Pete Hegseth | Media Matters for America

Pete Hegseth

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  • Five lies that are ricocheting infinitely within the right-wing media bubble

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Spend enough time on the comments sections of the right-wing internet, and the significant number of people who hold beliefs based on completely false premises will become all too apparent. In this world, fact checks and hard evidence are all too easily flicked away with accusations of liberal bias, making civil discourse increasingly hostile and polarized at the expense of truth.

    That’s because these audiences have been trapped under a tight bubble right-wing media has built, an ecosystem that makes it hard for truth to seep in, while lies ricochet endlessly inside. The bubble holds strong because it’s sustained on the tired trope that the mainstream media is hiding liberal biases under a mask of objectivity. President Donald Trump has taken this worn-out concept to dangerous levels by constantly undermining and antagonizing media outlets that he deems critical of him. Trump’s war on the press has invigorated unscrupulous smear merchants and power-hungry zealots in control of messaging within the bubble to suggest they are an honest alternative to mainstream media -- honest in that they openly acknowledge their right-wing bias -- and present themselves as a solution to a fabricated problem.

    And the bubble becomes increasingly impenetrable by design; the tighter its grip grows over audiences, the more power its purveyors can trade to a political establishment that both needs the bubble for its survival and fears its influence.

    What follows are five examples of absolute lies promoted by right-wing media figures that will infinitely bounce among right-wing audiences trapped under the bubble, in an impervious layer of chicanery and manipulation that doesn’t allow fact-checking, evidence or reality to penetrate. Even after these lies have been debunked over and over again, we at Media Matters continue to see them pop up online and on the airwaves:

    Fox News host Sean Hannity’s Seth Rich conspiracy theory

    Fox News host Sean Hannity has grossly exploited the murder of a Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer, Seth Rich, to push the baseless claim that Rich provided WikiLeaks with the 20,000 hacked DNC emails released in 2016 to hurt the Clinton campaign, and that his murder was connected to the emails. Even after the allegations were proved false, forcing Fox News to retract its story about Rich, Hannity continued to push the false narrative. Hannity, who said the murder “could become one of the biggest scandals in American history,” claimed that he would stop discussing the story “for now” in response to the Rich family's pleas to stop exploiting Rich’s death. Hannity’s obsession with pushing the lie caused him to lose advertisers, demonstrating the risk his volatility presents to brands that associate with his show.

    On August 1st, a lawsuit filed against Fox News revealed that the baseless Seth Rich story had been pushed by the network and Ed Butowsky, a Trump supporter, with the purpose of deflecting public attention from the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.

    Infowars host Alex Jones: “Pizzagate is real”

    Infowars host Alex Jones relentlessly pushed the lie that a family-friendly pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. served as a cover-up for a pedophilia ring that involved the top leadership of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. In one instance, Jones invited audience members of his show to take matters into their own hands and “investigate” because “Pizzagate is real.” On December 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch -- a listener -- entered the restaurant armed with a rifle to “self-investigate” the false allegations. Following the terrifying incident, Jones attempted to scrub his website of Pizzagate-related content and falsely denied having promoted the lie; yet he also apologized under pressure to the owner of the restaurant.

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh: NASA lied about finding water on Mars

    Celebrated space scientist (er, talk radio host) Rush Limbaugh told his audience that NASA’s announcement that the agency had discovered evidence of water on Mars was a “technique to advance the leftist agenda … probably something to do with global warming.” The next day, reacting to online criticism, Limbaugh both doubled down, adding that then-President Barack Obama had “turned NASA over to Muslim outreach,” and -- despite transcripts matching “word for word” what he said -- claimed his lie had been taken “out of context.”

    Fox & Friends: “Illegal aliens” are registered to vote

    In an attempt to amplify the narrative that voter fraud is rampant, Fox’s morning talk show (and Trump’s favorite show) Fox & Friends pushed the lie that “voter fraud isn’t really a myth at all.” The segment hyped a flawed and debunked claim about illegal voting in Virginia and speculated that undocumented immigrants were registered to vote. This recurring and widespread lie made its way to Trump’s Twitter feed after the election, where he claimed that millions voted illegally in the election, a claim that holds no truth whatsoever.

    In reality, experts agree that voter fraud in American elections is a myth, as cases of voter fraud are extremely rare. Data also shows that the rates of noncitizens voting are low, only occurring when people are “confused about their eligibility.”

