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  • 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.

  • Here's a textbook example of how climate misinformation spreads through right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    In February of this year, the conservative British tabloid newspaper The Mail on Sunday ran a mistake-laden article that attacked climate scientists who published a paper refuting the idea of a global warming "pause." Written by reporter David Rose, the article ran under a sensationalized headline -- "Exposed: How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data" -- and alleged misconduct by scientists and leaders at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    Media Matters, among other outlets, swiftly debunked the story.

    Now the Mail article has been more formally discredited. The Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO), an independent media regulator in the U.K., ruled that "the newspaper had failed to take care over the accuracy of the article ... and had then failed to correct ... significantly misleading statements." The Mail was required to publish IPSO's reprimand, which it did a little more than a week ago.

    This episode tells us a lot about how climate denial and misinformation spread through the right-wing media ecosystem, as environmental scientist and writer Dana Nuccitelli explained in a good piece in The Guardian:

    The [Mail's] attack was based on an interview with former Noaa scientist John Bates.

    […]

    Essentially, Bates had expressed displeasure in the way the data from a Noaa paper had been archived at the organization. Rose and the Mail blew this minor complaint into the sensationalist claim that “world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data.” It would be hard to find a better example of fake news than this one.

    [...]

    Rose’s story seemed to have all the climate denial components that biased conservative media outlets crave. A lone wolf scientist whistleblowing his former colleagues with accusations of data manipulation for political purposes? Despite the glaring errors in the story that were immediately called out by climate scientists and reputable science journalists, this narrative proved irresistible to the conservative media: Breitbart, Fox News, Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Caller, The Washington Times, and more ran with Rose’s story. Meanwhile, legitimate news outlets like The Guardian, The Washington Post, Carbon Brief, E&E News, Ars Technica, Science Insider, RealClimate, and numerous other science blogs quickly debunked Rose’s falsehoods.

    Climate denier Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) further amplified the right-wing media misinformation. The House science committee, which Smith chairs, put out a press release that drew from the Mail article and provided a quote of Smith praising Bates. Smith also played up the faux scandal at a committee hearing a few days later, even though the article had been debunked by then, and soon thereafter sent a letter to NOAA's acting administrator that cited the Mail article and requested documents related to the disputed study. More from the September 25 Guardian piece:

    That Smith still tried to exploit the story, that it reverberated throughout the right-wing media echo chamber, and that the Mail published it in the first place tells us a lot about the narrative this group wants to push.

    [...]

    Usually they get away with it. This time the Mail on Sunday’s “significantly misleading statements” were so bad that they were censured, though not before they had misinformed millions of people. However, the Ipso ruling tells us which media outlets are reliable sources on the subject of climate change. Those that blindly echoed David Rose’s misinformation are not; those that debunked the Mail on Sunday’s distortions are.

    It's reassuring that IPSO did its job in this case. Unfortunately, the United States doesn't have an equivalent organization, so a number of inaccurate articles published by American outlets about Bates and the NOAA study still stand uncorrected.

  • Breitbart: Not just bigoted, but also moronic (immigrant edition)

    Breitbart depicts DACA recipients with a photo of MS-13 members in El Salvador, adding to its record of using blatantly inaccurate shots to smear immigrants

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    In attempts to smear immigrants and paint them as ruthless criminals, Breitbart.com has repeatedly accompanied its articles with terrifying images that have nothing or absurdly little to do with the story at hand, including the news that President Donald Trump is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. These moronic attempts to fearmonger while sacrificing accuracy further the website’s anti-immigrant message, even though simple Google image searches reveal the reality of the original photos.

    In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind DACA -- an Obama-era policy that protected from immediate deportation hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children and granted them temporary work permits -- Breitbart chose to illustrate a story about DACA recipients with an image of MS-13 gang members taken in El Salvador.

    While Breitbart's tweet with the misleading image was deleted after it drew broad scorn for the site (Breitbart also changed it in the story), it perfectly illustrated the outlet’s tendency to make editorial decisions that show unscrupulousness and a disregard for the truth. In this instance, the site was exploiting a gang crisis in a foreign country in order to smear hundreds of thousands of immigrants who in reality had to have vetted records to gain admission to the program. Federal specifications for DACA protections clarify that applicants could not have “been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors” nor could they pose “a threat to national security or public safety.”

