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  • The Daily Caller has published white supremacists, anti-Semites, and bigots. Here are the ones we know about.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    This piece from September 5, 2018, has been updated to include an additional example.

    A former deputy editor for The Daily Caller severed ties with the conservative news site in light of the revelation that he had also written for a white supremacist website under a pseudonym, The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray reported Wednesday. Scott Greer, who stepped down from his editorial role earlier this year to write a book, said he would no longer contribute to the Caller after Gray presented him with evidence he had been “writing as ‘Michael McGregor’ for Radix, the online publication founded by the ‘alt-right’ leader Richard Spencer, who wants to turn America into a white ethno-state.”

    The difference between Greer’s writing under his own name and at Radix appears to be one of degree, not of kind. At the Caller, Greer had defended the Confederate battle flag and referenced other white nationalist tropes, the Southern Policy Law Center reported last year in a piece documenting Greer’s ties to white nationalists. And his book No Campus for White Men: The Transformation of Higher Education into Hateful Indoctrination was favorably reviewed by white nationalist websites. As “Michael McGregor” at Radix, Gray reported, Greer “expressed racist antiblack views and anti-Semitism” and “disparaged other groups including feminists, immigrants, Christian Zionists, and the pro-life movement.”

    The Caller’s leadership is reportedly shocked at the news that the publication employed someone with ties to white nationalists. Just last month, Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Ingersoll had defended Greer from such allegations. But in light of The Atlantic’s reporting, the website’s co-founder and publisher Neil Patel said in a statement to Gray: “We won’t publish him, anyone in these circles, or anyone who thinks like them. People who associate with these losers have no business writing for our company.”

    But as Gray notes, the Greer story shows that “members of an underground white-nationalist scene—emboldened by the rise of Donald Trump during the 2016 election—were able to operate relatively undetected in conservative institutions.” And the Caller has been ground zero for that phenomenon, publishing at least half a dozen writers with such ties over the last few years, in some cases cutting ties with the writer under scrutiny, in others ignoring the controversy. Notably, the Caller was co-founded by Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host whose show is beloved by neo-Nazis and white nationalists because he promotes their talking points against racial diversity and immigration and in favor of white anxiety.

    Below are the writers with white nationalist sympathies and ties that we know about. Some were hiding in plain sight, publishing bigoted commentary at the Caller itself. But Greer’s pseudonymous work for a white-supremacist website suggests there may be others who have yet to arise.

    Peter Brimelow 

    Brimelow wrote four op-eds for the Caller in 2017. He is a “zealous promoter of white-identity politics” whose anti-immigrant website VDare.com is “popular with the alt-right” and, by Brimelow’s own admission, publishes white nationalist writers, according to The Washington Post. Brimelow was a guest at the home of Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor, in August. His first piece for the Caller, in March 2017, defended Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) racist remark that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

    Jason Kessler

    The Caller contracted with Kessler in spring of 2017 “to contribute reportage,” and he produced three pieces for the site. The Caller suspended its relationship with him in May 2017 after ProPublica reported that Kessler “is supportive of white supremacist groups” and had “praised fascist and racist organizations.” Kessler subsequently organized the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, which featured white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The site removed Kessler’s author page and all his pieces shortly after Media Matters reached out for comment about his relationship with the site.

    Ian Smith 

    Smith wrote dozens of op-ed pieces for the Caller between 2014 and 2017, many of which call for harsher restrictions on immigration. Following Trump’s election, he joined the Department of Homeland Security, where he attended White House meetings on immigration policy, before resigning last month “after he was confronted about his ties to white nationalist groups.” Smith had also written for National Review and The Hill “during the period he was in communication with white-supremacist groups,” the Post reported.

    Milo Yiannopoulos 

    In November 2017, the Caller published what it described as the “first installment in [a] new weekly column” from Yiannapoulos, a notorious troll who worked with the “alt-right” to smuggle white nationalist ideas into Breitbart.com articles. Following an outcry, Yiannopoulos and the Daily Caller’s opinion editor, Robert Mariani, were fired.

    Moses Apostaticus

    In August 2016, the Caller published a piece by the pseudonymous writer Moses Apostaticus titled “The Alt-Right: Young White Men Sick of Being Hated,” in which he criticized the idea that “white men being as proud of their race and identity as black men or white women is profoundly disturbing.” He contributed more than 20 op-eds to the website over the next eight months, under headlines like “Go Home, Barry Soetoro” and “Donald Trump Is America’s Julius Caesar.” In May, Vox.com’s Jane Coaston pointed out Apostaticus’ history of anti-Semitic commentary.

    Ilana Mercer 

    The Caller published roughly 30 pieces from Mercer between December 2016 and November 2017. Her first piece, “The Curious Case of America’s Waning Whites,” argued that white birth rates are declining due in part to “systemic racial demonization” of poor whites. And her last, “Why Hatred of Whites is Here To Stay,” pushed the myth that white South Africans are experiencing genocide. The SPLC previously reported on Mercer’s writing for the Caller.

    Ian Miles Cheong

    A former Daily Caller contributor who last wrote for the site in May, Cheong “appeared on an alt-right podcast two months ago alongside hosts from the white supremacist podcast network The Right Stuff during which he told the hosts that he supported both nationalism and socialism,” according to Right Wing Watch.

    Dave Brooks (added 5/2/2019)

    In April 2019, Daily Caller News Foundation managing editor Dave Brooks was fired after BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray inquired about email correspondence suggesting he had contacts with white nationalists. The emails show that after Breitbart fired Katie McHugh for bigoted tweets, Brooks asked her whether she would “have any interest in working for [white nationalist publication American Renaissance] if I talked to Richard?” and saying that “I also know [white nationalist] Jared Taylor has been looking for an investigative reporter.” Brooks told Gray, “I am not friends, professionally or personally, with these people. I inquired on [McHugh’s] behalf through people I knew, and I haven't spoken to any of them in years.”

  • WSJ and right-wing outlets hype dubious study criticizing electric vehicles

    Experts have documented numerous problems with the analysis, but conservative media and climate deniers are still promoting it

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Wall Street Journal published an editorial on April 23 that derided electric vehicles in Germany as "dirty," based on a recent study that has been called into question by a number of experts and mainstream German news outlets. The Journal's editorial board, which has a history of climate denial, has attacked both German energy policy and electric vehicles (EVs) before.

    The dubious study has also been hyped by climate deniers and right-wing outlets in the U.S., including Infowars and The Daily Caller.

    Experts point out major flaws in German study on electric vs. diesel cars

    The study was conducted by the Ifo Institute, a Munich-based think tank, and argued that a Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle driven in Germany is responsible for more carbon dioxide pollution than a Mercedes C220d diesel vehicle. The study, which was released in German on April 17 and has not yet been translated into English, finds that the Tesla emits between 156 and 181 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, compared to 141 grams of CO2 from the diesel Mercedes. The study attributes roughly half of the Tesla's emissions to the vehicle’s production process, including its battery, which the authors assume will only last 10 years or 150,000 kilometers. The other half of the Tesla’s estimated emissions in Germany come from electricity used to charge the car, some of which is generated by burning coal.

    English-language summaries of the study include a press release from the Ifo Institute and a Brussels Times write-up.

    Soon after the study's release, German-language outlets started pushing back on its findings and methodology, including Der Spiegel, the highest-circulation news magazine in Europe, and WirtschaftsWoche, a weekly business news magazine. Articles in both publications highlighted miscalculations and faulty assumptions, and pointed to a number of other studies on EVs that had come to opposite conclusions.

    One English-language debunk of the study came in a Twitter thread from Netherlands-based energy researcher Auke Hoekstra. Hoekstra noted that the study's claims about the diesel Mercedes' emissions are wrong -- the Mercedes emits closer to 220 grams of CO2 per kilometer, rather than 141, he argued. He also highlighted how the authors used an extremely low number for how long an electric vehicle battery lasts. He stated, “even Tesla's from the olden days can drive 600 000 km before the battery reaches 80% capacity.” He summed up his criticisms:

    Hoekstra also argued that the analysis should not be presented as an academic study. Instead, he characterized it as “the opinion of three people, … none of whom have any background” in EVs or batteries. One of the authors, Hans-Werner Sinn, has been criticized for using dubious assumptions in energy studies before: Sinn received strong pushback on a 2018 paper he wrote claiming that energy storage requirements ultimately limit the expansion of renewable energy. Sinn has also argued that criticism of Volkswagen over its role in the Dieselgate scandal has been exaggerated, and placed much of the blame for the scandal on U.S. efforts to regulate diesel engines.

    Another debunk of the Ifo study came from Fred Lambert, chief editor of the electric transportation news site Electrek. He noted:

    One of the biggest mistakes they are making is that they are comparing the full production and lifecycle of an electric vehicle, including the emission from the electricity uses, against the production and lifecycle of a diesel car without accounting for all the energy used to produce the diesel and supply it to the cars.

    Lambert also called out the study’s authors for falsely assuming a battery life of 150,000 kilometers and for failing to note that Germany is planning to rapidly decarbonize its electricity system, which would greatly improve the carbon footprint of EVs in the near future.

    Another criticism of the study has been its focus solely on Germany's energy grid and the authors' failure to take into account the overall mix of the larger European energy market that Germany is a part of. German carmaker Volkswagen, which manufactures both EVs and diesel vehicles, responded to the study by defending EVs. In an English-language article by Deutsche Welle, a German international broadcaster, Volkswagen noted that with Germany's current electricity mix, its Golf EV would have a similar CO2 output as a diesel car of the same type -- 142 grams per kilogram compared to 140. However, “using the European energy mix for calculations, which includes large amounts of nuclear energy from France and water power from Norway, the e-Golf's carbon footprint would be down to 119 g/km” -- far below the CO2 output of a diesel car.

