen of the pages that posted the links were verified with blue or gray badges, meaning Facebook has verified that the page is “the authentic Page or profile for this public figure, media company or brand” (blue) or that it is “an authentic Page for this business or organization” (gray).

    Liftable Media’s websites have promoted anti-Islam fake news and conspiracy theories.

    Three of Liftable Media’s websites have spun anti-Islam conspiracy theories.

    Liftable.com, which Liftable Media describes as a site for “uplifting and inspiring stories,” has posted articles vilifying Islam as a violent religion. One article on the site claimed that “Islam has been on a bloody rampage to conquer, convert or kill the world since 620 A.D.” Another said that the Quran “orders every follower to conduct their lives with violence and brutality, butchering all who refuse to convert and comply.”

    Another Liftable Media site, The Western Journal, has attacked Muslim immigrants and Islam with articles labeled as “commentary.” The smears in these articles focus on “warning” readers that an influx of Muslim immigrants in the U.S. and Europe will lead to violent culture clashes and supporting bans against Muslim immigrants as a solution.

    The third Liftable Media site, Conservative Tribune, has the most extensive history of spreading viral fake news against Muslims. A review of data from Crowdtangle shows that the site’s anti-Islam content has generated over 1.5 million Facebook impressions. The site has falsely claimed that Sharia was being implemented in Dearborn, MI, and it pushed similar fake news claiming that Muslims were attempting to establish a Sharia court in Irving, TX. Conservative Tribune also showed support for Irving residents who deployed intimidation tactics against Muslim residents, including people armed with AR-15s who protested outside a local mosque and released the names of Muslims living in the area.

    For over a year, Conservative Tribune also pushed viral debunked conspiracy theories about Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old student from Irving who was arrested after bringing a clock to school. In multiple articles, Conservative Tribune suggested that Mohamed was a “pawn” in an orchestrated stunt that his father staged in order to make “fake” accusations of “Islamophobia.”

    The site characterized Mohamed as a “punk kid,” “liar,” “con artist,” petty miscreant,” “another Benedict Arnold,” and possible “Islamist.”

    Conservative Tribune baselessly suggested that Mohamed was involved with terrorists. One article suggested a potential connection between Mohamed and a mosque he “grew up near” in Dallas, which Conservative Tribune claimed faced allegations of terrorist financing. Another implied it was suspicious that “innocent” Mohammed was invited to visit Qatar by “an organization with strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.” Yet another said: “If you’re a terrorist, what better role model than Ahmed ‘Bomb Clock Boy’ Mohamed?”

    After Mohamed’s family filed a civil suit against the city and school district, Conservative Tribune attacked Mohamed for “stabb[ing] his school, his town and his country in the back.”

    Recently, Conservative Tribune attacked Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, saying he “cozied up to [a] terror group” just because Israel hired a member of the civil rights advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Conservative Tribune has an extensive history of smearing CAIR and falsely claiming it is a terrorist group involved with Islamic indoctrination and efforts to impose Sharia.

    Liftable Media has been expanding its presence in conservative media.

    Liftable Media is owned by Patrick Brown, whose father, Floyd Brown, founded WesternJournalism.com. Floyd Brown is a Republican consultant with a history of promoting racist conspiracy theories through political ads. According to Newsweek, Patrick runs Liftable Media’s four main websites, Conservative Tribune, The Western Journal (formerly known as Western Journalism), Liftable.com, and the sports news site The Wildcard, and Floyd, who is chairman of Liftable Media’s board of directors, helps provide funding for the company. Before starting Liftable Media in 2014, Patrick worked for an organization his faither chairs, The Western Center for Journalism (WCJ). Patrick is listed on WCJ’s site as a “trainer,” as are far-right figures James O’Keefe and Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily.

    Liftable Media has acquired various other hyperpartisan sites, including the now-inactive Tea Party News Network and USA Radio Networks (Floyd is the latter’s current CEO). Most recently, Liftable Media acquired Liberty Alliance, a media company that ran a membership network of conservative and fake news sites. In a press release on the acquisition, Liftable Media stated that Liberty Alliance would “expand Liftable Media’s reach by an additional 2 million Facebook followers.”

    There are at least 74 Facebook pages that have shared Conservative Tribune links using UTM codes between January 2018 and April 2018.

