After news outlets published disturbing images of migrant children suffering the effects of tear gas fired by the U.S. Border Patrol at the Mexican border, an effort has emerged in far-right media circles to defend the indefensible by calling the photographs “staged.”
Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at a group of roughly 500 migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border near the San Ysidro Port of Entry on November 25. CNN reported that “video of the scene showed a cloud of tear gas that sent people running and screaming, including families with young children.” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen attempted to justify Border Patrol’s actions by claiming that some migrants “attempted to breach legacy fence infrastructure along the border and sought to harm CBP personnel by throwing projectiles at them.”
Some members of far-right media quickly responded to the incident by questioning the veracity of photographs showing children fleeing the tear gas.
Disreputable website The Gateway Pundit published an article claiming that “the illegal alien mother ‘fleeing’ from the border wall was all a lie. It was a setup.” Calling the photograph a “hoax,” the article bizarrely argued that the border incident was a “photo-op” because the pictures show other people not running and some with cameras in the background.
Gateway Pundit owner Jim Hoft promoted the article, which was authored by his brother Joe, on Twitter:
— Jim Hoft (@gatewaypundit) November 26, 2018
Chuck Holton, a correspondent for the National Rifle Association’s NRATV operation, claimed that the photo was “staged” in a general sense “by people who helped this woman and her kids travel 1500 miles, by a media who encouraged her dangerous trek, by leftist orgs who assisted, facilitated and goaded her to take her children to a violent mob riot.”
This photo was staged - not in the moment, but over time by people who helped this woman and her kids travel 1500 miles, by a media who encouraged her dangerous trek, by leftist orgs who assisted, facilitated and goaded her to take her children to a violent mob riot. pic.twitter.com/7ySOw1cOd2
— Chuck Holton (@rangerholton) November 26, 2018
Holton, who has a lengthy history of promoting white nationalism and making racist comments, had repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory that philanthropist George Soros was behind the migrant caravan -- a remarkably similar theory to the one that inspired a gunman to carry out last month’s massacre at a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue.
Holton’s NRATV colleague Grant Stinchfield claimed during a November 26 NRATV broadcast that the image is “propaganda at its best” and that “this whole thing was a set up job and the media complied.”
The claim that the photographs from the tear gas incident were staged is also gaining traction on the far-right cesspool 4chan:
On October 28, far-right Brazilian Congress member Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil. Bolsonaro has repeatedly embraced authoritarianism, and he has a history of espousing misogynistic, racist, anti-LGBTQ, and other extremist rhetoric. Right-wing media are celebrating his victory and high poll numbers by cheering on his proposed policies and highlighting the similarities between Bolsonaro and President Donald Trump:
Bolsonaro’s rise followed years of anti-democratic statements from him that can only be read as fascist. An October 28 article in The New York Times compiled some of the Brazilian president-elect’s most extreme comments. When asked in a 1999 interview whether he would shut down Brazil’s Congress, Bolsonaro replied:
There is no doubt. I would perform a coup on the same day. [Congress] doesn’t work. And I am sure that at least 90 percent of the population would celebrate and applaud because it doesn’t work. The Congress today is useless … lets do the coup already. Let’s go straight to the dictatorship.
He also appeared to advocate for a violent “civil war” to “do the job that the military regime didn’t do: killing 30,000.” Bolsonaro has repeatedly advocated for torture and threatened earlier this month to jail his political opponents after taking office.
The Times also reported that Bolsarano once told a fellow lawmaker that he “would not rape [her] because you [she is] not worthy of it.” He has stated that he would not hire women equally, and he referred to having a daughter as a “weakness.” In 2011, he claimed he would “rather his son die in a car accident than be gay,” and two years later he claimed that he would “rather have a son who is an addict than a son who is gay.” Just last year, Bolsonaro implied that Afro-Brazilians are lazy, claiming, “They don’t do anything. They are not even good for procreation.” Bolsonaro has promised to roll back policies meant to protect the environment, and, according to the Times, he claimed the “Amazon is like a child with chickenpox, every dot you see is an indigenous reservation.”
