Scottie Nell Hughes | Media Matters for America

Scottie Nell Hughes

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  • CNN’s voting rights coverage demonstrates its Trump sycophant problem

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Over the past year, CNN diluted its coverage of voting issues by stocking its discussion panels with pro-Trump sycophants who consistently lied to prop up the president’s false claims about voter fraud in the 2016 election. CNN’s panelists stood in contrast to the channel’s reporters, who were somewhat more proactive in calling out Trump’s debunked claims of widespread voter fraud and illegal voting.

    During (and since) the election, CNN was widely criticized for adding as commentators a roster of Trump loyalists, including former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), conservative commentators Scottie Nell Hughes and Kayleigh McEnany, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and Jeffrey Lord, former White House staffer under then-President Ronald Reagan (Hughes and Lewandowski have since left CNN). Over the past year, these sycophants have used their platform on the network to spew lies about voting and have repeatedly defended Trump’s debunked claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election.

    • Lewandowski made 14 false statements about voting during his four appearances on CNN between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, to discuss the topic.

    • Lord made 21 false statements about voting during his 13 appearances on CNN between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, to discuss the topic.

    • McEnany made 41 false statements about voting during her 11 appearances on CNN between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, to discuss the topic

    • Santorum made eight false statements about voting during his one appearance on CNN between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, to discuss the topic.

    • Hughes made three false statements about voting during her one appearance on CNN between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, to discuss the topic.

    This barrage of lies from CNN’s pro-Trump coalition stands in contrast to the network’s reporters, who made somewhat of an effort to call out Trump’s lies about voting. During the same period, CNN correspondents Jeff Zeleny, Jim Acosta, Dana Bash, and Drew Griffin made a total of 85 true statements about voting and refrained from repeating any of the falsehoods their conservative colleagues pushed.

    Ideally, panelists are supposed to engage in a healthy discussion based on a shared set of facts. But CNN’s Trump surrogates prop up lies when they discuss voting, often to defend the president and his alternate reality.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts for evening cable news programs and broadcast morning news and evening newscasts from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. We included the following programs in the data: ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News, NBC’s Today and NBC Nightly News, CNN’s The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight, Fox News’ The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren*, On the Record with Brit Hume*, Tucker Carlson Tonight*, First 100 Days*, The Story*, The O’Reilly Factor*, The Kelly File*, and Hannity, and MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily, For the Record with Greta*, Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell. Due to the substantial reorganization of Fox News’ programming during the study period, programs that were either added or removed from the network during the study period are marked with an asterisk. During the study period, Greta Van Susteren moved to MSNBC and began hosting a program there; unlike with the network’s previous 6 p.m. programming, the transcripts for this program were included in the Nexis database, and thus were included.

    For this study, Media Matters included only those segments where the stated topic of conversation was voting rights or issues related to voting, or where “substantial discussion” of these topics occurred. We defined “substantial discussion” as that where two or more speakers had at least one direct exchange on the topic. Host monologues were also included only when the speaker made two independent mentions of voting or voting rights within the same segment. We did not include statements made in news or video clips in edited news packages except those made by a network correspondent. If news packages aired more than once, Media Matters coded only the first unique appearance. Similarly, if a live event -- such as a town hall or public forum -- was held during regularly scheduled programming, these segments were also excluded because the participants were not network or media guests.

    The resulting 561 segments were then coded for the mention of one or more of four general topics of conversation: logistical barriers to voting on the state level, the election, legal issues, and gerrymandering. Segments were also coded for the number of accurate or inaccurate statements each speaker made about six topics: widespread voter fraud, massive noncitizen voting, voter ID laws, voter registration inaccuracies, early voting, and gerrymandering. The statements coded for were:

    • There is widespread voter fraud (inaccurate).

    • Widespread voter fraud does not exist (accurate).

    • There is massive noncitizen voting (inaccurate).

    • Massive noncitizen voting does not exist (accurate).

    • Voter ID laws are useful to fight voter fraud (inaccurate).

    • Voter ID laws would do little combat voter fraud (accurate).

    • Voter ID laws do not affect voter turnout (inaccurate),

    • Voter ID laws disenfranchise voters, especially minority voters (accurate).

    • Voter registration inaccuracies lead to voter fraud (inaccurate).

    • Voter registration inaccuracies are different from voter fraud (accurate).

    • Early voting leaves elections more susceptible to voter fraud (inaccurate).

