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  • Study: Right-wing sources dominated migrant caravan coverage on Facebook and YouTube

    A majority of viral caravan coverage on Facebook and YouTube came from right-leaning sources, which frequently pushed anti-immigrant disinformation

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Since Central American migrants fleeing poverty and violence slowly began making their way toward the U.S. southern border in a series of caravans, right-wing sources have dominated viral caravan content and coverage on Facebook and YouTube. A Media Matters study of Facebook and YouTube between October 13 and November 19 found that a majority of the caravan content with the most interactions came from right-leaning sources.

    Among all sources analyzed in this study, Fox News had the most top-engaged Facebook links and page posts as well as the most caravan-related YouTube videos with over 100,000 views. On air, the cable network dedicated over 23 hours to caravan coverage in the first two weeks after the first caravan set off on October 13, and its reports often spread anti-immigrant disinformation and conspiracy theories.

    Similarly, viral right-leaning caravan coverage on Facebook was riddled with anti-immigrant false news. On YouTube -- where far-right misinformation thrives -- some of the right-leaning channels dominating caravan-related video content were news aggregators run by sources that we could not verify, and others featured “alt-right” and far-right personalities.

    Sixty-four percent of the Facebook page posts about the migrant caravan with the most interactions came from right-leaning Facebook pages.

    Of the 267 caravan-related Facebook posts with the most interactions, 171 were posted by right-leaning pages. Fifty-one of these posts came from Facebook pages without any political alignment (19.1 percent) and 45 came from left-leaning pages (16.9 percent).

    During the 38 days analyzed, Fox News’ main Facebook page had by far the highest number of posts with high engagement related to the migrant caravan, with 42 such posts (compared to the second highest number,the page of right-leaning The Daily Caller, which had 18 page posts). Nine of the 13 pages with five or more viral posts related to the caravan came from right-leaning sources. These right-leaning pages were Fox News, The Daily Caller, Ben Shapiro, Breitbart, Patriots United, ForAmerica, American Voices, Judicial Watch, and Conservative Tribune.

    Viral content from right-leaning Facebook pages often depicted the migrant caravan as a violent invasion. The Facebook page American Voices, a channel on Facebook’s streaming service Facebook Watch, is run by the right-wing media outlet The Daily Caller and had multiple viral video posts that spread misinformation on the caravan and painted migrants as violent or criminal.

    The most popular caravan post from American Voices, which has earned over 100,000 interactions and 5.8 million views, is a video that called the caravan a “potential crisis” and stoked fear about a supposed lack of defenses on the border. The video also misrepresented a fence on a specific part of the southern border as that area’s only “defense against the caravan.” Other viral videos from American Voices: falsely speculated that some members of the caravan weren’t from Central and South America; associated migrants and asylum seekers in the caravan with drug smugglers; and featured a clip of a Fox News guest calling the migrant caravan’s journey an “invasion and an act of war.”

    Other viral posts from right-leaning pages spread baseless right-wing conspiracy theories about the nationality of members of the caravan and painted the caravan of migrants and asylum-seekers as an “invasion.”

    Eleven times as many top links about the caravan on Facebook directed users to right-leaning websites as to left-leaning sites.

    Of the 278 most popular links on Facebook, 163 went to right-leaning websites (58.6 percent); only 14 links came from left-leaning websites (5.0 percent), and 101 came from websites without political alignment (36.3 percent).

    As with Facebook pages, right-leaning websites made up the majority of domains with numerous top links to caravan-related content. Fox News once again topped caravan coverage on Facebook, with 32 top-performing links. Seven of the 12 domains with the most links in our study belonged to right-leaning outlets. The top right-leaning outlets were Fox News, Daily Wire, Breitbart, Western Journal, The Daily Caller, American Military News, and The Washington Times.

    Some top links from right-leaning websites advocated for violence on the border against migrants and asylum-seekers, characterizing them as invaders. On Glenn Beck’s personal site and his outlet The Blaze, he penned an article titled “This is not a caravan, it’s an INVASION.” In it he claimed that the caravan was a “political stunt” to provoke violence from the National Guard and Border Patrol. Links to both earned over 50,000 interactions on Facebook. In a Fox News op-ed, political contributor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wrote that the caravan was “attempting to invade and attack the U.S.,” and he called on the president and Congress to stop the “attack.” The op-ed earned almost 48,000 interactions on Facebook.

    Other right-leaning websites pushed false information on the caravan. Five of the top links on Facebook included debunked claims from a Project Veritas video that alleged that former senatorial candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-TX) campaign was illegally giving campaign funds to help the caravan.

    The right-wing group Judicial Watch had multiple top links on Facebook that spread anti-immigrant conspiracies, including: an article falsely stating that the caravan poses a “serious public health threat”; one calling members of the caravan “gangbangers”; another calling the caravan a “movement that’s benefiting human smugglers”; and one article speculating that ISIS terrorists could be part of the caravan. All of these articles earned over 40,000 interactions on Facebook, with the most popular post earning over 84,000 interactions.

    A majority of popular YouTube videos about the caravan were posted by right-leaning channels. Unverified far-right and “alt-right” channels were some of the most popular sources.

    Eighty-five of the 128 caravan-related videos with over 100,000 views on YouTube were posted by right-leaning channels (66.4 percent). Only 24 caravan-related videos from channels without political alignment (18.8 percent) and 19 videos from left-leaning channels (14.8 percent) earned over 100,000 views.

