The New York Times

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  • This is the reporting piecing together Trump and Russia

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    March 20. CNN: Then-FBI Director James Comey confirms that the agency is investigating ties between Trump campaign and Russia. In a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the agency had an open investigation into whether there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference with the U.S. election.

    April 11. The Washington Post: FBI monitored communications of Trump’s campaign adviser Carter Page. Law enforcement and other U.S. officials told the Post that the FBI and the Department of Justice requested and received authorization to surveil Page’s communications because “there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia.”

    April 27. The Washington Post: The Pentagon opened an investigation to determine whether former national security adviser Michael Flynn broke the law by receiving money from foreign groups without being authorized to. The Post published a letter Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) released showing Flynn had been warned by a Defense Department lawyer about being “forbidden from receiving payments from foreign sources” without government permission. Since he failed to acquire that permission, the Pentagon informed Flynn that he was being investigated.

    May 9. The New York Times: Trump fired Comey. The administration said Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had recommended Comey’s firing based on his handling of the investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

    May 10. The New York Times: Trump received the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office. The meeting between Trump and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was closed off to the American press corps; only Russian media was allowed.

    May 11. The New York Times: Trump asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him. Sources told the Times that Comey shared with some associates that during a dinner in January, Trump demanded Comey pledge his loyalty to him, and Comey refused by saying all he could pledge was honesty. The White House denied it and Trump told NBC that he never asked that of Comey.

    May 11. NBC News: Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt he had planned to fire Comey before he received a recommendation to do so. In the televised interview, Trump also referred to Comey as a “showboat” and admitted that he had asked the former FBI director whether he was also under investigation.

    May 15. The Washington Post: Trump revealed classified information to the Russians during their Oval Office meeting. “Current and former U.S.officials” told the Post that Trump revealed “highly classified information” to Lavrov and Kislyak that had been given to the U.S. by an ally. The White House denied the report through national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who said that nothing was disclosed that wasn’t “already known publicly.”

    May 16. The Washington Post: Trump tweeted an acknowledgement of having shared classified information with Russia. In his tweets the next day, Trump undercut the White House’s narrative that the sharing had not occurred, by writing that he had “the absolute right to do so.” After Trump contradicted McMaster’s version from the day before, the national security adviser briefed the press, saying Trump’s decision to share the information was spur-of-the-moment and that Trump “wasn’t even aware of where this information came from.”

    May 16. The New York Times: Israel was the ally who provided the U.S. with the information Trump shared with the Russian officials. Current and former officials told the Times that Israel had provided the information Trump disclosed. According to the Times, the disclosure “could damage the relationship between the two countries.”

    May 16. The New York Times: Comey memo indicated Trump asked him to stop Flynn investigation. The Times reported that Comey wrote a memo after meeting Trump in February, in which he documented the president requesting him to shut down the investigation into Flynn’s ties with Russia by asking him to “let this go.” According to the Times, it’s “the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence” federal investigations into his associates and Russia.

    May 17. NPR: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller appointed special counsel of Russia investigation. The Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller, who preceded Comey as FBI director, as special counsel to lead the probe into Russia’s intervention into the 2016 elections and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

    May 17. The New York Times: Trump knew Flynn was being investigated when he appointed him. Two sources told the Times that Flynn told Trump’s transition team “weeks before the inauguration” that he was being investigated for “secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey,” but Trump made him national security adviser nevertheless.

    May 19. The Washington Post: A current White House official is being investigated as part of the Russia probe. Sources told the Post that a current White House official is “a significant person of interest” in the federal investigation looking into the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    May 19. The New York Times: During the meeting with Russian officials, Trump said firing Comey eased “great pressure” from the Russia investigation. A document summarizing the May 10 meeting between Trump and Russian officials showed that Trump told Lavrov and Kislyak that firing “nut job” Comey had “taken off” the “great pressure because of Russia.”

    May 19. CNN: Russian officials bragged that their Flynn connections would allow them to influence Trump. Sources told CNN that Russian officials had bragged about their connections to Flynn as a strategic advantage that they could use to “influence Donald Trump and his team.”

    May 20. CNN: A source close to Comey said the former FBI director believes Trump tried “to influence his judgment about the Russia probe.”

    May 22. The Washington Post: Trump asked two intelligence officials to “publicly deny” collusion between his campaign and Russia. Former and current officials told the Post that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and Director of the National Security Agency Michael Rogers to push back against the Russia investigation and deny the “existence of any evidence of collusion.” Both officials refused and deemed the requests inappropriate.

