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  • As Rep. Steve King takes heat for ties to neo-Nazis, white supremacist media urge racists to support him

    White nationalist YouTubers and podcast hosts are going to bat for Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the Republican elected official 4chan racists call “our guy”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters
     

    As the Republican Party and corporate donors are forced to grapple with what has been perfectly apparent for a while -- the fact that Rep. Steve King (R-IA) unapologetically embraces white supremacy -- white supremacist media are stepping up to bat for him.

    A week before midterm elections, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) condemned King’s “recent comments, actions, and retweets,” breaking the long trend of indifference the GOP had applied to King’s well-documented extremism. Corporate donors Land O’Lakes and Purina Pet Care also withdrew their financial support of King in the wake of a horrific anti-Semitic massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, that put an even brighter spotlight on King's white supremacist rhetoric.

    While it’s not a secret that white nationalists openly support King, his sympathy for them has only recently come under fire from GOP leadership. This sudden change of heart prompted users of the anonymous message board 4chan’s “politically incorrect” forum (known as “/pol/”) to gin up support for him, calling for “meme magic” to help King against the “media onslaught” supposedly trying to kick him out of Congress.

    In the October 30 edition of his show America First, white nationalist YouTuber Nick Fuentes took a break from an anti-Semitic rant to praise King for “talking about white genocide,” saying, “He retweets some of our guys, and he goes over to Austria, I believe it was, and he rubbed shoulders with some of our guys. I mean, he basically gets it, he knows what's going on.”

    On the October 20 edition of Third Rail, a podcast of white supremacist website The Right Stuff, the host known online as Borzoi declared, “We know about Steve King. We know what he’s all about. We’ve got Steve King’s back.”

    Later on the show, in the context of a discussion mentioning The Camp of the Saints -- a “stunningly racist” anti-immigrant novel popular with right-wing media -- Borzoi mentioned King’s tweet that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” as a reference to the white supremacist conspiracy theory “the great replacement.”

    King’s white supremacy rhetoric often comes in the form of dog whistles that his racist supporters hear loud and clear, as evidenced by an October 30 thread on /pol/. The since-archived thread celebrated King’s tweet which mentioned “the diversity” among the dogs present in his pheasant hunt, writing, “We had English Setters, Brittanys, German Shorthairs, and black, yellow, chocolate & white Labradors all assimilated into a fine working team.” “Steve King is a white nationalist and shitlibs HATE him for it,” wrote the user who started the celebratory thread, while another poster praised the “great line” of “comparing dog breeds to different races.”

    Like Fox’s Tucker Carlson, King has also earned 4chan’s affectionate title of “our guy.” An October 23 thread put forward a list of reasons why King fit /pol/’s definition of “/ourguy/,” which included “Neo Nazi” and “likes the confederacy.” Responding to the original post, another user wrote, “Of course he’s our guy.”

    It’s not hard to see why /pol/ would consider King to be on their side. In addition to his repeated dog whistles, he’s quote tweeted neo-Nazi Mark Collett, whose YouTube channel features incendiary anti-Semitic commentary that includes videos titled “The Jewish Question Answered in 4 minutes” and “The Holocaust: An Instrument of White Guilt.” After receiving backlash for his infamous “somebody else’s babies” quote, King doubled down on the statement. The phrase and similar derivatives have become a battle cry among his supporters on 4chan, where users post it on King-related threads as a reference to “white genocide” conspiracy theories.

    King also endorsed openly anti-Semitic white nationalist Faith Goldy in her unsuccessful mayoral bid for Toronto. He defended his endorsement in a media appearance, saying he had talked to Goldy “a number of times” and “took her through a lot of philosophy.” In the same appearance, King bemoaned that white nationalist “is a derogatory term today. I wouldn’t have thought so maybe a year, or two, or three ago.” Before that, King gave an interview to a far-right Austrian outlet about “his belief in the superiority of European culture over others,” his fear of “falling fertility rates in the West,” and “his belief that Europe and America are threatened by Muslim and Latino immigration.”

    King reacted to the latest backlash on Twitter by posting recent endorsements of Republican congressmen and supporters and celebrating President Donald Trump’s intentions of ending birthright citizenship. King’s response to Trump’s statements echoed his fellow white supremacists on social media, leaving few outside of GOP leadership to wonder why former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke refers to him as the “Future King of America.”

    Madeline Peltz provided research for this piece.

  • White supremacists and the far-right are thrilled with Trump’s plan to try to end birthright citizenship

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    For extremists and MAGA internet trolls, ending birthright citizenship as enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution is a campaign promise that President Donald Trump must deliver. After Trump told Axios that he’s considering using an executive order to eliminate the right to citizenship for those born to noncitizen parents on U.S. soil, white supremacists and pro-Trump trolls celebrated online, while some acknowledged that the timing of the announcement -- one week before midterms -- and the fact that any executive order on the issue would undoubtedly go to the courts likely made it an electoral strategy rather than a policy goal.

