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  • Social Security official criticized immigration "diversity agenda" and praised police officers who beat Rodney King

    Robert W. Patterson: "The entire video reveals the officers putting themselves in harm’s way to restrain King when they could have just shot him"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Social Security Administration official Robert W. Patterson wrote a 2014 Breitbart News piece that lauded the police officers who beat Rodney King, claiming that "the entire video reveals the officers putting themselves in harm’s way to restrain King when they could have just shot him. For that restraint, the cops were subject to relentless prosecution." 

    In commentary pieces elsewhere, he attacked the “diversity agenda” of U.S. immigration law that, he said, has led to “millions of foreigners from the Muslim Middle East and dysfunctional Third World countries” coming into the United States. Patterson also claimed that “hordes of Central American migrants” are threatening public health.

    Patterson is the acting associate commissioner at the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of Strategic and Digital Communications. SSA touted his experience when he was hired, calling attention to his background as an “op-ed contributor” and alleged "policy expert." 

    Media Matters previously reported that Patterson argued against contraceptives because “condom use robs” women of the “remarkable chemicals” in semen; said married women in the workplace have undermined society; and suggested that homosexuality is a mental disorder and sexual orientation can be forcibly changed. 

    The SSA did not respond to a request for comment.

    In reviewing more of Patterson's writing, Media Matters found other problematic commentary, this time related to police brutality against Rodney King and racist tropes related to migration and immigration. Here are those remarks. 

    Patterson defended police officers who beat Rodney King: “The entire video reveals the officers putting themselves in harm’s way to restrain King when they could have just shot him.” Patterson wrote an August 2014 piece for Breitbart in which he decried protests in Ferguson, MO, after the police shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Patterson linked the protests to the 1991 Rodney King beating, writing:

    Indeed, media kingpins, who handle Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson with kid gloves, are on a constant witch-hunt for another Rodney King video. That nine-minute tape, too, is instructive: The only clip the media played in 1991 – over and over – was 20 seconds that framed the cops as the bad guys. Yet the entire video reveals the officers putting themselves in harm’s way to restrain King when they could have just shot him. For that restraint, the cops were subject to relentless prosecution, once for assault in state court (for which they were acquitted), and once again for violating King’s civil rights in federal court (for which they were found guilty).

    As NPR noted, police officers "kicked him repeatedly and beat him with batons for a reported 15 minutes" and “King's injuries resulted in skull fractures, broken bones and teeth, and permanent brain damage.”

    Patterson complained about the “diversity agenda” of U.S. immigration law because it has helped bring intens of millions of foreigners from the Muslim Middle East and dysfunctional Third World countries.” In an August 2014 op-ed for The Washington Times, Patterson criticized “the wildly misnamed Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986” for having kept “the doors wide open for tens of millions of foreigners from the Muslim Middle East and dysfunctional Third World countries” and having “extended the diversity agenda of the Immigration Act of 1965, an overlooked component of LBJ's Great Society.”

    Congress had appointed the commission to correct the abject failure of the wildly misnamed Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Regarded by Ronald Reagan as the worst mistake of his presidency, the legislation conferred citizenship on 3 million illegals in exchange for phantom enforcement. In keeping the doors wide open for tens of millions of foreigners from the Muslim Middle East and dysfunctional Third World countries, the measure extended the diversity agenda of the Immigration Act of 1965, an overlooked component of LBJ’s Great Society.

    As the Migration Policy Institute noted, “The historic significance of the 1965 law was to repeal national-origins quotas, in place since the 1920s, which had ensured that immigration to the United States was primarily reserved for European immigrants.”

    Patterson: “Hordes of Central American migrants overburden public-school districts and escalate public health and safety risks.” In a September 2014 op-ed for The Washington Times, Patterson claimed that there’s a “flood of illegals” coming into the United States and as a result, “hordes of Central American migrants overburden public-school districts and escalate public health and safety risks.”

    All Republicans would promise to counter the president's open-borders craziness with legislation that would elevate the imperative of national security, step up border enforcement, and fully reverse the flood of illegals into America. With the Islamic State eager to fly its ominous flag over the White House — and as hordes of Central American migrants overburden public-school districts and escalate public health and safety risks — such defensive measures would resonate with anxious voters of both parties. The measure might also impose an emergency moratorium on all guest-worker permits while showing the door to all noncitizens whose visas and green cards have expired.

    His claim about migrants and "public health" is a xenophobic trope. It is also false; CNN recently reported that conservative rhetoric "might lead some to believe that migrants are a threat to American health, a strain on the health care system and damaging to the economy. But a new series of papers presented at a UN Intergovernmental Conference this week and published Wednesday in the journal Lancet says that, based on evidence, that's not true. Most migrants have a mortality advantage, or greater life expectancy, than people in their host countries, according to the new research. This was true for the majority of diseases."

    Patterson’s lack of knowledge about such issues became apparent when he was running for Congress in 2016 as a Republican. The Courier Post in South New Jersey reported on October 26 of that year: “On the question of Syrian refugees, Patterson called for additional vetting, but when told there was already a two-year process in place, he admitted, ‘You’re teaching me something there.’” (The claim that the United States doesn’t screen Syrian refugees is a common right-wing media lie.)

  • WSJ op-ed pushing flawed anti-trans research inadvertently reaffirms that trans people are who they say they are

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by conservative columnist Abigail Shrier pushing flawed research about transgender youth and a dubious concept called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” which purports that young teens are coming out as trans because it is “fashionable.” Shrier wrote that she spoke with 18 parents concerned that their children were dealing with so-called “ROGD,” but she acknowledged that most of their children remained transgender, inadvertently demonstrating the flawed research driving this anti-trans fearmongering.

