Pete Hegseth | Media Matters for America

Pete Hegseth

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  • Fox News host Pete Hegseth received money for event with GOP candidate then repeatedly interviewed him for the network

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host Pete Hegseth was paid roughly $10,000 by Republicans in Michigan to speak at a fundraising event with then-Senate candidate John James. Fox News then allowed Hegseth to repeatedly interview James and promote his candidacy on its network.

    Hegseth, a Republican who has said that he doesn’t consider himself a journalist, co-hosts Fox & Friends Weekend. ​The Washington Post reported in March that “Hegseth has been a confidant of Trump’s, who watches his Fox News show and frequently calls him to discuss veterans’ policy.” On Fox & Friends, Hegseth interviewed Trump during a rally to support Republican candidates ahead of the midterm elections.

    Fox News recently claimed that it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events,” which is a blatant lie. In reality, Fox News personalities regularly appear at events for candidates and political parties and sometimes get paid to do them. Media Matters reported last month that Fox News host Jeanine Pirro received more than $200,000 in speaking fees from 13 Republican organizations in the past two years. Other Fox News personalities who have headlined GOP events since President Donald Trump took office include hosts Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, and Greg Gutfeld, and contributors Sebastian Gorka and Karl Rove

    Hegseth has also cashed in on the Republican speaker circuit: The Livingston County Republican Committee in Michigan paid him to keynote its May 24 Lincoln Day Dinner.

    James was the event’s master of ceremonies and introduced Hegseth to the crowd. In his introduction, James noted his own appearances on Fox & Friends and praised Hegseth as “one of the best in the business.” While on stage at the event, Hegseth called James “the real deal” and told the audience to “do whatever you can” to support him.

    According to records from the Michigan Department of State, the Livingston County GOP paid a total of $10,239.55 in fees and costs to Premiere Speakers Bureau, which represents Hegseth, between February 7 and July 18 of this year.

    Despite that clear conflict of interest, Hegseth repeatedly interviewed James on Fox & Friends Weekend. In the runup to Election Day, Hegseth interviewed James on July 28, September 9, October 14, and October 28. Hegseth did not state during those interviews that he had received money from the Livingston County Republican Party.

    Hegseth used those interviews to repeatedly promote James’ unsuccessful campaign and tout his purported strength as a candidate. For instance:

    • On September 9, Hegseth told James that his race is “one to watch, for sure, largely because of a strong candidacy you’re running.”
    • On October 14, Hegseth told James that “whatever you’re doing is working, according to the polls, and I don’t always believe [polling].” Echoing the candidate’s own talking point, Hegseth later asked James: “What is the most important fresh perspective that is resonating with people in your state?”
    • On October 28, Hegseth suggested that James was “closing the gap against his Democratic opponent,” telling him that his message “seems to be resonating in your race” based on “recent poll numbers in the Michigan Senate race” which showed James “trailing by, you know, seven points, which is a lot less than where you were, and if you consider the margin of error, it could even be closer than that.” 

    A request for comment to Fox News was not returned.

  • Fox figures constantly parrot Trump in attacking the media

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT, COURTNEY HAGLE & ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News and some of its high-profile hosts are attempting to distance themselves from President Donald Trump’s constant attacks on the media, which he has famously smeared as the “enemy of the people.” Martha MacCallum, host of Fox’s The Story, told Politico that she finds Trump’s rhetoric “wrong” and “disturbing.” Brian Kilmeade, a co-host of Fox & Friends, told viewers that he wished the president would “lose” the term “enemy of the people.” Pointing to Kilmeade’s comment, a Fox spokesperson argued to Forbes that “many of the FNC and FBN programs regularly push back on the Trump narrative.”

    These halfhearted deflections are undoubtedly an effort to avoid any blame for recent attempted violence amid calls for a boycott of the network’s advertisers. But in reality, Fox hosts, contributors, and guests have directly contributed to hostility against journalists and the media by regularly launching Trumpian attacks at outlets and reporters. They dismiss media outlets as “fake news,” label the media “the enemy of the people,” vilify individual journalists, and call for the Trump administration to crack down on the free press.