    White nationalist Cameron Padgett:

    White supremacist author and Fox regular Ann Coulter, who referred to children born in the U.S. to noncitizen parents with a slur:

    Host for the white supremacist podcast Fash the Nation, known online as Jazzhands McFeels:

    Scott Presler, staffer for the anti-Muslim group Act For America and pro-Trump activist:

    “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec:

    Other Trump sycophants on right-wing media also went on Twitter to defend the president’s attack on the 14th Amendment, with some referring to the children of noncitizens born in the U.S. with a demeaning slur:

    The white nationalist publication VDare called Trump’s statement a “big moment” for the outlet, consistent with the group’s first attack in 2001 on American babies born to immigrant parents in U.S. territory:

    Neo-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer called Trump’s statement to Axios “an October Surprise DOUBLE SIZE for y’all Jews” while celebrating that Trump had suggested to Fox’s Laura Ingraham that the U.S. build tent cities for migrants seeking asylum: “Trump announced O P E N A I R C O N C E N T R A T I O N C A M P S for the wetback human garbage invading OUR COUNTRY!”

    On a discussion thread in Stormfront, a message board for white supremacists, users characterized “stopping birthright” as essential and speculated that Trump had waited until there is a “conservative majority in the supreme court” to go after the 14th Amendment:

    Similarly, a user on the anonymous message board 4chan praised Trump’s timing, alluding to “the supreme court which Trump just secured” and saying that the caravan of migrants seeking asylum made for “the perfect time for the optics”:

    On the anonymous forum 8chan, a thread praising “God Emporer (sic)” Trump celebrated the news, claiming “/pol/” (the “politically incorrect” board on chan) “was always right” in supporting him. The poster also mentioned Trump’s assertion that “it doesn’t take an act of Congress” to end birthright citizenship, writing, “see midterms for reversal of this if we lose,” a reminder of the overwhelming support for the Republican Party among anonymous online extremists.

    Talia Lavin contributed research to this piece.

  • Charlie Kirk echoes 4chan conspiracy theory about Taylor Swift's endorsement of Democrats

    4chan Nazis and Charlie Kirk suggest Swift could not have formed political opinions on her own

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters 

    On Sunday night, pop singer Taylor Swift broke her usual silence regarding politics by endorsing Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen and slamming his opponent, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), while also standing up for equal pay and LGBTQ rights and against systemic racism.

    I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent. I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway. So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! 🗳😃🌈

    A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

    Since the 2016 presidential election, Swift has been a hot topic on 4chan, the anonymous message board known for its far-right extremism. Users there had interpreted her silence around the election and her country music roots as revealing an alignment with white supremacist values and a rejection of social justice, earning her the nickname “Aryan goddess.”

    But then Swift endorsed Bredesen and fellow Tennessee Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper on Instagram, and the number of posts about her in the “politically incorrect” board of 4chan skyrocketed. Users reacted with sexist and dehumanizing slurs and suggestions that she was no longer “/our girl/.” [Trolls on 4chan habitually call those who they believe to represent their values “/our guy/” or “/our girl/” -- currently, those figures include Tucker Carlson and actress Roseanne Barr.]

    And one take was consistent among the trolls: the sexist and demeaning assumption that a woman cannot form her own political opinions.

    Turning Point USA Executive Director Charlie Kirk, who had a Twitter meltdown about Swift’s endorsement and repeatedly accused her of having “no idea” of what she was talking about, took it upon himself to go on the October 8 edition of Fox & Friends and amplify the sexist conspiracy theory that trolls had posted on 4chan.

    Kirk also took his disappointment and the asinine conspiracy theory that Swift could not have written her own campaign endorsement to Fox Business’ Varney & Co., where he claimed that she had been “co-opted by activists on the left that want to use her brand, her visibility, and popularity to advance their agenda.”

    Both Kirk and TPUSA’s communications director, Candace Owens, had previously expressed disdain for celebrity opinions, but that changed after Kanye West praised Owens. At that point, Kirk made public appearances with West, Owens did media hits with him, and Kirk offered unending sycophancy for the rapper, all of which shows they actually care a lot about what celebrities think -- as long as they support President Donald Trump.

  • 4chan trolls celebrated Eric Trump's anti-Semitic dog whistle that Bob Woodward wrote his book for "extra shekels"

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Users on 4chan’s “/pol/,” a far-right forum known for bigotry and anti-Semitism, lauded Eric Trump’s recent remarks that The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward was seeking “three extra shekels,” taking it as an anti-Semitic dog whistle and claiming it showed Trump visited the forum.

