Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls | Media Matters for America

Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls

Tags ››› Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls
  • Legacy media ignored Proud Boys presence at Trump’s rally

    In covering Trump's rally, CNN, Fox News, Wash. Post, and NY Times all ignored the extremism present within the Trump coalition

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Cable news and legacy media outlets flocked to Orlando, FL, on June 18 to cover yet another rally for President Donald Trump but ignored the presence of the far-right, extremist group Proud Boys among Trump’s supporters. By not reporting on the group, media failed to contextualize the violent extremism within Trump’s coalition and the campaign’s silent embrace of it.

    While the Orlando rally was no different from the 59 other Trump has held since he became president, media at large fell for his gimmick of rebranding the event as the official launch of his 2020 reelection campaign, showering the president with coverage. And while the presence of Proud Boys got the attention of a few reporters tweeting from the event (some of whom uncritically amplified claims from members of the extremist group), cable news networks CNN and Fox News failed to mention them.

    The welcome exception was MSNBC, which had a more in-depth segment that discussed the Proud Boys and Trump’s “appeal to white supremacists” during the June 19 edition of Deadline: White House, and continued to cover the presence of the extremist group at the rally during The Beat and All In with Chris Hayes.

    The most prominent national newspapers didn’t fare much better. The Washington Post only gave the group a passing mention in its three pieces about the event, using the same lines in every piece:

    The Proud Boys, a self-proclaimed Western chauvinist group, coalesced outside the arena. Police blocked their path forward.

    This phrasing left out the context in which the group members were stopped by police: They were prevented from reaching a gathering of anti-Trump protesters. The group has a record of premeditated violent behavior against anti-Trump protesters and anti-fascist activists.

    The New York Times did not mention the presence of Proud Boys at Trump’s rally in any of its six pieces written about the event, nor during the June 19 edition of its podcast The Daily. It’s a puzzling omission considering it was one of the Times’ own correspondents covering 2020 elections who reported on Twitter about the Trump campaign’s silent embrace of the extremist group.

    It is not hyperbolic to call the Proud Boys an extremist gang. There is ample evidence that the group is prone to violence, as its founder Gavin McInnes once explained:

    McInnes claimed in late 2018 that he was quitting the group, but his graphic misogyny and violent views are also his group’s core ideology. Proud Boys has claimed that women’s primary role in society is to “stay home and make more babies” and its members have been recorded “brutally beating and kicking several individuals.” Violence is, in fact, a requirement to become part of Proud Boys, and McInnes himself has said he “cannot recommend violence enough. It is a really effective way to solve problems.” Even at the Trump rally, the group was heard chanting in defense of Chile’s late far-right murderous dictator Augusto Pinochet, known for throwing political dissidents from helicopters:

    The day of the rally, a HuffPost journalist was doxxed in a Telegram app channel associated with Proud Boys, and there was a veiled call to harass her for her coverage of Gab, a social media site where extremism and white supremacy run rampant.

    But most legacy media and cable news seemingly didn’t consider Proud Boys’ presence at the president’s rally newsworthy, nor deemed its past and present extremism worth contextualizing -- even as Trump and his Party have embraced it.

    Alex Kaplan provided research for this piece.

  • Tucker Carlson's descent into white supremacy: A timeline

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Since the early days of his tenure as a Fox prime-time host, Tucker Carlson’s unabashed championing of white grievances earned him the accolades of neo-Nazis, who praised him as a “one man gas chamber” and complimented the way he “lampshad[ed] Jews on national television.” While Carlson claims to have nothing in common with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, he constantly echoes their talking points on his show and was very reluctant to condemn white supremacists following their deadly 2017 demonstration in Charlottesville, VA. In fact, Carlson’s racist roots can be traced back more than a decade.

    Here’s a timeline of the public devolution of Tucker Carlson’s thinly veiled racism into full-throated white supremacy (this list will be continually updated):

  • Stefan Molyneux is MAGA Twitter’s favorite white nationalist

    Molyneux has talked fondly about white nationalism. Donald Trump Jr. amplifies him on Twitter.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (5/22): This piece was updated with additional information.

    Stefan Molyneux is a virulent misogynist and white supremacist with a penchant for spewing extremist talking points on YouTube and Twitter, but he has become a prominent influencer on the right thanks to the amplification he receives from certain right-wing figures and outlets.

    Last night that amplification came from Donald Trump Jr., who quoted a transphobic tweet from Molyneux to his 3.5-plus million followers.

    CRTV (now TheBlazeTV) has hosted Molyneux repeatedly, while NRATV hosts have promoted Molyneux’s content and appeared on his show to talk about scientific racism, which promotes debunked correlations between IQ scores, race, and crime statistics. On Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson has parroted Molyneux’s misogynistic talking points. And last night’s tweet wasn’t the first time Trump Jr. has amplified Molyneux by either retweeting or liking tweets of his that feature hateful content.

