Jim Hoft | Media Matters for America

Jim Hoft

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  • Right-wing media concocted a conspiracy theory about Christine Blasey Ford's motives. It quickly fell apart.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    “Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?” California professor Christine Blasey Ford told The Washington Post in explaining why she had decided in late August not to come forward and tell the world that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party when they were teenagers in the early 1980s. It’s easy to see why she might feel that way. After her story began to leak out but before she was publicly identified, Kavanaugh’s supporters began questioning her motives. And once those leaks pushed her to speak out publicly, a sloppy, intellectually bankrupt coalition of right-wing internet sleuths and members of the conservative media echo chamber began seizing on any scrap of information they could find to try to discredit her.

    I wrote yesterday about a fever swamp of the foolish and the politically motivated who targeted unflattering student reviews of a different Christine Ford in order to smear Kavanaugh’s accuser as “dark, mad, scary and troubled.” At the same time, that nexus pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that Ford held a grudge against Kavanaugh because his mother had presided over the foreclosure of her parents’ home in 1996.

    This was, as more careful reviews of the record found later that day, a dramatic and cynical misreading of publicly available court documents. Martha Kavanaugh, who was a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge at the time, did preside over parts of the 1996 foreclosure case involving Ralph and Paula Blasey, Ford’s parents. But her role was actually to dismiss the case after the Blaseys refinanced their house, which the family still owns to this day.

    The foreclosure conspiracy theory took a well-trod path through the pro-Trump echo chamber.

    #MAGA social media users dredged up the court documents and incorrectly interpreted them.

    Storytelling pro-Trump websites that trawl the online social space for content and have no fact-checking standards then picked up the tale. Jim Hoft, whose Gateway Pundit website consistently falls for fake stories and pushes conspiracy theories, headlined his piece on the story “Bad Blood: Judge Kavanaugh’s Mother Foreclosed on Far Left Accuser’s Parents’ Home.” Pacific Pundit’s take was “Christine Blasey-Ford Motive: Revenge - Kavanaugh’s Mother Judge Against Parents in Foreclosure Case 1996.” America First Media Group, a prominent Seth Rich conspiracy site, also got in on the act. And on, and on, and on.

    As those stories went viral, more prominent right-wing pundits began promoting them. In a since-deleted tweet, Fox News host Laura Ingraham highlighted the America First Media Group piece. The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson, who has spent the last few days flailing incoherently over Ford’s story, urged reporters to “honestly vet” the story that “a growing body of blogs” were posting about.

    And then those reporters vetted the story, making all the conservatives involved look like the cynical fools that they are.

    Crucially, and as with the student reviews hatchet job, even if the smear artists had their facts in order, their argument would still be nonsense. Let’s say Kavanaugh’s mother really had cost Ford’s parents their home. How would Ford’s purported “motive” come into play? Ford told her therapist about the assault in 2012, per notes she has provided, and she reportedly told a friend about it last year, well before Kavanaugh’s appointment. That’s a lot of evidence to plant in advance in order to get her supposed revenge.

    But that’s how the right-wing smear machine operates -- its members take a handful of facts and twist them and twist them in the hope that they can convince their audience not to believe their targets. Those right-wing readers will probably never hear the truth; they’ll continue to believe that Ford is a terrible teacher who’s out to get the son of the judge who foreclosed on her parents’ house. Meanwhile, Erickson, Hoft, and their ilk will simply move on to the next smear.

    This is how bad it got in the first day after Ford came forward. With the Senate Judiciary Committee asking her to give testimony before them next week, there will be more annihilation to come. 

  • After professor reports that Kavanaugh assaulted her, pro-Trump sycophants go after student reviews for wrong Christine Ford

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In a comically desperate attempt at opposition research, several right-wing supporters of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have sought to tarnish the reputation of Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were high school students in the early 1980s, by citing what they claim are unflattering student reviews on RateMyProfessors.com.

    According to Jim Hoft, head of the conspiracy theorist website Gateway Pundit and the Dumbest Man on the Internet, Ford’s former students describe her as “dark, mad, scary and troubled.” An anonymously published story at Grabienews similarly highlights student reviews that describe Ford as “vengeful” and “unprofessional.” The stories went viral, with the Grabienews one alone receiving nearly 22,000 engagements according to BuzzSumo as of posting time. They were shared on social media by several prominent conservatives, including Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin.

    There are a few problems with their argument. First, it’s patently absurd to try to call Ford’s story into question on the grounds that her students don’t like her. Second, the idiots making this argument are looking at reviews for the wrong Christine Ford.

    Christine Blasey Ford is a research psychologist who teaches clinical psychology at Palo Alto University and in a consortium with Stanford University, according to The Washington Post. Kavanaugh’s defenders are citing student reviews for Christine A. Ford, who taught in the social work department at California State University-Fullerton. The Grabienews story has since been retracted.

