Hugh Hewitt | Media Matters for America

Hugh Hewitt

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  • Conservatives invoke murderous dictators to attack Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Just weeks after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was sworn into office, some in the conservative media world are already likening her to some of history’s worst mass-murdering dictators to criticize her signature policy proposal, the Green New Deal.

    Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) unveiled a Green New Deal resolution on February 7 that lays out an ambitious goal of addressing the climate crisis and economic inequality. Right-wing media figures immediately misled their audiences on the aims of the resolution and began to issue ominous warnings about the effort. But some took their warnings to a greater extreme by likening Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats who back the Green New Deal to murderous tyrants such as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Mao Zedong.

    Economist Ben Stein and Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens were among the first prominent conservatives to compare Ocasio-Cortez to dictators. Before the Green New Deal resolution was even released, Stein said in January: “We have a society in which there are an awful lot of people who have no idea that Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong all came to power promising the same kinds of things that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is promising. And it led to mass murder; it led to dictatorship; it led to genocide. These promises are old promises and they invariably lead to bad things.”

    Owens compared Ocasio-Cortez to Hitler in a February 4 tweet. (Owens has been widely criticized for recently saying, “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. The problem is that … he had dreams outside of Germany.”)

    Bill Bennett, a Fox News contributor and former Reagan administration secretary of education, criticized Ocasio-Cortez’s policy resolution on February 6, saying, “Look at the fine print. Look at what socialism has done. Socialism is as socialism has done. … Look at the real masters of socialism: Mao, Stalin -- 30, 40 million dead.” He further warned that “there should be no truck at all with this idea of socialism” and declared that young Americans who are sympathetic to socialism are ignorant.

    Two prominent conservative talk radio hosts piled on two days later. Hugh Hewitt, who is also an MSNBC contributor, likened Ocasio-Cortez to dictators who “end up murdering millions” of people to get their way. He also said of the Green New Deal: “It is not socialism; it is communism, it is fascism, it is despotism. It drains all freedom out of America.”

    While PragerU founder Dennis Prager didn’t name Ocasio-Cortez in his own dire warning about her Green New Deal, he did say that the resolution and other policies to address economic inequality “will lead to bloodshed, loss of liberty, loss of human rights”:

    DENNIS PRAGER (HOST): The vast majority of torture and mayhem of the 20th century was done in the name of equality. It started in the French Revolution, which immediately descended into slaughtering human beings. It is a very, very scary vision. OK, just know that.

    It sounds great. That's why it's so dangerous. Racism doesn't sound great, for good reason. It's disgusting.

    The pursuit of equality will lead to bloodshed, loss of liberty, loss of human rights, and the Green New Deal is an example. The death that will ensue in the United States of America, the mayhem, the suffering, if the government takes over all health -- the problem is these people need a cause. That's what it is. There is a soullessness to the Elizabeth Warrens of the world. They need meaning. They need a crusade. They can't leave well enough alone. That's a big part of leftism. This country is too free, too kind, too affluent. They need to screw it up. If they screw it up, they have purpose.

    Liberals are not leftists, but liberals are naive and weak, because they don't confront the evil that leftism will bring about. That they mean well is of such little consequence -- do you know how much evil has been done by people who think they're good? Nearly all of it. OK? Just want you to know.

    Later that afternoon on Fox Business’ The Evening Edit, former Republican gubernatorial candidate for California John Cox warned about Ocasio-Cortez’s comments on the Green New Deal: “You got to worry about it. You know, if we don't study history, Liz, we're doomed to repeat it. And if you look at what has gone on in -- you report very well what's going on in Venezuela. Chavez and Maduro promised the socialist paradise, and you go back to the Soviet Union and Stalin and Lenin; it was always promised that government would be able to provide these things, and it's never been able to be successful.”

    On Monday, radio host Michael Savage discussed the Green New Deal and labelled Ocasio-Cortez a “psycho,” saying, “This is a Stalinist in a skirt; this is a Hitler in high heels.”