    Video by Miles Le

    Attacks on the media are frequent and vicious on Fox

    Fox’s Pete Hegseth has smeared the media as “the opposition party, the left-stream media, the legacy media, whatever you want to call them,” and argued that journalists “ continue to expose themselves because they can't hold back on their dedication to tearing down any single member of the Trump administration.”

    Fox’s Sean Hannity complained that “the propaganda media” is “out to destroy Trump. That is their main purpose. They want to advance the interests of liberal Democrats and the left. Now -- they're not journalists. They’re not reporters. They’re rigid, radical left-wing ideologues.”

    Hannity also said: “The alt-left propaganda media is getting worse every single day. They’re now at war with you, the American people.”

    Fox guest and Daily Caller writer Stephanie Hamill said: “Some of these journalists have an agenda, and they’re pushing a globalist agenda. And so when Trump calls the media the fake news media, the enemy of the people. They are the enemy of the people when they’re not being honest.”  

    Frequent Fox guests Diamond and Silk: “Not only are [the media] the enemy of the people, they are the enemy of the truth. Because they spread lies, and that’s why we call them the fake news.”

    Fox Business host Lou Dobbs referred to planned editorials criticizing Trump’s rhetoric about the media as “anti-Trump screeds” and “coordinated national left-wing fake news.”

    Dobbs argued that “the left-wing media” was aiding the Democratic Party in carrying out “a coup d'etat against President Trump.”

    Fox host Laura Ingraham accused the media of “actively concealing the heinous actions” of groups like antifa “because they serve their ends.”

    Fox’s Jesse Watters said the press, along with leakers, comprise “the official Democratic Party opposition.”

    In response to newspapers’ condemnation of Trump’s rhetoric, Fox Business guest host Ashley Webster and Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Freeman defended Trump’s rhetoric that the media are “the enemy of the people,” pushing Trump’s ridiculous claim that his critique applies only to “fake news.”

    Frequent Fox guest Michelle Malkin: “The media is the opposition party. I gotta get that on a bumper sticker.”

    Fox host Steve Doocy: The media want “to destroy [Trump] for the most part, because they didn’t like him. Look, nobody in the mainstream media for the most part predicted or wanted Donald Trump to win. He won, ha ha, he would go, and now, look, it’s the state of journalism today.”

    Fox’s Tucker Carlson: Media coverage “enrages” the president, “and I understand why. And I think he’s probably right to be mad.”

    Hannity criticized the media for being "filled with all opinion" and "kissing [Obama's] ass,” instead of holding government accountable.

    Hannity dismissed claims that he was  “inciting violence” by criticizing the “fake news media” for “reporting fake news almost every night”:

    Fox hosts regularly insult the media’s coverage of stories that reflect negatively on Trump or Republicans  

    Lou Dobbs slammed the “national left-wing media” for covering Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’ racist comment about his opponent, Andrew Gillum.

    Sean Hannity smeared media coverage of the package bomber targeting high-profile Democrats and CNN, calling it “so over the top, so outrageous, so disgustingly partisan.”

    Hannity complained that media “betrayed the American people” in their coverage of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation.

    Hannity also slammed the media for covering his disastrous interview with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, calling reporters “lazy, … abusively biased echo chamber people in the fake news overpaid media.”

    Fox’s Jeanine Pirro whined that coverage of Trump and Russia is “like propaganda.”

    Fox routinely celebrates Trump’s hostility toward the media

    In response to a particularly vicious press conference in which Trump “launched an extraordinary denunciation” of the media, according to CNN, former Fox host Eric Bolling claimed that the room “looked like a WWE arena, with the mainstream media having fits about being called out for their unfair reporting.”

    Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle called the same press conference “wildly entertaining.”

    While interviewing the president, Fox’s Pete Hegseth asked him which  is his biggest opponent -- the Democrats, the “deep state,” or the “fake news media.”

