Matthew Boyle

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  • Trump's toady at Breitbart attacks Jake Tapper, and that should worry everyone

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The White House communications director has changed, but the White House message remains the same. The mainstream press is still viewed as the administration’s enemy. All signs point to the conclusion that at best, the cold war between President Donald Trump and the media will continue, and at worst, we may be entering a new, darker phase where the Trump team turns individual journalists into targets, rather than raging against the press as an institution.

    Anthony Scaramucci, the New York financier Trump hired last week to take over his public relations effort, said in an interview on Sunday that he wants to reboot the White House’s relations with the press and create “an era of a new good feeling with the media.” But his Friday press briefing was filled with warning signs for the reporters who cover the president, and his appearances on the Sunday morning political talk shows featured attacks on “fake news” from mainstream journalists “that do stretch stories or do fabricate things.”

    “I expect that they’re going to want to hold me and the White House accountable,” Scaramucci said of reporters on Fox News Sunday, “but we’re going to sort of want to hold them accountable, too.”

    Scaramucci didn’t explain what he meant by holding reporters accountable, and host Chris Wallace didn’t press him on it. But hours later, after Scaramucci faced a tough interview on CNN, Matt Boyle, a close media ally of the president, fired off a nonsensical hit piece aimed at Scaramucci’s interlocutor, Jake Tapper.

    In their extensive, contentious interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Tapper grilled the new White House official on the investigation into the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia. After one particularly heated exchange, in which Tapper asked why Trump still refuses to accept the intelligence community’s conclusion that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election, Scaramucci suggested that the press is deliberately trying to delegitimize Trump’s presidency by covering the story.

    Tapper’s interview quickly drew attention from his colleagues in the press. Numerous media outlets highlighted Scaramucci’s claim to Tapper that an anonymous person had told him that if the Russians had actually hacked Democratic Party institutions, as the U.S. intelligence community has said, “you would have never seen it.” Seconds later, after Tapper pressed him for the source, Scaramucci admitted it was Trump.

    But that embarrassing incident wasn’t why Tapper’s interview drew the attention of Matt Boyle, the bombastic Trump sycophant who serves as Washington bureau chief for Breitbart.com, the conservative organ previously run by the president’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Boyle had been rewarded the day before by getting the first interview with Scaramucci as newly minted White House communications director. The pair spent the interview joking about a possible place for Boyle in the administration and lashing out at CNN over their “fake news.”

    In a piece that reads like bad oppo used by someone more interested in nailing a political foe than considering whether his argument holds up, Boyle fixated on Tapper’s statement that he had grown up in a Philadelphia neighborhood “very similar” to Scaramucci's. According to Boyle, Tapper had “been caught misstating his background on live television” because he “puffed up his own credentials trying to link himself back to the middle class and the working class in America -- a link he does not have.”

    But Boyle provided no evidence that Tapper’s statement that he grew up in a middle class neighborhood was inaccurate, instead focusing on the CNN anchor’s tenure at a “private elite high school with exorbitant tuition rates” and at Dartmouth College to claim that he “is in fact an Ivy League elite.”

    These facts are neither new nor contradictory. As Tapper explained on Twitter yesterday -- in a thread that Boyle embedded in the article -- his parents divorced when he was young, and he split time between his doctor father’s suburban home and his mother’s house in a working class neighborhood. Ignoring what Tapper actually said, Boyle suggests the CNN host is lying because Tapper's school was expensive (notably, Boyle knows the current price of tuition, but not the price when Tapper attended decades ago). Moreover, Boyle’s attack on Tapper for attending a pricey “elite high school” downplays a key fact: The school, according to Forward, was a Jewish day school. Criticizing someone as an elite because they attended a religious school instead of a public one is a curious maneuver for a purportedly conservative outlet. (The salt-of-the-earth Scaramucci attended Tufts University and Harvard Law School before joining Goldman Sachs.)

    Notably, the Boyle piece does not challenge Tapper’s reporting in any real way. It’s an attack on him, not on his work.

    It’s certainly not unusual for Breitbart to attack real journalists. But was it simply a coincidence that the president’s house organ published a hit piece on a journalist who engaged in a combative interview with a White House staffer, or is there something more in play?

    Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that “Republican operatives close to the White House” are conducting opposition research on reporters as part of “what could be an extensive campaign” to discredit journalists who report on the Russia story. Feeding negative information to conservative news outlets was seen as a key part of that effort. And Tapper has long been a top target of the White House -- Axios reported back in February that GOP operatives were pushing anti-Tapper hit pieces after a contentious interview with White House aide Kellyanne Conway.

    The Trump administration often seems to divide reporters into two categories: the pro-Trump ones who are praised and rewarded for their loyalty, and the mainstream media “opposition party” who are often undermined and attacked.

    But while the Trump White House’s attacks on the press have been a key element of his team’s messaging strategy throughout the administration thus far, the criticisms have largely targeted the institution of the media at large, or particular outlets that angered the president. (The key exception is CNN’s Jim Acosta, who challenged the president during a February press conference.) By contrast, during the campaign, Trump frequently lashed out at individual reporters by name, on Twitter and on the stump. His most prominent targets received a wave of death threats and hate mail, at times compelling them to hire security guards.

    We’ve already seen cases where the press office uses its media allies to target mainstream outlets. We may be seeing a lot more of that in the days to come. If the White House and its allies begin targeting individual reporters, the consequences could be dire.

  • Conservative Media Cracking Under The Pressure Of Trump Era

    Internal Divisions Flare Up At Fox, Breitbart, The Blaze, IJR

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Peering into his laptop camera while filming a fidgety monologue for his Periscope audience last week, Breitbart.com investigative reporter Lee Stranahan spelled out an internal crisis that was unfolding at the "alt-right," pro-Trump media hub.

