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  • Fox figures continue to smear Kamala Harris for The Breakfast Club interview after hosts debunk claim

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    On February 13, hosts of the New York radio show The Breakfast Club dismissed overblown conservative outrage attempting to smear presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) over her responses to questions about marijuana and music during their show. Despite the host criticizing and debunking Fox’s version of events, some Fox figures have continued to use the incident to smear Harris’ character.

    On February 11, right-wing media attempted to scandalize an interview Harris did with The Breakfast Club, claiming she lied about smoking marijuana in college to seem relatable to voters. During the interview, Harris had said that she supports marijuana legalization and revealed that she smoked in college before answering one of the hosts’ question about what music she listens to. Right-wing media figures decided to interpret the sequence as Harris claiming she smoked marijuana in college while listening to Snoop Dogg and Tupac, which they noted would be impossible because their music wasn’t released until after Harris graduated from college. This trivial nitpicking of details gave right-wing media figures an opportunity to smear Harris as unrelatable.

    The hosts of The Breakfast Club debunked right-wing coverage of the story two days later on their show. Co-host Charlamagne Tha God criticized conservative outrage while praising HuffPost for accurately reporting what happened, saying, “Finally, someone with no agenda; someone with no bias; someone who is just reporting on the facts and not some alternative version of the facts simply because they don’t like Kamala Harris.” He added that HuffPostreported it exactly how it happened,” saying, “We can’t be reaching like this. All right? This [could be] dangerous.”

    Despite The Breakfast Club’s rebuke of the version of events right-wing outlets originally reported, some Fox News figures have continued to run with the lie.

    The same afternoon, Fox co-host Jesse Watters criticized the 2020 Democratic candidates for trying “to be everything to everybody,” adding, “Kamala, you’re not hip-hop. Trump’s more hip-hop than you are.” As Watters spoke, the chyron at the bottom of the screen read, “The art of the pander. 2020 hopefuls bend over backwards to impress voters.”

    From the February 13 edition of Fox News’ The Five:

    On her Fox Nation show First Thoughts the next day, Tomi Lahren dedicated a segment that lasted over two minutes to talking about the The Breakfast Club interview. She condescendingly berated Harris, calling her “Kam-Kam” multiple times and saying it is “another example of Ms. Harris saying and doing things [that] just don’t quite add up.”

    From the February 14 edition of Fox Nation’s First Thoughts:

    On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, guest Mark Steyn sarcastically said Harris “just lights up and suddenly Tupac is there in the room with her, six years before he’s made his first CD,” adding, “That’s a magical Valentine right there.”

    From the February 15 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

  • Sean Hannity wants new Attorney General William Barr to prioritize investigating Trump's enemies 

    Hannity's enemies list features a slew of Obama-era officials, including Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Sean Hannity, the Fox News host with the ear of President Donald Trump, has a message for newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr: Investigate the president’s political enemies -- from former leaders of the Justice Department and FBI to Obama administration appointees to former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton -- or suffer the consequences.

    Fox’s leading propagandists spent much of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tenure denouncing him over his refusal to turn their conspiracy theories into federal investigations. Hannity apparently has reason to believe that Barr, who has spoken favorably about the notion of appointing a special counsel to look into the Uranium One pseudoscandal about Clinton, will be more pliable.

    On Thursday night, just hours after the Senate confirmed Barr, Hannity crowed, “My sources telling me tonight things are happening as we speak.” The Fox host went on to detail numerous purported crimes he said had been committed by 10 “deep state actors,” including former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

    “Over the next year with a brand new attorney general, William Barr, this country -- we’ve got to decide,” Hannity concluded. “You want to save the United States? You want to be a constitutional republic? You want equal justice under the law? Do you want a dual justice system, or do you want America to be handed off to your kids and grandkids as a banana republic?”

    Later in the program, Gregg Jarrett, the Fox legal analyst whose role at the network is to explain why the president and his team did not break the law but all of his critics did, claimed that “more than a dozen” Obama-era officials had committed crimes and that Barr “should haul them all in front of a federal grand jury.”

    “What about Hillary? Does she get held accountable?” Hannity asked. “They should reopen the investigation; it was a fraud,” Jarrett responded.

    Hannity has been urging Barr to investigate Trump’s enemies and predicting that he would do so ever since Barr was nominated in December.

    On January 15, the day of Barr’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hannity presented a “road map of corruption for the new attorney general-to-be,” dozens of federal crimes that, according to Jarrett, may have been committed by 10 Obama-era officials.

    The Fox host added that Barr “must also revisit Hillary Clinton's various crimes, like, oh, deleting subpoenaed emails, and deleting your hard drive and washing it with BleachBit and busting up devices and ripping out SIM cards.”

    Over the past month, Hannity and his cronies have maintained a constant drumbeat of calls for Barr to probe these officials. His is not the only program generating such demands; on Thursday night, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs urged Barr to investigate Chief Justice John Roberts because of his purported role in the surveillance of a Trump campaign aide.

