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Ben Rhodes

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  • Mainstream media are trying to spin Nikki Haley as a moderate

    During her tenure at the UN, she advocated and defended extremist policies 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following the October 9 announcement of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s resignation, mainstream media figures and organizations were quick to sing her praises and label her a “moderating voice” within the administration. In reality, Haley’s tenure at the U.N. was marked by the U.S. adopting extreme policies, which Haley advocated and defended.

    The day Haley resigned, The New York Times tweeted that her departure left “the administration with one less moderate Republican voice.” Meanwhile, on CNN, political commentator Chris Cillizza and anchor Jim Sciutto both said she was -- or was seen as -- a “moderating influence,” and the network’s global affairs analyst, David Rohde, also called her “sort of a moderating voice.” Network host Brooke Baldwin said, “I’m wondering who then becomes that strong -- that push-back voice in this administration once she leaves?”

    It was a similar story on MSNBC, where political contributor Ben Rhodes, a former Obama official, argued that Haley “comes from a more conventional Republican approach to foreign policy that stands up to Vladimir Putin, that wants to be tough on Russia, that wants to promote democracy and human rights around the world.” MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell called Haley “moderate” multiple times, claiming that she was “one of the administration’s last moderate Republican voices.” Similarly, NBC political reporter Josh Lederman commended Haley as someone who could  “talk about ... issues in a way that sort of softened them” and claimed she could make Trump’s policies more “palatable” to “more moderate people.” Others went further in their praise. MSNBC’s Charlie Sykes called Haley “one of the stars of this administration,” and Chris Matthews compared her to President John Kennedy, saying “we spot leaders” by their “courage to get ahead of the crowd” and “act in a way that leads the way.”

    Despite mainstream figures’ efforts to frame Haley as a moderate, her record is filled with instances of her embracing extreme policies:

    • During her tenure as U.N. ambassador, Haley defended the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement now signed by every other county in the world.

    • She led the country’s withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council, an organization The New York Times calls “the world’s most important human rights body.” Haley called the organization “so corrupt.” Every country in the world participates in UNHRC meetings and deliberations with the exceptions of Iran, North Korea, Eritrea, and now the United States.

    • Haley defended the administration’s decision to gut funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the U.N.’s pivotal assistance program for Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Millions of Palestinians rely on UNWRA for health care, education, and basic resources, like food.

    • She applauded the Trump administration’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal as the  “absolutely … right decision.” The exit rankled American allies, many of whom chose to remain in the deal.

    Mainstream media figures have ignored this evidence that Haley allowed and encouraged American extremism and bullying, instead casting her as a maverick within the administration. Their interest in finding someone within the administration to label “moderate” is another example of the mainstream media’s fetish for normalizing Trump-ism.

    Tyler Monroe and Gabby Miller contributed research to this piece.

  • While Israeli operatives reportedly dug up dirt on Obama officials, Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka smeared them in the media

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Two reports over the weekend revealed that Israeli operatives were hired to collect information on two former officials of President Barack Obama’s administration in order to discredit them, allegedly at the behest of the Trump administration. Simultaneously, Sebastian Gorka, who at the time was deputy assistant to the president, was repeatedly going on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to smear the same officials.

    According to reports in The Observer and The New Yorker, “people in the Trump camp” hired Israeli operatives “to find incriminating material on Obama diplomats who negotiated” the Iran deal. The two aides targeted were Ben Rhodes, a national security adviser to Obama, and Colin Kahl, who was deputy assistant to Obama. The New Yorker reported that in May and June of 2017, Rhodes’ and Kahl’s wives began receiving suspicious emails that now appear “to be part of an undercover campaign by an Israeli private-intelligence firm to discredit Obama officials.”

    At the time the Israeli operatives were allegedly trying to dig up dirt on the two officials, Gorka, then deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, was running his own smear campaign against the two with Hannity's help. Gorka repeatedly appeared on his show to vilify Rhodes and Kahl by linking them to “the deep state” and accusing them of being a danger to and jeopardizing national security.

    On May 10, 2017, Gorka claimed the “real danger” to this country is political appointees like “the Ben Rhodes of the world, the Colin Kahls.” Several days later, Gorka once again called out Rhodes and Kahl, asking, “When is it going to stop? When is the conspiracy theory insanity of the resist movement, of the Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl nexus going to say, look, we’re not going to endanger national security anymore?” In June, Gorka once again went after the two officials, saying, “It’s people like [former United Nations Ambassador Susan] Rice, Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl who are covering their tracks for the disastrous policies of the last eight years.”

    Gorka made similar comments on Mark Levin’s radio show in April 2017 as well as on Breitbart radio in August 2017 after he left the White House.

  • Right-Wing Media’s “Shadow Government” Conspiracy Theory: Ben Rhodes Edition

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Right-wing media figures are hyping claims from the Washington Free Beacon suggesting former White House aide Ben Rhodes may be part of a “secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump's national security apparatus,” beginning with recently resigned White House national security adviser Michael Flynn. The claims, which resemble similar allegations from The New York Post’s Paul Sperry, are largely based on anonymous sources.