Jillian Mele | Media Matters for America

Jillian Mele

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  • Fox mischaracterized a tech study to push anti-conservative censorship myth

    An editor for the study’s write-up in the Columbia Journalism Review explained how Fox misconstrued the study's findings

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On Monday, Fox & Friends mischaracterized a recent study about Google’s search algorithm and its “Top Stories” search result rankings to push the myth of anti-conservative censorship by tech platforms an opinion piece pushing similar claims ran the same day on FoxNews.com. But the network used the wrong statistic in its segment and misconstrued the methodology of the study.

    An audit study from the Northwestern University reviewed over 6,300 unique links from Google’s “Top Stories” box in 200 search results during the month of November 2017, as one of the study’s researchers, Nicholas Diakopoulos, explained in a Columbia Journalism Review report The study found that “just 20 news sources account for more than half of article impressions” (defined by the researchers as the number of times unique news links appear in the Top Stories box). In addition, the top three sources with the most article impressions (CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post) accounted for 23% of all article impressions.

    Fox News misrepresented these findings, and misidentified other labels in the study, to claim that left-leaning media outperformed right-leaning media on Google. Sam Thielman, one of the editors of CJR’s write-up of the study, pointed out these mischaracterizations on Twitter.

    On Fox & Friends, the story ran under the headline “Left-Leaning Sources Dominate Google News.” But according to Diakopoulos, ideological labels on news sources, which were borrowed from another study published in Science magazine, “don’t measure the slant of the media outlet per se, but rather reflect the self-reported political affiliation of Facebook users sharing content from those sources.” Fox News host Jillian Mele failed to mention this specific characterization and instead used the label “left-leaning sources” without context or further definition. An opinion piece about the study published on Fox’s site the same day also failed to make that distinction. Thielman said that Diakopoulos and he made the methodology as explicit as possible because they anticipated bad actors would try to manipulate the the results:

    Fox also misstated the key finding it highlighted in the headline. The study found that of 678 sources analyzed, the top 20% of sources (136) accounted for 86% of article impressions. Fox News misclassified that finding, stating that “86% of top stories came from only 20 news sources.”

    From the May 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

  • Fox & Friends barely covers report that Trump approved of Trump Tower meeting with Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The day after Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, said that Trump knew and approved of a meeting between members of his campaign and a Russian lawyer -- a meeting that the president had denied having knowledge of beforehand -- Trump’s favorite morning news show, Fox & Friends, almost entirely ignored the news until the president tweeted about it. At that point, the show opted to smear Cohen in an effort to clear Trump.

    CNN first reported that Cohen claimed to have been in the room when Donald Trump Jr. informed his father of his plans to meet with a Russian lawyer who, Trump Jr was told by an intermediary, would provide dirt on then-candidate Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." It has since been reported that the Russian lawyer has close ties to top Russian officials. Cohen also reportedly said he is willing to give his version of the events to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election. Previously, both the president and Trump Jr. denied that the then-candidate knew of the meeting. Trump Jr. testified to Senate investigators that he couldn’t recall whom he had told.

    Whether or not Trump knew of the meeting beforehand has been a central question in the investigation. The day after the story broke, Fox & Friends initially mentioned it only once during a headlines segment. Only in the third hour of the show, after Trump denied Cohen’s account via Twitter, did Fox & Friends cover the story in more depth -- but with a characteristically pro-Trump slant. After replaying the same headlines segment from earlier, co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed Fox contributor Geraldo Rivera about the matter. During the interview, Kilmeade questioned Cohen’s credibility and peddled a theory that “it was the Trump team that released the information” in a clear effort to save face for Trump. Rivera joined Kilmeade, commenting on Cohen’s “sleaziness” in an effort to discredit his account.

  • Fox & Friends hardly mentions Russian oligarch’s payments to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Fox News’ flagship morning show, Fox & Friends, breezed past new reports that a shell company used by President Donald Trump’s lawyer and business associate, Michael Cohen, to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels "received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration."

    Yesterday, following a tweet from Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenetti, The New York Times reported on financial records that show Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., received “payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch.” Essential Consultants also received payments from various other major companies, including AT&T. CNN noted that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have questioned Vekselberg, who is close to Vladimir Putin, as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

    The potential scope of the corruption here is staggering.

    Fox News has had relatively little coverage of these Cohen developments. It was briefly mentioned on Special Report, but the story was ignored through the network's prime-time lineup, and not again mentioned until Fox News at Night during the 11 p.m. hour, according to a SnapStream search.