    May 23. The New York Times: Former CIA Director Brennan “had unresolved questions” about Trump and Russia ties. During testimony to the House intel committee, Former CIA Director John Brennan said “he was concerned” by, as the Times reported, “suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and Mr. Trump’s associates.” Brennan testified that he “had unresolved questions” about “whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”

    May 24. The New York Times: In the summer of 2016 senior Russian officials were intercepted discussing how they would influence Trump. As reported by the New York Times, American intelligence "collected information" last year that showed senior Russian "intelligence and political" officials were focused on using Flynn and Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, "to exert influence over Donald J. Trump."

    May 25. The Washington Post: The FBI is now looking at Jared Kushner in conjunction with its investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Post reported May 19 that the FBI’s investigation included a focus on a senior White House official but didn’t name the individual. A week later, the Post reported that, while he is not a central focus, the FBI is looking at meetings between Kushner and Russians given “the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians.”

  • The NY Times Sold Subscriptions On Opposing “Alternative Facts.” Then It Published Bret Stephens.

    The Newspaper of Record Earned The Backlash It Has Received

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The New York Times finds itself mired in controversy after newly-minted op-ed columnist Bret Stephens devoted his first piece to preaching a “teach the controversy” approach to climate change. The piece has been pilloried by journalists inside the paper and out, the Times is crouched in damage control mode, and some readers say they will terminate their subscriptions because they believe the paper is siding with climate deniers.

    The Times is responsible for this backlash. After President Donald Trump’s election, the paper sold new subscribers on providing vigorous resistance to the “alternative facts” that fueled his rise. Now, it's publishing them.

    The paper’s subscription growth soared after the election, with new Times customers explaining on social media they wanted to support a bulwark against the new president. The paper fueled that narrative in pursuit of more subscriptions, creating an advertising campaign that depicted the Times as an opponent to Trumpian “alternative facts.” The paper’s CEO and executive editor claimed in earnings calls and cable news interviews that the president’s attacks on the outlet had backfired and generated more readers.

    But when you market your paper as an antidote to a worldview that is unmoored from reality, your subscribers will actually expect you to follow through. When you fail to fulfill your promise, those readers will take their money elsewhere.

    Flash forward to Friday, when Stephens -- whose hiring drew criticism for, among other things, his past columns calling global warming a “sick-souled religion” whose adherents share the methods of “closet Stalinists” -- authored his first piece for the paper.

    In keeping with his past work, Stephens used an “alternative fact” contradicting the paper’s own reporting to compare those who believe action should be taken to halt the consequences of climate change to Cold War-era Polish authoritarians. His “teach the controversy” salvo argued that “ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism” around climate change because “history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power.”

    The column was accompanied by a note from Times editorial page editor James Bennet, who praised Stephens and wrote that “we should have the humility to recognize we may not be right about everything and the courage to test our own assumptions and arguments.”

    Stephens’ piece provoked a fierce backlash from embarrassed Times journalists, reporters outside the paper, climate scientists, and angry subscribers, some of whom said they were taking steps to cancel their subscriptions.

    Then came the backlash-to-the-backlash, with Bennet issuing a statement defending the column as a necessary part of the Times “promoting the free exchange of ideas,” executive editor Dean Baquet standing by Stephens during an interview on CNN, and several prominent Times journalists lashing out at readers for the “liberal embarrassment” of criticizing the paper and wanting to cancel subscriptions over Stephens.

    I’m a third-generation Times reader who finds the paper’s reporting on any number of topics essential, including their excellent news coverage of climate change. I won’t be dropping the paper in light of Stephens’ hiring and first column -- my expectations for the paper’s columnists are astonishingly low after two decades of reading Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman. But I understand where those faltering subscribers are coming from, and the Times’ response to its progressive critics is silly and insulting.

    Contra Bennet, the paper is not providing some sort of unique value to news consumers by publishing an op-ed columnist whose writing on climate change defies the facts published in the paper’s news section. If that’s what readers want, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and George Will’s columns in The Washington Post are readily available.

    It stands to reason that some Times subscribers signed up precisely because they were looking for something different -- for what the Times itself was promising in its advertising, a paper where “alternative facts” were unwelcome.

    Good journalism is an essential part of a democratic system. But newspapers are a commodity in a capitalist economy -- the Times will run you more than $900 a year for seven-day-a-week home delivery -- and if customers aren’t happy with the product, they won’t stick around. They’ll find another source for news, Times political reporters will get to look down their noses at the hippies who don’t want what they’re selling, and people like me will still be reading the paper for what it does well. It’s a win-win-win!

    The problem for the Times, of course, is that the faltering financial model for print journalism means that the paper desperately needs to keep its subscription numbers rising, or it’ll be in a financial crunch that will lead to more layoffs. Which is why it tried to juice its subscription numbers by selling itself to liberals as a force against “alternative facts” in the first place.

