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  • Conservative media figures won't listen to multiple women about Brett Kavanaugh, but they did take an anonymous 4chan post at face value

    Right-wing media pushed 4chan-sourced claim that the latest Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick wasn’t real

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media figures spread a hoax after an anonymous 4chan poster claimed without evidence to have duped lawyer Michael Avenatti about the existence of a third woman willing to come forward to report Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for sexual misconduct. The woman in question, Julie Swetnick, has now come forward with a sworn declaration.

    On Tuesday morning, an anonymous 4chan user claimed in a now-archived thread to have duped Avenatti by having someone impersonate a woman with knowledge of unreported instances of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct.

    It didn’t take long for influential right-wing media personalities to run with this baseless claim, in efforts to preemptively smear any source of new allegations against Kavanaugh. Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson -- for whom no conspiracy theory is far-fetched enough if it discredits women with reports against Kavanaugh -- quickly helped advance the 4chan narrative, first retweeting a screenshot and then irresponsibly parroting it:

    Erickson was not alone in spreading misinformation anonymously posted in a message board known for generating hoaxes. He was joined on Twitter by FoxNews.com commentator Stephen Miller, the widely-followed right-wing Twitter account Instapundit.com, and One America News Network correspondent and “Pizzagate” pusher Jack Posobiec.

    Red State also jumped on the bandwagon, speculating in its report that the false narrative could be “one of the greatest events in 2018.” And on the September 26 edition of Fox & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade also alluded to the fake narrative concocted by 4chan trolls, falsely claiming Avenatti had admitted to being fooled:

    Later on the show, Kilmeade clarified that Avenatti had denied having been duped.

    Avenatti has now made publicly available a sworn declaration signed by a woman named Julie Swetnick. As legal commentators have pointed out, Swetnick’s sworn declaration was made under penalty of perjury, adding further weight to her report. The entire incident also shows how low right-wing media figures will stoop to discredit and dismiss women coming forward with potential reports against Kavanaugh. Clearly, if a narrative could potentially smear survivors or discredit sexual misconduct allegations, taking 4chan posts at face value isn’t low enough for right-wing media.

  • Conservative media rally around Kavanaugh amid second allegation of sexual misconduct

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative media figures reacted to a New Yorker story that a second woman reported Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for sexual misconduct by digging in on their support for him and demanding that Republicans hurry up and confirm him.

    The New Yorker reported on Sunday evening that Deborah Ramirez, who attended Yale University with Kavanaugh, said that according to her recollection, “Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away”:

    Ramirez said that, when both she and Kavanaugh were freshmen at Yale, she was invited by a friend on the women’s soccer team to a dorm-room party. She recalled that the party took place in a suite at Lawrance Hall, in the part of Yale known as Old Campus, and that a small group of students decided to play a drinking game together. “We were sitting in a circle,” she said. “People would pick who drank.” Ramirez was chosen repeatedly, she said, and quickly became inebriated. At one point, she said, a male student pointed a gag plastic penis in her direction. Later, she said, she was on the floor, foggy and slurring her words, as that male student and another stood nearby. (Ramirez identified the two male onlookers, but, at her request, The New Yorker is not naming them.)

    A third male student then exposed himself to her. “I remember a penis being in front of my face,” she said. “I knew that’s not what I wanted, even in that state of mind.” She recalled remarking, “That’s not a real penis,” and the other students laughing at her confusion and taunting her, one encouraging her to “kiss it.” She said that she pushed the person away, touching it in the process. Ramirez, who was raised a devout Catholic, in Connecticut, said that she was shaken. “I wasn’t going to touch a penis until I was married,” she said. “I was embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated.” She remembers Kavanaugh standing to her right and laughing, pulling up his pants. “Brett was laughing,” she said. “I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants.” She recalled another male student shouting about the incident. “Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’ ” she said. “It was his full name. I don’t think it was just ‘Brett.’ And I remember hearing and being mortified that this was out there.”

    Ramirez acknowledged that there are significant gaps in her memories of the evening, and that, if she ever presents her story to the F.B.I. or members of the Senate, she will inevitably be pressed on her motivation for coming forward after so many years, and questioned about her memory, given her drinking at the party.

    And yet, after several days of considering the matter carefully, she said, “I’m confident about the pants coming up, and I’m confident about Brett being there.” Ramirez said that what has stayed with her most forcefully is the memory of laughter at her expense from Kavanaugh and the other students. “It was kind of a joke,” she recalled. “And now it’s clear to me it wasn’t a joke.”

    Another classmate told The New Yorker that he heard about the incident at the time and that he was told Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself to Ramirez.

    The new reporting follows a week of right-wing media attacks on Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were in high school. Ford has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this coming Thursday, but after this new allegation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has called for that hearing to be delayed.

    At least one right-wing pundit, Ann Coulter, became unhinged on Twitter following the publication of Ramirez’s story:

    Other conservatives called Ramirez’s accusation fake, criticized the timing of her going public, demanded Republicans stand by Kavanaugh anyway, and painted Kavanaugh as the true victim of these alleged sexual assaults.

    Conservatives allege Ramirez’s account is part of a Democratic conspiracy

    Fox & Friends co-host Anna Kooiman: “Is this a drip, drip, drip … by the Democrats trying to delay everything until the midterm elections and really fire up their base saying Republicans are bullies?”

    Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson: “It seems more and more likely that the Blasey Ford delays were not to let her drive across country, but were to allow the Ramirez hit to get out. This is all coordinated and none of it is credible.”

    Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel: “The left made a mistake with this Ramirez story. … It strongly suggests the Ford delay demands were about cooking this up. Destroys credibility all around.”

    Fox Business anchor Dagen McDowell: “I think that this -- the timing is suspect and people have [a] right to question this second accuser coming forward.”

    Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “Democrats were stalling last week to give themselves more of an opportunity to conjure up another accuser against Brett Kavanaugh,” and “they whipped together another accusation.”

    Conservatives use latest accusation to demand Republican senators stand by Kavanaugh

    Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk: “Senate Republicans: DO NOT CAVE! If you were up for this nomination I bet many of you would have plenty of these fake accusations come up. Stand by our guy. Do not waver.”

