The Media Outlets Poised To Become Trump’s Personal Propaganda Machine
The President-Elect’s Media Allies Are Already Helping Him Control Narratives And Publicly Attack Enemies
Research ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS
After the 2016 presidential election, President-elect Donald Trump is coalescing a network of supportive right-wing media outlets, including an online publication owned by his son-in-law, a supermarket tabloid, and a new 24-hour news outlet that has been described as “Trump TV.” Since the primaries, these right-wing media outlets have helped push Trump's agenda and have attacked his political opponents.
The New York Observer
Connection: Owned By Jared Kushner, Trump’s Son-In-Law
The Observer is a news site owned by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Under Kushner’s leadership the Observer has been an unabashed pro-Trump megaphone. The paper was one of only three national papers to endorse him during the primary election. The outlet’s close relationship with Trump forced their national political reporter, Ross Barkan, to resign because he felt “a line had been crossed” with both the endorsement and their editor-in-chief’s secret involvement with the campaign.
Since Trump’s victory, the Observer has moved toward becoming a propaganda outlet for the incoming administration. On December 2, the Observer published an op-ed from University of Texas-Austin adjunct professor Austin Bay calling for the FBI to conduct a “detailed investigation” into the “political thuggery” of anti-Trump protests after the election.
The Observer also recently argued for the release of Julian Assange. Assange’s organization, WikiLeaks, released -- with the probable assistance of the Russian government -- wave after wave of mundane emails stolen from Democratic politicians and operatives, which were endlessly spun by right-wing media into increasingly bizarre, and dangerous misinformation.
Right Side Broadcasting Network
Connection: Helped Trump With Pre- And Post-Debate Spin; CEO Said “Trump Built RSBN”
Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN) is a relatively new “news” network that announced on December 6 that it would “become a 24-hour network very soon” and it would be “in the White House” and “at the press briefings” during the Trump presidency. According to Foreign Policy magazine, there are several steps a news outlet must go through to get White House press credentials, but the president can evade those by simply inviting the outlet to attend and allowing them to ask friendly questions, as President George W. Bush allowed a conservative reporter to do during his administration.
RSBN developed such a close relationship with Trump during the primary and general elections that The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers has described them as “the unofficial version of Trump TV” since last summer. Borchers reported that the Trump campaign had “teamed up with Right Side to produce pre- and post-debate analysis shows that streamed on Trump’s Facebook Page.” Right Side Broadcasting CEO Joe Seales hosted an “ask me anything” session on Reddit in which he told pro-Trump redditors that “Trump built RSBN” and they should “continue to discredit” mainstream media and instead tune into “media outlets like us and the other conservative sources like Breitbart.”
The National Enquirer
Connection: Owned By David Pecker, Trump’s Long-Time Friend
The National Enquirer is owned by David Pecker, Trump’s close friend, and was, along with his son-in-law’s paper and Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, the only other national outlet to endorse Trump. New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that while Trump’s “scandal-filled personal life would be yuge! for the supermarket tabloid,” he has been “exclusively celebrated in the Enquirer’s pages.” Trump himself has even written op-eds exclusively for the Enquirer, where he explained “I am the only one who can make America great again!”
The National Enquirer also undertook a strange and savage campaign against Trump’s electoral opponents. With thin sourcing, often only from noted liar/Trump supporter Roger Stone, the Enquirer alleged that Jeb Bush celebrated his father’s presidential win with a cocaine binge, that Hillary and Chelsea Clinton “covered up Bill’s cocaine rehab,” and that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had affairs with multiple women. Their most outrageous pro-Trump lie was that Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Enquirer made this claim based on one blurry photograph, but that did not stop Trump from touring cable news shows to hype the absurd smear.
Connection: Operated By Trump’s Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, Who Described The Site As The “Platform For The Alt-Right,” Which Includes White Supremacy
Breitbart.com was founded by Andrew Breitbart along with Trump’s current chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who in 2014 described Breitbart as the “platform for the alt-right,” a term commonly used to describe people who embrace white nationalism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism. Breitbart News is infamous for headlines like “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” “Young Muslims In The West Are A Ticking Time Bomb,” and “After The Pulse Club Massacre, It’s Time For Gays To Come Home To The Republican Party.” Breitbart even undertook campaigns of online harassment directed at Facebook’s trending news team for their perceived “bias;” these campaigns were directed by Milo Yiannopoulos, who was permanently banned from Twitter for leading a harassment campaign against Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones.
