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  • As hundreds of newspapers plan editorials to denounce Trump’s war on the press, Fox hosts attack the newspapers

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News and Fox Business hosts are slamming hundreds of newspapers as “anti-Trump” and “fake news” for coordinating to publish editorials on August 16 denouncing President Donald Trump’s war on the press.

    Trump and his administration publicly attacked news organizations and specific journalists hundreds of times in just his first year in office. Though he routinely attacked news organizations during his presidential campaign and the transition period between his election and inauguration, Trump’s anti-press rhetoric reached a new low in February 2017, when he began calling news organizations “the enemy of the American people”:

    Trump repeated his comments multiple times, though he eventually added the disclaimer that only “fake news” is “the enemy of the people” -- a bogus claim because he’s spent years labeling a broad range of mainstream news outlets and journalists as “fake news.”

    Many newspapers have decided that they’ve had enough and are pushing back. Led by The Boston Globe, more than 100 newspaper editorial boards around the country are reportedly planning to publish editorials on August 16 “on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press.” Each newspaper will be writing its own editorial in this coordinated effort.

    Fox, which has both served as a platform for Trump’s attacks on the press and promoted his attacks on its own, is now criticizing the newspapers participating in this effort as anti-Trump and “fake news.” On August 13, five Fox News and Fox Business hosts took offense to the coordinated editorial release protesting Trump’s anti-press rhetoric. Fox & Friends First co-host Rob Schmitt said these newspapers are releasing editorials “attacking the president” and that “there is just kind of a mainstream, somewhat leftist bias coming from a lot of our media companies.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy commented that The Boston Globe “said essentially they’re going after the president.” Varney & Co. guest host Ashley Webster and Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Freeman both 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.” Fox Business host Lou Dobbs referred to the planned editorials as “anti-Trump screeds” by “coordinated national left-wing fake news.” And Fox host Laura Ingraham, while criticizing media coverage of antifa actions against reporters, mocked the newspapers’ coordinated effort as “not collusion or anything.”

  • Fox’s Kilmeade pushes Trump administration’s false claim that 9 in 10 ICE arrests are of criminals

    About one-third of immigrants ICE is arresting under Trump have no criminal record

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox & Friends is once again carrying water for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by fudging the agency’s record on arresting immigrants with criminal records and denying that a pizza delivery driver was arrested while doing his job.

    On the August 10 edition of the show, co-host Brian Kilmeade repeatedly claimed that “nine out of every 10” immigrants that ICE arrests “have criminal records.” When asked where he got that statistic from, he cited former ICE acting director Tom Homan.

    But that statistic from the Trump administration is misleading, as CNN explained in March. CNN reported that the administration was conflating immigrants with deportation orders with those who have actual criminal records to come up with the number Kilmeade cited:

    The Trump administration has subtly blurred the distinction between criminals and those with final orders of removal, which is a civil, not criminal charge.

    ICE has combined "ICE fugitives" -- people who have been ordered to leave the country but haven't yet -- with convicted criminals who have pending criminal charges and reinstated final orders of removal, allowing the agency to say 92% of those arrested under Trump had criminal convictions or one of the other factors -- when the number with criminal records is closer to 70%.

    As a May USA Today report showed, it was in the last two years of the Obama administration that almost nine out of 10 (87 percent) undocumented immigrants arrested had actual criminal records. But under Trump, nearly one-third of ICE arrests are of immigrants with no criminal record:

    Kilmeade also mocked Fox correspondent  Geraldo Rivera for saying that ICE officials get tempted “to go for the low-hanging fruit” and “they sweep up the poultry processing people, the meat-packing people, the pizza delivery guys.” Kilmeade scoffed at Rivera’s comment, saying, “We don't call Domino’s and then arrest the delivery guy. It’s nine out of 10 have a criminal record.” But ICE did arrest a pizza delivery person in June while he was on the job. And Fox News covered it.

    GERALDO RIVERA (FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT-AT-LARGE): ICE is at least two agencies. I have spoken about this before in a limited way. But there are the ICE investigators. They are the guys that bust the cartels. They go after the transnational gangs. They go after MS-13, they go after the racketeers and the drug smugglers. And then there’s the enforcement and removal side of ICE. Those are the far more unpopular group. That’s the one who smash in the doors, and there’s Diego, he’s been here 20 years, and they take him out and deport him.

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Nine out of every 10 have criminal records.

