Fox & Friends Weekend | Media Matters for America

Fox & Friends Weekend

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  • Fox News spun NY Times report about FBI’s attempts to flip a Russian oligarch involved in organized crime into proof of an anti-Trump “witch hunt”

    For Fox, this is a familiar editorial stance

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On September 1, The New York Times reported on an unsuccessful years-long FBI program to flip roughly six Russian oligarchs, seeking to turn them into informants for the United States in investigations against Russian organized crime. Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and former British spy Christopher Steele, who authored a dossier of information on President Donald Trump, started communicating about this effort long before Trump announced his run for president, documents released by the Justice Department show.

    And yet, Fox News has been citing, out of context, the documents reported on in the Times as further evidence supporting Trump’s conspiracy theory that there is a “witch hunt” against him.

    While the program began in 2014, eventually -- after evidence of a possible conspiracy was established -- questions about Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Trump campaign collusion were raised with at least one of the program's targets. The Times’ sources told the paper that they revealed the program’s existence to avoid the president and his media allies “us[ing] the program’s secrecy as a screen with which they could cherry-pick facts and present them, sheared of context, to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.”

    But cherry-picked facts taken out of context perfectly describes Fox’s reporting, including its coverage of messages Ohr and Steele exchanged. Fox spun those communiques to suggest under-the-table conspiring by Ohr, Steele, and others at the FBI to maliciously target Trump. Nothing in the Times article suggests that contacts between Ohr and Steele were part of illegitimate DOJ and FBI activity, but Fox stuck to its misleading claim. When the Times article was mentioned, here's how network personalities and guests reacted: 

    In one of Fox’s earliest on-air mentions of the story, the host claimed that Ohr "was working with a man in Deripaska who's known as Putin's oligarch," and suggested that it validated Trump’s claim that the FBI was colluding with Russia. After discussing the article, guest anchor Ed Henry said, “You hear the president say there's collusion on the other side, and yet it doesn't seem to get any traction,” suggesting that in attempting to get Russian oligarchs to inform about organized crime in Russia, Ohr was actually trying to collude with said oligarchs to stop Trump. The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey also claimed details in the report “seem to confirm the president’s tweets that this is a witch hunt against him.”

    Daily Caller White House correspondent Saagar Enjeti told a Fox host that the story shows Steele “used his years-long connection with Ohr in order to push his dossier to the highest levels of the DOJ and the FBI.” In fact, a source in the Times article described Steele telling Ohr about the dossier as “more of a friendly heads-up” and said that “Steele had separately been in touch with an F.B.I. agent” to get his dossier to the bureau. Enjeti also falsely claimed that the dossier “really was the genesis for much of the investigation into President Trump” as well as “all of the other [Trump] associates” targeted. The investigation actually began after the Australian government alerted the FBI to Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos’ drunken bragging.

    Fox host Jeanine Pirro cut off a guest who mentioned that “Ohr is there to go after the Russian mob -- that is why the president is probably against Ohr.”

    Fox host Pete Hegseth speculated that “maybe it was Bruce Ohr who was actually flipped by the Russians.” 

    Guest anchor Ed Henry misleadingly described the Times article as saying “Ohr was trying to flip a Russian oligarch against the president.” And when a panel guest accused right-wing media of cherry-picking facts to create a misleading narrative, Henry interrupted him to make another decontextualized and misleading allegation. 

    Fox News contributor Gianno Caldwell claimed that, with the Times report out, “it does appear that it is a witch hunt.”

    Fox’s reaction to the latest development in the Trump/Russia investigations closely mirrors its reaction to many previous news reports that reflected poorly on Trump. The network regularly asserts that negative reports are actually good news for Trump and minimizes bad news. 

    When the Times reported in May that a confidential FBI informant contacted at least two of Trump’s advisers as part of the counterintelligence investigation into his campaign, Fox said it proved only that there was “surveillance of the Trump campaign by the Obama administration.”

