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  • Today's dumbest controversy is the idea that Eric Holder wants Democrats to literally kick conservatives

    "When they go low, we kick them” doesn’t mean to actually kick someone

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Speaking to a group of Democrats in support of Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Adams, former Attorney General Eric Holder riffed on Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” line from the 2016 Democratic National Convention to comment on the need for Democrats to fight back against voter suppression efforts -- a legitimate concern, especially in that state.

    “Michelle always says, ‘When they go low, we go high,'” said Holder at last weekend’s event. “No. No. When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about. We’re proud as hell to be Democrats. We’re willing to fight for the ideals of the Democratic Party.”

    Just from that quote, it should be obvious that Holder wasn’t talking about physically kicking anybody, but lest someone misinterpret his comment as a call to violence, he clarified:

    “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.”

    Since its release, the video of Holder’s comments has been making the rounds across conservative and mainstream media.

    On Wednesday’s edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, the host called Holder an “illustrious thug” after playing the context-free version of Holder’s comments.

    “You know, when I think what we’ve just gone through and when I think of what Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh and his family have gone through, and I think of the ignorance of the radical Dems on that committee and in that party and what they’re saying, and watching Eric Holder in Georgia, talking big like he’s some sort of street thug, I can’t imagine what it would take to infuriate, to motivate Republicans to get to the polls and take five others with them,” Dobbs said later in the program.

    On Thursday’s Fox & Friends, Holder’s comments racked up a number of mentions. Yet again, the latter half of his statement, where he explicitly said that he’s not referring to committing acts of violence, was omitted.

    “Wow, that's the new Democratic Party? Just start kicking people? That's the former head of the Justice Department, keep that in mind,” said co-host Ainsley Earhardt.

    President Donald Trump later called in to the show. Asked about what Holder said, Trump replied, “He better be careful what he is wishing for,” adding, “That is a disgusting statement for him to make.”

    He went on to call it a “dangerous statement,” saying, “They talk about us. We are exactly opposite.” He then described his rallies as “really calm and well-run and packed with people. We don't have problems at our rallies, but they used to send in -- they don't do it anymore, they haven't, they probably, maybe they will try starting again -- but they used to send in protesters, paid protesters. The Democrats and Soros and they came from all over.”

    Trump’s rallies during the 2016 campaign, however, were not the peaceful utopia he described on Thursday. There’s a stark contrast between the way Fox & Friends discussed these relatively harmless comments by Holder and how the show reacted when then-candidate Trump called in on November 22, 2015, to say of one protester who claimed to have been assaulted at one of his rallies: “Maybe he should have been roughed up.

    The distortion of Holder’s comments fits into Fox News’ pre-election strategy of framing Democrats as violent extremists who can’t be trusted to govern.

    And as goes Fox News, so goes the rest of conservative media.

    Breitbart, The Washington Times, The Federalist, The Gateway Pundit, and Twitchy all published stories centered around the first portion of the video.

    At RedState, Andrea Ruth wrote that “advocating physical violence … is really not the best look or direction for a party that got members worked up because people at a Trump rally chanted lock her up. … Let’s just hope no one gets hurt because they feel emboldened by Holder’s careless words,” she said, continuing the distortion.

    The Daily Caller and Hot Air both wrote about the video, later updating their posts with additional context.

    Hot Air’s John Sexton wrote, “Of course, I think we all know what will happen the moment someone does this to Hillary or Eric Holder. Suddenly they’ll be shocked and appalled and claim they never had this in mind. They were only speaking metaphorically, etc., etc. Don’t believe it for a minute. They see what is happening out there. They know what kind of behavior they are encouraging.” In his update, he backpedalled, adding the additional comments and writing: “People on the left are pointing to this as evidence that Holder wasn’t endorsing violence or illegal behavior. Fair enough but if you read the post above you may have noticed I never said or even suggested he was recommending violence.”

    Yeah, but you kind of did suggest that, John.

    Violent rhetoric should be condemned, but bad-faith efforts to score points through misrepresentation do little to build trust.

