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  • Morgan Freeman was the latest victim of a fake news website with a Facebook-verified page

    Experts have reportedly said the fake news website is “used by the Russians as a proxy site to spread disinformation”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A fake news website that has been accused of being “used by the Russians as a proxy site to spread disinformation” (and has a verified Facebook page) made up a fake news story full of fabricated quotes that claimed that actor Morgan Freeman called for “that bitch” Hillary Clinton to be jailed.

    YourNewsWire published an article on October 29 titled “Morgan Freeman: ‘Jailing Hillary’ Best Way To ‘Restore Public Faith In Govt,’” which claimed that Freeman said “that bitch” Clinton “should be in jail for her unlawful deeds and President Trump should absolutely, absolutely make sure this happens.” The story was shared on the website’s Facebook-verified page as well as the verified Facebook page of another fake news website owned by the same people. Additionally, the article was monetized through ads from the advertising network Revcontent, which has became one of the most widely used advertising networks for fake news websites. Lead Stories and Snopes, two fact-checking websites, debunked the story, noting in part that Freeman had supported Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

    Nonetheless, the fake story has spread significantly. According to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, the fake story received more than 68,000 Facebook engagements and more than 10,000 Twitter shares. Prominent figures shared the fake story, including actor James Woods (who later deleted his tweet), PJ Media columnist Roger Kimball, and conservative blogger Instapundit (who subsequently acknowledged the story was fake), as well as multiple other fake news websites.

    YourNewsWire has repeatedly pushed fake news stories, such as claiming that Hillary Clinton bribed Republicans in order to “destroy Trump.” Experts in the United States and European Union (EU) have reportedly accused the website of being a Russian proxy that helps push misinformation that seems to fit Russia’s messaging. Recently, the website created a fake story that Austria’s new chancellor was banning billionaire George Soros, who is disliked by Russia, and created another fake story claiming that the EU, which Russia has sought to undermine, was lowering the age of consent to 13.

  • “The Fix Is In:” Conservative Media Decries F.B.I.’s Recommendation Of No Criminal Charges In Clinton Email Investigation

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Right-wing media figures are claiming that the “coverup is on” following FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the bureau will not recommend criminal charges to the Department of Justice in the investigation relating to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Conservative commentators have previously lauded Comey for his “impeccable integrity” and ability to impartially conduct the investigation, while legal experts and media figures have predicted that no criminal charges would be brought forward in the case.

  • Memo To Right-Wing Media: Gabby Giffords And Newtown Families Are Not Props

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The argument by conservative media that former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and other survivors of gun violence who supported a failed Senate compromise to expand background checks on firearms sales are "props" of the Obama administration is both hypocritically partisan and logically flawed.

    Right-wing media are unable to acknowledge that President Obama's gun violence prevention agenda mirrors the priorities of gun violence survivors, who are not mere "props," to pass stronger gun laws. As Greg Sargent of The Washington Post notes, "the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want":

    All of this aside, the "props" line is actually an insult to the families, posing as a defense of them. It implies that the families, in lobbying on these issues, are not thinking for themselves. In reality, the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want. Indeed, one of the family members, Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel in the shooting, voluntarily stood with the president at the White House yesterday as Obama reacted to news of the Senate vote, and thanked Obama for his leadership. Needless to say, if Barden felt like he was being exploited or used as a prop, he wouldn't be thanking the president. [emphasis in original]

    Logical flaws aside, those who would call Newtown families and other gun violence survivors "props" fail to acknowledge that presidents routinely evoke the experiences of victims in advocating for policies that would prevent future tragedies.

    In 1991, former President Ronald Reagan evoked his own experience of being shot by a would-be assassin, as well as the experiences of others wounded in the 1981 attack in order to advocate for background checks on gun sales. In a New York Times op-ed Reagan wrote about his press secretary, Jim Brady, who was grievously wounded in the attack by a man who acquired a gun despite a lengthy history of serious mental illness. Brady would go on to lend his name to the legislation -- the Brady bill -- that mandated a background check for gun sales conducted by licensed dealers:

  • How Conservative Media Reacted To Senate Republicans Blocking Stronger Gun Laws

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conservatives in media gloated and launched political attacks in reaction to a coalition of largely Senate Republicans blocking a package of stronger gun laws, including compromise legislation on expanded background checks for gun sales -- a legislative proposal supported by roughly 90 percent of Americans.   