    • Early voting does not leave elections more susceptible to voter fraud (accurate).

    • Gerrymandering has not contributed to an outsized Republican majority on a federal and state level (inaccurate).

    • Gerrymandering has contributed to an outsized Republican majority on a federal and state level (accurate)

  • Here Are 21 Times The White House And Media Allies Explained That The Muslim Ban Was About Muslims

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & BRENNAN SUEN

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries, confirming that Trump and his supporters’ previous public statements expressing their intent to unconstitutionally discriminate against Muslims can “be used in proceedings.” Media Matters has compiled 21 quotes from Trump, his team, his cable news surrogates, and figures on Fox News admitting that the ban’s original intent was to single out Muslims.

  • How Two Major Cable News Networks Enabled Some Of The Worst Sexual Assault Apologism Of 2016

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    As sexual assault allegations against President-elect Donald Trump piled up in the months before the election, CNN and Fox News each relied on paid Trump surrogates and media allies to peddle some of the worst sexual assault apologism of the past year.

    After uncovered 2005 audio showed Trump bragging about sexual assault, a number of women came forward with specific allegations against the then-candidate. In CNN and Fox’s coverage of Trump’s despicable comments, his media allies downplayed the severity of sexual assault and attacked the credibility of those who spoke out, while both networks initially characterized the comments as merely “vulgar” or “lewd.” When women came forward with specific accounts of being sexually assaulted or harassed by Trump, CNN and Fox gave ample airtime to paid surrogates and media allies who minimized and made excuses for Trump’s actions.

    Sexual violence has no place in our society, let alone on cable news networks. So why did CNN and Fox spend the end of 2016 subsidizing media personalities to deny allegations and engage in pure sexual assault apologism?

    As Media Matters previously noted, CNN’s decision to hire and pay a number of professional Trump surrogates made the network a consistent platform for the campaign to trivialize the severity of sexual assault. CNN’s Trump surrogates -- Corey Lewandowski, Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany, and Scottie Nell Hughes -- systematically dismissed Trump’s comments,calling them a “distraction” and framing them as normal “locker room” talk.

    For example, Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, flippantly claimed that “nobody cares” that the nominee of a major political party was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. Scottie Nell Hughes similarly argued that Trump’s deplorable comments were unimportant because “no woman woke up affected by these words” -- ignoring the sheer number of social and political risks survivors face when reporting sexual assault and harassment.

    Once women began to make their allegations public, CNN’s Trump surrogates focused their attention on normalizing sexual assault and attacking the credibility of the alleged survivors. Lewandowski questioned the timing and veracity of the reports, before deflecting questions by invoking discredited attacks on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s work as a court-appointed defense attorney in the 1970s. When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the connections between the 2005 recording and specific allegations against Trump, paid apologist Kayleigh McEnany called the claims baseless and blamed Trump’s accusers because they “let him do X, Y, or Z. That implies consent.”

    Fox fared no better in its coverage of Trump’s unacceptable comments. In addition to similarly dismissing Trump’s statements as “locker room talk,” “frat house language,” and “guy talk,” Fox employees also joined the effort to undermine the credibility of Trump’s accusers.

    On the October 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Trump surrogate Ben Carson (now nominated to be a member of his cabinet) accused the “biased” press of manipulating the public by creating incentives for people to “come out and say something” in order to garner “fame.” Carson added, “What a bunch of crap.”

    Fox’s Brian Kilmeade argued that “none of them are vetted” -- referring to the accusers -- and it was entirely possible that “they all could be lying.” Others questioned the timing of the myriad allegations against the Republican nominee, calling them “a little coordinated… a little too convenient,” and claiming that the proximity to the election meant “it’s fair to question why is this coming out now.” In reality, multiple media sources have corroborated most of the claims brought forth by Trump’s accusers.

    In some cases, Fox personnel openly attacked individual women for speaking out, as seen in senior political analyst Brit Hume’s tirade against Jessica Drake -- a Trump accuser who directs and performs in adult films. Hume responded to Drake’s allegations that Trump had “grabbed” and hugged and “kissed” her “without asking permission” with a series of tweets suggesting she could not be offended because of her profession.

    Sexual assault is a serious issue. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives,” while the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that “nearly half”of its survey respondents (47 percent) “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.”

    Despite widespread fearmongering from right-wing media that false rape reports are common, these incidents are actually a statistical minority -- representing between 2 and 8 percent of all reported cases. Meanwhile, according to research by the Rape, Abuse & Incest Network (RAINN), 67 percent of rapes go unreported to law enforcement.