    NRATV’s Dan Bongino: “Hill Democrats are consumed by raw hatred. Their capacity for evil knows no limits anymore. Correspondingly, the Hill Republicans shamefully showed weakness & cowed to their demands. … Hill Republicans let us down again.”

    The Rebel’s Amanda Head: If Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Republicans “don’t fight these allegations and #ConfirmKavanaghNow we will lose midterms, we will lose 2020, and what’s worse, we will lose any chance at seeing a conservative majority SCOTUS in our lifetime.”

    Federalist co-founder Sean Davis: “Senate Republicans have a simple choice: stand up to a coordinated Democrat smear campaign and confirm Kavanaugh, which will energize GOP voters and preserve House/Senate majorities, or buckle under Democrat lies and give up congressional GOP majorities for a decade or more.”

    CRTV’s Michelle Malkin: If Senate Republicans “refuse to man up & stop coordinated Dem smear campaign once & for all, the consequences reach far beyond the electoral landscape.”

    Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson: “#ConfirmBrettKavanaughNow.”

    One America News Network host Jack Posobiec: “Raise your hand if you think the GOP should stop playing games and hold the Kavanaugh vote Monday.”

    Conservatives complain Kavanaugh is the real victim here, not Ford or Ramirez

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: Accusations against Kavanaugh are “a left-wing cabal, a left-wing conspiracy all coming together, swarming together.”

    Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum: “‘Sickening’ was the word I heard most often this weekend to describe what is happening. Innocent until proven guilty is how we do this in America.”

    Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe: “What is happening to #JudgeKavanaugh is wrong and terrifying.”

    Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly: “Republicans are becoming terrified of the Kavanaugh situation because they know the media will embrace every lurid accusation without scrutiny, and no one will be held accountable for ignoring due process.”

    Independent Women Forum’s Julie Gunlock: “What Ms. Ramirez and her enablers have done is odious. She’s destroying the life of a good man based on her own hazy memory of an event that happened decades ago when she was admittedly drunk.”

    Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk: “These are POLITICAL HIT JOBS against a sterling person.”

    American Conservative Union’s Matt Schlapp: “This Kavanaugh confirmation has transformed into a disgrace. How is it when Dems win their SC noms get an easy time, but ours get mauled.”

    Daily Caller’s Amber Athey: “I have no words for how sickened I am by how the left and the establishment media are weaponizing non-credible sexual assault claims to destroy a human being.”

  • White supremacists are thrilled with Tucker Carlson’s war on diversity

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & MADELINE PELTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During the September 7 edition of his Fox show, Tucker Carlson questioned whether diversity is a strength, suggesting that it weakens institutions “such as marriage or military units.”

    After widespread criticism of Carlson's racism, Carlson attempted a defense first via Twitter before then doubling down on his attacks on diversity during a September 10 segment, claiming the slogan “E Pluribus Unum” encompasses the idea that “differences mean less.”

    Sleeping Giants, “a campaign to make bigotry and sexism less profitable,” called for advertisers to “reconsider” their support for Carlson’s show in direct response to his war against diversity.

    Since Sleeping Giants released its open letter to advertisers, white supremacists have been running defense for Carlson’s argument. (Carlson claims to have nothing in common with such people despite repeating their talking points during prime time on his Fox News show.)

    Lana Lokteff, who has railed against interracial relationships and has hosted white supremacists on her explicitly racist YouTube channel, Red Ice TV, defended Carlson on Twitter:

    @Alba_Rising, a Twitter account that periodically posts extremist content, accused those criticizing Carlson of wanting “to destroy whites” and reacted to the Sleeping Giants letter by promoting its own letter from a nonexistent organization, encouraging advertisers of Carlson’s show to stand “strong against the threats” that it characterized as “antiwhite.”

    Neo-Nazi outlet The Daily Stormer slammed Carlson’s critics, adding that “racist” means a “white guy who thinks he has a right to exist,” and that critics should explain “why we are flooding our country with all of these third world hordes.” The article, penned by neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, ended with warm praise for “this gigantic man” who “showed up and put a wrench in the gears of the white genocide machine” above a photo of President Donald Trump.

    Faith Goldy -- formerly a host for The Rebel Media who was fired for appearing in a neo-Nazi podcast after attending the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, VA, and who has repeatedly pushed white supremacist slogans online -- defended Carlson’s racism as an opportunity to plug her mayoral ambitions.

    American Renaissance, white nationalist Jared Taylor’s racist think tank, republished a post from Mediaite to promote Carlson’s first segment attacking diversity.

    The Twitter account of white nationalist website VDare retweeted far-right white nationalist sympathizer Ann Coulter defending Carlson.

    The Twitter account associated with Jazzhands McFeels, co-host of the white supremacist podcast Fash the Nation, retweeted far-right YouTuber and serial misogynist Stefan Molyneux’s defense of Carlson.

    “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, a troll with past links to the “alt-right” who, as reported by Right Wing Watch, worked with “alt-right” figure Vox Day to publish his latest book, bemoaned the backlash against Carlson.

    White nationalist YouTuber Nick Fuentes, host of America First with Nicholas J. Fuentes, devoted his September 10 livestream to supporting Carlson, calling diversity “no good,” claiming Carlson was just asking questions, and accusing his critics of censorship. Fuentes complained, “Why are you not allowed to talk about the browning of America? Why are you not allowed to talk about white identity or white pride?” and asserted that the “problem with multiracial democracy” is that “you can never bring up the flaws with certain groups of people.”

  • Five Republican candidates are administrators for a racist Facebook group that pushes conspiracy theories

    Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has come under scrutiny for his involvement with the same “Tea Party” Facebook group

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    UPDATE (8/31 12:20 p.m.): Corey Stewart and Daniel Crenshaw are no longer listed as administrators and moderators of the Facebook group “Tea Party.” Stewart is a neo-Confederate who is running to represent Virginia in the Senate. Crenshaw is running to represent Texas’ 2nd Congressional District.

    All five of the Republican candidates who were listed as administrators and moderators of the group at the time of publication have left the Facebook group. Rep. Jim Renacci and Rep. Ron DeSantis left the group prior to publication of this post.

