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  • Kevin Williamson says he was persecuted. Abortion providers and patients face much worse.

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    What’s a would-be conservative provocateur to do after being fired for misleading his employer and arguing on multiple occasions that people who’ve had abortions should be hanged? If you’re former National Review writer Kevin Williamson, the answer is apparently pontificating in The Wall Street Journal about your perceived victimization at the hands of the unsophisticated masses and media elite alike, who just don’t respect your audacity to “tell people things they don’t want to hear.”

    In his April 20 Wall Street Journal article, Williamson argued that his “trollish and hostile” comments about hanging women who have abortions were meant as rhetorical strategy to highlight “the sloppy rhetoric of the abortion debate,” and not as “a public-policy recommendation.” He argued that his comments instead detracted from his intended purpose of discussing "the more meaningful questions about abortion," claiming that "there aren’t very many people on the pro-choice side ... who are ready to talk candidly about the reality of abortion.”

    Williamson’s idea that people are unwilling to have candid conversations about abortion tells us far more about Williamson and the state of right-wing punditry than about the nature of conversations about abortion among pro-choice advocates. Abortion rights advocates have emphasized the importance of empowering people to share their abortion experiences. In contrast, right-wing media have long demonized and vilified those who have abortions, describing the legal medical procedure as “sickening,” “grisly,” and on par with terrorism. In some instances, abortion providers are attacked as villains and compared to Nazis while those who have had later abortions are called “selfish and disgusting.” 

    Abortion is a common health care experience in the United States. But right-wing media outlets and personalities -- particularly those self-styled as edgy firebrands -- show little sign of candidly engaging on the topic in good faith. For example, in 2016, in response to a woman sharing her abortion story with The New York Times, The Daily Caller “edited” her narrative “for accuracy and clarity” and added stigmatizing language and ad hominem attacks in brackets. In 2014, Renee Bracey Sherman wrote about the litany of threatening “Facebook posts, messages, emails, and tweets” she received after authoring a piece about her abortion experience.

    For Williamson, victimization appears to mean suffering the slings and arrows of conservatives and liberals in “the Twitter mob,” or being denied “sponsorships from Google and Pepsi.” Meanwhile, abortion providers, patients, and clinics in the United States are consistently and openly subjected to targeted harassment and in some cases violence. According to data from the National Abortion Federation (NAF), targeted harassment of abortion providers and clinics rose in 2016 to the highest levels seen since NAF began tracking incidents in 1977, including “a wide range of intimidation tactics meant to disrupt the provision of health care at facilities, including vandalism, picketing, obstruction, invasion, trespassing, burglary, stalking, assault and battery, and bomb threats.” Since 1993, attacks on abortion clinics and abortion providers have led to 11 deaths, including a 2015 attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic that killed three and injured at least nine more.

    Already in 2018 there have been numerous reports of violence or threats against abortion clinics. In February, anti-abortion activist Luke Wiersma was “charged with sending a series of online death threats to Chicago-area abortion clinics,” and according to one report, Wiersma allegedly said that he would “do anything and everything to stop the unmitigated murders of fetuses” including “kill to stop these atrocities.” In another incident, in New Jersey, Marckles Alcius “deliberately crashed a stolen truck” into a Planned Parenthood clinic and “indicated to investigators after his arrest that the act was intentional and that he was willing to die.” These are hardly isolated incidents -- similar attacks or threats have also been recently reported in Illinois, Utah, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Massachusetts, and more.

    Beyond bemoaning his alleged victimization, Williamson also argued that his undoing was the result of “the rage-fueled tribalism of social media” and that “no one is very much interested in my actual views on abortion and capital punishment.”

    Actually, we’re very interested. And the one in four women who have had an abortion in the United States are even more so. Williamson and his cadre of right-wing allies will continue to attempt to reframe the conversation away from the substance of his remarks -- to make his firing about anything other than the ramifications of his own rancor. Williamson will continue to play the victim, but that doesn’t change the facts: He was not a conservative thought leader sacrificed at the altar of vindictive liberal bias and elitism. He casually and cruelly gave voice to the idea that people who’ve had abortions should be brutally murdered.

    Kevin Williamson isn’t the victim of a vast left-wing conspiracy, or even an ill-informed “Twitter mob.” He’s only the victim of his own desire to provoke, no matter whom his argument may hurt -- and he’s learning what it’s like to be held accountable for his actions.

  • The Daily Caller hired a Pizzagate and Seth Rich conspiracy theorist

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The Daily Caller has hired Stephanie Hamill, who pushed the false Pizzagate child trafficking conspiracy theory and suggested that the Clintons murdered several of their supposed political adversaries, including Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

    Hamill recently began working for the conservative website as a host and video columnist. She was previously a producer and on-air personality for the pro-Trump One America News Network.

    The Daily Caller also employed Martina Markota, who had previously made a now-inaccessible video pushing the Pizzagate conspiracy theory (Markota has since left the site, according to her Twitter biography). Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, infamously danced with Markota and others in a Daily Caller-produced video about net neutrality in December 2017.

    Pizzagate

    Pizzagate is the conspiracy theory that prominent political figures trafficked children through a Washington, D.C., restaurant. Hamill has specifically seized on smears that John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman, used pizza-related coded language in emails to engage in child trafficking.

    During a June 2017 video, Hamill said that WikiLeaks' release of Podesta's hacked emails “exposed John Podesta’s pizza obsession” and used air quotes for “pizza.”

