Diamond and Silk | Media Matters for America

Diamond and Silk

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  • White supremacists and right-wing media defend Trump’s racist attack on four members of Congress

    Trump told four women of color, all of whom are US citizens, to "go back" to the "crime infested places from which they came"

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On July 14, President Donald Trump unleashed on American congresswomen of color in a racist thread of tweets. Some white supremacists and right-wing media figures quickly jumped to his defense.

    Trump tweeted about “progressive” Democtratic congresswomen, writing that they “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere,” and saying that they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. … You can’t leave fast enough.” It’s widely inferred that Trump was addressing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA). Trump went on to berate the lawmakers for “viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.” 

    Many in mainstream media widely denounced Trump’s tweets as racist. The tweets were also factually inaccurate -- Ocasio-Cortez’s family is from Puerto Rico, which is part of the U.S., and she was born in the Bronx; Pressley is an African-American who was born in Cincinnati to parents who are also from Ohio; Tlaib was born to immigrant Palestinian parents in Detroit; and while Omar was born in Somalia, she became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.

    The larger story here is not the factual inaccuracies, but that the president holds racist, distorted views about who is rightfully a U.S. citizen and who is not. Many Americans pointed out that being told to “go back” to some distant country, regardless of birthplace, is a familiar, ugly, racist trope

    Unsurprisingly, some white nationalists and right-wing media figures defended Trump’s comments. A few praised the comments, and others resorted to gaslighting, insisting that the media and Democrats were misquoting Trump.

    Neo-Nazi publication Daily Stormer printed the headline “Trump tells brown communist Democrats to leave America, return to their shitholes,” a throwback to Trump’s infamous comments in which he called Haiti, El Salvador, and some African countries “shithole countries.” 

    British neo-Nazi Mark Collett responded to British Prime Minister Theresa May's criticisms of Trump's comments, saying that May is a "total failure." He added that "her latest display of virtue signalling won't do anything to improve her popularity." 

    Far-right publication LifeZette reported on Ocasio-Cortez’s reaction to Trump’s tweets, calling her comments “pretty ugly” and “unbecoming … for an elected official of this country.” The publication detailed what it termed her “ad hominem attack” while reporting on what Trump said to illicit her response without any commentary. 

    Far-right publication The Gateway Pundit printed the headline “President Trump Doubles Down on America-hating Jew-hating Democrats Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and AOC!” 

    Conservative publication RedState claimed that Trump tweeted “what most of middle America is thinking.” The article elaborated that “middle America” is thinking that the congresswomen’s families “fled some third world hell hole that practices abuse of women—including genital mutilation – in order to come to these United States. …  Instead of continually badmouthing these United States, why don’t you and your family go back to the third world hole you came from and fix it.” The article praised Trump, saying, “Great Job, Mr. President. Keep putting these mindless twits in their place.” 

    White nationalist site VDARE responded to a tweet criticizing Republican's silence on Trump's comments by deflecting to a different story that they claim isn't getting adequate attention from Democrats. 

    Conservative commentator Bill Mitchell tweeted that Trump “told a bunch of whining progressives go to their corrupt home countries, fix their problems, THEN RETURN HERE AND SHOW US HOW IT'S DONE.” Mitchell expressed agitation that “the media conveniently leaves out the RETURN part, which was the point of the whole tweet.” 

    Breitbart’s John Nolte suggested that Trump’s tweets were not racist as they “did not mention race, or women of color or tell anyone to go home.” He added that Trump told “these idiots to ‘come back’ after showing how it's done” and media are just “fool[ing] people into believing things that are simply not true.”

    Fox Nation hosts Diamond and Silk said, “The media should report the whole quote not a few words from the beginning and ending.” The pro-Trump pair concluded their tweet with “#FakeNewsMedia.”

    Pro-Trump One America News Network’s Emerald Robinson complained that “the American media will spend the whole day declaring that Americans are racists because they don't want ISIS and Hezbollah and Hamas and Al Qaeda supporters living in America.” Robinson concluded, “This will guarantee Trump's re-election in 2020.” 

