Ben Ferguson | Media Matters for America

Ben Ferguson

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  • CNN commentator Ben Ferguson’s Facebook page is a cesspool of bigotry, false info, and fabricated quotes

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson regularly uses his Facebook page to post memes with false information and fabricated quotes, including an image with a made-up Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) quote that was used to portray her as stupid.

    He also pushes bigotry on his page, including claiming that Islam is a religion “that sends out people from PRAYER in church to kill people and burn down buildings” and posting a meme of Black people in Ferguson, MO, with text saying, “Looting: when free food, housing, phones, healthcare & education aren’t enough.” Ferguson's Facebook page has over 800,000 followers and touts his CNN employment as a credential. CNN didn't respond to a request for comment.

    CNN has employed a stable of pro-Trump commentators, often with poor results and at the expense of its own reporting. As former Media Matters staffer Carlos Maza wrote for Vox, the outcome is CNN creating “news coverage that cares more about fighting and drama than it does about serious truth telling.”

    In March 2018, Media Matters documented that Ferguson had used his Facebook page to endorse and promote vitriolic and conspiratorial attacks against CNN. After publication, Ferguson took down those anti-CNN posts and apologized, claiming they were “posted by an outside company that did not accurately represent my opinion. I apologize to my radio listeners and the CNN community. I am extremely proud of my relationship with CNN and everyone I work with!”

    While CNN has said it is committed to “facts first,” it continues to associate itself with Ferguson. Specifically:

    Ferguson frequently attacks Ocasio-Cortez, including posting made-up quote

    Ferguson posted a meme featuring Ocasio-Cortez alongside the following remark in quotations: “Why is Alaska cold and Hawaii hot if they are next to each other?” (While some Ferguson fans in the comments section noted that the quote was fake, many responded by blaming the New York congresswoman for supposedly saying it.) There is no evidence Ocasio-Cortez said that; to the contrary, variations of that quote have been attributed to others over the years.

    He also posted a meme suggesting that Ocasio-Cortez was responsible for New York losing “25,000 jobs and 27.5 billion” dollars in the wake of the recently shuttered Amazon-New York deal. In reality, as The New York Times noted, “Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was an outspoken opponent of the Amazon deal, which would have located a new corporate campus near her Queens and Bronx district. But she was hardly a leading organizer on the ground, where local officials and left-leaning activists pushed for the company to make additional concessions or leave. … Ms. Ocasio-Cortez herself has said her impact has been overstated.”

    Ferguson posted another meme criticizing AOC for supposedly having “no real life experience” and attacking her age, stating that “at 28 she wants to tell us what the government needs to do with our economy!” Apart from its problematic argument -- for starters, the New York congresswoman certainly has “real life experience” -- that meme is the height of hypocrisy from the CNN pundit; according to the first line of his biography, “At 13, Ben Ferguson became the youngest radio talk show host in the country, and the youngest nationally syndicated host at 20.”

    Ferguson has repeatedly posted memes mocking Ocasio-Cortez for purportedly being stupid.  

    Ferguson posted meme about garbage-strewn scene after Earth Day (it was actually from a football tailgate party)

    Ferguson posted a meme showing a large yard of trash with the caption, “What’s left after the Earth Day celebration by a liberal group.” In reality, that image is reportedly from “the scene in front of the University of Georgia Law Library one Sunday morning in September 2009, the aftermath of tailgating activities during a football game the night before.” Indeed, trash bins in the picture display the university’s “G” logo.

    Ferguson posted a fake pro-Trump quote attributed to Clemson QB

    Ferguson posted a false meme claiming that after visiting the White House for helping win the NCAA college football championship, Clemson University quarterback Trevor Lawrence said: “President [Donald] Trump got all our favorite foods. It was the best meal we ever had. Then we go and see the coastal elite media trashing it for not being organic vegan. We’re football players, not bloggers. This was a perfect blue collar party.”

    The Associated Press reported in a January 15 article about “posts circulating on social media”:

    Lawrence denounced the quote Tuesday tweeting, “I never said this by the way. I don’t know where it came from. However the trip to the White House was awesome!”

    Ross Taylor, assistant athletic director for Clemson football communications, told the AP that Lawrence was shown the false quote this morning.

    “Everything that is presented in that meme is fabricated,” Taylor said.

    Ferguson lied to followers with meme claiming that “no one called Donald Trump a racist” before he ran for president

    Ferguson posted memes claiming that no one called Trump a racist until he ran for president. That claim is false; as Vox noted, “Donald Trump has been getting called racist since 1973."

    Ferguson posted meme suggesting Kamala Harris helped stage Jussie Smollett attack

    After actor Jussie Smollett was "arrested for allegedly filing a false police report claiming he was the victim of a hate-crime attack," Ferguson posted a meme suggesting that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) helped Smollett stage the attack to promote her anti-lynching bill. The meme offered no actual evidence for the supposed collusion; Harris said in response to the arrest that she’s “sad, frustrated, and disappointed. When anyone makes false claims to police, it not only diverts resources away from serious investigations but it makes it more difficult for other victims of crime to come forward.”

    Ferguson’s Facebook page is filled with bigotry

    Ferguson has also posted many bigoted memes over the years. Here are some examples:

    In September 2012, Ferguson wrote on Facebook: “Clinton and the state dept. declare this morning: ‘Islam is a Great Religion’ CAN WE BE REAL FOR A MINUTE, AND NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT. a religion that sends out people from PRAYER in church to kill people and burn down buildings IS NOT A GREAT RELIGION. I AM JUST SAYING!!!!!!!”

    He's also wrote on Facebook in May 2016: "I am so sick of these sick liberals telling me this is normal! We need to stand up to this attack on the traditional family! #genderidentity #transgender." 