    When the congressional hearing for former FBI agent Peter Strzok revealed no evidence that his political beliefs affected his work on the investigation, Fox News simply kept stoking rage over texts that revealed his opposition to the president and included rude comments about Trump supporters.

    When The Washington Post reported that Trump campaign associate Carter Page was the target of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant after he left the Trump campaign, Fox personalities lied about the warrant and falsely claimed it showed “Donald Trump was right” to accuse former President Barack Obama of spying on him. 

    When the Department of Justice inspector general released a report showing “no evidence” for allegations that former FBI Director James Comey and others allowed their “bias” to affect the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Fox used the report -- which had nothing to do with the Trump-Russia probe -- to call for an end to the special counsel investigation. 

  • Right-wing media are rallying to defend the Trump administration’s inhumane separation of families at the border 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Trump administration is separating immigrant children from their parents or legal guardians after they cross the border, with at least 2,000 children taken from their parents since April 19. The administration’s merciless and inhumane policy has spurred numerous heartbreaking stories, including reports of a breastfeeding baby who was ripped from her mother, a Honduran father separated from his family who took his own life, and children who are held in cages alongside strangers. Yet right-wing media figures have been quick to defend the policy and dismiss its inherent cruelty:

    • Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak justified separating families at the border, saying the Border Patrol facilities are "better than what they had." Pollak also claimed that ICE taking children from their parents and putting them in detention facilities is “just about caring for the kids.”

    • Right-wing troll Dinesh D’Souza, who recently received a pardon from President Donald Trump, questioned whether immigrant parents are “the ones choosing to separate their families.”

    • Fox's Pete Hegseth defended the separations because the children get food and "soccer and video games." Hegseth also called images of detained children “quite compassionate,” and said the policy was “defensible.”

    • Fox News’ Trish Regan argued that Trump is showing asylum-seeking families "tough love" by taking children away from their parents.

    • Fox contributor Tammy Bruce called for White House press briefings to end after reporters confronted White House press secretary Sarah Sanders about the separation of families.

    • Fox's Jesse Watters argued that the White House should "start ripping press passes away" from reporters who ask about families getting separated at the border. Watters also said that “some would say” that separation is “a more humane policy” than detaining the families together.

    • In a series of tweets, Twitter troll Bill Mitchell aggressively defended the policy, accusing the media of focusing on “#FakeNews ‘concentration camps,’” complaining about the money spent to keep the children captive, suggested that many of the children are “not with their families at all - they are with smugglers” (only a very small percentage of cases involve smuggling and often a bona fide relationship between the child and adult is clear), and claiming, “President Trump is PROTECTING these children.”

    • Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade downplayed “the so-called separation of kids and parents” at the border, arguing that the Democrats are using it to distract from the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the handling of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Singapore Summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

    • Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt said that families are “choosing to be separated” by showing up at the border. She also argued that “you can't even really blame an administration” for the separation policy.

    • Her fellow Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said that “the part that is troubling” is not children being ripped from their parents, but the parents choosing to come to the United States in the first place. Doocy also argued that the cages some children are being housed in shouldn’t be called “cages” because rather they are “walls [built] out of chain link fences," and he defended family separation by suggesting the U.S. government spends a lot of money to “make sure that those kids wind up with all that stuff” that detention facilities offer.

    • Fox & Friends repeated or referenced Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s lies about family separation throughout the June 18 broadcast. Nielsen initially claimed that separation wasn’t happening -- it is.

    • Right-wing troll Mike Cernovich said that Trump was “keeping [children] safe in dorms,” and he accused former President Barack Obama of giving children “to human traffickers.”

    • Fox host and Trump lackey Sean Hannity claimed that the policy of separation “took place in previous administrations” (neither the Obama nor the Bush administration separated families as a matter of policy). Hannity also accused the media of having an “obsession” with the “so-called policy of separating illegal immigrant families.”    

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham called the “outrage” over the separation policy “hilarious,” complained about watching “our country try to contort itself into other peoples' cultures,” and excused the separations because the children have “entertainment, sports, tutoring, medical, dental, four meals a day, and clean, decent housing” even though their “parents irresponsibly tried to bring them across the border illegally.” On her Fox show, Ingraham called the administration’s child detention centers “essentially summer camps” and compared them to “boarding schools.”

