Bill Mitchell | Media Matters for America

Bill Mitchell

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  • After Florida school massacre, right-wing media call for more guns in schools (the school had armed security)

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    In the wake of a Florida school shooting that left at least 17 dead, right-wing media figures immediately blamed “gun-free zones” and argued that future shootings would be prevented if there were armed guards at schools, ignoring that the school did have “an armed police officer” on campus “in addition to security.”

  • The newest pro-Trump conspiracy theory: A "secret society" in the FBI is undermining Trump

    These idiots are misreading obvious sarcasm

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ morning show Fox & Friends pushed the conspiracy theory that a “secret society” meant to discredit President Donald Trump might actually exist in the FBI.

    The story originated when Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) claimed on another Fox show, The Story, that in a text message exchange after the 2016 election, FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page said, “Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society.” Gowdy omitted any context and offered no evidence to show that such a text, which has not been released, wouldn’t have been facetious.

    Conservative media and Trump allies have repeatedly attempted to scandalize texts between Strzok and Page, who were in a personal relationship, alleging that they and other FBI officials were working against Trump during the election. But as HuffPost noted, “Most of the information that came out of the bureau during the election was damaging to Hillary Clinton, not Trump,” and Strzok and Page “exchanged texts slamming politicians and officials of all ideological stripes, not just Trump.”

    The “secret society” conspiracy theory is gaining traction on other right-wing media outlets as well. Sean Hannity tweeted, "FBI CONSPIRACY? Text Messages Show Anti-Trump 'SECRET SOCIETY' at DOJ." Breitbart published an article suggesting an association between this “secret society” and the recently reported missing text messages between Strzok and Page. The Gateway Pundit ran Fox’s interview of Gowdy as the headlining story on its front page, which was later shared by Lou Dobbs and Bill Mitchell. And The Daily Caller headlined their piece, “What Deep State? Gowdy, Ratcliffe: Texts Uncover Anti-Trump ‘Secret Society’ At FBI.”

    From the January 23 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    [BEGIN CLIP]

    REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): The day after the election, the day after -- what they really, really didn't want to have happen, there is a text exchange between these two FBI agents, these supposed to be objective fact-centric FBI agents saying, “Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society.” So, of course I'm going to want to know what secret society you are talking about, because you're supposed to be investigating objectively.

    [END CLIP]

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Lawmakers outraged as bombshell texts from that anti-Trump FBI agent and his girlfriend suggest a secret society within the agency meant to perhaps discredit the president.

    [...]

    DOOCY: Well that's good. And then, we just saw the sound bite with Trey Gowdy where he’s outraged that in some of the text message with these lovebirds, they’re talking about a secret society out to get Trump.

  • Here are the right-wing media figures defending Trump’s racist “shithole” comment

    ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    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.

  • Gateway Pundit’s idiotic new defense of Roy Moore: His accuser’s body language was fake

    Moore’s campaign is also invoking one of the blog’s conspiracy theories that a signature was forged

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Saraho Wasko / Media Matters

    The Gateway Pundit, a far-right blog that regularly traffics in false claims, continues to sink to new lows in an effort to defend embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The blog is now claiming that the body language of a woman who accused Moore of attempted rape was fake and thus she was lying about him.

    Moore has come under intense pressure following a November 9 Washington Post report that multiple women say he engaged in sexual conduct with them when they were teenagers, including Leigh Corfman, who was 14 at the time. On November 13, another women, Beverly Young Nelson, reported that Moore tried to rape her when she was 16. She also shared a signature from Moore in her yearbook from that year.

    The next day, The Gateway Pundit published a piece, headlined “‘This is Fake!’: Body Language Expert Says Judge Moore Accuser Was ‘Acting…Not a Real Victim.’” The article cited a “body language expert” named “Bombard” who analyzed Nelson’s “facial expressions and vocal discrepancies” in a clip on YouTube and concluded that she “conveyed signs of deception" and was “'acting.'” In the clip, “Bombard” says that Nelson had suspicious “eye movement” -- because she looked down while speaking -- and was engaged in “rehearsed verbal communication.” This analysis is self-evidently ridiculous because Nelson was apparently reading from a pre-prepared statement, which is a common practice at press conferences.

