CNN's Jeffrey Lord: Trump's Strategy Of Creating A Crisis In Healthcare Is Similar To Tactics Of Martin Luther King
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Chicago Urban League CEO Shari Runner: “There Is Zero Tolerance” For Segments On iHeartRadio That Ridicule The African-American Community
Civil rights and gun violence prevention organizations are continuing to call on iHeartRadio to break its silence on conservative radio host Michael Berry, who hosted a weekly segment called the “Butcher Bill” and “The Chicago Weekend Crime Report” that was dedicated to mocking victims of Chicago gun violence.
Berry hosted the racially charged segment for several years on his iHeartRadio syndicated show The Michael Berry Show, and in March Talkers magazine reported that he would be honored with a “Talk Personality of the Year” award at the 2017 iHeartMusic Awards. After mounting pressure from several local Chicago news outlets, Berry issued a disingenuous apology for his “Butcher Bill” segment and pledged to end it.
But iHeartRadio refused to publicly comment on the controversy or say whether Berry had actually received the award during the March 5 ceremony.
Despite a letter from 21 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups calling on the company to confirm whether it gave Berry the award, and a letter from the Chicago Urban League and other Chicago groups calling for Berry to be fired, iHeartRadio has refused to publicly address the situation.
During the April 10 edition of WVON’s The Talk Of Chicago, Chicago Urban League president and CEO Shari Runner said that there can be “zero tolerance” for characterizing African-Americans “as people who are lawless, unprofessional, [and] uncaring,” as Berry’s segment did. Runner highlighted iHeartRadio’s large African-American audience and suggested that advertisers should consider whether they want to be associated with iHeartRadio’s brand:
From the April 10 edition of WVON’s The Talk Of Chicago:
RUFUS WILLIAMS (GUEST HOST): Have you been able to get caught up with what’s going on from your staff, and just give us some opening thoughts on what you think about this situation? Then we got a couple calls I’d like to take too.
SHARI RUNNER (CHICAGO URBAN LEAGUE): Yeah, I think it’s very important that we talk about how we as African-Americans manage our narrative. This is not the kind of thing that we want to let happen and lay silent about. It doesn’t -- it hasn’t gotten the kind of press that Bill O’Reilly has. But it is equally if not more important that we understand how people hijack and think about what it is that we are doing as African-Americans to say this is who we are and this is where we should be.
WILLIAMS: That’s a good point because it really does ask the question: What is our tolerable level of insult? And we’ve got to know that this beyond the pale. This is certainly beyond it, and we can stop and see all of the media that comes when Bill O’Reilly has a sex abuse, sex whatever, issue. And everybody pays attention and advertisers fall from that. There needs to be the same kind of outcry. There needs to be the same kind of reduction that happens when our -- when we are mocked as a people in the way in which this has happened.
RUNNER: Yeah. No question about it. There is no tolerance. There is zero tolerance as we’ve heard in a number of different ways, that we can allow African-American people to be characterized as people who are lawless, unprofessional, uncaring. This is a big deal and we need to start with this one thing, if not many things, to make sure that our community is characterized in the right light.
WILLIAMS: So Shari, where we stopped in leading up to our chronology for -- to today, and where we have been with this response is, we stopped at the point of having had the conversation last week with Greg [Ashlock] of iHeartMedia who runs the region that includes this guy’s show down in Texas. So he was supposed to get back to Paula [Thornton Greear, senior vice president of Chicago Urban League,] by Friday, which he did not do. So where we are now is talking about what our next steps will be. And I know we haven’t collectively sat down and talked about that, but, what I would like to do is to talk about that. Get some thoughts from you, get some thoughts from here, get some thoughts from our audience. What is it that we think our next step should be? Because we did talk about the lack of diversity in the C-suite, we talked about the lack of diversity on their board, we talked about the fact that we need to understand where their dollars gets spent, the huge influence that iHeart has on our community given the number of African-American, the number of black listeners who listen to iHeart stations. So let’s talk about what we think our next steps should be from this point, having not heard from them through today.
