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  • Here's what you need to know about the National Black Chamber of Commerce

    EPA chief Andrew Wheeler to announce major environmental rollback alongside fossil-fuel-funded front group

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    On Thursday, the Trump administration is expected to announce a regulatory rollback that will make it easier to build new coal-fired plants by eliminating Obama-era rules requiring such plants to include carbon-capture technology. Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is scheduled to make the announcement alongside Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), a minority business front group that has received funding from fossil fuel interests and other corporate sources, including ExxonMobil and Koch Industries.

    Alford and the organization he runs have long teamed up with conservatives and business interests to fight regulations that would protect and clean up the environment. A 2017 Bloomberg investigation described the NBCC as “a shoestring operation, run by a husband-and-wife team." But despite its small size, the group provides outsized value to corporations and industry groups. The NBCC has been criticized by a number of prominent environmental justice leaders and organizations, including Green For All, GreenLatinos, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

    Here's a quick overview of NBCC activity on behalf of polluters.

    NBCC campaigned against the Clean Power Plan

    The Clean Power Plan, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, aimed to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants, part of a larger effort to fight climate change. According to Obama's EPA, it also would have improved public health by cutting air pollution. Civil rights leaders, environmental justice groups, and environmental activists successfully pushed the agency to make sure the rule addressed many of the environmental and economic concerns of minority and low-income communities.

    But the NBCC opposed the Clean Power Plan while claiming to be speaking on behalf of African-Americans. The group commissioned and promoted a flawed study that falsely claimed the plan would disproportionately harm minorities. The study was swiftly debunked. And yet Alford became a central figure in a disinformation campaign backed by fossil-fuel interests. He placed anti-Clean Power Plan op-eds in at least seven newspapers and saw right-wing outlets echo and amplify his discredited assertions.

    NBCC's debunked study found new life in the Trump administration. When the EPA, under Wheeler's leadership, proposed to replace the Clean Power Plan with a weaker substitute, the White House cited the NBCC study in its talking points. 

    NBCC took part in a deceptive campaign against solar energy

    In 2016, the NBCC was part of Consumers for Smart Solar, a utility-backed and Koch-backed astroturf group that campaigned on behalf of a deceptive ballot initiative in Florida. The initiative was designed to appear pro-solar, but it actually would have slowed the growth of rooftop solar while protecting the utilities from competition. Voters ended up rejecting the measure. 

    Alford fought EPA’s rule to limit smog pollution

    After the EPA moved in 2015 to impose limits on ozone, a component of smog, Alford went on a speaking tour to convince minority audiences that the EPA’s rules would harm them economically, echoing a message broadcast by the NBCC’s corporate donors. When confronted with evidence that smog disproportionately hurts minority and low-income communities, Alford said it was a “farce.”

    NBCC backed a climate denier's effort to discredit carbon pricing

    Earlier this year, NBCC joined right-wing organizations supporting an anti-carbon tax resolution proposed by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), a climate denier. Alford signed a letter supporting the resolution, listing his name alongside far-right figures like Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

    Alford: "Coal is essential to our way of living"

    Alford is on the board of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy, also known as Energy Fairness, a self-described “coalition of working people, business owners, environmentalists, and trade organizations who are fighting for fair, responsible energy policies.” In actuality, the group and a partner organization, Working People for Fair Energy, have been closely aligned with utility companies fighting coal-ash regulation, according to a 2010 investigation by the Institute for Southern Studies.

    In October 2016, Alford went on a tour of coal mines in Alabama that was sponsored by the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy. In a blog post about the tour that he published on PACE’s website, Alford wrote, “Coal is essential to our way of living. If some politicians and activists think they can ‘kill coal’ they are terribly mistaken.”

    Alford and Wheeler are two of a kind

    Alford and the NBCC have consistently worked against the interests of minority communities and working families to advance a pro-fossil fuel agenda. Like Wheeler did when he was a lobbyist, Alford has cashed oil, gas, and coal company checks for years. So it is fitting that they will be standing together to announce the Trump administration's latest assault on our environment and climate.

  • These are the LGBTQ-related cases the Supreme Court could take up this term

    The Trump-Pence administration asked the Supreme Court to review trans military ban cases. There are several other LGBTQ-related cases it could decide to take up this session.

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Trump-Pence administration has once again asked the Supreme Court to take up one of its policy priorities and bypass lower courts in what has been called an “unusual” move -- this time, to expedite a ruling on its proposed policy banning openly transgender service members from serving in the military. And that’s just one of several LGBTQ-related cases the Supreme Court could hear this session, with other topics including employment discrimination, trans-inclusive school facilities, and religious exemptions for businesses. Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom has connections to several of those cases.