    RIVERA: I don't know where you get that statistic.

    KILMEADE: [Former acting ICE Director] Tom Homan.

    RIVERA: Well, I want to see an objective review of that. I do not believe that. I think that the -- too often there is a temptation to go for the low-hanging fruit. That’s when they sweep up the poultry processing people, the meat-packing people --

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): The pizza guy.

    RIVERA: -- the pizza delivery guys.

    KILMEADE: We don't call Domino’s and then arrest the delivery guy. It’s nine out of 10 have a criminal record.

  • Fox is deceptively hyping GOP’s next tax bill that just benefits the ultra rich

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Back in December, when President Donald Trump signed into law changes in U.S. tax policy, Fox News helped Republicans spin the discussion surrounding the legislation by hyping anecdotal reports of bonuses, wage hikes, and investments. Now that Republicans are aiming to make the individual tax cuts permanent, Fox is at it again -- despite analyses showing how staggeringly disproportionate the benefits are for the wealthy and large businesses, that they barely lower tax burdens for some middle class and lower income families, and that they have had no noticeable positive effect on the economy.

    The law, officially titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed in December, and Fox hosts celebrated the legislation’s passage after contributing their own dishonest coverage. Fox News shows repeatedly focused on announcements of bonuses -- such as some AT&T workers receiving a $1,000 bonus their union already negotiated -- and small wage increases from some companies to portray the tax cuts as beneficial for ordinary working Americans.

    Others, including Fox’s Sean Hannity, claimed that the tax legislation would lead to increased investment by corporations, in some cases pointing to anecdotal examples of businesses announcing investments and saying they were possible because of the policy change. Two days after the legislation’s passage, Fox & Friends invited White House special adviser Ivanka Trump on to hype an increase to the Child Tax Credit in the legislation. (According to tax experts, “the expanded child credit will actually provide little relief for some of the lowest-income families.”)

    Republicans are now attempting to pass another tax bill, in part to make permanent the individual tax policy changes in the original law, which expire within 10 years. The White House is portraying a report that House Republicans are planning to advance a bill as “a big win for the middle class.” And Fox News is again helping Republicans with their spin. On July 18, Fox & Friends hosted Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee -- the committee the bill would originate from -- who said lawmakers should make permanent “those cuts for middle-class families.” Later on the show, Fox Business host Stuart Varney said: “I think Republicans are setting a tax trap for the Democrats. … Are the Democrats going to vote against something which really supports America's middle class?”

    But as reporting from NPR and experts from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) have explained, Trump’s tax cuts provide only minor benefits to the middle class, are geared toward the wealthiest Americans, and are having no noticeable positive effect on the economy.

    Trump tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy

    NPR: Tax cut benefits to middle class are meager compared to those affecting the wealthy. NPR cited a December report from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center which showed that middle-class households are receiving meager tax benefits from the Trump tax cuts compared to the wealthiest households and that when those benefits expire, middle-class households will earn slightly less income than they did before the tax cuts were passed:

    [NPR, 12/19/17]

    EPI: Republican spin of tax cuts as primarily middle-class benefits “is false.” A blog post by EPI budget analyst Hunter Blair showed that Republican lawmakers’ attempted spin of the Trump tax cuts as targeted to the middle class “is false.” The post showed that the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers earn a disproportionately small benefit from the policy change, with the top 5 percent earning a larger share of the benefits relative to their income:

    [Economic Policy Institute, 4/13/18]

    CBPP: Trump tax cuts deliver largest benefits to the wealthiest while boosting income inequality. The CBPP explained in an April report that Trump’s tax plan “will increase income inequality since it delivers far larger tax cuts to households at the top, measured as a share of income, than to households at the bottom or middle of the income distribution”:

    [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/9/18]

    CBPP: Increase in Child Tax Credit skews toward the wealthy. The CBPP report explained that “10 million children under age 17 in low-income working families will receive no CTC increase or a token increase of $75 or less.” Further, the law increased the upper limit for the Child Tax Credit from $110,000 in income annually to $400,000, with the wealthiest getting an increase worth several times more than the increase middle-class families will receive:

    [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/9/18]

    Data so far show Trump tax cuts having no positive effect on the economy

    EPI: “There is no evidence that wage growth has materially picked up since the TCJA’s passage.” In June 1 testimony submitted to the House’s Tax Policy Subcommittee, EPI explained that “there is no evidence that wage growth has materially picked up since the TCJA’s passage.”

