Brian Powell

Author ››› Brian Powell
  • "War On Cops": Fox News Abandons Its Catchphrase When Bike Gangs Threaten Police

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    After African-American communities in Baltimore and Ferguson, MO came together to demonstrate against the deadly and racially disparate policies of law enforcement, Fox News branded the protests a "war on cops." But when the story became a mostly white Texas biker gang plotting to kill police with grenades and car bombs, the network took a decidedly less sensationalist approach in its reporting.

    Fox host Sean Hannity declared on May 12 that there is a "war on police in America" and tied recent statistics on law enforcement officers' deaths to protestors in Baltimore who took to the streets in response to the unexplained death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.

    It's a narrative Fox has been pushing for months, branding any discussion of the proven racial disparities in police shootings as part of a sensationalized "war" on law enforcement. 

    Earlier in May, Fox host Eric Bolling responded to the killing of NYPD officer Brian Moore by suggesting that liberals waging a "war on cops" were to blame. He said, "The 'anti-cop left' in America seems to be ... fueling some of this hatred and, you know, murderous streak that's going on against cops."

    On March 12, Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs directed viewers to vote in an online poll that asked, "Has the Obama administration's war on law enforcement contributed, in your opinion, to violence in Ferguson and other communities around the country?"

    On the December 29, 2014 broadcast of Fox News' Special Report, contributor Charles Krauthammer responded to the pattern of unarmed black men being shot by police officers by saying, "If there's a pattern here, it's the war on police. I don't see a war on young black men."

    But on a major story that involved serious threats against law enforcement, the "people versus the police" warlike rhetoric has been conspicuously absent from Fox's news coverage.

    On May 17 in Waco, TX, a shootout between rival biker gangs and law enforcement left nine people dead and more than 190 people in custody. In the immediate aftermath, some gang members issued death threats against uniformed officers. Days later, reports of more violent threats emerged -- members of the Bandidos biker gang who serve in the military were giving their fellow members grenades and C4 explosives, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. CNN reported on the existence of Bandidos "plots targeting high-ranking law enforcement officials and their families with car bombs":

    The Bandidos want to retaliate against police for shooting "their brothers" as they came out of the Twin Peaks restaurant, the bulletin says.

    The gang has ordered a hit against Texas troopers and other officers, according to the bulletin. Among the threats are running over officers at traffic stops and the use of grenades and Molotov cocktails and firearms.

    Fox News reported the threats, but despite the element of military-grade tactics in the story, has completely refrained from describing the plot as part of its much-hyped "war on cops." Instead, the network has played it straight, with just-the-facts news reports read on camera with no accompanying pictures or video.

    The contrast is noteworthy, and highlights the double-standard that the media in general has exercised when reporting on the biker club shootout versus how it reported on the protests in Baltimore -- something even CNN noticed.

  • Mother's Day Was A Missed Opportunity To Ask New Presidential Candidates How They'd Help America's Struggling Moms

    Sunday Political Shows Hosted Four Candidates And Asked Zero Questions About Issues Affecting Mothers

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Several 2016 presidential candidates were interviewed for Sunday morning's political talk shows on Mother's Day, and not one of them was asked about how they might fix America's poor standing on maternal and child health and education.

    A new report ranked the United States 61st globally in maternal health, worst among developed nations. From CBS News:

    Save the Children, a global nonprofit organization aimed at improving the health of children worldwide, ranked 179 countries based on five indicators: maternal health, children's well-being, and education, economic, and political status. When taking all of these factors into account, the United States slid to 33rd place worldwide, down two spots in the rankings compared to last year.


    While the United States performed well on economic and educational status -- 9th and 16th best, respectively -- in addition to its poor standing in maternal health, it ranked 42nd in children's well-being and 89th in political status, as measured by women's representation in national government.

    Republicans Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Ben Carson, as well as Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, all appeared on political talk shows during Mother's Day, but none of them were asked about how they might address the nation's tragic infant mortality ratereproductive health discrimination, or the fact that the United States is the only industrialized nation without paid maternity leave.

