Lee Stranahan | Media Matters for America

Lee Stranahan

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  • 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"


    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.”

  • Conservative Media Cracking Under The Pressure Of Trump Era

    Internal Divisions Flare Up At Fox, Breitbart, The Blaze, IJR

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Peering into his laptop camera while filming a fidgety monologue for his Periscope audience last week, Breitbart.com investigative reporter Lee Stranahan spelled out an internal crisis that was unfolding at the "alt-right," pro-Trump media hub.

    Convinced he was sitting on "the biggest political story in the world," Stranahan announced that his boss, Washington political editor Matthew Boyle, had ordered him to stay away from future White House briefings, which meant Stranahan couldn’t ask press secretary Sean Spicer about the supposed blockbuster. (Short version: Stranahan has strung together a conspiracy theory that would suggest the Russian hacking narrative is a complete fabrication by so-called deep state actors and a firm called Crowdstrike.)

    “I’m probably going to lose my job,” Stranahan lamented during his televised update, noting “I have five kids to feed. … But I’m not going to let this story get killed.”

    Indeed, by week's end, Stranahan was gone from Breitbart. He said he will now team up with The Gateway Pundit, the hyper-dishonest “alt-right” site that now boasts a White House press pass and commits itself to trolling journalists on the presidential beat.

    The weird public Stranahan meltdown was just the latest example of far-right media outlets seemingly cracking under the strain of the Trump era. Along with at Breitbart, internal dramas have recently played out publicly at Fox News, TheBlaze and Independent Journal Review, as right-wing media sources struggle to find their footing with Trump now in charge, and with the attention that comes with that.

    Accustomed to robotically blaming Democrats for all the supposed evils in the world, conservatives now have to deal with a political landscape where Republicans control the White House, the Senate, the House, and, possibly soon, the Supreme Court.

    Is dissent allowed? Or is the new role to simply cheer whatever Republicans do, and serve as a convenient shield for the administration?

    “For years, conservatives breathlessly accused the media of being too easy on President Barack Obama and acting like a bunch of sycophantic boot-lickers for his administration. Turns out, some only wanted the chance to try it out for themselves once a Republican was in office,” conservative commentator Amanda Carpenter wrote in Politico. “Some of those who used to be the conservative movement’s most loyal government watchdogs are nothing but lapdogs now for Trump.”

    At Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, popular conservative host Tomi Lahren was temporarily suspended after she went on The View and made comments critical of anti-abortion activists. (Lahren: “I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government but I think that the government should decide what women do with their bodies.”)

    In an usual display of newsroom friendly fire,  Lahren’s comment was immediately condemned by her own colleagues at TheBlaze:

    Soon after Lahren’s tweet, a reporter at The Blaze, Kate Scanlon, tweeted, “There is no ‘my truth.’ There is only the truth.”

    Another reporter at The Blaze, Kaitlyn Schallhorn, tweeted soon after: “Even Hillary Clinton didn’t call pro-life conservatives hypocrites.”

    Beck himself soon joined the pile-on. “It takes intellectual honesty, and it takes a willingness to actually think these things through and to do more than just read Twitter or Facebook to get your news and your political opinions,” Beck said on his radio show while denouncing Lahren, according to The Daily Caller.

    Beck has now reportedly fired the host. “Glenn is reminding the world of his conservative principles by sidelining Tomi after she insulted conservatives by calling them hypocrites,” one Beck "insider" told the New York Post.

    Over at Fox News, executives were recently left scrambling when the White House pointed to Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano as a source for the inexplicable claim that former President Barack Obama had asked British intelligence to spy on Trump during the campaign. It was part of the White House’s larger failed attempt to support Trump’s baseless claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election.

    The claim of British involvement sparked an international incident.

    Initially, a Fox News spokeswoman reported that Napolitano “stands by his report on FOX & Friends,” but then the full-on retreat began. By March 20, Fox had taken the extraordinary step of yanking Napolitano off the air “indefinitely.”

    Vanity Fair's Sarah Ellison spoke with a "Fox News insider" who told her: “The key thing Judge Napolitano did was to say ‘Fox News is reporting that ... ,’ and he can’t say that.' That breaks the trust, and you saw what it cost him. He is not a reporter and knows he's not a reporter." The source claimed that Napolitano’s comments, and Trump’s championing of them, had created what Ellison described as "an internal headache" for Fox News: “It’s a disaster," said the source. "It’s a nightmare.”

