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  • Fox News ran over 50 segments in a month fearmongering about college campuses. These two organizations are driving the outrage.

    Turning Point USA fundraises off of Fox segments about “nuttiness on college campuses,” which frequently come from its “partner” Campus Reform

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On April 6, Politico magazine ran a profile of Charlie Kirk, the founder, chief fundraiser, and public face of Turning Point USA (TPUSA). Though TPUSA is perhaps best known for a misguided 2017 protest in which members wore adult diapers to “trigger the libs”, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s stated mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Politico magazine reported that TPUSA’s donors generally “inhabit a conservative media universe that pumps them with anxiety about liberal kids,” and that “Kirk is not shy about saying he’s selling them a solution to those worries”:

    “You can’t watch Fox News without seeing five or six segments a day about the nuttiness on college campuses,” Kirk told me in one of several interviews we conducted starting in November of last year. “You pair that nuttiness up with people in their 60s and 70s who are beginning to map out where they want a significant portion of their wealth to go, and they’re saying, ‘I don’t want my money to go to my university. It’s not representing my values.’ Then we come along.”

    Kirk isn’t wrong about the “nuttiness” on Fox News. Between March 1 and April 5, Fox ran at least 53 segments promoting supposedly outrageous stories on American college campuses. Of these 53 segments, 40 were stories previously reported by a conservative organization called Campus Reform, and 15 of those 40 segments either cited Campus Reform specifically, or featured a Campus Reform representative to comment.

    Campus Reform is a project of The Leadership Institute, a decades-old nonprofit that trains young conservative activists and policy leaders to sell right-wing ideals through seminars on media, fundraising, communications, and campaigning. TPUSA’s website lists The Leadership Institute as one of its “partners,” meaning that Kirk uses manipulative stories originating from his allies to fundraise for his own organization, with little acknowledgement of his partner relationship to the source of many such stories. Put another way, Kirk’s donor base is filled with “anxiety about liberal kids” because Kirk’s allies actively fuel and encourage that anxiety.

    Some examples of Fox pushing Campus Reform stories over the past year:

    Fox & Friends aired a video from Campus Reform's Cabot Phillips in which he lied to students about Trump’s State of the Union address to make college students appear uninformed. As Media Matters reported, this deceptively edited video got heavy playtime on Fox News and was also featured on Alex Jones’ Infowars.

    On Fox & Friends, Phillips dismissed high school- and college-aged March for Our Lives demonstrators for their “lack of appreciation and understanding of the Second Amendment.”

    Laura Ingraham and her radio producer complained about a Christian college “changing history” by removing its Crusader mascot -- a story Campus Reform had covered several days before.

    Fox & Friends mocked gender-neutral pronouns, using a list from Campus Reform. While discussing Kennesaw State University’s guide to using gender-neutral pronouns like ne and ey, multiple people in the studio laughed as Fox host Jillian Mele said, “I don’t even know what I just read, oh my goodness.” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade added, “that makes 2 million people.” Later, when Kilmeade read the headline himself, he commented, “I’m not sure of who’s who, but I know I don’t like it. … What planet am I on?”

    The relationship between TPUSA and The Leadership Institute previously revealed itself in one of Kirk’s best-known projects, “Professor Watchlist.” The Campus Reform-sourced operation  targets professors nationwide who allegedly “discriminate against conservative students,” collecting tips on them to a database. According to Politico magazine, “the list is also ill-maintained and often inaccurate,” with “multiple cases of professors being listed for things they didn’t exactly say or do, and others listed for petty criteria, like being rude to students or making quips about Trump.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for variations of the words “campus,” “university,” or “college" from March 1 to April 5 on all Fox News Channel programming. Including “Headlines” segments, we counted mentions if their framing played primarily into existing right-wing college narratives about college campuses, such as anti-Trump professors or free speech issues, and/or if a host explicitly mentioned “Campus Reform.”

  • New research shows Trump’s army spreads the most “junk news.” Here’s why it matters

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Our media ecosystem is broken. Americans are continually pummeled online with computational propaganda campaigns, including fake news and manipulated trending topics on Facebook and Twitter. These campaigns drive political conversation from social media feeds to cable news to the White House, but there’s been little acknowledgment of this reality in mainstream political coverage.

    Two academic studies, one recent and one from last year, give us a good sense of how social media manipulation plays out online. This week, Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project released a study that illustrates the disconnect in American political discourse. The study analyzed “junk news” (the term researchers used for fake news and other kinds of misinformation) shared on Twitter and Facebook in the three months leading up to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address. It found that on Twitter, Trump supporters shared 95 percent of “junk news” websites that the researchers had identified for their sample, accounting for 55 percent of “junk news traffic in the sample.” Other audiences also shared links from these “junk news sites” but at much lower rate. On Facebook, far-right pages that the researchers collectively called “Hard Conservative Group,” shared 91 percent of the “junk news sites,” accounting for 58 percent of total “junk news” traffic from the sample.