    The concept of so-called rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) originated in 2016 on anti-trans blogs, and Brown University researcher Lisa Littman surveyed those same blogs for a flawed study published in 2018. The study suggests that transgender youth -- primarily transgender boys who were assigned female at birth -- are experiencing a new type of “rapid” gender dysphoria due to social influences, asserting that they are coming out due to increased exposure to transgender friends and media figures and claiming that they had shown no signs of gender dysphoria in the past. Both the journal that published the study and Brown University announced they would re-evaluate it due to methodological concerns, including that it relied on parental reports from biased, anti-trans blogs. (One of the two on-the-record sources Shrier cited in her op-ed was a spokesperson for one of those blogs, Brie Jontry from 4thWaveNow.)

    Shrier’s recent piece reaffirmed what was already apparent in Littman’s study: The vast majority of the young people whose parents are being surveyed to push this concept have persisted in being trans. In Littman’s study, less than 6 percent of transgender youth whose parents were surveyed no longer identified as trans (for about another 11 percent, it was unclear whether they still identify as trans). And in Shrier’s op-ed, she could point to only “two mothers whose daughters have desisted” out of the 18 parents she interviewed. But whether parents perceive their children’s coming out as “rapid” or not is beside the point; even when parents are surprised by their children’s gender identity, trans youth remain who they say they are.

    Shrier used many right-wing buzzwords and comparisons to describe ROGD’s flawed concept that being transgender is “fashionable,” a “social contagion,” and similar to “cutting and bulimia.” She also claimed that ROGD “comes on suddenly in adolescence, afflicting teens who’d never exhibited any confusion about their sex,” and is thus different from the established definition of gender dysphoria, which Shrier describes as beginning “in early childhood.”

    In fact, Slate’s Alex Barasch has noted that the medical community instead recognizes late-onset gender dysphoria, which describes the emergence of dysphoria “around puberty or much later in life.” The parents cited by Shrier and Littman may also have perceived their children coming out as sudden because these young people avoided coming out to “hostile parents” and instead sought advice and support online or from circles of friends. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has urged restraint from pushing the idea of “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” and noted that it has not been “recognized by any major medical professional association.”

    Shrier also relies on fearmongering about often medically necessary care such as top surgery and other gender affirmation procedures, describing them as “irreversible physical trauma” and “voluntary disfigurement.” There are a number of flaws in this description; it not only makes the false assumption that all trans people need or want surgery as part of their transition, but it also gives the false impression that transition-related surgeries are routinely performed on trans youth. In reality, WPATH’s internationally accepted “standards of care” describe surgery as “often the last and the most considered step in the treatment process for gender dysphoria” while also noting that it is “essential and medically necessary” for many in the transgender community “to alleviate their gender dysphoria.”

    The standards of care note that many interventions for trans adolescents are reversible, including social transitions -- in which the young person begins living in their stated gender identity -- and puberty blockers, which delay the onset of puberty. It also says that chest surgery for transgender boys -- the subset of youth who were assigned female at birth, which is the group ROGD predominantly claims to address -- should be carried out “preferably after ample time of living in the desired gender role and after one year of testosterone treatment” to give “adolescents sufficient opportunity to experience and socially adjust in a more masculine gender role, before undergoing irreversible surgery.”

    Rather than acknowledge the multipronged and varied processes in which trans people affirm their identities, Shrier resorts to using scare tactics and simplifying a lengthy and thought-out process that generally involves the transgender individual, medical and mental health professionals, family, and friends. Furthermore, there is no indication that any of the very small number of trans youth supposedly studied in Littman’s survey or Shrier’s op-ed underwent any irreversible procedures, demonstrating that the transition process already has measures in place and is safe for the small number of adolescents who may determine that they are not transgender.

    The Wall Street Journal is one of the most high-profile news outlets to push the flawed concept of ROGD (though right-wing media have run wild with it). In September, the paper published another op-ed criticizing the academic journal and Brown University for re-evaluating and backing away from Littman’s study and calling their action “suppression.” Shrier has written about gender and transgender issues for the paper before as well, including an August op-ed called “The Transgender Language War” and a July one titled “Masculine Dads Raise Confident Daughters.” Breitbart News is already promoting her latest piece.

    Ultimately, pieces like this are dangerous for both trans youth and the community at large. Not only does Shrier recommend the ineffective and dangerous practice of conversion therapy for trans youth, writing that protections from the discredited practice threaten “counselors who might otherwise dissuade teens from proceeding with hormone treatment or surgery,” but the concept of ROGD itself also essentially calls on parents to doubt their children when they come out as trans. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth whose families reject them are already “8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide” as their LGB peers with accepting families, and the number is likely higher with trans youth, who already experience disproportionately high rates of suicide (particularly transgender boys and men). For them, flawed research like that pushing so-called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” can be a matter of life and death.

  • Right-wing media’s latest pathetic attempts to smear Google as leftist radicals

    The two latest conservative “scandals” about Google actually have innocuous explanations, but that’s never stopped right-wing media from making dishonest “censorship” claims before, and it won’t now either

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Conservatives are using a pair of stories about Google search results to pile onto their claims that the tech company is intrinsically biased against conservatives. This claim is farcical nonsense, and it fits perfectly into a right-wing pattern of playing technology companies for fools with misleading or completely false accusations. 

    On May 31, Vice reported that Google search results for the California Republican Party listed “Nazism” as the party’s ideology in the knowledge panel, a section on the right side of the search page that quickly summarizes basic information on search queries. Then, on June 1, Vice also reported that the knowledge panel for North Carolina State Sen. Trudy Wade, a Republican, featured an image of her with “BIGOT” written at the bottom in red letters. Google has corrected both of these issues with its knowledge panels, which are automatically populated with information from a number of sources, some of which, like Wikipedia, anybody can edit any time. 