    Before, during, and after President Obama delivered a speech from the Rose Garden on April 17 vowing to continue the dialogue on gun laws, conservatives in media offered triumphal comments and launched vicious attacks on advocates for gun violence prevention, including family members of Newtown victims and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

    As Politico noted, conservative bloggers "claimed victory ... saying that their ideology and principles were the keys to their success." The right-wing reaction, however, went beyond basic policy arguments:

    Jeffrey Scott Shaprio's Washington Times Op-Ed: "I Don't Believe The Families Of The Victims" Of Newtown "Deserve A Vote"

    In an op-ed for The Washington Times, Jeffrey Scott Shapiro opined that family members of Newtown victims -- many of whom advocated for the passage of stronger gun laws -- did not deserve to be heard because of his apparent belief that background checks infringe on the Second Amendment. Shapiro previously accused Obama of attempting to implement socialism in a piece for The New American, the magazine publication of the far-right John Birch Society. From Shapiro's April 18 op-ed:

    I don't believe the families of the victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., deserve a vote.

    It may sound harsh and uncaring, but even the greatest tragedies are not a valid reason to disregard the Supreme Court and the Constitution of the United States. If they were, our free speech and our rights against unreasonable search and seizure and against self-incrimination would have all been abolished long ago amid every crime wave in American history.

    Five years ago, the Supreme Court settled the issue of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller, making it clear that guns in "common use" were constitutionally protected. Nevertheless, President Obama recently flew several family members of Sandy Hook victims to Washington on Air Force One to pressure congressional legislators to enact new gun laws.

  • The NRA And The Myth Of The 20-Minute Police Response Time At Sandy Hook

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Appearing on Fox News Sunday this week, National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre was pressed about the controversial ad the group created in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre that referenced the armed protection President Obama's daughters receive. Even as host Chris Wallace belittled as "ridiculous" the ad's premise that all children deserve the same kind of protection that the president's children have, LaPierre defend the ad and said, "Tell that to the people of Newtown."

    "So they should have Secret Service"? Wallace asked.

    In response, LaPierre propagated a favorite falsehood of the pro-gun media lobby [emphasis added]:

    LAPIERRE: No, but what they should have is police officers or certified armed security in those schools to keep people safe. If something happens, the police time-- despite all their good intentions, is 15 to 20 minutes. It's too long. It's not going to help those kids.

    In the wake of the Newtown shooting, LaPierre bemoaned the fact kids aren't safe at school, in part because it takes police 15 to 20 minutes to respond to a deadly shooting like the one in Connecticut.

    But that's not true and it's time the news media start calling out anti-gun control extremists like LaPierre and Larry Pratt, , the executive director of Gun Owners of America,  among others, who keep peddling the obvious falsehood in the press.

    Fact: The Newtown police station is located approximately two miles from the Sandy Hook Elementary School. There's no way it would have taken law enforcement 20 minutes to respond to the first 911 calls reporting gunfire at the school. (Local cops could have run from the station and been at the school in less than 20 minutes.)

    Fast-acting Newtown officers "made it in under three minutes, arriving in the parking lot while gunfire could still be heard," according to New York Times interviews with the first responders that day.

    But if you listen to LaPierre as well as other anti-gun control advocates who are making the media rounds, you're led to believe gunman Adam Lanza roamed the hallways of Sandy Hook for nearly half an hour killing people at will before law enforcement finally arrived; that terrified teachers and students were "waiting 20 minutes for the cops to show up," as one pro-gun blogger claimed.

    It's not true. The claim is pure gun lobby propaganda.

  • Right-Wing Spin: School Massacre Gun Debate A "Distraction"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As President Obama readies his push for new measures to help curb gun violence, conservative writers, including a USA Today columnist, are calling the unfolding gun debate a "distraction" and a "red herring" designed by the White House to focus attention away from what's really important in America, the national debt.

    Dismissing the implications of a steady string of mass shootings, including the Newtown, CT elementary school massacre, gun advocates in the media accuse the president of fabricating the need for action or attention on the issue. He's being an "opportunist" who's "picking a fight" on guns, they insist.

