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  • News outlets promote ISIS' evidence-free claim of connection to Las Vegas shooting

    Intelligence officials quickly debunked story linking terror group to worst mass shooting in American history

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    MSNBC / Screengrab

    In an October 2 dispatch, The Associated Press promoted the terror group ISIS’ claim that it was responsible for a mass shooting in Las Vegas that left more than 50 dead and 500 others injured, even though the AP acknowledged ISIS provided no evidence to support the assertion. Other outlets rushed to parrot the AP’s report over the next few hours, until the FBI stated the shooter has no connection to ISIS or any other terrorist group.

    A 10:15 a.m. EST dispatch from the AP’s Cairo, Egypt, bureau carried the headline “Islamic State Claims Las Vegas Attack” followed by a single sentence noting that ISIS provided “no evidence” to support its claim. Moments later, a corresponding tweet from the AP reiterated the claims:

    Following the AP’s lead, Newsweek and the New York Post ran with the same misleading headline, providing varying degrees of clarification demonstrating that the claim of ISIS involvement was completely unsubstantiated. Bloomberg reposted the AP report with no alterations, while Time amended the headline to reflect that ISIS “didn’t give any proof” to support its claim. Just a few minutes after the AP flash, Fox News correspondent John Roberts also promoted the claim, speculating about how ISIS involvement, if confirmed, might change the tone of President Donald Trump’s response to the incident. Roughly one hour after AP pushed the story, NBC News legal analyst Pete Williams also discussed the unsubstantiated link to ISIS on MSNBC, but stressed that federal law enforcement and intelligence sources he has spoken with “have absolutely no reason to believe” the supposed link “is true”:

    At a press conference at roughly 11:45 a.m. EST, Aaron Rouse, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Las Vegas, said that federal officials have found “no connection to an international terrorist group.”

    After a series of extensive updates, the AP article now mentions that ISIS “often claims attacks by individuals inspired by its message but with no known links to the group.” A similarly styled report from CBS News also reflects, after several updates, that the Las Vegas gunman demonstrated “no early signs of any ties to radical Islamic groups or signs of radicalization,” and notes that ISIS “offered no proof of a link with” the gunman.

    In a series of tweets shortly after the AP published its initial report, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank explained that ISIS is a notoriously unreliable source of information and noted that it has a history of claiming a connection to unrelated shootings and attacks. Rather than simply running with ISIS’ self-aggrandizing propaganda for the sake of adding new angles to developing stories, news outlets should refrain from publishing until all the facts are in. 

  • STUDY: Fox News Devotes At Least A Sixth Of Its Live Airtime To Bret Baier’s Speculative FBI Report

    Fox Ran More Than Two Hours Of Coverage On Report Three Other Networks Have Debunked

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Fox News devoted more than two hours of live coverage over one day of programming to Fox News anchor Bret Baier’s anonymously-sourced reporting that included explosive claims about both the FBI’s investigation into a “pay-for-play” relationship between the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s office as secretary of state and their investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server. Three other networks have debunked and disputed the claims Baier made based on their own sources.

  • Stop Calling Bret Baier A “Real Journalist”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News anchor Bret Baier made a massive face plant on his now-debunked report of a forthcoming indictment as part of supposed FBI investigations related to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Yet fellow journalists are giving Baier a pass because he is a “solid reporter” and a “real journalist.” To the contrary, Baier is part of the cadre of so-called “hard news” Fox reporters who frequently peddle conservative misinformation under the guise of “straight news,” and his latest “indictment” error is not simply a one-time slip up. 

    Baier seemingly stunned the political world on November 2 when he cited anonymous sources to claim that FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state found an “avalanche of new information coming in every day” that would lead to “likely an indictment.” The claim quickly made its way to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who said the FBI investigation “is likely to yield an indictment.”

    Less than 24 hours after the initial claim, however, Baier partially walked back his “inartful” and flawed report, saying it was wrong for him to “phrase it like I did.” Later that day, ABC News and NBC News poured cold water on Baier’s report, and NBC’s Pete Williams reported that “there really isn’t” an investigation into the Clinton Foundation and that “this idea that there are indictments near … is just not true.”