    In August 2011, he wrote: "OBAMA TO ILLEGALS: We wont deport you unless you kill somone!!!!! Welcome to buying votes... he is trying to own hispanics like he thinks he owns African Americans... This is modern day slavery." 

    Research coordinator Alex Kaplan contributed research to this post.

  • Trump officials and right-wing media use Jakelin Caal Maquin's death to rally for Trump's wall

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (12/18/18): This piece has been updated with an additional example.

    Following reports of the December 8 death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala who died after being taken into Border Patrol custody, high-level White House officials and prominent right-wing media personalities exploited her death to advocate for President Donald Trump’s desired border wall while accusing her father of causing the tragedy.

    On December 13, The Washington Post reported that Caal Maquin “died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert.” She did not receive medical treatment until an hour and a half after it was requested. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) claimed that Caal Maquin “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days” before her death -- but this was quickly disputed by her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz. According to a statement from his lawyers, Caal Cruz “made sure she was fed and had sufficient water." The family wants an investigation into Caal Maquin's death.

    The Post first resported Caal Maquin’s death several days after it happened. But once the story broke on December 13, right-wing media personalities and major Trump administration officials immediately began exploiting her death or claiming that her father had caused it:

    Fox News host Sean Hannity: “A wall can prevent these types of heart-breaking stories.”

    White House senior adviser Stephen Miller during a Fox appearance: “If you want to stop the horrors on the northward trek, ... then, for the love of God, fund the border wall.”

    MSNBC contributor and talk radio host Hugh Hewitt: Caal Maquin’s death "is about the most complete argument for building a long, strong" border wall.

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a Fox appearance: "This family chose to cross illegally."

    Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz: "That should be the message, don't make this journey, it will kill you."

    CNN political commentator and BlazeTV host Ben Ferguson: “This is child abuse in its worst form. … This is sick.”

    Fox News guest and Border Patrol Council Vice President Art Del Cueto: “No one’s pointing the finger at this father, they’re all pointing the finger at the Border Patrol agents, and that’s just disgusting.”

    One America News host Graham Ledger: Caal Maquin was a “seven-year-old illegal” whose parents should be “investigated for probable child abuse.”

    One America News host Liz Wheeler: Caal Maquin’s father “forced her to undergo the dangerous journey to the U.S. border and didn’t feed her or give her water for days and days on end.”

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “Now they’re, ‘Oh, it’s Trump’s fault that a seven-year-old girl died after her father dragged her across a desert for seven days.’ That’s Trump’s fault?”

    Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro: "The person responsible for all of this is the father who didn't feed the child."

    Video by Leanne Naramore

  • Right-wing media attack Michael Cohen after he claimed Trump approved of Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media figures attacked the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen after he claimed that then-candidate Trump knew in advance of the June 2016 meeting between his son Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.

    CNN reported last night that Cohen claimed to have been in the room when Trump Jr. informed his father of his plans to meet with the lawyer who allegedly had dirt on then-candidate Hillary Clinton. Whether or not Trump had known of the meeting beforehand has been a central question in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Previously, Trump Jr. had denied informing his father of the meeting. He later testified to Senate investigators that he could not recall whether or not he notified Trump prior to the meeting.

    Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade questioned Cohen’s credibility and hinted that Cohen may have committed perjury. Fox contributor Geraldo Rivera also hyped Cohen’s “sleaziness.” The Drudge Report referred to Cohen as “the rat.” The Daily Caller published multiple pieces that expressed excitement over Trump’s scathing response to the Cohen story, hyped his denial, and piled on to the Drudge-inspired nickname for Cohen.

    Many right-wing media personalities took to Twitter to attack Cohen.

    Newsmax’s John Cardillo:

    Townhall opinion writer Kurt Schlichter

    CNN commentator Ben Ferguson

    New York Post opinion editor Seth Mandel

    The Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro:

    This post has been edited for clarity, to reflect that not all of the conservative media figures mentioned are allies of Donald Trump.

  • Everything right-wing media tried to blame for the Trump administration’s family separation policy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As President Donald Trump’s administration implemented a new “zero tolerance” prosecution policy at the border that led to unprecedented and systematic separation of immigrant families and locking kids in cages, right-wing media flailed around trying to blame the administration’s policy on anybody or anything except Trump.

    The president’s media enablers blamed Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, “the law on the book,” Democrats in Congress, the media, the families themselves, and even “the Illuminati of K Street” for the Trump administration’s policy:  

    Blaming the families themselves

    • Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that families “are choosing to be separated” by coming to the United States in the first place. Co-host Steve Doocy agreed, saying “the part that is troubling ... is the conscious decisions the parents are making” in trying to bring their children to America.

    • Recently pardoned felon Dinesh D’Souza rhetorically questioned whether the “deported aliens” were “the ones choosing to separate their families.”

    • Fox’s David Bossie said that if parents “don’t become criminals, they’re not separated” from their children.

    • Fox’s Tomi Lahren said, “If you do not want to be separated, do not cross the border illegally. Follow our laws, follow the process. That's the best way to ensure that your family stays together.”

    Blaming former presidents

    • Radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that family separation at the border "is an entirely manufactured crisis. It’s entirely manufactured. This has been going on for years. It happened during the Obama administration."

    • American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp declared, “Obama and Trump have [the] same child protection policy.”

    • Turning Point USA Communications Director Candace Owens falsely claimed that “these policies were in place” during the Obama administration.

    • Turning Point USA President Charlie Kirk falsely stated, “All of this happened for 8 years under Obama.”

    • CNN commentator Ben Ferguson shared an image on Facebook that claimed that policies of separating children from “illegal parents” had been in effect since 2009.