    UPDATE (8/31 9:12 a.m.): Danny Tarkanian, who is running to represent Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District in the House of Representatives, and his wife Amy Tarkanian are no longer listed as administrators and moderators of the Facebook group “Tea Party.” Matt Rosendale, who is running to represent Montana in the Senate, is also no longer listed as an administrator and moderator of the group.  ​

    UPDATE (8/30 5:10 p.m.): Patrick Morrisey, who is running to represent West Virginia in the Senate, is no longer listed as an administrator and moderator of the Facebook group “Tea Party.” And in July, Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH), who was named as the Republican nominee for a Senate seat representing his state in May, was listed as an administrator of the group.

    ORIGINAL POST:

    Five GOP-backed Republicans running for office in 2018 are listed as administrators and moderators for a racist, conspiracy theory-pushing Facebook group called “Tea Party.” Some of the group’s administrators have spread hate speech against Muslims and Black activists, and have pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and other false stories about Seth Rich’s murder, the Clintons, and the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, to the group’s almost 95,000 members.

    Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) recently came under harsh scrutiny for his involvement in the same Facebook group, where he was listed as an administrator until August 29. A former employee of the anti-Muslim ACT for America was brought on as an administrator to campaign for DeSantis in the group about a week ago.

    Administrators and moderators of the group have been campaigning for all six candidates since as early as September 2017. The candidates are:

    • Daniel Crenshaw, running to represent Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives;
    • Danny Tarkanian, running to represent Nevada in the House;
    • Corey Stewart, running to represent Virginia in the Senate;
    • Matt Rosendale, running to represent Montana in the Senate; 
    • Patrick Morrisey, running to represent West Virginia in the Senate.

    Daniel Crenshaw has been a member of the Tea Party group since May 2018. He has shared Facebook videos from his congressional campaign page twice, with the most recent share coming on August 13. A few other administrators have promoted Crenshaw’s candidacy and shared his Senate campaign’s Facebook page. Some of these posts identified Crenshaw as an administrator for the group.

    Danny Tarkanian and his wife, Amy Tarkanian (a former chair of the Nevada Republican Party), are both listed as administrators of the group. Administrators of the group have been promoting Danny Tarkanian since 2017, when he was running for Dean Heller’s Senate seat in Nevada (he later withdrew). Administrators have also promoted Tarkanian’s 2018 run for the House. Although Danny has not posted in the group, Amy Tarkanian promoted his Senate campaign in the group multiple times in 2017. In 2018, she also shared a post attacking Oprah for her weight and family life.

    Corey Stewart, a neo-Confederate candidate in Virginia, joined the Facebook group in July 2017 and has been a favorite of some of the group’s administrators since September 2017. Administrators promoting Stewart’s campaign have highlighted his anti-immigrant and pro-Confederate-statue positions and amplified Stewart’s social media attacks against Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

    Matt Rosendale and Patrick Morrisey have both been members of the Tea Party group since October 2017. Neither has posted in the group, but other administrators have been bolstering their Senate campaigns since they were admitted

    Several far-right and conservative media figures also appear to be listed as administrators and moderators of the Facebook group. These names include:

    A reader tip contributed to this story. Thank you for your support and keep them coming.

  • “The Empire strikes back”: Right-wing media defend Alex Jones after Infowars is banned from several major platforms

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & ZACHARY PLEAT

    After Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes all removed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Infowars pages from their platforms, several right-wing media figures leapt to the extremist’s defense. Jones’ defenders responded by criticizing and threatening “the entire rotten tech machine” and invoking a wide range of comparisons to support him, including Star Wars, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, reality TV star Kylie Jenner, and the Holocaust.

  • A list of the right-wing amplifiers of the QAnon conspiracy theory

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. , NATALIE MARTINEZ, TALIA LAVIN & ALEX KAPLAN

    While the unhinged conspiracy theory known as “QAnon,” or “The Storm,” has been gaining traction online among President Donald Trump’s supporters since October 2017, it was Tuesday night when it finally jumped to the mainstream in the form of shirts and signs that were prominently visible at a Trump campaign rally in Tampa, FL. Supporters of QAnon believe “a high-level government insider with Q clearance” is anonymously posting clues informing the public of Trump’s master plan to undermine the “deep state” and dismantle pedophilia rings supposedly linked to powerful celebrities and politicians.

    While the theory has its murky origins on 4chan and 8chan -- message boards best known for serving as the source of hoaxes and organized harassment campaigns -- many prominent right-wing figures, websites, and social media accounts have helped amplify QAnon. And the consequences of its unfettered growth could be dangerous. A man is facing terrorism charges in Arizona for using an armored vehicle to stop traffic on a bridge near the Hoover Dam with demands and letters clearly inspired by QAanon. Similarly, “Pizzagate,” a pedophilia-focused conspiracy theory fueled by Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential election, inspired a man to open fire inside a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.

    Below is a growing list of right-wing media figures, politicians, websites, and social media accounts that have carelessly amplified QAnon by either evangelizing its tenets to their followers or neutrally presenting the conspiracy theory through their influential platforms without clarifying to their audiences that the whole thing is a baseless canard.

    Amplifiers include:

    Right-wing media figures

    Alex Jones, founder of conspiracy theory site Infowars

    Jones went all in on QAnon, even claiming “the White House directly asked” Infowars correspondent Jerome Corsi to be on the “8chan beat” covering QAnon. After QAnon followers began criticizing Corsi and Jones’ opportunistic hijacking of the conspiracy theory, Jones attempted to backpedal his initial enthusiasm, justifying his distancing by claiming that the identity of the anonymous poster who goes by Q had been “compromised.”

    Mike Tokes, co-founder of NewRightUS

    Rodney Howard-Browne, right-wing Christian preacher and evangelist

    James Woods, actor

    Roseanne Barr, actress

    As documented by The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer, Barr was among QAnon’s early high-profile supporters. Barr often tweets about the conspiracy theory and has also focused on its pedophilia-related offshoot known as “Pedogate” (derived from Pizzagate) and she recently asked a skeptical follower “what exactly” about Q “is doofus”?

    Roger Stone, notorious right-wing dirty trickster

    Stone promoted a QAnon video on his Facebook page.