    My God.

    These people.


    Are idiots.

    This pathetic attempt to smear Ford -- one of many the right-wing press has tried since she came forward -- recalls Breitbart.com’s 2014 attack on the wrong Loretta Lynch.

  • Right-wing media go all-out to denigrate Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh assaulted her

    Ford said Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were high school students, but many media conservatives attacked her or say Kavanaugh should be confirmed anyway

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Christine Blasey Ford had written a letter this summer to a Democratic lawmaker saying that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both high school students. Soon after Ford’s account was published, right-wing media figures and outlets began attacking her credibility, publicly discounting her story, or calling on Kavanaugh to be confirmed by Republicans anyway.

    Details from the letter, which she wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), leaked out several days earlier, and then Ford “decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it.” From the Post’s story:

    Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

    While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

    “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

    Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

    Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room.

    Notes from an individual therapy session the following year, when she was being treated for what she says have been long-term effects of the incident, show Ford described a “rape attempt” in her late teens.

    Kavanaugh has denied the report after Ford went public, calling it “a completely false allegation.” He previously said, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation.” The immediate reaction from many conservative media figures was terrible: Many cast doubt on her account, others suggested they might believe her but said Kavanaugh should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice anyway, and others impugned her motives, suggesting a political or personal grudge.

    Conservatives who cast doubt on Ford’s account

    FoxNews.com’s Stephen Miller: “This was not a sexual assault. … Hold the vote. Confirm him. … It was drunk teenagers playing seven minutes of heaven.”

    Breitbart’s John Nolte: “GOP blows Kavanaugh, falls for this, they will be massacred in November.”

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones mocked Ford’s accusation: “Brett Kavanaugh in 1986 came to Dallas, TX, and I was in high school, and he raped me.”

    Trump ally and conservative political operator Roger Stone: “This is a woman looking for her Anita Hill moment. This is her 15 minutes.”

    Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens: “Nothing to see here, folks,” Ford is “just another woman who conveniently tripped and fell out of amnesia.”

    Conservative radio host Erick Erickson: “If the GOP does not stand up to this character assassination attempt on Kavanaugh, every judicial nominee moving forward is going to suffer last minute sexual assault allegations.”

    Erick Erickson: “I do not believe Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser. I do believe there is a Democrat PR firm working this story.”

    Erick Erickson: “People who want to keep killing kids really shouldn’t be throwing Jesus in the face of those who don’t believe the accusation against Kavanaugh.”

    Fox News’ Tomi Lahren: “Decades-old allegations against Kavanaugh come out just days before a vote….victim or opportunist?”

    Tomi Lahren: "Female empowerment is NOT using sexual assault allegations to torpedo someone you disagree with politically."

    Fox contributor Tammy Bruce: Report of assault by Kavanaugh is “an attempt at a political assassination.”

    Newsmax’s John Cardillo: “No, 35+ year old dubious allegations about a non-crime made by a left-wing activist … do not hold water.”

    NRATV’s Grant Stinchfield: “I have no idea if Judge Kavanaugh pushed this woman down on a bed at a high school house party where she wriggled free and ran away or not. What I do know is in the 35 years since, not one other woman has raised such an allegation. Sixty-five other women have, in fact, now come to his defense.”

    Fox Business host Dagen McDowell: “You have to press [Ford] on any potential bias that’s there” against Republicans.

    Fake news site TruthFeed: Ford’s story has “more holes than a slice of swiss cheese.”

    The despicable Democrats are pulling out all the stops to try and derail the Judge Kavanaugh vote for SCOTUS.

    They’re now claiming that Judge Kavanaugh attacked a woman in high school, nearly killing her. The woman, whose story has more holes than a slice of swiss cheese, claims there was a man in the room who witnessed the entire thing.

    One big problem. That man, says it never happened.

    Facebook page Silence is Consent posted a meme misleadingly claiming Ford was “so ‘devastated’” by incident “she contacted Feinstein 35 years later.”

    Fox Business host Bob Massi:The thing that’s remarkable to me” is that someone “with amazing credentials, amazing resumes, and an allegation like this comes out … and their entire career credibility is gone. … That’s the trouble with this.”

    Sean Hannity radio show guest David Schoen: "The real crime here that happened" is Sen. Dianne Feinstein "presenting this thing under ... this veil of mystery."

    Fox News host Sean Hannity cast doubt on Ford's accusation because of "everything else you see about Judge Kavanaugh's life ... this is a guy that spends a lot of time feeding the homeless."

    CRTV's Gavin McInnes: Ford is "clearly full of crap." 

    Ethics and Public Policy Center Lance Morrow's Wall Street Journal op-ed likened Ford's accusation to Salem Witch Trials, diminished alleged rape attempt: "No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred."