    UTM codes are parameters that can be added to a URL in order to track web traffic from a specific source on Google Analytics without changing the destination of the URL. There are four types of parameters (source, medium, content, and campaign), and labels for each parameter are customizable and trackable by whoever is running a website domain. The tool is used by companies to track the source of traffic to a specific page on their site (Facebook, Twitter, email newsletters, et cetera).

    A Media Matters study of Conservative Tribune’s Facebook traction between January 2018 and April 2018 found 74 pages posting links to conservativetribune.com that used UTM codes that included the name of the page or company behind it -- indicating someone was tracking the traffic from that page/company. Of the 74, seven pages had over 2 million page likes; 11 had between 1 and 2 million page likes; and an additional 12 had over 500,000 page likes. Thirty-eight of these pages seemed to be operated by Liftable Media, based on the UTM parameters used and the pages’ “About” sections. Many of the other 36 pages seemed to be separately operated by a combination of marketing companies, clickbait sites, and the personal pages of Republican figures including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Fox News contributor Herman Cain, former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, and conservative commentator Dick Morris.

    These are the Facebook pages sharing Conservative Tribune links with UTM codes:

    The Tea Party
    Liftable
    Conservative Tribune
    The Western Journal
    Right Wing News
    Mike Huckabee
    Ken Blackwell
    Governor Jan Brewer
    Herman Cain
    Family Research Council
    Deep 6 The Deep State with Dick Morris
    Dick Morris
    Positively Republican
    Revive America 
    Faith Family America
    TPNN
    RightAlerts.com
    Conservative 50 - Living the American Dream
    Patriot Tribune 
    ConservativeByte
    Patriot Depot
    Patriot Times
    Never Hillary
    Ted Cruz Is The Man
    Conservative Alliance
    Right Alert Polls
    Trump Truck
    Petitions to Congress
    Polls to Congress
    Patriot Update
    Team Trump
    Latino News Today
    Team Tebow
    Family First by Liftable
    Ben Carson is the Man
    Donald Trump is the Man
    Stop Hillary Clinton
    Liftable Life
    Raising Red
    Eheadlines.com
    Rebirth of Freedom
    Conservative Videos
    BuzzPo
    The Conservative Update
    Liftable Women
    The Wildcard
    The Jefferson Newsletter
    Liberty Alliance
    MinuteMen News
    No microsoft word, I didn't spell my last name wrong.
    A REAL man doesn't love million girls He loves one girl in million ways
    United States Constitution
    Rep. Trey Gowdy for Speaker of the House
    Vision to America
    Obama Makes Me Puke
    iPatriot
    Godfather Politics
    President Donald J Trump
    Obama Is Officially The Worst President In American History
    Freedom Force
    Home Defense Gun
    Conservative Republicans of Texas
    Political Outcast
    Patriot Journal
    The Blacksphere
    Rodney Lee Conover
    Empower Conservatives
    Rusty Humphries
    Trump News
    Gone Ballistic
    Conservative Reporter
    Conservative World Daily
    Barracuda Brigade
    We Love President Donald Trump
    Eagle Rising

    Thirteen of these pages are blue-badge verified, some of which belong to Republican figures and organizations.

    Thirteen of the pages posting links with UTM codes are verified with blue badges, which Facebook says means the page is “the authentic Page or profile for this public figure, media company or brand.” All 13 verified pages used UTM parameters corresponding to the owner and/or name of the page (for example, Mike Huckabee’s pages included the parameter “mikehuckabee”). Using Crowdtangle data, Media Matters looked through all links posted by these blue-badge pages between January 1, 2018, and January 31, 2018, and counted the percentage of links posted that go to Liftable Media’s four main brands, Conservative Tribune, The Western Journal, Liftable.com, and The Wildcard. (We did not look at links from Facebook pages for Liftable Media’s brand sites -- The Western Journal, Conservative Tribune, and Liftable.com.)

    Several of these blue-badge pages are affiliated with Republican media figures, including Brewer, Huckabee, and Cain. Both Liftable Media owner Patrick Brown and his father, Floyd, donated to Huckabee’s 2016 presidential bid. Floyd also donated to Herman Cain’s 2012 presidential PAC.