    Breitbart.com: “Mob” of Muslims tried to burn down a German church

    On January 3, Breitbart reported the false story that a “1,000-man mob” had attacked police and set a German church on fire. The story was condemned by local police and politicians as well as debunked by local, national, and international media outlets. The reality was that as 1,000 people were gathered in the streets celebrating the new year, some set off fireworks, and one firework started a small fire -- which was quickly extinguished -- on the netting around the church's scaffolding. Breitbart responded by triumphantly claiming that the outlets debunking the story were in fact confirming it, showing facts won’t get in the way of its ongoing effort to amplify anti-Muslim sentiments.

    This story is cross-posted at BillMoyers.com

  • Trump is reportedly considering fulfilling a months-long right-wing media fantasy to fire Robert Mueller

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump and his legal team “are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest,” according to a Washington Post report. The president’s right-wing media allies have waged a months-long campaign against Mueller and his team, calling for Mueller to be fired or his investigation “to be shut down,” and citing supposed “conflicts of interest” among members of Mueller’s investigative team and even of Mueller himself.

  • Pro-Trump media are pushing a new voter fraud conspiracy theory

    Far-right sources are claiming that thousands of voters “unregistering” in Colorado are evidence of “mass voter fraud”

    ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Thousands of Coloradans have withdrawn their voter registrations in the wake of the Trump administration's election integrity commission’s request for personal voter data. Far-right media are claiming that the people canceling their registrations are “illegal” voters removing themselves from the rolls. In reality, deregistrations have been attributed to voters’ concerns over the confidentiality of their personal data, as well as their distrust of the Trump administration's commission. 

  • 5 of the most batshit, xenophobic and racist reactions Trump’s "West"-centric Warsaw speech drew

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Trump kicked off his trip to Europe on July 6 with a speech in Warsaw, Poland. In his address, Trump issued a call to “the West” to defend itself and its values. In the speech, he enumerated accomplishments of the so-called “West” in a way that was similar to the claims of other parochial politicians before him, such as Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) claim that “other categories” and “subgroup[s]” of people have not made any valuable contributions to society akin with those of “Western civilization.”

    While the dog-whistle politics of the speech were obvious to many, to Trump’s most ardent admirers the speech was worthy of praise, and seemed to confirm many xenophobic and even racist biases. Here are just five examples:

    1. Fox’s Tucker Carlson asked audiences to remember “the basics”: Western civilization “makes all good things possible”

    TUCKER CARLSON: So it’s worth remembering the basics: Western civilization is our birthright. It makes all good things possible. Undefended, it collapses, and so we’ve got to fight to preserve it. Not just with airstrikes, but with a vigorous defense of our common values. Nothing matters more than that.

    2. The Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin just cut to the chase and said what we were all thinking

    3. Fox’s Pete Hegseth praised Trump’s speech for encouraging “having babies and passing it on to the next generation” so that the west can "remain strong and free”

    PETE HEGSETH: What he underscored yesterday were the foundations and the fundamentals of the western civilization. [The founding fathers] would recognize what he had to say. But those very fundamentals have been forgotten by most of the leaders and countries in that room. And a message he delivered was, if we're going to save our civilization, if the west is going to remain strong and free, we have to remember the values that got us here. The values that were enshrined in the Declaration and the Constitution. It’s basic things like patriotism and productivity and borders and belief in your own country, having babies and passing it on to the next generation. These things are sort of passé or not as sophisticated as many in those rooms would view them as and therefore they’re discounted and they focus instead on things like diversity, multiculturalism, atheism. Frankly, he talked a lot about God. This is a guy that understands if you believe in something greater than yourself that informs who you are and what you are willing to fight for.

    4. Fox’s Newt Gingrich: Trump has “come down decisively on the side of those who worry about national identity”

    LAURA INGRAHAM (GUEST HOST): Newt, I was wishing that the audience was mic'd up better because the audience was going nuts. There were many parts they were cheering for Donald Trump, but in that moment, they are feeling the criticism, the brunt of the criticism they are getting now from Merkel and other European elites for not taking in more of the refugees. And they're like "we're not doing this, we're not doing what you're doing," and Donald Trump clearly gave support for their vision of protecting their own sovereignty and their own borders, and also, of course, fighting the common interests-- common enemies.

    NEWT GINGRICH: There is a huge gap between the values of the central Europeans, which includes not just Poland, but Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, a number of countries -- and the values of Germany and the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands and France. What Trump has done is come down decisively on the side of those who worry about national identity, worry about survival, have been very practical, and of course he set the stage for the meeting in Hamburg, and indicated clearly to Merkel he ain’t backing down. So, it'll be very interesting to see how that works.

    5. To 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” message board community, Trump’s speech was the “absolute rejection of multiculturalism”