Katrina Pierson | Media Matters for America

Katrina Pierson

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  • Conservative media rally around Kavanaugh amid second allegation of sexual misconduct

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative media figures reacted to a New Yorker story that a second woman reported Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for sexual misconduct by digging in on their support for him and demanding that Republicans hurry up and confirm him.

    The New Yorker reported on Sunday evening that Deborah Ramirez, who attended Yale University with Kavanaugh, said that according to her recollection, “Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away”:

    Ramirez said that, when both she and Kavanaugh were freshmen at Yale, she was invited by a friend on the women’s soccer team to a dorm-room party. She recalled that the party took place in a suite at Lawrance Hall, in the part of Yale known as Old Campus, and that a small group of students decided to play a drinking game together. “We were sitting in a circle,” she said. “People would pick who drank.” Ramirez was chosen repeatedly, she said, and quickly became inebriated. At one point, she said, a male student pointed a gag plastic penis in her direction. Later, she said, she was on the floor, foggy and slurring her words, as that male student and another stood nearby. (Ramirez identified the two male onlookers, but, at her request, The New Yorker is not naming them.)

    A third male student then exposed himself to her. “I remember a penis being in front of my face,” she said. “I knew that’s not what I wanted, even in that state of mind.” She recalled remarking, “That’s not a real penis,” and the other students laughing at her confusion and taunting her, one encouraging her to “kiss it.” She said that she pushed the person away, touching it in the process. Ramirez, who was raised a devout Catholic, in Connecticut, said that she was shaken. “I wasn’t going to touch a penis until I was married,” she said. “I was embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated.” She remembers Kavanaugh standing to her right and laughing, pulling up his pants. “Brett was laughing,” she said. “I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants.” She recalled another male student shouting about the incident. “Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’ ” she said. “It was his full name. I don’t think it was just ‘Brett.’ And I remember hearing and being mortified that this was out there.”

    Ramirez acknowledged that there are significant gaps in her memories of the evening, and that, if she ever presents her story to the F.B.I. or members of the Senate, she will inevitably be pressed on her motivation for coming forward after so many years, and questioned about her memory, given her drinking at the party.

    And yet, after several days of considering the matter carefully, she said, “I’m confident about the pants coming up, and I’m confident about Brett being there.” Ramirez said that what has stayed with her most forcefully is the memory of laughter at her expense from Kavanaugh and the other students. “It was kind of a joke,” she recalled. “And now it’s clear to me it wasn’t a joke.”

    Another classmate told The New Yorker that he heard about the incident at the time and that he was told Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself to Ramirez.

    The new reporting follows a week of right-wing media attacks on Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were in high school. Ford has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this coming Thursday, but after this new allegation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has called for that hearing to be delayed.

    At least one right-wing pundit, Ann Coulter, became unhinged on Twitter following the publication of Ramirez’s story:

    Other conservatives called Ramirez’s accusation fake, criticized the timing of her going public, demanded Republicans stand by Kavanaugh anyway, and painted Kavanaugh as the true victim of these alleged sexual assaults.

    Conservatives allege Ramirez’s account is part of a Democratic conspiracy

    Fox & Friends co-host Anna Kooiman: “Is this a drip, drip, drip … by the Democrats trying to delay everything until the midterm elections and really fire up their base saying Republicans are bullies?”

    Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson: “It seems more and more likely that the Blasey Ford delays were not to let her drive across country, but were to allow the Ramirez hit to get out. This is all coordinated and none of it is credible.”

    Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel: “The left made a mistake with this Ramirez story. … It strongly suggests the Ford delay demands were about cooking this up. Destroys credibility all around.”

    Fox Business anchor Dagen McDowell: “I think that this -- the timing is suspect and people have [a] right to question this second accuser coming forward.”

    Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “Democrats were stalling last week to give themselves more of an opportunity to conjure up another accuser against Brett Kavanaugh,” and “they whipped together another accusation.”

    Conservatives use latest accusation to demand Republican senators stand by Kavanaugh

    Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk: “Senate Republicans: DO NOT CAVE! If you were up for this nomination I bet many of you would have plenty of these fake accusations come up. Stand by our guy. Do not waver.”

