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  • Right-Wing Media Attack Rep. Maxine Waters After She Presented At The MTV Awards

    ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    Conservative media figures, right-wing media outlets, and fake news purveyors attacked Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) after she appeared at the MTV Movie and TV Awards as a presenter and received a standing ovation, calling her “dumb as a brick,” attacking her for her age, and claiming that she “worships at the feet of totalitarian monsters.”

  • Police Reporters And Experts: Sessions’ Consent Decree Criticism Has “No Basis In Fact”

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Experts and reporters are criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent comments opposing reform agreements the Obama administration reached with a handful of controversial police departments, saying Sessions’ opposition to the consent decrees has “no basis in fact.”

    The Obama administration reached consent decrees with the law enforcement agencies of roughly two dozen cities including Baltimore, MD, Ferguson, MO, and Seattle, WA. The consent decrees were the products “of aggressive efforts by the Obama administration to improve relations between the police and the communities they serve,” as The New York Times noted.

    Those actions are now under fire from the new Trump administration. Sessions has “ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide, saying it was necessary to ensure that these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.” And he has been criticizing them in the media, claiming the consent decrees “can reduce morale of the police officers” and “discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe.”

    Sessions’ actions have been applauded by conservative media such as The New York Post and Rush Limbaugh, who praised Sessions for unraveling “the extraconstitutional, extrajudicial behavior of the Obama administration.”

    But experts say the opposition to the agreements from the Trump administration and its right-wing media cheerleaders is based on myths.    

    Vanita Gupta, the head of the civil rights division of the Department of Justice from 2014 to 2017 who oversaw investigations resulting in consent decrees, said she hasn’t seen any data “to back anything” Sessions has been saying about the orders.

    “The attorney general has said a lot about his views on consent decrees, but I will confess that I have seen no data to back anything he says, either vis-a-vis police morale or crime upticks,” Gupta told Media Matters. “In fact, there is evidence to the contrary in places like Newark where they are entered into their second year of a consent decree. Crime has been going precipitously lower. And other places like Seattle and New Orleans where many crime rates have been going down even as their consent decrees are implemented.

    “The other thing that seems striking to me about what is happening right now is that there are only 15 consent decrees in a country with anywhere between 16,000 and 18,000 police departments,” she added. “It seems a lot of hay is being made about a tool that is very judiciously used. It leads one to think about whether they are politicizing the program in a way that both undermines the push for constitutional policing and, frankly, at the end of the day, the rebuilding of trust in communities where there has been such a severe erosion of it, and where consent decrees have been really necessary at producing the kind of systemic reform that they do.”

    Reporters on the ground in cities that have been under consent decrees say they have found positive results, with several city leaders warning that stopping the decrees now would get in the way of improvements.

    “It doesn’t deter policing or result in additional harm to officers,” said Steve Miletich, a Seattle Times reporter who has covered that city’s consent decree that was implemented in 2012 to address excessive force and discriminatory policing. The general feeling is that ours is pretty locked in place, largely because the city is fully on board. The police chief is part of that. She has made it clear she is committed to the reform process and finishing the consent decree.”

    Asked about Sessions’ claims, Miletich said, “The city disputes that. They are taking the position that we are at a point where we can measure that crime has actually gone down some and police injuries have dropped a little bit.”

    In Cleveland, which instituted a consent decree in 2015 to improve staffing levels, equipment, and training in the use of force, reporter Eric Heisig of Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer said, “I don’t think it has affected morale. I haven’t seen a lowering of morale as a result of the reforms.”

    He also pointed to praise that Cleveland police received for their work during last year’s Republican convention in the city, which sparked some protests and heated rallies but no police problems.

    “The way they were received -- they were present, but they did not appear threatening,” Heisig said about the convention-related policing. “That went a long way to give them a morale boost.”

    He said the consent decree “was a factor in that. There had been talk and stories weeks before about how police would handle this.”

    As for Sessions’ attempts to change things, Heisig said, “The city, the monitor, the judge have said they do not want to see changes happen as a result of Trump. The judge said in January that he did not want to see a change.”

