Griff Jenkins | Media Matters for America

Griff Jenkins

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  • Fox personalities in the news and opinion divisions fearmonger that asylum-seekers could “fundamentally change the sovereignty of our country”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the May 28 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, “straight news” correspondent Griff Jenkins -- filling in as co-host -- claimed that “the Border Patrol says behind closed doors … once we just release [migrant or asylum-seeking] adult single males into the community, it is going to fundamentally change the sovereignty of our country on that border.” Jenkins also said that he “wish[es] they would say it publicly more often.” 

    Later in the day, another Fox News personality made a similar point. Outnumbered co-host Harris Faulkner, who also anchors the companion "news" show Outnumbered Overtime, discussed the possibility of Transportation Security Administration agents joining Border Patrol on the border "to keep that line, that sovereignty down there," again suggesting that immigration is a threat to U.S. sovereignty.

    On the May 23 edition of Outnumbered Overtime, Fox News contributor and former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan similarly claimed that “if we fail to detain [adult individual asylum-seekers] until they see a judge, you will lose the border … [and] you’re going to see an unprecedented surge of all sorts of chaos on the border.” Faulkner commented that Homan’s comment “gives me chills.”  

    Fox News has consistently driven the nativist narrative that immigration “is a flat-out invasion” of the United States. Fox & Friends has played a key role in driving the misinformation. Co-host Steve Doocy recently praised Jenkins for a report fearmongering about “rumors of ebola” in a migrant caravan; Jenkins had reported on the rumors but had debunked them in the same report. 

    As The Washington Post reported, the “militaristic ‘invasion’ metaphor” is “one of the oldest and most persistent anti-immigration metaphors in the country’s history, employed to oppose Irish Catholics, Asians, Latinos, Germans, Jews and just about everyone except white Protestants of English ancestry who now lives in America.” Framing immigration as an “invasion” erases the individual stories and reasons people have for seeking to live in the United States, replacing it with an imaginary, monolithic “army” seeking to destroy the country.  

  • Fox’s Seth Rich conspiracy theorists: Where are they now?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News didn't deliver on its promised Seth Rich coverage investigation, so Media Matters is doing it instead. This is the fourth in a series marking the two-year anniversary of Fox’s publication of a story -- retracted seven days later -- that promoted the conspiracy theory that the murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, and not the Russians, had provided the DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Read part one, part two, part three, part four, and our timeline of events.

    No one has been held accountable for Fox News’ promotion of conspiracy theories about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

    Thursday marked the two-year anniversary of Fox News’ publication of a dubiously thin, hastily edited article pushing the debunked claim that Rich had provided DNC emails to WikiLeaks. After the story crashed and burned, Fox retracted it and promised to investigate what happened.

    With no explanation forthcoming and no punishments announced two months after the story’s retraction, some Fox staffers voiced their displeasure to CNN’s Oliver Darcy. One Fox staffer told CNN that “people need to start getting canned” over the story.

    But another senior Fox News employee quoted in the story was more resigned about the situation, arguing that the lack of transparency and accountability was unsurprising for the network: “No one ever gets fired from Fox for publishing a story that isn't true.”

    The more cynical Fox staffer was correct.

    Two years later, no one involved in producing or pushing the retracted Rich story has been publicly disciplined, and several have actually been promoted.

    It’s clear, as the anonymous senior Fox employee indicated, that the network has no interest in journalistic integrity or employee accountability. The purported “investigation” was a scam intended to make it look like Fox was taking its responsibilities seriously until the anger over its actions dissipated.

    Here is what has become of the network’s conspiracy theorists:

    Malia Zimmerman is the investigative reporter who wrote the original FoxNews.com story that the network later retracted. She still apparently works at the network but has not published a new story since August 2017, soon after she and the network were sued over the story.

    Greg Wilson, then deputy managing editor of FoxNews.com, reportedly edited Zimmerman’s story, rushing to publish it in spite of its flaws because a rival story on the subject was going viral. One month after the story’s publication, Fox promoted him to managing editor of FoxNews.com.

    Sean Hannity, one of the network’s star prime-time hosts, championed the Rich conspiracy theory on Fox long after the story had collapsed. Some Fox employees told The Daily Beast they were embarrassed by his antics and network executives reportedly directed him to stop talking about Seth Rich after he lost advertisers and jeopardized a major acquisition deal in the U.K. But he has retained his show, which moved to the more coveted 9 p.m. timeslot later that year, continued to show disregard for anything resembling journalistic ethics and pushed conspiracy theories about how WikiLeaks obtained the DNC emails as recently as this April.