    Hamill appeared on MSNBC in January and was criticized by fellow guest Peter Emerson for pushing the Pizzagate conspiracy theory in 2016. Hamill replied: “If you actually watch the videos, you would see that I was questioning some of the language that was used in the emails by John Podesta. I said nothing about the pizza shop, so don’t start right now. And that's absurd.” The pizza shop Hamill referenced is Washington, D.C, restaurant Comet Ping Pong, the site of a December 2016 incident in which a Pizzagate conspiracy theorist entered the restaurant and fired an assault weapon. While Hamill denied mentioning "the pizza shop," her prior remarks still show that she clearly pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

    Seth Rich and the “Clinton Body Count”

    Hamill has repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories suggesting that the Clintons murdered supposed political opponents, including Seth Rich.

    She has used the hashtags “#ClintonBodyCount” and “#SethRichCoverUp” when tweeting about Rich’s murder.

    She has also referred to the “Clinton Body Count” when discussing the deaths of other people. 

    In June 2016, Hamill tweeted about the death of former U.N. official John Ashe:

    And in July 2016, Hamill tweeted about the suicide of Republican donor Peter Smith:

    In August 2016, Hamill hosted a One America News segment about "mysterious deaths with ties to the Democrat National Committee" and discussed the passings of Rich, process server Shawn Lucas, Ashe, and anti-Semitic writer Victor Thorn. Later during the segment, Hamill said: “Obviously, I don’t want to accuse the Clintons of these deaths but again this is something that needs to be investigated. But there’s a lot of people that have been tracking people that had connections to the Clintons since the ‘90s that had mysteriously died. They call it the Clinton body count.” (The original August 2016 segment appears to have been removed from YouTube but was reposted online by another account.)

    In a June 2017 video, Hamill speculated about whether Podesta is connected to the murder of Seth Rich based on a “chilling ... email” he wrote about people who leak information. She also aired a viral and false graphic suggesting that the Clintons and the Democratic National Committee murdered Rich, Lucas, Ashe, and Thorn.

    Hamill then stated: “Could you imagine if President Donald Trump’s political adversaries just started dropping dead? I think there would be some outrage. The idea of political murders happening in this great country is frightening and I hope it’s not true. But there’s just too much here to be ignored. This reminds me of the Pablo Escobar era in Colombia.”

    During a January 2018 appearance on MSNBC’s AM Joy, Hamill pushed the false conspiracy theory that the Clintons may have murdered former Haitian government official Klaus Eberwein. While claiming that the Clintons have been getting rich off of Haitians through the Clinton Foundation, Hamill stated: “You can ask all the Haitian-Americans that have been protesting against the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation for years. You can also ask Klaus Eberwein, the former Haitian government official that has all the dirt on the Clinton Foundation. Oh, wait, actually you can’t ask him because he mysteriously committed suicide the day before he was supposed to testify." Host Joy Reid cut off Hamill for her fringe remarks and criticized her for “rolling out crazy conspiracy theories.”

  • The top 6 tricks Scott Pruitt uses to outfox the media

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A version of this post was originally published on Grist.

    Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt might just be the most ruthlessly effective member of the Trump administration -- much to the ire of environmental activists, who recently launched a #BootPruitt campaign. One of Pruitt's trademark strategies is trying to tightly control media coverage of himself and his agency, a way to tamp down criticism of his industry-friendly agenda and extreme rollbacks of environmental protections.

    Pruitt has lost control of the media narrative in the past week, as numerous outlets have reported on his snowballing ethics scandals. But if he keeps his job -- there are reports that President Trump still has his back -- you can expect him to double down on his media machinations.

    Here are the key ways Pruitt manipulates and hampers the press:

    1. Pruitt goes to right-wing news outlets to push his messages out

    During his first year as head of the EPA, Pruitt appeared on Fox News, Trump's favorite network, 16 times -- more than twice as often as he appeared on the other major cable and broadcast networks combined. Fox hosts and interviewers tend to lob softballs at him and gloss over his numerous controversies and scandals.

    Pruitt gives interviews to other conservative outlets, too, from Breitbart News Daily to The Rush Limbaugh Show to the Christian Broadcasting Network. Last month, Pruitt went on conservative talk-radio shows to spread misleading talking points as he attempted to defend his extravagant travel spending.

    And when Pruitt announced a plan in March to severely restrict the kinds of scientific data that can be used in policymaking -- a change decried by scientists, environmentalists, and public health advocates -- he gave an exclusive interview to conservative news site The Daily Caller about it. The resulting article painted the shift in a positive light, of course.

    2. Pruitt gives interviews to generalists instead of environmental reporters

    Pruitt grants some interviews to mainstream news outlets, but when he does it's often with political reporters or generalists instead of reporters on the environmental beat who would know the right tough questions to ask.

    For instance, in February, Pruitt appeared on The New York Times' podcast The Daily. The interview was largely light and fluffy, letting Pruitt spout his talking points with little pushback, including a false claim that Congress would have to change the law in order for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. After the interview, it fell to Times environmental reporter Coral Davenport to point out that the Supreme Court had already granted authority to the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. Too bad she wasn't the one who conducted the interview. The following week, when another Times environmental reporter, Lisa Friedman, asked for a comment from Pruitt for a piece on his views on climate science, an EPA spokesperson instead referred her to the interview with The Daily.

    The EPA administrator sat for another soft interview with a Washington Post political reporter that was published in the Post's political newsletter The Daily 202. The resulting piece quoted Pruitt defending his enforcement record -- “I don't hang with polluters; I prosecute them" -- and praising Trump for his "tremendous ideas."

    Contrast that with what happened when Pruitt gave a rare interview to two Post reporters, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, who've been doggedly covering his agency. They produced a substantive article on how Pruitt has been shifting the EPA to serve the interests of regulated companies; quotes from Pruitt in the piece are interspersed with quotes from experts and with reporting on Pruitt's moves to roll back environmental protections and enforcement.