    Curt Schilling, former baseball player and Breitbart podcast host

    Schilling has repeatedly tweeted about QAnon, claiming to be “proud” to provide a platform to amplify the conspiracy theory, which he did during his Breitbart show, The Curt Schilling Podcast.

    Jerome Corsi, Infowars correspondent and prominent “birther” conspiracy theorist

    Corsi repeatedly amplified QAnon, both from his platform at Infowars and from his Twitter account. Infowars claimed that Corsi was “working directly” with the moderators of 8chan’s The Storm forum.

    Sean Hannity, Fox News host

    On January 9, Fox’s Sean Hannity tweeted from his account that his followers should “watch @wikileaks closely! Tick tock.” The tweet quoted another tweet that claimed that “out of nowhere, Ecuador suddenly offers to mediate a resolution for #JulianAssange,” with the hashtag “#QAnon.”

    Bill Mitchell, Trump sycophant and host of Your Voice America

    Jack Posobiec, One America News Network correspondent and prominent pusher of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory

    While Posobiec has referred to the conspiracy theory in neutral terms, it isn’t clear if his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers know how he feels about it. Is he serious about the conspiracy theory or just trying to surf its popularity while remaining neutral to claim plausible deniability when inevitably, the consequences become dangerous?

    Liz Crokin, pro-Trump troll and conspiracy theorist

    Pro-Trump troll and self-appointed “citizen journalist” Liz Crokin has expanded on the QAnon conspiracy theory to speculate that “The Storm” includes a crackdown on elite pedophiles. Crokin has gone on to accuse model Chrissy Teigen and her husband, singer John Legend, of pedophilia. Recently, she also claimed John F. Kennedy Jr. had faked his death and is behind the Q posts.

    Charlie Kirk, executive director of Turning Point USA

    On a now-deleted tweet, Kirk spread bogus statistics that seemingly originated in the QAnon universe.

    Mike Cernovich, pro-Trump troll and notorious Pizzagate pusher

    Like Posobiec, Cernovich has made neutral mentions of the conspiracy theory on his Twitter account without clarifying to his followers that it’s baseless.

    Political figures

    Eric Trump, son of President Trump

    Eric Trump liked a tweet of a slogan linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

    The official Twitter account for the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee

    On July 4, a Twitter account that identifies itself as belonging to the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee of Florida tweeted out (and later deleted) a YouTube explanatory video of QAnon.

    Paul Nehlen, candidate in the Republican primary for Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district

    Social media accounts

    Facebook

    RT America

    Conservative Post

    The American Patriot

    National Conservative News Network Canada

    YouTube: Channels extensively covering Q

    The following are channels YouTube has allowed to proliferate that cover and interpret every post Q signs (ordered by number of subscribers):

    Websites

    YourNewsWire

    Fake news site YourNewsWire took the QAnon pedophile conspiracy theory to Facebook with baseless accusations targeting celebrities Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

    The Blacksphere

    Freedom Outpost

    The Trump Times

    The Deplorable Army

    Neon Nettle

    From an archived version of a since-deleted post that appeared on Neon Nettle, a fake news site that has also pushed the conspiracy theory on Twitter:

    WorldTruth.TV

    Neon Revolt

    The site features a tag devoted to QAnon-related content.

    Exopolitics.org

  • In their own words, the online far-right’s motive to dig up liberal figures' old tweets: revenge

    Far-right trolls claim they are digging up liberals' old tweets out of concern for children, but their prior statements indicate it's an escalation in culture-war tactics

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN

    Over the past week, a number of far-right trolls, led by the provocateur and propagandist Mike Cernovich, have been on the warpath against prominent liberal figures in what they see as revenge for the scrutiny instances of explicitly racist, misogynist, and bigoted speech receives on social media.

    Their principal tactic? Digging up tweets from up to 10 years ago and weaponizing them against their authors in efforts to, at best, discredit outspoken liberal actors, directors and comedians, and at worst, get them fired.

    Last week, Cernovich publicized director James Gunn's offensive Twitter jokes about pedophilia and other topics, leading Disney to fire him on Friday from his role as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.​ From Cernovich’s perspective, it was a staggering victory -- and one he cast as borne of earnest concern for children in Hollywood.

     

    It’s not the first time Cernovich has made spurious accusations of pedophilia -- he was prominently involved in promoting the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that Democratic politicians were involved in running a child sex slave ring from the basement of a D.C. pizzeria. Pizzagate eventually had chilling real-life consequences -- in December 2016, a man drove to Washington and fired a military-style assault weapon inside the family restaurant. However, unlike Pizzagate, Gunn’s now-deleted tweets were real -- and Cernovich’s resurfacing of them and getting Gunn, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, fired as a consequence represented a successful escalation of tactics.

    Other far-right figures like MAGA troll Jack Posobiec eagerly amplified Cernovich’s campaign against Gunn. And after Gunn’s firing, the campaign to resurface offensive tweets by left-leaning public figures only escalated. Comedians including Michael Ian Black, Sarah Silverman and Patton Oswalt have come under fire for previous tweets that contained distasteful jokes trivializing pedophilia. Dan Harmon, co-creator of the hit animated series Rick and Morty, left Twitter after right-wing figures recirculated an offensive 2009 parody he made of the show Dexter. (An investigation by Polygon found that users on the message boards 4chan and Reddit had resurfaced the video before Cernovich began tweeting about it.)

    Throughout the campaign, Cernovich and others -- including Ted Cruz -- have maintained a facade of concern for children in what they claim to perceive as Hollywood’s toxic environment.

    However, previous statements from far-right trolls, including Cernovich himself, poke holes in the fake-concern narrative, making absolutely clear that the primary motive of this new offensive is victory in an ongoing culture war -- and more specifically, taking revenge against the left.

    In 2017, Cernovich stated that his goal was to emulate CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and the KFILE research team, whose members frequently comb through the social media and work histories of government and political figures and have discovered racist and conspiracy theory-mongering comments that affect these individuals’ ability to provide unbiased public service. Cernovich, by contrast, has targeted figures in the entertainment industry.  

    Moreover, Cernovich also explicitly stated that accusations of enabling or accepting pedophilia were part of his mission to use the “rules and tactics” of the left against liberal figures.