    Jerome Corsi of conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, pro-Trump radio host Bill Mitchell, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, and right-wing radio host Wayne Dupree all subsequently promoted the Gateway Pundit article or YouTube clip. Far-right friendly One America News Network also reported on supposed body language experts questioning the testimony, seemingly referencing the same clip. Multiple fake news websites picked up the claim as well, lauding the YouTube video for “expos[ing] the truth” about Nelson and showing that she was “lying,” as did Reddit’s “r/The_Donald,” a message board that has previously helped push conspiracy theories.

    This isn’t the first conspiracy theory Gateway Pundit has pushed in order to “go full truther on the Moore accusations,” as noted by The Hill’s Will Sommer. The blog also cited a random and now-discredited Twitter account claiming that a “family friend” told the account owner’s wife that “a WAPO reporter named Beth offered her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore.” One America News Network also pushed the claim, and Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, posted it on her Facebook page. The blog also tried to discredit Nelson by citing an unreliable Twitter account in order to claim that the signature Nelson had from Moore was forged (a claim Kayla Moore also posted on Facebook and One America News pushed as well). Moore’s attorney Trenton Garmon, speaking on MSNBC, also seemed to allude to the Gateway Pundit conspiracy theory, saying he had an “expert that is going to confirm” that the signature was a forgery.

    Gateway Pundit is a far-right-connected blog that has a history of regularly pushing misinformation. Nevertheless, it was granted White House press credentials in February, though it was denied a request for a congressional press pass, which it has appealed. In October, the blog cited 4chan’s “politically incorrect” (/pol/) message board to accuse the wrong man of carrying out the Las Vegas mass shooting -- and that is just one of the several times the site has blamed the wrong person for killings. In May, it hyped forged documents uploaded onto 4chan alleging that then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was evading taxes. And in January, the site falsely accused a Washington Post reporter of taking photos of now-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s personal notes at his confirmation hearing, spurring online harassment. Despite Gateway Pundit’s checkered history, both President Donald Trump and his favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, have cited the blog.

    UPDATE: During a press conference on November 15, Moore’s attorney demanded that Nelson allow a handwriting expert to review the signature in her yearbook, seeming to support Gateway Pundit’s conspiracy theory that it was a forgery.

  • Right-wing and fringe media falsely claim legal Manafort wiretap vindicates Trump's illegal-wiretap lie

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing and fringe media are claiming yet again that President Donald Trump was correct when he accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping in Trump Tower, now arguing that a legal wiretap targeted at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is proof of Trump’s claim. However, said wiretap was pursuant to a warrant and targeted at Manafort, not Trump. This is at least the fifth time in six months right-wing media has attempted to validate Trump’s lie.

  • Alex Jones ally Kelli Ward is running for Arizona senate. Hannity just endorsed her.

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN, GRACE BENNETT & DINA RADTKE

    After building good rapport with far-right media figures and pro-Trump trolls, Dr. Kelli Ward, a Republican who is running to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate, has gained the support of Fox News host Sean Hannity. Leading up to Hannity’s endorsement, Ward made wild claims about undocumented immigrants, rubbed elbows with white nationalists and racists, and smeared Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, including, at one point, blaming McCain for the creation of ISIS.

  • Fringe media and Fox News push conspiracy theories regarding arrested former House IT staffer

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN & BRENDAN KARET

    Following the arrest of former Democratic information technology staffer Imran Awan, far-right media and Fox News pushed multiple conspiracy theories about him, suggesting he was behind WikiLeaks getting hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, that he had damaging information on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and that the Clintons were somehow involved in the situation.

