Joe Biggs | Media Matters for America

Joe Biggs

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  • A pro-Trump troll started a viral hoax about Christine Blasey Ford and Neil Gorsuch, and Rush Limbaugh ran with it

    Josh Cornett's Twitter feed is full of fake stories

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    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.

  • In the wake of mass shootings at schools, conservatives blame everything but guns

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE, SANAM MALIK & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After nearly every school shooting, right-wing media scramble to find reasons why guns should not be blamed for gun violence.

    After 10 people were killed during a mass shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, TX, pro-gun proselytizers in the conservative media sphere insisted that gun safety laws would not have prevented the shooting and instead pointed to other aspects of American culture that they said required reform. Here are some of the excuses right-wing pundits offered for the May 18 shooting:

    In February, after the school shooting in Parkland, FL, claimed 17 lives, conservative media took the very same approach:

    • Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce claimed that talking about firearms doesn’t get to the “core issue” of “the human condition.” She and the hosts of Fox & Friends also blamed drugs, virtual reality, and video games for the shooting.
    • Radio host Michael Savage tweeted that “liberal judges and the ACLU” were to blame.
    • Fox guest Lou Palumbo blamed “the media, the entertainment industry,” and “the lack of parenting.”
    • Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson blamed “Leftist-run schools” and falsely claimed that the shooter was linked to antifa.
    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham blamed “mental illness”and “broken or damaged families” for the shooting on her show.
    • The Gateway Pundit suggested that the shooter supposedly being a registered Democrat was a factor. (He was not actually a registered Democrat; the blog was forced to correct the story.)
    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter blamed the FBI’s Russia probe for the shooting, tweeting, “The FBI was too busy trying to undermine the president to bother with doing it's (sic) freaking job.”
    • The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson suggested that the shooting was related to the shooter growing up without a father.
    • Liberty One TV’s Joe Biggs (formerly of Infowars) tweeted that the FBI was “too busy chasing Trump/Russia nothing burgers” to have prevented the shooting.
    • Pamela Geller falsely claimed that the shooter was connected to antifa and Islamic terrorist groups.
    • Laura Loomer shared a fake photo of the shooter and speculated that he was a “radical leftist” with potential ties to antifa and Islamic resistance groups.
    • Infowars claimed that the “MSM” (mainstream media) was “already covering it up” that the shooter was likely a “Democratic voter” and had clothing “similar to the style worn by ISIS fighters in Syria.”

    But as others have pointed out, most of the phenomena listed above are also present in other countries that don’t experience nearly as much gun violence as the United States does.

  • Right-wing media figures are blaming everything but guns for the Parkland shooting

    ››› ››› SANAM MALIK & NATALIE MARTINEZ

    On February 14, 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Right-wing media figures rushed to blame the shooting on “leftist” public schools, the FBI and its Russia probe, and on debunked connections between the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, and antifa and Islamic terrorist groups.

  • Alex Jones ally Kelli Ward is running for Arizona senate. Hannity just endorsed her.

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN, GRACE BENNETT & DINA RADTKE

    After building good rapport with far-right media figures and pro-Trump trolls, Dr. Kelli Ward, a Republican who is running to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate, has gained the support of Fox News host Sean Hannity. Leading up to Hannity’s endorsement, Ward made wild claims about undocumented immigrants, rubbed elbows with white nationalists and racists, and smeared Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, including, at one point, blaming McCain for the creation of ISIS.

  • Right-wing media cheer Trump withdrawing United States from the Paris climate agreement

    Business leaders and experts agree decision to pull out of agreement “would harm every American” and "devastate [America’s] international credibility"

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media figures cheered President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris climate agreement, which sought to reduce international greenhouse gas emissions. But experts and business leaders condemned the decision, calling the move a “historic mistake” and “a gratuitous thumb in everyone’s eye.”

  • Pro-Trump RSBN Scales Back, Cancels Mike Cernovich Program

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The pro-Trump Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN) has parted ways with two of its hosts -- including prominent “alt-right” conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich -- and is scaling back plans to become a “24/7” news outlet, its CEO told Media Matters

    After the small media upstart found success during the 2016 campaign by providing live streams of Donald Trump’s rallies, RSBN sought to use Trump’s surprise win as a springboard to a bigger platform. Politico Magazine reported in January that RSBN had begun “quietly attempting to transform itself from a small live-stream operation into a major and diverse digital media outlet” with the goal of becoming a “24/7 news outlet of the common man.”

    But in recent months, those plans have apparently floundered. RSBN has struggled to find viewership for original streaming programs and has had to apologize for incendiary comments from its personnel.

    In January, RSBN attempted to appeal to its YouTube-centric audience by hiring YouTube prankster Joey Saladino (also known as “Joey Salads”). The move backfired, as numerous self-identified conservative Trump fans criticized the hiring on Twitter and in YouTube comments sections, specifically pointing to Saladino’s production of a hoax video purporting to show that the “black community is very violent toward” Trump supporters.

    Media Matters also documented that Saladino has a history of tweeting racist remarks, including warning that you’ll get “shot” if you “steal a niggas food stamp” and claiming that “Facebook is for old people and niggers.”