    Some conservative organizations also appear to be part of Liftable Media’s promotional network. Family Research Council (FRC), which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has previously, though infrequently, shared links to Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal with UTM codes specific to FRC. Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at FRC, regularly shares Liftable Media links with UTM parameters specific to his name.

    Another page, The Tea Party, seems to be run by Liftable Media and does not actually pertain to the tea party movement. This page, which links to westernjournal.com in its “About” section and to a liftablemedia.com email address, has over 3.2 million likes, significantly more than the actual “Tea Party” Facebook page.

    Since January, Eagle Rising has stopped posting articles from Liftable Media brands. Gov. Brewer’s page stopped on February 28.

    At least 41 other websites belong to the same promotional Facebook networks as Liftable Media.

    Liftable Media has 38 Facebook pages, and 16 of them post links with UTM codes to six non-Liftable Media websites: The Daily Wire, Faith Family America, Shared, American Military News, Little Things, and Providr. And the same non-Liftable Media pages that promote Conservative Tribune and other Liftable Media sites also promote at least 35 other websites, including the mainstream right-wing site The Blacksphere with Kevin Jackson; fake news sites American Military News, BizPac Review, Clash Daily with Doug Giles, and Daily-Vine (formerly known as Freedom Daily); Christian and inspirational websites including Faith It, Glad Wire, and Inspire More; and apolitical clickbait sites including Cooking Panda and Watch This.

  • An HHS official is a Pizzagate conspiracy theorist who said “African-Americans are way more racist than” whites and Islam is a “fucking cult"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE: Following the publication of this article, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told Media Matters in an updated statement that Ximena Barreto “has been placed on administrative leave while the matter is reviewed.”

    UPDATE 2: Trump administration declines to fire HHS official Ximena Barreto over bigoted and conspiratorial remarks

    ORIGINAL POST:

    As a fringe right-wing political commentator, Ximena Barreto claimed that “African-Americans are way more racist than white people,” labeled Islam “a fucking cult” that has “no place” in the United States, pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory, and attacked the “retarded” 2017 Women’s March. In December, she became a deputy communications director at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

    Media Matters found out about her federal employment because she was recently added to ProPublica’s Trump Town database, which includes personnel records for thousands of appointees in President Donald Trump’s administration. As the project notes, the administration has often hired people who “have little-to-no government experience.”

    Barreto (who also goes by the surname Barreto-Rice) was a right-wing pundit who used the screen name “RepublicanChick” on her personal website and social media. She regularly posted commentary on Periscope and briefly co-hosted a YouTube show called The Right View by Deplorable Latinas. She also said she helped Trump’s California efforts during the 2016 election.

    A biography of Barreto on her now-defunct website stated: “Growing up in Colombia during the drug wars, which deeply impacted her life at a young age, Ximena witnessed blatant corruption and extreme violence, lost family members, and came to understand the importance of law and order. After moving legally to the United States, Ximena began comparing the social issues between Colombia and the USA, which played a big role in her engagement in political activities as an American.”

    A spokesperson for HHS stated that the department “has no comments on any statements she may have made before joining HHS.” The spokesperson also said that “Mrs. Barreto-Rice provides specialty media support including: Spanish media, outreach, and other general press related responsibilities. ... In addition to her seven years of media experience, Mrs. Barreto-Rice brings a unique background to the position.”

    Media Matters reviewed Barreto’s commentary -- some of which is no longer publicly available but has been cached through content archives -- and found she has made vitriolic and conspiratorial remarks about Pizzagate, black and Muslim Americans, and the media, among others. Here are some of her worst remarks:

    “We’ve got to use all of our efforts into Pizzagate and not let that one die”

    Barreto has repeatedly pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory that claimed prominent political figures were trafficking children through a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. She tweeted in November 2016 that efforts by supporters of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to trigger a recount were “a hoax so we get distracted from #PizzaGate.”

    She appeared in a November 30, 2016, Periscope video in which she also said (starts roughly 1:45 into the video) the presidential recount effort is an attempt to distract people “from Pizzagate.” She later claimed that former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is also tied to Pizzagate. “A lot of people are connected to it,” she remarked.

    Near the end of the video, Barreto told viewers: “Don’t listen to the recount and relax. We’ve got to use all of our efforts into Pizzagate and not let that one die because that’s what the mainstream media is trying to get distracted from. So check all the Pizzagate stuff.”