    • Breitbart claimed Trump’s “new ‘zero tolerance’ policy worked during the presidency of George W. Bush,” referring to an initiative that began in 2005 and has not worked.

    • Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs stated that “previous presidents, including Bush and Obama, long ignored” family separation at the border until Trump “mov[ed] to stop” the practice.

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity claimed, “This is nothing new and took place in previous administrations as well.”

    • Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said that family separation has been “standard procedure for decades” when you “pick up a group of a hundred people and you have no idea who the hell they are.”

    Blaming a nonexistent law

    Blaming media, claiming they were using family separation as a distraction

    • Fox’s Brian Kilmeade said that Trump’s media detractors “had to reach for something else” after Trump “put a lot of the skeptics to bed … and they found it with the so-called separation of kids and parents.”

    • Rush Limbaugh claimed that media is inundating Americans with “manufactured crises” like family separation to distract from the Department of Justice inspector general report and strong economy.

    • Fox’s Tucker Carlson, host of one of the most racist hours on television, said that reporting on family separation is just the media pursuing their goal “to change your country, forever.”

    • NRATV commentator Dan Bongino claimed that media reporting on family separation is “propaganda, nothing more.”

    • Hannity accused the media of harboring an “obsession” with “the so-called policy” of separating children from their parents in order to mislead Americans.

    • Twitter troll Bill Mitchell predicted, “Every Sunday news show will be about Trump's #FakeNews ‘concentration camps’ and NOTHING about the OIG.”

    • Sinclair Broadcast Group’s propagandist Boris Epshteyn devoted his “must-run” segment on family separation to attacking the media for their “politically driven” attempts “to make it seem as if those who are tough on immigration are somehow monsters.”

    Blaming Democrats, claiming they were using family separation for political ends

    • According to The Gateway Pundit, Democrats “would rather the problem persist so they can continue to wring their hands over another manufactured crisis to distract from the damning IG report and robust economy.”

    • Fox Business’ Stuart Varney complained that Democrats “hijacked” a hearing on the IG report “within seconds of it beginning,” and “poured out [their] scorn for President Trump” instead.

    • Fox’s Trish Regan commented that Democrats “would much rather cry on television like [Rep.] Elijah Cummings [D-MD] did” than stop family separation, because “it plays to any hatred they can gin up, as we go into ‘18, for Donald Trump.”

    • National Review’s David French wrote, “I have a feeling that for some partisans, it’s fascism to impose the policy and fascism to try to end it -- at least so long as the GOP is in charge of the process.”

  • Right-wing media are rallying to defend the Trump administration’s inhumane separation of families at the border 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Trump administration is separating immigrant children from their parents or legal guardians after they cross the border, with at least 2,000 children taken from their parents since April 19. The administration’s merciless and inhumane policy has spurred numerous heartbreaking stories, including reports of a breastfeeding baby who was ripped from her mother, a Honduran father separated from his family who took his own life, and children who are held in cages alongside strangers. Yet right-wing media figures have been quick to defend the policy and dismiss its inherent cruelty:

    • Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak justified separating families at the border, saying the Border Patrol facilities are "better than what they had." Pollak also claimed that ICE taking children from their parents and putting them in detention facilities is “just about caring for the kids.”

    • Right-wing troll Dinesh D’Souza, who recently received a pardon from President Donald Trump, questioned whether immigrant parents are “the ones choosing to separate their families.”

    • Fox's Pete Hegseth defended the separations because the children get food and "soccer and video games." Hegseth also called images of detained children “quite compassionate,” and said the policy was “defensible.”

    • Fox News’ Trish Regan argued that Trump is showing asylum-seeking families "tough love" by taking children away from their parents.

    • Fox contributor Tammy Bruce called for White House press briefings to end after reporters confronted White House press secretary Sarah Sanders about the separation of families.

    • Fox's Jesse Watters argued that the White House should "start ripping press passes away" from reporters who ask about families getting separated at the border. Watters also said that “some would say” that separation is “a more humane policy” than detaining the families together.

    • In a series of tweets, Twitter troll Bill Mitchell aggressively defended the policy, accusing the media of focusing on “#FakeNews ‘concentration camps,’” complaining about the money spent to keep the children captive, suggested that many of the children are “not with their families at all - they are with smugglers” (only a very small percentage of cases involve smuggling and often a bona fide relationship between the child and adult is clear), and claiming, “President Trump is PROTECTING these children.”

    • Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade downplayed “the so-called separation of kids and parents” at the border, arguing that the Democrats are using it to distract from the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the handling of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Singapore Summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

    • Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt said that families are “choosing to be separated” by showing up at the border. She also argued that “you can't even really blame an administration” for the separation policy.

    • Her fellow Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said that “the part that is troubling” is not children being ripped from their parents, but the parents choosing to come to the United States in the first place. Doocy also argued that the cages some children are being housed in shouldn’t be called “cages” because rather they are “walls [built] out of chain link fences," and he defended family separation by suggesting the U.S. government spends a lot of money to “make sure that those kids wind up with all that stuff” that detention facilities offer.

    • Fox & Friends repeated or referenced Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s lies about family separation throughout the June 18 broadcast. Nielsen initially claimed that separation wasn’t happening -- it is.

    • Right-wing troll Mike Cernovich said that Trump was “keeping [children] safe in dorms,” and he accused former President Barack Obama of giving children “to human traffickers.”

    • Fox host and Trump lackey Sean Hannity claimed that the policy of separation “took place in previous administrations” (neither the Obama nor the Bush administration separated families as a matter of policy). Hannity also accused the media of having an “obsession” with the “so-called policy of separating illegal immigrant families.”    

