Barack Obama

Tags ››› Barack Obama
  • Far-right media are now accusing Obama of spying on John Roberts

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Pro-Trump media websites are pushing the doubtful allegation that former President Barack Obama “hacked” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. These fringe websites, that often peddle fake news and conspiracy theories, have also previously alleged that Obama has surveilled and targeted Trump Tower and the Supreme Court overall, and some of these websites have claimed that Obama is trying to take down President Donald Trump by forming a “shadow government.”

    On July 12, the pro-Trump alternative-media blog Big League Politics claimed that Roberts “was ‘hacked’ by a Deep State surveillance operation overseen by Obama administration CIA director John Brennan and Obama director of national intelligence James Clapper.” The blog pointed to audio supposedly from a “real estate billionaire” explaining the program to former Maricopa County, AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and associate Mike Zullo and saying, “John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, was hacked.” (Arpaio and Zullo are discredited figures who have pushed the false conspiracy theory that Obama’s birth certificate is fake). The author of the piece, Patrick Howley, also wrote that this supposed hack “by Obama officials provides some more context” for why Roberts voted in 2012 to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, suggesting the two are related. The blog, which also employs pro-Trump troll Cassandra Fairbanks, has previously pushed other dubious claims hyped by the alternative-media ecosystem.

    The report was picked up by pro-Trump website The Gateway Pundit, which called the tapes “evidence” that Roberts was hacked. Following suit, fake news purveyors ran with the story, with Before It’s News and YourNewsWire republishing at least parts of the Big League Politics article, Conservative Patriot and The Washington Feed calling the report a “bombshell,” and American Today calling Roberts “the latest victim of the Obama hacking.” The Big League Politics, Gateway Pundit, and Conservative Patriot articles have received at least 1,900, 7,300, and 3,600 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo.

    The conspiracy theory comes after the pro-Trump fringe previously hyped Fox analyst Andrew Napolitano’s claim that Obama spied on the Supreme Court, and after fringe media outlets staunchly defended Trump’s false claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Fringe media outlets have also repeatedly charged that Obama is trying to thwart Trump’s presidency by forming a “shadow government.”

  • Pro-Trump media claim “shadow President” Obama is violating the Logan Act

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fringe media supporting President Donald Trump have claimed that former President Barack Obama violated federal law and is acting as a “shadow president” because he has talked to former and current foreign leaders since the end of his presidency. The claims, which have at least partially been parroted on Fox News, are an extension of conservative media’s ongoing conspiracy theory that Obama runs a “shadow government.”

    Since Trump’s inauguration, conservative outlets have baselessly claimed that Obama is running some kind of “shadow government,” a conspiracy theory which has since been invoked by a Republican congressman and by one of Trump’s attorneys. The right-wing hysteria took on a new level of feverishness after Obama met with a handful of former and current world leaders, some of whom he worked closely with as president.

    Pro-Trump fake news purveyors were quick to attack Obama for his post-presidency activities. Several websites, including American Today, Patriots On The Right, US Postman, and USA Daily Time, claimed in June that Obama was “undermining President Trump” while “advertis[ing]” his “shadow government.” They suggested that Obama had “committed treason” and “violated” the Logan Act, a law barring private citizens from interfering with American foreign policy and for which no one has ever been prosecuted. The Federalist Tribune and The Washington Feed also asserted that Obama would get “a lengthy jail sentence” as a consequence of the law. Eventually, more fake news purveyors continued to push the false narrative, with Mad World News, USA Newsflash, GOP The Daily Dose, The Angry Patriot, Global Politics Now, Freedom Daily, US Advisor, ENH, and Before It’s News joining in.

    Additionally, “alt-right”-affiliated Infowars and fake news purveyors Conservative Fighters, TruthFeed, and Red Rock Tribune hyped a Daily Caller piece suggesting Obama was a “shadow president.” “Alt-right”-affiliated The Gateway Pundit also called Obama a “shadow president” who “may be breaking the Logan Act.” There has also been some discussion regarding Obama and the Logan Act on the “alt-right”-affiliated forum 4chan /pol/.