    NRATV’s Dan Bongino: “Hill Democrats are consumed by raw hatred. Their capacity for evil knows no limits anymore. Correspondingly, the Hill Republicans shamefully showed weakness & cowed to their demands. … Hill Republicans let us down again.”

    The Rebel’s Amanda Head: If Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Republicans “don’t fight these allegations and #ConfirmKavanaghNow we will lose midterms, we will lose 2020, and what’s worse, we will lose any chance at seeing a conservative majority SCOTUS in our lifetime.”

    Federalist co-founder Sean Davis: “Senate Republicans have a simple choice: stand up to a coordinated Democrat smear campaign and confirm Kavanaugh, which will energize GOP voters and preserve House/Senate majorities, or buckle under Democrat lies and give up congressional GOP majorities for a decade or more.”

    CRTV’s Michelle Malkin: If Senate Republicans “refuse to man up & stop coordinated Dem smear campaign once & for all, the consequences reach far beyond the electoral landscape.”

    Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson: “#ConfirmBrettKavanaughNow.”

    One America News Network host Jack Posobiec: “Raise your hand if you think the GOP should stop playing games and hold the Kavanaugh vote Monday.”

    Conservatives complain Kavanaugh is the real victim here, not Ford or Ramirez

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: Accusations against Kavanaugh are “a left-wing cabal, a left-wing conspiracy all coming together, swarming together.”

    Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum: “‘Sickening’ was the word I heard most often this weekend to describe what is happening. Innocent until proven guilty is how we do this in America.”

    Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe: “What is happening to #JudgeKavanaugh is wrong and terrifying.”

    Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly: “Republicans are becoming terrified of the Kavanaugh situation because they know the media will embrace every lurid accusation without scrutiny, and no one will be held accountable for ignoring due process.”

    Independent Women Forum’s Julie Gunlock: “What Ms. Ramirez and her enablers have done is odious. She’s destroying the life of a good man based on her own hazy memory of an event that happened decades ago when she was admittedly drunk.”

    Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk: “These are POLITICAL HIT JOBS against a sterling person.”

    American Conservative Union’s Matt Schlapp: “This Kavanaugh confirmation has transformed into a disgrace. How is it when Dems win their SC noms get an easy time, but ours get mauled.”

    Daily Caller’s Amber Athey: “I have no words for how sickened I am by how the left and the establishment media are weaponizing non-credible sexual assault claims to destroy a human being.”

  • Trump and GOP influencers escalate the debunked claim that social media is censoring conservatives

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (8:15 p.m.): In an interview with Reuters, President Trump said “I won’t mention names but when they take certain people off of Twitter or Facebook and they’re making that decision, that is really a dangerous thing because that could be you tomorrow."

    The conspiracy theory that social media companies are censoring conservatives got a boost this weekend when President Donald Trump took to Twitter to complain.

    Trump is just whining about social media censorship (on social media) to push for more favorable conditions on the platforms. As I’ve written before, realistically,  the Trump campaign isn’t going to abandon social media. It needs the platforms to reach voters via targeted advertising. The Trump campaign spent millions on digital ads in 2016, and it will do the same in 2020. But it can badger the platforms in hopes of getting more attention from sales staff and potentially discounted ad buys. The platforms, which stand to make millions from Trump and GOP ad buys in 2018 and 2020, are going to feel the pressure to keep the campaign -- and the GOP overall -- happy.

    Trump wasn’t the only GOP figure whining about censorship this weekend. GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed that Twitter was censoring Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s tweets and called on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to “explain to Congress what’s going on.” What’s going on is that McCarthy doesn’t know how Twitter settings work. McCarthy could see Ingraham’s tweet by checking this box in his profile’s Twitter settings.

    Other users pointed this out to him, but as of this writing, the tweet is still live.

    Trump campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson, who has ties to a pro-Trump fake news site, also tweeted about social media censorship and quoted Jim Hoft, founder of the far-right conspiracy site The Gateway Pundit.

    Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale retweeted Pierson.

    Fox News is also all-in on the debunked narrative. Turning Point USA spokesperson Candace Owens showed up on the network multiple times over the weekend to talk about the matter. Fox & Friends spent the weekend portraying conservatives as victims of social media.