    [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]

    Bloomberg’s Noah Smith: Federal Reserve data and PayScale index show wages fell after Trump tax cuts took effect. In a July 18 Bloomberg column, Noah Smith pointed to Federal Reserve and private sector data to show that wages actually declined since the Trump tax cuts were passed:

    [Bloomberg, 7/18/18]

    EPI: Bonuses were overhyped, and they are less likely to occur in future years. EPI’s testimony explained that “nearly 40 percent of American workers get bonuses every year,” and that there was a financial incentive to give bonuses after the law’s passage at the end of 2017 when such bumps could be less expensively written off on corporate tax filings. As EPI explained: “What this means is that even if some increase in bonuses occurred in 2017 because of the TCJA (this remains a big ‘if’), there is no reason to think such bonuses will recur in the future.” [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]

    EPI: “There is no serious evidence that the TCJA spurred a notable pickup in business investment.” EPI’s testimony showed that business investment has grown less than it did in either 2011 or 2014. “In short, we do not yet have economy-wide data showing a rapid upsurge of investment due to the TCJA.”

    [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]

  • Study: NY Times, Wash. Post quote more than twice as many Republicans as Democrats in political coverage

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Throughout May and June, two of the nation’s leading newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, quoted Republicans at more than twice the rate of Democrats in their political news coverage.

    In an analysis of the papers’ news and political coverage during May and June, Media Matters found that the Times quoted 1,466 Republicans and 611 Democrats, a ratio of approximately 2.4 Republicans for every Democrat. The Post quoted 1,403 Republicans and 615 Democrats, for a ratio of approximately 2.3 Republicans for every Democrat.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched the Nexis newspaper database for articles in the print editions of The New York Times’ and The Washington Post's news and politics sections between May 1 and June 30, 2018, that mentioned any elected official, administration official, or other government official in the headline or lead paragraph. In approximately 2,200 articles from the two newspapers during May and June that fit that criteria, we coded for political strategists; candidates; elected officials; administration officials; and close political advisers, family members, or personal lawyers of President Donald Trump who were quoted. Additionally, we coded anyone quoted whom the paper identified as partisan. We coded each individual once per article as either Democratic or Republican. Members of New York’s Working Families Party were coded as Democratic.

    Rob Savillo and Shelby Jamerson contributed research to this report.

  • The persecution of Manuel Duran

    An undocumented immigrant journalist, arrested while doing his job, faces deportation

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    It is a quirk of the current age that Manuel Duran managed to film his own arrest. Duran, a Salvadoran journalist and undocumented immigrant who has been living in the United States since 2006, was arrested in April by the Memphis Police Department as he was covering a protest against local law enforcement’s alleged cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. He livestreamed the entire event right up to the moment his camera was knocked from his hand by the police as they seized him. Several other attendees at the protest had their cameras out as well, and some of them also caught Duran’s arrest on tape.

    The picture that emerges from these videos and from interviews with Duran’s attorneys and allies is an ugly one: an independent journalist subjected to an unjustified arrest while doing his job -- Duran says he was targeted -- which resulted in his transfer to ICE custody. Duran, who was quickly cleared of criminal wrongdoing, is nonetheless trapped in an ICE detention facility as lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Latino Memphis work to stop his deportation back to El Salvador, the country he fled over a decade ago because, he says, he feared for his safety.

    His plight is an increasingly common feature of the times: an undocumented immigrant with no criminal record who built a life and a career in United States, who had established himself in a community that came to rely on his work, and who was ensnared by an aggressive (and indiscriminate) effort by federal and state law enforcement agencies to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Manuel Duran left El Salvador in 2006 because, he says, he feared for his life. Duran had been working in his home country as a television and radio journalist for more than a decade until, according to a habeas corpus petition filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, he was targeted by a rival journalist and arrested on fraudulent charges. When he began receiving death threats, the filing states, Duran fled for the U.S.