    Other analyses have disproved the claim that EVs are not environmentally friendly. In 2018, the Union of Concerned Scientists found that a U.S.-based EV is equivalent to a conventional gasoline car that gets 80 miles per gallon. Unlike the German study, it looked at all of the emissions from fueling and driving both vehicles. It also found that EVs will get cleaner over time as electric grids get cleaner, noting that its 2018 estimate was an improvement of 7 mpg from 2017. And a 2017 report from the Transport & Environment group, a Brussels-based transportation policy group, found that EVs emit fewer greenhouse gases than diesel cars even when EVs are powered by the most carbon-intensive electricity.

    Right-wing outlets in the U.S. promote Ifo’s study to disparage EVs

    Although the Ifo study is specific to Germany’s electric grid and has been widely criticized, climate deniers and right-wing outlets in the U.S. have picked up on it and are using it to disparage EVs generally. Steve Milloy, a notorious denier and frequent Wall Street Journal contributor, tweeted about the study on April 19. On April 22, extreme right-wing outlet Infowars wrote about the study, and far-right conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson tweeted about the Infowars piece. The right-wing website Zero Hedge wrote about the study too, and a tweet pointing to that post was retweeted by Mandy Gunasekara, a former Trump EPA official and current Fox News contributor.

    After The Wall Street Journal wrote about the study, still more right-wing outlets covered it, including The Daily Caller, which has a long record of inaccurate reporting on climate and energy issues, and The Western Journal, a conservative news outlet with a history of deceptive climate claims.

    The Wall Street Journal has a long track record of misleading on climate and energy issues

    The Wall Street Journal's opinion pages have spread misinformation about climate change for decades. A Media Matters study found that from January 2015 to August 2016, one-third of the paper’s climate-related opinion pieces contained climate denial or other inaccurate statements about climate change. We’ve also found that the paper's opinion section is ExxonMobil’s chief apologist for its climate change lies, and it has defended the fracking industry against accusations that it contaminates drinking water. According to a recent article in Current Affairs, the Journal has shifted in recent years from denying climate change to downplaying it, but still remains an impediment to clean energy and climate action. The Wall Street Journal has always been a pro-polluter, pro-industry paper, so it’s no surprise that it would overlook flaws and publicize questionable research that disparages a direct threat to the fossil-fuel industry.

  • Conservative outrage over Obama and Clinton “Easter worshippers” tweets is just the latest phony right-wing controversy

    It’s more important than ever to recognize bad-faith arguments on social media

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Sunday morning, terrorists carried out a coordinated attack on churches, hotels, and other populated sites across Sri Lanka, killing nearly 300 people. Sri Lankan officials believe the attack was carried out by a radical Islamist group called the National Thowheeth Jama’ath, and police arrested 24 people in connection.

    Messages of sympathy rolled in as people around the world mourned this tragic event. But tweets from former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent right-wing journalists and commentators into a rage spiral.

    Conservatives took issue with Obama and Clinton saying “Easter worshippers” instead of “Christians.” Naturally, outrage ensued.

    Townhall’s Cortney O’Brien claimed that Clinton “ma[de] up a new term” (she didn’t). Breitbart’s Joel Pollak reminded readers that Obama “drew criticism for his reluctance to identify radical Islam as the source of many terror attacks.” At The Washington Times, Cheryl K. Chumley called the tweets “a political ploy designed to tamp down realities of radical Islamic terror targeting of Christians and Christianity,” adding, “This is how Muslim apologists roll.”

    There’s nothing wrong with saying “Easter worshippers” to refer to people attending an Easter worship service, and neither Obama nor Clinton coined the term.

    Right-wing commentator Erick Erickson, of all people, had one of the more reasonable conservative takes on the outrage. In a piece titled “‘Easter Worshippers’ Is Fine,” he wrote:

    A lot of people, including a few of the politicians who tweeted, only show up to church on Easter Sunday. And while the phrase “Easter worshipper” is not common, it is also not unheard of. Ironically, had Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama not tweeted to express concern for the dead and condemn the attacks, a great many of the people outraged now would have been outraged by their silence.

    This is a silly controversy. Conservatives exhaust themselves pointing out how frequently progressives get outraged over minor things on social media and now are doing it themselves. The only people who care already noticed and do not need others to scream about it. It makes conservative complaints about social justice warrior insanity seem cheap.

    Adding to the “silly controversy” is the fact that only a few people who were outraged over the tweets from Obama and Clinton seemed particularly upset that President Donald Trump’s tweet in reaction to the bombings referred to the victims simply as “people” and mistakenly claimed that there were 138 million deaths.

    In fact, even the official statement from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also failed to mention Christians.

    The United States condemns in the strongest terms the outrageous terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka that have claimed so many precious lives on this Easter Sunday. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families of the more than 200 killed and hundreds of others wounded. We stand with the Sri Lankan government and people as they bring to justice the perpetrators of these despicable and senseless acts.

    “Worshippers” is a fairly commonplace term to refer to people attending a worship service. While The Washington Times may see use of this term as “a political calculation” in 2019, it was fine using it when referring to an attack in 2014. (The article link in the Times' 2014 tweet no longer works.) 

    Some conservatives also pointed out that both Obama and Clinton referred to Muslims specifically when tweeting about the New Zealand mosque attacks, and several people on Twitter wondered why terms like “Ramadan worshippers” weren’t used then, but the answer is simple: The New Zealand attacks didn’t happen during a Ramadan service.

    Contrary to the below tweet, the phrase “Ramadan worshippers” is sometimes used, especially regarding terrorist attacks on Muslims.

    For instance:

    The outrage isn’t really about the attacks at all, though.

    Three of the bombings happened at churches holding Easter services, and four others occurred at hotels throughout the city of Colombo. Additionally, one suicide bomber detonated during police questioning, and a pipe bomb was found and defused near the Bandaranaike International Airport in Negombo. While the attacks certainly targeted Christians, they were almost certainly not the only victims in this act of terrorism, as the country’s population is overwhelmingly Buddhist.

    Over the years, conservative media have gotten extremely good at coordination, and the emergence of a social media-dominated news apparatus has allowed that skill to shine through. It’s commonplace to see something posted on social media get amplified in the conservative echo chamber and become big news in a matter of days if not hours. This is what happened when conservative media coalesced around the idea that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was downplaying the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks, when they clutched pearls over Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) discussing the long-term sustainability of U.S. meat consumption, or countless other examples.

    The credulity with which mainstream news organizations take these claims of outrage only embolden the people making them, checking an important box in the conservative media ecosystem: their status as a persecuted minority unfairly picked on by politicians and a “liberal” media. Right-wing commentators have recently learned that by claiming that the Mueller report exonerates Trump (it does not), they can shape a reality in which people will perceive it actually does. Similarly, they know that if they repeat the claim that Obama and Clinton were showing their anti-Christian bonafides by saying “Easter worshippers,” they can build a conventional wisdom in which that is true.

    The answer, clearly, is to stop taking such people seriously by calling out their phony outrage where it exists and not letting them shape reality through repetitive propaganda.

  • Facebook’s fact-checking operation partnering with division of Tucker Carlson’s toxic Daily Caller website

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Check Your Fact, a division of Tucker Carlson’s far-right and falsehood-laden Daily Caller website, is the newest member of Facebook’s fact-checking consortium.

    Facebook’s fact-checking program has struggled in its efforts to control the spread of misinformation on its platform. And the program’s new inclusion of Check Your Fact, a subsidiary of an odious right-wing platform with dubious funding sources, will do little to boost confidence. (Disclosure: In March 2018, Check Your Fact fact-checked a claim that I made about the National Rifle Association, rating the claim “true.”)

    The news about Check Your Fact possibly becoming a part of Facebook’s fact-checking project started circulating last year. In order to participate in Facebook’s program, fact-checking groups must become members of journalism school Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), and Check Your Fact was accredited by IFCN in 2017. According to The Wall Street Journal, in the summer of 2018, Facebook executive and former George W. Bush administration official Joel Kaplan started pushing for it to be included in Facebook’s fact-checking project. But other executives at Facebook were opposed to its inclusion because of falsehoods promoted by The Daily Caller, and debate over the matter ended after Check Your Fact lost its IFCN accreditation in November 2018:

    This summer, Mr. Kaplan pushed to partner with right-wing news site The Daily Caller’s fact-checking division after conservatives accused Facebook of working only with mainstream publishers, people familiar with the discussions said. Conservative critics argued those publications had a built-in liberal bias.

    Mr. Kaplan argued that The Daily Caller was accredited by the Poynter Institute, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based journalism nonprofit that oversees a network of fact-checkers. Other executives, including some in the Washington, D.C. office, argued that the publication printed misinformation. The contentious discussion involved Mr. Zuckerberg, who appeared to side with Mr. Kaplan, and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The debate ended in November when The Daily Caller’s fact-checking operation lost its accreditation.

    Indeed, according to public assessments of Check Your Fact published by IFCN, the operation has not always been in full compliance with requirements about public disclosure of funding. In Check Your Fact’s most recent application, which led to its new accreditation, the operation discloses that it is funded via Daily Caller's general operating budget, the website's ad revenue, and a $100,000 grant from The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) that was provided by the Searle Freedom Trust.

    Searle Freedom Trust is a right-wing foundation that has funded a plethora of conservative groups -- including the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity, and the American Enterprise Institute -- and has backed efforts to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. The foundation has also given money to DonorsTrust, a pass-through organization affiliated with the Koch brothers that is used to anonymously fund right-wing causes.

    The DCNF, which was also founded by Tucker Carlson, presents itself as a charity, but questions have been raised about whether its purpose is actually to increase profits at the Daily Caller. As an investigation published by the Center for Media and Democracy explained, DCNF’s primary purpose appears to be to generate content that is then used by the for-profit Daily Caller website:

    The Daily Caller claimed in its 501(c)(3) application to the IRS and on its website that the foundation deserves its charity status because it “is a consumer research educational organization” whose goal is to provide “consumer news and research” to “mainstream consumers,” and because it licenses its content to other news outlets free of charge and has a mission “to train up-and-coming reporters and editors.”

