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  • The White House's social media summit is just another stunt to game the refs

    The views of the summit’s guests confirm that the event is a giant excuse to push the right’s tech grievance narrative.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused tech companies and social media platforms of censorship and bias against conservatives, taking the age-old approach of “working the refs” to a new level. And on Thursday, July 11, the White House will play host to a number of right-wing figures and conservative groups at a “social media summit” featuring what White House spokesperson Judd Deere says will be “a robust conversation on the opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment.”

    Right-wing media really started amping up complaints at social media companies following the publication of a thinly-sourced 2016 Gizmodo story accusing Facebook of suppressing right-wing news. Two curators made the accusation, but others could not corroborate those claimed. Shortly thereafter, Facebook replaced its editors with an algorithm and things snowballed from there. In the past few years we've seen repeated false allegations, and numerous attempts at victimhood. At one point, Republicans even called current Fox Nation hosts Diamond and Silk to testify before Congress.

    Trump has long accused the press of having an anti-conservative bias, but it wasn’t until a July 2018 Vice story accused Twitter of “shadow banning” conservatives based on a misinterpretation of the actual term that he expanded his victimization narrative to include tech companies. Since then, he’s written well over a dozen tweets about supposed anti-conservative bias from tech platforms, and Trump said last month that companies like Google and Twitter “should be sued because what's happening with the bias.” In May, his administration launched a “Tech Bias Story Sharing Tool” that asked followers to share stories of supposed censorship (while also collecting email addresses, ZIP codes, and phone numbers of participants). Thursday’s summit is, according to Deere, a direct response to the tool.

    Trump’s social media summit is shaping up to be a stunt for right-wing commentators and memesmiths to continue working the refs by pushing the bogus “bias” narrative.

    Trump’s White House extended invitations to the summit to a number of like-minded right-wing figures and organizations, some of which have pushed the baseless tech bias narrative in statements that do not stand up to scrutiny.

    Will Chamberlain

    Human Events publisher Will Chamberlain has argued that access to social media platforms is a civil right, going so far as to compare struggles faced by conservatives who violate agreed-upon social media policies to those experienced by Black people in the 1950s United States. While Chamberlain concedes that the law doesn’t currently treat the ability to post on Twitter as a civil right, he thinks that it should. Chamberlain’s “civil right” argument fails to mention that posting hateful content that violates platforms rules isn’t an immutable characteristic like race, and it also ignores the reality that access to platforms is obstructed only after engaging in violating behaviors, something users can avoid.

    Chamberlain’s post came on the heels of Facebook’s decision to purge its platforms of the accounts of extremist figures -- the majority of them on the far-right -- due to repeated policy violations. On Twitter, where Chamberlain has an account that reaches over 48,000 followers, he’s made this argument ad nauseum.

    During an interview with Tim Pool (a YouTuber who has a soft spot for “alt-right” figures and will also be attending the summit), titled “Republicans Face EXTINCTION Unless They Stop Online Censorship, Here’s How They Can Fight Back,” Chamberlain revealed that his argument has more to do with winning elections and power than with inalienable rights:

    WILL CHAMBERLAIN: It will become untenable for conservatives to win national elections and and increasingly the conservative movement will become a regional party. The power of social media is both to both hijack the media's hive mind, and also to provide a space where conservatives can essentially lead on thought and motivate their voters to get out and vote. If the social media platforms constrain and constrict conservative speech and ban effective persuaders and influencers on the right, there's a huge boon to the left in terms of elections, so I don't see a way for Republicans to continue to win elections going forward if they let the left destroy them on social media

    Tim Pool

    Pool’s YouTube channel is peppered with videos with titles such as “Google Email LEAKED, Proves Conservative Censorship At Youtube,” “Facebook Caught LYING About Censorship, Regulation Is Coming,” and “Conservative Movie Unplanned Being Censored By Twitter?!” These videos amplify the persecution narratives pushed by conservatives, and they are often based on little more than speculation or decontextualized anecdotes. Unsurprisingly, when someone he disagrees with has their Twitter account suspended for one reason or another, Pool's response is far from consistent with his free speech crusade.

    For instance, in Pool’s video about the suspension of the account for the movie Unplanned, he amplified a conspiracy theory suggesting that Twitter was “trying really hard to restrict this information.” As it turns out, the Unplanned account had been suspended because an account that linked to it had been suspended. This was an example of one the steps Twitter has taken to crack down on “ban evasion.” As is often the case when accounts get temporarily suspended, it takes some time for the follower numbers to repopulate. In the case of Unplanned, seeing a massive dip in followers upon the account’s restoration seemed like proof of an even larger conspiracy -- even though this wasn’t the case. Throughout the video, Pool suggests that these mistakes all seem to go in a single direction -- against conservatives -- citing as an example the time Trump’s account was deleted on November 2, 2017, for 11 minutes. What Pool doesn’t note is that the man who accidentally deleted Trump’s account was reportedly an admirer of the president, not a rogue #Resistance figure.