    3. Pruitt's EPA withholds basic information from the press and the public

    Under Pruitt, the EPA has become extraordinarily secretive.

    Unlike previous EPA administrators, Pruitt has refused to publicly release his full schedule in anything close to real time. The EPA has barred reporters from attending events where Pruitt speaks, even threatening to call the police to remove them. Most recently, on April 3, the EPA blocked numerous journalists from attending his announcement about the loosening of auto fuel economy standards, enabling Pruitt to avoid hard questions.

    It's so hard to get information out of the agency that the Society of Environmental Journalists sent the EPA public affairs office a letter in January asking for such fundamental things as open press briefings, responses to reporters' inquiries, and distribution of press releases to everyone who requests them.

    As New York Times reporter Friedman said in October, "Covering the EPA is like covering the CIA. It is so secretive. It is so difficult even to get basic information.”

    It's no surprise, then, that Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the agency have soared under Pruitt.

    4. Pruitt's EPA sends reporters articles by climate deniers instead of useful information

    Over the last month, the EPA has sent out at least four "press releases" that did nothing more than promote articles or opinion pieces by right-wing figures that painted Pruitt in a positive light, as ThinkProgress reported.

    The most eye-popping press release was headlined "The Hill: Scott Pruitt is leading the EPA toward greatness." It pointed to a fawning opinion piece co-written by the head of the Heartland Institute, a notorious climate-denial think tank.

    But perhaps the most vexing to reporters was a press release that promoted the aforementioned Daily Caller article on Pruitt restricting the EPA’s use of scientific data. The agency sent it out in lieu of an informative press release and otherwise refused to answer reporters' questions about the action. This prompted the National Association of Science Writers to send a letter of protest to the head of the EPA press office, calling on her to "take steps immediately to prevent this unprofessional and unethical behavior from occurring again." The Society of Environmental Journalists followed up with a similar letter of its own.

    5. Pruitt repeats disingenuous, misleading talking points

    Unlike his boss, Pruitt is disciplined and on-message. In interviews, he turns again and again to the same tightly scripted talking points, many of which are misleading.

    Like this one: "We've seen an 18 percent reduction in our CO2 footprint from 2000 to 2014. We're at pre-1994 levels," Pruitt told Fox News Sunday in June, while defending Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. It's one of Pruitt's favorite lines. He's repeated it ad nauseum during his 13 months at the EPA.

    When he spouts this statistic, Pruitt is essentially bragging that the U.S. has already done a lot to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. That might sound good on the surface, but Pruitt's claim is misleading -- he ignores the fact that emissions went down in part because of Obama-era policies that Pruitt and others in the Trump administration are now undoing. It's also just a really weird thing to boast about if you're a climate denier like Pruitt.

    Does Pruitt actually think it's a good thing that the U.S. reduced carbon dioxide emissions? Does that mean he acknowledges that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant? Does he then think it would be good for the U.S. to continue reducing CO2 emissions? Is he aware that CO2 emissions are projected to rise this year?

    These are follow-up questions that an interviewer who's knowledgeable about climate change might ask, but so far we haven't seen any such pushback. No wonder Pruitt keeps repeating the line.

    6. Pruitt's EPA retaliates against journalists

    Under Pruitt, the EPA's press office has taken the unprecedented step of personally attacking reporters whose work the leadership dislikes. In September, the office issued a press release bashing Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker over a story he co-wrote. "Biesecker had the audacity to imply that agencies aren’t being responsive to the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey," the release read. "Unfortunately, the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker has a history of not letting the facts get in the way of his story." The EPA then dropped Biesecker from its email press list.

    The agency's press office has also attacked New York Times reporter Eric Lipton, who's done deep-dive investigative reporting into Pruitt's EPA. In August, the office put out a press release that accused him of reporting "false facts." In October, Liz Bowman, head of the EPA's Office of Public Affairs, gave a snarky reply after Lipton requested information on agency actions, accusing Lipton of having a "continued fixation on writing elitist clickbait trying to attack qualified professionals committed to serving their country.”

    The bottom line: Why Pruitt’s media manipulation matters

    When Pruitt gets more positive media coverage for himself and the EPA, or at least less negative coverage, it can sway public opinion in favor of his right-wing agenda and make it easier for him to continue eviscerating environmental protections. His successes then help him curry favor with oil companies, the Koch network, and other monied interests that could fund a future Pruitt campaign for senator, governor, or even president. After all, the EPA administrator is notoriously ambitious.

    If Pruitt does ascend higher, you can expect to see a lot more anti-regulatory fervor and a lot more media manipulation and maltreatment.

  • Fox News runs with right wing’s out-of-context video attacking Chuck Schumer

    Full video debunks accusation of racism against Schumer

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News used out-of-context video of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to claim he was opposing a judicial nominee from President Donald Trump because the nominee is white. In fact, the full video of Schumer’s criticism showed his objection to the nomination of Marvin Quattlebaum to the U.S. District Court in South Carolina came in response to Republicans’ refusal to observe Senate tradition and their failure to support President Barack Obama’s nominees for the vacant seat.

    Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox & Friends First, and Fox & Friends all used out-of-context video to portray Schumer as racist. Tucker Carlson claimed on March 1 that Schumer “said he’s opposing the nomination because Quattlebaum is the wrong color. For real.” Fox News Headlines reporter Carley Shimkus stated March 2 on Fox & Friends First: “Chuck Schumer voted against the nomination not because of Quattlebaum’s resume or anything like that, but because of his race.” A little later, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt read off a string of headlines all saying essentially “Chuck Schumer votes against Trump judicial nominee because he’s white.” Brian Kilmeade then said there was no difference between Schumer’s comment and Trump’s racist declaration that a federal judge couldn’t be fair in his 2016 Trump University case because of of the judge’s Mexican ancestry.