    The study’s conclusion of the overall American political conversation online is worth highlighting: “The two main political parties, Democrats, and Republicans prefer different sources of political news, with limited overlap. For instance, the Democratic Party shows high levels of engagement with mainstream media sources and the Republican Party with Conservative Media Groups.” This is similar to last year’s Harvard Berkman Klein Center study of traditional media and social media coverage leading up to the 2016 election. According to the author, whereas liberals and Democrats get their news from mainstream media that are ideologically structured from the center to the left, conservatives increasingly rely on only right and far-right sources in their news consumption.

    Social media filter bubbles have received a lot of media coverage but they’re only part of the problem. American political conversation doesn’t just exist in filter bubbles. The influence is lopsided. Right-wing media and social media influence both mainstream media and, by extension, the liberals’ filter bubble (because liberals consume more mainstream news). But the reverse isn’t true.

    Media coverage of #ReleaseTheMemo is a prime example of the problem of the manipulation related to this conservative filter bubble. Information warfare expert Molly McKew wrote a detailed analysis of the computational propaganda campaign that pushed the hashtag to go viral on social media, detailing how #ReleaseTheMemo was a “targeted, 11-day information operation” amplified by both Russian trolls and American Trump supporters to “change both public perceptions and the behavior of American lawmakers.” McKew noted that this campaign, which is part of a far-right echo chamber, is “not just about information, but about changing behavior,” and that it can be “surprisingly effective.” But Playbook, Politico’s premier political news product, mentioned the article almost in passing the day after its release, in some ways proving McKew’s point. Despite the fact that Playbook had covered #ReleaseTheMemo campaign often in the previous week, McKew’s article was mentioned far down Sunday’s edition of the newsletter, below a recap of Saturday Night Live’s political sketches.

    Playbook Screenshot

    Computational propaganda is now a standard practice in political communications. Despite the growing body of research studying the phenomenon, media coverage rarely acknowledges the role computational propaganda plays in shaping American political conversation. This disconnect is troubling when you consider how often trending topics on social media drive political media coverage.

    As the Oxford study shows, Trump and his army of supporters online are in the driver’s seat. What we see as trending on social media often isn’t organic but the result of sophisticated amplification campaigns, which are part of a far-right echo chamber. The goal of computational propaganda is to manipulate public opinion and behavior. Covering politics in this environment requires both a working knowledge of computational propaganda and a duty to explain to readers when political interest is driven by social media manipulation.

  • Politico Magazine contributor repeats tired NRA myths to suggest Democratic party give up on gun safety

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    In an analysis of the upcoming Montana special election, a Politico Magazine contributor questioned whether the Democratic party can “retake Congress by giving up on gun control,” erroneously blaming advocacy for such regulations for Democrats loses in the 1994 congressional elections and the 2000 presidential election.

    Evidence-based research into those elections has long disproved those theories, which have been promoted by the National Rifle Association in order to bolster its image.

    In the May 24 article, Politico Magazine’s Bill Scher accused Democrats of being “squeamish about gun control” ever since feeling the “backlash” in the 1994 midterms in response to President Clinton’s assault weapons ban and background checks bill. Scher went on to incorrectly blame Al Gore’s loss in the 2000 presidential election on his support for President Clinton’s firearms regulations:

    Democrats have been squeamish about gun control ever since they felt the backlash to President Bill Clinton’s enactment of a ban on assault weapons and “Brady Law” background checks, which shouldered some blame for the Democratic loss of Congress in 1994. But 2000 presidential nomine (sic) Al Gore doubled down. In the wake of the 1999 Columbine massacre and a liberal primary challenge from New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, Gore ran on a robust gun control package that included a ban on cheap handguns. When he lost gun-friendly states that Clinton had won—namely Arkansas, West Virginia and his own home state of Tennessee—guns were blamed again.

    Soon after, Democrats began keeping their voices down about gun control, even when mass shootings occurred. The Republican Congress let Clinton’s assault weapons ban expire without a vote, but Democrats didn’t fight exceptionally hard. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean touted his “A” rating from the NRA during the 2004 presidential primary. The nominee that year, John Kerry, futilely tried to pick off Ohio, and leaven his support for reinstating the assault weapons ban, with an October goose hunting expedition.

    [...]

    At that point, Democrats won’t be able to sweep the gun issue under the rug. They will have to make a choice: to be or not to be the party of gun control. And if they are still going to be party committed to reducing gun violence, they had best not waste time figuring out how to do it.

    In actuality, factors other than gun violence prevention measures better explain the 1994 election outcome; Congress had raised taxes in 1993, passed NAFTA, failed to pass healthcare reform and according to a statistical analysis by political scientist Gary Jacobson, Republicans won the House “because an unusually large number of districts voted locally as they had been voting nationally.”

    The idea that support for gun regulations resulted in Gore’s 2000 loss is also a common media myth. According to then-American Prospect columnist, and former Media Matters employee Paul Waldman, "Any discussion of the 2000 election is complicated by the fact that the contest was so close that any of a multitude of factors could be described as decisive.” Waldman attributed Gore’s loss in southern states in particular to a partisan shift Republican support as opposed to the NRA’s opposition.