    Not long after he arrived in the country, Duran was picked up by Customs and Border Patrol in Laredo, TX. He was given a notice to appear before an immigration judge that had no hearing date, and he provided CBP an address where the government could send additional documents. According to Duran’s lawyers, the notice with the location and date for his immigration hearing was sent to the incorrect address and returned to the Department of Homeland Security. “There was confusion with the street [address],” Maximiliano Gluzman, an attorney for Latino Memphis, told me, “and the mail didn’t arrive anywhere. So Manuel wasn’t aware of the fact that he had to appear in court, or when he had to appear in court.” Because he didn’t show up at the hearing that he didn’t know was happening, an immigration judge ordered his deportation in absentia and Duran became what ICE refers to as an “immigration fugitive.”

    Duran, meanwhile, settled in Memphis and restarted the life and career he’d left behind in El Salvador. He worked as a newscaster, announcer, and anchor with a series of Spanish-language radio stations and launched his own news website, Memphis Noticias, in 2014. He reported on local events and interviewed city officials, including the mayor. In the process, he built an audience and a following. “I would describe him as the lighthouse because the [Latino] community here lived somehow in darkness,” said Yuleiny Escobar, a Memphis-area activist and friend of Duran’s who was arrested alongside him. “The news was the news for Univision or Galavision, but no such thing as local news that they could clearly understand. Manuel was the person that brought them the news, that brought them information of what was going on.”

    Memphis Noticias provided critical reporting on the horrific story of Bardomiano Pérez Hernández, a Mexican immigrant who was shot during an attempted robbery of the van he was riding in, and whose body remained in the van, undiscovered, for seven weeks at a Memphis police impound lot. Duran and his colleague Nena Garza were the first to track down Hernández’s ex-wife and interviewed her shortly after she’d identified his remains.

    Duran also reported extensively on ICE operations within the city, and he investigated allegations that Memphis law enforcement was cooperating with ICE, contradicting public denials from the police and city officials. In July 2017, Duran published an interview with a woman who said a Memphis police officer pulled over her friend and then contacted immigration authorities who arrived and detained her. According to the SPLC, Memphis police contacted Duran after the interview was published and asked him to take the story down.

    “His main focus wasn’t the injustices that are happening or anything like that. He wasn’t a troublemaker,” Tracy Love, stepfather of Duran’s fiancee and organizer of the #FreeManuelDuran movement, told me in an interview. “But he did report on the truth of what was going on with some things. He tried to give the benefit of the doubt in some areas, but he could only do that for so long.”

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On April 3, the day before the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, several of the city’s activist groups staged a march to 201 Poplar Ave., the complex that houses the county jail, the sheriff’s department, and the local police department. Representatives from the Coalition of Concerned Citizens and Communidades Unidas en Una Voz organized the march to protest Memphis law enforcement’s alleged cooperation with ICE. Several of the marchers formed a mock chain gang that was led through the streets by a protester dressed as an ICE agent.

    Duran was on the scene to provide live coverage of the march, streaming the event on Memphis Noticias’ Facebook page. In a grimly ironic twist, Duran’s coverage of the protest offered some unintended foreshadowing of what Memphis law enforcement and ICE were about to do to him.

    “What is the real purpose [of the demonstration], in one minute, please,” Duran asked Yuleiny Escobar, who helped organize the march. “It’s that the police are cooperating with ICE and they’re detaining people for more than 48 hours,” she replied, referring to the detainer requests ICE makes of local law enforcement agencies to extend the detention of suspected undocumented immigrants. “They’re not respecting due process.” As the protest march approached 201 Poplar Ave., Duran offered commentary on the marchers’ grievances with immigration authorities. “They’re not removing criminals, according to the protesters, but rather they’re removing people who haven’t done anything,” he said.

    Eventually the marchers filed into a crosswalk in front of the sheriff’s office, at which point the police asserted themselves and started ordering people out of the road. Those orders were ignored, and the police seized one protester, Keedran Franklin, and dragged him away from the column of people to be arrested.

    Duran joined the media scrum that formed around Franklin. As he filmed the arrest, an officer made repeated demands to “get out of the street.” Duran started moving backward toward the sidewalk, keeping his camera trained on the arrest as the officer continued barking the order. According to the SPLC’s habeas petition, Duran’s progress was impeded because “a bottleneck occurred where two cars were parallel parked against the sidewalk to which officers were instructing people to move.” As the officer’s commands grew more hostile, a protester named Spencer Kaaz attempted to intercede on Duran’s behalf. “He’s going, he’s going,” Kaaz can be heard saying in Duran’s video. “Go now,” the officer shot back. “We’re going together,” Kaaz replied.