    Speaking of headaches, Independent Journal Review (IJR) handed out suspensions last week after the GOP-friendly news site published a bizarre column suggesting Obama might have pressured the federal judge in Hawaii whose ruling halted Trump’s latest attempt to establish a travel ban for six Muslim-majority countries. (IJR column headline: "Fmr President Obama Made 'Surprise Visit' to Hawaii, Days Before Judge Issued Travel Ban Ruling.")

    IJR editors later apologized for and retracted the story, but not before one staffer reportedly quit over the embarrassing episode. The site then suspended its chief content officer and two editors. (On March 27, Politico’s Hadas Gold reported that IJR video producer Colin Chocola also reportedly quit, citing issues he had with the “direction” of IJR that predated the Hawaii conspiracy theory flap.)

    The dust-up was significant because the conservative-leaning IJR, founded in 2012 by former Republican operative Alex Skatell, was the only media outlet allowed to accompany Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his recent trip to Asia -- a trip that yielded a laudatory puff piece published by IJR.

    The move to invite IJR was "part of an effort to include a broader representation of U.S. media,” according to the State Department.

    “If willingness to tar a former president with conspiratorial garbage constitutes an element of media diversity, then the State Department succeeded,” quipped Erik Wemple at The Washington Post, after IJR published its conspiratorial column about Obama.

    Last week, Business Insider provided a detailed look at the internal dissension swirling within IJR since Trump’s election, as editorial factions battle over how far to the right the site should tilt. “It's basically becoming a giant native ad for the Trump administration," one former IJR staffer complained.

    For eight years, Obama bashing largely unified the right-wing media in America. Now without that security blanket to cling to, they’re finding life in the spotlight’s much more complicated.

  • Conservative Media Get Into "Formation" To Attack Beyonce's Super Bowl Performance

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Right-wing media attacked Beyoncé's Super Bowl halftime performance of her new song which reportedly features "implicit commentary on police brutality, Hurricane Katrina and black financial power." Conservative figures called the performance "anti-cop," criticized Beyoncé for bringing race "into the halftime show," and attacked the women performers for being "dressed like prostitutes."

  • Why Has Fox News Ignored Breitbart's Pigford Story?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Or better yet, there's this question: Why has basically all of the conservative media, including print, online, radio, and television, ignored the Pigford story that Andrew Breitbart's websites have been promoting for going on one year now?

    I'm hard-pressed to think of another instance in which a media entity like Breitbart's has invested so much time and energy promoting a single story (his sites have posted more than 100 Pigford-related items in the last year), yet only to see the story receive virtually no pick-up. Anywhere. That's what we've seen with the supposed controversy surrounding the the government's Pigford settlement with black farmers.

    I've asked before why Fox News has ignored the story, but I ask it again, because one of the Breitbart bloggers at the center of the Pigford investigation now claims the reason the story has been completely ignored is because there isn't a conservative equivalent to MoveOn.org or Talking Points Memo. In other words, it was a structural problem within the right-wing community that kept the Pigford story from getting out.

    From Lee Stranahan:

    Here's a quick example of why this matters . The absence of a "nonliberal MoveOn.org" came up as a practical issue with me while working on the Pigford "black farmers' story. While working on my documentary, I shot interviews with farmers who met with Georgia Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop and told him about corruption in the Pigford settlement, only to have him respond that they should keep quiet about the corruption because if Pigford were investigated "they'll shut this thing down." Bishop has admitted to this conversation on the record and said that is not his job to monitor corruption.

    If we had this sort of solid evidence of a Republican congressman knowingly allowing fraud to continue and it had broken in someplace like Talking Points Memo, it would quickly turned into an action item by group like MoveOn then made national headlines and that politician likely would've been run out of town on a rail.

    As it was we broke this information and released videos. We are able to get some press in Georgia and to get any number of people who read the story on the right to grumble about what a crook Sanford Bishop was – but with no real organizational machinery to get the story out and most importantly to get people to take action, the significant story withered on the vine.

    I think there's a simpler explanation as to why Pigford has been uniformly ignored by media outlets on the left, right and the center: The story's not compelling and Breitbart's reporting isn't trusted.