    NBC's Meet the Press tackled the topic in a Mother's Day-themed panel at the end of its show, but host Chuck Todd neglected to ask Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina about what her approach would be to correct the U.S.'s maternal failings if she were to be elected. Instead of discussing Fiorina's dubious claims about the origins of gender pay equity, the two discussed free trade, her business record, and her lack of political experience. Todd did wish the candidate a "Happy Mother's Day."

    Carson appeared on Fox's Fox News Sunday, where host Chris Wallace began an interview by asking Carson about his ailing mother and asking the candidate to describe how she raised Carson out of "dire poverty" in Detroit. Carson answered that his mother encouraged him to read, and that access to books made all the difference. But Wallace failed to ask Carson how he might increase the chances for other mothers and their children to thrive.

    CBS' Bob Schieffer interviewed a pair of 2016 presidential candidates on the Mother's Day edition of Face the Nation, but he failed to ask either Mike Huckabee or Bernie Sanders about policy stances affecting U.S. mothers. Schieffer pressed Huckabee on the threat of ISIS, reforming Social Security, and his past hawking of fake diabetes cures, while focusing most of his discussion with Sanders on Hillary Clinton. Sanders nevertheless took the opportunity to cite Mother's Day and raise concerns about the U.S.'s child care system, which he called a "total disaster."

    Republicans have regularly opposed measures that would alleviate some of the ways the nation's current policies have failed American moms. After President Obama called for mandating paid maternity leave in his 2015 State of the Union address, Republicans "didn't join in the applause" that followed and have publicly panned the idea. The Hill further noted that current Republican leadership also opposed the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said at the time would have devastating consequences.

  • Fox Versus Fox Latino On Hillary Clinton's Immigration Remarks

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Fox News' varied online news platforms characterized Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's recent remarks on immigration with three very different headlines.

    In May 5 remarks, Clinton called immigration "a family and economic issue" and expressed support for expanding protections "to help parents of immigrant children stay in the United States."

    Fox News Latino headlined a story about her remarks as, "Hillary Clinton makes deportation protection, path to citizenship central to campaign."

    This frame contrasted significantly with that of and Fox Nation. referred to "illegal immigrants" in a headline that read, "Clinton calls for path to 'full and equal citizenship' for illegal immigrants."

    Fox Nation, a site known for trading in racial dog whistles, chose the headline, "Hillary Clinton Vows to Expand Obama Amnesty to More Illegals."

    Fox News and Fox Latino have a history of portraying the same events through very different lenses.

  • Baltimore's Kwame Rose Responds To Geraldo's Personal Attacks, Talks About Media And Freddie Gray

    Rose: "I Want People To Know That This Issue Is Bigger Than Some Clip Of Me, It's About Black Lives."


    Kwame Rose, the Baltimore resident who confronted Fox News' Geraldo Rivera over media's biased coverage of the city, responded to Rivera's personal on-air attacks in an interview with Media Matters. Rose reacted to video of his interaction with Rivera going viral, discussed the media landscape in Baltimore, and highlighted racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

    National media has swarmed to cover the Baltimore protesters who have taken to the streets to voice concerns about the criminal justice system following the shocking death of Freddie Gray, a young Baltimore resident whose spine was fatally severed while in police custody. Fox's Rivera was among those pundits reporting on the protests when Rose confronted the Fox personality and expressed frustration that the network failed to spotlight Gray's death in favor of hyping the unrest that ensued, an exchange that quickly found a large audience online.

    Rivera later used his platform on Fox News to bash Rose as a "vandal," "annoying," and an "obstructionist" on-air. He accused Rose of displaying "exactly that kind of youthful anarchy that led to the destruction and pain in that community."

    Rose has responded to Geraldo and to the video's popularity, in an email exchange with Media Matters.

    "I want people to know that this issue is bigger than some clip of me, it's about Black Lives," said Rose, after emphasizing that being featured in a viral video was never his intention. His frustration lies with establishment media and its depictions of Baltimore in the wake of the unrest.