    Reporting on rape and sexual assault has long been a challenge for journalists, regardless of who is involved. When the accused occupies a position of prominence, journalists and networks must refuse to let threats of lost access or demands for false balance sanitize their reporting. In May 2016 -- before the Trump allegations -- Woody Allen’s son Ronan Farrow published an article blasting the media for cultivating a “culture of impunity and silence” around reporting on sexual assault allegations. As Farrow explained, although it’s not the media’s job “to carry water” for those making accusations against powerful men, the media do have an “obligation to include the facts, and to take them seriously.”

    On each of these charges, CNN and Fox clearly failed -- enabling some of the worst sexual assault apologism of 2016.

    *Image provided by Sarah Wasko

  • Trump Campaign Manager Tells "Dream Team" Of Pro-Trump Paid CNN Contributors To "Stay Strong" 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, tweeted out encouragement and praise to the campaign’s “dream team” of pro-Trump CNN contributors, underscoring CNN’s ongoing Trump surrogate problem.

    Over the course of the 2016 election, CNN hired four Trump supporters -- Kayleigh McEnany, Scottie Nell Hughes, Jeffrey Lord and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski -- explicitly to defend Trump on air. While on CNN, Lord defended Trump’s attacks against a Gold Star family and turned a discussion of Trump’s hesitance to disavow David Duke into an argument about whether Democrats used to support the KKK. Lewandowski has revived Trump’s birther claims against President Obama and recommending that the Republican nominee sue The New York Times “into oblivion.” McEnany defended Trump’s claim that Obama is the “founder of ISIS,” Hughes attacked Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine’s use of Spanish, and both Hughes and McEnany have defended Trump against multiple sexual assault accusations.

    Lewandowski in particular has been an ethical nightmare for CNN; he likely has a non-disparagement agreement with the Trump campaign, was hired while he was still being paid severance by Trump’s campaign, has continued to do “consulting work” for Trump, and recently joined the campaign for events in Maine and New Jersey.

    Jeff Zucker, the network’s president, defend hiring Trump surrogates as paid CNN contributors, claiming they represent the “14 million people who voted for” Trump.

     

    On October 27, Conway praised the “members of our @CNN Dream Team” for “battling a daily deluge of spin & sophistry,” and urged them to “stay strong”:

  • Trump Supporters Are Using Fox’s Contrived New Black Panther Scandal From 2010 To Defend His “Rigged Election” Claim

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Conservative media and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are revisiting the debunked right-wing media pseudo-scandal of voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party to defend Trump’s assertion that “large scale voter fraud” will affect the election.

    After the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, a video went viral of two members of the New Black Panther Party standing outside a Philadelphia polling station on Election Day. One was a registered Democratic poll watcher; the other held a nightstick. Under President George W. Bush, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into the incident after Republican poll watchers complained (no voters ever alleged that they were intimidated by the men). Later, under Obama’s administration, the DOJ obtained a default judgment against the member carrying the nightstick and dropped the case against the poll watcher, the organization, and its leader.

    Bush’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which at the time was packed with conservative activists, responded to the conclusion of the case by opening an investigation, even though the Republican vice chairwoman of the commission called the case “very small potatoes” and criticized the “overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges.” Nevertheless, J. Christian Adams, an activist Republican member of the commission, went on a lengthy crusade against Obama’s Justice Department for dropping the charges, resigning and claiming the decision showed unprecedented, racially charged corruption.

    Adams found a friendly and eager platform for his position in Fox News, particularly with host Megyn Kelly. In 2010, Fox News devoted at least 95 segments and more than eight hours of airtime in two weeks to the phony scandal, including more than 3.5 hours on Kelly’s America Live. Adams admitted that he had no first-hand knowledge of the conversations leading to the decision.

    One year later, an internal investigation at the Justice Department found that “politics played no role in the handling” of the case and that “department attorneys did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment.” Fox News spent only 88 seconds covering the debunking of a phony scandal of its own creation. Kelly spent only 20 seconds of her show covering the report.

    But the damage was already done, and the obsessive coverage of the non-event has bubbled back up in the 2016 presidential election.

