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  • How anti-abortion groups are using Wash. Post to legitimize their attacks on Planned Parenthood 

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    On August 2, The Washington Post’s health care newsletter, The Health 202, featured an exclusive preview of an anti-Planned Parenthood report from the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) -- the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List. After the full report’s publication, anti-abortion groups and outlets pointed to the Post’s exclusive to legitimize the misinformation the report included or promoted the report themselves. 

  • Pro-Trump trolls silent after "alt-right" ship detained in Mediterranean for apparent human trafficking

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Defend Europe, an anti-immigrant group that attempts to disrupt humanitarian search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea, recently chartered a boat that was stopped in a Cyprus port, where several members were arrested for forging documents and engaging in potential human trafficking. Since then, pro-Trump media trolls associated with the campaign have been conspicuously silent.

    The members were stopped in and deported from a sea port in the self-declared Turkish state of Northern Cyprus Thursday after spending two days in detention for document forgery and potential human trafficking of 20 Sri Lankan nationals who were aboard the C-Star, the campaign’s ship. Turkish Cypriot authorities deported nine crew members, including the ship’s captain and a German “second captain” believed to be neo-Nazi Alexander Schleyer. The authorities also transferred the director of the company that owns the ship, Sven Tomas Egerstrom, to Greek-controlled Cyprus for further questioning.

    Refugee Rights Association advocate Faika Pasha told The Associated Press that some of the Sri Lankans on board reported having paid a trafficker to be taken to Italy and confirmed that five Sri Lankans remained in Cyprus to claim asylum. (Defend Europe claims the Sri Lankans were actually bribed by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to claim they were seeking asylum.)

    Defend Europe is a campaign by anti-immigrant, “alt-right” activists to disrupt humanitarian search and rescue missions of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. The effort is the brainchild of Generation Identity, a pan-European “Identitarian” movement known for its members’ high-profile political stunts.

    Since the arrest and deportation of the C-Star’s crew members, Defend Europe has been doing some damage control on Twitter, claiming the ship was “released” and that “lies and #fakenews from NGOs have been exposed once again.” The next day, the account pinned an image of the group’s alleged goals on its feed, one of which was to “save migrants in danger of drowning and making sure they get to the nearest non-European safe port.”

    However, Generation Identity’s Austrian co-founder, Martin Sellner, has repeatedly claimed that Defend Europe’s goal is to take migrants from North Africa back to Libya -- a violation of the non-refoulement principle of the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention against sending refugees back to their county if they would be in harm’s way. In June, Sellner said, “We want to face those human trafficking ships on the sea. We want to disrupt their doings. And, of course, if you meet an account of people in distress on the sea, save them but bring them back to where they started from.” He reiterated his stance a month later, saying that Defend Europe will “do everything in our power to make sure that they go back to Africa, where they belong.”

    Since the detainment of Defend Europe members and their subsequent expulsion from Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, the movement’s right-wing media allies and pro-Trump trolls have been noticeably mum. As of this piece’s publication, Brittany Pettibone, who has actively been reporting in support of Defend Europe from Catania, Sicily, had tweeted only twice on the subject since the incident, both times promoting Defend Europe’s conspiratorial narrative that NGOs are propagating fake news and “hiding something” about their alleged collusion with international human trafficking rings.

    Even more notably, Lauren Southern, a Canadian media troll who made a name for herself denying the existence of rape culture and demonizing minorities and who has been actively involved in the Defend Europe campaign, has not tweeted a single time about the recent incident (though she has retweeted in support of Defend Europe). Online payment service Patreon recently suspended Southern’s account for violating the crowdfunding platform's terms by soliciting donations for the Defend Europe campaign; Southern has since resorted to using PayPal. PayPal previously froze Defend Europe's account, saying in a statement, “Our policy is to prevent our services being used by companies whose activities promote hatred, violence or racial intolerance."

    Peter Sweden, a previously vocal Holocaust denier who reversed himself in mid-July, has been similarly silent on the recent controversy surrounding Defend Europe. Sweden has bragged about disrupting search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean and has also been interviewed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, taking the opportunity to fearmonger about crime in Sweden.

