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In a May 8 column that lionized the members of the so-called “intellectual dark web,” New York Times opinion columnist Bari Weiss misled her audience by portraying commentators known for inflammatory rhetoric about oppressed minorities as intellectuals exiled into the “dark web,” a name for the hard-to-reach areas of the internet. The cast of characters she profiled is far from being exiled to the dark web. In fact, they profit from broadcasting bigoted ideas on platforms that reach massive audiences.
In her column, Weiss glorified Jordan Peterson, the “alt-right’s” favorite professor who has repeatedly appeared on Fox to push anti-trans myths, and praised former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro, without disclosing his history of bigotry. Instead, Weiss portrayed them both as martyrs for the criticism they get for voicing bigoted opinions. The term “intellectual dark web” is a useful branding ploy for bigoted commentators and far-right figures, as, according to Right Richter’s Will Sommer, “They’re appealing to this kind of forbidden nature of the knowledge they're discussing.” Weiss went on the May 8 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe to promote her piece, where the hosts did not push her to address any of the valid, thoughtful criticisms of her piece many journalists have shared on Twitter:
This has to be the worst work I've seen in the Times in ages. Not only are they full platforming these loons, the entire premise of this article is wrong; this ""movement"" is not new, it's decades old, and 30 seconds of research would have told you so. https://t.co/yjZViBEM5p
— Kelly Weill (@KELLYWEILL) May 8, 2018
ah yes, ben shapiro, shunned for standing up to his own and definitely not for this kind of shit pic.twitter.com/d5KPKRF1tD
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) May 8, 2018
i know i shouldn’t be surprised but it’s astounding how dishonest this is and the most frustrating thing is that, without a public editor, the times has absolutely no reason to force itself to reckon with that https://t.co/3AlZWQZCAf
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) May 8, 2018
That was the first and only story Soh wrote at Pacific Standard, so it's not as though she lost a job over it. It was clearly just a one-off freelance piece. https://t.co/Szm5O596CK
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) May 8, 2018
here’s a good example. i’ve been super interested in Joe Rogan’s podcast and it’s influence for a long time now. Weiss got a chance to ask him about having Alex Jones on his show and then let’s him give this wishy washy “i’m not an interviewer or a journalist” answer! pic.twitter.com/OwcuSPP2Dp
— Charlie Warzel (@cwarzel) May 8, 2018
shorter Bari Weiss: rich media figures with massive platforms who frequently appear on/are published in mainstream outlets are actually brave free speech martyrs being silenced (a terrible take that she's managed to publish like 50 times) https://t.co/zC5qvDxwXQ
— Caleb Ecarma (@calebecarma) May 8, 2018
The Bari Weiss article was horrible. Contrary to what the misinformed piece says, the "Intellectual Dark Web" is actually full of conspiratorial grifters like @benshapiro @jordanbpeterson and @SamHarrisOrg using "facts and logic" to justify islamophobia, misogyny and race science pic.twitter.com/K4jdRf1tru
— Nathan Bernard (@nathanTbernard) May 8, 2018
would love for my ideas to be silenced by a glossy spread in the NYT
— Stephanie Russell-Kraft (@srussellkraft) May 8, 2018
— Dylan Matthews (@dylanmatt) May 8, 2018
here's the deal, in exchange for getting a cushy job as an editor at the NYT you no longer get to do the WHY IS NO ONE IN THE MEDIA TALKING ABOUT THIS schtick. That's not a thing youre allowed to do anymore when you literally decide what's published at the New York goddamn Times.
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) May 8, 2018
and they ran a con advertising campaign to get liberals to subscribe and then fed them shit https://t.co/plRuUbuJCe
— Atrios (@Atrios) May 8, 2018
Conservative media claimed that the million or so students who participated in a 17-minute school walkout one month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had been "misled" and “exploited” by a “political class."
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Full video debunks accusation of racism against Schumer
Fox News used out-of-context video of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to claim he was opposing a judicial nominee from President Donald Trump because the nominee is white. In fact, the full video of Schumer’s criticism showed his objection to the nomination of Marvin Quattlebaum to the U.S. District Court in South Carolina came in response to Republicans’ refusal to observe Senate tradition and their failure to support President Barack Obama’s nominees for the vacant seat.
Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox & Friends First, and Fox & Friends all used out-of-context video to portray Schumer as racist. Tucker Carlson claimed on March 1 that Schumer “said he’s opposing the nomination because Quattlebaum is the wrong color. For real.” Fox News Headlines reporter Carley Shimkus stated March 2 on Fox & Friends First: “Chuck Schumer voted against the nomination not because of Quattlebaum’s resume or anything like that, but because of his race.” A little later, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt read off a string of headlines all saying essentially “Chuck Schumer votes against Trump judicial nominee because he’s white.” Brian Kilmeade then said there was no difference between Schumer’s comment and Trump’s racist declaration that a federal judge couldn’t be fair in his 2016 Trump University case because of of the judge’s Mexican ancestry.
These smears likely originated with Carlson’s former website, The Daily Caller, which during the early afternoon of March 1 posted the partial video clip with the headline: “Schumer Will Vote ‘No’ On Judicial Nominee Because He Is White.” Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire also joined in the smear, citing The Daily Caller and amping up the accusation in its headline: “RACISM IN ACTION: Schumer: I Won't Vote For This Judge Because He's White.”
But as ThinkProgress justice editor Ian Millhiser pointed out, these smears are built around selectively edited video. Both right-wing websites and all three Fox News shows omitted the first half of Schumer’s remarks, in which he berated Republican senators for hypocritically abandoning a Senate tradition for judicial nominees known as “blue slips” now that they are in power, which would have served as an effective check on Trump's judicial nominations. Schumer noted that Democrats had honored the practice previously with respect to this very seat, which is why Trump had a chance to nominate someone to fill it. Millhiser also noted that Schumer’s voting record further debunks the accusation of racism: He voted for 10 out of 11 of Trump’s previous federal district court nominees, and those 10 were all white. On the March 2 edition of CNN's Wolf, Schumer explained how "right-wing radio who never really tells the truth distort[ed] what I had said."
The full video of Schumer’s explanation for voting against Quattlebaum, which wasn’t played on Fox News, can be viewed below:
Update: This piece has been updated to include additional examples.
On February 14, after a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, left 17 dead, right-wing and anti-abortion media made outlandish comparisons between gun regulation and abortion restrictions, as well as comparing the National Rifle Association (NRA) to Planned Parenthood.
GUY BENSON: CNN, one of our rival networks, tweeted out a list of the Republicans who had voted no, with a list of their ratings from the NRA, and people were highlighting how much money they had taken from the NRA. And that type of coverage simply did not exist with the Democrats and Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby when they voted for a life-and-death issue against the strong wishes of the American people. And, to me, that dichotomy is striking and unavoidable.
MICHAEL DUFFY: Science is chasing politics in both those cases. And Peggy Noonan wrote a really interesting column on Saturday, I think, where she said --
ANDREA MITCHELL: It’s a wonderful column.
DUFFY: -- where she said -- she had a proposal at the end that was shocking at first when you read it that basically said the right should give on late-term abortion -- I'm sorry, the left --
MITCHELL: The left, exactly.
DUFFY: -- should give on late-term abortion and the right should give on some of these gun restrictions, particularly with respect to assault weapons. And that that’s a vote, she said, for life in general. And she cited young people as a changed political factor.
MITCHELL: I'm glad you mentioned that, Mike. Because she is ahead of the curve in all of these cultural issues, I think, Peggy has a unique sensibility. And --
DUFFY: It was an interesting trade up.
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During a meeting on immigration policy in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump reportedly questioned the United States’ policy of accepting immigrants from, what he said, were “shithole countries,” such as Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations. In the aftermath of the president’s racist remarks, many in right-wing media rallied around him to defend his comments.
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Media Matters looks back at some of the worst smears, lies, and liars attacking the transgender community in 2017
Right-wing media figures and anti-LGBTQ hate group representatives have a long history of spreading anti-trans hatred and lies, and 2017 was no different. From hate groups attacks on trans children and students to Alex Jones’ anti-LGBTQ extremism, Media Matters rounded up some of 2017’s most transphobic misinformers and their lies.
Right-wing conspiracy theorist and ally to President Donald Trump Alex Jones has cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist this year as he repeatedly used the slur “tranny,” dehumanized trans people's existence, and spread vile rhetoric about them. Though Jones has repeatedly said he is “not against gay people,” Media Matters has documented a pattern of extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that proves otherwise.