    Convinced he was sitting on "the biggest political story in the world," Stranahan announced that his boss, Washington political editor Matthew Boyle, had ordered him to stay away from future White House briefings, which meant Stranahan couldn’t ask press secretary Sean Spicer about the supposed blockbuster. (Short version: Stranahan has strung together a conspiracy theory that would suggest the Russian hacking narrative is a complete fabrication by so-called deep state actors and a firm called Crowdstrike.)

    “I’m probably going to lose my job,” Stranahan lamented during his televised update, noting “I have five kids to feed. … But I’m not going to let this story get killed.”

    Indeed, by week's end, Stranahan was gone from Breitbart. He said he will now team up with The Gateway Pundit, the hyper-dishonest “alt-right” site that now boasts a White House press pass and commits itself to trolling journalists on the presidential beat.

    The weird public Stranahan meltdown was just the latest example of far-right media outlets seemingly cracking under the strain of the Trump era. Along with at Breitbart, internal dramas have recently played out publicly at Fox News, TheBlaze and Independent Journal Review, as right-wing media sources struggle to find their footing with Trump now in charge, and with the attention that comes with that.

    Accustomed to robotically blaming Democrats for all the supposed evils in the world, conservatives now have to deal with a political landscape where Republicans control the White House, the Senate, the House, and, possibly soon, the Supreme Court.

    Is dissent allowed? Or is the new role to simply cheer whatever Republicans do, and serve as a convenient shield for the administration?

    “For years, conservatives breathlessly accused the media of being too easy on President Barack Obama and acting like a bunch of sycophantic boot-lickers for his administration. Turns out, some only wanted the chance to try it out for themselves once a Republican was in office,” conservative commentator Amanda Carpenter wrote in Politico. “Some of those who used to be the conservative movement’s most loyal government watchdogs are nothing but lapdogs now for Trump.”

    At Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, popular conservative host Tomi Lahren was temporarily suspended after she went on The View and made comments critical of anti-abortion activists. (Lahren: “I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government but I think that the government should decide what women do with their bodies.”)

    In an usual display of newsroom friendly fire,  Lahren’s comment was immediately condemned by her own colleagues at TheBlaze:

    Soon after Lahren’s tweet, a reporter at The Blaze, Kate Scanlon, tweeted, “There is no ‘my truth.’ There is only the truth.”

    Another reporter at The Blaze, Kaitlyn Schallhorn, tweeted soon after: “Even Hillary Clinton didn’t call pro-life conservatives hypocrites.”

    Beck himself soon joined the pile-on. “It takes intellectual honesty, and it takes a willingness to actually think these things through and to do more than just read Twitter or Facebook to get your news and your political opinions,” Beck said on his radio show while denouncing Lahren, according to The Daily Caller.

    Beck has now reportedly fired the host. “Glenn is reminding the world of his conservative principles by sidelining Tomi after she insulted conservatives by calling them hypocrites,” one Beck "insider" told the New York Post.

    Over at Fox News, executives were recently left scrambling when the White House pointed to Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano as a source for the inexplicable claim that former President Barack Obama had asked British intelligence to spy on Trump during the campaign. It was part of the White House’s larger failed attempt to support Trump’s baseless claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election.

    The claim of British involvement sparked an international incident.

    Initially, a Fox News spokeswoman reported that Napolitano “stands by his report on FOX & Friends,” but then the full-on retreat began. By March 20, Fox had taken the extraordinary step of yanking Napolitano off the air “indefinitely.”

    Vanity Fair's Sarah Ellison spoke with a "Fox News insider" who told her: “The key thing Judge Napolitano did was to say ‘Fox News is reporting that ... ,’ and he can’t say that.' That breaks the trust, and you saw what it cost him. He is not a reporter and knows he's not a reporter." The source claimed that Napolitano’s comments, and Trump’s championing of them, had created what Ellison described as "an internal headache" for Fox News: “It’s a disaster," said the source. "It’s a nightmare.”

    Speaking of headaches, Independent Journal Review (IJR) handed out suspensions last week after the GOP-friendly news site published a bizarre column suggesting Obama might have pressured the federal judge in Hawaii whose ruling halted Trump’s latest attempt to establish a travel ban for six Muslim-majority countries. (IJR column headline: "Fmr President Obama Made 'Surprise Visit' to Hawaii, Days Before Judge Issued Travel Ban Ruling.")

    IJR editors later apologized for and retracted the story, but not before one staffer reportedly quit over the embarrassing episode. The site then suspended its chief content officer and two editors. (On March 27, Politico’s Hadas Gold reported that IJR video producer Colin Chocola also reportedly quit, citing issues he had with the “direction” of IJR that predated the Hawaii conspiracy theory flap.)

    The dust-up was significant because the conservative-leaning IJR, founded in 2012 by former Republican operative Alex Skatell, was the only media outlet allowed to accompany Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his recent trip to Asia -- a trip that yielded a laudatory puff piece published by IJR.

    The move to invite IJR was "part of an effort to include a broader representation of U.S. media,” according to the State Department.

    “If willingness to tar a former president with conspiratorial garbage constitutes an element of media diversity, then the State Department succeeded,” quipped Erik Wemple at The Washington Post, after IJR published its conspiratorial column about Obama.

    Last week, Business Insider provided a detailed look at the internal dissension swirling within IJR since Trump’s election, as editorial factions battle over how far to the right the site should tilt. “It's basically becoming a giant native ad for the Trump administration," one former IJR staffer complained.

    For eight years, Obama bashing largely unified the right-wing media in America. Now without that security blanket to cling to, they’re finding life in the spotlight’s much more complicated.

