Lou Dobbs

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  • Seth Rich's family sends cease and desist to Fox News contributor behind evidence-free smears

    Rich family: “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress”

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    According to NBC News, the family of murdered DNC employee Seth Rich sent a cease and desist order to Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler after his recent allegations led right wing media figures to smear Rich as the person responsible for providing WikiLeaks with DNC emails. Wheeler alleged that the murder was somehow related to a purported relationship between Rich and WikiLeaks, despite finding no evidence that Rich had ever been in contact with WikiLeaks. The Rich family previously demanded an apology but did not receive one.

    In a May 15 article and subsequent newscast, Fox 5 quoted Rod Wheeler as saying  “a source inside the police department” told him the department was “told to stand down on this case.” Wheeler also claimed it was “confirmed” that Rich had links to WikiLeaks. According to CNN, “no real evidence has been provided to support such claims and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department.”

    Right-wing media seized on this story with Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs smearing Rich as potentially being behind the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails.  The right-wing One America News Network has also fueled the conspiracy, even offering $100,000 for information about Rich’s death during a conspiracy-fueled report.

    Conservative media’s exploitation of the Seth Rich murder spurred the family to threaten Wheeler with legal action, saying, “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the family.” From a May 19 NBC News report:

    The family of slain Democratic staffer Seth Rich is threatening legal action against a private investigator after his "outrageous behavior" has given fuel to right-wing conspiracy theories about the unsolved murder of their son.

    An attorney representing the family of Rich, who was 27 when he was killed last July, sent a cease and desist letter Friday to Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and former Washington, D.C., homicide detective who was employed by the family and earlier this week told a Fox affiliate that he believed police were covering up details about the crime.

    "Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous, and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the Family," wrote Joseph Ingrisano of the law firm Katuk Rock, according to a copy of the letter shared exclusively with NBC News.

    "Your improper and unauthorized statements, many of which are false and have no basis in fact, have also injured the memory and reputation of Seth Rich and have defamed and injured the reputation and standing of the members of the Family," Ingrisano continued.

    The letter demands Wheeler "immediately and permanently" cease and desist from making any comments about Seth Rich or his death and suggests he could face further legal action either way.

  • Family Of Slain DNC Staffer Demands Apology From Fox News For Pushing Baseless Smears About Their Son

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The family of Seth Rich, a former staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was murdered last July, is demanding that Fox News and a local DC Fox affiliate retract and apologize for their reporting on Rich’s death. Fox alleged that the murder was somehow related to Rich’s alleged relationship with WikiLeaks despite finding no evidence that Rich had ever been in contact with WikiLeaks.

    In a May 15 article and subsequent newscast, Fox 5 quoted Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who was once hired by the Rich’s family to investigate his death, claimed that “a source inside the police department” told him that the department was “told to stand down on this case.” Wheeler also said it was “confirmed” that Rich had links to WikiLeaks. According to CNN, “no real evidence has been provided to support such claims and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department.”

    Right-wing media seized on this story as a way to deflect from President Trump’s downward spiral. Fox personalities Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs reported on the story, despite Wheeler’s lack of evidence, or any evidence to support the WikiLeaks theory of Rich’s death. In fact, Hannity continued to push the conspiracy theory during his Wednesday radio program. Right-wing media’s tasteless exploitation of the Seth Rich spurred the family to demand a retraction. From the May 17 CNN report:

    The family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who was fatally shot last July, is demanding retractions from Fox News and WTTG-TV on Wednesday for their inaccurate reports on the unsolved murder, a spokesman for the family told CNN Wednesday.

    "The family is officially asking for a retraction and an apology from Fox News and from the Fox 5 DC affiliate for inaccurate reporting and damaging the legacy of their son," spokesman Brad Bauman said.

    This week, both Fox News and WTTG-TV published and aired reports, sourced to private investigator Rod Wheeler, that said evidence showed Rich had been in contact with Wikileaks before his death. Wheeler later told CNN he had no such evidence and that he had, in fact, only heard of some information attributed to him from a Fox News reporter with whom he spoke.