In one segment on his show, for example, Jones said that transgender women may be gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting “breast implants” and trying to “doll [their] hair up.” On another episode, Jones compared a transgender man who had a baby to Jones deciding that he is a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that “give[s] birth to leprechauns.” In other segments, Jones has said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips” and suggested that former first lady Michelle Obama has a penis and may have killed late comedian Joan Rivers, saying that he was “not putting trannies down” with the comments.
Jones accused transgender women of being gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting breast implants and dolling up their hair.
[Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/10/17]
Jones compared a pregnant transgender man to a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that gives “birth to leprechauns.”
[Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/3/17]
Jones said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips.”
[Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/7/17]
In 2017, hate group leaders and right-wing media personalities continued their fight against LGBTQ equality in schools, attacking transgender students and children, their parents, and teachers who teach trans-inclusive lessons. These attacks are also happening on a policy level, with hate group Alliance Defending Freedom spending much of the year trying to block transgender student equality by inserting itself in debates at local school districts and in state legislatures about transgender students’ access to restroom facilities that align with their gender identity.
In July, anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) President Dr. Michelle Cretella asserted that parents accepting their transgender children's’ gender identity is “child abuse” and spread myths and junk science about transgender people during an episode of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. ACPeds is a small, deceptively named hate group with only a few hundred members that is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics. In another example, right-wing media figures attacked a California elementary school teacher for reading two children’s books about gender identity to her kindergarten classroom after a transgender student brought one in to share. Right-wing website PJ Media suggested that parents “move out of [their] community” if they feel it is necessary to protect their children from being turned into “mind-numbed robots who nod affirmatively in the face of lies,” and anti-LGBTQ FoxNews.com contributor Todd Starnes called the events “an example of how schools have been indoctrination grounds for the LGBT agenda” and “activist bullies.”
Anti-LGBTQ hate group ACPeds’ Cretella called accepting transgender children “child abuse.”
[Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 7/24/17]
Right-wing figures and anti-LGBTQ hate groups continued to reinforce the debunked “bathroom predator” myth, which asserts that policies allowing trans people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity will create an opening for sexual predators to assault women. That myth has been long debunked by experts and government officials in more than a dozen states, school administrators, and sexual assault and domestic violence prevention experts, but pundits and anti-LGBTQ figures continued to push the lie in 2017.
On February 15, Tony Perkins, the president of anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), dubiously claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive bathroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms.” Similarly, on an episode of a special panel show on Houston’s Fox 26, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRTx) Jared Woodfill said that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be.” In yet another example, Charmaine Yoest, a right-wing political commentator who is now in a top communications post at the Department of Health and Human Services, asserted that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.
FRC’s Perkins claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive restroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms”
[Fox Business, Varney & Co., 2/15/17]
CRTx’s Woodfill claimed that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be” with trans-inclusive restroom policies.
[Fox 26, What’s Your Point, 5/22/17]
Former right-wing pundit Yoest said that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.”
[CNN, CNN Newsroom, 2/23/17]
When Trump announced he would ban transgender people from the military, right-wing media and hate groups pushed misinformation about transgender service members and called them “mentally ill.” (The ban has so far been paused by the courts.) Other right-wing lies about the ban included the claim that the cost of medically necessary health care for transgender service members would be in the billions, that allowing transgender members to serve would interfere with military readiness and cohesion, and that a majority of transgender people are unable to be deployed due to their health care needs. Analysts have found minimal additional costs involved in providing health care to transgender service members and no negative impacts on military cohesion or readiness.
Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro responded to the ban by saying that “the military should not accept mentally ill soldiers.” Shapiro tweeted that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military,” and again implied that transgender people have a “mental illness.” Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who is the vice president of anti-LGBTQ hate group FRC, similarly pushed the myth that transgender people have some “kind of physical or mental illness” and claimed that their inclusion in the military was part of “a test bed for nothing but social experiments.” According to the American Psychological Association, “Identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.” Other leading medical organizations agree.
FRC’s Boykin pushed the lie that transgender people are mentally ill, saying, "We shouldn't recruit people with any kind of physical or mental illness."
[Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 8/24/17]
Shapiro claimed that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military. People are 4F [unfit to serve] for a variety of reasons. Mental illness can be such a reason.”
No one has the "right" to serve in the military. People are 4F for a variety of reasons. Mental illness can be such a reason.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 26, 2017
Shapiro said that “The military should not accept mentally ill soldiers,” but Trump’s announcement “should not have been done by tweet.”
