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  • STUDY: EPA chief Scott Pruitt has given more interviews to Fox than to all other major TV networks combined

    Pruitt shares the Trump administration’s preference for Fox News and right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has appeared on Fox News twice as often as on other cable and broadcast networks combined, and he has frequently granted interviews to right-wing talk radio shows and other climate-denying outlets, Media Matters has found.

    Pruitt’s media strategy is right in line with that of his boss. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump eschewed mainstream media outlets; it's a pattern his administration has continued since the election, favoring conservative and right-wing media outlets that are friendly to President Trump's agenda. By following the same approach, Pruitt has been able to push misinformation, avoid tough questioning, and appeal to the president’s political base.

    Pruitt appeared on Fox News twice as often as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined

    Scott Pruitt has been a guest on Fox News a total of 12 times since his confirmation. From February 17, when he was sworn in, to August 14, Pruitt made twice as many appearances on Fox News (12) as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined (6).* With the exception of two appearances on Fox News Sunday, Pruitt rarely faced tough questions on Fox News and was able to use the network as a platform for pushing misleading talking points without rebuttal. Pruitt appeared most frequently on Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite show, which some journalists have criticized as “state TV” and “a daily infomercial for the Trump presidency” for its sycophantic coverage of the president and his administration. Pruitt made the following appearances on Fox News:

    By comparison, Pruitt made only six appearances on the other major cable and broadcast television networks combined. From the time Pruitt took the helm at the EPA through August 14, he was a guest just six times total on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and NBC, and he made no appearances at all on CBS. On each of these non-Fox programs, Pruitt faced questions either about whether Trump still believes climate change is a hoax or about Pruitt's own views on climate change. In response, Pruitt either avoided answering the question or repeated his “lukewarmer” stance that climate change is happening but we don’t know how much is human-caused. In all but one of these appearances, Pruitt repeated false or misleading talking points about the Paris climate agreement. Here are Pruitt's guest appearances on cable news and broadcast networks other than Fox:

    • One appearance on CNN’s The Situation Room on February 28.
    • One appearance on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper on June 1.
    • One appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on June 6.
    • Two appearances on ABC’s This Week on March 26 and June 4.
    • One appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press on June 4.

    *Pruitt’s appearance on Meet the Press aired on both NBC and MSNBC, but for the purposes of this study, we only counted it as an NBC appearance.

    Pruitt has been a frequent guest on national right-wing talk radio shows

    Pruitt has also been a frequent guest on nationally broadcast right-wing talk radio shows since his confirmation, Media Matters found. We examined the top 10 shows listed on Talkers.com's Top Talk Audiences list, as well as numerous shows broadcast on the SiriusXM Patriot channel, and found the following:

    • Three appearances on Salem Radio Network’s The Hugh Hewitt Show on March 29, May 11, and June 2.
    • Two appearances on Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade Show on April 27 and May 19.
    • One appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s David Webb Show on April 26.
    • One appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s Breitbart News Daily on June 5.
    • One appearance on Westwood One’s The Savage Nation on June 1.

    All of these hosts or outlets have denied climate change:

    • Hugh Hewitt has a years-long record of climate denial: He wrote in a 2011 blog post that “we don’t know” how much humans contribute to global warming, adding “if it will be harmful or if there's anything we can do about it.” Hewitt also downplayed the threat of climate change in a September 2016 episode of his show in which he said that warming might be "a real problem over 500 years."
    • Brian Kilmeade has denied climate change, both as a host on his radio show and as a co-host on Fox & Friends. On a 2013 episode of his radio show (then called Kilmeade & Friends), Kilmeade suggested that only “corrupt” climatologists accept human-caused climate change. On the same day, Kilmeade disputed on Fox & Friends that it is “settled scientific collective thought” that human activity causes climate change. 
    • On the January 12, 2017, episode of the David Webb Show, Webb cast doubt on the scientific consensus around climate change, arguing that it's not significant that the vast majority of climate scientists publishing peer-reviewed research agree on the human causes of warming: "You can have 99 percent of peer-reviewed, but it doesn’t mean that the one percent like that guy named Copernicus won’t be correct about the fact that the Earth was not flat and we were not the center of the universe.”
    • Breitbart.com has a long track record of pushing blatant climate science misinformation and attacking climate scientists and climate science, calling researchers “talentless low-lives” and “abject liars” and climate change a “hoax.” Breitbart is also a go-to outlet for fossil fuel industry-funded academics who want to get publicity for their work.
    • Michael Savage has echoed Trump’s position on climate change, calling it a “scam” and a “hoax,” and has urged the president to continue denying that humans are the cause of global warming. During his June 1 interview with Scott Pruitt, Savage repeated the denier argument that human-made climate change is disproven by samples from the Vostok ice core in Antarctica and criticized Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for promoting “fake science.” In response, Pruitt appeared to endorse Savage’s views and floated the idea of having a "red team" of skeptical scientists debate a "blue team" of mainstream climate scientists, a proposal Pruitt pushed again a few days later on Breitbart’s radio program:
    MICHAEL SAVAGE (HOST): Please explain to me how come ancient core samples from the Antarctic show that there was climate change going on hundreds of thousands of years before man industrialized. [Whitehouse] would not have an answer for us, Mr. Pruitt. The science is fake science that they’ve been foisting upon a gullible public.
    SCOTT PRUITT: You know what’s interesting, Michael? There was a great article in The Wall Street Journal to your point, by Steven Koonin, a scientist at NYU, called “red team/blue team.” I don’t know if you saw it or not. But he proposed that we should have a red team/blue team approach with respect to CO2. We should have red team scientists and blue team scientists, in an open setting, debate, discuss, and have an open discussion about what do we know, what don’t we know, and the American people deserve truth.
    SAVAGE: Amen to that, because we’ve had no debate whatsoever. All Obama told us was 98 percent of scientists agree. So what? There was a time when 100 percent of scientists said the Earth is flat. Did that make them right?
    PRUITT: No, look, I mean the reason there’s not consensus, through policy in Washington, D.C., is because, truly, the American people don’t trust what has happened in the past several years with respect to regulatory policy and this issue.