    • Sinclair's Boris Epshteyn choose not to editorialize on the cruelty of family separation itself, instead attacking the "discourse" around separation policy and claiming it is what's wrong with Democrats and media.

    • Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter warned the president not to fall for “these child actors weeping and crying on” cable news.

    • Radio host Rush Limbaugh called the outrage over family separation “an entirely manufactured crisis” and claimed “it happened during the Obama administration” too (it didn’t).  

    • One America News Network correspondent and internet troll Jack Posobiec defended the policy by fearmongering that children crossing the border could be with traffickers as opposed to family members. There is clear evidence of the relationship between many of the children in detention and the adult that accompanied them.

    • American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp, a frequent cable news guest, contended that “Obama and Trump have same child protection policy” (they do not).

    • Fox’s David Bossie attempted to shift the blame onto the parents, arguing that “if they don't become criminals, they're not separated.” He also claimed that Trump is just “following the law,” ignoring the reality that separation is a Trump administration policy, not the law.

    • Fox host Tucker Carlson warned his viewers that people speaking up against America detaining children in cages just want to "change your country forever."

    • Chris Bedford, editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller News Foundation, criticized the "hyperbole" over family separation and child detention.

    • Drudge Report’s Matt Drudge attempted to paint Latin American children as violent by publishing a photo of children in Azaz, Syria.

    • Turning Point USA spokesperson Candace Owens claimed that “these policies were in place” during the Obama administration (they were not).

    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter aggressively defended the policy, suggesting that the U.S. ought to “separate the children and then send them all away” and “in prison (sic) the parents until they serve their sentence then throw them out.”

    • Infowars frontman and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed that separation has been the “standard procedure for decades” when you “pick up a group of a hundred people and you have no idea who the hell they are.” Infowars also claimed that Trump had exposed “the hoax that the US is mistreating migrant children.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro fallaciously argued that Trump is simply “enforcing the law on the books.”

    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk posted a series of tweets fearmongering about “illegal immigration” and claimed that “all of this happened for 8 years under Obama” (nope).

    • NRATV host Dan Bongino claimed that reporting on the “immigration/children story” is “propaganda, nothing more” and argued that anyone who believed it is “delirious, and should seek professional help.”

    • Radio talk show host Ben Ferguson shared an image on Facebook claiming that policies of separating children from “illegal parents” had been in effect since 2009 and that Democrats just started talking about the issue because “they only care about making Trump look ‘bad.’” The post has been shared over 100,000 times.

    • Conservative commentator Dick Morris claimed that families seeking asylum at the borders were part of a “scam” in which adult immigrants were “abusers” who are using their children as a “battering ram to force their way into the country.” He also said the solution to this problem is to deny asylum to all immigrants who come to the border with a child.

    • Fox New contributor and Townhall Editor Katie Pavlich posted a series of tweets comparing the separation of asylum-seeking families to the separation of children and arrested parents and supporting Sarah Sanders’ claims in which she portrayed “illegal aliens” as criminals who are responsible for separating U.S. families permanently by “committing murder or killing through drunk driving.”

    • Conservative Review TV’s Jon Miller claimed that media are trying to push controversy around separation policies in order to “distract from the disastrous IG report and anything else this president has done that will cause people to vote for him.”

    • Fox News’ Tomi Lahren tweeted that “we owe ILLEGAL immigrants NOTHING,” and suggested that family separation is just one of the “consequences” parents have to accept when they “drag [their] kids over here ILLEGALLY.”

  • Sunday shows spent plenty of time talking about Trump bombing Syria, but almost entirely ignored Syrian refugees

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On Friday, April 13, President Donald Trump announced joint cruise missile strikes with the U.K. and France against several Syrian chemical weapons facilities in retaliation for an apparent April 7 chlorine gas attack in Douma, Syria. Over the weekend, the Sunday morning political talk shows had plenty to discuss about the airstrikes, but not much to say about the ongoing plight of Syrian refugees.

