Rick Santorum

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  • Kushner's proposal for secret communications with Russia alarms former intelligence officials; right-wing media shrug

    Former acting CIA director on Kushner’s “bizarre” conduct: “It’s a proposed secret channel through the government that is probably the most active government in the world in carrying out espionage against the United States”

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    While former national security and intelligence officials expressed alarm over reports that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner proposed using Russian diplomatic facilities to set up a secret communications channel with the Kremlin during the presidential transition period, conservative media figures attempted to downplay the major news story by drawing inaccurate comparisons to back-channel situations from previous administrations.

  • Conservative media use Gianforte assault to attack early voting

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Conservative media are using Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s alleged assault against a reporter to push for ending early voting, because voters who have already cast their ballots in today’s election would not be able to consider the assault charge. Right-wing media have repeatedly attacked early voting, even though it allows more people to participate, results in more accurate vote counts, and reduces barriers to voting, including for people of color. Experts also say most early voters are unlikely to change their votes at the last minute.

    After Gianforte, a Republican running for Montana’s lone seat in the House, was charged on May 24 with assaulting a reporter, conservative media figures used the incident to attack early voting. CNN’s Rick Santorum called the alleged assault “another good reason” to end early voting. MSNBC contributor Katie Packer Beeson tweeted that the incident is “another argument against early voting.” HotAir editor Jazz Shaw retweeted Packer Beeson, adding, “Only one of many examples.”

    Right-wing media have a history of attacking early voting, claiming “there’s no reason” for it and saying it “inevitably increases the potential for fraud.” Some have even argued that it violates the Constitution. These claims, however, have been thoroughly debunked.

    Early voting is extremely important. The Washington Post noted that allowing citizens to vote before the official election day  “addresses systemic barriers” minority voters face, and The New York Times reported that “cutbacks in early voting periods … disproportionately affect minorities.” In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled against early voting restrictions in Ohio, pointing out that decreasing early voting disproportionately hurts voters who are “women, older, and of lower income and education attainment.”

    Additionally, experts note that those who vote early tend to do so in the two weeks leading up to an election and are firmly decided on whom they are voting for, meaning last-minute events, however shocking, are unlikely to change their opinions. And while some may come to regret their decisions come Election Day, those numbers are nothing compared to the number of people who would be disenfranchised by eliminating early voting.

  • Media Fall For Trump’s Shameless Act Regarding Failed Yemen Raid

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President Donald Trump shamelessly and publicly deceived the widow of a fallen U.S. serviceman about her husband’s death in order to diffuse widespread concerns about the raid that resulted in his death, and journalists are rewarding him by praising his actions as “presidential.”

    During his February 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump recognized the sacrifice of William "Ryan" Owens, a Navy SEAL who was killed during a botched January 29 raid on a terrorist camp in Yemen. Trump said that according to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Owens participated in a “highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy." Trump’s praise of Owens, with the SEAL’s wife in the audience, drew a nearly two-minute long standing ovation from the crowd.

    It was an incredibly moving moment, and a triumph for political optics. It was also a deeply deceptive political ploy aimed at pushing back against numerous criticisms of the Trump administration’s handling of the raid -- the first covert counterterrorism operation of Trump’s presidency. These include:

    • Due to insufficient intelligence and preparation, “the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.” This led to U.S. casualties and civilian deaths.
    • Trump was not in the White House situation room for the raid -- his Twitter account tweeted and deleted a promotion for an upcoming interview while the attack was ongoing. He approved the action over dinner at a meeting that included political staffers.
    • Contrary to Trump’s claim that the raid was a successful intelligence gathering mission, reports suggest part of its purpose was actually to kill a top leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who “either slipped away or was not at the location.” The raid reportedly produced “no significant intelligence” according to U.S. officials who contradicted Pentagon statements in comments to NBC News. The only intelligence from the raid the Pentagon has produced is a 10-year-old video.

    As these questions have mounted, Democrats on the Hill and Owens’ father have called for an investigation into the raid. And this morning, Trump drew new controversy when he passed the buck, claiming that it “was a mission that started before I got here” and blaming the military for Owens’ death, saying, “They explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. My generals are the most respected we've had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

    All of that context has vanished for some journalists, who have instead rushed to praise Trump for his comments during his address to Congress.

    CNN’s panel was full of accolades for Trump following his speech.