    UPDATE: After Baquet, Bennet, and Stephens all publicly defended the piece, the Times has now added a correction to Stephens' first column. Stephens had falsely claimed that the evidence shows "modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere." The updated column corrects that statement to accurately note that the figure represents the global change, but leaves all Stephens' conclusions (originally based in part on a falsehood) intact. The correction reads

    An earlier version of this article misstated the area that warmed by 0.85 degrees Celsius as noted in the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel report. It was the globally averaged combined land and ocean surface, not only the Northern Hemisphere.

    As Think Progress' Joe Romm has noted, a 0.85-degree warming globally is a substantially bigger deal than the same increase would be in the Northern Hemisphere alone:

    The 0.85°C is not “modest.” It is roughly the same as the entire variation the Earth experienced during the several thousand years of stable climate that enabled the development of modern civilization, global agriculture, and a world that could sustain a vast population 

    So Stephens got his facts wrong, in a way that undermines his argument, but even after the correction sees no need to alter his conclusions. What an embarrassment for the paper.

  • The Press Struggles To Finally Break Its “Populist” Habit For Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Like smokers trying to quit a pack-a-day habit, some journalists are finally trying to drop the long-running practice of portraying President Donald Trump as a “populist.” 

    Sparked specifically by Trump’s blatant economic flip-flops this month regarding trade deals, currency policy concerning China, and the Export-Import Bank, more members of the press seem willing to concede that Trump’s attempt to govern as a populist has quickly ended.  

    Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus announced that Trump’s “populist revolution” is “already over -- at least for now.” The Week agreed that Trump is “beating a hasty retreat from populism.” And even The New York Times, which has been an aggressive promoter of the “populist” meme, recently noted that Trump, “has stocked his administration with billionaires and lobbyists while turning over his economic program to a Wall Street banker.”

    But like any stubborn habit, the “populist” one won’t be easy to quit. Note that while that Times article detailed Trump's obviously non-populist agenda, Times reporters regularly use the label to describe him in other pieces.

    This month alone, the Times has referenced Trump’s “populist appeal,” credited a “populist economic message” for his political rise, grouped him with “fellow populist Marine Le Pen,” and described both him and Turkey’s president as “populist leaders.”

    And the Times isn’t alone in clinging to the narrative. The Christian Science Monitor last week reported, “Trump the populist is back.”

    Reminder: Populism represents a political struggle on behalf of regular people against elite economic forces. Today, Trump’s brand of pro-corporate, anti-worker politics represents the exact opposite.

    The clues have not been hard to find, as Trump quickly stacked his administration with a cavalcade of pro-business multimillionaires and billionaires. But that was just the beginning.

    The president and his Republican allies have spent much of this year trying to repeal health care for 20 million Americans, pass massive new tax cuts for the wealthy, eliminate a State Department program “which sends food to poor countries hit by war or natural disasters,” greatly expand the Pentagon’s budget, potentially block overtime pay for workers making less than $47,000 a year, defund Planned Parenthood, defund public broadcasting, abolish the government block grant program that helps fund Meals on Wheels for the elderly, and roll back rules protecting net neutrality.

    So no, Trump’s not a “populist,” even if he has “styled himself as a man of the people.” (Trump’s residence in New York City, where the first lady currently lives, is an apartment that’s decorated in 24-karat gold.)

    The whole Trump’s-a-populist trope has been a media mess for more than a year now.

    And why “populist”? Why is that almost always the catch phrase journalists reach for when “white nationalist,” “nativist,” and “authoritarian” are likely more accurate descriptions of Trump?

    The truth is, “populist” serves as a crutch. And when it’s still used today, the identifier represents a lazy shorthand used to describe Trump’s grab bag of often contradictory political positions.

    Last year, the narrative served as a campaign mirage: the Brigadoon of American politics. Trump’s “populism” enticed the press and provided journalists with an acceptable, nonthreatening way to address his primary and general election successes. It was a way to downplay white nationalism, race-baiting, and sexism as the driving forces of his campaign. Yes, Trump cynically embraced populist rhetoric. But journalists ought to be able to see beyond campaign ploys like that.

    To this day, the concept allows journalists to engage in more "both sides" analysis, comparing and contrasting Trump’s “populism” with the approach of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who actually does promote a populist, pro-people agenda.  

    Sanders’ signature political crusade revolves around making sure all American have access to health care. By contrast, Trump continues to plot the overthrow of the Affordable Care Act, which would cause millions of Americans to lose their insurance coverage.

    How does any working journalist look at those two sets of facts and conclude, yeah, Trump and Sanders are both populists?

    Even more troubling have been the press pronouncements that some of Trump’s deeply nativist proposals are somehow populist.