Pro-Trump media figures smear Sinema, a Senate candidate, as “an actual Islamic terrorist”
The Republican Party and pro-Trump media figures are smearing Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) as either a terrorist supporter or “an actual Islamic terrorist” over two 2003 events at Arizona State University she promoted that featured controversial criminal defense attorney Lynne Stewart. Stewart, who represented terror group leader Omar Abdel Rahman, known as “the blind sheikh,” was convicted two years after these events for conspiracy to provide material support of terrorism.
Following publication of an October 10 FoxNews.com article headlined “Senate Dem hopeful Kyrsten Sinema promoted events featuring convicted terror lawyer,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) quickly issued a press release smearing Sinema for supposedly having “promoted terrorists.” (The FoxNews.com headline itself is misleading as the article notes that, at the time, Stewart had been charged but not yet convicted.) The NRSC press release inaccurately stated that Sinema was “sympathizing with convicted terrorists.” It also claimed that she “fervently defended the attorney who was convicted of providing material support to a terrorist organization, and promoted her on campus, saying she was ‘emphatically not guilty’ and blamed the ‘hastily enacted PATRIOT Act’ for her conviction.” The quotes are from 2003, before Stewart was convicted. Stewart died in 2017, but her conviction remains controversial in legal circles.
NRSC communications staffer Calvin Moore leaped beyond this smear in a tweet claiming Sinema has “ties to the mastermind behind the first World Trade Center bombing,” which is patently absurd and false.
Two far-right media personalities helped push the Republican smear about Sinema. Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft falsely declared in an October 11 blog post that “Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is a terrorist supporter.” Hoft pulled this description from Mike Cernovich, who at first tweeted that Sinema “worked with an actual Islamic terrorist,” then descended further into absurdity by eventually calling Sinema “an actual Islamic terrorist” and saying she’s “an actual terrorist supporter, a literal f-cking terrorist.”
OK we live in heated times.
And rhetoric often doesn't match reality.
Arizona Democratic Senate Candidate @kyrstensinema worked with an actual Islamic terrorist.
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) October 11, 2018
Arizona Democrats are running an actual Islamic terrorist for Senate.
How the f-ck did this happen!https://t.co/88QhELVcby
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) October 11, 2018
This is absolutely terrifying.
Half of Arizona is supporting an actual terrorist supporter, a literal f-cking terrorist.https://t.co/88QhELVcby
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) October 11, 2018
Hoft is no stranger to inviting people under indictment to speak. Former national security adviser Mike Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, recently spoke and received an award at an event sponsored by Hoft’s Gateway Pundit. His website also has a history of supporting controversial speakers who are invited to college campuses. For his part, Cernovich is accustomed to drawing opposition to his controversial campus appearances, and he has even accompanied a neo-Nazi to a campus rally. Yet they are nevertheless suggesting that by inviting people to a campus event to hear from a defense attorney, Sinema is either supporting terrorists or acting as one herself.
Conservative media personalities are attacking Christine Blasey Ford following President Donald Trump’s attack on her at a political rally. Ford testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.
Trump inspired a second wave of attacks from conservatives by mocking her public account of high school sexual assault at his October 2 political rally in Mississippi, as The Washington Post reported:
President Trump mocked the account of a woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of assault and told a Mississippi crowd that the #MeToo movement was unfairly hurting men.
Trump, in a riff that has been dreaded by White House and Senate aides, attacked the story of Christine Blasey Ford at length — drawing laughs from the crowd. The remarks were his strongest attacks yet of her testimony.
“ ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ ‘Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it?’ ‘I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember,’ ” Trump said of Ford, as he impersonated her on stage.
“I don’t remember,” he said repeatedly, apparently mocking her testimony.
While three Republican senators criticized Trump’s denigration of Ford, other conservatives responded by defending Trump’s attack on her and doubling down with their own.
Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: “BOOM! President Trump Mocks Christine Ford's Flimsy Accusations at Mississippi Rally - CROWD ROARS!”
MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt: Ford’s “story is crumbling, and the president just broke the glass last night. He was not mocking her. He was attacking the credibility of her testimony.”