    Pool has asserted that “Twitter, by definition, is a biased platform in favor of the left. Period.” As proof, Pool points to the fact that Twitter’s harassment policy bans the misgendering of trans people. Never mind that Twitter bans all sorts of things -- for instance, just this week, the site expanded its hateful conduct policy as it relates to dehumanizing language used against people on the basis of religion. Regardless, Pool has pushed this one specific rule as an example of Twitter being biased against conservatives.

    Charlie Kirk

    Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk has been one of the loudest proponents of the “anti-conservative bias” narrative, a talking point he was already pushing during a September 22, 2016, appearance on Fox Business. “Conservatives are targeted, blocked, and silenced on social media. The left runs social networks with a political, leftist, agenda,” he wrote in a tweet about the appearance. At the time, Kirk had fewer than 75,000 Twitter followers; as of this writing, he has more than 1.16 million followers. This would suggest that either tech’s attempts to “silence” conservatives on social media aren’t very successful or that Kirk wasn’t telling the truth (hint: it’s the latter). Since then, Kirk has continued to regularly spread easily debunked arguments and unsupported claims of censorship online.

    For instance, in a May 4 tweet, Kirk suggests a series of hypotheticals. His example, “What if an airline says you can’t fly if you talk ‘hate,’” seems to ignore that there are a number of reasons an airline may already prevent you from flying. For a long time, you used to be allowed to smoke indoors in many places, even airplanes. That’s no longer the case. Smoking on planes is now prohibited to keep other users of the service safe, which isn’t equivalent to banning those smokers who comply with the rules from flying. What’s telling here is that while Kirk opposes what he would likely consider discrimination on the basis of something someone chooses to do, like the content they decide to post, he is in favor of legalized discrimination against people for who they are -- at least when it comes to LGBTQ people.

    Kirk often posts retweet-bait designed to increase his engagement metrics while reinforcing his grievance narrative. Often, this takes the form of him saying that he receives “countless messages a day” from people who say they aren’t seeing his social media posts

    He also occasionally posts outright misinformation that suits his agenda. For instance, he was one of many conservatives to share a narrative about right-wing media being suppressed by Google. In fact, the study he cites doesn’t say anything like that.

    Carpe Donktum

    The pro-Trump meme creator known as Carpe Donktum is known almost exclusively because of his wide reach on social media, making claims that there is an inherent anti-conservative bias a bit odd. He’s cited suspensions of right-wing figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, and Laura Loomer as evidence of anti-conservative bias and censorship. Each of those accounts were removed from their respective platforms for violating rules that they agreed to. Agreeing to a set of terms, breaking the terms, and then claiming oppression when you get removed as a result isn’t anti-conservative censorship.

    He has argued that being kicked off of a social media platform for violating the rules is akin to being “unpersoned.”

    After popular pro-Trump subreddit “The_Donald” was quarantined by Reddit due to “threats of violence against police and public officials,” Donktum claimed that there were no such threats and that this was all part of a plan by “Big TECH” to interfere with U.S. elections. In reality, posts on the subreddit about GOP legislators’ potential team-up with Oregon militia groups were littered with comments like “None of this gets fixed without people picking up rifles,” “burn Portland and Eugene to the ground,” and “No problems shooting a cop trying to strip rights from Citizens.”

    Brent Bozell

    Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell has loudly championed the narrative of tech bias, and he has been rewarded handsomely for it. Bozell has made frequent claims that social media platforms discriminate against conservatives, and that’s helped buy him a place of influence not afforded to anybody on the political left. In the fallout over a thinly sourced Gizmodo article posted in early 2016 claiming that Facebook’s trending curators were somehow suppressing conservative news, Bozell managed to find a spot along with more than a dozen other conservatives in a private meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has since bent over backwards to appease conservatives, playing right into Bozell’s hands.

    In a tweet, Bozell wrote that Google’s public statements were contrary to “what they have said to us in private discussions,” seemingly oblivious to the fact that his involvement in “private discussions” with Google means that he’s part of an elite group of people with extraordinary power. This undercuts his entire argument, but it shows just how effective working the refs can be.

    When Google made slight adjustments to its YouTube search results to no longer privilege anti-abortion misinformation and gory videos as often, Bozell flipped out and misrepresented the measure taken by the platform. Bozell also chooses to ignore the fact that anti-abortion content continues to dominate social media as a whole.

    Like many others on the right, Bozell was insistent that Twitter was “shadow banning” conservatives long after a bug -- which affected people across the political spectrum -- had been fixed. This was not true, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had addressed this rumor.

    Ryan Fournier

    Students for Trump co-founder Ryan Fournier will also be appearing at the event. After a number of extremist accounts were removed from Facebook and Instagram, Fournier used the opportunity to promote Parler, a conservative social media alternative that hasn’t quite taken off due to glitches. Like others, Fournier glossed over the fact that these accounts were not removed simply for holding conservative views, but for engaging in actions that violated the terms all users agree to when signing up.