    Washington Examiner’s Quin Hillyer claimed that though he thinks “Trump IS a racist,” his tweets in this case “were obnoxious withOUT being necessarily racist.” He insisted that people getting upset over Trump’s comments are “causing a backlash that works in Trump's favor,” advising “CNN, & others” to “can it!” 

    Fox contributor Newt Gingrich insisted that Trump’s tweets are a “good political move.” He elaborated that “the more [Trump] can get the country to look at” these four congresswomen, “the more he can get” Americans “to realize how radical they are and how fundamentally anti-American their views are.” 

    TownHall’s Kurt Schlichter claimed that people who were “paying attention ... thought he had a point about the anti-American ingratitude of the people now running the Democrat Party.” 

    Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume conceded that Trump’s comments were “nativist, xenophobic, [counterfactual], and politically stupid,” but he insisted that “they simply do not meet the standard definition of racist.” Hume claimed that the word “racist” is “so recklessly flung around these days that its actual meaning is being lost.”

    On Fox, conservative GOPAC Chairman David Avella complained, “The president makes a comment and somehow he becomes ... xenophobic and racist.” He also said,  “These four members can certainly say what they want about the president of the United States and many Democrats say far more hateful things about the president of the United States, and that's OK.” 

    Fox contributor Katie Pavlich defended Trump’s comments by saying he didn’t say “go there permanently. He said go there, fix the problem, come back.”

  • Brian Kilmeade wonders how the "narrative flipped" so that Republicans, who fought racism "up into the 1960s," lost Black support

    In the 1960s, the Republican Party welcomed segregationists, while Democrats embraced civil rights

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade complained to Fox Nation personalities Diamond and Silk that the Democrats used to be the party of the Ku Klux Klan, but “somehow that narrative flipped.” 

    During the June 28 edition of Fox & Friends, Kilmeade claimed that Democrats often don’t acknowledge that their party “gave birth to the Ku Klux Klan.” He added that “it was a Republican that -- Abraham Lincoln’s party -- that up into the 1960s that would fought [and] push back against racism,” and mentioned former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), the longtime Democrat and former KKK leader. Kilmeade expressed aggravation that after the 1960s, “somehow that narrative flipped.” 

    As Princeton University history professor Kevin Kruse pointed out on Twitter, this change during the 1960s was not accidental. The Democratic Party first supported slavery and then segregation until the late 1940s, when the party began to embrace civil rights under President Harry Truman while his Republican successor President Dwight Eisenhower was reluctant to pass the 1957 Civil Rights Act. Still, the 1960 GOP presidential nominee received 32% of the Black vote -- but by 1964, that number fell to just 4%. Conservatives who opposed the Civil Rights Act began to lead the party, as evidenced by Sen. Barry Goldwater’s (R-AZ) 1964 campaign for president. Southern Democrats who opposed civil rights were welcomed into the Republican Party, and a new generation of Southern Republicans became clearly associated with segregation, leading to a change in party ideology and a shift in “narrative.” 

    By willfully omitting these facts when talking about party history, Kilmeade seems to suggest that Black Democrats should be more grateful to the Republican Party, as explained by The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer. Serwer also pointed out that this line of reasoning is often used to stoke white resentment towards Black voters. 

    From the June 28 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): I think on some level, Diamond, the Democrats don't want this argument for the main reason is they’re the ones who gave birth to the Ku Klux Klan. It was a Republican that -- Abraham Lincoln’s party -- that up into the 1960s that would fought [and] push back against racism. And somehow that narrative flipped, and people are forced to go back and remember what Sen. Byrd was and -- even though every road is named after him and every hallway has a plaque with his face on it.

  • Fox Nation hosts have been campaigning for Republicans in violation of the network's supposed standards

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In recent months, Fox Nation hosts have participated in multiple campaign activities for Republican groups, including starring in campaign videos and headlining party fundraisers. Fox News has previously claimed that Fox “talent” are prohibited from participating in campaign events.