    But CMD’s analysis indicates that one of the Daily Caller News Foundation’s primary activities is to provide The Daily Caller Inc. with a steady stream of content for its for-profit news website.

    The Daily Caller Inc. acknowledges this activity in its promotional materials for advertisers. In its 2016 advertising deck, The Daily Caller Inc. touts the nonprofit’s influence, stating, “The Daily Caller News Foundation has an advantage that most new media outlets do not: access to millions of views. Reporting created by The Foundation is automatically sent for consideration to the for-profit Daily Caller.”

    While Check Your Fact claims to have editorial independence from the Daily Caller, both entities are divisions of Daily Caller Inc. The Daily Caller is a fount of right-wing misinformation. According to an analysis conducted by data journalism professor Jonathan Albright, the Daily Caller is one of the leading online traffic drivers of misinformation alongside Breitbart News and YouTube.

    In particular, the Daily Caller has published false information about climate change for years. In a 2011 incident that reportedly embarrassed some employees of the outlet, the Daily Caller published a false report claiming the Environmental Protection Agency wanted taxpayers to fund the hiring of 230,000 new workers to implement climate regulations at a cost of $21 billion. The claim was made on a misreading of legal documents, but the Daily Caller refused to issue a correction to its clearly incorrect report. More recently, the Daily Caller has distorted academic research on climate change, falsely claimed that an increase in population of two penguin species disproves global warming, and pushed false information about the connection between climate change and extreme weather events.

    The Daily Caller is also home to right-wing extremism. Among some recent lowlights, the website has repeatedly published white nationalists and anti-Semites, hired a writer who pushed the Pizzagate child trafficking conspiracy theory and conspiracy theories about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, promoted a Holocaust denier, and published and then deleted an anti-Semitic video that targeted a New York Times reporter.

    Alex Kaplan contributed research to this post.

  • Right-wing media and think tanks are aligning with fake feminists who dehumanize trans people

    TERFs use feminist vocabulary but are aligned with national anti-LGBTQ groups

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Tucker Carlson recently hosted Julia Beck, a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” or “TERF,” in a segment promoting the illusion that there is an important divide over the importance of transgender rights within the LGBTQ community.

    Beck and other TERFs claim to be feminists, but they hold vehemently anti-trans views and are widely rejected by LGBTQ advocates and organizations. In fact, TERF groups and activists have joined with right-wing, anti-LGBTQ organizations around the country in lawsuits against trans rights.

    Beck's appearance on Fox was just the latest example of right-wing figures and groups promoting TERFs, who use feminist vocabulary to disguise their anti-trans bigotry.

    TERFs have appeared on right-wing media and at right-wing events

    Beck appeared on the February 12 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss her recent removal from Baltimore’s LGBTQ commission for her anti-trans views. During the segment, Beck, who is a lesbian, said, “Women have been speaking out about this for decades, but we have been effectively silenced. Many women like myself have been pushed out … simply because we acknowledge biological reality.” She also claimed that transgender identities are “opposed to biological reality,” said she doesn’t “think it’s fair to lump us all into the same acronym,” and pushed the thoroughly debunked myth that trans-inclusive policies threaten the safety of women and girls.

    Beck has also appeared at the anti-LGBTQ Heritage Foundation as part of a panel of people labeled as being “from the Left” who oppose the Equality Act, a bill that would add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to existing nondiscrimination laws. The January event was moderated by Ryan T. Anderson, an anti-LGBTQ activist who has previously hosted other TERF activists at the Heritage Foundation to attack trans-inclusive legislation.

    On the panel, Beck said, “There are only three sexualities -- homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual; all the hip new identities in the alphabet soup like nonbinary, gender-fluid, [and] pansexual are not actually sexualities. Neither is transgender.” She added that the “T” in LGBTQ is “diametrically opposed to the first three letters” and claimed that transgender identities “undermine and erase homosexuals.” She also said the definition of a woman is limited to an “adult human female,” echoing a rallying cry of the U.K.-based TERF movement.

    Beck spoke on the panel alongside Kara Dansky, a leader of the TERF group Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) who has also appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight. During her 2017 interview, Dansky said, “We're called transphobic bigots because we ask questions about gender identity. We're asking questions and we're standing up for women and girls.”

    Another TERF activist has recently leveraged her anti-trans beliefs into a flood of sympathetic coverage from right-wing outlets.

    Meghan Murphy, who founded the pro-TERF blog Feminist Current, is suing Twitter after she was banned from the platform for intentionally misgendering and deadnaming a transgender person. Deadnaming is the act of calling a transgender person by the name given to them at birth that they no longer use and that does not align with their gender identity, and it is a violation of Twitter’s new hateful conduct policy. Right-wing media rushed to cover Murphy’s lawsuit after she posted a YouTube video about the ban, leading to favorable coverage from Quillette, The Federalist, National Review, The Daily Wire, Townhall, The Spectator, LifeSiteNews, the Washington Examiner, and The Daily Caller.

    Right-wing media suggest TERFs are liberals; in fact, they’re aligned with extreme right groups

    Right-wing outlets seized on Murphy’s self-identification as a “feminist” as evidence that anti-trans reactionaries do not solely come from the far-right. On his Fox show, Carlson similarly identified Beck as a feminist and claimed that WoLF leader Dansky is a “radical feminist” and “not on the right at all.” And during their appearance together on the Heritage Foundation panel, which was titled “The Inequality of the Equality Act: Concerns from the Left,” Beck expressed her surprise at participating in an event hosted by a conservative think tank.

    TERFs’ embrace of supposedly feminist aesthetics and rhetoric can make it more difficult for media consumers to identify what they really stand for, and right-wing media take advantage of this confusion to push the illusion that activists “on the Left” share their anti-trans agenda. But TERFs are distinctly on the side of right-wing groups, and they have even allied with the efforts of national anti-LGBTQ groups to oppose trans rights in the judicial system.

    In 2016, WoLF sued the Obama administration after it issued guidance to public schools regarding transgender students’ access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. In the suit, WoLF alleged that these accommodations would lead to “indecent exposure” and “voyeurism” -- a claim that has been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked. In reality, transgender people are more likely to be victims of harassment, assault, and discrimination in bathrooms than to be perpetrators of such crimes.

    In G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, WoLF submitted an amicus brief filed jointly with the Family Policy Alliance, a national anti-LGBTQ group with an alliance of state groups that work to deny LGBTQ people their civil rights. The brief argued against extending Title IX protections -- which “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance” -- to include gender identity. WoLF’s brief was submitted in support of a school district that refused to accommodate the needs of a transgender student.

    WoLF also filed a brief in the Doe v. Boyertown Area School District case in support of a client of the extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom, who sued his school district for allowing transgender boys to use the same restrooms and locker rooms as him.

    Another coalition, called Hands Across the Aisle, which includes TERFs as well as conservative Christians, has also been actively supporting anti-LGBTQ groups in their legal actions against transgender civil rights. Like WoLF, the group filed an amicus brief in the Boyertown case supporting ADF’s efforts to roll back protections for transgender students.

    Hands Across the Aisle also wrote a 2017 letter to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson urging him to rescind protections implemented by the Obama administration in 2016 for transgender people seeking assistance in homeless shelters. The letter was signed by dozens of leaders of various anti-LGBTQ groups such as the Family Policy Alliance, Concerned Women for America, and the Texas Eagle Forum. (A prominent member of Hands Across the Aisle, Meg Kilgannon, was recently interviewed on Fox’s The Ingraham Angle about the group’s opposition to transgender athletes.)

    One prominent TERF has also connected with extremist movements overseas to support reactionary movements seemingly unrelated to her anti-trans agenda. Kellie-Jay Minshull, who goes by Posie Parker, recently traveled to Norway for a conference where she posed with far-right Hungarian politician, Holocaust denier, and Islamophobe Hans Lysglimt Johansen.

    Additionally, Parker has repeatedly expressed support for far-right anti-Muslim activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson. Robinson, another former Tucker Carlson Tonight guest, has also expressed anti-trans views in a video for far-right media outlet The Rebel.

    Right-wing media misleadingly suggest TERFs demonstrate a division within the LGBTQ community

    The idea that TERFs are liberal feminists -- bolstered by right-wing media -- helps create the illusion of a growing division within the LGBTQ community over transgender civil rights. In reality, mainstream LGBTQ rights organizations support and campaign for transgender civil rights, and lesbian institutions such as the Dyke March explicitly champion issues impacting transgender and gender-nonconforming people while also preserving pride events as a form of radical protest. Civil liberties advocates have also taken on the Trump administration’s anti-trans agenda and sued on behalf of transgender people for their right to access public accommodations. There is no such “divide” among mainstream feminists and LGBTQ advocates regarding the inclusion of transgender people in the queer community, as TERFs would like us to believe.

    In a piece about U.S. TERFs for Bitch Media,Tina Vasquez wrote that the debate over transgender rights “is not just feminist-theory inside baseball. Though outspoken, politically active trans-exclusionary radical feminists are relatively few in number, their influence on legislation and mainstream perceptions of transgender people is powerful and real.”

    Right-wing media figures like Carlson -- who has time and again demonstrated his intimate familiarity with extremist movements and a willingness to champion their causes -- are pushing a larger agenda that is anti-transgender, which includes denying trans people health care, expelling them from the military, and legally undermining their existence. And along the way, they’ll undoubtedly continue to uplift TERFs’ viewpoints under the guise of progressive feminism. But other media outlets and media consumers should be aware that nothing could be further from the truth; without transgender people leading the way, LGBTQ liberation cannot take place.