    On Sunday, CNN’s State of the Union, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and ABC’s This Week all failed to mention Syrian refugees while discussing the airstrikes. The only mention of Syrian refugees on any of the Sunday morning political talk shows was on Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, when host Chris Wallace asked UN Ambassador Nikki Haley just one question about them. 

    A few other Sunday morning programs on cable news channels did better in discussing concerns about refugees: There were segments on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and New Day Sunday, which played (albeit briefly) a clip of earlier commentary from a Syrian chemical attack survivor. The Sunday edition of Fox & Friends Weekend also featured two passing mentions of the refugees across its four-hour broadcast; in both instances, the guests brought up the subject unprompted. 

    On MSNBC however, AM Joy did two segments concerning Syrian refugees, including this excellent example of how media should discuss the subject, particularly in light of American military action that is likely to displace more people:

    JOY REID (HOST): So, a truly humanitarian approach would be to welcome refugees to a democratic country that has the resources to protect and shelter them from the dangers they're trying to escape, yeah? Instead, the Trump administration says it initiated airstrikes as a symbol of support and solidarity for Syrians after the chemical attacks orchestrated by the Syrian president. But with only 11 Syrian refugees accepted into the United States this year -- not 1,100; 11 -- the Trump administration's concern for the Syrian people rings rather hollow.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of the word “refugee” on Sunday morning political talk and/or news shows on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Broadcasting Co., CBS, NBC, and ABC between 06:00 and 12:00. 

  • With Fox feedback loop tightening, Trump lashes out on immigration

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    A screengrab from this morning's edition of Fox & Friends shows a tweet President Donald Trump sent yesterday in response to that morning's Fox & Friends broadcast.

    Fox News’ hosts triggered a hard-line turn on immigration from President Donald Trump over Easter weekend, making the case in private meetings at his Mar-A-Lago resort and egging him on with inflammatory coverage on the network’s airwaves.

    Not only does Fox’s stable of conservatives provide fawning coverage of the presidency, but Trump also looks to them for advice and to fill his administration. He is also enmeshed in a feedback loop with the network’s programming, frequently watching Fox broadcasts and tweeting along. This loop, too, can trigger major shifts in White House communications strategy and policy, causing chaos as the administration, Congress, and the press try to figure out what the live tweet du jour really means.

    On Friday night, Trump dined at Mar-A-Lago with Fox host Sean Hannity. Hannity regularly advises the president, reportedly convincing Trump to kill an incipient deal with Democrats last year to ensure legal status for the undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

    Over the weekend, Hannity, whose show is pure pro-Trump propaganda, reportedly urged the president to take a firmer line on immigration, citing the need to preserve the GOP’s chances in this year’s midterm elections. Trump’s decision to sign an omnibus spending bill that did not include funding for the long-sought wall on the U.S.-Mexican border has drawn a fevered response from some of the president’s most loyal supporters.

    Hannity’s remarks appear to have been the first salvo in a successful weekend-long effort by the president’s supporters at Fox to get him to step up his criticism of immigration.

    The next morning, Trump appeared to respond to Hannity’s advice while taking his cues from Fox’s morning programming.

    After Fox & Friends ran multiple segments criticizing California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to pardon five immigrants who were facing deportation, Trump slammed the “Moonbeam” governor. Trump’s tweet, sent while traveling in his motorcade from Mar-A-Lago to the Trump International Golf Club, copied language from one of the show’s graphics and tagged the network’s handle.

    Later that day, Trump reportedly met with Fox’s Jeanine Pirro, another staunch loyalist who has also advised him during his presidency. Pirro echoed Hannity’s message on the need to take a harsher stance on immigration, according to CNN. The president also dined that evening with Hannity and Bill Shine, the former Hannity producer who rose to become co-president of the network before being forced out in disgrace because of his role in the network’s culture of sexual harassment.

