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  • Trump administration flocks to Fox to recycle discredited statistic about terrorists crossing the southern border

    The Trump administration drew media criticism in February for a misleading claim that 10 terrorists were intercepted crossing the U.S.-Mexico border each day in 2017. The claim has now resurfaced as “almost 4,000 terrorists” throughout 2018. It is still misleading.

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared on the January 4 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends to defend President Donald Trump’s stance on the ongoing government shutdown. She told the hosts that a border wall is needed because “last year alone, there were nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists” arrested along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    About an hour later, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley made the same claim on another Fox show, America’s Newsroom. Gidley said that there were “almost 4,000 terrorists, known or suspected, coming across the border” last year. 

    The White House’s claim of 4,000 terrorists invading through the southern border appears to be a rudimentary reframing of Vice President Mike Pence’s October statement that, in the 2017 fiscal year, “we apprehended more than 10 terrorists or suspected terrorists per day” trying to cross the southern border. (Eight months prior, Pence had said it was seven per day.) It seems Sanders and Gidley multiplied 10 terrorists by 365 days, then rounded the figure up to an even 4,000 for 2018. In recent days, congressional Republicans and prime-time host Sean Hannity have made similar claims on Fox. 

    Pence’s assertion was roundly debunked as a false claim last year. PolitiFact rated his initial claim “pants on fire” because the figure he referenced appeared to be for all points of entry to the country, not just the southern border. Similarly, The Washington Post said Pence’s later claim “quickly falls apart upon further inspection.” A Pence spokesperson also “tacitly” acknowledged to the Post that the vice president misstated the statistic. 

    On MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, national security reporter Julia Ainsley also noted that the White House “is likely rounding from this figure that we’ve heard from the administration before. ... What they’re taking that from is the number of all people who are stopped at all ports, especially airports.” Ainsley said that Sanders “seems to be rounding [the figure] and especially playing it off the border to make it seem as if these are people crossing the border to make the case for the president’s wall. When, in fact, we’re talking about airports where a wall wouldn’t do anything.” 

    Update (1/7/19): On January 6, Sanders appeared on Fox News Sunday to again push the myth that 4,000 suspected terrorists were attempting to cross the southern border. Sanders brought up the statistic after host Chris Wallace quoted the State Department’s statement that there is “no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico.” When Sanders tried to bring up the statistic, Wallace said, "I know the statistic -- I didn’t know if you were gonna use it, but I studied up on this," and pointed out that “they're not coming across the southern border, Sarah; they’re coming and they are being stopped at airports.” Sanders ignored the factual basis of this claim, saying that terrorists “come by air, by land, and by sea.” In reality, zero immigrants have been arrested on terrorism charges while attempting to cross the southern border in recent years.

  • Fox News figures downplay the effects of the government shutdown

    ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    Fox News figures spent much of last month urging President Donald Trump to shut down the government unless Congress agreed to fund his $5 billion demand for a border wall. But now that the shutdown drags into the new year, Fox personalities are insisting that it is “not really a shutdown” and claiming that “a lot of people across the country don’t even notice” it is happening. But in reality, millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of federal employees are feeling the impacts.

  • The 15 most ridiculous things media said about climate change in 2018

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    1. Fox host Lou Dobbs says that climate change is a UN plot “to take over the world”

    On the December 4 episode of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed that the United Nations would “like to take over the world” and it see[s] the perfect opportunity in global warming.” Dobbs then said, “There is great, great debate over whether there is that quote-unquote 'warming'" -- a claim that is, of course, objectively false. Dobbs has peddled inane theories about climate change in the past, calling human-caused global warming a “largely Democratic belief” and suggesting that the sun may be more responsible for global warming than humans.

    2. CNN commentator Rick Santorum says that that climate scientists are “driven by the money”

    On the November 25 episode of CNN’s State of the Union, CNN commentator and former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum praised the efforts of the Trump administration to try to bury the release of the National Climate Assessment, claiming that the scientists who wrote it are “driven by the money.” Despite this claim being completely false and widely mocked on social media, Santorum repeated it on CNN just two days later. Santorum failed to note, however, that he himself has received copious amounts of money from the fossil-fuel industry throughout his career.

