Birthers | Media Matters for America

Birthers

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  • 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):

  • Chris Cuomo’s extremely bad birther-coddling tweet

    Update: Cuomo deleted the tweet

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Early this morning a famously thick-witted right-wing troll authored an inflammatory and ignorant tweet arguing that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is not a natural-born citizen and is thus ineligible to run for the presidency. Harris was born in Oakland in 1961, which means she’s been a citizen since birth, which means she’s a natural-born citizen of the United States as defined by legal and historical precedent, which means she doesn’t have to call off her just-announced candidacy for president. There is no credible argument to the contrary, and there is no evidence to the contrary -- there’s just a deceitful tweet from a known fraudster.

    But the accusation was provocative enough for CNN anchor Chris Cuomo to (in a since-deleted tweet) exhort both parties of this nonexistent argument -- the idiot troll and the California senator -- to get all the facts out there and resolve the issue:

    “The longer there is no proof either way, the deeper the effect.” There is proof! Harris was born in California. She’s a citizen. That’s the proof. The way a nonsense allegation like this builds “effect” is if it’s treated with any degree of seriousness by the press.

    After the prolonged and ridiculous farce that was the Obama birther movement, only the most credulous and determinedly obtuse media figures would see the same exact allegations inflicted on another politician of color and extend any presumption of good faith to the malicious cretins behind it. Cuomo has done exactly that, and he went a step further by nudging Harris to lay out her “proof” to the contrary, wrongly suggesting that there’s anything that needs disproving.

    Cuomo’s tweet got slammed by Twitter users, so he backpedaled and angrily insisted that he was only demanding that Harris’ accusers back up their allegation. Even if you were to grant Cuomo this explanation, he still presumed that there could be anything more to this story than a famously disreputable troll hurling racist nonsense at a Democratic presidential candidate. After absorbing enough criticism, Cuomo deleted the tweet, explaining: “The tweet was meant to put onus on accuser. Not Harris. That is the lesson of birtherism.”

    That is not the lesson of birtherism. The Obama-era birthers never came anywhere close to proving their accusation, and it didn’t matter one bit. The only thing they cared about was getting people to treat their obvious bullshit with a modicum of seriousness. The country’s most famous birther was challenged repeatedly to back up his outlandish allegations about President Barack Obama; he never did, but flogging the racist conspiracy theory made him a hero to the political movement that eventually elected him president.

    The larger problem here is that there are influential figures in the press who bafflingly, incomprehensibly still don’t understand that there is a right-wing propaganda machine that exists solely to extrude disinformation in the hope that it will filter up through the media. Cuomo likely believes his treatment of this new-wave birtherism is high-minded and fair; it never occurs to him that he’s giving the trolls exactly what they want.

    This post has been updated for clarity.

  • Far-right conspiracy theory: The CIA hacked a Hawaii database to forge Obama’s birth certificate

    Conspiracy theory reaches local talk radio and fake news websites

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Some local talk radio shows and fake news websites are pushing a new conspiracy theory from Infowars that the CIA hacked into a Hawaii state government database to forge former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. One of the radio hosts pushing the conspiracy theory has previously been cited as an analyst on a local ABC affiliate.

    On December 12, Jerome Corsi of the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars claimed that investigators for former Maricopa County, AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, headed by his chief investigator Michael Zullo, had found “evidence that the CIA and or other government entities illegally hacked into Hawaii Department of Health records searching for” Obama’s records. (President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio in August after he was charged with criminal contempt because of his treatment of undocumented immigrants.) Corsi, who has been a chief figure of the birther movement, added that the “evidence” “strongly suggests the CIA played a role in the forgery” of Obama’s birth certificate.

    Some local talk radio stations have hyped Infowars’ report. New Orleans talk radio host Jeff Crouere -- a Townhall writer who has been featured as a “political analyst” on ABC’s New Orleans affiliate WGNO -- called Corsi’s report a “bombshell” on his radio program (which is carried by a station affiliated with Louisiana Public Broadcasting) and said, “I’ve said from the beginning that birth certificate [Obama] released was a fraud.”

    Some stations have invited Corsi and Zullo as guests on different radio shows and allowed them to push the extremely dubious allegation. Corsi hyped his report on Weekend Wake Up with Chuck and Julie on Denver, CO, radio station KNUS, where Corsi said that the “CIA played a major role in, I believe, creating” Obama’s long-form birth certificate that was released in 2011. Corsi also promoted the conspiracy theory on The Peter Boyles Show, which also airs on KNUS. In response to Corsi’s “report,” Boyles said that Obama’s “social security number is fraudulent” (Boyles has previously allowed guests to push birtherism on his program). Zullo spoke about the article on the show Your Turn on Northwest Florida radio station WEBY, where the host called the report a “bombshell” that’s “shaking the Earth” and lauded Infowars.