During the 2016 election, reporters and even former Breitbart employees repeatedly criticized the site for attempting a “rebranding of white supremacy … through Trump.” Former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro accused the site of embracing “a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism,” and his former colleague Kurt Bardella similarly labeled Bannon a “dangerous” and “combative” “pathological liar.” Bardella resigned from Breitbart on March 11 when Trump’s then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, grabbed Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields at a Trump event. Rather than defending their Fields, a Breitbart employee hurriedly worked to “make sure that [the incident] doesn’t turn into a big story.”
Infowars And The Alex Jones Show
Connection: Top Trump Adviser Roger Stone Is A Frequent Jones/Infowars Collaborator And Trump Appeared On Jones’ Program And Praised Him
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is the host of The Alex Jones Show and heads Infowars, which distributes right-wing content through its website and social platforms like YouTube and Facebook. Jones and his website have pushed false stories and fringe conspiracy theories, including that the government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon, among others.
Jones and Infowars were a leading source of false stories and conspiracy theories about Clinton in 2016. They pushed false claims about Clinton’s health, the “pizzagate” conspiracy, and supposed pro-Clinton voting fraud, among many others. Several of these stories were subsequently highlighted by Trump on the campaign trail.
Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone serves as the president-elect’s messenger to Jones’ audience. Stone has been one of Jones’ most frequent guests, helped organize a pro-Trump event with Jones, and is also an Infowars guest host. Trump mainstreamed Jones’ program by appearing on it in December 2015 and telling him: "Your reputation's amazing. I will not let you down." Trump has repeatedly echoed Jones’ rhetoric and he and his campaign tweeted links to Infowars.com.
Trump suggested his relationship with Jones will continue: Jones said the president-elect called him after the election to thank his audience and promise he would return to the program. And Stone said Jones will be a “valuable asset” for “President Trump’s legislative program.”
One America News Network
CONNECTION: TRUMP AND HIS ADMINISTRATION SHOW IT FAVORITISM DURING PRESS EVENTS, AND FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER COREY LEWANDOWSKI IS NOW A COMMENTATOR FOR THE NETWORK
One America News Network (OANN) was originally formed in 2013 by Charles and Robert Herring Sr., through a partnership with The Washington Times, to “provide a platform” for “voices that are ignored, libertarian and conservative,” because “all we have is Fox.” In 2015, OANN claimed to be in “just over 12 million homes” across the United States.
OANN has received preferential treatment from the incoming administration for its softball, sycophantic questions. On January 11, reporter Trey Yingst asked the president-elect if he “set an example” regarding conflicts of interest at his first press conference since the election. On January 19, incoming press secretary Sean Spicer called on Yingst to ask about Trump’s “message ... for senators on Capitol Hill when it comes to the speed of the confirmations” for Trump’s historically unqualified and dangerous cabinet nominees, whom he appears to be attempting to rush into office.
OANN managed to secure several interviews with Trump during his candidacy through its close relationship with his then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. In an interview with The Daily Beast, OANN CEO Robert Herring Sr. confirmed that “we got a lot of help from [Corey] in the past … whenever we had some dealing when we needed help with Trump,” such as “getting interviews.” The Daily Beast noted that Lewandowski consistently came through for OANN’s Trump requests. When Lewandowski quit CNN, Herring “saw a chance” and quickly “grabbed it,” adding him to the network’s roster as a commentator and, according to The Daily Beast, “a Trump-loving propagandist.”
OANN defends the “alt-right” and Trump during almost every controversy. Host Liz Wheeler, who helped refurbish white supremacy by giving noted racist Richard Spencer a platform to spin his white nationalist conference, accused Alicia Machado of “play[ing] the victim for reward’s sake” for recalling Trump’s racist, fat-shaming attacks in which he called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.” Graham Ledger, another OANN host, referred to mosques as “breeding grounds for the jihadists in this country” which Muslims “need to fix.” The network even lamented in October that “pundits and politicians” were focusing on the Access Hollywood tape on which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, instead of “how the Republican nominee has changed many people’s lives for the better.”
- Posted In
- Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity, Ethics, The Presidency & White House, Media Structures & Regulations
- Right Side Broadcasting, One America News Network
- Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon, Corey Lewandowski, Milo Yiannopoulos, Roger Stone, Julian Assange
- The New York Observer, The National Enquirer, Breitbart, The Washington Times
- Media Ethics, Trump Transition, Stephen Bannon joins Trump campaign, White nationalism, Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls, Race