    San Diego radio host Carl DeMaio said, “The Democrat Party is more and more like the Nazi Party of Germany every single day,” citing in part Ocasio-Cortez’s alleged plan for the “takeover of private sector industries by the government” -- an apparent right-wing description of the Green New Deal.

    On February 12, Hewitt again referred to totalitarianism while discussing the Green New Deal and declared that Ocasio-Cortez is going “full 1984” and rewriting history by removing an inaccurate FAQ document from her website, saying: “That’s what happens in totalitarian states.”

    The absurd comparisons of Ocasio-Cortez to dictators are nothing new for the right; for example, conservatives also compared former President Barack Obama to Hitler and his policies to those of Nazi Germany countless times. And given the conservative media obsession with Ocasio-Cortez, the attacks are likely to continue throughout her career in elected office -- which has barely begun.

  • Trump officials and right-wing media use Jakelin Caal Maquin's death to rally for Trump's wall

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (12/18/18): This piece has been updated with an additional example.

    Following reports of the December 8 death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala who died after being taken into Border Patrol custody, high-level White House officials and prominent right-wing media personalities exploited her death to advocate for President Donald Trump’s desired border wall while accusing her father of causing the tragedy.

    On December 13, The Washington Post reported that Caal Maquin “died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert.” She did not receive medical treatment until an hour and a half after it was requested. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) claimed that Caal Maquin “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days” before her death -- but this was quickly disputed by her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz. According to a statement from his lawyers, Caal Cruz “made sure she was fed and had sufficient water." The family wants an investigation into Caal Maquin's death.

    The Post first resported Caal Maquin’s death several days after it happened. But once the story broke on December 13, right-wing media personalities and major Trump administration officials immediately began exploiting her death or claiming that her father had caused it:

    Fox News host Sean Hannity: “A wall can prevent these types of heart-breaking stories.”

    White House senior adviser Stephen Miller during a Fox appearance: “If you want to stop the horrors on the northward trek, ... then, for the love of God, fund the border wall.”

    MSNBC contributor and talk radio host Hugh Hewitt: Caal Maquin’s death "is about the most complete argument for building a long, strong" border wall.

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a Fox appearance: "This family chose to cross illegally."

    Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz: "That should be the message, don't make this journey, it will kill you."

    CNN political commentator and BlazeTV host Ben Ferguson: “This is child abuse in its worst form. … This is sick.”

    Fox News guest and Border Patrol Council Vice President Art Del Cueto: “No one’s pointing the finger at this father, they’re all pointing the finger at the Border Patrol agents, and that’s just disgusting.”

    One America News host Graham Ledger: Caal Maquin was a “seven-year-old illegal” whose parents should be “investigated for probable child abuse.”

    One America News host Liz Wheeler: Caal Maquin’s father “forced her to undergo the dangerous journey to the U.S. border and didn’t feed her or give her water for days and days on end.”

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “Now they’re, ‘Oh, it’s Trump’s fault that a seven-year-old girl died after her father dragged her across a desert for seven days.’ That’s Trump’s fault?”

    Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro: "The person responsible for all of this is the father who didn't feed the child."

    Video by Leanne Naramore

  • Conservative defenses of the antidemocratic power grab in Wisconsin are scant, extremely stupid

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature move into the final stages of enacting an antidemocratic power grab, conservative media justifications for the move are few and far between. It’s difficult to defend the indefensible, so when conservative media figures have addressed the issue, their arguments fall flat.

    Following Wisconsin Democrats’ sweep of all of the statewide constitutional offices in the 2018 midterm elections, the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature put forward a package of bills in a lame-duck session that would strip powers from Gov.-elect Tony Evers, who defeated Republican incumbent Scott Walker on Election Day, and limit other functions of the soon-to-be Democratic-controlled executive branch. Both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature passed the package on December 5 following an all-night session, and the legislation now awaits Walker’s signature. In addition to the antidemocratic stripping of powers from the incoming administration, the package includes other odious provisions such as a tax cut that will only benefit couples who make more than $200,000 a year.