RUNNER: Well it's very, very important. And I know that we have entertainment value around the people that are represented on iHeartRadio. Ninety seven percent of African-American listeners listen to a station, an urban radio station, that is owned by iHeart. And they do that. And iHeart makes money around creating dollars for advertisers who want to engage those listeners. So, how important is that to us? How important, as we’ve heard Nielson say over and over again, we have spending votes. It is not just the votes we do at the ballot box, it is a matter of how do we use those spending votes to make sure that we are available to create a movement that happens for us. And --
WILLIAMS: So basically, you are saying, who are their advertisers? Who are the people who support iHeart? Who are the stations that we have been listening to and where we should pull back in effecting those things?
RUNNER: Yes, absolutely. We do it and we think about it -- I hope everybody thinks about it as it relates to the Koch brothers, and who they are and what they do as it relates to our community. But really, how do we use our power as an African-American community in this country to make sure that we are doing the right things to get the things that benefit our community.
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Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was widely criticized for his racist remarks in which he mocked the hair of an African-American congresswoman, saying it looked like she was wearing a “James Brown wig.” This isn’t the first time O’Reilly has made such comments; in fact, he has a history of saying racist things.
Breitbart’s xenophobic “Sweden YES” tag is a dog whistle to the “alt-right,” and the misleading articles marked with the label serve as the foundation for the outlet’s anti-immigrant campaign in both Europe and the United States.
In a March 17 interview with NBC News, Breitbart.com’ Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow attempted to distance his site from the “alt-right,” claiming that it’s “not a hate site.” But one of the website’s new favorite content tags -- “Sweden YES!” -- is an “alt-right” catchphrase that began as an effort to mock Sweden’s multiculturalism, gender equality, and positive stance on immigration.
According to Know Your Meme, “Sweden Yes” began on a German international messageboard, Krautchan/int/, in 2012. From there, it became a subreddit, which is currently “quarantined” due to its “shocking or highly offensive content.” The phrase is also popular on the anonymous online message board 4chan, where there is currently an archived Sweden Yes thread on the /pol/ page, with activity as recent as March 20. The meme is associated with Captain Sweden, a series of Swedish webcomics named for an anthropomorphized multicultural Sweden, often depicted engaging in interracial intercourse or featuring immigrants engaged in criminal behavior.
The Breitbart content organized under the “Sweden Yes” tag is written almost exclusively by Chris Tomlinson, a Breitbart London contributor who often retweets far-right French political leader Marine Le Pen and far-right, anti-Muslim Dutch political leader Geert Wilders, as well as Lauren Southern, an “alt-right” media figure who was recently allowed into a White House press briefing. Virginia Hale, a white nationalist Breitbart reporter with a history of using anti-Muslim rhetoric, has also written “Sweden Yes” content in recent weeks.
The first Breitbart content tagged “Sweden Yes” was published in November 2015. But that article was one of only five pieces of content given the tag before President Donald Trump’s February 18 speech in which he instructed the audience to “look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” which he said “took in large numbers” of Muslim immigrants and refugees. Trump followed up his remarks about Sweden by mentioning three French and Belgian cities attacked by domestic terrorists over the past two years. Trump’s comment was a clear suggestion that Muslims and refugees are responsible for a so-called “crime wave” in Sweden. Multiple fact-checkers have debunked both Trump’s seeming implication of an attack the night before he spoke and his claim about migrant crime in Sweden. But the damage had already been done. Since his speech, Breitbart has labeled 32 pieces of content (of a total of 37) with the “Sweden Yes” tag.
The site’s “Sweden Yes” content often makes evidence-free claims, exaggerates unrelated past incidents of crime to report on recent events, or exploits incidents in other countries to stoke fear about immigrant crime in Sweden. For example, a March 8 Breitbart article fearmongered about the takeover of Malmö due to “mass migration, predominantly from Middle Eastern nations” to claim that the the city’s longtime residents are leaving the city, possibly due to an “explosion in crime” and “warring gangs.” But the words “warring gangs” are hyperlinked to another Breitbart article about these so-called gangs, which cites a Reuters article. Reuters makes no mention of whether the perpetrator of the gang shooting of a 16-year-old boy in Malmö was an immigrant.
