Sandra Smith | Media Matters for America

Sandra Smith

Tags ››› Sandra Smith
  • Some Democrats went to Puerto Rico to spotlight the island's recovery, and Fox News is furious

    Democrats went to Puerto Rico to discuss, fundraise for, and spread awareness about hurricane recovery, but Fox News says they were "partying in Puerto Rico" instead of "doing something in Washington"

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the morning of January 14, Fox News focused heavily on a group of over 30 Democrats, most of them members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who spent the weekend in Puerto Rico as part of an annual retreat. Fox spun this trip as the Democrats partying "on the beaches" instead of working to end the government shutdown.

    Democrats were actually in Puerto Rico for a retreat organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Bold PAC. According to The Hill, Bold PAC chair Tony Cárdenas said “he chose Puerto Rico for this year's convention to showcase the island's needs as it slowly recovers from 2017's Hurricane Maria.” NBC News reported that members of Congress sought to aid the island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria by bringing medical supplies and discussing the neglected recovery with Puerto Rican political leaders, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, and several top legislators. 

    Democrats also attended a performance of Hamilton, part of a special limited-time run in which creator and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda reprised his role to help raise funds for hurricane recovery. According to The Hill, Miranda said, “We brought Hamilton here to bring a spotlight to Puerto Rico” and its recovery. All Democrats who attended bought their tickets with their own money. 

    NBC News also reported that “The Bold PAC conference was scheduled for Puerto Rico months before the shutdown” and that the group would be monitoring the shutdown and its developments. The report also noted that the congressional members would “be able to get a bird's-eye view of how the shutdown is affecting the island that is trying to pull itself out of a financial crisis while recovering with the devastation of Category 4 Hurricane Maria."

    While Fox News did mention that it was “a work-play trip,” most of its 19 mentions or segments about the story between 6 a.m. and noon on January 14 were intended to create an image of Democrats ducking their responsibility to help end the government shutdown (which Fox News helped start) and instead vacationing in paradise while real Americans suffer. 

    Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said that “the optics are not good” for the Democrats when “there are 800,000 [federal] workers that aren’t getting paid,” but members of Congress who are “supposed to be doing something in Washington” are instead “on the beaches with their families.” Fellow co-host Brian Kilmeade also falsely claimed that CBS and NBC didn’t cover the story, when both networks covered the story online before Monday.

    Fox & Friends opened its 8 a.m. hour with the line “President Trump says it’s time for Democrats to get off the beach and come back to work while the shutdown enters day 24.” 

    Kilmeade said that the Democrats were “even enjoying a Broadway show" in Puerto Rico. Fox & Friends First co-host Rob Schmitt, who is covering the story in Puerto Rico, reported, “There have been some meetings and there has been some work done. But there’s also been plenty of leisure time.” He also complimented Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) “great Instagram photo,” saying he’s “got the nice tan going.” 

    Kilmeade also asked counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway about the White House’s reaction to “the Democrats partying in Puerto Rico rather than staying” in Washington, D.C.

    Fox correspondent Doug McKelway compared the Democrats’ Puerto Rico trip to Trump’s normally frequent golfing excursions, commenting that Trump “has been picking his travels very, very carefully” with the government shutdown, and during these times “playing golf, not such a good thing, visits to Puerto Rico, not such a good thing.” 

    Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer criticized the “30 Democratic members” for going “down on some PAC event where they’re soliciting money from lobbyists in Puerto Rico and hanging out on the beach.”

    Fox re-aired Trump’s highly misleading comment that “the Democrats were in Puerto Rico celebrating” the government shutdown.

    Miranda addressed the controversy at the summit in Puerto Rico as he thanked the Democrats and other officials assembled for being “here to work, despite what anyone might claim.” 

  • After Rep. Ron DeSantis said Andrew Gillum would “monkey” up Florida, conservative media trotted out their playbook to spin away racist comments


    Conservative media resorted to their tired playbook of spinning and obfuscating right-wing figures’ clearly racist remarks after Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), the Republican Party nominee for governor in Florida, said that his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, would “monkey” up the state. While a spokesperson for DeSantis said it was a term the congressman “frequently” uses, there is no evidence for that claim. Right-wing media figures frequently run defense for high-profile conservatives caught making racist comments.