    3. Infowars host suggests John Kerry broke up a hurricane with an energy beam shot from Antarctica

    Perhaps the leader in promoting absurd conspiracy theories, Infowars waded into the topic of climate change in the wake of Hurricane Lane hitting Hawaii in August. On the August 23 episode of Infowars’ War Room, host Owen Shroyer proposed the idea that John Kerry shot an energy beam from Antarctica that split the hurricane in two. He said, “Why is John Kerry going down to Antarctica just a week after the election to discuss climate change and then you have energy beams coming out of Antarctica splitting hurricanes? Yeah, what is John Kerry doing down there? That’s awfully suspicious to me.” Kerry later poked fun at the comments on Twitter.

    4. Fox commentator Tammy Bruce calls climate change a “malleable issue” for “the left” as they can “blame everything on it”

    On the September 14 episode of Fox Business Network's Varney & Co., Fox News commentator Tammy Bruce said that climate change is “great” for “the left” because people on the left can “blame everything on it.” She continued, “And this is of course the goal, is it's not even about the nature of the weather itself but the blaming of humanity, of the nature of what we're doing, that we're the problem. And of course that gives you an excuse then to control what people do, to control business, and to control industry.”

    5. Former Daily Caller contributor Ian Miles Cheong says that climate change is a neo-Marxist hoax invented to dismantle capitalism

    On October 9, gamergate supporter and writer Ian Miles Cheong tweeted, “Climate change is a hoax invented by neo-Marxists within the scientific community to destabilize the world economy and dismantle what they call ‘systems of oppression’ and what the rest of us call capitalism.” Cheong followed up with, “To clarify, I’m talking about man-made climate change and the fear mongering surrounding it.” (As if we needed further clarification on this tin-foil-hat take.)

    6. During cold weather spell, Fox & Friends host urges Trump to take credit for solving global warming

    A brutal winter storm in early January left at least 22 people dead on the East Coast, and Fox & Friends used that storm to praise its favorite viewer, President Donald Trump. On the January 7 episode of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Pete Hegseth said, “I think President Trump should take credit for solving global warming. Look at how cold it is, that is just another accomplishment that we need to put on the list. Global warming, done. President Trump eradicated it.”

    7. Former Rep. Allen West says God has climate change “under control”

    Former Republican Rep. Allen West, a senior fellow at the right-wing Media Research Center, has an interesting theory about climate change. On October 4 West stated on CRTV, “God couldn't get the weather right, it's man-made climate change. I remember when people asked me about climate change, I said yeah, winter, spring, summer, and fall. They said no, man-made climate-- I said no, no -- so, you know, there's a creator that's got this under control. But what they're doing is they’re delegitimizing, they're undermining the sovereignty of the creator.”

    8. Conservative host Mark Levin likens climate change to Marxism

    On the February 13 episode of LevinTV Tonight on CRTV, Mark Levin laments that because climate change has been “pushed out as a scientific fact,” it's assumed that …“there’s something wrong with” those who dare question it. Levin also calls climate change a “no growth, anti-capitalism movement” that has been “exported to the United States like Marxism itself.” Levin has a history of making idiotic statements denying climate change.

    9. According to radio host Rush Limbaugh, the Hurricane Florence forecast was “all to heighten the belief in climate change”

    What’s a list of ridiculous climate change claims without right-wing media’s most prolific offender, Rush Limbaugh? On the September 11 episode of The Rush Limbaugh Show, as Hurricane Florence was headed for the Carolinas, he claimed, “The forecast and the destruction potential doom and gloom is all to heighten the belief in climate change.”

    10. Fox’s Sean Hannity says that “they do lie to us repeatedly about global warming”

    Sean Hannity, never one to shy away from denying climate change, did it again in 2018 when discussing a winter storm. On the March 6 episode of his radio program, The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity said, “They do lie to us repeatedly about global warming.” He continued: “They just call it global whatever -- climate change, because this way, it's generic. And if it's hot or too hot, they can say it's climate change. If it's cold, or too cold, they can say it's climate change. But it didn't work out when they said ‘global cooling’ or ‘global warming,’ so they had to fix it.”

    11. CNN commentator says there is a “climate change industrial complex”

    Stephen Moore, a CNN commentator and self-described “economist,” is part of CNN's recent climate-denier problem. On the November 26 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, Moore tried to discredit the National Climate Assessment by saying, “We have created a climate change industrial complex in this country, with billions and billions and billions of dollars at stake. A lot of people are getting really, really, really rich off the climate change issue.” Moore repeated these claims the next day, again on Burnett’s show. Like Santorum, Moore has been the beneficiary of money from fossil fuel companies, which have funded some of the groups he's worked for.

