David Martosko | Media Matters for America

David Martosko

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  • Here's how a fringe smear targeting E. Jean Carroll reached Donald Trump Jr.

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After author and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll reported that President Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., pushed a conspiracy theory that the claim was "ripped-off a plot" from a 2012 episode of NBC procedural Law & Order. Before being amplified by Trump Jr., the conspiracy theory was spread by a Twitter account associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory and another account whose content has regularly been shared by “seemingly-automated accounts.” It has also been pushed by the Daily Mail's political editor.

    On June 21, Carroll wrote in New York magazine’s The Cut that 23 years ago, Trump assaulted her in a department store dressing room. According to Carroll, Trump “lunge[d] at me, pushe[d] me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and [put] his mouth against my lips.” She wrote that he then pulled down her tights and assaulted her. Carroll told two close friends at the time, both of whom “confirmed the allegations to New York and to [The New York] Times.”

    Even though her friends confirmed that Carroll told them about the incident at the time, social media accounts and message boards have claimed that Carroll “ripped-off a plot” from an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that dealt with a similar sexual assault against an actor. However, the episode aired in 2012, well over a decade after the incident allegedly occurred.

    Here’s how the smear spread from social media to message boards to some right-wing sites and to Donald Trump Jr.:

    Twitter user @RickMcCargar:

    Twitter user @tksusie:

    Twitter user @thebradfordfile (real name John Bradford Williams) also tweeted about the Law & Order episode. The Outline reported last year that Williams’ account has “more than 100,000 followers, a penchant for spreading far-right propaganda, and a curious network of seemingly-automated accounts regularly amplifying the reach of its tweets.” One of Williams’ former coworkers told The Outline that Williams “farms a significant portion of his engagement from direct-message based group chats on Twitter”:

    8chan’s "/pol/" amplified @thebradfordfile’s tweet:

    Twitter account @Trump454545 posted a clip of the episode in a tweet calling for Carroll to be prosecuted. The account's profile contains a hashtag of the abbreviated slogan for the QAnon conspiracy theory -- “where we go one, we go all” or “WWG1WGA”:

    Reddit forum “r/The_Donald” amplified the smear and @thebradfordfile and @Trump454545’s tweets:

    Twitchy cited @thebradfordfile to push the claim:

    Twitter user @thebradfordfile then dug up this clip from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” The detectives are interviewing a man who’s hired to play out women’s rape fantasies, and he mentions one in particular that took place … in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room.

    No, for real.

    A user on 4chan’s “/pol/” cited the same link that @thebradfordfile tweeted earlier.

    YouTube conspiracy theorist and far-right troll Mark Dice tweeted another video of the episode (Donald Trump Jr. liked the tweet):

    Model and reality television star Mindy Robinson later tweeted the same video as the account @Trump454545 did:

    Multiple videos of the episode were posted on YouTube to push the smear:

    The Gateway Pundit published a piece headlined “Fraud Gets Caught! Crackpot Trump Accuser’s Story Likely Stolen from Law and Order Episode of Rape Fantasy in Bergdorf Dressing Room (VIDEO).” The article cited both @thebradfordfile and @Trump454545 to push the claim:

    Boston Herald columnist Adriana Cohen quoted tweeted Robinson's post of the video.

    Donald Trump Jr. also quote tweeted Robinson’s post of the video to push the smear, writing, “As long as the media gives these nut jobs unfettered air time they will keep coming”:

    Multiple other conservative figures also pushed Robinson’s tweet, including right-wing commentator David Wohl, the Daily Mail’s David Martosko, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush Ned Ryun, and RedState:

    Additionally, when searching for Carroll’s name on Google (via incognito search), the phrase “e jean carroll law and order” now appears as an automatic search suggestion:

  • The Right-Wing Media’s Government Takeover, Via Donald Trump

    Trump Has Picked -- Or Considered -- Over A Dozen Right-Wing Media Veterans For His Administration

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President-elect Donald Trump has picked -- or considered -- nearly a dozen people who have worked in right-wing media, including talk radio, right-wing news sites, Fox News, and conservative newspapers, to fill his administration. And Trump himself made weekly guest appearances on Fox for a number of years while his vice president used to host a conservative talk radio show.