    Molyneux has amassed significant influence on Twitter (over 404,000 followers) and YouTube (close to a million subscribers) thanks in part to the amplification of right-wing media figures with huge followings, which suggests that his views have become more the rule than the exception on the right. Some journalists have also pointed out the way prominent conservatives seem to ignore Molyneux's record of extremism when amplifying his tweets:

    Here’s a brief sample of Molyneux’s extremism.

    Molyneux is a white supremacist

    Molyneux often promotes scientific racism. On Twitter, Molyneux has repeatedly pushed statements that link IQ, race, and crime, a basic tenet of scientific racism. An episode of his YouTube show titled “Why Liberals are Wrong About Inequality” centered on discussing IQ differences between races, which earned him the accolades of neo-Nazi outlet The Daily Stormer.

    Molyneux was one of the most prominent promoters of false claims about “white genocide” in South Africa. On his YouTube channel, Molyneux has devoted several episodes to fearmongering about white “genocide” in South Africa, even hosting far-right troll Lauren Southern and appearing with Simon Roche, a South African agitator with ties to American white nationalist Jared Taylor.

    After a visit to Poland, Molyneux talked fondly about “white nationalism.” As reported by Angry White Men, a blog that tracks right-wing extremists, Molyneux “told viewers he was becoming much more sympathetic to white nationalism” after visiting Poland. On his YouTube channel, he recorded a video in which he waxed poetic about the country’s being “99% white” composition and relative lack of crime, and said that while he had previously “spoken out against white nationalism,” he “can’t argue with the reality.”

    Molyneux uses YouTube to promote white supremacist talking points and fearmonger about “population replacement.” The blog Angry White Men has documented Molyneux’s use of YouTube to push white supremacist talking points and racist rhetoric, including framing immigration as “population replacement,” claiming that diversity “means fewer white people,” and advocating for having “people of the same race and culture in a country” in the name of “social cohesion.” On YouTube, he also promoted white nationalist Richard Spencer’s views by calling for people to “listen to his goddamn arguments.”

    Molyneux is a virulent misogynist

    Molyneux regularly attacks feminism. Molyneux often uses his massive Twitter platform to lash out against feminism, once claiming that its purpose was “reducing white Christian birth rates.”

    Molyneux is a men’s rights activist. His YouTube content regularly features complaints about the supposed oppression of men in society, and he strongly championed James Damore, the Google employee who was fired after writing a memo contending that women’s underrepresentation in the technology field is due to biology.

    Molyneux is also an amplifier of idiotic conspiracy theories

    Molyneux once fearmongered that a new film in the Star Wars franchise was about the failure of diversity. As reported by Right Wing Watch, Molyneux devoted one of his YouTube videos to lashing out against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, claiming it was about the suffering of white men caused by increasing diversity.

    On his YouTube channel, he amplified the asinine claim that Democrats were involved in “spirit cooking” rituals. In a video that can still be found on his YouTube channel, Molyneux hosted rape apologist Mike Cernovich, who claimed that John Podesta, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, was involved in “spirit cooking” rituals during which participants mixed “semen with breast milk” to drink.

    He has claimed “globalism” is a plot to “take money from white males.”

  • A QAnon-linked conspiracy theory about Tom Hanks reached Twitter's and Google's search suggestions

    On YouTube, a user pushing the conspiracy theory made money off of the outrageous accusation

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A conspiracy theory accusing actor Tom Hanks of being involved in the death of a known conspiracy theorist has spread on social media platforms, affecting search suggestions about Hanks on Twitter and Google.

    On May 13, Isaac Kappy, an actor known for pushing conspiracy theories such as QAnon and “Doughnutgate,” reportedly died by suicide in Arizona. Kappy had previously helped manipulate search results for Hanks when he baselessly accused him of pedophila. The day after Kappy's death, an anonymous user on 8chan’s QAnon-themed message board “/qresearch/” accused Hanks of being involved in Kappy’s death because Hanks had posted a photo on social media in April showing a glove on the ground with the caption “Historic Route 66. Roadkill? I hope not! Hanx.” The user claimed that Hanks posted the picture from New Mexico, that Kappy was "based" there as well, and that Kappy died near Route 66.

    Later, a QAnon-focused Twitter account posted the same message as the 8chan post along with 8chan reactions to it. In the following days, the conspiracy theory spread on Twitter.

    YouTube conspiracy theorists also pushed the absurd claim, and at least one of them made money off of it through the use of the platform’s “super chats” feature.

    Because of the conspiracy theory, Hanks' social media posts have been bombarded with suggestions that he killed Kappy, accusations of pedophilia, and references to other conspiracy theories.