    According to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, these claims being peddled by the pro-Trump fringe ecosystem, including American Today, Mad World News, USA Newsflash, GOP The Daily Dose, The Angry Patriot, Freedom Daily, Infowars, Conservative Fighters, TruthFeed, and The Gateway Pundit, have drawn numerous Facebook engagements that rise well over the thousands, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo. There were at least 380 engagements with American Today's article, 41,900 with Mad World News’ article, 122,500 with USA Newsflash’s article, 6,500 with GOP The Daily Dose’s article, 7,000 with The Angry Patriot’s article, 48,300 with Freedom Daily’s article, 58 with Infowars’ article, 10,200 with Conservative Fighters’ article, 8,700 with TruthFeed’s article, and 5,000 and 6,900 for The Gateway Pundit articles, respectively.

    Some of the narrative has now gained cable news visibility by reaching Fox News, with host Lou Dobbs on July 6 attacking Obama for “shadowing” and trying to "undercut" Trump, and Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade on July 7 wondering why Obama was “shadowing” Trump and wondering whether Obama was trying to “swamp him.”

    The spread of these baseless claims yet again illustrates how the pro-Trump "alt-right"/fake news ecosystem has been used to push lies, conspiracy theories, and falsehoods.

  • Fox News lets Ted Nugent call in to claim his invitation for Obama to “suck on my machine gun” wasn’t a threat

    Nugent previously claimed “I’ve never suggested anybody get hung except for one time after Benghazi”

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Fox hosts let Ted Nugent call in and deny he had used violent rhetoric when inviting Obama to “suck on my machine gun” and also defend his prior claim that he would be “dead or in jail” if former President Obama was re-elected in 2012.

  • “Mind control,” “shadow government,” and Seth Rich: Sean Hannity’s history of pushing conspiracy theories

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News host Sean Hannity attracted widespread condemnation for pushing conspiracy theories about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, but it wasn’t his first time promoting or entertaining such wild claims on air. From claiming that the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem because he “may have converted to Islam” to implying that former President Barack Obama is a terrorist sympathizer, here are some examples of Hannity embracing conspiracy theories.

  • After Enabling Trump, Right-Wing Media Campaign For Marine Le Pen

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    United States right-wing media figures have rallied behind “far-right populist” Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election by endorsing her, positively comparing her to President Donald Trump, and attacking her opponent Emmanuel Macron with anti-Semitic smears and comparisons to former President Barack Obama.

  • 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.

  • Right-Wing Media Dishonestly Claim Carter Page FISA Warrant Is Evidence Of Trump Wiretap Lie

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    The Washington Post reported that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to investigate Trump associate Carter Page during the summer of 2016. The warrant was legally obtained through the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court. Right-wing media outlets falsely claimed that the FBI investigation into Page is evidence that supports Donald Trump’s accusations that the Obama administration illegally wiretapped him, despite multiple intelligence experts and even GOP Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) calling Trump’s claim is false.

  • How Jokes Become Fake News

    Hyperpartisan Fake News Purveyors Repurposed A Satirical Entertainment Article To Smear Malia Obama

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Fake news purveyors recently cited a satirical entertainment article that falsely claimed Malia Obama was expelled from Harvard University, demonstrating how fake news purveyors repurpose and manufacture fake news online.

    The post was first published by Last Line of Defense, a website that declares on its “About Us” page, “All articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney.” The site claimed that Obama, the daughter of former President Barack Obama, was expelled from Harvard University after she was caught ”vaping marijuana with friends” in “a Boston hotel lounge” and therefore was breaking the school’s anti-drug policy. The satirical article also claimed that the Obama family’s lawyer “is planning on filing a discrimination suit, because isn’t everything about race?” On April 10, Snopes debunked the article as false, noting that “Malia Obama was not expelled from Harvard University for smoking marijuana” and that, although the young Obama has been accepted at Harvard, she hasn’t started attending the university yet.

    Although the story was fabricated for entertainment and was intended to mock conservatives, it was quickly picked up by serial fake news purveyors. Sites including US Headline, Southern Conservative, Anews-24, Conservative Info Corner, We Conservative, USA Daily Post, and Flash News Corner published their own versions of the satirical story under the banner of journalism. According to Buzzsumo, a social media analytics site, 16 articles about the claim were shared 43,292 times across Facebook between April 4 and April 11.

    Fake news purveyors sometimes cite satirical news sites such as Last Line of Defense, repackaging and transforming pieces that originated as entertainment into fake news that reinforces the purveyor's tone or agenda. These sites then distribute them to hyperpartisan social media audiences on Facebook, whose newsfeed algorithms search -- based on images or articles the users have engaged with in the past -- for content that reinforces users’ beliefs in what is known as a filter bubble.