  • Right-wing media claim Cory Booker “wants to impose his meat rationing on us” after article quotes him saying the opposite

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In response to a question about food policy during an interview with vegetarian and vegan news site VegNews, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) argued that “this planet simply can’t sustain” the “massive increase in consumption of meat” that has been occurring. Conservative media are predictably misrepresenting Booker’s remarks to falsely claim that he’s launching a “war on meat.”

    In the interview, Booker noted the public health, environmental, and animal cruelty impacts of industrial farming and explained that he wanted to empower small farmers legislatively and that “corporate power shouldn’t be snuffing out competition.” He clarified, “This is the United States of America, and I, for one, believe in our freedom to choose. So, I don’t want to preach to anybody about their diets; that’s just not how I live.” Booker also explicitly stated that “this doesn’t mean, in any way, getting rid of animal farming, but in many ways, it means lifting up the voices of small farmers again.”

    Nowhere in his comments did Booker say he is going to seek to ban any American from eating meat. However, truth did not stop conservative media from spinning the interview to claim “soy boy” Booker said he was declaring a “war against meat.”

    Fox News’ The Five claimed Booker “is going to war against meat” and “wants to impose his meat rationing on the rest of us.” Co-host Morgan Ortagus introduced a segment about Booker's comment, saying, “Sen. Cory Booker is going to war against meat.” In the segment, co-host Jesse Watters celebrated the fact that Trump is “the McDonalds president, and he’s running against a vegan.” Watters also said Trump will claim that Booker “wants to take away your hot dog on the Fourth of July.” Later in the segment, Fox Business host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery also falsely claimed that Booker “wants to impose his meat rationing on the rest of us,” which Booker specifically denied in the interview, saying:

    “None of us want our government or elected officials preaching to us and telling us what we can or can’t eat. This is the United States of America, and I, for one, believe in our freedom to choose. So, I don’t want to preach to anybody about their diets; that’s just not how I live.”

    The Daily Caller ran a threatening headline saying, “Vegan Cory Booker says meat eaters’ days are numbered.” The article also misleadingly claimed that Booker’s critique was about the planet’s inability to “keep providing enough beef and pork to satisfy meat cravings” and not about the environmental damage wrought by industrial-scale animal farming.

    Conservative commentator Erick Erickson connected Booker’s comments to the supposed big-government tyranny of Pope Francis. A write-up on Erickson’s website The Resurgent contained the bizarre, and unsourced, claim: “The pope wants to use the power of government to coerce farmers into abandoning animal populations in favor of vegetarian farming. Booker is doubling down on that.”

    National Review misleadingly claimed that “Cory Booker wants only the rich to eat meat.” The article, referencing Booker’s point in the interview that it’s unsustainable to “see the planet earth moving towards what is the Standard American Diet,” misleadingly characterized Booker’s argument as saying “the destitute and poor of the world ... can’t possibly be allowed to attain the benefits of prosperity that the West has achieved.” The article also suggested he’s part of “the brewing war against our meat industries.”

    Trump troll website The Gateway Pundit: “Vegan soy boy Cory Booker is now attacking meat eaters — because that’s a winning strategy when you’re running to be president of a country full of bacon lovers.” The website called Booker’s food tastes “gross” and slammed veganism as “the latest Marxist, new age rubbish the Democrats and Hollywood elites are pushing onto Americans.”

    RedState: Booker “dropped some (non)science recently” in his pro-veganism interview. The RedState post mocked Booker’s interview, calling his comments “really idiotic” and “(non)science,” and bizarrely claimed that the relatively recent invention of industrial-scale animal farming is part of Earth’s “natural system of carnivorism.” The article ended with a reference to Booker’s conduct during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, suggesting the senator should now be called “Farticus” for “leading the brigade against those Nazi air biscuits” and for “eating so much fruit.”

    The Federalist: “Booker fuels his life with fake cheese. … Cory Booker is the vegan cheese of politicians.” A Federalist article about Booker’s comments claimed that “perhaps it’s appropriate that a man like Booker fuels his life with fake cheese. He fueled his career with fake friends.” It also suggested that if Booker won the Democratic nomination, he would lose Wisconsin to Trump, “who serves cheeseburgers en masse to champion college athletes.”

  • The Green New Deal drives conservatives nuts, so right-wing media is going on the attack

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Green New Deal has surged into the American political discourse over the last two months on a wave of activism and high-profile Democratic endorsements. According to its leading proponents at the activist group Sunrise Movement, the plan aims to “transform our economy and society at the scale needed to stop the climate crisis.” It seeks to decarbonize the economy, create millions of green jobs, and rectify racial and economic inequality, though a specific policy agenda has yet to be worked out. The Green New Deal, whose backers include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), has polled very favorably with registered voters -- even though most Americans have heard nothing about it. The Sunrise Movement intends to spend 2019 building momentum and support for the plan so that it becomes a top issue for the 2020 presidential election. From there, the goal is to enact sweeping climate legislation in 2021.

    Despite the fact that this plan is not yet fully defined and has no chance of passing through Congress for at least two years, right-wing media have wasted no time in attacking it. Outlets from Fox News to Breitbart News to the Las Vegas Review-Journal have spread inaccurate claims about the Green New Deal to stoke fears that it would destroy the U.S. economy and political system. The Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank known for its climate denial, is one of the most active opponents of the Green New Deal, and it is using right-wing media outlets to amplify its attacks.

    Here are some of the bogus arguments being employed by right-wing groups and media outlets as they attempt to discredit the plan.

    Right-wing media claim the Green New Deal is using climate change as a ploy to implement a radical socialist agenda

    The Heartland Institute's main argument against the Green New Deal is that it's socialism in disguise. It recently launched a website, StoppingSocialism.com, that criticizes the Green New Deal as “energy socialism.” Justin Haskins, an executive editor and research fellow for Heartland and author of the book Socialism Is Evil, is the group's main spokesperson for its claim that the Green New Deal has a hidden socialist agenda. He has made two appearances on Fox News in January and written several op-eds for conservative outlets to push that line of attack.

    On the January 8 episode of Fox's Tucker Carlson Tonight, Haskins called the Green New Deal “the most radical, dangerous policy proposal offered in modern history.” He claimed it would “do nothing to reduce global CO2 emissions,” concluding, “This is all about socialism, not saving polar bears.”

    On the January 11 episode of Fox & Friends, Haskins again dismissed the idea that the Green New Deal has anything to do with climate change, saying, “This is actually not about green energy. … This is really about socialism. This is nothing more than a socialist Trojan horse.”

    Haskins made the same argument in an op-ed that ran in The Detroit News on January 8 under the headline “Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ is not about global warming.” In the following days, the right-wing websites Breitbart, Townhall, and the Heritage Foundation's The Daily Signal reprinted the piece. From the op-ed:

    Many supporters of the Green New Deal know it will do absolutely nothing to reduce global temperature or prevent future temperature rise—the primary purpose of the proposal, according to Ocasio-Cortez. The real goal of the Green New Deal is to impose a series of radical, socialistic programs—policies that would dramatically increase the size and power of the federal government, cause immense harm to the U.S. economy, and run up the national debt by trillions of dollars.

    In a December 31 op-ed published on the Fox News website, Haskins wrote that the Green New Deal would "move the United States closer than ever to socialism. If we don’t stop it, it will destroy our economy for a whole generation of Americans.” In a January 3 Washington Examiner op-ed, Haskins claimed, “This is one of the most dangerous and extreme proposals offered in modern U.S. history. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in the Soviet Union, not the United States.” In another  Fox News opinion on January 12, Haskins referred to the Green New Deal as “socialized energy,” and falsely claimed that renewable energy sources are “expensive and unreliable.” And writing for Fox News again on January 19, Haskins claimed that the Green New Deal is not really new or visionary, but rather a “recycled version of a failed, three-year-old socialist proposal from Canada.”

    Heartland’s attacks on the Green New Deal should come as no surprise -- the organization has a long history of promoting climate denialism, and it has received funding from both Koch-backed groups and fossil fuel companies. None of its fossil fuel funding was disclosed in any of Haskins’ recent Fox appearances or op-eds attacking the Green New Deal.

    Other conservative outlets have followed Heartland’s example by scaremongering about socialism to attack the Green New Deal. For instance, the editorial board of the conservative Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, wrote on January 2:

    Some conservatives have been criticized for arguing that fears of global warming are being intentionally exaggerated by those seeking to use the issue to advance collectivism and radical socialism. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” doesn’t even try to hide it.

    A few more examples:

    • Appearing on Fox & Friends on January 3, notorious climate denier Marc Morano stated that the Green New Deal has “nothing to do with climate” and is really about "government control" and “central planning.”
    • Breitbart’s Joel Pollak wrote on January 3: “But the 'Green New Deal' is not really concerned about the kinds of incremental improvements that might be possible. It aims at centralized planning for the entire economy, implementing socialist economics using the pretext of environmental crisis. As Breitbart News has noted, this is not a new idea: it dates to Barack Obama, and really to Karl Marx.”
    • In an opinion piece in The Daily Caller on January 11, Kenneth Stein, policy director for the Koch-connected Institute for Energy Research, wrote: “Ultimately this 'Green New Deal' is not about saving the environment. The greenwashing is about creating a sense of urgency and moral panic, the better to entrench government ever deeper into the lives of American citizens. Americans resisted socialism in the Cold War; now it’s time to resist socialism in the Green War.”

    Right-wing media claim that the Green New Deal will lead to authoritarianism and destroy the American way of life

    Several right-wing attacks on the Green New Deal have invoked the horrors of authoritarianism and warned that the plan would destroy the liberties that Americans currently enjoy.