  • Trump’s Fans Are Blaming Paul Ryan For The Disaster Of Trumpcare

    And By Trump's Fans, I Mostly Mean Breitbart

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Breitbart.com is coming for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and it's using the GOP health care bill that President Donald Trump supports to attack him.

    Last night, the sycophantic pro-Trump site previously run by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon published audio of a House GOP conference call from last October in which Ryan said he was “not going to defend Donald Trump -- not now, not in the future.” Ryan was responding to the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women.

    Breitbart Washington bureau chief Matt Boyle’s write-up suggests that the audio was published to convince the president that he doesn’t owe Ryan anything. Boyle suggests the speaker “misled President Trump into believing that Ryan’s bill can pass Congress” and asserts that the legislation’s floundering “calls into question” whether Ryan “really understands how Trump won and how to win in general.”

    Boyle further claims that “in conversations Breitbart News has had with no fewer than 15 other White House aides, including many on the press team, it is clear that the President and the senior Trump administration team are not happy with this bill’s lack of conservative support." He grants anonymity to one source, whom he quotes as saying: “The President gave Ryan a chance. If he doesn’t get his act together soon, the President will have no choice but to step in and fix this on his own. He’s the best negotiator on the planet, and if this were his bill not Ryan’s it would not be this much of a mess.”

    In short, a right-wing Trump support site is providing the bill’s critics in the White House with a platform to push Trump away from the legislation he publicly supports by blaming it all on Ryan.

    Last week, Business Insider reported that Boyle had defended a previous salvo against the health care bill by telling colleagues, “We are Breitbart. This is war. There are no sacred cows in war.” But a review of Breitbart’s reporting on the bill indicates that there is one sacred cow: the site’s support for Trump.

    Trump and his administration officials have repeatedly expressed their fervent support for the House bill, which would result in tens of millions of Americans losing access to health insurance, according to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. On Friday, the president devoted his weekly radio address to extolling the legislation’s virtues, and his aides fanned out across the Sunday morning political shows to talk up the bill and talk down its then-forthcoming CBO score. Trump has even reportedly threatened to back primary challenges against members of Congress who oppose it.

    But as Boyle’s Monday night article indicates, Breitbart’s reporting has depicted the bill as Ryan’s creation and suggests that Ryan tricked Trump into supporting the GOP health care legislation.

    Breitbart regularly refers to the legislation as “RyanCare"; the site’s report on the apocalyptic CBO score was titled “CBO Releases Score of Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act.”

    Breitbart’s reporters are seeking out conservative opponents of the bill and giving them an opportunity to savage the legislation -- and Ryan. Their headlines include “Exclusive — Sarah Palin on Paul Ryan’s ‘RINO-Care’: ‘Socialized Medicine’; President Trump Will ‘Step In and Fix It’”; “Honeymoon Over: Speaker Paul Ryan Targets His Own Republicans, Not Democrats, with Ads on Health Care”; and “Exclusive — House Freedom Caucus Not Budging, Official Position Is for Full Repeal Alternative to Paul Ryan’s Obamacare 2.0.”

    Breitbart’s framing accomplishes several goals. It allows the website to continue its long war against Ryan under the imprimatur of trying to protect Trump. Its reporters have free rein to go after legislation that their audience hates, without tarnishing the image of the president their audience loves. And this line of attack neatly sidesteps the fundamental reality that conservatives want to repeal Obamacare and their only potential plans to replace it would necessarily deprive tens of millions of people of access to health care.

    Breitbart may be paving the way, but many of the president’s other leading media allies have adopted the same argument.

    On yesterday’s The Five, Fox News' Eric Bolling said that it’s time to “scrap” the health care bill, claiming that “Paul Ryan and the rest of the leadership pulled the wool over President Trump’s eyes.”

    Last night, Fox News' Sean Hannity claimed that Trump “has not really been well served by the Republican party in the House or the Senate, and this public civil war that is going on makes the G.O.P. Congress -- after having eight years to get their act together -- look like they were ill-prepared for this big moment.” He called on all Republican factions to “hammer out a consensus bill.”

    Over on Fox Business, Lou Dobbs fulminated that “This piece of junk won’t accomplish a single thing that the president has promised the American people. And only Paul Ryan would have the affrontery,  the arrogance, and the incompetence to put a bill like that in front of the president.” He added that Trump “has got to overcome this kind of idiocy in the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Republican Party. I mean, come on!”

    Donald Trump cannot fail. He can only be failed.

  • Donald Trump Wants Total Subservience From Interviewers

    Breitbart and Fox & Friends Softballs Show How To Win Favor

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President Donald Trump and his top aides have spent the first weeks of his tenure at war with the press, viciously lashing out at journalists and seeking to delegitimize outlets that produce critical reporting.

    But Trump doesn’t consider every reporter a dishonest member of the opposition party. As he has sought to make clear over the past few days, it is only the “fake news” outlets that he considers to be “the enemy of the people.”

    Such outlets include The New York Times, the broadcast networks, and CNN, among others -- in reality, Trump uses “fake news” as a broad term to cover any report that paints him in a negative light.

    But Trump has his favorites as well. And yesterday he rewarded Breitbart.com’s Matt Boyle and the hosts of Fox & Friends with exclusive Oval Office interviews prior to tonight’s speech before a joint session of Congress.

    It’s no secret why they would be granted such an honor -- Boyle and the hosts of Fox's morning show are known as major Trump fans, and they have provided him with overwhelmingly supportive commentary for years. It is that brand of fervent support and obsequious shilling that Trump appears to expect from journalists.

    Indeed, Trump made a point of praising them all during the interviews, to their obvious pleasure.