    Katie Hopkins, a columnist for British news site MailOnline who regularly appears on Fox News to voice her Islamophobic, anti-immigrant views, has also been silent on Twitter about the C-Star’s deportation from Cyprus. Hopkins recently tweeted a photo of herself with Sweden, which she later deleted. Her involvement with the Defend Europe campaign has been documented by the anti-extremism research and education group HOPE Not Hate.

    Tara McCarthy, who hosts a YouTube show alongside Pettibone and who has said, in a since-deleted tweet, that she hopes “zero” migrants crossing the sea to Europe “make it alive,” has also not commented on the C-Star’s seizure.

    According to HOPE Not Hate, pro-Trump propaganda outlet Breitbart, white nationalist site AltRight.com, racial nationalist organization American Renaissance, Nazi website The Daily Stormer, and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke have also voiced support for Defend Europe’s mission. As of noon on July 28, none of these outlets or individuals had responded to the latest developments.

    The silence of these pro-Trump trolls exposes their opportunism and cowardice. They engage in high-profile stunts to profit and promote themselves and then back away when the going gets tough, as prominent troll Mike Cernovich did when he attempted to deny involvement in the “Pizzagate” conspiracy. The pro-Trump trolls subscribed to the Defend Europe campaign for donations and foreign Twitter followers, but now they’re stuck in a sordid relationship with a movement that is endangering innocent lives and potentially violating international law. It remains to be seen how they will meme their way out of this one.

  • How nativist groups are taking down DACA

    Conservative and mainstream media have facilitated nativist groups’ influence in the immigration debate

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The “nativist lobby,” which consists of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and NumbersUSA, has consistently opposed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows undocumented immigrants to live, work, and go to school in the United States without fear of deportation and it has used both right-wing and mainstream media outlets to rally support for its message. The Trump administration’s lack of support for the program and a threat by 10 Republican states’ officials to sue the federal government if it doesn’t rescind DACA by September has now aligned with the nativists' demands, meaning protection for over 800,000 undocumented immigrants could soon come to an end. 

  • How a scheme to discredit climate science spread from conservative media to the EPA chief

    Scott Pruitt has embraced the “red team/blue team” idea that got exposure from Daily Caller and WSJ

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is calling for a “red team/blue team” review of climate science that would attempt to cast doubt on well-established science and lend an outsize voice to fringe scientists. The idea spread from a climate-denying scientist to conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and The Wall Street Journal to Pruitt, and now more right-wing outlets are promoting it.

    How the “red team/blue team” idea spread

    John Christy, a fringe scientist and climate denier, proposed the creation of a “red team” in comments submitted to the EPA in 2014. His proposal was promoted by the denialist Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of organizations that “question global warming alarmism.” In his comments, Christy wrote:

    The EPA should constitute a “Red Team” of analysts, independent from the climate modeling industry, to judge the current state of knowledge, i.e. the current state of how much we know about the “why” of climate variations. Such an examination would provide transparency to the process and give confidence to the public that the agency values open examination of its methodology.

    In 2015, Christy again promoted the idea of the federal government funding a new “red team” that would review the climate science currently being produced by what he calls the “blue team.” The Daily Caller reported on Christy’s proposal in December 2015:

    Christy told the [Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness] he believes the attempt to study climate change objectively is thwarted by the federal funding process.

    Christy, a well-known climate change skeptic, suggests Congress can fix the problem by directly funding independent “red team” programs.

    And in March of this year, Christy promoted the idea during a hearing held in the House Science Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), a noted climate denier. Judith Curry, another scientist who’s been skeptical of the mainstream consensus on climate change, also testified in favor of the idea. The Washington Post reported on Christy and Curry’s testimony and the “red team” idea:

    A main mission of red teams would be to challenge the scientific consensus on climate change, including the work of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose reports are widely considered the authority on climate science.

    On April 20, the idea got more exposure when it was endorsed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Steven Koonin, a theoretical physicist who has a history of climate denial and served as undersecretary at the Energy Department under President Barack Obama for two years before resigning. Koonin called on the Trump administration “to convene a ‘Red Team/Blue Team’ process for climate science, one of the most important and contentious issues of our age.” He continued:

    The national-security community pioneered the “Red Team” methodology to test assumptions and analyses, identify risks, and reduce—or at least understand—uncertainties. The process is now considered a best practice in high-consequence situations such as intelligence assessments, spacecraft design and major industrial operations.

