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  • Republicans have already empowered gangs and extremist groups

    From the Proud Boys to Turning Point USA, extremists are ascendant on the right, but legacy media are too often playing catch-up

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Let's be clear about the state of things. A well-connected sitting congressman endorsed a neo-Nazi for political office, and it wasn't the first time this sort of thing happened. To the contrary, GOP candidates across the country have links to white nationalists. The GOP president -- who is the undisputed center of the party -- is a former game show host whose administration has repeatedly defended violent extremists. And his son has even appeared on a white nationalist show. The debate is over. The extremists have taken over the party.

    And yet, legacy media outlets are too often caught completely unaware.

    On October 12, the Metropolitan Republican Club hosted Gavin McInnes, founder of the self-identified “gang” Proud Boys. During the event, McInnes re-enacted the violent 1960 murder of Japanese socialist party leader Inejiro Asanuma. After McInnes' appearance, a number of Proud Boys were taped nearby brutally beating and kicking several individuals” and shouting homophobic slurs at protesters. Videos show "more than a dozen" Proud Boys, including at least three skinheads, punching and kicking protesters on the ground.

    In response, The New York Times has covered McInnes' exploits with kid gloves and reduced his extremism to mere provocation. Just look how thrilled white supremacist Ann Coulter was with the piece:

    The Times’ irresponsible description of McInnes as simply a "far-right provocateur" is already memorialized on Wikipedia, potentially the most widely read source of information by audiences that might never have heard of him before. As Jacob Weindling wrote, "You can quote Gavin McInnes directly while describing events that happened and get a harsher description of McInnes than the NYT wrote. ... I don't know how you can call the beginning of this article anything other than white nationalist propaganda."

    Weindling is correct. Just look at McInnes’ speech to the Manhattan Republican Club, in which he told Republicans that they need Proud Boys as “foot soldiers," because of what they have in common. Or look at what McInnes said on his podcast on October 14, when he defended the use of anti-LGBTQ slurs.

    And this characterization matters. While the Times is describing McInnes as a "provocateur," and NBC News is portraying the Proud Boys as a "nationalist movement," the reality is that we're in far more dangerous territory. As Daily Beast reporter Kelly Weill noted, by making alliances with groups like the Proud Boys, “mainstream Republicans can sort of outsource the political and physical violence that they’d like to enact against opponents.”

    And McInnes is not an isolated figure: He and the Proud Boys are deeply entwined in right-wing media. McInnes was a contributor to Fox News for eight years, appearing on Sean Hannity’s show at least 24 times. In 2017, Hannity hosted another Proud Boy with ties to the violent white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally to discuss political violence. Fox host Mark Levin has given McInnes two shows on his online outlet CRTV, where McInnes has pushed extremist bigotry like promoting men’s rights activism, calling female journalists “colostomy bag for various strangers’ semen,” and glorifying violence and fighting. Fox host Tucker Carlson happily posed with Roger Stone and two Proud Boys in a Fox green room and “declined to disavow” the group when asked about it. McInnes shows up on right-wing radio and on right-wing YouTube. In an era in which the right-wing is doing everything it can to suppress opposition, it's no wonder that the Proud Boys are now part of the Republican machine.

    It's not just the Proud Boys, either.

    On the October 17 edition of Today, NBC gave a platform to Identity Evropa -- a white supremacist group actively seeking to rebrand its racism as identitarianism. The network referred to Identity Evropa as a “fringe group,” yet NBC still gave its leaders a softball interview on a show that consistently reaches the coveted demographic of adults ages 25-54; its affiliated channel MSNBC also aired segments featuring the group and other white supremacists.

    NBC’s Peter Alexander played into Identity Evropa's obsession with “optics” and rejection of “anti-social behavior” by remarking on how “clean cut” its representatives look. The segment allowed the white supremacist organization to expand its reach beyond YouTube and social media to recruit followers and promote its talking points, which include blatantly pushing white nationalism using the Republican Party as a vehicle. The group's leader was thrilled was the exposure.

    It's clear that the communications wing of the GOP has no problem with these groups.

    On October 16, Fox News host Laura Ingraham invited Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson on her show for a softball interview. Patriot Prayer is a far-right coalition whose membership overlaps with the Proud Boys and whose unity relies on their common “hatred for the left.” Gibson has personally encouraged his followers to instigate violence, promising that counterprotesters “are going to feel the pain.” Ingraham's interview conveniently ignored a report by The Oregonian that the group had "a cache of guns" including "long guns" on a rooftop in Portland, OR, before a summer protest. That's where we are: One of the president's favorite television hosts did a friendly interview with the type of person whose group sets up a cache of guns during a protest of that president.

    Fox also frequently hosts Turning Point USA’s most prominent members, Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, close allies of the president. Left unmentioned are the extremist views of TPUSA. The Miami New Times unearthed online chats from one TPUSA chapter that feature members warning each other about not using racial slurs too often, talking about "watching underage cartoon pornography and deporting Latina women," and sharing memes about "Syrian men raping a white Swedish woman at gunpoint." An attendee at a TPUSA conference was filmed praising Nazi Germany. And when TPUSA pushed out the person who wrote "I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all. ... I hate blacks," the replacement was someone who said, "I love making racist jokes." Undeterred, Fox News hosts and top allies of the president happily attend TPUSA events, and TPUSA members openly raise money off of Fox segments that fearmonger about the liberalization of college campuses. It's quite the con.