  • A short history of Turning Point USA's racism

    These incidents of racism just keep happening

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Turning Point USA is often associated with the time its members wore diapers in an attempt at “triggering” liberals, but this should not be the only public failure the group is remembered for. The conservative organization, which focuses on increasing right-wing political influence on college campuses, has a long history of involvement in racist incidents that are now permanently linked to its name.

    TPUSA’s founder and executive director, Charlie Kirk, has repeatedly denied that his organization is racist, yet the incidents of blatant bigotry involving members of TPUSA keep happening, even as leaks show white nationalists plotting to infiltrate it. Kirk, the right-wing “boy wonder” who has used Fox News to turn fearmongering about left-wing ideology on college campuses into a profitable grift, has also successfully leveraged his “perfectly incoherent” sycophancy for the Trump administration into a cozy relationship with the president’s family -- a relationship seemingly unaffected by TPUSA’s pattern of racism.

    Here are incidents of racism involving TPUSA:

    • Former TPUSA National Field Director Crystal Clanton sent text messages to another TPUSA employee that said “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.” Kirk had previously said about Clanton: “Turning Point needs more Crystals; so does America.”

    • After firing Clanton when her racist text message became public, Kirk hired Shialee Grooman and Troy Meeker. HuffPost reported that Grooman had written several anti-gay and racist tweets that included the n-word and Meeker had also tweeted an anti-Black slur. HuffPost also reported that former TPUSA Midwest regional manager Timon Prax was pushed out because of his record of using “bigoted language in tweets and texts,” including racist jokes and messages that “made fun of black people and referred to them as slaves.”

    • A former TPUSA field director recalled watching speakers at one of the organization’s annual student summits who “spoke badly about black women having all these babies out of wedlock. It was really offensive.” Speaking to The New Yorker in 2017, the former employee said that “looking back, I think it was racist.”

    • TPUSA defended Florida Atlantic University professor and TPUSA chapter faculty adviser Marshall DeRosa after The Nation reported his ties to white nationalist group League of the South.

    • In her resignation letter addressed to TPUSA field director Frankie O’Laughlin and regional manager Alana Mastrangelo following the group’s disastrous diaper protest, far-right Infowars personality Kaitlin Bennett pointed out that O’Laughlin had “liked” tweets from white supremacist YouTuber James Allsup.

    • Kirk’s own Twitter feed has featured anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim tweets, and he once tweeted a flawed statistic that minimized police brutality against Black people: “Fact: A police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male, than an unarmed black man is to be killed by a police officer.”

    • At a December 2017 TPUSA conference, attendee Juan Pablo Andrade was recorded telling several other conference attendees, “The only thing the Nazis didn’t get right is they didn’t keep fucking going!”

    • Members of the TPUSA chapter at Florida International University shared “racist memes and rape jokes” in the group’s chat messages. According to the Miami New Times, a prominent chapter member had to tell other TPUSA members to “avoid using the n word and don't reference Richard Spencer too much and don't Jew hate ... all the time.”

    • TPUSA Director of Urban Engagement Brandon Tatum told anti-Semitic YouTuber Bryan “Hotep Jesus” Sharpe that Sharpe was banned from TPUSA events because of “the optics of the anti-Semitic rhetoric.” Tatum summarized TPUSA’s position as being “between a rock and a hard place” because while “personally, none of us have a problem with you -- we want you here. It’s the optics. The media.”

    • TPUSA originally listed Gab, a white supremacist-friendly social media platform, as a sponsor for its 2018 Student Action Summit but “quietly dropped the company” shortly before the event.

    • TPUSA’s Iowa State University chapter reportedly invited white nationalist YouTuber Nick Fuentes to speak on campus.

    • Speaking at the December 11 launch of Turning Point UK, then-TPUSA Communications Director Candace Owens said, "If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. ... I have no problems with nationalism."

    • TPUSA Chief Creative Officer Benny Johnson kicked off a TPUSA event by saying, “Oh my God, I've never seen so many white people in one room. This is incredible!”

    • Riley Grisar, president of TPUSA’s University of Nevada chapter, praised white supremacy, saying, “We’re going to rule the country! White power!” and using the n-word in a video uncovered by the anti-fascist website It’s Going Down News.

    • Update (5/23): Former TPUSA high school outreach director Kyle Kashuv apologized on May 22 for his use of racial slurs while in high school. Kashuv joined TPUSA after becoming a prominent pro-gun activist following a deadly shooting at the school he attended, Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. On April 26, Kashuv spoke at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, and as of May 16, he stepped down from his position at TPUSA. As reported by The Daily Beast, right-wing activists and Parkland students circulated a Google Doc and screenshots of texts attributed to Kashuv in which he had used the n-word repeatedly.

    Media Matters is updating this piece as more incidents of racism linked to TPUSA come to light.

    Alex Kaplan contributed research for this list.