    On the morning of Easter Sunday, the president again live-tweeted Fox & Friends’ immigration reporting. The program devoted several segments to a BuzzFeed News report about a caravan of several hundred Central American migrants who have been traveling from Mexico’s southern border toward the U.S. southern border, with the reported intention of settling in either country.

    In one such segment, Brandon Judd, the head of the union that represents border patrol agents, criticized “catch and release” immigration policies in which immigration officials allow apprehended undocumented immigrants to remain at large if they are not considered dangerous in order to free up space in detention centers. Judd also called for the use of the “nuclear option” in the Senate to allow Republicans to pass immigration legislation without Democratic support.

    Roughly 40 minutes later, the president began sending a series of tweets that echoed Judd’s rhetoric.

    Questioned about his tweets by pool reporters as he walked into the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea for Easter services, Trump again slammed Mexico, said that Democrats “blew it” over DACA, and baselessly claimed that “a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA.”

    Trump himself took the action that puts DACA recipients in jeopardy, he has been inconsistent on whether he actually wants to protect them, and there is no evidence that recent migrants are trying to “take advantage” of DACA, which applies only to people who came to the U.S. as children and have been in the country since 2007.

    Trump’s comments about Mexico, which upended the administration’s recent effort to improve its relationship with the country, drew a quick response from that government.

    The president had obviously taken the advice from Fox’s hosts to heart, and the network could not be happier.

    This morning, Fox & Friends was trumpeting the president’s statements, with the first captions of the program reading, “TRUMP: NO MORE DACA DEAL!” and “CARAVAN OF IMMIGRANTS HEADED TO U.S.”

    And within the hour, the nation’s most prominent Fox & Friends viewer kicked off a morning of live-tweeting by chiming in once more:

    Trump was tweeting about a Fox & Friends segment about Trump tweeting about a Fox & Friends segment. The feedback loop is tighter than ever.

  • Trump was live-tweeting Fox News when he went after Steph Curry

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Golden State Warriors will visit Washington, D.C., this week for the first time since they won the 2017 NBA championship last June. But they won't be making the traditional visit to the White House after President Donald Trump revoked the team's invitation in September. At the time, Trump was responding to a Fox News report about star player Stephen Curry’s criticism of him, according to a Media Matters review of Trump’s Twitter feed and the network’s programming.

    After the Warriors’ victory, there was speculation that the team, whose coach and players frequently use their platforms to discuss social justice issues, might skip the traditional meeting with the president. On September 22, during the team’s annual media day before the start of the 2017-18 NBA season, Curry told reporters that he didn't think the team should visit the White House in light of the president’s coddling of white supremacists during the protests in Charlottesville, VA, the previous month.

    The NBA star said that refusing to meet with the president would send a message that the Warriors reject “the things that he’s said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right times -- that we won’t stand for it.” Curry added, “And by acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.”

    According to the team’s general manager, at that point no decision had been made about whether the Warriors would visit the White House. But the next day, Trump made the decision for them.

    “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team,” the president tweeted at 8:45 a.m. EST on September 23. “Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

    Trump’s tweet came roughly 20 minutes after Fox’s Saturday morning program, Fox & Friends Weekend, aired a headline segment about Curry’s reluctance to visit the White House.

    “The Golden State Warriors are preparing to defend their NBA title, but it still remains unclear if they’ll celebrate their championship at the White House,” co-host Griff Jenkins reported. “Star Steph Curry is now making it clear he doesn’t want to go.”

    The network then aired a video clip of Curry saying, “We have an opportunity to send a statement that hopefully encourages unity, encourages us to just appreciate what it means to be American and stand for something.” The segment featured the caption “Curry Wants To Skip White House Visit.”

    The president’s tweet about Curry followed a series of tweets he posted about the defeat of health care legislation in the Senate that track with the network’s programming that morning. The president frequently watches Fox’s programming, especially Fox & Friends and its weekend edition, and tweets reactions to what he sees.