    During Eric Trump’s July 12 appearance on Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy commented on press attention around Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House. Eric Trump responded, “You can write a sensational nonsense book -- CNN will definitely have you on there, because they love to trash the president -- it will mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels. I mean, at the behest of the American people, at the behest of our country and a president that’s doing a phenomenal job by every quantifiable metric, I mean -- is that really where we are?”

    In response, some journalists noted that the word “shekels” was an anti-Semitic dig and that it has been used by neo-Nazis.

    On 4chan’s “/pol/” message board, users lauded Eric Trump’s remarks. They wrote that Trump “named the Jew,” which is which is an anti-Semitic call to action to single out Jewish people and point out they are Jewish, while claiming they control economics and politics domestically and around the globe (Woodward is also not Jewish). They also posted a caricature of a Jewish man crying and added, “[that feeling when] I didn't get the shekels” and wrote, “A FUCKING AMERICAN NAMED THE JEWS. HE FUCKING DID IN TV.” Users also claimed that the comment showed that “it was pretty god damn obvious that [Eric Trump] lurks around here” and that he “spends way to (sic) much time on /pol/ and slipped up.” They also said it was proof that the Trumps “lurk POL daily.”

    4chan has pushed pro-Trump narratives and conspiracy theories regularly in recent years, including referring to President Donald Trump as “God emperor Trump.” And there are signs that the Trump camp has reciprocated in the past. Then-candidate Trump tweeted a racist image that had been “floating around” on 4chan. The Trump campaign’s attacks on Chicago protestors also directly echoed a 4chan thread. Trump also tweeted a meme showing a Star of David over Hillary Clinton and dollar bills that first spread on 8chan, a more extreme version of 4chan. At one point, Donald Trump Jr. also followed 4chan-linked account @polNewsForever on Twitter, which has since been suspended.

  • Pro-Trump media politicizes the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, even as her family begs for space

    Tibbetts' family should be able to grieve their daughter without becoming political props

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN

    As Trump associates keep getting indicted, found guilty, and agree to plea deals while surrendering themselves to the FBI, pro-Trump media have seized on the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, and they are exploiting it for their own purposes. The body of Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student, was discovered on August 21 and her alleged killer has been charged with first degree murder. While a lot of news coverage and social media conversation has centered around Cohen, Manafort and why their dual felony convictions are disastrous news for President Donald Trump, some members of right-wing media and their supporters on social media have instead chosen to politicize Tibbetts’ death -- ignoring her family’s own grief and objections -- in an effort to distract from these bombshell stories.

    Below are just a few examples of what the Tibbetts’ family members are having to deal with, just a day after Tibbetts’ body was found:

    • Former Speaker of the House and conservative pundit Newt Gingrich emailed reporters about how Tibbetts’ death was potentially good news for Republicans in the fall, provided they could exploit it enough.

    • Turning Point USA communications director and right wing social media star Candace Owens got into an argument on Twitter with someone who says she is Tibbetts’ second cousin, accusing her of hating Trump and his supporters more than Tibbetts’ alleged murderer.

    • Fox News contributor Sebastian Gorka, Fox News contributor Tom Homan (the former acting director of ICE), Fox News guest Jonna Spilbor, CRTV host Eric Bolling, and Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak cited the murder as a reason to build a wall on America’s border with Mexican border. Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren, and Fox News guest Mike Huckabee cited the murder as a reason to end the policy of “sanctuary cities.”

    • Mike Cernovich used the occasion to promote his involvement with Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward’s campaign. Ward has already run a Facebook ad on the matter.

    • In a particularly dark note, users on 4chan and 8chan have been actively celebrating Tibbetts’ death. Anonymous postings on these message boards have been highlighting an old tweet of hers and claiming she got what she deserved because of a combination of her political views and her gender. Mentions of Tibbetts on these boards spiked just as the Manafort and Cohen stories were dominating news coverage. Other far right communities have pushed the meme as well. And the neo-nazi site Daily Stormer published a misogynist screed in the same vein.

    Tibbetts’ aunt took to Facebook the evening of August 21 and begged others not to politicize her niece’s murder, writing, “Please remember, Evil comes in EVERY color. Our family has been blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship and support throughout this entire ordeal by friends from all different nations and races. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”

    Grieving families shouldn’t have to make statements like this. They shouldn’t have to beg politicians and media figures not to exploit the tragic death of a loved one. They shouldn’t have to watch in real time as their loved one is defamed and dehumanized until her memory is merely a caricature to be memed on the internet in perpetuity. But that’s exactly what happens. Right-wing media exploit tragedies and rewrite biographies of victims in the blink of an eye. They have no consideration for the victims they claim to care about or the grieving families and friends they’ve left behind.