    Fox’s Steve Doocy began their interview by thanking Trump for “the shoutout you gave at your press conference” on February 17 (amid more than 30 attacks on the press, Trump called the Fox & Friends hosts “honorable people” who run “the most honest morning show”).

    Trump responded, “That’s true -- you have treated me very fairly,” and said that the other networks “know it’s true.”

    Breitbart’s transcript omits any introductory chitchat, but at one point Trump tells Boyle that “there are some great reporters like you,” citing him and one other journalist as “honorable reporters” who are not part of what he termed “the fake media, where they make up everything there is to make up.” The comment was prominently highlighted in Boyle’s write-up.

    When Trump singles out Boyle and the hosts of Fox & Friends for praise and access, he makes clear that work like theirs is what he expects from journalists. Those who do not fall in line and behave in the same way risk becoming the victim of one of the president’s attacks.

    Based on the interviews Breitbart and Fox produced, all journalists need to do to gain the respect of the White House is become propagandists for the administration. Here’s what that takes:

    Find Time To Praise Trump On Issues He Cares About

    Donald Trump is the world’s most powerful snowflake.

    Perhaps because he has spent his entire life in a wealth and power bubble that has shielded him from criticism, his ego requires careful attention and management.

    “The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise,” Politico reported last week. “And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.”

    Interviewers who want to remain off of Trump’s “enemy of the American people” list can help their cause by piling on the praise.

    During the Fox & Friends interview, both Doocy and Brian Kilmeade sought to feed Trump’s ego by stressing his popular support. Kilmeade claimed that tonight’s speech will have the biggest audience of any “State of the Union-like address” ever. Doocy told Trump that there are “people who are counting on you all across the country and all around the world.” “The love is great,” Trump replied.

    Doocy even made a point of complimenting Trump’s “beautiful hotel.”

    Boyle avoided this sort of direct praise in the transcript. But given that he literally appeared at Trump’s election victory party in a “Make America Great Again” hat, he probably didn’t need to offer any more.

    Give Trump Space To Bash The Media -- And Join In If You Can

    If you want to avoid being one of the journalists Trump hates, you better not show solidarity with outlets he’s criticized.

    That means that when Trump starts ranting about the press during an interview, you cannot defend your colleagues. The hosts of Fox & Friends put on a clinic this morning on how to do nothing while the president is lashing out at the “dishonest media.”

    Boyle went even further during his interview, siding with Trump to attack the Times for what he called a “pretty embarrasing story,” and even raising the question of whether Trump should retaliate against “CNN’s pretty bad behavior” by opposing its parent company’s merger. Trump responded to this explicit call for authoritarian action by refusing to rule it out.

    BNN: “Right and that’s what I wanted to zone in on with you because I know you made that very clear in your CPAC speech. Can you kind of more clearly define what standards and quality we should expect from those who are doing reporting?”

    POTUS: “It’s intent. It’s also intent. If you read the New York Times, if you read the New York Times, it’s—the intent is so evil and so bad. The stories are wrong in many cases, but it’s the overall intent. Look at that paper over the last two years. In fact, they had to write a letter of essentially apology to their subscribers because they got the election so wrong. They did a front page article on women talking about me, and the women went absolutely wild because they said that was not what they said. It was a big front-page article, and the Times wouldn’t even apologize and yet they were wrong. You probably saw the women. They went on television shows and everything.”

    BNN: “Yes, it was pretty embarrassing for the Times.”

    POTUS: “[They said] ‘we really like Donald Trump and he [the Times reporter] totally misrepresented us. He said he was going to say good and it was absolutely bad.’ This was a front page article, almost the entire top half of the New York Times, and it was false. It was false. Did they apologize? No. I call them the failing New York Times and they write lies. They write lies. Nobody would know that. For instance, when people read the story on the women—first of all, the reporter who wrote the story has a website full of hatred of Donald Trump. So, he shouldn’t be allowed to be a reporter because he’s not objective. It’s not all, but it has many negative things about Donald Trump. But he shouldn’t be allowed to write on Donald Trump. And, he writes that story. But that’s one of many. So, when you read the Sunday New York Times, it’s just hit after hit after hit. And honestly, I think people are wise to it because if you look at the approval rating, you see it’s down. You know, it’s gone. There’s very little approval.”

    BNN: “Now, during the campaign, one of the things you and a lot of your campaign guys like Peter Navarro talked about was breaking up some of these oligopolies in the media. If you look at the media, part of the problem seems to be that a vast majority of the media companies are owned by just a handful of different companies. Obviously, there’s a looming merger between AT&T and Time Warner. I wanted to see what your thoughts are on that and if CNN’s pretty bad behavior over the course of—they really don’t seem to be making an effort to get it right—does that give you hesitation in terms of approval of the deal?”

    POTUS: “I don’t want to comment on any specific deal, but I do believe there has to be competition in the marketplace and maybe even more so with the media because it would be awfully bad after years if we ended up having one voice out there. You have to have competition in the marketplace and you have to have competition among the media. And I’m not commenting on any one deal, but you need competition generally and you certainly need it with media.”

    Provide An Open Platform For Trump To Lash Out At His Enemies

    Trump has a lot of perceived enemies outside of the press. He appreciates it when interviewers give him an open-ended chance to attack them, and don’t follow up.

    Here’s Brian Kilmeade doing that with regard to President Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the protestors who are resisting Trump’s agenda.

    Boyle similarly asked Trump what his “thoughts are on the new Democratic chair.”

    Don’t Question Trump’s Facts

    Trump lies constantly, on matters great and small, for political reasons or for none. It’s nearly impossible for an interviewer to keep up with the sheer volume of falsehoods Trump spews.

    And if they want to stay on Trump’s good side, they won’t try.