Other right-wing media figures accused Ford of repeatedly lying in her testimony, drawing on a letter from an ex-boyfriend that said, among other things, that she helped a friend prepare for a polygraph test -- a claim that was soon countered by the friend in question.
Hoft: “SHE’S A FRAUD: Dr. Ford Lied About Flying, Tight Spaces, Closed Quarters, Polygraph Tests.”
Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson: “Dr. Ford lied. Kavanaugh’s reputation died. All intentional to ruin a good man.”
Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe: “You look at ... what looks like blatant lies” Ford “has told people about flying. … There’s been so many inconsistencies, so many lies.”
And Hoft, along with others, have stated that Ford should be criminally investigated or even locked in prison.
Fox News guest Joe diGenova: Ford “should be investigated and if necessary charged with the crime of submitting a false statement to the Senate.”
Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens: “I would like to be among the first to say that I want Christine Blasey Ford to serve time in PRISON.”
Hoft, citing Owens: “Is It About Time to Lock Up Christine Ford in a Prison Cell With Two Front Doors?”
Ford has done work for a drug intended to combat Cushing's syndrome
Far-right websites The Gateway Pundit and Natural News attempted to discredit Christine Blasey Ford by claiming her report that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her was politically motivated because of Ford’s previous work for a pharmaceutical company that manufactures a so-called “abortion pill.” In reality, the pill that the company makes is not approved for that use and cannot be prescribed for people who are pregnant.
On September 20, Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft published a blog post attacking Ford, claiming that Ford was “affiliated with Corcept Therapeutics (2006 – 2011)” and citing “her new Wikipedia page” as evidence. Corcept Therapeutics, Hoft said, “has only one product: Korlym (mifepristone),” which he characterized as “the ‘abortion pill.'” In addition to working for a company that produced this pill, Hoft argued that Ford had also “participated in 8 published studies, which researched uses for the ‘abortion pill’ or mifepristone. In five of these studies, Professor Ford is listed as affiliated with Corcept Therapeutics.” Based on this, Hoft implied that Ford’s decision to share her story was politically motivated, writing, “Liberals and feminists are very worried that Judge Brett Kavanaugh may participate in reversing Roe v. Wade. Christine Blasey wants to stop Kavanaugh from reaching the country’s highest court.”
This false claim was then picked up by another fake news purveyor, Natural News, run by Mike Adams, a far-right blogger who also created a site to smear Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg as a so-called crisis actor and member of the “Hitler Youth.” Adams made an even less compelling case for Ford’s supposed motivations, writing, “Christine Blasey clearly fabricated the false allegations against Kavanaugh in order to protect her own income and profits coming from an abortion pill drug company whose future may be impacted by Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the court.”
A September 17 San Francisco Chronicle article about Ford noted, “According to her faculty biography in a course catalog, she worked as director of biostatistics for Corcept Therapeutics in Menlo Park.” Corcept Therapeutics does manufacture Korlym, also known as mifepristone, but the company’s website notes that the drug is intended “to control hyperglycemia associated with Cushing's syndrome, a rare, debilitating endocrine disorder.” Hoft and Adams both acknowledged that this is the medication’s intended use.
However, Hoft argued without evidence that Korlym “is widely available online as an ‘abortion pill’ or ‘Emergency Contraceptive and Abortifacient.’” Adams wrote, also without proof, that “it is well known throughout the medical industry that doctors routinely prescribe this drug to terminate unwanted pregnancies. It is a covert ‘abortion drug,’ in other words.”
Corcept’s website includes an explicit warning not to prescribe the medication if someone is pregnant:
Pregnancy must therefore be excluded before the initiation of treatment with Korlym and prevented during treatment and for one month after stopping treatment by the use of a non-hormonal medically acceptable method of contraception unless the patient has had a surgical sterilization, in which case no additional contraception is needed. Pregnancy must also be excluded if treatment is interrupted for more than 14 days in females of reproductive potential.
Adams said this disclaimer only serves as “a wink, wink message to doctors that this is actually an abortion pill,” enabling them to secretly prescribe Korlym to patients seeking an abortion. How exactly this would work -- given the litany of restrictions on abortion access and even some limits on what doctors are allowed to tell patients about various procedure -- is unclear.