    Right-wing media predictably cry that Google has an anti-conservative bias

    Conservative media are using these stories to smear Google as a left-wing operative determined to take down Republicans. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade repurposed an argument from the Hoover Institute’s Niall Ferguson to suggest that Silicon Valley was upset at the Trump campaign’s prolific use of social media during the 2016 election and was trying to tilt the midterm elections for the Democrats. Fox’s Stuart Varney lied about the Trudy Wade image, falsely claiming that “a Google staffer put a ‘bigot’ sign” on Wade’s photo. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said the California Republican Party search result showed that “evidence is mounting that conservative voices are either being suppressed” or “being falsely depicted as hateful extremists” on Google. And Breitbart News scandalized Wikipedia’s relationship with the knowledge panel, claiming that Wikipedia allegedly has a pro-CNN bias. 

    Members of Congress even got involved in the reactionary pile-on. House intelligence committee chairman and all-around embarrassment Devin Nunes (R-CA) told Fox Business that “we [would] have to move obviously to hearings on these issues” if Google continued to “get involved in politics” and “censor conservatives and Republicans.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested to MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt that Google lied when it blamed the “Nazism” search result on Wikipedia, because he had “looked at Wikipedia” earlier “and it didn’t say ‘Nazism’” anywhere. 

    The right wing’s claims of bias are dishonest bullshit 

    As Google explained at the time, Nazism appeared in the California Republican Party knowledge panel because Google pulled the information from the party’s Wikipedia page, which had been “vandalized,” meaning it was deliberately incorrectly updated. Wired magazine reported that Wikipedia edit logs confirm that a user falsely edited the page to show “Nazism” as a core belief for the state party and that the note went undetected on the site for a week. It appeared on the Google knowledge panel because the search engine automatically “scrapes” Wikipedia to populate the feature. The edit logs might explain why McCarthy didn’t see “Nazism” on the page when he looked: The story broke on May 31 and he tweeted about it the same day, but Wikipedia had removed the “Nazism” claim from the California Republican Party page the day before

    Similarly, with Trudy Wade, Google removed the “bigot” image from her knowledge panel as soon as the issue was brought to its attention, but the search engine told her that she needed to ask the owner of the image to “take down or update the content” in order to completely remove it from search results. Wade complained during an appearance on the Sunday, June 3, edition of Fox & Friends Weekend that the image was still up, Matt Comer -- a North Carolina LGBTQ activist who first posted the image -- tweeted that Wade never contacted him, suggesting she is more interested in media hits than in actually getting the image removed.

    Furthermore, Paul Blest at Splinter News followed the money and found -- shockingly! -- that Google actually likes Republicans, especially Rep. McCarthy. For the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, political donations to Google’s PAC were split roughly evenly between Republicans and Democrats; in fact, Republicans got a bit more in 2016 than Democrats did. Additionally, McCarthy was one of the Google PAC’s “biggest recipients” in 2016 and got $10,000 in 2016 and another $5,000 in 2018 so far.

    Dishonest bullshit is the right wing’s trade, and business is booming

    As Media Matters has documented for over a decade, right-wing media outlets are expert traders in bullshit, and that trend has not slowed in the age of social media. Most recently, this trend has manifested itself with pro-Trump websites claiming the algorithmic changes at Facebook are censoring their content -- a charge pro-Trump social media figures Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson are leading, while occasionally betraying their profound ignorance

    However, users across the political spectrum have seen their Facebook page views decline since the platform rolled out new rules against fake news and hate speech. In Diamond and Silk’s specific case, the drop in their video views was not even as significant as that of the left-leaning MSNBC prime-time program The Rachel Maddow Show, which “has a much larger [Facebook] page and is the most popular cable news program in the country.” 

    None of these facts have remotely slowed down Diamond and Silk’s quest to gain attention for their invented grievance. They push their deceit on Fox News and the network actively helps them spread lies about so-called “censorship.” They even brought their perjurious carnival show to the U.S. Congress. Republicans repeatedly asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about this alleged “censorship,” and the focus on the two vloggers took time and attention away from more serious issues Zuckerberg perhaps should have discussed with elected leaders.

    Compounding this problem is Google’s reliance on unaccountable third parties for its knowledge panels and search results, including, when it comes to Wikipedia, volunteer labor. While most Wikipedia users likely engage with the site in good faith, vandalism clearly remains a problem and those problems can sometimes trickle out into the larger world. Among conservative circles, there have been and continue to be active movements around astroturfing -- or falsifying the origins of -- online debate. In 2014, BuzzFeed News uncovered “Operation Lollipop,” an organized effort by users of far-right image boards and men’s rights websites to impersonate feminists and start fights among real activists. Then, on June 4, BuzzFeed News also reported on a far-reaching effort from similar extremist websites to flood comment sections on Disqus with hate speech in order to dominate the conversation and recruit new bigots. There is too much bad faith online for Google to be so reliant on the honor system.

    The simple truth about right-wing media and alleged censorship on social media is that fake news, conspiracy theories, and online harassment are all more prevalent in conservative circles than in others. So if conservative media spaces are feeling the impact of policy changes meant to combat such misinformation more harshly than others (if they are indeed feeling such an impact), then perhaps it’s right-wing audiences and content creators who are abusing the platforms, not the other way around. 

  • Report: Breitbart recruited an activist to encourage black voters to vote Trump or stay home

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    A May 29 Bloomberg story revealed that during the 2016 election, a Breitbart reporter worked as an “off-the-books political operative” for the Trump campaign, encouraging a former Bernie Sanders backer to help convince black voters to vote for Donald Trump or sit out the election entirely.  

