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On February 16, President Donald Trump gave a press conference in which he dodged questions and repeatedly mocked the media. During and after the press conference, right-wing media figures praised his performance, calling him "brilliant," "in control" and "awesome to watch."
After President Barack Obama commuted most of Chelsea Manning’s remaining prison sentence, right-wing media figures responded by attacking her gender identity, denouncing transition-related care, and hoping Manning would commit suicide.
In 2016, right-wing media’s use of racially charged and bigoted statements hit new lows, featuring widely condemned segments reliant on racial caricatures, bigoted attempts to blame progressives for the actions of white nationalists, and slurs directed against other media figures. Here are the most bigoted stories and statements from right-wing media figures over the last year:
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Hundreds of economists, including eight Nobel laureates, signed a letter denouncing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s repeated lies about job growth, trade, immigration, the federal debt, and the state of the American economy. The misinformation the economists identified is not Trump’s alone, but the product of a right-wing media echo chamber that specializes in spreading myths about the economy to serve its partisan agenda.
The Wall Street Journal published a letter from 370 economists on November 1 denouncing Trump’s economic policies and the distortions upon which they are built. The Journal reported that the letter was “less partisan or ideological” than similar letters aimed at political candidates and instead focused on “Trump’s history of promoting debunked falsehoods” and “conspiracy theories” instead of “engag[ing] with reality.” The economists took specific issue with Trump’s false claims that the unemployment rate is higher than the federal government reports, that increasing tariffs would lead to more U.S. manufacturing jobs, that immigration has hurt the U.S. economy, and that his proposed tax cuts will decrease the deficit. From the letter:
- He degrades trust in vital public institutions that collect and disseminate information about the economy, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by spreading disinformation about the integrity of their work.
- He has misled voters in states like Ohio and Michigan by asserting that the renegotiation of NAFTA or the imposition of tariffs on China would substantially increase employment in manufacturing. In fact, manufacturing’s share of employment has been declining since the 1970s and is mostly related to automation, not trade.
- He claims to champion former manufacturing workers, but has no plan to assist their transition to well-compensated service sector positions. Instead, he has diverted the policy discussion to options that ignore both the reality of technological progress and the benefits of international trade
- He has misled the public by asserting that U.S. manufacturing has declined. The location and product composition of manufacturing has changed, but the level of output has more than doubled in the U.S. since the 1980s.
- He has lowered the seriousness of the national dialogue by suggesting that the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Education would significantly reduce the fiscal deficit. A credible solution will require an increase in tax revenue and/or a reduction in spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or Defense
- He claims he will eliminate the fiscal deficit, but has proposed a plan that would decrease tax revenue by $2.6 to $5.9 trillion over the next decade according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation.
- He uses immigration as a red herring to mislead voters about issues of economic importance, such as the stagnation of wages for households with low levels of education. Several forces are responsible for this, but immigration appears to play only a modest role. Focusing the dialogue on this channel, rather than more substantive channels, such as automation, diverts the public debate to unproductive policy options.
The falsehoods the economists denounce have been well-documented -- Media Matters identified 19 economic myths Trump has spread during this election cycle. The economists took issue with Trump falsely claiming the unemployment rate could be as high as 42 percent, a wildly exaggerated figure that has been repeatedly debunked after being popularized by right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.
The economists denounced Trump’s attacks on immigrants and immigration reform, which have been enabled by Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and others at the network. According to Vice, Trump learned his anti-immigrant rhetoric from right-wing commentator Ann Coulter, who has attacked immigrants for years. Yet, as FiveThirtyEight chief economics writer Ben Casselman pointed out, immigration has “important economic advantages” for the United States, including stoking economic growth by imbuing the population with younger and more economically productive workers and consumers.
