Sebastian Gorka | Media Matters for America

Sebastian Gorka

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  • Fox News hypes Trump's threat to impose tariffs on Mexico

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to impose tariffs on Mexico unless the country stems migration to the U.S., Fox News personalities are cheerleading the move while turning their anger on Senate Republicans for opposing the tariffs.

    Trump’s latest threat to impose a 5% tariff on Mexico, rising up to 25% if the Mexican government does not stop migrants approaching the U.S., has concerned experts and politicians across the political spectrum about the potential impact on the U.S. economy. Some Republican senators have reportedly discussed a vote to block the tariffs, but the move would need a two-thirds majority to override Trump’s veto.

    Experts warn that the tariffs could have a drastic impact; according to CNBC, “Texas-based economic research firm Perryman Group says proposed tariffs could result in job losses topping 117,000 in Texas and approximately 50,000 in California.” Economists surveyed by Vox said that the threatened tariffs could cost each U.S. household as much as $900.  Business leaders, trade groups, and other organizations have also expressed opposition to Trump’s tariffs: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that “imposing tariffs on goods from Mexico is exactly the wrong move”; Business Roundtable, “an association of chief executive officers, said in a statement that imposing the tariffs would be a “grave error” to tax imports from Mexico”; and anti-poverty nonprofit Oxfam America called the proposal “shortsighted, harmful, and counter-productive.”

    Despite the negative impact that is sure to be felt by taxing imports from Mexico, some Fox News personalities have been very supportive of the president’s latest decision. Others have also expressed anger and betrayal towards Senate Republicans and businesses for not supporting the president’s move towards tariffs. Here are some of the ways that hosts and guests on Fox have been cheerleading tariffs on Mexico:

    On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade chided a “remarkably un-self-aware Congress” for causing “this mess.” Kilmeade expressed anger that Congress is “sitting there against the president on tariffs when he’s using everything possible ... to stem the horrific crisis at our border.” He advised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to “pretend it’s Brett Kavanaugh” and “push this forward,” referring to last year’s Senate confirmation process for the conservative Supreme Court justice embattled by sexual assault accusations. When co-host Steve Doocy suggested that “both sides are using it for politics,” Kilmeade insisted that Trump is sincere and that this has “nothing to do with politics.” [Fox Business, Fox & Friends, 6/5/19; The Hill, 10/6/18]

    On the June 4 edition of his show, Trump confidant Lou Dobbs claimed that “the republic itself is at stake here” and expressed disgust at Senate Republicans for opposing Trump, dedicating multiple segments to the topic. His guest Ed Rollins encouraged Trump to “stand tough” and said that it will be the “beginning of the end” for Senate Republicans if they don’t support Trump. Dobbs claimed that he “fear[s] for the republic itself” because Trump is trying to “secure American safety,” but Republican senators are “turn[ing] their backs on this president,” called it “appalling” and “an utterly dispiriting moment in our history.” Rollins agreed and added that “this would not be a Senate majority” without Trump’s presidency. Dobbs then played and harshly criticized clips of “so-called Republicans in the U.S. Senate” opposed to the tariffs, saying they “are working against the interests, not only of the nation, but the interests of the president and all of you who voted for them.” Dobbs repeated that “the republic itself is at stake here.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 6/4/19]

    Dobbs ran another segment attacking Republican senators for “selling out the security of the American people” as the chyron read “RINO resistance,” referring to Republicans in Name Only. His guest, former Trump State Department senior adviser Christian Whiton, called the Republican response “disappointing,” to which Dobbs responded, “Hell yes, it’s disappointing.” They criticized Republicans for not passing legislation to fund the wall when they controlled the House -- Dobbs placed the blame squarely on former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), calling him a “resident traitor” and adding that “now he has Mitch McConnell following.” Dobbs also said that Senate Republicans’ opposition is “the GOP committing suicide.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 6/4/19]