    The show had trouble getting viewers; the program’s last three episodes averaged just a couple thousand views.

    The network cut ties with Saladino after airing only six episodes of The Joey Saladino Show -- the last on February 10.

    In February, RSBN began airing the commentary and call-in show The Right Mindset with Mike Cernovich. Cernovich is a prominent “alt-right” figure who is infamous for launching online harassment campaigns, promoting rape denial, pushing conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate,” and tweeting racist and misogynistic remarks.

    Though Cernovich has friends in the Trump White House and a large social media presence, his RSBN program never took off, with no episode currently garnering more than 7,500 views on RSBN’s YouTube page. The views for Cernovich and Saladino stand in stark contrast to the millions racked up by RSBN for Trump rallies and events.

    In emails to Media Matters, RSBN CEO Joe Seales confirmed Saladino is no longer with the network and said Cernovich “is no longer doing The Right Mindset with us. Was a mutual decision pretty much as the views were not what we expected.”

    He added that there weren’t “enough views on the programs to justify the cost of producing them.”

    RSBN has had other problems with personnel. It recently issued a statement apologizing for comments by host Nick Fuentes, who said it was “time to kill the globalists” who run CNN and that he didn’t “want CNN to go out of business … I want the people that run CNN to be arrested and deported or hanged.”

    Politico magazine also noted in a January profile that RSBN had to reprimand an employee for “suggesting on Twitter that Islam is an inherently inferior religion.”

    Former Infowars reporter Joe Biggs also announced that month that he was filming a “pro 2nd Amendment show” for the network. Media Matters subsequently noted that Biggs had tweeted his approval of date rape, sexual violence, revenge porn, and punching women and transgender people. (Politico reported that the tweets “may have put his chances for full-time employment at RSBN in jeopardy.”)

    In his email to Media Matters, Seales wrote that Biggs “never worked for or with us. We worked up the idea of a pilot for a show, which included him, but it wasn't meant to be.”

    He added that RSBN is “anything but racist or sexist,” writing:

    I know you folks at Media Matters like to take shots at us, but I hope you get the facts straight. We are anything but racist or sexist here.

    Our #1 producer, Brandon Davis, is African American...and as you know, so is our host Wayne Dupree.

    Steve Lookner, our #1 reporter and host is Jewish.

    And we have Margaret Howell and Liz Willis as reporters.

    RSBN’s efforts to finance its expansion plans through online fundraising have produced fewer donations than hoped. It started a GoFundMe account in late January with a goal of $50,000 but had only raised a little over $12,500 as of posting.

    RSN also started a Patreon site in early April and promised donor perks such as appearing “monthly on an RSBN Show,” “your own personalized song created by RSBN's Jacob Seales,” and a “live on-air shoutout during a news broadcast.” As of posting, the fundraiser has raised commitments of nearly $900 per month of its $20,000 goal.

    In the wake of those setbacks, RSBN said it is scaling back its original programming and reorienting its focus to what made it popular during the Trump primary.

    “It doesn't look like we'll be going to 24 hours anytime soon,” Seales wrote. “We're going to focus more on live breaking news coverage during the day and sending out crews to cover major events (such as POTUS rally this weekend).”

  • A Look At The Incestuous Alternative-Media Echo Chamber Winning Over Online Audiences

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    On the coattails of President Donald Trump’s successful election campaign and an anti-"political correctness" wave, an alternative right-wing media echo chamber successfully reverberated itself into virtual relevance on social media, where it now reaches millions of people every day. This new-media ecosystem exists outside of traditional newspapers and cable news networks, instead taking to social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Reddit, and YouTube to promote its far-right nationalist politics and conspiracy-laden worldviews to an audience it has isolated and now dominates as its preferred news source.

    Key players in this circular far-right alt-media echo chamber, such as online troll Mike Cernovich and Infowars’ Alex Jones, have successfully crafted a false impression of credibility. They have synthesized a “new right” echo chamber from “alt-right” ideologies and orchestrated a media machine that disseminates content across multiple media platforms with extreme efficiency.

    Key voices in this ecosystem often work a redundant media circuit across allied platforms to reinforce each other’s worldviews and concepts of reality, cast doubt on mainstream media, and suggest widespread conspiracies along the way. Cernovich demonstrated this tactic as he circulated a faux scandal story that suggested Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser to former President Barack Obama, was responsible for improper unmasking of Trump officials caught in surveillance of foreign officials.

    Cernovich toured the Rice story around the alternative media sphere he occupies until it eventually broke into mainstream media. On April 2, Cernovich first tweeted the “breaking news” that Rice had ordered the unmasking. Later that day, Cernovich published his full story about the explosive allegations. On April 3, Cernovich promoted the story in a livestream broadcast to his tens of thousands of Periscope followers. The same day, “alt-right” thought leader Richard Spencer publicly slammed Cernovich in his own broadcast, granting the story a direct platform into the "alt-right" fanbase. On April 4, Cernovich took his story through the alternative media circuit, appearing on Infowars and Free Domain Radio and earning shoutouts from Stefan Molyneux, Lee Stranahan, and Donald Trump Jr. After riding the wave, Cernovich continued his self-promotion in a Reddit AMA thread and a post-story interview with Rebel Media.