    Fox & Friends, which Trump has been known to watch frequently, briefly mentioned the news once throughout the three-hour show. The show spent more time discussing therapy goats:

    Melania Trump’s approval ratings:

    And a “controversy” about high school cheerleaders in New Jersey:

  • Fox & Friends reported a detail from a 2015 NSA shooting as if it happened today

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox & Friends mistakenly reported that “two men dressed up as women” were involved in an incident this morning at the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, MD -- but that detail was actually from a similar incident in March 2015.

    Media outlets reported that one person was injured in a shooting that took place at a security vehicle entry gate at the NSA headquarters on February 14. NSA issued a statement, saying that “NSA police and local law enforcement are addressing” the incident” and that “the situation is under control.”

    Fox News first mentioned the incident at 8:01 a.m., with Fox & Friends First co-host Jillian Mele reporting: “At least three people have reportedly been shot at NSA headquarters. … There are reports claiming that two men dressed up as women tried to drive through the gate with a stolen SUV. That’s when the shots were fired.”

    But these details were not reported in any other national outlet's coverage.

    Fox & Friends appeared to have taken details from a 2015 incident at NSA headquarters and reported it as a fact in today’s incident. A FOX 5 report on today’s incident explains: “In 2015, two men dressed as women tried to ram a stolen car through the gate of the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. One of the two was killed when guards opened fire and the other was injured.”

    Later, at 8:39 a.m., Mele correctly stated that “a very similar incident happened at the NSA headquarters back in 2015, when two men dressed as women tried to ram the gate at the main entrance.” But Mele did not mention that she incorrectly attributed that detail from the 2015 incident in her first report about today’s shooting, and Fox & Friends never gave a correction to its initial report.

    Far-right website Zero Hedge, which has a history of pushing conspiracy theories, also incorrectly reported this detail several minutes after Mele did, embedding a now-deleted tweet from an account @BreakingNewzman which stated: “DEVELOPING - Two men dressed as women who attempted to enter a gate at the NSA's campus at Fort Meade, MD in a stolen Ford Escape this morning were shot by a security guard, Bloomberg reports.” Conspiracy theory website Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson tweeted the Zero Hedge article, adding: “Male intruders dressed as women shot while trying to ram NSA compound. One dead.”

  • Fox anchor calls a seemingly forced kiss a "hot pursuit," even after a host points out that it was unwanted

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    During the January 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, a teaser aired for an upcoming report on a Los Angeles police chase that ended with the male perpetrator forcibly kissing his female companion. Co-host Steve Doocy exclaimed, "Wait, that's a kiss? What?" and fellow co-host Ainsley Earhardt pointed out that "she doesn't look like she wants to be kissing him" as the on-screen chyron labeled the apparently nonconsensual act "a passionate arrest":

    Nonetheless, Fox's Jillian Mele started her report on the story by calling the police chase a "hot pursuit" and saying, "Police breaking up the passion by tasing the man and tackling the woman":

    JILLIAN MELE (HEADLINES ANCHOR): OK, so we're giving the phrase "hot pursuit" a whole new meaning, I tell you. A couple getting in one last kiss after leading police on a two-hour chase. The woman is accused of stealing a U-Haul truck, then leading officers on a pursuit through Los Angeles, but a blown tire ended the whole thing. Police breaking up the passion by tasing the man and tackling the woman. Both were arrested and treated for drugs.

  • Breitbart follows Fox & Friends fearmongering about felon voting in Alabama’s special election

    The state passed a law earlier this year allowing some former felons to register to vote

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    A week before the special election in Alabama to fill a vacancy in the Senate, Fox & Friends and Breitbart fearmongered about felon voting -- even attempting to portray it as a Democratic conspiracy -- despite the fact that the state’s Republican legislature passed and Republican governor signed the law allowing felons to register.

    In a December 3 piece, Breitbart wrote that “An organization partnered with a George Soros-financed group and led by a radical leftist who is the half-brother of the infamous controversial Rev. Al Sharpton has been diligently working over the past few weeks to register convicted felons across Alabama.” It isn’t until 12 paragraphs into the piece that Breitbart noted that earlier this year Alabama's Republican governor signed the law that restored voting rights to thousands of felons.

    Similarly, Fox & Friends was criticized after it ran multiple segments and teases on the November 30 edition of the program saying that Democrats are trying to get "felons registered to come out and vote" in the election. Only once did Fox host Jillian Mele acknowledge that “for decades, felons in Alabama were not allowed to vote,” but “the law was changed last year.” As the Washington Post noted, "Never mind that the felons' voting rights were restored by Republican lawmakers or that one of history's best-known conservative Supreme Court justices determined 32 years ago that bigotry had motivated Alabama's sweeping disenfranchisement. On “Fox & Friends,” the right of certain citizens to vote was presented as a nefarious “secret weapon” of Democrats."

    Right-wing media have a history of cheering for discriminatory laws that curtail voting rights and pushing myths about illegal voting.