    The dismissive claim actually runs counter to a popular right-wing mantra this month that the Obama administration's gun control efforts stand as the precursor to a looming civil war, and that Obama's true tyrannical nature will be revealed.

    Either way, portraying 30,000 gun deaths each year in America as a "distraction," and especially portraying the issue of school gun killings as a "red herring," strikes me as tasteless.

    Nonetheless, in his USA Today column, conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds suggested Obama is purposefully focusing on guns in order to keep attention off  "the country's financial situation." Left unmentioned by Reynolds was the fact that gun violence was thrust to the forefront of Obama's second-term agenda because a madman massacred kids and teachers inside a Connecticut school with a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle. Meaning, Obama's trying to deal with the issue of gun violence in a public way because gunmen keep going on shooting rampages across the country

    On the topic of gun violence in America, Reynolds' column remained silent. He was only interested in blaming Obama for allegedly manufacturing a diversion. (In his December 25 column, Reynolds lodged a similar complaint, insisting, "They'd rather have us talking about gun control" than the national debt.)

    Following Reynolds' lead, Powerline blogger John Hinderaker apologized for having recently weighed in on the issue of gun control. Why apologize? Because Hinderaker now realizes gun control, gun violence, and shooting sprees represent a "distraction" from what really matters, the debt.

    And writing at, AWR Hawkins could barely mask his contempt for anyone who thinks guns represent an issue of importance in America today. Accusing the president of trying to "seize on the emotions of those who operate emotionally rather than rationally," the blogger wrote that any effort to curb gun violence in the wake of the Connecticut mass murder was a "red herring" designed to "redirect all emotion" away from what really matters.

    I wonder if Newtown families agree.

  • Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim National Guard Kept Out Of Brooklyn Because Of Gun Possession

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Right-wing media outlets are reporting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate of gun violence prevention, denied the National Guard entry into Brooklyn to aid victims in the wake of Hurricane Sandy because members of the National Guard carry firearms. In fact, during the press conference the critics are citing, Bloomberg said he opposed having the Guard patrol the streets because he believed the New York Police Department was sufficiently equipped to protect the public and that the Guard would be better used in locations with smaller police forces.

    During an October 31 press conference, Bloomberg was asked to respond to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's request for additional National Guard resources to deter criminal activity. Bloomberg responded that "The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns," adding that "[w]e don't need it" and that the troops would be better used for that purpose in "locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York."

    REPORTER: Mr. Mayor, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz has a question, additional National Guard in Brooklyn, do you agree?

    BLOOMBERG: No, we appreciate the help. The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns. We don't need it. There has been one or two minor outbreakings, disgraceful as they may be, looting reported in the paper, but the vast bulk of people are doing the right thing. And in Brooklyn people are safe the same way they are in the rest of the city. We have the resources, the NYPD is 100 percent confident that we can protect the public, we've been doing this for an awful long time. You just have to take a look at the crime rate to understand how good a job this is. And the National Guard has plenty of responsibilities. There are plenty of locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York, and they can use help from the state, and that's where they should be.

  • With Cain, Right-Wing Media Fail First Test Of 2012 Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    During campaign seasons members of the partisan opinion press can provide invaluable services to their side by debunking stories with original reporting, supplying unique analysis, and offering up substantive media critiques in hopes of changing the trajectory of big stories.

    But over the last ten days as the Herman Cain sexual harassment story has unfolded and gained momentum, the partisan conservative press hasn't been able to uncover one salient fact or change the arc of the narrative in any substantial way. (And it certainly hasn't poked any meaningful holes in Politico's Cain reporting.) Instead, key portions of the GOP Noise Machine have spent their days playing victim, engaging in offensive name-calling, race-baiting, and making sweeping pronouncements, many of which turned out to be entirely inaccurate.

    Faced with the first real campaign crisis of the 2012 season, the conservative media marched into a dead end behind its Fox News generals, displayed a casual disregard for common sense, and managed to embarrass itself on an epic scale. At times the media collective behaved more like a confused mob than it did a group of wannabe journalists.