    As The New York Times wrote [emphasis added]:

    For the first two months of Mr. Trump's presidency, Mr. Bannon occupied an unassailable perch at the president's side -- ramming through key elements of his eclectic and hard-edge populist agenda, including two executive orders on freezing immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries.

    This is especially upsetting. Trump's goal of banning people from Muslim countries from entering the United States, and his scheme to build a $20 billion wall to fix a nonexistent immigration crisis, have very little to do with “populism.” But they do have a lot to do with nativism and the idea that white America is under siege and that the federal government must take unprecedented action to protect its fragile sovereignty.

    Portraying that as “populism” -- as Trump sticking up for the little guy -- is dangerous and deeply misguided.

  • Punditry On Syrian Airstrikes Is Encouraging Trump To Escalate Tensions With North Korea

    Similar Media Support Helped Enable Iraq War

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After President Donald Trump launched airstrikes against Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in that country, media figures from across the political spectrum praised his “beautiful” attack, with many also linking the action to the growing threat that another country -- North Korea -- poses to the United States. Effusive media support of military conflict was a key precursor to the Iraq War; the danger of such uncritically hawkish commentary has multiplied under Trump, who sources policy ideas -- and defenses for his conduct -- directly from media.

  • Trump Just Attacked Syria. Here Are The Pundits Who Said He Was A Dove.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    One week before the 2016 presidential election, Chris Matthews posed a question on his MSNBC program. Why, Matthews asked, was Donald Trump’s campaign so feckless? Why wasn’t he on the stump every day asking voters questions like, “Do you like this string of stupid wars from Iraq to Libya to Syria?” Such a strategy, Matthews suggested, would provide the country with a clear choice: If “you want to keep all this the way it is, vote for Hillary Clinton,” but voting for Trump would “shake the system to its roots.”

    Last night, Trump’s administration launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for the Syrian military’s reported murder of its citizens with chemical weapons. The strikes further enmesh the nation in a civil war with no easy solutions.

    By itself, the attack is the sort of “pinprick” that Republicans would likely scorn if it had been ordered by a Democratic president, threatening neither the survival of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime nor his ability to use such weapons in the future. If, as seems likely, this fails to change Assad’s behavior, it could lead to an unpredictable, escalating series of military actions against a close Russian strategic ally. There's little indication that the White House has considered the potential cost of that fight or who would lead Syria if Assad falls.

    It seems like Trump is leading us into what Matthews might call a “stupid war.” And that comes after escalations in U.S. uses of military force in Iraq and Yemen, both at the cost of civilian loss of life.

    To be clear, the argument that Trump was some sort of non-interventionist dove -- a dead letter since his ascendency to the presidency, especially in light of last night’s attack -- made no sense at the time.

    Trump supported U.S. military attacks on Iraq and Libya before he told the world he was against them. During the campaign, he said that we “have no choice” but to deploy tens of thousands of ground troops into Syria “to knock out ISIS,” backed military action against Iran, and refused to take using nuclear weapons in the Middle East and Europe off the table.

    Beyond the garden-variety, off-the-cuff calls for military force, Trump has explicitly supported using the armed forces for war crimes. For years, he has said that we should “take” Iraq’s oil as a way to “pay ourselves back” for the invasion. He promised to kill the families of terrorists in order to defeat ISIS. He said that he would bring back banned interrogation techniques because “torture works,” and “only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work,” and terrorists “deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.”

    But somehow, as Trump and Clinton clinched their party’s nominations and the general election campaign began last spring, the political media’s savviest pundits were determined to cast the Republican as the race’s national security dove. By cherry-picking comments in which Trump presented himself as a foe of nation-building, misreading his attacks on bedrock U.S. foreign alliances as evidence of a coherent ideological framework, and ignoring his grotesque sabre-rattling and threats of violence, these journalists created a narrative that wandered far from reality.

    Trump has not “demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has,” New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler reported on April 21. He “wants the United States to spend less to underwrite NATO and has talked about withdrawing the American security umbrella from Asia, even if that means Japan and South Korea would acquire nuclear weapons to defend themselves.” Thus, Landler concluded, the election could “present voters with an unfamiliar choice: a Democratic hawk versus a Republican reluctant warrior.”

    Over the next month, two of Landler’s colleagues expressed similar sentiments. Columnist Maureen Dowd declared that “On some foreign policy issues, the roles are reversed for the candidates and their parties. It’s Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove.” According to Dowd, “Trump seems less macho than Hillary,” given that he “thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea” (that isn’t true).

    And Times senior editor of politics Carolyn Ryan struck a similar tone during an appearance on MSNBC, suggesting that Trump's foreign policy positions will "redraw the typical ideological lines."