In April 2018, The Washington Post described how a pill used in medication abortions, Mifeprex, is priced and prescribed differently than Korlym, the pill made for Cushing’s syndrome:
The difference in price between Korlym and Mifeprex is striking, even though the ingredients are the same: One 200-milligram pill to prompt an abortion costs about $80. In contrast, a 300-milligram pill prescribed for Cushing’s runs about $550 before discounts. (Patients wanting an abortion take only one pill. People with Cushing’s often take up to three pills a day for months or years.)
Even if people were secretly purchasing Korlym to perform abortions, Ford’s role as “director of biostatistics” would still be irrelevant. Studies that she co-wrote for Corcept have no apparent connection to abortion, with titles such as “Mifepristone treatment of olanzapine-induced weight gain in healthy men” and “Selective glucocorticoid receptor (type II) antagonists prevent weight gain caused by olanzapine in rats.”
Despite the total lack of evidence supporting Adams’ characterization of Ford's report, the right-wing outlet One America News Network repeated his smear during a September 21 segment, including footage of Adams himself explaining his allegations. Prominent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones also cited Adams’ post to attack Ford, saying that Ford was not only a “huge lobbyist” for the pill in question, but that she “pushes for it, she’s written a whole bunch of papers trying to get it approved, she’s on the payroll of it.” He wildly concluded that Ford’s account was actually an attempt to push “population reduction” through abortion. This was far from Jones’ only attack on Ford: Previously, Jones falsely claimed that her high school yearbooks undermined her account, saying that her attire in some of the photos made her a “hussy” and “captain of the sluts.”
Anti-abortion group Operation Rescue -- which has not been shy to attack Ford or voice support for Kavanaugh -- also shared a link to a truly bizarre blog post calling her an "Abortion Pimp” because of her work with Corcept.
Right-wing and far-right media have relentlessly attacked and harassed Ford since she went public with her account. This latest smear about Ford’s promotion of a so-called “abortion pill” looks like more of the same.
Josh Cornett's Twitter feed is full of fake stories
A pro-President Donald Trump troll with a large Twitter following who has repeatedly tweeted fake “breaking” news stories smearing public figures has now tried to smear professor Christine Blasey Ford, who said Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. Some of the account’s false stories, including the tweet about Ford, have gone viral and spread throughout right-wing media.
On September 18, Josh Cornett tweeted: “BREAKING: According to sources Diane Feinstein's reluctance to mention the Kavanaugh accuser's letter during confirmation session is because the accuser sent a similiar (sic) letter directed at Judge Gorsuch last year. The whereabouts of the earlier letter remain a mystery.developing.”
The smear received thousands of retweets and likes, was pushed by Jim Hoft of far-right conspiracy blog The Gateway Pundit; Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson; former Infowars reporter Joe Biggs; columnist Matt Barber, a former attorney for the extreme anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel; and former professional boxer-turned-lawyer Joey Gilbert. It was also shared on multiple subreddits. Radio host Rush Limbaugh also shared it on the air, saying it came from a “Twitter thread” and that he had "no idea of the veracity.”
The smear was also shared by hosts on Texas talk radio station WBAP-AM, Pennsylvania’s WILK-AM, and Florida’s WFTL-AM. Cornett later tweeted that the claim was “forwarded” to him and he had “no idea” if it was true.
Cornett has described himself to the conservative American Thinker as “an average hard working American” in his 30s, and his Twitter profile says he is “proudly blocked” by Fox News hosts Dana Perino, Bret Baier, Greg Gutfeld, and others. In 2017, The New York Times noted that Cornett, a “37-year-old Trump supporter in Cleveland,” urged his followers to boycott Nordstrom after the department store decided it would not sell the fashion line of the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump. The paper quoted Cornett as saying, “Anything that helps [Trump], I try to promote,” and that whenever Trump gets attacked, "I try to defend.”
