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  • AZ Senate candidate Joe Arpaio comes to Alex Jones’ defense

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is running as a Republican for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, told his campaign to “stand up” for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after several social media companies banned Jones from their platforms.

    Dustin Stockton, a senior Arpaio strategist, wrote on Twitter that Arpaio has directed the campaign to look into purchasing advertising on Jones’ Infowars outlet “to help provide resources as they fight for free speech”:

    In July 2017, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court over his refusal to comply with a court order that said he could no longer direct the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to engage in racially discriminatory practices against Latinos. He faced up to six months in jail, but he received a pardon from President Donald Trump before he was sentenced.

    Shortly before the pardon was officially announced in August 2017, Arpaio appeared on Jones’ show and credited Infowars with bringing his case to Trump’s attention, saying, “I want to thank you, Alex, and your staff, Jerry Corsi, Roger Stone, for bringing this story out and reaching the president. I supported him from, what, two years ago at the same forum that he did yesterday and I’m with him and I’m with him to the end.”

    Jones hosted Arpaio again in January and called on his listeners to donate to and volunteer for Arpaio’s campaign while pushing a conspiracy theory that “illegals” will try to steal the election from Arpaio.

    Arpaio is facing U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward in a primary contest later this month to determine the Republican nominee for an election to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake. In addition to Jones, Arpaio’s right-wing media allies include Frederick Smith, a senior executive at Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Update: Arpaio also sent an August 6 email to supporters that asked for campaign contributions so he can purchase advertising with Jones. He wrote, in part: "I've instructed my campaign to reach out to Jones and purchase some advertising. ... If you donate now, you'll be supporting both Sheriff Arpaio and free speech."

  • Fox & Friends deceptively edits clip of US senator to claim she was “confused” about Trump’s family separation policy

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox & Friends deceptively edited a clip of an exchange between Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and the head of removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Matthew Albence, during a July 31 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding oversight of immigration enforcement and family reunification efforts. Despite the way Fox & Friends presented the dialogue -- suggesting a sitting U.S. senator was “confused about the immigration laws” -- Hirono was, in fact, correct in her assertions that the Trump administration alone made the decision to start prosecuting everyone crossing the border illegally, which has resulted in the separation of hundreds of immigrant families. Albence would acknowledge Hirono’s assertion as “correct,” but Fox & Friends did not include the comment in its deceptively edited clip.

    From the August 1 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): There was one senator, Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, she was confused about the immigration laws, and she started asking this ICE official, Mr. Matthew Albence, she appeared to be losing her patience, then he lost his patience because she didn’t understand the law, and she was -- just watch this.

    [BEGIN CLIP]

    MAZIE HIRONO : Would you send your child to [family residential centers]?

    MATTHEW ALBENCE (IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT): Again, I think we're missing the point. These individuals are there because they have broken a law. There has to be a process --

    HIRONO: They have broken a law only as deemed so by the president with his --

    ALBENCE: No, ma'am, they're there for violation of Title 8 of the immigration -- of the U.S. Nationality Act.

    [VIDEO JUMPS]

    ALBENCE: They are in those FRCs pending the outcome of that civil immigration process. They have broken the law.

    [VIDEO JUMPS]

    ALBENCE: They're both -- they’re criminal proceedings, when the Border Patrol prosecutes them, but at the conclusion of the process, once the individual came into ICE custody, they would go through administrative proceedings.

    HIRONO: I'm confused.

    [END CLIP]

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Apparently the senator from Hawaii didn’t understand that the parents were separated from the children because the parents had broken the law. It’s just a fact, and she thought it was because of the president’s “zero tolerance” policy. In fact, it was a U.S. statute.

    From the July 31 Senate Judiciary Committee Oversight of Immigration Enforcement and Family Reunification Efforts hearing:

    MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Mr. Albence, would you send your child to FRCs?

    MATTHEW ALBENCE (IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT): Again, I think we're missing the point. These individuals are there because they have broken a law. There has to be a process --

    HIRONO: They have broken a law only as deemed so by the president with his --

    ALBENCE: No, ma'am, they're there for violation of Title 8 of the immigration -- of the U.S. Nationality Act. OK, there's 8 USC 1325, that's illegal entry is both a criminal and civil violation. They are in those FRCs pending the outcome of that civil immigration process. They have broken the law.