    Violence, of course, is bad, and so is rhetoric that can incite it. But pretending that Holder meant “kick” opponents literally, that Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) “fight in the streets” comment were actually about throwing punches, or that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calling on supporters to “push back” on the Trump administration was an actual instruction to shove government officials (in fairness, she did say to confront them in public, but that’s hardly inciting language), it gets harder to take these claims seriously. Surely, those framing these messages as calls to violence in media know that it’s deceptive to do so.

  • PragerU posts a video about Christopher Columbus that features a racist depiction of indigenous people

    It's that time of year.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    PragerU put out a video featuring CRTV’s Steven Crowder explaining that Columbus Day is “not about paying homage to America’s original inhabitants” and showing a racist depiction of indigenous people as cannibals wielding salt-and-pepper shakers.

    PragerU is an online hub for right-wing propaganda that has made a name for itself by producing short explainer videos that get quickly propelled by YouTube’s virality algorithm. It has an incredibly strong following that leads to its videos raking in millions of views on YouTube and Facebook. On this occasion, PragerU gave its powerful platform to bigoted Crowder -- who recently referred to Christine Blasey Ford as a “lying whore” on his CRTV show -- to characterize initiatives against the erasure of original populations as a “charade” that is an “exercise in hating Western civilization.”

    On 4chan, a hub for far-right extremism, users have latched onto right-wing media’s culture war outrage and historical revisionism surrounding Christopher Columbus. 4chan users framed the issue in white supremacist terms by celebrating Columbus because of his role in the genocide of people of color:

    This outrage has become an annual tradition. Every year on this date, right-wing media figures rant against calls to celebrate indigenous people rather than Columbus’ bloody legacy, by lashing out with racist depictions of original populations. In 2017, Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire published a cartoon showing Native Americans as cannibalistic savages who should be grateful for colonization, a take so racist even Shapiro had to apologize following the backlash.

    Similarly, Mike Huckabee published a wildly racist educational video about Columbus and indigenous people in 2011.

    And speaking about Columbus Day in 2005, Lou Dobbs said that he resented “those kinds of holidays” that have “nothing to do with celebrating America.” In the same context, Rush Limbaugh in 2010 linked disease rates among indigenous populations to evolution.

    White supremacist darling Tucker Carlson has repeatedly bemoaned celebrations of indigenous people, characterizing them as an “attack on civilization” and claiming Europeans coming to America led to “far less human sacrifice and cannibalism.”

    Talia Lavin contributed research to this piece.

  • Fox is whipping Senate votes to push Brett Kavanaugh over the finish line

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As the U.S. Senate prepares to act on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, Fox hosts with close ties to President Donald Trump are explicitly urging their conservative audience to contact senators and urge them to vote to confirm the nominee.

    On Thursday night, Lou Dobbs wrapped up his show by telling his viewers, “Let me say it this way: Call your senator; tell him to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to sit on the court.”

    The night before, Sean Hannity said that Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are “the people who will decide the fate of Judge Kavanaugh” and urged his viewers to call their offices. He added that if the senators oppose Kavanaugh, “you can vote them out.”

    In recent weeks, Fox has become a clearinghouse for right-wing smears and conspiracy theories about the women who reported sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh, as well as absurd defenses of the nominee and apocalyptic claims about what will happen if he is not confirmed.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has scheduled a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination for Friday morning. It is unclear whether Kavanaugh has the votes for confirmation.

  • After demanding release of DOJ documents, Trump admits he's just doing what his sycophants tell him to do

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Law enforcement and national security experts are warning that President Donald Trump’s decision to selectively declassify and release portions of sensitive Justice Department documents related to the Russia probe could compromise U.S. intelligence methods and endanger the lives of sources. And in an alarming if unsurprising turn, the president said Tuesday that he hasn’t bothered to read the documents and is putting them out because “many people” -- likely including his sycophants at Fox -- told him to do so.

    The White House announced on Monday night that Trump had directed federal agencies to declassify and release documents related to the Russia probe, including portions of the federal warrant used to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, text messages from senior Justice Department and FBI officials, and FBI reports of interviews with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr related to the Russia investigation.