    Diamond and Silk, Gregg Jarrett, Todd Starnes, and David Webb have all recently done Republican campaign activities while hosting shows for Fox Nation, Fox’s online streaming network. Rachel Campos-Duffy, a Fox News contributor and host of the Fox Nation show Moms, is also scheduled to keynote a June 27 fundraising event for the Desoto County Republican Party in Mississippi.

    In May, Media Matters released a report documenting that Fox figures have taken more than $500,000 from Republican Party groups to speak at events; have interviewed Republicans officials shortly after co-headlining events with them; and have financially helped President Donald Trump by keynoting speeches on Trump properties. That report included Webb’s then-scheduled speech to a New Hampshire Republican group but not other recent campaigning by Fox Nation hosts.

    In November, after Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro appeared at a campaign rally with Trump, the network told the media that it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events.” That statement was a lie then, and the Fox Nation personalities’ work for Republicans is only further confirmation of the network’s duplicity to reporters.

    The following is a summary of Republican campaign activities by Fox Nation hosts in recent months.

    Diamond and Silk are the hosts of their own eponymous program. The two have repeatedly appeared in videos for Trump’s reelection campaign, most recently on June 2. Fox News did not respond to a Hollywood Reporter request for comment about that video. In March, following a separate Trump campaign video by Diamond and Silk, Fox News distanced itself from the two, telling the publication that “they are not Fox News contributors or employees” -- despite the network previously identifying them as “Fox News Channel contributors,” “Fox Nation contributors,” and “Fox Nation hosts.”

    The two were also the special guests at a March 30 fundraising dinner for the Bush Legacy Republican Women of Weatherford in Texas. They are scheduled to appear at an August 10 event for the Watauga and Ashe County Republican Parties in North Carolina; and a September 23 event for Republican Women Federation clubs in San Diego County, CA.

    Gregg Jarrett is the host of Gregg Jarrett's: The Russia Hoax. He also works as a Fox News legal analyst and frequently appears on Hannity’s program to defend the president and attack special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He headlined an April 18 fundraising dinner for the Columbiana County Republican Party in Ohio. During the event, Jarrett reportedly criticized Mueller and his investigation.

    Photo from the Columbiana County Republican Party’s Facebook page.

    Todd Starnes is the host of Starnes Country. He also hosts a Fox News Radio program and has frequently misinformed viewers about LGBTQ issues. He keynoted a Reagan-Trump Dinner fundraiser for the Wilson County Republican Party in Tennessee on May 14. During that speech, Starnes reportedly said: “I don’t make any apologizes anymore for my support of President Trump, because he’s done something that hasn’t been done since Ronald Reagan was in office – he’s delivered on his campaign promises.” He also falsely claimed that “Democrats literally want to kill newborn babies.”

    David Webb is the host of Reality Check and a Fox News contributor. He emceed a May 31 fundraising event for the Belknap County Republican Committee that was themed “Make New Hampshire Red Again.”

  • Pro-Trump media -- including Fox News -- are using deceptively edited videos in a smear campaign against Speaker Pelosi

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & ALEX KAPLAN

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Thursday, deceptively edited videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) meant to cast doubt on her competency made the rounds on social media and right-wing websites. Later, Fox put its weight behind the narrative, and the network’s most prominent viewer, President Donald Trump, tweeted out a Fox clip about it.

    The smears seem like an obvious attempt to discredit Pelosi after she questioned Trump's fitness for office during a May 23 press conference, saying she wished “his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.” A day earlier, Pelosi had made the true statement that Trump was engaged in a cover-up. As CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out in the May 24 edition of his Reliable Sources newsletter, “What's going on here is pretty obvious. Pelosi is questioning President Trump's competency -- saying she's concerned about the president's well-being, suggesting an ‘intervention’ is needed -- so Trump's allies are saying the exact same things about her.”