  • Fox regular: Democrats are making “ridiculous requests” for records from Supreme Court nominee’s White House work

    Similar records were released for Justices Roberts and Kagan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News regular and former Republican New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu appeared on America’s Newsroom to complain that Democrats were making “ridiculous requests,” “looking for something to play smear politics,” and “pushing to the extreme” by requesting past records from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s previous work, even though Democrats are following the same vetting process used to scrutinize previous Supreme Court nominees.

    Sununu took issue with the fact that Democrats requested documents from Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary under President George W. Bush, arguing that the volume of documents would take too long to review and that “a great extent of those probably have executive privilege,” so they are not eligible for review. But as Politico noted, “several recent Supreme Court nominees, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan, also had White House stints that led to review and release of large volumes of records prior to their hearings.”

    From the July 30 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    SANDRA SMITH (CO-HOST): What does the path look like to get there?

    JOHN SUNUNU (FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW HAMPSHIRE): Well, the Democrats are trying to make it difficult. They're making ridiculous requests. [Sen. Chuck] Schumer [(D-NY)] is in a bind because he has to cater to the extreme left base, the base that’s even moving further and further to the left all the time. But the problem for Schumer is that the more he does that, the more he makes it easier for folks like [Sen. Joe] Manchin [(D-WV)] and [Sen.] Heidi Heitkamp [(D-ND)] and [Sen.] Joe Donnelly (D-IN)] to break away from the extreme and support Kavanaugh as the nominee. So Schumer’s in a bind. He is burdened, I think, with the reality that the Democrats have made this process extremely political since the [Robert] Bork effort, and now they are beginning to make it so clear to the public that all they want to do is create a political issue and a political problem and not function the way the Constitution was written to function.

    SMITH: Where is the fight for those documents going to go from Judge Brett Kavanaugh's previous work under George Bush?

    SUNUNU: Well I think what they want to do is get their hands on the documents and then distribute them to all the special interest groups that are out there to go through them because there is no way the Senate with its staff would go through a million documents in such a short period of time. The second point is those documents, a great extent of those probably have executive privilege from having been White House documents that Kavanaugh did not create but only passed through to the president. So the Democrats are on very thin ice here, and they’re making their case weaker and weaker by pushing to the extreme.

  • Right-wing media are defending ICE from calls to abolish the inhumane agency. Here are 30 examples of its abusive practices.

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media figures are falling over themselves to defend U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after fervent calls for the agency’s abolition. Activists and immigrant communities have been pushing back against ICE’s abuses for years, but recently, opposition to the agency has gained momentum on Twitter (under the moniker #AbolishICE) and has grown increasingly mainstream. Progressive organizations, politicians, and even some ICE agents themselves have endorsed the movement. And on July 12, some progressive Democrats introduced a bill in the House or Representatives to defund the agency within one year.

    Proponents of defunding ICE point to the relatively young agency’s draconian and callous handling of immigration policy, as well as a laundry list of instances of despicable abuse and neglect. Under President Donald Trump, the agency has grown increasingly emboldened and lawless. Since Trump took office, ICE arrests have skyrocketed, especially of immigrants who have no criminal records or who have been convicted of low-level offenses like traffic violations. It arrests people who are reporting crimes and who are victims of violence. The agency now routinely detains and deports immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades. It also often arrests and detains people who are legally allowed to reside in the United States, including U.S. citizens and immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Agents are regularly accused of breaking the law by invading homes without producing a warrant and allegedly arresting people in off-limits areas. Nevertheless, right-wing media have proved unmoved by stories of ICE’s terrible impact on immigrant communities and have instead become cheerleaders for the agency in recent months.

    On June 28, Fox News’ entire prime-time lineup attacked the Abolish ICE movement. Tucker Carlson -- who routinely uses his platform to promote white nationalism -- opened his show by complaining that Democratic candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in a New York congressional primary marked an “ideological revolution on the left” because she “ran on abolishing ICE.” Carlson went on to fearmonger that criminals and drugs would flood the country in the agency’s absence. During the next hour, Sean Hannity suggested that attacks on ICE are merely an effort by “people on the left” to distract from the fact that special counsel Robert Mueller has unearthed “zero evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections. Following Hannity’s program, Laura Ingraham, who has a long history of attacking and mocking immigrants, accused the protesters of the Abolish ICE movement of making it “impossible for our immigration investigators to do their jobs.” The next day, Fox & Friends hosted Thomas Homan, then-acting director of ICE, who said that he’s been “sickened the last couple of months about the attack on ICE officers,” arguing that anti-ICE protesters “should be respecting law enforcement across the board,” including ICE agents.