    Experts quickly pointed out that Trump’s move was extraordinary, unprecedented, and dangerous. Some warned that the president’s direct involvement in an investigation that involves his administration and that he constantly describes as a “witch hunt” has dire implications for the rule of law. Others emphasized that releasing portions of the unredacted FISA application, which details investigative sources and methods, would be crossing a “red line” that “could not only compromise such information, but risk the US's relationship with its partners in the intelligence community.”

    But in an interview conducted Tuesday by The Hill’s John Solomon and Buck Sexton, Trump admitted that he did not review the documents in question and soberly consider the national security implications of their release. Instead, he simply took the advice of “many people” who he says have been urging him to take action, doing so because he thought the release would benefit him politically by delegitimizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. From The Hill’s write-up of the interview:

    Trump said he had not read the documents he ordered declassified but said he expected to show they would prove the FBI case started as a political “hoax.”

    “I have had many people ask me to release them. Not that I didn’t like the idea but I wanted to wait, I wanted to see where it was all going,” he said.

    In the end, he said, his goal was to let the public decide by seeing the documents that have been kept secret for more than two years. “All I want to do is be transparent,” he said.

    The article provides no indication that Solomon and Sexton sought to determine which parties influenced Trump. But obvious culprits include the Fox pundits he watches for hours each day. (UPDATE: The Hill's transcript of the interview shows that Trump says he has "watched commentators that I respect begging the president of the United States to release" the documents, specifically referencing Fox personalities "the great Lou Dobbs, the great Sean Hannity, [and] the wonderful great Jeanie Pirro.")

    The president frequently tweets criticism of the Justice Department’s handling of the Russia investigation -- and specifically the Page FISA warrant and Ohr's role in the probe -- in response to commentary he sees on Fox.

    And indeed, over the past few months, leading Trump propagandists Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs used their shows to campaign for Trump to release these documents, often pointing to the political benefits they believed that decision would have.

    On July 23, for example -- just two days after the Justice Department released a redacted version of the Page FISA application, the first time in history that such a document had been disclosed -- Hannity told his Fox audience, “We have even more questions than even earlier. This FISA application is heavily redacted. The American people deserve to see it. I am calling for all of this warrant to be unredacted.” Hannity added that “the president can do this” and that if he did so, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s investigation, “is finished.” On July 30, Hannity specifically called for the release of “19 pages” from the warrant -- the president has called for the declassification of 20 pages from the document.

    Dobbs similarly asked earlier this month, “Why is the president not ordering the release of this and declassifying all of that paperwork and putting it in front of the American people and the special counsel so we can get a little clearer picture on who Robert Mueller really is?” He’s also suggested there is no “rational reason on Earth” not to release the documents.

    As the Fox drumbeat quickened, Republican congressman including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Mark Meadows (R-NC) -- who have spent the last year using their oversight authority to try to stymie the Russia probe -- held a press conference urging Trump to release the documents, then took turns doing Fox interviews on the subject. Trump ended up calling for the release of the very documents they had demanded, down to the specific pages they asked for from the Page warrant.

    John Solomon himself -- a crucial member of the anti-Mueller media ecosystem who draws on conservative sources to produce slanted reporting -- has used his recent Fox appearances to suggest that the declassification of these documents would prove malfeasance by the FBI in the early stages of the Russia probe, undermining its credibility.

    All of which is to say that, as usual, the president weighed the advice he receives from sycophants on TV more highly than any counsel he might receive from more credible sources.

    “For months, right here on this program, we have been asking for the unredacted FISA documents to be released,” Hannity said on Monday. “Now, the president has done it.” The president privileged Hannity’s advice over that of national security experts, with potentially dire consequences.

  • Trump ordered the unprecedented release of classified material after a push from Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    On September 17, President Donald Trump ordered the declassification and public release of sensitive classified documents and text messages related to the origin of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. For weeks leading up to the president’s decision, two of his informal and most-trusted cable television advisers, Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, clamored for the release of the material. Hannity even appeared to have gotten some early notice of the move, saying just days before Trump’s decision to declassify the material, “We expect next week, we might get those unredacted FISA warrants.”