    Moments later, the officer ordered Duran arrested: “Get him, guys.” The camera shook as a policeman’s gloved hand moved to cover the lens. After some jostling, it fell to the ground. Escobar and another protester tried to intervene, clinging to Duran and shouting to the officers: “He’s a reporter! He’s a reporter!” They were pried off him by the police and arrested. Duran was handcuffed and taken away, his press credential still dangling from his neck.

    Duran was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing a highway, both class-C misdemeanors. The criminal complaint against him states that he “refused” to leave the road and “caused a hazard.” The video evidence disproves both allegations. There was no indication that he was in any way disruptive or doing anything except trying to comply with police orders as he was reporting. While protesters screamed and resisted their detention, Duran was silent, offering nothing but a frightened smile as officers took him into custody.

    Memphis law enforcement showed no similarly urgent interest in the many other reporters and observers who were in the road snapping photos and capturing video of the protest. There were even people in the street videotaping Duran as he got arrested. The person who shot this video of the police arresting Duran and Escobar was told to “please move out of the street” by one of the officers. After taking just a couple of steps back (and while still in the street) another officer told him, “Right here, right here, right here, that’s good.”

    Eight protesters were taken into custody by the police, all on minor charges. Duran was the only journalist arrested. Duran, his attorneys, and his allies argue that his critical coverage of Memphis law enforcement was a factor in his arrest, and that he was targeted for retaliation. He told The Daily Beast in an interview that he was “without a doubt” arrested because of his reporting on Memphis police: “I was doing my work and nothing more, like any other journalist does.”

    The Memphis Police Department has categorically denied targeting Duran, telling the The Commercial Appeal: “At no time do we target individuals based on their criticism and/or opinion of the Memphis Police Department.”

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    For most of the people arrested at the April 3 MLK Day protest, detention was short-lived and they were quickly able to return to their lives. For Manuel Duran, this unwarranted arrest on trifling infractions upended his entire existence and abruptly tore him away from his community.

    Duran was booked into the Shelby County Jail and, according to court records, his bond was set at $100 and was paid on the evening of April 3 by his fiancee, Melisa Valdez. The protesters who were booked alongside Duran also posted their bonds and were released that same evening. Duran was not.

    He spent April 4 in jail and on April 5, he appeared in court, where the district attorney dropped both misdemeanor charges, likely because the video evidence showed there was absolutely no case to be made against him. But, despite having met the conditions for release for the second time, Duran was taken back to his cell. A short time later, he was in the custody of ICE agents, to the surprise and distress of his family. “We get a call that he’s being released right now, so if you could file around to go and get him out,” Tracy Love told me. “And before you know it, immigration is taking him out the other side of the door.”

    ICE had filed an immigration detainer against Duran on April 3 requesting that the Shelby County Jail hold him for 48 hours so immigration officers could come and pick him up. ICE detainer requests require the voluntary cooperation of local law enforcement -- police departments can choose to work with ICE or they can ignore the requests entirely. The requests themselves are not reviewed or authorized by a judge; they are issued unilaterally by ICE. This can put local police departments in a difficult spot, given that they’re being asked to detain people without any presentation of evidence or probable cause. “There’s not any kind of independent oversight, and the police have no way of knowing ... because they’re just receiving a request to detain,” said Thomas Castelli, legal director for ACLU Tennessee. “They’re just basically getting something issued straight from the agency with no judicial oversight.”

    In Manuel Duran’s case, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office denied he was held on an ICE detainer and put out a statement the day he was transferred to ICE custody saying that Duran’s detention had been extended because “he refused to sign bond,” adding: “He was not being held on an ICE Hold.” Michelle LaPointe, SPLC’s acting deputy legal director and one of Duran’s attorneys, was perplexed by the sheriff’s department’s position. “They’ve denied this. I’m not quite sure how or why,” she told me. “We have a copy of the detainer, and the government in its response to our habeas petition cites the detainer as the reason they could take custody of him.”

    When I asked the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office if it still maintained that Duran was not held at ICE’s behest, a spokesperson wrote back simply: “Mr. Duran was booked into the Jail on charges brought by another agency. ICE representatives attend (sic) his court proceeding and were present when the charges were dismissed. ICE representatives detained Mr. Duran when he was released from the Jail.”

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Duran was transferred directly from the Shelby County Jail to the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Jena, LA, more than 300 miles from Memphis. The LaSalle facility is located in a remote part of the state and has become a key part of the Trump administration’s policy of expediting deportations.