    Though there has been media coverage of the trans military ban cases, several other important cases that may reach the high court fly under the media’s radar. Here's a look at LGBTQ-related cases that may be heard by the Supreme Court this term:

    Trans military ban

    Employment discrimination under Title VII

    Religious exemptions for businesses

    Trans-inclusive school facilities

    Trans military ban

    In July 2017, Trump announced on Twitter that he planned to ban transgender people from serving in the military, reversing a 2016 policy change by the Obama administration that allowed trans people to serve openly. In March, the Trump-Pence administration released its official policy. In developing the plan, the administration reportedly relied on a panel of “experts” that included the vehemently anti-trans activist Ryan T. Anderson and Tony Perkins, president of the extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council. There have been four lawsuits filed against the ban, and according to CNN, “District courts across the country have so far blocked the policy from going into effect. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in one challenge earlier this fall and the DC Circuit will hear arguments in early December.”

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked the Supreme Court to review three of the cases, bypassing lower courts: Doe v. Trump, Stockman v. Trump, and Karnoski v. Trump. According to The Advocate, Doe “is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit," and the other two are pending before the 9th Circuit. Neither appeals court has ruled on any of these cases, but the 9th Circuit has heard arguments in one challenge already.

    The Guardian reported that the Trump-Pence administration’s request “is the fourth time in recent months the administration has sought to bypass lower courts that have blocked some of its more controversial proposals and push the high court, which has a conservative majority, to weigh in quickly on a divisive issue.” The New York Times noted that the DOJ’s request for the Supreme Court to review the issue is unusual, as it “does not ordinarily intercede until at least one appeals court has considered an issue, and it typically awaits a disagreement among appeals courts before adding a case to its docket.” According to the Supreme Court’s rules, it should take up an issue “only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this court.”

    Speaking to The Washington Post, several lawyers challenging the ban have “said there is no reason for the court to abandon its usual policy,” and according to The Daily Beast, if the Supreme Court does review the issue, it “would theoretically only be considering whether or not to lift the injunctions that have been placed on the rollout of the transgender troop ban” while the lower courts continue to debate the legality of the ban itself. However, there is also a chance that the high court could find a way to rule directly on the ban’s constitutionality.

    Employment discrimination under Title VII

    There are three cases that the Supreme Court could take up involving interpretations of workplace protections under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.”

    The primary debate around Title VII involves whether protections from sex discrimination also encompass sexual orientation and gender identity, particularly as the Supreme Court has already ruled that employers cannot discriminate based on gender stereotypes. In May 2017, Congress introduced the Equality Act, a bill that would explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing civil rights laws, including the Civil Rights Act.

    In October 2017, the DOJ issued a memo that said (emphasis original), "Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status." Of the three Title VII cases that the Supreme Court might take up, one involves a trans woman who was fired for her gender identity, and the other two involve men who were fired for their sexual orientation.

    The first case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, involves a transgender woman named Aimee Stephens, a funeral director who was fired after coming out to her longtime employer. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor based on Title VII protections, saying, “It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex” and that “discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

    The influential and extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing the funeral home at the center of the case, and ADF’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to take up the case in July.

    In October, the DOJ filed a brief in support of the funeral home. It issued a similar brief in favor of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case decided last session. Solicitor General Noel Francisco signed the Harris Funeral Homes brief and argued in support of ADF’s client in Masterpiece Cakeshop. ADF had identified Francisco as one of its more than 3,200 allied attorneys in several press releases in 2016, but the group later claimed that this had been “our mistake” and that he was not in fact an allied attorney. ADF shows a distinct lack of transparency about who its allied attorneys are, and another group even filed a Freedom of Information Act request to determine Francisco’s exact relationship with ADF.

    In a second case, Zarda v. Altitude Express, skydiving instructor Donald Zarda sued his employer Altitude Express for firing him in 2010 after he “told a female student that he was gay.” (Zarda died four years after he filed the suit.) The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor in February of this year, deciding that Title VII “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” Altitude Express and its lawyers petitioned the case to the Supreme Court in May.

    In a third case, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Gerald Bostock sued after “he was fired from his job as a child welfare services coordinator for a Georgia county’s juvenile court system when his employer found out he is gay.” The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Bostock, saying that Title VII does not protect discrimination based on sexual orientation. In May, Bostock and his lawyer asked the Supreme Court to weigh in given a split in circuit courts’ rulings on the matter.

    The high court was originally expected to consider petitions to review the three Title VII cases on November 30, but it has since “delayed its timeline for considering whether to grant review.” According to Bloomberg Law, “The court’s next scheduled conference is Dec. 7, and it has no more conferences scheduled for December. The first conference of the new year is scheduled for Jan. 4.” If it does not grant review by mid-January, the court would not be able to hold oral arguments for any of the cases during the current term, which began in October.

    Religious exemptions for businesses

    In June, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favor of ADF’s client Jack Phillips, a Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple, in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The decision did not indicate how the high court should rule on other similar cases or on the larger question of whether businesses can deny services to LGBTQ people but rather ruled that members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown “hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated [Phillips’] objection.” This next session, however, the Supreme Court could make a broader ruling on a similar case.