    There are actually two videos circulating in the pro-Trump media sphere. One spliced together clips of Pelosi’s comments on Thursday to make it seem like she stammered throughout the press conference. The other significantly slowed remarks Pelosi made during an appearance at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on May 22 to make her look inebriated. (Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani tweeted and later deleted that manipulated video.)

    Conspiracy theory website Infowars pushed the narrative with the headline “Watch Nancy Pelosi Stutter Slur And Suffer Memory Lapses in Press Conference.” Then Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight adopted a similar frame in an on-screen chyron and aired the deceptively spliced clip of the May 23 press conference. Trump then tweeted the Fox segment out to his 60.5 million followers.

    On Fox’s Fox & Friends this morning, guests Diamond and Silk falsely accused Pelosi of inebriation, possibly referring to the doctored footage of her appearance at CAP. Co-host Steve Doocy claimed in a later segment that he was unfamiliar with the doctored video but issued a correction for Diamond and Silk’s accusation by citing the Post. However, the two Fox Nation hosts refused to back down:

    Copies of the videos continue to spread on social media platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter, garnering thousands of interactions. Though these videos are deceptive, the tech giants seem unable to halt their spread -- and in some cases, they may even be making money from views, as at least one video pushing the smear on YouTube featured an ad.

  • Fox News described Diamond and Silk as "hosts" and "contributors" until they appeared in a Trump campaign video

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News attempted to dodge questions about Diamond and Silk appearing in a video produced by President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign by claiming that “they are not Fox News contributors or employees.” That explanation may come as a surprise to some of their Fox News colleagues, who previously identified them as “Fox News Channel contributors,” “Fox Nation contributors,” and “Fox Nation hosts.”  

    Diamond and Silk, who joined Fox Nation as hosts in November, are North Carolina-based sisters whose official biography describes them as “Video Vloggers, Internet Sensations,” and “Influencers” who are known for “their out spoken and loyal support for President Donald J Trump.” They gained attention last year after falsely claiming that Facebook and YouTube censored them online.

    The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr reported on March 19 that the conservative duo appeared in a campaign video for Trump’s reelection campaign, noting that the network previously suggested that host Sean Hannity shouldn’t have appeared in a September 2016 campaign video for Trump. Fox News public relations responded by claiming “the duo are not employees of the network: ‘Diamond & Silk license short weekly videos to Fox Nation – they are not Fox News contributors or employees. When they appear on FNC and FBN, they do so as guests.’"

    Yet Fox News has identified Diamond and Silk as “Fox Nation contributors” and “Fox News Channel contributors.” And here are four screenshots of them being identified on-screen as “Fox Nation hosts”:

    Diamond and Silk’s website states: “They Currently Work as Contributors on Fox Nation.”

    Fox hosts such as Jeanine Pirro, Pete Hegseth, Greg Gutfeld, and Lou Dobbs have been paid by Republican groups to headline fundraisers in recent years, as Media Matters has previously documented.

  • Conservative media are testing attacks on 2020 Democratic candidates to see what sticks

    A coherent theme won’t emerge for a while, but here’s what’s in the works

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As the first Democratic presidential hopefuls declare their candidacy, right-wing media outlets are launching a campaign of their own. The goal? Planting seeds of doubt about each of the potential nominees so that by the time the Democratic National Convention in July 2020 rolls around, voters will harbor negative feelings toward whoever comes out on top.

    The message in the 2016 presidential campaign was that Hillary Clinton was an extraordinarily corrupt, pay-to-play politician who felt she was above the law. It was specific enough to be an effective message but vague enough that its exact interpretation remained subjective. After all, terms like “corrupt” and “crooked” can mean pretty much whatever the person interpreting wants them to. In June 2016, Gallup asked people, “What comes to your mind when you think about Hillary Clinton?” Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they “don’t trust her” or found her “dishonest” or “unethical,” 13 percent said they “dislike /or “don’t care for her,” and 8 percent described her as a “crook,” a “criminal,” “corrupt,” or said she “should be in jail.”