Cornett has followed through on that promise, using his Twitter account to support the president by smearing people he sees as Trump’s enemies and making up fake stories about them -- usually by tweeting without any evidence that he has “BREAKING” stories which are “developing.” Here are some of his fake stories that have gained traction:
In May, when ABC canceled pro-Trump comedian Roseanne Barr’s show after Barr made racist remarks, Cornett tweeted: “BREAKING: According to sources ABC President Channing Dungey had a long conversation via phone with former First Lady Michelle Obama before deciding to cancel the Roseanne show. Michelle Obama was reportedly enraged and insisted an apology was inadequate......developing.” Barr retweeted the post and asked Cornett, “Is this true?” Fox News mentioned the tweet in a story, calling Cornett a “right-wing activist.” YourNewsWire, one of the most popular fake news purveyors in the United States, pushed Cornett’s tweet in an article, and Cornett later tweeted the article to Barr as supposed proof of his claim. Cornett subsequently told American Thinker that he could not reveal his source, “but I stand by it and put my name on it.”
Earlier that month, Cornett tweeted without evidence: “BREAKING: Sources are confirming that former President Barack Obama has called Jay-Z several times over the past month pleading with Jay-Z to discourage fellow Hip Hop artists from meeting with President Trump.....developing.” The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. liked the tweet, and conspiracy theory outlet Infowars and The Drudge Report picked it up. Several radio hosts also shared it on air, including Boston radio host Jeff Kuhner, Tennessee host Dan Mandis, and a host on an Ohio talk station. The blog Gossip Cop fact-checked the story, reporting, “A source close to Jay-Z tells Gossip Cop on the condition of anonymity that Obama never asked him to tell other hip-hop artists not to support or meet with Trump.”
In June, Cornett also tweeted without evidence: “BREAKING: Senator Schumer has instructed fellow Democrats not to pass any legislation that could possibly help the children at the border, stating that ‘It will help voter turnout in the midterms’ and that CNN had agreed to help the Democrats with the storyline’... Developing.” The fake quote spread on social media, with some also adding MSNBC to the fake story, and multiple Facebook pages sharing a meme with Cornett’s false claim.
In July, after Fox News host Jeanine Pirro went on ABC’s The View, Cornett tweeted, “BREAKING: According to sources at ABC, after the taping of #TheView Thursday Whoopi Goldberg made the racist comment ‘I won't sit there and be lectured by Trump's Sand Nig*er’ the comment was made to Co-host Ana Navarro and overheard by several staff members......developing.” While ABC’s publicity director said the tweet “absolutely is false,” the hoax spread on social media. Some major followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory picked it up, a radio host pushed it on air, and a petition was launched calling for Goldberg’s firing.
In August, Cornett tweeted without evidence: “BREAKING: Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have been briefing Governor Andrew Cuomo on a near daily basis about the investigation into the Trump Organization. Governor Cuomo has then been illegally feeding the info to his brother Chris Cuomo and CNN..developing.” That, too, was shared as a screenshot on social media.
In addition to his numerous other baseless claims, Cornett has also tweeted fake claims to exploit the murder of Mollie Tibbetts (who was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant), smear football player Colin Kaepernick, and declare CNN was ordered by its president to ignore violence in Chicago (which was also picked up by YourNewsWire). So far, Twitter has taken no action as Cornett continues to tweet these fake stories.
“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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
CRTV's Mark Levin on Ford's accusation: "This whole thing to me sounds like a sham and a setup. ... This is an entire political scam and sham as far as I'm concerned."
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.
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.
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."
Alex Kaplan and Natalie Martinez contributed research to this post.
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.
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:
Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2018
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!”
— 🇺🇸MFLYNNJR🇺🇸 (@mflynnJR) May 31, 2018
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
DNC analysis showed Trump did 11% better with women voters then other Repubs and it helped him win. That’s why they are pushing Stormy Daniels so hard (and Rob Porter) they want to hurt him with women. Media now in collusion with DNC to influence the next election.
— MARK SIMONE (@MarkSimoneNY) March 11, 2018
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.
BUSTED: Stormy Daniels' Polygraph test was FAKE! She doesn't have finger cuffs to measure her galvanic skin response. Also, the blood-pressure cuff on her arm should be on her upper arm.
This test WAS NOT compliant with the American Polygraph Association and was RIGGED!!! pic.twitter.com/bcJMY9NOTX
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) March 22, 2018
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]
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.
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