    And that’s not all.

    While trying to portray a “gang” that was “moving migrants” from Morocco to Spain in late August, Breitbart used an image of German soccer star Lukas Podolski flashing a peace sign while riding a Jet Ski in Brazil. Podolski is not only widely recognized among soccer fans, but he is also neither a “migrant gang member, nor being human trafficked,” as Breitbart editors had to admit in their original story after they were mocked on social media.

    On another occasion, Breitbart illustrated a story about a Mexican cartel’s mass grave with a terrifying image from Reuters of a mass grave in Iraq. The website has also used the same image to report on a story about Russia. While Breitbart’s use of the wrong image demonstrates low journalistic standards and likely speaks to an intent to provoke fear of immigrants among its readership, it might also be indicative that the Breitbart “scary mass grave” story folder contains only a single image.

    Breitbart is currently being sued for alleged copyright infringement over an image, bringing possible legal consequences to its questionable use of any old image available on the internet. At least it’s not a Nazi-era cartoon this time.

  • Report: Breitbart Editor-Turned-Trump Official Is A "Sworn Member" Of "Nazi-Allied" Hungarian Group

    Sebastian Gorka Has Denied The Report

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Jewish news publication The Forward reported that Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka is a “formal member” of the Vitézi Rend, a far-right nationalist Hungarian group that, according to the State Department, operated under the direction of Nazi Germany during World War II. Gorka, a top counterterrorism adviser to President Donald Trump and former national security editor for “alt right” website Breitbart.com, denied that he was a member of the group when contacted by another publication.

    The Forward spoke to two leaders of the Vitézi Rend, Gyula Soltész and Kornél Pintér, who said Gorka is a sworn member of their organization. From the March 16 article:

    Gorka, who pledged his loyalty to the United States when he took American citizenship in 2012, is himself a sworn member of the Vitézi Rend, according to both Gyula Soltész -- a high-ranking member of the Vitézi Rend’s central apparatus -- and Kornél Pintér -- a leader of the Vitézi Rend in Western Hungary who befriended Gorka’s father through their activities in the Vitézi Rend.

    Soltész, who holds a national-level leadership position at the Vitézi Rend, confirmed to the Forward in a phone conversation that Gorka is a full member of the organization.

    “Of course he was sworn in,” Pintér said, in a phone interview. “I met with him in Sopron [a city near Hungary’s border with Austria]. His father introduced him.”

    The Forward explained that the Vitézi Rend “is listed by the State Department as one of many groups in Germany and the countries it occupied as collaborationist ‘criminal organizations’ with the Nazis as determined by the post-war International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.” Soltész also told BuzzFeed that Gorka is a current member of the Vitézi Rend. Gorka denied these ties to Tablet magazine, telling a reporter, “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend. Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism.” (Foward’s article described how Gorka has signed testimony submitted to Congress and other documents with a “v.,” which “is an initial used by members of the Vitézi Rend” after they have taken a sworn oath.)

    Tablet added that Gorka’s father was “a dedicated member of the anti-Communist underground, and had risked his life to organize the Hungarian resistance and deliver vital information about the Soviets to western intelligence agencies, including the MI6. He was eventually arrested, badly tortured, spent two years in solitary confinement and some more in forced labor in the coal mines before eventually escaping to England.”

    Back in February, foreign policy blog LobeLog confirmed with an expert that a medal Gorka had worn to an inaugural ball was from the Vitézi Rend. Breitbart.com editor Joel Pollak defended Gorka in a February 14 article, calling claims about his connections to the Vitézi Rend a “smear” and defending the group by calling it “anti-communist.”

    USA Today reported that following Forward’s report, Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, said in a statement that “Sebastian Gorka must resign -- and President Trump must make it happen,” and that the National Jewish Democratic Council also urged Trump to fire Gorka. BuzzFeed quoted Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) calling the reports “deeply disturbing” and saying: “It’s shocking that with these revelations he’s not already fired by the president.” Representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Muslim Advocates, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Southern Poverty Law Center also told BuzzFeed that Gorka should resign or that Trump should fire him if the reports about his membership are further substantiated.