1. The military should not accept mentally ill soldiers.
2. This should not devalue the heroism of those who want to serve. (/1)
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 26, 2017
Over the past year, right-wing media figures attacked transgender people with offensive language, anti-trans slurs, and even the denial of trans existence. In addition to the steadfast slandering of transgender people by Alex Jones, other right-wing media figures employed transphobic rhetoric that can have severe consequences on transgender people and youth. Calls from transgender youth to the Trevor Project’s suicide hotline increased this year, and the project cited “anti-transgender rhetoric” coming from elected officials and others as “putting lives at risk.”
In a November rant lamenting the surge of LGBTQ victories in 2017 elections, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh used the anti-trans slur “tranny” and insisted that LGBTQ people be referred to only as “homosexual,” saying, “the word is homosexual.” On Fox, Carlson hosted a transgender guest and insulted her by accusing transgender people of “faking” and repeatedly pushing the myth that people can just “decide” to be transgender on a whim. This kind of rhetoric places doubt on transgender existence.
After trans candidates won 2017 elections, Limbaugh insisted that all LGBTQ people be referred to as “homosexual” and used the anti-trans slur “tranny.”
[Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/9/17]
Carlson insulted a transgender guest and accused transgender people of "faking."
[Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 2/24/17]
In his weekly “power player of the week” segment, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace presented a glowing profile of former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro without acknowledging Shapiro’s history of bigotry, extremism, and misinformation.
On the December 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace lauded Shapiro’s “special brand of combative conservatism,” and noted that his “militant conservative views” sometimes “spur protests.” What Wallace failed to tell his viewers is that Shapiro has a long track record of promoting racism, sexism, and extremism. In addition to Shapiro’s bigotry, he also has a penchant for misinformation,.
Shapiro frequently expresses anti-Muslim and racist views, once tweeting that “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage.” He is quick to downplay police brutality, arguing that, “if you don’t commit a crime, you’re not going to be arrested for it,” and has claimed that income inequality between races in the United States “has nothing to do with race and everything to do with culture.”
It is not the first time that Wallace has ignored the obvious failings of his weekly “power players,” nor is it the first time that media outlets have failed to hold Shapiro accountable for his hateful and dangerous views. Just last month, The New York Times published a flattering portrait of Shapiro, referring to him as “the cool kid’s philosopher.” From the December 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): If you've ever wondered who will eventually succeed Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as the voice of conservative opinion, it may just be Ben Shapiro. Who's that? Here's our power player of the week.
BEN SHAPIRO: In a free country, it is up to you to succeed or fail on your own merits. So, get off your ass and do it.
WALLACE: Yes, Ben Shapiro talks fast. But then for most of his 33 years, he’s been a man in a hurry.
SHAPIRO: I’m Ben Shapiro. This is The Ben Shapiro Show.
WALLACE: He’s the host of the most listened to conservative podcast in the country.
SHAPIRO: I do like that that Trump does have a rotating series of about 10 insults that just keeps going around and around.
WALLACE: He’s the editor of The Daily Wire, which gets 100 million pageviews a month. And he’s a big presence on college campuses, where his militant conservative views spur protests.
SHAPIRO: You’re not a man if you think you’re a man.
WALLACE: This exchange with a 22-year-old college student over transgender identity has attracted 47 million views on Facebook.
SHAPIRO: Why can’t you identify as 60? What is the problem with you identifying as 60?
SHAPIRO: You’re right. Age is significantly less important than gender. You can’t magically change your gender. You can’t magically change your sex. You can’t magically change your age.
WALLACE: At the University of Utah, he listed what he calls the hierarchy of victimhood in America.
SHAPIRO: So, there’s LGBTQ, and then black folks. Then there’s Hispanic folks. And then women. And then Jews. And then Asians. And then way down at the bottom, white, straight males. Right? Those are the people who are at the very bottom. And then their opinions do not matter at all.
WALLACE: Shapiro has been called the voice of conservative millennials. How are conservative millennials different from conservative baby boomers?
SHAPIRO: By the time a lot of conservatives hit baby boomer age, there's a mentality that’s set in that they're always losing and that every choice, every political choice particularly, is a lesser of two evils choice. If you’re conservative millennial, I think that you tend to be a little bit more idealistic, just as younger people are generally.
WALLACE: While he applauds some of President Trump’s policies, he says the tweets are needlessly divisive and turn off his generation.