The economists pointed out that Trump’s proposed tax cuts will explode the deficit by $2.6 to $3.9 trillion. Media Matters has pointed out that Trump’s tax policy agenda has been discredited as “pie in the sky” and “magical thinking” by experts on both sides of the aisle, but it has nevertheless found repeated defenders in Fox News, which falsely claims huge tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans is “how we grow the economy.” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board has also defended Trump’s tax plan, lauding it for reducing taxes on the wealthy.
Even conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin -- no stranger to pushing absurd and unrealistic right-wing media narratives when it suits her -- slammed Trump’s “know-nothingism” on the economy. Conservative Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman had also previously hit the GOP nominee for perpetuating “a scam, skillfully pitched to fool the gullible” with his fact-free economic populism.
But criticism from a few conservative writers does not change the fact that conservative media outlets enabled Trump’s lies, paved the way for his presidential campaign, and built the political infrastructure he needed to conquer the Republican Party. As Media Matters and others have repeatedly pointed out, Trump is a creation of the right-wing media. His willingness to echo any number of right-wing media economic myths is further proof of that.
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Brzezinski: I Won’t Use That Name Because “People Like That Have No Place In The Mainstream Conversation”
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski slammed conservative commentator and Donald Trump supporter, Ann Coulter, refusing to say her name on the September 1 edition of Morning Joe after Coulter praised Trump’s widely condemned immigration speech as “the most magnificent speech ever given.” Coulter is a long time Trump supporter with a well established history of anti-immigration sentiment. Brzezinski slammed Coulter for running a business “fueled on hate speech and hurting people,” and refused to even say Coulter’s name on-air, asserting “people like that have no place in the mainstream conversation.” From the September 1 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): He does this all the time, he plays to the 40 percent, plays to the 41, 42 percent. And then he decides he's going to expand his base. He's done it on guns, --
NICOLLE WALLACE: But he’s lying.
SCARBOROUGH: He’s done it on immigration, he’s done it onall these other issues. And he will go out and then he gets criticized and then immediately he doesn't have the courage to stay up and then he immediately runs back in.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): And if I could just say Alex wanted me to read a story and Alex, I will paraphrase it without using the name. And that is a person who basically runs a business for herself fueled on hate speech and hurting people. And is a huge supporter of Donald Trump. Loved the speech. It says it all. But a great leader in the media once mentioned to us, actually, not to ever mention this person's name because people like that have no place, no place in the mainstream conversation.
SCARBOROUGH: So, he's got --
BRZEZINSKI: They are hurting America.
SCARBOROUGH: He's got his hardcore 40 percent supporting him.
BRZEZINSKI: And people like that.
SCARBOROUGH: But he's offended, again, he's offended some of his Hispanic supporters. The few that dared stick their neck out for him. And the college educated voters that have been staying away from him.
Trump Doubled Down On His Anti-Immigrant Policies
After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave a long-awaited speech promising to solidify his stance on immigration, media figures described Trump’s speech as a “repackaged version of Trump's standard stump lines,” and “vintage Trump,” highlighting his reiteration of his previously-detailed extreme policies.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is planning to deliver a speech focused on immigration on August 31. The supporters and hangers-on surrounding Trump -- who would likely have his ear were he elected to the presidency -- include Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, and Roger Ailes. Here's what you need to know about their background on immigration and Latinos:
Commentator Ann Coulter's Anti-Immigrant Book Adios, America Is A Series Of Recycled Nativist Talking Points. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter has credited white nationalist website VDARE.com editor Peter Brimelow with inspiring her 2015 book Adios, America. In fact, many of the ideas presented in the book -- including her claim that immigrants “intentionally” set fires and litter -- appear to be closely modeled on those of white nationalist and anti-immigrant extremist movements in America. [Media Matters, 6/16/15]