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham called the “outrage” over the separation policy “hilarious,” complained about watching “our country try to contort itself into other peoples' cultures,” and excused the separations because the children have “entertainment, sports, tutoring, medical, dental, four meals a day, and clean, decent housing” even though their “parents irresponsibly tried to bring them across the border illegally.” On her Fox show, Ingraham called the administration’s child detention centers “essentially summer camps” and compared them to “boarding schools.”

    • Sinclair's Boris Epshteyn choose not to editorialize on the cruelty of family separation itself, instead attacking the "discourse" around separation policy and claiming it is what's wrong with Democrats and media.

    • Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter warned the president not to fall for “these child actors weeping and crying on” cable news.

    • Radio host Rush Limbaugh called the outrage over family separation “an entirely manufactured crisis” and claimed “it happened during the Obama administration” too (it didn’t).  

    • One America News Network correspondent and internet troll Jack Posobiec defended the policy by fearmongering that children crossing the border could be with traffickers as opposed to family members. There is clear evidence of the relationship between many of the children in detention and the adult that accompanied them.

    • American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp, a frequent cable news guest, contended that “Obama and Trump have same child protection policy” (they do not).

    • Fox’s David Bossie attempted to shift the blame onto the parents, arguing that “if they don't become criminals, they're not separated.” He also claimed that Trump is just “following the law,” ignoring the reality that separation is a Trump administration policy, not the law.

    • Fox host Tucker Carlson warned his viewers that people speaking up against America detaining children in cages just want to "change your country forever."

    • Chris Bedford, editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller News Foundation, criticized the "hyperbole" over family separation and child detention.

    • Drudge Report’s Matt Drudge attempted to paint Latin American children as violent by publishing a photo of children in Azaz, Syria.

    • Turning Point USA spokesperson Candace Owens claimed that “these policies were in place” during the Obama administration (they were not).

    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter aggressively defended the policy, suggesting that the U.S. ought to “separate the children and then send them all away” and “in prison (sic) the parents until they serve their sentence then throw them out.”

    • Infowars frontman and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed that separation has been the “standard procedure for decades” when you “pick up a group of a hundred people and you have no idea who the hell they are.” Infowars also claimed that Trump had exposed “the hoax that the US is mistreating migrant children.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro fallaciously argued that Trump is simply “enforcing the law on the books.”

    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk posted a series of tweets fearmongering about “illegal immigration” and claimed that “all of this happened for 8 years under Obama” (nope).

    • NRATV host Dan Bongino claimed that reporting on the “immigration/children story” is “propaganda, nothing more” and argued that anyone who believed it is “delirious, and should seek professional help.”

    • Radio talk show host Ben Ferguson shared an image on Facebook claiming that policies of separating children from “illegal parents” had been in effect since 2009 and that Democrats just started talking about the issue because “they only care about making Trump look ‘bad.’” The post has been shared over 100,000 times.

    • Conservative commentator Dick Morris claimed that families seeking asylum at the borders were part of a “scam” in which adult immigrants were “abusers” who are using their children as a “battering ram to force their way into the country.” He also said the solution to this problem is to deny asylum to all immigrants who come to the border with a child.

    • Fox New contributor and Townhall Editor Katie Pavlich posted a series of tweets comparing the separation of asylum-seeking families to the separation of children and arrested parents and supporting Sarah Sanders’ claims in which she portrayed “illegal aliens” as criminals who are responsible for separating U.S. families permanently by “committing murder or killing through drunk driving.”

    • Conservative Review TV’s Jon Miller claimed that media are trying to push controversy around separation policies in order to “distract from the disastrous IG report and anything else this president has done that will cause people to vote for him.”

    • Fox News’ Tomi Lahren tweeted that “we owe ILLEGAL immigrants NOTHING,” and suggested that family separation is just one of the “consequences” parents have to accept when they “drag [their] kids over here ILLEGALLY.”

  • Right-wing CNN contributor accidentally debunks right-wing myth about Planned Parenthood funding

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    CNN contributor and right-wing radio host Ben Ferguson gave up the game on one of right-wing media’s favorite inaccurate talking points about Planned Parenthood, admitting that the organization does not use taxpayer funding to cover abortion services.

    The comment came during a discussion on the March 27 edition of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon about the National Rifle Association (NRA) saying that it accepts foreign donations. Ferguson was attempting to defend the NRA’s assertion that its foreign donations are separate from election contributions. He stated that the NRA is “separating the funds” in “the same way that Planned Parenthood, for example, is not allowed to use funds that come from the American taxpayers for abortions. They separate it.” Later in the segment, Ferguson again said that there are “certain guidelines” about where Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding goes and “that money cannot be used directly for abortion services.”

    After host Don Lemon called out Ferguson’s double standard, saying that “the criticism from those on the right” is that Planned Parenthood doesn’t separate taxpayer funding from its abortion funding, Ferguson claimed conservatives were actually mad that Planned Parenthood receives taxpayer funding at all. However, the myth that Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding supports its abortion services is a frequent right-wing talking point, often framed around the idea that “money is fungible.” In reality, as Ferguson alluded to, the Hyde Amendment prohibits any federal funding from going to abortions. Planned Parenthood merely receives reimbursement for services covered under Medicaid. From the March 27 edition of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon:

    DON LEMON (HOST): Do you think that that practice will invite the misuse of funds, Ben? I mean, if they don't take foreign money, they don't have to worry about the funds being used illegally.

    BEN FERGUSON: I don't. And I think the NRA is pretty smart about this, separating the funds. The same way that Planned Parenthood, for example, is not allowed to use funds that come from the American taxpayers for abortions. They separate it, so that there is a very clear separation line here when you know you're going to be under scrutiny from people that don't like you. It's not illegal for the NRA to take foreign funds. Many nonprofits and many groups that have activism or ideas like this and others on the conservative/liberal side for decades have been taking foreign funds from people that support what they're about and what they're backing. I don't think there is going to be an issue here. I think certainly people want to play politics with this. But I think the NRA knows that they're under a microscope and have been for years. And they've never had problems with this in the past.