    "I have been out protesting for almost two weeks now without being on one camera," Rose explained. "After Monday night when the media started pouring in, I sat at work and watched how the media basically forced people to believe that Baltimore was some Third World city. I just wanted to set the record straight and let it be known that this generation refuses to be misinterpreted."

    Rose noted how the media paid attention to the violence in Baltimore, but failed to cover the community's efforts to unite and clean up the city.

    "I sat and watched the media set up their camps in front of boarded up homes ... while we were cleaning up the streets as one community. The cameras weren't rolling, nobody cared. Outside agitators such as Fox News came onto the scene trying to exploit the situation. I don't care about the people watching Fox News, but I will not let you report lies about the people of this city."

  • Media Ask Rand Paul's Wife About Sexism Accusations But Ignore Record On Women's Equality

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Fox News and NBC ignored Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) record of opposing gender equality legislation during interviews with the Republican presidential candidate's wife, in which Kelley Paul attempted to dismiss accusations that he looks down on women.

    Kelley Paul, the wife of 2016 hopeful Rand Paul, appeared on Fox News and NBC's Today for multiple interviews April 14 to discuss her husband's presidential bid and her new book.

    The hosts of Fox & Friends turned the discussion to recent accusations that Rand Paul is sexist, after the candidate infamously lectured Today's Savannah Guthrie for asking about his foreign policy positions earlier this month, a testy exchange that came on the heels of Paul shushing CNBC's Kelly Evans during an interview in February.

    "You know how it works," co-host Steve Doocy told Kelley Paul. "The mainstream media's just trying to disqualify him. They see that thing, they put it all together, they say, 'oh he's a sexist, he can't be president.'"

    Paul defended her husband's treatment of women, saying his "entire professional career is working with female surgeons" and noting a longtime partner in his ophthalmology practice was a woman.

    Later on The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson asked Paul,"What do you make of the fact that some people are saying that your husband may not be able to connect as well with women?" Paul again cited her husband's female work partner as evidence that he has no issues with women, describing the accusations of sexism as a "false narrative -- a construct sort-of created on the Democrat side."

    Meanwhile, NBC's Hoda Kotb asked Paul on Today to discuss her husband's relationship with women and respond to his previous treatment of Guthrie which sparked widespread backlash. Paul again pointed to her husband's longtime female colleague.

    The examination of Paul's professional record as a means of predicting how a Paul presidency would benefit women overlooked his more recent professional activities.His legislative history contains red flags for anyone hoping to characterize him as an advocate for women -- issues that weren't raised by Kotb, Carlson, or the Fox "friends." 

    Paul is on record opposing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which would provide protections and resources to victims of domestic violence. He wrote a letter in 2012 arguing that the issue should be addressed at the state level, not by the federal government.

    It's also noteworthy that Fox's defense of Paul came on April 14, Equal Pay Day, because the senator has voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act multiple times. As ThinkProgress noted, Paul compared the legislation "to the Soviet Politburo dictating wages and the prices of goods" and added that the wage landscape is better when "the marketplace decides what wages are."

  • Maureen Dowd's Latest Clinton Attack Is Infused With RNC Talking Points

    Dowd Adopts Nixon Comparison Being Pushed By The Republican Party

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Maureen Dowd's latest column attacking Hillary Clinton with comparisons to former President Richard Nixon echoes attacks from the Republican National Committee (RNC).

    In a New York Times op-ed on April 11, Dowd predicted that Clinton's presidential campaign will "take the Nixon approach" by "trying to charm people one by one in the early states for 2016, an acknowledgement that she cannot emulate the wholesale allure of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama."

    Dowd's Nixon comparison has been made before, repeatedly, as part of the RNC's "Stop Hillary" campaign. As the Washington Post noted on April 11, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus "habitually describes Clinton as a cold, Nixonian liberal millionaire."

    Priebus made the comparison in March when discussing Clinton's email use while serving as secretary of state, saying "even Nixon didn't destroy the tapes" (an implication that the deleted personal emails on Clinton's private server were equivalent to Nixon's involvement in the Watergate conspiracy).