    In Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, the owners of the now-shuttered Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, a violation of the state’s nondiscrimination law. According to The Oregonian, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled against the bakery owners and “upheld the order, and the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case earlier this year.” Their lawyers -- from the anti-LGBTQ legal group First Liberty Institute (previously known as Liberty Institute) -- filed a petition for Supreme Court review in September. At least four of those lawyers have connections to ADF: Kelly Shackelford, the president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, and Hiram Sasser have both been identified as ADF allied attorneys, and Michael Berry and Stephanie Taub both participated in ADF’s legal fellowship program.

    Trans-inclusive school facilities

    ADF has filed another petition asking the Supreme Court to weigh in on an LGBTQ-related issue in the Joel Doe v. Boyertown Area School District case. In that case, cisgender students represented by ADF sued their school district after Boyertown Area High School passed an inclusive policy that allows transgender students to use facilities that align with their gender identity. This differs from the high-profile Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board case, in which a trans student sued his school district for passing a discriminatory policy.

    The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Boyertown’s trans-inclusive policy and against ADF’s client in July, citing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which “prohibits discrimination ‘based on sex’ in federally funded educational programs.” ADF has also attempted to leverage Title IX in its arguments, saying that the school’s trans-inclusive policy would create a “hostile environment” in violation of Title IX because its cisgender clients would have to interact with trans students in school restrooms and locker rooms. ADF thus contended that cisgender students who feel “embarrassed and harassed” by being in the same restrooms as trans students would be discriminated against “on the basis of sex.”

    There are several potential outcomes if the Supreme Court does take up the case. The Daily Beast’s Samantha Allen wrote that if the court ruled against the plaintiffs, it would likely decide “that local school districts like Boyertown cannot be barred from establishing transgender protections” rather than making a more sweeping decision “to affirm that all transgender students nationwide are protected under Title IX.” However, Allen noted the increasingly conservative makeup of the court and contemplated what could happen if it ruled in favor of ADF’s clients:

    There’s another outcome that has the potential to be catastrophic for a generation of transgender students: The Supreme Court—now with a conservative majority and two Trump picks—hears the case and agrees that transgender students cannot be protected by school policies. In the worst case, they agree that Title IX not only doesn’t protect transgender students, but actually requires schools to discriminate against them.

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups are emboldened by the new Supreme Court make up

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups, including ADF, have united around Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the court, assuming he would champion their issues and cement the conservative majority on the court. Like the Trump-Pence administration, these groups have been emboldened to push for discriminatory policies in the courts, such as overturning protections against conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth. ADF and others like it also have unprecedented influence over the administration; the White House even briefed ADF President Michael Farris about the FBI's Kavanaugh investigation not long after U.S. senators received the FBI’s report. Farris and ADF argued twice before the Supreme Court during the last session, and ADF has played a role in more than 50 other cases before the high court.

    Additional research by Kayla Gogarty and Brianna January.

  • Sunday shows finally talk about climate change (but that doesn’t mean the coverage was good)

    After bombshell climate report, Sunday political talk shows bring on climate deniers

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Trump administration tried to bury a major government report on climate change by releasing it on the day after Thanksgiving, but the bombshell report still received substantial media attention, including coverage on all five of the major Sunday morning political talk shows.

    The latest National Climate Assessment report -- a 1,600-page, congressionally mandated document produced by some 300 scientists from 13 federal agencies -- paints a dire picture of how climate change is already affecting the U.S. and how its catastrophic impacts will intensify in coming years. The report was expected to be released in early December, but three knowledgeable sources told The New York Times' Coral Davenport that "administration officials hoped to minimize the impact by making the assessment public on the afternoon of Black Friday, the big shopping day after the Thanksgiving holiday, thinking that Americans might be unlikely to be paying attention."

    But by publishing the report during a slow news period, the Trump team might have inadvertently caused it to get more media attention than it otherwise would have.

    Yesterday was the first time this year that the five major Sunday shows discussed climate change on the same day. ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, CNN's State of the Union, Fox News Sunday, and NBC's Meet the Press all included segments on the new report.

    That's more than the number of Sunday shows that covered another major climate report released in early October by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Only three of the Sunday shows -- This Week, Face the Nation, and State of the Union -- covered that IPCC report.

    Though the Sunday shows covered the new climate report, much of the coverage was poor

    Even though the five big Sunday shows covered the new National Climate Assessment, the quality of the coverage in many cases was downright poor. Some of the hosts invited climate deniers to discuss the report, failed to question them about their denial, and allowed guests to spout denialist talking points with little to no pushback, while other hosts spent only a little time on the report.

    The panel that NBC's Chuck Todd invited to discuss the climate report on NBC's Meet the Press included Danielle Pletka of the Koch-backed American Enterprise Institute, who asserted easily debunked nonsense about the last two years being the coldest in recent history. Todd also asked Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) about the report during an interview, without noting that Lee has questioned basic climate science.

    CNN's State of the Union hosted two climate deniers to discuss the National Climate Assessment: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and former senator and CNN contributor Rick Santorum. In response to host Dana Bash’s question about how climate change could harm agriculture in Iowa, Ernst engaged in lukewarm climate denial, stating, "We know that our climate is changing. Our climate always changes, and we see those ebb and flows through time." Meanwhile, Santorum praised the Trump administration’s attempt to bury the report and claimed that the scientists who produced it were “driven by money,” an assertion that was widely derided on social media.