    The Salem witch trials turned on what was called “spectral evidence.” That was testimony from witnesses—either malicious or hysterical—who claimed the accused had assumed the form of a black cat or some other devilish creature and had come visiting in the night in order to torment the witness with bites and scratches, or to rearrange the bedroom furniture, or to send the baby into paroxysms.

    ...

    Three hundred twenty-six years later, an anonymous woman—a spectral and possibly nonexistent woman, for all that one knew when the story emerged—accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago, when he was a high-school student. It seemed as if the American constitutional process might be drawn back to the neighborhood of Salem, Mass. According to this phantom testimony, 17-year-old Brett held the girl down, pawed her and tried to force himself upon her, and held his hand over her mouth when she screamed, until a second prep-school devil piled on top, they all tumbled to the floor, and the girl managed to slip away. The boys were “stumbling drunk,” according to the account.

    ...

    The thing happened—if it happened—an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time, when the actors in the drama were minors and (the boys, anyway) under the blurring influence of alcohol and adolescent hormones. No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred. The sin, if there was one, was not one of those that Catholic theology calls peccata clamantia—sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.

    The offense alleged is not nothing, by any means. It is ugly, and stupid more than evil, one might think, but trauma is subjective and hard to parse legally. Common sense is a little hard put to know what to make of the episode, if it happened. The dust of 36 years has settled over the memory. The passage of time sometimes causes people to forget; sometimes it causes them to invent or embellish. Invention takes on bright energies when its muse is politics, which is the Olympics of illusion. 

    Conservatives who indicated that whether or not they believe Ford, Kavanaugh should be confirmed

    Federalist contributor Tom Nichols: “I’m good with the story being true,” but it shouldn’t “derail [his] nomination.”

    Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: Ford’s report can’t be proven, “so he should be confirmed.”

    Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro: “The Senate should just vote” on Kavanaugh.

    The Federalist: Kavanaugh “should be confirmed” despite Ford’s report.

    Townhall.com editor Guy Benson: “Absent additional evidence, I don’t know how it would be remotely just to derail the nomination” of Kavanaugh.

    The Wall Street Journal editorial board suggested Ford possibly misremembered "in the cauldron of a therapy session to rescue a marriage," and stated that letting Ford's accusation "stop Mr. Kavanaugh's confirmation would ratify what has all the earmarks of a calculated political ambush."

    The woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh of a drunken assault when both were teenagers has now come forward publicly, and on Monday it caused Republicans to delay a confirmation vote and schedule another public hearing. Yet there is no way to confirm her story after 36 years, and to let it stop Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would ratify what has all the earmarks of a calculated political ambush.

    ...

    Mr. Kavanaugh denies all this “categorically and unequivocally,” and there is simply no way to prove it. The only witness to the event is Mr. Kavanaugh’s high school male friend, Mark Judge, who also says he recalls no such event. Ms. Ford concedes she told no one about it—not even a high school girl friend or family member—until 2012 when she told the story as part of couples therapy with her husband.

    The vagaries of memory are well known, all the more so when they emerge in the cauldron of a therapy session to rescue a marriage. Experts know that human beings can come to believe firmly over the years that something happened when it never did or is based on partial truth. Mistaken identity is also possible.

    ...

    This is simply too distant and uncorroborated a story to warrant a new hearing or to delay a vote. We’ve heard from all three principals, and there are no other witnesses to call. Democrats will use Monday’s hearing as a political spectacle to coax Mr. Kavanaugh into looking defensive or angry, and to portray Republicans as anti-women. Odds are it will be a circus.

    ...

    Letting an accusation that is this old, this unsubstantiated and this procedurally irregular defeat Mr. Kavanaugh would also mean weaponizing every sexual assault allegation no matter the evidence. It will tarnish the #MeToo cause with the smear of partisanship, and it will unleash even greater polarizing furies.

    Conservatives who attacked Ford’s motives

    Mike Cernovich: “Christine Blasey is a far left wing activist. ... this is straight activism on her part.”

    The Gateway Pundit: Ford is a “far-left activist.”

    Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: Ford is an “unhinged liberal professor who former students describe as dark, mad, scary and troubled.”

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “Apparently this accuser was fine with leaving Brett Kavanaugh on the second highest court of the land. … But it was when he was up for the Supreme Court that suddenly the stakes got higher.”

    Laura Ingraham: "This all has the whiff of a political smear masquerading as a sexual assault allegation."

    Fake news site RedstateWatcher: Ford is a "registered Democrat and Democrat activist.”

    Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh: Ford is "a political activist. She's an angry political activist. She's much more than just a victim of alleged attempted rape."

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson: "Does anyone really believe this story would have surfaced if Brett Kavanaugh had pledged allegiance to Roe v. Wade? Of course it wouldn't have."​

    Right-wing Facebook meme pages and groups engaged in a smear campaign against Ford

    Many right-wing meme pages attacking Ford falsely painted her as a Democratic political operative. [1, 2, 3, 4]

    Some pages tried to undermine Ford’s allegations by questioning her timing in coming forward and her memory of the incident. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

    A woman from a Shuttershock photo of an anti-Trump protest in New York City was falsely attributed as Ford. [1, 2]

    Alex Kaplan and Natalie Martinez contributed research to this post.

