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  • NewsBusters doesn't know who John Legend is, but they are furious at him for defending NFL protests

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative outlet NewsBusters described 10-time Grammy winner John Legend as a “Slate writer” and “Slate progressive” in a piece attacking him as a “protest apologist and historical revisionist.” NewsBusters' attack came after Legend wrote a guest column for Slate in which he called the act of protesting “patriotic” and wrote that “protest has played a critically important role in elevating the voices of the most vulnerable in our nation.”

    Legend’s piece came amid historic protests by National Football League (NFL) players across the country, who knelt and locked arms during the national anthem before games over the weekend to raise awareness about racial inequality in America and as a show of solidarity against Trump’s bellicose rhetoric concerning NFL and NBA players.

    Other right-wing media figures have similarly attacked NFL players and defended Trump in his feud with the football league over its support for players who decided not to stand for the national anthem. One Fox News guest falsely claimed Trump didn’t call NFL player protesters sons of bitches, conservative radio host Laura Ingraham called the protesting players “punks,” and a Fox News contributor said NFL players protesting social injustice “ought to be thanking God” they don’t have to worry about “being shot in the head for taking a knee.”

    This isn't the first time Legend has been attacked by right-wing media for espousing political views. Fox News host Sean Hannity previously criticized the singer’s 2015 Oscar speech, complaining that Legend “decided to make all things political” and claiming he “doesn’t know anything about politics. From the September 24 NewsBusters article:

    NFL protests have given the liberal media a newfound "appreciation" of patriotism and the Constitution. Media covering this movement suffer from selective amnesia about U.S. history, however. Slate's John Legend is a protest apologist and historical revisionist as well who strains credibility.

    In his blog today, Legend argues "The NFL Protests are Patriotic." He writes, "The president of the United States loves to drape himself in the symbols of patriotism, but fails to respect the ideals at the core of our Constitution and national identity. Trump may love the flag, but he doesn’t love anything it’s supposed to stand for."

    [...]

    The Slate progressive asks if there would have been a Civil Rights Act without the Birmingham protests when Bull Connor unleashed dogs and firehoses on Black children.

    Legend skips over the fact that Connor was a Democrat. Would the Act have passed without Republican support? No. Democrats Al Gore Sr. and Robert Byrd were among the 21 Democrats who voted against civil rights, but Legend gives credit for it anyway to President Kennedy and President Johnson.

  • “Free Democrat ad”: Right-wing media assail Jimmy Kimmel for criticizing Bill Cassidy’s lies about Obamacare repeal 

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing media figures attacked Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, after Kimmel sharply criticized Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) as having  “lied right to my face” about health care in May. Kimmel pointed out that the Affordable Care Act repeal package Cassidy is co-sponsoring does not protect all children with pre-existing conditions, even though Cassidy told Kimmel he would support only those bills that passed that test. 

  • Poll finds Americans “mostly agree” with Black Lives Matter; Conservative outlet misreads, claims the opposite

    Media Research Center corrects error after Media Matters inquiry

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The conservative Media Research Center criticized PBS for purportedly burying its own poll results showing that Americans disapproved of the goals of Black Lives Matter. But the poll actually showed the opposite: “50% of Americans mostly agree with the beliefs of Black Lives Matter” while “33% of Americans disagree.”

    Tim Graham, NewsBusters Executive Editor and Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis, wrote an August 20 post criticizing “Taxpayer-funded PBS” for “liberal bias” in part because it “buried” poll results on a recent NewsHour program finding that when it comes to Black Lives Matter (BLM), “50 percent disapproved, and only 33 percent approved.”

    MRC’s Twitter account also wrote: “PBS, NPR bury their own poll results showing only 33 percent approve of Black Lives Matter.”

    But the poll actually found that 50% of respondents said they “mostly agree” with BLM, while only 33% “mostly disagree.” Here’s the Marist write-up of the poll it conducted with PBS and NPR:

    For most Americans, there is only one side to what unfolded in Charlottesville.  Few residents nationwide agree with the beliefs held by groups attending the “Unite the Right” rally including the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, or white nationalists.  Although the Alt-Right also has few adherents, more Americans are unsure about their feelings toward this group.