  • Facebook just removed six extremists from its platforms. Here's what should happen next.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Facebook just announced the removal of a notable cross-section of extremists from social networks Facebook and Instagram, including neo-Nazi sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos, anti-Muslim bigot Laura Loomer, far-right YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (again), and white supremacist Paul Nehlen, a failed Republican congressional candidate, while also removing Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan for his record of anti-Semitic rhetoric. This move by Facebook is a step in the right direction, opening doors to making its platforms safer and inspiring some optimism that the tech company might be capable of taking responsibility for the ways its platforms have empowered extremists. But it is clear that there is more to do.

    A long record of hate

    The newly banned figures owed their influence to the massive reach they were allowed to cultivate through Facebook and Instagram, using their accounts to post content that dehumanized entire communities, promoted hateful conspiracy theories, and radicalized audiences -- all while they profited from directing people to their own websites.

    After being banned from most other social media platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook itself, Jones found a safe haven on Instagram, where he had continued to post Infowars content that featured hate speech, promoted conspiracy theories, and amplified other extremists.

    Similarly, Laura Loomer used her private Instagram account to post content that violated the platform’s hate speech and bullying policies, consistently spewing dehumanizing anti-Muslim rhetoric.

    For his part, Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter in 2016 for leading a racist harassment campaign against actress Leslie Jones, but the former Breitbart editor went on to use Instagram and Facebook to spread hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric and mock people of color.

    Watson, who had long been affiliated with Jones’ Infowars outlet, used Facebook and Instagram to push anti-Muslim content, masquerading his hateful rhetoric as thinly veiled irony, and regularly maligning Islam as “incompatible with western society.”

    White supremacist Nehlen -- who has publicly stated that a “race war” needs to be “kick[ed] off” in the U.S. -- had already lost his Instagram account after posting anti-Semitic memes, but he still had an active Facebook page he used to share anti-Semitic dog whistles and screenshots of neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer with tens of thousands of followers, as well as to profit from running ads on the platform.

    What comes next

    It’s a welcome but long overdue step in the right direction that Facebook has now taken definitive action against some of the most glaring examples of toxicity on its platforms -- especially considering the tech company’s record of struggling to enforce policies that are effective in curbing the reach and influence of extremists. The company’s recent attempt to ban white supremacist content from its platforms proved insufficient, as its lack of specificity allowed extremists to continue posting racist content as long as they weren’t too explicit.

    However, there are still a number of achievable measures that Facebook could take to make users safer and to convince the public of the company’s resolve to fight extremism. Shireen Mitchell, who founded Stop Online Violence Against Women and the nonprofit Digital Sisters to promote diversity in the tech industry, has explained how Facebook’s moderation policies have been weaponized to harass women of color -- especially if they’re advocating for social change. Speaking to Media Matters, Mitchell said Facebook has banned people of color and activists like herself as a result of posts that mention white people in the context of racism and white supremacy. Her experience is consistent with a Media Matters analysis of Facebook pages that showed that white supremacist content is often treated as equivalent to content from groups that actually fight oppression, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, seemingly treating white people as a protected group while ignoring the historical context of structural racism.

    Some achievable measures that could help curb extremism while protecting users who experience oppression include:

    • Commit to enforcing standards against more codified white nationalism by more effectively pairing automated and human reviews to better identify violating content. Increasing the number of people tasked with platform monitoring and staffing those positions with culturally competent individuals would help identify white supremacists’ use of the coded extremist rhetoric and insidious false equivalences that artificial intelligence seems to be missing. Doing so would also help curb the uncritical amplification of dangerous content such as video clips of violent hate crimes or the manifestos of their perpetrators.

    • Proactively limit the visibility of content when its traffic is being directed from known toxic sources like anonymous message boards 8chan and 4chan. As reported by NBC’s Ben Collins, platforms are already able to identify traffic coming from toxic sources. In light of recent crimes in which perpetrators have gone on anonymous message boards to link to their Facebook accounts and broadcast mass shootings as extremist propaganda, the platform should more actively limit the visibility and spread of content that starts receiving high influxes of traffic from extremist sites.

    • Extend anti-discrimination policies currently applied to ads to include event pages and groups. Event pages and private groups are often useful tools that help extremists organize and mobilize. Existing anti-discrimination policies should also apply to content in these pages and groups.

    • Reassess fact-checking partnership with Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, which has ties to white supremacists and anti-Semites. The Daily Caller has a long history of publishing white supremacists, anti-Semites, and bigots; just yesterday it was revealed that The Daily Caller has fired the managing editor of the affiliated Daily Caller News Foundation (DCFN) for his connections to white supremacists. DCFN provides significant funding to the Daily Caller's fact-checking operation, Check Your Fact. Daily Caller founder Carlson constantly echoes white nationalist talking points on his Fox News show. And yet Facebook has teamed up with Check Your Fact as a fact-checker.