    HIRONO: Well, these are mainly -- my understanding is that, under zero tolerance, these are no longer civil proceedings, but, in fact, are criminal proceedings. No?

    ALBENCE: They're both -- they’re criminal proceedings, when the Border Patrol prosecutes them, but at the conclusion of the process, once the individual came into ICE custody, they would go through administrative proceedings.

    HIRONO: I'm confused.

    ALBENCE: OK.

    HIRONO: So, the law that --

    ALBENCE: The criminal proceeding is the individual being prosecuted for the criminal violation of improper entry --

    HIRONO: And that was the zero tolerance policy, right? That everyone would be prosecuted in a criminal proceeding. Is that not right?

    ALBENCE: That is correct.

    HIRONO: Thank you.

  • Fox is deceptively hyping GOP’s next tax bill that just benefits the ultra rich

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Back in December, when President Donald Trump signed into law changes in U.S. tax policy, Fox News helped Republicans spin the discussion surrounding the legislation by hyping anecdotal reports of bonuses, wage hikes, and investments. Now that Republicans are aiming to make the individual tax cuts permanent, Fox is at it again -- despite analyses showing how staggeringly disproportionate the benefits are for the wealthy and large businesses, that they barely lower tax burdens for some middle class and lower income families, and that they have had no noticeable positive effect on the economy.

    The law, officially titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed in December, and Fox hosts celebrated the legislation’s passage after contributing their own dishonest coverage. Fox News shows repeatedly focused on announcements of bonuses -- such as some AT&T workers receiving a $1,000 bonus their union already negotiated -- and small wage increases from some companies to portray the tax cuts as beneficial for ordinary working Americans.

    Others, including Fox’s Sean Hannity, claimed that the tax legislation would lead to increased investment by corporations, in some cases pointing to anecdotal examples of businesses announcing investments and saying they were possible because of the policy change. Two days after the legislation’s passage, Fox & Friends invited White House special adviser Ivanka Trump on to hype an increase to the Child Tax Credit in the legislation. (According to tax experts, “the expanded child credit will actually provide little relief for some of the lowest-income families.”)

    Republicans are now attempting to pass another tax bill, in part to make permanent the individual tax policy changes in the original law, which expire within 10 years. The White House is portraying a report that House Republicans are planning to advance a bill as “a big win for the middle class.” And Fox News is again helping Republicans with their spin. On July 18, Fox & Friends hosted Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee -- the committee the bill would originate from -- who said lawmakers should make permanent “those cuts for middle-class families.” Later on the show, Fox Business host Stuart Varney said: “I think Republicans are setting a tax trap for the Democrats. … Are the Democrats going to vote against something which really supports America's middle class?”

    But as reporting from NPR and experts from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) have explained, Trump’s tax cuts provide only minor benefits to the middle class, are geared toward the wealthiest Americans, and are having no noticeable positive effect on the economy.

    Trump tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy

    NPR: Tax cut benefits to middle class are meager compared to those affecting the wealthy. NPR cited a December report from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center which showed that middle-class households are receiving meager tax benefits from the Trump tax cuts compared to the wealthiest households and that when those benefits expire, middle-class households will earn slightly less income than they did before the tax cuts were passed:

    [NPR, 12/19/17]

    EPI: Republican spin of tax cuts as primarily middle-class benefits “is false.” A blog post by EPI budget analyst Hunter Blair showed that Republican lawmakers’ attempted spin of the Trump tax cuts as targeted to the middle class “is false.” The post showed that the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers earn a disproportionately small benefit from the policy change, with the top 5 percent earning a larger share of the benefits relative to their income:

    [Economic Policy Institute, 4/13/18]

    CBPP: Trump tax cuts deliver largest benefits to the wealthiest while boosting income inequality. The CBPP explained in an April report that Trump’s tax plan “will increase income inequality since it delivers far larger tax cuts to households at the top, measured as a share of income, than to households at the bottom or middle of the income distribution”:

    [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/9/18]

    CBPP: Increase in Child Tax Credit skews toward the wealthy. The CBPP report explained that “10 million children under age 17 in low-income working families will receive no CTC increase or a token increase of $75 or less.” Further, the law increased the upper limit for the Child Tax Credit from $110,000 in income annually to $400,000, with the wealthiest getting an increase worth several times more than the increase middle-class families will receive:

    [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/9/18]

    Data so far show Trump tax cuts having no positive effect on the economy

    EPI: “There is no evidence that wage growth has materially picked up since the TCJA’s passage.” In June 1 testimony submitted to the House’s Tax Policy Subcommittee, EPI explained that “there is no evidence that wage growth has materially picked up since the TCJA’s passage.”

    [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]

    Bloomberg’s Noah Smith: Federal Reserve data and PayScale index show wages fell after Trump tax cuts took effect. In a July 18 Bloomberg column, Noah Smith pointed to Federal Reserve and private sector data to show that wages actually declined since the Trump tax cuts were passed:

    [Bloomberg, 7/18/18]

    EPI: Bonuses were overhyped, and they are less likely to occur in future years. EPI’s testimony explained that “nearly 40 percent of American workers get bonuses every year,” and that there was a financial incentive to give bonuses after the law’s passage at the end of 2017 when such bumps could be less expensively written off on corporate tax filings. As EPI explained: “What this means is that even if some increase in bonuses occurred in 2017 because of the TCJA (this remains a big ‘if’), there is no reason to think such bonuses will recur in the future.” [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]

    EPI: “There is no serious evidence that the TCJA spurred a notable pickup in business investment.” EPI’s testimony showed that business investment has grown less than it did in either 2011 or 2014. “In short, we do not yet have economy-wide data showing a rapid upsurge of investment due to the TCJA.”

    [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]

  • An MSNBC political analyst is advising a GOP candidate with ties to white supremacists

    ››› ››› STEPHEN MORRIS

    MSNBC political analyst Rick Tyler, formerly a presidential campaign spokesperson for Ted Cruz who was fired for promoting a fake story, is currently “helping” Chris McDaniel, a Mississippi Republican waging his second attempted primary challenge for a Senate seat. McDaniel has a record of associating with extremists, neo-Confederates, and radio hosts with anti-Semitic views.

  • Evening news shows barely noticed the Senate vote for deregulating banks

    The CBO says this bill would make another big bank bailout slightly more likely

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Sixteen Senate Democrats and one independent senator joined Republicans to move forward with a bill that would weaken financial regulations and slightly increase the likelihood of a taxpayer bailout of large banks -- but you'd barely know it if you got your news from the evening cable and broadcast shows this week.

    The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act was first introduced in the Senate in November and primarily sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID). As The Fiscal Times reported, “The bill raises the threshold at which banks are considered systemically important and thus subject to stricter capital requirements and Federal Reserve supervision, from $50 billion to $250 billion.” The Washington Post noted that while this won’t apply to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and CitiGroup, which are worth far more than $250 billion, it will decrease regulation on some banks such as SunTrust Banks and Fifth Third Bank, both of which received government bailouts during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. According to The New York Times, “only a handful of the biggest banks would face the toughest oversight” if this bill becomes law.

    With help from 16 Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-ME), the bill survived a cloture vote 67-32 on March 6 and is expected to pass soon.

    A March 5 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate of the bill explained that it would increase the risk of taxpayer bailouts of large banks by making bank failures and financial crises a little more likely:

    CBO’s estimate of the bill’s budgetary effect is subject to considerable uncertainty, in part because it depends on the probability in any year that a systemically important financial institution (SIFI) will fail or that there will be a financial crisis. CBO estimates that the probability is small under current law and would be slightly greater under the legislation.

    David Dayen explained more problems with this legislation in The Intercept:

    Republicans and Democrats who pushed S.2155 through the Senate Banking Committee must have heard Citi’s call. (They changed the definition of a custodial bank in a subsequent version of the bill. It used to stipulate that only a bank with a high level of custodial assets would qualify, but now it defines a custodial bank as “any depository institution or holding company predominantly engaged in custody, safekeeping, and asset servicing activities.”) The change could allow virtually any big bank to take advantage of the new rule.