Another Breitbart article, about a Swedish program to train asylum seekers from the Middle East to work in correctional facilities, acknowledges that “so far the program has not run into a glaring issue that plagues many prisons across Europe, the growth of radical Islam and radicalization of inmates,” before claiming that French and British prisons have becoming a “breeding ground for radical Islamic indoctrination.” But the training program is in Sweden, not France or Britain, and while it places recently arrived immigrants in jobs within prisons, these program participants are guards, not inmates. The article also claims, “In HMP Gartree, a maximum security prison in the UK, entire cell blocks are run under a variation of Islamic sharia law according to reports.” The words “Islamic sharia law” link to another Breitbart article, which cites a Sun article to claim “Muslim extremists … are running an entire [cell] block under sharia law.” However, the Sun quotes a prison spokesman in the U.K. saying, “There is no evidence to back-up any of these claims about HMP Gartree."
The exploitation of longstanding anti-Muslim tropes in the context of Swedish crime is merely the latest iteration of Breitbart’s anti-immigrant crusade in Europe. A false report Breitbart published in January alleging that a "mob" of Muslims attacked a German church spurred the German government to investigate what it deemed the “unprecedented proliferation” of fake news, a phenomenon which the Swedish prime minister recently mentioned as a concern his government is committed to investigating.
The Trump administration has drawn criticism for its seeming embrace of the anti-immigrant "alt-right" movement. The incoming Trump administration was criticized in December 2016 because "A senior member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and a delegation of US Republican and European lawmakers canceled a briefing  with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely over a refusal to allow a Swedish far-right member of the group into the meeting[.]" Nevertheless, President Trump in January gave former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon a seat on the National Security Council's principals committee, which affords him access to meetings with senior-most national security officials. While Bannon is no longer formally associated with the outlet, according to a former Breitbart spokesperson, the site is still heavily influenced by Bannon’s editorial guidance.
Trump’s baseless February 18 claim about immigrants committing crimes in Sweden is just one more example of how his administration both validates outlets like Breitbart and mainstreams “alt-right” narratives under the guise of keeping Americans safe.
Image by sarah Wasko.
Iowa Radio Host Mickelson Is Notorious For His Bigotry Against Muslims, LGBTQ Individuals, And Immigrants
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) appeared on Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson’s show to address the outrage over his racist tweet in which he claimed that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Mickelson, who is notorious for his bigotry against Muslims and LGBTQ Americans, as well as for calling for undocumented immigrants to be enslaved, helped King defend his tweet, and the interview ended with King urging Mickelson’s listeners to read the novel The Camp of the Saints, which The Huffington Post called “breathtakingly racist.”
On March 12, King drew fire after tweeting, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” in apparent support of a prominent anti-Muslim Dutch politician, Geert Wilders. King’s tweet was cheered on by white nationalists and neo-Nazis, who rallied around the Republican congressman, calling him a “hero” for “openly endorsing White nationalism.”
Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies. https://t.co/4nxLipafWO
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) March 12, 2017
King defended his tweet during a CNN interview with Chris Cuomo on Monday, saying, “I meant exactly what I said,” and again on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, where the host agreed with King’s tweet. King additionally appeared on Mickelson’s show for a nearly 20-minute interview in which Mickelson offered defenses of King’s tweet by quoting John Jay, the country's first chief justice of the Supreme Court, criticizing diversity. Later Mickelson said, “You were accused of being a white supremist” (sic), but “you’re not talking about race, are you, at all?” CNN’s KFile first reported on this interview by highlighting a comment King made in which he predicted that “Hispanics and the blacks will be fighting each other” before they outnumber white people in America.