    On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) to discuss the climate report’s findings. Sasse decried climate "alarmism," easily dodged Wallace's questions, and pivoted to arguing for further environmental deregulation.

    George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week addressed the report during an interview with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), but only spent about two minutes on it.

    Margaret Brennan of CBS' Face the Nation questioned NASA's Steven Clarke about the report, but the exchange about climate change was brief and came in the midst of a discussion about NASA's Mars probe. Still, it marked the first time in nearly three years that any of the broadcast Sunday shows included a scientist in a discussion about climate change; the last time a scientist appeared in a broadcast Sunday show climate segment was the December 13, 2015, episode of Face the Nation. Brennan also discussed the climate report with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

    The fact that most Sunday show hosts only briefly discussed the National Climate Assessment’s urgent findings -- rather than giving them more in-depth coverage with a panel of experts -- is right in line with trends Media Matters has documented in recent years. In the rare instances when Sunday shows address climate change, it is usually within a narrow political framework and includes a similarly narrow range of politicians and political pundits.

    The attempt by the Trump team to bury the report and keep information about climate change out of the public eye is also in line with observed trends. The White House has systematically removed climate change information from federal government websites, especially the site of the Environmental Protection Agency, and EPA officials last year told members of a scientific advisory committee that climate change would be de-emphasized by the administration.

  • Trump helped create Fox Business, which is now a key pro-Trump propaganda network

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to The Daily Beast, Donald Trump “helped” disgraced former Fox CEO and chairman Roger Ailes create Fox News' sister network, Fox Business.

    According to the report, “Prior to the Fox Business Network’s debut in 2007, late right-wing cable-news chief Roger Ailes consulted with then-reality-TV star Trump on how it should look and feel.” The report went on to note that Ailes and Trump “maintained their relationship well into the 2016 campaign, during which the disgraced and ousted Fox News chief briefly advised Trump.”

    Throughout the Trump presidency, Fox Business personalities such as Stuart Varney, Maria Bartiromo, and Lou Dobbs have consistently proven to be possibly even more sycophantically pro-Trump than their Fox News counterparts, pushing absurd conspiracy theories and even contradicting the public statements of their own network’s leadership in Trump’s defense. Fox Business’ programming in the Trump era also has earned the praise of noted conspiracy theorist and illustrious clown Alex Jones.

    From The Daily Beast’s November 21 report:

    Prior to the Fox Business Network’s debut in 2007, late right-wing cable-news chief Roger Ailes consulted with then-reality-TV star Trump on how it should look and feel, according to former Fox executives. The two maintained their relationship well into the 2016 campaign, during which the disgraced and ousted Fox News chief briefly advised Trump, the executives and a source close to Trump said.

    According to one source, Trump advised Ailes to angle the network more toward news, entertainment, and politics instead of only business coverage. It was Trump’s decade-old vision for Fox Business that would, especially during the Trump presidency, become reality.

    One of the reasons Fox Business has endured in political relevance is that the most powerful person in the world agrees with that sentiment.

    In the West Wing, Trump is still a frequent consumer of the Fox Business Network, former and current White House aides say, and is particularly taken by shows hosted by Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo. The president cites and praises both Fox Business stars regularly within the halls of the White House, both in official meetings and in casual conversations.

    Even without Trump’s physical presence at the Fox Business Network, the president’s fingerprints are all over the network 11 years later in that the channel has morphed from a right-leaning CNBC competitor into what can often be viewed as an even more fervently pro-Trump outlet than its big sister.

  • How the Russian concept of "info-noise" can help American outlets cover Trump

    Substantive policy changes can -- and should -- be kept separate from statements that are merely inflammatory

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN


    Melissa Joskow/Media Matters

    “Infoshum” -- or “information noise” -- is a term that has recently gained attention in Russian-language media analysis. Pioneered by TV channel RTVI, the concept applies to meaningless, inflammatory news items and attempts to differentiate them from those with substance. American outlets covering President Donald Trump would serve their audiences better if they learned the difference.

    As independent Russian media analyst Oleg Kashin put it last month in a column for Republic.ru, “Infoshum is not fake news or post-truth” -- rather, it is news that draws on provocative statements, conjectures, or social media controversies to build stories designed for maximum clickability and minimum informativeness. Kashin’s take translates as: “For every piece of news that’s made of clear, intense, high-quality reporting work, ... there’s one for which success is virality for the sake of virality, and what used to be sent out in boring press releases is now mined and sold as a valuable exclusive.” To further illustrate the principle, Kashin used examples of journalists calling up Russian senators in the Duma who are known for making inflammatory comments and extracting “one detail that turns it into real anti-journalism” -- some sensational statement which then becomes a news story in its own right. Writing up provocative tweets by political figures elides even this faint journalistic effort.