    12. Commentator Mark Steyn says that that climate change is a form of class war

    On the November 29 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight, commentator Mark Steyn said that climate change “is actually a form of class war.” He continued: “In macro terms it’s a way of the developed world denying the developing world any chance to live the kind of lives that people in the developed world live.” He also stated, “It’s an elite thing. Nobody takes it seriously.” Although Steyn has been attacking the climate consensus for at least the last decade, he has no actual background in climate science.

    13. Breitbart’s James Delingpole claims that the “great global warming scare” was launched by “dirty tricks”

    In June 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen gave now-famous testimony to the Senate in which he described humans’ contributions to global warming. On the 30th anniversary of that landmark testimony, Breitbart writer and notorious climate denier James Delingpole penned an article lambasting it, claiming that Hansen used “dirty tricks” to help launch the “great global warming scare.” Delingpole wrote: “But – like the scare itself – the claims were dishonest, hysterical, misleading, unscientific, needlessly alarmist, and cynically stage-managed.” Some of the “dirty tricks” that Delingpole mentioned include the committee chairman scheduling the testimony on the hottest day in June and opening all of the windows in the room. Delingpole, of course, didn’t mention that the evidence of human-induced global warming existed long before Hansen’s testimony. He also predictably failed to note the incredible accuracy of Hansen’s global warming claims.

    14. Columnist Cal Thomas doesn’t think climate change is “settled science”

    Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas criticized the National Climate Assessment in an opinion piece that was published in a number of papers and websites, including the Chicago Tribune. Thomas claimed that climate change is not “settled science” and criticized “scare tactics by leftists who want even more government control over our lives.” To back up his claims, Thomas cited Climate Depot, a website dedicated to denying global warming, and quoted its founder, the industry-funded fraudster Marc Morano. He also cited Patrick Michaels, a climate denier who has received funding from various fossil fuel companies. Finally, Thomas misattributed a quote that called the report a “pile of crap,” saying it came from Princeton oceanographer John P. Dunne when in fact it came from John Dunn of the climate-denier group Heartland Institute. It speaks volumes that a number of newspapers chose to publish Thomas’ column despite its multiple inaccuracies (though some later corrected the quote attribution).

    15. Conservative author Ann Coulter cites white nationalism as a reason to pretend to “believe in global warming”

    On April 25, Coulter tweeted: “I'm fine with pretending to believe in global warming if we can save our language, culture & borders. #MacronCode.” Coulter, a virulent racist who has long supported Trump’s dehumanizing immigration policies, has made ridiculous claims about climate change before, and once stated that global warming deniers are considered equivalent to Holocaust deniers. Her April tweet, sent on the day that French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the U.S. Congress, points to a disturbing trend in which some white nationalists take climate change seriously only because the changing climate will lead to the northward migration of refugees from the Global South.

  • Misinformer of the Year: 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Media Matters’ 2018 Misinformer of the Year is 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch. Our annual designation is given to the media figure, news outlet, or organization that stands out for promoting conservative lies and smears in the U.S. media. Murdoch was selected for his role in overseeing Fox News, the right-wing network founded by his father Rupert, who previously received the title. Several of the network’s current and former commentators have previously been named Misinformer of the Year.

    The Murdochs’ Fox News, a uniquely destructive force in American public life that ushered in an era of post-truth politics, has been unleashed under President Donald Trump. The network now functions as a propaganda outlet for his administration, embracing any level of extremism, deceit, and bigotry necessary to promote the president’s message while scorning basic principles of journalistic ethics.

    Lachlan Murdoch has consistently lied about what his network does and what it is, even as the people who work for him have breached the norms of their profession in increasingly flagrant ways and become ever more entangled with the Trump administration.