    Conservative media figures followed his lead, and the Nixon comparison found its way onto a variety of Fox News programming, into the pages of National Review, and even into the mouth of conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on the March 29 edition of NBC's Meet the Press.

    Dowd has now followed suit. The columnist has been attacking Clinton on often personal terms repeatedly for more than twenty years. She's accused Clinton of being power-hungry, unlikeable, phony, and an enemy of feminism, among other attacks. Now it appears she's looking to the Republican Party for new inspiration.

  • How Right-Wing Media Championed A Ted Cruz Presidential Campaign Long Before Actual Launch


    Right-wing media has a long history of serving as Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) biggest cheerleaders, dating back to Cruz's 2012 Senate victory which he credited to Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck, showcasing the influence of conservative media in shaping election outcomes.

    Following Cruz's announced bid for the 2016 GOP nomination for president, Media Matters looks back at some of right-wing media's most effusive praise of Cruz.

    Sean Hannity

    After Cruz announced his candidacy, Hannity featured the senator in an hour-long special on the March 23 of edition his Fox News show. Hannity highlighted Cruz's campaign announcement speech, and allowed Cruz to promote his platform.

    Hannity has fantasized about a Cruz campaign for years before the official campaign launch. During Cruz's February 26 speech at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Hannity jumped on the main stage to proclaim that with Cruz, "we can fundamentally transform America" in 2016.

    Rush Limbaugh

    After Cruz announced the launch of his campaign, Rush Limbaugh praised Cruz, suggesting that he "might be the smartest man in Congress."

    In July 2014, Rush predicted that if Ted Cruz continued his rise in "dominant influence," he would lead a nascent Republican "revival" that is "just awaiting leadership."

    In September 2013, Limbaugh lashed out at Fox News' Brit Hume for alleging that Cruz was influenced by Limbaugh and other conservative media in his repeated efforts to defund Obama's health care law. Limbaugh defended Cruz, asserting that "Ted Cruz isn't afraid of anybody," and went on to praise the Republican senator, saying "Ted Cruz is fighting for freedom in the greatest tradition of American freedom fighters." Limbaugh added that in his efforts to defund the health care law, "Ted Cruz is attempting to [] marshal the support of the American people ... in the greatest traditions of the American founding and the existence of the country."  

    Glenn Beck

    Beck praised Ted Cruz after the launch of his campaign, championing Cruz's "long, long, impressive resume," saying "you can't pigeonhole him as stupid," adding "I can't wait to see him in a debate."

    On his radio show in December 2013, Beck likened Cruz to Ronald Reagan saying, he "may be our Ronald Reagan because that guy does not take prisoners. That guy is a thousand times smarter than 99 percent of the politicians I have ever met."

    Laura Ingraham

    After Cruz announced his candidacy, Laura Ingraham applauded him for "stand[ing] firm for the constitution," and claimed Cruz will be tough competition for Republicans because he represents "more of a traditionalist point of view" and a more "Reagan-esque" form of conservatism.

    Mark Levin

    Levin railed against Fox News for "trashing" Ted Cruz after the senator launched his campaign, likening Cruz to Reagan, and asserting that like Cruz, Reagan would have been "trashed all over" Fox News.

    In August 2013, Levin declared Cruz "one of the bright lights of the Republican Party" for "exciting the base" after he "demonstrated that he can beat the establishment as he did" during his 2012 Senate campaign. Levin defended Cruz from a "vicious, vile, poisonous attack by the establishment including Bush staffers." 

    Hugh Hewitt

    In June 2014, Hugh Hewitt proclaimed that Cruz "may be the smartest senator," telling Joe Scarborough on his radio program, "he's just not gonna back down and we need some of that in our party." Hewitt went on to compare Cruz to Reagan, saying he has "the same demeanor" as Reagan, "the same kind of charisma, easy affability and smart, smart, smart." 