    Multiple bank lobbyists told The Intercept that Citi has been pressing lawmakers to loosen the language even further, ensuring that they can take advantage of reduced leverage and ramp up risk. “Citi is making a very aggressive effort,” said one bank lobbyist who asked not to be named because he’s working on the bill. “It’s a game changer and that’s why they’re pushing hard.” A Citigroup spokesperson declined to comment.

    […]

    Aside from the gifts to Citigroup and other big banks, the bill undermines fair lending rules that work to counter racial discrimination and rolls back regulation and oversight on large regional banks that aren’t big enough to be global names, but have enough cash to get a stadium named after themselves. In the name of mild relief for community banks, these institutions — which have been christened “stadium banks” by congressional staff opposing the legislation — are punching a gaping hole through Wall Street reform. Twenty-five of the 38 biggest domestic banks in the country, and globally significant foreign banks that have engaged in rampant misconduct, would get freed from enhanced supervision. There are even goodies for dominant financial services firms, such as Promontory and a division of Warren Buffett’s conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. The bill goes so far as to punish buyers of mobile homes, among the most vulnerable people in the country, whose oft-stated economic anxiety drives so much of the discourse in American politics (just not when there might be something to do about it).

    A Media Matters review of Nexis transcripts for evening and prime-time programs on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News this week found scant coverage of this bill. MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes had a five-minute interview on March 5 with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who opposes the bill. Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier mentioned the bill on March 6 for just 17 seconds. CNN gave it no evening news coverage at all.

    Evening news broadcasts on ABC, NBC, and CBS also failed to report on the bill this week. Only PBS’ NewsHour covered it, featuring a roughly six-minute interview on March 6 with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), who voted for cloture.

  • Fox News runs with right wing’s out-of-context video attacking Chuck Schumer

    Full video debunks accusation of racism against Schumer

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News used out-of-context video of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to claim he was opposing a judicial nominee from President Donald Trump because the nominee is white. In fact, the full video of Schumer’s criticism showed his objection to the nomination of Marvin Quattlebaum to the U.S. District Court in South Carolina came in response to Republicans’ refusal to observe Senate tradition and their failure to support President Barack Obama’s nominees for the vacant seat.

    Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox & Friends First, and Fox & Friends all used out-of-context video to portray Schumer as racist. Tucker Carlson claimed on March 1 that Schumer “said he’s opposing the nomination because Quattlebaum is the wrong color. For real.” Fox News Headlines reporter Carley Shimkus stated March 2 on Fox & Friends First: “Chuck Schumer voted against the nomination not because of Quattlebaum’s resume or anything like that, but because of his race.” A little later, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt read off a string of headlines all saying essentially “Chuck Schumer votes against Trump judicial nominee because he’s white.” Brian Kilmeade then said there was no difference between Schumer’s comment and Trump’s racist declaration that a federal judge couldn’t be fair in his 2016 Trump University case because of of the judge’s Mexican ancestry.

    These smears likely originated with Carlson’s former website, The Daily Caller, which during the early afternoon of March 1 posted the partial video clip with the headline: “Schumer Will Vote ‘No’ On Judicial Nominee Because He Is White.” Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire also joined in the smear, citing The Daily Caller and amping up the accusation in its headline: “RACISM IN ACTION: Schumer: I Won't Vote For This Judge Because He's White.”

    But as ThinkProgress justice editor Ian Millhiser pointed out, these smears are built around selectively edited video. Both right-wing websites and all three Fox News shows omitted the first half of Schumer’s remarks, in which he berated Republican senators for hypocritically abandoning a Senate tradition for judicial nominees known as “blue slips” now that they are in power, which would have served as an effective check on Trump's judicial nominations. Schumer noted that Democrats had honored the practice previously with respect to this very seat, which is why Trump had a chance to nominate someone to fill it. Millhiser also noted that Schumer’s voting record further debunks the accusation of racism: He voted for 10 out of 11 of Trump’s previous federal district court nominees, and those 10 were all white. On the March 2 edition of CNN's Wolf, Schumer explained how "right-wing radio who never really tells the truth distort[ed] what I had said." 