    Ali Alexander (Akbar)

    Ali Alexander (formerly known as Ali Akbar) is another right-wing media personality invited to the White House summit who is known for his large social media following and incendiary content, and he will also attend the summit. Alexander was once briefly suspended from Twitter, seemingly for urging followers to buy ammo and guns in preparation for a coming civil war.

    After Vox’s Carlos Maza (a former Media Matters employee) tweeted about his frustration over YouTube not enforcing its anti-bullying rules, Alexander called this a “queer form of censorship.”

    Despite having the ear of Twitter’s Dorsey, who follows him on the site and has said that Alexander makes “interesting points,” Alexander continues to insist that there is an anti-conservative bias at work on social media.

    James O’Keefe

    Summit attendee James O’Keefe of Project Veritas has made a number of claims regarding social media censorship that simply do not add up. Known for his sinister screw-ups and supposed exposés made up of misleading and context-deficient video clips, O’Keefe has taken aim at social media platforms in recent years.

    In January 2018, O’Keefe published a series of videos claiming to prove the existence of political bias at Twitter by secretly filming Twitter employees who spoke in a personal capacity. His videos prompted conservative allegations of “shadow-banning” that were disproved by experts. Twitter also addressed the issue and negated the claims, as reported by Gizmodo:

    “The individuals depicted in these videos were speaking in a personal capacity and do not represent or speak for Twitter,” said a Twitter spokesperson by email, pointing me to a page that explains how and why Twitter accounts are censored or made less visible. “Twitter does not shadowban accounts. We do take actions to downrank accounts that are abusive, and mark them accordingly so people can still click through and see this information if they so choose.”

    O’Keefe’s sting targeting YouTube was just as misleading as his videos on Twitter, but it succeeded in fueling right-wing claims of bias against conservatives after the platform removed the video for “privacy violations.” With the help of an “insider,” O’Keefe has also mischaracterized Pinterest’s efforts to address abortion misinformation as an attack against Christians. O’Keefe has announced he’ll use his appearance at the White House summit to share stories with Trump from tech workers that ostensibly confirm conservative grievances of bias.

  • Here are the extremist figures going to the White House social media summit

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    The Trump administration has invited multiple right-wing figures and conservative groups to a “social media summit” slated for July 11. Some of these figures have ties to white nationalists and far-right figures, and others have pushed extremism and conspiracy theories themselves, such as the “QAnon” conspiracy theory, anti-Semitic attacks on George Soros, and smears targeting multiple Democratic presidential candidates.

  • Right-wing media push false narrative that Biden called for a “physical revolution”

    A bad-faith reading, an edited video, and a lot of cognitive dissonance helped stir up a new scandal

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The conservative media sphere has worked itself up into a frothy rage over a video in which Joe Biden supposedly calls for a “physical revolution.” Spoiler: Biden did not, in fact, call for a “physical revolution.”

    On Monday, the former vice president participated in the Poor People’s Campaign’s presidential forum in Washington, D.C. During a Q&A session, MSNBC’s Joy Reid asked Biden how he would advance any sort of legislative agenda as president, with the Senate run by a man who has already vowed to be the “Grim Reaper” for Democratic policies. He replied with a fairly boilerplate call for bipartisanship and use of the bully pulpit to unite people, arguing that there’s not exactly a better option:

    You’ve got to make it clear to Republicans that you understand that some things, there is a rationale for compromise. For example, when we did the Recovery Act -- Mr. President, as you may remember, at the State of the Union, said, “Joe will do the Recovery Act” -- $89 billion. And it was done without any waste or fraud -- 2% waste, fraud or abuse. Well, what happened there? We didn’t have the votes initially, so I went out and got -- I changed three Republican votes. You try to persuade. Doesn’t mean you can do it all the time. But it kept us from going into a depression.

    So folks, look, if you start off with the notion there is nothing you can do, then why don’t you all go home, then, man? Or let’s start a real, physical revolution if you are talking about it. Because we have to be able to change what we are doing within our system, because you talk about the creed -- we the people, we hold these truths self-evident -- we haven’t always lived up to that standard, but we’ve never fully abandoned it.

    A few hours later, The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra tweeted a 51-second clip of the exchange between Reid and Biden, edited so it could seem Biden was actually promoting revolution. And he connected that statement to an earlier comment in which Biden referred to dogged campaigning against obstructionists as a “brass knuckle fight.”

    But Saavedra’s video cut out some important context, and The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel, who was in the room for this event, pushed back hard on Saavedra’s framing.

    “Biden didn’t ‘call for’ [revolution] at all,” Weigel wrote in response to a tweet by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). “He did the opposite: He told a crowd that it needed to ‘be able to change what we’re doing within our system,’ saying if they didn’t want that they must want ‘a real physical revolution.”