    • Writing for Grabien on January 2, Tom Elliott argued that the plan amounts to a “radical grant of power to Washington over Americans’ lives, homes, businesses, travel, banking, and more.”
    • On January 4, Jarrett Stepman of The Daily Signal wrote that the plan “would upend our way of life and destroy the liberty and prosperity” that we enjoy.
    • On January 9, National Review columnist Jim Geraghty wrote that “enacting these changes would probably require a dictatorship or other authoritarian regime.”
    • In The Patriot Post on January 11, Brian Mark Weber called the plan “ecofascist.”
    • During an appearance on Fox & Friends on January 17, Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce compared the plan to “economic enslavement.”

    Right-wing media downplay the threat of climate change when discussing the Green New Deal

    Some right-wing commentators have minimized the seriousness of climate change or resorted to climate denial when attacking the Green New Deal.

    • In a piece published in The New American on January 6, James Murphy maligned the U.N.'s main climate science body and warned that it too has a socialist agenda: “Ocasio-Cortez’s plan is apparently an answer to United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s absurd report released in October of 2018, which warned that the world had a dozen years to completely transform all of society or face certain environmental disaster. Ocasio-Cortez is not the only one who believes that climate-change politics is the key to a socialist reformation of world society. No less than UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres has recently said that 'climate action' offers a 'compelling path to transform our world.'”
    • Writing for the New York Post on January 7, National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote, “The case for the Green Energy Plan is based on the alleged climate crisis being so dire that it must overwhelm all cost-benefit analysis.”
    • In a post for Liberty Headlines on January 14, Michael Barnes also bashed the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “The IPCC is the bedrock entity for political climate change advocacy. It offers politically-driven climate model predictions that fit hand-in-glove with calls from the liberal global order to consolidate political and economic power with their ranks.”

    Several of the opinion pieces that the Heartland Institute’s Haskins has written about the Green New Deal don't even mention climate change at all, including two he wrote for Fox News and one for the Washington Examiner.

    Expect to see many more right-wing media assaults on the Green New Deal in coming months

    The Green New Deal is the most ambitious climate-action plan ever to get mainstream attention, and it directly challenges the power structures of right-wing groups and their backers in the fossil fuel industry. Even though it's just a broad outline at this point with no prospects for being enacted anytime soon, it's making conservative commentators very nervous -- so much so that they can't stop chattering about it. The right-wing media’s general obsession with Ocasio-Cortez also feeds their compulsion to cover the Green New Deal.

    Right-wing outlets appear to be giving the plan more attention than their mainstream media counterparts. A recent Public Citizen analysis found that Fox News made more mentions of the Green New Deal in November and December than other cable or broadcast networks -- even as half of the top 50 newspapers in the U.S. failed to mention the plan at all during the same time period. Fox's fixation has only intensified since the start of the new year.

    As we head into the 2020 election cycle and see some Democratic presidential contenders embrace the ideas behind the Green New Deal, we can expect right-wing media attacks on it to continue -- and to become even more absurd and overblown.

  • Sore winners and the sidelining of a shared reality

    Right-wing media’s selective empathy can create disastrous long-term effects on the political climate.

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Even though their party has control over the presidency, both chambers of Congress, and a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future, conservative media paint a perpetually dire picture of their movement. Viewers and listeners are bombarded with messages signifying conservatives’ role as scrappy underdogs whose successes come in spite of a system rigged against them.

    Looking to a recent example, conservative commentators Diamond & Silk (Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson) have spent the better part of 2018 claiming that Facebook has discriminated against them for their political leanings. What actually happened was that Facebook had briefly marked the duo’s page as violating the company’s then-new monetization policy. Though their page was quickly restored, the narrative had already taken hold: Facebook hated conservatives. In the coming months, the two testified before a House committee about their experience of being persecuted for their political beliefs by a tech company out of control and were given plenty of airtime by Fox News.

    Did it matter that there wasn’t an ounce of truth to their claim? Apparently not. It worked, marking the second time since 2016 that Facebook caved under easily debunked claims of anti-conservative bias.This time around, Facebook created a task force headed by then-former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (he would later return to the Senate to serve out the remainder of John McCain’s term) to study the issue, inviting zero left-of-center groups or individuals.

    Yes, publishers saw a pretty massive drop in referral traffic coming from Facebook as a result of changes to its algorithm -- overall, traffic is down nearly 50 percent in the past two years -- but that’s been an across-the-board change, not a targeted decline on the basis of political ideology. In fact, data show that conservative sites are still performing quite well. In September, Fox News ranked as the largest U.S.-based publisher on Facebook (based on likes, shares, comments, and reactions to stories). CNN, The New York Times, and HuffPost took the next three spots, followed by The Daily Wire, The Washington Post, and Breitbart News.

    If the story isn't true, then why push it so hard? Because without that underdog status, the anger that fuels conservative media wouldn't exist.

    There’s a reason why stories of anti-conservative bias, whether real or not, get played up a whole lot across conservative media. By reinforcing the audience’s idea that they are part of an oppressed minority on the precipice of being wiped out of existence, media can sidestep questions about how effective their party’s actual policies are at improving their lives. A great example of this has been the nonstop hype around a caravan of migrants making its way through Central America and Mexico. There’s no policy, just fear -- which is exactly what the Fox News midterm strategy happens to be.

    On Monday, the Twitter account for Fox News’ Fox & Friends First shared the story of a Twitter user going by the name @RealFrankFromFL:

    First politicians, now Americans! A man is now claiming that he was denied service at a restaurant just for wearing a Trump t-shirt. Do you think Americans are tired of the Left’s mob mentality & tactics like this?

    Frank’s story, in which he claims he and his family were denied service at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Roanoke Rapids, NC, because he was wearing a Trump T-shirt, had been picked up by conservative blogs The Gateway Pundit, Conservative Tribune, and BizPac Review. There’s no way to know how much of the story is accurate, but it served the purpose of reinforcing the idea that Trump supporters are a persecuted minority.

    You can see this play out on repeat with the way Fox News covers stories about conservatives, members of the Trump administration, Trump supporters, police officers, or members of the military being denied service somewhere.

    In October 2017, Fox gave a sympathetic interview to the co-owners of Cup It Up American Grill in Tucson, AZ, after the restaurant closed following backlash to a Facebook post in which they praised Trump and slammed “political correctness.” After three Republican interns were allegedly booted from an Uber for wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, the trio was invited to tell their story on The Ingraham Angle. In December, after a group of MAGA hat-wearing Fordham University students were told to leave their campus coffee shop for intimidating other students, Fox gave their story a little boost, as well. These stories are absolutely fair to report on; it’s in the contrast to how media outlets tend to cover events that paint progressives in a sympathetic light that it becomes clear that the same standards of what is considered newsworthy are not being applied.

    And good luck finding conservative sites that provide similarly in-depth, sympathetic coverage to stories about the viral video showing two black women being racially profiled at an Applebee’s (Fox did not cover the story on air); or the gay couple denied service at a Washington flower shop (Fox has actually covered this extensively dating back to 2015, but its framing has been, as it so often is in anti-LGBTQ discrimination cases, that it’s the shop owner who was the wronged party); or the man denied service at a restaurant for wearing an anti-Trump T-shirt. And in the instances in which discrimination against marginalized groups is covered in detail, conservative media outlets tend to side with the people doing the discrimination -- such as in the case of Aaron and Melissa Klein and their fight for the right to discriminate against gay couples at their bakery.

    Hyping the idea that the world is rife with discrimination against core conservative constituencies, while simultaneously ignoring the challenges other groups face (often at the hands of members of those core conservative constituencies), helps them build on their “No Country for Old, White, Christian Men” brand -- all the while complaining that people on the left are the ones actually indulging in victimhood culture. I jokingly refer to this tactic as doping at the Oppression Olympics.

    When viewers do hear about stories of actual oppression, there's little incentive to care.

    In fact, they might even cheer it on. Maybe this is just giving the left “a taste of its own medicine,” or the people being targeted have been so ignored or vilified that they’re not even registering as human beings worthy of rights anymore. I fear that we will soon see just how numb the country and the world, collectively, have become to the plight of others.

    On October 21, The New York Times reported on a leaked Trump administration memo proposing a radical redefinition of the terms “sex” and “gender” as they apply to federal nondiscrimination law. The goal, it would seem, would be to eliminate these protections for transgender individuals. According to the Times, the memo would define “sex” as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” One’s legal sex would be based on someone’s original birth certificate “unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

    This is big news with even bigger implications for trans people like myself. For the past several decades, the definition of what’s covered under the federal ban on sex discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations -- and whether that would include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity -- has been a hotly debated topic, finding its way to federal court dozens of times with varying outcomes. In recent years, especially, things seemed to be swinging in favor of LGBTQ people being protected under existing law. Should the administration implement this memo as a new rule under the Department of Health and Human Services (the agency where it has been circulating), it would almost certainly invite a quick legal challenge that would likely end up in front of an increasingly Trump-friendly Supreme Court. At stake is trans people’s ability to access health care without being turned away on the basis of their gender identity. If the definition were to spread to other agencies, as it likely would, it could result in trans people no longer being able to access identity documents that match our gender, effectively legalize discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and obliterate any expectation of privacy in public.

    Conservative media has a time-tested, two-pronged approach to tackling marginalized groups: Ignore and then attack.

    After Trump confirmed that the administration was “looking at [defining gender] very seriously,” on October 22, Fox News began covering it on shows like Shepard Smith Reporting, Special Report with Bret Baier, and Fox News @ Night With Shannon Bream. The next day, Camille Paglia appeared on The Story with Martha McCallum for a segment on the move. Paglia has been a critic of what she calls the “transgender wave” and the quest for legal protections. In a 2017 interview with The Weekly Standard, she said, “No one deserves special rights, protections, or privileges on the basis of their eccentricity,” referring to gender identity. Tucker Carlson invited Tammy Bruce to come on his October 23 show. In 2015, Bruce compared being transgender to self-identifying as a dog. Neither Hannity nor The Ingraham Angle mentioned the report, though the hosts of both shows have offered some less-than-enlightened commentary on the topic in the past. While slightly antagonistic, Fox’s coverage of the memo was pretty tame, despite playing host to anti-trans critics.