    This morning was no different. Fox & Friends dedicated two segments to alleged social media censorship of conservatives. Mornings with Maria on Fox Business also discussed Trump’s social media rant.

    Here’s the problem. The claim of social media censoring conservatives has been pretty thoroughly debunked. Back in May 2016, a report claimed that conservative outlets and stories were “blacklisted” from Facebook’s Trending Topics section. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with conservatives, including a representative from Trump's 2016 campaign. And a subsequent internal investigation revealed “no evidence of systematic political bias” in the Trending Topics section. When the GOP started clamouring about censorship in April of this year -- after right-wing social media personalities Diamond and Silk falsely claimed their content was being censored on Facebook -- they offered no credible evidence. In fact, a report from the social media analytics firm NewsWhip found the opposite: “There are more than three times as many conservative publishers than liberal publishers on Facebook, and they receive more than 2.5 times the engagement on the social media platform than those who push opposing viewpoints,” the report claimed. Media Matters recently released a study of six months’ worth of data conclusively debunking this claim for Facebook pages. It found that right-wing Facebook pages are thriving.

    Trump’s tweets came just days after conspiracy theorist Alex Jones begged him for help on air. Other outlets have noted that Trump’s tweets could be interpreted as a defense of Jones, who has been banned from multiple platforms.

    Meanwhile, Republicans continue to harp on the conservative censorship conspiracy theory as a way to rally their base. Trump’s tweets this weekend are part of that overall strategy. But if Trump and the GOP are going to continue crying wolf, reporters should start asking if they’re talking about conservatives or Alex Jones and his ilk of hatemongers and conspiracy theorists. If the GOP wants to stand up for Jones’ right to harass the Sandy Hook families and spread hate, the party should feel comfortable naming him as the cause for complaint.

  • Pro-Trump site with link to Katrina Pierson shared content from Russia's IRA -- and IRA accounts shared its content too

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In 2017, Twitter accounts run by the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) repeatedly spread content that originated on TruthFeed, a pro-Trump site that has pushed fake news and has a major Facebook presence. TruthFeed also shared IRA content for its own purposes. Meanwhile, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, Katrina Pierson, has connections to TruthFeed -- more than previously reported.

    English-language IRA accounts did not just spread TruthFeed content, they relied on it. On August 15, Bloomberg’s Ben Elgin reported that between July and October 2017, publically known IRA Twitter accounts repeatedly shared content from a site (likely also run by the IRA) that copied stories from TruthFeed. By that October, content originating from TruthFeed “accounted for about 95 percent of the accounts’ English-language activity,” according to the article. A Clemson University communications professor told Bloomberg, “For a period of time, Truthfeed was central to their entire effort.” On August 10, BuzzFeed reported that IRA accounts shared content originating from TruthFeed to help fan the flames during last year's far-right gathering in Charlottesville, VA.

    The relationship between the IRA and TruthFeed appears to have been mutual: During 2016 and 2017, the site regularly promoted content from IRA Twitter accounts to push numerous narratives. The site thus indirectly assisted Russia’s goal of sowing discord in the United States. That included TruthFeed sharing Russian account @TEN_GOP’s tweets to rebut claims of collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign and to hype claims of voter fraud in Broward County, FL, before the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller directly cited the tweet about Broward County in his February indictment of several IRA employees. TruthFeed also embedded content from IRA accounts in an effort to:

    • laud Trump’s campaign rallies (citing @TEN_GOP);

    • claim Muslims in Minnesota wanted “sharia law” (citing Russian account @Pamela_Moore13);

    • call for a boycott of Starbucks because the chain pledged to hire refugees (citing @Pamela_Moore13);

    • claim Trump “was right” and that “Islamic refugees riot[ed] in Paris” (citing @TEN_GOP);

    • attack CNN as “fake news” and claim MSNBC was pushing “propaganda” (citing @TEN_GOP);

    • promote calls for Fox News host Shepard Smith to be fired (citing @Pamela_Moore13);

    • attack former FBI Director James Comey (citing @TEN_GOP and @Pamela_Moore13);

    • defend Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria (citing Russian account @10_GOP); 

    • claim former national security adviser Susan Rice “committed 3 felonies for [former President Barack] Obama” (citing @Pamela_Moore13); and

    • provide “proof” that “Poland loves” Trump (citing Russian account @USA_Gunslinger).

