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  • How Trump's lawyers, Sean Hannity, and a Sinclair outlet tried to cover up Trump Jr.'s Russia meeting

    Trump's legal team suggested giving Trump Jr. meeting details to Circa, spinning meeting as "setup” by Democrats

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump’s legal team proposed using the Trump-friendly media outlet Circa to promote the evidence-free claim that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians during the 2016 presidential election was a Democratic “setup.” Not only did Circa run with the story on July 8, two days later, Fox News host Sean Hannity was more than happy to further the story with Circa’s Sara Carter and John Solomon, frequent guests on Hannity’s shows.

    On July 31, The Washington Post reported that when Trump’s legal team recently discovered incriminating details about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a possible Russian agent, the lawyers proposed an alternate version of the encounter “be given to Circa, an online news organization that the Kasowitz team thought would be friendly to Trump.” The Post additionally noted that “the president’s legal team planned to cast the June 2016 meeting as a potential setup by Democratic operatives hoping to entrap Trump Jr.”

    Circa’s Carter wrote about Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian in a July 8 article which included a statement from a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, as well as the assertion that “the president’s legal team said Saturday they believe the entire meeting may have been part of a larger election-year opposition effort aimed at creating the appearance of improper connections between Trump family members and Russia.”

    On July 10, Fox host Sean Hannity invited Carter and then-fellow Circa reporter John Solomon to discuss whether “this whole meeting with Donald Trump Jr” was “possibly a setup” (emphasis added):

    HANNITY: All right, Sara Carter, let's go to you and your reporting along with John. Good to have you both back, by the way. Let's start with your reports about was this possibly a setup? In other words, this whole meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. -- is this a very different story than the American people are being told?

    SARA CARTER: Yes, I think there's a story here that people aren't getting from the mainstream media. And one is this. Natalia Veselnitskaya -- she was the attorney that Donald Trump, Jr., met with -- was actually connected to a company called Presevan Holding, which was run by a Russian named Dennis Katzik . And Dennis Katzik actually hired Fusion GPS. Remember, this was the security investigative firm behind the Christopher Steele dossier. So the Christopher Steele dossier, which has been disreputable, which people have not been able to prove anything, that tried to connect, you know, Donald Trump to the Russians, was actually the company that this woman was working for.

    So it makes sense. And I know that congressional investigators are looking into this. What was her connection to Fusion GPS? And how does that play out with the meeting that she held with Donald Trump, Jr., which he said he did not know prior to that meeting exactly who she was and what she was representing. So that is a very, very important part of this story.

    [...]

    HANNITY: Do you believe that this was a setup by the DNC and this Fusion group that we're talking about?

    JOHN SOLOMON: You know, there's not enough facts and evidence to assume that yet. I think there is clearly a lot of people that were working at once, and what overlays they have and what intersections they have, we don't know in part because Fusion GPS hasn't answered a lot of the questions that the Senate has put to them. Until we find out who was funding the dossier, until we find out who brought Natalia into the country, until we learn those sort of questions, we're not going to know the full picture, and I think it's too soon to make any assumptions. [Fox News, Hannity, 7/10/17]

    The Trump team narrative, with the help of Hannity and Circa, was quickly picked up and spread throughout right-wing media and fake news purveyors.

    Circa is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is known for its conservative bias and connections to Trump associates. During the 2016 campaign, Sinclair made a deal with Trump’s team to push stories favorable to the future president. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Carter and Solomon have used Hannity’s platform to do just that.

  • Five Things Media Figures Demanded Obama Attorneys General Resign Over That Are Less Serious Than Lying Under Oath

    And Trump’s Chief Of Staff Twice Called For Eric Holder’s Resignation

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Lawmakers began calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation after news reports published on March 1 revealed that he had spoken to Russia’s ambassador to the United States during the 2016 election, when he was serving as a campaign surrogate for then-candidate Donald Trump. The reports contradict sworn testimony Sessions provided during his confirmation hearing, when he said he “did not have communications with the Russians.” During the Obama administration, conservative media figures and Republicans demanded that his attorneys general resign or be fired for supposed outrages far less damaging than lying to Congress, none of which were criminal in nature, and were in many cases completely phony.