    A FoxNews.com story on the case also cited a "federal source" who said the FBI had conducted a forensic analysis of Rich's computer and discovered thousands of emails with Wikileaks. But a law enforcement official told CNN that the FBI never had possession of Rich's laptop and did not conduct a forensic analysis of its contents.

    Neither Fox News nor WTTG-TV have issued corrections to their reports. Multiple requests for comment made to both outlets were not returned.

    Update: Fox News issued the following statement in response to criticism of their reporting and sources changing their story. In an email statement to HuffPost, Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital said, "We continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants":

    Fox News and Fox 5 published separate stories about the supposed links on Tuesday. But since then, the main source has changed his story, D.C. police and the FBI have disputed the most explosive claims, and Rich’s family has called on the network and station to issue retractions, saying that “inaccurate reporting” is “damaging the legacy” of Rich, a 27-year-old DNC staffer who was slain as he walked to his D.C. home.

    Fox News isn’t budging.

    “We continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants,” Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital, said in an email statement to HuffPost on Wednesday afternoon. The network has not addressed the questions and apparent discrepancies surrounding its story.

    Fox 5 didn’t respond to multiple HuffPost requests for comment about its article. A spokesperson for the station told DCist it was standing by the story.

  • Comey Firing Coverage Shows Right-Wing Media Has Lost Its Grip On Reality

    Fake News Purveyors Joined Conservatives In Lauding Comey's Firing

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Right-wing media praised the Trump administration’s egregious decision to fire FBI director James Comey. Conservatives trumpeted the move as long overdue, while other media outlets lamented Trump’s move as “obstruction” and called his rationale for the firing “implausible.”

  • In 100 Days, Trump Has Attacked The Press Over 100 Times. Here’s How Fox News Cheered Him On.

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have been defined, in part, by his administration’s hostility to the press. As Media Matters has documented, Trump has attacked the press well over 100 times to date. As Trump vilifies the press, Fox News hosts, contributors, and guests help cheer him on by supporting, enabling, and condoning his attempts to discredit mainstream media outlets.

  • With Tax March Looming, Watch Fox’s Absurd Defense Of Trump Hiding His Tax Returns

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Donald Trump broke with decades of precedent in 2016 by refusing to release his tax returns in the midst of his presidential campaign, a stubborn refusal he has maintained since taking office in January. On April 15, the day tax filings are traditionally due, Americans will march in over 100 cities around the country to demand that the president fully disclose his tax and financial records. Before the Tax March, take a look at some attempts by Trump's team of Fox News sycophants to defend his unprecedented refusal to disclose his tax returns.

  • Right-Wing Media Refuses To Blame Trump For GOP Health Care Defeat 

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Republicans “abruptly” withdrew their health care bill, which signaled the first legislative defeat for President Donald Trump. After the bill's failure, media figures blamed Democrats, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), and legislators instead of  Trump who adopted and pushed for the bill’s passage.

  • Will Fox News Finally Take The Debt Ceiling Seriously?

    Fox Spent Years Urging Republicans To Default On The National Debt To Hurt President Obama

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, Fox News personalities have urged them to use the threat of defaulting on the sovereign debt obligations of the United States government as a means of winning political concessions. With Republicans now in full control of Congress, will the talking heads at Fox finally come to terms with this monumental threat to the global economy and urge the GOP to raise the debt ceiling?

  • Trump’s Fans Are Blaming Paul Ryan For The Disaster Of Trumpcare

    And By Trump's Fans, I Mostly Mean Breitbart

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Breitbart.com is coming for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and it's using the GOP health care bill that President Donald Trump supports to attack him.

    Last night, the sycophantic pro-Trump site previously run by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon published audio of a House GOP conference call from last October in which Ryan said he was “not going to defend Donald Trump -- not now, not in the future.” Ryan was responding to the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women.