    Additional Research by Nick Fernandez, Natalie Martinez, and Katie Sullivan.

  • A New Mexico judge received multiple death threats. Earlier, right-wing social media accounts had spread her contact information.

    After a controversial bail decision, Judge Sarah Backus' contact information was spread on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and 4chan.

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A New Mexico courthouse was evacuated following a slew of death threats against District Court Judge Sarah Backus via social media, phone calls, and emails. Prior to the evacuation, conservative accounts had spread her contact information across social media platforms after she granted bail to five suspects allegedly involved with training children to perform school shootings in a remote compound in New Mexico stating that prosecutors had not shown “clear and convincing evidence” of the alleged planned attack.

    On August 13, Backus presided over the bail hearing for suspects of the compound case and set bail at $20,000 each, ordering that the suspects remain under house arrest and wear GPS ankle monitors. In reaction to her ruling, right-wing Facebook pages posted links and memes referring to Backus’ role in the trial and put her phone number and email in the status. The far-right page The Red Elephants posted her contact information suggesting that followers should call and complain about her decision to grant bail to the accused; the post was shared 10 thousand times. Three other conservative Facebook pages posted a meme calling for Backus’ removal and gave her office number as well as numbers to the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commision, the White House, and the U.S. Capitol switchboard. The top post among these was shared 27 thousand times. One other popular post from a grey-badge verified page also included Backus’ office number, as well as the email of Chief Judge Jeff McElroy of New Mexico. The content from conservative Facebook pages also spread through Pro-Trump Facebook groups. Posts on major groups encouraged people to call and email Backus.  

    Backus’ contact information also spread on other platforms, including Twitter, Reddit, and message board 4chan. A few popular tweets from pro-Trump accounts mimicked the language in the Facebook posts while spreading Backus’ office number, fax number, email and even court address. In a top Reddit thread on “r/the_donald,” one top-voted comment included Backus’ contact information, as well as numbers of the office of New Mexico’s attorney general, and a court number which the poster said could be used to reach Backus’ clerk. On 4chan, a couple of threads shared Backus’ office number. One post shared a screenshot of Backus’ supposed Twitter page and implicitly called for others to find and doxx the boy who is featured in the profile picture.

  • Seeking revenge for Alex Jones, far-right trolls unleash harassment on verified Twitter users

    A harassment campaign organized on far-right sites targeted journalists and activists with malicious abuse

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN


    Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

    On Wednesday, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey reiterated the importance of journalists’ presence on the platform when he tweeted, “We can’t be a useful service without the integrity journalists bring.” Some journalists, many of whom have faced relentless harassment on the platform, met Dorsey’s proclamation with jaded skepticism, and for good reason. Following President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks against the press, journalists have become a target for online harassment by the far-right favorites, egged on by prominent figures like Fox’s Sean Hannity, whom Dorsey gave a rare interview to this week. And when the consequences of the anti-press sentiment on the right have turned deadly, far-right message boards users have reacted in celebration.

    In fact, at the time Dorsey was underscoring the vital role of the press on Twitter, a coordinated harassment campaign -- seemingly originating from the anonymous message board 4chan and the white supremacist-friendly  Twitter alternative Gab.ai -- was targeting users, including dozens of journalists, who have been verified by Twitter.

    The campaign, organized under the hashtag #VerifiedHate, can be traced back to multiple internet spats that have unfolded in recent days. The first was a determined, bad-faith campaign to force The New York Times to fire newly hired editorial board member Sarah Jeong who had written a number of tweets appearing to denigrate white people. The manufactured outrage over Jeong was dominated by right-wing figures and championed by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, who insisted on taking her flippant tweets as deadly earnest “reverse racism.” However, the campaign culminated in frustration as the Times retained Jeong, despite issuing a somewhat equivocal statement. The second episode was Alex Jones getting banned from several tech platforms including Apple, YouTube, Facebook, Stitcher, and MailChimp, which was viewed by right-wing media as evidence of double standards and anti-conservative bias among tech companies.

    Faced with the combination of their failure to get a woman of color fired and their ire at tech companies, anonymous social-media users started a campaign to harass verified Twitter users who have in the past sent tweets containing jokes about white people.

    The campaign -- targeting particularly those of Jewish descent -- can be traced back to Gab, which harbors infamous white supremacist trolls like Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin. Four days ago, a Gab user posted a collage of verified Twitter users who the person claimed were showing their “white hatred”:

    The #VerifiedHate hashtag was also promoted by Gab founder and CEO Andrew Torba, a defender of white supremacist rhetoric who has appeared on Infowars to attack tech platforms:

    The idea spread to 4chan, where users called the push to harass journalists and activists “Twittercaust” or the “Night of the Blue Checkmarks,” saying it was an effort “to prove … once and for all that the Journalists, media personalities and celebrities are all a part of a massive anti white (sic) conspiracy!!!”

