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As millions evacuate the east coast of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Matthew, which has already been responsible for more than 113 deaths across the Caribbean, the curator of the most widely read conservative website, Matt Drudge, irresponsibly peddled a conspiracy theory that federal officials have exaggerated the danger posed by Hurricane Matthew “to make exaggerated point on climate.”
On October 6, Drudge claimed “the deplorables” were wondering if the government was lying about the intensity of the deadly hurricane and also questioned the legitimacy of the National Hurricane Center’s data:
Drudge also used his website, one of the most widely read sites on the internet, DrudgeReport.com to put Florida residents in danger and push the conspiracy theory with a banner titled “STORM FIZZLE? MATTHEW LOOKS RAGGED!,” alongside links titled “IT’S A 4?” and “RESIDENTS NOT TAKING SERIOUSLY...”.
In direct contrast to Drudge, Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott warned those in the hurricane’s path that “this storm will kill you,” while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) described the storm as “dangerous.” Fox News host Shepard Smith warned Floridians that if they did not evacuate “you and everyone you know is dead,” and that “you can’t survive it,” while The National Weather Service for Melbourne, Florida warned residents that the storm was “LIFE-THREATENING,” and “more impacting than Hurricane David and 2004 hurricanes!”:
— NWS Melbourne (@NWSMelbourne) October 6, 2016
Drudge joined Rush Limbaugh in peddling irresponsible conspiracy theories about the hurricane, placing their audience in danger. Earlier, Limbaugh downplayed the storm by ranting about “politics in the forecasting of hurricanes because there are votes,” and previously claimed the National Hurricane Center is "playing games" with "hurricane forecasting" to convince viewers of climate change.
UPDATE: Conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Alex Jones retweeted Matt Drudge, expressing support and agreement with his dangerous hurricane conspiracy while adding the white supremacist “altright” hashtag:
The Drudge Report, the website owned and operated by conservative gossipmonger Matt Drudge, has linked to RT.com -- the website for the news service owned by the Russian government -- at least 67 times in 2016. According to an analysis by Media Matters for America, The Drudge Report also repeatedly linked to stories from other Russian-owned news sites, Sputnik News (22 times), and TASS (twice).
RT (previously known as Russia Today) broadcasts via satellite in Russian, English, and Spanish around the world and hosts its official website at RT.com. Russian President Vladimir Putin described the network as an attempt to introduce “another strong player on the world’s scene, a player that wouldn’t just provide an unbiased coverage of the events in Russia but also ... try to break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams.”
Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, reporter and former Moscow-based correspondent Julia Ioffe described RT as “the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet” that has at times sought to “stick it to the U.S. from behind the façade of legitimate newsgathering.”
In recent months, controversy has grown about apparent attempts by the Russian government to interfere in or influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
According to The New York Times, U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly told the White House that they have “high confidence” that the Russian government was “behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee.” The Washington Post has reported that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are currently investigating “what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions.”
Drudge has repeatedly used his site to promote stories that idolize Putin, while also painting America, its government, and figures like President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton in a negative light.
Over the last year, the Drudge Report has linked to several RT stories in this same vein. These include:
A story headlined “Russia to reveal location of US military satellites...” (paired with another story claiming the Kremlin is working on a “teleportation” program).
A claim from the Russian government alleging that a U.S. Navy destroyer was “dangerously close” to a Russian boat. Yet in other reporting, U.S. officials said the Russian ship was demonstrating “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers.
A column claiming “Satan Worship Rises In USA.”
Drudge also linked to the Sputnik News service 22 times over the last year. Foreign Policy described Sputnik as “another compliant outlet to trumpet the Kremlin line” that depicts “the United States as an ailing imperial power bent on holding on to its domains.”
Sputnik stories linked by Drudge include:
A story accusing Google of “Hillary Search Manipulation.”
An article headlined “Robots Wage War On Humanity 2055.”
A report with the headline “WIKILEAKS Assange: GOOGLEClinton Deal...”
Drudge also linked to stories from TASS, the official Russian news agency, twice over the last year.
While attending a 9/11 memorial event in New York, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton felt “‘overheated’” and left early, appearing “unsteady” as she entered her campaign van, NBC News reported, noting that she has been diagnosed with pneumonia. Some media figures used the episode to declare that Clinton was “as sick as a bitch” and “having a seizure of some kind.”
On Labor Day, visitors to the Drudge Report, the conservative news aggregator operated by Matt Drudge, were greeted by an above-the-fold story about the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama at the G20 Summit in China. Drudge’s headline for the story was “Lion And The Pussycat”:
The Drudge headline is part of a larger pattern from the site of consistently promoting Putin and his strongman style of leadership (the “Lion”), which Drudge has often contrasted with President Obama, whom he characterizes as a weaker leader (the “Pussycat”). Drudge has also consistently promoted pro-Russian news and information, repeatedly harping on the idea that American power is weakening and in decline.
Matt Drudge has extolled the virtues of Vladimir Putin for some time. In 2013, Drudge declared that “Putin is the leader of the free world,” adding to a chorus of conservatives backing the Russian leader. Around the same time, Drudge featured Putin at the top of his site as “Putin To The Rescue” (a headline he would re-use two years later) as the leader began discussing a possible military role for Russia in Syria.