    Members of the echo chamber attract and maintain a fan base by developing an abusive relationship with their audience members -- a process they label “redpilling.” They gaslight their audiences until readers and viewers feel unable to trust any media other than those particular outlets to deliver them “the truth.” As a result, these new-media companies have groomed rabid fan bases that turn to them as beacons of honesty in a media world that they believe is orchestrated to distract the public from this echo chamber’s version of “the truth.”

    Many media outlets disregard this new-media echo chamber, continuing to speak about the movement with the same blanket terms and condescension they used before the so-called “new right” distanced itself from “alt-right” leaders. But now, months later, this far-right alternative media apparatus is encroaching on its mainstream competition online. For example, Infowars recently surpassed CNN in its number of subscribers on YouTube, which marked a major milestone in far-right alternative media's encroachment on the video site’s news ecosystem.

    According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in early 2016, about half of people age 49 and under said they get their news online. And as cable news viewership declines and as Americans’ trust in news media sinks to an all-time low, alternative new-media stars have leveraged a unique opportunity to redefine right-wing media and reach mass audiences once loyal to established journalism outlets. The alternative media ecosystem has also benefited from attention from top government officials and those close to them; presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway recently elevated Cernovich on Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. pushed an Infowars conspiracy theory, and Michael Flynn Jr., the son of Trump’s former national security advisor, has promoted Infowars and conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate” sourced from the alternative media sphere.

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko

  • New Host For “Unofficial Version Of Trump TV” Encouraged Date Rape And Punching Transgender People

    Former Infowars Reporter Joe Biggs Also Threatened To Release Revenge Porn And Commented Positively About Sexual Violence And Punching Women

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN), a pro-Trump “news” network that’s expanding operations, has hired a host who has tweeted his approval of date rape, sexual violence, and punching women and transgender people. He also threatened to release revenge porn of a “bitch” who allegedly cheated on him.

    Freelance reporter Joe Biggs announced in a January 3 Facebook post that he is going to “be filming a PRO 2nd Amendment show for Right Side Broadcasting! It will cover all things 2A. From CHL [concealed handgun licenses], safety, veterans issues and hunting. Hope you will all tune In and share the content. I'm very excited and have amazing guests lined up.” The network posted a link to Biggs’ Twitter account and wrote, “great new things to come in the future... Stay tuned!”

    The Washington Post wrote in October that Right Side Broadcasting “has been the unofficial version of Trump TV since last summer, streaming the Republican nominee's campaign events in all their unedited glory online.” The Post noted that the fledgling outlet had received a “boost of legitimacy … when the billionaire's campaign teamed up with Right Side to produce pre- and post-debate analysis shows that streamed on Trump's Facebook page.”

    Following Trump’s victory, RSBN announced it would be expanding operations by becoming “a 24-hour network very soon” and participating in White House press briefings.

    Biggs previously worked as a reporter for Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory website Infowars.com. He has pushed numerous conspiracy theories, including about pizzagate, the false claim that Hillary Clinton’s campaign trafficked children through a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. During one Infowars video, Biggs claimed that Clinton has surrounded herself with “evil people” and suggested that hacked WikiLeaks emails revealed “an undercover pedophile ring” run by the Clintons.

    Biggs also claimed after the December 2015 San Bernardino, CA, shooting that “there's something fishy going on. This is one of those that has false flag written all over it without a doubt. … SWAT team was already geared up. The SWAT team was already geared up and there within seconds. They were geared up and ready within seconds. They knew that this was going to happen.”

    Biggs has repeatedly tweeted his approval of date rape and sexual violence. He tweeted to someone, “I like to reason with her (reason=chloroform) and then just drink a lot of beer and release.” He turned an American Pie joke into a pro-date rape reference by writing that “this one time at band camp i slipped a bitch roofies and convinced her my dick was a dick and not a flute.” He also tweeted, “Every girl at this bar wants to fuck me. They don't know it yet because the drugs haven't kicked in.” He addressed a “slut” by tweeting: “put my dick in your Mouth or I'll put it in your ass and lube it with tobasco.” He tweeted that his “favorite part of cuddling” is taking “nude photos of my dick all around your face #sleeptightbitch” and “your [sic] supposed to punch her in the face then cum on her tits right? Or did i twist it up.”

    Biggs summed up his idealized relationship with women when he wrote, “What Happened to the Good ole days when women just fucked your brains out and made you dinner” and “shut up bitch and blow me.” He also addressed a “bitch” who cheated on him: “Cheat on me bitch. But remember. I have many sex tapes and photos of your nasty ass In action. I might accidentally load them here.”

    Biggs has also written incendiary anti-LGBTQ tweets. He told his followers, “trannys eat kittens, and that's just not cool man. Punch a tranny save a pussy” and attacked those who disagree with him by calling them “fag.” He is also selling an “LGBT” shirt that stands for “Liberty, Guns Beer & Big Tits.”

    Here is a sampling of tweets from RSBN’s newest host:

    Sexist And Sexual Violence Tweets

    Anti-LGBTQ Tweets