    The White House subsequently blamed Curry, with legislative affairs director Marc Short saying that “he’s the one that injected politics into the invitation,” while the Warriors said in a statement they were “disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have open dialogue on issues impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise.”

    Trump’s tweet drew a furious response from Curry’s fellow NBA players.

    LeBron James, who has won the NBA Most Valuable Player award four times, called the president a “bum” in a tweet that was retweeted more than 650,000 times.

    The Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal said the president was “a clown” who should be focused on issues like “Puerto Rico doesn't have water and power.”

    Trump’s criticism of Curry drew special attention because it came the day after the president first lashed out at NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Trump demanded that the NFL team owners fire protesting players, creating a firestorm, with more players protesting in response.

    Observers noted that Trump’s attacks on Curry fit a pattern of the president picking fights with black athletes and constantly engaging in divisive commentary.

    “Never in modern times has an occupant of the Oval Office seemed to reject so thoroughly the nostrum that a president’s duty is to bring the country together,” The New York Times' Peter Baker wrote that weekend. “Relentlessly pugnacious, energized by a fight, unwilling to let any slight go unanswered, Mr. Trump has made himself America’s apostle of anger, its deacon of divisiveness.”

    But while the president’s feud with the NFL lasted for months, he has not mentioned Curry on Twitter since his initial comment. 

    This, too, may partly be because of Fox’s programming.

    Fox News fueled Trump’s NFL fight, with the president frequently re-engaging in the battle on Twitter immediately after seeing one of the network’s regular segments about NFL protests over the following weeks and months.

    By contrast, Fox’s coverage of the Curry dispute basically dried up after the first 24 hours, according to Media Matters searches of the Nexis and iQ media databases. This lack of ongoing programming about the feud prevented the feedback loop effect with the president that we saw during his NFL conflict.

    For his part, Curry has no regrets about the president revoking the team’s invitation. "If you're not going to celebrate the collective and the majority of Americans that are living in this country and that watch us play, and the fact that sports rallies all these different types of people, these different types of background together to celebrate the game ... I didn't want to go,” he told CNN’s Van Jones on Saturday.

    With their White House invitation withdrawn, the Warriors plan to instead “go on a private tour of an undisclosed locale” where “local kids would join them,” ESPN reported Thursday.

  • When Trump told Fox that presidents were to blame for government shutdowns

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President Donald Trump’s favorite cable news show wants its viewers to know that he is not the one to blame for the government shutdown that began last night after White House chief of staff John Kelly helped shoot down a potential deal between Trump and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). But Trump himself repeatedly argued on the network in the past that the president bears responsibility for government shutdowns.

    Discussing the shutdown on this morning’s edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Pete Hegseth, a committed shill for the president, said that voters see “the utter dysfunction of the swamp, and they say, ‘that’s not what Trump wants, but that’s what Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer and others have been used to for decades. Stop the insanity and actually do something!’”

    Co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy (who is married to Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI)) chimed in, “While the Democrats may be getting blamed in the headlines, I do think in the end, everybody looks bad.” “That’s true,” Hegseth agreed, “I think, except for the president.” Campos-Duffy replied, “He brought Schumer in, he tried to make the deal happen.”

    The Fox shutdown spin stands in stark contrast to how Trump has discussed the issue on the network before he became president. Trump specifically said that the president is the one responsible for averting a shutdown in a series of Fox appearances around the time of the 2013 government shutdown, as Media Matters’ John Whitehouse pointed out this morning:

    Trump also talked up the benefits of a shutdown after becoming president, tweeting in May:

    Trump, of course, has since changed his tune, blaming Democrats both before and after the shutdown went into effect, even as his own shifting negotiating position makes deal-making dramatically more complex because he can’t be trusted to stick to bargains.

    In fact, Trump was live-tweeting this Fox & Friends Saturday segment and others all morning, parroting the Fox co-hosts’ attacks on Democrats over the shutdown in real time:

  • Fox & Friends uses made-up Confederate memorial controversy to amplify Virginia gubernatorial candidate’s talking points

    Ed Gillespie: “My opponent is in favor of removing all historical Civil War monuments in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I think they should stay up.”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    For days, Fox & Friends has been promoting a debunked story about a church in Alexandria, VA, supposedly removing a memorial plaque honoring George Washington, a parishioner of the church, because some find it “offensive.”