    In contrast, Black Lives Matter is viewed very differently than the groups on the right.  50% of Americans mostly agree with the beliefs of Black Lives Matter including a plurality of white residents, 46%.  33% of Americans disagree.

    NBC News political reporter Benjy Sarlin spotted MRC’s error and tweeted the actual results on the morning of August 20.

    Radio host Mark Levin shared the NewsBusters post on social media, writing: “Government funded media bury the facts.”

    Media Matters contacted Graham about the error today after it hadn’t been corrected in over a day. Graham subsequently fixed the post, which now has a “correction added” stating: “The original version of this article had these numbers incorrectly reversed.” NewsBusters tweeted a correction and Graham tweeted: "I made an honest mistake. I own it. I'm sorry it took so long to notice it. Correction is on the page.”

  • Right-Wing Media Push Absurd Pizza Lobby Claim That Franchises Are Burdened By Basic Food Labeling

    Pizza Franchises Are Lobbying Trump To Kill Another Public Protection Enshrined In ACA

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    A pizza industry lobbying campaign against food labeling requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has gained momentum in recent weeks as right-wing media promote exaggerated complaints that it would be “costly and burdensome” to require chain restaurants to display calorie information on menu items. Conservative outlets are urging President Donald Trump to rescind the long-delayed implementation of certain food labeling requirements, while completely ignoring that the long-term benefits of such public protections vastly outweigh the short-term costs.

    On the April 19 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Domino's franchisee owner Chris Reisch asked Trump -- who is an obsessive Fox & Friends viewer -- to stop a rule that was passed as part of the ACA and goes into effect on May 5, requiring chain restaurants to display the calorie counts of items on their menus. Reisch preposterously claimed the food labeling requirement would force him to “have a book at the counter” to display the calorie count of the 34 million topping combinations of Domino’s pizza and promoted the openly ridiculous claim that kitchen staff might face jail time for putting too many toppings on a pizza:

    During his interview, however, Reisch did not disclose that he was recently on Capitol Hill lobbying against food labeling, overtime pay, and labor rights on behalf of the American Pizza Community (APC) -- the lobbying arm of the pizza industry.

    According to The Washington Post, the APC is leading “a desperate push” to curb food labeling standards before they go into effect, “more than seven years after [the ACA] was signed into law” and years after most other chain restaurants already complied with the new standards. Having already gone to Congress with its complaints, the pizza industry may have hoped to reach the president directly via Fox & Friends, which culminated a month-long chorus of right-wing outlets slamming the rule on the industry’s behalf.

    In the past few weeks, right-wing outlets and fringe conservative sites have assailed the ruling, citing its supposedly onerous costs and bemoaning the confusion it could cause for customers. Since March 22, The Washington Free Beacon, PJMedia (twice), the National Review, NewsBusters, Investor’s Business Daily, CNS News, and FoxNews.com have promoted varying arguments that the rule would be “costly and burdensome,” that it “lacked common sense,” and that it amounted to little more than “pizza shaming.” CNS News hyped a report from the food services industry that incorrectly estimated the cost of compliance at $1 billion in its first year and NewsBusters questioned if the government should have any role in mandating that companies disclose nutritional information to the public.