    Dobbs, hosting Sebastian Gorka, also said there will be “an uprising in this country against the business lobby [and] these pseudo-Republicans” if they oppose Trump’s tariffs.  Dobbs praised Trump for “being the only candidate who had the guts to take on the opioid addiction crisis” before chiding McConnell for “undercutting him with the same glee in his eye that you would expect to be in [Sen.] Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY).” Gorka said that Republicans who oppose Trump now will “pay the price” in 2020. Dobbs agreed and said that there will be “an uprising in this country against the business lobby [and] these pseudo-Republicans” if they oppose Trump’s tariffs. Gorka added that it’s a “betrayal of the American people” and said that Democrats just want “a constituency of illegal aliens beholden to them.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 6/4/19]

    On Outnumbered, Fox host Steve Hilton praised Trump’s “tough response” and criticized the “outrage amongst the traditional establishment types.” He called Trump’s tariff threat a “constructive, entrepreneurial piece of policymaking” and justified the tariffs because of the “emergency at the border,” saying that “it’s not an exaggeration to say that we don’t have immigration control in this country.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/4/19]

    Fox News contributor Tom Homan said that he agrees “with the president 100%.” Homan conceded that “the tariffs may have a short-term effect on the economy,” but his “concern is what price will you put on our national security.” He argued that Trump’s tariff proposals are justified because terrorists  want “to come to this country to do us harm … especially now when there’s chaos on the border and such a great vulnerability.” He added that he’s “not trying to be a fearmongerer, but this is more than a humanitarian crisis” and concluded that “the president is trying to secure our nation.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 6/4/19]

    On Outnumbered Overtime, ICE acting director and frequent Fox guest Mark Morgan said that while he is “not an economist,” he is “100% behind the president on this.” He claimed that “Mexico has shown for decades” that they are “on the sidelines,” adding that “they have not been true partners in this.” He also said that Mexico has not been working with the U.S. on asylum “because the cartels own everything” as “a multi-billion dollar industry,” so “Mexico gets to step back and just be facilitators,” saying that they “need to get in the game” and “the president is forcing them to do so.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/4/19]

    Discussing Trump’s tariffs on America’s Newsroom, frequent Fox guest Art del Cueto said that “something needs to be done” to force Mexico to reduce immigration, adding that “it’s not about race” because “illegal is not a race.” He concluded that “Mexico needs to assume that responsibility.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 6/5/19]

  • Fox News and right-wing media freak out about Mueller's press conference: "You are a disgrace!" 

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR
  • A comprehensive list of former Fox employees who have joined the Trump administration

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Over a three-day period in early April, the State Department announced Morgan Ortagus as its new spokesperson, a role previously occupied by Heather Nauert; President Donald Trump said he wanted Herman Cain to fill a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, with Stephen Moore already nominated for a second vacancy; and Politico reported that Treasury Department spokesperson Tony Sayegh is resigning next month and could be replaced by Monica Crowley.

    Ortagus, Nauert, Cain, Moore, Sayegh, and Crowley have something in common: Each has worked for Fox News, the right-wing cable network that has merged with Trump’s White House and now serves as a Trump propaganda outlet.

    Trump has stocked his administration with former Fox employees. Cabinet secretaries overseeing federal departments, senior White House aides advising the president on crucial issues, and U.S. ambassadors representing the country abroad, among others, all worked for the network before joining Trump’s administration.

    Ten current Trump administration officials previously worked at Fox, while six more officials worked at Fox before joining the administration but have since left, and the appointments of two other former Foxers are pending, according to a Media Matters review. (This post was updated May 2 to remove Moore and Cain, who both withdrew from consideration after their nominations received widespread criticism.)

    Current Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    Former Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    Those are just the ones who actually made the jump to the Trump administration -- several other Fox employees have been connected to various Trump administration jobs but have not received them, while Crowley had been announced for a White House position but withdrew following a plagiarism scandal.

    And the door opens both ways. After leaving her post as White House communications director, Hope Hicks became executive vice president and chief communications officer for Fox’s parent company. Abigail Slater similarly left her White House position advising Trump on technology to become senior vice president for policy and strategy at Fox Corp. Fox also hired former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie and former acting ICE Director Tom Homan for on-air roles, each of whom has since been floated for senior administration roles.