    A reporter for Talking Points Memo later tweeted a statement from the Anti-Defamation League, which stated "If true, [Gorka] needs to renounce his membership immediately and disavow their exclusionary message of hate. At a time of rising anti-Semitism around the world, it is essential for Mr. Gorka to make clear that he rejects the policies of far-right and nativist organizations such as Vitézi Rend and Jobbik, which have a long history of stoking anti-Semitism and intolerance in Hungary."

    Before he was hired by the Trump administration, Gorka worked for Breitbart.com as a national security editor and was a paid adviser to the Trump campaign. In the past he has used anti-Muslim rhetoric and backed conspiracy theories. For example, after the Washington National Cathedral hosted an event with two Muslim groups in 2014, Gorka wrote an article for Breitbart.com with the headline “Muslim Brotherhood Overruns National Cathedral In DC," arguing that “if a place of worship is used by Muslims for their prayers, that territory subsequently becomes part of Dar al Islam, sacred muslim (sic) land. Forever.” Gorka also defended Trump’s false campaign claim that former President Barack Obama was the “founder of ISIS,” saying he “is absolutely right” if he meant the Obama administration “facilitated the growth of ISIS.”

  • Breitbart Helped Boost A Man Vying To Become The Next Dutch Prime Minister: Geert Wilders, Dubbed The "Dutch Trump"

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Breitbart.com provided a platform for far-right Dutch political leader Geert Wilders, who is running for prime minister of the Netherlands in the March 15 election, by publishing columns he wrote. Wilders used Breitbart to boost his anti-Muslim brand among factions of the white nationalist “alt-right” in 2016.

    Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), has been labeled “the Netherlands' Donald Trump.” Like President Trump, Wilders gained prominence with a candidacy driven by anti-Muslim rhetoric and populist sentiment, courting key figures among the far-right factions overtaking conservative politics globally. Recent I&O Research polling showed Wilders trailing among voters, but NBC News noted that Wilders successfully pulled mainstream Dutch politicians toward the extreme right -- a dangerous victory for anti-immigrant populists in Europe.

    In 2016, Wilders’ anti-immigrant rhetoric found a platform on Breitbart under Stephen Bannon, who later left the site to run Trump’s presidential campaign and who now serves as chief strategist and senior counselor to the president. Wilders' columns have been published on both the American version of Breitbart.com and the "Breitbart London" site, which is apparently in charge of the outlet's desired expansion into other European markets.

    In a column published by Breitbart in February 2016, Wilders described the growth of Islamic faith as “an existential threat to our Western freedoms and our Judeo-Christian civilization.” Wilders argued that Western nations have a “duty” to “stop Islam … as a matter of survival” and advocated a Western freeze on “all immigration from Islamic countries.”

    The columns Wilders published at Breitbart all contained similar inflammatory anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant commentary. In another column published in September 2016, Wilders stated that Muslim immigrants “carry our passports, but they do not belong to us” because they “spit on” Dutch identity “and behave like conquerors.” Wilders went on to describe Islam as “an existential threat to” the Netherlands’ “survival as a free nation.”

    This isn't the first time Breitbart has gone to bat for far-right European parties and politicians. The site has consistently promoted Marine Le Pen and The National Front, France's most prominent far-right political party; Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, a far-right, anti-immigrant, nativist political party; and the United Kingdom's UK Independence Party, a group that has been denounced for pushing "open, explicit racism."

    Breitbart under Bannon and beyond also played an instrumental role in the success of Trump’s candidacy, acting as the de facto propaganda arm of the Trump campaign. In the year leading up to the 2016 election, Breitbart defended Trump’s claim that Mexicans were “rapists,” attacked a Mexican-American federal judge on behalf of Trump, and smeared Gold Star father Khizr Khan. Trump often repeated conspiracy theories published on Breitbart during his campaign, and Trump’s administration has continued to give special access to Breitbart in the White House.