    Right-wing media has been largely silent on the story, perhaps because many conservative media figures don’t feel the need to stick their necks out over something so obviously wrong when the Wisconsin GOP doesn’t need any help pushing the measure through. Due to rampant gerrymandering, Democrats will hold just 36 percent of state legislative seats during the next session despite winning 54 percent of the statewide vote, meaning they will be unable to reverse the Republicans’ power grab. Legal challenges to the measures, however, are sure to follow.

    The few conservative media defenders of the GOP power grab haven’t made very good arguments. Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey published an article lightly chiding Wisconsin Republicans for “graciously relieving [Evers] of some of Scott Walker’s old workload.” While acknowledging that what is happening is not fair, Morrissey excused it, saying that this is “the real world” and that (emphasis original) “the impulse behind this effort may well be understandable” because of the possibility “Democrats wouldn’t have played fair with executive authority without those restrictions.”

    Rush Limbaugh's producer James Golden, who goes by the pseudonym Bo Snerdley, reacted to the package’s passage in a tweet, saying “Democrats just hate losing.” (Democratic candidates in Wisconsin received 190,000 more votes in the 2018 elections than Republican candidates.)

    And on his radio show, MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt said complaints about the power grab are “falling on deaf ears with me” because “you got to go back to November and December and January of 2016 and early ‘17 when they were reminding us only one president at a time.”

    HUGH HEWITT (HOST): There is controversies about elections in North Carolina and in the aftermath of elections in Wisconsin and Michigan where defeated Republicans are limiting the powers of the incoming Democrats. By the way, people who are objecting to that, you got to go back to November and December and January of 2016 and early ‘17 when they were reminding us only one president at a time. … No one was complaining then about using all your powers until the end of your term, so that’s falling on deaf ears with me.

    This is an extremely poor line of reasoning to defend the GOP’s power grab in Wisconsin. Hewitt’s reference to “controversies” in North Carolina is a case where supporters of a Republican House candidate may have literally stolen the election through fraud, and his reference to Michigan is about a similar GOP legislative power grab. But Hewitt’s argument fails completely in his false equivalence between Wisconsin Republicans and the final months of the Obama administration. What the Obama administration did in its last months was an attempt to shore up legitimate actions it had taken under existing executive branch norms; the administration didn’t seek to change the system entirely. Any actions taken by the Obama administration could be checked by an incoming Republican president (who lost the popular vote) and a Republican Congress, while Wisconsin Republicans are attempting to radically alter their state government’s separation of powers.

    Courtney Hagle contributed research to this post.

  • Right-wing media are celebrating the election of far-right extremist Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil and comparing him to Trump

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT & COURTNEY HAGLE


    Media Matters / Melissa Joskow

    On October 28, far-right Brazilian Congress member Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil. Bolsonaro has repeatedly embraced authoritarianism, and he has a history of espousing misogynistic, racist, anti-LGBTQ, and other extremist rhetoric. Right-wing media are celebrating his victory and high poll numbers by cheering on his proposed policies and highlighting the similarities between Bolsonaro and President Donald Trump:

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham said Brazilians are “looking at Bolsonaro as someone who’s more like Trump, who’s going to get back to the basics on the economy. And I bet Bolsonaro and Trump form a very productive relationship trade-wise -- watch the trade deal that’s going to come out of this Bolsonaro-Trump relationship.”
    • During the October 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said Brazilians “wanted to bring in someone from the outside who spent very little of his own money in order to win.” Fox’s Rob Schmitt added that Brazilians wanted “change,” and “got it,” with “the Trump of the tropics.”
    • Fox’s national security and foreign affairs expert Walid Phares celebrated Bolsonaro on Fox Business Network, claiming, “He’s going to go anti-terrorism, anti-smuggling, he's going to reform the economy, and he made a statement that he is going to be a partner with the United States against those extremists and also helping us with the issues of the migrants.”
    • Sinclair’s Boris Epshteyn boasted in his morning newsletter that “President Trump’s country - first policies are becoming more popular around the globe” and expressed his hope that “the positions shared by these two leaders will result in a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between the U.S. and Brazil.”
    • Hugh Hewitt shared an article about Bolsonaro’s win and tweeted: “Brazil deregulated will work with Columbia Mexico U.S. for a booming hemisphere”
    • In The Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft wrote that “Anti-Communist ‘Trump of the Tropics’” Bolsonaro won the election and complained that Reuters “calls Bolsonaro ‘far right’ because he openly opposes communism.”
    • Pamela Geller wrote that Bolsonaro’s ascent to power is “similar to what the United States experienced with President Trump. Bolsonaro has been called ‘Brazil’s Trump’ due to his nationalistic policies and his tough stance on crime.” Geller also criticized the media’s coverage of Bolsonaro as a “far-right politician,” drawing comparisons between the media’s treatment of him and Trump.
    • The Daily Caller’s Jason Hopkins praised “Trump of the Tropics” Bolsonaro’s tough stance on crime and free-market economic reforms, arguing that his support comes not from “establishment figures and those in the American left-wing media,” but from “Brazilian citizens who wanted change.”
    • Far-right troll Mike Cernovich complained that “many Brazilian friends have told me Bolsonaro is being lied about in the media,” repeatedly claimed Bolsonaro is not “far right,” and argued, “The far left is being rejected worldwide. … The Brazilian people voted for change.”
    • Far-right agitator Katie Hopkins noted Bolsonaro’s victory alongside an anti-Islam image, and she added that she is “bloody loving the rise of the right.”

    Bolsonaro’s rise followed years of anti-democratic statements from him that can only be read as fascist. An October 28 article in The New York Times compiled some of the Brazilian president-elect’s most extreme comments. When asked in a 1999 interview whether he would shut down Brazil’s Congress, Bolsonaro replied:

    There is no doubt. I would perform a coup on the same day. [Congress] doesn’t work. And I am sure that at least 90 percent of the population would celebrate and applaud because it doesn’t work. The Congress today is useless … lets do the coup already. Let’s go straight to the dictatorship.

    He also appeared to advocate for a violent “civil war” to “do the job that the military regime didn’t do: killing 30,000.” Bolsonaro has repeatedly advocated for torture and threatened earlier this month to jail his political opponents after taking office.

    The Times also reported that Bolsarano once told a fellow lawmaker that he “would not rape [her] because you [she is] not worthy of it.” He has stated that he would not hire women equally, and he referred to having a daughter as a “weakness.” In 2011, he claimed he would “rather his son die in a car accident than be gay,” and two years later he claimed that he would “rather have a son who is an addict than a son who is gay.” Just last year, Bolsonaro implied that Afro-Brazilians are lazy, claiming, “They don’t do anything. They are not even good for procreation.” Bolsonaro has promised to roll back policies meant to protect the environment, and, according to the Times, he claimed the “Amazon is like a child with chickenpox, every dot you see is an indigenous reservation.”

  • The party of personal responsibility is now the party of “the libs made me do it”

    More than just a hit song by Taylor Swift, Look what you made me do has become the go-to excuse for unsavory actions among conservatives.

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    You’d be surprised how many conservatives were this close to casting a ballot for Democrats next month only to be thrust back into their Republican ways by how liberal protesters and Democratic senators handled themselves during Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. No, I don’t have data to back this up. What I do have, however, are anecdotes -- lots and lots of anecdotes from conservative media figures who are sharing them, ever so kindly and not at all suspiciously, because they just want to help Democrats win some elections.

    “From a conservative who has been disgusted by the Trumpified GOP: ‘I didn’t think I could drag myself to the polls. But after the Left’s performance in the Kavanaugh affair, I would crawl across broken glass.’ I believe this sentiment is common,” wrote National Review’s Jay Nordlinger on Twitter.