    In reality, the actual ACA rule requires restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to display the calorie counts of all standard menu items, and has exceptions for temporary items. When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published its food labeling standards in November 2014, it estimated that the industry-wide costs would be roughly $1 billion over a 20 year period -- a sum that pales in comparison to the $767 million profit Domino’s earned in 2016 alone. Overall, the FDA estimated that the benefits of Americans eating healthier because of the additional nutritional information would exceed the total cost of implementation by over $8 billion:

    Reisch’s claim that the rule would be too costly loses steam in light of the FDA’s findings but it is even more bizarre considering he admitted that Domino’s already has this information and posts the calorie counts of its pizzas and toppings online. On April 17, MarketWatch reported that pizza companies are opposed to displaying calorie counts on menus even though “Americans are paying more attention to food ingredients” and polling showed up to 68 percent want chain restaurants to post calorie information. On her Food Politics blog, nutrition and public health professor Marion Nestle pointed out that the fierce pushback against posting calories on menus, regardless of the low cost and outsize health benefits, shows that these companies “would rather you did not have this information.” This attitude makes it that much more important for government to protect consumers access to this knowledge.

  • Right-Wing Media Defend Trump’s Racist Attack On Judge With False Comparison To Sotomayor’s Call For Diversity

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    After Donald Trump received widespread criticism for attacking the ethnicity of the judge overseeing the Trump U. case, right-wing media figures are now falsely equating Trump’s bigoted attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel to comments made in a 2001 speech made by the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, who called for more diversity in the court.

  • Strange Days: Conservatives Criticize "Liberal Media" For Being Too Soft On GOP Front-Runner Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Following CNN's Republican Party primary debate last week, the conservative site NewsBusters, which exists to bash the press for its supposed liberal bias, quickly published a piece focusing on the debate moderators' prime-time performance. No doubt NewsBusters was furious with CNN, right?

    Recall that last November, following a raucous Republican debate hosted by CNBC, Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell released a scathing critique of the moderators, insisting they were dripping with contempt for the GOP candidates and trying to throw the election to the Democrats. (Bozell's group publishes NewsBusters.)

    So what was the collective sin of the CNN moderators last week? According to NewsBusters, they had failed to press Donald Trump for a response regarding documented claims that a reporter had been manhandled by Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager, at a public event.

    NewsBusters was also upset that the alleged assault had received minimal time on the network evening newscasts: "The main broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC largely remained silent on Lewandowski's alleged actions toward a female reporter until Thursday."

    Wait, what?

    It's true: Following a Republican debate, the conservative NewsBusters pointed out that the media wasn't paying sufficient attention to a news story that reflected poorly on the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

    And with that, we're officially through the looking glass, to the point where conservative critiques of the campaign press now read like Media Matters essays: Journalists are too soft on Trump, rewarding him with too much airtime and allowing him to dictate access ground rules. 

    Does a lot of that sound familiar?

    This Trump campaign has produced all kinds of regrettable firsts this season (regular outbursts of violence at rallies, for starters). But one of the strangest twists has to be the fact that some conservatives who have spent generations denouncing the press for being unfairly critical of Republicans have now completely flipped the script.

    Grasping at conspiratorial straws in an effort to explain away Trump's control over Republican voters and the media's apparently soft treatment of a prominent Republican politician, conservatives remain convinced the "liberal media" is still out to get the GOP. Only this time, the press is torpedoing Republicans by ... being too nice to the Republican front-runner.

    Convinced that Trump is not a true conservative and that he's a surefire loser in November, more and more conservative commentators are desperate to derail his nomination. So they're demanding pundits and reporters sharpen their knives when covering the Republican front-runner; that they tell The Truth about Trump and reveal him for the phony they insist he really is.

    NewsBusters has also objected to networks not covering news that the Trump campaign had given press credentials to a prominent white supremacist and underplaying the controversy over Trump University. 

    There's obviously deep irony in these newfound complaints. It was just five months ago that the conservative media revolted against CNBC for hosting its allegedly biased Republican debate. Beating the "liberal media bias" drums quite loudly, critics pounced on the network because moderators were unfair to the candidates, including Trump. So it's a bit disingenuous to now blame that same press simply because lots of Republican supporters are suddenly freaking out about Trump's likely nomination.

    Meaning, conservatives can't just unring the "liberal media bias" bell. Republican-friendly critics have told the press, in no uncertain terms, that when it comes to presidential campaigns, lay off our guy -- or else. (Because of the CNBC fracas, the Republican Party yanked NBC's sponsorship for a subsequent debate.)