    Fox has vast influence over the Trump administration because the president both regularly watches the network’s programming and privately seeks advice from its commentators. Trump’s decision this week to declare a national emergency in order to obtain border wall funding, for example, came after Hannity and Dobbs spent weeks demanding that action. And Sessions’ own relationship with the president was damaged in no small part because Trump kept hearing his Fox allies lashing out at his attorney general.

    Barr is being presented with a choice: He can follow the directives of Hannity and his crew and conduct rigorous investigations into Clinton and other Fox targets, or he can try to weather the storm that they will create if he refuses to do so.

  • In their ongoing effort to smear the Green New Deal, right-wing media misrepresent Sen. Mazie Hirono’s joke about air travel to Hawaii

    Hirono said that it’d be “pretty hard for Hawaii” to abandon air travel. Luckily, no one is asking the state to.

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Political news media is a lot like the game “telephone” in which people stand in a circle, whispering a word or phrase to the next person in line. One person mishearing something will throw the rest of the circle off course, and by the end, the message might seem totally foreign to the person who originated it.

    After making a joke about how far Hawaii is from the U.S. mainland, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) finds herself trapped in this very same game. Except in her version, the other players are right-wing media figures, who are using her quip -- which came in response to a question about the Green New Deal -- as a serious condemnation of the proposal, which, in fact, she supports.

    On February 7, Fox News congressional reporter Chad Pergram asked Hirono for her thoughts on the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to reshape the U.S. economy, infrastructure, and health care sector, all as part of a larger effort to address climate change. Specifically, Pergram wanted to know what Hirono thought of claims that the plan would try to eliminate air travel.

    Hirono jokingly responded, “That would be pretty hard for Hawaii.”

    Pergram’s tweet could be easily misinterpreted as sharing a serious and overarching response from Hirono, but the video of the exchange makes it clear that she was joking -- and that she actually supports the Green New Deal. It’s also worth noting that nothing about planes is actually mentioned in the text of the nonbinding resolution proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). That language came from an FAQ document, which was “clearly unfinished,” according to Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti. Chakrabarti said it was erroneously posted to the congresswoman’s website.

    All of that aside, it is very clear that Hirono was joking. After all, she’s one of 11 original co-sponsors of the resolution in the Senate, so her support for it isn’t actually in question. In fact, the day after her comment to Pergram, Hirono’s office posted a press release detailing her support for the initiative:

    “From committing to 100 percent renewable energy, to embracing a carbon neutral economy, Hawaii has taken aggressive action to combat climate change because of the threat it poses to our way of life,” said Senator Hirono. Confronting the challenge of climate change requires a comprehensive approach to transforming our country in a way that prioritizes environmental health and wellness, while also expanding opportunity and creating good-paying jobs as we transition to a low carbon economy. I welcome this bold national framework that tracks so closely to what Hawaii is already doing and what many of us have long advocated to enable communities, families, and individuals to thrive.”

    Just as in the game of telephone, it doesn’t actually matter what Hirono said to begin the conversation, because it got distorted somewhere in the middle.

    Conservative media have been leading the fight against the Green New Deal, and as usual, their primary weapons are fear and ridicule. Some right-wing personalities would have you believe that the Green New Deal would abolish everything from steaks to ice cream sundaes. It wouldn't. There are certainly substantive critiques that could be levied against the resolution, but many right-wing commentators keep making weak arguments that rely on misrepresenting Hirono’s out-of-context quote.

    “Even the senator from Hawaii, who is quite left, laughed at the idea of the Green New Deal and the stance on air travel,” said Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk during the February 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends.

    “On a serious note, getting rid of planes? Even the senator from Hawaii was questioning this," Fox News contributor Lawrence Jones said later on the same show.

    On Twitter, The Daily Wire made fun of  the idea of a “water train,” though, again, this isn’t something anyone has actually suggested.

    “If you can’t sell Mazie Hirono..,” Fox News host Rob Schmitt wrote as he retweeted Pergram’s tweet about Hirono’s comment. National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar also retweeted Pergram’s tweet with similar commentary: “When you’ve lost Mazie Hirono…”  

    “Now a senator from Hawaii notes it's not gonna work,” tweeted Townhall.com, sharing an article titled “Another Democrat Just Made Fun of Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal.”

    Most people misrepresenting Hirono’s joke almost certainly know better. So why do they do it? Because it’s effective.

    This isn’t some new phenomenon in American politics. Opponents of any given proposal will seek out something that confirms their suspicions, especially if it’s something that comes from “the other side,” and then use it as ammunition. The idea is to get the proposal labeled as too extreme for even people you’d ordinarily expect to support it. In this case, it’s Hirono on the Green New Deal. Going back nearly a decade, it’s the approach used to strip House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) infamous “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” line about health care from its fuller context about the effects disinformation campaigns had on the public. To this day, people regularly tweet some variation of that quote.

    Disinformation is effective. Years from now, there will almost certainly be people musing about Hirono’s joke as a serious condemnation of the resolution. With a complicated undertaking like the Green New Deal, it’s a near certainty that this is just the first in what will be a long line of cherry-picked quotes and misrepresentation from right-wing media.