    • Pay attention to the cross-platform influence of highly followed users. White nationalists often use platforms like Instagram to sanitize their images with lifestyle content while spreading extremist propaganda on other platforms. As Data & Society research affiliate Becca Lewis told Media Matters, influential extremists on Instagram “will simply mimic fashion, beauty, or fitness influencers, but will espouse white supremacist propaganda elsewhere. In those cases, Instagram acts as a kind of honeypot.” Lewis suggested Facebook emulate Medium’s cross-platform moderation approach, in which users that violate Medium’s content policies on other platforms get banned on Medium.

    • Increase transparency in metrics for third-party auditors. Experts have warned about the risks of Facebook’s most recent privacy initiatives that limit Application Programming Interface (API) access to researchers (or access to the tools that allows individuals unaffiliated with Facebook to build software that uses Facebook data), hide Instagram metrics, and prioritize groups on Facebook (which would allow propaganda and extremism to propagate unchecked). As BuzzFeed’s Jane Lytvynenko pointed out, the move makes it harder for researchers and experts to audit content and metrics on the platforms. While it might save the tech company some bad press, it hinders outside researchers in their efforts to identify and scrutinize security concerns.

  • The Daily Caller has published white supremacists, anti-Semites, and bigots. Here are the ones we know about.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    This piece from September 5, 2018, has been updated to include an additional example.

    A former deputy editor for The Daily Caller severed ties with the conservative news site in light of the revelation that he had also written for a white supremacist website under a pseudonym, The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray reported Wednesday. Scott Greer, who stepped down from his editorial role earlier this year to write a book, said he would no longer contribute to the Caller after Gray presented him with evidence he had been “writing as ‘Michael McGregor’ for Radix, the online publication founded by the ‘alt-right’ leader Richard Spencer, who wants to turn America into a white ethno-state.”

    The difference between Greer’s writing under his own name and at Radix appears to be one of degree, not of kind. At the Caller, Greer had defended the Confederate battle flag and referenced other white nationalist tropes, the Southern Policy Law Center reported last year in a piece documenting Greer’s ties to white nationalists. And his book No Campus for White Men: The Transformation of Higher Education into Hateful Indoctrination was favorably reviewed by white nationalist websites. As “Michael McGregor” at Radix, Gray reported, Greer “expressed racist antiblack views and anti-Semitism” and “disparaged other groups including feminists, immigrants, Christian Zionists, and the pro-life movement.”

    The Caller’s leadership is reportedly shocked at the news that the publication employed someone with ties to white nationalists. Just last month, Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Ingersoll had defended Greer from such allegations. But in light of The Atlantic’s reporting, the website’s co-founder and publisher Neil Patel said in a statement to Gray: “We won’t publish him, anyone in these circles, or anyone who thinks like them. People who associate with these losers have no business writing for our company.”

    But as Gray notes, the Greer story shows that “members of an underground white-nationalist scene—emboldened by the rise of Donald Trump during the 2016 election—were able to operate relatively undetected in conservative institutions.” And the Caller has been ground zero for that phenomenon, publishing at least half a dozen writers with such ties over the last few years, in some cases cutting ties with the writer under scrutiny, in others ignoring the controversy. Notably, the Caller was co-founded by Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host whose show is beloved by neo-Nazis and white nationalists because he promotes their talking points against racial diversity and immigration and in favor of white anxiety.

    Below are the writers with white nationalist sympathies and ties that we know about. Some were hiding in plain sight, publishing bigoted commentary at the Caller itself. But Greer’s pseudonymous work for a white-supremacist website suggests there may be others who have yet to arise.

    Peter Brimelow 

    Brimelow wrote four op-eds for the Caller in 2017. He is a “zealous promoter of white-identity politics” whose anti-immigrant website VDare.com is “popular with the alt-right” and, by Brimelow’s own admission, publishes white nationalist writers, according to The Washington Post. Brimelow was a guest at the home of Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor, in August. His first piece for the Caller, in March 2017, defended Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) racist remark that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

    Jason Kessler

    The Caller contracted with Kessler in spring of 2017 “to contribute reportage,” and he produced three pieces for the site. The Caller suspended its relationship with him in May 2017 after ProPublica reported that Kessler “is supportive of white supremacist groups” and had “praised fascist and racist organizations.” Kessler subsequently organized the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, which featured white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The site removed Kessler’s author page and all his pieces shortly after Media Matters reached out for comment about his relationship with the site.

    Ian Smith 

    Smith wrote dozens of op-ed pieces for the Caller between 2014 and 2017, many of which call for harsher restrictions on immigration. Following Trump’s election, he joined the Department of Homeland Security, where he attended White House meetings on immigration policy, before resigning last month “after he was confronted about his ties to white nationalist groups.” Smith had also written for National Review and The Hill “during the period he was in communication with white-supremacist groups,” the Post reported.