    Porter Berry, the executive producer of Hannity’s Fox show at the time, was the recipient of a letter from Rich’s brother Aaron who urged him to find “decency and kindness” and stop promoting the conspiracy theories. In August 2018, Fox promoted him to vice president and editor-in-chief of Fox News Digital, a role in which he oversees all of the network’s digital content, including FoxNews.com, FoxBusiness.com, and the Fox News apps.

    Laura Ingraham, then a Fox contributor, suggested on-air that the Rich family was covering up his death for partisan gain. In September 2017, Fox announced that she would host her own prime-time show for the network.

    Newt Gingrich, a Fox contributor, claimed on-air that Rich had been “assassinated” for giving WikiLeaks DNC emails. He has repeatedly refused to retract his despicable comments. He still has his Fox platform.

    Fox correspondent Griff Jenkins, the hosts of Fox & Friends and Fox & Friends First, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano were among the on-air network personalities who pushed the conspiracy theories. None appear to have been disciplined in any way.

  • This Fox “news” side correspondent helped push the Seth Rich conspiracy theory on-air

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News didn't deliver on its promised Seth Rich coverage investigation, so Media Matters is doing it instead. This is the second in a series marking the two-year anniversary of Fox’s publication of a story -- retracted seven days later -- that promoted the conspiracy theory that the murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, and not the Russians, had provided the DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Read part one, part three, part four, part five, and our timeline of events

    After the collapse of Fox News’ May 16, 2017, report pushing a conspiracy theory about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, reporters and other staffers at the network told other outlets they were furious and confused with the network’s handling of the story. They anonymously savaged Fox star Sean Hannity for championing the falsehood that Rich was mysteriously killed after handing over tens of thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks. As months passed, they criticized the network brass for not updating them either on the internal investigation into how Fox’s digital operation published the false story or whether anyone responsible would be disciplined for it.  

    But Fox’s Rich debacle was not limited to Fox’s “opinion” commentators or its digital operation. One of the network’s on-air news reporters had also played a key role in the fiasco -- Griff Jenkins, a longtime correspondent in Fox’s Washington, D.C., bureau.

    On the night of May 15, 2017, local Fox affiliate WTTG ended up breaking Fox News’ then-unpublished story that Fox investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman had been writing. Rod Wheeler -- a Fox News contributor who had been investigating the Rich murder for his family and was the article’s only named source -- blabbed about it to one of WTTG’s reporters, who reported on his claims during the evening news. Within hours, the channel's report went viral on conservative online outlets and on social media.

    Fox & Friends, President Donald Trump’s beloved morning talk show, picked up the story early the next morning. This wasn’t surprising as the program has a long history of promoting dubious or fabricated stories from the internet without scrutinizing them, and it had previously dabbled in Seth Rich conspiracy theories. And in an apparent effort to prime that program, a businessman who had paid for Wheeler to investigate Rich’s murder on behalf of the family allegedly copied its co-hosts on an email the night before, urging them to use the Rich reporting to undermine the notion that Russia had hacked the DNC and distributed the emails as part of an effort to help Trump’s campaign.

    During the morning show, Jenkins also reported from Washington, D.C., in two early-morning segments on the Rich conspiracy theory, putting the credibility of Fox’s “news” side behind it.

    Jenkins opened his first report by detailing the “bombshell new evidence” from the WTTG report, namely Wheeler’s claims that there was evidence Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks before his death and that the investigation was being stalled as part of a coverup. Over the course of the segment, Jenkins also pointed to purportedly suspicious aspects of Rich’s murder, which police have ruled a botched robbery, including that it happened in the city’s “most popular neighborhood” and that Rich’s wallet wasn’t stolen.

    Notably, Jenkins all but vouched for Wheeler, saying of the Fox contributor, “I’ve known Rod for a long time, and I know he’s been looking into this case for a long time in a parallel investigation.”

    He also indicated that he was hard at work on the story, explaining that he had been trying to reach the Washington, D.C., police department’s public information officer line since the department at opened at 6 a.m. (the live segment began at 6:17 a.m.) and reached out to other crime sources but “nobody [is] telling me anything.”

    “We are going to keep hunting this,” the correspondent added.