    LEMON: So, but the critics on the right say the money always can't be separate when it comes to Planned Parenthood and abortions. That's really the criticism from those on the right. But you're saying now --

    FERGUSON: Well, the criticism --

    LEMON: -- that the NRA can separate.

    FERGUSON: Not really. It’s not -- it's not the criticism.

    ANGELA RYE: Yeah, it is.

    FERGUSON: The criticism is that you're taking my taxpayer's dollars and you're giving them to an organization that is the number one abortion provider in the U.S. They give more abortions than anybody else with my tax dollars.

    LEMON: Ben, you're saying the money can be separated.

    FERGUSON: No one is giving money --

    LEMON: You just said in one breath, though --

    FERGUSON: Right, here’s the point --

    LEMON: -- that the money can be separated when it comes to the NRA, no matter where it comes from, foreign entities or whatever.

    FERGUSON: Again --

    LEMON: So, if people are paying tax money, and they’re saying your tax dollars will not go towards abortions, so --

    FERGUSON: There is a fundamental difference between Planned Parenthood and the NRA. The NRA does not receive taxpayers’ dollars. If they did, many people like Angela would be very upset with that. That is why I'm upset --

    RYE: First of all --

    FERGUSON: -- with Planned Parenthood receiving funds. My point was again this: There are certain guidelines that go in that make it very clear that you cannot have taxpayers’ dollars when it goes -- and hundreds of millions of dollars a year go to Planned Parenthood. That money cannot be used directly for abortion services.

  • CNN’s Ben Ferguson regularly posts vitriolic and conspiratorial attacks against his employer on Facebook

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    UPDATE: Ferguson’s Facebook page removed the posts referenced in this piece shortly after publication. Screenshots of his since-deleted posts have been added next to the original links.

    UPDATE 2 (3/20): Ferguson posted an apology on Twitter:

    Followers of CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson on Facebook are probably confused about why he even works for the network.

    On his verified page, Ferguson endorsed and promoted a bogus claim that CNN scripted its town hall debate on gun violence. He celebrated a Roy Moore supporter yelling “fake news” at the network; remarked that a video of President Donald Trump beating up the CNN logo “is kinda funny”; and told followers to check out tweets claiming CNN banned a negative story about former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. He also complained that CNN “can't let conservatives” like himself “express their opinion.”

    He has also promoted articles claiming that CNN anchor Jake Tapper is “an embarrassment,” “CNN’s gun control town hall was a stunt,” and mainstream media outlets “aren’t honest and they don’t care about the truth.”

    CNN has hired a number of pro-Trump commentators, and many of them have proven to be a liability for the network. For example, CNN fired Jeffrey Lord after he tweeted a Nazi salute at Media Matters President Angelo Carusone. The network also fired pro-Trump commentator Ed Martin in January for, according to Martin, “cause.” While the specific reason was not made clear, he had previously attacked the network and its contributors, including calling two commentators “black racists.”

    A Media Matters study found that Ferguson made the second highest number of appearances on the cable network among its employed pro-Trump commentators from July 24, 2017 to October 24, 2017. While Ferguson wrote on Facebook in May 2016 that he’s “proud to be apart (sic) of CNN family,” it certainly hasn’t seemed that way.

    Ferguson recently pushed the claim that CNN scripted its town hall special on guns, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student survivor Colton Haab's accusation against the network. In a February 23 post, he wrote: “Wow, it's even worse than we thought” and linked to a story by Young Conservatives editor Andrew Mark Miller claiming:

    It was pretty clear that CNN’s town hall debate on gun control was a sham from the very start. They had no intention of moving the conversation forward. It was about shaming Republicans from the very start.

    In fact, one high school student who was at the scene of the Florida shooting said that CNN tried to script his questions.

    From The Hill:

    A student survivor of last week’s mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school said he was asked by CNN to “write a speech and ask questions” for a town hall but declined to attend the event after “it ended up being all scripted,” a claim the network is pushing back on.

    “CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted,” Colton Haab told WPLG-TV, an ABC affiliate in Miami.

    “I expected to be able to ask my questions and give my opinion on my questions,” said Haab.

    Later that day, Ferguson posted a link to another anti-CNN piece with the caption “Good luck trying to explain this one.” The piece by Andrew Mark Miller said that “CNN’s gun control town hall was a stunt” and called moderator Jake Tapper “an embarrassment” and claimed he did a “terrible moderating job.” It added that “one parent [Andrew Klein] is now coming out and saying that CNN explicitly told him only people who supported the liberal narrative could speak” and also quoted Haab’s accusation that CNN scripted the event.

    CNN has strongly disputed that it tried to script Haab’s remarks. As The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reported, “CNN strenuously denied that claim on Thursday, both before and after President Trump picked up the story based on a report on the Fox News program 'Tucker Carlson Tonight.'” CNN also released emails showing that Haab’s father, Glenn, “doctored emails” to the media about an exchange with a CNN producer (Glenn Haab acknowledged altering the emails but defended his actions). The network also issued the following statement in February:

    “The Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action Town Hall was intended to be a forum for students, parents and teachers to speak directly to the elected leaders and stakeholders that are at the center of this critical issue. It is unfortunate that an effort to discredit CNN and the town hall with doctored emails has taken any attention away from the purpose of the event. However, when presented with doctored email exchanges, we felt the need to set the record straight.”