    Fox News’ YouTube channel posted the highest number of top-viewed videos about the migrant caravan, with Fox Business’ channel coming in third. The YouTube channel with the second highest number of top-viewed videos was kylekuttertv, with 14 caravan-related videos earning over 100,000 views apiece. Kylekuttertv is an unverified news aggregation channel, whose typically 30- to 60-minute videos feature a compilation of mainstream, right-wing, and fringe YouTube news clips framed under far-right and conspiracy-theory narratives, which are detailed in the video titles and descriptions.

    Another unverified right-leaning news aggregation channel, GLOBAL News, had multiple top-viewed videos. GLOBAL News and kylekuttertv have each earned tens of millions of views, and they paint themselves as nonpartisan channels, while almost exclusively mixing clips from local media outlets with right-wing commentary from outlets including Fox News, NewsMax TV, and One America News Network.

    Far-right and “alt-right” sources also had top-viewed YouTube videos on the caravan. The channel belonging to the far-right Canadian outlet Rebel Media published three videos about the caravan that each earned over 100,000 views on YouTube. In one video, Rebel Media host Ezra Levant speculates about whether caravan members have “antifa-style or paramilitary-”style training, and then he goes on to say that migrants and asylum-seekers in the caravan are not claiming to be “refugees fleeing from danger” and are “just looking to, you know, get rich, I suppose.” In addition, numerous vloggers linked to the “alt-right” -- including Stefan Molyneux, James Allsup, and Tarl Warwick (known online as Styxhexenhammer666) -- all had top-viewed videos on YouTube in which they stoked fear about the caravan.

    Other right-wing media figures also used YouTube to spread false news and conspiracy theories to stoke fear about immigrants. On his YouTube channel, former Fox host Bill O’Reilly falsely implied that George Soros funded the migrant caravan. In a video from The Blaze that earned over 500,000 views, Glenn Beck falsely stated that Venezuela financed the migrant caravan and then speculated that Cuban and Venezuelan spies and terrorists could be using the caravan as a “cover” to enter and attack the U.S.

    Methodology

    Using Newswhip’s social media monitoring program Spike, Media Matters searched for links published online between October 13, 2018, and November 19, 2018, that included the word “caravan.” We arranged search results on Spike in order by the amount of Facebook interactions they had and exported data for the 300 links with the most interactions. We repeated this search method for posts from Facebook pages, exporting data for the 284 Facebook page posts with the most interactions. For YouTube data, Media Matters used Spike to search videos containing the words “caravan” and “migrant,” “immigrant,” or “immigration” posted between October 21 and November 19 and exported data for the 300 videos with the most views. (These additional words were used for the YouTube search to avoid the many false positives the word “caravan” produced.) Because Spike limited the time frame for a YouTube search to 30 days due to YouTube’s terms of use, Media Matters conducted a manual search on YouTube on incognito mode using the same search terms to supplement the results excluded from Spike’s narrower time frame. We excluded videos with fewer than 100,000 views on YouTube from the study.

    We then individually reviewed all posts, links, and videos to flag for irrelevant content -- content that had nothing to do with the migrant caravan, content from satire sources like The Onion or The Babylon Bee, and content that mentioned the migrant caravan only tangentially -- and excluded it from the study.

    Researchers then reviewed sources and coded them as either “left-leaning,” “right-leaning,” or without political alignment. For Facebook page data, the source coded was the Facebook page. For links on Facebook, the domain of each link was coded. And for YouTube videos, the channel was coded.

    Most sources had been previously coded as part of an earlier Media Matters study, and we used the previous political-alignment codes for those pages. For new sources, two researchers independently coded each link, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. We determined the ideological alignment of a source by considering the source’s name and published content. Sources that expressed opposition to President Donald Trump or focused on issues primarily aimed at liberals (e.g., protecting abortion rights, calling for action against gun violence, etc.) were coded as left-leaning. Sources that expressed support for Trump or focused on issues primarily aimed at conservatives (e.g., restricting abortion rights, downplaying gun violence, etc.) were coded as right-leaning. All right-wing and left-wing media outlets and organizations were automatically coded as right-leaning or left-leaning, respectively. Pages that did not have an ideological leaning in their content were coded as nonaligned. Coding conflicts were resolved between the two researchers with available information about the source’s political alignment.

    Charts by Melissa Joskow.

  • Where is the media outrage over the violence and harassment abortion providers face on a daily basis?

    Media fixated on a protest at Tucker Carlson's house should look at how often they cover (or don't cover) anti-abortion violence and harassment

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A memo to media and any would-be think piece writers: If you’re mad about protesters bothering Fox News host Tucker Carlson at home, then it’s worth asking whether you've expended the same energy over the harassment abortion providers face on a daily basis.

    According to CBS News, approximately “20 protesters gathered in front of Carlson's home” on November 7:

    Carlson's wife said she heard "loud banging and pounding on her front door," the police report says. When officers arrived, they found politically-charged signs left on cars in the driveway, a sign on the front door and the anarchy symbol spray painted on the driveway. [CBS News, 11/8/18]

    Carlson told The Washington Post that the gathering “wasn’t a protest. It was a threat.” Although he was not home at the time, Carlson claimed, “They weren’t protesting anything specific that I had said. They weren’t asking me to change anything. … They were threatening me and my family and telling me to leave my own neighborhood in the city that I grew up in.”