    When it comes to 2020 candidates, it’s clear that conservative media are simply throwing narratives around to see what sticks.

    The early stages of a smear campaign can seem a bit absurd. Headlines will overpromise and underdeliver, messages won’t be consistent, and the purported scandals and gaffes will underwhelm.

    Elizabeth Warren’s first week on the stump filled with missteps” reads the headline of a recent article by The Daily Caller. Among the supposed flubs criticized in the piece:

    • She said, “I’m gonna get me, um, a beer,” during an Instagram livestream.
    • She lost her voice after one day of campaigning.
    • Her excuse for losing her voice was “too much time with little people,” referring to her grandchildren. The article says this was “poorly-worded.”
    • She “awkwardly ‘admitted’ to purchasing things on Amazon.”

    “If her first campaign week is any indication, Warren could be in for a long and bumpy road ahead for 2020,” the article concludes.

    It’s not really clear what the “missteps” mentioned in the headline were. Does “I’m gonna get me, um, a beer” come off like forced folksiness? Could her temporarily lost voice be used to paint her as “low stamina”? Will her saying “little people” be cited as insensitive toward people who have dwarfism or be divorced from context to seem like she’s smugly referring to people she met during her campaign stop as “little people”? Will her Amazon Prime Day purchases cost her regulatory credibility?

    At this point in a smear campaign, the objective really is quantity over quality. Quality -- which is to say what message will stick with voters and sour their opinion of the candidates -- comes much later. The beer bit seemed to have legs. Fox News’ Outnumbered offered baffled criticism like, “Somebody tell me, why beer? Why that beverage? Is that to appeal to, like, male voters? I'm just wondering, because she's playing the gender card.” Also on Fox News, during an episode of The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld said, “It's just obvious that she's inauthentic in everything she does.”

    One of the first major policy positions Warren laid out at the beginning of her campaign was a 2 percent annual tax on wealth over $50 million. One can argue the pros and cons of any policy, but with a sprinkle of hyperbole and a dash of bad faith, anything can be turned into a smear narrative. For example, while reporting on Warren’s wealth-tax proposal, CNBC’s Joe Kernan claimed that Warren “wants billionaires to stop being freeloaders, stop creating jobs, stop creating wealth, stop succeeding.”

    This narrative almost writes itself: Elizabeth Warren wants you to fail, America. While that’s a completely ridiculous reading of what she’s proposed, it certainly won't stop conservatives from running with it.

    Similar smears and distortions are already being tested on Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

    Other candidates found themselves at the center of outright lies and willful ignorance.

    In early February, Booker gave an interview to VegNews, a news site aimed at vegetarians and vegans. Booker, who is a vegan, touched on the environmental sustainability of a world in which people get so much of their food in the form of meat. Booker discussed his own decision to go vegan, adding, “This is the United States of America, and I, for one, believe in our freedom to choose. So, I don’t want to preach to anybody about their diets; that’s just not how I live.”

    Naturally, Booker’s words were twisted by right-wing media. He explicitly stated that he wasn’t advocating for the abolition of animal farming, but that didn’t stop Fox’s Lisa Kennedy Montgomery from claiming that Booker “wants to impose his meat rationing on the rest of us.” The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson made the odd claim that Booker was trying to carry out the supposed agenda of Pope Francis “to coerce farmers into abandoning animal populations in favor of vegetarian farming.” National Review claimed that “Cory Booker wants only the rich to eat meat,” another evidence-deficient claim.

    Another line of attack right-wing media figures level against Booker includes accusations of religious bigotry. “Cory Booker is an anti-religious bigot and a disgrace to the Judiciary Committee,” tweeted The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro after Booker asked judicial nominee Neomi Rao if she thinks gay relationships are sinful. The Washington Examiner’s Becket Adams made a similar charge, accusing Booker of engaging in “gotcha” questions during Rao’s hearing. Booker is actually fairly well-known for his Christian beliefs and is a member of a National Baptist Convention church in Newark, NJ.