    These smears likely originated with Carlson’s former website, The Daily Caller, which during the early afternoon of March 1 posted the partial video clip with the headline: “Schumer Will Vote ‘No’ On Judicial Nominee Because He Is White.” Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire also joined in the smear, citing The Daily Caller and amping up the accusation in its headline: “RACISM IN ACTION: Schumer: I Won't Vote For This Judge Because He's White.”

    But as ThinkProgress justice editor Ian Millhiser pointed out, these smears are built around selectively edited video. Both right-wing websites and all three Fox News shows omitted the first half of Schumer’s remarks, in which he berated Republican senators for hypocritically abandoning a Senate tradition for judicial nominees known as “blue slips” now that they are in power, which would have served as an effective check on Trump's judicial nominations. Schumer noted that Democrats had honored the practice previously with respect to this very seat, which is why Trump had a chance to nominate someone to fill it. Millhiser also noted that Schumer’s voting record further debunks the accusation of racism: He voted for 10 out of 11 of Trump’s previous federal district court nominees, and those 10 were all white. On the March 2 edition of CNN's Wolf, Schumer explained how "right-wing radio who never really tells the truth distort[ed] what I had said." 

    The full video of Schumer’s explanation for voting against Quattlebaum, which wasn’t played on Fox News, can be viewed below:

  • WSJ debunks Murdoch-fueled conspiracy theory on FBI texts and Obama

    The conspiracy theory, which was debunked by WSJ and others, was heavily pushed by Fox News and other right-wing outlets

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The latest right-wing media ‘scandal,’ has completely fallen apart after The Wall Street Journal and others debunked several facets of the story. Fox News spent the day pushing Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) claim that a text message between FBI lawyer Lisa Page and agent Peter Strzok referring to preparing talking points that then-FBI Director James Comey would use to brief then-President Barack Obama, implied an interference by Obama in the FBI’s investigation into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server. Right-wing media, heavily led by Fox News, and other mainstream outlets ran with the claim, despite the fact that there was no active investigation into Clinton’s emails at the time the text message in question was sent.

  • The Daily Caller has been making light of child sexual abuse for years

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Tucker Carlson’s right-wing outlet The Daily Caller has long advanced conspiracy theories, recently promoted Pizzagaters and white nationalists, and routinely propped up GOP policies with shoddy online writing, including from notorious plagiarizers. But there is one uniquely horrifying editorial element of this website that it deserves to be tied to forever: The Daily Caller has had a years-long, unchecked fixation with mocking survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

    For years, The Daily Caller has routinely posted abhorrent stories making fun of reported sexual abuse of children and teenagers by adult women perpetrators. A whole category of posts beginning in 2013 are tagged as “Teacher sex” on the site -- more than 100 in total. Taken together, they suggest that boys and young men cannot be victims of sexual abuse if the reported abuser is an attractive young woman who uses gifts or special treatment as a form of sexual coercion. The "Teacher sex" posts largely follow the same formula:

    Another thing nearly all these posts have in common: They are written by Eric Owens, The Daily Caller’s education editor.

    Here are just a few examples that have been posted since last October, when the #MeToo movement began to dominate public conversation:

    [2/6/18]

    [12/6/17]

    [11/19/17]

    [11/10/17]

    [10/28/17]

    Owens also has a long history of mocking queer and trans students -- which seems to have kept his “education” writing isolated in the Daily Caller cesspool. (Owens was previously moonlighting at a niche education outlet but appeared to have stopped writing for it after Media Matters pointed out his predilection for bullying LGBTQ kids back in 2015.)

    It’s worth remembering that The Daily Caller was co-founded by professional misogynist and outrage-haver Tucker Carlson, Fox News’ far-right and neo-Nazi darling. Carlson uses his current Fox evening show to bully and yell about women -- often right in their faces -- and sometimes spur their online harassment. It’s no wonder his website seems to devote its entire “entertainment” section to objectifying women celebrities, or that its education editor is focused primarily on writing horrifying things about vulnerable kids.

    It’s toxic masculinity at its peak: The Daily Caller wants its young men readers to believe they have the right to objectify women’s bodies; and if someone tries to hurt them or take away any ownership of their own bodies, the correct reaction is to repress the trauma they experience and pretend the abuse was funny and cool.

  • The newest pro-Trump conspiracy theory: A "secret society" in the FBI is undermining Trump

    These idiots are misreading obvious sarcasm

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ morning show Fox & Friends pushed the conspiracy theory that a “secret society” meant to discredit President Donald Trump might actually exist in the FBI.

    The story originated when Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) claimed on another Fox show, The Story, that in a text message exchange after the 2016 election, FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page said, “Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society.” Gowdy omitted any context and offered no evidence to show that such a text, which has not been released, wouldn’t have been facetious.

    Conservative media and Trump allies have repeatedly attempted to scandalize texts between Strzok and Page, who were in a personal relationship, alleging that they and other FBI officials were working against Trump during the election. But as HuffPost noted, “Most of the information that came out of the bureau during the election was damaging to Hillary Clinton, not Trump,” and Strzok and Page “exchanged texts slamming politicians and officials of all ideological stripes, not just Trump.”