    With the Times taking the lead, the accolades for Trump’s purported dovishness piled up over the following months. Trump’s “Republican isolationism” would “ground the drones.”  (Since taking office, Trump has actually sought to “make it easier for the CIA and the military to target terrorists with drone strikes, even if it means tolerating more civilian casualties.”) He could “be the military-industrial complex’s worst nightmare.” (He’s currently seeking a $54 billion increase in spending for the Defense Department.)

    “On more than one issue, GOP's Trump sounds like a Democrat,” the Associated Press reported May 15. On national defense, “the billionaire businessman could even find himself running to the left of Hillary Clinton.”

    Before the first 100 days of the Trump administration has ended, their isolationist dove has escalated U.S. fighting in at least three countries, with more trouble spots looming.

    Just don’t expect them to learn anything from the experience.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.
  • NRA Readies Next Attack Against The First Amendment

    NRA To Launch Ads Against The “Anti-Freedom” “Propaganda Machine” New York Times

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV announced a new “series of messages” against The New York Times that will air on the Fox News Channel beginning Monday. The NRA previewed the ad with the claim that the newspaper has “gone on the offensive to take away your liberties.”

    The new NRA ad evidences a new phenomenon since the election of President Donald Trump where the gun group now routinely labels protected speech reporting that it doesn’t like as oppositional to traditional democratic values.

    On the April 7 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield called the Times “a liberal propaganda machine that is out of control,” and claimed the newspaper has carried out an “assault on journalism.” He then played a preview of a message featuring NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre in which LaPierre claimed the media has “weaponized the First Amendment against the Second,” and that America “would have fallen long ago” had people placed their trust in the “failing American news media.”

    From Stinchfield:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Well, they will lie, they will deceive, they will exploit the ignorance of so many Americans, all with one goal. They will lie, deceive it all, all with the goal to push an anti-freedom agenda that includes an assault on your Second Amendment rights. I’m talking, of course, about The New York Times. A liberal propaganda machine that is out of control. This machine has gone on the offensive to take away your liberties. This machine has gone on the offensive to make an assault on journalism and weaponize it. The New York Times is upping its fight, so are we here at NRATV. So sit back, we are going on the offensive with a series of messages that will air on Fox News Channel starting Monday. Here is a preview.

    [BEGIN CLIP]

    WAYNE LAPIERRE (NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CEO): To every dishonest member of the failing American news media, let me explain why you’ve never been less trusted, less credible, or less respected. For decades you ignored calls from millions of gun owners to just tell the truth. All you had to do was just get the facts right about our guns, and our freedom. But you never even pretended to listen. Instead, you weaponized the First Amendment against the Second. And now the whole country sees you for the mockery we’ve always known. Your claim to the truth is as legitimate as a thief’s. If the fate of individual freedom had rested in your hands, America would have fallen long ago. But Americans put their trust somewhere else, and now in that place stands the most trusted defender of individual freedom in American history. We’re the National Rifle Association of America, and we’re freedom’s safest place.

    [END CLIP]

    The NRA has previously run messages against The New York Times for fact-checking the Trump administration. On February 3, after the newspaper corrected Trump aide Kellyanne Conway for her “Bowling Green Massacre” falsehood, NRATV issued a tweet that claimed the Times was “aiding terrorists” by correcting Conway as opposed to covering the “threat of ISIS.” 

    On February 27, days after the Times aired a promotional TV ad during the Oscars about the importance of journalism in the Trump era, the NRA fired back with its own 75 second ad claiming Americans have “stopped looking to The New York Times for the truth.” The NRA ad claimed the Times ignored several major news stories because they didn’t show liberals in a positive light, but according to a February 28 ThinkProgress post, the ad missed “that the newspaper did, in fact, cover every event it mentions, often with extensive reporting.”

    Since Trump was elected, NRATV has effectively become a pro-Trump propaganda arm that routinely labels protected speech fact-checking and reporting on the president as an “assault against freedom and the Constitution,” and a plot to destroy the United States. Stinchfield has gone as far as to say the reports raising critical questions about Trump’s transition team were “anti-patriotic.” 

  • Trump's Baseless Smear Of Susan Rice Follows Two Days Of Right-Wing Speculation

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump pushed a claim hyped by right-wing media that former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime and could face legal jeopardy for “unmasking” Trump associates caught in surveillance.

    On April 2, “alt-right” leader Mike Cernovich originally wrote that the White House Counsel’s office had “identified Rice as the person responsible for the unmasking [of Trump transition officials incidentally captured in legal surveillance] after examining Rice’s document log requests.” Cernovich’s post, which cited no other source for the claim other than the White House, noted that Rice would have been “authorized” to request that the names be unmasked, and did not claim she broke any laws. Cernovich’s post was amplified by fringe “alt-right” outlets, conservative media, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, and the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.