    Milo Yiannopoulos 

    In November 2017, the Caller published what it described as the “first installment in [a] new weekly column” from Yiannapoulos, a notorious troll who worked with the “alt-right” to smuggle white nationalist ideas into Breitbart.com articles. Following an outcry, Yiannopoulos and the Daily Caller’s opinion editor, Robert Mariani, were fired.

    Moses Apostaticus

    In August 2016, the Caller published a piece by the pseudonymous writer Moses Apostaticus titled “The Alt-Right: Young White Men Sick of Being Hated,” in which he criticized the idea that “white men being as proud of their race and identity as black men or white women is profoundly disturbing.” He contributed more than 20 op-eds to the website over the next eight months, under headlines like “Go Home, Barry Soetoro” and “Donald Trump Is America’s Julius Caesar.” In May, Vox.com’s Jane Coaston pointed out Apostaticus’ history of anti-Semitic commentary.

    Ilana Mercer 

    The Caller published roughly 30 pieces from Mercer between December 2016 and November 2017. Her first piece, “The Curious Case of America’s Waning Whites,” argued that white birth rates are declining due in part to “systemic racial demonization” of poor whites. And her last, “Why Hatred of Whites is Here To Stay,” pushed the myth that white South Africans are experiencing genocide. The SPLC previously reported on Mercer’s writing for the Caller.

    Ian Miles Cheong

    A former Daily Caller contributor who last wrote for the site in May, Cheong “appeared on an alt-right podcast two months ago alongside hosts from the white supremacist podcast network The Right Stuff during which he told the hosts that he supported both nationalism and socialism,” according to Right Wing Watch.

    Dave Brooks (added 5/2/2019)

    In April 2019, Daily Caller News Foundation managing editor Dave Brooks was fired after BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray inquired about email correspondence suggesting he had contacts with white nationalists. The emails show that after Breitbart fired Katie McHugh for bigoted tweets, Brooks asked her whether she would “have any interest in working for [white nationalist publication American Renaissance] if I talked to Richard?” and saying that “I also know [white nationalist] Jared Taylor has been looking for an investigative reporter.” Brooks told Gray, “I am not friends, professionally or personally, with these people. I inquired on [McHugh’s] behalf through people I knew, and I haven't spoken to any of them in years.”

  • Trump-endorsed One America News Network among right-wing amplifiers of Jacob Wohl's attempted smear of Pete Buttigieg

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Far-right network One America News Network and others helped spread a hoax from pro-Trump trolls Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman regarding Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

    One America News Network has repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories and employs well-known right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. President Donald Trump has praised the network, and he regularly watches and cites its programs -- just last week, he pushed a false claim from OANN that the United Kingdom helped the Obama administration spy on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

    On April 29, the network aired a segment about a Medium post purportedly from a man named Hunter Kelly accusing Buttigieg of sexually assaulting him earlier this year.

    Media Matters did not find a segment since then correcting the report.

    The real Kelly has since come forward to deny he wrote the post; he said Wohl and Burkman tricked him after approaching him to ask him to make up the allegation. From The Daily Beast:

    Kelly said that Wohl and his similarly infamous cohort, lobbyist Jack Burkman, booked him a flight from Michigan to Baltimore. From there, they drove to Burkman’s home in Arlington where Wohl showed him a draft of a statement detailing the bogus accusations against Buttigieg.

    Kelly said he expressed concerns about the scheme but Wohl told him to sleep on it. When Kelly woke at around 11 in the morning, Wohl “was already dressed in a suit because he ‘can’t do a Monday if he isn’t in a suit’” and—of more significance—the fabricated statement had been posted to Medium, along with fake Twitter and Gmail accounts in Kelly’s name.

    According to Kelly, Burkman tried to calm his nerves by claiming that he was a “‘star’ and people are eating me up.”

    The trio, according to Kelly, ate Subway sandwiches, during which Kelly continued to express his regrets. Burkman and Wohl tried to calm him down by promising to purchase “any house I wanted” and insisting that his family would “get over it.”

    Wohl has a history of pushing false claims and hoaxes. He told USA Today in February that he aimed to interfere in the Democratic presidential primaries, including with the use of fake social media accounts, and he previously spread a false claim about Democratic candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). The lie about Buttigieg also resembles a similar scheme by Wohl and Burkman involving a fake intelligence service used to fabricate a false sexual assault allegation against special counsel Robert Mueller.

    In addition to OANN, other figures and outlets that pushed Wohl and Burkman’s false claim about Buttigieg include:

    • PJ Media, though the original link has since been updated to note that the story is false

    • Fellow Gateway Pundit writer Cassandra Fairbanks (who has also since deleted her tweet, which was captured via CrowdTangle)

    • Radio host Bill Mitchell

    • Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” subreddit and 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board known as “/pol/”

    According to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, links to articles that pushed the false claim received more than 31,000 Facebook and Twitter shares combined. The original Medium post also received at least 60,000 Facebook engagements.