    The “secret society” conspiracy theory is gaining traction on other right-wing media outlets as well. Sean Hannity tweeted, "FBI CONSPIRACY? Text Messages Show Anti-Trump 'SECRET SOCIETY' at DOJ." Breitbart published an article suggesting an association between this “secret society” and the recently reported missing text messages between Strzok and Page. The Gateway Pundit ran Fox’s interview of Gowdy as the headlining story on its front page, which was later shared by Lou Dobbs and Bill Mitchell. And The Daily Caller headlined their piece, “What Deep State? Gowdy, Ratcliffe: Texts Uncover Anti-Trump ‘Secret Society’ At FBI.”

    From the January 23 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    [BEGIN CLIP]

    REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): The day after the election, the day after -- what they really, really didn't want to have happen, there is a text exchange between these two FBI agents, these supposed to be objective fact-centric FBI agents saying, “Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society.” So, of course I'm going to want to know what secret society you are talking about, because you're supposed to be investigating objectively.

    [END CLIP]

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Lawmakers outraged as bombshell texts from that anti-Trump FBI agent and his girlfriend suggest a secret society within the agency meant to perhaps discredit the president.

    [...]

    DOOCY: Well that's good. And then, we just saw the sound bite with Trey Gowdy where he’s outraged that in some of the text message with these lovebirds, they’re talking about a secret society out to get Trump.

  • The 10 most ridiculous things media figures said about climate change and the environment in 2017

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    1. Breitbart’s James Delingpole claimed 400 new scientific papers show global warming is a myth.

    Numerous studies have found near-unanimous scientific agreement on human-caused climate change, with perhaps the most well-known study on the matter finding that 97 percent of scientific papers taking a position on the cause of global warming agree that humans are behind it. And this year, a review of the 3 percent of papers that deny climate change found that they were all flawed. Nonetheless, Breitbart writer Delingpole claimed that 400 scientific papers published this year demonstrated that climate change is a “myth,” basing his article on a post on the denialist blog No Tricks Zone.The fact-checking website Snopes roundly debunked Delingpole’s article, giving it a “False” verdict after speaking with authors of some of the cited papers who said their work was grossly misinterpreted or misrepresented.

    2. The Daily Mail claimed government researchers “duped” world leaders with "manipulated global warming data."

    Daily Mail reporter David Rose alleged that climate scientists "rushed" to publish an "exaggerated" paper in an attempt to convince leaders to support the Paris agreement and spend billions to fight climate change. Rose, who has written his fair share of climate misinformation for the Mail, based his story on an “exclusive interview” with and a blog post by retired U.S. government scientist John Bates. The error-ridden article quickly made its way around right-wing media in outlets such as The Daily Caller, National Review, and Breitbart, and was even promoted by GOP members of the House science committee, including its chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). The story’s claims also received “at least 752,300 shares, likes, comments, or other interactions on social media,” according to a Buzzfeed analysis. But the claims in the article were widely discredited by climate scientists, including Bates’ former colleagues and even Bates himself. The errors in the Mail’s article were so significant that the Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO), an independent media regulator in the U.K., issued a ruling that "the newspaper had failed to take care over the accuracy of the article ... and had then failed to correct ... significantly misleading statements." The Daily Mail was required to publish IPSO's reprimand.

    3. Radio host Rush Limbaugh said he was "leery" of hurricane forecasts because they advance a "climate change agenda."

    As Hurricane Irma barrelled toward Florida, Limbaugh spun conspiracy theories and told his listeners that hurricane warnings are part of a scheme to benefit retailers, the media, and people like Al Gore who want to "advance this climate change agenda." Notably, Limbaugh didn’t have any skepticism about the danger Irma posed when it came to his own well-being, as he fled from his Florida home to Los Angeles before Irma made landfall. It's not the first time Limbaugh has spouted irresponsible conspiracy theories about hurricane forecasts. He was criticized last year for doing the same thing during Hurricane Matthew, earning himself a spot on the 2016 edition of this list.

    4. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens argued that because political operatives were wrong in predicting Hillary Clinton would win the election, people should be skeptical of climate science.

    After Trump’s election, The New York Times launched an ad campaign billing itself as the antidote to Trumpian “alternative facts.” Shortly after that campaign, though, the Times hired Stephens as a columnist -- a serial misinformer who had called climate change a “sick-souled religion” during his time at The Wall Street Journal. In his inaugural column for the Times, Stephens encouraged skepticism of climate scientists and compared those who advocate climate action to Cold War-era authoritarians. Stephens’ column was short on actual facts and science; the one time he cited a scientific report, he got it wrong. The Times added a correction to the column, but numerous scientists pointed out that the correction wasn’t sufficient, and a number of scientists canceled their subscriptions over Stephens’ hiring, his problematic column, and the Times public editor’s dismissive defense of Stephens’ column. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt later cited Stephens' column to defend the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.

    5. Conservative media commentator Stephen Moore claimed that Trump created tens of thousands of coal jobs in the first few months of his presidency.

    Experts and journalists have repeatedly noted that President Donald Trump's campaign promise to bring back coal jobs is an empty one, since the decades-long decline in coal mining jobs has been driven much more by economic forces, such as increased automation and competition from natural gas and renewables, than by government regulations. But that didn’t stop Moore, a frequent Fox and CNN commentator and former Trump economic advisor, from proclaiming in op-eds in The Washington Times and Breitbart that Trump had already made good on his promise after just a few months in office. Moore cited jobs reports from March and April to claim that Trump had added tens of thousands of mining jobs, thereby restoring the coal industry. But Moore grossly misrepresented the data he cited, which actually included jobs in a number of sectors like oil and gas. Had Moore bothered to look at the actual coal mining jobs category, he would have seen that it had only grown by approximately 200 jobs through April, barely moving since Election Day.