    The full video of Schumer’s explanation for voting against Quattlebaum, which wasn’t played on Fox News, can be viewed below:

  • Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Devin Nunes are feeding the Fox News conspiracy pipeline

    Congressional Republicans team up with a credulous right-wing media to undermine the FBI’s Trump investigation

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The crusade by the Republican Party and its media allies to discredit the FBI’s investigation of President Donald Trump and his campaign is a fantastically dishonest and propagandistic farce, and the whole effort is conducted with transparent bad faith while grotesquely masquerading as an exercise in good-government oversight. The mechanism driving this disinformation campaign is a pipeline of bullshit that originates with Republicans in Congress, flows directly through Fox News, and sometimes ends up spilling out all over the president’s Twitter feed.

    To date, there have been two high-profile congressional sources for the “scandals” that have powered conservative media coverage of the FBI’s Trump investigation: Senate homeland security committee chair Ron Johnson (R-WI) and House intelligence committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA). Both have been repeatedly caught lying and ginning up controversy where there is none, and both have had phenomenal success in propagating falsehoods through conservative media outlets that don’t care whether what they report is true or not.

    Late last month, Johnson went on Fox News to talk about “corruption at the highest levels of the FBI” as evidenced by a text message conversation between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that referenced a “secret society” -- presumably a cabal of powerful individuals plotting to illegitimately tar Trump’s presidency. The “secret society” talking point quickly permeated conservative media and became a focal point of outrage.

    A couple of days later, the truth about the “secret society” text came out -- it was an obvious joke between the two officials. There was no secret society, and Johnson backpedaled by acknowledging the “real possibility” that the supposedly nefarious text message he’d highlighted as proof of a conspiracy just days earlier might, in fact, be nothing more than a gag.

    Just a couple of weeks after that, Johnson was at it again. His committee released an “interim report” on the FBI’s investigation of the Clinton email scandal that once again highlighted specific texts between Strzok and Page. Among them was a September 2, 2016, text from Page regarding the creation of talking points for then-FBI Director James Comey. Page wrote that then-President Barack Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing.” According to the report, “This text raises additional questions about the type and extent of President Obama’s personal involvement in the Clinton email scandal and the FBI investigation of it.”

    Fueled by a credulous Fox News write-up of Johnson’s report, the text message shot like an electrical current through the conservative media, which leaped on Johnson’s suggestion that Obama might have meddled with the FBI’s investigation into Clinton. The president himself got in on the dissemination, tweeting that the “NEW FBI TEXTS ARE BOMBSHELLS” not long after his favorite Fox News morning program ran a segment on the report.

    And, once again, it all turned out to be false. As The Wall Street Journal reported last week, the text was referring to a briefing on Russian election interference, not a Clinton matter. The FBI’s Clinton investigation was closed by the time Page sent the text.

    Devin Nunes’ contributions to the fog of disinformation include last year’s “unmasking” fiasco, in which Nunes -- acting on information fed to him by the Trump White House -- wrongly accused Obama national security officials of inappropriately exposing  the identities of Trump aides captured on wiretaps. More recently, Nunes wrote a report that all but accused the FBI of illicitly obtaining a warrant to surveil a former Trump aide. The report’s key contention -- that the FBI hid the political origins of some of the evidence in its warrant application -- was quickly debunked.

    In each of these examples, the lies spread rapidly and had ample time to become entrenched as part of a conservative media narrative before the facts undermining them could be established. Claims that former Obama officials inappropriately “unmasked” Trump associates and that an anti-Trump “secret society” exists within the FBI formed the bases of countless Fox News prime time monologues before they were debunked. After the truth came out, the lies were either quietly shelved (per a Nexis search, Sean Hannity mentioned the “secret society” in three straight Fox News shows after Johnson highlighted it on January 23, but hasn’t brought it up since) or kept alive as nefarious-sounding buzzwords (casual, unelaborated references to “unmasking” still come up regularly in Hannity rants).