    The October 29 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend and the October 30 and October 31 editions of Fox & Friends, which seem to have gotten the story from The Washington Times, featured deeply misleading segments questioning the decision of church leaders at Christ Church to remove a memorial plaque dedicated to the nation’s first president. Each segment largely glossed over the fact that Washington’s plaque is simply being moved because of its twin plaque commemorating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who also attended the church and who has become the subject of intense debate regarding public commemorations to those who rebelled against the United States government in the cause of secession and white supremacy. According to a statement from the church, the plaques are being moved together because they represent a single installation that is out of place in “the worship space” of the building and will be “relocated to a place of respectful prominence” where they can be viewed in the full context of the church’s “long and many-faceted history.”

    Fox’s knee-jerk attempt to politicize the church’s decision, and the network’s attempt to obfuscate the removal of a plaque commemorating Lee by hyping the removal of a twin plaque commemorating Washington, marks another step backward in the network’s increasingly outlandish defenses of monuments to the Confederacy. Fox & Friends’ attempts to capitalize on the network’s ginned-up controversy culminated in a softball October 31 interview with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, who used the issue to accuse Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam of seeking to erase Virginia's history. Gillespie has made defending Confederate monuments a core issue of his platform and has benefited from favorable coverage at Fox News and elsewhere in right-wing media. From the October 31 edition of Fox & Friends:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Ed, where you're sitting right now, in Alexandria, that's the same city that we were talking about earlier today where at Christ Church, which is a church that George Washington himself attended, there is a plaque inside the vestibule that commemorates the fact that he was there. But they're taking it down because apparently it makes some people feel uncomfortable. What do you make of this? Because I know statues in Virginia -- another big topic this election cycle.

    ED GILLESPIE: Well, obviously, I was disappointed by that, removing the plaque of George Washington at the church where he worshiped because people find it offensive. And that is another debate in this campaign. My opponent [Ralph Northam] is in favor of removing all historical Civil War monuments in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I think they should stay up. We should add historical context to them. And the fact is Virginia was front and center, obviously. Of course, we've been at the forefront of American history from the very founding here of Virginia and Virginians. Now, it doesn't mean we've always been on the right side. And in the Civil War, we were on the wrong side of history. But these statues around the commonwealth that commemorate those who served in the Civil War, I believe we should educate about them and teach about them. He wants to take them all down, and he made that an issue when he called for taking down and removing all of the statues. And when I disagree with that position, which, by the way, two-thirds of Virginians agree with me, you get attacked.

  • Fox News helped conservative spread lie that she was added to an "LGBTQ hate-list"

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox News published an op-ed by Hannah Scherlacher, from the conservative media outlet Campus Reform, and later hosted her on television to push a false claim that she was added to a “hate-list” designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In fact, Scherlacher was not added to any hate list -- she was simply included in a list SPLC posts regularly of guests who had appeared on a radio program of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council. Right-wing media outlets parroted Scherlacher’s false claim, saying she’d been “defame[d].”

  • Despite Jeb's Defeat, Money In Politics Still A Major Problem

    Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    In the wake of Donald Trump's resounding victory in South Carolina, and Jeb Bush's exit from the presidential race, some in the media rushed to declare that money does not play the dangerous role in politics many feared it would in the wake of Citizens United. These media voices claimed that voters were effectively "overturning" the Citizens United ruling by supporting non-establishment candidates: Trump, who reportedly rejected the super PACs that had formed to support him, and Bernie Sanders, who has raised record amounts from small donors. But this view underestimates some of the unique qualities about this election cycle and ignores the importance of money in congressional, state, and judicial elections.