    In November, Ferguson cheered on a “fake news” attack against CNN’s reporting on the Roy Moore Senate race in Alabama. He wrote: “This is brutal for CNN. While a reporter was reading from an editorial against Roy Moore published by an Alabama newspaper, he was interrupted by a man shouting two words at CNN. Check out the clip.” Ferguson then linked to a piece by Andrew Mark Miller which embedded a video of a Moore supporter yelling: “Fake news! Fake news! Fake news!” The article added that “we simply can’t trust the mainstream media. They aren’t honest and they don’t care about the truth. Moore is staying in this race and the people of Alabama are the ones who will decide his fate.”

    In July 2017, Ferguson endorsed Trump’s tweet of a video depicting the president physically beating CNN’s logo, writing: “Come on media this is kinda funny. Don't you agree?”

    Shortly after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, Ferguson promoted the claim that CNN banned certain stories that were critical of her on Election Night. Ferguson wrote: “Check out these tweets,” and linked to a radio page that included the unproven claims from disgraced right-wing troll Todd Kincannon that an unnamed CNN reporter said Clinton "was in a 'psychotic drunken rage'" on that night and “the CNN reporter didn't fail to report it. His editors will not let him. CNN has banned all ‘Hillary in the bunker’ stories.”

    In October, Ferguson also criticized CNN host Don Lemon, writing: “Liberals just can't let conservatives express their opinion. Here I get cursed at for speaking my mind.”

    Bizarrely, several of Ferguson’s anti-CNN posts were also posted word-for-word on the Facebook accounts of other pundits. For instance:

    • Ferguson’s “Wow, it's even worse than we thought” post also appeared on Stacey Dash’s page.
    • Ferguson’s “Good luck trying to explain this one” post also appeared on the Facebook pages of Dash and Allen West.
    • Ferguson’s “Brutal for CNN” post also appeared on Dash’s page.

    A portion of Ferguson’s post criticizing Don Lemon also appeared on Dash’s account, though the first-person description was changed.

    Ferguson, Dash, and West are all connected to Young Conservatives LLC, a company that oversees clickbait websites, as Media Matters previously documented

    CNN and Ferguson did not return requests for comment.

  • These right-wing pundits keep posting identical Facebook remarks to promote a clickbait website

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    When House Republicans released the results of their investigation claiming to clear President Donald Trump of colluding with Russia during the 2016 election, the Facebook pages of several right-wing pundits posted strikingly similar thoughts at roughly the same time.

    “The news we’ve all been waiting for,” wrote former Fox News personality and current congressional candidate Stacey Dash.

    “The news we’ve all been waiting for,” remarked Sarah Palin.

    “The news we’ve all been waiting for,” CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson and Media Research Center senior fellow Allen West both wrote.

    That same pattern has repeated itself for months: Pundits post identical (or virtually identical) remarks, quips, or paragraph-long commentaries, along with a link to a website owned by Young Conservatives LLC.

    It’s not a coincidence. Commentators such as Dash, Ferguson, Palin, and West all have websites connected to Young Conservatives and they all regularly share the clickbait company's content. Young Conservatives' main news site is currently americanewscentral.com. If you’ve never heard of that site it's likely because it was launched in just the past few months -- and it will likely soon be defunct.

    BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman explained this month that the company has been using a practice called domain hopping, “an increasingly popular tactic of quickly hopping from one domain name to another in order to blunt the impact of Facebook’s recent News Feed algorithm changes. It’s also used by publishers as a way to stay one step ahead of blacklists used by brands and agencies to keep their ads off controversial or inflammatory websites.” He added that West's own page at allenwestblog.americanewscentral.com has already "used more than a dozen different domains with his name in them" since January 2017.

    The extent of Young Conservatives’ involvement with those right-wing pundits is unclear. The company did not respond to an inquiry from Media Matters and declined an earlier request for comment from BuzzFeed about “Sarah Palin or its other partners.”

    Media Matters sent requests for comment to Dash through emails listed on her campaign documents and to Ferguson, Palin, and West through website contact forms but did not hear back as of posting. (A disclaimer on Palin's Facebook page indicates that she does not personally write many of the remarks on her account, stating that posts “by Sarah Palin” are signed “SP.”)

    Media Matters also sent an inquiry to the group Chicks on the Right, asking about a post on its Facebook page that included identical remarks to those of other pundits and for clarification regarding its relationship with Young Conservatives. Co-founder Miriam Weaver responded in a blog post by criticizing Media Matters and writing that it's "absolutely none of Media Matters’ business (or anyone’s, really)" whom the group works with and what financial relationships it has. She also defended the identifical Facebook post practice, stating, in part, that “we share their story the way it appears on their page, and they share our story the way it appears on our page – hence, the identical language. It’s less work that way, you see.” From Chicks on the Right's post (emphasis in original):

    Here’s the deal. Once a day, usually sometime in the evening hours, we share a post from our friends, the Young Conservatives, on our Facebook page, which we and ONLY WE manage. They, in turn, share one of our posts on their Facebook page. It’s a lovely partnership – one that allows us to cross-promote with our respective audiences. It costs us nothing to share their posts, and it costs them nothing to share ours. It’s a mutual swap, if you will. Once a day. And we share their story the way it appears on their page, and they share our story the way it appears on our page – hence, the identical language. It’s less work that way, you see. It appears, from the OH-SO-SCANDALOUS link that Media Matters included in their email, that the Young Cons have similar relationships with other folks as well. Good for them, I say. I love to see conservatives helping each other out. The more the conservative message gets out to the masses, the better!

    A Media Matters review of the Young Conservatives-connected pundits found numerous posts promoting affiliated content that contained identical or virtually identical remarks.

    One of the most frequent cut-and-pasters is Republican political commentator Stacey Dash. She has continued to post links to Young Conservatives content even though she’s running for Congress in California and her Facebook page is connected to her campaign website.