    The presence and power of the conservative echo chamber means that Republicans in Congress like Johnson and Nunes don’t really have to care when the obvious lies they’re peddling get debunked. They have a receptive audience for whatever conspiratorial claim they can manufacture, and they can be confident that they’ll face no factual challenge to their nonsense so long as they limit their media appearances to Fox News and other conservative safe spaces.

  • Fox publishes senator's leaked text messages less than two weeks after Julian Assange promised “news about Warner” to Hannity

    Assange promised "news about Warner” to a fake Sean Hannity account via "other channels" just weeks ago

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Less than two weeks after The Daily Beast reported WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange contacted a fake Sean Hannity account on Twitter discussing “other channels” for Assange to send information about Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- Fox News hyped “brand new text messages” that revealed “questionable relationship between [Warner] and a lobbyist representing a Russian oligarch.”

    On January 29, The Daily Beast’s Ben Collins reported that, after Fox News host Sean Hannity’s Twitter account briefly “disappeared,” Julian Assange unknowingly messaged an account posing as Hannity, presumably under the impression that the account was authentic. In the direct messages, Assange suggested the parody Hannity account send messages “on other channels” because, according to a screenshot of the conversation, Assange had “some news about Warner” to discuss with Hannity.

    On the February 8 edition of Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum, host Martha MacCallum reported “brand new text messages” from Sen. Warner that were “obtained exclusively by Fox News” from, according to Fox News chief national correspondent Ed Henry, “a Republican source.” MacCallum claimed the text messages “puts a little bit of a wrinkle in” the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. Soon after MacCallum’s exclusive report, Hannity promoted Henry’s report about the leaked Warner texts. President Trump weighed in as well, writing, "Wow! -Senator Mark Warner got caught having extensive contact with a lobbyist for a Russian oligarch."

    MARTHA MACCALLUM (HOST): We have some breaking news for you this evening on The Story. There are brand new text messages obtained exclusively by Fox News that reveal a questionable relationship between the top Democrat in the Senate's Russia investigation and a lobbyist representing a Russian oligarch. Good evening, everybody, I'm Martha MacCallum and this is The Story for tonight. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who held numerous press conferences over the past year promising a fair and bipartisan investigation into President Trump's supposed ties to Russia, was apparently trying to gain access through the Russians to Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous anti-Trump dossier. Writing in part in these text messages that are just being revealed for the first time, "we have so much to discuss. You need to be careful, but we can help our country."

    [...]

    It's potentially at least a stream to follow up on that the Russians, perhaps, were trying to lay groundwork on both sides of the fence here.

    ED HENRY (FOX NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT): No doubt about it.

    [..]

    The bottom line is Democrats have spent a lot of time talking about the president's ties to Russians, what kind of conversations he and his aides have had. Now these text messages that I got from a Republican source close to the committee is clearly an attempt by Republicans to say hang on a second, the top Democrat on this committee also had some questionable conversations about trying to keep some of this secret. And again, I want to stress, Warner’s office was very direct with me in saying they realize that this doesn’t look good out of context, as they say, but they insist the Republican chairman was in the loop.

    [...]

    MACCALLUM: Both sides have sort of pointed fingers at each other from the House side and Senate side that the House Intel Committee has all this friction between the Republicans and the Democrats and that on the Senate side, the gentlemen are working everything out with no problems. This sort of puts a little bit of a wrinkle in that.

    Soon after the report, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) acknowledged that “Sen.Warner fully disclosed this to the committee four months ago,” adding that this disclosure, “has had zero impact on our work." 

    Fox News has waged a months-long campaign attempting to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. 

  • Russian trolls moved 340,000 Americans up the ladder of engagement

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Last night, The Washington Post revealed that Russian trolls “got tens of thousands of Americans to RSVP” to local political events on Facebook. We’ve known since last September that Russian trolls employed this tactic and often created dueling events at the same location and time, probably to incite violence or increase tension within local communities. But it is only now we’re learning the scale of that engagement. Per the Post, “Russian operatives used Facebook to publicize 129 phony event announcements during the 2016 presidential campaign, drawing the attention of nearly 340,000 users -- many of whom said they were planning to attend.”

