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  • A Fox host lobbied Trump to pardon accused and convicted war criminals. Here's how Fox talked about the cases over the last six months.

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE & GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On May 18, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump is considering issuing pardons for several American military members convicted or accused of war crimes, including Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, former Blackwater contractor Nicholas Slatten, and a group Marine Corps snipers who were charged with desecrating the corpses of dead Taliban fighters. This news came mere weeks after Trump pardoned Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, who was convicted of “unpremeditated murder in a combat zone” after killing a man he suspected was responsible for an attack on American soldiers.

    After the Times’ piece came out, The Daily Beast reported that Fox News host Pete Hegseth had been lobbying Trump for months about the expected pardons. Hegseth tweeted out that article, adding “#FreeEddie #FreeMatt #FreeClint” -- the last a reference to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who “was convicted in 2013 of ordering the murder of two Afghan civilians who his own soldiers said posed no threat,” The Daily Beast noted. At no point did Media Matters identify Hegseth ever disclosing that he was privately lobbying Trump for pardons.

    In these cases:

    • Gallagher is charged with firing indiscriminately into crowds of civilians in Mosul, Iraq. Prosecutors say that Gallagher shot an elderly man carrying a jug of water and a girl wearing a flower-print hijab walking along a riverbank. Gallagher is also accused of fatally stabbing a teenage Islamic State fighter while another medic was tending to his wounds. A Twitter thread went viral about the charges against Gallagher, which were reported by members of his Navy SEAL team.

    • Golsteyn is charged with the murder of an alleged Taliban bomb maker in Afghanistan in 2010. Army Times reported, “Golsteyn allegedly told CIA interviewers [in 2011] that he and another soldier took the alleged bomb-maker off base, shot him and buried his remains. He also allegedly told the interviewers that on the night of the killing, he and two other soldiers dug up the body and burned it in a trash pit on base.” Golsteyn was “cleared of a law of armed conflict violation,” but an Army board found his conduct unbecoming of an officer. The Army then reopened the case after Golsteyn in 2016 told Fox News’ Special Report that he killed the man.

    • Lorance was found guilty in 2013 of second-degree murder of two civilians in Afghanistan. According to The Washington Post, the charging document against Lorance “accuses him of impeding the investigation by asking a soldier to falsely state in the incident report that the platoon could not examine the slain Afghans’ bodies because locals removed them shortly after the shooting.” The New York Times subsequently reported that nine members of his platoon testified against him at his trial, and several of them contradicted Lorance’s testimony in interviews. One of his subordinates told the Times that Lorance “was just so aggressive. One of the first things he said to us was, we are going to go in Gestapo-style with night raids, pull people out of houses, make them afraid of us.” Adam Linehan wrote in a 2017 op-ed in Task & Purpose that members of Lorance’s platoon testified that Lorance asked them to shoot a young child who attempted to retrieve the bodies; Linehan also noted, “When people like [retired Army Lt. Col. Allen] West and Sean Hannity, who has also been one of Lorance’s most vociferous supporters, declare that Lorance is innocent, they are also leveling an insidious accusation at the nine American soldiers whose testimonies helped put him behind bars.”

    • Slatten is a former security contractor with the Blackwater mercenary company who was found guilty of first-degree murder in December 2018 for his role in the September 2007 massacre of unarmed Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad, by several Blackwater employees. Fourteen Iraqis were killed and a further 18 were wounded in the unprovoked massacre, which prosecutors said Slatten initiated by being the first to fire. Slatten’s conviction was a long time in coming, with the first charges against him and other Blackwater members thrown out in 2009. The case was later picked up with new evidence and Slatten was convicted of murder in 2014. An appeals court overturned this first conviction and ordered a new trial for Slatten, which initially ended in a mistrial. According to prosecutors, Slatten had told members of his team that Iraqi “people’s lives are not worth anything” and “they’re not even humans, they are animals.” He also expressed no remorse for the killings in a September 2017 interview with USA Today, saying that the only massacre was “a massacre of justice” against him and calling himself “a POW in my own country.”

    Trump has previously given pardons following pleas on Fox News. In fact, the lawyer for the recipient of one of Trump’s earliest pardons even credited a Fox-centric strategy for the eventual pardon.

    Below is coverage from the last six months by Fox News figures of these cases in which Trump is reportedly considering pardons. Trump has tweeted about at least one of these segments, even tagging Hegseth.

    May 2019

    On the May 19 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Pete Hegseth aggressively endorsed potential pardons for Gallagher, Golsteyn, and Lorance, claiming that “these are the good guys.”

    • The conversation included Fox & Friends Weekend co-hosts Ed Henry, Jedediah Bila, and Hegseth.

    • Hegseth argued that the three service members “made tough calls on a moment’s notice” and are “not war criminals. They're warriors who have now been accused of certain things that are under review.” Hegseth also added that it’s “very heartening” to him that the president might pardon them.

    • Hegseth also deadnamed whistleblower Chelsea Manning, referring to her with her birth name rather than her affirming name. Like misgendering, which is labeling someone “as a gender other than one that a person identifies with,” deadnaming is a disrespectful practice that invalidates a trans person’s identity.

    On the May 14 edition, America’s Newsroom hosted Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, who argued that her husband “has endured a lot of suffering at the hands of the military and the United States government.”​

    During the May 14 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade expressed remorse about Gallagher’s trial because he is a “Navy SEAL who has already given so much to this country,” and co-host Ainsley Earhardt called him “a decorated hero” who “served our country.”

    • Kilmeade, Earhardt, and co-host Steve Doocy discussed Gallagher’s case.

    • While describing the Gallagher case, Kilmeade minimized the accusations, simply saying that during “his ninth tour, he got in some trouble -- got in some legal trouble.”

    • Kilmeade also commended Gallagher for having “sacrificed so much time away from his family” and serving eight tours.

    Earlier on the May 14 edition of Fox & Friends, Gallagher’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, accused prosecutors of withholding evidence.

    • Kilmeade said that “it must be painful within the military community to prosecute somebody that’s given so much to this country whether there was misconduct or not,” but he argued that Gallagher has been “brutally” treated and condemned prosecutors for “trying to take down one their own.”

    On the May 7 edition of Fox and Friends, Fox host Pete Hegseth defended Behenna after his pardon, claiming “they knew” the man Behenna killed was “the guy that killed the two Americans” but just “didn’t have enough evidence.”

    • Hegseth discussed Behenna’s case with Fox & Friends co-hosts Earhardt, Doocy, and Kilmeade.

    • Hegseth claimed that “ultimately, this is a platoon leader trying to keep his guys safe,” and said Behenna shouldn’t have gotten any prison time.

    • Hegseth complained that “the Army overprosecutes” war crimes and brought up Lorance, Golsteyn, and Gallagher as other examples, saying it was “wonderful” that the president is considering pardons.

    • Hegseth again deadnamed whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

    April 2019

    On the April 27 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Hegseth questioned whether charging military personnel for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice may show a lack of “understanding the complexity of combat.”

    • Hegseth mentioned that military personnel are facing charges for their alleged misconduct while interviewing a war veteran who became a journalist.

    • Hegseth said: “There’s a lot of complex cases -- we cover them on the show. Matt Golsteyn, a Green Beret who’s facing charges; Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who‘s facing charges. Is there -- you know, are we not fully understanding the complexity of combat in some of those cases?”

    On the April 25 edition of Premiere Radio Network’s The Sean Hannity Show, Gallagher’s brother pleaded for donations to his defense fund and argued that he should not be tried for war crimes. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) compared Gallagher’s prosecution to the “corrupt” courts going after Trump.

    • Hannity interviewed Gallagher's brother Sean and then discussed the case with Hunter.

    • Hannity: “When you get to the actual investigations, a lot of it sounds like SEAL talk, maybe the best equivalent would be locker room talk.”

    • Hannity mockingly read The New York Times’ description of Galagher’s crimes, which included “stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death, picking off school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost, indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.”

    • Sean Gallagher then came on to defend his brother and ask for donations. He made his case by saying that “either you believe that this country is worth fighting for, and you want men to go kill bad men oversees, or you don’t. If you do, then Eddie is a hero.” He also said that we should “send all the lawyers to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    • Sean Gallagher said the “system is broken.” He also said that the charges against his brother are “political” and meant to “send a message” and that they’re throwing “Eddie under the bus.”

    On the April 13 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Henry asked why “our American heroes” are “falling victim now to military prosecutors.” The on-screen chyron read: “The prosecution of America’s heroes.”

    • The segment included co-hosts Henry and Hegseth as well as guest Don Brown, who is a member of Lorance’s defense team.

    • Hegseth started the interview by saying that when he was in combat, he “had to make some of the very same decisions [as Lorance did] at the split moment. … Yet he’s charged with murder. Why?” In response, Brown said the “rules of engagement” changed under former President Barack Obama and now they “favor the Taliban over Americans.”

    • Brown chastised the “left-wing military justice system” and called on Trump “to take action.” He asserted that Lorance is “guilty of nothing except for being a red-blooded American patriot.”

    • Brown also deadnamed whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

    On the April 12 edition of Fox News @ Night, anchor Shannon Bream’s guest, a retired U.S. Marine Corps bomb technician, complained about the cases.

    • Bream’s guest during the segment was Johnny Joey Jones, a retired U.S. Marine Corps bomb technician.

    • Without mentioning the men by name, Jones mentioned “two high-profile cases of a Navy SEAL and, I believe, an Army Ranger or Green Beret on trial,” saying that they are on trial “even with storied and honored careers.”

    • Jones complained about the “idea that we need someone else to hold our men and women accountable,” referring to the United States’ laws regarding charging troops convicted of war crimes. He added, “That doesn’t sit well with us, and especially when we’re the ones out trying to enforce some sort of justice in the world for the things that have happened to our country.”

    On the April 12 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, anchor Sandra Smith hosted Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, who made a direct appeal to Trump.

    • Smith hosted guests Andrea Gallagher and Nine Line Apparel CEO Tyler Merritt

    • Merritt claimed there is a video with exculpatory evidence; he said Gallagher is fighting “a giant.” He continued: “If this crime was committed in Chicago, maybe he would be free and at home with his family. But we allow people to create and incite race riots, but they’re found not guilty. And you have an individual, a Navy SEAL, where you just watch the video, he is not guilty.”

    • Smith listed restrictions on Gallagher and asked his wife how hard it is for her family. She said, “It’s tantamount to confinement. … In civilian terms, it’s obstruction of justice.”

    • Gallagher said: “I just want to let the president know he is being lied to. There is corruption from the top down involved in this. … We have been tortured endlessly. … We need the president to take a good hard look.”

    On the April 2 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity downplayed accusations made against Gallagher, characterizing his actions as “a mistake” and blaming Obama’s “rules of engagement.”

    • Hannity interviewed Don Brown, a member of Lorance’s legal team, and played clips of Lorance’s mother pleading with Obama to pardon her son.

    • Hannity complained that “we’re going to send men and women out to fight for our country and ... then we’re going to try them if they make a split-second decision.” He asked why anybody would want to fight for our country “under these rules.” He sarcastically added, “Appreciate you serving our country. Sorry you made a mistake.”

    • Later in the same show, he again framed alleged war crimes by saying the perpetrators had to “make a split-second decision” and complaining that “men and women in the battle field that are being second guessed.” He also claimed to have new evidence that exonerates Lorance. Hannity asserted that Lorance is “not guilty of anything” and asked Brown if the president is aware of Lorance’s case. Brown responded that he knows “a guy named Sean Hannity who could walk it over there to him.”

    March 2019

    On the March 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Kilmeade interviewed Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, and brother, Sean, who complained that Gallagher’s treatment “is abhorrent” especially after he “fought for our country bravely and steadfastly.”

    • Kilmeade asked Andrea Gallagher what her husband’s life is like and noted that he had been kept in a “prison for sexual offenders.” Kilmeade also expressed outrage that Gallagher had been “forced to go over these hurdles” in preparing for the trial.

    • Kilmeade complimented Andrea and Sean Gallagher for being “two fighters on the outside” making sure Edward Gallagher is released and added that he “hopefully [has] one in the White House.”

    On the March 29 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Jillian Mele discussed Gallagher’s case with Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who said that he took an interest about the case after it appeared on Fox News, and had since met with Sean and Andrea Gallagher several times. Both Mele and Norman extensively praised Edward Gallagher.

    • Right Wing Watch has since reported that Norman told Breitbart radio that he spoke with Trump shortly after the March 29 appearance on Fox.

    On the March 22 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts interviewed Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a former Navy SEAL who argued that Gallagher’s treatment by federal officials “doesn’t seem like the proper way to treat somebody who served our country for so long.”

    • Crenshaw was discussing Gallagher’s case with co-host Doocy and guest co-hosts Henry and Bila.

    February 2019

    On a February 26 edition of Fox Nation's Deep Dive, the panel defended Gallagher and criticized the military's rules of engagement.

    • The panel included The Wall Street Journal's James Freeman, Fox host Hegseth, Fox contributor Judith Miller, and former Navy SEAL Rob O'Neill.

    • When Hegseth was confronted with the possibility that people in the military want the laws of war to be followed, Hegseth responded that “if only our enemies ever followed any laws at all.” He added that in war, leaders have to make a “tough call” and that he chooses to give guys like Gallagher the “benefit of the doubt.”

    • O'Neill criticized the Navy SEALs who testified against Gallagher, calling it “disgusting” to “see someone else on the same team testify against someone in combat.”

    On the February 14 edition of The Story, host Martha MacCallum reported on recent updates on Goldsteyn’s case, interviewing Goldsteyn’s attorney, Phillip Stackhouse.

    On the February 13 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Kilmeade introduced the segment on Goldsteyn by saying he went from “former military hero and decorated Green Beret to enemy of the state.”

    • The segment featured Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a lawmaker looking into the case, and Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Hegseth. The segment also included a pre-recorded interview between Hegseth and Goldsteyn and his wife, Julie.

    • Hunter reduced Goldsteyn’s alleged conduct to simply “killing bad guys the wrong way.” Hunter chastised what he called “compassionate combat” in which the government wants the troops “to kill the bad guys but in the right way, meaning they want us to kill guys compassionately and only under the rules of engagement that they say to.”

    • Co-host Earhardt expressed shock that a person can be tried for making a “mistake” and killing “a bad guy.” Hegseth claimed that he had to engage in “catch-and-release” practices while overseas to adhere to Obama’s rules of engagement.

    On the February 11 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, anchor Bill Hemmer mentioned a prior Fox interview of Golsteyn before interviewing Gallagher’s brother Sean.

    • Sean Gallagher said that “while the details are different” in the cases of Gallagher and Golsteyn, “the absurdity of the system is just the same.” He also said there was no evidence against his brother.

    • Hemmer brought up Sean Gallagher’s FoxNews.com op-ed from February 7 in which he made a direct appeal to Trump to intervene.

    • Sean Gallagher attacked the Navy SEALs who reported the crime in the first place.

    On the February 8 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Kilmeade hosted Sean Gallagher to defend his brother Edward, mentioning a FoxNews.com op-ed in which Sean asked Trump to intervene in the case.

    • Opening the interview, Sean Gallagher said, “We need the intervention of the president of the United States.”

    • Kilmeade said, “You have to wonder what’s happening here, because you would think in the military they would understand what your brother and others are up against. … It’s the battlefield. Isn’t the goal to kill ISIS?”

    • Sean Gallagher compared charges against his brother to charges against Trump, saying both were frivolous.

    • Kilmeade added, “The president doesn’t usually let these things go by without commenting, so hopefully he weighs in and steps up and will do a lot of good for a lot of people.”

    On the February 6 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, reporter Lucas Tomlinson mentioned an anonymous Navy SEAL officer he spoke with who blamed “millennial SEALs” for the charges against Gallagher.

    January 2019

    On the January 4 edition of The Story, Fox played a clip of a Navy SEAL complimenting Gallagher and interviewed Gallagher’s brother Sean, who argued that accusations against Edward from within the SEALs come from “a couple of malcontents.”

    • Host Martha MacCallum discussed the case with Sean Gallagher and Edward Gallagher’s lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse.

    • Sean Gallagher claimed that the accusations against his brother are false and come from Navy SEALs who were upset after Edward Gallagher reprimanded them.

    • Sean Gallagher also argued that the “overzealous, out-of-control prosecution” is trying to “make a career out of taking down a Navy SEAL.”

    On the January 4 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Doocy complimented Edward Gallagher’s “extraordinary Navy SEAL resume” and explained that Gallagher told his brother that his last tour “was like a Game of Thrones situation.”

    • Sean Gallagher repeated his contention that the accusations against his brother stem from SEALs unhappy with how he treated them.

    • Sean Gallagher also argued, “There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that clears my brother, that exonerates him from all of these charges.”

    December 2018

    On the December 19 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, guest host Dan Bongino discussed the Golsteyn case with Golsteyn’s wife, Julie, and his father, Jerry.

    • Bongino used their appearance to complain that former POW Bowe Bergdahl’s family appeared in the Rose Garden with Obama.

    • Julie Golsteyn said that her husband was “under fire for doing his job.”

    • Jerry Golsteyn complained about “a group of people, sitting in an office somewhere, … decide that you did the right or wrong thing.”

    On the December 18 edition of Hannity, guest host Jeanine Pirro downplayed a murder charge against Golsteyn, and both her guests stated that Golsteyn had been right to kill a man in Afghanistan he suspected of being a bomb maker.

    • Pirro downplayed the charges against Golsteyn as “killing the enemy under circumstances that apparently his superiors don’t like.”

    • Both of Pirro’s guests, Fox military analyst David Hunt and retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, said that Golsteyn was right to kill a man in Afghanistan he suspected of being a bomb maker. Hunt said: “Absolutely. I’d have done it and do it again.”

    On December 17, Fox & Friends encouraged Trump to interfere in the case against Golsteyn.

    • The segment featured Rep.-elect Michael Waltz (R-FL).

    • Kilmeade introduced the segment by describing Golsteyn as “a once-decorated war hero who fought for our country overseas, now a suspected war criminal and a murderer.”

    • Waltz said that the U.S. is putting troops in an “impossible situation,” adding, “We’ve set these guys up for failure with the rules of engagement as they stand.” Earhardt added that Golsteyn “said he was defending Americans” and that “he had to kill him to defend his own people.” Waltz then brought up “the power of pardon,” referring to Trump’s earlier tweets promising to review Golsteyn’s case.

    On December 16, Fox & Friends Weekend warned of the “very dangerous precedent” set by prosecuting Golsteyn for premeditated murder.

    • Co-host Henry said prosecutors were “jumping on” an “American war hero” for being “honest and transparent.”

    • Fellow co-host Hegseth complained that Golsteyn was still charged with murder despite unrelated actions earning him “a Silver Star, potentially even a Distinguished Service Cross, which is one step below the Medal of Honor,” and he claimed Golsteyn's alleged war crime was due to a lack of “paperwork” and a “catch-and-release” policy with terrorists.

    • Co-host Bila said she heard from “a lot” of “outraged” members of the military who told her that “you have to be able to defend these people who stand up for us” and decried the “very dangerous precedent” set by Golsteyn’s prosecution.

    Also on the December 16 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, Golsteyn’s wife, Julie, said, “It is time for someone in Army leadership” to “step in and do the right thing” for her husband.

    • Opening the interview, co-host Hegseth said, “Thank you for your husband's service, thank you for your service.” Hegseth said he wanted to make sure that Julie Golsteyn knew “that we express that gratitude to you and your husband.”

    • After questioning whether the homicide Golsteyn is accused of was “cold-blooded murder,” Hegseth also agreed with Julie Golsteyn’s claim that the prosecution was “so disgusting” and claimed that “the rules of war get twisted” by “political leaders” so that “war heroes are being prosecuted like criminals.”

    • Julie Golsteyn said her husband “was lucky enough to survive war and has come home to be ripped apart by his own government and the Army leadership. So it is extremely disappointing and absolutely reprehensible what they have done to him … and it would be laughable, if it wasn't so serious and disgusting."

    • Julie Golsteyn also claimed her husband “did not confess to murder on television. He actually went on to Bret Baier to be an advocate for other men like Clint Lorance who are in prison for doing their jobs."

    On the December 4 edition of Fox host Sean Hannity’s radio show, Gallagher’s brother Sean dismissed the allegations against him as “concocted” “fabrications.”

    • Sean Gallagher claimed his brother's fellow SEALs “concocted these stories” of the murder of an ISIS prisoner because they didn’t like how he operated the platoon and said that the allegations were “fabrications.”

    Research by Bobby Lewis, Zachary Pleat, Brendan Karet, Alex Walker, John Whitehouse, and Tyler Monroe. Video by John Kerr.

  • After his Fox News town hall, network hosts launched a propaganda onslaught against Pete Buttigieg

    Fox hosts called Buttigieg a "clown," a "slippery demagogue," and "Pope Pete," and mischaracterized his positions

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    South Bend, IN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s performance at a Fox News town hall garnered rave reviews Sunday night from journalists and pundits, with some arguing that his successful turn proved that Democratic presidential candidates should be making on-air appeals to the network’s viewers.

    “This is exactly why Dems' refusal to debate on FOX is so self-defeating,” argued political analyst Jeff Greenfield. “Well-prepared candidates would have chapter and verse to offer, and on a live debate or town hall there's no way for FOX to block or distort their points.”

    What pundits who offer opinions like these are really demonstrating is that they do not understand what Fox is and how it operates. Appearing on the network did give Buttigieg the opportunity to speak directly to its audience. But the town hall does not exists in a vacuum; Fox is a right-wing propaganda machine that constantly pushes disinformation in order to damage progressives and help conservatives. And within hours -- after the commentariat had stopped watching Fox -- the network began smearing Buttigieg in an effort that will likely minimize any gains he might have made with its viewers.

    Fox & Friends, the Fox morning show beloved by President Donald Trump, devoted significant time on Monday to undermining Buttigieg’s presentation. Buttigieg is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan; co-host Brian Kilmeade presented him as trying to undermine American patriotism, calling him a “clown” who wants to “erase our country’s history” for arguing that the Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinners should be renamed for people who didn’t own slaves. The candidate received a warm response from the town hall attendees; Kilmeade bizarrely claimed the crowd was enthusiastic only because it was stacked with his friends and relatives. Buttigieg is a gifted communicator; the program sliced and diced his town hall answers into a clip reel of disjointed quotes which the co-hosts warned prove he is a “very progressive” radical. “He had some interesting comments last night, sounds like a nice guy, but do you agree with his policies?” co-host Ainsley Earhardt said at one point before rattling off a misinformation-laden litany of Buttigieg’s purported positions.

    This onslaught will almost certainly continue throughout the day and into the night, when the network’s stars perform for an audience that will surely be much greater than Buttigieg’s. (UPDATE 5/21: Indeed, on their Monday evening programs, Tucker Carlson described Buttigieg as a “slippery demagogue,” Sean Hannity introduced a clip from the town hall by telling his audience to “take a look at this stupid proposal,” and Laura Ingraham mocked Buttigieg’s Christian faith.) That was also the trajectory Fox’s coverage tracked after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)  partnered with the network for a town hall recently.

    No matter how persuasive the candidates might be, they can’t reverse years of propaganda in a single evening. Fox’s programming is extremely effective, and the network has spent decades priming its audience to hate Democrats. To the extent that regular Fox viewers were tuning in to Buttigieg’s town hall, he had an opportunity to speak to them. But now that he’s no longer on their airwaves, Fox’s hosts, who have a much more extensive and durable relationship with their audience, get to rebut everything he said for hours on end. This suggests that any support Buttigieg gained from Fox’s viewers during the town hall will be ephemeral at best.

    Fox, on the other hand, reaped dramatic benefits from Democratic participation in its town halls. Because of both the network’s role as a malevolent force that shills for the president and the volatility and bigotry of its stars, Fox entered the spring in a state of crisis as advertisers fled the network for safer harbors. But these town halls allow the network to rebrand itself and thus make the case to advertisers that it is safe to return.

    As Fox faced disaster, Democratic presidential candidates bailed it out. And now the network will pay them back by doing whatever it can to undermine their message and ensure their defeat.  

  • GOP payments, Trump venues, conflicts of interest: Fox figures’ speeches have been an ethical disaster

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Click here to access a PDF version of this report.

    For years, Fox employees have spoken at events for conservative groups and Republican Party organizations, using their cable news celebrity to help those organizations raise money and gain publicity.

    According to a new Media Matters analysis, Fox figures have taken more than $500,000 from Republican Party groups to speak at events. They have interviewed Republicans officials shortly after co-headlining events with them. And they have financially helped President Donald Trump by keynoting speeches on Trump properties.

    Here are five takeaways from an examination of speeches by Fox figures over the years:

    • Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Greg Gutfeld, Sean Hannity, Pete Hegseth, Laura Ingraham, and Jeanine Pirro have received over $500,000 combined in speaking fees from Republican groups while working at the network.
    • Members of Fox's purported "news" division, such as anchor Shannon Bream and Fox News Senior Vice President of business news Neil Cavuto, have also headlined conservative events, including alongside Republican officials. In one instance, Bream spoke at a conference that also featured then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (whom she later interviewed on her program).
    • Fox News employees have spoken at events that have financially benefited President Donald Trump. For instance, Chris Stirewalt -- a member of Fox’s “news” division -- spoke at an event for the petroleum industry at Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. And Jeanine Pirro has done events in which the proceeds went to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida.
    • Republican groups paying Fox News hosts has unsurprisingly created numerous conflicts of interest. For instance, Pete Hegseth repeatedly interviewed then-Senate candidate John James after headling a fundraiser with the Michigan Republican; and Pirro interviewed Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) the day after appearing with him at a fundraiser.
    • Three Fox News hosts -- Brian Kilmeade, Pete Hegseth, and Shannon Bream -- have cancelled speeches at conservative events this year following Media Matters reporting.

    (Media Matters obtained speaking fees through searches of various government campaign finance databases. The fees were either paid to the Fox figures or to their speaking bureaus.) 

    Here are more than 50 notable examples of Fox News speeches since 2007: 

    2007-2016

    November 1, 2007. Sean Hannity speaks at a fundraising event for the Alachua County Republican Party in Florida, reportedly receiving $75,000. The GOP group’s website stated at the time that Hannity would “broadcast the Sean Hannity half of Hannity and Colmes via satellite from the Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans BBQ. We had lobbied the powers that be that control such thing because it will greatly de-compress the day and the event. They informed us a few days ago that we got our wish. After the reception and during the main event, the reception hall at Canterbury Equestrian Showplace will get turned in to a mini TV studio. The[re] will be no audience in the reception hall, during Hannity and Colmes. … We will be broadcasting Hannity and Colmes on our big screens in the arena.”

    August 2, 2008. Fox News Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon says in a speech aboard a cruise for Hillsdale College that he lied repeatedly during the closing days of the 2008 presidential campaign when he speculated on-air "about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism." The remarks were unearthed by Media Matters three years later and caused major embarrassment for the network.

    April 15, 2009. Fox News hosts Neil Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity attend tea party rallies across the country, with the network labeling them “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” Beck and Van Susteren are no longer with the network, but Cavuto, in addition to hosting programs on Fox News and Fox Business, “oversees business news content for both networks” as its senior vice president and managing editor of business news.  

    March 23, 2010. Hannity keynotes a fundraising dinner for the National Republican Congressional Committee. The GOP group stated that it “raised over $7 million” for the annual event.

    April 15, 2010. Hannity plans to broadcast his Fox News program from a Tea Party rally in Cincinnati but Fox News executives force him to abandon his plans. The Cincinnati Enquirer first reported on the event, and Media Matters added additional reporting and criticism before Hannity’s appearance was cancelled. Though Fox News executives were reportedly angry with Hannity, the Times later reported, “While there have been post-mortem discussions about the incident, it does not appear that they have resulted in any serious disciplinary measures taken against any staffers involved.”

    September 25, 2010. Tucker Carlson -- then a Fox News contributor -- reportedly speaks at an event hosted by the Moore County Republican Party in North Carolina, receiving $10,000.

    March 29, 2011. Carlson speaks at a fundraising event for the Lane County Republican Party in Oregon, receiving $23,500.

    May 25, 2011. Then-Fox News contributor Dick Morris speaks a fundraising event for the Oakland County Republican Party in Michigan. He would later treat GOP donors to a tour of Fox News and tapings of Lou Dobbs Tonight and Hannity.

    March 9, 2012. Morris speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Lake County in Florida and auctions off a personal guided tour of Fox News' New York studios for GOP donors. Fox News “reprimanded” Morris following Media Matters’ report.

    February 7, 2013. Ingraham speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Palm Beach County at Mar-A-Lago, FL, receiving $12,500. Trump introduced Ingraham.

    July 1, 2014. Media Matters releases a report documenting 15 Fox News hosts and contributors who have campaigned in the past few years with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. The Fox employees include current Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Greg Gutfeld, Laura Ingraham, Charles Payne, and Dana Perino.

    February 21, 2015. Jeanine Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee, receiving $20,000.

    May 4, 2015. Ingraham speaks at an event for then-Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Blackburn became a senator in 2019.

    February 11, 2016. Ingraham speaks at a fundraising event for the Sangamon County Republican Central Committee in Illinois, receiving $12,500.

    March 20, 2016. Ingraham speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Palm Beach County at Mar-A-Lago. Trump, who was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination then, also spoke at the event.

    May 5, 2016. Brian Kilmeade speaks at an event for the Queens Village Republican Club in New York.

    May 13, 2016. Carlson -- then a co-host on Fox & Friends Weekend -- speaks at an event for the Republican Party of Arkansas, receiving $23,500.


    Photo from the Republican Party of Arkansas' Facebook page

    2017

    January, February, and March: Jeanine Pirro receives a “speaker’s fee” payment of $5,000 each month, for a total of $15,000, from the New Jersey Republican State Committee for an unspecified event.

    January 26. Pete Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Brazos County in Texas, receiving $5,000.

    February 18. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Kent County Republican Committee in Delaware, receiving $12,000.

    March 4. Lou Dobbs speaks at a fundraising event for the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee in Florida, receiving $25,000.

    March 9. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Erie County Republican Committee in New York, receiving $7,579.34.

    March 13. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Georgia Republican Party, receiving $15,000.

    March 20. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth in Pennsylvania, receiving $5,284.

    March 31. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Bonneville County GOP in Idaho, receiving $14,000.

    April 21. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Snohomish County Republican Central Committee in Washington, receiving $5,547.60.  

    July 28. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Arkansas, receiving $15,000.

    July 29. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Larimer County Republican Party in Colorado, receiving $5,000  

    September 21. Host Greg Gutfeld speaks at a fundraising event for the Washington State Republican Party, receiving $36,609.41.

    October 8. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Volusia County Republican Party in Florida, receiving $20,000.

    October 13. Cavuto speaks at an event for the conservative and Koch-funded Washington Policy Center alongside Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

    October 17. Ingraham speaks at a “campaign kickoff event” for then-Senate candidate Kelli Ward (R) in Arizona. The New York Times reported, “Fox News hosts are not usually allowed to stump for candidates, but Ms. Ingraham was granted an exception because her show had not yet begun.”

    October 21. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the California Republican Party, receiving $20,000.

    November 2. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Montgomery County Republican Women's PAC in Texas, receiving $6,500.

    November 9. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Alachua County Republican Party in Florida, receiving $15,000.

    December 6. Hannity speaks and accepts an award at a United in Purpose luncheon hosted by Ginni Thomas at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

    2018

    January 18. Pirro speaks at an event for the Trumpettes USA club at Mar-a-Lago. The Washington Post reported that “the event followed the format of a Palm Beach charity ball — without the charity. [Trumpettes co-founder Toni Holt] Kramer was clear that the money would all go to the president's club.”

    February 8. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Sangamon County Republican Central Committee in Illinois, receiving $13,250.

    February 17. Gutfeld speaks at an event for the Morris County Republican Committee Fundraiser at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey, reportedly receiving $30,000.

    February 23. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Alabama Republican Executive Committee, receiving $10,600.

    March 5. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News’ politics editor who “helps coordinate political coverage across Fox platforms,” gives a keynote speech at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., for the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) spoke at the gathering the following day.  

    March 16. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Kern County Republican Central Committee in California that also features then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Pirro, who received $25,000 for speaking at the event, would interview McCarthy the following the day on her Fox News program without disclosing the payment.

    May 17. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Benton County Republican Central Committee in Washington, receiving $8,500.

    May 24. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Livingston County Republican Party in Michigan with then-Republican Senate candidate John James. Hegseth, who received $10,239.55 for the engagement, would later interview James on Fox & Friends Weekend on July 28, September 9, October 14, and October 28, without disclosing his financial conflict of interest.

    June 28. Hannity speaks at a Manhattan Republican Party event honoring him.

    June 30. Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes speaks alongside Republican officials at a fundraising event for the Fayette County Republican Party in Tennessee. Starnes has also worked as an anchor and reporter for Fox News Radio.

    July 2. Hannity participates in campaign rallies for two Florida Republicans: gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and congressional candidate Rep. Matt Gaetz.

    August 11. Shannon Bream speaks at the conservative Steamboat Institute’s 10th Annual Freedom Conference & Festival and praised the recently passed GOP tax bill and said that Trump has been “rolling back regulations that we've heard from businesses, from the IRS to the EPA, have made it tougher for them to survive and be profitable in America.” Bream made the remarks despite stating that she’s “in the news division” and doesn’t “have an opinion publicly.” Then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also appeared at the conference; Bream interviewed Zinke on her show in November.

    October 10. Pirro speaks at an event for Scott Wagner for Governor (R) in Pennsylvania, receiving $35,000.

    November 5. Hannity and Pirro both appear and speak at a campaign rally with Trump ahead of the midterm elections. The network responded by falsely claiming it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events.”

    2019

    January 17. The Williamson County Republican Party in Tennessee announces that “Brian Kilmeade will not be speaking at” its February 16 “Reagan Day due to scheduling conflicts.” Media Matters had earlier that month criticized the Fox & Friends host for agreeing to participate in the partisan fundraiser.

    January 24. The Bridgeport Republican Town Committee in Connecticut announces that Pete Hegseth will no longer be speaking at its April 25 fundraiser “due to circumstances beyond our control.” The cancellation came a day after Media Matters reported on the event.

    February 23. Pirro again headlines a Trumpettes USA party at Mar-a-Lago that benefits Trump’s club, as The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reported.

    March 22: The James Madison Institute announces that Shannon Bream has cancelled her speech at its April 3 fundraiser. Media Matters had previously reported on the event, noting that Bream belongs to Fox’s “news” division yet was scheduled to speak at the fundraiser for the Koch-linked group alongside Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

    May 31. Fox Nation host and Fox News contributor David Webb is scheduled to emcee a fundraising event for the Belknap County Republican Committee in New Hampshire. Webb has also emceed the committee’s events in previous years.

  • Conservative media downplay the Trump administration's unprecedented stonewalling of congressional oversight

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    As legal experts, historians, and Democratic lawmakers have sounded the alarm over President Donald Trump’s blanket obstruction of congressional oversight of his presidency -- suggesting we have reached or are approaching a constitutional crisis -- Trump’s conservative media allies are brazenly misrepresenting the arguments and suggesting everything boils down to a fight over the Mueller report, claiming Trump’s obstruction is normal, and ridiculing Democrats for speaking out.

  • NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch says "psychotropic drugs" may be to blame for school shootings

    On Fox, Loesch echoed a right-wing myth pushed by conspiracy theory sites like Infowars

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    National Rifle Association spokesperson and NRATV host Dana Loesch blamed the recent school shooting in Highlands Ranch, CO, on “psychotropic drugs” -- a common talking point from right-wing conspiracy theory outlets such as Infowars.  

    On May 7, one student was killed and eight others injured when two shooters opened fire in STEM School Highlands Ranch. Two students, Brendan Bialy and Kendrick Castillo, reportedly tried to tackle the alleged shooters with the help of an unidentified third student. Castillo was shot as he rushed one of the attackers and died at the hospital.

    Shortly after the shooting, Loesch went on Fox News to accuse gun safety activists of politicizing the tragedy because of their tweets condemning gun violence. Loesch returned to Fox on May 9, appearing on Fox & Friends to offer as possible causes for the Highlands Ranch school shooting a lack of “respect for life,” a lack of “boundaries for our youth,” and a lack of “that solid family home.”She went on to suggest “psychotropic drugs” as a possible reason for the uptick in school shootings, claiming one of the gunmen was “abusing illegal drugs”:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): What is the problem? You said there is “a heart problem” in our country. How do we prevent this from happening again?

    DANA LOESCH (NRA SPOKESPERSON): You know, Kendrick is the same age as my oldest son. And I understand Kendrick Castillo is graduating this week and my oldest son is graduating this week. So, you know, as a mother you look every single kid out there -- and you know this, Ainsley, every single kid out there is your own child. And it makes me so angry his life was taken so prematurely from him by someone so evil and so horrendous. And I think that’s -- I wish that is the discussion we could have in this country.

    There is something wrong with our youth, everybody. There is something that is happening in our culture because we have always had firearms, but we have never had this many incidents. We also have more restrictive laws and more regulations. I mean, Colorado has a lot of gun laws. We have a number of things that are taking place. But what we are lacking is a respect for life. What we are lacking are clear boundaries for our youth. We're lacking that solid family home, and I don't know if all of this or if some of this playing into why we keep seeing individuals reacting this way.

    Is it psychotropic drugs? We know a couple of things that one of the individuals apparently, according to reports in law enforcement, had been abusing illegal drugs and was in therapy. If we’re gonna discuss warning signs, how about that? They stole two handguns, they're illegal to carry and possess by people under age 21. And I hope, by the way, that more people check out the NRA School Shield program so we can get more armed security guards in some more of these schools so that we can prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

    Blaming shootings on “psychotropic” and “psychiatric drugs” instead of access to firearms is a favorite talking point of the right-wing conspiracy theory outlet Infowars. The website has attempted to blame mass shootings in Las Vegas, NV, Parkland, FL, and Jacksonville, FL, on the shooters’ reported medications.  

    In reality, people struggling with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators. According to Duke University professor Jeffrey Swanson, a leading researcher on violence and mental health, “If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, that would be wonderful, but overall violence would go down by only about 4 percent.” As Julia Fast, an expert in bipolar disorder, wrote in Psychology Today:

    It’s not a chicken or the egg problem. There is the mental health concern and then there are drugs as a response, not a cause. The NRA and other gun rights lobby groups are conveniently skipping the most important part of the problem: the shooters are on drugs because there were signs that something was not right in their brains from the beginning.

  • Fox & Friends falsely compares the House vote to hold Bill Barr in contempt to the contempt vote for Eric Holder. But Holder actually tried to satisfy subpoenas.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    After the House Judiciary Committee recently voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian election interference, Fox & Friends falsely equated the situation to House Republicans' 2012 contempt vote against former Attorney General Eric Holder. But Holder had attempted to satisfy Congress’ overly broad subpoena requests, including with document production, in contrast with Barr.

    The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt on May 8 after Barr defied a subpoena, his latest action stymying Congress’ look into the results of Mueller’s investigation. After receiving the report from Mueller, Barr went to great lengths to pre-spin the results -- spin that Mueller himself complained to Barr “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the report. Barr missed the House’s first deadline to turn over the full Mueller report by April 2 and two weeks later gave Congress only the redacted report that was also released to the public. In a letter, Barr informed the chairs of the Senate and House judiciary committees that he would provide a “less-redacted” version of the Mueller report only to the chairs and ranking members of those committees and the “Gang of Eight.” The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for the full, unredacted Mueller report and underlying materials on April 19. On May 2, Barr also refused to testify to the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee about the Mueller report, citing his objection to the plan to have lawyers ask questions.

    Barr’s repeated attempts to frustrate Congress’ access to the findings of the Mueller report are in stark contrast with how Holder attempted to comply with Republicans’ congressional subpoena about an ATF operation in 2011. The deputy attorney general at the time explained to Congress the “extraordinary lengths” the Department of Justice went to in an attempt satisfy the Republicans’ subpoena. According to the DOJ, it had satisfied the vast majority of the subpoena’s questions before their June 2012 contempt vote. And the Obama White House explained in 2012 that the DOJ had produced thousands of documents and testified at 11 congressional hearings.

    But in its May 9 discussion of the contempt vote against Barr, Fox & Friends ignored this disparity between Holder’s attempts to cooperate with congressional investigations and Barr’s outright obstruction.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Let’s talk a little bit about what happened yesterday in the House of Representatives. House Judiciary Committee voted to hold the attorney general of the United States, William Barr, in contempt of Congress. It now goes to the full House.

    ...

    DOOCY: Remember when Eric Holder was held in contempt by the full House back in 2012? Listen to some members of the media, what they were talking about regarding Eric Holder and Fast and Furious. He refused documents as well. But, the media back in 2012 sounds exactly like a lot of Republicans today.

    ...

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): So is it amazing to you that the same people with mildly different hairstyles have taken the opposite position four years later?

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): When it was Holder, how could they? Adam Schiff said this is partisan abuse. You know what he is saying now with Barr? What he said yesterday? We had no choice.