    In his most recent Washington Post column, Hugh Hewitt stressed the importance of not rewarding the “outburst of the new McCarthyism” that was the opposition to Kavanaugh’s spot on the court. This lesson, of course, is for the Democratic Party’s own good -- and it’s one that can be taught only by increasing Republican majorities in the House and Senate. For Republicans who find themselves disapproving of President Donald Trump’s “hyperbole and occasional cruelty,” voting a straight-GOP ballot is a courageous sacrifice worthy of applause. Democrats can rest easy knowing that Hugh Hewitt, longtime friend of the left, has their best interests at heart. Or … something like that.

    “I’ve heard from several of my center-right friends today who are turned off by the Left’s attacks on Kavanaugh & Cruz. As a result, they have started solidly supporting them both,” wrote Daily Beast columnist and CNN commentator Matt Lewis on Twitter, sharing an “admittedly anecdotal” bit of info with his followers.

    Each of these stories could be thusly summed up: I didn’t want to vote for Trump or his congressional enablers … but look what you made me do. In other words, it’s your fault that we’re here.

    It’s a convenient defense to sidestep responsibility for actions or positions one knows to be ethically murky. For many conservatives, that includes supporting Trump and his oft-cruel agenda.

    One variation on this trope is the rejoinder, “This is how you got Trump.” Again on Twitter, Lewis reminds readers that though he’s spent years “lamenting the rise of what came to be called ‘Trumpism’ on the Right,” we should remember at least two of the real causes behind the phenomenon: “liberal media bias” and “the radicalization of the Left.”

    The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro has blamed the rise of Trump on a litany of factors: former President Barack Obama’s lectures; Hillary Clinton’s decision to participate in a sketch during the 2018 Grammy Awards (14 months after Trump’s election); a joke about salads; a tweet from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about the cancellation of Roseanne; an admittedly bizarre HuffPost article titled “Why I Put A Dragonfruit Up My Butt…”; the response to a CNN segment in which Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis said the only two things he believed in were “the First Amendment and boobs”; and, in the most meta example possible, the phrase “this is why Trump won.”

    Surely some of those were meant as jokes, but they illustrate something important within modern politics: No one can ever be to blame for their own actions. “How you got Trump” is that Republicans voted for him during the party’s 2016 primary and then went on to cast their ballots for him in the general election. Yes, of course there were other factors, such as Obama voters who crossed over to Trump, Democrats and independents who sat the election out, voter suppression and disenfranchisement efforts, and so on. None of them, however, were tweets, salads, or sketches during awards shows. Voters -- Trump voters -- gave us Trump. At least that would seem apparent.

    Sometimes, this tactic is deployed as a response, as it was during the Kavanaugh confirmation. Other times, it’s a warning against future action.

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s win during the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District left some on the right flustered. A young, affable, progressive candidate who rose from obscurity to defeat a powerful incumbent could pose a threat to the conservative monopoly on power -- if more candidates like her were to emerge and succeed. Right-leaning commentators have since deployed a series of editorials urging Democrats, for their own sake, not to venture too far to the left.

    “Democrats need to choose: Are they the party of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the party of Michael Bloomberg?” asked a June Business Insider article by Daniella Greenbaum. At The Atlantic, Reihan Salam wrote about Ocasio-Cortez as a sign that the Democratic Party may be in for an unwise shift to the left. Former George H.W. Bush staffer Lloyd Green warned at The Hill that “wealthy swing voters will not buy what Ocasio-Cortez is selling.”

    The promise, though sometimes unspoken, is that if the Democrats were to simply be a little more conservative, they would be able to cash in on the many disillusioned Trump voters. At The New York Times, David Brooks urged Democrats to make less of a fuss about right-wing attacks on abortion rights. Doing this, he surmises, would help them defeat the threat that Trumpism poses to the country and the world. Often, these articles are a request for just one little concession here or there -- maybe it’s to ease up on abortion; or maybe it’s to sit out the conservative battle against LGBTQ rights; or maybe it’s to adopt a more market-driven approach to health insurance. The message bombarding readers is that people on the left are forcing those on the right to march toward authoritarianism simply by being on the left. The underlying argument is that to be successful at the polls, Democrats need to abandon many of the things that differentiate them from Republicans -- which, in Greenbaum’s argument, involves becoming “the party of” a former Republican mayor -- or else conservatives will have no choice but to continue their rightward march.