    6. Radio host Hugh Hewitt recommended appointing Rush Limbaugh to a national commission to study climate change.

    In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Hewitt proposed creating a “national commission led by men and women of impeccable credentials” to determine whether and how the U.S. should address climate change, arguing that the country needs a group of “[d]iverse, smart non-scientists who are going to listen to the scientists -- all of them -- and report back on what ought to be done.” But Hewitt’s proposal instantly lost all credibility when he suggested including Rush Limbaugh as one of the commission members. Limbaugh has repeatedly called climate change a hoax, promoted dangerous climate-related conspiracy theories, misrepresented research in an attempt to dispute that global warming is happening, and even criticized a TV show for portraying climate change as a reality.

    7. Fox hosts attacked a journalist and called him "stupid" for asking a Trump official about the links between hurricanes and climate change.

    2017 was a record year for hurricanes, as Harvey, Irma, and Maria wreaked havoc along their respective paths. A number of climate scientists have explained how climate change exacerbates some of the worst impacts of hurricanes. While CNN and MSNBC frequently aired segments discussing the link between climate change and hurricanes like Harvey and Irma, Fox News hosts almost exclusively covered the climate change-hurricane link by criticizing others who raised the issue. The September 11 episode of Fox's The Five, for example, featured a lengthy discussion in which hosts criticized CNN's Jim Acosta for asking Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert whether there's a link between climate change and powerful hurricanes. The hosts said that Acosta was “anti-science” and looked “stupid” and “dumb,” and they called his question was "politically opportunistic." Fox's Jesse Watters said concern about climate change stems from liberal “guilt” and a desire to control people’s lives. Likewise, on the radio show Breitbart News Daily, host Alex Marlow pushed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to deny the link between climate change and hurricanes, which Pruitt did, stating, “For opportunistic media to use events like this to, without basis or support, just to simply engage in a cause-and-effect type of discussion, and not focus upon the needs of people, I think is misplaced."

    8. Rush Limbaugh argued that the historic BP oil spill caused no environmental damage.

    Limbaugh cited an article in the right-wing Daily Caller headlined “Bacteria Are Eating Most Of The 2010 BP Oil Spill” and concluded, “The BP spill didn’t do any environmental [damage].” The Deepwater Horizon spill, which leaked oil for 87 days, was the largest accidental spill of oil into marine waters in world history. Researchers have documented a wide array of negative environmental impacts from the disaster. For example, a 2016 study found that the BP spill may have caused irreversible damage to one of the Gulf shore’s most important ecosystems. The spill is believed to have killed tens of thousands animals in 2010, and for years afterward, dolphins and other animals in the area continued to die at higher-than-normal rates.

    9. Fox News’ Jesse Watters claimed, “No one is dying from climate change.”

    During a discussion about Al Gore’s warnings on climate change, Watters, a co-host of Fox News’ The Five, declared, “People are dying from terrorism. No one is dying from climate change.” Rush Limbaugh also made the same assertion this year. But an independent report commissioned by 20 governments in 2012 concluded that climate change already kills more people than terrorism, with an estimated 400,000 deaths linked to climate change each year.

    10. Radio host Alex Jones said it was "suspicious" that Hurricane Irma came along shortly before the release of a climate disaster movie.

    Jones briefly speculated about the possibility that Hurricane Irma was “geoengineered” or created by humans before stating, “Meanwhile, though, right on time with these superstorms, we have the new film Geoengineering (sic) 2017, coming soon on October 20. Oh, just a little bit more than a month or so after Irma is set to hit. Isn’t that just perfect timing? Like all these race war films they’ve been putting out. This is starting to get suspicious. Here it is, Geostorm.” The action movie Geostorm featured satellites that controlled the global climate. Jones' speculation about the film is just one of the countless conspiracy theories he has promoted over the years.

  • How pro-Trump media are attacking Moore's accusers: claiming a forged yearbook signature, suggesting bribery, and quibbling over a phone's location

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore has come under fire following accusations that he attempted to rape a teenager and engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with other teens, including a then-14-year-old minor. In order to defend Moore, right-wing and far-right media that have also been staunch supporters of President Donald Trump have resorted to pushing conspiracy theories -- some based on discredited Twitter accounts -- including suggesting that Moore’s signature on the yearbook of one of the accusers is forged and questioning the location of a phone another accuser said she used to speak to Moore. Moore’s wife has also pushed some of the conspiratorial claims on Facebook.

    Pushing conspiracy theories

    When Beverly Young Nelson, the woman who said Moore tried to rape her in 1977, showed the media a message signed “Roy Moore, D.A.” in her yearbook from that year, a conspiracy theory began making the rounds. The far-right and consistently unreliable blog Gateway Pundit claimed that the signature was forged in a piece headlined “IT’S A FAKE.” The website cited Twitter account Thomas Wictor as its source, claiming Wictor is “known for his insightful take on politics.” On the contrary, Wictor has a history of pushing false claims, including helping spread a made-up Puerto Rican trucker strike after Hurricane Maria and sharing a fake Facebook post of fallen soldier La David Johnson’s wife criticizing Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). Despite Wictor’s poor track record, Gateway Pundit’s highly dubious claim has spread among other pro-Trump media and message boards that have previously helped push conspiracy theories. Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, also posted the article on her Facebook page.

    Before that, shortly after the The Washington Post published its initial report about Moore, Twitter account @umpire43 dubiously claimed that a “family friend” told his wife that “a WAPO reporter named Beth offered her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore.” The Gateway Pundit and the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars both picked up the tweet, and from there, numerous fake news websites promoted it, as did the far-right-friendly One America News Network. Kayla Moore also posted a link on Facebook to one of the fake news websites pushing the claim. But the Twitter account that launched the rumor has previously made a similar allegation about two other news outlets, has lied about its own background, and has since deleted many of its tweets.