    Other trolls in the MAGA universe have been even more explicit, indicating that the success represented by Gunn’s firing is a signal of a tactical shift, not an authentic moral concern. Posobiec touted the “strategic significance” of the event:

    On 4chan, users in a thread titled “Dan Harmon is a pedophile,” which originally surfaced Harmon’s 2009 parody, were even more explicit about their rationale, repeatedly citing the firing of Roseanne Barr as a motive to vengefully “take scalps”:

    CRTV’s Gavin McInnes, the misogynist founder of the violent, fraternal men-only organization Proud Boys, was even more transparent in his articulation of the bad faith that undergirds this latest salvo in the online culture battle. “There’s a new trend going on where the right is exposing the left’s pedophilia, and what they’re really doing is playing dirty pool,” he said in the July 24 edition of his CRTV show Get Off My Lawn. “Now, I know that these pedophile jokes that Cernovich caught these liberals saying are jokes. But I don't have to -- I can pretend I don't know they're jokes. Because they started this war."
     

    The words of Cernovich and his allies put the lie to any notion that this latest offensive is motivated by concern for children. Their desire to endanger the jobs and reputations of popular liberals is driven by lesser motives: revenge and the weaponization of manufactured outrage.

  • Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward and her husband are admins of a racist conspiracy Facebook group

    Kelli and Michael Ward are using the Facebook group Tea Party to promote her Senate campaign

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Republican Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward and her husband Michael Ward have been campaigning on a racist Facebook group with over 94,000 members called Tea Party that pushes conspiracy theories. The Wards are among the group’s administrators and moderators, along with some other Republican congressional candidates and extremist media figures. Some of the administrators and moderators have shared far-right conspiracy theories, fake news, and anti-Muslim, racist propaganda in the group.

    A CNN KFile review of the social media activity of Kelli Ward’s husband found that Michael Ward has pushed far-right conspiracy theories on Twitter about Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich’s murder and the DNC’s supposed involvement in it, the Clintons’ supposed murder of their political rivals, and incumbent Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain’s alleged connections to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Zachary Henry, spokesperson for Kelli Ward’s campaign, called Michael’s tweets and retweets “obscure details of Dr. Ward's social media activity.”

    However, since Kelli Ward’s previous Senate bid against John McCain in 2016, she and her husband have been promoting her posts in a Facebook group, Tea Party, that features conspiracy and racist content posted by other administrators and moderators.

    Michael Ward regularly shares posts from his wife’s verified Facebook page to the Tea Party group. He has also previously requested donations from group members. Although most posts directly quote Kelli Ward’s social media and campaign positions, in a 2016 post, Michael Ward claimed that McCain is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Some of Ward’s co-administrators and moderators have both promoted her campaign in the group and spread conspiracy theories and racist propaganda to the group’s members. Tea Party administrator Mike Michaels, who is also a co-administrator for the Facebook page Citizens For Trump along with Fox News analyst Jan Morgan, has also promoted Kelli Ward’s campaign events in the Tea Party group. Mike Michaels has posted multiple anti-Muslim messages in the group, referring to Islam as a “cancer” multiple times and saying that American women would “not be safe if Muslim immigrants come here from Syria.” Michaels has pushed the conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama is Muslim multiple times. He also implied that Black Lives Matters is worse than the KKK.

    Group moderator Lori Saxton has pushed conspiracy theories about the DNC’s involvement with Seth Rich’s murder, the Clintons allegedly murdering their political rivals, and Pizzagate. Another administrator, DeeAnn LaRue, claimed that the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, was “orchestrated by the left” in a post that got over 2,000 interactions.

    The Tea Party Facebook group is also run in part by extremist media figures Pamela Geller, Jack Posobiec, Patrick Howley of the far-right site Big League Politics, and Eliyokim Cohen of the racist fake news site Jews News (who has defended neo-Nazis in the group). Other administrators and moderators of this group include neo-Confederate Virginia GOP Senate nominee Corey Stewart, as well as Republican congressional candidates Danny Tarkanian, Daniel Crenshaw, Matt Rosendale, Patrick Morrisey, and Chris McDaniel, and Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH), who is running for re-election.

  • Right-wing media attempt to distract from family separation policy by attacking abortion rights instead

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following the Trump administration’s implementation of a policy requiring the separation of immigrant children from their parents as they cross the border, some self-described “pro-life” organizations and media figures have failed to denounce this policy. Others, though, have seemingly attempted to distract from the outrage about the policy by making outlandish and inaccurate comparisons to abortion.

    • Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh said the outrage over the Trump’s administration policy was a “manufactured crisis” and pointed to Democratic support for Planned Parenthood as a sign of hypocrisy. Limbaugh said, “You want to talk about separating families, look no further than the abortion mills of Planned Parenthood.”
    • On the June 18 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson attacked Democrats for opposing the Trump administration’s policy, saying that the “same people who support third-term, post-viability abortion for purposes of sex selection” were “lecturing” others about “the holiness of children.”
    • Liz Wheeler, host of One America News Network’s Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, dismissed the focus on Trump’s policy during the June 13 edition of her show, saying, “If you care so much about exploited and abused children, where’s your outrage about the 1 million unborn children who are aborted every single year in our country?” Wheeler then pivoted to discussing a made-up story about Planned Parenthood, asking, “Where is your outrage that Democrats in Congress refuse to call for an investigation into this pattern of Planned Parenthood covering up the sexual abuse of children?”
    • On NBC’s Meet the Press, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, defended the policy by alluding to abortion saying that “nobody likes seeing babies ripped from their mothers’ arms, from their mothers’ wombs, frankly, but we have to make sure that [Department of Homeland Security] laws are understood.”
    • On Westword One’s The Mark Levin Show, host Mark Levin said that “suddenly the Democrats care about children.” He went on to claim inaccurately that “when it comes to abortion,” Democrats support it “right up to the last second. It can be eight months, 29 days, and they still support abortion.”
    • Anti-abortion outlet Life News responded to a tweet from Planned Parenthood saying children shouldn’t be separated from their parents by saying that Planned Parenthood was “ignoring how its own practices permanently and violently separate children from their fathers and mothers” and that the organization “does that 876 times a day in abortions.”