    But if Trump is the type of existential threat to conservatism and country that National Review made him out to be in its “Against Trump” issue or that Shapiro sugested in a piece for The Daily Wire, then the “party of personal responsibility” needs to take it upon itself to reshape from within. Instead, right-wing media figures are rattling off reasons that it’s actually the fault of Democrats that Republicans became the party of Trump -- not because of their own choices, actions, and divisions.

    Trump himself uses this tactic in his own political battles. Take his immigration policy, for example.

    “It is now time for Congress to act!” Trump said in a 2017 statement announcing the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

    The meticulously crafted statement suggested that his hands were tied. As much as he wanted to keep the program in place, he had little choice but to send the issue back to Congress with hope that it would pass legislation to protect the undocumented immigrants here under the 2012 program. This, of course, was a farce. Trump had every right to leave the program in place while encouraging Congress to make it permanent. Instead, he turned the lives of nearly 700,000 people into a political bargaining chip attached to a ticking time bomb.

    “We want to see something happen with DACA,” Trump said in January. “It’s been spoken of for years, and children are now adults in many cases.” But did he actually want to have a DACA bill on his desk to sign? A number of Democrats (including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein) called on Republican leaders in Congress to vote on a clean bill to completely resolve the issue. In fact, at the same time Trump announced the plan to wind down DACA, the DREAM Act of 2017 had been languishing in the Senate for more than a month. He chose not to put pressure on Republican members of Congress (the bill did have Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) as co-sponsors) to pass the existing bill. Instead, he railed against inaction, making repeated claims that Democrats were the ones choosing not to protect DACA recipients, tweeting that Democrats were “nowhere to be found” on the issue, didn’t care, and were ultimately responsible for the fact that “DACA is dead” (DACA is actually still active as it faces challenges in courts).

    Not only were Democrats willing to act, but many crossed the aisle to provide a bipartisan solution which included an offer to fund his border wall. In response, Trump threatened to veto the bill were it to pass Congress. He went on to repeat this exact same strategy to defend his administration’s family separation policy, falsely blaming it on a “horrible law” that simply did not and does not exist.

    Just as some conservatives in the media can justify their support of Trump’s cruelest policies by blaming just about anything apart from their own decision-making (did you know that Saturday Night Live can lead the most disillusioned former Republican back into the party’s warm embrace?), Trump justifies his own policies by blaming his political opponents. Everyone is happy to take credit for making the right call when something is good -- there’s no shortage of positive coverage among conservatives when it comes to the “Trump economy” -- but blame gets spread far and fast when something has a negative outcome.

    One of the latest examples of this trend involves Trump’s own op-ed in USA Today. While there are a number of outright lies in the piece, there’s one that’s especially galling.

    “As a candidate, I promised that we would protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions and create new health care insurance options that would lower premiums,” reads the editorial. “I have kept that promise, and we are now seeing health insurance premiums coming down.”

    Trump has not kept his promise to people with pre-existing conditions, of course, instead painting Democrats as the party that wants to take away people’s access to health care. In fact, the administration is actively trying to gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions in court. On Wednesday, the Republican Senate voted down a measure to prevent a new rule put forward by the administration that would allow insurance companies to offer plans that exclude these crucial and popular protections.

    If and when those defenses erode, there’s little doubt that he will look to Democrats as he did during the DACA debate and shrug as if to say, “I really wanted to help. Really, I did. But look what you made me do.” His defenders are sure to join in. It’s the job of a responsible media to hold him to account.