    On October 17, Trump tweeted, “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day.” As they tried to play defense for their candidate, right-wing media figures invoked the faux New Black Panther scandal. CNN’s paid Trump surrogates Kayleigh McEnany and Scottie Nell Hughes got in on the action, with McEnany claiming that Trump “doesn’t want a scenario where there's New Black Panthers outside with guns, essentially like intimidating people from coming into the polls” and Hughes saying that “voter suppression happened when the Black Panthers stood outside the election room.” (CNN’s Kristen Powers retorted, “There was not a single complaint from a single voter.”)

    Conservative radio hosts joined in, with Mike Gallagher asserting that “in Philadelphia we know all about the New Black Panther movement and what they did in Philadelphia at the polling places,” and Howie Carr accusing the Obama administration of “refus[ing] to prosecute” them for “roaming outside polling places, precincts in Philadelphia with baseball bats and threatening white people.”

    Key figures in creating the scandal have also resurfaced to defend Trump’s voter fraud narrative. Fox & Friends hosted J. Christian Adams to push the myth that “dead people are voting … and it’s going to affect the election” (in reality, claims of dead voter fraud are “plagued by recurring methodological errors” and actual instances of this kind of fraud are exceedingly uncommon). The Trump campaign also hired Mike Roman as head of a “nationwide election protection operation.” Roman is a Republican political consultant who shopped the 2008 video to Fox News, worked with Adams to push the scandal, and offered to contact every Republican voter in the Philadelphia precinct to determine if any were intimidated at the polling location.

    The New Black Panther Party pseudo-scandal’s resurgence is only the latest example of how obsessive right-wing coverage of a comprehensively debunked myth, followed by scant coverage of news that does not fit the narrative, can allow a myth to pass as truth for years. Fox’s infatuation with Benghazi still continues to this day and, like the New Black Panther Party issue and other myths, it is frequently revived to attack Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or bolster ridiculous assertions by Trump. By bringing the overblown and debunked New Black Panther story back into the mainstream, Trump backers in the media are grasping at straws to defend his rigged election nonsense.

  • Thanks To Trump, Right-Wing Media’s Voter Fraud Myth Is Backfiring On The Republican Party

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s refusal to say whether he will accept the election results during the October 19 presidential debate is proof that right-wing media’s effort to push the myth of widespread voter fraud is backfiring terribly on the Republican Party.

    Since August, Trump has claimed that the election is “rigged,” making the false claim that “People are going to walk in, they’re going to vote ten times,” and saying that there were “illegal immigrants voting all over the country,” including “people that died 10 years ago.” He ramped up the rhetoric at the final presidential debate when he refused to answer moderator Chris Wallace’s question on whether he would accept the election results, saying, “I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking at anything now. I'll look at it at the time.” Trump added “millions of people … are registered to vote that shouldn't be registered to vote.”

    These charges -- that people will be able to vote multiple times, that undocumented citizens can vote, that dead people can vote -- come straight from myths that right-wing media have pushed for years. Conservative media have repeatedly claimed that voter fraud is a rampant problem in elections, and similar to Trump’s charges, have often pointed the finger at immigrants and dead people.

    In truth, voter fraud is extremely rare. One 2012 study concluded that the rate of fraud is “infinitesimal” and that “in-person voter impersonation … is virtually non-existent.” Another found only 31 cases of potential voter fraud anywhere in the country between 2000 and 2014. Experts have also debunked the claim.

    Despite there being no actual evidence of widespread voter fraud, Republican state legislatures in recent years have seized on these claims to pass strict voter ID laws all over the country. Conservative media have defended these laws, claiming they are attempts to “fight voter fraud,” and baselessly insisting “the IDs are free and … no voter is turned away.”

    Now Trump has aimed that myth back at his own party. By claiming the elections are “rigged,” he is in effect claiming Republicans officials who oversee “the balloting in many of the hardest-fought states” would rig the election against him, as The New York Times noted. Many Republicans have condemned Trump’s allegation, such as Republican campaign lawyer Chris Ashby, who called Trump’s charge “unfounded” and “dangerous,” and Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, who said the claim was “irresponsible.” Trump’s debate comments were condemned by Republicans and Democrats alike.