    The Fox & Friends and Breitbart interviews were both characterized by a dearth of fact-checking -- or even follow-ups. The toughest question in either encounter was probably Doocy’s inquiry about how Trump intended to pay for additional defense spending -- and Doocy completely rolled over as Trump offered some pablum about how economic growth will fill in the gaps.

    Dubious statements from Trump on immigration policy, Obamacare, and a raid in Yemen that the president ordered were all treated with aplomb. Trump wants interviewers to give him a platform to get his message out without impediment, and these three provided that chance.

    Stay Away From Difficult Topics

    Trump-friendly interviewers know to skip pesky questions about topics the president would rather avoid.

    While both Breitbart and Fox & Friends made time to discuss the Oscars ceremony, neither mentioned mounting concerns about the new revelation that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to publicly rebut reports that Trump campaign officials had been in contact with Russian intelligence agents.

    There was no mention of retired Lieut. Gen. Michael Flynn, who stepped down as national security advisor when it was revealed that he had lied about a phone conversation he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States late last year. Other Trump nominees who have stepped down amid controversy also didn’t come up.

    Neither interview featured discussion of Trump’s unprecedented conflicts of interest, or the floundering executive order targeting refugees and travelers from majority-Muslim countries, or the wave of anti-Semitic attacks that have occurred during the first weeks of Trump’s presidency.

    The best thing journalists can do to curry favor with Trump is to ask him only about topics he wants to be asked about.

    Or they can do their jobs.

  • In One Day, 17 Signs Of How Bad Press Treatment Will Be Under Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Yesterday’s press conference laid bare President-elect Donald Trump’s strategy for dealing with the press as president: He will seek to delegitimize news outlets that provide critical coverage, try to turn them against one another, reward sycophantic coverage from openly pro-Trump sources, and encourage others to follow in their lead. The candidate who waged an unprecedented war on the press will not be pivoting as president.

    In one day we saw Trump publicly punish members of the press for critical reporting, threatening one outlet with “consequences” for its actions and calling on another to apologize; thank members of the press who behaved in a way he found appropriate; and take a question from an outlet tied to his top aide about what “reforms” he wants to see from the press. We saw Trump aides publicly humiliate and jeer at reporters. We saw one news outlet respond to Trump’s criticism by throwing another under the bus. We saw journalists treat the attacks on the press as a sideshow while praising Trump’s performance. And we saw a U.S. congressman call for a reporter’s firing for being “disrespectful” to the president-elect.

    On Monday, CNN reported that top U.S. intelligence officials had presented information to President Obama and Trump that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” The allegations were based on memos authored by a former British intelligence officer reportedly considered credible by the U.S. intelligence community. CNN obtained the memos and reported on, but did not publish, the documents because it had not been able to verify them. BuzzFeed subsequently published the memos, acknowledging that it had not verified them.

    Trump sought to use yesterday’s press conference to conflate the two stories and employ them to shatter the credibility of the news outlets that published them. The result was a horrifying day for press freedom.

    Here are some of the things that happened over the course of January 11:

    1. Sean Spicer, who will serve as White House press secretary, opened Trump’s press conference by attacking BuzzFeed as a “left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the president-elect's campaign” and calling its decision to publish the memos “outrageous and highly irresponsible.” He then said that both CNN and BuzzFeed were engaging in a “sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks.”

    2. Before introducing Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence declared that there has been “a concerted effort by some in the mainstream media to delegitimize this election and to demean our incoming administration” and accused CNN and BuzzFeed of pushing “fake news” that he said “can only be attributed to media bias, an attempt to demean the president-elect and our incoming administration.”

    3. In his opening statement, Trump thanked members of the assembled press who “came out so strongly against that fake news and the fact that it was written about by primarily one group and one television station.”

    4. Asked about the story during the press conference, Trump said that BuzzFeed was “a failing pile of garbage” and is “going to suffer the consequences” for its actions. He also criticized CNN, which he said was “going out of their way to build it up” and “ought to apologize.”

    5. CNN’s Jim Acosta then sought to ask a question of Trump given that his outlet had been attacked. Trump lashed out at Acosta’s “terrible” news outlet and refused to let him ask a question, declaring, “You are fake news!”

    6. The assembled press responded to Trump’s attack on Acosta by doing nothing.

    7. A few minutes later, Trump turned to Matt Boyle of Breitbart.com, letting Boyle ask a question. Breitbart’s executive chairman is top Trump aide Stephen Bannon, who has bragged about turning the website into the “platform” for the so-called “alt-right,” a noxious collection of white nationalists, nativists, and misogynists.

    8. Boyle, who has provided Trump with sycophantic coverage for years and is effectively an agent of Trump’s house news organ, was the only journalist provided with a reserved seat at the presser.

    9. Boyle had this question for Trump: “This decision to publish fake news and all the problems that we’ve seen throughout the media over the course of the election, what reforms do you recommend for this industry here?”

    10. Trump responded that he didn’t support “reforms,” just reporters who have “some moral compass,” before again saying that some of the reporters sitting in front of him work for “fake news” outlets.

    11. The press conference reportedly ended with Acosta being heckled by Omarosa.

    12. Trump “filled the room with paid staffers who clapped and cheered as he blasted members of the media as purveyors of ‘fake news,’” as Politico reported.

    13. After the press conference, Acosta reported that Spicer had warned him that if he didn’t stop trying to ask Trump questions, he would be “thrown out of this press conference.”

    14. CNN responded to Trump’s attacks on the network by rushing to declare that it hadn’t done anything wrong, and that it was BuzzFeed that rightfully deserved Trump’s wrath. It is telling that when the network came under fire, its executives and journalists sought not just to defend themselves, but to point Trump toward a more palatable target.

    15. The Washington Post reported that Trump had a “decent press conference” in which, “remarkably, he offered kind words for news organizations.” (The Post’s headline was later changed, replacing “decent” with “aggressive.”)