    There are many things that Carlson has said in his capacity as a mouthpiece for white nationalism, xenophobia, racism, and sexism that are more than worthy of objection. He also regularly uses his platform on Fox News to bully, mock, and enable harassment of his guests. And the details of the protest -- as described in ThinkProgress by someone who was actually there -- vastly contradict Carlson’s claims. Yet there is now a veritable catalogue of think pieces about the lack of “civility” shown by those who protested Carlson. If media want to have a real conversation about “civility” and harassment, then it should be impossible to omit this fact: Abortion providers, patients, and clinics face everything that Carlson claimed and more, but this kind of regular, persistent, and, in some cases, daily harassment doesn’t garner the same kind of media attention as incidents like the protest at Carlson’s home.

    Eleven people have died as a result of anti-abortion violence since 1993. Numerous others have been injured, and still more have found themselves and even their families targeted for personalized harassment from abortion opponents. This trend of violence and harassment against abortion providers, patients, and clinics has increased in recent years, and it shows little sign of abating. According to a report by the National Abortion Federation, rates of anti-abortion clinic protests in 2017 were already at the highest levels seen since the organization began tracking such incidents in 1977. In 2018, there have been numerous incidents of violence or threats against clinics reported in Illinois, New Jersey, Utah, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Massachusetts, and more.

    In North Carolina, abortion provider Calla Hales has painstakingly documented the frequent anti-abortion protests and harassment directed at her clinics in the state -- including attacks on her personally. As but a few examples of the type of harassment Hales and her patients face, protesters have:

    Followed Hales, and taken photos and video of her car:

    Taken photos and videos of patients entering the clinic, and persisted in trying to “counsel” them even after being asked to stop:

    Deceptively dressed themselves as law enforcement to give patients the false perception that they can direct traffic, or stop their cars on the way into the clinic:

    Used amplification systems to not only harass patients, but also to target clinic staff, physicians, and their families by publicizing their names:

    If all of that wasn’t enough, hundreds of protesters regularly gather outside of Hales’ clinics -- blocking traffic, harassing patients, and generally making the process of accessing legal and necessary heath care more complicated than it should ever be:

    Hales has frequently noted that despite her efforts to document the continuing harassment faced by herself, her staff, and the clinic's patients, many people are still unaware of the sheer magnitude of the problem. In particular, Hales contrasted the disparate reactions to the protest at Carlson’s home and the lack of regular attention surrounding the ongoing and more severe harassment she and many other providers face:

    As reported by The Charlotte Observer, the protesters regularly harassing Hales’ clinic recently acquired a nearby property and are preparing to use it as a base of operations to intensify their harassment. Imagine the media outrage if a group of protesters did even a fraction of these incidents to a right-wing media figure. How many op-eds would be written calling for “civility” if a group of protesters purchased the property next to Carlson’s home and set up speakers to yell at him and his family on a daily basis?

    Unfortunately, Hales’ experience is not uncommon for abortion providers, patients, and clinics across the country. The anti-abortion group Operation Save America regularly circulates flyers with photos and home addresses of abortion providers, often with incendiary language. Just last week, radical anti-abortion group Army of God published a new manifesto from Eric Rudolph (who bombed an abortion clinic in 1997) calling for more violence against abortion providers. The organization’s website currently celebrates the release of Rachelle “Shelly” Shannon -- an anti-choice extremist who attempted to assassinate abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 1993, and was also convicted for “six firebombings and two acid attacks at abortion clinics in California, Oregon and Nevada.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Peifer told NPR: “She has counseled people to commit similar acts — even more violent acts than she did. … And there's been nothing to indicate that she's changed her mind in that regard.”

    Right-wing media argue that these anti-abortion extremists are acting in isolation. Yet in many instances, these media personalities -- Carlson included -- have fostered or encouraged anti-abortion harassment. Before being ousted from Fox News after public reports that he sexually harassed multiple colleagues, Bill O’Reilly spent years not only spreading misinformation about abortion, but also openly bullying abortion providers like Tiller. Prior to Tiller’s assassination by anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder, O’Reilly called the doctor “Tiller the baby killer,” and insisted that there was a “special place in hell” for him. After a deadly shooting attack at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, O’Reilly defended his previous attacks on Tiller, claiming that his comments were accurate. After this attack, The New Republic reported on how the admitted shooter’s penchant for right-wing media such as Fox News and Infowars shaped his paranoid and conspiratorial views about abortion and Planned Parenthood. On this year’s anniversary of Tiller’s assassination, Infowars live streamed an anti-abortion protest in front of a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic. The conspiracy theory-pushing outlet then repeated the stunt in November -- just days after caterwauling about the “unhinged” protesters that “terrorized” Carlson’s home.

    Harassment, threats, and violence of any kind are unacceptable. Last weekend, thousands of protesters gathered outside Hales’ clinics. Although some media outlets have reported on the epidemic of harassment faced by providers like Hales, those who saved their outrage for the protest at Carlson's home have little excuse for not reporting on the harassment facing patients, providers, and clinics on a daily basis. 

  • Right-wing media's tantrum over a 2015 ad is stoking extreme anti-abortion rhetoric and harassment

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    Right-wing media and anti-abortion figures recently raised objections to a "horrible new ad” attributed to Planned Parenthood -- despite the so-called ad actually being a 2015 video from a political action committee, not Planned Parenthood. However, as conservative figures continued to express shock and disgust, people on social media started to make threats of violence against the health care organization citing shares of the 2015 video online. This isn’t the first time that right-wing media have manufactured outrage that resulted in harassment and threats toward abortion providers, patients, and clinics.