    An hour later, Fox & Friends brought Jenkins back for an update on the developing story. This time, Jenkins not only repeated many of the same details from WTTG’s report, but also provided fresh reporting of his own: an interview with Wheeler that Jenkins claimed to have happened “moments ago.” But the story Jenkins got from Wheeler wasn’t the same one Wheeler gave to WTTG.

    Jenkins reported that Wheeler told him, “Number one, a law enforcement source inside the investigation told him personally that he saw emails on a computer between Rich and a WikiLeaks contact, and he also says, number two, that the source told Rod he was instructed not to pursue the murder investigation 48 hours after Rich’s death.”

    This suggests that Wheeler told Jenkins the same “law enforcement source” provided both details. But in the WTTG report Jenkins had discussed in the previous hour, Wheeler attributes the first claim to FBI sources, and the second claim to “a source inside the police department.”

    (FoxNews.com’s Rich report, published soon after this segment, quoted Wheeler claiming that his investigation “shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks” but did not include him claiming he had spoken personally to someone who had seen the emails. Later that day, Wheeler told CNN he had only heard about the supposed emails through Fox’s Zimmerman, and he would later sue Fox News claiming she had fabricated his quote in her article.)

    It’s unclear whether Wheeler was actively changing his story or if the details were muddled in Jenkins’ retelling, but either way the Fox reporter did not note the inconsistencies.

    After repeating several of the purportedly suspicious aspects of Rich’s murder he detailed in the first report, Jenkins concluded that the story “is clearly developing.”

    “You know, for a long time, on the internet and elsewhere, he has been rumored to have been the one who gave WikiLeaks the DNC emails,” co-host Steve Doocy responded. “So, if that is true, and we don’t know yet, looks like Russia didn’t give it to WikiLeaks. It was Seth Rich, perhaps.”

    As Jenkins was discussing WTTG’s story on-air, back in the newsroom a top network digital editor rushed to publish FoxNews.com’s own report. But hours later, the story started falling apart. Wheeler walked back his claims, other news outlets reported that there were gaping holes in the WTTG and FoxNews.com stories, that the Rich family and the district police both denied the reports, and that the family demanded an apology and retraction from each outlet.

    WTTG issued a clarification the next day noting Wheeler’s reversal, and Fox finally retracted its story on May 23 and announced that it would conduct an internal investigation into how it had been published.

    But if you got your news solely from Fox & Friends, you never learned that the Rich story you had seen on the program had been debunked. The show never returned to the subject to admit it had been promoting a conspiracy theory, according to reviews of the iQ Media and internal Media Matters databases.

    Those May 16, 2017, segments were also the last time Jenkins mentioned the Rich story on Fox. His colleagues on Fox’s vaunted “news” side didn’t pick up the slack either. According to a Media Matters review of the same databases, the network’s “news” programs did not mention the Fox’s Rich report until Wheeler filed a lawsuit against the network in August (Zimmerman’s story was updated to note that the Rich family had criticized Wheeler).

    Once the story started to dissolve, Fox’s “news” side was apparently no longer interested in “hunting” it.

  • Fox & Friends parrots opaque DHS stats to fearmonger about “criminals” in caravan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox & Friends is continuing to fearmonger about the caravan of migrants and asylum-seekers seeking to gain entry into the United States, uncritically parroting questionable statistics from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) despite the department’s track record of presenting misleading numbers under the Trump administration.

    Proceeding with a more than month-long drumbeat of fearmongering about the individuals in the caravan, Fox & Friends has now taken to repeating opaque DHS statistics, asserting that “90 percent” of individuals in the caravan “are not eligible for asylum” and that “600 of the 10,000 people that are in these caravans are convicted criminals.” Neither Fox News nor DHS has provided details on how they obtained those numbers.

    The Trump administration’s DHS has previously presented limited and misleading statistics regarding immigration. Moreover, DHS has suggested, without presenting evidence, that “criminals” are present in the caravan, issuing a strange press release attempting to support its claims with vague statements from Mexican officials. But according to The Washington Post’s fact-checker, “The language in this release is highly suspect,” and, based on statistics from previous years, “Since DHS will not break out a list of crimes, we suspect most of these people with ‘criminal histories’ are not actually violent” but instead have most likely been “convicted of immigration crimes, such as illegal entry.” The fact check also noted, “Mexican officials on the route have told Post reporters that they haven’t seen any serious criminals.”