    The Bloomberg report detailed how Breitbart’s Dustin Stockton recruited Black Men for Bernie founder Bruce Carter to work on behalf of the Trump campaign. Stockton introduced Carter to Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News who served as chief executive officer of the Trump campaign. Bannon subsequently put Carter in contact with Karen Giorno, a senior Trump campaign adviser. The three agreed that Carter would target swing states and work to convince black voters that “Donald Trump is the only option,” but if they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him, they ought to “simply stay home on Election Day.” From the May 29 report:  

    Carter’s unlikely conversion to cheerleader for Trump started in mid-summer 2016 with a call from Stockton. Broad-chested and 6 feet, 2 inches tall, Carter had become something of a B-list celebrity on the campaign trail, showing up at Sanders’s events in a tour bus emblazoned with the Vermont senator’s photo and yelling through a bullhorn to rally anybody who would listen. He spent months on the road for Sanders, with three of his teenage daughters accompanying him, selling T-shirts and other merchandise to help fund their tour.

    ...

    The two chatted regularly after the convention by phone. On Aug. 17, Bannon, then Breitbart’s executive chairman, was named chief of the campaign. The announcement coincided with a push by Stockton to formalize Carter’s role. He says Stockton dangled an intriguing promise—a chance to engage with Bannon. That pushed him over the top: He endorsed Trump.

    ...

    While it’s impossible to precisely measure Carter’s effectiveness, Trump performed particularly well in the areas Carter targeted, says Dustin Stockton, the Breitbart reporter who recruited him.

    The article also noted that after Stockton spent months recruiting Carter, Breitbart published a “carefully orchestrated” and “exclusive” story about Carter’s work in August “that went viral.” Bloomberg reported that Carter’s work for the Trump campaign and Stockton’s “unusual role” in the saga may also have violated campaign finance rules, and quoted a former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission as saying, “There are some real problems here.”

  • Infowars expands its anti-globalism crusade to Europe

    Infowars’ new European bureau has praised nativist identitarians and relies on the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim dispatches of a correspondent who used to spread the "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Infowars is expanding its empire of conspiracy theories and anti-immigrant fearmongering to Europe, launching a site that claims to give audiences “the full details of European news” that “European media outlets leave out … to keep its (sic) European audiences from knowing the truth.” A far-right conspiracy theorist is producing content for Jones' new site.

    In the midst of fearmongering rant about an immigrant “takeover” of Spain during the April 30 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Infowars host Alex Jones announced the launch of an Infowars European bureau, which seems to be a one-stop shop for the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim narratives Jones has branded with the “anti-globalism” euphemism.

    The site started posting content on April 3, and as of this writing, nine out of its 12 pieces push anti-immigrant and/or anti-Muslim narratives. 

    One of the articles praises the construction of a small fence on the Italian/French border, a stunt put together by Defend Europe and Generation Identity activists, a white supremacist "identitarian" movement with ties to far-right YouTube commentators Brittany Pettibone and Lauren Southern. Defend Europe is perhaps best known for its anti-immigrant antics, like a failed attempt to disrupt humanitarian rescue missions looking for stranded refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Southern, Pettibone, and Pettibone’s boyfriend, Martin Sellner, the “de facto spokesperson” for Generation Identity, were recently banned from entering the United Kingdom for presenting a “serious threat to the fundamental interests of society."

    All of the content on the Infowars Europe site appears to have been penned by “foreign correspondent” Dan Lyman, an American linked to a pro-Trump site that pushed the debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory back in 2016, claiming high-profile Democrats were running a “pedophile syndicate” in a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. Inspired by such claims, a shooter entered the pizzeria to self-investigate in December of that year.

    Lyman also pushed the conspiracy theory on Twitter:

    Lyman has also:

    • likened feminists to terrorists:

    • and accused Muslim men of being rapists:

    In 2017, Breitbart announced plans to expand its European content from the U.K. to Germany, France, and Italy. As Breitbart's traffic has recently collapsed following the ouster and excommunication of Steve Bannon, Infowars is evidently setting out to follow in Breitbart's footsteps.

  • Far-right activists and "alt-right" trolls are using the #MeToo movement to bolster their xenophobia

    #120dB is an ethnosexist German campaign that scapegoats Europe's migrants for gender-based violence

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A far-right campaign that blames immigrants and refugees for sexual violence in Europe is attempting to ride the coattails of the #MeToo movement. The campaign, apparently launched by German women and promoted by European white supremacists, far-right media figures, and anti-Muslim extremists, is an ethnosexist exploitation of a legitimate movement against gender-based violence and an attempt at normalizing hate against immigrant and refugee communities.

    The campaign is known as 120 decibels, a reference to the volume of most pocket alarms carried by some women as a defense against street harassment, and seems to have first appeared on Twitter January 30 in the form of the hashtag #120dB and a video that’s gone viral among far-right and ethnonationalist groups. The movement’s website invites women to join the “resistance” and share their experiences with “imported violence” using the hashtag #120dB.

    In the video's subtitles, several women -- purporting to speak for women who were subjected to violence in Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom -- claimed their respective countries “refuse to secure our borders” and “refuse to deport criminals.” They also lamented the European countries’ alleged cover-up of a migrant crime epidemic, saying their governments’ leaders would “rather censor any critique against [them] then taking (sic) us seriously.” The women contend, “Because of your immigration policies, we are facing soon a majority of young men that come from archaic societies with no womens-rights (sic). You knew that and you accepted it.” They called themselves the “daughters of Europa” and promised to call these abuses to account. And they call #120dB “the true #metoo.”

    The hashtag and video are being heavily promoted by Generation Identity, a self-proclaimed pan-European “Identitarian” movement against the “replacement” of (white) Europeans with migrants. Its Austrian co-founder Martin Sellner uploaded a version of the campaign video with English subtitles around the time #120dB first appeared online; it now has more than 40,000 views.

    Prominent women in the “alt-right” -- who consider themselves “anti-feminist” and value conceiving and raising white families -- are now starting to notice the #120dB campaign. Brittany Pettibone, a well-known “alt-right” troll who advocates for “anti-feminist” ideas and openly supported Defend Europe's campaign to disrupt refugee rescue missions, shared the English-captioned video on Twitter.