    The new information comes via the Senate intelligence committee, which has been investigating potential Russian collusion in the 2016 U.S. elections and pressuring tech companies, especially Facebook, Twitter, and Google, to disclose more of what they know about just how much propaganda Americans saw on their platforms. Both Twitter and Facebook have agreed to let users know if they were exposed, but given that we’re still learning more about the scale of the operation, I’m skeptical that anyone knows how many Americans were exposed to Russian propaganda or how often. (If you’d like to check for yourself, I helped create a site that allows anyone to check the likelihood of them being exposed on Facebook.)

    By now most Americans accept that Russian propaganda appeared on their social media feeds in 2016. What concerns me is whether or not they believe that they themselves were susceptible to it. The fact that nearly 340,000 people RSVP’d to events created by Russian trolls -- that they moved up the ladder of engagement from consuming content to RSVPing to an event -- should make us all reconsider our own vulnerability, especially when you consider that many of these events were created to sow discord. Russia’s goal is to destabilize U.S. democracy. Stoking racial, cultural, and political tensions in local communities across the U.S. via creating events on Facebook is a cheap and effective way for Russian trolls to do this.

    Russia’s use of social media to disseminate propaganda and stoke political tension is an ongoing problem. Last fall, Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA), leaders of the Senate intelligence committee, issued a bipartisan warning that Russian trolls would continue their actions into the 2018 midterm elections and 2020 presidential elections to sow chaos. A ThinkProgress article on the now-defunct website BlackMattersUS.com illustrates how sophisticated propaganda operations can use content, online campaigns, offline events, and relationships with local activists to develop trust and credibility online. And as the successful dueling event demonstrate, all Americans, no matter what their political persuasion, are susceptible to these influence operations.

    As Recode Executive Editor Kara Swisher pointed out on MSNBC today, we’re in an “ongoing war.” There’s no easy way to tell if the content we see on our social media feeds comes from Russian trolls or other hostile actors. There’s no media literacy course or easily available resource that can teach individuals how to identify propaganda. That’s why regulation that protects consumers such as stricter disclosure of political ads and safeguards against fraud is so vital to solving this problem. Especially as tech companies have proven reluctant to make any real changes beyond what public pressure demands of them.

  • Ted Cruz said he always opposed government shutdowns. He told Hannity something else in 2013.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)  told reporters he has “consistently opposed shut downs,” a statement that contradicts his position in 2013.

    In 2013 Politico reported that Cruz’s colleagues were “angry” with him “for helping prompt a government shutdown crisis without a strategy to end it.” And earlier in the year on Hannity, Cruz endorsed the idea of a “partial government shutdown,” while also agreeing with Sean Hannity that the 1995 shutdown was positive because “We got to a balanced budget for the first time.” From the Janury 8, 2013 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): You said something the other day I was really glad you said. I think the Republicans were weak when it came to the fiscal cliff. I think they have a lot more leverage now over the debt ceiling.

    TED CRUZ:  Yep.

    HANNITY: So my question to you, you said they should be willing to shut the government down, not all functions of the government.

    CRUZ:  Right, right.

    HANNITY: What would you shut down and do you think your fellow Republicans will do that?

    CRUZ: Well, I hope we stand strong. The reason we got a lousy deal with the fiscal cliff, is that President Obama had the leverage. Because when you've got divided government, whoever owns the default, whoever wins if nothing is done is in the strongest position, and Obama was in a strong position there because if nothing was done taxes were raised on every American taxpayer. With respect to the debt ceiling, we have the default. If fiscal conservatives stand together we can forcesome substantive reforms, some pro-growth reforms, and if not the effect is not a default and Obama is going to say that over and over and over again, and we’ve got to be very clear, it's not a default we should always, always, always pay our debts. But what the effect would be is a partial government shutdown. And we’ve seen that before, we saw it in 1995 with Republicans in congress.

    HANNITY: It worked. We got to a balanced budget for the first time.

    CRUZ: Year after year after year.