    Additionally, multiple fake news websites have lauded the report, with some of them also calling it a “bombshell” and claiming that it showed the CIA, “possibly with the help of other government agencies, forged Obama’s documentation.” Some of these fake news websites also used their verified Facebook pages to push the conspiracy theory. The Infowars report was also hyped on the pro-Trump subreddit “/r/The_Donald,” a conduit for conspiracy theories.

    This is not the first time this year that an Infowars conspiracy theory citing Arpaio has reverberated in the right-wing echo chamber with the help of fake news websites. In March, the outlet, trying to back Trump’s false claim that Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower, asserted that Arpaio had documents showing that Trump and his family had been surveilled by the National Security Agency (NSA) for years. That report subsequently spread to other far-right outlets and fake news websites, along with The Drudge Report.

  • How Fox promoted convicted criminal Joe Arpaio, who may be pardoned by Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Over the past two decades, Fox News and Fox Business frequently praised and hosted Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, elevating him to national recognition. Now Arpaio, who was recently convicted of criminal contempt of court in a racial profiling case, has said that he would accept a pardon from President Donald Trump -- and Trump is reportedly considering it. Trump praised Arpaio's birther "investigation" in 2012, was endorsed by Arpaio during the campaign, and has lauded the sheriff's anti-immigrant work.

    On July 31, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court after he defied “a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.” As The New York Times noted, the order originated from a lawsuit filed a decade ago “charging that the sheriff’s office regularly violated the rights of Latinos, stopping people based on racial profiling, detaining them based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally, and turning them over to the immigration authorities.”

    Arpaio has a long record of employing “humiliating and inhumane” treatment of prisoners; he became infamous in 1993, after he was elected sheriff, for opening an outdoor Tent City Jail where inmates were made to live outside in tents in triple-digit Arizona heat. Additionally, Arpaio fed prisoners rotten food, instituted all-female and juvenile chain gangs, and used webcams to broadcast scenes from a jail including a feed “that showed female inmates using a toilet.” The Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating Arpaio for illegal racial profiling in 2008 and accused him of “unconstitutional policing” in December 2011.

    Yet, over the years, Fox News Network worked to enhance Arpaio’s stature, hosting him no less than 65 times on Fox News and Fox Business from March 1999 through early September 2016, according to a search of Nexis transcripts. In July 2000, Fox host Sean Hannity gushed over Arpaio’s use of webcams in jail, and, in an earlier episode, praised Arpaio’s treatment of inmates by terming it “deterrence.” In 2014, Neil Cavuto criticized the DOJ’s investigation into Arpaio, telling him, “You've been treated more as a criminal than the criminals you're rounding up.” In 2010, Eric Bolling encouraged Arpaio to run for governor of Arizona.

    Fox has also repeatedly ignored Arpaio’s failings as sheriff. Fox News and Fox Business almost completely ignored an Associated Press report from December 2011 that Arpaio mishandled hundreds of sex-crimes cases while also giving him a platform to attack the Obama administration and claim he was a victim of a witch hunt. A year before, in 2010, Fox had hyped a claim from Arpaio’s lawyer that his client’s office was “transparent” in its operation, even though a federal judge had sanctioned Arpaio’s office “for destroying evidence in a racial-profiling case.”

    During his presidential campaign, Trump proudly touted an endorsement from Arpaio at least four times during interviews on Fox, according to Nexis transcripts. He declared Arpaio “the king of the borders” and said, “When [Arpaio] endorses you, that means you have the best border plan.” In March 2016, Trump claimed on Hannity that Arpaio “doesn’t get enough credit for the incredible job he’s doing.” After Trump won the Arizona Republican primary, he thanked Arpaio on Twitter for his help. Trump evidently thought so highly of Arpaio’s racial discrimination and other illegal acts that he reportedly considered appointing Arpaio to head the Department of Homeland Security.

    And Trump’s public admiration for Arpaio extends back to before his campaign began, dating at least to Obama’s re-election. Trump and Arpaio were in lockstep on the racist birther conspiracy theory, which alleged that Obama was not born in America and was thus ineligible to be president. While Trump’s public attacks on Obama’s legitimacy as president began months before Arpaio’s “Cold Case Posse” began scrutinizing Obama’s publicly released birth certificate, Trump repeatedly tweeted support of Arpaio’s “investigation” into Obama’s birth certificate in July 2012:

    It was Fox News that first reported that Trump was "seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio" in "a conversation with Fox News at his club in Bedminster, N.J." If indeed Arpaio is pardoned for his criminal conduct, the credit may just belong to the president's favorite news network.

  • “Mind control,” “shadow government,” and Seth Rich: Sean Hannity’s history of pushing conspiracy theories

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News host Sean Hannity attracted widespread condemnation for pushing conspiracy theories about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, but it wasn’t his first time promoting or entertaining such wild claims on air. From claiming that the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem because he “may have converted to Islam” to implying that former President Barack Obama is a terrorist sympathizer, here are some examples of Hannity embracing conspiracy theories.