    Well, this year, the press has too often laid off Trump (and even indulged him), and now lots of conservatives, for purely political purposes, wish the press had moved sooner and more aggressively to properly vet him.

    The anxious right-wing press is belatedly discovering that its reckless campaign over the years to berate the political press comes with a price; that trying to defang the media means that when suddenly, during a truly bizarre campaign season, conservatives want a famous Republican vetted, there's nobody around to do it.

    And to date, the in-depth vetting just isn't happening. "If Donald Trump were to become president, he is the first person I know of who would be in the White House in modern times with deep, continuing associations with mobsters, con artists, drug traffickers, convicted felons -- gratuitously involved with these folks," author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston recently told Huffington Post. "That deserves enormous inquiry."  

    Think back to last year and the conveyor belt of endless press investigations into Clinton Foundation finances, and then compare that to media investigations into Trump's possibly unseemly business connections. Notice the difference?

    And yes, some Republicans and conservatives (including NewsBusters) still see liberal media bias at play in Trump's coverage. The theory goes like this: The media want Trump to be the Republican nominee because they think he'll lose in November and the press wants another Democrat in the White House.

    That's why Ted Cruz recently suggested some reporters were sitting on Trump bombshells but not planning to publish or air them until Trump has won the GOP nomination. (Cruz: "The media knows Donald can't win the general, that Hillary would wallop him.")

    And Marco Rubio also criticized the Trump coverage for not shedding enough light on the candidate's past. "He's being treated with kid gloves by many in the media, in the hopes that he's the nominee," said the candidate before he suspended his campaign.

    But even considering that conspiracy theory, the truly remarkable media complaint from conservatives is that Beltway press is going too easy on the Republican front-runner. 

    Talk about a message with bipartisan appeal.

  • Conservative Media Attack Cosmopolitan For Highlighting The Issue Of Women And Gun Violence

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conservative media are attacking Cosmopolitan magazine for working in partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety to run a feature highlighting the dating issues surrounding gun ownership and domestic violence. Conservative media attacked the feature, comparing it to anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda and labeling it a "war on men with guns" while saying Cosmo wants its readers to be "slutty and defenseless." Several conservative media critics expressed skepticism that Cosmo was capable of publishing serious reporting.

  • Reminder: The Right-Wing Media Vetted Obama, And It Was Priceless

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Obama conspiracy theories

    As President Obama approaches his final year in office, there's mounting frustration among Republicans and members of the conservative media that the elusive "truth" still hasn't been told about Obama, and that the mainstream media continues to hide scandalous revelations from public view.

    Using the allegation as a shield to protect himself from claims he may have fabricated parts of his own biography, Ben Carson took the lead last week when he admonished the press for allegedly giving Obama a pass. "This was the same media that time and again declared it off-limits to dig into then-candidate Barack Obama's background," claimed Carson in a recent fundraising pitch.

    That charge was excitedly echoed by the right-wing media, which have been begging the press to out Obama for the fraud they think he is. ("The media elite don't vet their own, just the enemy.")

    Again, Obama's entering his eighth year in office, but somehow he hasn't been vetted? Somehow all kinds of embarrassing and scandalous parts of his background remain under wraps? It's hard to believe. And as Media Matters detailed, not many journalists are buying the claim that Carson's being held to a unique standard.  

    "The suggestion that others have not gone through this [scrutiny] ignores history," noted Washington Post reporter Ed O'Keefe.

    The not-vetted complaint works side-by-side with the revived 'liberal media bias' allegation that's been at the center of the Republican campaign season in recent weeks. Together, the two claims represent the Mantle and Maris of conservative whining. The conspiratorial bookends are often used to try to explain away Obama's two electoral landslide victories. Conservatives seem to think that if only the truth were revealed, "Then the scales will fall from the voters' eyes and they'll boot him from the office he never deserved to occupy in the first place," wrote Paul Waldman at American Prospect.