  • Pro-Trump media are pushing a new voter fraud conspiracy theory

    Far-right sources are claiming that thousands of voters “unregistering” in Colorado are evidence of “mass voter fraud”

    ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Thousands of Coloradans have withdrawn their voter registrations in the wake of the Trump administration's election integrity commission’s request for personal voter data. Far-right media are claiming that the people canceling their registrations are “illegal” voters removing themselves from the rolls. In reality, deregistrations have been attributed to voters’ concerns over the confidentiality of their personal data, as well as their distrust of the Trump administration's commission. 

  • Right-wing media cheer Trump withdrawing United States from the Paris climate agreement

    Business leaders and experts agree decision to pull out of agreement “would harm every American” and "devastate [America’s] international credibility"

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media figures cheered President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris climate agreement, which sought to reduce international greenhouse gas emissions. But experts and business leaders condemned the decision, calling the move a “historic mistake” and “a gratuitous thumb in everyone’s eye.”

  • A Look At The Incestuous Alternative-Media Echo Chamber Winning Over Online Audiences

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    On the coattails of President Donald Trump’s successful election campaign and an anti-"political correctness" wave, an alternative right-wing media echo chamber successfully reverberated itself into virtual relevance on social media, where it now reaches millions of people every day. This new-media ecosystem exists outside of traditional newspapers and cable news networks, instead taking to social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Reddit, and YouTube to promote its far-right nationalist politics and conspiracy-laden worldviews to an audience it has isolated and now dominates as its preferred news source.

    Key players in this circular far-right alt-media echo chamber, such as online troll Mike Cernovich and Infowars’ Alex Jones, have successfully crafted a false impression of credibility. They have synthesized a “new right” echo chamber from “alt-right” ideologies and orchestrated a media machine that disseminates content across multiple media platforms with extreme efficiency.

    Key voices in this ecosystem often work a redundant media circuit across allied platforms to reinforce each other’s worldviews and concepts of reality, cast doubt on mainstream media, and suggest widespread conspiracies along the way. Cernovich demonstrated this tactic as he circulated a faux scandal story that suggested Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser to former President Barack Obama, was responsible for improper unmasking of Trump officials caught in surveillance of foreign officials.

    Cernovich toured the Rice story around the alternative media sphere he occupies until it eventually broke into mainstream media. On April 2, Cernovich first tweeted the “breaking news” that Rice had ordered the unmasking. Later that day, Cernovich published his full story about the explosive allegations. On April 3, Cernovich promoted the story in a livestream broadcast to his tens of thousands of Periscope followers. The same day, “alt-right” thought leader Richard Spencer publicly slammed Cernovich in his own broadcast, granting the story a direct platform into the "alt-right" fanbase. On April 4, Cernovich took his story through the alternative media circuit, appearing on Infowars and Free Domain Radio and earning shoutouts from Stefan Molyneux, Lee Stranahan, and Donald Trump Jr. After riding the wave, Cernovich continued his self-promotion in a Reddit AMA thread and a post-story interview with Rebel Media.

    Members of the echo chamber attract and maintain a fan base by developing an abusive relationship with their audience members -- a process they label “redpilling.” They gaslight their audiences until readers and viewers feel unable to trust any media other than those particular outlets to deliver them “the truth.” As a result, these new-media companies have groomed rabid fan bases that turn to them as beacons of honesty in a media world that they believe is orchestrated to distract the public from this echo chamber’s version of “the truth.”

    Many media outlets disregard this new-media echo chamber, continuing to speak about the movement with the same blanket terms and condescension they used before the so-called “new right” distanced itself from “alt-right” leaders. But now, months later, this far-right alternative media apparatus is encroaching on its mainstream competition online. For example, Infowars recently surpassed CNN in its number of subscribers on YouTube, which marked a major milestone in far-right alternative media's encroachment on the video site’s news ecosystem.