    Last Line of Defense was also the source of a fake story that claimed that two congressmen were caught plotting President Donald Trump’s assassination. PolitiFact rated the story “pants on fire” false and noted that the hoax had spread to fake news sites. It was shared more than 20,000 times on Facebook as of April 11, according to Buzzsumo.

    Media Matters has mapped out the fake news universe, concluding that satirical political entertainment sites are not inherently “fake news purveyors” on their own because their media is designed to entertain or inspire consumers, rather than to intentionally deceive them. Satire sites manufacture their laughs and clicks by fabricating stories that play to presupposed notions of the audiences they intend to mock. In this example, Last Line of Defense played to right-wing speculation about marijuana usage by Malia Obama, inspired by a video that emerged last year that depicted Obama smoking what appears to be marijuana and about a “shadow government” conspiracy to take down Trump, which unintentionally became fodder for purveyors of hyperpartisan fake news.

  • Fox Host Admits Unwillingness To Criticize Trump For Mediocre March Jobs Report

    Stuart Varney: “If We’d Have Had 98,000 New Jobs In Any Month During The Obama Administration, We Would Be All Over Them”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney admitted on air to a clear double standard on how he and Fox cover the monthly jobs report for presidents of different political parties. Less than an hour after a disappointing jobs report was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Varney revealed that if a similarly “weak” report had been published under President Barack Obama, he would have castigated the president as a “failure” -- something he admittedly wouldn’t do to President Donald Trump.

    On April 7, the BLS reported that the American economy added just 98,000 jobs in March while the unemployment dropped slightly to 4.5 percent. The report also revised down the number of jobs created in January and February by 38,000. Though the improved unemployment rate is the lowest in 10 years, the number of new jobs created was far lower than the 175,000 jobs economists expected for the month. Less than an hour after the report was announced, Varney called it “a very weak jobs report” but refused to lay blame on Trump. Varney admitted that, had this report come out during the Obama administration, “we would be all over them” for the supposed “failure of the president's economic policy.”

    Varney repeatedly downplayed positive economic indicators during the Obama administration. Indeed, one year ago, he tried to spin the March 2016 jobs report by questioning the “quality” of the 215,000 new jobs created. Months earlier, he had claimed that 292,000 new jobs created in December 2015 were “modest by historical standards,” even though it was one of the strongest reports of the entire year and showed nearly three times the number of jobs shown in the March 2017 report.

    Varney’s momentary break of character shines a light on his network’s “fair and balanced” charade, but the spectacle has been on full display since Trump took office. Fox News praised a solid January jobs report as “fantastic news,” and wrongly credited Trump for creating jobs that actually predated his inauguration. A month later, Fox personalities, including Varney, lauded a solid February jobs report as proof that Trump is simply “winning everywhere” and held it up as evidence of the “‘beginnings,’ of a potential Trump Economic Era.” Even this morning, Fox News initially declared that the same jobs report Varney described as “weak” would stand as part of “the most successful day” of Trump’s presidency.

    Watch Varney’s admission on the April 7 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): Look, if we'd have had 98,000 new jobs in any month during the Obama administration, we would be all over them.

    ASHLEY WEBSTER: Yes.

    VARNEY: Failure of the president. Failure of the president's economic policy. Okay? Why shouldn't I say that now about Mr. Trump?

    JOHN LONSKI: Well go ahead.

    VARNEY: No, I’m not gonna do that.

    LONSKI: But we haven’t had the president in office for long, and you haven’t had enough time really to put together a policy. They tried it on the health care front. Maybe they tried too quickly. Maybe that hurt them.

  • Syndicated Radio Host Joe Walsh Says President Obama Was Held To A Lower Standard Than Trump Because He’s Black

    CNN Commentator Angela Rye Explains Why He Is Wrong

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    CNN hosted Joe Walsh, a syndicated radio host, to defend his claim that former President Barack Obama was held to a lower standard by the media because he is black. Despite CNN commentator Angela Rye pointing out the racism in his comments, Walsh steadfastly argued his position that President Obama was held to a lower standard by the media because of his race and even doubled down on the claim after the CNN appearance.

    Walsh’s ongoing dispute with Rye made news on March 28, when Walsh claimed that the media “lowered the bar for Obama … cuz he was black”:

    Rye and Walsh were invited on the March 29 edition of CNN’s CNN Newsroom to discuss Walsh’s tweets. During the exchange Walsh claimed his comments were not racist, but reiterated that Obama was held to a “very low standard” and “coddled” by the media. Rye explained that Walsh’s bigoted comments ignore the fact that Trump became president despite his long history of racism and sexism. Watch:

    BROOKE BALDWIN (HOST): Do you agree? Do you think the original comments were either racist or sexist?