    • An article on CRTV’s Louder with Crowder website claimed that Planned Parenthood “separates babies from mothers every day. With surgical brutality. These babies are not being stored in chain-linked cages, waiting for processing. Planned Parenthood stores their children in jars. A calvarium in one jar, legs in another. Parts shipped, and sold, separately.”
    • The Daily Wire’s Paul Bois attacked U2's Bono for supporting legalized abortion access in Ireland while criticizing Trump's policy of separating families at the border.

    • Yahoo! Lifestyle picked up the framing from anti-abortion outlets in an article headlined “Planned Parenthood called hypocritical for protesting Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy.” The article highlighted several anti-abortion tweets suggesting that abortion is worse than the Trump administration’s policy.

    Anti-abortion organizations, politicians, and media figures also adopted this farcical comparison on social media

  • Right-wing media are rallying to defend the Trump administration’s inhumane separation of families at the border 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Trump administration is separating immigrant children from their parents or legal guardians after they cross the border, with at least 2,000 children taken from their parents since April 19. The administration’s merciless and inhumane policy has spurred numerous heartbreaking stories, including reports of a breastfeeding baby who was ripped from her mother, a Honduran father separated from his family who took his own life, and children who are held in cages alongside strangers. Yet right-wing media figures have been quick to defend the policy and dismiss its inherent cruelty:

    • Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak justified separating families at the border, saying the Border Patrol facilities are "better than what they had." Pollak also claimed that ICE taking children from their parents and putting them in detention facilities is “just about caring for the kids.”

    • Right-wing troll Dinesh D’Souza, who recently received a pardon from President Donald Trump, questioned whether immigrant parents are “the ones choosing to separate their families.”

    • Fox's Pete Hegseth defended the separations because the children get food and "soccer and video games." Hegseth also called images of detained children “quite compassionate,” and said the policy was “defensible.”

    • Fox News’ Trish Regan argued that Trump is showing asylum-seeking families "tough love" by taking children away from their parents.

    • Fox contributor Tammy Bruce called for White House press briefings to end after reporters confronted White House press secretary Sarah Sanders about the separation of families.

    • Fox's Jesse Watters argued that the White House should "start ripping press passes away" from reporters who ask about families getting separated at the border. Watters also said that “some would say” that separation is “a more humane policy” than detaining the families together.

    • In a series of tweets, Twitter troll Bill Mitchell aggressively defended the policy, accusing the media of focusing on “#FakeNews ‘concentration camps,’” complaining about the money spent to keep the children captive, suggested that many of the children are “not with their families at all - they are with smugglers” (only a very small percentage of cases involve smuggling and often a bona fide relationship between the child and adult is clear), and claiming, “President Trump is PROTECTING these children.”

    • Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade downplayed “the so-called separation of kids and parents” at the border, arguing that the Democrats are using it to distract from the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the handling of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Singapore Summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

    • Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt said that families are “choosing to be separated” by showing up at the border. She also argued that “you can't even really blame an administration” for the separation policy.

    • Her fellow Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said that “the part that is troubling” is not children being ripped from their parents, but the parents choosing to come to the United States in the first place. Doocy also argued that the cages some children are being housed in shouldn’t be called “cages” because rather they are “walls [built] out of chain link fences," and he defended family separation by suggesting the U.S. government spends a lot of money to “make sure that those kids wind up with all that stuff” that detention facilities offer.

    • Fox & Friends repeated or referenced Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s lies about family separation throughout the June 18 broadcast. Nielsen initially claimed that separation wasn’t happening -- it is.

    • Right-wing troll Mike Cernovich said that Trump was “keeping [children] safe in dorms,” and he accused former President Barack Obama of giving children “to human traffickers.”

    • Fox host and Trump lackey Sean Hannity claimed that the policy of separation “took place in previous administrations” (neither the Obama nor the Bush administration separated families as a matter of policy). Hannity also accused the media of having an “obsession” with the “so-called policy of separating illegal immigrant families.”    

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham called the “outrage” over the separation policy “hilarious,” complained about watching “our country try to contort itself into other peoples' cultures,” and excused the separations because the children have “entertainment, sports, tutoring, medical, dental, four meals a day, and clean, decent housing” even though their “parents irresponsibly tried to bring them across the border illegally.” On her Fox show, Ingraham called the administration’s child detention centers “essentially summer camps” and compared them to “boarding schools.”

    • Sinclair's Boris Epshteyn choose not to editorialize on the cruelty of family separation itself, instead attacking the "discourse" around separation policy and claiming it is what's wrong with Democrats and media.

    • Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter warned the president not to fall for “these child actors weeping and crying on” cable news.

    • Radio host Rush Limbaugh called the outrage over family separation “an entirely manufactured crisis” and claimed “it happened during the Obama administration” too (it didn’t).  

    • One America News Network correspondent and internet troll Jack Posobiec defended the policy by fearmongering that children crossing the border could be with traffickers as opposed to family members. There is clear evidence of the relationship between many of the children in detention and the adult that accompanied them.

    • American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp, a frequent cable news guest, contended that “Obama and Trump have same child protection policy” (they do not).

    • Fox’s David Bossie attempted to shift the blame onto the parents, arguing that “if they don't become criminals, they're not separated.” He also claimed that Trump is just “following the law,” ignoring the reality that separation is a Trump administration policy, not the law.

    • Fox host Tucker Carlson warned his viewers that people speaking up against America detaining children in cages just want to "change your country forever."

    • Chris Bedford, editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller News Foundation, criticized the "hyperbole" over family separation and child detention.

    • Drudge Report’s Matt Drudge attempted to paint Latin American children as violent by publishing a photo of children in Azaz, Syria.

    • Turning Point USA spokesperson Candace Owens claimed that “these policies were in place” during the Obama administration (they were not).

    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter aggressively defended the policy, suggesting that the U.S. ought to “separate the children and then send them all away” and “in prison (sic) the parents until they serve their sentence then throw them out.”

    • Infowars frontman and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed that separation has been the “standard procedure for decades” when you “pick up a group of a hundred people and you have no idea who the hell they are.” Infowars also claimed that Trump had exposed “the hoax that the US is mistreating migrant children.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro fallaciously argued that Trump is simply “enforcing the law on the books.”