    Just as candidate Cain has to deal with the long-term ramifications of the sexual harassment controversy, the right-wing press will emerge from the saga in a much weaker and (even) less trustworthy state. Because rather than waiting for the all facts to emerge, shortsighted partisans immediately began their knee-jerk, blame-game ritual:

  • "We Admittedly Do Not Have Any Direct Evidence...": Right-Wing Media And Fast And Furious

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Media Matters has long noted that the right-wing media is unparalleled in its willingness to throw its weight behind entirely fabricated conspiracies and fake stories. In their world, the Shirley Sherrod controversy was "orchestrated" by the White House to "smear" Andrew Breitbart; the Obama administration deliberately ignored the BP oil spill in order to stop future drilling; and President Obama secretly skipped his daughter's soccer team in order to do... something.

    So it should come as no surprise that the right-wing media have turned a controversial program from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) into an elaborate conspiracy directed from the highest reaches of government intended to bolster the case for gun control legislation - even as they acknowledge there is no evidence for this claim.

    Last week, the House Oversight Committee held two hearings into the ATF's Project Gunrunner, a division that seeks to halt the flow of firearms to Mexico, and a controversial initiative it began in 2009 called Operation Fast and Furious. According to the committee's report, under Fast and Furious, ATF knowingly allowed guns to be trafficked across the border to Mexico in order to "identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case." Reports indicate that the program may lead to acting ATF director Kenneth Melson's replacement.

    But rather than stick to the facts, the right wing has again created an alternate reality. Spokesmen for the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America have used Fox News appearances to declare that what actually happened was a clever plot involving Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder aimed at creating a "river of guns" flowing into Mexico to create "political advantage" and "set the stage for more gun restrictions on the law abiding people in this country."

    The right-wing blogosphere has since jumped on the story, but apparently aware of just how far-out all this sounds, they have generally couched the theory in a series of questions or even outward admissions that they have no evidence to support it.

    Take Bob Owens, a Pajamas Media blogger who has previously openly discussed armed revolution and written that he hopes that makes Media Matters researchers "feel threatened." This week, Owens has written two articles speculating about whether Fast and Furious was "never designed to succeed as a law enforcement operation at all" and was instead "a PR op for gun control."

    In his second piece, Owens writes, "We admittedly do not have any direct evidence of this allegation." That's generally where responsible people decide not to further comment until and unless they actually amass some sort of evidence. But Owens can't do that, you see, because the "circumstantial case... has proven strong enough to have few detractors and raises questions that must be answered."

  • Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds Has Never Heard of Waco?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The right-wing blogger has been in full-on defensive mode this week in the wake of the Tucson gun massacre. Specifically, Glenn Reynolds, like so many far-right bloggers, has been lashing out at anyone who calls into question the right-wing's hateful anti-government rhetoric in recent years.

    Yesterday, Reynolds was especially upset about how Sarah Palin has been treated with regard to the Tucson story and demanded answers to this question:

    Has any other public figure ever had to try to act "Presidential," though, while being accused of complicity in mass murder?

    That's actually a simple one. The answer is yes: Bill Clinton, following the final raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX. During the 1990s, lots of Clinton-hating conservatives in the media specifically, and sometimes unequivocally, accused Clinton of being responsible for mass murder. (And some Clinton haters still do today.) Not merely complicit, Clinton was accused of being directly responsible for mass murder.

    Does Reynolds have any other easy questions he'd like answered?

    P.S. There's also the infamous right-wing Clinton Body Count from the 1900s, which I assume Reynolds is familiar with. It allegedly connected Clinton to countless people who "died under suspicious circumstances." Would Reynolds care to take a break from playing defense for Palin and belatedly denounce that right-wing smear against Clinton?

  • It depends on what Glenn Reynolds means by "shrink rapidly"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Writing in the Washington Examiner, right-wing blogger Glenn Reynolds, suffering a permanent bout of ODS, made this He's-Doomed proclamation [emphasis added]:

    And, like the beleaguered band Spinal Tap, Obama is seeing his appeal shrink rapidly despite the increased volume -- though his advisers, like Spinal Tap's manager Ian Faith, protest that his appeal isn't shrinking, just becoming "more selective."

    See, Obama's seeing his appeal "shrink rapidly." Except that, y'know, it's exactly where it was one year ago.

    -Obama's Gallup approval rating, Dec. 5, 2009: 49 percent

    -Obama's Gallup approval rating, Dec. 5, 2010: 48 percent.

    Like I said, it depends on what Reynolds means by "shrink rapidly."