    From the November 27 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    GRIFF JENKINS (FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT): We learned, of course, the stunning number, which is that 600 of them believed to have had criminal histories. But we’ve also learned another figure that is very interesting, and that is 90 percent, they believe, are not eligible for asylum, which is, of course, the main reason why they’re fleeing the Central American countries.

    ...

    JEDEDIAH BILA (CO-HOST): It's really crazy, I mean, if you think about this. Like, what is the solution going to be? I mean, what are they actually going to do to remedy this? Trump is saying, you know, “I’ll shut down the border.” It seems like he doesn't have the authority to actually do that, that he would need congressional approval to do that. So, what's going to happen here?

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Well, we know one thing: Ninety-eight people involved in Sunday's raids were sent out by Mexico. They have no shot at asylum. Their names have been taken and they’ve been tossed. If you want to send a message to these migrants and if you want to send a message to Mexico, since this is their problem as well as our problem, maybe they’ll get tougher on their southern border and won't be so permissive sending buses, in some cases, to expedite their trip up to our border. We might be on the same page right now because of scenes that you’re looking at.

    KILMEADE: Remember, the president was talking about this caravan because he wanted to do the best he can to keep the House and expand his lead -- the Republican lead -- in the Senate. So, that looks like the president -- since the midterms, I believe, are virtually over, with one Senate race to go and a handful of House races, I don’t really see a political advantage to the president doing this two years away from his re-election. But I do see some real legitimate danger for our border authority. Kevin McAleenan -- he’s the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection -- he told reporters yesterday that there were dozens of assaults committed against his agents. They were hit with projectiles, four had to have medical tending to, protective gear prevented some serious injuries. And, again, they’re getting hit by things by people who are storming the border, trying to create havoc there in order to get into our country. But, for some reason, we seem to be making the border guards the enemy.

    BILA: I think there’s a high expectation that President Trump -- you talked about why he’s talking about this, it’s far from his election. Remember, this is an issue that he ran on. Arguably, this the reason why he won. He put this front and center; he talked about border security. People are deeply concerned when you have people from DHS coming out and saying that 600 of the 10,000 people that are in these caravans are convicted criminals. This is an issue dear to people's hearts, they need to protect their families, and they want the security of the nation to be a top priority. So, I think that's why he’s out, front and center, making this a key issue regardless how far his own election is from it.

    KILMEADE: But he’s actually not making an issue; I think he’s addressing an emergency. If this wasn't his issue, if any president in office right now, this would be their issue.

  • Fox & Friends contradicts itself on Florida vote count

    Guest co-host Katie Pavlich falsely states vote count deadline has passed minutes after reporter correctly says Florida law allows four days after election for vote tallies

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox & Friends contradicted itself within five minutes in a report on the ongoing process of tallying the votes from the 2018 Florida Senate race between incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott. Guest co-host Katie Pavlich parroted Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) debunked smear that “the early voting numbers that were in on Sunday were -- they’re all supposed to be … counted on Tuesday by Florida law standards,” suggesting election officials were circumventing the law in an attempt to change the results of the election. But, literally minutes prior to Pavlich’s spurious claim, Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins correctly noted that Florida officials “have until noon” on Saturday, November 10, “to submit their unofficial vote totals.”

    From the November 9 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    GRIFF JENKINS (FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT): Now, under Florida law, any race with a margin of half a percent or less automatically goes to a recount. Attorney Mark Elias, now representing [Sen. Bill] Nelson, said this, he says, “We’re doing this not just because it's automatic, but we are doing it to win.”

    And in the race for governor there, also in the razor-thin majority -- recount territory, rather, Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis leads Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by more than 36,000 votes, or .4 percent -- .44 percent. Gillum, who conceded the race to DeSantis on Tuesday night, indicated through his lawyers that they're also gearing up for a fight.

    Now, Florida has 67 counties, they all have until noon tomorrow to submit their unofficial vote totals. One thing is for sure, It's good to be an attorney for election law in Florida in November.

    ...

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Here’s the thing, and this is the reason that Rick Scott has sued Palm Beach and Broward County. Suddenly, mysteriously, apparently Broward County is finding more ballots. Now, how is that?

    KATIE PAVLICH (GUEST CO-HOST): All of a sudden.

    PAVLICH: The other issue here, in terms of legal problem, is the early voting numbers that were in on Sunday were -- they’re all supposed to be voted by Tuesday -- or counted on Tuesday by Florida law standards, and yet, here we are getting to the weekend, and those early totals are still being counted in Broward County.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): They were busy.

    PAVLICH: Very busy.