    Pruitt’s right-wing radio appearances have extended beyond nationally broadcast shows. E&E News reported in May that Pruitt appeared on “the local morning talk radio show of a North Dakota blogger who described the Obama administration's EPA as an enemy to the well-being of his state.” ThinkProgress noted that during a “state listening tour” in North Dakota earlier this month, “Pruitt stopped by the conservative talk radio show What’s On Your Mind to share his thoughts on a number of EPA-related issues.” During that conversation, Pruitt referred to the “so-called settled science” of climate change.

    And on August 10, Pruitt appeared on a Texas radio show, Politico reported, where he said his staff will assess the "accuracy" of a major federal climate report that's been drafted by scientists from 13 agencies. “Frankly this report ought to be subjected to peer-reviewed, objective-reviewed methodology and evaluation,” he said, ignoring the fact that the report has already undergone extensive peer review. Pruitt also used his appearance on the show to cast doubt on climate science in general.

    Pruitt has given interviews to other climate-denying outlets, including online publications and cable business shows

    In addition to his June interview on Breitbart’s radio show, Pruitt granted the Breitbart website an interview in March.

    Pruitt also sat for a lengthy video interview in July with the fossil fuel-funded Daily Caller, another denialist online outlet. And he gave an interview in May to The Daily Signal, an online news outlet run by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that casts doubt on climate change.

    Besides his appearances on cable news shows, Pruitt also went on cable business shows and networks that serve as platforms for climate denial -- most notably CNBC’s Squawk Box, where he told climate-denying host Joe Kernen that he did not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. Pruitt has also frequently given interviews on Fox Business Network, which mirrors Fox News’ denialist stance on global warming. Pruitt made the following appearances on the Fox Business Network:

    Pruitt’s courting of conservative media is “on an entirely different level” from predecessors

    Scott Waldman of E&E News reported that after “weeks of blowback” from Pruitt’s appearance on Squawk Box, the EPA chief “shifted his media appearances to friendlier venues,” a move that “allowed him to tee off on a favorite series of talking points: Obama's energy policy was ‘America second,’ energy industry innovations have reduced the U.S. carbon footprint, the so-called war on coal is now over, EPA's job is to encourage business growth in concert with the environment, and the era of punitive action against energy companies is over.” Waldman also noted that Pruitt’s “courting of conservative media is on an entirely different level” from previous EPA administrators. From Waldman’s article:

    To be sure, all administrations seek out friendly press. President Obama talked about health care on the "Between Two Ferns" comedy program with Zach Galifianakis, which Republicans criticized as undignified. And former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy granted exclusive interviews to left-leaning outlets like Mother Jones and Grist.

    But critics say Pruitt's courting of conservative media is on an entirely different level.

    […]

    Liz Purchia, a former EPA spokeswoman under the Obama administration, said it's extremely unusual to place an administrator only on partisan outlets. She noted that McCarthy regularly interacted with reporters from outlets that produced coverage EPA officials did not appreciate.

    […]

    "Only talking to far right-wing media outlets, they are only talking to a small group of Americans that regularly follow them, and they are intentionally going to reporters who will only ask them questions they want to hear and aren't speaking to the broader American people about their actions," Purchia said.

    In Mother Jones, Rebecca Leber also reported that “since taking office, Pruitt has almost exclusively relied on a small number of conservative media outlets to tell an upbeat version of his leadership at the EPA, with occasional detours into the Sunday news shows,” creating “an echo chamber cheerleading the EPA’s regulatory rollbacks, Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, and its newfound anti-science denial.”

    Leber also quoted Purchia remarking on how Pruitt’s approach to media interviews “isolates him from most Americans and instead plays to Trump’s base”:

    Liz Purchia, an Obama-era EPA communications staffer, says the EPA’s attention to right-wing audiences resembles Trump’s tactics at the White House. “They’re tightly controlling [Pruitt’s] public events and interviews, which isolates him from most Americans and instead plays to Trump’s base,” Purchia said in an email. “They’re not trying to use communications tactics to reach a broad audience.”