    Pushing irrelevant or inconsequential stories to try to discredit the accusers

    Many pro-Trump media outlets have also jumped on the tangential point that one of the accusers, Deborah Wesson Gibson, was an interpreter for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and worked with former Vice President Joe Biden at some events. Breitbart, The Gateway Pundit, Infowars, and many fake news websites all jumped on this allegation, and more traditional right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and The Daily Caller hyped it as well.

    Pro-Trump media have also supported a separate effort by Breitbart to discredit the accusers. One Breitbart report claimed that the mother of Leigh Corfman, who was 14 at the time of her encounter with Moore, said that her daughter did not have a phone in her bedroom, though the Post reported that Corfman had spoken with Moore on such a phone. Kayla Moore, The Gateway Pundit and multiple fake news websites promoted Breitbart’s report, which dubiously suggested that Corfman was lying. Another Breitbart report hyped a comment from Corfman’s mother that the Post “worked to convince her daughter to give an interview,” even though the Post had acknowledged that fact in its original report. Gateway Pundit called it “one heck of a revelation,” and fake news website TruthFeed called it a “bombshell.”

    Victim shaming

    Pro-Trump media commentators have also smeared the accusers in other ways. Some have suggested that struggles Corfman faced later in her life meant her accusation was not credible (in fact the Post reported that Corfman hesitated to share her story earlier precisely because she feared her struggles would be used against her). CNN’s Ed Martin suggested that Corfman should not be believed because she had “multiple bankruptcies.” Fox News host Sean Hannity on his radio show said that the accusers could be violating one of the Ten Commandments: “thou shalt not bear false witness.” On the same show, a guest, Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins, said that Corfman “disgust[ed]” her because she “spent 38 years thinking about this before [she] said anything” and was “making women poison to work for.” Additionally, radio host Rush Limbaugh called Corfman a “wacky,” “self-admitted mess of a woman,” and frequent Fox News guest David Wohl called Corfman “basically incorrigible” because she “was suffering from drug addiction, alcohol abuse.” As Post columnist Margaret Sullivan noted, these kinds of smears are exactly why so many women are hesitant to report abuse.

  • Here are the desperate excuses right-wing media are using to justify Ed Gillespie's loss

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST & DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam resoundly defeated Republican candidate Ed Gillespie to become the next governor of Virginia in a race that was largely viewed as a referendum on President Donald Trump. Right-wing media figures reacted to the election outcome by trying to distance Trump from Gillespie, arguing that Gillispie “didn’t embrace” the president’s agenda, labeling him as “the definition of the swamp” that Trump had promised to drain, and whitewashing his gravitation toward Trump’s extremism. Here’s a list of some of the excuses:

    1. On her radio program, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham blamed “mass immigration” by Muslim and Latino Americans into Virginia for Republican losses throughout the state.

    2. Fox’s Sandra Smith mentioned that Gillespie may have lost because he “didn’t fully embrace Trump,” saying, “There are questions this morning: had he [embraced Trump], would the outcome had been different?”

    3. Right-wing troll Mike Cernovich claimed Gillespie lost partly because his campaign and the Republican Party didn’t ask for Cernovich’s advice.

    4. Jack Posobiec suggested on Twitter that Gillespie’s ads weren’t extreme enough because he didn’t launch negative ads about sexual predators Harvey Weinstein and Anthony Weiner, or the anti-fascist group, Antifa.

    5. Right-wing website The Daily Caller and far-right website The Gateway Pundit blamed Gillespie’s loss on the fact that the former RNC chairman “did not directly campaign with Trump.” The Gateway Pundit also blamed the “lying liberal media” for “GOP elite” Gillespie’s loss.

    6. CNN contributor and Trump supporter David Urban speculated that Gillespie lost because Virginia voters “didn’t forget” that Gillespie didn’t “lift a finger” and come out in “full force” for Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

    7. Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow slammed Gillespie as “the definition of the swamp” and “a lobbyist” who campaigned with establishment Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) -- “the exact people the Trump voter base rejected.” He also claimed that the “non-stop hot takes about how this was a rejection of the Trump agenda” were “farcical.”  

    8. Breitbart’s Joel Pollak claimed “most of the blame” for Gillespie’s loss “sits with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY),” adding, “calling Tuesday’s results a repudiation of Trump,” is “more than a stretch."

    9. Fake news website RedStateWatcher and conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested that outgoing Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe restoring voting rights of convicted felons was the reason Gillespie lost to Northam as the ex-felons voted for the Democratic candidate.

    10. Right-wing blog RedState speculated that Gillespie’s rejection of Bannon's assistance during the campaign helped “sink him.”

    11. Coulter also seemed to blame Gillespie’s loss on undocumented Virginians illegally voting in the election, saying that if Gillespie’s “pals, George Bush & Haley Barbour, had been a little less enthusiastic about open borders,” he would have won. Coulter added that “what happened to [Virginia] will happen to the entire country” unless Trump builds his promised border wall and “deport[s] illegals.”

    12. Conservative radio host Steve Deace claimed that Gillespie “loathe[s]” the “cultural issues” that “Trump embraces,” ignoring ample evidence of Gillespie’s attempt to emulate Trump’s culture war.

    Correction: This post originally misidentified RedState as RedStateWatcher. We regret the error.

  • Right-wing media criticize groups for citing fake Russian accounts, not mentioning they did too

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Multiple right-wing media outlets have called out left-leaning groups for letting social media accounts run by Russian operatives dupe them into sharing their content. Yet these same conservative outlets have neglected to mention that they too cited Russian accounts.