    Anderson Cooper kicked things off by praising the “extraordinary moment.” Van Jones declared that Trump “became president of the United States in that moment. Period.” Gloria Borger credulously highlighted Trump’s claims that the raid had been successful. And of course, pro-Trump pundits Rick Santorum and Jeffrey Lord gushed over Trump’s “healing moment” and “soaring … inspirational” speech.

    CNN’s journalists weren’t alone in failing to put the moment in context.

    As Erick Erickson pointed out, this is the response Trump is looking for -- he is deliberately trying to use this speech to neutralize potential criticism of the raid.

    Reporters don’t need to fall into this trap. They can recognize the emotional moment in the Capitol, while still giving their audiences the facts.

  • STUDY: How Broadcast Networks Covered Climate Change In 2015

    ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER, DENISE ROBBINS & KEVIN KALHOEFER

    ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox collectively spent five percent less time covering climate change in 2015, even though there were more newsworthy climate-related events than ever before, including the EPA finalizing the Clean Power Plan, Pope Francis issuing a climate change encyclical, President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, and 195 countries around the world reaching a historic climate agreement in Paris. The decline was primarily driven by ABC, whose climate coverage dropped by 59 percent; the only network to dramatically increase its climate coverage was Fox, but that increase largely consisted of criticism of efforts to address climate change. When the networks did discuss climate change, they rarely addressed its impacts on national security, the economy, or public health, yet most still found time to provide a forum for climate science denial. On a more positive note, CBS and NBC -- and PBS, which was assessed separately -- aired many segments that explored the state of scientific research or detailed how climate change is affecting extreme weather, plants, and wildlife.

  • Republican Presidential Candidates Weigh In On Trump And Coverage Of The Primary

    Lindsey Graham On Fox's Trump Coverage: "They're Like A Moth Drawn To The Flame"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    As Donald Trump continues to wage a public fight with Fox News, several of his GOP primary rivals spoke with Media Matters at this weekend's Values Voter Summit about his feud with the conservative network and media coverage of the Republican primary.

    Trump and Fox have been in a back and forth fight for much of the past two months. Last week, Trump announced that he was planning to boycott Fox News "for the foreseeable future" because the network has supposedly been treating him "very unfairly." Fox chief Roger Ailes and other "senior Fox editorial executives" are reportedly set to meet with Trump this week in an effort to smooth things over. 

    "All you have to do is look at the airtime, look at the airtime," former Fox News contributor Rick Santorum told Media Matters when asked about the Trump effect.

    As Media Matters has documented, despite Trump's regular complaints about Fox's coverage of his campaign, he has dominated his Republican rivals in interview airtime on the network. From May through August, Trump garnered 10 hours and 21 minutes of interview airtime, more than three times as much as Santorum, who had just over 3 hours. 

    Asked by Media Matters when he would return to Fox, Trump said, "We'll see, we'll see. They have to treat me fairly and I'm sure they will. I'm sure they will."

    Such a return is likely to keep the overwhelming media focus on Trump, prompting mixed reactions from his rivals.

    "They're like a moth drawn to the flame," South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said about Fox's Trump coverage. "You can't help but cover it." 

    Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal objected to candidates decrying media coverage, saying, "Any Republican or conservative that complains about the media, I think that's foolishness. There's nothing you can do about that, go out and talk directly to voters. "

    While he was critical of Trump, Jindal conceded that he is "great for ratings."

    "I've said over and over I think Trump is an egomaniac, he's not a conservative, he's not a liberal, he's not an independent," Jindal said. "He only believes in himself, I think he's great entertainment, he's great for ratings."

    Former Fox News employee Dr. Ben Carson indicated he was happy with Fox News' primary coverage so far, telling Media Matters, "I've never had any problems with Fox News, I don't feel any problem, I am happy with what's going on."

    Carson has good reason to be happy. Earlier this month, New York magazine reporter and Roger Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman reported that Ailes "has been impressed by Carson, a former Fox pundit, and is promoting his candidacy inside the network." Sherman also quoted an anonymous Fox personality telling him, "Roger has told producers to push Carson and put him on whenever he wants to go on."

  • Anti-Gay Hate Group Will Bring Fox News, GOP Hopefuls On A Trip To Israel

    Trip Will Feature GOP Presidential Hopefuls And Fox's Todd Starnes

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    For the second time this year, an anti-LGBT hate group is hosting a trip to Israel that will feature prominent figures from the Republican Party. The event will also feature Fox radio host Todd Starnes.

