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  • Pro-Trump media -- including Fox News -- are using deceptively edited videos in a smear campaign against Speaker Pelosi

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Thursday, deceptively edited videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) meant to cast doubt on her competency made the rounds on social media and right-wing websites. Later, Fox put its weight behind the narrative, and the network’s most prominent viewer, President Donald Trump, tweeted out a Fox clip about it.

    The smears seem like an obvious attempt to discredit Pelosi after she questioned Trump's fitness for office during a May 23 press conference, saying she wished “his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.” A day earlier, Pelosi had made the true statement that Trump was engaged in a cover-up. As CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out in the May 24 edition of his Reliable Sources newsletter, “What's going on here is pretty obvious. Pelosi is questioning President Trump's competency -- saying she's concerned about the president's well-being, suggesting an ‘intervention’ is needed -- so Trump's allies are saying the exact same things about her.”

    There are actually two videos circulating in the pro-Trump media sphere. One spliced together clips of Pelosi’s comments on Thursday to make it seem like she stammered throughout the press conference. The other significantly slowed remarks Pelosi made during an appearance at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on May 22 to make her look inebriated. (Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani tweeted and later deleted that manipulated video.)

    Conspiracy theory website Infowars pushed the narrative with the headline “Watch Nancy Pelosi Stutter Slur And Suffer Memory Lapses in Press Conference.” Then Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight adopted a similar frame in an on-screen chyron and aired the deceptively spliced clip of the May 23 press conference. Trump then tweeted the Fox segment out to his 60.5 million followers.

    On Fox’s Fox & Friends this morning, guests Diamond and Silk falsely accused Pelosi of inebriation, possibly referring to the doctored footage of her appearance at CAP. Co-host Steve Doocy claimed in a later segment that he was unfamiliar with the doctored video but issued a correction for Diamond and Silk’s accusation by citing the Post. However, the two Fox Nation hosts refused to back down:

    Copies of the videos continue to spread on social media platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter, garnering thousands of interactions. Though these videos are deceptive, the tech giants seem unable to halt their spread -- and in some cases, they may even be making money from views, as at least one video pushing the smear on YouTube featured an ad.

  • How one company used a Fox-centric PR strategy to try to get Trump to give it a lucrative federal contract

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News has unprecedented influence over President Donald Trump’s decision-making. Trump’s worldview is shaped by the hours of propagandistic and sycophantic programming he often watches in a day, as well as his private consultations with many of the network’s stars on a wide variety of topics. As a result, Fox’s commentators have at times dictated the president’s policy agenda and political strategy, harnessed the news cycle by directing his attention to their particular obsessions, provided staffers for his administration, and hand-picked the recipients of his pardons.

    And now, the network is emerging as a platform that can determine who could receive hefty federal contracts.

    The Washington Post reported Thursday that Trump has “alarmed” military commanders and Department of Homeland Security officials by aggressively lobbying them to grant a border wall contract to Fisher Industries, a North Dakota-based construction company whose CEO, Tommy Fisher, has regularly appeared on Fox and other conservative outlets to promote his company’s bid.

    Fisher claims that his company can build a border wall both faster and cheaper than his competitors thanks to a patent-pending installation system, but the Army Corps of Engineers determined that Fisher’s design “did not meet its requirements and lacked regulatory approvals” and that the firm’s previous work on a barrier project “came in late and over budget,” the Post reported. Rejected through the procurement process, Fisher is trying to go around it through the right-wing media, a method that has allowed him to reach the president. Trump is now trying to sidestep the contracting process because, as Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) explained to the Post, he “had seen [Fisher] on television” -- specifically on Fox -- “advocating for his version of the barrier.”

    Fisher has used a Fox-centric PR strategy to directly pitch the president in hopes of obtaining a federal contract, making at least 10 appearances on Fox News and its sister network, Fox Business, since January 2018, according to a Media Matters review. Programs the president regularly watches, including Fox & Friends and The Ingraham Angle, have repeatedly granted Fisher an uncritical platform to shill for his company.

    Fisher’s strategy mimics that of K Street lobbyists who pay off TV pundits to promote their messages during on-air appearances and lawyers who put their clients and their relatives on Fox to ask the president for pardons.

    The CEO has honed his pitch to appeal to the president in particular, as demonstrated by his March 5 appearance on Fox & Friends, during which co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked him to explain “why should the president, or why should his administration, choose your company?”

    Fisher first appealed to the president as a businessman, saying Trump should know that his company would do the work for less money than other companies, get it completed faster, and throw in access roads and other additions.

    He went on to describe his company as “the first responder” of the industry, appealing to Trump’s well-known obsession with police officers and firefighters.