  • Trump Flies To Mexico, Trump's Traveling Press Corps Left Behind In America

    Trump's Campaign Manager Used The Trip To Bash Clinton's Accessibility To The Press

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media figures criticized Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's "distressing" decision to leave his traveling press corps in the United States as he travels to Mexico to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Trump's "alarming" treatment of the press throughout his presidential campaign has included revoking entire outlets' press credentials, taunting and insulting the press at campaign rallies, and promising to "open up our libel laws" if elected.

    The Trump campaign's decision to leave their press behind is inconsistent with campaign manager Kellyanne Conway's claim that a joint press conference she said Trump would hold with Peña Nieto during the trip should be looked at "in direct contrast" to Hillary Clinton. (It was later reported that Trump was "not expected to take questions in Mexico, despite his campaign manager insisting this morning he would.)"

    According to Politico's Hadas Gold, "reporters were 'seething'" on a call with the Trump campaign because "the campaign is leaving the press behind on its big trip to Mexico on Wednesday":

    Just one day after a traveling print pool was put in place for Donald Trump's campaign, the campaign is leaving the press behind on its big trip to Mexico on Wednesday.

    The last-minute trip to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was announced on Tuesday. And while there is a charter plane for the press traveling with Trump, their plane was directed to Phoenix where Trump will later give an immigration speech.


    On the daily call with Trump communications director Jason Miller, reporters were "seething," one source on the call, who asked not to be named because the call is off the record, told POLITICO. According to the source, the campaign only told the five-network television pool about the opportunity to cover the meeting around 3 a.m. While some reporters were weighing chartering their own plane to Mexico, they decided against it partly because the campaign did not indicate there would be a press availability until Conway's comments this morning.

    This post has been updated.

  • Right-Wing Media Claims Surgeon General Nominee Has "Anti-Gun" Agenda Based On Comments He Made As A Teenager

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Media conservatives are attacking Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama's nominee for the post of Surgeon General, because when he was 16 he expressed concern about children being exposed to violence on television.

    As Murthy's nomination has moved closer to a vote in the Senate, right-wing media have smeared him as "anti-gun" and "radical" because Murthy, like the rest of the medical community, believes gun violence is a public health concern.

    The latest attack on Murthy appeared in a Daily Mail article by David Martosko, the former executive editor of the right-wing Daily Caller. Martosko's article appeared under the headline: "Revealed: Obama's controversial pick for surgeon general adopted his anti-gun stance by watching violent CARTOONS."

    In the article Martosko, who is the Daily Mail's U.S. political editor, dug up a quote from when Murthy was 16 and expressed concern to the Miami Herald about children being exposed to violent cartoons:

    Dr. Vivek Murthy, who founded Doctors for Obama in 2008 -- a group that later changed its name to 'Doctors for America -- was a graduating high school senior at the time, one of several valedictorians the Miami Herald interviewed.

    'Vivek Murthy, 16, of Palmetto High, takes television cartoons to task' for 'the growing problem of kids and violence,' according to the Herald.

    'Today, a typical elementary student wakes up on Saturday mornings to fiery gun battles, explosive scenes of terror and the violent decimation of the "bad guy" - all this in a children's cartoon,' Murthy said then. 

    'With such destructive influence, society's preoccupation with firearms and brutal methods of conflict resolution is no surprise.'

    The Daily Mail article has been cited in several conservative blogs.

  • Right-Wing Media Already Falling For O'Keefe's Latest Smear Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Conservative activist James O'Keefe released a new highly edited video that he's using to suggest there are widespread problems with a government program that provides phones and phone service to low-income Americans.

    The Lifeline phone program, which according to the Federal Communications Commission "provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income consumers to help ensure they have the opportunities and security that telephone service affords, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and 911 services," has existed for decades and was expanded to include cell phones during the Bush administration. Conservatives have criticized the program repeatedly, which they have called the "Obama phone" for years.

    O'Keefe's video, which coincides with the launch of his self-congratulatory book, purports to show O'Keefe's actors receiving free cell phones after telling employees of a wireless phone company that they plan to sell the phones to pay for drugs, other purchases, or bills. The edited video includes a narration by O'Keefe asking if the employees would tell his actors "to sell the phones and break the law."