Over the past few years, Drudge has used his site to promote a steady stream of stories favorable to Putin, often while denigrating President Obama and the United States.
Drudge’s boosterism of Putin has continued even as the FBI and other investigative services have alleged that hackers working at the behest of Russian intelligence have compromised American computer systems, including via an intrusion at the Democratic National Committee.
The U.S. director of national intelligence has also recently testified that an inquiry is currently underway to see whether Russians are attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Drudge has couched some of his stories about Putin with accompanying articles and headlines comparing his leadership style to that of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
In December, Drudge highlighted a Financial Times piece that compared Putin to Trump using the text, “Russian president offers glimpse of strong leader.” This was paired with an article describing Putin as part of a “strongman revival” showing a “global trend.”
During the Republican primaries, Drudge spotlighted a comment from Putin describing Donald Trump as a “very talented man.”
The Drudge Report has repeatedly highlighted stories focusing on Putin as a strong or tough world leader, often in a military context.
The Drudge Report placed an above-the-fold link to a threat from Putin that he could use nuclear weapons against ISIS.
Putin made it above-the-fold in a link to a Breitbart News article referring to ongoing negotiations over Syrian chemical weapons. The headline was “Hand ‘Em Over,” with a photo of Putin.
Drudge hailed Putin for “flex[ing] muscle” as elections approached in Russia, bundling that link with others offering defenses of Putin against American criticism:
Drudge gave above-fold treatment to a story asking if Russian airstrikes had killed the leader of ISIS (they hadn’t) with the headline “Did Putin Kill ISIS Leader?” The report linked did not name Putin or even reference Russian forces and their activities in the Middle East at the time. It appears Drudge invoked Putin’s involvement on his own.
As Putin moved to annex Crimea, Drudge put the headline “Putin Promises ‘Aid’ For Ukraine” above-the-fold.
As the annexation progressed, Drudge labeled the campaign as “Putin In Control.”
In addition to articles promoting Putin as a strongman, Drudge has also sought to use those stories as a contrast to President Obama and United States policy.
While linking to a New York Post story claiming that Obama has turned Putin into the most powerful leader in the world, Drudge used the headline “Red Planet: Putin Snubs Obama.”
Drudge promoted a Chinese claim that “Putin Humiliated USA.”
After Russia engaged in airstrikes in Syria, Drudge juxtaposed a news link of that action with another story in which Putin called America “weak.”
After the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, Drudge led his site with a headline asking if Putin would be the one to “rescue” the world from ISIS
When Putin has been involved in international controversies, the Drudge Report has been a part of his administration’s pushback, often with links to official Russian news outlets, or those with state sponsorship.
When leaked files showing international efforts to move money offshore to avoid taxes referenced Putin, Drudge linked to an official denying Putin’s involvement.
Drudge has also used his platform to chronicle Putin’s day-to-day activities as leader of Russia.
He made a note of a Putin visit to Iran, which for some reason was featured above-the-fold.
Drudge headlined photos of Putin working out “Ripped Putin Hits The Gym.”
When Russian planes bombed targets in Syria, Drudge headlined the story above-the-fold as “Putin Blitz.”
When world leaders attended a meeting of the G20 in Russia, Drudge posted photos of Putin greeting them along with the headline, “World Into The Arms of Putin.” He also wrote that “Obama shows up late -- and alone -- to dinner with Putin.”
A story about the Russian Defense Ministry purchasing dolphins was paired with an article headlined “Fighter Jets Sent To Watch Putin.”
An announcement that a state media agency in Russia was dissolving also made it above-the-fold on Drudge.
Drudge linked to a report from the Russian news agency Tass about a meeting between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping with a picture captioned “Putin Courts Xi.”
When Putin played in a hockey game, that made the Drudge Report too.
Drudge illustrated an ABC News story on Putin’s exercise regimen with a photo of the president.
Drudge took note of a Putin encounter with leopard cubs in Sochi, Russia.
After the 2014 Olympics in Russia had concluded, Drudge put “Games Over: Putin Ready to Take Off Gloves?” above-the-fold.
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Right-Wing Media Has Pushed Clinton Health Conspiracies In Attempt To Distract From Trump Controversies
Associated Press reporter Lisa Lerer debunked right-wing conspiracy theories that a video showing Hillary Clinton laughing at press questions shows her suffering from a seizure.
Right-wing media personalities including Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and Matt Drudge, have attempted to change the subject from Donald Trump’s campaign troubles by drumming up a conspiracy that Hillary Clinton is in poor health. Fox host Hannity has led the crusade attacking Clinton, bringing on guests to diagnose Clinton of various diseases using deceptively edited snippets of video and photos of Clinton.
Hannity repeatedly used video taken several months ago of Clinton’s campaign visit to a bakery where he speculated that her exaggerated motion was possibly a seizure.
Lerer explained that what happened during Clinton’s campaign visit to Washington D. C. on June 10 while covering the campaign was less controversial (emphasis added):
I've never been part of a conspiracy theory. Now, video of my surprised facial expression has become Exhibit A in the latest unfounded speculation about Hillary Clinton.