    The trolls also revealed it was a coordinated action, with some 4chan members claiming they were using multiple accounts to push the hashtag:
     

     

    4chan users posted examples of their coordinated Twitter harassment on the message board, demonstrating ways in which individual tweets could circumvent the platform’s hateful conduct policy that prohibits the usage of slurs:

    The trolls particularly singled out individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent who had referenced their own whiteness and Jewishness on Twitter:

    One locus of the #VerifiedHate campaign was BuzzFeed journalist Joe Bernstein, who received significant volumes of harassment, including one user who sent him an image of a gun:

    On Twitter, the account @meme_america began to promote lists of users  whom trolls could harass in the #VerifiedHate campaign and focused on specific journalists like VICE’s Justin Ling, who was subjected to vile comments:

    Multiple 4chan users expressed affinity for Alex Jones, and one claimed that, though Twitter hasn't banned Jones yet, the platform has removed other conservative voices and “probably will remove more”:

     


     

    #VerifiedHate is an example of an open campaign cooked up by right-wing trolls to harass and intimidate verified Twitter users, specifically journalists. If Dorsey really needs journalists to maintain the integrity of his platform, perhaps he should work to suppress campaigns that subject them to threats, intimidation, and harassment and make the social media platform safer to use for everyone.

  • How a fake news lie blaming China instead of Russia for election hacking went viral

    Far-right media figures pushed the claim, and multiple radio stations ran with it

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A made-up story claiming that former FBI attorney Lisa Page told Congress that China, not Russia, was responsible for hacking during the 2016 election spread throughout far-right online spaces and fake news sites and onto radio. Page’s attorney has rebutted the claim.

    True Pundit is a site known for posting false stories and pushing Pizzagate. On July 17, the site wrote that Page said, in “classified House testimony,” that there is secret evidence that “China hacked [Hillary Clinton’s] top secret emails.”

    There is no evidence that Clinton’s emails were ever hacked. Rather, emails account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and the networks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) were all hacked. A recent indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller linked 12 Russian military officers to the hacks of the DNC and DCCC.

    Furthermore, Page’s attorney, Amy Jeffress, told FactCheck.org that the story was “completely false,” adding that Page, in “nearly ten hours of testimony before the Committees, … did not say a single word about China hacking the DNC server, and this conspiracy theory about the FBI instructing her to cover up such a story is nonsense.” Jeffress also said Page’s testimony confirmed the intelligence community’s analysis that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

    Nonetheless, True Pundit’s article spread throughout far-right media, with the following sites and actors playing a role:

    Multiple radio hosts subsequently shared True Pundit’s article on air:

    • On Tennessee talk station WWTN-FM, a host said it showed Page “getting ready to turn state’s evidence” against government officials. Before he read out True Pundit’s article, he told his listeners, “You make a determination as to whether this is accurate or not.”

    • On California talk station KNZR-FM, hosts called the article “earth-shattering” and “huge.”

    • On Florida talk station WEBY-AM, a host said it showed that Page was “a woman scorned” and that Clinton had been “setting up the narrative” about Russian interference.

    • On Louisiana talk station WBRP-FM’s Fletch Nation, a host suggested that the claim explained Trump’s July 17 statement that “other people” besides Russia could have interfered in the election.

    • And on Maryland talk station WCBM-AM, a host directly cited YourNewsWire while saying that Page said “it was the Chinese that hacked the DNC server and not the Russians,” which he added “makes sense to me.”

  • A fake image of Putin pulling Obama's tie is circulating online

    And a syndicated radio show shared it as if it were real

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN



    A digitally manipulated image that appears to depict Russian President Vladimir Putin pulling former President Barack Obama close to him by tugging on his tie is circulating online, mainly to support claims that President Donald Trump is a stronger president than Obama. A syndicated radio show has also pushed the image as real.

    On July 15 and 16, Trump met with Putin in Helsinki, Finland. During the summit, the two held a press conference in which Trump, as The New York Times noted, “publicly challenged the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election,” “saved his sharpest criticism for the United States and the special counsel investigation into the election interference,” and “even questioned the determinations by his intelligence officials that Russia had meddled in the election.” Trump has drawn widespread criticism for his remarks and has claimed that he misspoke.