    16. Politico’s influential Playbook reported, “Journalists didn’t like his attacks on them, but for most people who watched Trump yesterday, it was a pretty good performance.”

    17. Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) tweeted that Acosta “should be fired & prohibited from any press briefings” because he was “disrespectful to Trump.”

    Trump will be sworn in as president in eight days. Things can still get much, much worse.

  • Trump Punishes CNN After It Challenged Him, Rewards Breitbart For Sucking Up

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    During Donald Trump’s press conference, the president-elect criticized CNN for reporting on alleged contacts between his campaign and the Russian government, and then CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask a question. Trump refused Acosta’s repeated requests. Soon after, Trump solicited a question from Matthew Boyle of the embarrassingly pro-Trump Breitbart News, who served up a softball.

    On Tuesday, CNN reported that "classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump." The documents also reportedly included "allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government." Buzzfeed followed CNN's article by publishing pages of raw memos related to the allegations.

    At his press conference, responding to a question from CBS’ Major Garrett, Trump elaborated on a tweet he sent out on Wednesday morning in which he wrote, "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?"

    Trump said BuzzFeed would “suffer the consequences” for publishing the memos and that CNN went “out of their way to build it up.”

    CNN reporter Jim Acosta then attempted to ask Trump a question, noting, “Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question?” Trump refused and waved him away. Acosta persisted, and Trump refused and said CNN is “terrible,” told Acosta to be quiet, and said, “You are fake news,” before moving on to another reporter.

    A few minutes later, Trump turned to Matt Boyle of Breitbart.com, who proceeded to ask Trump about “all the problems that we’ve seen throughout the media over the course of the election” and “what reforms do you recommend for this industry here?”

    It would hardly be possible to ask a more sycophantic and fawning question, but coming from Breitbart, it’s not surprising.

    Breitbart has become the all-but-official voice of Trump over the past two years. The site has tied itself into absurd knots to defend him and attack his opponents in both the Republican and Democratic parties, while also mangling and inventing stories to serve his campaign’s narrative.

    Stephen Bannon, Trump’s incoming chief White House strategist, has been the chairman of Breitbart and has overseen its transformation from a more traditional conservative outlet to what he described as a “platform” for the so-called “alt-right,” whose noxious brand of white nationalist nativist politics now dominates the conservative movement.

    Breitbart’s dedication to Trump and its vilification of his perceived enemies were reflected in its writeup of the contentious exchange between Trump and Acosta, headlined “Trump to CNN: You Are Fake News.” Breitbart.com also posted the following headlines on its front page:

    In turn, Trump has often used the millions of followers he has on social media to direct web traffic toward Breitbart stories promoting him and his conspiracy theories.

    Later on CNN, Acosta reported that Republican National Committee communications director and incoming Trump press secretary Sean Spicer told him that if he were to persist in asking Trump questions in the same manner, he would be “thrown out of this press conference.”  (After his combative exchange with Acosta, Trump later fielded a question from CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond.)

    The lesson from Trump is that he won’t accept the sort of adversarial journalism CNN has engaged in here, which is necessary and vital for a modern, functioning democracy. But if you suck up like Breitbart did (and has done), you will be perfectly fine.

  • How Breitbart Laid The Groundwork for Trump’s War On Paul Ryan

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s new attacks on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) have “deeper roots” than Ryan’s pledge to stop supporting Trump, according to new evidence that Trump’s campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, has a long-standing feud with the speaker. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News has spent years laying the groundwork for Trump’s war on Ryan.

  • WI GOP Operatives Conspired To Use Talk Radio To Push Nonexistent Voter Fraud Claims To Help Ally Of Gov. Scott Walker

    One Day After GOP Operatives Discussed Voter Fraud Myths, Daily Caller Referenced Talk Radio Claims Of “Full Blown Voter Fraud”

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Documents released by The Guardian uncovered emails which purportedly show that GOP operatives in Wisconsin wanted to use “talk radio” to push the idea of voter fraud in a close state supreme court race of an ally of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. A day after the email, an article appeared in The Daily Caller which referenced a local talk radio host claiming voter fraud in the election.

    On September 14, The Guardian published leaked documents pertaining to the “‘John Doe investigation’ into suspected campaign finance violations by [Scott] Walker’s campaign and it’s network.” These previously unreleased emails now show that Wisconsin GOP operatives wanted to use talk radio outlets to push politically motivated claims of “voter fraud” in order to force a recall if Walker's ally lost a 2011 election.

    A series of emails released included one from a “Scott Jensen,” who may have been the Scott Jensen who previously served as Wisconsin Assembly Speaker and previous ALEC State Chair for Wisconsin and went on to become a lobbyist for groups implicated in the investigation. In these emails, GOP operative Steve Baas stated “I obviously think we should” start “messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’ so we are positively set up for the recount regardless of the final number.” Jensen responded telling him that “Anything fishy should be highlighted. Stories should be solicited by talk radio hosts”:

    Page 8

    Interestingly, the day after Jensen and Baas discussed using radio outlets to push voter fraud to challenge the legitimacy of Prosser’s election results, then-Daily Caller reporter Matt Boyle penned an article titled “Election Fraud Allegations Fly In Close Wisconsin Supreme Court Race.”

    In his piece, Boyle cites “Madison and Milwaukee conservative radio host Vicki McKenna,” writing McKenna told the Daily Caller “she spent almost her entire two-hour show taking audience calls, in which listeners detailed what may be considered full-blown voter fraud.”