    On October 27, the Family Research Council (FRC) will host its first ever eleven-day "Holy Land Tour" -- a "unique, one-of-a kind tour" where guests will "explore the land of the Bible and the roots of our Christian faith" and meet with "some of Israel's political and religious leaders."

    According to the tour's brochure, the $5,000 trip features "insightful Bible teaching" and meetings with Israeli leaders aimed at providing guests with "a better understanding of Israel's important role in current geopolitical affairs and biblical prophecy."

    The tour will feature a number of "special guests" including former Senator Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, who has a history of acting as FRC's mouthpiece and peddling anti-LGBT rhetoric on Fox.

    FRC was labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 2010 due to the group's peddling of false and damaging smears about the LGBT community. The tour will also feature FRC's president Tony Perkins, who has described pedophilia as a "homosexual problem," accused the "It Gets Better" campaign of trying to "recruit" kids into a "lifestyle" of "perversion," and praised Uganda for criminalizing homosexuality.

    National Republicans were widely lampooned earlier this year for participating in a similar hate group-led trip to Israel. In February, the Republican National Committee faced criticism for sending national committee members on a 9-day trip to Israel paid for by the American Family Association (AFA), which has also been labeled a hate group by SPLC. Even conservative activists criticized the RNC for aligning with a group like AFA. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus eventually pulled out of the event, and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported that AFA demoted one of their most inflammatory spokesmen in the midst of the controversy.

  • What To Expect At The 2014 Value Voters Summit

    Blog ››› ››› COLEMAN LOWNDES

    The annual Values Voter Summit will take place from September 26 through September 28 in Washington, DC. The convention is sponsored by hate groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, and regularly features extreme rhetoric and hate from politicians and conservative media members. In 2013, Ben Carson said that Obamacare is "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." Here is some of what you can expect at the 2014 event:

    Media figures speaking at the event are scheduled to include: Lt. General William Boykin, Fox News contributor Oliver North, Rick Santorum, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, David Limbaugh, Fox News host Mike Huckabee, Fox News contributor and Redstate.com Editor-in-chief Erick Erickson, Fox News contributor Sandy Rios, Mat Staver, Mark Levin, Star Parker, Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes, Brigitte Gabriel, and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.

  • What The Media Should Know About This Week's Anti-Gay "March For Marriage"

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    On June 19, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) will hold its second March for Marriage in Washington, DC. Though the march has nabbed some high-profile speakers, journalists covering the event should know that it's likely to be a largely astroturfed affair.

    Earlier this year, NOM announced its plan to organize a second March for Marriage to demonstrate that there's still "deep and wide support" for opposing same-sex marriage, despite polls showing a growing majority of Americans in favor of marriage equality.

    The march is slated to feature high-profile speakers like Fox News host Mike Huckabee and 2012 GOP presidential runner-up Rick Santorum. In local press appearances, NOM employees have touted the event as a show of grassroots support for traditional marriage. In reality, the media should know that NOM's marriage march will feature some of the country's most extreme anti-gay voice. Here's what reporters can expect from this year's March for Marriage:

    NOM Grossly Overestimating Attendance

    Look no further than last year's march. Even as the Supreme Court took up challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8, NOM struggled to muster enthusiasm for the event. While NOM's Thomas Peters declared that 15,000 people had turned out for the march and NOM president Brian Brown estimated there were "more than 10,000" attendees, the Washington Blade estimated a turnout of only 2,000.

    Church Groups Bussed In To "Visit The Monuments!"

    Many of the attendees at the 2013 march were bussed in from New York City - free of charge - by anti-equality State Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-NY). Diaz claimed to have sent 32 busloads of primarily Latino New Yorkers to the rally; other attendees included Chinese Christians from Chicago and French activists flying their country's flag at a rally purportedly focused on the anti-equality fight in the United States.

    This year's march is unlikely to be much different. Diaz has promised to dispatch 100 buses from the Bronx, posting a Spanish-language YouTube video promising rally-goers an all-expenses-paid trip. In the video, Diaz urges New York Latinos to "[a]sk for your bus! Fill the bus! And let's go to Washington! Let's go on a trip! Visit the monuments in Washington and testify that Jesus heals and saves and is the king we await."