    Right before the summit and since then, figures on social media have spread an image that appears to depict Putin pulling Obama’s tie to draw him closer as they talked, with many suggesting the photo showed that Obama was weaker against Russia than Trump. As Snopes noted, the image is a manipulation of a photo of Obama with Putin in June 2014, in which Obama is just leaning in and speaking closely with Putin.

    Nonetheless, users on Twitter have tweeted the image, some specifically in response to criticism and critical coverage of Trump, with users writing that it shows Putin “led [Obama] around by his tie like a little bitch” and that Obama was a “spineless” “cuckold,” with one account writing, “Look how close Putin and Obama are. See Putin pulling on Obama's tie. If anyone thinks Trump is in collusion, Look at this pic.” The image has also been tweeted at Trump directly. One Twitter user, whom Trump has previously retweeted, shared the image on Twitter and wrote: “I'll tell you what you won't see at the Trump-Putin summit, is this. Obama held the most powerful position on the planet, yet was either directly man handled, or bowed down to world leaders, due to weakness. Either way, @realDonaldTrump will not get treated like this.”

    “New-right” proponent Mike Tokes, who recently appeared on white supremacist Baked Alaska's YouTube channel with white nationalist Richard Spencer, also shared the image.

    Users on 4chan’s far-right “politically incorrect” forum (commonly referred to as /pol/) also shared the fake image in response to criticism of Trump, with one user writing, “Here is what Putin thought of Obama's Stare Down.”

    The image has also been shared on Facebook and on multiple subreddits, where a user claimed the photo showed Obama was a “f'ing pussy.”

    The fake image has since made its way to radio, which has become one of the main avenues for fake news to spread beyond the internet. On the syndicated radio show Walton & Johnson, the hosts said there was “the picture of Putin where he’s got hold of Obama’s tie and he’s pulling him down” like he was “leading a dog around.” The hosts added that the photo helped rebut claims that “because Trump was friendly with Putin,” “he’s gone over” and “become pure communist now.”

  • A fake Maxine Waters quote about the Supreme Court is spreading on social media and radio

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A fake quote from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calling for an “illegal immigrant” to be selected for the Supreme Court is spreading on Twitter and Facebook. Multiple radio stations have also pushed the quote on air.

    On June 28, a Twitter account that labeled itself as a “parody” of CNN, with the account name @CNNPoltics, tweeted, “Rep @MaxinePWaters: ‘The next Supreme Court Justice should be an illegal immigrant.” The tweet also included a fake CNN chyron saying, “Waters: SCOTUS Pick Should Be Illegal Immigrant.” Twitter has suspended the account.

    Many people spread the tweet as real, including:

    • a co-anchor of Los Angeles TV station KTLA, who wrote, “What do her constituents in Los Angeles and the South Bay think about this?”
    • Daily Beast correspondent and Tablet columnist Jamie Kirchick
    • FoxNews.com contributor Stephen Miller
    • New York Post writer Kirsten Fleming, who called the quote part of Waters’ “sanity tour”
    • Bryan McGrath, a deputy director at the conservative think tank the Hudson Institute, who called Waters “the face of the left”
    • the chairman of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom

    All of them subsequently deleted their tweets, but most were captured by the social media tracking app CrowdTangle. The fake quote is still spreading on Twitter, such as from right-wing social media company AppSame, which wrote, “The Left has gone completely crazy Meet their leader @DNC Maybe a parody account doesn't mean it not (sic) something she would say.”

    The fake quote was also pushed as real by the fake news site RedStateWatcher, which pushed the debunked Pizzagate hoax in 2016, along with “The Donald” subreddit and 4chan’s “politically incorrect” forum (where a user wrote the tweet shows, “Bitch not only looks like a mudslide but thinks like one too”).

    On Facebook, pages shared a photo that had the fake CNN image with the added words, “Read that again- slowly- and let the full depth of abject stupidity and desperation behind the statement, uttered on nationwide television, sink in fully….” That meme has been shared more than 78,000 times and has, in turn, also been shared on Twitter and on 4chan. Other memes with the fake quote have been shared -- including from the fake news network America’s Freedom Fighters -- more than 36,000 times on Facebook, and have been posted in multiple pro-Trump Facebook groups.

    Multiple radio stations also shared the fake quote on-air as real. A host on Tennessee talk station WWTN-FM said the quote showed Waters was “the dumbest person ever to serve in Congress.” A host on Georgia talk station WYAY-FM said, “You’re not going to believe what Maxine Waters has just said on CNN.” And on Texas talk station KFYO-AM, a host said the quote showed Waters “couldn’t begin to pass the IQ test that [President Donald] Trump aced” and is “demented.”

    A similar kind of smear campaign through social media was recently aimed at Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Waters has also previously been the target of a series of fake and misleading stories.