    As for Harris, after an appearance on the radio show The Breakfast Club, she got slammed for, supposedly, lying about what music she listened to while she got high in college (seriously). A smile on his face, co-host Steve Doocy held her to account during Fox & Friends:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): She was listening to Snoop and Tupac when she was in college. We took a look at the record, and take a look at this. That was the appearance on the so-called world's most dangerous morning show, The Breakfast Club, here in New York. She graduated from college at Howard in 1986. She finished law school in 1989. She was admitted to the state bar of California in 1990 and then in 1991, Tupac's first album came out and in 1993, Snoop Dogg's first album was released. So there's a problem with the timeline.

    Unfortunately for Doocy and others eager to rip Harris for being inauthentic and untruthful over this trivial matter, this isn’t exactly how it happened. The Breakfast Club published a clip calling out Breitbart, Fox News, and The View’s Meghan McCain for taking Harris’ comments out of context. The question about whether she smoked marijuana in college was separate from the question of what music she likes. Even if the likes of Fox and Breitbart had offered a fair interpretation of events, this is hardly the scandal they were trying to make it out to be.

    Harris was also the subject of a smear steeped in sexism. After former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown wrote a short op-ed to say that he and Harris briefly dated “more than 20 years ago,” and that he had appointed Harris to two state commissions when he was speaker of the California State Assembly, conservative media jumped at the chance to baselessly accuse Harris of sleeping her way to the top and being some sort of #MeToo-era hypocrite. The story faded after a day or so; there wasn’t anything to suggest Harris did anything improper.

    In Gillibrand’s case, one of the early narratives being used against her is centered on her decision to call for former Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) resignation after multiple women reported that he had touched them inappropriately. This isn’t a new attack on Gillibrand, but it does seem to be getting a bit more traction since she began hinting at a run. It’s most often used to paint her as opportunistic and power-hungry. Her evolving views on issues like immigration and guns have been cast in that same light. Like Warren, Gillibrand is framed as though her every action has been focus-grouped. The Washington Examiner’s Eddie Scarry asked whether she dyes her hair. Conservative radio host Mark Simone flipped out over news that Gillibrand seemed unsure whether to eat fried chicken with her hands or with silverware, tweeting, “Another example of phony, pay for play, politician Kirsten Gillibrand proving every move she makes is pandering and contrived.”

    This collection offers just a small sampling of an untold number of attacks that conservative media will filter and refine for maximum political damage between now and Election Day. For the moment, these look more like hastily sketched prototypes of pointed political commentary than the works of rhetorical art they will most certainly become. One question worth asking -- for people inside and out of the media world -- is what makes a smear successful, and why do people believe things that are clearly untrue or exaggerated? Luckily, there is some insight to be had here.

    Smear campaigns aren’t an exact science, but there are a few principles worth following if you want to understand them.  

    Not every smear is an all-out lie. Some, as mentioned above, are built around exaggerations or bad-faith interpretations of candidate actions. Both types can be effective, even if the claim is especially brazen.

    A 2010 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology General examined two of the more omnipresent smears of the 2008 presidential campaign in an attempt to better understand why people believe even the most blatantly false accusations against some candidates. One part of the research looked at claims that Barack Obama was secretly Muslim and that John McCain was senile and unfit to lead the country. Another portion addressed a less blatant but just as ubiquitous smear post-election about whether Obama was a socialist. The authors explain their motivation behind these studies:

    During election seasons, media bombardments by political propagandists are pervasive and difficult to avoid. Such extensive exposure might have the unsavory consequence of instilling implicit cognitive associations consistent with smear attacks in the minds of citizens. ... One measure of the success of smear campaigns might thus be the extent to which individuals exhibit strong implicit associations between a candidate’s name and his or her smearing label.

