Jesse Watters | Media Matters for America

Jesse Watters

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  • Here are the right-wing media figures defending Trump’s racist “shithole” comment

    ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    During a meeting on immigration policy in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump reportedly questioned the United States’ policy of accepting immigrants from, what he said, were “shithole countries,” such as Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations. In the aftermath of the president’s racist remarks, many in right-wing media rallied around him to defend his comments.

  • The 10 most ridiculous things media figures said about climate change and the environment in 2017

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    1. Breitbart’s James Delingpole claimed 400 new scientific papers show global warming is a myth.

    Numerous studies have found near-unanimous scientific agreement on human-caused climate change, with perhaps the most well-known study on the matter finding that 97 percent of scientific papers taking a position on the cause of global warming agree that humans are behind it. And this year, a review of the 3 percent of papers that deny climate change found that they were all flawed. Nonetheless, Breitbart writer Delingpole claimed that 400 scientific papers published this year demonstrated that climate change is a “myth,” basing his article on a post on the denialist blog No Tricks Zone.The fact-checking website Snopes roundly debunked Delingpole’s article, giving it a “False” verdict after speaking with authors of some of the cited papers who said their work was grossly misinterpreted or misrepresented.

    2. The Daily Mail claimed government researchers “duped” world leaders with "manipulated global warming data."

    Daily Mail reporter David Rose alleged that climate scientists "rushed" to publish an "exaggerated" paper in an attempt to convince leaders to support the Paris agreement and spend billions to fight climate change. Rose, who has written his fair share of climate misinformation for the Mail, based his story on an “exclusive interview” with and a blog post by retired U.S. government scientist John Bates. The error-ridden article quickly made its way around right-wing media in outlets such as The Daily Caller, National Review, and Breitbart, and was even promoted by GOP members of the House science committee, including its chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). The story’s claims also received “at least 752,300 shares, likes, comments, or other interactions on social media,” according to a Buzzfeed analysis. But the claims in the article were widely discredited by climate scientists, including Bates’ former colleagues and even Bates himself. The errors in the Mail’s article were so significant that the Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO), an independent media regulator in the U.K., issued a ruling that "the newspaper had failed to take care over the accuracy of the article ... and had then failed to correct ... significantly misleading statements." The Daily Mail was required to publish IPSO's reprimand.

    3. Radio host Rush Limbaugh said he was "leery" of hurricane forecasts because they advance a "climate change agenda."

    As Hurricane Irma barrelled toward Florida, Limbaugh spun conspiracy theories and told his listeners that hurricane warnings are part of a scheme to benefit retailers, the media, and people like Al Gore who want to "advance this climate change agenda." Notably, Limbaugh didn’t have any skepticism about the danger Irma posed when it came to his own well-being, as he fled from his Florida home to Los Angeles before Irma made landfall. It's not the first time Limbaugh has spouted irresponsible conspiracy theories about hurricane forecasts. He was criticized last year for doing the same thing during Hurricane Matthew, earning himself a spot on the 2016 edition of this list.

    4. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens argued that because political operatives were wrong in predicting Hillary Clinton would win the election, people should be skeptical of climate science.

    After Trump’s election, The New York Times launched an ad campaign billing itself as the antidote to Trumpian “alternative facts.” Shortly after that campaign, though, the Times hired Stephens as a columnist -- a serial misinformer who had called climate change a “sick-souled religion” during his time at The Wall Street Journal. In his inaugural column for the Times, Stephens encouraged skepticism of climate scientists and compared those who advocate climate action to Cold War-era authoritarians. Stephens’ column was short on actual facts and science; the one time he cited a scientific report, he got it wrong. The Times added a correction to the column, but numerous scientists pointed out that the correction wasn’t sufficient, and a number of scientists canceled their subscriptions over Stephens’ hiring, his problematic column, and the Times public editor’s dismissive defense of Stephens’ column. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt later cited Stephens' column to defend the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.

    5. Conservative media commentator Stephen Moore claimed that Trump created tens of thousands of coal jobs in the first few months of his presidency.

    Experts and journalists have repeatedly noted that President Donald Trump's campaign promise to bring back coal jobs is an empty one, since the decades-long decline in coal mining jobs has been driven much more by economic forces, such as increased automation and competition from natural gas and renewables, than by government regulations. But that didn’t stop Moore, a frequent Fox and CNN commentator and former Trump economic advisor, from proclaiming in op-eds in The Washington Times and Breitbart that Trump had already made good on his promise after just a few months in office. Moore cited jobs reports from March and April to claim that Trump had added tens of thousands of mining jobs, thereby restoring the coal industry. But Moore grossly misrepresented the data he cited, which actually included jobs in a number of sectors like oil and gas. Had Moore bothered to look at the actual coal mining jobs category, he would have seen that it had only grown by approximately 200 jobs through April, barely moving since Election Day.

