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  • After years of right-wing media attacks, Republicans now hate college

    New research shows a majority of Republicans have a negative view of higher education

    Blog ››› ››› BRETT ROBERTSON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A new Pew Research Center report finds that a sharply increasing number of Republicans surveyed have a negative view of colleges. This follows years of concerted right-wing media attacks on higher education.

    Media Matters has reported extensively on conservative media’s portrayals of higher education. Here are four ways that conservatives demonize American colleges and universities, and several instances where conservative media misrepresented or sensationalized the words or actions of administrators, professors, and students, helping to convince audiences that higher education is bad for America.

    1) Conservatives claim liberal colleges turn students into jihadis, Nazis, and fascists

    Conservative media often depict colleges and universities as places where students are brainwashed and radicalized. According to Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, colleges are “literally corrupting people’s minds” and “turning them into jihadists.” Meanwhile, Fox News contributor Bernie Goldberg equated "liberals on college campuses" to the Nazi "Brown Shirts."

    Then-Fox News host Bill O'Reilly blamed Black Lives Matter for "the rise of fascism on American college campuses."

    2) Mocking students for seeking “safe spaces” and fearing assault

    Conservative media often use the concept of so-called “safe spaces” to mock colleges and college students for seeking to create welcoming environments on campus. Fox contributor Judith Miller told student protesters: "You want a safe space? Stay in your playpen." Fox News has characterized students protesting insensitive Halloween costumes as wrapping themselves in the “cloak of victimhood” and another Fox panel once argued college students advocating fossil-fuel divestment are “immature and irrational.”

    Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed, “it's gotten to the point where women on college campus imagine they're going to be raped. Imagine they have been raped. Write fake stories about being raped when it hasn't happened.” Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham lamented that discussing sexual consent policies "is what they spend their time doing at our American colleges and universities today" because efforts to get people riled up about the “patriarchy thing hadn’t really caught on.”

    Fox host Tucker Carlson even bemoaned that “everybody gets a safe space” at American colleges “except white men,” who he claimed “are hated and despised.”

    3) Outrage over University of Missouri protests

    In the fall of 2015, student protests began at the University of Missouri following a series of racist incidents on campus. Many students felt that the university administration was not doing enough to respond to events that made black students feel unsafe on campus. The protests eventually resulted in the resignation of the university’s president.

    Limbaugh claimed that the president resigned for "committing the crime of being a white male." Some conservative outlets resorted to name-calling with the conservative blog Red State calling the protesters "cowardly liberal lazy douchebags."

    According to Fox News, student protests focused on racial injustice are illegitimate, although armed protests against federal law are likely to be called "patriotic."

    4) Right-wing activists smear supposedly “biased” professors

    Right-wing activist groups like Campus Reform and Professor Watchlist compile and sensationalize perceived instances of liberal bias on college campuses to create profiles of professors who “discriminate against conservative students.” These profiles include contact information of targeted academics to facilitate trolling and harassment.

    Campus Reform and Professor Watchlist are just two of the many conservative groups funded by right-wing dark money networks in an effort to influence campus politics and university curriculum. Stories from these conservative websites often end up being promoted by right-wing news media such as Fox News.

    Media Matters recently described how this process happened to Trinity College sociology professor Johnny Eric Williams. Williams wrote a series of posts on race and policing and linked to a controversial article on social media. Campus Reform wrote an article on the posts, which was picked up by TheBlaze and The Daily Caller, before reaching The Washington Times. These articles resulted in a deluge of threats and harassment being directed toward Williams and Trinity and eventually a campus shutdown. Fox News then blamed the social media post, instead of the threatening right-wing responses, when it wrote, “Professor’s “profane, anti-white messages cause campus controversy.”

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

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET & NINA MAST

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

  • Here's how right-wing media have reacted to months of setbacks for Trump's Muslim bans

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    As President Trump's executive orders banning immigration from first seven, then six, majority-Muslim nations have moved through the U.S. court system, they've been met with a series of legal setbacks and direct action and have drawn extensive media coverage. What follows is a timeline of events surrounding the ban, with a focus on right-wing media hypocrisy, denial, and defense of the president's increasingly indefensible policy. This post will be updated.

  • RNC's false talking point about Comey came from “alt-right” trolls

    Lie that Comey said Trump didn't pressure him on Russia-related investigations came from an “alt-right” troll and then was picked up by fake news purveyors

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Republican National Committee (RNC) pushed a false talking point that originated from the “alt-right”/fake news ecosystem to try to discredit former FBI Director James Comey’s June 8 testimony to the Senate intelligence committee.

    During his testimony, Comey said that he believed President Donald Trump fired him due to the FBI’s Russia probe, saying, “I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him, and he decided to fire me because of that.” He discussed a number of other issues as well, including saying that Trump directed him to end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and that he wrote memos on his one-on-one interactions with the president because he feared Trump might lie about the exchanges.

    Responding to the testimony, the RNC tweeted, “#BigLeagueTruth: Comey testified under oath that @POTUS never asked him or anyone else to end any investigation. #ComeyHearing.” The tweet included a video of Comey’s previous testimony before the Senate intelligence committee -- on May 3 -- in which Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) asked him if “the attorney general or senior officials at the Department of Justice” tried to block an FBI investigation, to which Comey replied, “Not in my experience.”

    Contrary to the RNC’s implication, Comey did not contradict himself. On May 3, he was talking specifically about the Department of Justice, not the president. The RNC’s false claim was pushed early on by “alt-right” trolls Jack Posobiec and Nick Short, and was then repeated by fake news purveyors and other “alt-right” outlets before more traditional right-wing media figures and outlets, such as Fox & Friends and Rush Limbaugh, picked it up. Since then, Republican politicians such as Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have also repeated the false assertion. The false claim even impacted the stock market.

    In a statement to Media Matters, Sen. Hirono criticized the RNC for taking “a far-right conspiracy theory as fact,” and noted that she “only asked former Director Comey about pressure from officials at the Department of Justice”:

    “If you listen to the exchange, it’s clear that I only asked former Director Comey about pressure from officials at the Department of Justice, but the RNC chose to move forward and take a far-right conspiracy theory as fact. This sends a clear message that Republicans are willing to share fake news and dangerous narratives in their quest to deny Russian interference in our elections. Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect no less from the mouthpiece of an Administration that deals in alternative facts.”

    The RNC’s incorrect claim is yet another example of how the “alt-right”/fake news ecosystem has been able to amplify its misinformation out of the fringe, pushing forged documents, baseless conspiracy theories, and smear campaigns into more of the mainstream.