    Even after many of the IRA accounts were discovered and Twitter and Facebook took them down, TruthFeed continued to push their content: In April, the site’s designated Facebook page shared a meme from the Russian Facebook page “Being Patriotic.”

    TruthFeed has frequently shared fake news: The site pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, pushed a fake story that the Sutherland Springs, TX, mass shooter was a member of antifa, and claimed that the Parkland, FL, mass shooting survivors were being “coached.” The site also has links to extremists: Bloomberg's Elgin noted in November 2017 that Amy Moreno, TruthFeed’s main writer, has supported far-right and white nationalist figures.

    Elgin’s initial TruthFeed investigation also found that the personal website of Katrina Pierson, who was a national Trump 2016 campaign spokesperson, shared a web hosting company, IP address, and MailChimp account with TruthFeed. Pierson’s attorney sent a letter to Bloomberg claiming Pierson “has no affiliation or connection with Truthfeed, save that her website formerly shared the same web platform.”

    Yet there is evidence suggesting that there are more links between Pierson and TruthFeed than her attorney acknowledged: TruthFeed’s Facebook page and another page with more than 1.8 million followers, USA Patriots for Donald Trump, have repeatedly shared content from Pierson’s site and Facebook page, often with the same text at the same time (with TruthFeed’s page sometimes directly sharing posts from USA Patriots for Donald Trump), suggesting they are controlled by the same entity.

    USA Patriots for Donald Trump has also repeatedly linked to TruthFeed’s content, using the same language and posting at the same time as TruthFeed’s page did.

    Both pages have also repeatedly linked to a site called patriotbeat.com. That site shares two Amazon Affiliate IDs, a Google AdSense ID, and an Outbrain Template ID with TruthFeed, according to the analytic tool Trendolizer.

    USA Patriots for Donald Trump also shared the same Russian meme in April as TruthFeed’s page, posting it at the same time. And both pages tried to run Facebook advertisements with some similar wording within a day of each other (USA Patriots for Donald Trump is currently running a similarly worded Facebook advertisement). In addition, USA Patriots for Donald Trump co-runs a group called Team Trump 2020 with Moreno, the TruthFeed writer.

    These links suggest that there are further connections between Pierson and TruthFeed than what she or her attorney told Bloomberg.

  • Here Are 21 Times The White House And Media Allies Explained That The Muslim Ban Was About Muslims

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & BRENNAN SUEN

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries, confirming that Trump and his supporters’ previous public statements expressing their intent to unconstitutionally discriminate against Muslims can “be used in proceedings.” Media Matters has compiled 21 quotes from Trump, his team, his cable news surrogates, and figures on Fox News admitting that the ban’s original intent was to single out Muslims.

  • Pro-Trump Spin On Cable News Goes Off The Rails

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Following several new reports of women alleging Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them, Trump campaign surrogates’ defenses took a bizarre turn. Here’s what Trump’s surrogates and media allies had to say during news appearances in the last day, which included dismissing the realities of sexual assault and attempting to pivot to old, debunked “scandals.”

  • Trump Campaign Statement Clashes With Recent Birther Claims Made By Trump And Surrogates To The Media

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET & JARED HOLT

    Donald Trump’s campaign released a statement claiming Trump now admits President Obama was born in the United States, and “was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion” in 2011. In fact, Trump has pushed racist birther attacks on President Obama after 2011, and campaign surrogates have repeatedly defended his birtherism in the media.

  • Trump's Non-Apology Is Being Spun As His Latest Presidential Pivot

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Media again hyped a “pivot” and a “new tone” for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after he said in a speech read off of a teleprompter that he “regret[ed]” “sometimes … say[ing] the wrong thing” and using rhetoric that “may have caused personal pain.” Trump gave the speech hours after his spokesperson suggested that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton might have a language disorder caused by brain damage.