    But by then, it was too late and the claim was already circulating on the right. Saavedra’s edit left out the sentences immediately after the reference to “a brass knuckle fight,” in which Biden explained what exactly he meant by that: “What you do is when they say, ‘We’re not going to support you,’ you do what I did last time -- I went into 68 races in 22 states -- and they were not blue states. … You have to go out and beat these folks if they don’t agree with you, by making your case.”

    Similarly, by not including the portion immediately before the “physical revolution” part -- in which Biden talks about convincing people and winning votes -- Saavedra made it seem as though Biden might have been advocating for a violent conflict when he was trying to make the exact opposite point. 

    Twitter caps videos at two minutes, 20 seconds in length. Measuring from the beginning of his answer through the “physical revolution” comment, Biden spoke for 2:16, meaning that no edit to his words was necessary -- especially not one that cut essential context. In his write-up for The Daily Wire, headlined, “Biden Suggests Starting ‘Physical Revolution’ To Deal With Republicans,” Saavedra again omitted context in order to make it seem as though the “brass knuckle” comment was related to the reference to a “physical revolution”:

    "There are certain things where it just takes a brass knuckle fight," Biden continued, later adding: "Let’s start a real physical revolution if you’re talking about it."

    Saavedra, it should be noted, is no stranger to calls for violent revolution. In 2017, while he was a writer at Breitbart, Saavedra tweeted, “People think I’m kidding when I say this but the crusades need to come back.”

    Predictably, others in conservative media took a cue from Saavedra and pushed this false narrative hard.

    On Twitter, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson claimed that Biden “advocated” for revolution. Right-wing radio host Mark Levin tweeted, “Biden suggests ‘physical revolution’ aka violence and the Democratic Party-media snooze” (Donald Trump Jr. liked this tweet). Brandon Morse at RedState framed Biden’s remarks as advocating for a literal brass knuckle fight, adding, “In this day and age where Antifa may just show up at your door, no matter how you slice it, Biden’s words come off as threatening.”

    Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell used the occasion to label tech companies “hypocrites” for not banning Biden from their platforms over the out-of-context remarks.

    The chain of events leading to Saavedra’s tweet provides an interesting look at how news can trickle through the media before getting spit out as something totally different.

    U.S. News & World Report writer David Catanese was the first verified Twitter account to note the remark, which he highlighted while live-tweeting the event. He was followed by CNN’s Dan Merica and David Wright. Josh Feldman at Mediaite published a somewhat uncharitable but still accurate write-up of the appearance.

    Finally, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) weighed in with a tweet.

    Any one of those posts may have served as the genesis for the idea behind Saavedra’s edited video, or perhaps none of them did. But once that narrative was out in the world, others quickly latched on.

    There’s nothing new about these sorts of plucked-from-context bits of outrage bait pushed by people on the right.

    Last year, using another selectively edited clip, Saavedra was one of the driving forces behind an attempt to suggest that former Attorney General Eric Holder was advocating for Democrats to literally kick Republicans in comments about the fight against voter suppression. They ignored Holder’s later comment:

    Now, when I say, you know, “we kick ‘em,” I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate. We don’t do anything illegal. But we’ve got to be tough and we’ve got to fight for the very things that John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Whitney Young, you know, all those folks gave to us. That stuff can be taken away. That’s what they want to do.

    This certainly won’t be the last time an otherwise mild quote from a 2020 candidate gets taken out of context and twisted. Journalists and audiences alike need to watch out for bad-faith smears that seem questionable to begin with. 

  • “The Empire strikes back”: Right-wing media defend Alex Jones after Infowars is banned from several major platforms

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & ZACHARY PLEAT

    After Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes all removed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Infowars pages from their platforms, several right-wing media figures leapt to the extremist’s defense. Jones’ defenders responded by criticizing and threatening “the entire rotten tech machine” and invoking a wide range of comparisons to support him, including Star Wars, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, reality TV star Kylie Jenner, and the Holocaust.

  • Right-wing media are defending Rep. Jim Jordan against accusations that he knew about -- and ignored -- sexual abuse at Ohio State University

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has been accused of knowing about, and failing to act on, sexual abuse by the team doctor during his tenure as assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University. Multiple former athletes have accused Dr. Richard Strauss of sexual misconduct and have claimed that Jordan knew or must have known about the abuse yet failed to act.

    Jordan, who is also the co-founder of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, has denied the accusations, claiming he was unaware of any abuse. During a July 6 appearance on Fox News’ Special Report, he was quick to attack multiple accusers, criticized CNN for hosting a former wrestler to discuss the claims, and stoked conspiracy theories by claiming that “the timing” of the accusations “is suspect” because he’s about to launch a campaign for speaker of the House. Allies of the conservative congressman have been equally resolute in their defense, with both President Donald Trump and outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) backing Jordan, and the entire Freedom Caucus voting to officially support him.