    Charts by Sarah Wasko

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the following terms in Nexis, iQ Media, and TVEyes to find Scott Pruitt's on-air TV appearances from the date of his swearing in as EPA Administrator on February 17 to August 14: “Pruitt,” "EPA administrator," "E.P.A. administrator," "EPA chief," "E.P.A. chief," "EPA head," "E.P.A. head," "head of the EPA," "head of the E.P.A.," "head of the Environmental Protection Agency," "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator," or "Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency." We did not count instances of networks airing Pruitt’s appearance at the White House’s June 2 press briefing.

    For radio appearances, Matters Matters searched the same terms in Veritone for the top 10 programs in Talkers.com's Top Talk Audiences list and the following programs that air on SiriusXM Patriot: Breitbart News Daily, David Webb Show, Brian Kilmeade Show, and The Wilkow Majority.

  • Right-wing media provided home for white supremacist before he organized Charlottesville rally

    Daily Caller has now removed Jason Kessler’s work from its site

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Before he organized the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, Jason Kessler wrote for The Daily Caller and the white nationalist site VDare and appeared as a purported expert on Alex Jones’ Infowars network.

    Kessler was the organizer for the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville that featured white supremacists and neo-Nazis. President Donald Trump responded to the violence by issuing a generic condemnation of problems "on many sides" and declining to specifically call out white supremacists -- behavior that fits his history of emboldening the white nationalist movement.

    Right-wing media outlets like The Daily Caller have also played a role in cultivating white supremacist organizers like Kessler.

    The Daily Caller contracted with Kessler “to contribute reportage to” the right-wing site this spring. He wrote two pieces in April with the headlines “Trump Supporters Vow To Rally In Berkeley Without Ann Coulter” and “Uncle: MS-13 Gangsters Mutilated Va. Teenager’s Body In Grisly Murder.” Both pieces promoted Kessler’s organization Unity and Security for America and his Twitter account.

    Kessler then wrote a May 14 piece about white supremacists Richard Spencer and Sam Dickson rallying in front of Confederate monuments. ProPublica subsequently reported that the Caller failed to disclose that Kessler “is supportive of white supremacist groups, and on the day of the march had himself made a speech to the protesters in which he praised fascist and racist organizations, thanked a prominent Holocaust denier, and declared the beginnings of a cultural ‘civil war.’” While the Caller suspended its relationship with Kessler, Executive Editor Paul Conner defended Kessler’s work:

    “The story is factually accurate and plainly states what happened at the event,” said Paul Conner, executive editor of The Daily Caller. “But in light of his activism on the issue, we have mutually agreed to suspend our freelance relationship with him.”

    Asked about the substance of Kessler’s speech in Charlottesville, Conner offered no comment on Kessler’s statements. In an email, he said only, “We pay writers for journalism, not their opinions.”

    An editor’s note was appended to Kessler’s article after ProPublica reached out to the Caller about the piece, stating: “The author notified The Daily Caller after publication that he spoke at a luncheon May 14 on behalf of an effort to preserve the monument.”

    Media Matters contacted Daily Caller editors this morning about the outlet’s relationship with Kessler, whether the editors regretted publishing him, and if they would consider publishing him in the future. Shortly afterward, the publication removed Kessler’s author page and all his pieces on the site. Media Matters followed up by asking for a clarification about why the site deleted those pieces. The Caller did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.


    Screenshots of Kessler's Daily Caller work

    Infowars has also had a role in promoting Kessler and his racist work.

    Editor Paul Joseph Watson, who himself has a history of racism, aired a roughly 30-minute interview with Kessler in January to “discuss the insanity of the left and how they have lost all grip on reality.” The interview is featured on Alex Jones’ Youtube channel with the headline “Jason Kessler: Anti-White Racism Must End.” Infowars also posted a roughly 20-minute April interview with Kessler during which he warned Infowars viewers that there’s a “very pressing danger with these people” who are trying to take down Confederate statues. Both interviews promoted Kessler’s nonprofit and Twitter account.

    Alex Jones aired a roughly 15-minute interview with Kessler on August 13, the day after the Saturday rally. During the segment, Jones complained that the media is “penalizing this guy because he’s saying one-third of the racist stuff that I disagree with against the [George] Soros group that’s a total cutout, just make us fight with each other. So how does media say he caused all the violence when clearly antifa was the ones attacking?” (Infowars has been claiming that philanthropist and one-time Media Matters donor George Soros has been purposely funding the Charlottesville violence.) Jones later said during the interview that Kessler walked into a “trap” set by Kessler's enemies by being at the Charlottesville rally this past weekend.

    Kessler wrote three pieces for the “alt-right” affiliated outlet GotNews from January through March. Trump has reportedly received news from that outlet, which is headed by racist troll Charles C. Johnson.