  • The Gateway Pundit's Jacob Wohl is now writing for fake news site YourNewsWire

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Jacob Wohl, a notorious pro-Trump Twitter troll who is also a contributor for The Gateway Pundit, is now writing for YourNewsWire, one of the most notorious fake news sites in the United States.

    Wohl is a staunchly pro-Trump commentator and hedge fund owner known for regularly tweeting at President Donald Trump (who has retweeted some of his tweets), for plagiarism, and for his propagandist claims, such as writing, “[Russian President] Vladimir Putin does a lot for his country considering he’s only paid the measly salary of $112,000 a year — He could easily make millions of dollars a year from public speaking alone, but after 20 years in the spotlight, he presses on,” and, “I hope Vladimir Putin gives President Trump a lesson on how to (sic) they deal with Fake News in Russia.” On June 12, Wohl announced that he would be writing for The Gateway Pundit, a notoriously terrible far-right blog that has received White House press credentials from the Trump administration.

    On August 4, Wohl wrote a piece for YourNewsWire headlined “EXCLUSIVE: Deep State Planning System Similar to AMBER Alerts to Influence Mid-Terms.” In the article, Wohl claimed that the Department of Justice was “creating a system similar to to (sic) the AMBER Alert system, to alert Americans that they may be subject to Russian meddling,” which could “exert undue influence on American voters.”

    YourNewsWire is one of the most heavily trafficked fake news sites. The website played a major role in spreading Pizzagate and published pieces attacking the legitimacy of the flu shot, even claiming the Centers for Disease Control murdered a doctor who warned about the shot. The site has also pushed the QAnon conspiracy theory (a conspiracy theory Wohl has called “complete and utter nonsense”). At one point, the prime minister of New Zealand was even forced to respond to one of its fake stories. All in all, YourNewsWire’s posts have been debunked by Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers more than 80 times.

    Additionally, the site has gotten higher Facebook engagement than Infowars, which was recently removed from the social media network. Its Facebook pages have more than 800,000 followers combined, and the pages of its co-founder and one of its lead writers have nearly 120,000 followers combined. The site has also been accused of acting as a proxy for Russia.

    Since October 2017, Wohl has tweeted more than 25 articles from YourNewsWire, 23 of which he shared since he announced he joined The Gateway Pundit, and some of which he has tweeted at Trump. Wohl has also linked to the site in at least two of his Gateway Pundit articles.

    In July, Wohl also encouraged the site to not speak to “Soros stooges” at Poynter.

    The Gateway Pundit’s founder, Jim Hoft, has also cited YourNewsWire. In May, Hoft defended YourNewsWire after it claimed fact-checker Snopes worked for the CIA.

  • Right-wing media praise, justify Trump's decision to pardon Dinesh D'Souza

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing media figures were quick to defend and rejoice over President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon conservative author and pundit Dinesh D’Souza for his felony conviction for violating campaign finance law.

    On the morning of May 31, Trump tweeted:

    D’Souza was indicted in 2014 for violating campaign finance laws, and right-wing media figures also jumped to defend him then, portraying him as a victim of political persecution by the Obama administration, which D’Souza had criticized in a lie-filled book attempting to trace Obama’s liberal policy motivations and later in a lie-filled movie. But D’Souza pleaded guilty to the charges against him five years ago. His more recent missives have included tweets mocking students who survived the February school shooting in Parkland, FL and likening Democrats to Nazis.

    Following Trump’s announcement that he will give a full pardon to D’Souza, right-wing media figures celebrated the decision and claimed that D’Souza was indeed treated unfairly:

    Fox News host Jeanine Pirro: “Fantastic news @DineshDSouza to be pardoned by @POTUS. Obama’s political prosecution null and void.”

    Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s pardon of D’Souza is “a marvelous act of justice. Not mercy, justice.”

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “It’s about time”; pardon “was long overdue.”

    Right-wing troll Mike Flynn Jr.: “WOW! Incredible! @DineshDSouza totally deserves this! CONGRATS!”

    Pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: “Good to see Trump using that power” to correct “a lot of these travesties of justice that are taking place.”

    Wash. Examiner’s Byron York and Ingraham agree D’Souza sentencing was a “travesty” and “outrage.”

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh: D’Souza was sentenced “so that Obama could flex his muscles and show what a tough guy he was.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth: “I thought that was great.”

    Right-wing blogger Jim Hoft: D’Souza’s prosecution was an “Obama political hit job and “an obvious witch hunt.”