    The conditions inside LaSalle (just one attorney visitation room for 1,200 detainees) and its distance from major population centers make it extremely difficult for detainees to obtain representation and stay in contact with their families. In a statement from inside LaSalle, Duran reported that “they would not let you know your attorney is on the phone,” “visitation hours and your recreation hours happen at the time so you have to choose between seeing your family and getting some air,” and “it is extremely hard to get the phone number of a private attorney and if you are lucky enough to find one, the attorney is costs thousands dollars (sic).”

    Duran was one of the “lucky” ones -- his status as a public figure and connections to the activist community meant that he had immediate access to legal representation, and his attorneys quickly began working to get him released. SPLC filed its habeas petition with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. His lawyers also filed a motion with the Atlanta Immigration Court (which issued his removal order in 2007) to reopen his case, arguing that he had never received the initial notice to appear. That motion was denied, so they filed an emergency motion with the Board of Immigration Appeals to stay Duran’s deportation. That motion was granted in late May, and Duran’s deportation was stayed while the board reviews his case.

    The stay came through just in time: ICE had planned to put Duran on a plane back to El Salvador the very next day. In the less than two months he’d spent in ICE custody, the agency had bounced him around Louisiana from LaSalle to another facility in Pine Prairie, and then to a deportation staging facility in Alexandria. Prolonged detention and the emotional whiplash from being brought to the brink of deportation took a toll on Duran. “To have to be fighting your immigration case from within detention is very difficult,” said attorney Michelle LaPointe. “The news … he received from BIA I think helped his spirits. And he’s fighting his case and wants to continue fighting his case, so that was a bit of good news, though, of course, the appeal remains pending.”

    Duran was taken back to LaSalle to wait out the appeal process. He still faces the threat of deportation back to a country he fled to escape violence, and which has only grown more dangerous in the 12 years since he left. Duran’s allies warn that he would likely face persecution if he were sent back. “El Salvador is an extremely dangerous place for everybody, especially an extremely dangerous place for a journalist,” said Maximiliano Gluzman. “People follow his activities, a journalist, from El Salvador. … I think he has very good reason to expect a not-warm welcome, and to expect that he will be at risk if he returns to El Salvador.”

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In almost every interaction with law enforcement -- from the local police to federal immigration authorities -- Manuel Duran has had his rights violated and freedoms abrogated.

    Even if you believe the Memphis Police Department’s denials that it targeted Duran, his arrest was still thoroughly unjustified and a violation of his First Amendment rights. The Shelby County Jail kept him detained even after he’d posted bond and all the spurious charges against him were dropped. And after dodging deportation by a hair’s breadth, he remains in ICE’s custody, even though he is not dangerous, has no criminal record, and is a public figure who is unlikely to attempt to go into hiding. The government’s desired outcome in Duran’s case is to send him back to one of the world’s most dangerous and violent countries, where journalists like him routinely face death threats.

    In years past, Duran would have been a low priority for immigration enforcement, but new Homeland Security guidelines issued early in the Trump administration rescinded existing guidelines for prosecutorial discretion and effectively turned every undocumented immigrant into a priority deportee. It’s impossible to argue that Duran presents a threat to the community that he worked to inform, but the political position of the administration (which is reflected in its policy choices) is that undocumented immigrants are dangerous by virtue of who they are.

    Duran’s fellow journalists have also failed him. The story of his unjust arrest and detention has been covered by local Memphis media (The Commercial Appeal in particular has doggedly kept on top of the story) and Spanish-language outlets, and The Daily Beast interviewed Duran from LaSalle. But major newspapers, broadcast networks, and cable news channels have mostly ignored it. This coverage blackout endures despite journalism groups and press activists launching and supporting campaigns on Duran’s behalf.

    One would think that the national press would take interest in a journalist who was arrested for doing his job, who is still being detained more than three months later, and whose life might be put at risk through deportation. His story is certainly worthy of more attention than a lawyer-pundit being shunned on Martha’s Vineyard. The persecution he faces is more acute than that of the “renegades of the intellectual dark web” who are “locked out of legacy [media] outlets.” And the suppression of his speech rights is real in ways that supposedly deplatformed right-wing campus speakers can only fantasize about. But Duran’s ordeal has remained largely unnoticed outside of activist groups, local journalists, and his community in Memphis.