    As Waldman explained, “The 2000 presidential election was not an anomaly, but rather part of a steady trend away from the Democratic party in Tennessee. Bill Clinton won there in 1996 by only 2.4 points, less than he had in 1992. Gore lost there by 3.9 points, John Kerry lost in 2004 by 14.3 points, and four years later Barack Obama lost by 15.1 points." One 2000 study even found that Gore's position on guns offered him a slight benefit on Election Day with voters.

  • Report: Trump Associates Helped Former Fox Chief Monitor And Undermine Adversaries

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Stephen Bannon, Roger Ailes, Roger Stone
    Stephen Bannon, Roger Ailes, Roger Stone

    Politico Magazine reported that figures within President Donald Trump’s inner circle, Roger Stone and Stephen Bannon, helped former Fox News chief Roger Ailes monitor and smear his adversaries, a practice Ailes engaged in for years.

    Bannon, the former head of Breitbart who now serves as Trump's chief strategist, has a history of using his online platform to launch smear campaigns against his political opponents, including helping Breitbart staffer Peter Schweizer push the widely debunked Clinton Cash. Breitbart has also proved to be combative without Bannon at the helm, even going after Trump’s son-in-law to defend Bannon.

    Stone, a long time Trump ally and former campaign staffer has a history of racist, misogynistic, and conspiratorial commentary. Stone is also under investigation for possible ties to Russia after law enforcement and intelligence officials “intercepted communications” between Stone and Russian officials.

    Ailes left Fox News in 2016 after Gretchen Carlson and several other women who worked there said he had sexually harassed them. While at the network’s helm, Ailes had a history of spying on his employees and smearing his adversaries.

    According to a Politico Magazine report Stone “was paid for off-air work that included keeping tabs on [New York magazine’s Gabriel] Sherman and publicly criticizing Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy” while Bannon “coordinated with Fox in Breitbart’s publication of negative stories about Sherman.” From the May 14 Politico Magazine report:

    The network of operatives allegedly used by Ailes and other Fox executives to monitor and demean perceived threats also extends to Trump’s inner circle, according to several people with knowledge of those relationships. Trump’s longtime confidant Stone, a veteran practitioner of political dark arts, was paid for off-air work that included keeping tabs on Sherman and publicly criticizing Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, according to three people familiar with the arrangement.

    “Stone would just write public articles when Ailes told him,” one of those people explained. In a March 2015 article for the Daily Caller, Stone accused Ruddy of being “in bed with the Clintons.” In an April 2015 piece for the publication, Stone attacked Ruddy for criticizing a Fox News special about the Clintons.

    [...]

    Stone said that his paid work for Fox consisted of writing Ailes “a shitload” of strategy memos about attracting more libertarian viewers and that his broadsides against Ruddy were motivated by anger over Ruddy’s donations to the Clinton Foundation, not monetary inducements.

    Ailes’ lawyer said her client was unaware of any paid work performed by Stone. “Roger doesn’t know anything about payments to Mr. Stone, and believes the allegations are untrue,” she wrote in an email.

    But three people familiar with the arrangement said Stone was also paid to keep tabs on Sherman as he worked on his biography of the Fox News chief. Stone said he was not paid to monitor Sherman but instead was motivated by friendship to act as a liaison between the two. “I would try to keep the two of them from killing each other because they’re both friends of mine,” he said. “They became obsessed with each other. It was really unhealthy. I think Gabe’s a great journalist. I think Roger Ailes is a genius.”

    The network of allies Ailes employed to neutralize threats also extends into the White House itself, according to three people familiar with the situation who said White House chief strategist Steve Bannon coordinated with Fox in Breitbart’s publication of negative stories about Sherman.

    In the weeks before the release of Sherman’s biography, 2014’s “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” Bannon huddled inside a Fox News conference room with Ailes, Ailes’ personal attorney Peter Johnson Jr., pollster Pat Caddell and former Fox journalist Peter Boyer to discuss discrediting the book, according to two people familiar with the meetings. (None of the participants would comment on the record.) True to form, Bannon advocated an all-out “go to war” approach during these sessions, while Boyer advised a hands-off approach, according to one of those people. Bannon described the resulting attacks on Sherman as “love taps,” according to an acquaintance he later told about the meetings.

    There is no indication that Bannon was paid to do this, though at the time he enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with Fox, which promoted his conservative documentaries. Ailes’ lawyer said that Breitbart’s coverage of Sherman was taken of its own initiative. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

    [...]

    Bannon has also collaborated with Jim Pinkerton, a former Fox News contributor who for years authored the anonymous blog “The Cable Game” to tout Fox and attack its rivals on behalf of Ailes.

  • When Journalists Investigated Trump's Nominee For Education Secretary, They Found Scores Of Unanswered Questions

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & PAM VOGEL

    Journalists have spent months investigating the complicated connections of education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, attempting to untangle her financial dealings and ideological stances on public education. In light of DeVos’ January 17 Senate committee confirmation hearing, Media Matters highlights some of the findings from quality investigative reporting on the billionaire Republican mega-donor. 