    According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in early 2016, about half of people age 49 and under said they get their news online. And as cable news viewership declines and as Americans’ trust in news media sinks to an all-time low, alternative new-media stars have leveraged a unique opportunity to redefine right-wing media and reach mass audiences once loyal to established journalism outlets. The alternative media ecosystem has also benefited from attention from top government officials and those close to them; presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway recently elevated Cernovich on Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. pushed an Infowars conspiracy theory, and Michael Flynn Jr., the son of Trump’s former national security advisor, has promoted Infowars and conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate” sourced from the alternative media sphere.

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko

  • Conservatives Baselessly Blame Attack On Black Lives Matter Movement With “#BLMKidnapping” Hashtag

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Conservatives are baselessly blaming the Black Lives Matter movement after a white man was kidnapped and attacked in Chicago. Four black people were arrested on January 4 after a Facebook Live video surfaced of a young white man with special needs being tied up, assaulted, and threatened. In the video, one of the assailants said, “Fuck Donald Trump, fuck white people.”

    Chicago police have filed hate crime and battery charges against the four suspects.

    Several conservatives and “alt-right” figures blamed the attack on the Black Lives Matter movement and used the social media hashtag #BLMKidnapping in discussions about the event. Yet the video does not reference Black Lives Matter and thus far, no connection between the assailants and Black Lives Matter has been established. CNN reported “police said they have not been able to make any connection to the Black Lives Matter activist group, contrary to some reports circulating on social media.”

    Paul Joseph Watson, editor-at-large for conspiracy theorist and Donald Trump ally Alex Jones’ website Infowars, was among the first to tie the attack to Black Lives Matter, with a Twitter post instructing others, “#BLMKidnapping is the hashtag to get this story trending.” Watson’s own write-up of the story on Infowars, which he linked to in his tweet, makes no mention of Black Lives Matter or a connection between the attack and the movement.

    Watson later described the victim of the attack as “the BLM torture victim” on Twitter.

    Rape apologist and “alt-right” figure Mike Cernovich wrote, “#BlackLivesMatter activists in custody after filming kidnapping video,” then used Watson’s hashtag to write, “#BLMKidnapping suspects are in custody.” He also described one of the suspects as a “#BLMKidnapping ring leader.” On his blog, Cernovich made the same assertion, without evidence to back it up.

    Lee Stranahan, a Breitbart contributor, questioned Cernovich’s assertions, particularly his claim that the attackers were Black Lives Matters supporters. Stranahan also pointed out that mainstream media reports on the attack had not mentioned Cernovich’s claims.

    In contrast to Stranahan, fellow Breitbart contributor Katie McHugh referenced “the victim of the Chicago #BLMkidnapping.”

    Fake news promoter and “alt-right” figure Jack Posobiec recorded a Periscope video about the attack with the #BLMKidnapping hashtag and claimed that the attackers were “members of Black Lives Matter in Chicago.”

    Trump supporter Bill Mitchell described the attack as a “#BLM atrocity” that “proves that given enough time, evil always shows its true nature.”

    Michael Flynn Jr., son of incoming Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, also labeled the event with the #BLMKidnapping in several tweets. Flynn was removed from the presidential transition team after it was reported that he helped to spread several fake news stories and conspiracy theories.

    Gavin McInnes, who has a history of making racist commentary, also used the hashtag.

    Conservative Steven Crowder wrote, “#BLMKidnapping and the media's reaction is proof positive that the left doesn't care about racism.”

    Conservatives have frequently, without evidence, blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for violence. Radio host Rush Limbaugh called them “a terrorist group committing hate crimes,” while frequent Fox News guest David Clarke called them a “subversive movement” attempting to “overthrow” the government. Fox host Sean Hannity compared Black Lives Matter to the Ku Klux Klan, Bill O’Reilly compared them to Nazis, and a Fox News graphic described it as a “murder movement.”