    Kessler has also written several posts for the anti-immigrant white nationalist site VDare. A June 19 post (his most recent) concludes that the “governments of the West are waging a campaign of slow extermination against their own core populations. It is white genocide.”

    VDare recently announced that it will host a conference next year at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, CO. The 2018 event will feature VDare Editor Peter Brimelow, Breitbart.com columnist and former Republican Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, and writer John Derbyshire, who describes himself as a “mild and tolerant” “homophobe” and “racist.”

    Brimelow has also contributed op-eds for The Daily Caller. His website posted a defense of the rally on August 12 by “Charlottesville Survivor,” which concluded that “it’s not Unite The Right that is ‘dividing’ America. Whites who aren’t comfortable with being dispossessed in every single Western country, or with seeing the symbols of their heritage wiped out, gathered to protest peacefully. … Why should Unite The Right apologize for anything? Indeed, how can the ‘Far Right’ be regarded as anything other than an incredibly moderate protest movement against a deliberate campaign of genocide?” (The white supremacists did not actually “protest peacefully.”)

  • After immigrants die in Texas, right-wing media push for policies that would exacerbate the problem

    Experts agree that hardline immigration policies correlate with an increase in immigrant deaths

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Ten immigrants were killed and many others hospitalized after human traffickers promising to smuggle them into the United States failed to provide them with adequate ventilation or water for the journey. Conservative media figures have responded to the tragedy with calls for stricter immigration laws -- in particular, stricter border enforcement policies and anti-sanctuary city laws -- that experts have said would serve only to exacerbate the problem by diverting immigrants to more dangerous routes and empowering human traffickers without addressing the root causes of immigration.

  • Debunking right-wing media's bogus Ukrainian collusion narrative

    Wash. Post report shows why Hannity's defense for Trump Jr. is nonsense

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A report from The Washington Post debunked a prominent right-wing media claim that former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign worked with the Ukrainian government during the 2016 election cycle.

    In response to reports that Donald Trump Jr. welcomed potential information from the Russian government that would have been harmful to Clinton, right-wing media have suggested that Clinton, her campaign, and the Democratic Party colluded with Ukraine in a similar manner. Besides Trump propagandist Sean Hannity, prominent right-wing media outlets and figures, such as The Daily Caller, The Gateway Pundit, The Daily Wire, Fox’s Eric Bolling, and far-right conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, pushed the claim. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow and deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka, a former Breitbart editor, also appeared on news outlets and repeated the claim.

    In a July 11 report, the Post’s Philip Bump wrote that the claim that Clinton’s campaign colluded with Ukraine, which originates from a Politico article from January, relies specifically on “one person who was researching [former Trump campaign chairman Paul] Manafort with help from inside the Ukrainian Embassy and who, at some undetermined point, provided info to the Clinton campaign.” As Bump wrote, the “Ukrainian plot that’s been revealed” is, in reality, “a weak link to the Ukrainians and a weaker link to the Clinton campaign.” By contrast, “U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed his intelligence agencies to hack into and release private information from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.” According to the article, “American intelligence agencies saw signs that people allied with Trump’s campaign may have been aiding the Russians in that effort.” Bump also spoke with a legal expert about the Clinton-Ukraine narrative, who said, “The difference is that there is not clear evidence of the Clinton campaign coordinating with a foreign national or encouraging or accepting their help.” From the article:

    It centers on a woman named Alexandra Chalupa, who worked as a consultant for the Democratic Party throughout the 2016 cycle through her firm, Chalupa & Associates. Her role with the party was outreach to ethnic communities, but, a Ukrainian American herself, Chalupa had been researching Paul Manafort’s work in that country even before he was tapped to serve as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in March of last year. Chalupa, Politico said, “occasionally shared her findings with officials from the DNC and [Hillary] Clinton’s campaign” — though the timing on this sharing isn’t clear.

    [...]

    While the Politico story does detail apparent willingness among embassy staffers to help Chalupa and also more broadly documents ways in which Ukrainian officials appeared to prefer Clinton’s candidacy, what’s missing is evidence of a concerted effort driven by Kiev.

    U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed his intelligence agencies to hack into and release private information from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. That effort included hackers from two different intelligence agencies which spent months inside the DNC network before releasing thousands of pages of documents to the public.

    What’s more, they coordinated a widespread campaign to amplifying unflattering stories about Clinton and promote Trump. Russia also repeatedly probed American election systems, prompting an unusual warning to states from the federal government.

    American intelligence agencies saw signs that people allied with Trump’s campaign may have been aiding the Russians in that effort. That’s why this is all being discussed right now, of course, since Trump Jr.’s emails draw the clearest line between the Russians and the campaign we’ve yet seen. The FBI began a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s meddling a year ago.