    Bush's exit from the race after his super PAC had raised nearly $100 million led parts of the media to draw the conclusion that outside money has less influence than was thought. While interviewing Sanders on Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked, "The guy who had the biggest super PAC of all time had to drop out of the race. ... [Aren't] the people already overturning Citizens United?" Fox News host Tucker Carlson made a similar statement on Fox & Friends Weekend, saying Bush's defeat and Trump's victory are "basically the end of the meaning of Citizens United. Money is supposed to determine the outcome in politics; the opposite has happened here."  

    If this sounds familiar, it's because much of the same was said back in September when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made an early exit from the Republican presidential race with millions still left in the super PAC supporting him. Like with the Bush backing Right To Rise PAC, media pointed to the millions raised by the Walker-supporting Unintimidated PAC as proof of "the idea that the power of super-PACs and their billionaire boosters has been overstated." But both Walker's and Bush's cases demonstrate that weak candidates and mismanaged campaigns can doom a campaign whether or not super PACs have a chance to flex their financial muscle.

    Much of Walker's early failure was attributed to bungled management that left his campaign struggling to make ends meet while the super PAC was raising millions. The New York Times reported, "Super PACs, Mr. Walker learned, cannot pay rent, phone bills, salaries, airfares or ballot access fees." In Bush's case, his failure to connect with the party's base and a questionable management strategy within his super PAC demonstrated that fundraising is only so valuable without the right candidate or staff.

    Plus, dismissing the influence of money in this presidential campaign ignores some of the special circumstances that are unique to this election cycle. Trump's celebrity and the media's infatuation with his campaign have reduced his need for outside support from a super PAC. Super PACs spend much of their money on advertising, but any free air time candidates can generate allows them to push their platforms without spending a dime and counterbalances their opponent's paid efforts.

    Trump's star power and his ability to generate media through outlandish comments have translated into massive amounts of free air time. Fox News has devoted more than 28 hours to the candidate since May 1, 2015, and other outlets like MSNBC provided him with exceptional opportunities to be in the media without having to buy advertising. And while Bush and others have been relatively ineffective despite super PAC fortunes, history shows that a major portion of outside spending in the post-Citizens United presidential races is saved for the general election.

    Citizens United Impact Not Limited To Presidential Race

    When media cite the failures of Walker and Bush as signs that the Citizens United decision allowing a flood of corporate political spending had an overestimated impact on politics, they are ignoring a major portion of the decision's influence. Congressional, state, and judicial races have all seen significant increases in outside spending as a result of Citizens United.

    According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan public policy institute, "Outside spending on Senate elections has more than doubled since 2010, increasing to $486 million in 2014." This money is having a real impact on campaigns as corporations and unions target competitive races, accounting for more spending than that of either candidate campaigns or political parties in 10 of the races analyzed. Furthermore, candidates who won 11 of the most competitive Senate races in 2014 benefited from outside money that was donated without disclosure of the donors -- so called "dark money." This dark money made up over 70 percent of the nonparty outside spending made on behalf of winning campaigns.

    Political spending does not just distort national races. Since 2010 there has been a concerted effort by Republicans to take over state legislatures in order to push conservative agendas on a more local level. The effort has been successful as the GOP has won "historic majorities in state legislatures," according to Vox. Research by professors at the University of Alberta and Emory University has shown that Republicans were helped in their efforts by Citizens United, especially as the ruling overturned laws banning corporate and union spending. They report, "Citizens United is associated with a significant increase in Republican election probabilities in states that banned corporate or union independent spending prior to 2010."

    Also troubling is Citizens United's impact on judicial elections and the impact outside money is having on the justice system. According to the Brennan Center, the decision led to "special interest groups and political parties [spending] an unprecedented $24.1 million on state court races in 2011-12 -- an increase of over $11 million since 2007-08." Much of this money is spent on negative advertising by outside groups. Experts note that justices who face negative ad campaigns are "less likely to rule in favor of defendants in criminal appeals" and that judges facing re-election may hand down longer sentences in an attempt to appear tough on crime. Furthermore, law advocates have found that "empirical evidence suggests that campaign contributions to candidates for judicial office can affect judicial decision-making and case outcomes."