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After five people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), were wounded during a baseball practice in Alexandria, VA, right-wing media figures blamed comedian Kathy Griffin, a New York theater, the investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, and several others for the shooting.
Nugent previously claimed “I’ve never suggested anybody get hung except for one time after Benghazi”
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.
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.
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.
Similar Media Support Helped Enable Iraq War
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.
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.
Hyperpartisan Fake News Purveyors Repurposed A Satirical Entertainment Article To Smear Malia Obama
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.
Stuart Varney: “If We’d Have Had 98,000 New Jobs In Any Month During The Obama Administration, We Would Be All Over Them”
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.:
— Alex Morash (@AlexMorash) April 7, 2017
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.
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CNN Commentator Angela Rye Explains Why He Is Wrong
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”:
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) March 28, 2017
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?
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.”
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) March 29, 2017
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.
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Broadcast and cable news coverage of ruinous economic policies rolled out by the White House last week was overwhelmed by the president’s false accusation that his predecessor illegally wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election.
On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that up to 24 million Americans would lose access to health insurance over the next 10 years if the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare goes into effect. On that same day, the Trump administration unveiled an overlooked executive order that encourages cabinet secretaries and agency directors to create a plan to completely reshape a federal bureaucracy of over 2.8 million employees. And on March 16, the Trump administration unveiled its budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year, featuring proposed “massive cuts” to nondefense spending. The proposed cuts, which would offset an increase in spending on military programs and a border wall, would hit almost every facet of the federal government, but they would come down particularly hard on funding for small programs including Meals on Wheels, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS.
Yet according to Media Matters research, from March 13 to 17, President Donald Trump’s false wiretap claim dominated TV news coverage, overshadowing discussion of these important policy moves. While Trump’s lie certainly merits extensive media coverage, it’s also crucial to share details of his policymaking with the public.
Trump ignited a media firestorm in early March when he repeatedly accused former President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping him in the midst of last year's election. Right-wing media, led by Fox News, sprang to his defense even though the president offered no evidence to support his claim. Meanwhile, legitimate reporters exposed the bizarre accusation’s source as “the right-wing fever swamps” of fringe media and reported that it was pushed by a Russian state-sponsored news network. During March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey put Trump’s wiretapping lie to rest, telling the committee, “I have no information that supports those tweets.”
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
Yet nearly two weeks after Trump initially made the claim, his smear of Obama still had such an influence on television news coverage that it overshadowed every other discussion about Trump’s policy agenda last week. Media Matters identified 226 segments from March 13 through 17 that focused on Trump during evening programming on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC and major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. Of those segments, 64 focused on Trump’s wiretapping allegations -- a figure that dwarfed every other major issue Media Matters identified. Coverage of Trump’s health care plan came in a distant second place, with 37 segments, and stories related to the portion of Trump’s 2005 tax returns obtained by Rachel Maddow ranked third (26 segments). Trump’s proposed budget outline was discussed in just 14 segments, and his executive order to reshape the federal workforce registered just four mentions.
With television news forced to dissect and debunk Trump’s outrageous claims, coverage of pressing economic issues was eclipsed. Coverage of the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- which health care experts have said would be particularly harmful to low-income Americans, seniors, and people dealing with illnesses -- could not overtake that of Trump’s wiretapping tweet, even with the Trump administration attempting to smear the CBO numbers in the press. The executive order, which was described by CNN reporter Stephen Collinson as part of Trump’s larger goal to “dismember government one dollar at a time,” barely registered in news coverage at all. And Trump’s budget cuts, which would decimate social safety net programs, were discussed 14 times during evening news coverage on March 16 and 17, while Trump’s lie about wiretapping was discussed 35 times on those two days.
Trump’s promotion of a discredited lie accusing his predecessor of illegal conduct while in office merits extensive media coverage, but the policies he has enacted or plans to enact can be just as destructive as the misinformation he spreads. Media cannot afford to let Trump's misleading claims dominate the news cycle, drowning out crucial coverage of the pain his policies may cause the United States.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening news programming (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, as well as the major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, from March 13, 2017, through March 17, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Trump or executive order or federal government or federal employ! or federal worker or federal workers or civil service or government workers or government worker or federal government or budget.
The following programs were included in the data: ABC's World News Tonight, CBS' Evening News, NBC's Nightly News, and PBS' NewsHour, as well as CNN's The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight, Fox News' Special Report, The First 100 Days, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity, and MSNBC's For The Record, Hardball, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval. This survey includes CNN’s second live hour of Anderson Cooper 360 during the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot.
For this study, Media Matters included only those segments that contained substantial discussions of Donald Trump. We defined a "substantial discussion" as any segment where a host dedicates a monologue, or portion of a monologue, to Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States, or any segment where two or more guests discuss Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States. We did not include teasers or clips of news events, or rebroadcasts of news packages that were already counted when they first aired in the 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. survey window.
Independent Journal Review (IJR) chief content officer Benny Johnson and two other IJR employees were indefinitely suspended after writing and publishing a baseless conspiracy theory -- originally pushed by “alt-right” fringe media -- which suggested that former President Barack Obama’s visit to Hawaii played a role in a ruling by a federal judge based there that froze President Donald Trump’s revised Muslim ban.
On March 16, under Johnson’s direction, IJR published, then retracted, an article that attempted to “point out the timing and the opportunity” presented by Obama’s presence in Hawaii days before the judge’s ruling. The conspiracy theory was originally pushed by fringe and “alt-right” outlets such as Infowars and The Gateway Pundit, and it seemed to originate from a thread on the online anonymous message board Reddit. The outlandish theory even made its way to Donald Trump Jr., who retweeted a Twitter post that tied the judge to Obama.
According to reports from Politico and Business Insider, after IJR investigated the publication of the baseless story, the site suspended Johnson and editors Kyle Becker and Becca Lower. In a statement, IJR founder Alex Skatell wrote that “we got it wrong and ultimately deserve all the criticism.” Business Insider noted that Johnson, who has been accused of plagiarism multiple times and has previously pushed false claims, “had been warned earlier that the story about Obama was an unfounded conspiracy theory, but he assigned it to Becker anyway.”
This is the second recent occasion in which a right-wing media figure has been disciplined for spreading unsubstantiated allegations and conspiracy theories about Obama. IJR’s actions came a day after reports emerged that Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano was being taken off the air “indefinitely” for promoting the false claim that Obama used the British government to spy on Trump.