  • 60 Minutes’ interview with Stormy Daniels airs tonight. Here are 5 ways conservative media figures have attacked or downplayed her story.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Adult film actress and director Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, recorded an interview about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump, which is scheduled to air tonight on CBS’ 60 Minutes. Since she first came forward, some conservative media figures have chosen to attack her or to minimize her story.

    According to Daniels, she and Trump had an affair in 2006. She first gave an interview about the affair in 2011 with In Touch Weekly, but it was only published in full earlier this year. While Trump has denied the affair took place, one of his lawyers, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 just a month before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Trump and Daniels have recently sued one another over the 2016 agreement.

    Trump’s lawyers reportedly considered legal action to stop the broadcast of Daniels’ pre-recorded 60 Minutes interview, which will air tonight on CBS. And in recent weeks, some conservative media figures have also run defense for the president.

    Smearing Daniels over her adult film career

    Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: Daniels is a “washed up porn star.”

    [Gateway Pundit, 3/6/18]

    CNN conservative political commentator Jason Miller: “I think it is clear that Ms. Clifford is trying to essentially launch a second act to her career now.”

    CNN guest Michael Caputo: “Let's not forget, this is a woman who gets paid for sex wanting more money.”

    Telling other media outlets they shouldn’t be giving Daniels’ story much attention

    Fox host Sean Hannity dubbed CNN president Jeff Zucker the “‘porn king’ of cable news” for coverage of Daniels. Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity lashed out at CNN for covering Daniels’ allegations against Trump, calling CNN president Jeff Zucker the “porn king” of cable news. He also called CNN’s “non-stop coverage of Stormy Daniels” a “new obsession” of “basically soft-core pornography.” [Hannity.com, 3/23/18]

    Fox media critic Howard Kurtz suggested other media outlets were devoting too much coverage to Daniels and accused them of being “rather gleeful in covering these stories.”

    Conservative talk radio host Mark Simone: “Media [are] now in collusion with DNC to influence the next election” by covering Daniels.

    [Twitter, 3/11/18]

    Accusing Daniels of faking evidence

    Pro-Trump writer Jacob Wohl pointed to one photo to claim Daniels’ reported polygraph test was fake. NBC News acquired a report of a 2011 polygraph test Daniels took about her relationship with Trump, which came with a sworn declaration from the examiner about its authenticity. According to NBC, “the examiner found there was a more than 99 percent probability she told the truth when she said they had unprotected sex in 2006.” Jacob Wohl of The Washington Reporter used an image taken from a video of the polygraph test to claim it was fake.

    [NBC News, 3/20/18; Twitter, 3/21/18]

    Downplaying the relevance of the interview

    Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen: Conservative Christians will stand by Trump because he keeps his promises to them. Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen defended conservative Christian supporters of President Trump from accusations of hypocrisy for violating their espoused values because he “does have one moral quality that deserves admiration: He keeps his promises.” From Thiessen’s March 23 FoxNews.com column:

    During the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to defend religious liberty, stand up for unborn life and appoint conservative jurists to the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. And he has done exactly what he promised. The abortion-rights lobby NARAL complains that Trump has been "relentless" on these fronts, declaring his administration "the worst .?.?. that we've ever seen." That is more important to most Christian conservatives than what the president may have done with a porn actress more than ten years ago.

    [...]

    No one upholds Trump as moral exemplar. He is not the most religious president we have ever had, but he may be the most pro-religion president. Christian conservatives are judging Trump not by his faith, but by his works. And when it comes to life and liberty, his works are good. [FoxNews.com, 3/13/18]

    National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson: “People knew the accusations against the president” but didn’t care about them. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) about Daniels upcoming 60 Minutes interview, National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson said conservative Christians just don’t care that Trump allegedly cheated on his wife Melania:

    "Christians want the president to be pastoral. We like that but that isn't really the job assignment," National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson told CBN News. "People knew the accusations against the president before he was elected and they said, 'Actually, we care about security. Actually, we care about the economy.' "

    Johnson added that Christians "should identify with Christ" before any politician and called his vote in the 2016 election a "prudential" one. "You've got to vote. You have a choice. Who are you going to vote for?" Johnson said. "I voted for Mr. Trump. I don't regret that vote. I don't think Christians who voted for him regret that vote. We knew this was in the past, but his job is to keep us safe and to keep the government out of the way of business so the economy can grow and I think he's doing that." [CBN, 3/23/18]

    Anti-gay hate group Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins: Trump’s behavior was in the past. Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, also told CBN that Trump’s past behavior doesn’t matter because he’s keeping political promises he made to conservative Christians:

    Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, echoed the same sentiment to CBN News and said Trump should be judged on his behavior and accomplishments in office.
     