    As justification for such an exercise, Koonin claimed that the “public is largely unaware of the intense debates within climate science.”

    Shortly after his op-ed was published, Koonin told Axios, “I can tell you that’s found some resonance within the administration. I’m just going to say people seem to be interested.”

    One of those people is Pruitt. In a radio interview on Breitbart News Daily on June 5, Pruitt expressed interest in the “red team/blue team” idea. From a Breitbart article about the interview:

    “What the American people deserve is a true, legitimate, peer-reviewed, objective, transparent discussion about CO2,” [Pruitt] said. “There was a great article that was in the Wall Street Journal about a month or so ago called ‘Red Team, Blue Team’ by Steve Koonin, a scientist, I believe, at NYU. He talked about the importance of having a Red Team of scientists and a Blue Team of scientists, and those scientists get into a room and ask, ‘What do we know? What don’t we know? What risk does it pose to health in the United States and the world, with respect to this issue of [carbon dioxide]?’”

    In the days after that interview, right-wing outlets picked up on the idea again. The Daily Caller reported that it “could upset the supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming.” Breitbart said the proposal “has naturally caused massive upset among the ivory towers of climate science academe” where researchers “aren’t at all used to having their dodgy theories exposed to serious scrutiny.” The right-wing website Daily Signal, the conservative blog Power Line, and the climate-denial blog Watts Up With That also highlighted Pruitt's interview and the red team proposal.

    Why the “red team/blue team” idea is wrongheaded

    In advocating for a “red team” review of climate science, Pruitt, Koonin, and right-wing media are glossing over the fact that climate science already has a method for testing assumptions and analyses: the peer-review system. Climate science papers submitted to respected journals are reviewed by other scientists in the field to assess their soundness and validity.

    As Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Washington Post in June, creating a red team to review climate science would constitute an act of false equivalence and lend, as the Post wrote, “more prominence to alternative ideas than they have earned in the refereed journal process.” Earlier, in March, he told the Post, “The notion that we would need to create an entirely different new approach, in particular for the specific question around global warming is unfounded and ridiculous and simply intended to promote the notion of a lack of consensus about the core findings, which in fact is a false notion.”

    The Post also quoted Marshall Shepherd, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Georgia, who called Koonin’s proposal a “gimmick,” saying, “This just feels to me a like another way to skirt the tried and true scientific process that has worked for years in our field and many others.”

    Climate science has already been litigated ad nauseum in mainstream forums. Numerous studies have found that the vast majority of climate scientists agree that humans are the primary cause of global warming. And recent studies examining the robustness of that consensus have reaffirmed it; about 97 percent of publishing climate scientists concur.


    Via Skeptical Science

    Creating a “red team” could lead to scenarios like the one at a House science committee hearing in March, when climate scientist Michael Mann was outnumbered by fringe scientists and forced to be the sole representative of the scientific consensus on climate change. “We find ourselves at this hearing today, with three individuals who represent that tiny minority that reject this consensus or downplay its significance, and only one—myself—who is in the mainstream,” Mann said in his opening testimony.

    The impact of major newspapers’ opinion pages

    Though fringe, right-wing media have played a substantial role in spreading the “red team/blue team” proposal and other denialist ideas, mainstream newspapers also bear some responsibility. When Pruitt referenced Koonin’s op-ed, it was the second time in less than a week that he had lifted an argument from the opinion pages of a major newspaper to cast doubt on established climate science. On June 2, standing at the podium of the White House press briefing room, Pruitt cited an error-riddled, denialist New York Times column by Bret Stephens in order to downplay “exaggerated” concerns about climate change.

    As a Media Matters study conducted last year demonstrated, climate denial remains a significant problem in the major newspapers. The world has just endured the three hottest years on record, and newspapers are still allowing their opinion pages to be used to deny climate change. That trend is all the more alarming now that the Trump administration is quickly adopting those denialist arguments.