    Unsurprisingly, right-wing media have also jumped to Jordan’s defense, suggesting that the accusations are no more than a politically motivated smear. Here are some of right-wing media’s defenses:

    • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs criticized Ryan for failing to immediately defend Jordan from “suspiciously timed smear campaigns.” He also called the accusations “a smear campaign of the vilest sort” and said Jordan has been “dishonorably attacked by the left."

    • The Daily Caller ran an article attacking some of the accusers, arguing that their “sketchy history” raises questions about their “authenticity.”

    • Fox News contributor David Bossie tweeted that Jordan is “an honest man of unparalleled integrity” and “the scurrilous allegations against him are absurd - perpetrated by the fake news media and liberals with an agenda to stop Congressman Jordan.”

    • Radio host Wayne Dupree claimed the accusations were a “hit job” and argued that the story “seems like an inside job from our side that doesn't want a conservative becoming Speaker of the House.” He also called the accusations a “sex smear” and said that they have solidified his “unequivocal support” for Jordan.

    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter called the accusations “sudden” and “convenient,” claimed multiple times that the story was “bullshit,” blamed the victims, and suggested there was a “coordinated” liberal response to the wrestlers’ claims.

    • Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell said the accusations reek of “dirty tricks” and implied that they were made to derail Jordan’s campaign to join Republican House leadership.

    • During Rush Limbaugh’s July 6 radio show -- titled “With Paul Manafort in Solitary, Deep State Targets Jim Jordan” -- the radio host argued that the accusations against Jordan are just the result of “opposition research” and claimed they emerged “because he’s had a successful interrogation period with [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein and is being mentioned for possible speaker.” Limbaugh also attacked the victims’ histories and stoked conspiracy claims by noting that the “the leading Democrat law firm in all of fascist Democrat America,” Perkins Coie, is investigating the wrestlers’ accusations. Gateway Pundit made similar accusations, blaming the deep state, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) also told Dobbs that the deep state was to blame.

    • The Daily Wire ran an article that called the “timing of these allegations… suspect,” because they have come out only when “Jordan was considering a run to replace Paul Ryan (R-WI) as speaker of the House.”

    • Infowars’ Owen Shroyer claimed “intimidation tactics” were being used against Jordan, argued there are “a bunch of holes in this” story, and said, “It seems to me like this is just another case of the Clinton crime machine trying to intimidate Americans who are standing up to them.”

    • Infowars’ Roger Stone rejected the accusations as a “smear tactic” and “a hit piece” and argued that Jordan is being targeted for his criticism of Rosenstein.

  • When The Trump Bar Is Set So Low, He’s A Success Even When He Threatens To Imprison Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Conservative media figures have succeeded in setting the bar so low for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that they were astonishingly able to champion his October 9 debate performance as a success despite his threat to “jail” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, his admission that he evaded paying federal income taxes and that he hasn’t spoken with his running mate on crucial foreign policy issues, and his claim that his caught-on-tape sexual assault boasts were just “locker room” banter.

    Many right-wing media figures have spent the entire election aiding the Trump campaign by lowering the bar for Trump to declare success -- saying that so long as he doesn’t “vomit all over himself and [he gives] a decent” performance, he’ll succeed.

    The October 9 debate at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, was no exception. Right-wing media figures declared Trump’s debate performance a “win” despite numerous low points:

    It's not just right-wing pundits. Even CNN’s Jake Tapper called the debate “a wash” immediately afterwards, saying that Clinton won on policy and temperament while Trump was “erratic,” and CNN’s Michael Smerconish asserted that “the night belongs to Donald Trump” because “he was able to pivot away” from the tape of him boasting about committing sexual assault and was “barely controlled.” Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz said that “when you consider the sheer media hell that Donald Trump has been through in the last 48 hours, [his debate performance] has to be considered at least a moral victory.”  

    Several conservative media figures championed Trump for “exceed[ing] expectations” of a “crash and burn,” saying he won because he “stayed alive,” and “did well enough to not drop out”:

  • Megyn Kelly Defends Rush Limbaugh After Radio Host Says He Never Took Trump Seriously On Immigration

    Kelly: "Some In The Republican Party Want To Demonize" Rush Limbaugh And Sean Hannity "For Getting Behind Trump"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the August 30 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:

    MEGYN KELLY (HOST): Listen, there's been a lot of finger pointing, right, in the GOP and a lot of what feels like a civil war between the people who support Trump in the party and the people who don't. And that was just a reflection of some of that. Your thoughts?

    BRENT BOZELL: Exactly. This isn't about Rush. This is about the fractured nature of the Republican Party, and the fractured nature of the conservative movement. Look, anything Rush says is going to trigger a reaction from someone calling himself a conservative, saying that Rush Limbaugh has betrayed the conservative movement. This is the nature of the politics this year.