    The hashtag #120dB has since garnered attention from English-speaking audiences more widely -- including from the American anti-Muslim commentator Pamela Geller; the founder of a group called “Resistance Against Islamic Radicals,” Amy Mek, anti-immigrant pundit Ann Coulter; and contributors to the Canadian "alt-right" media outlet Rebel Media, Tommy Robinson and Lucy Brown.

    The campaign has also garnered attention from far-right activists and trolls obsessed with a mythical crime wave in Europe. Most notably, Breitbart London author Chris Tomlinson penned a February 1 article on the subject and has tweeted the hashtag #120dB 15 times as of this writing. In another tweet, Tomlinson used the hashtag to promote a Breitbart article he wrote about the late January murder of Pamela Mastropieto, an 18-year-old Italian, woman by a Nigerian man. On Saturday, a far-right extremist was arrested in connection with a racially-motivated shooting rampage in the central Italian city of Macerata, apparently in retaliation for her brutal killing. After the attack, far-right 4-chan trolls defended the suspected gunman Luca Traini, and one post called for followers to hang posters around Italy that read, "I was killed by open borders," a photo of the woman, and a reference to the hashtag #120dB. 

    Media Matters has documented Breitbart’s -- and, in particular, Tomlinson’s -- obsession with a nonexistent European crime wave, especially in Sweden. Two of Breitbart’s favorite tropes -- both employed by #120dB -- are the portrayal of immigrant men (particularly Muslims) as predisposed toward sexual violence, and the baseless accusation that law enforcement is involved in a cover-up of violent crime by immigrant populations.

    Meanwhile, Lana Lokteff, the "alt-right" co-host with her Swedish husband of Red Ice TV, a media company affiliated with white nationalist Richard Spencer’s AltRight Corporation, plans to interview the women of #120dB this week. Lokteff has previously criticized women who have spoken out against disgraced Hollywood mogul and sexual predator Harvey Weinstein, calling one of his accusers, Rose McGowan, “awful.”

  • Republicans want the media to ignore their draconian abortion bill. So far, the media is playing along.

    The House passed a 20-week abortion ban based on junk science -- and if anti-choice groups get their way, the Senate will do the same

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN, MILES LE & DAYANITA RAMESH


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Anti-choice politicians are making moves on an extreme anti-abortion bill -- but if you’re watching cable news, you might not have heard much about it.

    In October 2017, members of the House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy -- and if anti-abortion leaders and their legislative allies get their way, the Senate may soon vote to do the same. In a January 24 article, Bustle warned that a procedural vote on the 20-week ban could come as early as “the start of next week” and described the effort as “a new and more aggressive chapter in the Republican fight against women’s reproductive freedoms.” This comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s Rose Garden speech addressing the 2018 March for Life participants, where he called on lawmakers to pass the 20-week ban and send it to his desk.  

    But if you’re watching cable news, you might not hear much about this draconian measure or the junk science used to justify the harmful and medically unnecessary restriction. Unfortunately, right-wing media are taking full advantage of the silence since last October to fill the void with anti-abortion misinformation and spin:

    Twenty-week abortion bans are built on the inaccurate claim that fetuses can feel pain by 20 weeks in pregnancy, despite the wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary that such claims do not track with the majority of scientific consensus.

    For example, Dr. Anne Davis, an abortion provider and consulting medical director at Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Salon in 2013 that the push for 20-week bans caused patients to begin asking her about fetal pain, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that the fetus does not feel pain at 20 weeks. Davis said, “It’s just another thing these women have to struggle with. And why? These are created concerns. They are not based in science, they are based in politics.”

    Undeterred, right-wing media seized on the passage of the House bill to promote anti-choice misinformation. Outlets such as Townhall and Breitbart lauded the House vote, with the latter arguing that the legislation was “based on the science” that a fetus can feel pain “as early as 18 weeks.” The Washington Examiner claimed that there was “no doubt” about fetal pain or the necessity of banning abortions at 20 weeks. The Daily Signal criticized the Journal of American Medicine Association for disputing the occurrence of fetal pain by 20 weeks and alleged that there were “subsequent studies finding otherwise.”

    Even the researchers behind studies commonly cited by anti-abortion groups and politicians reject such use of their findings. As The Daily Beast explained in a May 2016 article, one researcher “told The New York Times that his frequently-cited research ‘did not deal with pain specifically’” and was being misrepresented by anti-abortion advocates.

    Although the science behind 20-week bans may be scarce, the harm such restrictions do is anything but.

    A ban on abortion at 20 weeks would disproportionately impact low-income people. As the Guttmacher Institute explained, these patients may have to delay an abortion to later in pregnancy “because they had difficulty raising funds for the procedure and travel costs, or because they had difficulty securing insurance coverage.” But anti-choice politicians and right-wing media frequently vilify people who have later abortions and largely ignore the reality that people who seek these procedures do so for a variety of personal and medical reasons. 

    The bottom line is this: Right-wing and anti-choice media are going to talk up unsupported claims of “fetal pain” before 20 weeks and the harmful legislation that follows. Journalists have an obligation to debunk the junk science and right-wing talking points behind this 20-week ban as it moves through the Senate

  • Fox and Breitbart are helping Trump mainstream the term “chain migration,” a misleading nativist buzzword

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    As President Donald Trump rehashes his plan to end so-called “chain migration,” Fox News and Breitbart have been using the pejorative term for family-based immigration more often. The term serves to downplay the many advantages of family reunification policies and falsely conjure images of an unbridled flow of unskilled, unvetted immigrants into the country.

  • Breitbart follows Fox & Friends fearmongering about felon voting in Alabama’s special election

    The state passed a law earlier this year allowing some former felons to register to vote

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    A week before the special election in Alabama to fill a vacancy in the Senate, Fox & Friends and Breitbart fearmongered about felon voting -- even attempting to portray it as a Democratic conspiracy -- despite the fact that the state’s Republican legislature passed and Republican governor signed the law allowing felons to register.