    Update (5/1/19): OANN has since aired a segment acknowledging that the allegation against Buttigieg was a hoax from Wohl. On the April 30 edition of The Daily Ledger, guest host Alex Salvi talked about Wohl’s “smear effort” without noting that his own network had pushed the same allegation a day earlier, mocklingly saying, “I mean, we were supposed to believe that Buttigieg announced his candidacy and then immediately went and sexually assaulted someone? It makes no sense.”

  • How Fox News tries to mainstream a white supremacist conspiracy theory

    Blog ››› ››› JASON CAMPBELL & JOHN KERR

    Adding to its pattern of mainstreaming toxic extremism, Fox News regularly echoes and sanitizes the dangerous white supremacist conspiracy theory that non-white immigrants represent the threat of “replacement” to white populations. This racist talking point has already inspired massacres and hate crimes around the world.

    On March 15, an avowed white supremacist shot and killed at least 50 Muslims and injured many others at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Prior to the massacre, the shooter allegedly wrote and promoted online a manifesto titled “The Great Replacement,” seemingly a reference to a popular white supremacist conspiracy theory fearmongering about white populations being replaced in majority-white countries due to demographic changes. The same sentiment was echoed during a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, in which white supremacists holding torches chanted, “You will not replace us.”

    Proponents of the conspiracy theory often scapegoat immigration as the central cause by which white people are being “replaced,” and they blame politicians and elites, saying they are intent on changing the demographics of predominantly white nations to dilute the political power of white populations. A mass shooting believed to be deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history -- in which a gunman opened fire in October 2018 inside of a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue, murdering 11 people -- was also motivated by the replacement conspiracy theory, with the alleged shooter accusing Jewish people of bringing in “invaders" to “kill our people."

    While the replacement conspiracy theory has long been a mainstay in white supremacist circles, Fox News has been mainstreaming the concept by consistently fearmongering about the threat of replacement via changing demographics in the United States.

  • Study: As Notre Dame burned, anti-Muslim content thrived online

    On 4chan and 8chan, the number of posts with mentions of Muslims and anti-Muslim slurs spiked on April 15, and on Facebook, the top-performing post was from an anti-Muslim bigot.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Anti-Muslim content surged online as the tragic news broke on Monday of a fire engulfing Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, with far-right figures weaponizing news of the seemingly accidental fire to link it to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to scapegoat Muslims and Islam. A Media Matters analysis found that anti-Muslim sentiment spiked on 4chan and 8chan on April 15, while the story containing the words “Muslim” or “Islam” that got the most engagements on Facebook was from an anti-Muslim bigot and claimed, “Jihadis reveled in the fire engulfing the Notre Dame Cathedral.”

    On anonymous message boards 4chan and 8chan, posts containing mentions of either “Muslim” or “Islam,” references to 9/11, or offensive anti-Muslim slurs skyrocketed on April 15 well beyond the average in the days before Notre Dame burned. On 4chan’s “politically incorrect” board, “/pol/,” the thread with the most posts containing those search terms was an April 15 discussion about the fire at Notre Dame. From April 9 to April 14, we looked at spikes in mentions of these words and found 10 high spots. The average number of mentions from those spikes was 209. But on April 15, 897 posts contained those words -- over four times the average.

    Media Matters also analyzed Spike data for Facebook posts containing the search terms “Muslim” or “Islam,” which showed that the post that earned the most interactions on April 15 came from anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller, who linked to a story on her site accusing Muslims of laughing at the sight of Notre Dame burning. (The story was based on a far-right hoax that baselessly claimed people who reacted with laughing emojis to a Facebook livestream of Notre Dame burning were Muslim). The post earned almost 38,000 interactions -- well over twice the 16,506 interactions of the next highest search result, a HuffPost story unrelated to the burning cathedral. Geller’s Facebook post overperformed her usual content by 15.71 times, a metric which Spike calculates “by comparing a story or post’s performance to the publisher’s historical average.”

    French prosecutors have reportedly ruled out arson as a cause for the tragic fire. This is not the first time news cycle events have triggered waves of bigotry on anonymous message boards: A study by the Anti-Defamation League found that there was a spike in posts containing racist terms on 4chan following President Donald Trump’s election.  

    Natalie Martinez provided research for this piece.

  • The far-right is using the tragic Notre Dame Cathedral fire to push conspiracy theories and bigotry

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As a fire consumed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, far-right figures took to social media platforms and message boards to spread misinformation and baseless claims, such as speculating that the fire was connected to terrorism or suggesting that Muslims and ISIS were linked to the tragedy.