Coulter: Hispanics Will "Start Physically Attacking Blacks." While promoting her anti-immigrant book, Coulter complained about Hispanic immigrants and the "browning of America," predicting that "Hispanic groups will move into neighborhoods and say, 'We don't want any blacks here,' and start physically attacking blacks." [The Daily Beast, 5/26/15]
Coulter: Americans Should Fear Immigrants More Than ISIS. Coulter has compared immigrants to terrorists from the Islamic State. During a May 26, 2015, interview on Fusion's America With Jorge Ramos, Coulter replied "yes" when host Jorge Ramos asked her about her assertion that Americans should fear immigrants more than the terror group. Coulter doubled down by saying, "If you don't want to be killed by ISIS, don't go to Syria. If you don't want to be killed by a Mexican, there's nothing I can tell you." [Fusion, America With Jorge Ramos, 5/26/15]
Coulter: "'Real' Hispanics Are On Welfare." Coulter wrote that “"real" Hispanics, unlike Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), “are on welfare” in a May 2013 tweet:
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) May 6, 2013
Coulter Rejected A Hug From An Undocumented Immigrant. During a May 26 interview on Fusion's America with Jorge Ramos, Coulter refused to hug undocumented immigrant and DREAM Act activist Gaby Pacheco even when Pacheco persisted, saying the hug would be "a sign of my humanity and yours." [Media Matters, 5/29/15]
Sean Hannity Hosted A Town Hall Focused On Anti-Immigrant Fearmongering For Trump. Fox News host Sean Hannity dedicated two hours of his prime-time show -- on August 23 and 24 -- to host an immigration town hall for Trump. The town hall served as an anti-immigrant bashing platform during which Hannity misinformed on crime and immigration,and fearmongered about the “absolutely staggering” effects that undocumented immigration has on the U.S.:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We have decided tonight to go in depth on the direct impact they are having on you, the American people. And tonight you're going to hear heartbreaking stories from just some of the many, many family members whose loved ones were victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, and tomorrow we'll be joined by law enforcement experts.
Now, to put it simply, the effects that illegal immigration is having on our country is absolutely staggering.
Tonight is about the truth. This is truth you will not hear from The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC, CBS, NBC, certainly not CNN, the Clinton news network. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/23/16]
Hannity Defended Trump’s Attacks On Federal Judge’s Ethnicity. Hannity defended Trump’s claim that the judge presiding over the Trump University lawsuit could not be impartial because he is Mexican and Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. And Hannity doubled down on the attacks on the Mexican-American judge by saying that Trump was “rightfully calling out the fact that there is a conflict of interest” From the June 3 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Sean Hannity Show:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Let me start by saying something else that needs to be said here. Towards the end of Hannity last night, we started the program, we covered a little bit of Donald Trump speaking in San Jose. Then I had a fight with Geraldo Rivera on the program over the issue of immigration and Donald Trump, I think, rightfully calling out the fact that there is a conflict of interest, the judge in the Trump University case. Remember nobody in the media covers the Laureate college case where Bill Clinton got paid $16-some-odd million, and many students from many poor countries feel like they were defrauded and that fraud has been committed against them. There's not one word about it in the media. Anyway, the judge in this particular case we found out is a member of the La Raza -- the race -- lawyers group. Remember La Raza? That's separate from the group that we hear about often, the advocacy group. But the word La Raza means "the race." So that's an indication that this guy might have radical views. Then we know that it came to light that the law firm, Robbins-Geller, appointed by the judge, Curiel, in this case to represent a plaintiff in the Trump University class action lawsuit. Well that law firm appointed by the judge, well they have a connection to Hillary Clinton in a couple of ways. One, they gave a $2,700 campaign contribution, at least the chairman Darren Robbins did. And it seems that Robbins-Geller paid the Clintons nearly a half a million dollars in less than a year in giving them paid speeches. Now I don't think I'd want a judge with those type of connections to that law firm presiding over a case that I'm involved in. And if that's not a strong case for a recusal, I don't know what is. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 6/3/16]