    And he also tried to link the bid to one of Trump’s notable construction successes, the renovation of the Wollman Rink in Central Park in the 1980s. “I think he’ll understand,” Fisher argued, “just like the Central Park deal with the ice skating rink, if you need it done now, nothing against government bureaucracy, but it takes time, so you need an expert to come in there and do it now and do it right.”

    Earhardt ended the interview by giving Trump another reason to prefer Fisher: “You might be able to build it just in time for that election, too.”  

    And Fox’s promotion of Fisher’s bid has not been limited to the network’s supposed “opinion” shows. On April 19, the network’s flagship “news” broadcast, Special Report, ran a packaged report that essentially served as an infomercial for Fisher’s proposal. Introduced by anchor Bret Baier and reported by national correspondent William La Jeunesse, the segment featured an interview with Fisher and credulously repeated his claims that he could construct the wall “faster, better, and cheaper.”

    All of this laudatory coverage has had Fisher’s desired effect, with the president reportedly promoting the company’s bid in meetings with senior military and DHS officials and forcing them to explain “that the president could not just pick a company” to get the contract in defiance of the federal procurement process.

    Fisher harnessed the incredible power of Fox’s hold on the president to get much closer than he should have to taxpayer dollars. He won’t be the last to try to do so.

  • On Fox, Laura Ingraham airs a deceptively edited clip of Rep. Ilhan Omar to accuse her of hating religion

    Ralph Reed: “There are few things, Laura, that are more distinctly” American “than bringing your faith into the public square.”

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On the May 23 edition of her prime-time show, Fox News host Laura Ingraham aired a deceptively edited clip of a speech by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to imply that she opposes people practicing their religious faith, despite the fact that Omar is a practicing Muslim.

    On May 22, Omar gave a speech on the House floor about the wave of anti-abortion bills being pushed in states across the country and criticized the hypocrisy among the “religious right” on such policy decisions. Omar called out “religious fundamentalists” who she said are “trying to manipulate state laws in order to impose their beliefs on an entire society.” She mentioned a recently defeated Texas bill that would have opened the possibility of giving the death penalty to people who get an abortion, saying, “If that was being proposed by any other country, we would be calling it a dangerous violation of human rights. But because it’s happening here, with the support of the ultra-conservative religious right, we call it religious freedom.” Omar also listed Republicans whose personal actions contradicted policies that they fought to push on the American public, and said, “How could it be that an entire century has passed [since women got the right to vote] and we are still forced to fight for our rights as women, as human beings, and as Americans. This should outrage every single person. It certainly outrages me, and we can no longer stand for it.”

    On her show, Ingraham aired the clip of Omar saying, “I am frustrated every single time I hear people speaking about their faith and pushing that onto other people.” Ingraham also played a clip from earlier in the speech in which Omar criticized “those that talk about their faith and want to push policies because of their faith” when they are “the ones that simply are caught with the hypocrisy of not living it out in their personal lives.” Ingraham mischaracterized her comments by saying, “I guess we are offending her by speaking about faith.” Ingraham also questioned Omar’s understanding of what it means to be American, saying, “This is a fundamental misunderstanding, purposeful or not, of what we are.” Her guest, Faith & Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed, agreed, adding, “There are few things, Laura, that are more distinctly and characteristically American than bringing your faith into the public square and using it to impact the culture for the common good.”

    This isn’t the first time that Fox figures have questioned Omar’s understanding of American values: Hosts have repeatedly doubted Omar’s loyalty to America, going as far as calling her “anti-American” and suggesting that her hijab means that she’s against the constitution. It's also not the first time Fox has deceptively edited a video of a sitting member of Congress to misrepresent their words -- last year, Fox & Friends aired a deceptively edited clip of Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to claim she was “confused” about Trump’s family separation policy.

    From the May 23 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle:

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Did you know that we were talking about faith and that -- just the fact that we were talking about faith upsets a certain congresswoman. Watch. 

    [BEGIN CLIP]

    REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): I am frustrated every single time I hear people speaking about their faith and pushing that onto other people. Those that talk about their faith and want to push policies because of their faith are the ones that simply are caught with the hypocrisy of not living it out in their personal lives. 

    [END CLIP]

    INGRAHAM: So I guess we are offending her by speaking about faith. 

    RALPH REED (CHAIRMAN, FAITH & FREEDOM COALITION): Wow. Wow. So the people who poured out of African-American churches in the 50s and 60s and marched on Washington and sat at church counters because of their faith, because they believe that God's law and natural law required that they be treated the same as whites. 