    6. Radio host Hugh Hewitt recommended appointing Rush Limbaugh to a national commission to study climate change.

    In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Hewitt proposed creating a “national commission led by men and women of impeccable credentials” to determine whether and how the U.S. should address climate change, arguing that the country needs a group of “[d]iverse, smart non-scientists who are going to listen to the scientists -- all of them -- and report back on what ought to be done.” But Hewitt’s proposal instantly lost all credibility when he suggested including Rush Limbaugh as one of the commission members. Limbaugh has repeatedly called climate change a hoax, promoted dangerous climate-related conspiracy theories, misrepresented research in an attempt to dispute that global warming is happening, and even criticized a TV show for portraying climate change as a reality.

    7. Fox hosts attacked a journalist and called him "stupid" for asking a Trump official about the links between hurricanes and climate change.

    2017 was a record year for hurricanes, as Harvey, Irma, and Maria wreaked havoc along their respective paths. A number of climate scientists have explained how climate change exacerbates some of the worst impacts of hurricanes. While CNN and MSNBC frequently aired segments discussing the link between climate change and hurricanes like Harvey and Irma, Fox News hosts almost exclusively covered the climate change-hurricane link by criticizing others who raised the issue. The September 11 episode of Fox's The Five, for example, featured a lengthy discussion in which hosts criticized CNN's Jim Acosta for asking Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert whether there's a link between climate change and powerful hurricanes. The hosts said that Acosta was “anti-science” and looked “stupid” and “dumb,” and they called his question was "politically opportunistic." Fox's Jesse Watters said concern about climate change stems from liberal “guilt” and a desire to control people’s lives. Likewise, on the radio show Breitbart News Daily, host Alex Marlow pushed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to deny the link between climate change and hurricanes, which Pruitt did, stating, “For opportunistic media to use events like this to, without basis or support, just to simply engage in a cause-and-effect type of discussion, and not focus upon the needs of people, I think is misplaced."

    8. Rush Limbaugh argued that the historic BP oil spill caused no environmental damage.

    Limbaugh cited an article in the right-wing Daily Caller headlined “Bacteria Are Eating Most Of The 2010 BP Oil Spill” and concluded, “The BP spill didn’t do any environmental [damage].” The Deepwater Horizon spill, which leaked oil for 87 days, was the largest accidental spill of oil into marine waters in world history. Researchers have documented a wide array of negative environmental impacts from the disaster. For example, a 2016 study found that the BP spill may have caused irreversible damage to one of the Gulf shore’s most important ecosystems. The spill is believed to have killed tens of thousands animals in 2010, and for years afterward, dolphins and other animals in the area continued to die at higher-than-normal rates.

    9. Fox News’ Jesse Watters claimed, “No one is dying from climate change.”

    During a discussion about Al Gore’s warnings on climate change, Watters, a co-host of Fox News’ The Five, declared, “People are dying from terrorism. No one is dying from climate change.” Rush Limbaugh also made the same assertion this year. But an independent report commissioned by 20 governments in 2012 concluded that climate change already kills more people than terrorism, with an estimated 400,000 deaths linked to climate change each year.

    10. Radio host Alex Jones said it was "suspicious" that Hurricane Irma came along shortly before the release of a climate disaster movie.

    Jones briefly speculated about the possibility that Hurricane Irma was “geoengineered” or created by humans before stating, “Meanwhile, though, right on time with these superstorms, we have the new film Geoengineering (sic) 2017, coming soon on October 20. Oh, just a little bit more than a month or so after Irma is set to hit. Isn’t that just perfect timing? Like all these race war films they’ve been putting out. This is starting to get suspicious. Here it is, Geostorm.” The action movie Geostorm featured satellites that controlled the global climate. Jones' speculation about the film is just one of the countless conspiracy theories he has promoted over the years.

  • Right-wing media’s outrageous coverage of Muslims in 2017

    Blog ››› ››› SANAM MALIK & MILES LE

    Anti-Muslim hate crimes increased for the second consecutive year in 2016, according to the latest FBI numbers. During this climate of bigotry, the right-wing media figures used their platforms to blatantly spread fear and misinformation, demonizing Muslims all over the world. Some explicitly called for American Muslims to be put in internment camps, while others denied the existence of Islamophobia in our schools (Islamophobia actually increased in 2016), and claimed that Muslim immigration means more terrorism (there's no connection).