    Referencing the leaked emails, election law expert Rick Hasen, who has made a career debunking baseless claims of voter fraud, explained "It shows that all this talk of fraud is all about manipulating Republican public opinion to believe that if Democrats won a close Supreme Court race, and the recall went to a recount ,that the election was stolen by Democratic voter fraud. This cynical “messaging” is sadly validating of what many of us have said."

  • Prosecutors Investigating Trump Campaign CEO Steve Bannon For Being Registered To Vote In FL County He Didn’t Live In

    While Breitbart News Pushed Voter Fraud Myths

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    NBC News reports that Florida prosecutors are now investigating Donald Trump’s campaign chief executive Stephen Bannon after a report from The Guardian alleged that he is registered to vote in Florida, “at an empty house where he does not live.” Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which has peddled myths about voter fraud for years.

  • 186 Times Donald Trump Shared Breitbart News Articles On Social Media

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Donald Trump has used his Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote Breitbart News articles at least 186 times -- often sharing stories that fawned over him and his presidential campaign. Trump recently hired Stephen Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News, to be the CEO of his campaign.

    Prior to Bannon’s hiring by the campaign, Breitbart News and Trump had long engaged in a mutually beneficial relationship. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart became embarrassingly pro-Trump during the Republican presidential primary, leading to objections by several now-former staffers. (Former Breitbart editor at large Ben Shapiro accused Bannon of turning the site into “Trump’s personal Pravda.”)

    Breitbart’s obsequious Trump coverage was so over-the-top that several staffers reportedly alleged the candidate had paid the site in exchange for friendly treatment, which Bannon denied.

    Regardless of any pay-for-play allegations, the relationship was definitely a two-way street. Trump helped boost the site, granting numerous “exclusive” interviews with Breitbart reporters and making several appearances on Bannon’s Breitbart News Daily radio program.

    Trump also promoted Breitbart articles at least 186 times on social media in recent years, where he enjoys a massive following. He has 11 million followers on Twitter and over 10 million “likes” on Facebook, so a single Trump link would most likely lead to thousands (at least) of people visiting the site.

    Trump began to promote Breitbart News in January of 2012, linking to several articles attacking the Obama administration with the site’s signature mix of bigotry and conspiracy theories. As of this month, he continues to link to the site’s coverage of his campaign.

    He used Breitbart News to bolster his birther conspiracy theory:

    Setting himself up as a political mind, Trump highlighted a series of Breitbart News articles highlighting attacks he made in 2013 against Republican operative Karl Rove.

    Trump’s appearance at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference was one of his first major endeavors as a political figure. Trump used Breitbart News to amplify his appearance. First he linked to a Breitbart News article with the news that he was on the speaking schedule, followed that up with articles documenting his speech (as well as Breitbart News video of the speech), and then promoted articles documenting his response to criticism of his speech.

    Trump used Breitbart News articles to push his stance on immigration, and highlighted Breitbart News immigration stories and their write-ups of his speeches and comments on the topic. Trump also wrote an editorial at Breitbart News in which he complained that “a country that cannot protect its borders will not last.” He of course promoted his writing on Twitter.

    As Trump launched his presidential campaign, Breitbart News documented his every utterance, and he was sure to promote those stories. That included video clips of interviews, “exclusive” interviews with Breitbart News, or friendly write-ups of his campaign speeches.

    Trump’s favorite Breitbart News stories to promote are stories about polling. During the Republican primaries, Trump linked to Breitbart News stories month after month after month highlighting his dominance over the rest of the Republican presidential field. Similarly, Trump shared a Breitbart News write-up of the ratings when he guest hosted Saturday Night Live on NBC.

    He also used Breitbart News as a way to push back against media critiques. Trump posted a link to a Breitbart News attack on a New York Times news report about him with the note thanking Breitbart News for the coverage:

    Trump said CNN “should apologize” as he pushed a Breitbart News piece defending him after a negative fact check on the network, and most recently used a Breitbart News critique of CNN’s convention coverage to add fuel to his existing campaign against them.

    The Trump account on Facebook was also used to push Breitbart News critiques of CNN, branding them the “Clinton News Network” on multiple occasions.

    Trump also cited a Breitbart News story that bolstered his claim (rated “pants on fire” by PolitiFact) that Muslims were celebrating on roofs in New Jersey on September 11, 2001.

  • Breitbart News' Text Message Exchange With Trump Campaign Manager Reveals Breitbart's Problematic Relationship With Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    A text message exchange presented by Breitbart News's Washington editor  in an effort to vindicate Donald Trump's campaign manager of having admitted that he assaulted a Breitbart reporter, actually reveals a problematic relationship between Trump's campaign and right-wing media outlet Bretbart News, which downplayed the event in the text messages as just a "misunderstanding."

    On March 9, Politico wrote that Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields had been "forcibly grabbed" by Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski at a campaign event as she attempted to ask the candidate a question. The incident was confirmed by The Washington Post's Ben Terris and Fields recounted the event in an article posted to Breitbart.com:

    Trump acknowledged the question, but before he could answer I was jolted backwards. Someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down. I almost fell to the ground, but was able to maintain my balance. Nonetheless, I was shaken. 

    The Washington Post's Ben Terris immediately remarked that it was Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who aggressively tried to pull me to the ground. I quickly turned around and saw Lewandowski and Trump exiting the building together. No apology. No explanation for why he did this.

    Following the incident, The Daily Beast reported that Lewandowski acknowledged to Boyle that he was responsible for the incident with Fields, but justified his actions by saying he had mistaken her for "an adversarial member of the mainstream media."

    Boyle responded claiming The Daily Beast's article was "entirely inaccurate and untrue." Boyle released screenshots of his correspondence with Lewandowski in attempt to vindicate his claim that he never acknowledged an altercation with Fields.