    This hiring pattern speaks in part to Fox’s longtime role as a comfortable landing spot for Republicans looking to get paid and build their brand with the network’s conservative audience while keeping their options open to return to politics or government.

    But the trend is also part Trump’s unprecedented relationship with Fox. The president’s worldview is shaped by the hours of Fox programming he watches each day, with both his public statements and his major decisions often coming in response to what he sees. And so throughout his tenure in the White House, the president has treated Fox employment as an important credential and offered jobs to network employees whose commentary he likes.

    Outside the administration, Trump hired Jay Sekulow to join his legal team because the president liked the way Sekulow defended him on Fox, and he nearly added the similarly credentialed Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing to the group as well. Then there’s Kimberly Guilfoyle, who left her job co-hosting a Fox show and became the vice chairwoman of a pro-Trump super PAC the next week (she is also dating Donald Trump Jr.).

    In addition to the former Fox employees that have moved to the administration or Trumpworld payrolls, Trump also consults with a “Fox News Cabinet” of current network employees. He reportedly speaks frequently with Fox founder Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire has benefited greatly from the network’s fusion with the Trump administration. And Fox hosts including Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, and Pete Hegseth all reportedly influence Trump not only through their programs, but advise him privately as well.

    This post will be updated as additional former Fox employees join or leave the Trump administration or are nominated for or withdraw from nomination for such positions.

    Current Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    • Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development. Carson, formerly a prominent neurosurgeon, became a right-wing media sensation after using a February 2013 speech in front of President Barack Obama to trumpet conservative economics and health care arguments. He joined Fox News as a contributor in October 2013 and left just over a year later to run for president. After Trump’s election, Carson joined his administration as the secretary of housing and urban development. His tenure has been dogged by scandals involving lavish spending for office furniture and other ethics issues, as well as a general failure to carry out his department’s mission.
    • Elaine Chao, secretary of transportation. After a career in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors capped by serving as labor secretary in President George W. Bush’s Cabinet, Chao became a Fox News contributor. She left the network in 2012 and took a seat on the board of directors of News Corp., at the time Fox’s parent company. In 2016, she stepped down from the board after Trump nominated her as secretary of transportation. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); former Fox News contributor Erick Erickson has alleged that he was taken off the air because of his criticism of McConnell at Chao’s behest.
    • John Bolton, national security adviser. Long recognized as one of the most hawkish members of the foreign policy community, Bolton served in the Bush State Department and as ambassador to the United Nations. He joined Fox as a contributor in 2006 and became the network’s go-to voice for national security stories for the next decade, using the platform to push for military options in North Korea and Iran. Those appearances caught the attention of Trump, who said during a 2015 interview, “I watch the shows” for military advice, and that he liked Bolton because “he’s a tough cookie, knows what he’s talking about.” In March 2018, Trump named Bolton as his national security adviser.
    • Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications. Before joining the White House in September 2017, Schlapp was a Republican political consultant and a Fox News contributor.
    • Scott Brown, ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. Glowing Fox News coverage helped power Brown to victory in his 2010 run for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. After losing his reelection bid two years later, he joined the network as a contributor, using it as a platform to burnish his profile over the next year while exploring a run for Senate in New Hampshire. He left the network, lost that 2014 race despite the network’s efforts to promote him, and was rehired two weeks later. After Brown endorsed Trump in February 2016, Fox hosts began promoting him for the vice president slot. In August 2016, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros named him in the sexual harassment lawsuit she filed against Fox and several network executives. Trump nonetheless nominated Brown to be ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa in April 2017, and he was confirmed that June. He subsequently faced a State Department inquiry after making inappropriate comments to a female server at an official event.
    • Georgette Mosbacher, ambassador to Poland. Mosbacher, a Republican businesswoman and donor, longtime Trump friend, and a Fox News contributor, was nominated to be ambassador to Poland in February 2018 and confirmed by the Senate that July.
    • Richard Grenell, ambassador to Germany. Grenell, a Republican communications professional who spent seven years as spokesperson for the U.S. delegation to the U.N., joined Fox News as a contributor in 2009 and was still in the network’s employ when he was nominated to be ambassador to Germany in September 2017. He was confirmed in April 2018 “despite objections from Democrats that his past epithets about prominent female politicians made him unfit for the job.”
    • Tony Sayegh, Treasury Department assistant secretary for public affairs. Sayegh, a former Republican communications consultant and Fox contributor, has served as the top spokesperson for the Treasury Department since April 2017.
    • Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokesperson. After working in the Bush and Obama administrations, Ortagus became a Fox contributor, then was named State Department spokesperson in April.
    • Lea Gabrielle, State Department special envoy. In February, the State Department named Gabrielle, a former Fox News reporter, as special envoy and coordinator of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, an agency that counters foreign propaganda and disinformation.