  • Iraq War cheerleaders are still driving foreign policy discussions, Iran tweet edition

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Sunday, July 22, President Donald Trump tweeted another bellicose threat of war, this time against Iran. In discussions about the president’s tweets, some media outlets prominently featured Iraq War boosters.
     

    Though, collectively, these figures were hardly as pro-military action as they were in 2003 in their support for the Iraq War (some even harshly criticized the president’s posturing), the prominence of such boosters in the conversation betrays one of the media’s long-running, barely-acknowledged failures: The same voices that helped the Bush administration lie its way into the "the single worst foreign policy decision in American history" are still, for some reason, considered important voices on foreign policy.

    • Former press secretary for President George W. Bush Ari Fleischer appeared on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom to urge the United States to destabilize Iranian society in order to trigger regime change.

    • Steve Doocy, co-host of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, said that the Iranian “people are really hacked (sic) off, they don’t really like the corruption, they don’t like the leadership, they want something new, and now this,” referring to Trump’s tweet.  

    • On Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, senior strategic analyst retired Gen. Jack Keane, who was the a strong advocate of Bush’s troop “surge” strategy in Iraq, hailed Trump for having “absolutely reset the table [away] from coddling Iran” as soon as he was inaugurated and framed the tweet -- which he called a “policy decision” -- as a continuation of this trend.

    • On CNN’s New Day, global affairs analyst Max Boot commented that Trump “belongs in a padded cell” for his tweet and was “predictable” for “gin[ning] up a threat of war with Iran” to shield himself from embarrassment over the Helsinki summit.

    • On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough commented that Trump was “screaming about the Republican (sic) Guard and his threat to wipe out Iran,” and suggested that the threat against Iran was a tactic to distract from the news that, among others, the FBI possessed recordings of the president talking with his former attorney Michael Cohen about payments to a former playboy model.

    • Fox’s senior political analyst Brit Hume predicted that Trump’s broader posture against Iran, from exiting the nuclear deal to Sunday’s tweet, indicated that his administration “is attempting to overthrow the government or attempting to get regime change” in Iran, even though Trump officials “will not say” so.

    • Disgraced ex-Fox host Bill O’Reilly promised to “analyze the Iran threats made by Mr. Trump” on the Monday edition of his web-based show.

    • On CNN Newsroom, military analyst Rick Francona, who was previously part of a military analyst program set up by the Pentagon to sell the Iraq War, warned that “if you start poking the eye of the Iranians” as Trump’s tweet did, “they’re liable to push back,” and the resulting situation “will ratchet out of control very quickly.”

    • National security adviser John Bolton, hired directly off of Fox News, underlined the president's threat with a statement that said: “If Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before.”

  • This far-right online campaign has found an ally in the Trump administration

    By lobbying on behalf of the British anti-Muslim troll Tommy Robinson, the Trump administration is carrying water for the international far-right

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After months of relentless online (and occasional offline) hysteria, the far-right campaign #FreeTommy has found an ally in the administration of President Donald Trump. According to reports, Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, lobbied Britain’s ambassador to the United States on behalf of the British anti-Muslim troll known as Tommy Robinson. Robinson is imprisoned in the United Kingdom after pleading guilty for contempt of court for disrupting a trial.

    As documented by Hope not hate, an organization that combats far-right extremism, Robinson was arrested for “breach of the peace” while he livestreamed about an ongoing case outside Leeds Crown Court in Britain. By livestreaming and sharing information regarding the case, Robinson violated restrictions on reporting about the case, a common legal practice in the U.K. to ensure that members of the jury aren’t influenced by media pressure or outside information. He pleaded guilty, and his legal representative said Robinson had “deep regret” for what he had done, but many in the online far-right ecosystem have painted him as a free speech martyr through the #FreeTommy online campaign and its offline, sometimes-violent demonstrations.

    By lobbying for his freedom, the administration is putting its weight behind a troll whose prominence derives from his extremist anti-Muslim rhetoric. Robinson, whose actual name Hope not hate reports as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is the co-founder of the anti-Muslim English Defense League (EDL), which he built “into the premier street protest group within the far right.” While addressing an EDL audience in 2011, he blamed “every single Muslim watching this video on YouTube” for theJuly 7, 2005, bombings in London, saying, “You got away with killing and maiming British citizens.” A 2013 guest appearance on Fox’s now-defunct show The O’Reilly Factor shows how American right-wing media helped elevate his extremist rhetoric; Robinson claimed on the air that “Islam is not a religion of peace. It never has been, and it never will be.”

    Robinson was once refused entry into the U.S., but he still traveled to the country in 2013 on a friend’s passport. The stunt got him banned from the country. Twitter has also permanently banned Robinson from its platform for reportedly violating its “hateful conduct” policy.

    Before the Trump administration picked up Robinson’s case, the #FreeTommy campaign found acolytes among the American MAGA universe and far-right conspiracy theorists. Alex Jones of conspiracy theory outlet Infowars (which has hosted Robinson as a guest on different occasions) has mischaracterized Robinson as a “political prisoner”; Lucian Wintrich, White House correspondent for the right-wing site The Gateway Pundit, which struggles with getting things right, warned that what happened to Robinson was “what is coming to the United States,” a take similar to that of opportunistic right-wing troll Mike Cernovich. The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. once again displayed his well-documented love for the far-right internet trolls by commenting on Robinson’s situation. Fox host Tucker Carlson hosted anti-Muslim troll Katie Hopkins on his show to advocate for Robinson:

    The developments surrounding the #FreeTommy campaign are illustrative of two notable points: American right-wing media and their prominent online personalities provide a built-in amplification network for the messaging of the international far-right, and the Trump administration is extremely susceptible to its narratives.

    Robinson’s rhetoric reportedly inspired a man to commit an anti-Muslim terror attack in Finsbury Park, London, that left one person dead and 10 others wounded in June 2017.

  • After her appearance was advertised, Jeanine Pirro didn’t show up on Bill O’Reilly’s digital show

    Bill O'Reilly scrubbed a mention of Pirro from his website

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    On July 10, Media Matters reported on Bill O’Reilly’s announcement that Fox News host Jeanine Pirro was going to appear on his digital show to discuss President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

    A Google cache version of the preview for O’Reilly’s show has Pirro’s name:

    At some point after publishing, her name was removed from the post.

    Pirro never showed up, and O’Reilly instead discussed the matter with former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman:

    Media Matters emailed Fox News and Pirro, asking for comment about whether Pirro and Andrew Napolitano (who had reportedly been slated to be O’Reilly’s guest July 12; as of now, nothing on O’Reilly’s site from this week mentions Napolitano) were pulled from the program. So far, we have not received a response.

    In April, O’Reilly announced that he was appearing at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., for “An Evening With Bill O’Reilly.” Patrons who gave contributions of more than $5,000 were slated to be rewarded with an “invitation to behind the scenes tour of Fox & Friends.” After a Media Matters post on the matter, a Fox spokesperson told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, “We had no knowledge of this and we are not allowing Fox & Friends to be part of any donation package.”

    O’Reilly left Fox News in April 2017 after a sustained pressure campaign following revelations of multiple sexual harassment settlements. O’Reilly has since made multiple appearances on Sean Hannity’s radio show and one appearance on Hannity’s Fox News show.

    Bobby Lewis contributed research to this post.

  • Right-wing media are criticizing Maxine Waters over civility. Here’s what they’ve said about her in the past. 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media are criticizing Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) after she encouraged people to publicly protest Trump administration officials who are complicit in the atrocious family separation policy at the U.S border. But the “civility” these outlets are touting has been absent in their many vicious past attacks on Waters.  

    For more than a month, the Trump administration separated immigrant children from their asylum-seeking parents and detained them in child prisons, apparently with no plan in place to reunite the families. The administration took infants as young as 3 months old from their guardians, kept children in cages, and deported some parents without their kids -- while officials continuously lied about their own policy. President Donald Trump has since signed an executive order ending the policy of family separation, but the order’s future might be in jeopardy given that it calls for the inhumane and likely illegal policy of indefinite detention of migrant children (with their parents). And for those families already separated, some parents may never see their children again, and the administration has offered other parents -- many of whom sought asylum after fleeing violence or persecution -- an impossible choice: They can continue seeking asylum and risk not seeing their kids for the duration of the case, or they can be reunited and deported.

    In the face of this atrocity -- and the administration’s many others-- people have begun to stage peaceful protests against the architects and defenders of family separation. On June 23, Waters joined those cheering on the protesters’ efforts, encouraging people to continue putting pressure on Trump officials. Speaking at a rally, she said, “Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Waters has since been attacked by people who are fretting over the “incivility” of her remarks. But right-wing critics have flung racist, sexist, and all-around vile comments at Waters for years.

    • After watching a clip of Waters speaking in Congress, former Fox host Bill O’Reilly lobbed a racist attack at the congresswoman, claiming he couldn’t hear “a word” Waters said because of her “James Brown wig.”

    • In an homage to O’Reilly’s racist remark, conservative “media analyst” and YouTube personality Mark Dice tweeted a picture of James Brown, writing, “Congresswoman Maxine Waters dropped by the #MTVAwards as a presenter tonight!”(The tweet has since been deleted.)

    • Fox's Newt Gingrich fantasized about Trump beating Waters in a boxing match.

    • Infowars host Alex Jones likened Waters to a rabid dog.

    • Jones also called her a “dumb witch,” and he once said, “I think she’s hot. I’m into necrophilia.”

    • Jones also once killed a small bug on air after labeling it “Maxine Waters.”  

    • Infowars ran an article titled “Maxine Waters is a globalist race pimp embarrassment.”

    • Trump ally and radio host Michael Savage called Waters “one of the most despicable people in the history” of Congress.

    • Savage also argued that Waters should be charged with “sedition,” saying, “I don’t know if [she] can even spell it.”

    • He also said that Waters was “working for the Muslims who want to kill us.”

    • Radio host Rush Limbaugh called Waters a “lunatic.”

    • The New York Post’s John Podhoretz, who is also a contributing editor for The Weekly Standard, accused her of “worship[ing] at the feet of totalitarian monsters.”

    • Syndicated right-wing columnist Ann Coulter said that without affirmative action, Waters couldn't get a job "that didn't involve wearing a paper hat."

    • Former Fox host Eric Bolling told Waters to “step away from the crack pipe.”

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham said she would prefer “Madea doing political commentary” over Waters.  