    That caller -- if Rush were that impactful in this crazy year, when Rush Limbaugh said that Ted Cruz was the single most conservative candidate in the race, then Ted Cruz would have won the nomination. Look, the Trump people, Rush is absolutely right. The Trump people are lock step with Trump, and the people who aren't with Trump, I think they're going to be with Trump. But right now, like this caller, they're having a very hard time. Rush is caught in the crosshairs.

    KELLY: You tell me -- I mean, there's no question Rush is incredibly powerful and incredibly successful, but he -- he's not omnipotent, and he's not all -- you know, he can't do it all. I know Rush rather well. Back in 2008, he was behind John McCain. Back in 2012, he was behind Mitt Romney. It didn't carry them over the finish line.

    You know, I mean I think some in the Republican Party want to demonize, let's say Rush, or Hannity, or whoever it is for getting behind Trump, or not condemning Trump, just the same as, you know, it's happening the other way as well. People want to condemn the never-Trumpers for not getting behind a party nominee who's obviously extremely controversial.

    BOZELL: And if Rush were to say something critical about Trump, then there would be the furious backlash in the opposite direction about how he is costing the Republicans the election by going after the nominee. This is what I mean, you can't win this year. It is the craziest year ever. And I think what people have to do is take a deep, deep breath and understand Rush was advocating conservative principles long before any caller was calling him.

    KELLY: Mm-hmm. And he is a broadcaster. I mean that's what he is at heart. He's not a campaign manager who needs to get a non-Trumper elected. He's a broadcaster. In any event, the recriminations have only just begun.

    Previously:

    Hannity v. The World: Here Are The People Sean Hannity Has Attacked To Defend Trump (So Far)

    BEDLAM: Hannity, National Review, WSJ Editor Go To War Over Donald Trump

    Hannity: Glenn Beck Is On "A Holy War" Against Me For Supporting Trump

    Sean Hannity Has Given Donald Trump $31 Million In Free Publicity

    Hannity Praises Trump For Using A Teleprompter After Years Of Demonizing Obama For Using Them
     

  • Conservative Media Lash Out At John Boehner For Calling Ted Cruz “Lucifer In The Flesh”

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing media condemned former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) for referring to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) as “Lucifer in the flesh” and the most "miserable son of a bitch” he has ever worked with.

    Former House Speaker John Boehner Calls Ted Cruz “Lucifer In The Flesh”

    NY TimesBoehner Described Ted Cruz As Lucifer In The Flesh, The Most "Miserable Son Of A Bitch” He Ever Worked With. The New York Times reported on April 28 that Boehner “described Senator Ted Cruz as ‘Lucifer in the flesh’ … and said that he would not vote for” Cruz if he became the Republican presidential nominee:

    Former House Speaker John A. Boehner described Senator Ted Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh” during a forum at Stanford University on Wednesday and said that he would not vote for the Texas Republican if he is the party’s presidential nominee.

    [...]

    Mr. Boehner’s harshest assessment was saved for Mr. Cruz, who he has not forgiven for spearheading the 2013 government shutdown.

    “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends,” Mr. Boehner told David Kennedy, an emeritus history professor, at the event. “I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.” [The New York Times4/28/16]

    Conservative Media Lash Out At Boehner, Call His Comments A “Witless Cheap Shot”

    National Review Editors: Boehner’s Comments Are “A Witless Cheap Shot” And “Petty Grudge-Holding. National Review’s editorial board wrote on April 28 that Boehner’s characterization of Cruz was a “witless cheap shot.” The editors said the comments were “petty grudge-holding” and speculated that these “knee-jerk responses … though cathartic, would ultimately set back our common goals”:

    We get it. John Boehner doesn’t like Ted Cruz. In a witless cheap shot, Boehner called him “Lucifer in the flesh” at an event at Stanford University. Boehner’s attitude is widespread among Republican insiders who are foolishly allowing personal ill will to cloud their reasoned judgment about who, among the candidates left in the GOP race, is the best representative of conservative principles and policies, and about who would be the best candidate in the upcoming general election.

    [...]

    [P]rominent conservatives who might not be counted among Cruz’s friends — Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush come to mind — have urged the party to rally around Cruz as the only reliable conservative left in the race.

    They’re right to do so, and not to give in to the petty grudge-holding of John Boehner. In 2013, when Cruz was engineering his ill-fated government shutdown, his Republican critics, including us, warned against interpreting tactical disagreements as evidence of disagreements about objectives. We encouraged conservatives not to indulge in knee-jerk responses that, though cathartic, would ultimately set back our common goals. That argument works in both directions. Whatever his personal feelings, Boehner agrees with Cruz on most questions of principle and policy, and it’s a shame he can’t act accordingly. [National Review4/28/16]