    In a December 3 piece, Breitbart wrote that “An organization partnered with a George Soros-financed group and led by a radical leftist who is the half-brother of the infamous controversial Rev. Al Sharpton has been diligently working over the past few weeks to register convicted felons across Alabama.” It isn’t until 12 paragraphs into the piece that Breitbart noted that earlier this year Alabama's Republican governor signed the law that restored voting rights to thousands of felons.

    Similarly, Fox & Friends was criticized after it ran multiple segments and teases on the November 30 edition of the program saying that Democrats are trying to get "felons registered to come out and vote" in the election. Only once did Fox host Jillian Mele acknowledge that “for decades, felons in Alabama were not allowed to vote,” but “the law was changed last year.” As the Washington Post noted, "Never mind that the felons' voting rights were restored by Republican lawmakers or that one of history's best-known conservative Supreme Court justices determined 32 years ago that bigotry had motivated Alabama's sweeping disenfranchisement. On “Fox & Friends,” the right of certain citizens to vote was presented as a nefarious “secret weapon” of Democrats."

    Right-wing media have a history of cheering for discriminatory laws that curtail voting rights and pushing myths about illegal voting.

  • Who’s afraid of Steve Bannon?

    The Breitbart chairman’s reputation as a savvy political operator shouldn’t survive Roy Moore’s candidacy

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Steve Bannon would have you believe that he stands at the crossroads of history, directing traffic. Ever since he emerged as a national political figure in the latter stages of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Breitbart.com chairman has cultivated a reputation as a wily tactician, the leader of a nascent nationalist revolution, and a visionary whose dreams of a new political order are just beginning to come to fruition. During his brief tenure as chief adviser to President Trump, his various power grabs and heavy-handed policy maneuvers led to the perception that “President Bannon” was the real power in the White House.

    Bannon understands the value of this reputation as a mad political genius and he does what he can to play the part. Most quotes you’ll read from Bannon in the press are studded with flamboyant self-promotion and mustache-twirling exposition typically reserved for Golden Age comic book villains. “Darkness is good,” Bannon told The Hollywood Reporter shortly after the 2016 election. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power.” Bannon has reportedly described himself as a “Leninist” who wants to “destroy the state … bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

    This theoretical Steve Bannon is constantly luring his unwitting enemies into traps and is always winning even when it looks like he’s losing. He is Rasputin, Machiavelli, and Doctor Doom all in one rumpled package.

    It’s all a crock. In the real world, the genuine Steve Bannon spent the past week haphazardly slinging conspiracy theories and sounding like an unglued lunatic in an ineffectual bid to rescue Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore from multiple reports of sexual assault and child molestation.

    The damage-control operation kicked into gear even before news of Moore’s alleged misconduct was first reported by The Washington Post. After the Post approached the Moore campaign asking for comment, the campaign fed the scoop to Breitbart reporter Aaron Klein. Klein obligingly published a piece that ran interference on behalf of Moore, framing everything around his denials and casting the Post as an untrustworthy and biased villain.

    The pre-emptive knockout didn’t work, so Bannon took more aggressive measures. He dispatched Klein and Breitbart Washington Political Editor Matt Boyle to Alabama to, in the words of Axios’ Jonathan Swan, “discredit the Washington Post's reporting on Roy Moore's alleged sexual misconduct with teenagers.” This escalation produced similarly disappointing results: Klein ended up filing an “exclusive” that claimed to undermine the Post’s reporting but accidentally confirmed it, while Boyle spent his time counting the number of applause breaks during a Moore speech.

    While Bannon’s crack journalists were bumbling around Birmingham, he got busy trying to spin up a protective narrative around Moore. But without any exculpatory evidence to lean on and with mounting proof of Moore’s guilt, Bannon could go in only one direction: a far-reaching anti-Moore conspiracy.

    Speaking at a political event in New Hampshire shortly after the Post story broke, Bannon said he found it “interesting” that “the Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump, is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore. Now is that a coincidence?” Even though he hadn’t proved (or even directly alleged) any malfeasance on the Post’s part, Bannon congratulated himself for taking a stand against the media. “I don't mind it. I'll call them out every day.”

    As Moore’s political standing deteriorated and national-level Republicans began distancing themselves from his campaign, Bannon started arguing that the conspiracy ran deeper than anyone could possibly imagine. “You’re going to find out that what happened down there was Republican operatives had this information or were concocting some of this information, working with the Washington Post, who is lying about this,” Bannon said on Breitbart News Daily. He also identified the unlikely mastermind behind it all. “This is just another desperate attempt by Mitch McConnell to keep power,” Bannon said of the Senate majority leader, “and it’s not going to work.” It might seem counterintuitive that the leader of the Republican Senate majority would sabotage his own party’s nominee and reduce his party’s majority as a means of retaining power, but, then again, most of us can’t see around corners like Bannon can.

    The reason Bannon and Breitbart.com rode to Moore’s rescue is that Bannon -- who, again, glides along on his reputation for political vision -- put Moore in the vanguard of his “economic nationalist” movement. Bannon broke with Trump to endorse Moore, and he was the headline speaker at Moore’s rally the evening before the September 26 primary runoff election. “Tomorrow is going to decide who has sovereignty in the United States of America,” Bannon told the crowd in characteristically grandiose fashion.

    Anyone with an ounce of prudence would have been extremely wary of so tightly aligning himself with Moore, whose political career prior to the sexual assault reports was defined by extremism and controversy. But Bannon doesn’t do caution. He’s leading a movement that deliberately stokes racial resentments, places national identity above all other concerns, and actively rejects multiculturalism. Such a movement can’t help but attract kooks, racists, and extremists. It’s Bannon’s job to make them respectable and, if possible, elect them to high office.