    INGRAHAM: Well America wouldn't have been founded if we didn’t have people of faith who prayed for strength and resolve in every battle, at the end of every war, to bring the country together. I mean, this is -- but this is a fundamental misunderstanding, purposeful or not, of what we are and who we are as a people. 

    REED: Of American character. I mean, there are few things, Laura, that are more distinctly and characteristically American than bringing your faith into the public square and using it to impact the culture for the common good. 

    INGRAHAM: Yeah, and inform who we are. I mean, what’s supposed to inform who we are? You know, Hollywood? Ralph, great conversation, I’m sure it offended all the right people. 

    From Omar’s May 22 speech on the House floor:

    REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): I rise today to defy the horrifying attacks happening against women’s reproductive rights all across this country. Religious fundamentalists are currently trying to manipulate state laws in order to impose their beliefs on an entire society, all with complete disregard for voices and the rights of American women. The recent efforts, like those in Alabama and Georgia, are only the latest in a long history of efforts to criminalize women for simply existing -- to punish us when we don’t conform to their attempts to control us. A new proposal in Texas would go as far as to threaten women who obtain an abortion with the capital punishment. If that were not being proposed by -- If that was being proposed by any other country, we would be calling it a dangerous violation of human rights. But because it’s happening here, with the support of the ultra-conservative religious right, we call it religious freedom. It’s simply unthinkable. But this anti-choice movement isn’t only unjust, it is dangerous because history has proven that when abortion is criminalized, the number of abortions do not simply go down. The number of deaths and injuries to women increase.

    Let’s just be honest. For the religious right, this isn’t simply about their care of concern for life. If they cared about, or were concerned about, children, they would be concerned about the children that are being detained and those that are dying in camps across our borders. Or the children who are languishing in hunger and facing homelessness. This isn’t about religious morality or conviction, because we’ve seen time and time again those that talk about their faith and want to push policies because of their faith are the ones that simply are caught with the hypocrisy of not living it out in their personal lives. I just remember recently, not too long ago, a Republican congressman who had to retire -- Tim Murphy -- because he asked his mistress to abort their baby while pushing for a ban on abortion. Or I remember the anti-LGBT rights Republican Larry Craig who was found soliciting sex in a bathroom in Minneapolis airport. 

    I am frustrated every single time I hear people speaking about their faith and pushing that onto other people because we know those so-called religious politicians, when it comes to their life, their choices, they want to talk about freedom. But when it comes to other people’s lives and other people’s choices, they want to talk about religion. I feel that we must point out how ironic it is that women now are facing these challenges to their freedom in the week that we’re marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. How could it be that an entire century has passed and we are still forced to fight for our rights as women, as human beings, and as Americans. This should outrage every single person. It certainly outrages me, and we can no longer stand for it. 

  • Fox and Trump claim Democrats have no legislative accomplishments. The House has passed over 150 bills.

    Fox isn't telling viewers that the Republican-controlled Senate is doing nothing

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In response to congressional investigations into possible irregularities in President Donald Trump’s finances, Fox News and the president are asserting that by pursuing these investigations, House Democrats are ignoring other legislative work. However, the House of Representatives has already passed more than 150 bills since the Democrats took control of it after the 2018 midterm elections.

    This morning, Trump wrote on Twitter, “The Democrats have become known as THE DO NOTHING PARTY.” The co-host of the president’s favorite morning show Fox & Friends had already made a similar assertion earlier.

    Co-host Brian Kilmeade said that House Democrats blew their chance to be “actually getting something done since they took power in 2018 after their election. They’ve gotten nothing done. All they’ve done is investigate and the president’s pushed back on all of that.” He added that Trump offered House Democrats “a choice: You either legislate or investigate. It seems as though they’re choosing investigate.”

    Later in the show, Kilmeade repeated this narrative, saying “[Rep.] Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is in danger of having that House for two years and doing absolutely nothing,” asking, “What are her accomplishments?” On America’s Newsroom, co-anchor Sandra Smith claimed there is “nothing getting done in Congress.” And yesterday morning, Fox Business host Stuart Varney dedicated his show’s monologue to ranting that House Democrats’ investigations of Trump and his administration means “nothing gets done,” complaining that “the politics of destroying the Trump presidency means no legislative action on the pressing issues that face our country.”

    These assertions are false. It was Trump who walked out of a meeting with Democrats on infrastructure legislation, as he did before during a January 9 meeting with Democrats who were there to negotiate an end to Trump’s government shutdown. It was Trump who has withheld his approval of a disaster relief bills passed by House Democrats, and it was the Republican-controlled Senate that rejected them. And it was House Democrats who passed a sweeping voting rights, elections, and ethics bill in March. In fact, since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives on January 3, the House has passed more than 150 bills.