    By contrast, Politico’s report details the work of one person who was researching Manafort with help from inside the Ukrainian Embassy and who, at some undetermined point, provided info to the Clinton campaign, though she worked for the DNC as a consultant until shortly before the party conventions. That, coupled with the Manafort ledger revelation, is the full scope of the Ukrainian plot that’s been revealed. A weak link to the Ukrainians and a weaker link to the Clinton campaign.

    [...]

    Lawrence Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, spoke with The Washington Post on Tuesday about how Trump Jr.’s emails might pose a legal risk to him. Over email, he weighed in on the Politico story as well.

    “I think the article raises some troubling questions about Ukraine involvement in our elections,” Noble said. “The difference is that there is not clear evidence of the Clinton campaign coordinating with a foreign national or encouraging or accepting their help.”

  • Right-wing media figures claim Trump Jr. was part of a “setup made to give the appearance of Russian collusion”

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET & NINA MAST

    Following a series of reports from The New York Times laying out Donald Trump Jr.’s correspondence arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, right-wing media figures attempted to absolve Donald Trump. Jr. by claiming he was set up by Democratic operatives and a “Russian honey pot” in an attempt to give the appearance of collusion.

  • Despite conservative media claims, James Comey didn't leak classified information to NY Times

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Right-wing media, pro-Trump internet trolls, and fake news purveyors are boosting a report from a right-leaning journalist in a way that suggests former FBI Director James Comey might have intentionally leaked classified information to The New York Times. The report presents already-known information about Comey’s memos that recounted his interactions with President Donald Trump. Politico also reported that the source that passed along the memo to the Times confirmed that it did not contain classified information.

  • Pro-Trump media claim “shadow President” Obama is violating the Logan Act

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fringe media supporting President Donald Trump have claimed that former President Barack Obama violated federal law and is acting as a “shadow president” because he has talked to former and current foreign leaders since the end of his presidency. The claims, which have at least partially been parroted on Fox News, are an extension of conservative media’s ongoing conspiracy theory that Obama runs a “shadow government.”

    Since Trump’s inauguration, conservative outlets have baselessly claimed that Obama is running some kind of “shadow government,” a conspiracy theory which has since been invoked by a Republican congressman and by one of Trump’s attorneys. The right-wing hysteria took on a new level of feverishness after Obama met with a handful of former and current world leaders, some of whom he worked closely with as president.

    Pro-Trump fake news purveyors were quick to attack Obama for his post-presidency activities. Several websites, including American Today, Patriots On The Right, US Postman, and USA Daily Time, claimed in June that Obama was “undermining President Trump” while “advertis[ing]” his “shadow government.” They suggested that Obama had “committed treason” and “violated” the Logan Act, a law barring private citizens from interfering with American foreign policy and for which no one has ever been prosecuted. The Federalist Tribune and The Washington Feed also asserted that Obama would get “a lengthy jail sentence” as a consequence of the law. Eventually, more fake news purveyors continued to push the false narrative, with Mad World News, USA Newsflash, GOP The Daily Dose, The Angry Patriot, Global Politics Now, Freedom Daily, US Advisor, ENH, and Before It’s News joining in.

    Additionally, “alt-right”-affiliated Infowars and fake news purveyors Conservative Fighters, TruthFeed, and Red Rock Tribune hyped a Daily Caller piece suggesting Obama was a “shadow president.” “Alt-right”-affiliated The Gateway Pundit also called Obama a “shadow president” who “may be breaking the Logan Act.” There has also been some discussion regarding Obama and the Logan Act on the “alt-right”-affiliated forum 4chan /pol/.

    According to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, these claims being peddled by the pro-Trump fringe ecosystem, including American Today, Mad World News, USA Newsflash, GOP The Daily Dose, The Angry Patriot, Freedom Daily, Infowars, Conservative Fighters, TruthFeed, and The Gateway Pundit, have drawn numerous Facebook engagements that rise well over the thousands, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo. There were at least 380 engagements with American Today's article, 41,900 with Mad World News’ article, 122,500 with USA Newsflash’s article, 6,500 with GOP The Daily Dose’s article, 7,000 with The Angry Patriot’s article, 48,300 with Freedom Daily’s article, 58 with Infowars’ article, 10,200 with Conservative Fighters’ article, 8,700 with TruthFeed’s article, and 5,000 and 6,900 for The Gateway Pundit articles, respectively.

    Some of the narrative has now gained cable news visibility by reaching Fox News, with host Lou Dobbs on July 6 attacking Obama for “shadowing” and trying to "undercut" Trump, and Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade on July 7 wondering why Obama was “shadowing” Trump and wondering whether Obama was trying to “swamp him.”

    The spread of these baseless claims yet again illustrates how the pro-Trump "alt-right"/fake news ecosystem has been used to push lies, conspiracy theories, and falsehoods.

  • 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.

  • Trolls Chuck Johnson and Mike Cernovich launching websites to harass journalists

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Daily Caller reported that “alt-right”-affliated internet trolls Chuck Johnson and Mike Cernovich will be launching websites to “go after” reporters.