    Former Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    • Bill Shine, White House communications director. Shine, a close friend of Hannity’s who once produced his show, rose through the executive ranks at Fox News, eventually becoming network founder Roger Ailes’ right-hand man and then Fox co-president. Shine resigned from Fox in May 2017 after his reported role helping to cover up the network’s culture of sexual harassment became too embarrassing, but he landed a plum White House job as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications. Shine left the White House for a role on Trump’s reelection campaign in March 2019. His exit reportedly came in part because Trump “feels he was sold a bill of goods by Hannity,” who had urged the president to hire Shine to improve his press coverage.
    • Heather Nauert, acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. Nauert worked at Fox from 1998-2005 and 2007-2017 in a variety of roles. In April 2017, she left her position reading headlines as a news anchor on Fox & Friends, the morning program the president watches religiously, to become spokesperson for the State Department. In March 2018, she was named acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, replacing an official close to Rex Tillerson, who had just been ousted as secretary of state. She was nominated as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in December 2018, triggering stories about her lack of qualifications for the role outside of her Fox News connection. She withdrew from consideration for the post and left the administration in February, reportedly because her nomination was complicated by the fact she had “employed a nanny who was in the United States legally but was not legally allowed to work.”
    • Anthony Scaramucci, White House communications director. Scaramucci, a hedge fund mogul and a former Fox Business contributor and host, spent 10 days as White House communications director before his proclivity for giving expletive-laced interviews and publicly feuding with other White House staffers triggered his removal.
    • K.T. McFarland, deputy national security adviser. After serving in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations and losing a race against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), McFarland became a Fox national security analyst. She used that position to push for war with Iran, defend the use of torture, and push for the profiling of Muslim Americans. In November 2016, Trump picked her to be deputy national security adviser under Michael Flynn. She served only briefly in that position. Flynn was replaced by H.R. McMaster in February 2017 following the revelation that Flynn had lied to the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about whether he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. McFarland was subsequently offered other opportunities in the administration and nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Singapore, but the nomination stalled over her connection to the Russia investigations -- she had reportedly been in contact with Flynn during his conversations with the Russian ambassador -- and she withdrew in February 2018.
    • Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president. A bombastic, self-proclaimed national security “expert” with dubious credentials, a proclivity for anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, and ties to foreign extremist groups, Gorka made frequent appearances on Fox News during the 2016 presidential campaign and was briefly hired by the network before decamping for the Trump White House. His job was ill-defined, and he apparently did little other than go on television to support the president before he was canned in August 2017. He then returned to Fox News as a full-fledged contributor, albeit one who was reportedly banned from appearing on the network’s “hard news” programming. In March, he left Fox for Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose stations now broadcast his bigotry around the country.
    • John McEntee, personal aide to the president. Fox hired McEntee as a production assistant in 2015. He later served as Trump’s personal aide both during the presidential campaign and in the White House. When McEntee was fired in March 2018, CNN reported that it was “because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes.”
  • Sebastian Gorka is officially bringing his anti-Muslim commentary to Sinclair stations across the country

    The former Trump aide isn’t renewing his Fox News contract, instead increasing his presence at Sinclair

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Sebastian Gorka, a D.C. swamp creature with barely a degree of separation from a Nazi-linked group, will no longer be a Fox News contributor -- but the public can still find his bigoted, anti-Muslim commentary on local Sinclair Broadcast Group stations around the country.