  • Politico Magazine Highlights Fox’s Megyn Kelly's “Bad Practice” Of Reporting Conspiracy Theories  

    A “Chunky Stream Of Likely Hokum Flowing Like An Open Sewer On Her Show”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Politico Magazine highlighted Fox News' Megyn Kelly peddling anti-Clinton conspiracy theories and disinformation on Fox News’ The Kelly File, and the “bad practice” that has infected the 2016 presidential campaign.

    On the October 3 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly and correspondent Trace Gallagher covered debunked Clinton conspiracy theories including Hillary Clinton’s supposed plans to carry out a drone strike on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Politico Magazine described these stories as a “chunky stream of likely hokum flowing like an open sewer on her show,” and described the air time she gave the stories as “bad practice.” From Politico Magazine:

    Earlier this week, Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly provided a prime-time example of how to inject unsubstantiated rumors into the news flow. In a brief segment on her show, she allowed Fox News correspondent Trace Gallagher to promote three spurious Clinton rumors. One was about Hillary Clinton’s health, picked up from a story in the always dubious Daily Mail online, which was an excerpt from Ed Klein’s new book Guilty as Sin. The second was a two decades-old-plus supermarket tabloid allegation, resurfacing in a Drudge Report headline, that Bill Clinton had a son by an Arkansas prostitute. And the third cited a report from the super-dubious True Pundit website citing “sources at the State Department” alleging that while serving as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton asked of Julian Assange, “Can’t we just drone this guy?”

    “OMG,” Kelly said twice after Gallagher’s segment, making little effort to arrest the chunky stream of likely hokum flowing like an open sewer through her show. Now, all three of these tales may be eventually confirmed. The smart journalist never says never. But until there’s more to go on than hearsay, it’s bad practice to repeat somebody else’s tips as if they’re news.

  • Politico Magazine: Trump’s Attacks On Khan Family May Be His “McCarthy Moment,” From Which He May Not Recover

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Politico Magazine contributing editor Zachary Karabell likened Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan to the culmination of Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt in 1954, drawing parallels between Trump “attacking the unimpeachable, suffering parents of a dead hero” and McCarthy “raising suspicions about the loyalties of senior officials in the U.S. Army.”

    Karabell wrote of Trump’s attacks, “we may just have witnessed his McCarthy moment,” referring to how McCarthy’s political career “never recovered” after one of his targets, Joseph Welch, “called out” “the bully” on national television.

    After Khizr Khan, whose son was killed in the line of duty in Iraq in 2004, excoriated Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals at the Democratic National Convention, Trump responded by attacking the Khan family. Trump’s attacks earned bipartisan scorn.

    The Khan family has continued to steadfastly denounce Trump’s “ignorant” behavior, pointing to his attacks as evidence “he has not read the Constitution of this country.”

    Karabell wrote that just as in 1954, when “the bully [Joseph McCarthy] had been called out in public” by Welch and “never recovered,” Trump’s attacks on the Khan family may be “his McCarthy moment.” He argued that Trump may have “crossed over some invisible line of decency that even many voters who now support him can’t stomach,” because he “touched a kind of ethical third rail by attacking the unimpeachable, suffering parents of a dead hero.” Karabell finished, “Donald Trump has churned up a great deal of darkness” with his attacks on the Khan family, “and his moment may just have passed,” just like McCarthy in 1954. From the August 1 Politico Magazine article:

    Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” Those cutting words, delivered on national television, effectively ended the career of Senator Joe McCarthy. For four years, McCarthy had enjoyed a kind of immunity as he smeared anyone he pleased while on a national witch hunt for Communist sympathizers. But in the spring of 1954, during hearings on supposed infiltrators in the U.S. Army that were broadcast on the new medium of television, McCarthy casually sought to destroy a young lawyer at the firm of Joseph Welch, counsel to the Army, an esteemed Harvard-trained lawyer and fellow Republican. When McCarthy suggested the junior attorney had Communist sympathies, the courtly Welch sank his head in despair, then looked McCarthy in the eye and excoriated him with those immortal words. Tens of millions of new American TV viewers watched in fascination and horror. The senator from Wisconsin never recovered.

    Such turning points are not always evident when they happen: When does a nation reach a moment in which even a popular demagogue who has enjoyed a seeming immunity from public condemnation—no matter what he says—goes too far? History doesn’t repeat itself, and Donald Trump has defied many predictions of his downfall in the past. But it’s possible we may just have witnessed his McCarthy moment, considering the criticism that has been heaped on the GOP candidate from all sides in the past few days since Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Pakistani-born American parents of an Army captain killed in the line of duty in Iraq in 2004, appeared at the podium of the Democratic National Convention to honor their son and make the case against Trump for president.

    [...]

    The coming days will determine whether Donald Trump has, like Joe McCarthy, crossed over some invisible line of decency that even many voters who now support him can’t stomach. In many ways the controversy is similar to past moments when Trump has attacked innocent people—like the judge in his Trump University case, Gonzalo P. Curiel, whom Trump impugned for his “Mexican heritage”—and was condemned for it, but still managed to keep his standing in the polls. This time could be different—even from when Trump insulted Sen. John McCain's war service, declaring that McCain was no hero because he was only captured, although the Arizona senator withstood torture for four years. Many predicted Trump’s downfall then too, and it didn’t happen.