    Cernovich, a noted “men’s rights” activist and a host at conspiracy outlet Infowars, has a history of pushing conspiracy theories including “Pizzagate” and the idea that an April chemical attack in Syria was a hoax. He has launched numerous harassment campaigns against media figures, including a New York Times reporter, and has been promoted by people affiliated with President Donald Trump, including Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump Jr. Chuck Johnson, the editor of fringe outlet GotNews, has also harassed numerous journalists, and along with Cernovich has made up part of the far-right alt-media echo-chamber that has worked in tandem with fake news purveyors to spread conspiracy theories and spur harassment against reporters and other figures.

    The Daily Caller, in a May 19 article, reported that Johnson and Cernovich were “each launching websites to go after reporters.” It quoted Johnson saying, “The American press no longer behaves properly, and they need to be held to account.” Cernovich also told the outlet that his website would “perform investigative journalism on people who are making the news and breaking the news and find out if these are trustworthy people.” From the report:

    Internet provocateurs and journalists Chuck Johnson and Mike Cernovich are each launching websites to go after reporters, The Daily Caller has learned.

    Johnson, who currently runs GotNews.com, told TheDC Thursday, “The American press no longer behaves properly, and they need to be held to account.”

    “They have decided to make themselves the story, and so if anyone has information on top journalists we will make them the story,” added Johnson, an infamous internet troll with reported ties to the Trump administration.

    Johnson has been banned from Twitter for harassment and previously was a freelance contributor for The Daily Caller. He also helped launch Wesearchr, which crowd-funded for information that sometimes pertained to journalists. Some of the “bounties” on the site were for Megyn Kelly’s divorce files, or a sex tape of Gawker founder Nick Denton.

    He said the website — he won’t reveal its name — will be a fusion of Wesearchr and Got News and will be launched by July 4. Johnson added that Cernovich might be involved.

    Cernovich, who has been described as a conspiracy theorist for spreading stories about pedophilia rings and Hillary Clinton having Parkinson’s, told TheDC Thursday that he has a website in the works called “Journalism on Journalists.”

    “It would perform investigative journalism on people who are making the news and breaking the news and find out if these are trustworthy people,” Cernovich said.

    [...]

    Cernovich said journalists “have this immense amount of power and they write profiles on people and the minute you turn the camera on them they act like you are some harasser or stalker.”

    He said that there is a “double standard” and that journalists aren’t held accountable if they “ruin someone’s life with disinformation.”

  • Right-Wing Media Promote Industry Group’s Effort To Label Anti-Fracking Websites As “Fake News”

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Conservative outlets are highlighting a pro-fracking group’s attempt to convince Google, which recently promised to alter its search algorithm to demote fake news, to also tweak it to purge or demote websites critical of fracking.

    On May 8, Texans for Natural Gas, an industry group funded by Texas energy companies, published an open letter addressed to Google titled “ANTI-FRACKING ACTIVISM IS FAKE NEWS.” The letter, which was highlighted in the industry-funded outlets The Daily Caller and The Daily Signal, referred to Google’s recent move to alter its search algorithm to “demote misleading, false, and offensive articles online” before claiming, “We believe many of the most prominent anti-fracking websites have content that is misleading, false, or offensive – if not all three. As a result, we urge you to consider purging or demoting these websites from your algorithm, which in turn will encourage a more honest public discussion about hydraulic fracturing, and oil and natural gas development in general.”

    The pro-fracking group claimed that environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Earthworks, and others were “peddling fake news” about the link between fracking and drinking water contamination. The letter cited an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study to support its claims, saying that the EPA study “found no evidence of widespread water contamination.” The group subsequently urged Google to examine other sites that contradict the findings of the EPA report, stating, “There are certainly other environmental groups that have made similarly false claims about fracking and groundwater risks, despite the conclusions of the EPA and other scientific experts.”

    Yet for all the grandstanding the letter makes about rooting out “misleading” information online, it is full of misleading statements. Though the group claimed that the EPA study “found no evidence of widespread water contamination” from fracking, it neglected to mention that the EPA subsequently removed that sentence from the report on the advice of its Science Advisory Board because the findings of the report did not support that conclusion. Additionally, according to Cleveland.com, a study conducted by Stanford researchers in 2016 “found that common practices in the industry may have widespread impacts on drinking water.”

    Texans for Natural Gas also said in the letter that statements linking fracking to worsening climate change are further examples of a “false claim peddled by anti-fracking groups and environmentalist websites,” adding that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cited the U.S.’s increased use of natural gas as “an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.” But this claim ignores more recent studies, including one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that found that methane emissions were actually "one-fifth higher than IPCC estimates,” as well as numerous studies that have concluded that methane leakage from natural gas production could negate the climate benefits of natural gas.

    The term “fake news” has been wildly misused recently, and Texans for Natural Gas is only adding to the trend. If the group wants to cast itself as an ally in Google’s effort to root out misleading information, it would do well to provide an honest accounting of scientific research in its letter.