    JOE WALSH:  Hey, Brooke. No, I'm rolling my eyes right now. Because this is what the left always do, does. They always go to racism. Now, assume for a minute, Brooke, that Sean Spicer was a condescending jerk yesterday. And I think he probably was. But what does that have to do with race? And what does that have to do with sex? Brooke, Sean Spicer has been a condescending jerk to white male reporters a whole heck of a lot. And April is a great reporter, but doesn't she want to be treated equally? Why does this always have to do with race and sex? It's ridiculous. 

    BALDWIN: Angela, how do you feel about it?

    ANGELA RYE: I don't know if Sean Spicer is a racist. I don't know if Donald Trump is a racist. I don't know if the fallout that April experienced with Omarosa, who's a White House staffer, has challenges because of racial animus. What I do know is that April Ryan was disrespected yesterday and it was unwarranted. What I do know is that Sean Spicer is not April Ryan's father, so he should not tell her what she should and should not do. What I do know is that I'm sick and tired of this White House, as I was sick and tired of the campaign, treating people less than. Whether they're different because they are black or they're different because they cross the border, or they're different because they worship a different god or their god is known by a different name. I am tired of difference being disrespected and mistreated by this White House.

    [...]

    RYE: Sure, I think it speaks for itself. This president has been in turmoil since the campaign. He talked about grabbing women by their private parts. This is a man who -- let's put the shoe on the other foot. Barack Obama, a black man in this country running for president with not one, not two, but three baby mothers. Let's, you know, put the shoe on the other foot. Someone who took a loan from their father that they call a small loan of $1 million. Let's talk about all of those things. Someone who discriminated against people who were trying to just find spots in his housing facilities. Someone who took out full-page ads calling for the death of five young black and brown boys. If Barack Obama would have done any of that, Brooke, he would have never even made it to the general election. And that is the point. We're talking about a double standard. We're talking about lowering a bar. Barack Obama hurdled every bar that was put in front of him. When Michelle Obama talked about going high when they go low, they did it at every turn. This is a woman who was called an ape. Who -- they put pictures up of Barack Obama looking like a monkey. These are the people I'm talking about. They hurdled everything that came their way, every obstacle, and this man, it's asinine to even think that this man is now in the White House. Here we are in the middle of an investigation, but Hillary Clinton's e-mails. So, yeah, I mean, it's very frustrating and I'm tired of people telling me that black people are beneath a standard when we have to be twice as good all the time. And that is why I said, I'm not interested in having a dialogue with someone like Joe who has demonstrated a propensity towards bigotry. And he did that on Twitter yesterday in 140 characters or less.

    [...]

    BALDWIN: I want to understand why you had such a problem with what Angela said, and you took to Twitter and you let everyone know about it. I want to understand what your issue is with that. 

    WALSH: And Brooke, thanks. My disagreement had nothing to do with Trump. When Angela was making her case, she said that Barack Obama somehow had to live up to this perfect Jesus Christ standard that no other president had to live up to. My disagreement, Brooke, was about that. Because I find that laughable. And it's got nothing, again, to do with race. Never in our country's history have we had a president so like coddled and pampered and protected by the media like Barack Obama. You talk -- that's not a high standard, Brooke. He was held to a very low standard, because the media so loved him. 

    RYE: Did you or did you not say that you lowered the standard because he was black? Did you or did not say that the standard was lowered because he was black? Did you or did you not say that? 

    WALSH: Absolutely

    RYE: That is what makes you a bigot, Joe.

    After the CNN broadcast, Walsh repeated his racist claim on Twitter, writing, “Everyone made excuses for [Obama’s] inexperience simply because he’s black.” 

    Walsh has a history of making racist and discriminatory statements. After the July 2016 murders of five officers of the Dallas Police Department, Walsh tweeted that President Obama and “black lives matter punks” had better “watch out,” because “Real America is coming after you.” Walsh also told black people to “quit complaining about slavery & inequality,” insisted the media focus after Trayvon Martin’s murder should be “black-on-black crime,” and rewrote Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech to focus on his own “dream that black America will take responsibility for improving their own lives,” and “cease their dependency on the government plantation.” Walsh was suspended from his radio show in 2014 for repeatedly using racial slurs on air.