    After briefly serving as an adviser to President Donald Trump in 2017, Gorka parlayed his White House role into a new job as a Fox News contributor. On March 3, The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr broke the news that Gorka was not renewing his contributor contract with Fox. Gorka told Barr, “I decided not to renew my contract since I have a new nationally syndicated radio show and a position with Sinclair TV which obviated a new arrangement with FNC.”

    The Sinclair role that Gorka is referencing has been publicly confirmed for only about a month: In February, Gorka appeared as part of Sinclair’s special programming for the State of the Union address and was identified as a Sinclair contributor.

    But the virulently anti-Muslimnational security expert” was making appearances on Sinclair news programming long before then. In 2017, about a month before he signed his Fox contract, Gorka participated in a gun violence town hall for Sinclair’s Washington, D.C., station WJLA and made headlines for saying he believed “Black Africans” were killing each other “by the bushel.”

    Last March, he appeared in a nationally aired news package produced by Sinclair reporter Kristine Frazao about the so-called “deep state.” Around the same time, he participated in a discussion about “the deep state” that also featured Frank Gaffney, leader of an anti-Muslim extremist group, on the Sinclair-affiliated The Armstrong Williams Show.

    Gorka has also hosted at least two special programs that ran on Sinclair-controlled local news stations. In March 2018, Gorka hosted a special called The Rise of Terrorism: A Clash of Cultures, which aired on numerous Sinclair stations. In that program, footage labeled as "ISIS propaganda" and shots of terror attacks are followed by Gorka asking viewers, "Can the teachings of Islam and western values ever be reconciled? Is it possible for the waves of refugees arriving in the west to assimilate and coexist peacefully?" At one point, b-roll footage is shown of a protest sign that says "Rapefugees."

    In November, he hosted another 30-minute special -- this time fearmongering about socialism. The program began with stylized footage of a hammer and sickle being forged in flames and then clips of speeches by Democratic socialists Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Virginia state Del. Lee Carter, much of it set to ominous music. Gorka spent the majority of the program discussing the history of various regimes across the globe, framed to show what happens when socialism goes wrong.

    Despite these numerous appearances, Gorka’s relationship with Sinclair wasn’t publicly addressed until very recently -- including on his own Twitter account, where he frequently promotes his media appearances. He didn’t appear to list the role in his account bio until some time after the town hall appearance last month. And two previous Media Matters requests sent to Sinclair representatives about Gorka’s role at the media company were not answered. (It is uncommon for Fox News contributors to simultaneously hold positions at other media outlets.)

    Now that Gorka has finally made his move to Sinclair official, viewers around the country can unfortunately expect even more anti-Muslim extremism creeping into their local newscasts. Sinclair is already known for its near-daily “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments, which actively reinforce far-right, xenophobic narratives about terrorism and focus heavily on stories involving Islam in any way.

    Gorka has already appeared in at least six Sinclair national news packages in 2019, mostly discussing stories related to ISIS or immigration:

    • A February 21 segment about an American woman who regrets marrying an ISIS fighter
    • A February 18 segment about captured ISIS fighters
    • A February 1 segment about the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients in immigration negotiations
    • A January 25 segment about the arrest of Trump confidant Roger Stone
    • A January 17 segment about global terror attacks
    • A January 4 segment about Democrats in Congress and Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) comments about impeaching Trump

    Gorka’s move to Sinclair also helps solidify the local news conglomerate as a media safe space for Fox News castoffs. Former Fox co-host Eric Bolling -- who also appeared in the February State of the Union special -- is now a “Sinclair political anchor” as well as a host on conservative BlazeTV. Bolling recently interviewed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at CPAC on behalf of Sinclair, and he hosts an ongoing town hall series about the opioid crisis. He left Fox News in 2017 amid reports he sent images of genitalia to multiple coworkers. James Rosen, a Sinclair investigative reporter, also previously worked at Fox News before leaving in January 2018 amid multiple sexual harassment reports.