    The raw footage that O'Keefe also released doesn't show any of the featured employees telling the actors to sell their free phones, despite the actors repeatedly saying that they intend to do so and asking about their resale value. As New York magazine's Jonathan Chait explained, the employees only acknowledged that personal property, in the form of these cell phones, can be sold by their owners to buy other things. The raw footage also shows that none of the actors actually received a free phone -- only information about how they could apply for a free phone and the eligibility requirements to receive one, with the actors walking away saying they'd bring their documentation later.

    But O'Keefe's edited video is fulfilling its intended effect and is fooling right-wing media. The Daily Mail Online's David Martosko, who wrote the exclusive article about O'Keefe's video, falsely wrote in his headline that the video "catches wireless employees passing out 'Obama phones' to people who say they'll sell them for drugs, shoes, handbags and spending cash." Martosko again wrote that the video:

    [S]hows two corporate distributors of free cell phones handing out the mobile devices to people who have promised to sell them for drug money, to buy shoes and handbags, to pay off their bills, or just for extra spending cash.

    Again, the raw footage shows that the actors who stated their intention to sell free phones for these reasons never actually received phones.

    Fox News has teased a segment on the O'Keefe video for Tuesday's edition of The O'Reilly Factor. Will Fox fall for O'Keefe's misleading framing?

  • What Dick Cheney's Benghazi Criticism Misses

    Right-Wing Media Ignores Historical Record In Repeating Cheney's Claims

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    David Martosko of the Daily Mail Online provided former Vice President Dick Cheney a platform to criticize the Obama administration's failure to anticipate the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, without noting that seven attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities occurred during the Bush administration.

    In his article, Martosko quotes Cheney saying that the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks was "a failure of leadership" for not anticipating an attack on September 11, which Cheney said the Bush administration always expected following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Martosko's interview of Cheney was promoted by the Drudge Report, Fox Nation, and Breitbart.com.

    But none of these outlets promoting Cheney's opinion noted that the U.S. suffered fatal attacks on embassies and consulates during the Bush administration. Between 2002 and 2008, seven attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates took place in Pakistan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Serbia, and Yemen.

    Additionally, there have been many attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets -- including embassies -- for decades, and far more have occurred during previous administrations than under President Obama. Mother Jones put together the following graphic based on data from the State Department and the University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism:

    Cheney also served as Secretary of Defense during George H.W. Bush's presidency, when there were many times more attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets than under Obama.

  • Reasons To Be Wary Of The Daily Mail's Saudi Letter "Exclusive"

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    The UK's Daily Mail has an "EXCLUSIVE" story this morning on the government of Saudi Arabia reportedly sending a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in 2012 warning about suspected Boston marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. It's being promoted heavily by conservative bloggers and is, at the moment, featured on The Drudge Report. There is ample reason, however, to take this story with a massive grain of salt. As it's reported, the story is extremely thin, and its two authors have a history of wildly inaccurate reporting.

    According to the Daily Mail, the "Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sent a written warning about accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012, long before pressure-cooker blasts killed three and injured hundreds." The report is based on a single anonymous source: a "senior Saudi government official with direct knowledge of the document." By all indications, the Daily Mail did not obtain a copy of the letter, and they quoted officials in DHS and the White House denying that any such letter was received.

    The paper even acknowledged that they could not confirm their source's claims: "If true, the account will produce added pressure on the Homeland Security department and the White House to explain their collective inaction after similar warnings were offered about Tsarnaev by the Russian government." [emphasis added] The paper also seemed unable to confirm which intelligence agency produced the document: "The letter likely came to DHS via the Saudi Ministry of Interior, the agency tasked with protecting the Saudi kingdom's homeland."

    As for the Saudi source, despite claiming to have "direct knowledge" of the document, he offered vague and arguably contradictory descriptions of its contents, describing it as "very specific" about its warning that "something was going to happen in a major U.S. city." And, curiously, the Saudi source claimed the same letter was sent to the British government, but the Daily Mail report offered no indication that the paper contacted British intelligence services to confirm or deny this. 