  • Here Are The Media Figures Who Praised Renowned Liar Sean Spicer

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has attracted widespread criticism for “a series of false statements” he made about the size of the crowds at the presidential inauguration. Prior to Spicer’s meltdown, however, some media figures were full of praise for the “competent, thorough” “straight shooter.”  Later, other media figures credited him for a supposed “reboot” in his first official press briefing as White House press secretary.

  • Internet Trolls Unleash Attacks On Washington Post Reporter Following Completely Made Up Right-Wing Media Smear

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    A false right-wing media report targeting The Washington Post’s Doris Truong has resulted in what she described as her “own personal Pizzagate” in which she was erroneously identified as being at Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing and surreptitiously taking photos of pieces of paper he left behind.

    Following Tillerson’s January 11 confirmation hearing for his nomination to serve as the next secretary of state, a photo of an unidentified woman seemingly taking photos of notes left behind at Tillerson’s empty seat began circulating on Twitter. Notoriously dishonest, and consistently wrong, right-wing blogger Jim Hoft then posted the photo and a video of the incident identifying the woman as Truong. Hoft has since updated his post and admitted that the woman pictured was not Truong, but the URL still reads “sick-wapo-reporter-caught-sneaking-photos,” a reference to Hoft’s original misleading headline. From there, the false claim was pushed by other right-wing media personalities like former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and linked to by The Drudge Report, driving even more traffic to the story and leading to widespread harassment of Truong at the hands of internet trolls.

    From Truong’s January 12 account of the episode published by The Washington Post:

    By the time I woke up, trolls had commented on social media channels besides Twitter. My Facebook feed had dozens of angry messages from people I didn’t know, as did comments on my Instagram account. Even my rarely used YouTube channel attracted attention. My emails and my voicemail included messages calling me “pathetic” and a “sneaky thief.”

    A lot of the comments also focused on my Chinese heritage, implying — or outright stating — that I must be spying for China. Some called for an FBI investigation of what they deemed illegal behavior.

    […]

    Even more bizarrely, one Twitter user insisted that “facial software on the video” led to the “almost positive” conclusion that the woman was me.

    But even if people believed that the person at the hearing wasn’t me, they wanted to know who she was. And that’s what’s particularly alarming about this time in our society: Why are people so quick to look for someone to condemn? And during the confusion about the woman’s identity, why is it presumed that she is a journalist? Or that taking pictures of notes in an open hearing is illegal? Or, for that matter, that she was even taking pictures of Tillerson’s notes?

    Despite his admission that he has no idea who the woman is, Hoft is still identifying her as a “reporter” and pushing the unsubstantiated claim that she was “sneaking photos” without any supporting evidence.

    Truong’s encounter with the far-right online fringe shares startling similarities with so-called “Pizzagate,” a fake news conspiracy theory perpetuated by Trump ally and right-wing radio host Alex Jones that eventually led one alt-right adherent to shoot inside a pizzeria in Washington, D.C. and engage in an armed standoff with police. In fact, Jim Hoft credited one of the leaders of the “pizzagate” fake news conspiracy in his original attack on Truong; right-wing blogger and sexual assault apologist Mike Cernovich, who recently directed an online harassment campaign against political satirist and video editor Vic Berger.

    As was the case with “pizzagate,” wherein an armed conspiracy theorist held up a pizza parlor while he “investigated” the veracity of absurd claims he read online, many of Truong’s online harassers are demanding that she get to the bottom of this story, and identify the woman herself, before they’ll accept that it wasn’t her.