    But some right-wing media figures, including Rush Limbaugh, have taken the still unconfirmed claim a step further, suggesting that Rice’s actions were illegal. However, that claim has been debunked by numerous national security experts who explained that nothing reported so far indicates that Rice violated the law, and that if she did unmask these officials, she would have been carrying out her duty as national security advisor. Former National Security Director Michael Hayden said it was “absolutely lawful. Even somewhat routine,” and, “There are very plausible, legitimate reasons why she would request such information.” Former CIA Acting Director John McLaughlin also defended Rice, saying, “she was doing her job. That’s what national security advisors are expected to do.”

    But Trump has now parroted the claim that Rice may have acted illegally, commenting on the issue in an April 5 interview with The New York Times. The president said “‘I think’” Rice had committed a crime "by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were mentioned on intercepted communications," adding that “‘it’s going to be the biggest story’” for “our country and the world.’” From the article:

    President Trump said on Wednesday that he thought that the former national security adviser Susan E. Rice may have committed a crime by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were mentioned on intercepted communications and that other Obama administration officials may also have been involved.

    “I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Mr. Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office, declining repeated requests for evidence for his allegations or the names of other Obama administration officials. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”

    He declined to say if he had personally reviewed new intelligence to bolster his claim but pledged to explain himself “at the right time.”

    When asked if Ms. Rice, who has denied leaking the names of Trump associates under surveillance by United States intelligence agencies, had committed a crime, the president said, “Do I think? Yes, I think.”

  • O'Reilly Scandal Proves That Sex Predators Stick Together

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    President Donald Trump, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, and former Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes all have at least one thing in common: Multiple women have accused each of them of sexual harassment in the context of the workplace. In addition, they have defended each other over those allegations, with O’Reilly dismissing the accusations against Trump, and Trump reciprocating by defending the alleged harassers at Fox News.

    During an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Trump took time to single “out Fox News and the host Bill O’Reilly for praise” and to defend the host in light of the recent Times reporting that the network settled five lawsuits with women claiming he engaged in sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. Trump said of O’Reilly, “I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” and weighed in on the allegations by adding, “I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

    The president’s defense seemed to come in reciprocation for O’Reilly’s support last fall, when he excused and minimized Trump’s comments about grabbing women by their genitalia. O’Reilly dismissed Trump’s comments as “guy talk” and attacked The Washington Post, the outlet that broke the story.

    The Times interview wasn’t the first time Trump has defended an alleged sexual harasser at Fox News. Amid the 2016 scandal in which former Fox host Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment and several other women came forward with similar complaints, Trump dismissed the serious allegations as “unfounded” during an interview with the Washington Examiner. He told the Examiner, "Totally unfounded, based on what I read." O’Reilly also publicly stood “behind Roger 100 percent,” paying back Ailes for years of protection from public scrutiny.

    The scandal led to Ailes’ ouster from the network after a generous contract buyout, but that hasn’t stopped newer lawsuits and accusations from other Fox employees from coming.

    Despite mounting evidence that Fox News continues to be a “cesspool of sexual harassment,” its white-glove treatment of the Trump administration has clearly guaranteed the network a powerful ally, one whose own history with sexual harassment accusations seems to indicate he cares as little as Fox does about respecting women.

    Image by Sarah Wasko

  • How NY Times Fueled A Right-Wing Lie About So-Called "Sex-Selective" Abortions

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    The New York Times omitted critical context in reporting on a recently enacted Arkansas law that requires doctors to determine whether a person is choosing an abortion based on sex preference -- an approach based on the false premise that the practice is widespread.

    On March 30, Arkansas enacted a law requiring medical providers to ask a patient seeking an abortion whether she knows the sex of the fetus. If she does, she must be informed that sex-selective abortions are prohibited, and the doctor must also have access to her complete pregnancy history. In describing this legislation, the Times failed to include critical context about so-called “sex-selective” abortions -- a term used by anti-choice legislators as justification to restrict abortion even though there is little scientific evidence supporting the necessity of a ban on the practice. The Times also failed to mention that “sex-selective” abortion bans could have discriminatory effects on Asian Americans because of assumptions about their preferences based on stereotypes, which could effectively deny them access to abortion.

    Instead, the Times wrote only that Arkansas is the eighth state to enact a “sex-selective” abortion ban, explaining that such abortions "occur most frequently where there is a strong gender bias that manifests in a preference for sons." The lack of clarification helps perpetuate a harmful anti-abortion myth that has been frequently parroted in right-wing media.