    Among the most-watched consent decrees is in Ferguson, MO, where the shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014 sparked protests, as well as accusations of police abuse.

    Since a court-ordered consent decree took effect there in early 2016, reporter Jeremy Kohler of the nearby St. Louis Post-Dispatch says he hasn't seen public criticism of the agreement from either the city or the local police department.

    “The city hasn’t complained about the consent decree. The department hasn’t said anything publicly about it making it hard to police,” Kohler said, adding that shortly after his 2017 re-election, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said it would rip the fabric of the community if it were removed.

    “I haven’t heard anyone say publicly Ferguson should back out of it or it is unfair since it has been in effect,” Kohler added. “I think it is far enough along that it would be difficult to get rid of it.”

    In New Orleans, which has been under a consent decree since 2012, reporter Emily Lane of The Times-Picayune points to a citizens survey done each year that found satisfaction with police is up from 33 percent in 2009 to 64 percent in 2016.

    “The [police] union spokespeople at least have been pretty receptive to the changes, most of the changes,” said Jessica Mazzola of The Star-Ledger in Newark, NJ, where a consent decree has been in place since March 2016. “Saying they are anxious to do better for the public. … They have cited a big reduction in crime and violent crime specifically, 2016 over 2015.”

    Police experts, meanwhile, say the decrees are a positive tool in most communities that give police a way to improve themselves and work with residents.

    “The consent decrees provide for a more direct connection that a change needs to be made,” said Steven Brandl, professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the author of two related books, including The Police in America.

    Asked what could happen if they are removed, he said, “The negative is there is one less inducement for police departments to get better, to change.”

    Christy E. Lopez, a Georgetown University Law Center professor and former deputy chief of the special litigation section that oversaw police practices for the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division under President Obama, agreed.

    She said of the attorney general’s comments, “There’s no actual data to support what Sessions is saying about consent decrees. … Sessions is, from everything I understand, behaving in an extremely emotional manner. He is making emotional decisions with no basis in fact and in doing that he is disrespecting people in the Department of Justice.”

    Samuel Walker, a retired professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, said of Sessions: “He’s wrong on his basic assumptions. He ignores the positive benefits of consent decrees that have occurred. This is a lawful court order signed by a judge -- the judge is in charge. One party can’t just walk away from it.”

  • Front Page Headlines Fall For Trump’s Press Conference Trap

    ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Following a press conference featuring many questions about ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign was in frequent communication with Russia, front page newspaper headlines the next day hyped “ringmaster Don” and his assertion that he “inherited a mess” while de-emphasizing unanswered questions and new reporting about the Flynn and Russia controversies.

  • Conservatives Run With NY Post Story About Maid Printing Clinton's Emails, Botch Classification History

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    The New York Post published a front page report alleging that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “routinely asked her maid to print out sensitive government e-mails and documents -- including ones containing classified information,” but ignored the fact the emails in question were classified years after the fact. The report cited only two classified emails, both of which were retroactively classified at the lowest level of classification, a practice which is consistent with past State Department actions. Additionally, in both confidential emails Clinton did not request that her maid print the emails. The author of the report has a history of inaccurate reporting when it comes to Clinton’s emails.

  • Chris Wallace’s History Of Sexist Remarks Poses Another Challenge For His Role As Debate Moderator

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Final presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace faces the challenge of asking Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about the numerous allegations that he sexually assaulted several women, but Wallace’s ability to confront Trump’s treatment of women is no doubt tainted by his own history of sexist and sexually charged rhetoric about women.

    Wallace, anchor of Fox News Sunday, has made numerous sexually charged remarks about women, such as calling the National Transportation Safety Board chair a “babe” and remarking that “you would not expect a government bureaucrat to be an attractive woman” and making creepy comments about former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for years. Appearing on conservative radio host Mike Gallagher’s show in 2009, Wallace asked if Gallagher could “put in a good word” for him with Palin. Just a few months later, on Imus in the Morning, Wallace replied, “one can only hope” when asked if Palin would be “sitting on [his] lap” during an interview. Even the hosts of Fox & Friends, who are no strangers to sexism, confronted him over those comments. Wallace also explained in 2011 that one of the reasons he was “dazzled” by Palin is that she’s “very attractive.”