    "To date, what has the president done?" Perkins asked. "The president has not engaged, to our knowledge, and I think we would know, in any of the behavior that he did in the past, prior to the election. What he has done is he's actually followed through on political promises." [CBN, 3/23/18]

    Barely mentioning Daniels’ alleged affair with Trump

    In early through mid-March, Fox News barely mentioned Daniels’ story. The news explainer website Vox examined cable news transcripts and found Fox News has barely even mentioned Daniels’ name, especially compared to its main competitors.

    [Vox, 3/21/18]

  • Right-wing trolls held a panel to complain about their declining traffic rates since Trump was elected

    A who's who of the dregs of the internet gathered for a pity party about how they're all failing

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Following declining traffic rates on their websites, an assortment of conspiracy theorists, hoax peddlers, anti-Muslim bigots, partisan activists, and pro-Trump media figures -- who depend on social media to broadcast their messages and profit from their audiences -- convened a panel in Washington, D.C., to claim tech giants like Google, Twitter, and Facebook are “shadow-banning” and censoring them for being conservative and supporting President Donald Trump.

    The panel on Social Media Neutrality, put together on February 6 by The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft, featured Right Side Broadcasting Network's (RSBN) Margaret Howell, anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller, software developer Marlene Jaeckel, and The People's Cube's Oleg Atbashian -- whose site’s content has triggered the Defense Department’s flags for hate and racism. Fox News regular Michelle Malkin and self-proclaimed “guerrilla journalist” (but actual partisan hack) James O'Keefe also made video appearances.

    The participants were united in their claim that, based on their declining traffic rates since after the election, Facebook, Twitter, and Google must be silencing or "shadow-banning" them. A "shadow-ban" refers to when users are blocked from sharing content to an online community, but can’t tell they have been banned. Hoft took issue with digital platforms warning users that his website contains “disputed articles,” even though his site has a lengthy record of publishing false information.

    After expressing her admiration for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ programming at Infowars, RSBN’s Howell accused Media Matters of “orchestrat[ing] a hit” against RSBN’s YouTube channel and being “in cahoots” with tech giants, claiming a Media Matters piece was the reason Facebook removed RSBN’s content for violating terms of service without clarifying which terms of service the platform had considered violated. She also claimed YouTube started censoring RSBN’s videos in the search results and marking videos as “not suitable for most advertisers.” RSBN, according to Howell, was born in reaction to then-candidate Trump’s (false) narrative that mainstream media never showed the crowds at his rallies and twisted his statements out of context. RSBN is also the same network that was once comfortable hiring former Infowars reporter Joe Biggs to host one of its shows, despite Biggs’ awful history of trivializing date rape or encouraging violence against transgender people.

    Both Michelle Malkin and Pamela Geller accused social media companies of censoring their platforms, which they’ve used to post anti-Muslim content. Malkin and Geller frequently appear on Fox News to malign entire Muslim communities or demean undocumented immigrants. Geller also accused media and tech companies of removing content critical of Islam because Sharia law, according to her, mandates that Islam not be criticized.

    Another panelist, Marlene Jaeckel, a software engineer and self-proclaimed “anti-feminist,” claimed to have been ostracized from Silicon Valley’s female tech groups because of her outspoken support for former Google software engineer James Damore. Damore was fired for writing a 10-page internal memo that Google’s CEO said “advanc[ed] harmful gender stereotypes.” She warned against the dangers of the biases Amazon’s Alexa and other home digital assistants could be giving to children, a theme that has occupied the minds of others on the far-right.

    As evident by some speakers’ remarks at the panel, at least some of these right-wing figures are breaking their loyalty to free market capitalism to call for government regulations to stop the companies from removing their content when it violates the companies’ terms of service. However, what they see as the unbridled exercise of their opinions is also what has made it necessary for Twitter, Facebook, and Google to update and revise their terms of service in order to combat fake news and protect its users against extremism, hate speech, and online harassment.

    Political allies of these far-right personalities are also helping them advance their conservative victimhood narrative. For example, in January, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) seemingly used O’Keefe’s undercover videos against Twitter (apparently ignoring his long history of deceptive editing and pathetic self-own episodes) to make serious accusations against the social media platform of banning conservatives (Cruz spent most of his time during a 2017 Senate hearing questioning social media companies about political bias).

    But these social media companies aren’t censoring conservative voices; they are taking action to combat fake news, Russian propaganda, hate speech, and online harassment and not always succeeding. Twitter has vowed to become “more aggressive” in monitoring racism and hate speech in its platform, but has admitted to making mistakes that often continue to enable extremists to smear immigrants and Muslims. YouTube -- which is owned by Google -- is struggling in its campaign to stop allowing content creators who spew hateful views from profiting from the platform, as it has allowed white supremacists to spread their messaging. And it was pressure from right-wing figures that reportedly pushed Facebook to “pull back from human oversight” of its Trending section and “delegate more power to shoddy algorithms,” which could have facilitated the flourishing of fake news and Russian propaganda. Similar right-wing pressure has also pushed Google to end a fact check display in its searches.