  • Stephen Moore Still Doesn’t Understand Employment Numbers: Coal Edition

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Discredited economic pundit and former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore has been employing his longstanding practice of misrepresenting jobs data to hail President Donald Trump for a non-existent resurgence of coal mining jobs.

    Employment in the coal industry has been mired in a decades-long decline due to advances in mining technology, increased automation, a shift toward mountaintop removal, and competition from natural gas and renewables. Not surprisingly, numerous experts and industry observers have called Trump’s promise to put coal miners “back to work” by unraveling environmental protections an empty one. From the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:

    But according to Trump’s former economic adviser Stephen Moore, coal mining’s implausible comeback is already here. Since Trump issued his executive order to roll back Obama-era environmental protections and begin “withdrawing and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan” regulating coal-fired power plants, Moore has misrepresented jobs data to claim Trump is already bringing back lost coal mining jobs.

    In an April op-ed published in The Washington Times and The American Spectator, Moore wrote:

    Buried in an otherwise humdrum jobs report for March was the jaw-dropping pronouncement by the Labor Department that mining jobs in America were up by 11,000 in March. Since the low point in October 2016 and following years of painful layoffs in the mining industry, the mining sector has added 35,000 jobs.

    What a turnaround. It comes at a time when liberals have been saying that Donald Trump has been lying to the American people when he has said that he can bring coal jobs back. Well, so far he has.

    Yet those 11,000 jobs referenced in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) March jobs report were not coal jobs, as Vox explained (emphasis added):

    Coal mining, another big revitalization promise from Trump, is an even weaker story. The latest jobs numbers for the mining industry overall look promising, with employment steadily increasing and 11,000 new jobs created in March. On closer inspection, though, most of these jobs are in the category of “support services.”

    In other words, these aren’t the coal jobs that Trump promised to bring back. These are mostly jobs related to fracking, such as those required to install and maintain equipment needed to drill for oil and natural gas, says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. When oil prices rise, which has been happening in recent months, fracking activity increases too.

    Nonetheless, Moore doubled down on his misleading claim following the BLS’ April jobs report, writing in a May 9 Breitbart op-ed, “Well, coal is back. The latest jobs report says that 8,000 more mining jobs were added in April. That brings the grand total to more than 40,000 new mining jobs since the election of Donald J. Trump. Does this sound like an industry in decline?”

    Moore once again ignored that the vast majority of those jobs were created in categories other than “coal mining.” Had Moore bothered to look at the actual coal mining jobs category, he would know that figure had only grown by approximately 200 and it has barely moved since Election Day.

    Even if there were an uptick in coal mining jobs, Vox makes clear that Trump “couldn’t take credit” for that increase since it’s still too early to see any impact from the Trump administration’s policies.

    This sort of misleading economic analysis has long been Moore’s calling card and illustrates why The Kansas City Star decided to stop publishing Moore’s op-eds in 2014 after a similar series of statistical games (though Moore’s divorced-from-reality economic analysis is still good enough for CNN). Moore’s false pronouncements of a Trump-inspired coal comeback are just more of the same.

  • Fox Host Baselessly Links Shooting To “Animosity In The Climate Change Wars”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier featured a segment that baselessly connected the recent shooting at a building on a University of Alabama campus with “animosity in the climate change wars.”

    Over the the March for Science weekend, seven shots were fired at a building at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. One of the shots struck the window of an office next to the office of John Christy, a professor of atmospheric sciences, who has testified before congressional committees on multiple occasions to repeat his claim that climate model projections of future warming are overstated. No one was hurt in the incident.

    Christy told AL.com that he thought his floor was targeted. But the university said in a statement that investigators believed that the shooting, which they say struck multiple floors of the building, was a “random, isolated event unlikely to be a premeditated act.” AL.com further noted that the investigators “have marked the case ‘inactive’ pending new information.”

    Nonetheless, on the May 2 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier introduced a segment on the shooting as evidence that “animosity in the climate change wars is hitting new lows.” During the segment, correspondent Doug McKelway incorrectly reported that Christy “got seven bullet holes in his office windows” (AL.com reported that only “one went through a window in the office next to Christy's”) and made reference to Christy’s skepticism of computer model climate predictions.