  • Right-Wing Media Tout Trump’s “Lobbying Ban” As Draining The Swamp, While Other Outlets Question Ban’s Efficacy

    Emphasis On Ban Also Ignores Trump’s Many Other Conflicts Of Interest

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are touting new “promises” from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team to implement five-year “bans on having folks go and lobby after being in the administration” -- and to allow no registered lobbyists on his transition team -- as “a signal that he's going to do the draining of the swamp he said he'd do.” But other media have explained why the ban wouldn’t necessarily work, as lobbyists could just avoid registering as such, and transition team members could undo their lobbyist registration. In addition, the proposed “ban” does nothing to address the “tidal wave of potential conflicts of interest” that “will arrive with” a Trump administration.

  • Report: Trump Campaign Continues To Pay CNN’s Corey Lewandowski For Consulting Work

    Consulting Payment Appears To Differ From Severance From Trump Campaign, Which CNN Discloses

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN political commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “was paid $20,000 in August” by the Republican presidential nominee's campaign for “‘strategy consulting,’” according to The Washington Post. The payment escalates CNN’s unprecedented conflict of interest in which Lewandowski is on the payroll of both CNN and the campaign, and it raises questions about the extent of Lewandowski’s role in the Trump campaign.

    Lewandowski, who was hired by CNN as a political commentator in June, is still currently receiving severance from the campaign. Lewandowski’s firm was also paid a “regular $20,000 monthly fee” for “advice” in July by the Trump campaign.

    The ethical morass that has accompanied Lewandowski’s appearances on CNN given that he still advising, traveling with, and drawing payment from Trump has drawn sustained outcry from journalists and media ethicists. CNN President Jeff Zucker recently defended Lewandowski’s hiring and admitted that he was aware that the former campaign manager continued to receive severance payments from the campaign at the time of his hiring.

    The Washington Post reported on September 21 that Lewandowski “was paid $20,000 in August by the campaign for what it described as ‘strategy consulting,’” once again raising “anew the conflict of interest issue that has dogged the cable network’s hiring of Lewandowski.” The Post wrote that although CNN has been “introducing [Lewandowski’s] appearances … by mentioning that he receives severance from Trump,” the August payment for “‘strategy consulting’” suggests “that Lewandowski is playing a more active and current role in the campaign than ‘severance’ would suggest.” The Post further noted that if CNN is in fact paying Lewandoski to comment on a candidate and campaign he is compensated by, that would be “a conflict that most journalistic organizations prohibit.” From the September 21 Washington Post article:

    CNN commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was paid $20,000 in August by the campaign for what it described as “strategy consulting,” raising anew the conflict of interest issue that has dogged the cable network’s hiring of Lewandowski.

    CNN has said previously that Trump’s payments to Lewandowski and his consulting firm were “severance” for his employment by Trump. It began introducing his appearances on the air last month by mentioning that he receives severance from Trump.

    But the payments continued in August, according to Trump’s campaign expenditure filing released Tuesday night. The description used by Trump’s campaign in the filing — “strategy consulting” — also suggested that Lewandowski is playing a more active and current role in the campaign than “severance” would suggest.

    If so, it would put CNN in the position of employing a person who is also compensated by the campaign and the candidate he comments on — a conflict that most journalistic organizations prohibit.

    Representatives of CNN and Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment early Wednesday.

    Lewandowski has apparently maintained close ties with the campaign despite being fired by Trump and escorted from Trump Tower by security officers in June. Various news reports have described him as an “informal” adviser to the campaign.

    CNN chairman Jeff Zucker has repeatedly defended the hiring of Lewandowski, most recently at an employee town hall meeting on Tuesday, according to the Huffington Post. Zucker has said the network needed to add pro-Trump voices to balance the stable of commentators who support Hillary Clinton and that Lewandowski brought inside knowledge of Trump’s campaign.

    For information on Media Matters’ petition for CNN to cut ties with Lewandowski, please click here.