    Sean Hannity: “John Boehner, Shut Up … You Failed The Republican Party.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity told Boehner to “shut up,” calling his performance as speaker “weak, timid, feckless, visionless.” Hannity asserted that Boehner “failed the Republican Party,” concluding, “We don’t need lectures from you”:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST):  All right, I’ve got to tell you something. I can't say this strongly enough. John Boehner, shut up. You know what? You gave us $4 trillion in debt. You were weak, timid, feckless, visionless. And I’ve got to be honest, you want to know why Cruz and Trump are doing so well? Look in the mirror, because you are afraid of your own shadow that you might get blamed for a government shutdown, so you wouldn't defund Obamacare, you wouldn’t use the power of the purse, you wouldn’t defund executive amnesty, which was -- which Republicans ran on in 2014. You failed the Republican Party. We don't need lectures from you against presidential candidates that are resonating with the American people, thank you very much. [Fox News, Hannity4/28/16]

    Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter: Boehner “Today Just Demonstrated His Utter Contempt For” The People On The Right. During the April 28 edition of NRA News’ Cam & Company, conservative Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter said Boehner’s remarks “proved” that he was “a giant waste of air.” Schlichter concluded, “The people on the right are angry … at people like John Boehner, who today just demonstrated his utter contempt for them”:

    CAM EDWARDS (HOST): How about that? “Lucifer in the flesh.” So, I saw that description today, and for whatever reason, Kurt, the phrase “Goldwater’s baby” came to mind --

    KURT SCHLICHTER: Its eyes! Its eyes! What did you do to its eyes!

    EDWARDS: I want somebody to use that as an insult this year, I just want to hear somebody call someone else “Goldwater’s baby.”

    SCHLICHTER: Oh my gosh. You know, with Boehner, sometimes it's like, you know, we all knew it, and then it happens. This guy literally says he would vote for Hillary Clinton before one of the nominees by the other Republicans. This was our speaker. We were all saying you know, this guy is a giant waste of air, and then he comes out and just completely proves it.

    [...]

    SCHLICHTER: The people on the right are angry. They’re angry at people like John Boehner, who today just demonstrated his utter contempt for them. And they always knew it, and there were people saying, "No, no, no, he really doesn’t feel that way." And well I said, “You know, I kind of think he does.” And now he’s kind of proved it. I think people are justifiably angry. They’re not going to -- to quote Roger Daltrey, "won't be fooled again!" [NRA News, Cam & Company4/28/16]

    Fox’s Laura Ingraham: “I Don’t Like That Comment By John Boehner. At All.” On the April 29 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group’s The Laura Ingraham Show, host Laura Ingraham decried Boehner’s comments as “not helpful.” Ingraham called Boehner and “establishment” Republicans “devils,” saying, “I have the idea it’s devilish to run on one thing and then govern on something quite different”:

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): This John Boehner comment about Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh"? Not helpful. I said yesterday when I saw that this had been said that, I mean, John Boehner should just button it. It's not helpful. Now, you see, I have the idea it's devilish to run on one thing and then govern on something quite different. I think that's very deceiving, as the devil is deceiving. Ted Cruz actually said he was going to run on some basic principles, and for the most part it seems like Ted Cruz actually, you know, tried to fulfill his Senate duties with those principles in mind. Now that's “Lucifer in the flesh”? What? It seems like the revolt against the establishment is making it pretty clear who people think the devils are. The devils are the people who say they’re going to oppose Obama only to fund his entire budget. The devils are the people who say they’re pro-life only to fund Planned Parenthood. The devils are the people who spend most of the good part of an entire year pushing Obama's Trade Promotion Authority. The devils are the people who say they’re going to get rid of Obamacare only to allow Obamacare to be funded. Those are the devils. The devils are the people who call the people the loud people, or make fun of them and say “it’s too hard,” like John Boehner did. So I don't like that comment by John Boehner. At All. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show4/29/16]

    Conservative Radio Host Hugh Hewitt: “Despicable Is My Term For [Boehner’s] Attack On [Cruz].

    [Twitter, 4/29/16]

    Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell: “Boehner Doesn’t Have The Guts To Apologize. He Is A World-Class Coward.”

    [Twitter, 4/29/16]

    The Blaze’s Dana Loesch: “John Boehner Gets Along With Every Beltway Elitist -- But Not The Average American. This Is Why He’s Out To Pasture.”

    [Twitter, 4/28/16]

     

  • Strange Days: Conservatives Criticize "Liberal Media" For Being Too Soft On GOP Front-Runner Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Following CNN's Republican Party primary debate last week, the conservative site NewsBusters, which exists to bash the press for its supposed liberal bias, quickly published a piece focusing on the debate moderators' prime-time performance. No doubt NewsBusters was furious with CNN, right?

    Recall that last November, following a raucous Republican debate hosted by CNBC, Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell released a scathing critique of the moderators, insisting they were dripping with contempt for the GOP candidates and trying to throw the election to the Democrats. (Bozell's group publishes NewsBusters.)

    So what was the collective sin of the CNN moderators last week? According to NewsBusters, they had failed to press Donald Trump for a response regarding documented claims that a reporter had been manhandled by Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager, at a public event.

