Candace Owens | Media Matters for America

Candace Owens

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  • "We want you here": Turning Point USA bans anti-Semitic YouTuber from event only because of “the optics"

    TPUSA is fine with bigotry, just not with looking like bigots

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. , MADELINE PELTZ & BRENDAN KARET


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Turning Point USA, the pro-Trump grift masquerading as a conservative college organization, has made it clear that it doesn’t reject anti-Semitism.

    TPUSA, which raises funds off of Fox fearmongering about the liberalization of college campuses, is hosting its Young Black Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., from October 25 to October 28. The group is leveraging the coziness between founder Charlie Kirk and the first family by having Donald Trump Jr. speak at an event and scoring participants a visit to the White House complete with an address from the president.

    Referring to the ongoing summit, Bryan Sharpe -- who is known online as “Hotep Jesus” -- claimed on October 25 that he had been banned from TPUSA events. Sharpe has a record of expressing anti-Semitic views (which didn’t keep him from appearing on Fox’s The Ingraham Angle to attack Starbucks for holding a racial bias training), and he has appeared on the explicitly white supremacist Red Ice TV. He also once said, “I’d rather align with a racist white than a cry baby Black.”

    Sharpe later posted a Periscope video in which TPUSA Director of Urban Engagement Brandon Tatum explained to him the reason he couldn’t be in TPUSA events: “the optics of the anti-Semitic rhetoric.” Tatum cited concerns that Sharpe’s record of anti-Semitic rhetoric could be reported by the press if he was in attendance. Tatum added, “You’re a grown-ass man -- I can’t force you out of here. But I want you to understand where we are coming from. You understand?” He summarized TPUSA’s position as being “between a rock and a hard place” because while “personally, none of us have a problem with you -- we want you here. It’s the optics. The media.”

    The transparently cynical concern Tatum articulated -- not with bigotry but with the appearance of bigotry, -- is consistent with TPUSA’s record of embracing extremism but rejecting accountability for it. TPUSA might have banned Sharpe from its events, but its communications director, Candace Owens, personally reached out privately to him to smooth things out, according to Sharpe. As reported by the Miami New Times, members of a TPUSA chapter were OK with racial slurs in their online chats as long as they weren’t used too often. At a different TPUSA conference, an attendee was filmed praising Nazi Germany. And when TPUSA fired an employee for writing "I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all. ... I hate blacks," the organization’s replacement hire had previously said, "I love making racist jokes."

  • Republicans have already empowered gangs and extremist groups

    From the Proud Boys to Turning Point USA, extremists are ascendant on the right, but legacy media are too often playing catch-up

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Let's be clear about the state of things. A well-connected sitting congressman endorsed a neo-Nazi for political office, and it wasn't the first time this sort of thing happened. To the contrary, GOP candidates across the country have links to white nationalists. The GOP president -- who is the undisputed center of the party -- is a former game show host whose administration has repeatedly defended violent extremists. And his son has even appeared on a white nationalist show. The debate is over. The extremists have taken over the party.

    And yet, legacy media outlets are too often caught completely unaware.

    On October 12, the Metropolitan Republican Club hosted Gavin McInnes, founder of the self-identified “gang” Proud Boys. During the event, McInnes re-enacted the violent 1960 murder of Japanese socialist party leader Inejiro Asanuma. After McInnes' appearance, a number of Proud Boys were taped nearby brutally beating and kicking several individuals” and shouting homophobic slurs at protesters. Videos show "more than a dozen" Proud Boys, including at least three skinheads, punching and kicking protesters on the ground.

    In response, The New York Times has covered McInnes' exploits with kid gloves and reduced his extremism to mere provocation. Just look how thrilled white supremacist Ann Coulter was with the piece:

    The Times’ irresponsible description of McInnes as simply a "far-right provocateur" is already memorialized on Wikipedia, potentially the most widely read source of information by audiences that might never have heard of him before. As Jacob Weindling wrote, "You can quote Gavin McInnes directly while describing events that happened and get a harsher description of McInnes than the NYT wrote. ... I don't know how you can call the beginning of this article anything other than white nationalist propaganda."

    Weindling is correct. Just look at McInnes’ speech to the Manhattan Republican Club, in which he told Republicans that they need Proud Boys as “foot soldiers," because of what they have in common. Or look at what McInnes said on his podcast on October 14, when he defended the use of anti-LGBTQ slurs.

    And this characterization matters. While the Times is describing McInnes as a "provocateur," and NBC News is portraying the Proud Boys as a "nationalist movement," the reality is that we're in far more dangerous territory. As Daily Beast reporter Kelly Weill noted, by making alliances with groups like the Proud Boys, “mainstream Republicans can sort of outsource the political and physical violence that they’d like to enact against opponents.”

    And McInnes is not an isolated figure: He and the Proud Boys are deeply entwined in right-wing media. McInnes was a contributor to Fox News for eight years, appearing on Sean Hannity’s show at least 24 times. In 2017, Hannity hosted another Proud Boy with ties to the violent white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally to discuss political violence. Fox host Mark Levin has given McInnes two shows on his online outlet CRTV, where McInnes has pushed extremist bigotry like promoting men’s rights activism, calling female journalists “colostomy bag for various strangers’ semen,” and glorifying violence and fighting. Fox host Tucker Carlson happily posed with Roger Stone and two Proud Boys in a Fox green room and “declined to disavow” the group when asked about it. McInnes shows up on right-wing radio and on right-wing YouTube. In an era in which the right-wing is doing everything it can to suppress opposition, it's no wonder that the Proud Boys are now part of the Republican machine.

    It's not just the Proud Boys, either.

    On the October 17 edition of Today, NBC gave a platform to Identity Evropa -- a white supremacist group actively seeking to rebrand its racism as identitarianism. The network referred to Identity Evropa as a “fringe group,” yet NBC still gave its leaders a softball interview on a show that consistently reaches the coveted demographic of adults ages 25-54; its affiliated channel MSNBC also aired segments featuring the group and other white supremacists.

    NBC’s Peter Alexander played into Identity Evropa's obsession with “optics” and rejection of “anti-social behavior” by remarking on how “clean cut” its representatives look. The segment allowed the white supremacist organization to expand its reach beyond YouTube and social media to recruit followers and promote its talking points, which include blatantly pushing white nationalism using the Republican Party as a vehicle. The group's leader was thrilled was the exposure.

    It's clear that the communications wing of the GOP has no problem with these groups.

    On October 16, Fox News host Laura Ingraham invited Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson on her show for a softball interview. Patriot Prayer is a far-right coalition whose membership overlaps with the Proud Boys and whose unity relies on their common “hatred for the left.” Gibson has personally encouraged his followers to instigate violence, promising that counterprotesters “are going to feel the pain.” Ingraham's interview conveniently ignored a report by The Oregonian that the group had "a cache of guns" including "long guns" on a rooftop in Portland, OR, before a summer protest. That's where we are: One of the president's favorite television hosts did a friendly interview with the type of person whose group sets up a cache of guns during a protest of that president.

    Fox also frequently hosts Turning Point USA’s most prominent members, Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, close allies of the president. Left unmentioned are the extremist views of TPUSA. The Miami New Times unearthed online chats from one TPUSA chapter that feature members warning each other about not using racial slurs too often, talking about "watching underage cartoon pornography and deporting Latina women," and sharing memes about "Syrian men raping a white Swedish woman at gunpoint." An attendee at a TPUSA conference was filmed praising Nazi Germany. And when TPUSA pushed out the person who wrote "I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all. ... I hate blacks," the replacement was someone who said, "I love making racist jokes." Undeterred, Fox News hosts and top allies of the president happily attend TPUSA events, and TPUSA members openly raise money off of Fox segments that fearmonger about the liberalization of college campuses. It's quite the con.

    Or look at Fox host Tucker Carlson, an innovator in this space. Instead of mainstreaming an extremist group, Carlson is cutting out the middleman and mainstreaming men's rights and white supremacist propaganda himself.

    Make no mistake: People across America are seeing all of this and speaking up. But at some point, it'd be nice if the legacy media would notice too.

  • Following Trump's attack, conservatives call Ford a liar deserving of prison

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative media personalities are attacking Christine Blasey Ford following President Donald Trump’s attack on her at a political rally. Ford testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.

    Trump inspired a second wave of attacks from conservatives by mocking her public account of high school sexual assault at his October 2 political rally in Mississippi, as The Washington Post reported:

    President Trump mocked the account of a woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of assault and told a Mississippi crowd that the #MeToo movement was unfairly hurting men.

    Trump, in a riff that has been dreaded by White House and Senate aides, attacked the story of Christine Blasey Ford at length — drawing laughs from the crowd. The remarks were his strongest attacks yet of her testimony.

    “ ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ ‘Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it?’ ‘I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember,’ ” Trump said of Ford, as he impersonated her on stage.

    “I don’t remember,” he said repeatedly, apparently mocking her testimony.

    While three Republican senators criticized Trump’s denigration of Ford, other conservatives responded by defending Trump’s attack on her and doubling down with their own.

    Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: “BOOM! President Trump Mocks Christine Ford's Flimsy Accusations at Mississippi Rally - CROWD ROARS!”

    MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt: Ford’s “story is crumbling, and the president just broke the glass last night. He was not mocking her. He was attacking the credibility of her testimony.”

    Other right-wing media figures accused Ford of repeatedly lying in her testimony, drawing on a letter from an ex-boyfriend that said, among other things, that she helped a friend prepare for a polygraph test -- a claim that was soon countered by the friend in question.

    Hoft: “SHE’S A FRAUD: Dr. Ford Lied About Flying, Tight Spaces, Closed Quarters, Polygraph Tests.”

    Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson: “Dr. Ford lied. Kavanaugh’s reputation died. All intentional to ruin a good man.”

    Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe: “You look at ... what looks like blatant lies” Ford “has told people about flying. … There’s been so many inconsistencies, so many lies.”

    And Hoft, along with others, have stated that Ford should be criminally investigated or even locked in prison.

    Fox News guest Joe diGenova: Ford “should be investigated and if necessary charged with the crime of submitting a false statement to the Senate.”

    Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens: “I would like to be among the first to say that I want Christine Blasey Ford to serve time in PRISON.”

    Hoft, citing Owens: “Is It About Time to Lock Up Christine Ford in a Prison Cell With Two Front Doors?”

  • Right-wing media go all-out to denigrate Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh assaulted her

    Ford said Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were high school students, but many media conservatives attacked her or say Kavanaugh should be confirmed anyway

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Christine Blasey Ford had written a letter this summer to a Democratic lawmaker saying that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both high school students. Soon after Ford’s account was published, right-wing media figures and outlets began attacking her credibility, publicly discounting her story, or calling on Kavanaugh to be confirmed by Republicans anyway.

    Details from the letter, which she wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), leaked out several days earlier, and then Ford “decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it.” From the Post’s story:

    Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

    While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

    “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

    Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

    Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room.

    Notes from an individual therapy session the following year, when she was being treated for what she says have been long-term effects of the incident, show Ford described a “rape attempt” in her late teens.

    Kavanaugh has denied the report after Ford went public, calling it “a completely false allegation.” He previously said, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation.” The immediate reaction from many conservative media figures was terrible: Many cast doubt on her account, others suggested they might believe her but said Kavanaugh should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice anyway, and others impugned her motives, suggesting a political or personal grudge.

    Conservatives who cast doubt on Ford’s account

    FoxNews.com’s Stephen Miller: “This was not a sexual assault. … Hold the vote. Confirm him. … It was drunk teenagers playing seven minutes of heaven.”

    Breitbart’s John Nolte: “GOP blows Kavanaugh, falls for this, they will be massacred in November.”

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones mocked Ford’s accusation: “Brett Kavanaugh in 1986 came to Dallas, TX, and I was in high school, and he raped me.”

    Trump ally and conservative political operator Roger Stone: “This is a woman looking for her Anita Hill moment. This is her 15 minutes.”

    Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens: “Nothing to see here, folks,” Ford is “just another woman who conveniently tripped and fell out of amnesia.”

    Conservative radio host Erick Erickson: “If the GOP does not stand up to this character assassination attempt on Kavanaugh, every judicial nominee moving forward is going to suffer last minute sexual assault allegations.”

    Erick Erickson: “I do not believe Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser. I do believe there is a Democrat PR firm working this story.”

    Erick Erickson: “People who want to keep killing kids really shouldn’t be throwing Jesus in the face of those who don’t believe the accusation against Kavanaugh.”

    Fox News’ Tomi Lahren: “Decades-old allegations against Kavanaugh come out just days before a vote….victim or opportunist?”

    Tomi Lahren: "Female empowerment is NOT using sexual assault allegations to torpedo someone you disagree with politically."

    Fox contributor Tammy Bruce: Report of assault by Kavanaugh is “an attempt at a political assassination.”

    Newsmax’s John Cardillo: “No, 35+ year old dubious allegations about a non-crime made by a left-wing activist … do not hold water.”

    NRATV’s Grant Stinchfield: “I have no idea if Judge Kavanaugh pushed this woman down on a bed at a high school house party where she wriggled free and ran away or not. What I do know is in the 35 years since, not one other woman has raised such an allegation. Sixty-five other women have, in fact, now come to his defense.”

    Fox Business host Dagen McDowell: “You have to press [Ford] on any potential bias that’s there” against Republicans.

    Fake news site TruthFeed: Ford’s story has “more holes than a slice of swiss cheese.”

    The despicable Democrats are pulling out all the stops to try and derail the Judge Kavanaugh vote for SCOTUS.

    They’re now claiming that Judge Kavanaugh attacked a woman in high school, nearly killing her. The woman, whose story has more holes than a slice of swiss cheese, claims there was a man in the room who witnessed the entire thing.

    One big problem. That man, says it never happened.

    Facebook page Silence is Consent posted a meme misleadingly claiming Ford was “so ‘devastated’” by incident “she contacted Feinstein 35 years later.”

    Fox Business host Bob Massi:The thing that’s remarkable to me” is that someone “with amazing credentials, amazing resumes, and an allegation like this comes out … and their entire career credibility is gone. … That’s the trouble with this.”

    Sean Hannity radio show guest David Schoen: "The real crime here that happened" is Sen. Dianne Feinstein "presenting this thing under ... this veil of mystery."

    Fox News host Sean Hannity cast doubt on Ford's accusation because of "everything else you see about Judge Kavanaugh's life ... this is a guy that spends a lot of time feeding the homeless."

    CRTV's Gavin McInnes: Ford is "clearly full of crap." 

    CRTV's Mark Levin on Ford's accusation: "This whole thing to me sounds like a sham and a setup. ... This is an entire political scam and sham as far as I'm concerned."

    Ethics and Public Policy Center Lance Morrow's Wall Street Journal op-ed likened Ford's accusation to Salem Witch Trials, diminished alleged rape attempt: "No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred."

    The Salem witch trials turned on what was called “spectral evidence.” That was testimony from witnesses—either malicious or hysterical—who claimed the accused had assumed the form of a black cat or some other devilish creature and had come visiting in the night in order to torment the witness with bites and scratches, or to rearrange the bedroom furniture, or to send the baby into paroxysms.

    ...

    Three hundred twenty-six years later, an anonymous woman—a spectral and possibly nonexistent woman, for all that one knew when the story emerged—accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago, when he was a high-school student. It seemed as if the American constitutional process might be drawn back to the neighborhood of Salem, Mass. According to this phantom testimony, 17-year-old Brett held the girl down, pawed her and tried to force himself upon her, and held his hand over her mouth when she screamed, until a second prep-school devil piled on top, they all tumbled to the floor, and the girl managed to slip away. The boys were “stumbling drunk,” according to the account.

    ...

    The thing happened—if it happened—an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time, when the actors in the drama were minors and (the boys, anyway) under the blurring influence of alcohol and adolescent hormones. No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred. The sin, if there was one, was not one of those that Catholic theology calls peccata clamantia—sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.

    The offense alleged is not nothing, by any means. It is ugly, and stupid more than evil, one might think, but trauma is subjective and hard to parse legally. Common sense is a little hard put to know what to make of the episode, if it happened. The dust of 36 years has settled over the memory. The passage of time sometimes causes people to forget; sometimes it causes them to invent or embellish. Invention takes on bright energies when its muse is politics, which is the Olympics of illusion. 

    Conservatives who indicated that whether or not they believe Ford, Kavanaugh should be confirmed

    Federalist contributor Tom Nichols: “I’m good with the story being true,” but it shouldn’t “derail [his] nomination.”

    Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: Ford’s report can’t be proven, “so he should be confirmed.”

    Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro: “The Senate should just vote” on Kavanaugh.

    The Federalist: Kavanaugh “should be confirmed” despite Ford’s report.

    Townhall.com editor Guy Benson: “Absent additional evidence, I don’t know how it would be remotely just to derail the nomination” of Kavanaugh.

    The Wall Street Journal editorial board suggested Ford possibly misremembered "in the cauldron of a therapy session to rescue a marriage," and stated that letting Ford's accusation "stop Mr. Kavanaugh's confirmation would ratify what has all the earmarks of a calculated political ambush."

    The woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh of a drunken assault when both were teenagers has now come forward publicly, and on Monday it caused Republicans to delay a confirmation vote and schedule another public hearing. Yet there is no way to confirm her story after 36 years, and to let it stop Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would ratify what has all the earmarks of a calculated political ambush.

    ...

    Mr. Kavanaugh denies all this “categorically and unequivocally,” and there is simply no way to prove it. The only witness to the event is Mr. Kavanaugh’s high school male friend, Mark Judge, who also says he recalls no such event. Ms. Ford concedes she told no one about it—not even a high school girl friend or family member—until 2012 when she told the story as part of couples therapy with her husband.

    The vagaries of memory are well known, all the more so when they emerge in the cauldron of a therapy session to rescue a marriage. Experts know that human beings can come to believe firmly over the years that something happened when it never did or is based on partial truth. Mistaken identity is also possible.

    ...

    This is simply too distant and uncorroborated a story to warrant a new hearing or to delay a vote. We’ve heard from all three principals, and there are no other witnesses to call. Democrats will use Monday’s hearing as a political spectacle to coax Mr. Kavanaugh into looking defensive or angry, and to portray Republicans as anti-women. Odds are it will be a circus.

    ...

    Letting an accusation that is this old, this unsubstantiated and this procedurally irregular defeat Mr. Kavanaugh would also mean weaponizing every sexual assault allegation no matter the evidence. It will tarnish the #MeToo cause with the smear of partisanship, and it will unleash even greater polarizing furies.

    Conservatives who attacked Ford’s motives

    Mike Cernovich: “Christine Blasey is a far left wing activist. ... this is straight activism on her part.”

    The Gateway Pundit: Ford is a “far-left activist.”

    Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: Ford is an “unhinged liberal professor who former students describe as dark, mad, scary and troubled.”

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “Apparently this accuser was fine with leaving Brett Kavanaugh on the second highest court of the land. … But it was when he was up for the Supreme Court that suddenly the stakes got higher.”

    Laura Ingraham: "This all has the whiff of a political smear masquerading as a sexual assault allegation."

    Fake news site RedstateWatcher: Ford is a "registered Democrat and Democrat activist.”

    Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh: Ford is "a political activist. She's an angry political activist. She's much more than just a victim of alleged attempted rape."

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson: "Does anyone really believe this story would have surfaced if Brett Kavanaugh had pledged allegiance to Roe v. Wade? Of course it wouldn't have."​

    Right-wing Facebook meme pages and groups engaged in a smear campaign against Ford

    Many right-wing meme pages attacking Ford falsely painted her as a Democratic political operative. [1, 2, 3, 4]

    Some pages tried to undermine Ford’s allegations by questioning her timing in coming forward and her memory of the incident. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

    A woman from a Shuttershock photo of an anti-Trump protest in New York City was falsely attributed as Ford. [1, 2]

    Alex Kaplan and Natalie Martinez contributed research to this post.

  • Video: DeRay Mckesson calls out Fox News for painting Black communities as “violent people” to justify police violence

    In his new book, On The Other Side of Freedom, Mckesson wants to challenge audiences in thinking how to advance social and racial justice by “taking the truth with us everywhere we go,” while using hope as fuel

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    During a conversation with Media Matters, activist and author DeRay Mckesson touched upon the ways that local and national media coverage of police violence have improved in recent years, explaining that because of these changes, “now people generally have [the] language” to talk about these issues.

    Mckesson also addressed the role Fox News has played in pushing the false narrative that police violence against Black people is justifiable and the baseless claim that Black communities are violent, suggesting that progressives need to challenge these narratives and “attack the underlying idea” behind these falsehoods. His new book, On The Other Side of Freedom, provides data to combat myths that help perpetuate police violence against Black communities, tackles issues of identity, explores the role of social media, and suggests using hope to fuel the fight towards racial justice. Watch our conversation with Mckesson:

    Video by John Kerr and Miles Le

  • Pro-Trump media politicizes the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, even as her family begs for space

    Tibbetts' family should be able to grieve their daughter without becoming political props

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN

    As Trump associates keep getting indicted, found guilty, and agree to plea deals while surrendering themselves to the FBI, pro-Trump media have seized on the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, and they are exploiting it for their own purposes. The body of Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student, was discovered on August 21 and her alleged killer has been charged with first degree murder. While a lot of news coverage and social media conversation has centered around Cohen, Manafort and why their dual felony convictions are disastrous news for President Donald Trump, some members of right-wing media and their supporters on social media have instead chosen to politicize Tibbetts’ death -- ignoring her family’s own grief and objections -- in an effort to distract from these bombshell stories.

    Below are just a few examples of what the Tibbetts’ family members are having to deal with, just a day after Tibbetts’ body was found:

    • Former Speaker of the House and conservative pundit Newt Gingrich emailed reporters about how Tibbetts’ death was potentially good news for Republicans in the fall, provided they could exploit it enough.

    • Turning Point USA communications director and right wing social media star Candace Owens got into an argument on Twitter with someone who says she is Tibbetts’ second cousin, accusing her of hating Trump and his supporters more than Tibbetts’ alleged murderer.

    • Fox News contributor Sebastian Gorka, Fox News contributor Tom Homan (the former acting director of ICE), Fox News guest Jonna Spilbor, CRTV host Eric Bolling, and Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak cited the murder as a reason to build a wall on America’s border with Mexican border. Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren, and Fox News guest Mike Huckabee cited the murder as a reason to end the policy of “sanctuary cities.”

    • Mike Cernovich used the occasion to promote his involvement with Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward’s campaign. Ward has already run a Facebook ad on the matter.

    • In a particularly dark note, users on 4chan and 8chan have been actively celebrating Tibbetts’ death. Anonymous postings on these message boards have been highlighting an old tweet of hers and claiming she got what she deserved because of a combination of her political views and her gender. Mentions of Tibbetts on these boards spiked just as the Manafort and Cohen stories were dominating news coverage. Other far right communities have pushed the meme as well. And the neo-nazi site Daily Stormer published a misogynist screed in the same vein.

    Tibbetts’ aunt took to Facebook the evening of August 21 and begged others not to politicize her niece’s murder, writing, “Please remember, Evil comes in EVERY color. Our family has been blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship and support throughout this entire ordeal by friends from all different nations and races. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”

    Grieving families shouldn’t have to make statements like this. They shouldn’t have to beg politicians and media figures not to exploit the tragic death of a loved one. They shouldn’t have to watch in real time as their loved one is defamed and dehumanized until her memory is merely a caricature to be memed on the internet in perpetuity. But that’s exactly what happens. Right-wing media exploit tragedies and rewrite biographies of victims in the blink of an eye. They have no consideration for the victims they claim to care about or the grieving families and friends they’ve left behind.

    Additional Research by Nick Fernandez, Natalie Martinez, and Katie Sullivan.

  • Taking the debate bait

    Conservatives keep using dumb stunts to get attention, and news outlets keep falling for it

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In 2012, conservative radio host Mark Levin challenged the sitting president to a debate, but you probably don’t remember hearing about it.

    "I will give $50,000 to Obama's Super PAC if he will debate me for one hour,” Levin said. “Now he’s flying all over the country in exchange for meals and handshakes and photos. People are giving a lot less than that. Just one hour, a debate. It doesn’t even have to be televised. In fact, we’ll do it right here on this program. Be very professional, be very fair, equal time, just a debate."

    The amount he offered didn’t really matter. He could have offered $500,000 or $5 million, but Barack Obama would never have made his way to Levin’s studio, nor should he have — and deep down, Levin must have known that, as well. The offer was a bluff, part of a larger grift to put his name on the same level as Obama’s, to get a bit of free publicity for making an offer he knew he’d never have to pay out. It’s a tried and true approach to attention seeking that we’ve mostly come to understand for what it is: a sad ploy.

    But then seven months later, the political press forgot that lesson, giving way to a new era of bluff challenges.

    A year removed from his racist birther campaign, Donald Trump challenged Obama to release his college and passport “applications and records” in exchange for a $5 million donation to the charity of the president’s choice. Now, from what we now know about Trump’s charitable giving, there was little chance he would have actually followed through on the boast, but he knew he’d never have to. All he wanted was to be back in the news, and with this baseless new challenge, he got his wish. Trump was interviewed by Fox News and Forbes, and his offer was written up by The Washington Post, Politico, Reuters, and others.

    Fast-forward six years, and Donald Trump is now the president and conservative media personalities regularly use his 2012 tactic to boost their own popularity. Case in point: Last week, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro challenged Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to a debate, offering $10,000 to her campaign or a charity of her choice.

    At first, Ocasio-Cortez’s refusal to respond to Shapiro was treated as news (at least at Shapiro’s Daily Wire). Then, after Ocasio-Cortez explained why she ignored the offer, it became news again as Shapiro wrongly accused her ofslanderinghim. “Just like catcalling, I don’t owe a response to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions. And also like catcalling, for some reason they feel entitled to one,” she tweeted. Shapiro and others on the right were quick to misread Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet as her literally accusing Shapiro of catcalling, which suggests that she was right to brush off his offer as coming from a place of bad intentions. That, and the fact that both Daily Wire articles featured cherry-picked, unflattering images of her, might lead one to think this was less about having a good-faith discussion of ideas and more just a setup.

    The goal, just as it was in Trump’s case, in Levin’s case, and in other examples of a public figure making a big show of offering a large sum of money to someone in exchange for a debate or to complete an unnecessary task like releasing college applications (who even keeps those?), was simple: to get attention.

    It worked, and honestly, you have to at least admire Shapiro’s ability to market himself. The Hill wrote about it. Fox News covered it. Business Insider, HuffPost, and several others took the bait.

    One thing missing from a lot of the coverage was the fact that debating random pundits is not something candidates are generally expected to do. When a number of conservative outlets argued that Ocasio-Cortez was being hypocritical in turning down Shapiro’s offer given that she had once called out her primary opponent, Rep. Joe Crowley, for his refusal to debate her, they seemed loath to acknowledge that it’s absolutely normal to expect one’s own campaign opponent to engage in debate so that their future constituents can make an educated decision when it comes to casting a ballot. That is a completely different thing from taking on anybody with a podcast.

    If Ocasio-Cortez’s actual Republican opponent in November’s general election, Anthony Pappas, challenges her to a debate and she turns it down, then it would be fair to call out hypocrisy. But the only lesson to come out of this kerfuffle is that the debate challenge grift still works, which is why in the immediate wake of Shapiro’s challenge, we’ve already seen people including National Diversity Coalition for Trump ambassador and former member of the Pussycat Dolls Kaya Jones, “The Conservative Millennial” Allie Beth Stuckey (who recently made headlines of her own for her “satire” interview with Ocasio-Cortez), and Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens challenge Ocasio-Cortez to debates, with Owens even making an “offer” of $100,000 to charity for the opportunity. “I really don’t care if Ocasio-Cortez debates me,” Stuckey acknowledged on Fox News. “The point was to kind of call her out.” It’s a way to get attention, and you can’t really fault any of the people throwing themselves into the discussion for trying to make the most of it.

    But it’s not newsworthy, and it’s not a good look for mainstream political media to fall back into the same trap that helped elevate Trump to the national political stage — not for his ideas, but for his stunts. There’s no shortage of content for the national news media to focus on without rewarding and encouraging the WWE-ification of our democracy.

    Parker Molloy is a Chicago-based writer with an interest in media, technology, politics, and culture. Her work has appeared in outlets including The New York Times, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and Upworthy.

  • MSNBC hosted Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens. It was a train wreck.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC interviewed Candace Owens, communications director for Turning Point USA, on July 5. The interview focused on the supposed increase in support for President Donald Trump among minorities and on embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, while omitting important context about Owens’ personal background. The interview gave Owens a mainstream platform to push several conservative talking points:

    • Owens pushed an astroturfed hashtag, #WalkAway, saying the phenomenon the hashtag supposedly highlights -- that Black people “are walking away from the Democratic Party” -- is “very real.” The hashtag has been linked to a Russian Twitter campaign. An analysis of the hashtag on Twitter found that it was a “psychological operation” aimed at shaping the conversation in segments just like this one. The hashtag's spread was driven by non-human activity. Accounts that tweeted their support had used pro-Trump hashtags like #magabefore they “walked away” from the Democratic Party.
    • Owens said “we shouldn’t be talking about” the possibility that Trump’s newest Supreme Court nominee could play a part in overturning or severely undercutting a landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that formally recognized the legal right to an abortion. She called the discussion “a typical leftist tactic to … get everybody all upset and up in arms” and said that “we shouldn’t be talking about it whatsoever.” A Fox & Friends guest has already admitted that any Trump appointee would overrule Roe.
    • When asked whether Pruitt should remain in his job, Owens said that she did not care about the EPA administrator’s litany of scandals and that his alleged misconduct is “a sidebar and it’s something that has gotten way too much coverage.”
    • Melvin did not ask Owens about her recent remarks attacking the #MeToo movement. Owens claimed that #MeToo treated women as “stupid, weak & inconsequential.” When even conservatives pushed back on her, Owens doubled down and posted a video in which she claimed she speaks to CEOs who will not hire women; she blamed #MeToo. This isn’t the only sexist remark Owens has made.
    • Melvin also failed to ask Owens about the video she posted in the wake of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, in which she dismissed white supremacy as a narrative pushed by the media (Owens rose to #MAGA fame after she posted that video).

    CRAIG MELVIN (HOST): Explain the tweet, and how can you say that black voters have been politically irrelevant for decades?

    CANDACE OWENS (TURNING POINT USA): Right, so politically irrelevant because if you consistently vote for just one party, then you're not going to see people competing for your votes, and that's what we have seen happen. So, I feel that, on the Republican side, they weren't doing anything because they saw it as a monolith and they weren't trying to win over Black voters. And the Democratic side, they were able to present us a bunch of broken promises, if you will. We are seeing a huge difference, a huge shift, a bunch of Black people popping up on YouTube, and on social media, and the hashtag saying that they are walking away from the Democratic Party. It's something that hasn't gotten much airtime on liberal networks and it should because it's very real, and you can see that just by some of the polls that have been done that show that Black people are starting to support Donald Trump.

    MELVIN: Polls like?

    OWENS: Like the fact that he has the most support, Black support, since I believe Richard Nixon and that's a very big deal.

    MELVIN: Where's that poll from?

    OWENS: That’s a -- I -- I want to get the exact website, I’m going to have to look it up for you. But it’s a poll, that’s an exact poll, so.

    MELVIN: Because there have been a number of these polls -- and I’m using air quotes, because a number of these polls are not actually polls, they're opt-in surveys. But in terms of -- there's always been Black Republicans, this isn’t some new phenomenon. Are you asserting that, all of a sudden, there are millions of new Black Donald Trump supporters that we didn't know anything about before?

    OWENS: They weren’t Trump supporters to begin with, but we’re seeing a shift, a major shift happen, and Black supporters are leaving the left and going over to the right. You need to pay attention to the underground movement. And look, you are correct to say that just because a poll says something, it isn’t right. The polls told us that Hillary Clinton was going to win and she didn’t. But I wasn't fooled by the polls. I thought that Hillary Clinton was going to lose in the same way that I am also saying that I believe that Black voters are going to exit the left completely by 2020.

    MELVIN: But you didn’t vote for Donald Trump, to be clear.

    OWENS: I did not because I was sick. I was in bed for six months and I was unable to vote.

    MELVIN: NBC News has learned that the president has narrowed his Supreme Court search down to three contenders. What are you looking for in the next Supreme Court justice?

    OWENS: Look, I'm not looking for anything in particular, somebody that will uphold the Constitution, of course, I think that’s super important. I don't think that we should stress out until he makes a pick and then we talk about the different qualifications. But I think that, right now, there's mass hysteria over the fact he gets to pick somebody in the same way that Obama got to pick two people. I don’t understand what everybody’s so --

    MELVIN: Well, I think a lot of folks are annoyed by the third person that the president did not get to pick, Merrick Garland, who didn't get a hearing. But going back --

    OWENS: He did get two picks.

    MELVIN: Well, yes. That’s correct. Litmus test, Roe v. Wade, we were just talking about that a few minutes ago. Do you think there should be a litmus test with regards to Roe v. Wade.

    OWENS: No, I think that even the fact that we are discussing Roe v. Wade is a typical leftist tactic to get people -- it’s fearmongering to get everybody all upset and up in arms and think that something’s going to be overturned so that they boycott. We shouldn’t be talking about it whatsoever, we should be talking about the qualifications of the person that is going in --

    MELVIN: We shouldn’t be having a conversation about Roe v. Wade?

    OWENS: No. No. I think that the fact that --

    MELVIN: Because it’s settled law? Or --

    OWENS: No. No. We should not be having a conversation about Roe v. Wade before the president makes the pick for SCOTUS. It’s a way for the left to fearmonger, which is what they always do. They want people to be scared, as if somehow all of their rights are going to be violated because Donald Trump gets a Supreme Court pick, and that’s just not true.

    MELVIN: But it’s not just people on the left who are doing this “fearmongering.” There are people who --

    OWENS: It is.

    MELVIN: No, no, no.

    OWENS: It definitely is.

    MELVIN: I have friends and talk to lots of people who aren’t on the left, and there are people who are legitimately concerned about the next Supreme Court justice being able to upend some 45 years of settled law in this country --

    OWENS: Name your friends, please --

    MELVIN: I don’t think, I mean --

    OWENS: CNN?

    MELVIN: No. No -- well, I think you and I both know that wouldn’t necessarily be my friend, but to say that the entire left, or that the entire right is doing something, I just -- I don't know -- first of all, it can't be accurate. You know that's not accurate. That’s hyperbole.

    OWENS: It’s 100 percent accurate. It’s not hyperbole, it’s what’s going on right now. Hyperbole is this idea that every time Donald Trump does something, there's going to be an armageddon. It's the reason why so many people on the left have grown apathetic towards the Democrats, because you guys -- I don't mean to say you guys, I shouldn’t insinuate that you're a part of that.

    MELVIN: Thank you for the correction.

    OWENS: But because of what we see in the leftist media so much is, every single week, you’re outraged over something else. He gets a Supreme Court pick. You have to move on from that, let him pick somebody, and then we start to talk about things. But this fearmongering has to stop completely. This has to be more rational dialogue and thought here.

    MELVIN: So there’s been no fearmongering on other sides of the political spectrum?

    OWENS: If you have a point you’d like to make I can answer it.

    MELVIN: No, I’m just saying the president, from time to time, some of his tweets --

    OWENS: No, I don’t think -- I do not remember or recall, while Obama was in office for two terms, every single day waking up thinking that the world was going to end, to answer your question.

    MELVIN: I vividly recall being at a number of town hall meetings after Obamacare had been launched, and people showing up with automatic weapons. People claiming that they wanted to take their country back. So that all of a sudden the left is up in arms, I mean, the right was up in arms for a while as well.

    OWENS: About Obamacare, yes, that’s something that --

    MELVIN: Well, about the president in general, about the fact that he wasn’t born in this country, that he was a secret Muslim. There are fringes.

    OWENS: Are you suggesting that there has been this much outrage, the outrage that we’re seeing towards every single thing that Donald Trump does, that his daughter does, that his family does, was the same thing we experienced when Obama was in office?

    MELVIN: I can’t speak for everyone.

    OWENS: That’s a question -- I’m asking you to objectively say, right? That you think that there was this much outrage when Obama was in office for two terms?

    MELVIN: The beauty about doing what I do for a living is that I get to ask the questions --

    OWENS: Right.

    MELVIN: I don’t necessarily have to answer the questions.

    OWENS: I’ll take that as an answer.

    MELVIN: No, that’s not an answer.

    OWENS: I think that is one.

    MELVIN: One of the things that a lot of folks have been up in arms about specifically here, Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator. You are quite familiar, I'm sure, with a number of his scandals, some alleged, some confirmed, 15 current investigations as it relates to Scott Pruitt. Spending and management practices, I think we've got a partial list we can put up on the screen here -- a partial list of his scandals. This is Scott Pruitt, of course, former attorney general there in Oklahoma, and we've tried to condense it to one screen here. And there is this -- there continues to be this bizarre story about trying to secure a used mattress, as well, from a Trump tower hotel. Do you think that Scott Pruitt should remain EPA chief?

    OWENS: I think that I should remain focused on things that matter. This is not going to impact midterms. It's not going to impact Trump for support. It's a sidebar and it’s something that has gotten way too much coverage with all of the things that are going on right now in this nation.

    MELVIN: Now, wait a minute. But you can appreciate how a president who vowed to drain the swamp might receive some legitimate criticism from journalists and just the citizenry at large, because the guy who’s charged with --

    OWENS: Absolutely, absolutely I can appreciate that, but I don’t have to add to the dialogue. I don't have to pretend this is something that is a pressing issue that we need to discuss 24 hours wall-to-wall coverage on any network. And I choose not to. I choose to pay attention to the crack that is happening in the Democratic Party and the major shift that is happening, and I choose to be at the forefront of it.

    MELVIN: Candace Owens, there are lots of voices in this country, and we like to give all voices an opportunity to be heard here, so I thank you for coming on.

    OWENS: I like you, Craig. Thanks for having me.

    MELVIN: Thank you, Candace. You’re welcome to come back.

  • Everything right-wing media tried to blame for the Trump administration’s family separation policy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As President Donald Trump’s administration implemented a new “zero tolerance” prosecution policy at the border that led to unprecedented and systematic separation of immigrant families and locking kids in cages, right-wing media flailed around trying to blame the administration’s policy on anybody or anything except Trump.

    The president’s media enablers blamed Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, “the law on the book,” Democrats in Congress, the media, the families themselves, and even “the Illuminati of K Street” for the Trump administration’s policy:  

    Blaming the families themselves

    • Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that families “are choosing to be separated” by coming to the United States in the first place. Co-host Steve Doocy agreed, saying “the part that is troubling ... is the conscious decisions the parents are making” in trying to bring their children to America.

    • Recently pardoned felon Dinesh D’Souza rhetorically questioned whether the “deported aliens” were “the ones choosing to separate their families.”

    • Fox’s David Bossie said that if parents “don’t become criminals, they’re not separated” from their children.

    • Fox’s Tomi Lahren said, “If you do not want to be separated, do not cross the border illegally. Follow our laws, follow the process. That's the best way to ensure that your family stays together.”

    Blaming former presidents

    • Radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that family separation at the border "is an entirely manufactured crisis. It’s entirely manufactured. This has been going on for years. It happened during the Obama administration."

    • American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp declared, “Obama and Trump have [the] same child protection policy.”

    • Turning Point USA Communications Director Candace Owens falsely claimed that “these policies were in place” during the Obama administration.

    • Turning Point USA President Charlie Kirk falsely stated, “All of this happened for 8 years under Obama.”

    • CNN commentator Ben Ferguson shared an image on Facebook that claimed that policies of separating children from “illegal parents” had been in effect since 2009.

    • Breitbart claimed Trump’s “new ‘zero tolerance’ policy worked during the presidency of George W. Bush,” referring to an initiative that began in 2005 and has not worked.

    • Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs stated that “previous presidents, including Bush and Obama, long ignored” family separation at the border until Trump “mov[ed] to stop” the practice.

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity claimed, “This is nothing new and took place in previous administrations as well.”

    • Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said that family separation has been “standard procedure for decades” when you “pick up a group of a hundred people and you have no idea who the hell they are.”

    Blaming a nonexistent law

    Blaming media, claiming they were using family separation as a distraction

    • Fox’s Brian Kilmeade said that Trump’s media detractors “had to reach for something else” after Trump “put a lot of the skeptics to bed … and they found it with the so-called separation of kids and parents.”

    • Rush Limbaugh claimed that media is inundating Americans with “manufactured crises” like family separation to distract from the Department of Justice inspector general report and strong economy.

    • Fox’s Tucker Carlson, host of one of the most racist hours on television, said that reporting on family separation is just the media pursuing their goal “to change your country, forever.”

    • NRATV commentator Dan Bongino claimed that media reporting on family separation is “propaganda, nothing more.”

    • Hannity accused the media of harboring an “obsession” with “the so-called policy” of separating children from their parents in order to mislead Americans.

    • Twitter troll Bill Mitchell predicted, “Every Sunday news show will be about Trump's #FakeNews ‘concentration camps’ and NOTHING about the OIG.”

    • Sinclair Broadcast Group’s propagandist Boris Epshteyn devoted his “must-run” segment on family separation to attacking the media for their “politically driven” attempts “to make it seem as if those who are tough on immigration are somehow monsters.”

    Blaming Democrats, claiming they were using family separation for political ends

    • According to The Gateway Pundit, Democrats “would rather the problem persist so they can continue to wring their hands over another manufactured crisis to distract from the damning IG report and robust economy.”

    • Fox Business’ Stuart Varney complained that Democrats “hijacked” a hearing on the IG report “within seconds of it beginning,” and “poured out [their] scorn for President Trump” instead.

    • Fox’s Trish Regan commented that Democrats “would much rather cry on television like [Rep.] Elijah Cummings [D-MD] did” than stop family separation, because “it plays to any hatred they can gin up, as we go into ‘18, for Donald Trump.”

    • National Review’s David French wrote, “I have a feeling that for some partisans, it’s fascism to impose the policy and fascism to try to end it -- at least so long as the GOP is in charge of the process.”