    Bannon’s gamble on Moore blew up spectacularly, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with Moore’s background could have told you it very likely would. It’s become so damaging that, as The Daily Beast reports, Bannon and his lackeys are belatedly second-guessing their continued support for Moore as the accusations against him have mounted. According to the outlet’s sources, Bannon said, “I will put him in a grave myself” if it turns out Moore lied about committing sexual assault.

    This is classic Bannon -- it sounds threatening and supervillain-ish, but when you actually think about what he’s threatening, it’s completely empty and ludicrous. According to Bannon, if it’s proven conclusively that Roy Moore lied about molesting children, then Bannon will personally see to it that Moore’s reputation and political career are finished -- as if there’d be anything left at that point for Bannon to put in a “grave.” Bannon’s more immediate concern is salvaging his own reputation as an electoral savant and hoping everyone will forget that he was reckless enough to make an accused sex criminal the face of his political movement.

  • Kris Kobach cut and pasted anti-immigrant chain letter bullet points for Breitbart column

    Update: Kobach's citation for one of his anti-immigrant falsehoods is a white nationalist writer

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump adviser and Breitbart.com columnist Kris Kobach cut and pasted into his October 24 column anti-immigrant bullet points that have appeared in random message boards, Yahoo! Answers, and chain letters for more than 10 years.

    Kobach is a paid columnist for the toxic right-wing website while simultaneously serving as Kansas’ secretary of state and as the vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity -- an arrangement that has drawn criticism from ethics experts. He has frequently smeared undocumented immigrants in the media.

    In his October 24 Breitbart.com piece, Kobach made false claims about the crime rate for undocumented immigrants, writing, “There is overwhelming evidence that it is much higher than the crime rate for U.S. citizens. Illegal aliens commit a disproportionate share of crimes” (emphasis in original). As The New York Times and many others have reported, “Several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime.”

    Kobach then listed several supposed facts purporting to support his false anti-immigrant claim, including these two bullet points:

    • 75 percent of those on the most wanted criminals lists in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Albuquerque are illegal aliens.
    • More than 53 percent of burglaries investigated in the border region states of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are committed by illegal aliens.

    Kobach linked to ConstitutionParty.com and ConservativeTruth.org for his sourcing, respectively. Both statistics are longtime claims that have been made repeatedly in chain letters and message boards.

    His bullet point about the "most wanted" list has appeared virtually word-for-word in letterscomment sectionsYahoo! Answers, and message boards going back over a decade. For instance, the claim was reposted to the Free Republic message board in November 2006 and was taken from CaPoliticalNews.com, which claimed the numbers were from “INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants.”

    The Los Angeles Times debunked a variation of that claim in 2009, writing that the LAPD confirmed that the statistic didn’t exist (this section was updated with additional information from the Times):

    2. "95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens . . . "

    We traced this "fact" to a 2004 op-ed in The Times by Heather Mac Donald of the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Mac Donald said "officers" told her about the warrants. She conceded that there were no such data in official reports but suggested the LAPD "top brass" was hiding the truth.

    I called the LAPD's press office, which contacted the department's Fugitive Warrant Section. Officers confirmed that the statistics in item No. 2 and No. 3, which follows, don't exist.

    3. "75% of people on the most wanted list in Los Angeles are illegal aliens."

    We traced this figure to something circulating on the Internet under the name "the 2006 (First Quarter) INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants." The "report" contains similar figures for Phoenix, Albuquerque and other cities. But it isn't an actual government document. The INS ceased to exist in 2003, after the Department of Homeland Security was created.

    There's something really disturbing about a work of fakery meant to tarnish an entire class of people. You wonder what kind of person would pen such a thing.

    Kobach's other bullet point about burglaries has similarly appeared virtually word-for-word all over the internet for years. Kobach’s sourcing for that claim comes from ConservativeTruth.org, which claims it’s from “the Foreign National Crime Information Center.” That site posted the chain email statistics about supposed undocumented crimes. But it has the following disclaimer about those statistics: “DISREGARD THE BELOW STATISTICS, THEY ARE not current AND SEVERAL YEARS OLD.”

    UPDATE: Kobach’s Breitbart column also cited a piece by a white nationalist who has reportedly been “part of the American Holocaust denial movement.”

    Kobach’s sourcing for his claim that “75 percent of those on the most wanted criminals lists in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Albuquerque are illegal aliens” is from a piece by Peter B. Gemma for the ConstitutionParty.com.

    As the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented, Gemma is a racist writer who has worked for the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and has been a “part of the American Holocaust denial movement.” From the civil rights group’s 2013 profile of Gemma:

    Virtually unnoticed, Gemma, who lives in Florida, has recently joined the governing national executive committee of the Constitution Party as its eighth living member (party founder Howard Phillips, who died earlier this year, is also listed). Although Gemma is described by the party website as “a veteran political and fundraising consultant” who was a staffer on three presidential campaigns, he is in fact a white nationalist with deep ties to a whole array of racist hate groups.

    For years, he was the head of design, marketing and advertising for the racist tabloid of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) — a group that has complained that non-white immigration was turning the U.S. population into a “slimy brown mass of glop” and described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity.” He also was the media coordinator for the CCC’s Capital Region for several years.

    He is part of the American Holocaust denial movement, reviewing a book by British denier David Irving for the racist Occidental Quarterly journal, organizing a 2005 speaking event for Irving, and giving a speech at the denialist Institute for Historical Review, according to the Institute for Research on Education & Human Rights.

    In 2000, Gemma appeared with David Duke and Don Black, both former leaders of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, at an event meant to raise money for the fascist, whites-only British National Party, according to the same report.