It starts with Clinton's visit to a muffin shop in Washington on June 10, five days before the District of Columbia's Democratic primary. The then-presumptive Democratic nominee popped in for a photo op with Mayor Muriel Bowser and other officials supporting her campaign.
As an Associated Press reporter who's spent more than a year covering her candidacy, I was there for her appearance. After she ordered herself a "cold chai," my colleagues and I shouted some questions, mostly about Clinton's recent meeting with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Perhaps eager to avoid answering or maybe just taken aback by our volume, Clinton responded with an exaggerated motion, shaking her head vigorously for a few seconds. Video of the moment shows me holding out my recorder in front of her, laughing and stepping back in surprise. After the exchange, she took a few more photos, exited the shop and greeted supporters waiting outside.
CNN’s senior media correspondent Brian Stelter explained the Clinton health conspiracy theories began from “pro-Trump Twitter accounts, which then went to a fringe right-wing blog, which then went to the Drudge Report” and on to other media outlets.
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Fox News has followed others in right-wing media in suggesting that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich may have been murdered because he had helped WikiLeaks gain access to the DNC’s email servers. These conspiracy theories were floated after WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information on Rich’s murder, and after Trump ally Roger Stone suggested Rich was murdered for talking to the FBI about election fraud.
A new report from Politico highlights criticism from several Secret Service veterans targeting an upcoming anti-Hillary Clinton book from former Secret Service officer Gary J. Byrne. Those current and former Secret Service members argue Byrne “was too low-ranking” to have witnessed the gossipy events he details in the book and suggest he is lying for political and financial benefit.
Byrne’s Crisis of Character, which is set to be released next week, has received widespread promotion from conservative media outlets. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has plugged the book several times on Twitter, claiming it shows Clinton does not have the temperament to be president. Trump also referenced the book during a June 21 Fox & Friends appearance, saying “her Secret Service agent” claims “she’s a total mess.”
Unsurprisingly, the Drudge Report, which has repeatedly promoted allegations from Crisis of Character, reports that Byrne will give his first TV interview promoting the book on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show (Hannity has already pushed the book, including during an interview earlier this month with Trump).
In contrast to the widespread praise from Trump and right-wing media outlets, Secret Service veterans think Byrne’s book is not credible. In a June 21 article, Politico reports complaints about the book from “several high-level members of Secret Service presidential details,” who say Byrne is “inflating his role,” relaying unverified gossip, and making “security harder by eroding the trust between agents and the people they protect.”
The nonpartisan Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service (AFAUSSS) will reportedly release a statement ripping the book, which Politico says “very carefully calls Byrne a liar.”
On Tuesday, AFAUSSS, which is strictly nonpartisan, is set to release a statement blasting Gary Byrne author of “Crisis in Character,” saying members “strongly denounce” the book, which they add has made security harder by eroding the trust between agents and the people they protect.
“There is no place for any self-moralizing narratives, particularly those with an underlying motive,” reads the statement from the group’s board of directors, which says Byrne has politics and profit on his mind.
AFAUSSS rarely issues public statements of any kind.
The book has rankled current and former members of the Secret Service, who don’t like anyone airing their business in public — but who also take issue with Byrne inflating his role. Byrne was a uniformed officer in Bill Clinton’s White House. But that’s the lowest level of protection within the White House and around the president.
People familiar with West Wing security laugh at the idea that Byrne or any uniformed officer ever would have walked in on Bill Clinton anywhere, whether in a meeting or, as a New York Post article over the weekend claims, in the middle of a make-out session in the Map Room with the late daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale. The Secret Service presidential detail would have stopped him. (That affair was a well-worn rumor during the Clinton years, though strongly denied by Eleanor Mondale, who died of brain cancer in 2011.)
The group’s statement, which POLITICO obtained in advance of its release, very carefully calls Byrne a liar.
“One must question the veracity and content of any book which implies that its author played such an integral part of so many [claimed] incidents. Any critique of management by one who has never managed personnel or programs resounds hollow. Additionally, why would an employee wait in excess of ten years after terminating his employment with the Service to make his allegations public?” it reads.
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Several conservative media figures criticized the U.S. Treasury Department’s announcement that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, calling the change “dumb" and a “travesty.”
Flashback: Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, And Richard Nixon Have All Been Photographed In Front Of Communist Leaders
Right-wing media rushed to attack President Obama over a photograph from his trip to Cuba in which he appears in Havana's Plaza de la Revolución, with a mural of Che Guevara visible in the background -- apparently forgetting that Republican Presidents Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush have all been photographed in front of images of communist leaders while on trips abroad.
Right-wing media personalities have been pushing conspiracy theories about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. They've called the circumstances of his death "peculiar," "suspicious," and "fishy," and claimed President Obama or his allies may have "killed" Scalia because of his opinions on environmental regulations, gun laws, immigration, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and unions. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has been aiding the conspiracy theories, calling the circumstances surrounding Scalia's death "pretty unusual" and "big stuff."
Right-wing media are attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for coughing during a campaign event, continuing a long-standing pattern of criticizing Clinton's health.