    NewsBusters was also upset that the alleged assault had received minimal time on the network evening newscasts: "The main broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC largely remained silent on Lewandowski's alleged actions toward a female reporter until Thursday."

    Wait, what?

    It's true: Following a Republican debate, the conservative NewsBusters pointed out that the media wasn't paying sufficient attention to a news story that reflected poorly on the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

    And with that, we're officially through the looking glass, to the point where conservative critiques of the campaign press now read like Media Matters essays: Journalists are too soft on Trump, rewarding him with too much airtime and allowing him to dictate access ground rules. 

    Does a lot of that sound familiar?

    This Trump campaign has produced all kinds of regrettable firsts this season (regular outbursts of violence at rallies, for starters). But one of the strangest twists has to be the fact that some conservatives who have spent generations denouncing the press for being unfairly critical of Republicans have now completely flipped the script.

    Grasping at conspiratorial straws in an effort to explain away Trump's control over Republican voters and the media's apparently soft treatment of a prominent Republican politician, conservatives remain convinced the "liberal media" is still out to get the GOP. Only this time, the press is torpedoing Republicans by ... being too nice to the Republican front-runner.

    Convinced that Trump is not a true conservative and that he's a surefire loser in November, more and more conservative commentators are desperate to derail his nomination. So they're demanding pundits and reporters sharpen their knives when covering the Republican front-runner; that they tell The Truth about Trump and reveal him for the phony they insist he really is.

    NewsBusters has also objected to networks not covering news that the Trump campaign had given press credentials to a prominent white supremacist and underplaying the controversy over Trump University. 

    There's obviously deep irony in these newfound complaints. It was just five months ago that the conservative media revolted against CNBC for hosting its allegedly biased Republican debate. Beating the "liberal media bias" drums quite loudly, critics pounced on the network because moderators were unfair to the candidates, including Trump. So it's a bit disingenuous to now blame that same press simply because lots of Republican supporters are suddenly freaking out about Trump's likely nomination.

    Meaning, conservatives can't just unring the "liberal media bias" bell. Republican-friendly critics have told the press, in no uncertain terms, that when it comes to presidential campaigns, lay off our guy -- or else. (Because of the CNBC fracas, the Republican Party yanked NBC's sponsorship for a subsequent debate.)

    Well, this year, the press has too often laid off Trump (and even indulged him), and now lots of conservatives, for purely political purposes, wish the press had moved sooner and more aggressively to properly vet him.

    The anxious right-wing press is belatedly discovering that its reckless campaign over the years to berate the political press comes with a price; that trying to defang the media means that when suddenly, during a truly bizarre campaign season, conservatives want a famous Republican vetted, there's nobody around to do it.

    And to date, the in-depth vetting just isn't happening. "If Donald Trump were to become president, he is the first person I know of who would be in the White House in modern times with deep, continuing associations with mobsters, con artists, drug traffickers, convicted felons -- gratuitously involved with these folks," author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston recently told Huffington Post. "That deserves enormous inquiry."  

    Think back to last year and the conveyor belt of endless press investigations into Clinton Foundation finances, and then compare that to media investigations into Trump's possibly unseemly business connections. Notice the difference?

    And yes, some Republicans and conservatives (including NewsBusters) still see liberal media bias at play in Trump's coverage. The theory goes like this: The media want Trump to be the Republican nominee because they think he'll lose in November and the press wants another Democrat in the White House.

    That's why Ted Cruz recently suggested some reporters were sitting on Trump bombshells but not planning to publish or air them until Trump has won the GOP nomination. (Cruz: "The media knows Donald can't win the general, that Hillary would wallop him.")

    And Marco Rubio also criticized the Trump coverage for not shedding enough light on the candidate's past. "He's being treated with kid gloves by many in the media, in the hopes that he's the nominee," said the candidate before he suspended his campaign.

    But even considering that conspiracy theory, the truly remarkable media complaint from conservatives is that Beltway press is going too easy on the Republican front-runner. 

    Talk about a message with bipartisan appeal.

  • Cruz, Carson To Attend Right-Wing Media Convention Featuring Anti-LGBT, Anti-Muslim Extremists

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson are scheduled to attend the National Religious Broadcasters' "Proclaim 16" Convention, which will run from February 23 to 26 in Nashville, TN. The annual convention has a history of anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim content, and this year convention will feature three anti-LGBT hate groups, a panel sponsored by the Islamophobic extremist organization behind Trump's proposed Muslim ban, and multiple notoriously anti-gay extremist speakers.

  • INFOGRAPHIC: The Conservative Civil War Over Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative pundits are bickering over Donald Trump's campaign, especially after National Review's "Against Trump" issue and the backlash it engendered. On one side are pundits who want to stop Trump's candidacy in its tracks. On the other are conservatives who are lauding Trump's candidacy, even if they have not officially endorsed him. Media Matters breaks down exactly who is on which side (click for the full-sized image):

    Civil War over Donald Trump

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko, Research by Eric Hananoki