SHAPIRO: Young people in the United States dramatically dislike this administration and they dramatically dislike the Republican Party. And it is President Trump’s responsibility, for conservatives anyway, to fix that. And sitting there on Twitter and retweeting Britain First is not going to do that.
WALLACE: Shapiro worked for Breitbart in the campaign, but quit when he said it was turning into a Trump propaganda arm. As for Steve Bannon:
SHAPIRO: I think that Steve is very interested in being perceived as powerful, as being perceived as a mover and shaker. But I don’t think he’s nearly as much of a mover and shaker as he wants to be seen as.
WALLACE: As we said, Shapiro has always moved fast. At age five, he dressed for Halloween as John Adams. By age 17, he wrote a nationally syndicated political column.
SHAPIRO: I skipped a couple of grades. I was a virtuosic violinist. I actually, when I went to college, thought that I was going to double major in genetic science and music. So, I was always pretty driven.
SHAPIRO: Things that I hate.
WALLACE: And his only plan now is to keep pushing his special brand of combative conservatism.
SHAPIRO: Sometimes the best way to get a message across is to just speak bluntly. And so, I'm not going there to deliberately offend people. I'm saying things that I think are true with precisely the amount of verve I think necessary to convey the message.
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After The Washington Post published a report alleging that Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore had initiated sexual encounters with a then-14-year-old girl in 1979, when Moore was 32, several right-wing media figures jumped to his defense, attacking the accuser, asserting that “Roy Moore Did Nothing Wrong,” and demanding that media cover the supposed misdeeds of others instead.
Right-wing radio hosts such as Sean Hannity and Mark Levin have been acting as paid pitch people for a company that promises to help train members on how to use guns to “survive a mass shooting.” Hannity has been especially vocal about the company and used the recent Las Vegas mass shooting to shill for it on his radio program.
The U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) is a pro-gun company that sells membership plans featuring “education, training, and self-defense insurance” for gun owners. It also criticizes attempts to enact gun control laws and publishes Concealed Carry Magazine. The group claims to have over 250,000 members and has attempted to grow its membership over the years through numerous advertising buys with conservative media.
Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Ben Shapiro are all part of the association’s latest advertising campaign for a “100% FREE Complete Concealed Carry & Family Defense Guide,” which includes tips on “how to survive a mass shooting” and “the safest AND most dangerous places to sit in a restaurant” (the sign-up takes people to a page that urges them to pay for a membership).
The USCCA created dedicated landing pages for each individual host participating in the advertising campaign, including the following identical quote which was cut and pasted for each person:
Prior to the Las Vegas shooting, these media personalities did advertisements for the campaign that aired in late September. Here are those ads, along with their dedicated website URL: Beck (ProtectAndDefend.com), Hannity (DefendFamily.com), Levin (DefendThem.com), and Shapiro (DefendMyFamilyNow.com) .
Hannity has continued to tout USCCA as a solution to surviving a mass shooting following the Las Vegas tragedy. During his October 5 radio program, Hannity segued from talking about the mass shooting to introducing “our friends at the United States Concealed Carry Association,” saying, “I’m proud to be associated with them. They have offered a family defense guide. You’re going to learn -- and this is 164 pages -- how to survive a mass shooting. How to detect attackers before they see you.”
Previously, Hannity used the shooting at a congressional baseball practice in June to push USCCA membership.
The association, which did not respond to requests for comment, features a Hannity testimonial on its website under the headline: “Why Sean Hannity Joined The USCCA… Hear Why One Of The Most Trusted Conservative Voices In America Is A Proud Card-Carrying Member.”
Hannity used his October 4 Fox News program to advocate for concealed carry while discussing the Las Vegas shooting. He praised right-to-carry laws and said that “having more citizens that are armed leads to a decrease in violent crime.” He did not mention he’s being paid by a pro-right-to-carry group during the program.
Despite Hannity’s claim, as The Atlantic noted in June, “academic studies have strongly suggested” that right-to-carry laws “lead to higher rates of violent crime. The latest -- and, at least according to one of its authors, most comprehensive -- was released earlier this month by the non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research.” The study concluded, “There is not even the slightest hint in the data that [these] laws reduce violent crime.”
Media Matters previously documented that Hannity repeatedly used his Fox New program to push his radio sponsor’s concealed carry agenda without any disclosure about his financial relationship. He similarly used his Fox News program in 2014 to promote the fundraising efforts of the Tea Party Patriots, which sponsored his radio program.