  • Conservative Media Are Falling For Another Ed Klein Conspiracy Theory

    Discredited Journalist Ed Klein Returns To Citing Anonymous Sources To Accuse Obama Of Sabotaging The Clintons

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Discredited journalist Ed Klein is pushing a dubious conspiracy theory that White House adviser Valerie Jarrett leaked the Hillary Clinton email story to the media, an anonymously sourced allegation that's giving Klein renewed attention in the pages and on the airwaves of the right-wing press.

    Earlier this month, a flawed New York Times report sensationalized the fact that as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton used a personal email address to conduct State Department business.

    Klein is now positing that Jarrett "leaked" the story to the press, as he writes in a March 16 column in the New York Post. Klein cites anonymous "members of Bill Clinton's camp" and a nameless "source close to the White House" to come to the conclusion that the Obama administration is deliberately trying to "sabotage" the possible presidential ambitions of Obama's former secretary of state.

    His conspiracy theory was given a platform across the full spectrum of conservative media, which called it "explosive" and "reveal[ing]." Fox News featured several segments on Klein's theory and even hosted him on the set of Fox & Friends earlier this month to hype his "bombshell claim."

    Conservative media continue to afford Klein credibility despite a resume riddled with lies and discredited writing.

    A few of his greatest hits:

    • Klein Concocted A Bogus Claim That Bill Clinton Sexually Assaulted Hillary Clinton. In Ed Klein's 2005 book The Truth About Hillary, he alleged that Chelsea Clinton was conceived during a vacation in Bermuda where Bill Clinton raped his wife. According to the footnotes, this claim was predicated on an interview with a single anonymous source who supposedly "was with the Clintons in Bermuda" (Klein would later walk back this smear).
    • Klein Published Impossible, False Allegation That Obama Abandoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu In Order To Have Dinner With His Family. According to a June 2012 report by ThinkProgress, Klein published a false report alleging that Obama left a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister in order to have dinner with his family. Pointing to a 2010 article Klein published in The Huffington Post, they note that a simple phone call would have disproved Klein's assertion:

    In a 2010 entry in The Huffington Post, Klein detailed President Obama's "humiliation" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, claiming that sources told him of Obama leaving during a meeting with Netenyahu to have dinner with Michelle and their two daughters. One phone call would have revealed that to be impossible, since Michelle, Sasha and Malia were all in New York City at the time."

    • Klein Repeatedly Leans On Sexist Rhetoric To Attack Hillary Clinton, Including Claims About Her Weight And Health. During a June 4, 2012 appearance on Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, Klein promoted his anti-Obama book, The Amateur, and offered his thoughts on a possible 2016 run for the White House by Hillary Clinton. Klein lobbed personal attacks about Clinton's health, telling listeners that she is "not looking good these days. She's looking overweight, and she's looking very tired." 

    Klein's latest claims come fresh off the heels of his 2014 book, Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the ObamasBlood Feud was roundly ridiculed for its sourcing problems and unlikely anecdotes, even by Fox figures like Megyn Kelly and Brian Kilmeade.

    Nevertheless, Klein's conspiracy theories have been amplified by the network and its other hosts, as well as other players in conservative media.

  • After Right-To-Work, The Conservative Media Coronation Of Scott Walker Signals A New War On The Middle Class

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Right-wing media and conservative financial interests are touting Gov. Scott Walker's latest anti-worker move as a model for America, but his policies will harm the economy and stand in stark contrast with the GOP's recent attempts to rebrand the party as a champion of the middle class. 

    This week, Wisconsin governor and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker signed into law a so-called "right-to-work" bill, which will hamper the ability of private-sector workers to organize into labor unions and bargain collectively. Walker proclaimed the bill "sends a powerful message across the country and around the world" and boasted about its economic advantages. His signature follows weeks of championing from conservative media. The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece written by the CEO of Americans for Prosperity that lauded the right-to-work bill in Wisconsin, while misinforming readers about its likely economic impact. Fox News repeatedly praised the bill as well, while the editors of National Review called the Wisconsin bill a "righteous victory" for Walker and described organized labor as a "cancer."