    Manuel Duran made a life in the United States by providing a voice to a community that lacked its own. It is outrageous that so few of his colleagues are lending their voices while his own is being silenced.

  • Scott Pruitt’s dead-end loyalists

    Right-wing pundits out themselves as terminally dishonest enablers of corruption

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Scott Pruitt has finally -- finally -- resigned as Environmental Protection Agency administrator after months of reporting on his increasingly farcical acts of corruption and petty grifting. The fact that Pruitt managed to stay in his job for as long as he did as evidence of his flamboyant venality accumulated speaks to President Donald Trump’s unique capacity to attract and protect corrupt officials. We’re not even two years into the Trump administration and already two Cabinet-level officials have been forced out because of ethics scandals and misuses of public funds. And that’s to say nothing of the interior secretary, the commerce secretary, the housing and urban development secretary, and Trump himself, all of whom are marinating in a toxic slurry of graft and malfeasance.

    But even for the shockingly corrupt Trump administration, the breadth, depth, and frequently absurd nature of Pruitt’s grift made him something special. His conduct is the subject of more than a dozen official investigations, and the inquiries will continue despite his departure from the EPA. Given what we already know about Pruitt’s conduct and the possibility that still more abuses will emerge, there would seem to be little upside to defending this cretin as he slinks out the door. But that’s precisely what Pruitt’s allies in the conservative media are doing, rallying around the most gaudily corrupt Trump official and pretending that Pruitt is the victim.

    We’ll start with radio host Hugh Hewitt, given that he’s an established accessory to the Pruitt corruption omniscandal. He tweeted his support for his “good friend and a very good man,” arguing that Pruitt had been unfairly “caricatured” by the now-familiar faceless conspiracy of liberals and reporters:

    Hewitt quote-tweeted Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel, who insisted that the “lesson” of Pruitt’s scandal-plagued tenure and resignation is that “the left/media/organized greens” operate in bad faith by taking supposedly minor ethical lapses -- remember, there are over a dozen open investigations into Pruitt -- and turning them into a full-blown scandal:

    The Federalist Senior Editor Mollie Hemingway also bemoaned the success of the assumed liberal media conspiracy against Pruitt and direly warned that it will have future successes against other corrupt senior officials:

    And, bringing up the rear in spectacularly stupid fashion, we have the Wall Street Journal editorial board (of which Strassel is a member) which attacked the “permanent progressive state” for cynically capitalizing on the “tragedy” of Pruitt’s corruption to force him out:

    Chalk one up for the swamp. The permanent progressive state finally ran Scott Pruitt out of the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, and the tragedy is that Mr. Pruitt gave his enemies so much ammunition.

    None of these defenses make much sense -- Strassel and the WSJ editors sort-of acknowledge Pruitt’s bad behavior but somehow still push blame off elsewhere -- and all of them presume the existence of an anti-Pruitt conspiracy to conveniently ignore the warehouses of evidence against Pruitt and the small cohort of Republican officials who’d called for his head. The only criticism they can muster against him is that he just wasn’t PR-savvy enough to deal with the phantom anti-Pruitt conspiracy.

    They’re making these transparently ridiculous defenses of Pruitt mainly to avoid facing some uncomfortable realities. When Pruitt’s scandals first started bubbling up, most of the people highlighted here wrote basically the same piece arguing that liberals were conducting a political hit on Pruitt because he was such an effective destroyer of environmental regulations. That argument has aged extremely poorly. Also, if they were to allow that Pruitt is corrupt, that would change how they’d have to talk about Trump, given that the president allowed such a prolific abuser of public trust to remain in office for months after he should have been fired. Indeed, most of them demanded that Trump stand by Pruitt. They won’t admit that they were wrong, so instead they’re casting Pruitt as a victim and blaming his downfall on a shadowy cabal of reporters and green activists.

    This flagrant intellectual dishonesty in defense of rampant corruption raises an important question: How long will the press tolerate and abet behavior like this? Strassel, Hewitt, Hemingway, and Journal editorial writers are Sunday show conservatives -- they appear as guests and panelists on mainstream news programs and they enjoy the respect of some elite journalists and news organizations. Already we’re seeing some stirrings of revulsion -- CNBC’s John Harwood asked if Hewitt “seriously believes” that Pruitt is a victim:

    There is no answer to this question that reflects well on Hewitt or anyone else making that argument. If they do believe that Scott Pruitt was victimized, then they’re either too stupid or too blinded by tribal loyalty to be taken seriously. If they don’t believe it, then they’re just lying to defend one of the most staggeringly corrupt politicians in recent memory. Either way, they’ve outed themselves as untrustworthy, bad-faith shills for a corrupt White House.