    But now Trump has touched a kind of ethical third rail by attacking the unimpeachable, suffering parents of a dead hero—Capt. Khan was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions—and by cheapening the very idea of sacrifice for one’s country. And with just 98 days left until the election, the GOP candidate's campaign is consumed in another unnecessary controversy—perhaps the biggest one yet—and Trump is being condemned by leading figures in both parties.

  • Here Are All The Reasons Media Think Trump Is Not Releasing His Tax Returns

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reiterated his plan not to release his tax returns prior to the election due to an IRS audit -- despite the IRS saying he is not precluded from doing so -- media figures questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s excuse, arguing instead that it could be due to his possible business dealings with Russia, paying little to no taxes, and not giving to charity, among other reasons.

  • Politico Finds Problem With Trump’s “Make America Work” Convention Theme: “It's Already Working”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Politico Magazine reported that while the Republican National Convention is pushing the narrative that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will “make America work again,” the U.S. economy has actually done well since 2009, with millions of jobs created and a reduction by half of the unemployment rate.

    Make America Work Again” was the theme on July 19, the second night of the Republican National Convention, but Politico pointed out that “one of Trump’s many challenges will be convincing non-Republicans that America isn’t working even though nearly 15 million more Americans are.” Politico interviewed Republican convention delegates about their thoughts on the economy and found “they all seem to agree the Obama economy is a ghastly mess. Except for the economy wherever they happen to live.”

    The publication noted that, rather than giving credit to President Obama, convention delegates and Trump credited Republican mayors and governors for local “economic progress.” That includes Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, whom the nominee praised for job gains in that state even though “Indiana’s unemployment almost perfectly mirrors the national trend.” From Politico Magazine (emphasis added):

    Just as most Americans say they hate Congress but routinely vote for their local congressmen, most Republicans seem to detect a national economic malaise while — with some exceptions in places like coal country and the oil patch — touting the economic progress in their local communities. They square that circle in a variety of ways — crediting their Republican mayors and governors, accusing Obama of manipulating data, or citing legitimate weaknesses in the recovery from the Great Recession. But with unemployment down from 10 percent to less than 5 percent since late 2009, one of Trump’s many challenges will be convincing non-Republicans that America isn’t working even though nearly 15 million more Americans are.

    Trump illustrated this problem last week when he introduced his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. He said the “primary reason” for his choice was that Indiana’s unemployment had dropped by 3.4 percentage points in four years under Pence, and that its labor force had grown, which he said was “very unusual” for a U.S. state.

    “It’s always bad, down, down, down,” Trump said. “Down 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent in some cases.” In fact, the drop in Indiana’s unemployment almost perfectly mirrors the national trend. And the labor force has grown in all but nine states with the worst drop only 3 percentage points in oil-dependent North Dakota. In February 2009, Obama highlighted the free-falling economy he inherited by visiting Elkhart, Indiana, where unemployment was nearly 20 percent; he recently returned to Elkhart to highlight America’s recovery, and unemployment was 4 percent.

    Talking points bashing President Obama and the American economy have been central to the Republican convention. On the first night, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) claimed America is “an economic disaster” because middle-class incomes are down since 1999. Yet Sessions was rebuffed by CNN’s Christine Romans, who noted that middle-class income “began declining actually under George W. Bush” and “more recently, it has started to climb again.” Sessions’ misleading talking point seemed to be taken directly from Fox News, which regularly blames Obama for income stagnation witnessed during the Bush administration and promoted the exact same fallacy just last month.

    The Republican National Convention has come under intense scrutiny from the media for its antics and lack of coherence or coordination. The second night of the convention -- with the theme “Make America Work Again” -- drew ridicule from journalists for not actually talking about the economy, and media denounced the night’s “mock trial” against Hillary Clinton, which featured delegates shouting “lock her up,” as a “mob” and a “festival of hating Hillary.” The first night of the convention saw even more intense pushback, with media calling the evening “disastrous” for its lack of message and saying the plagiarized speech by Trump’s wife, Melania, turned the “night into a catastrophe.” 

  • Former CIA Director Deflates Trump’s Conspiracy Theory That Obama Supported Terrorists

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Former CIA director and CBS contributor Michael Morell debunked the “old conspiracy theory” pushed by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that President Obama has supported terrorist groups. In a Politico Magazine article, Morrell slammed Trump for reviving “inaccurate renditions of history” that have “no place in our public discourse.”

    On June 15, Trump tweeted a Breitbart News article claiming that in 2012, “Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq.” Trump claimed that the Breitbart article vindicated his previous suggestions that Obama may be sympathetic to terrorists -- a charge that was buoyed by a host of conservative pundits, but drew strong rebuke from several other media figures.