    In the United States, anti-choice legislators often rely on the myth that "sex-selective" abortions are a common practice to justify further restricting access to abortion. In reality, “sex-selective” abortions are rare in the United States. Despite right-wing and anti-choice allegations that protections are needed against so-called “sex-selective” abortions, these bans have no basis in scientific research or the medical practices of abortion providers. In a study conducted in Illinois and Pennsylvania following the enactment of “sex-selective” abortion bans in those states, researchers found that “the bans were not associated with changes in sex ratios at birth.”

    Nevertheless, anti-choice lawmakers -- and in particular, those behind the Arkansas bill -- allege that such bans are necessary to protect against sex discrimination and prevent an imbalance of the gender ratio. Setting aside the fact that Arkansas’ population in 2015 was 50.9 percent female, as Vice News explained, “sex-selection abortions aren’t necessarily responsible for distorted gender ratios. Because there are multiple ways to ensure a fetus is a certain gender — for instance, parents are legally able to choose a fetus’s sex during in-vitro fertilization — it’s impossible to pinpoint why there might be more male babies born than female.”

    The Arkansas law itself is titled “An Act to Create the Sex Discrimination By Abortion Prohibition Act” -- suggesting that lawmakers are banning a form of sex discrimination. As Slate explained, however, anti-abortion groups have long employed this “kinda-sorta feminist” framing to justify their support for banning “sex-selective” abortions when in reality, “sex-selective abortion in the United States appears to be — you guessed it! — extremely, extremely rare.” Romper called the law “a deceptive masterpiece of legislative word-smithing” in its co-option of gender discrimination as a justification for its anti-choice purpose. For example, the Arkansas law states that “victims of sex-selection abortion are overwhelming female,” yet it offers no data or statistics on “sex-selective” abortions supposedly occurring in the United States.

    Beyond failing to clarify the fraudulent basis of “sex-selective” abortion bans, the Times also gave a platform to the Arkansas bill’s sponsor -- Republican Rep. Charlie Collins -- to promote racist stereotypes about non-white childbearers. Collins told the Times that the one-child policy in China prompted him to sponsor the bill, even though he had no evidence of sex-selective abortions occurring in Arkansas, or even in the United States. In fact, as a 2016 report from the Guttmacher Institute explained “in the United States, there is limited and inconclusive evidence that immigrants from [East and South Asia] -- or anywhere else -- are obtaining sex-selective abortions in this country.”

    As Rewire noted, the Arkansas bill and others like it effectively turn Asian Americans seeking abortions into “suspects” -- particularly because the law imposes harsh penalties on any medical provider who is found in violation. Rewire further explained that Arkansas’ bill is an example of state legislators using “false stereotypes and misleading language to deny Asian American women the same access to safe, confidential, and comprehensive reproductive care as anyone else.”

    By omitting critical context about the lack of evidence behind “sex-selective” abortion bans, as well as their racist underpinnings, The New York Times perpetuated and normalized harmful anti-choice misinformation that has little basis in reality.

  • Mass Shootings Still Happen All The Time, So Why Does The Press Look Away?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The argument, first at a gas station and then outside a home, started over missing car keys.

    In the early hours of Monday morning, police stepped in to quell the dispute between Allen Cashe and his girlfriend, Latina Herring, at a Sanford, FL, gas station. Then hours later they responded to a 911 call for an "aggravated battery" and found Cashe arguing with Herring outside on the front yard of her home, WFTV 9 reported.   

    Just after 6 a.m. that day, the police were summoned once again, but this time they found a blood bath. "The scene was one of the worst scenes our investigators have ever walked into," Sanford police spokeswoman Bianca Gillett told reporters. "It was horrific."

    Police say Cashe had shown up that morning armed with an AK-47-style assault weapon, kicked down the door and shot and killed Herring. He then shot her father and her two sons, 7 and 8 years old, who were sleeping on the couch. The 8-year-old subsequently died. Fleeing the scene, Cashe opened fire on two strangers, including an 18-year-old high school student waiting at a nearby bus stop.

    That was Monday. One day before, in Cincinnati, OH, 17 people were shot at the Cameo nightclub when a “mini brawl” sparked gunmen to open fire on a crowd of approximately 200 revelers, according to WCPO Cincinnati. It marked the bloodiest shooting in the nation so far this year, according to Cincinnati.com and the Gun Violence Archive.

    “The hospital was so crowded, all the seats were taken in the emergency room,” one local pastor told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “The emergency room was literally standing room only." The city’s mayor said the gun rampage marked “one of the worst days in the history of Cincinnati.”

    Here’s what was so strange about the media coverage for the mass shootings that unfolded within one day of each other, and which involved 23 shooting victims: There wasn’t very much news coverage at all, outside of the local press attention.  