    More recently, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs has claimed that if ICE were abolished, there would be “one-and-a-half million criminal illegal immigrants released into society.” Fox News’ Dagen McDowell suggested that those who wish to abolish the agency “are not for the rule of law and they are for child trafficking and human trafficking, things that ICE fight.” Her Fox colleague Brian Kilmeade argued that ICE is “just enforcing the laws that are on the books” and questioned whether the Abolish ICE movement was making law enforcement officers into  “the bad guys” Fox & Friends’ Todd Pirro claimed that in addition to “protect[ing] the citizens of the U.S.,” ICE also “protect[s] the illegal immigrants trying to cross our borders from things like rape, murder, human trafficking.” Fox News’ America’s Newsroom hosted Homan, who claimed that ICE is “hitting on all cylinders” and bragged that the agency’s  “detainers are up 80 percent,” its “arrests are up 40 percent,” and its “removals are up 40 percent.” Co-host Sandra Smith failed to question him about the agency’s misconduct.

    In reality, ICE terrorizes immigrant communities, tearing apart families and forcing immigrants to live lives of fear and instability. There are thousands of nightmarish stories about the consequences of ICE’s actions. Here are just some of the myriad abuses committed by the agency that right-wing media are scrambling to appease and defend:

    • ICE has targeted people who report domestic abuse to U.S. authorities. On one occasion, the agency arrested a woman and her 16-year-old son as they arrived for the son’s testimony against his mother’s ex-fiance. Agents removed them from the courthouse, leaving behind the women’s 2-year-old son. Targeting people who report domestic abuse will inevitably lead to undocumented people foregoing reports of abuse altogether.

    • Thousands of immigrants have reported experiencing sexual abuse while in detention, and half of those complaints have named ICE employees as abusers.  

    • The agency is trying to make it easier to detain pregnant immigrants, even though multiple pregnant people have suffered miscarriages after receiving insufficient care in ICE custody.

    • ICE has repeatedly taken caregivers away from children and sick people.

      • A California couple who died in a car crash while fleeing ICE agents left behind six children. Later, agents realized they been pursuing the wrong man. ICE then deported the children’s uncle, who had taken them in and has four kids of his own.

      • In Michigan, a father who serves as the sole caregiver to his sick wife was forced to take refuge at a church after being targeted for deportation.

      • ICE deported the “sole provider and trained medical caregiver of a 6-year-old paraplegic boy.”

      • Children often end up in foster care after ICE deports their parents or guardians.

    • ICE routinely arrests and detains the most vulnerable.

      • A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was on her way to a hospital in an ambulance to receive emergency gallbladder surgery when ICE officials apprehended her.

      • Agents arrested a 28-year-old man with Down syndrome and held him away from his family.

    • ICE has been responsible for numerous deaths.

    • ICE has been accused of committing or allowing acts of violence and abuse.

      • When one man refused to enter an airport to be deported because he feared for his life if he returned to his native Central African Republic, agents allegedly struck him on the legs with a baton, cut his seat belt, and dragged him to his flight handcuffed to a wheelchair. (The airline refused to take him and he was returned to his cell.)

      • In a 2017 lawsuit, Somali immigrants alleged that agents “kicked, punched, choked, and dragged” them down the aisles of a plane as they were being deported. (The plane never made it to Somalia and returned because of logistical problems.)

      • A group of immigrants have claimed that while in ICE detention they were treated like "animal[s]."

      • ICE officers reportedly broke an immigration attorney’s foot and then detained her.

    • ICE agents readily mock their terrified victims, and target their dissenters.

      • In one instance, ICE agents arrested a DACA recipient and reportedly told her family that under Trump, DACA “doesn’t exist anymore.”