    Fox & Friends celebrated Trump’s made-up "awards" attacking media: “Excitement for President Trump's fake news awards is so off the charts.”

    Fox figures often target specific outlets and individual journalists

    When the White House banned CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins from an open press event, Lou Dobbs celebrated the move: "It's about time there were consequences for disrespectful behavior."

    Dobbs smeared CNN’s Jim Acosta as “triggered” and “delicate” after Trump supporters harassed him at a rally.

    Fox contributor Tammy Bruce: Acosta's conduct makes him "an enemy to the American people."

    Hannity argued that the president shouldn’t “do any more interviews with Lester Holt, which then is sent over their cable channel and CNN so they can rip it apart.”

    Hannity also claimed that “corporate jihad” is “being waged by NBC News against President Trump,” and he went on to attack the “alt-left propaganda, destroy-Trump-at-all-costs media.”

    Fox contributor Michael Goodwin attacked The New Yorker's Jane Mayer for her reporting on sexual assaults: "She's been on this rampage for 25 years.”

    Fox & Friends defended Trump after he launched a sexist attack on MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, saying the media had a “melt down” over the comment and arguing that Brzezinski “make[s] a living insulting” Trump.

    After Trump tweeted a photoshopped GIF of him “body slamming” CNN, Fox & Friends Sunday praised and joked about the GIF.

    Brian Kilmeade claimed CNN “went unhinged” after Trump posted the GIF, and Fox’s Geraldo Rivera argued that the network has “this unremitting hostility to Donald Trump.”

    Fox personalities have called for a crackdown on the free press

    Fox’s Newt Gingrich urged the administration to “close down the press room, send the reporters off. They can sit over at the Hay-Adams. They can go to Starbucks across the street. I don't care where they go.” Sean Hannity rejoiced at the idea: “The media will implode! They would not know how to deal with this.”

    Gingrich argued that the White House should “suspend” CNN’s Jim Acosta “for 60 days… as a signal, frankly, to all the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” on how they’re allowed to behave.

    Gingrich claimed that if he were the president, he “would kick some of the [news] organizations out. I would flood the White House press corps with lots of people,” adding that Trump should recognize “this is a real war.”

    Hannity: “As long as they keep reporting fake news, bizarre conspiracy theories, and show this bizarre fascination and paranoia about Russia, how about no more press conferences for the Hillary Clinton-colluding media?”

    Hannity claimed that the president shouldn’t “do interviews with the network so they can spend hours and hours and hours tearing up every word this president says, something they'd never do to Obama. End it. He doesn't need the press.”

  • Trump runs with absurd right-wing media lie about terrorists infiltrating the migrant caravan

    How the baseless claim moved from fringe right websites to the president

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The conspiracy theory that ISIS terrorists had infiltrated a caravan of migrants moving through Central America toward the U.S.-Mexican border has spread from fringe right-wing media outlets to Fox News to President Donald Trump, who tweeted this morning that “unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” to the group. This is a case of the Trump-Fox feedback loop in action, with the president following the conservative network’s lead in fearmongering with lie-filled rants about the caravan in hopes of bolstering Republican electoral chances in the midterms.

    The conspiracy theory has its origins in remarks President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala made before the caravan even formed in Honduras. During October 11 comments at the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, Morales said that over an unspecified period of time, “We have arrested almost 100 people highly linked to terrorist groups, specifically ISIS. We have not only detained them in our territory, they have also been deported to their countries of origin.” His statement received little attention at the time, but it was reported in the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre.

    But the next week, as the caravan of migrants entered Guatemala and Trump followed Fox in trying to turn it into an election issue, Judicial Watch, a conservative organization that produces investigations geared to benefit the president, seized on the Prensa Libre article. “In a startling revelation, Guatemala’s president announced in the country’s largest newspaper that nearly 100 ISIS terrorists have been apprehended in the impoverished Central American nation,” the group reported on October 18. “Why should Americans care about this? A caravan of Central American migrants is making its way north.” Their report came as conservatives were fixating on the caravan -- that morning Trump had tweeted that the caravan was a “Democrat Party led … assault on our country” that would allow “CRIMINALS” to enter the U.S.