    Or look at Fox host Tucker Carlson, an innovator in this space. Instead of mainstreaming an extremist group, Carlson is cutting out the middleman and mainstreaming men's rights and white supremacist propaganda himself.

    Make no mistake: People across America are seeing all of this and speaking up. But at some point, it'd be nice if the legacy media would notice too.

  • Media have found their latest Trump pivot: General Kelly

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ & SANAM MALIK

    Media figures promoted the idea that President Donald Trump’s administration is heading towards a reset, this time following the firing of White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci along with the swearing in of former Marine General John F. Kelly as the new White House chief of staff. Kelly’s move to chief of staff is just the latest example of the media’s obsession with the fantasy of a Trump “reset” that will never happen.

  • Broadcast Evening News Programs Pilloried Trump’s Tax Cut Outline

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn finally unveiled President Donald Trump’s plan for a major overhaul of individual and corporate income taxes in the United States during an April 26 press briefing. The plan, which seemed to many observers like a less detailed version of the budget-busting agenda Trump campaigned on, was assailed by reporters and economic analysts on the major broadcast evening news programs for its sparse details and profligate giveaways to the wealthy, including a likely tax break for the president himself.

  • Hyping Trump’s Latest “Discipline,” Pundits Whitewash His Recent Unhinged Days

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures are once again hyping a “disciplined” Donald Trump in the final days of the presidential campaign, ignoring the Republican presidential nominee’s racist fearmongering, outlandish claims, and “new record” total of lies told in one day. The media has unremittingly sought a Trump “pivot,” which never actually materialized.

  • Fox News’ Reaction To Trump’s Birtherism Was Predictably Terrible

    MSNBC And CNN Debunked Trump’s Lies, Explained How Trump Mainstreamed Birtherism, And Condemned His Manipulation Of The Press

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Fox News championed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s latest statement that he believes “President Obama was born in the U.S.” as “political media genius” while CNN and MSNBC noted that Trump’s latest statement follows years of mainstreaming racist birther conspiracy theories, debunked the candidate’s attempt to blame the birther lies on Hillary Clinton, and decried his manipulation of the press.

    After Donald Trump in a September 15 interview with The Washington Post “refused to say whether he believes Obama was born in Hawaii,” the Trump campaign released a falsehood-laden statement saying “Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States,” and “was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion” in 2011.

    The next day Trump announced he’d deliver a “major statement” at his new Washington, D.C. hotel regarding whether he’d acknowledge Obama as an American. Reporters speculated that the Trump campaign’s strategy behind the much-anticipated September 16 event was to put to rest scrutiny about Trump’s years-long birther enthusiasm and to “remove the last vestiges of an issue Clinton campaign could attack on.”

    The major cable news networks provided wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s event, in which his seconds-long statement that “President Obama was born in the United States” came at the very end of a lengthy campaign event featuring military members endorsing Trump, and it included the false claims that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton started the birther conspiracy and that he ended it. Immediately after the statement, anchors on CNN and MSNBC called the candidate out for manipulating the press and for pushing falsehoods. On CNN, Ashleigh Banfield slammed the stunt and excoriated Trump’s “birther crap.” John King on At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan acknowledged the media “got played,” debunked Trump’s false accusation against Clinton, and condemned Trump for the “four or five years of leading a fraudulent, reckless campaign against the legitimacy of the United States president.” MSNBC used an on-screen graphic to single out Trump’s lie that Clinton started the birther movement, and during The Place for Politics, host Peter Alexander pointed out that Trump continued to give oxygen to birtherism even after President Obama released his birth certificate, saying “it’s not like he put this thing to rest” in 2011.

    In contrast, Fox News dove head first into the trap set by the Trump campaign. Happening Now host Jenna Lee declared Trump gave “the media what everyone was waiting for, his definitive comments about the quote, unquote ‘birther issue.’” Lee’s co-host Gregg Jarrett commended Trump for being “very precise, and direct and disciplined.” Fox guest Glenn Hall, a Wall Street Journal editor who set the stage before the event by praising Trump for “pivoting” away from birtherism, added that Trump “handled that pretty well.”

    Later, an Outnumbered on-screen graphic drew false equivalences claiming that Trump and Clinton were “blam[ing] each other” on the matter. Co-host Melissa Francis opined “nobody cares about these issues” and raved that Trump’s stunt was “political media genius,” while co-host Harris Faulkner dismissed the racist nature of birtherism by questioning “why is it racist” to question legitimacy “with Barack Obama and not with Ted Cruz?”:

    And on Shepard Smith Reporting, Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday who was tapped to moderate the third presidential debate, said that unlike with some of his other outrageous incidents, “This one, in less than 24 hours, he cut it off.” Wallace’s determination that Trump’s statement shut the door on the birther issue flatly omitted any mention of Trump’s years of leading the charge in promoting such conspiracy theories.

    By declaring that Trump can put years of birtherism to rest by just saying he believes Obama is American, Fox News comes full circle. The network enthusiastically echoed Trump’s years-long, racist crusade to raise doubts about President Obama’s legitimacy, and provided Trump with a friendly platform to promote his birther beliefs. The press cannot allow the Trump campaign to play revisionist history with its candidate’s embrace of birtherism despite his intentions to put it behind him before the presidential debates.

  • Media Call Out Trump’s Glaring Teleprompter Hypocrisy

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media outlets highlighted presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s hypocritical use of a teleprompter during a campaign speech, noting that he “has previously derided [teleprompters] for being a tool of entrenched politicians” and “routinely mocks his rivals for using" them.