    Since September, multiple outlets have reported about specific social media accounts run by the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-connected organization, that interfered in the 2016 presidential election campaign and beyond by pretending to be American. Fake news websites and other outlets widely cited these fake accounts. In early November, Congress released Twitter handles of some of these Russian accounts and the propaganda material some of the Russian accounts pushed.

    In response to these reports, The Daily Caller wrote that feminist groups such as the Women’s March were "fooled" and “promoted Russian propaganda,” noting that the groups had previously shared some content from Russian accounts on Instagram and Facebook. In another piece, the outlet also wrote that Russia was “using ‘The Resistance,’” a term generally used to describe opposition to President Donald Trump (that the Daily Caller claimed Russia "duped"), “to stoke division” by organizing anti-Trump rallies.

    The Daily Caller did not note in any of these pieces that it regularly cited Russian accounts itself. The outlet repeatedly cited the fake account @TEN_GOP, which Twitter permanently suspended after the account spent nearly two years posing as the Tennessee Republican Party. Daily Caller reporters cited @TEN_GOP in articles praising Miss USA, showing Barron Trump taking a photo of Marine One, mocking Hillary Clinton, highlighting a confrontation between demonstrators and a California Democratic Party official, criticizing calls for gun safety protections, and hyping a fight between pro- and anti-Trump groups. Other Russian accounts, such as @Jenn_Abrams and @todayinsyria, were also cited in Daily Caller articles bashing Clinton, promoting Trump fans, and stoking fears about ISIS.

    The outlet has also since deleted a citation from Russian account @Pamela_Moore13 from one of its articles, leaving an editor’s note that says it removed the citation from the piece because it quoted “an account suspended by Twitter,” not disclosing that it was a Russian account.

    Another right-wing outlet, The Daily Wire, highlighted The Daily Caller’s article that chided the Women’s March in order to mock feminists more broadly for falling for the Russian propaganda “hook, line, and sinker.” The piece did not disclose that The Daily Wire had also cited @TEN_GOP multiple times. Additionally, conservative FrontPage Magazine, which cited The Daily Caller to criticize “the left” for falling for the fake accounts due to “identity politics,” did not disclose in the piece that it too had previously cited @TEN_GOP.

    Russian propagandists on social media were successful at integrating into American political debates by routinely tricking conservative and mainstream outlets alike. Outlets such as ABC NewsBuzzFeed, and The Washington Post have shown accountability by acknowledging they cited these fake accounts; it’s time for these right-wing outlets to do the same.

  • Fox's perfect storm: Jake Tapper edition

    Fox News throws in a lie about Tapper into its terrible anti-Muslim coverage of the New York City truck attack

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News’ latest mischaracterization, this time about comments made by CNN’s Jake Tapper, may have gotten national attention, but the tactics the network used are par for the course for Fox.

    During the October 31 edition of his CNN show, host Jake Tapper said that the phrase “Allahu akbar” is “sometimes said under the most beautiful of circumstances and too often we hear it being said in moments like this.” He was referring to an attack in New York City in which the attacker reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar” after he killed eight people by driving a truck down a bike path. Soon after the show aired, websites that promote fake news and other pro-Trump outlets pushed stories about Tapper’s comments, many of which took them out of context. Fox News Insider also published an article with the headline “CNN's Jake Tapper: 'Allahu Akbar' Can Be Said Under 'Most Beautiful' of Circumstances.” A subsequent (and since deleted) tweet from Fox News promoting the article claimed that “Tapper says ‘Allahu Akbar’ Is ‘Beautiful’ Right After NYC Terror Attack.”

    The story got national attention after Tapper called out Fox for “lying,” but it’s actually nothing new for the network, which is prone to both taking people out of context and attacking other media, frequently targeting CNN. The premises for these attacks can be as ridiculous as they are misleading. Fox has even taken its own polling out of context in a desperate attempt to prove a point. And while many on the network have lashed out at the “media” at large, Fox often seems to single out CNN in particular.

    There was also anti-Muslim sentiment injected into Fox’s suggestion that Tapper’s comments were sympathetic to terrorism. And that was likely no accident as, at this point following the terror attack, Fox was in the midst of its typical anti-Muslim crusade.

    Here is how the events unfolded:

    October 31:

    November 1:

    Madeline Peltz contributed research to this piece.

  • After horrific casualties in Las Vegas, right-wing media say now is not the time to talk about gun violence

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing media figures are saying it’s too soon to debate measures to reduce gun violence after at least 58 people were killed and over 500 were wounded in Las Vegas, NV, in what news organizations are calling the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. According to police officials, the shooter had 10 rifles in his possession at the scene.

  • Daily Caller publishes, then deletes anti-Semitic video

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Right-wing website the Daily Caller posted a video titled “New York Times’ Glenn Thrush Has KHOUTSPA” set to the Jewish folk song Hava Nagila.

    The Daily Caller’s video received immediate backlash for its anti-Semitic theme. Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “Calling out @dailycaller for this anti-Semitic video/attack on a Jewish journalist. Take it down. Apologize to @glennthrush,” and The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wrote, “The Daily Caller is lower than Breitbart these days.” The video was eventually deleted after the backlash, but not before the Daily Caller editor-in-chief, Geoffrey Ingersoll, defended the video.

    The Daily Caller has a long history of publishing content with anti-Semitic undertones, including headlines like “Kill All The Jews And When That Is Done Kill Those That Refused To Defend Them,” and “FINALLY! The First Poop Swastika Of 2017 Appears On An American College Campus,” as well as using a Holocaust denier to falsely smear former President Bill Clinton.