    In the Trump era, it’s hard not to see the problem of infoshum as familiar and, these days, fundamental to the way American news outlets operate. Idle, inflammatory musings from the president are quickly spun into headlines. On October 30, Axios’s Jonathan Swan engaged in what Kashin might call “anti-journalism” by inducing Trump to assert, with characteristic truculence, that he planned to end birthright citizenship and then publishing Trump’s resultant vague comments about ending it, packaged uncritically as an “Exclusive.”

    Trump is an infoshum-dispatching machine -- he has a singular ability to signal-jam mainstream news sources by offering a constant stream of bizarre, bellicose statements designed to whet the appetites of click-hungry editors. And even when he hasn’t had Fox News airtime to put forth half-baked provocations, reporters themselves often engender such cycles of controversy with their questions; the president has never met an incendiary query that he didn’t like. Could liberal philanthropist George Soros be funding the migrant caravan? Sure. Banning birthright citizenship? We’re looking into it. As Deadspin editor David Roth put it in a recent piece, “Reporters shout something at Trump about a thing he said or did or his response to someone’s else response to something, and then he shouts that he did it because he felt like it or actually didn’t do it at all,” a ritual that repeats itself over and over again amid press scrums on the White House lawn. “If there is a purpose here,” Roth wrote, “it is the theater of it—the theater of Trump’s strange fey boorishness and the towering and obvious lies he tells.” The headlines generated by fragmented, aggressive statements during Trump’s freewheeling and infrequent press conferences are information-noise too; there is little to add beyond the easily verified fact that the president said something and that it had little substance but much fury. 

    Perhaps the ultimate example of Trumpian infoshum is the issue of the caravan -- a group of migrants headed toward the U.S. border seeking asylum -- which became a singular focus of Trump’s screeds leading up to the midterm elections. Trump’s aggressive anti-immigrant tweets and statements were dutifully picked up and accelerated by his loyalists at Fox News, and subsequently bled over into mainstream outlets where caravan coverage surged, as Media Matters’ Matt Gertz has illustrated. In this way, a partisan talking point thrummed into the national consciousness via an ongoing stream of info-noise issuing from the White House.

    RTVI contends with infoshum by siloing it in a separate section tagged as “noise,” reserved for stories that are thinly sourced and make inflammatory claims -- such as “The US is on the brink of a new civil war” or “Improvements in cell phones provokes the development of cancer.” While it’s tempting to cover presidential statements with gravitas that would preclude this treatment, Trump’s well-established penchant for furthering baseless conspiracy theories, inciting shallow but debasing cultural conflicts, and generally inducing a click-driven news cycle to gravitate in his sullen orbit means that such treatment is well-warranted. Absent material policy changes -- whose substance, consequences, and impacts on different communities should be reported on with appropriate seriousness -- most of Trump’s eruptions should be treated as exactly what they are: Noise.

  • 40+ times the Trump administration specifically targeted Jim Acosta and CNN

    In response to First Amendment lawsuit, White House insists Acosta's recent ban has nothing to do with the content or viewpoint of CNN's reporting

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CNN and its chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta have sued President Donald Trump and various administration officials for violating the First Amendment when Acosta was banned from the White House. The lawsuit specifically notes that the president and White House officials have shown animus toward the media in general, and CNN and Acosta in particular. In response, the president’s lawyers have claimed the White House has not demonstrated the type of content and viewpoint discrimination that is impermissible under the First Amendment. The evidence indicates otherwise. 

    Throughout the first year of his presidency, Trump and his administration attacked various media outlets and journalists more than 400 times, specifically targeting CNN verbally and on Twitter dozens of times. The attacks on the media didn’t let up in 2018. These facts and the 42 examples of the Trump administration’s attacks on Acosta and CNN gathered below support the network's complaint that the Trump administration took action against Acosta and CNN for the “contents of their reporting”:

    Trump: “Jim Acosta is a very unprofessional man. … I don’t think he’s a smart person.” [Faceba.se, 11/9/18]

    Trump: “So funny to see the CNN Fake Suppression Polls and false rhetoric.” [Twitter, 11/5/18]

    Trump: “CNN and others in the Fake News Business keep purposely and inaccurately reporting that I said the ‘Media is the Enemy of the People.’ Wrong!” [Twitter, 10/29/18]

    Trump: “Facebook has just stated that they are setting up a system to ‘purge’ themselves of Fake News. Does that mean CNN will finally be put out of business?” [Twitter, 10/21/18]

    Press secretary Sarah Sanders: “Can’t imagine why @CNN has such low ratings when during the day they break from live coverage to show reruns.” [Twitter, 9/4/18]

    Trump: “CNN is working frantically to find their ‘source.’ Look hard because it doesn’t exist. Whatever was left of CNN’s credibility is now gone!” [Twitter, 8/30/18]

    Trump: “The hatred and extreme bias of me by @CNN has clouded their thinking and made them unable to function. But actually, as I have always said, this has been going on for a long time. Little Jeff Z has done a terrible job, his ratings suck, & AT&T should fire him to save credibility!” [Twitter, 8/30/18]

    Trump: “CNN is being torn apart from within based on their being caught in a major lie and refusing to admit the mistake.” [Twitter, 8/29/18]