    Breitbart Washington bureau chief Matt Boyle’s write-up suggests that the audio was published to convince the president that he doesn’t owe Ryan anything. Boyle suggests the speaker “misled President Trump into believing that Ryan’s bill can pass Congress” and asserts that the legislation’s floundering “calls into question” whether Ryan “really understands how Trump won and how to win in general.”

    Boyle further claims that “in conversations Breitbart News has had with no fewer than 15 other White House aides, including many on the press team, it is clear that the President and the senior Trump administration team are not happy with this bill’s lack of conservative support." He grants anonymity to one source, whom he quotes as saying: “The President gave Ryan a chance. If he doesn’t get his act together soon, the President will have no choice but to step in and fix this on his own. He’s the best negotiator on the planet, and if this were his bill not Ryan’s it would not be this much of a mess.”

    In short, a right-wing Trump support site is providing the bill’s critics in the White House with a platform to push Trump away from the legislation he publicly supports by blaming it all on Ryan.

    Last week, Business Insider reported that Boyle had defended a previous salvo against the health care bill by telling colleagues, “We are Breitbart. This is war. There are no sacred cows in war.” But a review of Breitbart’s reporting on the bill indicates that there is one sacred cow: the site’s support for Trump.

    Trump and his administration officials have repeatedly expressed their fervent support for the House bill, which would result in tens of millions of Americans losing access to health insurance, according to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. On Friday, the president devoted his weekly radio address to extolling the legislation’s virtues, and his aides fanned out across the Sunday morning political shows to talk up the bill and talk down its then-forthcoming CBO score. Trump has even reportedly threatened to back primary challenges against members of Congress who oppose it.

    But as Boyle’s Monday night article indicates, Breitbart’s reporting has depicted the bill as Ryan’s creation and suggests that Ryan tricked Trump into supporting the GOP health care legislation.

    Breitbart regularly refers to the legislation as “RyanCare"; the site’s report on the apocalyptic CBO score was titled “CBO Releases Score of Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act.”

    Breitbart’s reporters are seeking out conservative opponents of the bill and giving them an opportunity to savage the legislation -- and Ryan. Their headlines include “Exclusive — Sarah Palin on Paul Ryan’s ‘RINO-Care’: ‘Socialized Medicine’; President Trump Will ‘Step In and Fix It’”; “Honeymoon Over: Speaker Paul Ryan Targets His Own Republicans, Not Democrats, with Ads on Health Care”; and “Exclusive — House Freedom Caucus Not Budging, Official Position Is for Full Repeal Alternative to Paul Ryan’s Obamacare 2.0.”

    Breitbart’s framing accomplishes several goals. It allows the website to continue its long war against Ryan under the imprimatur of trying to protect Trump. Its reporters have free rein to go after legislation that their audience hates, without tarnishing the image of the president their audience loves. And this line of attack neatly sidesteps the fundamental reality that conservatives want to repeal Obamacare and their only potential plans to replace it would necessarily deprive tens of millions of people of access to health care.

    Breitbart may be paving the way, but many of the president’s other leading media allies have adopted the same argument.

    On yesterday’s The Five, Fox News' Eric Bolling said that it’s time to “scrap” the health care bill, claiming that “Paul Ryan and the rest of the leadership pulled the wool over President Trump’s eyes.”

    Last night, Fox News' Sean Hannity claimed that Trump “has not really been well served by the Republican party in the House or the Senate, and this public civil war that is going on makes the G.O.P. Congress -- after having eight years to get their act together -- look like they were ill-prepared for this big moment.” He called on all Republican factions to “hammer out a consensus bill.”

    Over on Fox Business, Lou Dobbs fulminated that “This piece of junk won’t accomplish a single thing that the president has promised the American people. And only Paul Ryan would have the affrontery,  the arrogance, and the incompetence to put a bill like that in front of the president.” He added that Trump “has got to overcome this kind of idiocy in the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Republican Party. I mean, come on!”

    Donald Trump cannot fail. He can only be failed.