    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk posted a series of tweets fearmongering about “illegal immigration” and claimed that “all of this happened for 8 years under Obama” (nope).

    • NRATV host Dan Bongino claimed that reporting on the “immigration/children story” is “propaganda, nothing more” and argued that anyone who believed it is “delirious, and should seek professional help.”

    • Radio talk show host Ben Ferguson shared an image on Facebook claiming that policies of separating children from “illegal parents” had been in effect since 2009 and that Democrats just started talking about the issue because “they only care about making Trump look ‘bad.’” The post has been shared over 100,000 times.

    • Conservative commentator Dick Morris claimed that families seeking asylum at the borders were part of a “scam” in which adult immigrants were “abusers” who are using their children as a “battering ram to force their way into the country.” He also said the solution to this problem is to deny asylum to all immigrants who come to the border with a child.

    • Fox New contributor and Townhall Editor Katie Pavlich posted a series of tweets comparing the separation of asylum-seeking families to the separation of children and arrested parents and supporting Sarah Sanders’ claims in which she portrayed “illegal aliens” as criminals who are responsible for separating U.S. families permanently by “committing murder or killing through drunk driving.”

    • Conservative Review TV’s Jon Miller claimed that media are trying to push controversy around separation policies in order to “distract from the disastrous IG report and anything else this president has done that will cause people to vote for him.”

    • Fox News’ Tomi Lahren tweeted that “we owe ILLEGAL immigrants NOTHING,” and suggested that family separation is just one of the “consequences” parents have to accept when they “drag [their] kids over here ILLEGALLY.”

  • After HuffPost profile of anti-Muslim Twitter crusader, 4chan trolls begin organizing database of “leftist journos”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After HuffPost’s Luke O’Brien published an investigative piece profiling the woman behind a prolific Twitter account that regularly spews anti-Muslim vitriol, MAGA trolls reacted by falsely claiming the piece published the women’s personal information and by singling out O’Brien for harassment. On 4chan, trolls even suggested creating a database containing personal details of “leftist journalists” to facilitate harassment against them.

    Much of the backlash was led by the subject of the piece herself, who goes on Twitter by Amy Mek, short for her name, Amy Mekelburg, and uses a real photo of herself.

    Prominent Pizzagate conspiracy theorist and One America News Network correspondent Jack Posobiec and opportunistic MAGA troll Mike Cernovich also helped spread the false narrative that O’Brien had doxxed the woman, with anti-Muslim troll Pamela Geller presenting her as merely a “patriot who tweets” while ignoring the vitriolic hatred against Muslims she regularly spreads on her prominent platform.

    As the New York Times reported, doxxing -- or making an individual’s identifying or contact information public with malicious intent -- “has emerged from subculture websites like 4Chan and Reddit to become something of a mainstream phenomenon.” Trolls are arguing O’Brien’s investigative journalism was equivalent to doxxing, but he didn’t provide a phone number, address or email address for her (the usual approach to doxxing), and the story’s supposed outing wasn’t much of a stretch given that her real photo was attached to her Twitter account, which uses a name similar to her legal one. As Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt -- who used to work for Media Matters -- explained, O’Brien’s piece is “different from what is commonly thought of as ‘doxing’” because “he did not publish personally identifiable information such as an address, which could put Mekelburg in potential danger.”

    Also, Mekelburg is hardly an unassuming private individual of no interest to the public. She has become extremely prominent on Twitter, and she has done so by posting vitriol that poses a real threat to entire communities.

    Nevertheless, on 4chan, trolls are reacting to O’Brien’s piece by proposing the creation of a database housing the personal information of those they deem “leftist journalists”.

    Within the forum, suggested tactics include targeting “national rag journos” with “reach and audience”:

    A member suggested using Wikipedia as a model:


    Another member pushed the idea of adding activists to the list, pre-emptively gathering their information to deploy “when they do something” and including information that could help locate them outside of social media:

    Online message boards have proven to be hubs that house conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and harassment campaigns against individuals the far-right dislikes. Targeting journalists could have a chilling effect on the coverage of extremism and hate.

  • Pro-Trump media have a meltdown after Roseanne’s racist tweet prompts ABC to cancel her show

    Right-wing media figures call on their followers to #BoycottABC

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Following ABC’s decision to cancel the TV show Roseanne after the sitcom’s star, Roseanne Barr, tweeted a racist attack on President Barack Obama’s former advisor Valerie Jarrett, figures in the pro-Trump media universe had a meltdown and called on their followers to boycott ABC.

    It’s not the first time Barr has gone on Twitter to make racist remarks; in fact, the star often serves as an amplifier to far-right conspiracy theories, false anti-Semitic narratives, and other toxic extremist content found on message boards like 4chan. These are the figures bemoaning the network’s decision to cancel the show:

    Infowars host Alex Jones

    One America News Network correspondent and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec

    CRTV host and Trump adviser Eric Bolling (who deleted his tweet)

    Las Vegas shooting conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer

    Gateway Pundit’s Cassandra Fairbanks

    YourVoice America host Bill Mitchell

    Lucian Wintrich, White House correspondent for Gateway Pundit

    The Federalist senior contributor Ashe Schow

    Pro-Trump troll Mike Cernovich

    Right-wing figure Ali Akbar

    Pro-Trump radio host Wayne Dupree

    Newsbusters Managing Editor Curtis Houck

    Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft

    NRA board member Ted Nugent

    Turning Point USA’s Richard Armande Mills

    Raheem Kassam, former London bureau chief for Breitbart

    Pro-Trump YouTuber Mark Dice

    Judicial Watch’s Jerry Dunleavy

    Fox News radio host Todd Starnes

    Social media network Gab, known as “a haven for white nationalists”

    Hyperpartisan site RedStateWatcher

    What are your thoughts? Please share and comment with your opinion. Is it too dangerous for Conservatives in this progressive era? Will you boycott ABC now?

    Facebook pages shared pro-Roseanne memes

    The Political Insider

    Tell Me Now

    Headline Politics

    Robertson Family Values

    I Support Donald Trump

    America’s Freedom Fighters’ pages

    Hyperpartisan page I Love My Freedom

    Yes, Barr’s tweet was controversial, but ABC has arguably been looking for any excuse to cut Barr’s pro-Trump show since it became the highest rated show on television.