    Trump: “Look at the lie that Fake CNN is now in. They got caught red handed! Enemy of the People!” [Twitter, 8/29/18]

    Trump: “If you are weeding out Fake News, there is nothing so Fake as CNN & MSNBC, & yet I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed.” [Twitter, 8/18/18]

    Sanders on the White House canceling national security advisor John Bolton’s interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper: “Actually a @CNN reporter disrespected @POTUS & PM May during their press conf. Instead of rewarding bad behavior, we decided to reprioritize the TV appearances for administration officials.” [Twitter, 7/14/18]

    Trump: “So funny! I just checked out Fake News CNN, for the first time in a long time (they are dying in the ratings), to see if they covered my takedown yesterday of Jim Acosta (actually a nice guy). They didn’t! But they did say I already lost in my meeting with Putin. Fake News.” [Twitter, 7/14/18]

    Trump: “Real @FoxNews is doing great, Fake News CNN is dead!” [Twitter, 6/2/18]

    Trump: “The Washington Post and CNN have typically written false stories about our trade negotiations with China.” [Twitter, 5/16/18]

    Trump: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “is a lying machine who now works for Fake News CNN.” [Twitter, 4/28/18]

    Trump: “Check out the fact that you can’t get a job at ratings challenged @CNN unless you state that you are totally anti-Trump? Little Jeff Zuker, whose job is in jeopardy, is not having much fun lately. They should clean up and strengthen CNN and get back to honest reporting!” [Twitter, 4/3/18]

    Trump: “The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The Fakers’ at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!” [Twitter, 4/3/18]

    Trump: “Bad ratings @CNN & @MSNBC got scammed when they covered the anti-Trump Russia rally wall-to-wall. They probably knew it was Fake News but, because it was a rally against me, they pushed it hard anyway. Two really dishonest newscasters, but the public is wise!” [Twitter, 2/20/18]

    Trump: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!” [Twitter, 1/17/18]

    Acosta: Sanders “issued a warning to me. She said if I asked a question of Trump at the bill signing ‘I can't promise you will be allowed into a pool spray again.’ Sorry Sarah.. we won't be intimidated.” [Twitter, 12/12/17]

    Trump: “I seldom, if ever, watch CNN or MSNBC, both of which I consider Fake News.I never watch [CNN’s] Don Lemon, who I once called the ‘dumbest man on television!’ Bad Reporting.” [Twitter, 12/11/17]

    Trump: “CNN’S slogan is CNN, THE MOST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS. Everyone knows this is not true, that this could, in fact, be a fraud on the American Public.” [Twitter, 12/9/17]

    Sanders on news that CNN will boycott a White House Christmas function: “Christmas comes early! Finally, good news from @CNN.” Trump quote-tweeted her, adding: “We should boycott Fake News CNN. Dealing with them is a total waste of time!” [Twitter, 11/28/17, 11/29/17]

    Trump: “We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!” [Twitter, 11/27/17]

    Trump: “CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!” [Twitter, 11/25/17]

    Trump: “While in the Philippines I was forced to watch @CNN, which I have not done in months, and again realized how bad, and FAKE, it is. Loser!” [Twitter, 11/15/17]

    Trump: “People are just now starting to find out how dishonest and disgusting (FakeNews) @NBCNews is. Viewers beware. May be worse than even @CNN!” [Twitter, 10/12/17]

    Trump: “NBC news is #FakeNews and more dishonest than even CNN. They are a disgrace to good reporting. No wonder their news ratings are way down!” [Twitter, 10/4/17]

    Trump: “Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!” [Twitter, 10/11/17]

    White House staffer Dan Scavino: Acosta “loves to seek attention & make the news all about himself.” [Twitter, 9/15/17]

    Trump to Acosta: “I like real news, not fake news. You’re fake news.” [Fox News, Shepard Smith Reporting, 8/14/17]

    Then-Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka: Acosta is a “grandstanding” reporter. [The Daily Caller, 8/3/17]

    Trump adviser Stephen Miller during a press briefing: “Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you've ever said. … It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree.” [Media Matters, 8/2/17; Politico, 8/2/17]

    Trump tweeted a video of him knocking over a person with CNN logo imposed on his face: “#FraudNewsCNN #FNN.” [Twitter, 7/2/17]

    Trump: “I am thinking about changing the name #FakeNews CNN to #FraudNewsCNN!” [Twitter, 7/1/17]

    Trump: “I am extremely pleased to see that @CNN has finally been exposed as #FakeNews and garbage journalism. It's about time!” [Twitter, 7/1/17]

    Then-press secretary Sean Spicer about Acosta: “I think some of these reporters are more interested in their YouTube clips than they are in getting factual news.” [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 6/25/17]

    Trump: “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn't tell the truth. A great danger to our country. The failing @nytimes has become a joke. Likewise @CNN. Sad!” [Twitter, 2/24/17]

    Trump: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” [Twitter, 2/17/17]

    Trump to Acosta: “Your ratings aren’t as good as some of the other people that are waiting.” [WhiteHouse.gov, 2/16/17]