  • Pro-Trump media use FBI IG report to bring back Pizzagate

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Far-right media figures, message boards, and fake news sites are using the Department of Justice inspector general report on the Hillary Clinton email probe to bring back the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory. The false claim reviving the conspiracy theory has since made its way to some radio stations, where the hosts have entertained it as real.

    On June 14, the Justice Department’s inspector general released the findings of his review into how the FBI handled the probe into former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The report criticized the handling of the probe and former FBI Director James Comey’s conduct, but it did not disagree with the agency’s decision to not call for charges against Clinton.

    Since the report was released, far-right message boards and figures and fake news sites have falsely claimed that two pages in the report proved that Clinton was involved in child sex trafficking because they had the phrases “Hillary Clinton & Foundation,” “Crime Against Children,” and “sexual exploitation of children” mentioned, even though there is no indication that the phrases are related in the report. The claim is a clear reference to the debunked conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate, which claimed that Clinton was using a Washington, D.C. pizzeria as a front for a peodphila ring and which eventually caused a gunman to open fire inside that restaurant. Some of those using the report to push that false claim played a major role in initially spreading the conspiracy theory in 2016.

    True Pundit -- a dubious site known for numerous false stories that counts Donald Trump Jr. as a fan and played a major role in spreading Pizzagate -- published a piece with the headline “IG Report Confirms True Pundit BOMBSHELL on Hillary’s Emails; Details Comey Was Briefed on Clinton-Linked ‘Sex Crimes Against Children’ Evidence on Weiner Laptop.” The article claimed the report vindicated the site’s November 2016 piece that spread the hoax (former national security adviser Michael Flynn shared that piece on Twitter in 2016). True Pundit’s latest piece has been promoted on social media by various people including prominent conspiracy theorist Liz Crokin, with the hashtags “Pizzagate” and “QAnon”; Matt Crouch, a far-right figure who is being sued by the former family spokesperson of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich; Marco Gutierrez, who ran “Latinos for Trump” during the 2016 campaign and is a former Republican congressional candidate; veteran and author Boone Cutler; and Infowars’ Jerome Corsi, despite Infowars previously apologizing for spreading Pizzagate. The article was also promoted on the Pizzagate forum of far-right message board Voat.

    YourNewsWire, a fake news site that also prominently pushed Pizzagate in 2016, published a piece headlined “IG Report: Hillary Clinton Ran Child Sex Ring,” which was spread by at least one YouTube video that had ads, meaning the account was able to make money off of the fake story. Another fake news site, Neon Nettle, also published a piece headlined “IG Report: Hillary Clinton Has Committed 'Sexual Crimes Against Children,'” which was shared in Facebook groups dedicated to Pizzagate and “QAnon” conspiracy theories. Another fake news site, Conservative Daily Post, also claimed the report “confirms Clinton links to ‘crime against children.’” Those stories carried ads, meaning they were making money off of the false claim.

    Additionally, the false claim has been spreading on a “QAnon” subreddit, where it was cited as proof that “Pedogate is real,” and 4chan's “politically incorrect” message board (common known as /pol/). Followers of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory on Twitter also shared it, some of whom also connected it to Pizzagate. Radio host and white nationalist Hal Turner also posted it on his website.

    The false claim also made its way from the internet to some radio stations, where hosts entertained it as real. On California talk station KSCO-AM, hosts responded to a caller pushing it by saying, “That hasn’t been discussed in the mainstream media,” and that “all of that is starting to maybe surface.” The hosts told the caller that he had made a “tremendous contribution.” The caller urged the hosts to check out Before It’s News, a site that also pushed Pizzagate, to which one of the hosts said she knew the site and would “check it out.” On Texas talk station KCRS-AM, hosts also responded to a caller pushing it by saying, “Oh, and they’re not going to say anything about that,” later adding that the IG report was “damning for FBI, for liberals, for so many folks” due in part to “saying something about the Clinton Foundation and how they were abusing children.” And on Massachusetts talk station WRKO-AM, a host responded to a caller saying the IG report showed “evidence that the Clinton Foundation committed crimes against children” by saying the caller was “on fire.”

  • Pro-Trump message boards and fake news sites use ridiculous image to accuse Obama of satanism

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Pro-Trump message boards and fake news sites are absurdly suggesting former President Barack Obama practices satanism.

    Since at least June 15, message boards on 4chan, Reddit, and Voat have pushed an image of a person who users say is Obama in some kind of headdress. Some of the users on the boards have pointed to the image to claim that “Q” (referring to the “QAnon” conspiracy theory) “leaked this photo of 0bama” to “prep the population for the exposure for the first time in history [of] the satanic cult that has run the world.” They also wrote that it was proof of “a satanic pedo cult” and that “Pizzagate is real” (nope, it still isn’t), that Obama is a “satanic niggerfaggot” and a “proven Satanist,” that Obama is part of the “satanic elites” and “a satanic cult that traffics children,” and that the picture is part of the “final destruction of Barack Hussein Obama.” Followers of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory have also used the image on Twitter.