    Here is a glimpse of some of the most absurd things the right-wing media figures said about Muslims in 2017. 

  • Video: Right-wing media call Mueller's investigation a coup against Trump

    Since Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel, right-wing media have worked overtime to delegitimize the investigation

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel on May 17. Since then, right-wing media have repeatedly called the investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election (and a few related issues) a coup against Donald Trump. Watch:

    Related:

    Jesse Watters Says We May ‘Have a Coup on Our Hands in America’

    Previously:

    Why the anti-Mueller sentiment on Fox keeps getting worse

    Sean Hannity has really gone off the rails lately, but it's earned him a new fan: Alex Jones

    Fox contributor Mike Huckabee claims FBI officials intended "to stage what essentially amounts to a coup d'etat" against Trump

    Rush Limbaugh revives conspiracy theory that Mueller investigation is "a silent coup" to get rid of Trump

    Lou Dobbs unhinged over Flynn: Russia probe is a "parade of nonsense," "subversion" by the left

    Rush Limbaugh: Former intelligence chiefs are conducting a "silent coup" against Trump

    Alex Jones: There is a plot to install Robert Mueller as “the first king of America”

    Pro-Trump One America News Network: Report reveals Obama aides "plotted a coup against President Trump

    Alex Jones: Trump needs to get into a bunker right now and declare himself the victim of a coup attempt

    Rush Limbaugh conspiracy theory: "Leftists" are soliciting retired generals to possibly "lead a rebellion"

    Rush Limbaugh: "We're in the midst of a silent coup" by the GOP establishment to try "to take this president out"

    Lou Dobbs: The media is aiding a "coup d'etat against Trump"

    Jesse Watters: "What's happening right now is a coup against the will of the American people"

    Sean Hannity: "A soft coup is underway" against Trump with "sinister forces quickly aligning"

  • How adopting right-wing spin about Doug Jones' support for abortion access led media astray

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On December 12, Alabama voters elected Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate -- ending a 25-year streak in which Democrats were unable to win a single seat in the state. Jones’ victory put to rest weeks of media hand-wringing and speculation about what would be more offensive to Alabamians: Republican candidate Roy Moore’s reported sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s or Jones’ allegedly “extreme” position on abortion.

    In November, The Washington Post reported multiple women’s accounts of experiencing inappropriate conduct from Moore when they were in their teens, including one account of Moore pursuing a 14-year old girl. A few days later, another woman reported that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. In response, Moore largely avoided granting interviews to media, with the exception of a few friendly outlets such as Breitbart and One American News Network. To counteract these reports, right-wing outlets began leveraging what they claimed were Jones’ “extreme” views on abortion access against allegations of wrongdoing against Moore.

    In reality, as Jones has explained, he supports upholding current Alabama law, which allows patients to seek an abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy with limited exceptions for “medical necessity” beyond that point. During a September 27 interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Jones stated that he was “a firm believer that a woman should have the freedom to choose what happens to her own body.” Despite this, many outlets not only adopted right-wing media’s inaccurate spin that Jones’ stance was “extreme,” but also went on to claim that Jones’ support for abortion access would ultimately cost him the election.

    From early in the campaign, right-wing media consistently pushed the talking point that Jones’ position on abortion access was “extreme.” For example, during the November 15 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Jesse Watters described Alabama voters as having to decide between Moore, who “may have done inappropriate things with young girls 40 years ago,” and Jones, who he claimed supported so-called “‘partial-birth’ abortion” (a procedure that doesn’t exist but was invented by anti-abortion groups to shame those seeking abortions). In another example, Fox’s Marc Thiessen tried to equate Moore’s predatory behavior and Jones’ stance on abortion by calling them “two extremes.” Beyond this, Fox hosts and contributors alike leveraged a variety of inaccurate claims about Jones’ position on abortion -- saying he was for “abortion on demand,” claiming he was “a person who supports abortion at every level,” or parroting that he supported “abortion through all nine months” of pregnancy. In a particularly ill-fated exchange on the night of the election, Fox's Tucker Carlson and Brit Hume predicted that Jones' support for abortion would be his undoing:

    Unfortunately, rather than debunking such obvious anti-choice talking points, some outlets instead adopted this right-wing spin about Jones.