  • The media’s “civility” game helps Trump

    The Red Hen reaction shows how Trump benefits from backward media accountability

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons; art by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was politely asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, VA, this past weekend because the owner was unwilling to serve a senior Trump administration official who defends (among other things) the cruel and inhumane separation of migrant families and internment of immigrant children. This act of protest -- the most recent example of a senior Trump official being heckled or protested over the family-separation policy -- galvanized certain pundits who voiced a moral objection to what they viewed as a grave injustice: “uncivil” behavior by ordinary people toward perpetrators of a despicable government policy.

    This ridiculous crusade was led by the Washington Post editorial board, which published a profoundly silly piece urging all of America to “Let the Trump team eat in peace.” Per the Post:

    OVER THE WEEKEND there was a fair bit of argument about the decision by a small restaurant in Lexington, Va., not to serve dinner to President Trump’s press secretary. It wasn’t the first time recently that strong political feelings have spilled into what used to be considered the private sphere. We understand the strength of the feelings, but we don’t think the spilling is a healthy development.

    I agree completely with The Week’s Ryan Cooper, who writes that this reaction is counterproductive and morally backward: “If there is any main wellspring of ‘incivility’ … it comes from the monstrously evil actions of the Trump regime.” Diverting the focus from the evils of the White House to the “uncivil” protest actions they inspire does the evildoers a tremendous favor.

    The civility game does nothing but privilege the people whose views and actions are horrific. When the president does contemptible, anti-democratic things like ordering the separation of migrant mothers from infants and demanding that due process be eliminated, he and his lackeys follow a poisonous process in which the White House enthusiastically demonizes its adversaries -- Democrats, immigrants, journalists, anyone who objects to toddler internment -- while rigorously and woundedly demanding that everyone else follow the rules of polite discourse. The idea is that the president and his cronies deserve respect and deference no matter what they say or do simply because of the offices they hold.

    This cynical posturing gets helped along by journalists and pundits who acknowledge that the president’s policies and beliefs are abhorrent but nonetheless self-righteously cluck their tongues at the “incivility” of the White House’s critics. The Washington Post editorial board writes that the Red Hen’s defenders are correct on the merits when they say that the child internment scandal is “no ordinary policy dispute” and that President Donald Trump “has ordered terrible violations of human rights at the border.” But even in the face of what the paper recognizes as a uniquely appalling violation of rights and norms, the Post still takes a swipe at those who are “justifying incivility” and asks us to imagine a world in which abortion rights advocates are harassed for their (constitutionally protected) views -- something that happens literally all the time and too often has deadly consequences.

    This vapid argument was perfectly crystallized in a chiding tweet from Washington Post columnist David Ignatius:

    “However troubling her views.” Her “troubling" views are the story! The despicable arguments and actions of the administration are driving this public backlash against senior officials. But elite members of the media are busily doing the White House a favor by prioritizing “civility” over accountability -- forget about the fact that she’s the mouthpiece for an administration perpetrating a deliberate evil against a vulnerable population; this senior government official deserves respect and steak tartare.

    The endurance of this worldview in the face of broadly recognized illegal and immoral behavior does not portend well for the immediate post-Trump era. The end of Trump’s administration should be met with a vigorous and thorough accounting of all its misdeeds and criminality. Standing athwart that effort will be a coalition of bad-faith Republicans, badly misguided pundits, and calculatedly centrist Democrats who will argue that any attempt to investigate Trump abuses will be too “political” and contrary to the more important task of “healing” or “bringing Americans together” or some other nonsense. That was the mindset that helped shield the people responsible for the George W. Bush-era torture program from any sort of official accountability; in 2009, the same David Ignatius snidely dismissed people who backed “retrospective investigations of wrongdoing by the CIA” as “liberal score-settlers.”

    The Trump administration’s aberrant and illegal behaviors are driven in part by the faith that the political and media establishment will be too cowardly and too self-absorbed to impose any real accountability. Given that official Washington can’t stomach an act of “uncivil” protest by a local eatery, it’s hard to argue that the White House’s faith is misplaced.