    The posts push conservative tropes and sometimes veer into vitriol. For instance, Dash, Ferguson, and West have repeatedly criticized and mocked the survivors of the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

    [Dash, Ferguson, West]

    [Dash, Ferguson, West]

    [Dash, Ferguson, West]

    Here are some of the many examples of identical remarks from Young Conservatives-affiliated pundits.

    Dash, Ferguson, and West had the same reaction to an NFL story:

    Dash, Ferguson, and West had the same “Yeehaw!” reaction to a federal court ruling:

    Chicks on the RightFerguson, and Palin had the same two-sentence reaction to a court decision about California. West, however, opted to use "isn't a good idea" instead of "isn't panning out."

    And here are Dash and Ferguson doing an "insert sarcasm here" joke just one minute apart:

    Even purported first-person posts are cut and pasted across different accounts. Here are Dash and Ferguson making an observation about the Parkland shooting at the same time:

    Here are Dash and Ferguson writing about Enterprise Rent-A-Car at the same time:

    And here they are talking about Trump:

    To be fair, their posts are not always identical. When Dash and Ferguson claimed they may have found themselves a new church, Ferguson opted not to include the word “freaking”:

  • CNN's "both sides" problem infects coverage of Trump's anti-Muslim retweets

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President Donald Trump’s latest anti-Muslim retweet spree was racist, misleading, and, above all, indefensible.

    Somehow CNN didn’t get the memo.

    Trump on November 29 retweeted three anti-Muslim videos that were posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the far-right, ultranationalist Britain First political organization, who has previously been "charged with causing religiously aggravated harassment.”

    Beyond being incredibly racist, these tweets were also highly misleading. Several media outlets fact-checked the claims in these videos, determining one of them to be “false” and all three “overlaid with a message meant to be a blunt hammer blow for a cause.” Additionally, civil rights groups pointed out that Trump’s tweets “further inflame” violence and hate aimed at Muslims in a climate when “hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim bias are at an all-time high.”

    Trump's retweets were widely condemned by American and British officials, including Prime Minister Theresa May. However, CNN covered these tweets, as it covers many other issues, through a series of panel discussions comprising talking heads who move the conversation absolutely nowhere. Many of these panels were stacked with a Trump supporter who attempted to defend the president’s atrocious social media posts.

    On CNN Newsroom with John Berman and Poppy Harlow, CNN contributor Ben Ferguson stated, “If I would have seen these videos … I would have probably tweeted that out and said to myself, ‘This is something the world needs to see.’”

    On CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, CNN political commentator Andre Bauer claimed the U.S. has gotten “numb to the continual victimization of American people by people that come over to this country to cause us harm” and praised Trump for “continu[ing] to remind us about it.”

    On The Lead with Jake Tapper, CNN political commentator and former Trump campaign strategist David Urban dismissed “the notion that somehow we’re radicalizing folks in the rest of the world” through the spread of anti-Muslim propaganda.

    On Anderson Cooper 360, panelist James Schultz, who served as White House ethics lawyer under Trump, attempted to defend the president by asserting that “radical Islamic terrorists do bad things.” Schultz claimed, “It’s not the best choice of videos. Without a doubt, they are fake videos. But for you to say [Trump’s] characterizing all Muslims that way, it’s just flat out wrong.”

    And on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, CNN political commentator Ed Martin said the series of tweets was “not a very good move,” but that critics of the tweets were “missing the forest for the trees. No one that looks with a serious eye at Europe doesn’t recognize that there is a problem with Muslim and Islamic fanatics.” Martin contended that Trump’s tweets were helping the problem by “starting a conversation.”

    CNN’s “both sides” panel structure assumes that every issue has two valid sides, and that often those sides are best defined along partisan lines. In the case of Trump’s tweets, that is patently false. These tweets are bigoted and misleading, and anyone who says otherwise is not being intellectually or morally honest.

    By introducing two sides to this debate, CNN is muddying the truth about these videos. Given that we now live in an age where the president often takes his cues from what he sees on cable news, CNN’s “both sides” strategy is irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

  • The only people supporting Trump's anti-Muslim tweets are racists, fascists, bigots, and CNN contributors

    After contributor lauded Trump's anti-Muslim tweets, CNN’s Bash calls out the "racists, and fascists, and bigots" who support them

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Hours after a CNN contributor said that he also would have retweeted the series of anti-Muslim videos circulated by a far-right British extremist that President Donald Trump retweeted on November 29, Dana Bash -- the network’s chief political correspondent -- called out the people who supported what Trump did as being “racists, and fascists, and bigots.”

    During the 9 a.m. hour of CNN Newsroom with John Berman and Poppy Harlow, CNN contributor Ben Ferguson said that if he had seen the videos first, “I would have probably tweeted that out and said to myself, ‘This is something the world needs to see.’” From the November 29 edition of CNN Newsroom with John Berman and Poppy Harlow:

    BEN FERGUSON: A lot of people don’t like to see the truth of what is happening with many extremists in the Muslim community. And I think the thing about these videos is -- I look at it from this perspective: Are you offended by the person who originally tweeted them out or are you offended by the video? And, I think the president -- if I would have seen these videos, and I would have seen it on my feed, and I would have watched them, I would have probably tweeted that out and said to myself, “This is something the world needs to see.”

    Hours later on Inside Politics, chief political correspondent Dana Bash said that it is “hard to swallow” that “the only people who are supporting what the president did are racists, and fascists, and bigots.”

    JOHN KING (HOST): It makes you really proud as an American, right, when David Duke is praising your president as a truth teller? I’m not even going to read it, but there it is. And that’s what’s happening. The British prime minister says he’s wrong. Just about every anti-discrimination, civil rights group in the United States has issued a statement saying, “Dear god, Mr. President. Get a grip.” And David Duke says, “Great.”