    Baier’s report comes after Breitbart.com, National Review, and numerous climate deniers pinned the shooting on climate activists despite a lack of evidence.

    From the May 2 edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier:

    BRET BAIER (HOST): We are awaiting a decision from President [Donald] Trump on whether the U.S. will continue to participate in a worldwide global warming treaty that he criticized during the campaign. Correspondent Doug McKelway tells us tonight the animosity in the climate change wars is hitting new lows.

    DOUG MCKELWAY: In 1991, climate skeptic John Christy got NASA’s medal for exceptional scientific achievement. Last week, he got seven bullet holes in his office windows during the March for Science weekend at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. Police think it was random. Christy thinks he was targeted. Christy measures actual earth temperatures from satellite data. He is skeptical of computer model predictions of warming and government remedies to fix it.

    Related:

    AL.com: Alabama Climate Change Skeptic Believes Shots 'Targeted' His Office Floor

    WaPo: Credible Climate Scientists Need To Boycott Biased Congressional Hearings

    Previously:

    TIMELINE: Fox News' Role In The "Climate Of Doubt"

    Fox Tries To Debunk Global Warming, Fails Miserably

    Tucker Carlson Attacks Bill Nye As A "Bully" During Interview On Climate Change

  • By The Numbers: 100 Days In, A Look At The Trump Administration's Conflicted Relationship With The Media

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    As President Donald Trump reaches his 100th day in office, his administration’s relations with the press have not improved. Here’s a look at some numbers that exemplify the conflicts, 100 days into his tenure:

    • At least 130: number of times Trump or his administration have attacked the press, per Media Matters’ running tally. [Media Matters, 4/27/17]
    • 30: number of times Trump has used the phrase “fake news” on Twitter since his inauguration. [ProPublica, accessed 4/27/17]
    • Eight: number of times Trump has referred to the “dishonest media” since his inauguration. [ProPublica, accessed 4/27/17]
    • 11: number of national TV interviews the president has done between his inauguration and his hundredth day, according to a Media Matters count.
    • Eight out of 11: number of Trump’s national televised interviews that will have aired on Fox News or Fox Business in his first 100 days, according to a Media Matters count.
    • 16: number of press briefings the State Department has held during the first 100 days of the administration. Under President Barack Obama, the State Department had 63 press briefings within the first 100 days. [The State Department Bureau of Public Affairs, accessed 4/24/17, 4/24/17]
    • At least 14: number of times White House press secretary Sean Spicer has lied to the press during his daily press briefings. [Media Matters, 1/25/17]
    • 27: number of times Spicer has called on the conservative news outlet One America News Network during his press briefings in the first 100 days of the administration according to a Media Matters count. During that same time period, Spicer called on Breitbart 12 times.
    • 50: number of “years of practice” from which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departed in his decision to travel on an official foreign trip without a press pool, according to The Associated Press. [The Associated Press, 3/14/17]
    • Approximately six: hours of cable news Trump watches per weekday, according to a report compiled by The Washington Post and Axios. [The Washington Post, 1/24/17]
    • 12: number of times Trump has either tweeted at the program Fox & Friends or retweeted the show’s tweets in his first 100 days in office. [ProPublica, accessed 4/24/17]
    • At least four: number of former Fox News personalities Trump has appointed to serve in his administration (Heather Nauert, Ben Carson, Monica Crowley, and KT McFarland). [Fox News, October 2013; NBC, 11/25/16; CNN, 12/15/16; USA Today, 4/25/17]

    Methodology

    To determine how many times Trump has tweeted the words “fake news” since his inauguration, Media Matters searched ProPublica’s database for Trump’s tweets containing the phrase.

    To determine how many national televised interviews Trump has conducted, Media Matters kept track of all TV appearances and compared the results to a search on Nexis.

    To determine how many times Spicer called on One America News Network and Breitbart during press briefings, Media Matters tracked questions Spicer has answered during the press briefings, coding for the name of the journalist and the outlet the journalist is reporting for.

    To find out how many tweets Trump has sent about Fox & Friends, Media Matters searched the ProPublica database for mentions of “fox” in Trump’s tweets.