      • During a raid on a San Francisco home, an agent mocked residents when they asked to see a warrant, telling them, “You’re watching too many movies.”

      • ICE allegedly targets immigration activists, along with those who speak to the press. ICE has also detained a journalist who was arrested while he was doing his job.  

    • ICE makes it impossible for immigrants to live stable or productive lives by targeting their jobs and other public places for raids.

      • ICE agents reportedly ate breakfast at a Michigan restaurant before detaining three members of the staff.

      • About 30 immigrants were forced to fearfully quit their jobs and lose their source of income after an ICE agent visited the restaurant where they worked and demanded to see employment eligibility forms.

      • More than 500 students were kept home from school after ICE raided a Tennessee meatpacking plant and arrested nearly 100 people.

      • Two men in New Jersey were arrested while dropping their children off at school, while a third man was able to avoid detention only by taking refuge in a church.

      • ICE arrested a 48-year-old father of four, who had lived in the United states for 25 years, after he dropped his youngest daughter off at school. In a video of the arrest, his other daughter can be heard sobbing in the car.

      • One man was detained by ICE after appearing at scheduled meeting with an immigration official to obtain a green card. His daughter noted that he “filed all the necessary paperwork, paid all the fees, hired a lawyer, did everything in his power to obtain lawful status and he was tricked and brought into the office and detained.” This is not the first time ICE has targeted people seeking legal status with immigration officials.

      • ICE routinely makes arrests at courthouses, making it impossibly risky for immigrants to pursue legal problems, serve as witnesses, or answer warrants.

      • ICE agents are reportedly interrogating worshippers as they go to church about their immigration status.

    • ICE has also been on the forefront of the Trump administration’s war against people seeking immigration and asylum at the southern border, aiding U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in the kidnapping and detention of children.

      • ICE reportedly provides parents who have been separated from their children with a useless telephone number where the operators do not have any information on the children.

      • The agency has attempted to pressure asylum seekers into “voluntary” deportation by claiming it’s the only way they will be reunited with their children.

  • Fox helps Trump sell his absurd claim that he misspoke during his press conference with Putin

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After being roundly criticized for capitulating to President Vladimir Putin during a press conference, President Donald Trump attempted to walk back his remark casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s findings about Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election with a flimsy excuse that was accepted only by some members of his own party and his most obsequious allies in the media.

    On July 16, Trump lost the support of even some of his closest allies when he questioned his own intelligence community and legitimized Putin’s denial of Russian meddling, saying, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that attempted to interfere in the U.S. election. The next day, under intense pressure from aides and supporters, Trump made the laughable claim that he accidentally “said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’” during his press conference with Putin. He went on, “The sentence should have been, 'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia’” that meddled in the 2016 election. Many media outlets were quick to point out that the full context of Trump’s remarks indicated he was, in fact, accepting Putin’s denial of Russian meddling over the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion.

    But on Fox News, friends of Trump defied this reality and ran with Trump’s obvious lie:

    • Fox host Sean Hannity: “President Trump clarified his remarks from the summit, made it perfectly clear that he trusts our intel agencies.”
    • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs: “Fortunately for [Trump’s critics], the president took pity on them and gave them a statement today to the effect he had misspoken.”
    • Dobbs later commented that Trump is “being as presidential and forthright and effective as any president in modern history, more so in my judgment,” but his critics “don’t want to play straight.”
    • Fox correspondent Kristin Fisher: “This should go a long way to satisfy or at least quell some of the president's critics.”
    • Fox’s Jesse Watters accepted Trump’s claim that his comment at the press conference with Putin as “a gaffe” and praised him for admitting his mistake, calling his admission “historic.”
    • Fox host Sandra Smith said Trump was “admitting he misspoke” while discussing Russian election meddling and “making it clear he does indeed support the intelligence community.”
    • Smith also called Trump’s dubious clarification “a walk-back to remember” and failed to push back on Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) acceptance of Trump’s excuse.
    • Fox Business’ Trish Regan: Trump “might have misspoken” because “perhaps he was tired.”
    • Fox & Friends also parroted Trump's dubious excuse for his disastrous press conference with Putin: "He had misspoken."
    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham and her panel complained that Trump’s clarification “wasn’t good enough” for Democrats or the media.