    This is how Murdoch describes the network he is inheriting from his father: “a ratings juggernaut with millions of households trusting us to deliver the most valuable and most-watched journalism on television. Fox News offers the best news and the clearest opinion, a legacy we are proud of.” He sneers that “our biggest critics of Fox News are not watching Fox News” and compares the network to The New York Times, which he says similarly has “a direction and an opinion that speaks to their readers.” Asked about the argument that his network is fomenting domestic terrorism, he denounces “intolerance of opinions.” Questioned about Trump’s unabashed love for his network, he claims the president merely “dislikes us less than everyone else.” Grilled about his prime-time hosts’ viciously intolerant attitudes, he turns the argument back on his critics, saying, “In this country, we all have to be more tolerant of each other’s views.”

    As standards at Fox News degrade and some of its most prominent employees venture further into the fever swamps, Murdoch and his fellow executives use those network staffers who do respect normal journalistic conventions as a fig leaf to defuse concerns about the network’s most destructive and unethical programming -- even as those staffers publicly and privately sound the alarm.

    But Murdoch’s defenses are increasingly falling on deaf ears. By Fox’s own admission, a flood of blue-chip advertisers have fled the network’s airwaves this year, wary of associating their brands with its vile programming and volatile on-air talent. Their ranks will only grow unless the network actually changes course. But Lachlan Murdoch’s network is on a different path.

    The Fox-White House merger

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox has long served as the communications arm of the Republican Party. But over the last few years, it’s become difficult to tell where Fox ends and the Trump administration begins. The network is not only the president’s propaganda machine but also inextricably entwined with his decision-making and operations.

    Sean Hannity is the embodiment of his network’s dual role. He hosts an industry-leading prime-time Fox show -- a heady mix of paeans to Trump’s glorious achievements and dire warnings about a vast, shadowy anti-Trump conspiracy -- while simultaneously serving as one of the president’s closest informal advisers and even joining the president on stage at a rally the night before the midterm elections. Other network hosts play a similar double game, stopping by the Oval Office or phoning into the West Wing by day, then serving as presidential propagandists on Fox by night.

    Meanwhile, Trump has stocked his administration with familiar faces he’s seen on TV. Fox alums currently serve in senior White House roles, lead cabinet agencies and represent the U.S. as ambassadors. And that door opens both ways: White House communications director Hope Hicks was replaced by former Fox News co-president Bill Shine (who is still drawing millions in severance from the network), then Murdoch picked her to run public relations for the network’s parent company.

    Trump also regularly soaks up the network’s programming and tweets about it, sometimes for hours a day, creating a durable feedback loop in which commentators use Fox appearances to try to influence his decisions on political strategy, policy, legal tactics, pardons, and personnel. This phenomenon is most apparent -- and perhaps most dangerous -- as Fox personalities encourage the president to follow through on an authoritarian solution to the Russia probe.

    A voice for white nationalists

    When the network’s most prominent hosts aren’t generating fawning coverage of Trump’s performance or pushing conspiracy theories targeting his foes, they are channeling white nationalist talking points to inflame the president’s base.

    Network founder Roger Ailes had a longtime strategy of generating a fervent, almost entirely white audience by relentlessly stoking racial tensions. And Fox is building on that approach, blasting out to an audience of millions its hosts’ paranoid fears about the cultural displacement of white Americans and the ongoing threat to the national culture purportedly posed by immigration and diversity.

    Tucker Carlson’s show is a constant stream of polemics and storylines about diversity and demographic change that draws plaudits from white supremacists and neo-Nazis for mainstreaming their own talking points. He's been bleeding advertisers over the last week after claiming that immigration makes the United States “poorer and dirtier and more divided.”

    Laura Ingraham’s program is a racist cesspool. Her ugly rants minimizing child detention centers and condemning the “massive demographic changes” caused by immigration made headlines and devastated the program’s advertiser base.

    This pattern of deliberately arousing fear about immigration reached a new peak with Fox’s obsessive coverage of a caravan of Central American migrants that approached the U.S.-Mexico border in the weeks before the midterm elections. The network whipped up hysteria by branding the would-be asylum seekers “invaders” and promoting conspiracy theories that the group had been infiltrated by terrorists and was supported by the Jewish philanthropist George Soros. Thanks to the Trump-Fox feedback loop, its coverage echoed through the rest of the media.

    This frenzy may have had dire consequences. Its height coincided with both a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a virulent anti-Semite obsessed with the “invaders” and angered by Jewish support for refugees and a series of attempted bombings of progressive leaders, allegedly by a man with a Facebook page full of “clips from Fox News broadcasts.”