    • After the president recently called Waters a “low IQ person,” Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk tweeted: “If Maxine Waters was really so smart, why does she refuse to take an IQ test?”

  • Infowars livestreams a Planned Parenthood protest the day after the anniversary of Dr. Tiller's murder

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On May 31, 2009, an anti-abortion extremist murdered abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, who had been harassed and targeted by anti-choice groups and right-wing media for years. On May 31, 2018, Infowars reporter Owen Shroyer announced that he would be hosting and livestreaming a protest outside a Texas Planned Parenthood location.

    During the May 31 segment of Genesis Communication Network’s The Alex Jones Show, Shroyer announced that Infowars would “launch a protest here in Austin at Planned Parenthood” the next day in response to his frustration that the NRA and Infowars were “being blamed for anytime there’s a shooting” while Planned Parenthood wasn’t blamed for being part of “a death cult.” Shroyer noted that in addition to organizing the protest, he would also be livestreaming the event to various channels. Toward the end of the segment, host Alex Jones and Shroyer started mocking the people they think will show up to the protest, calling them satanists and claiming they'll say things like “We are slaves, we are dying,” “I love abortion,” and “I want to kill kids.”

    Back in reality, anti-abortion violence and harassment are both very real and very serious threats to those who publicly provide, write about, or even discuss abortion. Since 1993, 11 people have died as a result of anti-abortion violence, and numerous providers, patients, and their families have been injured; as recent data from the National Abortion Federation (NAF) demonstrates, this trend shows little sign of abating. NAF found that in 2017, “trespassing more than tripled, death threats/threats of harm nearly doubled, and incidents of obstruction rose from 580 in 2016 to more than 1,700 in 2017.” There was also a continued “increase in targeted hate mail/harassing phone calls, and clinic invasions,” as well as “the first attempted bombing in many years.”

    According to NAF’s 2016 report, rates of anti-abortion clinic protests were already at the highest levels seen since the organization began tracking incidents in 1977. And in 2018, there have already been numerous reports of violence or threats against clinics, with incidents reported in Illinois, New Jersey, Utah, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Massachusetts, and more. In North Carolina, abortion provider Calla Hales has documented the frequent anti-abortion protests and harassment directed at her clinic -- including attacks on her personally.

    Nevertheless, right-wing media have frequently fostered or encouraged anti-abortion harassment -- sometimes directly targeting abortion providers by name. Before being ousted from Fox News after public reports that he sexually harassed multiple colleagues, Bill O’Reilly spent years not only spreading misinformation about abortion, but also openly bullying abortion providers like Tiller. Prior to Tiller’s death, O’Reilly called the doctor “Tiller the baby killer” and insisted there was a “special place in hell” for him. After a deadly shooting attack at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, O’Reilly defended his previous attacks on Tiller, claiming that his comments were accurate.

    Even without O’Reilly, Fox News programming is still rife with anti-abortion misinformation and demonization of abortion providers. In just one example, after Fox News’ The Five briefly moved to a prime-time slot, co-host Greg Gutfeld took a page out of O’Reilly’s playbook and called for anti-abortion violence. During the April 2017 segment, Gutfeld compared abortion to slavery and argued that “if you are pro-life and you believe it is murder, you should be willing to fight” and “start a war” to stop abortions from being performed.

    Beyond Fox News, wider right-wing programming has also contributed to an atmosphere that fosters anti-abortion violence and harassment. In 2016, after Robert Dear allegedly opened fire in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood center (killing three and injuring at least nine more), The New Republic reported on Dear’s penchant for right-wing media such as Fox News and Infowars -- noting in particular how these outlets contributed to Dear’s paranoid, conspiratorial views on abortion and Planned Parenthood. According to The New Republic:

    In fact, as I learned from hours of speaking with Dear, the narratives he learned from Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and Bill O’Reilly and countless far-right web sites meshed perfectly with his paranoid delusions, misogynist beliefs, and violent fantasies. The right-wing media didn’t just tell him what he wanted to hear. They brought authority and detail to a world he was convinced was tormenting him. They were his shelter and his inspiration, his only real community.

    Fox News had launched in October 1996, a little more than a year after the Oklahoma City bombing, and O’Reilly was one of its biggest on-air talents. “Fox gives voice to people who can’t get on other networks,” O’Reilly later told a reporter. “When was the last time you saw pro-life people unless they shot somebody?” Like Limbaugh, O’Reilly devoted lots of air time to denouncing abortions, and those who provided them.

    That the conspiracy theory site Infowars would follow this playbook for stoking anti-abortion harassment is of little surprise.

  • Right-wing media are filling a void of abortion-related coverage with misinformation

    Fox News is dominating the conversation about abortion on evening cable news -- and the network is doing it all wrong

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    A 12-month-long Media Matters study of evening cable news programs found that Fox News dominated discussions of abortion and reproductive rights and that the network was wrong about four common abortion-related topics 77 percent of the time.

  • Sinclair is gearing up to compete with Fox -- by being even worse than Fox

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Recent reports indicate that local TV news giant Sinclair Broadcast Group has met with a number of current and former Fox News employees and is gearing up to compete directly with the cable channel -- by attempting to beat Fox News in a race to the very bottom.