    During a November 27 discussion on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough claimed that Democrats would be better off if they had run “somebody who were, let’s say, conservative to moderate on abortion … but with Democrats on 99 percent of the other issues.” The following day, a panel on Morning Joe continued this line of argument with MSNBC political analyst Elise Jordan stating that adopting an anti-abortion viewpoint “would have taken Doug Jones easily over the finish line.” Beyond Jordan’s claims, during the same discussion MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki also promoted the right-wing argument that Jones supported “no restrictions on abortion at all.”

    On CNN, contributor Stephen Moore also adopted the right-wing spin about Jones, arguing that he supported “partial-birth abortion, which a lot of people in Alabama think is tantamount to murder.” While at The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis speculated that Alabama voters may not be able to cast a vote for Jones because of his “extreme position on what many see as a definitive life or death issue.” Lewis concluded that Jones “would be in a much better position” to win if his views about abortion weren’t “so radical.”

    As election day drew nearer, other outlets continued to run with the argument that not only was Jones’ position “extreme,” but that it would also cost him the election. For example, The Boston Globe claimed that for Alabama voters, Jones’ stance was “a deal-breaker” and that if Moore was “running against a Democrat less doctrinaire on abortion, the revelations about Moore’s pursuit of young girls would likely have sunk his campaign.” NPR reported on December 8 that “for some Alabama voters, supporting abortion rights may be a sin worse than some of the sexual misdeeds Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore has been accused of.” On the night of the election, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd said that he’d been told that “if Doug Jones loses, it will be a one word answer: Abortion.”

    This is far from the first time that media have gotten carried away with the argument that support for abortion access costs votes or elections for Democratic or progressive candidates. In early 2017, The New York Times published an op-ed titled, “To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Being the Abortion Party” -- kicking off wave of responses rebutting the false dichotomy that Democrats must sacrifice reproductive rights to win voters.

    As HuffPost reported on December 4, however, there was ample reason to believe that Jones’ support for abortion access wouldn’t be a hindrance. According to polling performed by Clarity Campaign Labs, “Abortion wasn’t really in the top couple issue” when likely Republican voters explained why they wouldn’t support Jones over Moore.

  • Sebastian Gorka: Swamp Thing

    Lacking any real experience or qualification, Sebastian Gorka has moved quickly to cash in on his brief White House tenure

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Some big congratulations are in order for Sebastian Gorka. A couple of months after “resigning” from his well-compensated White House job, which consisted mainly of going on TV to propagandize on behalf of President Trump and spin fanciful nightmares about Shariah law, he’s landed a new gig as a “national security strategist” for Fox News. I can’t pretend to know what that job title is supposed to mean, but in practice Gorka has been doing more of the same -- he’s paid to go on TV and lionize his former boss while whipping up panic about dangerous Muslims.

    This is quite a success story for Gorka, a self-styled national security “expert” who doesn’t really know much about national security. He’s such a flagrant poser that actual national security experts practically trip over themselves to go on record calling him an ignorant charlatan. Lesser frauds might have had their ambitions derailed by their transparent ignorance and links to Hungarian neo-Nazi groups --but not Gorka. He faked it until he made it all the way to an office in the West Wing (from which he was ignominiously booted after just seven months).

    What strikes me about Gorka’s new job at Fox is its audacious swampiness. There isn’t really any good reason to give Sebastian Gorka a job as a “national security strategist,” whatever that is. By some accounts, Gorka had no actual “national security” role in the White House and was essentially a glorified spokesman. But for Fox News, a recently departed White House staffer who still has strong ties to the political machine of the president the network supports is a valuable commodity, so carving out some bullshit patronage for him makes sense.

    As for Gorka, he’s quite shamelessly moving as quickly as he can to cash in on his brief, ridiculous tenure in the Trump administration. Before landing at Fox, he was briefly employed by the MAGA Coalition, a pro-Trump super PAC founded by conspiratorial whackos. The Daily Beast reported this week that Gorka has also been working as a paid lecturer for the Heritage Foundation. The cushy gig at Fox is the third sinecure he’s locked down since being ejected from the Trump administration. For someone who spends a lot of time inveighing against the corruption of “the swamp,” Gorka clearly has no problem monetizing the paltry 200-plus days he spent as a government official.

    So what has Gorka been doing to earn his Fox News paycheck? His primary responsibility to date has been to go on Hannity and Fox & Friends (two of the network’s more toxically dishonest programs) to conspiratorially gibber about political news and launch acidic broadsides against any critic of Donald Trump. What the network is not getting from its new “national security strategist” is much in the way of national security strategy.