    It was in the realm of conservative websites that the memo received the type of hero’s welcome one may have expected.

    Science Wins Trump Administration Proposes Transgender Policy Based on Biology,” blared a headline from The Daily Caller. Another article by the outlet, about trans actress Alexandra Billings, seemed to go out of its way to call the Transparent star by masculine pronouns as many times as possible.

    In National Review, David French wrongly suggested that the memo would simply be a rollback of an Obama administration overreach (it would actually be much more than that) and praised the policy as “standing athwart a lawless redefinition of biological reality and quite appropriately yelling stop,” while Ben Shapiro said the administration “restored some sense of sanity” to Title IX interpretations.

    Meanwhile, Breitbart News reveled in the fear and sadness trans people and our allies expressed in the wake of the news with assertions like “The policy would protect Americans’ civil rights from the transgender ideology” and headlines like “Hollywood Unhinged Over Report Trump Admin May Eliminate Gender Ideology.”

    The former story included the bizarre claim that “[transgender] ideology has been loudly supported — and heavily funded — by a small number of men who demand the government force Americans to say they are women, amid criticism that those ‘transgender’ men are heterosexual men who desire to mimic women.” Another author at the site wrote that this “is not the first time that the Trump administration has angered the increasingly powerful transgender lobby.” The first portion of the statement makes sense, as Trump has taken a number of anti-trans steps during his time in office, but if there’s a “powerful transgender lobby,” that’s news to me.

    We live in worlds split from reality, with context washed away in the name of a politically agreeable narrative.

    It’s hard to build empathy when you’re shielded from the people you’re supposed to be empathizing with. That may actually be part of the strategy. An October 2017 NPR poll found that 55 percent of white American believe that there is anti-white discrimination in the country. Just two months earlier, a Public Religion Research Institute poll reported that while 48 percent of Republicans believe that Christians face  “a lot” of discrimination, and 43 percent said that about white people, just 27 percent believe black Americans do. For comparison, for Democrat, those percents were 21, 19, and 82, respectively.

    The political divide has become a reality chasm. Consumers of conservative media are shown stories of people being told that there is a 20-minute wait for a table at a local Ruby Tuesday as a grave injustice that proves the world is out to get them. They’re told that anyone wishing them “Happy Holidays” is attacking their religion. They are made to feel that jabs by late-night comedians or awards show hosts are an “all-out attack” on their belief system.

    But what of the black child shot and killed for playing with a toy gun? Well, maybe that was his parents’ fault, they might think. Or trans people denied medically necessary treatment on the basis of their gender? Well, that’s for their own good, readers could reasonably conclude. Or stories of Muslims racially profiled, placed on a watch list, or just treated with general suspicion wherever they go? They might have seen a video saying that the majority of Muslims are extremists, so hey, can’t be too careful now.

    Political media have, without a doubt, played a huge role in leading ideological factions to their respective places in the world. There’s certainly a sense that along the way, we lost our grip on a shared, objective truth. If there’s hope of undoing the damage, it’s time media make the spread of fair, contextualized news a major part of their mission.

  • Fox News spun NY Times report about FBI’s attempts to flip a Russian oligarch involved in organized crime into proof of an anti-Trump “witch hunt”

    For Fox, this is a familiar editorial stance

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On September 1, The New York Times reported on an unsuccessful years-long FBI program to flip roughly six Russian oligarchs, seeking to turn them into informants for the United States in investigations against Russian organized crime. Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and former British spy Christopher Steele, who authored a dossier of information on President Donald Trump, started communicating about this effort long before Trump announced his run for president, documents released by the Justice Department show.

    And yet, Fox News has been citing, out of context, the documents reported on in the Times as further evidence supporting Trump’s conspiracy theory that there is a “witch hunt” against him.

    While the program began in 2014, eventually -- after evidence of a possible conspiracy was established -- questions about Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Trump campaign collusion were raised with at least one of the program's targets. The Times’ sources told the paper that they revealed the program’s existence to avoid the president and his media allies “us[ing] the program’s secrecy as a screen with which they could cherry-pick facts and present them, sheared of context, to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.”

    But cherry-picked facts taken out of context perfectly describes Fox’s reporting, including its coverage of messages Ohr and Steele exchanged. Fox spun those communiques to suggest under-the-table conspiring by Ohr, Steele, and others at the FBI to maliciously target Trump. Nothing in the Times article suggests that contacts between Ohr and Steele were part of illegitimate DOJ and FBI activity, but Fox stuck to its misleading claim. When the Times article was mentioned, here's how network personalities and guests reacted: 

    In one of Fox’s earliest on-air mentions of the story, the host claimed that Ohr "was working with a man in Deripaska who's known as Putin's oligarch," and suggested that it validated Trump’s claim that the FBI was colluding with Russia. After discussing the article, guest anchor Ed Henry said, “You hear the president say there's collusion on the other side, and yet it doesn't seem to get any traction,” suggesting that in attempting to get Russian oligarchs to inform about organized crime in Russia, Ohr was actually trying to collude with said oligarchs to stop Trump. The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey also claimed details in the report “seem to confirm the president’s tweets that this is a witch hunt against him.”

    Daily Caller White House correspondent Saagar Enjeti told a Fox host that the story shows Steele “used his years-long connection with Ohr in order to push his dossier to the highest levels of the DOJ and the FBI.” In fact, a source in the Times article described Steele telling Ohr about the dossier as “more of a friendly heads-up” and said that “Steele had separately been in touch with an F.B.I. agent” to get his dossier to the bureau. Enjeti also falsely claimed that the dossier “really was the genesis for much of the investigation into President Trump” as well as “all of the other [Trump] associates” targeted. The investigation actually began after the Australian government alerted the FBI to Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos’ drunken bragging.

    Fox host Jeanine Pirro cut off a guest who mentioned that “Ohr is there to go after the Russian mob -- that is why the president is probably against Ohr.”

    Fox host Pete Hegseth speculated that “maybe it was Bruce Ohr who was actually flipped by the Russians.” 

    Guest anchor Ed Henry misleadingly described the Times article as saying “Ohr was trying to flip a Russian oligarch against the president.” And when a panel guest accused right-wing media of cherry-picking facts to create a misleading narrative, Henry interrupted him to make another decontextualized and misleading allegation. 

    Fox News contributor Gianno Caldwell claimed that, with the Times report out, “it does appear that it is a witch hunt.”

    Fox’s reaction to the latest development in the Trump/Russia investigations closely mirrors its reaction to many previous news reports that reflected poorly on Trump. The network regularly asserts that negative reports are actually good news for Trump and minimizes bad news. 

    When the Times reported in May that a confidential FBI informant contacted at least two of Trump’s advisers as part of the counterintelligence investigation into his campaign, Fox said it proved only that there was “surveillance of the Trump campaign by the Obama administration.”

    When the congressional hearing for former FBI agent Peter Strzok revealed no evidence that his political beliefs affected his work on the investigation, Fox News simply kept stoking rage over texts that revealed his opposition to the president and included rude comments about Trump supporters.

    When The Washington Post reported that Trump campaign associate Carter Page was the target of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant after he left the Trump campaign, Fox personalities lied about the warrant and falsely claimed it showed “Donald Trump was right” to accuse former President Barack Obama of spying on him. 

    When the Department of Justice inspector general released a report showing “no evidence” for allegations that former FBI Director James Comey and others allowed their “bias” to affect the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Fox used the report -- which had nothing to do with the Trump-Russia probe -- to call for an end to the special counsel investigation. 

  • Koch-funded groups mount PR and media campaign to fight carbon pricing

    Worried about momentum for carbon taxes, climate deniers go on attack via right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters  

    A coalition of right-wing organizations is waging a multilayered attack to erode growing support for carbon pricing. Most of the groups involved have been funded by the Koch network or other fossil fuel interests.

    Several different carbon-pricing mechanisms -- variously backed by groups of progressives, Democrats, establishment Republicans, or business interests -- are being proposed at the state and national levels. To counter these initiatives, the right-wing coalition is running a public relations campaign featuring industry-friendly arguments and climate denial. Their advocacy includes exerting direct pressure on lawmakers to oppose carbon-pricing initiatives and placing op-eds in right-wing and mainstream media publications.

    The basics of carbon pricing  

    A carbon price is a cost attached to emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, intended to reduce those emissions. According to the World Bank, there are two main ways to price carbon:

    An ETS [emissions trading system] — sometimes referred to as a cap-and-trade system — caps the total level of greenhouse gas emissions and allows those industries with low emissions to sell their extra allowances to larger emitters. By creating supply and demand for emissions allowances, an ETS establishes a market price for greenhouse gas emissions. The cap helps ensure that the required emission reductions will take place to keep the emitters (in aggregate) within their pre-allocated carbon budget.

    A carbon tax directly sets a price on carbon by defining a tax rate on greenhouse gas emissions or — more commonly — on the carbon content of fossil fuels. It is different from an ETS in that the emission reduction outcome of a carbon tax is not predefined but the carbon price is.

    Some 45 countries and 25 states, provinces, and other subnational regions have implemented some variation of carbon pricing, including California and the nine Northeastern states that are part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

    Momentum is building for carbon-pricing policies

    Carbon pricing has almost no chance of being implemented on the national level anytime soon. The last serious push came early during the Obama administration when the U.S. House passed a cap-and-trade bill in 2009, but it died in the Senate in 2010.

    President Donald Trump opposes carbon pricing, as do the vast majority of Republican members of Congress. Nevertheless, the approach is gaining traction at the state level, and a growing number of business interests and establishment Republicans are promoting carbon-pricing proposals at the national level.