    The image supposedly comes from an Instagram account that posted it on the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The account has since deleted the image, explaining that there was “too much hate & not enough support.” Yet the image does not appear to exist anywhere else, per a Google reverse image search (the only results are the images that originated from that Instagram image, and there doesn’t appear to be any result for the image besides that account or before this past week). And forensics from InVID, a verification tool, suggest possible anomalies in the image -- specifically via tests showing whether a JPEG had been tampered with and manipulated -- similar to those identified in the fake image of Parkland, FL, mass shooting survivor Emma González, suggesting the image’s legitimacy is suspect.

    Nonetheless, multiple fake news sites have run with the suspect image. Neon Nettle claimed that a “leaked image of Barack Obama dressed as Satan” has gone “viral,” and a similar article with nearly the same headline was subsequently posted by YourNewsWire.

    The articles have been shared on Facebook, where they have drawn nearly 50,000 engagements combined, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, and been shared in groups dedicated to Pizzagate and to “QAnon.” In those groups, the image was cited as proof that Obama “went to an illuminati wedding” and is a “Satanic Pedovore.”

    The image has also been shared on social media by a band; the Florida state director of The New Right, an organization co-founded by far-right figure Mike Tokes (the state director said it was “a picture of” Obama “dressed up as Satan”); Austen Fletcher, a contributor for far-right outlet The Rebel; white nationalist Hal Turner, and YouTube host Anthony Brian Logan. It’s also been shared in YouTube videos that have ads, meaning the accounts that uploaded the videos are making money off of the image. Even the International Business Times’ India site shared it as real, with the actual headline “Barack Obama's satanic image goes viral: Are Illuminati and Antichrist real?”

  • A day before Parkland survivor David Hogg got "swatted," trolls shared his address on 4chan and 8chan

    As a “graduation present” for Hogg, trolls on 4chan and 8chan shared his contact information and called for targeted harassment

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As a "graduation present" for Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, trolls on 4chan and 8chan shared his contact information -- including his home address and multiple phone numbers connected to his family -- and called for his harassment. A day later, a prank call claiming there was a hostage situation in his house led to an armed police team being deployed there. The practice, known as “swatting,” is a harassment tool online trolls use to attack their victims, and it has proved fatal on at least one occasion.

    The now-archived 4chan thread is a response to Hogg teasing the announcement of the activism “Road to Change” bus tour, a gun violence prevention tour he and some of his fellow Parkland shooting survivors just kicked off. In a June 3 post, a troll references Hogg having a “surprise for us” adding a link to the announcement of the bus tour, and posts contact information that includes home address and phone numbers linked to the Hogg family, saying it’s a “graduation present.”

    After the post and subsequent replies were apparently deleted from 4chan, trolls took to 8chan (a message board launched in response to perceived censorship on 4chan that has since became more anarchic) to continue the “doxxing,” or the publication of a victim’s contact information with malicious intent. In the 8chan thread, trolls complained that 4chan (which they refer to as “cuckchan”) had deleted the original post, plotted to send “large usps boxes” to the Hoggs’ home address, and schemed about “looking into” a patent under Hogg’s father’s name. After the news broke that Hogg had been swatted, at least one troll on the thread also complained that “unfortunately he survived.”

    The doxxing and subsequent targeted harassment of Hogg follow months of right-wing media attacking and floating absurd conspiracy theories about him in reaction to his gun violence prevention activism. Online, trolls are mirroring the attacks that right-wing media figures and the gun lobby are waging on Parkland shooting survivors, or vice versa.

    And in taking to message boards like 4chan and 8chan to plot hits on their victims, they’re continuing what is becoming a terrifying pattern: During the 2016 presidential campaign, 8chan launched a harassment campaign against journalist David Cay Johnston after he published an excerpt from President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax documents. After a judge upheld existing regulations to assault weapons, trolls shared his contact information on 8chan in clear efforts to target him for harassment. After he profiled an anti-Muslim Twitter crusader, a HuffPost reporter got doxxed on 4chan, followed by numerous colleagues. In 2014, 4chan trolls organized “Operation Lollipop,” an effort to infiltrate feminist Twitter and sow dissent. These message boards have proven to be ideal hubs for far-right trolls to organize harassment campaigns aimed at silencing, threatening, and hurting those they oppose politically, with little to no consequences.

    Media Matters confirmed the veracity of the address and has edited the images from the message boards to blur all sensitive information.