Hannity: "I Agree With Mr. Trump” That Mexicans Are Criminals. Hannity defended Trump’s assertion that Mexico is sending “rapists” and “criminals” to the U.S. during a June 29, 2015, panel discussion. Hannity said, "I agree with Mr. Trump. As somebody who has been down to the border 11 times, I have seen the drug warehouses, I was there when criminals were arrested, I know the human trafficking side and the impact on our educational system, criminal justice system, et cetera -- our health care system." [Fox News, Hannity, 6/29/15]
Steve Bannon’s Fringe Website Breitbart News Consistently Uses Anti-Immigrant Slurs. Before joining the Trump campaign, Steve Bannon was the executive chairman of the 'alt-right' website Breitbart News, which consistently uses headlines that denigrate undocumented immigrants. For example: “Report: More Than 925,000 Illegals with Final Deportation Remain in the U.S.,” “Report: Illegals Rushing to get into U.S. Before Trump Wall,” “Rape Deniers: 9 Facts About Illegal Alien Crime The Media Covers Up,” and “San Francisco Moves to Open Voting to Illegals.” [Media Matters, 8/18/16]
Breitbart News Defended Trump’s Attacks On Federal Judge’s Ethnicity: Trump “Is Correct” To Question Judge Curiel’s Impartiality Based On His Mexican Heritage. Bannon’s website defended Trump’s racist attack against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was presiding over the Trump University fraud case, agreeing that Curiel’s “Latino identity politics” would prevent him from being impartial. The article also attempted to falsely cast La Raza Lawyers association, of which Curiel is a member, as racist. From the June 6 article:
Trump had questioned the impartiality of a federal judge.
The controversy erupted when Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Gonzalo Curiel – the judge in the Trump University class action lawsuit – might not give him a fair shake because of the judge’s connection to Mexican political activism. After critics bemoaned such an accusation as racism, Trump doubled down on “Face the Nation.”
“[Judge Curiel] is a member of a club or society, very strongly pro-Mexican, which is all fine,” Trump told CBS’s John Dickerson. “But I say he’s got bias.” The club Trump was referring to was La Raza Lawyers; an organization with the stated mission “to promote the interests of the Latino communities throughout the state.”
Translated, “la raza” means “the race.” Imagine the outcry if white attorneys from Mississippi, such as this author, started a a (sic) legal association called “The Race” with the stated mission to promote the interest of white, Southern communities. Hollywood stars and entertainers, such as Bryan Adams, would boycott the state in perpetuity.
Trump’s suggestion that a Hispanic judge may treat him unfairly because of Trump’s border security proposals, such as the wall, challenges the claim that liberal judges engaged in identity politics are never biased against non-liberals. And while Democrats were enraged by Trump’s challenge, Trump struck fear into the hearts of establishment Republicans not accustomed to challenging the politically correct code to which they have previously surrendered. [Breitbart News, 6/6/16]
Laura Ingraham Didn’t Think Puerto Ricans Were American Citizens. In 2014, radio host Laura Ingraham launched an ignorant smear against Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, suggesting that her “immigrant family background” and her Puerto Rican-American heritage conflict with her “allegiance … to the Constitution.” Ingraham said Sotomayor's "allegiance obviously goes to her immigrant family background and not to the Constitution of the United States,” but Sotomayor is a Puerto Rican American who is both an American citizen and the daughter of American citizens. Puerto Ricans have had U.S. citizenship since President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act in 1917. [Media Matters, 2/4/14]
Ingraham Mocked Prominent Hispanic Journalist José Díaz-Balart For Speaking Spanish. Ingraham attacked prominent Telemundo journalist José Díaz-Balart for translating for a Spanish-speaking guest on his show. [Media Matters, 9/23/14]
Ingraham: Mexicans "Have Come Here To Murder And Rape Our People." Ingraham echoed Trump’s claim that Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists, saying Mexicans “have come here to murder and rape our people. We know that.” From the March 4 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group’s The Laura Ingraham Show:
CALLER: My thing about Trump is that, the thing is, he's not a polished person and I think people catch him off guard a lot. Like with the question with David Duke, I think simply he did not remember who David Duke was at the moment, and I think that caught him off-guard. I mean, obviously like if the reporter said, "Hey, you know, David Duke, the KKK member endorsed you." He probably would have said, "Well absolutely not." And the, see, thing about the Mexicans and murderers and rapists, everybody knows --
LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Well, they have come here. They have. Yeah, they have come here to murder and rape our people. We know that. That doesn't mean everybody has, doesn't mean everyone who comes across the border is a nasty, horrible person, but they have violated our laws. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 3/4/16]
Ingraham On Immigrants: "Nobody Has A Right To Be Here Except The People Who Are Born Here." Ingraham said of immigrants, “Nobody has a right to be here except the people who are born here.” From the March 22 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group’s The Laura Ingraham Show:
LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Donald Trump this morning was on Fox News talking about what the responsibilities of the U.S. government is today with keeping the border secure, locking it down. Those who come into the country, that are allowed to be here -- it's a privilege to come into the United States. It's not a right. Nobody has a right to be here except the people who are born here. Nobody has a right to come here. And somehow we've become the depository of radicals and wannabe Islamists who believe they can come here, meld into society, and then complain about society. Or worse, plan attacks against society. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 3/22/16]
Roger Stone Attacked CNN Pundit For Her Ethnicity, Saying It Was The Only Reason She Was On Air. On Twitter, Trump ally Roger Stone criticized CNN commentator Ana Navarro by writing that “Black beans and rice didn't miss her.” He later doubled down on his comments on the June 6 edition of WBUR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook, by saying that her ethnicity is the only reason Navarro was hired by CNN:
TOM ASHBROOK (HOST): Don’t we have to have some level of mutual respect to keep this project going? You famously have tweeted after CNN anchors and guests, they’re “moron,” “retarded,” called them “stupid negro,” “fat negro.” Even in your own expression, that seems outside the realm of openness to unity that surely we need.
ROGER STONE: Well I would have to admit that calling Roland Martin a fat negro, that was a two martini tweet. And I regret that. I really do. I think it was inappropriate and I’m sorry I did it. As for my criticism of Ana Navarro of CNN as being unqualified for her job, having never actually elected anybody or ever actually worked on a campaign --
ASHBROOK: "Black beans and rice didn't miss her"? That sounds like a slur on ethnicity.
STONE: Well, why else is she there? It's not on the basis of experience or expertise, so maybe to put it more delicately, you'd call it casting, but I don't understand why she's there given her lack of qualifications. [WBUR, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, 6/6/16]
Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes Reportedly Said Navy SEALs Should "Have To Personally Kill An Illegal Immigrant" As Part Of Certification. New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman wrote in his biography of Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room, that while Ailes has "been careful to moderate his immigration position in public," he nonetheless harbors appalling views on the subject. Sherman wrote that Ailes once said that Navy SEALs should "have to personally kill an illegal immigrant" as part of their certification:
Ailes said that if he were president, he would solve the immigration problem by sitting the president of Mexico down and giving him a stern talking-to: "Your country is corrupt. You can now only take thirty percent of what the people earn instead of seventy percent. If you don't do that, I'll send the CIA down there to kill you." He had been careful to moderate his immigration position in public. "If I'm going to risk my life to run over the fence to get into America, I want to win. I think Fox News will articulate that," he told The New Republic a few months earlier. But Ailes told [Philipstown, NY supervisor Richard] Shea that as president he would send Navy SEAL trainees to the border as part of a certification program: "I would make it a requirement that you would have to personally kill an illegal immigrant coming into the country. They would have to bring home a dead body." [The Loudest Voice in the Room, page 392, via Media Matters, 7/20/16]
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The right-wing media reactions to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claim that he is considering softening his position on immigration, varied wildly, including criticizing his shift as a mistake, slamming his lack of policy consistency, praising him for “seeing the light on immigration reform,” and simply ignoring his latest comments entirely.