    The end of the standards charade

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox executives were never terribly concerned with the basic strictures of journalistic ethics. But the last year has made clear that the network has no standards whatsoever, especially for the big stars with ties to Trump. And the gap between Murdoch’s stated purpose and how he actually oversees and disciplines the commentators under his purview is particularly glaring here.

    Hannity has crossed lines twice this year that would lead to termination at any real news outlet -- first when he failed to disclose, while reporting on a federal raid of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s home and office, that he had been a client of Cohen’s, and second when he campaigned on stage with Trump at a rally after saying that he was just there for an interview. Notably, while Fox subsequently clucked its disapproval, in neither case did the network apologize, announce penalties for Hannity, or promise that it wouldn’t happen again.

    This flagrant disregard for minimal ethical standards has trickled down through the Fox lineup. It isn’t normal for journalists to let the president use their interviews as kick-offs for his rallies or advise him in the White House or call in to his staff’s meetings or golf with him or operate lucrative side gigs as paid speakers for party fundraising events or give a cabinet member’s staff script approval for an interview.

    But these are things that have happened -- and will continue to happen -- at Fox, because Lachlan Murdoch and his team appear not to care about this behavior or to be too afraid of their biggest stars and their audience to stop it. Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott’s reported effort to crack “down on inflammatory statements” has been ineffective as anything other than savvy public relations. There are no serious consequences for the network’s stars as long as the access and money keep rolling in.

    Lachlan Murdoch is responsible for Fox’s excesses

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Given Fox News’ ugly history, it might be easy to write off the network’s current incarnation as the pernicious legacy of its previous leadership. That would be a mistake. Fox News’ transformation into an unchained pro-Trump propaganda outlet that promotes white nationalism came as Lachlan Murdoch’s control over the network steadily increased.

    Long seen as the heir to his father’s media empire, Lachlan Murdoch struck out on his own in 2005 after feuding with Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes. But he returned to Rupert’s side as chairman of Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, nine years later and was promoted to executive co-chairman in 2015. Lachlan was reportedly instrumental in removing Ailes after news of his long history of sexual harassment broke in 2016, a move that eliminated an alternate center of power in the company’s hierarchy. And after the company moved to sell the bulk of its entertainment holdings, in May he was named chairman and chief executive of Fox, the company that will hold the family’s remaining television assets.

    After removing Ailes and cementing his role as his father’s successor, Lachlan Murdoch is ultimately accountable for Fox’s programming. If he wanted the network to operate as a responsible media outlet, he could make that happen. Instead, he suggests that any attempt to rein in his network’s stars would constitute unacceptable censorship of their opinions. Whether the media scion, who is reportedly seen as more conservative than his father, is encouraging the network to shift in its direction or simply standing idly by as it moves, he is happy to profit from the forces he continues to unleash.

    Lachlan Murdoch is gaslighting America about the damage Fox News is doing to the country. For these reasons, he is the Misinformer of the Year.

  • Trump officials and right-wing media use Jakelin Caal Maquin's death to rally for Trump's wall

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (12/18/18): This piece has been updated with an additional example.

    Following reports of the December 8 death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala who died after being taken into Border Patrol custody, high-level White House officials and prominent right-wing media personalities exploited her death to advocate for President Donald Trump’s desired border wall while accusing her father of causing the tragedy.

    On December 13, The Washington Post reported that Caal Maquin “died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert.” She did not receive medical treatment until an hour and a half after it was requested. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) claimed that Caal Maquin “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days” before her death -- but this was quickly disputed by her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz. According to a statement from his lawyers, Caal Cruz “made sure she was fed and had sufficient water." The family wants an investigation into Caal Maquin's death.

    The Post first resported Caal Maquin’s death several days after it happened. But once the story broke on December 13, right-wing media personalities and major Trump administration officials immediately began exploiting her death or claiming that her father had caused it:

    Fox News host Sean Hannity: “A wall can prevent these types of heart-breaking stories.”

    White House senior adviser Stephen Miller during a Fox appearance: “If you want to stop the horrors on the northward trek, ... then, for the love of God, fund the border wall.”

    MSNBC contributor and talk radio host Hugh Hewitt: Caal Maquin’s death "is about the most complete argument for building a long, strong" border wall.

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a Fox appearance: "This family chose to cross illegally."

    Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz: "That should be the message, don't make this journey, it will kill you."

    CNN political commentator and BlazeTV host Ben Ferguson: “This is child abuse in its worst form. … This is sick.”

    Fox News guest and Border Patrol Council Vice President Art Del Cueto: “No one’s pointing the finger at this father, they’re all pointing the finger at the Border Patrol agents, and that’s just disgusting.”

    One America News host Graham Ledger: Caal Maquin was a “seven-year-old illegal” whose parents should be “investigated for probable child abuse.”

    One America News host Liz Wheeler: Caal Maquin’s father “forced her to undergo the dangerous journey to the U.S. border and didn’t feed her or give her water for days and days on end.”

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “Now they’re, ‘Oh, it’s Trump’s fault that a seven-year-old girl died after her father dragged her across a desert for seven days.’ That’s Trump’s fault?”

    Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro: "The person responsible for all of this is the father who didn't feed the child."

    Video by Leanne Naramore

  • Yes, The New York Times dropped the ball on covering the rise of right-wing extremism

    Mainstream media failed to cover the rise of the far right because they're afraid of right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The original headline for Thursday’s episode of New York Times podcast The Daily inadvertently pointed out something many journalists of color have know for a while: The Times (and other mainstream outlets) dropped the ball in covering the rise of right-wing extremism, and they did so seemingly out of fear of right-wing media and conservatives.

    The Daily originally headlined Thursday’s episode “The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism and How We Missed It.” In a lack of self-awareness, the podcast didn’t mean the “we,” as referring to the Times, as the episode was not an exercise of self-exploration to grapple with the paper’s role in failing to alert audiences to the threat from right-wing extremists. It was, instead, a discussion of a piece that Janet Reitman published in The New York Times Magazine on November 3, which detailed the ways in which U.S. law enforcement missed the rising threat.

    Following backlash on Twitter -- in which many journalists of color and racial justice activists pointed out that non-white communities certainly did not miss the rise of white supremacist violence -- the Times quietly changed the episode’s headline.

    But the paper did miss the rise of right-wing extremism.

    Take, for example, the way it covered right-wing extremism during Barack Obama’s presidency -- or rather, the way it didn’t cover it. A 2009 report on the resurgence and radicalization of right-wing extremists that the Department of Homeland Security distributed across government and law enforcement agencies -- which was prominently discussed during The Daily’s latest episode and in Reitman’s piece -- got almost no attention from news side of the Times in 2009.

    Right-wing media had responded to the report by fabricating a narrative that the Obama administration was targeting conservatives over political differences, effectively ignoring the insidious threat of white supremacist radicalization. Fox News’ Sean Hannity falsely claimed DHS was defining right-wing extremists as “people that maybe think we're not controlling our borders, people that have pro-life bumper stickers.” Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh asserted that the April 14 publication of the report had been timed to distract from April 15 anti-tax protests taking place around the country, sounding a lot like present-day right-wing media claiming right-wing violence is a “false flag” meant to distract. Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin called the report a “piece of crap” and claimed it was “a sweeping indictment of conservatives.” Then-CNN host Lou Dobbs and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough also joined in to attack the report.

    For its part, the Times either didn’t take the contents of the report seriously (evidence of a serious blindspot) or it cowered in fear of the hysterics fueled by right-wing media’s mischaracterization of the report.  The paper mentioned the report in only a handful of op-ed columns, by Charles Blow, Paul Krugman, and Frank Rich.

    What the paper did cover was then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s apology to veteran groups over the document, which had noted that returning veterans struggling to reintegrate at home could ‘lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone-wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.’” A 2009 Times blog also focused on reactions to the report and Napolitano’s apology rather than its substance.

    When it comes to covering radicalization and terrorism, mainstream media in general have either largely ignored right-wing extremism, or failed to contextualize its systematic threat when it manifests itself violently. But what do get plenty of coverage are attacks committed by Muslim individuals. President Donald Trump has helped fuel that bias, baselessly accusing media of not reporting terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims and putting out a list of attacks that omitted mentions of right-wing terrorism.

    Ensuring newsrooms better represent surrounding demographics could help address blind spots in mainstream media on issues including poisoned waterclimate change, and right-wing extremism that disproportionately affect non-white communities.

    But cowering to right-wing media pressure? Only growing a backbone can fix that.