    In a June 16 Politico Magazine article, Morell swatted down Trump’s “charge against President Obama and his administration” as a “simply not true” “conspiracy theory.” Detailing from first-hand accounts that “[a]t no time … did the administration make a policy decision—either explicitly or implicitly—to support the Islamic State or its predecessor, Al Qaeda, in Iraq,” Morell explained that “in fact, the policy focus was quite the opposite.” Morell noted that both the 2012 intelligence report and the interpretation of it suggesting that the president supported extremists were “simply wrong in its facts,” and ultimately wrote that “we should not let our understanding of that threat [of terrorism] be hijacked by inaccurate renditions of history”:

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, seeking to make the case following the Orlando shootings that the Obama administration was somehow sympathetic to terrorists, resurrected an old conspiracy theory Thursday about the Islamic State, one that has no place in our public discourse. In a tweet, Trump pointed his followers to an article about the 2012 memo titled “Hillary Clinton Received Secret Memo Stating Obama Admin ‘Support’ for ISIS.”

    This is, of course, quite a charge against President Obama and his administration at a time when Clinton was still serving as secretary of state. The problem with the charge is that it is simply not true. I know this, since in my role as deputy director and acting director of the CIA, I participated in nearly every meeting in the Situation Room at the time of the supposed memo regarding the deteriorating situation in Syria.

    [...]

    At no time in any of these meetings did the administration make a policy decision—either explicitly or implicitly—to support the Islamic State or its predecessor, Al Qaeda, in Iraq. In fact, the policy focus was quite the opposite. The administration went to great lengths to ensure that any aid provided by the United States to the opposition would not fall into the hands of extremists, including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

    [...]

    [H]ere is the truth about the DIA report and the Flynn interview. The report was written by a DIA official in Iraq. It was his take on the early days of the insurgency in Syria. It was just one person’s view. It was written by an individual who was far from the policy discussion in the Situation Room. And, it was simply wrong in its facts when it indicated that the West was supporting extremists in Syria.

    Most important, when the cable was written in early August 2012, the United States was not yet providing any tangible assistance to the Syrian opposition, and when it began to do so later that fall, the assistance went only to the opposition deemed by the United States to be “moderate.”

    What about the Flynn interview? It is actually worth watching the interview, as opposed to reading the commentary of others about it. When I watched it, I did not see Flynn agree with the interviewer’s assertion that the United States was deliberately supporting extremists. Flynn was critical of the Obama administration on a number of issues, but he did not accuse it of willfully supporting the rise of ISIS.

    The threat posed by the Islamic State to the United States and to our interests is a serious one. But we should not let our understanding of that threat be hijacked by inaccurate renditions of history.

    Other media have also noted that Trump and Breitbart’s interpretation of the 2012 memo is “a faulty reading” that has been “widely debunked.”

  • NY Times Magazine Attacks The Obama Administration With Fact-Free Allegations

    David Samuels Falsely Attacks President Obama And Ben Rhodes, Fails To Disclose Conflict Of Interest

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    New York Times Magazine profile of the Obama administration’s push to cement the Iran nuclear deal baselessly claimed that President Obama and a top White House aide, Ben Rhodes, “largely manufactured” a narrative about the deal and “actively” misled the public to win support, despite reports to the contrary. The author, David Samuels, also failed to disclose his past criticism of the Iran deal and advocacy for bombing Iran.

  • Former NY Post Gossip Editor Explains How “Denying Facts” Has Been “Almost A Sport For Trump” Since The 1980s

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an essay for Politico magazine, Susan Mulcahy, former editor for the New York Post‘s “Page Six,” explained that it’s been difficult to cover Donald Trump since the 1980s because of his “pathological lying.” According to Mulcahy, Trump was “the king of ersatz. Not just fake, but false. He lied about everything, with gusto. But,” to Mulcahy, “that was not immediately apparent.”

    Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has repeatedly hyped falsehoods, parroted conspiracy theories, has been labeled by media fact checkers as “the king of whoppers” for his recurring habit of making false claims.

    According to Mulcahy, this behavior is nothing new for Trump, in fact, as early as the Post’s 1980s coverage of Trump, he ”could not control his pathological lying.” Mulcahy wrote that despite that “Trump lied all the time,” that he “was so outrageous – and outrageously tacky,” and that “every statement he uttered required more than the usual amount of fact-checking,” making covering him “a lot of work,” ignoring him would have been difficult:

    I have a confession to make, and please don’t shoot when you hear it: I helped make the myth of Donald Trump. And for that, I am very, very sorry.

    If you worked for a newspaper in New York in the 1980s, you had to write about Trump. As editor of the New York Post’s Page Six, and later as a columnist for New York Newsday, I needed to fill a lot of space, ideally with juicy stories of the rich and powerful, and Trump more than obliged. I wrote about his real estate deals. I wrote about his wife, his yacht, his parties, his houses.

    […]

    I had started on Page Six as an assistant in 1978, when I was still a college student, became a reporter a couple of years later and editor of the column in 1983. All I knew at the beginning was that Trump was big, brash and newsworthy—every building he proposed would be the largest, every deal the most enormous ever. And he loved publicity.