  • Right-Wing Media Outlets Echo Trump's Unfounded Smears Of Sally Yates

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Right-wing media outlets are echoing smears from President Donald Trump and his administration against former acting Attorney General Sally Yates leading up to her Senate testimony regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Their dubious claim that Yates is a Democratic partisan comes from a single disgraced Bush-era State Department official who resigned after “impeding ongoing criminal investigations in Iraq,” while their claim that she leaked classified information has not been independently substantiated by anyone with knowledge of the situation.

  • After Enabling Trump, Right-Wing Media Campaign For Marine Le Pen

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    United States right-wing media figures have rallied behind “far-right populist” Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election by endorsing her, positively comparing her to President Donald Trump, and attacking her opponent Emmanuel Macron with anti-Semitic smears and comparisons to former President Barack Obama.

  • How Trump Embodies The Right-Wing Media’s Caricature Of Obama: Lazy, Secretive, And Corrupt

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    During Barack Obama’s presidency, perhaps no conservative media outlet lamented as loudly about the frequency of the president's golf games as Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller.

    Year after year, a parade of Daily Caller staffers lined up to feed the phony outrage machine by detailing the supposedly mountainous taxpayer costs associated with the excursions. The headlines often stressed that Obama’s golf trips took place against the backdrop of grim news events, suggesting the president was pampered and out of touch:

    Milwaukee Burns, Louisiana Floods, Obama Golfs” (August 15)

    As Suspected Terror Rages In Berlin, Obama Hits Hawaiian Golf Course” (December 19)

    For eight years, the “Obama golfs too much” narrative served as shorthand for the right-wing press to denigrate the president as lazy, not serious, and tone deaf.

    And then came President Donald Trump.

    His relentless trips to the links and to his Florida resort have quickly turned any previous complaints about Obama into a punchline.

    Overall, the taxpayer expenses for Trump’s domestic travels, including his golf trips to Florida, have been staggering: $20 million in less than three months, a clip that would add up to $80 million a year.

    As CNN recently reported, Trump's outings are "putting the president on pace in his first year of office to surpass former President Barack Obama's spending on travel for his entire eight years.” 

    All of this family travel and the colossal, unprecedented costs paid by taxpayers make the conservative media look completely absurd. Why? The Daily Caller once complained about two Obama golf trips that cost an estimated $1,031,685 and $804,870. Today, that’s in the ballpark of what it costs every time Trump goes to Mar-a-Lago -- and he’s already been seven times this year.

    Last month, The Daily Caller at least conceded that Trump had previously criticized Obama for playing golf as president and was now playing ever more himself. But like so many in the conservative media, The Daily Caller refused to acknowledge its own, years-long hypocrisy on the issue. Instead, the Caller is now framing Trump's golf outings as helpful for diplomacy

    For conservative media, it’s not just the golfing hypocrisy that’s been driven off the charts this year. Instead, it’s becoming clear that many of the unlikable traits that the far-right press desperately tried to assign to Obama -- he’s lazy, he’s secretive, he’s a bully, he’s corrupt -- are all now being proudly embodied by Trump.

    For eight years, right-wing media invented an unflattering image of Obama that never fit the reality. But now it fits Trump perfectly, and the conservative press is too embarrassed to admit it.

    Recall that so few of the far right's relentless attacks on Obama were based on policy. Instead, they were personality driven. But confronted by a mainstream, center-left Democrat who eschewed drama and displays of pure partisanship, far-right press critics simply invented a villainous figure with obnoxious traits that would fit their narrative.

    Today, Trump perfectly mirrors that figure.

    On Friday, the Trump administration announced that the White House visitor logs would not be released to the public, ensuring that the administration would work in secret. The decision directly contradicted the transparent protocols used by the Obama White House, which released nearly 6 million White House visitor records. “Mr. Trump has rejected other basic standards of presidential disclosures, like the release of his tax returns,” noted The New York Times.

    Of course, right-wing media spent years hammering Obama for being secretive and trying to hide his true agenda from the public. In fact, Obama’s press critics routinely weaponized the White House visitor logs, which were released to the public, in order to concoct bogus claims of scandal and corruption. (No, Bertha M. Lewis, the CEO of ACORN, did not visit the White House in 2009. Yes, according to the visitor log, a “Bertha E. Lewis” did go on the White House tour while Obama was president.)

    And don’t forget that conservative media famously implied Obama was hiding his personal history and claimed he was secretly a Muslim born outside the United States. He wasn’t being transparent!

    Today, those same media critics turn away as the Trump White House retreats behind a wall of secrecy and refuses to even acknowledge who’s visiting the White House. 

    And the visitor log issue isn’t just about optics either. It’s related to an ongoing investigation into possible White House malfeasance. From The Washington Post:

    The existence of the visitor logs burst back into the news last month when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) went to the White House to review intelligence reports on which he later briefed the president. Nunes and White House officials declined to say whom Nunes had visited and who had cleared him onto the grounds, information that is typically contained in the logs, along with the length of the stay.