Despite his claim that the tweet had nothing to do with race, at the end of the interview King recommended that Mickelson’s listeners read a novel titled The Camp of the Saints. The Huffington Post reported earlier this month that Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, has spent years telling people that this novel explains the European refugee crisis. The article explained why it’s so alarming that someone in power is citing this book:
The book is a cult favorite on the far right, yet it’s never found a wider audience. There’s a good reason for that: It’s breathtakingly racist.
“[This book is] racist in the literal sense of the term. It uses race as the main characterization of characters,” said Cécile Alduy, professor of French at Stanford University and an expert on the contemporary French far right. “It describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague.”
The book, she said, “reframes everything as the fight to death between races.”
Upon the novel’s release in the United States in 1975, the influential book review magazine Kirkus Reviews pulled no punches: “The publishers are presenting The Camp of the Saints as a major event, and it probably is, in much the same sense that Mein Kampf was a major event.”
Linda Chavez, a Republican commentator who has worked for GOP presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush but opposed Trump’s election, also reviewed the book back then. Forty years later, she hasn’t forgotten it.
“It is really shockingly racist,” Chavez told The Huffington Post, “and to have the counselor to the president see this as one of his touchstones, I think, says volumes about his attitude.”
Mickelson’s show is an interesting choice for King to defend himself from accusations of racism, given the radio host’s own bigoted statements. In late 2015, Mickelson repeatedly characterized Muslims in America as not culturally compatible with the country. Mickelson also called LGBTQ advocates “same-gender Nazis” and said they are part of a “gay Taliban,” agreed with ex-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that homosexuality is “ugly behavior,” and, years earlier, suggested that God invented AIDS to punish homosexuality. In August 2015, Mickelson suggested that the U.S. enslave undocumented immigrants who don’t leave America.
“Alt-Right” Outlets Infowars and Breitbart Regularly Cite Its Content
The U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail is mounting a crusade against refugees and immigrants in Europe. The tabloid’s fearmongering, xenophobic claims of immigrant criminality -- which are often completely false and unsourced -- have positioned the outlet as a favorite among American conspiracy theorists and white nationalists.
The Daily Mail, which is the U.K.’s most popular online and print newspaper, is known for peddling junk science, led the latest right-wing assault on climate change science, and has been accused of racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Even the open-sourced encyclopedia Wikipedia has banned its editors from using articles from the Mail to source its pages, calling the publication “generally unreliable.”
The Daily Mail’s Katie Hopkins is one of the paper's writers pushing xenophobic misinformation. Hopkins, who is currently being sued for libel, has called migrants “cockroaches” and falsely accused Muslim travelers of being terrorists. In a recent report from Sweden, she claimed without evidence that the country’s news is filled with reports of rape and assault of young women, discussed an unsourced alleged rape of a 12-year-old by an unaccompanied minor immigrant, and told the impossible-to-substantiate story of a girl “terrified of going out alone” because she lives “near a busy shopping centre which draws migrants from no-go zones,” which do not exist in Sweden. Hopkins went on to discuss an “unexploded hand grenade [found] in a bin outside the police station of a no-go area of town, near a mosque.” But Swedish police would not confirm whether the object found was a bomb, and they described the location where it was found as a town square, not as near a mosque.
After the Mail published Hopkins’ piece, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars reprinted her report with the title “KATIE HOPKINS REPORTS FROM HELLACIOUS SWEDEN, ‘WHERE FEMALES FEAR TO TREAD.’” The anti-immigration hate website VDare.com also amplified her report. In the past week, Infowars has reprinted at least two Daily Mail articles -- the Hopkins piece, along with one about a Swedish policeman who allegedly blamed immigrants for the majority of the country’s rapes and shootings.
Breitbart.com’s London bureau, which regularly traffics in anti-immigrant sentiment, has similarly found a kindred spirit in the Mail’s xenophobic bent. On March 1, Breitbart London cited the Daily Mail in an article about a “Muslim convert” who allegedly “planned to buy a nine-year-old virgin slave girl after he joined [the] Islamic State.” According to The Guardian, the U.K. citizen the article mentions, Patrick Kabele, was in fact arrested in August 2016 for attempting to travel to Syria, but the Daily Mail 's claim that he wrote in his diary that he “wanted to buy a nine-year-old slave girl” can be found only on other tabloid news sites and the blog Jihad Watch, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “Muslim-bashing.” It has not been confirmed by mainstream outlets.