    Trump to Acosta: "I sort of understand there's a certain bias" at CNN. [WhiteHouse.gov, 2/16/17]

    Trump: “I watch CNN — it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.” [WhiteHouse.gov, 2/16/17]

  • Fox regular who called for "a cleansing" of the FBI and DOJ is advising Trump on a replacement attorney general

    Pro-Trump lawyer Joseph diGenova has repeatedly attacked the Russia probe and Sessions

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Discredited Republican lawyer Joe diGenova told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that he has been advising President Donald Trump on the replacement of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    A U.S. attorney during the Reagan administration, diGenova played a partisan role in investigations into President Bill Clinton during the 1990s, including serving as the source for a later-retracted newspaper article, and he was criticized for behaving unprofessionally while working for congressional subcommittees. He also fabricated false claims against the Obama administration over the 2012 Benghazi attack.

    DiGenova briefly joined Trump’s personal legal team regarding the Russia probe earlier this year after he defended the president on Fox News, but he was taken off the team for conflicts of interest within a week. DiGenova claims that he is still advising Trump, and he told Ingraham last night that he has “a couple of ideas which I have shared with the president” about who can permanently replace Sessions:

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): I have to ask you on picks for attorney general. We all have maybe a couple ideas -- what are your ideas?

    JOSEPH DIGENOVA: Well, I have a couple of ideas which I have shared with the president, and I'm not going to share them with anybody else. So, if I say any of my ideas, I will be sharing a conversation with the president.

    DiGenova’s latest comments came just hours after Trump fired Sessions following a nearly two-year campaign of publicly humiliating the attorney general for his recusal from the Russia investigation. After the firing, Trump named Sessions’ former chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker -- who has previously supported Trump against the Russia investigation -- acting attorney general.

    In an interview with the Daily Caller's Ginni Thomas, diGenova called for "a cleansing of the FBI and the upper echelons of the Department of Justice." DiGenova also called Russian interference "a false Russian conspiracy that never existed" that was built with "false facts."

    JOSEPH DIGENOVA: It's a big deal because I have a saying that the FBI used to spy on the Russians, this time they spied on us. What this story is about, it's about a brazen plot to again exonerate Hillary Clinton from a clear violation of the law with regard to the way she handled classified information with her private server, absolutely a crime, absolutely a felony. It's about finding out why, as the Inspector General is doing at the Department of Justice, why Comey and the senior DOJ officials conducted a fake criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton, followed none of the regular rules, gave her every break in the book, immunized all kinds of people, allowed the destruction of evidence, no grand jury, no subpoenas, no search warrant. That's not an investigation, that's a Potemkin village. It's a farce and everybody knew it was a farce. The problem was she didn't win and because she didn't win the farce became a very serious opera. It wasn't a comic opera anymore, it was a tragic opera and she was going to be the focus.

    What this is about is, this is about a lavabo, a cleansing of the FBI and the upper echelons of the Department of Justice.

    We're going to discover that the Attorney General Loretta Lynch, her deputy Sally Yates, the head of the National Security Division John Carlin, Bruce Ohr, and other senior DOJ officials and regrettably line attorneys, people who were senior career civil servants, violated the law, perhaps committed crimes and covered up crimes by a presidential candidate. But more than that they tried to frame an incoming president with a false Russian conspiracy that never existed and they knew it and they plotted to to ruin him as a candidate and then destroy him a president.

    That's why this is important. That's why connecting the dots is important, because the FBI now has to be completely reconstructed from the ground up. The men and women at the bureau are great people, that's not who we're talking about, we never have been. We are talking about people like James Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Baker, Priestep, whose name nobody knows. He's the head of the counterintelligence division and he was the one who was involved in planning this entire crazy thing involving Fusion GPS, the false dossier, and creating evidence.

    This is what people have to understand. What the Bureau did was, by working with Fusion GPS, and giving contractors access to highly classified information, which they had no legal right to see, they needed to create something they could give to the court, the foreign intelligence court, so that they could get wiretaps and surveillance taps and email taps and phone taps on the Trump people so that if there was anything they could find it out. Of course there was nothing. There was ... there never was anything and they created false facts so that they could get surveillance warrants. Those are all crimes. Every single one of those acts constitutes a crime because it was done not for a legitimate law enforcement reason, not for national security reasons, but to create a false case against a candidate Donald Trump, a president-elect Donald Trump, and a president Donald Trump.

    On Fox, diGenova has repeatedly claimed that the Russia probe is a conspiracy to “frame Donald Trump,” and that multiple people at the FBI and Department of Justice should be investigated, fired, and arrested. He has demanded Congress impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray, and he has said Rosenstein should “rot in hell” for the way he has overseen the Russia investigation. He suggested then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s secret payments to two women on behalf of Trump during the presidential campaign weren’t illegal. DiGenova also claimed that the DOJ-authorized FBI search of Cohen’s office was “an act of terror” and that a prosecutor was using “terror tactics” to “coerce” former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.