    In the past couple of weeks, Gorka appeared on the network numerous times to discuss reports of sexual misconduct by prominent Democrats -- a topic that has nothing to do with national defense, but is tailor-made for someone whose only real talent is attacking Donald Trump’s political enemies. “The left as a whole has no vision and no morals, they are spiritually and politically bankrupt,” Gorka barked during a November 21 Hannity segment on a sexual misconduct report against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).

    That segment never once came within striking distance of anything even tangentially related to national security, nor did his November 27 spot on Hannity reacting to Donald Trump’s racist attack on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas.” As Gorka saw it, the real villain was Sen. Warren. “This is a woman who had a no-show job, or a job where she taught one course and then picked up $400,000 from Harvard a year,” sneered Gorka, who earns his living via 10-minute cable news hits and speaking fees from a right-wing think tank.

    Gorka has also logged several segments on the Uranium One “scandal.” If one were inclined to be extremely generous, one could categorize those segments as being related to “national security,” given that Uranium One involves a former high-level national security official (Hillary Clinton) and fuel for nuclear weapons. But I can’t be that generous because the Uranium One scandal is a complete fabrication.

    And Gorka’s interest in the Uranium One “scandal” has less to do with its nonexistent national security aspect than its similarly vacant promise of legal consequences for Clinton. “Your slides yesterday were magnificent,” Gorka told Sean Hannity on November 15, referring to a conspiratorial Uranium One flowchart Hannity slapped together. “Those should be used in the court of law to prosecute everybody involved with Uranium One who undermined the American national security.”

    But I want to be careful here and give Sebastian Gorka the credit he is due -- he has brought some national security strategizing to Fox News’ airwaves. For example, on the November 9 edition of Hannity, Gorka reminded viewers that “the first rule of war is that the initial report from the battlefield is almost always wrong.” That’s sound military advice, though I have to point out that he said it in the context of questioning the credibility of the women reporting Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore for sexual assault. “Let's stop, find what the facts are. Is this person credible?”

    On the November 18 edition of Watters’ World, Gorka observed that “Steve has read his Sun Tzu, he knows how to do this.” Sun Tzu, of course, was the Chinese general credited with writing The Art of War, a book that has inspired countless military leaders and vanity license plates. The “Steve” in this sentence, however, is not a military leader but, rather, Steve Bannon, whom Gorka was praising for trying to goad Hillary Clinton into running for president again in 2020.

    These two quips nicely encapsulate the essence of Gorka: an otherwise unremarkable pundit who wraps himself in a millimeter-thick patina of “national security” gravitas. His shallow insights and analysis are identical to the dreck emanating from fringe think tanks and lesser-known far-right Islamophobes. But he’s clever enough to seek out people and institutions who will give him money and important-sounding positions despite his lack of qualification: the Trump White House, Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, etc. Gorka is a creature of the swamp.

  • "Late-term" abortion is made up and so is Doug Jones' so-called abortion "extremism"

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    After reports surfaced that Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted and harassed several teenagers when he was in his 30s, right-wing media outlets rushed to characterize Moore’s Democratic opponent Doug Jones as supporting “partial-birth” abortions, abortions up to the moment of birth, or so-called “late-term” abortions. Other outlets have adopted the right-wing media spin, claiming Jones is too “extreme” for Alabama voters.

  • For months, pundits have called Trump a populist, but his policies have been about giveaways to the rich

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Several media outlets are suggesting that President Donald Trump’s August 30 speech calling for tax reform was a “populist pitch,” and dozens of media figures and outlets have been calling the president a “populist” since his inauguration. A closer examination of Trump’s policies, however, show a pattern of decisions that will create devastating impacts on Americans, particularly low-income residents, while providing handouts to corporations and the wealthiest citizens.

  • Right-wing media reacted to presidential disaster response very differently when Obama was president

    ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Right-wing media have been quick to praise President Donald Trump for his response to Hurricane Harvey and the aftermath, lauding his tweets as well as pictures released of him in meetings, claiming that “symbolism matters as well as the execution,” and attacking critics who have pointed out that Trump has done several highly political things during the hurricane that was downgraded to a tropical storm. The current tone of the conservative media sphere is a radical departure from the tone during disasters under former President Barack Obama’s tenure, when they claimed he was just doing “photo-ops,” said he was ineffective, and lambasted him for not visiting disaster areas immediately despite local officials asking him not to come so that resources could be spent helping victims.