    UPDATED: According to a Nexis search of Fox News transcripts over the last twelve months, here's the total number of times Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren have mentioned "Pigford" on the air: 0.

  • Lee Stranahan Doesn't Know What "Provide" Means

    Blog ››› ››› NED RESNIKOFF

    Ignoring what's right in front of their faces, Team Breitbart is still challenging our perfectly accurate statement that Waco's Planned Parenthood provides mammograms, apparently arguing that in order to provide a service it is necessary to perform that service. But this reasoning suffers an obvious and fatal flaw: it ignores the costs associated with providing a service.

    Yesterday we pointed out how the Texas Department of Health lists Planned Parenthood in Waco as a Breast and Cervical Cancer Services provider, and that through a partnership with the department and a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Planned Parenthood of Central Texas does provide mammograms.

    In a statement to Media Matters, Felicia Chase Goodman, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central Texas, explained that through a grant provided by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Planned Parenthood "provides referrals and pays for mammograms and diagnostic follow up treatment for our patients at area radiology and surgical clinics." Goodman said that last year alone, Planned Parenthood patients received 609 screening mammograms and 125 diagnostic mammograms.

    Stranahan is not convinced:

    After THEY brought as Waco as an example of a Planned Parenthood clinic as a place that provides mammogram screening services directly - not access, not referrals, but screenings themselves - Media Matters does a total about face and pretends they were only talking about referrals.

    Since Stranahan can't take "you're wrong" for an answer, maybe it's time for us to consult an impartial authority on the meaning of the word "provide."

    The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, defines the transitive verb (those are the ones that have both subjects and objects, Lee) provide as:

    to supply or make available (something wanted or needed) <provided new uniforms for the band>; also : affordprovide privacy>b : to make something available to <provide the children with free balloons>

    And for good measure, the MacMillian Dictionary:


    [TRANSITIVE] to cause something to exist or be available

    The exercise provides an opportunity for different departments to work together.

    The film provides new insights into the problems that women in the industry face.

    So let's revisit Stranahan's argument, only swapping out the tricky word "provide" and replacing it with the definition, provided by Merriam.

    After THEY brought as Waco as an example of a Planned Parenthood clinic as a place that [supplies or makes available] mammogram screening services directly - not access, not referrals, but screenings themselves - Media Matters does a total about face and pretends they were only talking about referrals.

    But that's not what we did. We pointed out that Planned Parenthood in Waco pays for mammograms to be performed.

    Let me put this in terms Stranahan understands: say you're a golden-hearted crusader for justice who did his very best to deliberately obfuscate a simple point on behalf of Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart, in turn, wants to provide you with a sandwich as a gesture of thanks. To do so, he gives you a list of local sandwich shops, and then buys you a sandwich from the deli of your choosing. Would any reasonable person argue that Breitbart did not provide you with a sandwich?

    Nice try, guys. Back to the drawing board.

  • Lee Stranahan Tells Millions Of Women To Just Go Somewhere Else For Their Cancer Screenings

    Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

    In a blog post notable for its shocking simplemindedness, Breitbart blogger Lee Stranahan accused Media Matters of using "logically invalid, distorted, and deceptive argumentative techniques" to refute Lila Rose's latest video hoax.

    The video, anxiously promoted by the right, shows Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards discussing how the organization provides millions of women with access to health care services, including cancer screenings and mammograms. Rose called a few Planned Parenthood centers, found out that they did not have mammogram equipment on site, and declared that this refuted Richards' comments.

    It didn't.

    As Media Matters showed, Planned Parenthood does, in fact, help make sure that millions of women have access to these services. This is, quite simply, not in dispute.

    Enter Lee Stranahan and illogic.

  • Lee Stranahan's "Fraud of The Week"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    In a BigJournalism.com post, Lee Stranahan -- the Huffington Post blogger who has been working with Andrew Breitbart on his Pigford story -- calls National Black Farmers Association founder John Boyd the "Fraud of the Week" and accuses ABC News of "media bias." Stranahan's primary rationale is that a 2003 story the network ran on Boyd didn't mention Pigford, the class action lawsuit for black farmers who alleged discrimination by the Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately for Stranahan, the segment does discuss Pigford.

    To be honest, I'm genuinely curious as to how something like this could have happened and am really looking forward to what I'm sure will be Stranahan's prompt correction and explanation.