    • The Climate Leadership Council -- which is composed of a number of influential conservatives, including former Secretaries of State James Baker and George Schulz, and major oil companies and other corporations -- is one of the most prominent organizations advocating for carbon pricing. It launched in 2017 with the release of a report, “The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends.” Its proposal is known as the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan.
    • In June, a new political action committee, Americans for Carbon Dividends, was launched to build support for the Baker-Shultz plan. It is co-chaired by former Sens. Trent Lott (R-MS) and John Breaux (D-LA), who both represented oil states.
    • Other conservative groups that support carbon pricing include republicEn and R Street.
    • Conservative thinkers who have endorsed carbon pricing or called for it to be given serious consideration include Weekly Standard editor at large Bill Kristol, New York Times columnist David Brooks, the Cato Institute's Peter Van Doren, and American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Aparna Mathur, among many others.
    • The nonpartisan Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which advocates for a carbon fee and dividend proposal, has a conservative caucus and counts Shultz and former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) as members of its advisory board.
    • Six House Republicans recently exhibited openness to carbon taxes by voting against an anti-carbon-tax resolution. Two years ago, no Republicans voted against a similar resolution.
    • Two House Republicans are pushing a carbon-tax bill. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, introduced the Market Choice Act on July 23. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) is the bill's co-sponsor.
    • A few congressional Democrats are also pushing carbon-pricing bills: Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and David Cicilline (D-RI) have introduced the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act, and Rep. John Larson (D-CT) has introduced the America Wins Act.
    • More than a dozen states have taken serious strides toward enacting a carbon price. Legislators in eight states have introduced carbon-pricing legislation in 2018 alone: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. In June, the Massachusetts Senate passed a carbon-pricing bill, which now goes before the state House. 
    • In January, nine states -- Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington -- formed the Carbon Costs Coalition, which is advocating for carbon pricing.
    • At the December 2017 One Planet summit held in France, two states -- California and Washington -- joined five Pacific Rim countries -- Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico -- in committing to implement carbon pricing.

    Although some of the more conservative, oil-industry-backed carbon-tax plans are opposed by progressives, and the more progressive plans are opposed by conservatives and the oil industry, they all have one foe in common -- the Koch-backed anti-carbon-pricing coalition.

    Alex Flint, the executive director of the Alliance for Market Solutions, a group of conservative leaders who support carbon pricing, said in April, “Those who oppose a carbon tax are rallying their defenses for a reason: they see supporters gaining momentum.”

    A right-wing campaign against carbon pricing ramps up

    On July 19, the U.S. House voted 229 to 180 to approve a nonbinding resolution opposing a carbon tax, largely along party lines. Six Republicans voted against it, and seven Democrats voted for it. The anti-carbon-pricing coalition helped to make sure almost all Republicans were on the "yes" side.

    The measure had been introduced on April 26 by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), House majority whip and possible contender for House speaker, and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) -- both climate deniers. The “sense of the House” resolution declared that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States,” and it garnered 48 co-sponsors total. (Scalise had previously sponsored anti-carbon-tax measures in 2013 and 2016.)

    On the day the resolution was introduced, the leaders of more than 25 right-wing and industry lobbying groups released a letter calling on members of Congress to support it. "We oppose any carbon tax," the letter read (emphasis in original). On July 9, many of these same groups sent a follow-up letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) urging them to hold a vote on Scalise’s resolution. Groups sent one more letter to members of Congress on July 17, two days before the vote.

    The influential right-wing group Americans for Tax Reform, which signed onto all three letters, put out its own call for representatives to vote yes.

    Altogether, 51 groups signed at least one of the letters in favor of Scalise's resolution:

    At least 42 of the 51 groups (82 percent) have received money from the Koch network, a conglomerate of fossil fuel executives, donors, think tanks, and advocacy groups that work to advance the right-wing deregulatory and anti-environment objectives of the Koch brothers and their company, Koch Industries. Scalise is a recipient of Koch money too: In 2017 and 2018, KochPAC, a political action committee that represents Koch Industries, gave $105,000 to Scalise and to a PAC and leadership fund he runs.

    Koch Industries also weighed in directly in support of Scalise’s resolution by sending a letter to members of the House on July 16.

    The Koch brothers have waged a multimillion-dollar crusade to undermine acceptance of climate change and support for climate change solutions since the mid-2000s. Starting in 2008, the Kochs' main political advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, cajoled hundreds of elected officials, including many congressional Republicans, into signing its influential “No Climate Tax" pledge. “The pledge marked a pivotal turn in the climate-change debate, cementing Republican opposition to addressing the environmental crisis,” Jane Mayer wrote in The New Yorker last year.

    Right-wing groups' arguments against carbon pricing often feature the Kochs' libertarian talking points or straight-up climate-change denial.

    For example, the American Energy Alliance makes vague free-market arguments in a piece on its website titled “ICYMI: There’s Nothing Conservative About a Carbon Tax”:

    Simply calling something “conservative” or “free-market” doesn’t make it so. The Climate Leadership Council’s carbon tax is an affront to the principles that conservatives have championed for decades. Most important, a carbon tax would destroy American jobs, encourage more wasteful spending from Washington, and burden consumers with higher energy costs. You’d be hard pressed to find a more damaging policy for American families.

    The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a Koch-funded think tank that argued Scalise’s resolution understates the harm of carbon pricing, denied the well-established scientific consensus around human-caused climate change in its April 30 white paper, “Does a Carbon Tax Support Prosperity?”:

    There remain questionable fundamental issues about the way carbon dioxide affects the climate. Observed temperatures by sophisticated technologies greatly and consistently conflict with today’s widely accepted, although highly questionable, scientific consensus about the effects humans have on climate change.

    Conservative and right-wing media amplify the anti-carbon-tax campaign

    In the days after Scalise’s resolution was introduced, it was covered in the right-wing and conservative mediasphere and praised in op-eds by commentators from right-wing think tanks.

    • The Hill published an op-ed supporting the resolution, written by the authors of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's anti-carbon-tax white paper.
    • RealClearPolicy published an op-ed opposing carbon taxes in general, written by a researcher from the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
    • The Washington Examiner ran an op-ed from a Heartland Institute senior fellow praising the resolution and contending that a carbon tax would be "disastrous."

    Conservative outlets continued to publish anti-carbon-pricing opinion pieces from Koch-funded think tanks up until the House voted on Scalise's resolution.

    • TribTalk, a publication of The Texas Tribune, published an op-ed denouncing carbon taxes that was co-written by an author of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s white paper and a senior economist at the Institute for Energy Research. The latter is a Koch-funded partner group of the American Energy Alliance.  
    • RealClearEnergy ran an op-ed by staffers from the Texas Public Policy Foundation and ALEC that incorporated many of the white paper’s talking points.
    • The Daily Signal published an opinion piece co-written by an analyst and an intern from the Heritage Foundation that promoted Scalise's resolution and denounced the Baker-Shultz plan.
    • The Washington Examiner published an op-ed from Americans for Tax Reform’s director of strategic initiatives that endorsed the Scalise resolution.

    After Scalise’s resolution passed, anti-carbon-pricing groups took a brief victory lap before quickly turning their attention toward attacking Curbelo’s carbon-tax bill.

    • The Daily Caller wrote about Americans for Tax Reform’s press conference, highlighting opposition to Curbelo’s proposal: "Conservative and anti-tax groups from around the world joined together to speak against a carbon tax bill that has been introduced in Congress." 
    • Reason published an article contending that Curbelo’s bill could raise privacy concerns for businesses.
    • The Miami Herald published a letter to the editor attacking Curbelo’s legislation from the president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a group that has sided with polluters in other fights over environmental issues.
    • The Washington Examiner published an op-ed co-written by staffers from the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance that argued Curbelo's bill would be "a costly failure."
    • Forbes published a piece attacking carbon-pricing proponents written by an executive for Americans for Tax Reform.
    • CNSNews published an op-ed from a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute that bashed Curbelo's bill.
    • The Star Beacon, an Ohio newspaper, published an op-ed from the president of American Commitment condemning Curbelo’s bill.
    • The Washington Examiner published an opinion piece by an analyst from the Family Business Coalition that attacked progressives’ “delusional tax reform ideas,” including proposals for a carbon tax.

    Anti-carbon-pricing coalition enlists minority groups in its campaign

    The anti-carbon-pricing coalition is also trying to make it look like its effort has the support of minority communities -- a strategy the polluter lobby has used often. The National Black Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Leadership Fund, two Koch-funded minority groups with long histories of opposing climate solutions, were enlisted as signatories on the coalition's letters endorsing Scalise's anti-carbon-tax resolution.

    National Black Chamber President Harry C. Alford gave a quote to Scalise to support his resolution: “We can continue to reduce regulations and watch our economy rise with the recent tax reform. Bringing unnecessary hurdles before us like a carbon tax will preclude that growth and hurt our economy immensely.” Alford, a climate denier, has previously opposed the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to impose smog restrictions on factories and power plants and to reduce carbon emissions from coal plants through the Clean Power Plan. The National Black Chamber of Commerce also led a disinformation campaign against rooftop solar in Florida in 2016.

    The Hispanic Leadership Fund participated in Americans for Tax Reform's press conference criticizing Curbelo's bill. In 2015, the fund joined with other Koch-aligned groups in asking a federal judge to vacate the Clean Power Plan. In 2009, it co-sponsored a Heartland Institute conference on climate change, which was based on the premise that “Global Warming is Not a Crisis.”

    The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is also part of the anti-carbon-tax effort. Its president wrote a letter to the editor of the Miami Herald opposing Curbelo’s legislation. In 2016, the group supported a utility-backed ballot measure designed to restrict consumer access to rooftop solar power in Florida.