    As reported by The New York Times, a spokesperson for the cathedral said the fire’s cause is not yet known, and prosecutors have since ruled out arson. And yet far-right narratives and speculation have already influenced automated suggestions on social media platforms like YouTube, which scrambled as the news was breaking to contain auto-generated text linking content about the cathedral fire to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    Here are some examples of the far-right using the Notre Dame fire to spread bigotry, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other baseless claims on tech platforms and elsewhere:

    A popular conspiracy theorist known as Partisangirl speculated that French President Emmanuel Macron had “probably set fire to Notre Dame” as a way to deal with recent protests:

    Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson spread a claim based on a since-deleted tweet that cited a Notre Dame Cathedral worker saying “the blaze was deliberately set":

    White nationalist Faith Goldy appeared to suggest that the fire was possible retaliation for the mosque shootings in New Zealand last month in which 50 Muslims were murdered:

    Jim Hoft’s The Gateway Pundit published a “flashback” to ISIS claims that the 2015 terrorist attack in a Paris concert house was “just the beginning”:

    A thread in Reddit’s pro-Trump forum “r/The_Donald” suggested Islam was to blame for the tragedy:

    Anti-Muslim extremist group leader Frank Gaffney baselessly suggested that the fire was part of a “Sharia-supremacist assault on Christianity.”

    Anti-Muslim blog Jihad Watch originally wrongly implied a Muslim woman arrested for an attempted car bombing was related to the attack (it later noted it was a separate story); the baseless suggestion was picked up by The Gateway Pundit and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer.

    Fox guest host Mark Steyn mentioned terrorist attacks by Muslims while discussing the fire and suggested it showed the decline of Christianity in Europe.

    Loomer, fellow anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller, and others on social media suggested a connection between the fire and two men smiling near it, with Geller writing, “Muslims laugh as blaze destroys Notre Dame.”

    Far-right conspiracy theorists Mike Cernovich, Stefan Molyneux, and James Woods claimed the fire meant “the West has fallen,” that it showed the “general decline in IQ throughout the West,” or that it showed “the great and glorious history of Christianity … being eradicated from the face of the ‘new’ Europe.”

    TheBlaze host Glenn Beck said that if the fire “was started by Islamists, I don't think you'll find out about it.”

    Major Twitter accounts pushing the QAnon conspiracy theory also suggested the fire was set deliberately, including Educating Liberals (run by Dylan Wheeler), an account the president's son Donald Trump Jr. follows.

    Anonymous users on far-right message boards on 4chan and 8chan blamed Muslims, suggested it was a false flag, and claimed it was retaliation from “the deep state.”

  • Fox keeps pushing the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that motivated the Tree of Life shooter

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Before setting out to allegedly perpetrate what’s believed to have been the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history, the Tree of Life synagogue shooter went on Gab to write a post in which he blamed Jewish people in the U.S. “for bringing in an invasion of nonwhite immigrants.” In the past 24 hours, Fox has peddled the same talking point twice during its prime-time programming, showing that the network is not above promoting the same baseless, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that have motivated violent extremists.

    On the April 10 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity hosted conspiracy theory-monger Glenn Beck, who said the migrant caravans were “directly” funded by “George Soros and others” (George Soros is Jewish). Beck then directly addressed President Donald Trump -- a common practice at Fox -- saying the caravans are “an assault on the republic” and that “we can’t fight the enemy if we won’t call them by name.”

    And while fearmongering about immigration during the April 10 edition of his show, Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs claimed “left-wing money, a lot of groups” and “the United Nations” (which the Tree of Life shooter also mentioned) were behind caravans of migrants headed for the U.S. border.

    Though Dobbs didn’t specifically mention Jewish people, he has peddled the conspiracy theory of Jewish groups funding migrant caravans enough times that “left-wing money” has become a dog whistle for his intended audience. Dobbs and others at Fox News repeatedly peddled this conspiracy theory in 2018 with little repercussion. After Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrell claimed on Dobbs’ show that the “Soros-occupied State Department” was helping fund a group of migrants traveling to the United States, people widely criticized the show, with Variety noting that “citations like that are typically meant to allude to Jews,” and Fox condemned the statement, banning Farrell from the network. But soon after, Dobbs showed the hollowness of Fox’s attempt to curtail anti-Semitism on its airwaves; as Dobbs tried to wrap up a segment in another episode, one of his guests said criticizing Soros was not anti-Semitic. Dobbs laughed, adding, “I’m certainly glad that I didn’t just break away there.”

    Additionally, Dobbs’ baseless comments about migrants have been celebrated in the past by conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, whose site Infowars pushed the conspiracy theory that the United Nations and George Soros is behind the “migrant caravan invasion.”

    After the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and even after Soros himself was directly targeted with a pipe bomb, right-wing media figures continued their attacks on him. Dobbs posted a tweet, which he later deleted, saying, “Fake News--Fake Bombs.”

    Many journalists and media figures noticed yesterday’s episode of blatant anti-Semitism and its connections to the Tree of Life massacre. But to Fox, it’s business as usual.