    Right-wing media, however, have stood by Trump’s rigged election claims. Fox anchors agreed with Trump that dead people potentially could vote, and radio host Rush Limbaugh proclaimed, “What do you mean elections aren’t rigged? Of course they are!” Even Fox contributor George Will, an outspoken critic of Trump, gave credence to Trump’s accusations of a rigged election, saying “Mr. Trump has a point if he would just make it more clearly.” Some in right-wing media have even attacked Republicans criticizing Trump. CNN’s Scottie Nell Hughes, in response to Republican officials like Husted, said, “They are secretary of states, establishment politicians. They have not been for us since the very beginning.” Radio host Mike Gallagher, while interviewing Trump, said he was “baffled at certain Republicans who are pushing back” at Trump’s “suggestion that we better be careful about a rigged election” because Republicans “have always had concerns about voter fraud.”

    In fact, it is possible that Trump’s rigged election claim could lower turnout among his own Republican base. According to The Wall Street Journal, research shows that “[Trump’s] rhetoric could also have the impact of hurting his own campaign” by “lowering turnout among his own supporters.”

    It is not clear if Trump will accept the election results. What is clear, however, is that a myth pushed by right-wing media -- which has led to laws that Republicans have admitted help them politically -- is now boomeranging back on them. Because by running with right-wing media’s voter fraud myth to claim that the election could be rigged, Trump and his media supporters have not only called into question Republican officials' ability to oversee the election, but have also potentially hurt GOP voter turnout. And if conservative media continues to stand by Trump’s rigged election claims, the results could potentially be disastrous for both the country and the Republican Party on November 8.

  • Right-Wing Media Bolster Trump’s Unsubstantiated, Dangerous Claims Of “Large Scale Voter Fraud”

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Right-wing media bolstered Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claim that “there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day.” Conservatives asserted that dead people “vote for Hillary” and “for Democrats” and that early voting was implemented to give someone “a little hand” in elections.

  • CNN Is Paying For Pro-Trump Sexual Assault Apologism

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    CNN’s on-staff Trump apologists have reacted to allegations about Trump’s history of sexual harassment and assault by smearing the accusers, downplaying the severity of Trump’s comments and alleged behavior, and trivializing the impact of sexual assault. And CNN is paying them to do it.

    For months, CNN has been criticized for its decision to hire and pay a number of professional Trump surrogates -- people the network puts on air to downplay and dismiss Trump’s frequent campaign controversies.

    Since The Washington Post published 2005 audio of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, CNN’s Trump surrogates -- Corey Lewandowski, Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany, and Scottie Nell Hughes -- have been playing defense for their candidate by dismissing the comments as “locker room” talk, denying that Trump was talking about sexual assault, calling the controversy a “distraction,” blaming his comments on 50 Shades of Grey, accusing critics of being “politically motivated,” and generally downplaying the significance of a major party’s presidential candidate talking so flippantly about groping women without their consent. “Nobody cares,” announced Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

    Those CNN surrogates were forced to change their message after multiple news outlets reported victims’ allegations of being sexually assaulted by Trump. Following their candidate’s lead, the network’s professional Trump apologists have repeatedly attacked the credibility of the accusers, claimed the media is ginning up the story to distract from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and attempted to derail segments about the accusations by bringing up bogus attacks on Clinton’s work as a court-appointed defense attorney in the 1970s.

    It goes without saying that the reaction of CNN’s Trump surrogates has been deplorable -- a train wreck of normalizing and making excuses for sexual assault. In their rush to protect Trump, CNN’s Trump surrogates have described talk of sexual assault as something mundane, ordinary, and even expected. “No woman woke up affected by these words,” declared CNN’s Scottie Nell Hughes, ignoring the tremendous harm inherent when men talk about women as sexual objects to be dominated or acted upon. The message to viewers is clear: talking about sexually assaulting women is fine, so long as you’re behind closed doors and don’t actually go through with it.

    Moreover, CNN’s surrogates are putting on a master class on why women who experience sexual assault frequently don’t come forward with their stories -- using their national platform to paint Trump’s accusers as liars, political operatives, and villains in the name of defending Trump. Admitting that you’ve been victimized by a major party’s presidential nominee is hard enough. Having to see your credibility repeatedly questioned on national TV is unimaginable.

    But what makes CNN’s situation so uniquely grotesque is that the network is paying these surrogates to be professional Trump attack dogs. And in this case, it’s the surrogates’ jobs to find any way to defend their candidate on national television, even if it means downplaying the problem of sexual violence or attacking Trump’s accusers. In other words, CNN is giving these surrogates a financial incentive -- and national platform -- to peddle some of the most damaging and harmful tropes about survivors of sexual assault.

    It’s one thing for Trump’s campaign to engage in the most toxic kind of sexual assault apologism. It’s quite another for a national news network to sponsor it.