    “African-Americans are way more racist than white people”

    In her November 30, 2016, Periscope video (starts roughly 8:00 into the video), during a discussion about “fucking reverse racism,” Barreto said: “African-Americans are way more racist than white people.”

    She continued shortly after: “I’ve been attacked by more African-Americans on Twitter than white people, in all honesty. … They’re the most racist people I ever met.” She then said that she’s been insulted and called slurs by African-Americans.

    “Islam has no place” in this country; Islam isn’t a religion but “a fucking cult”

    During her November 30, 2016, Periscope, Barreto said (starts roughly 7:26 into the video) that Islam advocates for “killing other people and abusing women; that’s not a religion, that’s a fucking cult. Like, I’m serious. Like, that’s not religion.” She also said during a June 12 video that Islam is "just a cult. All the practices are cult-like, all that they do.”

    During a December 4, 2016, Periscope video (starts roughly 8:00 into the video), she wondered aloud whether there are members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. government -- a common conspiracy theory among anti-Muslim right-wing media. After someone asked if there’s a Muslim Brotherhood plan in the United States, she replied: “Well, how many of them are in the government already, you know? Like in Congress?”

    In a May 25 post on the now-defunct website Borderland Alternative Media, she suggested that practicing Islam should not be allowed in the United States:

    The atmosphere created during the Obama administration encouraged criminal behavior, lawlessness, and violence, has badly harmed our country. In addition to his disastrous domestic policies, Obama ended up further destabilizing the Middle East by pulling troops out of Iraq, after being advised not to. Pulling the troops prematurely lead to the creation of ISIS, a group that has claimed numerous terrorists attacks, who are honestly not much different from the guerrillas and the drug lords: they are all thirsty for blood, power and total control. All the while, Obama and other political elites (both Democrat and Republican) flooded our country with Islamic refugees, many of whom have engaged in terrorism and sworn allegiance to ISIS. Now, these terrorists seek to destroy Western civilization and America itself; having been enabled to grow stronger and becoming emboldened under the weak Obama administration.

    How did we go from being enraged after 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, San Bernardino, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando (just to name a few) to liberals caring and worrying about the feelings of terrorists? Recently, one of the reporters at “The View” complained about President Trump calling terrorist losers, saying that “wasn’t presidential.” Yes they are losers, they kill children! If we call them monsters we are actually EMPOWERING them because they know we fear them, we need to start calling them for what they really are COWARDS, and LOSERS. I don’t consider myself an expert on Islam, however many take the Koran by heart- a book that calls for the death of non believers and that threatens our way of life. Now, liberals are wearing hijabs in marches all while turning their backs to real oppression, such as the brutality of Islamic law against children, women and the LGBT community.

    This isn’t about feelings, it’s about common sense and basic survival. We have become too soft, we have allowed radical leftist rhetoric to infiltrate our education system. A few weeks ago, San Diego Unified School District approved “Sharia compliant curriculums” in classrooms. We are appeasing the savages that want us dead, and that we have fought for over 700 years! Islam has NO PLACE in our education system (or country) and it’s shameful to see them involved in writing curriculum while Christianity is banned. It’s a sin. Whatever happened with separation of church and state? Apparently that only applies to Christianity.

    Other vitriolic rhetoric

    Barreto claimed during a September 18, 2017, appearance on The Hagmann Report that the “main goal” of “the media and the Democrats is to cause a civil war because at the end they’re gonna end up profiting from it.” During that program she also said: “We think fake news in English is bad, but Spanish is even worse,” pointing to alleged coverage of President Trump on Univision and Telemundo.

    Barreto has tweeted that "#LiberalismIsCancer" and "#FeminismIsCancer and an excuse for women to disrespect men and act insane"; falsely claimed that President Barack Obama pushed millions of “illegals” to vote in 2016; said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has done “the work of the devil”; and complained of the 2017 Women’s March: “It’s retarded that they’re marching in a country where we have rights. Like, what do you think other countries where women don’t have rights are thinking about us right now?”

    Video by John Kerr. 

    (Note: Barreto's Periscope-hosted videos were removed after this piece was published. Media Matters subsequently uploaded the original videos and changed the original links.)