    What researchers ultimately found was that there’s a link between whether someone believes a harmful rumor and whether they’re politically aligned with the candidate beforehand. That is, a Democrat is more likely to believe a negative rumor about a Republican than Republicans are -- and vice versa. This conclusion may seem somewhat obvious, but it’s helpful in understanding why otherwise intelligent people might genuinely believe Obama was born in Kenya or that Hillary Clinton runs a child sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. It’s a case study in confirmation bias.

    The idea of creating “strong implicit associations between a candidate’s name and his or her smearing label” gets at why it’s important for successful attack campaigns to keep a singular focus. For the many attacks Hillary Clinton faced during the 2016 election, the common theme was clear: She was “crooked.” In Donald Trump’s case, his scandals included financial corruption and reports of sexual assault, racism, and sexism. There was no single coherent association to be made here, and it’s entirely possible that that worked to his advantage with voters. (This isn’t to say that those scandals were part of a smear campaign, just that his opposition maybe didn’t utilize those stories to their maximum political potential.)

    “At its core is the need for the brain to receive confirming information that harmonizes with an individual’s existing views and beliefs,” says Mark Whitmore, an assistant professor of management and information systems at Kent State University in a press release from the American Psychological Association about “why we’re susceptible to fake news.” “In fact, one could say the brain is hardwired to accept, reject, misremember or distort information based on whether it is viewed as accepting of or threatening to existing beliefs.”

    Whitmore notes that thanks to the ever-expanding list of places people go to get their news -- whether that’s somewhere online or on cable TV --  “the receiver is often faced with paradoxical and seemingly absurd messages. It becomes easier to cling to a simple fiction than a complicated reality.”

    Trump Derangement Syndrome” is a popular phrase within conservative media to describe people who reflexively disagree with anything Trump does. The term originated in a 2003 Charles Krauthammer column as “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” which some reappropriated as “Obama Derangement Syndrome” to describe anti-Obama mindsets. Aside from the irony in Krauthammer using this newly created term to roll his eyes at people opposed to the invasion of Iraq -- a decision that only looks worse with passing time -- he was also essentially making reference to confirmation bias.

    As news consumers, we need to be aware of how personal biases guide our judgment when it comes to determining the validity of both praise and attacks on various candidates. Now is the perfect time to be on the lookout for these narratives, while they’re still sloppy and unrefined.

  • Right-wing media used state abortion measures to villainize people who have abortions

    Blog ››› ››› MADELYN WEBB

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After several states promoted measures protecting abortion access, right-wing media not only spread an immense amount of misinformation about the efforts, but also lashed out at people who have had abortions, stigmatizing and denigrating them for making a personal health care decision. In particular, these outlets and media figures targeted people who have had abortions later in pregnancy -- by suggesting that they are heartless murderers, misrepresenting them as callous and irresponsible, and even calling them “satanic.”

    The bills that instigated this outrage are far from radical: Democratic lawmakers in New York and Virginia were attempting to protect abortion access at the state level, not to legalize “infanticide” -- as some right-wing media alleged. Right-wing media seized on clips of Democratic Virginia lawmakers Rep. Kathy Tran and Gov. Ralph Northan alledgedly describing later abortion procedures, spurring the spread of further hyperbole and misinformation about proactive state abortion protection bills. In reality, these measures would legalize abortions later in pregnancy “when the fetus is not viable or a woman’s health is at risk,” a far cry from right-wing media’s allegations that such procedures (and the people who have or provide them) are “demonic.”