    Of course, economists point out that quality of life -- as measured by a variety of factors such as poverty and income rates -- is lower in right-to-work states. In fact, economist Gordon Lafer found that right-to-work laws "lower wages for union and non-union workers by an average of $1,500 a year" and lead to pension and health benefits cuts -- findings echoed in other economic studies.

    But politically, Walker is hoping to bolster his conservative bona fides among right-wing media and others in anticipation of a competitive Republican primary season -- by taking a swing at the labor movement. And Wisconsin's latest attack on labor is just the latest chapter in a broader campaign against the middle class being waged in tandem by conservative media, corporate financial interests, and the whole of the Republican Party.

    The nexus is easily demonstrable -- the right-to-work law Walker signed is a nearly word-for-word replica of model legislation crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization funded mostly by corporations and conservative organizations, and whose purpose, according to Fortune magazine, is to "bring business-friendly state lawmakers together with lobbyists for corporations." ALEC receives large sums of money from billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch to push legislation that supports the their political agenda, one often at odds with the well-being of middle and working class Americans. Indeed, the right-to-work bill in Wisconsin is just the latest in a string of such laws sweeping through GOP-controlled legislatures in the Midwest thanks to ALEC and the Kochs.

    Walker has also been the beneficiary of the Kochs' financial clout. The Kochs directly and indirectly contributed millions of dollars to his gubernatorial campaigns while the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) provided manpower in the form of political rallies and hundreds of volunteers contacting voters in support of Walker. Walker attended a "gathering of rich conservatives" along with other presidential hopefuls convened by the Koch brothers earlier this year.

    On Fox News, praise for Walker is over the top -- he is a "sexy" 2016 candidate that makes one host's "toes curl." Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has lavished Walker with compliments, mostly by suggesting Walker has adopted the host's own conservative ideas, while the Drudge Report crowned Walker the "clear GOP frontrunner."

    If Walker's corporate-bought anti-worker agenda is the top choice for the conservative media, it symbolizes a striking detachment between conservative policy priorities and policies that would benefit average Americans. As an example, one economist found that declining union participation rates have exacerbated the problem of income inequality in the United States.

  • The Troubling Story Of The AP's Flawed Clinton Email Report

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    After the Associated Press waited over 14 hours before changing an erroneous story about Hillary Clinton, without issuing an update or correction, ZDNet's David Gewirtz has questions about the integrity of the outlet's reporting.

    On March 4, the AP published a story claiming that Clinton used a fake identity, "Eric Hoteham," to register the domain name associated with Clinton's personal email address. This was later discovered to be a misspelled version of a real name, Eric Hothem, who is a former aide to Clinton.

    Gewirtz documented a laundry list of changes made to the piece after the AP discovered this information, noting that the AP let the story "run through an entire day's news cycle, and then changed that story in the same article later that evening - without ever releasing an update or correction."

    "What worries me," Gewirtz wrote, "is what this sort of drive-by journalism means for the future of news as a source of well-researched, vetted, and transparent reporting." From the piece (emphasis added):

    The original assertion by AP that a former Secretary of State might have used a fake name for the probably equally incorrect premise that she has been hiding official email on a "homebrew" server in her house has been resolved, but not before AP let the story run for almost 15 hours, creating a new "Hillary Clinton is evil because..." myth. Then AP didn't bother to print a retraction -- it simply edited the piece and hoped we'd all forget.

    But if the Clintons are anything beyond political animals, they're news-cycle survivors.

    What worries me is what this sort of drive-by journalism means for the future of news as a source of well-researched, vetted, and transparent reporting.

    AP's behavior with this story was a disappointment. It syndicates stories to a great many outlets, and I've always considered it to have the highest journalistic integrity. Now? I'll just chalk this one up to a bad editing mistake; but in the future, if it doesn't clarify substantive and important changes like it made to their Clinton article, we may have to question their credibility in other reporting.

    Full column below: