David Cay Johnston | Media Matters for America

David Cay Johnston

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  • Fox Echoes Trump’s Attacks On Tax March: “The Election Is Over!”

    Trump Apologists Cannot Understand Why Protests Aimed At Trump’s Tax Returns Would Coincide With Tax Day

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox News echoed the insults and attacks President Donald Trump leveled against tens of thousands of Americans that took part in over 180 rallies and events in 48 states over the weekend in protest of the president’s refusal to disclose his tax returns.

    On April 15, the day that federal tax returns are typically due to be filed, organizers in Washington, D.C. and across the country led Tax March demonstrations in protest of Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns to the public. Trump attacked the protestors in a series of tweets the following day, complaining that his “tax returns are being brought up again,” diminishing the nationwide demonstrations as “small organized rallies,” and suggesting that demonstrators were paid to oppose him. Trump concluded by exclaiming “the election is over!”

    Taking their cue from Trump, Fox News media personalities proceeded to blast the Tax March. On the April 17 edition of Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee questioned “the timing of this” and wondered if the protests were a distraction given “everything that’s going on in the world.” Guest Adam Goodman, a Republican strategist, agreed with her assessment adding that “for many, as I think you can now see, the campaign isn’t over, it’s never over.”

    The April 17 edition of Fox’s Outnumbered led its segment bashing the protesters by displaying Trump’s tweet calling for the protestors to be “looked into” and co-host Meghan McCain deflected criticism of Trump’s unprecedented refusal to disclose his tax information because he was not legally required to release it. Guest Guy Benson, political editor of Townhall, complained that the Tax March and other protests against Trump’s presidency made him feel “fatigue,” and wondered “why this issue, why a giant protest now?” Later that evening, on Fox Business’ Kennedy, host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery piled on the criticism, calling the protesters “a collection of free wheeling leftists” who are “bored” with the Trump administration and disgruntled Clinton supporters who have not gotten over the election.

    Fox continued to mock the protesters and playdown the importance of Trump releasing his tax returns into the following day. On the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox contributor and the Trump campaign’s deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, falsely claimed “the American people don’t care” if Trump discloses his tax returns and that the marchers were “paid professional protesters.” Later that morning, on Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano acknowledged Trump’s taxes were an important issue during the campaign but reiterated Trump’s talking point that “the campaign is over” and “this is no longer relevant.” Host Stuart Varney, however, admitted that the tax returns might reveal Trump could make “enormous” gains from the tax cuts he campaigned on.

    While Trump’s devotees and apologists at Fox regurgitated his rhetoric, investigative reporter and tax specialist David Cay Johnston -- who had previously obtained a copy of Trump’s 2005 tax returns -- explained on the April 18 edition of MSNBC’s MSNBC Live that complete tax disclosure remains important in rooting out conflicts of interest and understanding how much Trump would benefit from his tax agenda:

    Fox News defended Trump hiding his tax returns throughout the 2016 election season and seems poised to continue. The network has repeatedly held Trump to a different standard than other presidents and politicians.

  • Anonymous Message Boards Enable Illegal Activities And Politically Motivated Harassment Every Day

    Cases Of Online Harassment Against Celebrities And Members Of The Armed Forces Get Widely Reported, But They’re Just One Part Of Online Abuse

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Online message boards that allow anonymous posting -- including 4chan, 8chan, Reddit, and AnonIB -- tend to make headlines mainly when users illegally share private photos of high-profile women. But such photo sharing is just part of the relentless abuse that these sites constantly allow and enable.

    On a daily basis, users of these message boards target women, people of color, activists, members of the media, and vulnerable communities like undocumented immigrants by orchestrating online harassment campaigns, which can involve illegal activities like hacking and publishing personal information and images. The sites are often also the origin of unsubstantiated speculation, which can make its way to fake news purveyors and hyperpartisan blogs that push misinformation, sometimes causing dangerous real-life consequences.

    The actor Emma Watson was one of the victims of a recent illegal photo-sharing scandal, in which alleged personal photos were widely circulated on Reddit and 4chan. Weeks before, reports had revealed that members of the armed forces were involved in sharing “nude photographs of women, including fellow Marines -- some taken without their knowledge” through the anonymous posting site AnonIB, which was also implicated in the publication of hacked personal photos of a number of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, in 2014.