Duncan Gardham, who wrote the piece about Kabele, is another of the Daily Mail authors creating xenophobic content, along with contributor Julian Robinson. The paper's website also has a dedicated tag for news related to the “European Migrant And Refugee Crisis,” which boasts headlines like:
The Mail’s unsourced, misleading, and sometimes completely fabricated claims about supposed immigrant criminality in Sweden do not exist in a vacuum. After President Donald Trump on February 18 mentioned “what’s happening last night in Sweden” before listing cities hit by terrorist attacks, his media cronies defended him by perpetuating the myth of “no-go zones” in Sweden. While no-go zones in Europe are a discredited construct frequently used for anti-immigrant fearmongering, the Daily Mail “reports” on them regularly. Further, Trump’s claims that the United States’ current immigration system threatens jobs and lowers wages, drains government benefits, and makes communities less safe come straight from nativist groups and fringe right-wing media outlets like Breitbart and Infowars, the same outlets that regularly cite anti-immigrant content from the Daily Mail.
These false stories are damaging not only to immigrant communities, which are then unfairly viewed with suspicion, but also to actual victims of sexual assault who are seeking justice -- and to members of the general public on both sides of the Atlantic, who often remember only the first headlines they see, even if they’re not true.
Image by Sarah Wasko.
Nationally syndicated conservative radio host Michael Berry ridicules Chicago gun violence victims in a weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, including playing “bingo” with victims’ gunshot injuries. This Sunday, iHeartRadio will name him “talk personality of the year.”
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Throughout his campaign, and continuing now as President, Donald Trump has made a series of baseless claims alleging mass voter fraud in order to either preemptively cast doubt on the election results, or to dispute the fact he didn’t win the popular vote. Trump’s allegations, which ranged from “people are going to walk in” and “vote ten times,” to claiming “he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes,” and most recently his decision to ask for “a major investigation into voter fraud” are based on a series of myths that right-wing media have pushed for years -- including the arguments that strict voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, that dead people are voting, and that there is widespread noncitizen voting.
After the 2016 election, Breitbart.com announced its plan to expand into France and Germany, and Italy is reportedly now a target as well. Breitbart’s current European bureau, Breitbart London, appears to be in charge of the website’s Europe content and has a close relationship with the nativist UK Independence Party (UKIP). That, coupled with its anti-immigrant content, suggests that the site will try to spread its nativism across Europe by continuing to stoke racist sentiment and allying with anti-immigrant political parties.
Just two days after President Trump’s inauguration, Chuck Holton, co-host of NRATV’s Frontlines, wrote on Twitter that the “party’s over” and it's time to scrub “Obama’s mocacchino stain off of America!”
“Mocacchino” is a term for a chocolate coffee drink -- and, in this case, an apparent reference to the former president’s race.
Launched by the National Rifle Association in late October 2016 with the mission of providing “the most comprehensive video coverage of Second Amendment issues, events and culture anywhere in the world,” NRATV has largely served as a pro-Trump propaganda outlet.
As part of NRATV’s programming schedule, Holton co-hosts the military-themed show Frontlines alongside Fox News contributor Oliver North.
Holton has a history of making racially insensitive and sexist commentary. In a 2015 column for the NRA magazine America’s 1st Freedom, Holton attacked a State Department spokeswoman as "spokesperson barbie (sic)," and described her as one of various "clueless, poorly accessorized mouthpieces." During an August 2016 appearance on the NRA radio program Cam & Company, Holton referred to “white privilege” as “simply the culture that we have created, that our fathers and grandfathers have work hard to create” while lobbing numerous attacks against the black community.
The January 22 tweet was also not Holton’s first inflammatory attack on Obama. On November 16, the NRATV co-host responded to a picture on Twitter of Obama and Trump shaking hands by calling the then-president a “pussy.”