    The vetting claim reflects life inside the Fox News-generated bubble. It reflects a conservative movement that's increasingly allergic to bouts of reality and common sense. It goes to a core belief that they've been right all along about Obama and his dastardly ways, it's just that the press won't inform the public.

    But here's the thing: conservative commentators, and especially conservative bloggers, are ignoring the fact that Obama was vetted -- by them. For more than two presidential election cycles.

    And it was priceless.

    Obama's a Muslim. Obama was born in Kenya. Obama forged his birth certificate. Obama is the son of Malcolm X. Obama's hiding his gay past.

    All of those claims, and much more, were forwarded by right-wing media outlets (including Fox News) that have been thrashing around in cesspools over the years, all in the name of vetting the elusive Obama. (The late blogger and satirist Al Weisel, known as Jon Swift, masterfully detailed the attempted vetting.)

    Some of the lowlights from conservative bloggers' 2008 crusade that I previously highlighted when they started complaining in 2012 that the president hadn't been properly investigated:  

    • Obama didn't actually write his memoir, Dreams of My Father. It was ghostwritten by communist sympathizer Bill Ayers.  
    • Obama wasn't born in the United States. Probably the most infamous of the right-wing media's vetting adventures, the claim that Obama couldn't be president because he was foreign-born (and forged his birth certificate) first took root in conservative media during the 2008 campaign.
    • Obama had an underage gay affair with a pedophile.
    • Obama had an affair with a Chicago fundraiser who was then exiled to a Caribbean island.
    • Obama had cocaine-fueled gay sex with an ex-convict.
    • Late in the 2008 campaign, Michelle Obama gave a shocking, race-baiting interview with something called the African Press International. (She did not.)

    Then in 2012, the same frantic, clueless sleuths vowed to redouble their efforts. Under the headline, "Re-Vetting Wars: Obama's Girlfriends Speak," American Thinker editor Thomas Lifson noted "One of the foremost concerns of the Obama re-election effort is the promised re-vetting of Obama, playing off the widespread perception that the media utterly failed to investigate the reality beneath the highly manufactured identity peddled in 2008."

    At Breitbart.com, founder Andrew Breitbart vowed to pull back the dark curtain on Obama's troubling past; to do what the supposed lapdog press refused to do in 2008.

    Breitbart's first supposed smoking gun centered around the revelation that in 1998, then-state senator Obama attended a Chicago play about activist Saul Alinsky and then took part in a panel discussion afterwards.

    Shocking stuff, indeed.

    Meanwhile, despite the fact that the White House released the president's long-form birth certificate in 2011 to debunk all the birther nonsense, right-wing columnist Jerome Corsi delved deeper down the black hole, publishing a series of reports trying to prove Obama's birth certificate was a forgery. He also promoted the claim that Obama "hid" his gay life and that, of course, he's secretly a Muslim.

    In 2012, conservative filmmaker Joel Gilbert unveiled his documentary film, Dreams From My Real Father, which claimed Obama is the son of communist writer Frank Marshall Davis. The loopy DVD movie was touted by Fox News' Monica Crowley, among others.

    So c'mon, conservative commentators, don't sell yourselves short. You did vet Obama, and it was genius. I can't wait to see what their vetting of Hillary Clinton looks like.

  • New CNN Hire Jeffrey Lord Is An Anti-Immigrant Lynching Denier Who Compares Opponents To Nazis

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    CNN has hired Jeffrey Lord as a political commentator. Lord has a history of pushing fringe rhetoric and misinformation. He engaged in a "profoundly ahistorical" crusade to deny the lynching of a black man, pushed bogus conspiracies about Democrats, compared his political opponents to Nazis and the KKK, and defended Donald Trump's anti-immigrant remarks.