    The text conversation reveals a cozy relationship between Breitbart News and the Trump campaign with Boyle suggesting that the incident which happened to his colleague was just a "misunderstanding nothing bad" and emphasizing that he wanted to "make sure that this doesn't turn into a big story."

    Breitbart News CEO and president Larry Solov is also being accused of downplaying the event after he released a statement casting doubt that the incident ever took place:

    But in a statement issued late Tuesday night, Breitbart News CEO and president Larry Solov seemed reluctant to take the word of Fields and other witnesses, instead framing the incident as something that maybe happened, but maybe didn't:

    "It's obviously unacceptable that someone crossed a line and make physical contact with our reporter. What Michelle has told us directly is that someone "grabbed her arm" and while she did not see who it was, Ben Terris of the Washington Post told her that it was Corey Lewandowski. If that's the case,

    Michelle Fields has since reportedly filed charges against Lewandowski.

  • Ann Coulter Claims She Would Ban Overweight Immigrants From Entering The U.S.

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    Commenting on her refusal to hug an undocumented immigrant during a recent interview, Ann Coulter doubled down, adding that she would "not admit overweight" immigrants into the country if she was "in charge of immigration."

    During a May 26 interview between Coulter and Jorge Ramos on Fusion's America with Jorge Ramos, undocumented immigrant and activist Gaby Pacheco asked Coulter if she could have a hug. When Coulter refused, claiming she was recovering from the flu, Pacheco persisted, saying the hug would be "a sign of my humanity and yours." 

    In a May 28th post on Breitbart, Matt Boyle detailed what he deemed to be "missing" context from coverage of the event. Buried at the end of the piece was a comment from Coulter weighing in on her snub of Pacheco, elaborating on how she wouldn't "admit people like Pacheco to the United States" if she were in charge of immigration. Coulter explained that "When I'm in charge of immigration (after our 10 year moratorium), I will not admit overweight girls." 

    Boyle concurred with Coulter, adding: "She's got a point: Shouldn't the United States be picking the most desirable immigrants to bring into the United States, truly the best and brightest?" 

    Coulter's latest insult came after a week of despicable commentary from the conservative pundit. In the same interview with Ramos, Coulter said Americans should fear immigrants more than ISIS, lamenting that "If you don't want to be killed by ISIS, don't go to Syria. If you don't want to be killed by a Mexican, there's nothing I can tell you." In an interview with Sean Hannity on May 27, Coulter also claimed that the US is "bringing in people from backward, primitive cultures." 

  • Another Error On Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch From Breitbart.com

    Last Time They Didn't Know Who Lynch Was, This Time They Don't Know What "Deferred" Means

    Blog ››› ››› MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    Breitbart.com is incorrectly claiming that Loretta Lynch "undercut the legal argument" supporting President Obama's executive action on immigration, when in reality she did no such thing.

    On January 28, Lynch appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearing to become the next attorney general of the United States. Lynch is widely considered by people on both sides of the aisle to be a well-qualified pick for the post, but she still faced tough questions from Senate Republicans who, as The New York Times put it, wanted "assurances she would break from some of the practices" of current Attorney General Eric Holder.

    One line of questioning in particular centered around Lynch's thoughts on the legality of Obama's recent executive action on immigration that will defer deportation proceedings for some undocumented immigrants. Legal experts agree that the president's action, which will provide temporary administrative relief for certain undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who pass a background check, is "clearly within his discretionary power." Immigrants whose deportations are deferred under this form of prosecutorial discretion are then eligible to apply for work authorization permits and driver's licenses (depending on the state) -- a benefit that was not introduced by Obama, but rather is permitted under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and the Real ID Act of 2005, respectively.

    Breitbart.com, a site that once spectacularly confused nominee Lynch with a completely different Loretta Lynch in its rush to smear her qualifications, made yet another error in reporting on the confirmation hearing. A January 28 post on Breitbart claimed that Lynch "[p]erhaps by accident" had "undercut the legal justification the president has given for his executive amnesty for millions of illegal aliens during her confirmation hearing." Aside from incorrectly defining the president's immigration actions as "amnesty" -- a mistake that other conservative media figures like Fox News' Megyn Kelly have avoided -- Breitbart homed in on an exchange between Lynch and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who asked about limitations on using prosecutorial discretion to prioritize deportations. Breitbart quoted Lynch's response:

    I think that if a prosecutor were to come to the view that they had to prioritize one crime over another, you would always still want to retain the ability -- even if it was an area that was not an immediate priority -- if for example it became one. Because if a particular neighborhood was being victimized, or again to use your issue of speeding, there were deaths resulting from that. You would want to have the ability to, if you could, take resources and focus on that issue. It might not be the first priority but you would want to have the ability to go back and deal with that issue.

    Breitbart went on to argue that, in her response, "Lynch effectively admits that what Obama has done with executive amnesty -- providing legal documentation and work permits for millions of illegal aliens, thereby legalizing their status in the United States -- far exceeds any reasonable definition of prosecutorial discretion. She also said that prosecutors should keep the door open to prosecuting an illegal action that isn't currently a priority if it becomes one eventually. So even if illegal immigration isn't a priority right now for whatever reason, prosecutors need to be able to go after that crime later."

    What she said does not "undercut" the policy at all. By definition, the executive actions (which are reversible themselves) that grant temporary administrative relief by deferred action "keep the door open" and allow law enforcement "to go after that crime later," as Lynch stated. The hint is in the name of the actions, which Breitbart did not cite: the "case-by-case" Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs.

    Given the fact that it would be impossible for law enforcement to deport every person currently living in the United States without the appropriate documentation, it is essential to prioritize some removals over others. Lynch's comments do not undermine the administration's position, which she said was "reasonable" -- they simply explain how prosecutorial discretion, such as DAPA and DACA, works in practice.