    For instance, The New York Times did not cover either gun rampage this week, according to search via Nexis. (Two AP articles were aggregated on the Times' website.)

    Broadcast news coverage of the Cincinnati nightclub mass shooting and Sanford shooting was equally light, according to a review of transcripts in Nexis and Snapstream for the terms "Cincinnati" or "nightclub" and "Sanford." The Florida shooting was mentioned on broadcast news just once, on ABC World News Tonight on Monday. CBS mentioned the nightclub tragedy just three times, including during Sunday's evening news broadcast and again Monday morning during CBS This Morning and CBS Morning News. ABC ran two segments on Sunday on the shows Good Morning America and World News Sunday, while NBC mentioned the shooting on its Sunday and Monday editions of Today. The outlets appear to have moved on from 2017's highest victim shooting as of Monday morning.

    The timid coverage of these shootings reminds us the extent to which horrific news, and specifically horrific gun-related news, gets quietly tabled and pushed aside.

    Gun violence in America represents a raging health epidemic, but you’d never know it based on the news coverage.

    That’s important because how can a nation have a debate about gun violence when even mass shootings aren't thoroughly covered as big news?

    And please note this: Virtually all of the 23 victims in both the Florida and Ohio gun rampages were people of color. Is it possible the national news media would have devoted more time and resources to the Cincinnati gun rampage if it had occurred at a mostly white nightclub on a college campus? I certainly think it’s likely.

    Meanwhile, what else would have triggered wildly different media responses to the Sanford and Cincinnati killings? Answer: any hint of a terrorism angle.

    On that front, news consumers know the drill: When a mass shooting involves the possibility of terrorism, media outlets compete to see who can produce more reports and, usually, who can produce the most heated analysis. For instance, it sure seemed to me like cable news interest in the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale, FL, airport in January dropped when it became clear that the gun massacre was committed by a homegrown shooter unrelated to jihad terror. 

    There’s obviously been a normalization over the years for mass shootings, as the lacking coverage from Sanford and Cincinnati indicates. And who benefits from that normalization? The National Rifle Association and the Republican Party, which supports the gun group’s every radical initiative.

    Of course the NRA and the GOP don’t want the press to treat gun violence as the health crisis that it is. And of course the NRA and the GOP do want to the press to casually look away as mass shootings unfold with random deadliness. The conservative movement is in favor of normalizing gun violence and of the media omitting context about the epidemic.

    Many conservatives don’t want the press to constantly connect the dots between American gun rampages, or to chronically mention that roughly 100,000 people are shot in America each year. Or that each week, approximately 1,565 patients are treated in emergency rooms for firearm-related injuries. Or that among the world's 23 wealthiest countries, 87 percent of all children killed by guns are American children.

    Interestingly, just days before the deadly Florida and Ohio shootings, CNN.com did what more news outlets ought to be doing: It published a comprehensive piece that put American gun violence in perspective by detailing the extraordinary economic cost the country pays each year to treat our gun epidemic.

    Note that the death toll is likely to rise in coming years because “patients are now more likely to die from a gunshot wound than they were even 10 years ago,” presumably thanks to the increasingly powerful and sophisticated guns being manufactured and sold in the U.S. 

    “To be blunt, instead of a 2-centimeter hole, you are seeing a 3-centimeter hole with more damage. And there are more wounds, so the team has to repair more damage," the study’s author told CNN.

    Following the shootout in Cincinnati, where panicked clubgoers were forced to flee rampaging gunmen, the Cincinnati Enquirer stepped forward with a truth-telling editorial (emphasis added):

    We hear a lot from politicians these days about the threat of a foreign enemy, yet terrorism happens every day on city streets around the country. This madness has to stop. Too many lives are lost every year in Cincinnati and nationwide to savage, mindless and inhuman gun violence. Mass shootings in America, tragically, are becoming too commonplace.

    One way to address the madness is for the press to see the country’s gun violence for what it is -- a uniquely American epidemic.

  • Right-Wing Media Misinterpret Weeks-Old Interview To Justify Trump’s Wiretap Lie

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Right-wing media figures and fringe outlets are taking a weeks-old interview with Evelyn Farkas, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia under President Barack Obama, out of context to claim she “admitted” that the Obama administration surveilled President Donald Trump’s campaign and that it proves Trump was right when he claimed Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. But Farkas did not mention surveillance in the interview; instead, she discussed a New York Times article about preserving intelligence related to Trump and Russia. The claims are yet another attempt by right-wing and fringe media to bolster Trump’s allegation that Obama wiretapped him, which the intelligence community and government officials have repeatedly debunked.