    On May 16, Politico’s Jason Schwartz reported that Sinclair executive chairman David Smith met “in the last few months” with the executive producer of Fox News’ Hannity. The producer, Porter Berry, is at least the second person with close ties to Sean Hannity to have reportedly met with Sinclair leadership recently; Schwartz earlier reported that Sinclair was attempting to recruit current Tribune programming executive Sean Compton, a “close friend” of Hannity’s.

    According to Schwartz’s sources, Smith is planning to set up Sinclair as a direct competitor with Fox News after the former’s massive acquisition of Tribune Media is finalized. Smith is said to be developing ideas for a “three-hour block of news-opinion programming” that could air on a cable network Sinclair already owns or another it would acquire in the Tribune deal.

    Sinclair’s apparent dream line-up for this nightly cable news programming amounts to a who’s who of Fox News liabilities and Trump sycophants. Not only has Smith reportedly met with executives close to Hannity, but he’s also been in talks with current Fox News host Jeanine Pirro as well as a handful of former Fox personalities: Greta Van Susteren, Eric Bolling, James Rosen, and (at least at one point) Bill O’Reilly.

    Of this group of six, half left Fox News in connection with sexual misconduct reports. Bolling parted ways with Fox last September amid an investigation into reports he had sent unsolicited pictures of male genitalia to multiple colleagues. Rosen reportedly departed the network around the new year following “increased scrutiny of his behavior” due to an “established pattern” of harassment. And O’Reilly, of course, was fired in April 2017 after reports came out that he had engaged in a decades-long pattern of harassment and that 21st Century Fox had failed to stop it.

    O’Reilly, Pirro, Van Susteren, and Hannity were all vocal defenders of late Fox chief Roger Ailes when he was named for serial sexual harassment in 2016. (Van Susteren later said she regretted defending Ailes.)

    In order to truly compete with Fox News, Sinclair has decided it must be willing to become a safe space for Fox News’ most toxic liabilities -- including powerful media men who have hurt others, created hostile and unsafe work environments, and done little to nothing to make it right. This shameful decision is the latest sign from Sinclair executives that the company simply does not care about the safety of its employees or the actual needs of its viewers.  

    Sinclair’s strategy for competing with Fox also seems to include seeking out top Trump sycophants like Pirro, who spends nearly every Saturday night on Fox yelling about the president’s alleged mistreatment by just about everyone (and who is also informally advising the president). Bolling, too, has been orbiting the Trump White House for months. And Sean Hannity -- perhaps the worst of them all -- has taken Fox prime time to impossibly new lows in the name of defending the president.

    Sinclair is already drastically changing the local news landscape, infecting TV stations across the country with a combination of blatant pro-Trump propaganda, fearmongering rhetoric, and uniform local news that barely counts as “local” at all. Its M.O. of drastic consolidation leaves its own journalists under-resourced and embarrassed by their employer, and it leaves local audiences with less access to the news they need.

    Sinclair is doing more than enough to make local news measurably worse. Will it now sink below even the Fox News fever swamp to bring more horrors -- and even less actual news -- to cable?

  • Who gets the luxury of a media comeback? 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Months ago, Eric Bolling left Fox News amid an investigation into reports he had sent unsolicited pictures of male genitalia to multiple colleagues. Today, without having publicly reckoned with his past conduct whatsoever, Bolling announced he’ll soon return to the media scene as the host of a new show on conservative media outlet CRTV. He has also reportedly been “in talks” with Newsmax, Sinclair, MSNBC, and The Hill.

    Bolling is part of a club of wealthy media men who are laying the groundwork for comebacks they have not earned. He is one of several high-profile media figures -- along with Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, and Bill O’Reilly -- reported for workplace sexual misconduct who have now decided they deserve a second chance despite not having done any of the very tough public reflection such a comeback ought to require, at minimum. Rose is even reportedly involved in a new show idea being shopped in which he would interview other men, including Lauer, about their public outings as sexual predators.

    As these media men attempt to pitch news executives and the public on a redemption tour, it’s up to us as media consumers to figure out what happens now. Does the world benefit from having these specific dudes back on air?

    Will these comebacks involve thoughtful, honest examination of past conduct?

    All evidence points to no. 

    These men have all offered vague (at least partial) denials and largely declined to discuss the reports against them, sometimes citing legal reasons. Bolling, for example, appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier this week to talk about his work combating the opioid crisis (his son tragically died last year from an opioid-related overdose). But when the conversation turned to his departure from Fox, Bolling had nothing of substance to say. When co-host Mika Brzezinski asked him point-blank if he had ever sexually harassed anyone, Bolling would not answer, saying he couldn’t discuss it because of a lawsuit.

    In O’Reilly’s case, in addition to hiding behind legal language or vague statements, he has been unapologetic and unrepentant. Months after his firing from Fox News, he booked an interview with Lauer on NBC’s Today; Media Matters wrote that the sit-down would be harmful unless it was a “deeply researched and responsible interview focused solely on the reports that he sexually harassed at least five women.” Instead, 4.5 million Americans were treated to a petulant back-and-forth between two sexual predators (though Lauer’s misconduct was not publicly known at the time). O’Reilly largely obfuscated, implying a legal reason for the silence, but still managed to attack one of his accusers on air.

    Rose, too, has shown little interest in an actual reckoning for past behavior. Right around the time the news broke of his potential new comeback show (which one can only hope will never see the light of day), Rose was publicly partying with Woody Allen and dining with Sean Penn, who has been reported for domestic abuse. (Penn previously wrote a poem defending Rose, because reported predators stick together.) In a profile in The Hollywood Reporter published weeks before, sources close to Rose couldn’t agree on whether he’d yet acknowledged or grappled with any wrongdoing.