    Stranahan writes of the November 21, 2003, "Person of the Week" segment:

    Perhaps you've heard of Pigford v. Glickman, aka the black famer's lawsuit. You've heard of it because Andrew Breitbart, Gary Hewson, Peter Schweitzer and others have been writing about it on the Bigs for months. But - did you hear ANY mention of Pigford in that Person of the Week story? Did the name Pigford even come up once?

    This story was broadcast in 2003, according to the ABC News Site. Pigford was settled in 1999.

    Wait a second; if Pigford was settled, why is ABC doing a story that makes it look as though Pigford never even happened?

    I have to admit, when I read this I was a little disturbed. Yes, ABC's "Person of the Week" segment is meant to be soft news ("as soft as it gets," according to a 1997 New York Times article), not a detailed, in-depth report, but still, a report on a farmer claiming systematic racial discrimination by the government really needs to mention Pigford.

    Then I realized that I had neglected to take the advice Stranahan gives at the top of his piece: "please watch the video first and don't skip ahead." And so I did. You can too. Make sure to pay special attention at around the 1:06 mark:

    BOYD: The last name Boyd was a, was our slave name, given to us by the Boyd family, which was Miss Ethel and William Boyd is--was their names. I feel as though we earned the right to live in this country, we earned the right to farm in this country, and we earned the right to participate in these Federal programs.

    PETER JENNINGS: In 1999, the Department of Agriculture pretty much agreed when it settled the largest class action civil rights suit in the nation's history. The department found that black farmers had to wait three times longer for loans and subsidies than whites. And black farmers were losing their land because they could not get the help.

    BOYD: There's thousands of black farmers across the country who are still out here waiting diligently and in good faith that the government is going to send their check.

    JENNINGS: But thousands of those farmers are not getting the help they expected from the settlement, and John Boyd aims to fix that if he can.

    That "largest class action civil rights suit in the nation's history"? Jennings is talking about Pigford. It sure doesn't sound like ABC was trying to "make it look as though Pigford never even happened," does it?

  • Is Breitbart Uninformed About Pigford Or Just Lying?

    Blog ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

    Yesterday, I noted that Andrew Breitbart made a false statement about the Pigford black farmer discrimination settlement. Today, in a post on Breitbart's BigJournalism.com, Breitbart's Pigford investigator Lee Stranahan responds that I caught Breitbart making "a minor gaffe" about Pigford but that Breitbart "obviously knows" the truth of the matter.

    It turns out that Breitbart actually made the same false statement about Pigford more than once yesterday, which raises the question of whether Breitbart is actively lying about the case.

    For the record, at a news conference at CPAC Breitbart falsely claimed that under the Pigford settlement, Track A -- in which the standard of proof for claimants was relaxed and successful claimants collected a flat $50,000 -- was only "for attempted-to-farmers." In fact, both Track A and Track B -- in which damages were not capped, but a claimant had to meet the traditional standard of proof -- were open both to people who farmed and people who attempted to farm but were prevented because of the federal government's discrimination.

    Stranahan says of my piece:

    [Media Matters ran] a section of video where AB, speaking off the cuff, makes a minor gaffe discussing the difference between Track A and Track B claims in Pigford. The two tracks are a topic Andrew has discussed many, many times and it's in the Pigford report. Andrew obviously knows the difference between Track A and B claims and in his short introduction, he was focusing on how these tracks effected the real, bona fide farmers like Eddie Slaughter, who is sitting about 5 feet away from him in the video clip Media Matters put up.

    But Media Matters only shows a short section of the press conference. Their 'heavily edited' video doesn't show any of the other speakers, including Mr. Slaughter, Rep. Michelle Bachman, Rep. Steve King or me. Nor does Media Matters make ANY reference to the point of the press conference -- the release of hard evidence of how simple it is to commit fraud in Pigford.

    But later in the day, Breitbart told Media Matters for America's Joe Strupp: "There are 94,000 people in line to get Pigford checks, the majority of, I believe it's 92 percent, are going through the Track A standard, which is the attempted-to-farmer standard."

    Here's video of Breitbart's exchange with Strupp:

    So it comes down to this: Does Breitbart not understand Pigford, or does he "obviously" understand it -- as Stranahan claims -- and is simply lying about what Track A and Track B are about?