    The Newly Press

  • Pro-Trump media attack judge in Michael Cohen case after Sean Hannity is revealed as his client

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Agenda-driven right-wing figures and online media outlets are using their platforms to try to discredit Judge Kimba Wood, a federal judge overseeing the case of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, currently under scrutiny for possible bank fraud and wire fraud. Right-wing media started targeting Wood after she ordered Cohen to disclose the name of his anonymous legal client on the basis that there was no legal ground to withhold it; the client turned out to be Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. Far-right Twitter trolls, conservative writers, and Fox News commentators -- among others -- dug into Wood’s past, scandalized her ties to Democrats, and attacked her for training as a Playboy bunny while in law school.

    This is a familiar tactic for right-wing media figures, who regularly attempt to defame any judge with whom they disagree. Right-wing media have also launched a full-on offensive against special counsel Robert Mueller and his team’s investigation into ties between the Trump orbit and Russian officials. Here are some of the things these figures and outlets have claimed undermine Wood’s credibility:

    She trained for five days in college as a Playboy bunny

    True Pundit: “Cohen’s Judge & Stormy Daniels Have Much in Common: Playboy Bunny Judge Worked for Hugh Hefner”

    Infowars’ Jerome Corsi: Wood “worked as a Playboy Bunny at a Playboy casino in 1966.”

    She officiated George Soros’ wedding in 2013

    Infowars: “No Joke: Judge Who Forced Cohen to ID Hannity Performed Soros Wedding”

    Conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec: Sean Hannity was “doxed by Liberal Judge” who was at George Soros’ wedding.

    Right-wing troll Mike Cernovich: "On the same day that Soros-funded Media Matters announces a boycott, The judge who performed Soros' wedding names Sean Hannity as a Michael Cohen client. TOTAL COINCIDENCE."

    The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra: “The judge who ordered @SeanHannity's name to be released performed the wedding for far-left billionaire George Soros.”

    Fox News host Melissa Francis: “Kimba Wood taking time away from Michael Cohen matter to perform George Soros wedding.”

    She was considered by the Clintons for attorney general

    Conservative commentator Jeffrey Lord: Bill and Hillary Clinton “pressed to make [Wood] Attorney General.”

    FrontPage Magazine: “Judge Kimba Wood was Bill Clinton's nominee for Attorney General. But then her nomination fell apart over her employment of an illegal alien and the Playboy thing. ... It's a safe bet that Judge Kimba Wood might harbor some resentment toward Republicans."

    Fox’s Sebastian Gorka: Wood “is a Clinton confidante who was chosen by Hillary to be AG. The #DEEPstate is real.”

    Right-wing radio host Mark Simone: “Michael Cohen's bad luck was getting a judge from the Clinton administration.To give you an idea of her politics - Kimba Wood was chosen by the Clinton's to be Attorney General and she performed George Soros's wedding.”

    American Thinker: Wood “was Bill Clinton's second choice to be attorney general. … Is this amazingly great luck for the Mueller-U.S. attorney tag team or what?”

    Disclosure: George Soros made a donation to Media Matters in 2010.

  • Seth Rich's family is suing Fox News in response to the network's inaccurate, harmful, and shameless reporting

    The network served as a national platform for a conspiracy theory about Rich’s death that is still being promoted nearly two years later

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The family of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich is suing Fox News for compensatory and punitive damages in response to the network’s “false and fabricated facts” that fueled ongoing conspiracy theories about his 2016 murder. The network never apologized for or explained its gross mishandling of the story.

    Almost immediately after Rich was killed in July 2016, a massive right-wing conspiracy theory was born. The baseless theory generally contended that Rich’s death was linked to the email hacking of the DNC that culminated during the last presidential campaign, and that he was the source of a set of 22,000 stolen DNC emails leaked by WikiLeaks. That theory and its offshoots spread across far-right circles on social media, in right-wing blogs, and on fake news and conspiracy theory websites.

    It eventually reached Fox News, when, on May 15, 2017, then-contributor Rod Wheeler told a Washington, D.C., Fox News affiliate that he had confirmed Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks. The claim was repeated in a FoxNews.com article on May 16. From there, the theory exploded in mainstream conservative media, including on Fox Business and the Fox News channel, where prime-time host and serial misinformer Sean Hannity obsessed over the case and became the conspiracy theory’s most visible national champion.

    Even after Fox News retracted its online story with a vague reference to editorial standards, and, in some cases, even after Rich’s family pleaded for outlets to stop politicizing their son’s death, Hannity and other Fox News personalities continued to push the theory.

    The lawsuit by Rich’s family mentions just some of the times that Fox News continued to push the conspiracy theory after the original story was retracted:

    Almost a year after the network promised an investigation into the matter, no explanation for the behavior has been given nor disciplinary actions taken, according to Newsweek. To this day, the Seth Rich conspiracy theories, which have been dismantled by many major news organizations, persist.

    Just this morning, Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec and leading Seth Rich conspiracy theorist Matt Couch both claimed they had been in touch with one of the defendants in the case. Couch, who dismissed the suit as “nonsensical,” is exploiting the lawsuit to solicit donations for his media group, which is purportedly conducting an “investigation” into his death.

    Now, nearly two years after Rich’s tragic death, his family is suing Fox News for damages because the network "aided and abetted the intentional infliction of emotional distress" and served as a national platform for a “sham story.” From a March 13 ABC News article:

    In the suit, which was obtained by ABC News, Rich's parents, Joel and Mary Rich, claim that Fox News investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman and Fox News commenter Ed Butowsky reached out to the family under false pretenses to support stories that Seth Rich leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks.

    The lawsuit claims that Fox News, Zimmerman and Butowsky are liable for the harm caused by the report because they "aided and abetted the intentional infliction of emotional distress" caused by the story about Seth Rich and alleges that Fox News provided with a national platform to develop what the lawsuit dubs a "sham story."

    The Rich family claims that the “defendants’ conduct was extreme and outrageous” in what they allege was a deliberate effort to portray Seth Rich as a “criminal and traitor to the United States.”

    “No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure. The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son’s life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension” Joel and Mary Rich said in a joint statement.