    It should be simple to write about publicity hounds, and often it is, because they’ll do anything to earn the attention they crave. Trump had a different way of doing things. He wanted attention, but he could not control his pathological lying. Which made him, as story subjects go, a lot of work. Every statement he uttered required more than the usual amount of fact-checking. If Trump said, “Good morning,” you could be pretty sure it was five o’clock in the afternoon.

    I once received a tip that Trump and Richard Nixon had had a lengthy meeting in Trump’s office. Trump said he knew nothing about it. I ran the story, not only because I had an excellent source, but also because a Nixon aide confirmed it. Nixon, who was shopping for a condo the day he met with Trump, may have had issues with credibility in his time, but over Trump, I’d have believed him any day. Trump was such a pretender he even used to fake being his own spokesman, as I learned recently, though I never heard from the faux flack he called John Barron. My Trump items came from all over the place—never Trump himself—and when I called to check on something, he usually lied to me directly.

    Denying facts was almost a sport for Trump, and extended even to mundane matters. While still married to his first wife, Ivana, Trump bought a mansion in Connecticut, and she decorated parts of it. Not the most earth-shattering news, but hey, everyone has slow days. When I called to confirm the purchase, Trump denied it, more than once. Sure enough, before long, he was spending weekends in the mansion, parts of which were decorated by Ivana. Did he think twice about such a seemingly pointless lie? Why would he?

    […]

    So, if Trump lied all the time, why did I and other journalists continue to cover him? In hindsight, it’s easy to say, “Oh, we shouldn’t have,” but it’s not that simple. He was on the scene, like it or not, a developer who wielded real power in the city, and ignoring him would have been difficult.

    Also, Trump was so outrageous—and outrageously tacky—it was a constant temptation to write about his antics, particularly because he thought he was the height of sophistication. He didn’t seem to understand, for instance, that if he wanted the respect of Manhattan’s cognoscenti, he should have left the beloved Bonwit Teller building in place on 57th Street, or at least given the bas-relief sculptures on the department store’s façade to the Metropolitan Museum, which wanted them for its collections. He smashed them to bits instead, declaring them of no artistic value, though a prominent art dealer who had agreed to appraise them said they were as significant as the Art Deco sculptures at Rockefeller Center. In 1980, down came Bonwit’s, soon to be replaced by Trump Tower.

    Writing this in 2016, with Trump’s many financial reversals and failed companies now long since part of the public record, it’s easy to forget that he once earned headlines with actual business deals—major real estate projects in New York, like Lincoln West. A large swath of land on the far West Side that is no longer owned by Trump, though some of the buildings there bear his name, Lincoln West was the largest piece of undeveloped land in Manhattan when Trump took it over in the mid-1980s. The property, which stretched from 59th to 72nd streets, for a time had been known as Television City, when it looked as though NBC would be the anchor tenant in an enormous new complex. To entice the TV network, which had been making rumblings about moving from Rockefeller Center to New Jersey, Trump needed to offer below-market rents, and for that he required tax abatements. He didn’t get them. Trump and Mayor Ed Koch engaged in a public shouting match that offered a preview of the Trump now running for president. Calling Koch a “moron” and “a horrible manager,” Trump said the mayor should resign. Koch countered by labeling Trump “greedy, greedy, greedy” and saying that if Trump was “squealing like a stuck pig, I must have done something right.”

  • Politico Magazine Contributor Debunks Right Wing Media's "Good Guy With A Gun" Myth

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    A Politico Magazine story debunked the conservative media myths that gunmen target "gun-free zones" and more armed civilians would stop mass shootings that have been pervasive following the Oregon community college mass shooting, explaining that "active-shooter scenarios occur in all sorts of environments where guns are allowed," and "no armed civilian has ever actually stopped a school shooting."

    Following the October 1 shooting where a gunman killed nine people at a community college in Oregon, media figures immediately made references to the campus as a "gun-free zone," falling back on the conservative media myths that gunmen target locations because guns are not allowed, and more people carrying guns would stop mass shootings.

    On October 5, Politico Magazine contributor Matt Valentine struck down the myths that "a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun," and gun-free zones are targeted for mass shootings, writing "that's neither true in general nor true in this instance," noting that guns are actually allowed under some circumstances on Oregon college campuses. More generally, Valentine explained that "active-shooter scenarios occur in all sorts of environments where guns are allowed," and "no armed civilian has ever actually stopped a school shooting":

    It's an intuitive and appealing idea--that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun. We can imagine it. We see it in movies. At least 80 million Americans have gone into the gun store, laid money on the counter, and purchased that fantasy. And yet it rarely plays out as envisioned. Is it because there aren't enough guns? Is it because the guns aren't allowed where they are needed? Or is there something else wrong with our aspirations to heroism?

    Speaking Friday on CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, perennial gun rights advocate John Lott said, "My solution for these mass shootings is to look at the fact that every single time, these attacks occur where guns are banned. Every single time."