  • Trump Just Finished Speaking At A Hate Group Conference; Why Didn’t Top Papers Take Heed?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    On September 9, Donald Trump addressed the 11th Values Voter Summit hosted by the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Trump’s appearance marks the first time that a Republican presidential nominee has addressed the summit since it began in 2006. In the lead up to the event, the top five highest circulated newspapers in the U.S. failed to cover the fact that a major party presidential candidate was addressing a crowd at a conference hosted by a hate group.

    The Values Voter Summit (VVS) is an annual event hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated as an anti-LGBT “hate group” due to its known propagation of extreme falsehoods about LGBT people. FRC’s leader, Tony Perkins, has his own history of making inflammatory comments, such as calling pedophilia a "homosexual problem," equating being gay with drug use and adultery, accusing gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and comparing gay rights advocates to terrorists.

    Over the last year, Perkins and Trump have developed a cozy relationship, which ultimately led to Perkins’ official endorsement of Trump in June. Previously, Perkins had backed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the GOP primaries until his withdrawal from the race in early May. In August, Perkins announced that Trump would speak at the 2016 Values Voters Summit. Perkins has been outspoken about his belief that he can shape and mold Trump’s ideologies to become more in line with FRC’s extremism. 

    Newspapers Ignore Anti-LGBT Hate Group’s Role In Supporting Trump’s Candidacy

    Prior to September 9, in the lead up to VVS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today -- the top five highest circulated U.S. newspapers -- failed to cover that a presidential candidate was preparing to speak at a conference hosted by a hate group, alongside many anti-LGBT extremist leaders. In articles published on the morning of Trump’s address, The New York Times and The Washington Post finally reported that Trump was scheduled to speak at VVS later in the day, but omitted FRC’s anti-LGBT hate group designation. Both outlets previously connected Trump’s campaign to white supremacist hate groups and the alt-right, but they have downplayed the influence of anti-LGBT extremism in this election.

     From a September 9 New York Times article:

    Donald J. Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, will address the Values Voter Summit in Washington, which starts on Friday, putting the Republican presidential ticket in front of one of the largest audiences of social conservatives in the 2016 campaign.

    Mr. Pence, who will speak on Saturday, is a social conservative who was photographed leading Mr. Trump in prayer aboard the real-estate mogul’s plane soon after he joined the ticket. But while Mr. Trump performed relatively well with evangelical voters in the Republican primaries, he has only fleetingly addressed churchgoers since then. He has previously supported abortion rights and has spoken favorably of same-sex civil unions, two issues that are of concern to evangelical voters.

    From an article featured in The Washington Post on September 9:

    Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), one of the Republican congressional caucus's most unfiltered members, told a morning crowd at the annual Values Voter Summit that Hillary Clinton was "mentally impaired" thanks to a 2012 concussion and that the news media was not doing all it could to reveal this.

    […]

    At the Values Voter Summit, Gohmert didn't need to explain any of this. As the audience laughed along, Gohmert recounted a recent appearance on "Fox and Friends," where he tweaked the lyrics of a country song to "I can't remember/Hillary's brain's in a blender."

    This omission is part of a larger trend when covering anti-LGBT extremism. Previously, a Media Matters analysis found that The New York Times has repeatedly and consistently failed to appropriately label anti-LGBT hate groups as such or provide context on their history of extremism. However, the Times frequently used SPLC’s “hate group” designation when reporting on other extremist groups and ideologies, such as white supremacists. The Washington Post also mostly failed to identify anti-LGBT hate groups -- though, out of the total number of hate groups that it labeled as such, anti-LGBT groups were represented proportionally.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times in Nexis for coverage between July 1, 2016, through September 9, 2016, using the the search terms “Trump” AND “Values Voter Summit” OR “Family Research Council.” The same search was repeated for The Wall Street Journal in Factiva.