    These efforts are especially harmful because minority and low-income communities suffer disproportionately from the burning of fossil fuels and the impacts of climate change and minorities are generally more concerned about climate change than white people. 

    Taking the fight to the states

    Curbelo’s bill won’t be passed into law by this Congress, and the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan and other national carbon-pricing proposals won’t get much if any traction this year either. But in a number of states, carbon-pricing measures are gathering more support and have more chance of being enacted. The right-wing, anti-carbon-pricing coalition wants to halt this trend, so it's at work on the state level too. Media Matters will examine these state-focused efforts in a forthcoming piece.

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets great PR from … Fox News

    Conservative media try to discredit a rising Democratic star by advertising her platform

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Back when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scored her upset win over House Democratic Caucus chair Joe Crowley in the NY-14 Democratic primary, conservative media had to scramble to find ways to attack her. Ocasio-Cortez came rocketing from relative obscurity to national prominence in the space of a few hours, leaving her newfound enemies at Fox News and elsewhere with little to go on. So, they made do with what they had: her policy platform.

    Sean Hannity memorably put Ocasio-Cortez’s entire platform up on screen and broadcast to the world the fact that she ran on universal health care and a federal jobs guarantee, and also endorses “solidarity with Puerto Rico,” “support[s] seniors,” and backs “women’s rights.” Hannity’s intention was ostensibly to allow what he considered to be the manifest extremism of her platform to speak for itself. He achieved the complete opposite: He made Ocasio-Cortez’s platform look great, and the candidate herself endorsed his failed attack.

    You could perhaps chalk up Hannity’s faceplant to the fact that Ocasio-Cortez was not a known quantity at the time and the angry right just didn’t know what else to do with her. But it keeps happening. Fox News and conservative media seem to have convinced themselves that the way to attack Ocasio-Cortez is to just quote her and point at her policy platform on the assumption that everyone will recoil in horror at the awful socialism.

    Just yesterday, Fox Business threw up a video of Ocasio-Cortez speaking at a rally in Kansas, followed by sneering mimicry from host Stuart Varney.

    Once again, a conservative media figure saw something self-evidently shocking and disqualifying in a Democratic candidate arguing for “a living wage to lead a dignified life.” And, once again, Ocasio-Cortez seized on the earned media to restate her policy.

    The Daily Caller got into the game by sending one of its conservative writers to a Missouri rally where Ocasio-Cortez spoke in support of Democratic congressional candidate Cori Bush. The ensuing write-up read like a parody of cloistered conservatism:

    But then Ocasio-Cortez spoke, followed by Bush, and I saw something truly terrifying. I saw just how easy it would be, were I less involved and less certain of our nation’s founding and its history, to fall for the populist lines they were shouting from that stage.

    • I saw how easy it would be, as a parent, to accept the idea that my children deserve healthcare and education.
    • I saw how easy it would be, as someone who has struggled to make ends meet, to accept the idea that a "living wage" was a human right.
    • Above all, I saw how easy it would be to accept the notion that it was the government's job to make sure that those things were provided.

    The abject terror of … health care and education for children. The Daily Caller writer appeared on Fox & Friends this morning, where she talked about the supposed insidiousness of Ocasio-Cortez talking “about things that everybody wants, especially, like, if you're a parent.”

    It’s a bizarre dynamic because the people attacking Ocasio-Cortez recognize that her platform does have political appeal (the supposedly “radical” planks, like Medicare-for-all and a federal jobs guarantee, actually poll decently well). But they keep on posting clips of her saying popular things, and then they just call her a “socialist” or grimly wonder who will pay for these plans to educate children and keep them healthy.

    This is a product of the suffocating ideological bubble conservative media exist in and help to maintain. People like Stuart Varney and the editorial staff at the Daily Caller are communicating with an audience that, they assume, will understand implicitly that a video clip of Ocasio-Cortez preaching for a living wage and the dignity of everyday life is a damaging, scandalous indictment of her politics. It’s “socialism,” that catch-all epithet that conservative media have spent decades applying to everyone to the left of Mitt Romney, and it merits only mockery and casual dismissal. Sure, they say, what she’s arguing for sounds nice, but it’s ridiculous and disqualifying because … uh … roll that tape again.

  • Right-wing media are defending Rep. Jim Jordan against accusations that he knew about -- and ignored -- sexual abuse at Ohio State University

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has been accused of knowing about, and failing to act on, sexual abuse by the team doctor during his tenure as assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University. Multiple former athletes have accused Dr. Richard Strauss of sexual misconduct and have claimed that Jordan knew or must have known about the abuse yet failed to act.

    Jordan, who is also the co-founder of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, has denied the accusations, claiming he was unaware of any abuse. During a July 6 appearance on Fox News’ Special Report, he was quick to attack multiple accusers, criticized CNN for hosting a former wrestler to discuss the claims, and stoked conspiracy theories by claiming that “the timing” of the accusations “is suspect” because he’s about to launch a campaign for speaker of the House. Allies of the conservative congressman have been equally resolute in their defense, with both President Donald Trump and outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) backing Jordan, and the entire Freedom Caucus voting to officially support him.

    Unsurprisingly, right-wing media have also jumped to Jordan’s defense, suggesting that the accusations are no more than a politically motivated smear. Here are some of right-wing media’s defenses:

    • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs criticized Ryan for failing to immediately defend Jordan from “suspiciously timed smear campaigns.” He also called the accusations “a smear campaign of the vilest sort” and said Jordan has been “dishonorably attacked by the left."

    • The Daily Caller ran an article attacking some of the accusers, arguing that their “sketchy history” raises questions about their “authenticity.”

    • Fox News contributor David Bossie tweeted that Jordan is “an honest man of unparalleled integrity” and “the scurrilous allegations against him are absurd - perpetrated by the fake news media and liberals with an agenda to stop Congressman Jordan.”

    • Radio host Wayne Dupree claimed the accusations were a “hit job” and argued that the story “seems like an inside job from our side that doesn't want a conservative becoming Speaker of the House.” He also called the accusations a “sex smear” and said that they have solidified his “unequivocal support” for Jordan.

    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter called the accusations “sudden” and “convenient,” claimed multiple times that the story was “bullshit,” blamed the victims, and suggested there was a “coordinated” liberal response to the wrestlers’ claims.

    • Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell said the accusations reek of “dirty tricks” and implied that they were made to derail Jordan’s campaign to join Republican House leadership.

    • During Rush Limbaugh’s July 6 radio show -- titled “With Paul Manafort in Solitary, Deep State Targets Jim Jordan” -- the radio host argued that the accusations against Jordan are just the result of “opposition research” and claimed they emerged “because he’s had a successful interrogation period with [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein and is being mentioned for possible speaker.” Limbaugh also attacked the victims’ histories and stoked conspiracy claims by noting that the “the leading Democrat law firm in all of fascist Democrat America,” Perkins Coie, is investigating the wrestlers’ accusations. Gateway Pundit made similar accusations, blaming the deep state, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) also told Dobbs that the deep state was to blame.

    • The Daily Wire ran an article that called the “timing of these allegations… suspect,” because they have come out only when “Jordan was considering a run to replace Paul Ryan (R-WI) as speaker of the House.”

    • Infowars’ Owen Shroyer claimed “intimidation tactics” were being used against Jordan, argued there are “a bunch of holes in this” story, and said, “It seems to me like this is just another case of the Clinton crime machine trying to intimidate Americans who are standing up to them.”

    • Infowars’ Roger Stone rejected the accusations as a “smear tactic” and “a hit piece” and argued that Jordan is being targeted for his criticism of Rosenstein.

  • In the wake of mass shootings at schools, conservatives blame everything but guns

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE, SANAM MALIK & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After nearly every school shooting, right-wing media scramble to find reasons why guns should not be blamed for gun violence.

    After 10 people were killed during a mass shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, TX, pro-gun proselytizers in the conservative media sphere insisted that gun safety laws would not have prevented the shooting and instead pointed to other aspects of American culture that they said required reform. Here are some of the excuses right-wing pundits offered for the May 18 shooting:

    In February, after the school shooting in Parkland, FL, claimed 17 lives, conservative media took the very same approach:

    • Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce claimed that talking about firearms doesn’t get to the “core issue” of “the human condition.” She and the hosts of Fox & Friends also blamed drugs, virtual reality, and video games for the shooting.
    • Radio host Michael Savage tweeted that “liberal judges and the ACLU” were to blame.
    • Fox guest Lou Palumbo blamed “the media, the entertainment industry,” and “the lack of parenting.”
    • Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson blamed “Leftist-run schools” and falsely claimed that the shooter was linked to antifa.
    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham blamed “mental illness”and “broken or damaged families” for the shooting on her show.
    • The Gateway Pundit suggested that the shooter supposedly being a registered Democrat was a factor. (He was not actually a registered Democrat; the blog was forced to correct the story.)
    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter blamed the FBI’s Russia probe for the shooting, tweeting, “The FBI was too busy trying to undermine the president to bother with doing it's (sic) freaking job.”
    • The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson suggested that the shooting was related to the shooter growing up without a father.
    • Liberty One TV’s Joe Biggs (formerly of Infowars) tweeted that the FBI was “too busy chasing Trump/Russia nothing burgers” to have prevented the shooting.
    • Pamela Geller falsely claimed that the shooter was connected to antifa and Islamic terrorist groups.
    • Laura Loomer shared a fake photo of the shooter and speculated that he was a “radical leftist” with potential ties to antifa and Islamic resistance groups.
    • Infowars claimed that the “MSM” (mainstream media) was “already covering it up” that the shooter was likely a “Democratic voter” and had clothing “similar to the style worn by ISIS fighters in Syria.”

    But as others have pointed out, most of the phenomena listed above are also present in other countries that don’t experience nearly as much gun violence as the United States does.