  • The Perils Of Protecting Bill O'Reilly

    For Conservatives, It Nullifies Future Media Critiques

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Always viewing conflicts through the prism of partisan warfare, conservative media have been faced with a stark choice as Bill O'Reilly's long list of confirmed fabrications pile up in public view. They can defend the Fox News host no matter what, while lashing out his "far-left" critics for daring to fact-check the host. Or, conservative media outlets can let him fend for himself. (The third, obvious option of openly criticizing O'Reilly for his duplicitous ways doesn't seem to be on the table.)

    Incredibly, as the controversy marches on and neither O'Reilly nor Fox are able to provide simple answers to the questions about his truth-telling as a reporter, some conservative media allies continue to rally by his side.

    On Sunday, Howard Kurtz's MediaBuzz program on Fox came to O'Reilly's aid by doing everything it could to whitewash the allegations against the host.

    Over the weekend at Newsbusters--a far-right clearinghouse for endless, and often empty, attacks on the media--Jeffrey Lord denounced the O'Reilly fact-checking campaign as "wrong" and "dangerous." And Fox News contributor Allen West actually told the Washington Post that all the allegations against O'Reilly had been "debunked." (Lots of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week shared West's contention.)

    What's the peril for blindly protecting O'Reilly this way? Simple: It completely undercuts the conservative cottage industry of media criticism. Because why would anyone care about media critiques leveled by conservatives who are currently tying to explain away O'Reilly's obvious laundry list of lies.  

    "O'Reilly's story, intended to portray him as an enterprising journalist unfazed by potential danger, is a fiction," noted Gawker. "It is precisely the sort of claim that would otherwise earn Fox's condemnation, and draw sophisticated counter-attacks to undermine the accusers' reputation."

    And how do we know that to be true? Because the entire conservative media apparatus spent last month unleashing sophisticated counter-attacks to undermine NBC News anchor Brian Williams after doubts were raised about his wartime reporting. Today, the same conservative media are either playing dumb about Bill O'Reilly, or actually defending him.

    Obviously, you can't have it both ways. You can't demand Brian Williams be fired and that Bill O'Reilly be left alone. Not if you want anyone to pause for more than three seconds when considering your press critiques.

  • Conservative Media Hides Behind Cancer Patient As Another Obamacare Horror Story Falls Apart

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    As fact checkers investigated and debunked claims made in an ad attacking the Affordable Care Act, Fox News and other conservative media used a cancer patient's illness to defend the spot's dishonesty.

    The episode is part of an ongoing pattern in the conservative media of promoting anecdotal Obamacare horror stories that have fallen apart under scrutiny.

  • Right-Wing Media Defend Reagan Following Death Of Nelson Mandela

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Mandela ReaganRight-wing media figures have rushed to defend President Ronald Reagan's record on apartheid and South Africa in the wake of Nelson Mandela's death.

    Reagan's record came under increased attention following the death of the former South African president and anti-apartheid activist. In an interview with Salon, Whitman College historian David Schmitz discussed Reagan's policy toward South Africa, which included opposition to Mandela's party, the African National Congress, labelling Mandela and the ANC as "terrorists," and vetoing sanctions against the pro-apartheid government that ruled South Africa at the time:

    What about U.S. policy toward the opposition groups like the ANC and Nelson Mandela?

    They called the ANC terrorists. It was just continuing this notion that the ANC members are the extremists and the South African government has these moderates, and you're going to end up with one extreme against the other if you don't work with the government. Clearly, it never worked. This was a flawed policy.

    [...]

    Would you argue that Reagan's foreign policy extended the life of the regime in South Africa?

    Yes. It gave it life. It gave it hope that the United States would continue to stick with it. It gave it continued flow of aid as well as ideological support. It delayed the changes that were going to come. Then you had the big crackdowns in '86 and '87. So there was harm in the lengthening. There was harm in the violence that continued.

    Despite his history, right-wing media figures defended Reagan's history after Mandela's death. CNN host Newt Gingrich claimed that Mandela's death was "being used inappropriately" by critics of Reagan:

  • Did Conservative Media Get Anything Right About The IPCC Report?

    ››› ››› MAX GREENBERG

    In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.