    Judicial Watch had similarly stoked fears of ISIS terrorists entering the U.S. leading up to the 2014 midterms, when the group originated the myth that ISIS fighters had been caught crossing the Mexican border into Texas -- a conspiracy theory that was promoted at the time by Fox and Trump.

    Conservative media outlets -- particularly fringy pro-Trump ones like Infowars, WND, and Gateway Pundit -- picked up the Judicial Watch report about Morales’ remarks late last week and adopted the group’s framing, highlighting the potential danger to Americans if ISIS had infiltrated the caravan.

    Then on Monday morning, the story jumped from fringe websites to Fox & Friends, the morning broadcast on the nation’s most-watched cable news network, as the program's commentators repeatedly stoked fears about ISIS potentially infiltrating the caravan. Co-host Pete Hegseth, who had been considered for a cabinet slot in the Trump administration, embellished the story by falsely claiming that Morales had said the ISIS members had been arrested while trying to join the caravan.

    “You got the president of Guatemala saying to a local newspaper down there just last week, they caught over a hundred ISIS fighters in Guatemala trying to use this caravan or other processes,” he said. At that point, co-host Steve Doocy interrupted, asking, “Are we sure that’s true?” Hegseth replied, “He talked to their local newspaper, we don't know it, it hasn't been verified. But even one poison pill is too many in a caravan.”

    Virtually the only true thing Hegseth said was that Fox hadn’t verified the story. Morales' comments had nothing to do with the caravan, which did not form until the next day. He did not even talk to a local newspaper, as Hegseth claimed, but rather made the comments in a public speech on which the newspaper reported.

    But the president of the United States regularly watches Fox & Friends, and a few hours later, he chimed in, going even further than Hegseth’s falsehood in claiming that “unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” to the caravan and falsely blaming Democrats for the migrants:

    The president’s casual lie that terrorists have infiltrated the caravan will likely become a regular talking point as Trump attempts to weaponize racist fears of migrants in order to get his voters to the polls. Fox and the president are teaming up, terrorizing his voters in an effort to prevent a historic wipeout in the midterms and preserve the Republican congressional majorities.

  • Fox News attacks liberals after far-right group Proud Boys assaults protesters on the streets of New York

    Fox & Friends Sunday makes no mention of the Proud Boy's violent attacks, but does call for civility

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    During Fox & Friends Sunday's headlines, host Pete Hegseth said that conservatives were calling for "civility" because of protesters at New York City's Republican headquarters, leaving out the fact that the far-right group Proud Boys assaulted several protesters at the event. On October 12, the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City hosted Proud Boys founder and right-wing media host Gavin McInnes to speak. After the event, Proud Boys assaulted three protesters, with videos showing "more than a dozen" Proud Boys, including at least three skinheads, punching and kicking protesters on the ground. 

    On the day of the attacks, Fox News immediately blamed liberal protesters and warned about Antifa and "swords," even though McInnes was the person brandishing a sword as his group attacked protesters McInnes was brandishing a sword because the event was apparently to commemorate when the murder of a Japanese socialist in 1960 via a sword.

    Members of the Proud Boys brutally beat people, shouted "faggot" and "cocksucker," and bragged about "smashing" a protester's head "in the pavement."

    Fox News has been has been harshly criticized for suggesting liberals were to blame. Despite this, Fox & Friends Sunday's coverage of the event continued to leave out the Proud Boy's violence and instead just attack liberal protesters.

    From the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday:

    ​PETE HEGSETH (HOST): ​Calls for civility are growing after protesters storm GOP headquarters in New York City. Conservatives calling on all Democrats to denounce left-wing vandals after Antifa thugs defaced the New York City Republican headquarters. I'm also just glad to know that there is a New York City Republican headquarters.

    Hegseth, incidentally, interviewed McInnes in 2017 on Fox News without disclosing who McInnes even was. McInnes used to also be a Fox News contributor.