    The Anti-Defamation League has also criticized Gemma. The group wrote of Gemma in 2013:

    In its four issues published in 2013, the anti-immigrant journal The Social Contract  (TSC), published by racist John Tanton, the founder of the modern-day anti-immigrant movement, featured a number of articles penned by anti-immigrant extremists. Peter Gemma, a former editorial advisory board member of the Citizens Informer the CofCC’s publication contributed three articles to TSC. In 2004, Gemma introduced notorious Holocaust denier Mark Weber at a meeting of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), once the leading Holocaust denial organization in the United States. 

  • Study: Fox News covered immigration five times as much as CNN and MSNBC combined

    Fox regularly pushes misinformation about DACA and sanctuary cities

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    A Media Matters review of recent evening programming on the three major cable news channels found that Fox News is covering immigration significantly more than CNN and MSNBC, a disparity that has occurred before. But Fox’s coverage of immigration issues is overwhelmingly negative, and its dominance of the subject on cable news effectively allows it to shape the debate when immigration issues are a topic of national discussion.

    From October 9 to October 13, the week after President Donald Trump "dropped a potential bomb into negotiations on the future" of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Fox News’ programming between 5 and 11 p.m. devoted a total of one hour, two minutes and 23 seconds to discussing immigration, compared to CNN’s six minutes and nine seconds of coverage and MSNBC’s five minutes and 47 seconds of coverage.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    During this time, CNN and MSNBC primarily covered the issue in terms of legislative battles, discussing the attempts by some lawmakers to pass a bill to protect beneficiaries of DACA. Fox News discussed the DACA legislative process, but also spent significant airtime pushing anti-immigrant sentiments and myths.

    These findings represent a trend, not an isolated event. Media Matters previously found that during the first two weeks of July, even when few immigration issues were making national headlines, Fox News outpaced CNN and MSNBC on immigration coverage even more starkly; during that time period, Fox News’ evening programs dedicated a total of 15 segments to immigration-related topics, totaling one hour, three minutes, and 31 seconds of coverage. CNN’s evening news programming included only one immigration-focused segment that was three minutes and six seconds long. MSNBC’s evening news programs dedicated two segments to immigration coverage, totaling three minutes and two seconds of reporting.

    By outpacing other networks’ immigration coverage, Fox News can lay the groundwork for right-wing immigration myths to spread, as in the debate over so-called sanctuary cities. The sustained stream of misinformation about sanctuary cities from Fox -- and the relative absence of discussion about sanctuary cities on CNN and MSNBC -- may have contributed to the belief among 40 percent of Americans that sanctuary cities are “less safe” compared to non-sanctuary jurisdictions, even though data shows the exact opposite. Ousted Fox News host Bill O’Reilly even convinced Congress to consider Kate’s Law, anti-sanctuary-city legislation that he initiated, which passed in the House in June.

    The discrepancy can be spotted beyond cable news and in media more broadly. A report by the nonprofit Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) on coverage of immigrant detention found that Breitbart and FoxNews.com far exceeded comparable outlets in the frequency with which they reported on immigrant detention and that those sites, as well as the conservative newspaper The Washington Times, routinely cast immigrants as criminals. The CIVIC report included the following data:

    Graph and data courtesy of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC)

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC programming between 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. from October 9 to October 13 and from July 3 to July 14 (excluding weekends) for the terms immigrant, immigration, illegal alien, illegals, border, border wall, sanctuary, or DACA. For every qualifying segment, Media Matters used iQ media to count the amount of time spent covering that specific immigration topic. We also coded for each immigration topic. We defined “significant discussion” as a host posing a question to a guest related to the topic and the guest answering the question. We also counted news reports.

    Cristina López G. and Kyanna Spaulding contributed to this report.

  • Breitbart adopts Ed Gillespie’s spin in attempt to link sanctuary cities to murder of Muslim teenager

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Breitbart politicized the death of a Muslim teenager in a seeming attempt to vindicate Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie after he released a number of ads falsely linking so-called sanctuary cities to the gang MS-13.

    In a series of widely criticized campaign ads, Gillespie attacked his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, for allegedly “increasing the threat of MS-13” in Virginia by voting in favor of sanctuary policies. The ads are built on a number of falsehoods, including the myth that sanctuary cities embolden gangs like MS-13 and increase violent crime, even though law enforcement officials have said sanctuary policies facilitate their efforts to fight the gang.

    In a seeming attempt to justify Gillespie’s anti-immigrant rhetoric -- which originated in right-wing media -- Breitbart published an article haphazardly linking the death of a Muslim teenager in Virginia to sanctuary cities. From the October 17 Breitbart article:

    The Washington Post willingly ignored the illegal alien-status of a man who is accused of brutally murdering a Muslim teenager in Fairfax County, Virginia.

    In a piece about the trial of Darwin Martinez Torres, a 22-year-old illegal alien from El Salvador, the Post did not mention the fact that when Torres was accused of murdering 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen, he was never supposed to have been in the United States.

    [...]

    Torres now has a detainer on him by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which demands he be turned over to federal immigration officials should he be released from local custody at any point.

    Despite efforts by the mainstream media to label the murder a “hate crime” that was perpetrated by an anti-Muslim attacker, police have said there is no evidence indicating that the illegal alien targeted the teen because of her religion.

    In the Virginia governor’s race, sanctuary cities, which protect criminal illegal aliens, has become a hot-button issue between populist conservative Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam.

    This year, Northam was the deciding vote in supporting sanctuary cities, which have helped violent, El Salvadorian street gangs like MS-13, to proliferate across the state.

    Gillespie, most recently, hit back at Northam’s support for illegal aliens and sanctuary cities by releasing a multitude of ad campaigns directly mentioning how the MS-13 gang poses a grave danger to Virginia residents.

    Breitbart’s arbitrary mention of sanctuary cities is seemingly meant to imply that Hassanen’s tragic death was the result of sanctuary policy, even though Virginia technically does not have any sanctuary cities. Indeed, conservative media outlets’ crusade against sanctuary cities is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to smear undocumented immigrants as criminals and further an anti-immigrant agenda.