  • The Daily Caller's Highly Suspect Bin Laden Raid "Bombshell"

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    The Daily Caller reported late last night that they obtained an exclusive first look at Richard Miniter's forthcoming book Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him, which contains the "bombshell" allegation (sourced to a single anonymous official) that in the first three months of 2011, President Obama thrice canceled the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Miniter's and the Caller's reporting is contradicted by previous in-depth reports indicating that the plan for the raid wasn't delivered to the president until the end of March, and training for the operation didn't begin until mid-April, meaning that there wasn't yet a "mission" for the president to cancel.

    The Daily Caller's David Martosko wrote last night:

    In "Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him," Richard Miniter writes that Obama canceled the "kill" mission in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March. Obama's close adviser Valerie Jarrett persuaded him to hold off each time, according to the book.

    Miniter, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, cites an unnamed source with Joint Special Operations Command who had direct knowledge of the operation and its planning.

    Miniter's reporting doesn't match up with the New Yorker's deep dive into the Bin Laden raid, published in August 2011, which offered a timeline of the planning process based on quotes and information from a variety of sources, named and otherwise.

    According to the New Yorker, in late 2010 President Obama ordered Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to "begin exploring options for a military strike" against the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where Bin Laden was thought to be hiding, and that planning began in February 2011. At that point, according to the Caller's vague reporting, Obama is alleged to have already twice "canceled" the mission.

  • Daily Caller Silent On EPA's Legal Victory

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Yesterday a federal appeals court unanimously upheld the EPA's finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare, deeming the EPA "unambiguously correct" in addressing climate change through the Clean Air Act. One media
    The Daily Calleroutlet that is curiously silent on the ruling is the Daily Caller, whose reporter Matthew Boyle previously claimed the resulting regulations would cause the EPA to hire an "ARMY OF 230k BUREAUCRATS." The claim was completely false, and their refusal to correct the clear error damaged their reputation and embarrassed employees.

    Boyle's claim on Twitter echoed his Daily Caller article misreading an EPA court filing. The EPA said that it avoided a scenario that would require 230,000 workers by using a "tailoring rule" to regulate only the largest polluters -- a rule that was upheld in the recent court ruling. After several outlets ridiculed Daily Caller's error, its executive editor defended the article by making a snide comment to Politico and making several bad rationalizations about why they did not correct their false report.

  • The Daily Caller: Always Right, Even When They're Wrong

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Funny thing about the Daily Caller: they've never been wrong.

    That seems to be their official stance, at least. Even when they are spectacularly in error -- something that happens to every news org now and again -- Tucker Carlson and his retinue will get right in your face and tell you nope, you're wrong, we're right.

    Consider the flap over Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro's absurd outburst during President Obama's June 15 statement on the new immigration policy. Nearly every observer, regardless of ideology, agrees that Munro acted unprofessionally, and disrespected himself and his organization. But not Tucker Carlson: "A good reporter gets the story. We're proud of Neil Munro."

    Standing by your own is one thing, but this goes beyond merely circling the wagons. Carlson is arguing that Munro behaved as a reporter should -- that he "got the story." This praise is belied by the actual story Munro wrote, which contained little substance, barely touched on the policy at issue, and lacked detail (probably because Munro didn't do any actual reporting while he was at the White House).

    Acknowledging miscues is part of the professional news business, but this screw-the-world counterfactual stubbornness is the Daily Caller's go-to response for those moments when they cross the line.

    EPA Regulations

    Last September, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle wrote a piece claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency is "asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new greenhouse gas regulations. Boyle's source, a court brief filed by the EPA, actually said the exact opposite: the EPA had issued a rule in May 2010 that allowed the agency to avoid that scenario. Boyle misread the document and got the story completely wrong.

    After various media outlets weighed in and confirmed that the Daily Caller had botched the report, executive editor David Martosko penned an editorial note lashing out at critics and declaring: "Our news story was well reported, carefully sourced, and solidly written. Despite the criticisms that some have offered, we haven't changed a word." Defiance notwithstanding, his rationalization for not correcting the story didn't hold up.

    Defending the story to Politico, Martosko argued, essentially, that the story had to be right because the EPA is government and government is bad: "What's more likely: that the Obama administration's EPA wants to limit its own power, or that it's interested in dramatically increasing its reach and budget? Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows the answer."