    While social media companies need to do a better job in crafting and enforcing policies that adequately respond to the challenges that harassment and misinformation present, ceding to the pressure of known harassers and proven misinformers should not be a path they follow.

  • Far-right figures are saying the deep state is responsible for the stock market crash

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Far-right media figures are claiming that yesterday’s historic drop in the stock market is part of a deep state plot to destroy Trump and that Trump is “hitting back.” The claim began with conspiracy theorist radio host Michael Savage, who said on his show yesterday that the deep state is “taking the market down” following Trump’s State of the Union (SOTU) address because it is trying to “destroy [Trump] where he is strongest.” Infowars then pushed Savage’s conspiracy theory, comparing it with with Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory from 2017 in which he claimed that “globalists” would cause a stock market crash and blame it on Trump. The Gateway Pundit also promoted Savage’s claims in an article that the website’s founder Jim Hoft tweeted.

    Rebel TV’s John Cardillo also claimed that the Federal Reserve was “purposefully tanking the markets,” and Alex Jones suggested the drop could be “a false flag by the big banks.” Infowars’ Jerome Corsi tweeted an article from Zero Hedge, a website known for publishing conspiracy theories, about Trump's legal team's support for a second special counsel to "probe" FBI and the Justice Department, to claim that Trump was hitting back against the deep state which had crashed the stock markets. Corsi put the hashtag #QAnon in his tweet, a reference to the fringe conspiracy theory “The Storm.”

    From the February 5 edition of Savage Nation:

    MICHAEL SAVAGE (HOST): They’re trying to destroy Trump’s strongest card which is the economy. Mueller has gone nowhere with his fake Russia investigation. Trump’s stirring SOTU speech last week was so great that even CBS admitted 75 percent of the people who watched it approved of it and loved it. So what happened right afterwards? The establishment, meaning the deep state, call it whatever you want, went into overdrive to destroy Trump, or try to destroy him where he is strongest because they couldn’t get him where they thought he was weakest. And so they’re taking the market down. They’re trying to hurt you. They are the enemies of the average American. Make no mistake about it, they’re going for you. These people are so evil and so power drunk, that they burn the nation to the ground rather than let Donald Trump live another day in office.

  • The dumbest attempt yet to discredit Wash. Post's Roy Moore investigative report (yes, Jim Hoft is involved)

    Far-right sites defend Roy Moore based on tweet claiming a woman was offered money to make accusations against him -- which came from an account that's made a similar claim before

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Right-wing websites are hyping the absurd claim of a user on Twitter that The Washington Post offered to pay an Alabama woman to say that Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore had engaged in sexual misconduct.

    The account -- which goes by the name “Doug Lewis #MAGA” and has more than 17,000 followers -- previously made a nearly identical unfounded accusation involving The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times in September 2016.

    The Washington Post recently reported that Leigh Corfman said Moore molested her when she was 14 years old and he was 32. Three other women told the Post that “Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s.” The report was based on conversations with more than 30 sources who knew Moore between 1977 and 1982, the time in which the reported misconduct occurred.

    In an embarrassing attempt to defend Moore from these reports, some far-right websites began promoting an allegation that the Post offered to pay a woman to “accuse Roy Moore,” which Lewis sourced to an anonymous “family friend” who supposedly told his wife about it:

    The Gateway Pundit, a disreputable website that frequently promotes hoaxes and employs far-right trolls, published an article based solely on Lewis' claims with the headline “Alabama Woman Claims WaPo Reporter Offered Her $1000s to Accuse Roy Moore of Sexual Abuse!!” While Hoft noted it was “just a report at this time,” he explained it is “HUGE news if true.” Infowars.com, which is operated by leading far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, also ran with the report in an article bylined by reporter Kit Daniels that asked, “Accusations against Moore already debunked?”

    The evidence-free allegation is also being promoted by fake news site TruthFeed. Another site that publishes fake news, Prntly, previously used tweets from the same account to claim voter fraud in New York.

    “Doug Lewis #MAGA” has offered no evidence to support the claim. Furthermore, the account made a similar claim in 2016, writing in a tweet that “LA Times and NY Times are offering 1000.00 for any dirt on Donald J Trump.Is this what the crooked evil Democrats have sunk to??”

    The account also frequently changes patterns of speech in the tweets it posts:

  • Gateway Pundit pushes a lie blaming an undocumented immigrant for California wildfires

    Gateway Pundit post cites Breitbart article, which local officials already debunked

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In an October 19 post by editor Jim Hoft, The Gateway Pundit claimed that officials confirmed “the man arrested in connection to setting fires in California is a five time deported illegal alien.” The article also asserted that the alleged arsonist “was arrested several times but ICE was never notified because he was arrested in a sanctuary county.” From the Gateway Pundit piece (emphasis original):

    US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan confirmed on Thursday the man arrested in connection to setting fires in California is a five time deported illegal alien.