    What else did the far-right press love to hit Obama on? Corruption, naturally. (Note that unlike some of Obama's predecessors, during his two terms "there were no grand juries investigating his aides. There were no impeachments. There were neither convictions of White House staffers, nor pardons to protect government officials.") 

    Today, while Trump and his family obliterate all the norms for White House corruption and self-enrichment, the same critics remain mostly mute.

    Trump now seems to embody everything the right-wing press complained about regarding Obama. And suddenly they’re fine with it.

    Image via the Obama White House Flickr account.

  • Right-Wing Media Commemorate Equal Pay Day By Recycling Misleading Attacks On Progressives

    Fox News Joins Chorus Accusing Elizabeth Warren Of Hypocrisy On Pay Equity

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Equal Pay Day, which fell on April 4, “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. Right-wing media outlets, which have long denied the very existence of a gender pay gap, used the annual commemoration as an excuse to attack progressives as hypocrites on the need for pay equity, airing recycled and debunked talking points previously used against President Barack Obama and former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    On April 4, the right-wing Washington Free Beacon commemorated Equal Pay Day by misleadingly claiming that the “gender pay gap” experienced by female staffers working for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is “nearly 10 percent wider than the national average,” according to its own review of Senate salary data. The article claimed that “median annual earnings” for women working in Warren’s office for the entirety of 2016 were “more than $20,000 less than the median annual earnings for men” while “average salaries rather than median” showed a roughly “31 percent” pay gap. The article slammed Warren for paying five men larger salaries than that of her highest-paid woman staffer and concluded by noting several prominent Democratic politicians who supposedly “pay women less than men,” including Clinton and Obama:

    Warren is far from the only politician who pays women less than men.

    Most notable on the list is failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who paid women less than men first as a senator, then as secretary of state, and as a presidential candidate. Her campaign viewed her tendency to pay women less than men as a campaign vulnerability.

    Former President Barack Obama regularly spoke out about the gender pay gap, but women working at the White House were paid less than men.

    The Free Beacon’s misleading analysis of Warren was picked up by other right-wing outlets, including The Daily Caller and The Washington Times. The April 4 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight also featured the report during a segment wherein the host mocked Warren as “a fake Native American” and Townhall editor Katie Pavlich claimed the news proved Warren “is not a champion for women”:

    The attacks right-wing media used against Warren rely on the exact same debunked “analysis” they have used to smear progressive elected officials on equal pay before: On February 23, 2015, the Free Beacon claimed that Hillary Clinton, as senator, paid female staffers “72 cents for each dollar paid to men” in a piece titled “Hillary Clinton’s War On Women.” Fox host Sean Hannity echoed the claim, saying the article proved Clinton “paid female staffers a lot less than men.” Fox host Greg Gutfeld hyped a similarly deceptive claim in 2012, saying that women who work in the Obama White House generally earn less than men. In reality, PolitiFact debunked the Free Beacon/Hannity claim, rating it as “Mostly False” and noting that Hannity’s analysis “ignores critical facts.” Gutfeld was proven wrong as well: American Prospect columnist Paul Waldman reported that the data on Obama staff pay indicated that “men, on average, are occupying higher-paying jobs in the White House ... not that women are being paid less for doing the same job.” (At no point in this years-long charade have right-wing media acknowledged the systemic problem of men being overrepresented in leadership roles.)

    As has always been the case, Fox News and other right-wing outlets seem to care about the pay gap women face in the workplace only when it’s politically advantageous to do so. When they aren’t cherry-picking statistics to malign progressives, Fox personalities frequently dismiss pay inequality as “an absolute myth” and attribute it “to women’s choices” rather than discrimination. Yet, the real myth is that the pay gap is caused by women choosing lower-paying jobs. As CNN analyst Christine Romans explained on the April 4 edition of New Day, women face a pay gap because “even in the same job categories, men make more”:

    Despite continued efforts to make pay in the United States more equitable, the gender pay gap persists. According to the Center for American Progress, women still earn only 79 cents for every dollar a man makes and the pay gap is even wider for women of color. April 4 marked the day when working women finally caught up to the earnings men accrued in 2016, but all Fox and the right-wing chorus wanted to do to commemorate the occasion was push tired and recycled myths.

  • Daily Caller Editor Suggests She Wants To “Run Over” Native Nations Protesters

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Daily Caller News Foundation editor and producer Katie Frates tweeted -- then deleted -- that she wanted to “run over” Native Nations Rise activists protesting President Donald Trump’s support of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

    Members of indigenous tribes are protesting today in Washington, D.C., against the pipeline in the Native Nations March on Washington. Frates responded to the march by speculating about how many protesters she could run over before she “got arrested”:

    Frates later deleted the tweet, but only after repeatedly defending it on Twitter, claiming that she gets “equally annoyed at anyone who cause unnecessary traffic.” Daily Beast senior editor Andrew Kirell, who noted the tweet and its deletion, wrote to Frates: “Curious why you deleted it, @TheWorldsFrates, because your replies seem to indicate no remorse or reconsideration.”