    How does a “comeback” factor into the institutional and cultural healing process?

    Beyond the question of whether a comeback is appropriate, there’s also the question of whether one is appropriate now.

    The former workplaces of the media figures in question -- Fox News for Bolling and O’Reilly, CBS and PBS for Rose, and NBC for Lauer -- still have a lot of work to do when it comes to workplace culture. NBC, CBS, and Fox all launched some type of internal investigation following reports of sexual misconduct by their employees, and in some cases the investigations are brand new or still ongoing.

    New details are still emerging in public reporting too, illuminating what is now clearly a much larger, more pervasive cultural issue than can be fixed by any one outlet firing any one individual (though it’s still a good start). In the case of Rose, The Washington Post published a follow-up investigation just this week, based on interviews with more than 100 people, that revealed an atmosphere at CBS that allowed Rose to reportedly harass employees for several decades without reproach. More information about the number and severity of harassment suits brought against O’Reilly continued to trickle out for months after his firing -- and public knowledge still may be incomplete.

    Throughout these revelations, leaders at Fox, NBC, and CBS have denied knowledge of reported misconduct before it was made public.

    How can media companies know a problem is “fixed” -- and that these particular media men are ready to return to airwaves -- when company leaders continue to apparently learn details about their own workplace culture from reporters and the courageous people willing to talk to them? Are they listening to their own employees only after they speak to reporters at other outlets? More importantly, have they created a culture in such dire need of fixing that employees felt they’d be heard only if they made their trauma public?

    This is an industry and a society at the very beginning of a long reckoning, one whose leaders are at various points on their own pathways to understanding. Doling out second chances without a thorough examination of what went wrong the first time won’t fix a damn thing.

    What about all the people who are waiting on their first chance?

    This is the big question -- the one that transcends any specific examples and will linger over any potential comeback, presently planned or in the future: Why do these men deserve second chances when society has deprived so many talented individuals of a first chance?

    Newsrooms remain overwhelmingly white and male -- a remarkable homogeneity that itself is a risk factor for workplace harassment. Think of all the voices we’ve never heard because they were passed over to make room for Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer or Bill O’Reilly or Eric Bolling. Think of the kinds of people who are and aren’t valued, or listened to, or believed, in the media world, and the message that sends to viewers.

    This big question also applies to people who’ve been pushed out of the media industry because of harassment. Ann Curry was reportedly forced out at Today after experiencing verbal harassment on set -- and after speaking to management about Lauer. Former Fox News figure Gretchen Carlson described the retaliation she faced after reporting harassment by Roger Ailes and current Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy; she left Fox days before filing her lawsuit against Ailes. One study found that 75 percent of employees who reported misconduct at work faced retaliation -- so Curry’s and Carlson’s stories probably represent countless others.

    Nearly half of women media workers in a 2013 poll said they’d experienced sexual harassment on the job. And many of the #MeToo media stories have included heartbreaking asides from young journalists who experienced harassment and had their professional ambition destroyed. What about these people -- mostly young women -- who lost their dignity and their dreams, their first chance, at the hands of a powerful harasser like Lauer or Rose?

    Perhaps we should focus on taking a chance on new voices that could make the world better instead of bestowing a “comeback” upon those who already used their first chance to make the world worse.

  • The right-wing media figures defending Sean Hannity’s relationship with Michael Cohen

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing media figures are jumping to defend Fox News host Sean Hannity after it was revealed that Hannity has been a client of longtime lawyer to President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen. Hannity’s defenders are suggesting that he has “been victimized” by the revelation of his name, claiming that he “wasn’t engaging” Cohen “as a lawyer,” and even arguing that Hannity possibly “did not know he was a client of Michael Cohen."

  • Fox & Friends is teaming up for an event with Bill O’Reilly at Trump Hotel

    Update: The Fox & Friends tour has been removed from the event's website

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    UPDATE (4:46 p.m.): A Fox spokesperson told Erik Wemple, “We had no knowledge of this and we are not allowing Fox & Friends to be part of any donation package.” Additionally, Nick Adams denied that Hegseth was involved, telling Wemple, “FLAG acted on our own. The wording on the website was an honest mistake. The moment FLAG became aware of it, we took action to correct it.”

    UPDATE (1:02 p.m.): The Fox & Friends tour has been removed from the event website.

    Former Fox host Bill O’Reilly announced that he was appearing at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., on April 21 for “An Evening With Bill O’Reilly.” The event is being sponsored by the Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness (FLAG), founded by Nick Adams, a regular on Fox News.

    Ticket prices for the event start at $500, according to the event page. However, patrons who give contributions of more than $5,000 are rewarded with an “invitation to behind the scenes tour of Fox & Friends on April 18 unveiling the Students’ Declaration of Independence.”

    Fox & Friends Weekend host Pete Hegseth is on the board of FLAG, along with prominent right-wing figures including former Rep. Allen West (R-FL), radio host Dennis Prager, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, and CNN’s Steve Cortes.

    Bill O’Reilly was fired from Fox News a year ago in the wake of reports about multiple sexual harassment settlements involving him. He returned to Fox News in September as a guest of host Sean Hannity. He has also recently been credited as executive producer of the network’s historical series Legends and Lies.