    The cases involving celebrities and members of prominent military institutions are widely reported, but their treatment is just one part of the picture. These sites enable victimization of other individuals on a daily basis -- often as part of orchestrated and politically motivated harassment campaigns. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston was the victim of doxxing -- the publication of personal information like phone numbers and addresses with the intent of enabling intimidation and harassment -- on 8chan following his reporting on President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax documents. Anonymous users on 4chan organized an effort to target undocumented immigrants, encouraging others to trick Twitter users into outing themselves as undocumented so they could “report” them to the authorities for deportation. Muslim activist Linda Sarsour, who has been repeatedly defamed on these sites, was recently smeared on 4chan as an “Islamist using the flag of feminism to subvert western women and entice them into supporting sharia law.”

    The forums have also been at the epicenter of unsubstantiated speculation that has been weaponized by fake news purveyors, in some cases with dangerous real-life consequences and negative impact on real people.

    While women aren't the only victims, misogyny is perniciously at the center of many of the posts on these forums. As reported by Gawker, message boards like 4chan, 8chan -- which was launched as a response to perceived censorship on 4chan and became a similar, but more anarchic, platform -- and AnonIB serve as a sanctuary where “angry, anonymous young men can dance out their anger against women”:

    On 8chan, Gamergate supporters battle against raging feminists and "social justice warriors." Like horny, teenaged Rush Limbaughs, they lament the media's penchant for "blaming whites for all its problems" and adorn unrelated posts with images of balloon-chested anime babes.

    [...]

    "Are women humans?" reads one image macro, posted in defiant response to a user who confessed sympathy for the victims of pick-up artists. The answer, obviously, is no. Another, particularly disgusting post proposes that "the real reason women hate rape" is that it "ignores their princess status."

    [...]

    On 4chan and 8chan, one could theoretically log on and have a real dialogue about music, sports, or any number of other topics. AnonIB harbors no such pretenses. Users of the anonymous image-sharing board—whose name literally means "anonymous image board"—want just one thing: to jerk off to stolen pictures of naked women.

    [...]

    Like 8chan, AnonIB started life after a 4chan rebellion. Back in 2006, after an incomprehensible series of events (see the Encyclopedia Dramatica entry on "/b/-day" if you'd like to give it a shot), Christopher Poole announced that posting child porn, "jailbait," or personal information on 4chan would henceforth result in consequences for the users involved. The horror! Just as they did this year, users left the site in droves, and AnonIB was there to scoop them up. As Encyclopedia Dramatica puts it, it was "the final cesspool for all of the shit generated by 4chan and its rivals."

    Over the following years, the site underwent a number of changes before emerging in its current, nude-centric permutation. Now that the flow of stolen pictures of naked famous women has slowed to a trickle, users are back to doing what they did before Celebgate: posting stolen photos of naked non-famous women.

    For many men, this misogyny has become a “gateway drug” into the so-called “alt-right,” a self-designated name for a faction of the white nationalist movement. As New York magazine’s Claire Landsbaum wrote, the ideology of men’s rights activists is “leaking into the teachings of … the alt-right.” Milo Yiannopoulos, who was until recently an editor for Breitbart.com, a "platform for the alt-right,” was behind Gamergate in 2014, which The New Yorker characterized as “a vicious campaign against feminists in the video-game industry.” In 2016, Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter after he led a harassment campaign against black actor Leslie Jones for her role in the female-led reboot of the movie GhostbustersMembers of the “alt-right” have used these anonymous forums to hijack a number of cultural conversations with the purpose of marginalizing women, and the “alt-right” has infused the message boards with white supremacy, promoting a white- and male-centric cultural identity.

    The reality is, with their lax oversight for illegal content, these boards are enabling and promoting abuse, often politically motivated, defended as “free speech” by its perpetrators, on a daily basis -- whether or not it's on the front page of the news.

    Graphic by Dayanita Ramesh

  • Trump Supporters On 8chan Launch Harassment Campaign Against Reporter

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    The reporter who received an excerpt from President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax documents is being harassed by Trump supporters after his home phone number and address were posted on the anonymous forum 8chan. Forums like 8chan, 4chan, and Reddit are home to many in the “alt-right” and have been the base for many other harassment campaigns.

    Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston revealed on March 14 that he received two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax forms in the mail, unsolicited. According to The Associated Press, the documents showed that Trump “earned $153 million and paid $36.5 million in income taxes in 2005, paying a roughly 25 percent effective tax rate thanks to a tax he has since sought to eliminate.” The White House confirmed the veracity of the documents and publicly released Trump’s 2005 tax details before Johnston explained the findings on the March 14 edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.

    On March 15, Johnston wrote on Twitter that “Trump fans” were calling and harassing his wife and one of his children because of the story.

    Some of the threats appeared to have originated from 8chan's "/pol/" message board, which Mic has described as “one of the nexuses of the alternative right.” A thread on the message board included Johnston’s home address and home phone number, asking if users were “BRAVE ENOUGH TO CALL THAT NUMBER??” Others said they called the number, and they posted tips for those who also intended to call.

    Forums like 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit are hotbeds of harassment by those in the so-called “alt-right,” a self-designated term for a faction of the white nationalist movement. The forums have been used by Trump supporters to launch harassment campaigns against anti-Trump individuals, as well as to troll Jews, Muslims, African-Americans, and undocumented immigrants. 8chan was also one of the forums used by those involved in the Gamergate movement to harass those who, according to The Washington Post, advocated “for greater inclusion in [video] gaming.”

  • An Extensive Guide To The Fact Checks, Debunks, And Criticisms Of Trump’s Various Problematic Policy Proposals

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.

  • Media Slam Trump’s “Insane” Plan To Default On U.S. Debt

    Analysts Explain That Real Estate Gimmicks Don’t Work For The American Economy

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    During a lengthy phone interview with CNBC, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump outlined a plan to partially default on the United States’ outstanding sovereign debt obligations in hopes of eventually negotiating lower rates of repayment. The tactic is common in the types of commercial real estate dealings Trump is familiar with, but journalists and financial analysts stressed that employing such a strategy with American debt would undermine global financial stability and potentially drive the American economy into a deep recession.

  • Lousy media coverage of economic issues draws rebuke from Pulitzer-winning journalist

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston offers a scathing indictment of contemporary journalism:

    [W]e are failing in our core mission of providing people with the knowledge they need for our democracy to function.

    Increasingly what I see are news reports evidencing a basic lack of knowledge about government. And this isn't happening just with beat reporters but with the assignment and copy editors who are supposed to review stories before they get into print or on the air.

    Far too much of journalism consists of quoting what police, prosecutors, politicians and publicists say—and this is especially the case with beat reporters. It's news on the cheap and most of it isn't worth the time it takes to read, hear or watch.

    Much of what passes for reporting about government these days is not only information that is useless, it is laughable nonsense, and I have the coffee stains on my robe to prove it. Every morning I read "Beat the Press" on the Center for Economic and Policy Research website, which is liberal economist Dean Baker's critique of the economic theory, policy and "facts" he finds on the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other media outlets. Baker routinely picks apart articles that are as far from reality as a weather story that says the sun rose in the West.

    Sometimes I send these criticisms on to the ombudsman or top editors of the offending publications. I have even put together packages showing from the newspaper's own clips that what was printed is utterly false. But I rarely see any corrections made nor any insistence that writers actually know what they are writing about when it comes to government policy, economic policy, taxes or treaties.

    There's more, and it's well worth a read. If you have any doubt of the validity of Johnston's critique, take a look at some recent examples:

    CNNMoney can't find room for facts amid corporate attacks on Dems

    The LA Times' poor reporting on the rich

    The Washington Post's GOP-friendly budget reporting

    The Washington Post can't be bothered with facts

    Washington Post shills for "regressive" budget plan

    CJR's Salmon: New York Times "Budget Puzzle" skewed in favor of the rich

    Four problems with the New York Times' deficit calculator

    Gloria Borger cannot be serious

    Johnston's point that media coverage of public policy is so often so very wrong that it suggests the media don't know anything about the topics they cover is one I've made many times. If you're interested in more, you might start here, here, here, here, here, here, or here.