  • Donald And Eric Trumps’ Sexual Harassment Victim-Blaming Is A Staple In Right-Wing Media

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Donald and Eric Trump’s victim-blaming responses to questions about sexual harassment were condemned in the media, but they echoed right-wing media’s long history of putting the onus on the victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Right-wing media figures have suggested that being a sexual assault survivor is a “coveted status,” that victims should “make better decisions,” and that “women need to take some responsibility.”

  • Fox News Revives Debunked Claim That Democratic Primary Was “Rigged”

    Fox Spins Hacked DNC Emails To Claim Clinton’s Victory Is “Illegitimate”

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News figures distorted the contents of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to claim that the Democratic presidential primary was “rigged” and that Hillary Clinton’s victory is “illegitimate.” But media have noted that Clinton won “her party’s nomination by every available measure” and that the hacked emails in no way prove the primary was “rigged.”

  • The Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen Slams Media’s False Narrative That Trump Appeals To Progressives

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC producer Steve Benen criticized media outlets for their "plainly wrong" portrayal of some of Donald Trump’s policies as “progressive.” Benen lamented the failure of The Washington Post and The New York Times to explain the contradictions between Trump’s policies and historically liberal ideology, and slammed their misleading thesis that Trump may have something to offer progressive voters.

    Media have reported Trump’s false claim that he originally opposed going to war in Iraq to claim that he is to the left of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, while ignoring his openness to nuclear proliferation, his support for military intervention in both Iraq and Libya, and his call to send tens of thousands of ground troops to Syria. And despite his support for reductions in Medicare and Social Security, ​The New York Times compared Trump's positions on entitlements to those of Bernie Sanders.

    In the May 18 blog post, Benen criticized The Post and the The Times for reporting Trump's stances as progressive, saying that “given it’s historical underpinnings, there’s nothing liberal about Trump’s “America’s First” vision” and slamming the media for falsely reporting that Trump is willing “to shift ‘to the left on the minimum wage and tax policy.’” Benen explained that the media may find it appealing to tout Trump as having national appeal that transcends political ideologies, but this “thesis is belied by reality” given that Trump’s position “offers literally nothing for progressive voters” (emphasis added):

    Some of the political media establishment has apparently settled on a new “narrative”: Donald Trump will appeal to Democrats by breaking with Republican orthodoxy and endorsing some progressive goals. It might be a compelling thesis, if it were in any way true.

    The Washington Post got the ball rolling last week with a provocative, attention-getting headline: “How Donald Trump is running to the left of Hillary Clinton.” As proof, the article noted, among other things, Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, and his willingness to shift “to the left on the minimum wage and tax policy.”

    The problem, of course, is much of this is factually incorrect. Given its historical underpinnings, there’s nothing liberal about Trump’s “America First” vision, and the media hype surrounding Trump’s purported shifts on the minimum wage and tax policy turned out to be completely wrong. The Post’s entire thesis struggled under scrutiny.

    And yet, there it was again in the New York Times yesterday.

    [...]

    Again, if these observations were rooted in fact, the thesis might have merit, but it’s important not to fall for shallow hype and bogus narratives. Trump did not endorse a minimum-wage hike; he actually said there shouldn’t be a federal minimum wage at all. He did not call for higher taxes on the wealthy; he proposed literally the exact opposite.

    And far from “attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left on … Wall Street,” a few hours after the Times article was published, Trump insisted he would repeal Dodd-Frank reforms – which represents an attack from the right, not the left.

    [...]

    It’s easy to get the impression that the media likes the idea – not the reality, but the idea – of Trump having broad national appeal, enough to woo disaffected Democrats and Bernie Sanders’ most ardent backers, and defeat Clinton in a general election. But the thesis is belied by reality. Trump’s platform – on the economy, on immigration, on taxes, on policies towards women, on race, on torture – offers literally nothing for progressive voters, which is probably why Sanders has said he’s prepared to fight as hard as he can in the coming months to ensure Trump’s defeat.