    DiGenova didn’t reserve his ire only for the Russia probe and those directly overseeing it. He spent months criticizing Sessions before Trump fired him. In May, diGenova said on Fox’s Hannity that Sessions’ recusal “was an unforced betrayal of the president” -- a statement Trump loved so much he directly quoted it in a tweet that also name-checked diGenova.

    On Hannity in August, diGenova said Trump “is entitled to a fully engaged attorney general. He has never had that. ... Jeff Sessions has no command presence. He doesn’t understand the job that he has.” During that appearance, diGenova also said: “After the next election, Jeff should give the president the courtesy of a resignation.” In early October, diGenova said:

    Look, make no mistake about it: Rod Rosenstein is a creep. He is a dishonest -- fundamentally dishonest – he cares about one thing, himself, his next job, and his future. The president, of course, will keep him through the next -- through the election cycle. Keeping him after that is an open question.

    ...

    Where is Jeff Sessions? He is on a milk carton. This guy is so sad and so depressing to watch him twist in the breeze as an incompetent attorney general. And there behind him is Rasputin, Rod Rosenstein. This is an ugly period for the department, and it will not get better until both of them are gone.

    Later in October, diGenova offered more criticism: “I would say Sessions and Rosenstein will go down in history as the two worst officials in the Department of Justice in its history.”

  • Advertisers that sponsor Trump-Hannity propaganda rally will face an immediate backlash

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to President Donald Trump’s campaign announcement, Fox News’ Sean Hannity will be appearing at Monday night’s rally, along with conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. The pair, according to the campaign’s press release, “are longtime friends of President Trump” and “strong advocates for the President’s America First agenda.” In addition to campaigning with Trump, Hannity will interview Trump for his Fox News show, which the network is already hyping as a “powerful interview” even though it hasn’t happened yet.

    Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, explained:

    There’s no distinction between Trump’s communication shop and Fox News. It’s so well-recognized at this point that the line between Fox and Trump does not exist that neither party is even bothering to pretend anymore. This was evidenced by a campaign press release hyping Hannity’s rally participation in order to further drum up support.

    Fox News advertisers are already under fire for aligning with Fox’s extremism and political chicanery -- and already most major brands refuse to advertise on Fox’s more extreme and bigoted prime-time programming.

    At this point -- and especially tonight -- any company still advertising on Hannity’s show is effectively sponsoring a political event.

    Well-regarded companies already have no excuse for continuing to advertise on Hannity’s show, but now at minimum they should take action and ensure that their ads are excluded from tonight’s joint Trump-Hannity campaign rally.

    I reached out to many of Hannity’s current advertisers and was shocked by how comfortable many seemed to be with sponsoring a joint Trump-Hannity rally. Any advertiser that sponsors this event should know that Media Matters will spend 10 times more money than they spent on their Fox News ad directly reaching out to their customers to let them know what they did.

    I strongly hope these advertisers reconsider supporting Hannity’s show altogether, but at minimum, at least refuse to sponsor a Trump-Hannity rally.

    Sean Hannity’s top current advertisers include:

    • Progressive (current top advertiser)

    • Principal Financial Group

    • ADT

    • Marriott Hotels/Autograph Collection

    • Sandals Resorts

    • Jenny Craig

    • Hims

    Previously:

    On eve of midterms, Fox and Trump are one

    These are Fox News' leading advertisers

    Fox News' ad chief admits that advertisers are leaving. Here's what's going on.

  • Trump’s unhinged “Jobs not Mobs” video comes from Reddit’s r/The_Donald cesspool

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    An unhinged get-out-the-vote video shared by President Donald Trump on Twitter was popularized on Reddit’s r/TheDonald subreddit.

    The video presents viewers with “two choices on November 6th,” between “the GOP’s America” -- shown as a prosperous economy -- and “the left’s America” -- shown as widespread violence.

    The video does not appear to have been created by Trump’s staff, but rather was a popular post on r/The_Donald. Since being posted on October 19, the video has nearly 7,400 upvotes on Reddit. The link in the r/The_Donald post goes to a YouTube video posted on October 17 with the description “RETWEET so Trump and others will see.”

    The YouTube account is associated with a Twitter account that highlighted actor and conservative troll James Woods, who shared the video on October 20. The video was also promoted in an October 19 post at Erick Erickson’s The Resurgent, which attributed the video to “a random Youtuber.”

    Like the video Trump promoted, the slogan “Jobs not Mobs” -- which Trump has adopted in recent days -- also originated on social media, reportedly from a Twitter user with less than 500 followers.

    According to a 2017 report published at Politico, by the end of the 2016 presidential campaign, “a team in the war room at Trump Tower was monitoring social media trends, including The_Donald subreddit—a message board that acted as a conduit between 4Chan and the mainstream Web and refers to its users as ‘centipedes’.” Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, reportedly visited the r/The_Donald subreddit on a daily basis in 2016 when he worked on Trump’s digital team.

    Leading up to the midterm elections, Trump and his conservative media allies have used the baseless claim that Democrats stand ready to kill conservative voters as a major part of their messaging.