    Jesus Fabian Gonzalez was arrested several times but ICE was never notified because he was arrested in a sanctuary county.

    Most of the Gateway Pundit piece is made up of quotes from a Breitbart story, which alleged that “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Tom Homan confirmed on Thursday that a man arrested in connection with setting a fire in Sonoma County Wine Country is an illegal alien from Mexico who has been twice returned to his ‘home country.’” The Breitbart story, however, has been debunked by local officials in North California.

    Despite being debunked, this story has continued to spread on anonymous message boards and among far-right conspiracy theorists. Gateway Pundit’s latest brush with misinformation comes one day after a Periscope by the website’s White House correspondent, Lucian Wintrich, featured praise for Hitler, racial slurs, homophobic imagery, and a swastika flag.

  • 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.

  • Far-right alternative-media figures think the “Google Manifesto” proves them right

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Members of the far-right alternative-media ecosystem are lashing out at Google after the company fired an employee who argued that there are biological differences at play behind gender gaps within the tech industry in an internal memo criticizing the company’s diversity initiatives. While the firing was based on the biological claims, which violated Google's code of conduct, far-right media figures latched onto his argument that Google does not entertain conservative viewpoints and used it to validate a broader narrative about supposed tech censorship.

    Last week, a 10-page internal memo written by James Damore, a software engineer at Google, went viral among Google staff. The manifesto was later published in full by the technology news site Gizmodo. In it, Damore claimed that Google’s “discriminatory” biases behind its promotion of diversity in the workplace have created a “politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.” Damore also wrote that “on average, men and women biologically differ in many ways” and that those differences may create less opportunity for women to ascend the corporate ladder for positions that “often require long, stressful hours.” Diversity is not a bad thing, he argued, but Google’s benchmarks for workplace diversity “can incentivize illegal discrimination.”

    Days after the memo circulated throughout the company, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an internal memo that Damore had violated the company’s code of conduct by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” and that “to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.” Business Insider later confirmed that Damore had been fired from Google for penning the memo.

    Following the news of Damore’s firing, members of the right-wing alternative-media ecosystem leveraged their distribution network to spread claims that Damore’s termination proved Google seeks to suppress conservative viewpoints within its company, even though the controversy around Damore’s comments spurred form his arguments about biological superiority and not his conservative views:

    Right-wing vlogger Stefan Molyneux:

    Infowars Editor-at-Large Paul Joseph Watson:

    Far-right internet troll Jack Posobiec:

    Far-right media personality Mike Cernovich:

    "Alt-right" blogger Ashley Rae:

    Alternative right-wing media outrage also inspired posts on many high-traffic fringe political blogs. Big League Politics blogger Cassandra Fairbanks wrote, “Instead of arguing using facts, logic, or reason, many women within the Google team immediately took to social media to scream about the ‘sexism.’” At the end of the article, Fairbanks asked, “When will the left learn that feelings will never outweigh facts?” Jim Hoft, owner of The Gateway Pundit and possibly the dumbest man on the internet, penned an article about Damore’s firing with the headline “Truth Is A Hate Crime.”

    A Twitter account associated with 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board (commonly referred to as “/pol/”), posted an image of a predominantly female group it claims is part of “Google’s censorship team” and claimed it “explained so much.” Media Matters is not linking to this post to protect the identity of those pictured.

    In addition to lashing out at Google, Posobiec took to Periscope and encouraged his fan base to tweet the hashtag “#GoogleManifesto,” which briefly became a trending topic on Twitter. Conservative firebrand Chuck Johnson’s right-wing crowdfunding site WeSearchr launched a fundraising page to pool money to help Damore “get back on his feet and see if he can fight Google.” WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange even offered Damore a job at his website; Assange has previously accused Google of colluding with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department to control the distribution of information related to foreign affairs.

    Members of this media ecosystem have found a hero in Damore because they can spin his termination from Google to validate one of their key talking points: that tech companies are actively suppressing conservative voices on their platforms and censoring opinions that contradict a liberal worldview. Conservative columnist Kurt Schlichter called for an antitrust investigation into Google:

    The Verge reported that Damore’s firing does not represent the first time discussions about diversity in the tech industry have served as fodder for right-wing online communities, citing outrage over Pax Dickinson’s ouster from Business Insider after a string of anti-feminist and racist tweets. It’s also worth noting that many personalities who populate the right-wing alternative-media ecosystem (such as Milo Yiannopoulos) first gained prominence in 2014 during another major tech industry controversy called “Gamergate.” Similar to the Google manifesto, the Gamergate online movement found energy when it criticized diversity efforts in the video game industry; it also spurred attacks on a female game developer’s sex life that resulted in death threats.

    The Google manifesto and reaction provide another example of the lengths to which members of this media ecosystem will go to manufacture validation for their fringe worldview and smear its critics.