    That's neither true in general nor true in this instance. The FBI tells us that active-shooter scenarios occur in all sorts of environments where guns are allowed--homes, businesses, outdoor spaces. (In fact, there was another mass shooting the same day as the Oregon massacre, leaving three dead and one severely wounded in a home in North Florida.) And Umpqua Community College itself wasn't a gun-free zone. Oregon is one of seven states that allow guns on college campuses--the consequence of a 2011 court decision that overturned a longstanding ban. In 2012, the state board of education introduced several limitations on campus carry, but those were not widely enforced.

    [...]

    I asked Dr. Peter Langman, a clinical psychologist and author of the book School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators, whether the presence of guns is a factor rampage shooters consider when they plan their attacks.

    "I don't think it is. Many of these shooters intend to die, either by their own hand or by suicide by cop. There was an armed guard at Columbine. There were armed campus police at Virginia Tech. The presence of armed security does not seem to be a deterrent," Langman said. "Because they're not trying to get away with it. They're going in essentially on a suicide mission."

  • National Review's Rich Lowry Advocates For Increased Incarceration In "Dangerous" Black Neighborhoods

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    National Review editor Rich Lowry advocated for mass incarceration and "disproportionate police attention" toward "dangerous, overwhelmingly black neighborhoods" in response to a spike in murders in Baltimore.

    In an opinion piece for Politico Magazine headlined "#SomeBlackLivesDontMatter," Lowry called the "Black Lives Matter" slogan used by protesters "a lie," citing the lack of attention paid to a spike in murders in Baltimore in the last month. Lowry claimed: "Let's be honest: Some black lives really don't matter. If you are a young black man shot in the head by another young black man, almost certainly no one will know your name."

    As a solution to the increase in shootings in Baltimore, Lowry recommended more policing and more incarceration (emphasis added):

    The Baltimore Sun ran a headline (since changed) that had the air of a conundrum, although it isn't very puzzling, "With arrests down in Baltimore, mayor 'examining' increase in killings." According to the paper, arrests have dropped by about half in May. The predictable result is that violent crime is spiking.

    The implication is clear: More people need to be arrested in Baltimore, not fewer. And more need to be jailed. If black lives truly matter, Baltimore needs more and better policing and incarceration to impose order on communities where a lawless few spread mayhem and death.

    Lowry also called for "disproportionate police attention, even if that attention is easily mischaracterized as racism," in "dangerous, overwhelmingly black neighborhoods." 

    Lowry used the comments of "anonymous police officers" as evidence that the city of Baltimore does not support its law enforcement personnel:

    Meanwhile, anonymous police officers say they feel that city authorities don't have their back, understandably enough when city leaders are loath to call rioters "thugs" and Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby rushed to announce charges against the Freddy Gray officers to placate the mob.

    A recent CNN article about the crime increase reported that while officers have "lost faith in the chain of command," they have also "coordinated a work slowdown by not talking to community members and showing less initiative" --  context Lowry failed to include.

    Lowry finally claimed that Rudy Giuliani "saved more black lives than any of his critics ever will... by getting the police to establish and maintain basic order in New York's neighborhoods and defending the cops when the likes of Al Sharpton maligned them." A 2014 report by the New York Civil Liberties Union found the stop-and-frisk policy put in place by Giuliani was ineffective at reducing violent crime. 

    Calls for the black community and its leaders to focus more on "black on black crime" is a move frequently made by right-wing media figures as a response to the calls for criminal justice reform that have grown louder since the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by Ferguson, MO police made national headlines. Last year, Slate's Jamelle Bouie explained why this argument is so flawed:

    First, a little context: In the last 20 years, we've seen a sharp drop in homicide among blacks, from a victimization rate of 39.4 homicides per 100,000 in 1991 to a rate of roughly 20 homicides per 100,000 in 2008. Likewise, the offending rate for blacks has dropped from 51.1 offenders per 100,000 in 1991 to 24.7 offenders per 100,000 in 2008. This decrease has continued through the 2010s and is part of a larger--and largely unexplained--national drop in crime.

    But while black neighborhoods are far less dangerous than they were a generation ago, black people are still concerned with victimization. Take this 2014 report from the Sentencing Project on perceptions of crime and support for punitive policies. Using data from the University of Albany's Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, the Sentencing Project found that--as a group--racial minorities are more likely than whites to report an "area within a mile of their home where they would be afraid to walk alone at night" (41 percent to 30 percent) and more likely to say there are certain neighborhoods they avoid, which they otherwise might want to go to (54 percent to 46 percent). And among black Americans in particular--circa 2003--"43 percent said they were 'very satisfied' about their physical safety in contrast to 59 percent of Hispanics, and 63 percent of whites."

    [...]

    Beyond the data, there's the anecdotal evidence. And in short, it's easy to find examples of marches and demonstrations against crime. In the last four years, blacks have held community protests against violence in Chicago; New York; Newark, New Jersey; Pittsburgh; Saginaw, Michigan; and Gary, Indiana. Indeed, there's a whole catalog of movies, albums, and sermons from a generation of directors, musicians, and religious leaders, each urging peace and order. You may not have noticed black protests against crime and violence, but that doesn't mean they haven't happened. Black Americans--like everyone else--are concerned with what happens in their communities, and at a certain point, pundits who insist otherwise are either lying or willfully ignorant.