    Here are just some of the examples of right-wing media misrepresenting people who have received abortions, a legal and sometimes necessary medical procedure:

    • Fox News contributors and right-wing internet personalities Diamond and Silk (Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson) tweeted that Democrats were trying to allow “abortions up to the birth” of a baby (they aren’t) and that this was “murder”: 

    • During the January 31 edition of his radio program, Fox News’ Sean Hannity claimed that people should take advantage of “birth control options” to avoid getting pregnant. He concluded that because of these options, someone who needs an abortion later in pregnancy is irresponsible because they either should have prevented the pregnancy or gotten an abortion “in the first three months.”
    • On Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News program, Justice with Judge Jeanine, political columnist Amy Holmes said, “There are women who kill their kids for selfish reasons."
    • In a series of tweets, Washington Examiner contributor Kimberly Ross attacked people who support access to abortions as "morally weak,” and accused patients who have received them of being “predatory” and of “stand[ing] on the backs of the unborn dead”:

    • During the January 31 edition of Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee alleged that people who have abortions later in pregnancy are doing so because they think having a child is “going to be an inconvenience.”
    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro also pushed the narrative that people who have abortions later in pregnancy are doing so callously, saying that people might argue “I’d be healthier if I didn’t have this 9-month-old baby right here that’s about to enter my vaginal canal. Cut its brains out,” and claiming, “That’s what this law now allows.”
    • During President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA, tweeted that later abortions are “despicable” and that anyone who supports efforts to protect or expand abortion access was endorsing “this savagery”:

    • After New York illuminated One World Trade Center with pink lights to honor the passage of abortion protections, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that New York was celebrating “legalized murder, calling it abortion."
    • During his Fox News program, Hannity, host Sean Hannity stated that because several laws that allow later abortion in order to protect the pregnant person’s health don’t further define what’s entailed in protecting health, “If someone says hours before [giving birth], ‘Oh, I'm having emotional second thoughts,’ and a doctor says, ’OK,’ then they're allowed to commit infanticide."
    • On Twitter, Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens said people celebrating state abortion protection measures -- which she said allow “slaughtering babies” -- were “satanic”:

    • During the January 31 edition of Fox News’ Fox News @ Night, actor Kevin Sorbo compared people who have abortions later in pregnancy to Nazis, saying: “You know, there's a group of people about 70 years ago that decided what lives were worth living, what lives were not, and they were called the Nazis.”
  • Fox News gives Diamond and Silk a Fox Nation show

    Fox News hires the right-wing social media charlatans best known for false claims that Facebook and YouTube censored them

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN

    Fox Nation, Fox News’ recently launched streaming service, just announced another addition to its roster of liars and bigots. MAGA internet personalities Diamond and Silk will have a five-minute-long weekly program featuring “commentary, focusing on events of the day and casual discourse.”

    Diamond and Silk, also known as are Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, gained internet fame during the 2016 presidential campaign for their staunch support of President Donald Trump. The pair are probably best known for falsely claiming that Facebook censored their content without offering any evidence whatsoever. Their claims were amplified multiple times when they appeared on Fox News as guests. Diamond and Silk also appeared on Fox Business to allege that YouTube censored their content, again without evidence.

    Republican elected officials have also boosted Diamond and Silk’s debunked claims, using taxpayer resources to do so. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and several of his colleagues in the House derailed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress by asking Zuckerberg repeatedly to address censorship of Diamond and Silk on the platform, something that hadn’t actually happened. Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee actually invited Diamond and Silk to testify before Congress, devoting an entire hearing to the alleged social media censorship of right-wing media personalities who had complained about their declining traffic and engagement rates. At one point during these hearings, Diamond claimed that the pair never took money from the Trump campaign; that was a demonstrable lie. When confronted with the filing showing they were paid, the duo called it fake news.

    When they’re not spreading false conspiracy theories about social media censorship, Diamond and Silk use their time on Fox News to offer their unique take on other topics of the day, such as:

    • blaming Democrats for the pipe bomb terrorism that targeted influential Democrats;
    • saying LeBron James was "teaching men, especially our young black men, ... how to be cowards";
    • blaming the Uranium One deal (which happened during the Obama adminstration) for Russia's nuclear weapons program (which started during the Truman administration); and.
    • calling CNN reporter Jim Acosta “the enemy of the people.”

    No doubt Diamond and Silk will make the most of their few moments of (weekly) fame over at Fox Nation.