  • Right-Wing Media’s New Favorite Immigration Statistic Reflects Misguided Policy

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Right-wing media celebrated a new report from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that showed a significant drop in border apprehensions since President Donald Trump took office, suggesting that fewer immigrants are making the journey to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump campaigned on preventing dangerous criminals from entering the country, but officials and experts report that the drop reflects the administration's focus on women and children and that the new policies incite fear in noncriminal immigrants and largely deter asylum seekers fleeing violence. In fact, these policies fail to address the proliferation of transnational crime organizations that Trump promised to tackle and undermine counter-crime operations within the United States.

  • Right-Wing Media Refuses To Blame Trump For GOP Health Care Defeat 

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Republicans “abruptly” withdrew their health care bill, which signaled the first legislative defeat for President Donald Trump. After the bill's failure, media figures blamed Democrats, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), and legislators instead of  Trump who adopted and pushed for the bill’s passage.

  • Trump Invokes Right-Wing Media’s Misrepresentation Of NY Times Article To Defend His Wiretap Lie

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    In an interview, President Donald Trump claimed that a January New York Times article proved his false claim that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower and suggested that the newspaper later changed the article's headline to remove the word "wiretap." Both claims about the article come from fringe and right-wing media. In fact, the Times article does not prove Trump’s claim, and its headline was never altered.

  • Breitbart Is Tagging Articles With A Bigoted "Alt-Right" Meme That Attacks Swedish Multiculturalism

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Breitbart’s xenophobic “Sweden YES” tag is a dog whistle to the “alt-right,” and the misleading articles marked with the label serve as the foundation for the outlet’s anti-immigrant campaign in both Europe and the United States.

    In a March 17 interview with NBC News, Breitbart.com’ Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow attempted to distance his site from the “alt-right,” claiming that it’s “not a hate site.” But one of the website’s new favorite content tags -- “Sweden YES!” -- is an “alt-right” catchphrase that began as an effort to mock Sweden’s multiculturalism, gender equality, and positive stance on immigration.

    According to Know Your Meme, “Sweden Yes” began on a German international messageboard, Krautchan/int/, in 2012. From there, it became a subreddit, which is currently “quarantined” due to its “shocking or highly offensive content.” The phrase is also popular on the anonymous online message board 4chan, where there is currently an archived Sweden Yes thread on the /pol/ page, with activity as recent as March 20. The meme is associated with Captain Sweden, a series of Swedish webcomics named for an anthropomorphized multicultural Sweden, often depicted engaging in interracial intercourse or featuring immigrants engaged in criminal behavior.

    The Breitbart content organized under the “Sweden Yes” tag is written almost exclusively by Chris Tomlinson, a Breitbart London contributor who often retweets far-right French political leader Marine Le Pen and far-right, anti-Muslim Dutch political leader Geert Wilders, as well as Lauren Southern, an “alt-right” media figure who was recently allowed into a White House press briefing. Virginia Hale, a white nationalist Breitbart reporter with a history of using anti-Muslim rhetoric, has also written “Sweden Yes” content in recent weeks.

    The first Breitbart content tagged “Sweden Yes” was published in November 2015. But that article was one of only five pieces of content given the tag before President Donald Trump’s February 18 speech in which he instructed the audience to “look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” which he said “took in large numbers” of Muslim immigrants and refugees. Trump followed up his remarks about Sweden by mentioning three French and Belgian cities attacked by domestic terrorists over the past two years. Trump’s comment was a clear suggestion that Muslims and refugees are responsible for a so-called “crime wave” in Sweden. Multiple fact-checkers have debunked both Trump’s seeming implication of an attack the night before he spoke and his claim about migrant crime in Sweden. But the damage had already been done. Since his speech, Breitbart has labeled 32 pieces of content (of a total of 37) with the “Sweden Yes” tag.

    The site’s “Sweden Yes” content often makes evidence-free claims, exaggerates unrelated past incidents of crime to report on recent events, or exploits incidents in other countries to stoke fear about immigrant crime in Sweden. For example, a March 8 Breitbart article fearmongered about the takeover of Malmö due to “mass migration, predominantly from Middle Eastern nations” to claim that  the the city’s longtime residents are leaving the city, possibly due to an “explosion in crime” and “warring gangs.” But the words “warring gangs” are hyperlinked to another Breitbart article about these so-called gangs, which cites a Reuters article. Reuters makes no mention of whether the perpetrator of the gang shooting of a 16-year-old boy in Malmö was an immigrant.