    Yet despite Baier’s botched reporting, some journalists claimed Baier’s inaccurate reporting was a one-off error. CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota held Baier up as “a real journalist,” saying, “He’s not Sean Hannity. … Bret is a real journalist,” suggesting that his latest miscue was out of character for him. Fellow CNN anchor Chris Cuomo also suggested that it was Baier’s sources who were at fault, not he, because Baier is a “solid reporter” who shouldn’t be “assail[ed]” for being misled.

    Baier’s bungled report is indeed an example of terrible journalism, but he hardly has an otherwise-clean slate of “solid” and honest reporting.

    Throughout his tenure at Fox, Baier has pushed false and misleading claims about numerous issues. He has distorted conversations about reproductive rights by pushing an overwhelming amount of abortion-related misinformation on his show, including referring to common abortion procedures as “dismemberment abortion.” He has also used his show as a vehicle for pushing debunked conspiracy theories and flatout falsehoods regarding the September 11, 2012, terror attacks in Benghazi -- in fact, Baier’s Special Report aired the most Benghazi-related segments of all of Fox’s evening programs in the 20 months following the attacks.

    Baier has attacked first lady Michelle Obama’s healthy lunches initiative, pushed falsehoods about Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, and fearmongered over nondiscrimination ordinances. He has falsely suggested that climate change data is “cooked,” peddled false conspiracy theories about Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, and even pushed House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to threaten a government shutdown. Baier also defended his former boss Roger Ailes after sexual harassment allegations surfaced and attempted to downplay Trump’s widely condemned invitation for the Russian government to hack Clinton by claiming Trump was simply “joking.”

    In addition to all of this, Baier has not even fully retracted his false reporting on Clinton and the FBI, doubling down on November 3 despite the debunking from other outlets.

    So no, Bret Baier is not a “real journalist.” He is a right-leaning Fox News reporter who exploits the facade of his “straight news” evening show to peddle conservative misinformation, and his latest “indictment” misfire is part of an ongoing trend.

    UPDATE: On November 4, Baier apologized on-air for his misleading report and effectively walked back all three of his original and now debunked claims. Journalists praised Baier for correcting his false reportingignoring the broader context of flawed body of work. 

  • Fox's Alternate Reality On New York City's Murder Rate

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News used a misleading chart featuring incomplete data to defend Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s false claim made during the first presidential debate that “murders are up” in New York City. Fox’s chart used data from 2014 to 2015 to demonstrate a rise in murder rates, but did not include complete data showing that murder rates in New York City are down in 2016 from the same point last year.

  • Why The Clinton Email Case Is Substantially Different From David Petraeus' Crimes

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In response to FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the FBI is not recommending criminal charges in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email as secretary of state, right-wing media fell back on the already debunked claim that former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus was charged in a similar case. Other media outlets pointed out the many differences between the Petraeus case -- which involved the general intentionally sharing classified information with his biographer -- from the Clinton case, noting that it is “flatly wrong” to compare the two.

  • How The Nightly Network News Covered The Supreme Court's Rejection Of Texas' Anti-Choice Law

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    After the landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, two network evening news programs allowed anti-abortion activists to spin the ruling as a “loss for women’s health and safety.” But in actuality, the Supreme Court found that the requirements imposed by the Texas law addressed “no significant health-related problem” and are “nearly arbitrary” -- findings that two other networks highlighted.

  • Nets silent on sexism of anonymous quotes Graham used

    ››› ››› LILY YAN

    ABC's World News and NBC's Nightly News reported Lindsey Graham's citation of anonymous criticism of Sonia Sotomayor published in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary without noting that Sotomayor's 2nd Circuit Court colleague reportedly called such criticism "sexist."

  • Following ABC's Stephanopoulos, NBC's Williams used partial Alito response to suggest Alito rejected strong executive power

    ››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

    Covering the nomination hearing of Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr., NBC News correspondent Pete Williams asserted that "Alito himself told the senators this week that a president does not have the power to disregard a law." But Williams based this on only a part of a response Alito gave on the issue of presidential power. In fact, Alito's entire response on the issue constitutes a legal truism that tells senators nothing about his views on presidential power versus congressional power -- that the president cannot disregard a law that is constitutional. Simply put, Alito told the committee that the president has to follow the law except when he doesn't have to.