    In 2015, Wallace again stirred controversy when he remarked that singer Kelly Clarkson, who had already been fighting an onslaught of body shaming in the media, “could stay off the deep dish pizza.” The comment brings to mind Trump’s statements about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom he called “Miss Piggy” and described as an “eating machine.” Wallace did eventually apologize, calling his comment “offensive.”

    Making fun of Clarkson’s weight, however, was not the first time Wallace ridiculed a woman’s appearance. In 2013, Wallace approved of a New York Post cover photograph of a supposedly angry Hillary Clinton labeled “No Wonder Bill’s Afraid,” which was heavily criticized as “blatantly sexist” and “offensive sexist garbage.” Wallace called the cover “funny” and asserted that “nice can be overrated sometimes.” With a history of comments like this, how will Wallace approach Trump’s dismissal of People reporter Natasha Stoynoff as too ugly for him to assault?

    Wallace’s history of making sexist comments taint his ability to confront Trump over the vulgar video of the candidate boasting about sexually assaulting women and the increasing number of women accusing him of inappropriate sexual conduct. Although Trump denied that he had sexually assaulted women, the mounting accusations allege that his words were in line with the sexually predatory behavior he bragged about in the 2005 tapes.

    Wallace’s role as debate moderator poses other challenges as well. Wallace changed his stance on fact-checking in debates (he says it’s not his role, even though he corrected Trump during a primary debate), and he has been wildly inconsistent in how he talks about immigration. Additionally, a Fox News host is hardly the most appropriate moderator for this debate given that Trump has retreated to the station as a safe space -- and avoided other press -- while his campaign implodes under the allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

  • Media Still Can’t Trust Anti-Clinton Author Ed Klein

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Discredited reporter Ed Klein is set to release a new book, Guilty as Sin, on October 4, in which he claims to have uncovered “the real story” of the FBI investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, as well as of President Bill Clinton’s continuous affairs with interns.

    Klein’s has a long history of promoting false conspiracy theories about the Clintons, including the claim that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill raped Hillary. Klein’s previous books have been roundly criticized by a wide range of reporters, including many conservatives. His supposed reporting has been labeled "bullshit," "smut," "junk journalism," and "fan fiction."

    Conservative media outlets The Daily Caller and the New York Post published excerpts of Klein’s new book on October 2. The Post excerpt offered an alleged account of “the ex-president continu[ing] his cozy relationships with interns” and “mus[ing] about naked pool parties on the roof.” The Daily Caller excerpt recycled several debunked claims that Hillary Clinton openly dealt with Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative work from her seventh floor State Department office while she served as secretary of state. Klein also promoted his book on the right-wing blog Breitbart News, claiming that Clinton “is often totally out of control -- screaming and sometimes even physically attacking people, including her husband and campaign workers.”

    The discredited author’s claims made it onto Fox News when Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade cited Klein’s upcoming book to suggest Bill Clinton may be engaged in affairs with interns at the Clinton library in Little Rock, AR. From the October 3 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Here’s the thing -- it's just a double standard. She’s going after Donald Trump for talking about women, and she says that about Gennifer Flowers. However, I do think that she has every right to hire a private investigator. If you have the money to do that, if your husband is doing all of this --

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Who, Hillary?

    EARHARDT: That’s not illegal. If your husband is having affairs and you want to catch him --

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Here's the thing, if you want to find out because it's going to save your marriage for one thing, but if you want to hammer the women because politically it's damaging to the Clinton name --

    EARHARDT: That's never --

    KILMEADE: That is totally different

    EARHARDT: Right.

    KILMEADE: I want to find out the truth. I sense that she knew the truth and wanted to defame the woman and the accuser. That's what Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Gennifer Flowers would say.

    DOOCY: And that’s just several. That’s three out of close to two dozen.

    KILMEADE: Right, which, according to Ed Klein, our guest tomorrow, might be still happening in the Clinton library, if you are to believe that book.