    Another Breitbart article, about a Swedish program to train asylum seekers from the Middle East to work in correctional facilities, acknowledges that “so far the program has not run into a glaring issue that plagues many prisons across Europe, the growth of radical Islam and radicalization of inmates,” before claiming that French and British prisons have becoming a “breeding ground for radical Islamic indoctrination.” But the training program is in Sweden, not France or Britain, and while it places recently arrived immigrants in jobs within prisons, these program participants are guards, not inmates. The article also claims, “In HMP Gartree, a maximum security prison in the UK, entire cell blocks are run under a variation of Islamic sharia law according to reports.” The words “Islamic sharia law” link to another Breitbart article, which cites a Sun article to claim “Muslim extremists … are running an entire [cell] block under sharia law.” However, the Sun quotes a prison spokesman in the U.K. saying, “There is no evidence to back-up any of these claims about HMP Gartree."

    The exploitation of longstanding anti-Muslim tropes in the context of Swedish crime is merely the latest iteration of Breitbart’s anti-immigrant crusade in Europe. A false report Breitbart published in January alleging that a "mob" of Muslims attacked a German church spurred the German government to investigate what it deemed the “unprecedented proliferation” of fake news, a phenomenon which the Swedish prime minister recently mentioned as a concern his government is committed to investigating.

    The Trump administration has drawn criticism for its seeming embrace of the anti-immigrant "alt-right" movement. The incoming Trump administration was criticized in December 2016 because "A senior member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and a delegation of US Republican and European lawmakers canceled a briefing [] with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely over a refusal to allow a Swedish far-right member of the group into the meeting[.]" Nevertheless, President Trump in January gave former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon a seat on the National Security Council's principals committee, which affords him access to meetings with senior-most national security officials. While Bannon is no longer formally associated with the outlet, according to a former Breitbart spokesperson, the site is still heavily influenced by Bannon’s editorial guidance.

    Trump’s baseless February 18 claim about immigrants committing crimes in Sweden is just one more example of how his administration both validates outlets like Breitbart and mainstreams “alt-right” narratives under the guise of keeping Americans safe.

    Image by sarah Wasko.

  • Report: FBI Investigating Russian Operatives Using Bots To Spread Stories From Breitbart, RT, Infowars

    Investigators Are “Exploring Whether The Far-Right News Operations Took Any Actions To Assist Russia’s Operatives”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to a report from McClatchy, the FBI is investigating Russia’s use of “bots” to push pro-Trump news stories on Facebook and Twitter from conservative websites and “Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News.”

    The March 20 article from McClatchy reported that “[o]peratives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as ‘bots,’ to blitz social media with links to pro-Trump stories.” The “bots” pushed stories that mixed fact and fiction from “conservative sites such as Breitbart News and Infowars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News.” From the March 20 report:

    Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories — some fictional — that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid, two people familiar with the inquiry say.

    Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as “bots,” to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said.

    The bots’ end products were largely millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said. Some of the stories were false or mixed fact and fiction, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the bot attacks are part of an FBI-led investigation into a multifaceted Russian operation to influence last year’s elections.

    Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives. Their participation, however, wasn’t necessary for the bots to amplify their news through Twitter and Facebook.

    [...]

    As for the bots, they carried links not only to news stories but also to Democratic emails posted on WikiLeaks, especially those hacked from Podesta and made public in October, said Philip Howard, a professor at the Oxford University Internet Institute who has researched the bot attacks.

    Howard said that, as an example, bots had spread links to fictional stories that accused Clinton of involvement in running a child-sex ring in the basement of a Washington pizza parlor. The posts inspired a North Carolina man to drive to Washington and fire an assault weapon in the restaurant, according to police reports.

    Howard’s study of bot-generated Twitter traffic during last fall’s Trump-Clinton campaign debates showed that bot messages favorable to Trump significantly outnumbered those sympathetic to Clinton.

  • 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.