  • Arizona journalists debunk edited video used by conservatives to smear Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative media used an out-of-context video to falsely claim that Senate candidate Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) called all Arizonans "crazy." As local journalists explained, the full context of her remarks shows that Sinema was clearly referring only to Republican lawmakers in Arizona who were promoting extremist legislation, such as the state’s racially discriminatory SB 1070 "papers please" law.

    This smear originated with an October 11 tweet from the Twitter account “The Reagan Battalion,” described by The Associated Press as “an anonymous conservative group,” which published a 65 second-long video with clear edits at the 23 and 30 second marks, stripping Sinema's remarks of necessary context. According to the tweet, Sinema mocked “Arizonans as 'Crazy' and calls Arizona the 'crazy' state."

    As of 11 a.m. EDT today, that crudely edited video had roughly 240,000 views. The Reagan Battalion later posted a full 5 minute 23 second version on its YouTube account, suggesting it had the full context all along. The original, uncut video had only 3,129 views as of 11 a.m.

    Fox News host Sean Hannity ran with this false framing, citing The Reagan Battalion and saying the video showed Sinema "calling Arizonans, the people she wants to vote for her, crazy."
     

    Conservative outlet Independent Journal Review (IJR) embedded the deceptively edited Reagan Battalion video and tweet in a piece that falsely blared in its headline: “Leaked Video Shows Arizona Dem Senate Candidate Mocking Arizonans as ‘Crazy’ While in Texas.” Talk radio host and MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt tweeted: “Wow: ‘Sinema Called Arizonans “Crazy” at Texas Democratic Event in 2011,’” linking to a Washington Free Beacon story with a similarly misleading headline, despite the body of the piece acknowledging that she was referring to Republican lawmakers. Fox & Friends also aired an edited version of Sinema’s remarks which included her reference to Republicans lawmakers, yet the show still falsely claimed in an on-air graphic that “Sinema mocked Arizonans as ‘crazy’ in 2011.”

    But local journalists quickly made clear that conservatives were wrong to claim Sinema was referring to all Arizonans as “crazy.” Arizona Capitol Times editor Luige del Puerto called out The Reagan Battalion in a tweet, pointing out the clear edits and demanding it “show the unedited version so we can hear her whole speech.” He also told IJR that it was wrong to promote the misleadingly edited video. And The Arizona Republic published an article on Sinema’s full remarks with the correct context and a factually correct headline: “Kyrsten Sinema in 2011: 'There’s something wrong with the people in public office in Arizona.’” The lede of the article stated: “Rep. Kyrsten Sinema seven years ago ridiculed as ‘crazy’ the Republican elected officials leading the state at the time, and the anti-illegal immigration legislation that began in Arizona and was being replicated in state Capitols across the nation.”

    And Sinema was absolutely correct about the extremist nature of the Republican legislators in Arizona. The 2010 Arizona anti-immigrant bill SB 1070, known as the “papers please” law because it required police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country without authorization, was so extreme that the Supreme Court struck down three out of four provisions of the law in 2012. The remaining provision that required officers to question people’s immigration status and demand immigration documents was largely rendered moot in 2016 when the state settled a lawsuit brought by immigrants’ rights groups. The Arizona Republic explained that the law “sparked a national outcry” and “led to a torrent of canceled trips to Arizona by would-be tourists and conventioneers, and travel bans by cities and organizations around the country who deemed the legislation discriminatory and in violation of federal law.” The same article pointed out other extreme legislation introduced by Republicans in the state legislature that year:

    In 2011, the year of Sinema’s remarks, Republicans at the Arizona Capitol had introduced other legislation targeting undocumented immigrants.

    One bill would have required hospitals to check a person’s legal status and notify law enforcement if they suspected the person was in the United States illegally. Another would have banned illegal immigrants from going to state universities and community colleges, and from getting federal benefits.

    A third targeted the issue of birthright citizenship.

    All of the bills failed.

    Russell Pearce, who was singled out in Sinema’s remarks and authored the SB 1070 legislation, was forced into a recall election over the bill and lost to another Republican the year after it was signed into law.