    Klein’s previous work has been panned by both conservative and mainstream media figures alike. The Washington Examiner’s Byron York said his last book, Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary, was “denounced as a whole pack of lies,” and in 2014 even conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh dismissed Klein’s unsourced quotes as “odd.” Over 30 mainstream reporters slammed Klein’s work as “poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced” “junk journalism” with “numerous factual errors,” written by “an author devoid of credibility.”

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly promoted Klein’s books on his Twitter account. Trump had lunch with Klein in May, and Klein says he has known Trump for 35 years and has "met with him on numerous occasions, talked to him on the phone countless times, traveled with him, and written two lengthy magazine cover stories about him."

  • Trump Can’t Make Up His Mind On Lester Holt’s Debate Performance 

    Trump Reverses Course On Praise Of Holt After Right-Wing Media Find Fault

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Less than 12 hours after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his campaign praised NBC’s Lester Holt for asking “very fair” questions during the first presidential debate, Trump walked back his support of Holt, stating that he asked “very unfair questions at the end” of the debate. Trump’s reversal echoed right-wing media figures who claimed Holt was tougher on Trump than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and argued that Holt should have brought up Clinton’s emails and the Clinton Foundation. 

  • Trump Pushes Right-Wing Media’s Nonsense Conspiracy Theory That Huma Abedin Is A Threat To America

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump implied that Huma Abedin, an aide to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, is a security risk because of her mother’s current and her own former employment at an academic journal that writes about Muslims. Trump’s attack follows years of smears about Abedin from informal Trump adviser Roger Stone and right-wing media outlets, which said that Abedin is disloyal to the United States and that she is a secret “Muslim Brotherhood” agent. 

  • Trump Names Serial Misinformer Betsy McCaughey To Economic Advisory Council

    New York Post Columnist’s Claim To Fame Was Having Helped Popularize Mythical Obamacare “Death Panels”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced that his campaign was expanding its so-called “economic advisory council” to include New York Post columnist Betsy McCaughey, a serial misinformer with no economic expertise and a long track record of promoting outrageous lies through conservative media.

    According to an August 11 press release from the Trump campaign, McCaughey and eight others will join Trump’s team of economic advisers, adding to a group that had been pilloried by journalists and policy experts for initially including no women and only two individuals with more than an undergraduate background in economics. McCaughey, a former one-term lieutenant governor of New York, has no background or experience in economic policy but gained considerable acclaim in conservative media in 2009 when she alleged that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare” would create “death panels” to ration care for sick and elderly patients. PolitiFact awarded the “death panel” charge the inglorious honor of Lie of the Year.

    Since sparking the death panel myth in conservative media, McCaughey has been a frequent and outspoken critic of the Obama administration.

    McCaughey recently suggested that the United States was “heading into a recession” despite being unable to cite any evidence to back up her claim. She has claimed for years that Obamacare was doomed to fail and could ruin the American economy, only to be proved wrong time and again. In 2014, McCaughey became a go-to expert for right-wing outlets hoping to stoke fear about the spread of Ebola in the United States. She has even attempted to deny the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change. She has also never quite given up on her bogus lie that Obamacare would create “death panels” that enforce end-of-life decisions for American citizens. When confronted with her lies on the September 11, 2014, edition of The Daily Show, McCaughey walked off set rather than face further questioning:

  • "So Fucking Irresponsible": NY Post's Cover About Shooting Of Dallas Police Roundly Condemned

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    In the wake of an attack on police officers in Dallas, TX, during a peaceful demonstration against the recent police shootings of two black men, the New York Post used the cover of its Friday edition to announce a "civil war." Media figures from across the political spectrum condemned the "utterly irresponsible" cover as "morally perverse and factually wrong."

  • Gary Byrne's Anti-Clinton Book Is Contradicted By His Own Testimony, And He Can't Explain It

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Former Secret Service officer Gary Byrne, who served in the West Wing during the Clinton administration, recently released Crisis of Character, an anti-Clinton book purporting to warn the country about how Hillary Clinton does not have the temperament to serve as president. In promoting his book, Byrne has repeatedly stumbled through contradictions in his various accounts of the events he claims to have witnessed, with key details differing between his 1998 sworn testimony in the Kenneth Starr investigation, the book itself, and the various appearances he has made in right-wing media.