    DANA BASH: The only people who are supporting what the president did are racists, and fascists, and bigots. And that is so hard to swallow.

  • Study: CNN's paid Trump shills made more than 500 appearances over the last three months

    The network is making a big show of its commitment to facts while paying Trump apologists to lie

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    “This is an apple,” begins the voice-over for an ad CNN is running as part of its new “Facts First” promotional campaign. “Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana,” the narration continues. “They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put banana in ALL CAPS. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.”

    The network’s new branding stresses that “there is no alternative to a fact” and that “opinions matter” but “don’t change the facts.”

    CNN’s campaign seems driven by the post-truth political environment. President Donald Trump and his administration lie constantly and try to undermine the credibility of other sources of information, including CNN and other media outlets. By confusing the public about what is happening, they hope to maintain power. With top White House aides openly declaring their adherence to “alternative facts,” it makes sense for credible journalists to try to rally around the need for reporting to reflect reality.

    But if CNN is truly worried about the sort of people who tell you that an apple is really a banana, the network should deal with the stable of pundits it has hired to provide viewers with knee-jerk defenses of the president. Those Trump apologists -- some of whom were previously on Trump’s payroll -- actively harm CNN’s journalism, frequently bringing panel discussions to a screeching halt with claims so dishonest they approach parody, at times drawing on-air rebukes from the network’s anchors. The pundits force the network to constantly debate whether the apple is really a banana.

    In August, media reporter Michael Calderone identified 13 pundits on the CNN payroll “who, to varying degrees, can be identified as pro-Trump”: former Republican Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, talk radio host Ben Ferguson, former Bush White House official Scott Jennings, former South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, former Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller, former Trump adviser Stephen Moore, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Republican strategist Alice Stewart, former Trump campaign official David Urban, talk radio host John Phillips, former Bush White House staffer Paris Dennard and former U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker. Since then, the network has hired Ed Martin, former chair of the Missouri Republican Party, to round out the roster.

    As Calderone notes, the pundits are not monolithic, with some even offering criticism for the president from time to time. But on balance, the group reliably tilts discussions, often negatively impacting the ability of viewers to come away from the network’s coverage with a strong grasp of the facts.

    Over the past three months, those 14 pundits have made 510 appearances on CNN -- an average of more than five appearances a day -- according to a Media Matters review. Jennings and Ferguson have led the way, with 73 and 69 appearances, respectively. Moore, Kingston, and Stewart round out the top five, each with at least 50 appearances.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    CNN has been paying Trump shills to provide on-air commentary since the 2016 presidential campaign, apparently having learned nothing from the disastrous results.

    At the time, the network hired pro-Trump pundits like Jeffrey Lord, Corey Lewandowski, and Kayleigh McEnany, claiming that it was important to employ full-time Trump apologists to provide “balance” in its election coverage. Those pundits turned the network’s political coverage into a shit show, with segments devolving to bedlam as the network’s hosts and other contributors tried to push back against a steady stream of lies, talking points, and misdirection. The result may have attracted eyeballs, but it certainly was not a credible news product that distinguished fact from fiction.

    And those relationships ended in humiliation for CNN: Lord was fired in August after he directed a Nazi victory salute at my boss; the Republican National Committee hired away McEnany to, among other things, produce propaganda videos; and Lewandowski remained on the Trump payroll while simultaneously working for CNN until he finally quit to monetize his relationship with the president full time.

    The network has soldiered on since the election, hiring a phalanx of pro-Trump fabulists to populate its panels of reporters, analysts, and pundits. Not every pro-Trump pundit is as bad as Lord or McEnany -- from time to time, some will even offer criticism of the president. But the willingness of many of them to shill for the president regardless of the truth -- to send discussions into a tailspin by saying an apple is a banana -- flies in the face of the network’s stated “facts first” commitment.

    Ferguson, for example, has repeatedly been called out by his CNN colleagues this month for offering nonsensical diversions in discussions of Trump’s attacks on NFL players who protest racial inequality during the National Anthem. And Moore -- who typically appears on the network to lie about Trump-backed health care proposals -- on Monday derailed a CNN panel discussion about then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly paying a hefty sexual harassment settlement by saying that the real solution is for powerful men to never be alone in a room alone with a woman. Kingston, for his part, last night attempted to make excuses for Trump’s unprecedented falsehoods, saying that “the American perception is that politicians lie” and Trump is no worse than other presidents; the rest of the panel denounced him, with anchor Don Lemon scolding him for “condoning bad behavior.”

    When major stories break, such as Trump’s string of indefensible responses to the lethal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, Trump’s CNN supporters blanket the network’s coverage. That result was a trainwreck, with the president’s shills sidelining discussions with praise for Trump’s response and dismissals of the importance of the rally.

    CNN isn’t the first major news outlet to run an advertising campaign geared around its opposition to Trumpian “alternative facts.” The New York Times sold subscriptions earlier this year with similar patter, proclaiming that “the truth is more important now than ever.” But the paper drew controversy almost immediately when it violated that commitment by hiring a climate change denier for a coveted columnist slot.

    As I noted at the time, “When you market your paper as an antidote to a worldview that is unmoored from reality, your subscribers will actually expect you to follow through. When you fail to fulfill your promise, those readers will take their money elsewhere.” Now it’s CNN taking on the mantle of bold truth teller. Perhaps the network should start by first examining its own household.

    Additional research by Shelby Jamerson.

  • To right-wing media, Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer is a "nothingburger"

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    After The New York Times reported that Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the 2016 campaign in hopes of receiving damaging information on Hillary Clinton, right-wing media immediately defended Trump Jr., calling the report a “nothingburger,” and “a big yawn,” and suggesting it would have been “malpractice” for him not to do so.