Carlos Maza

Author ››› Carlos Maza
  • CNN’s Harry Houck Promotes Video Calling On Obama To “Ban Niggas”

    Video Claims “More People Murdered In A Day By Niggly Bears Than In A Year By Grizzly Bears”

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    CNN law enforcement analyst Harry Houck promoted a video that calls for President Obama to “ban niggas” in order to reduce violent crime, continuing Houck’s long history of peddling racist tropes about the African-American community.

    On July 25, Houck posted a link to a video on his Twitter account featuring Atlanta radio host and men’s rights activist Tommy Sotomayor, in which Sotomayor said that Obama should “ban niggas” because black men commit more violent crimes than other groups. Houck tweeted the video with the comment, “He knows what he’s talking about!”:

    Houck has used his platform on CNN to repeatedly suggest that African-Americans are prone to criminality and to blame black victims of police violence. Houck on Twitter has often warned about “black thugs,” referred to Black Lives Matter as a “thug group,” and even tweeted a link to a white supremacist website.

    Houck continues to be employed as a law enforcement analyst by CNN. He most recently appeared during the the July 17 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, where he attempted to link the shooting of three police officers in Baton Rouge to protests regarding the death of Alton Sterling.

  • VIDEO: Inside The RNC Conspiracy Theorist Rally That Explains The Trump Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    Two of Donald Trump’s favorite right-wing conspiracy theorists headlined a “Unity Rally” just outside of the Republican National Convention this week. The event further highlighted how Trump’s candidacy has helped bring fringe extremists  into mainstream Republican politics.

    On July 18, just blocks away from the site of the Republican National Convention, Trump supporters attended the “America First Unity Rally,” an event hosted by Citizens for Trump and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.

    The rally -- which was not an official Trump campaign event -- was billed as “a massive victory rally & parade celebration of Mr. Trump’s nomination.” In reality, the few hundred attendees were treated to an afternoon of conspiracy theories about the Clintons, 9/11, and the threat posed by anti-American “globalists.”

    Jones, Stone Represent Trump’s Fringe Supporters

    The event’s central headliners were Stone and Infowars.com founder Alex Jones -- two prominent Trump supporters with long histories of peddling bizarre conspiracy theories.

    Stone has claimed the Clintons and Bushes have secretly murdered dozens; the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 is “suspicious”; President Lyndon Johnson killed President John F. Kennedy; President George H.W. Bush tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan; and the Clintons killed John F. Kennedy Jr.

    Jones is a radio host well-known known for his own brand of conspiracy theories -- he claims the government was behind 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, mass shootings in Aurora, CO, and Newtown, CT, among other events. Jones claims these “false flag” operations are part of a broader plot by “globalists” in both parties to take away Americans’ guns and take over the country.

    Stone and Jones brought their unique brand of lunacy to the rally. Stone repeated the long-debunked claim that the Clinton’s were involved in a cover-up surrounding the death of White House aide Vince Foster, while Jones celebrated that American voters were finally waking up to the globalist agenda in American politics.

    Trump Is Helping Mainstream Conspiracy Theorists

    It’s tempting to dismiss events like the America First Unity Rally as merely a fringe element of Republican politics, but the Trump campaign has shown a real interest in relying on conspiracy theorists like Stone and Jones to appeal to far-right voters. Stone states he is still in frequent contact with the GOP nominee -- even claiming he was late to the rally because he was meeting with members of Trump’s staff. Trump has appeared on Jones’ show and praised his reputation, promising not to let him or his listeners down. Jones has returned the favor -- many of the attendees at the rally stated that Jones’ praise convinced them to support Trump as the GOP nominee.

    Trump’s willingness to mingle with the most extreme and unhinged factions of the far right helps normalize them, pulling them into the Republican mainstream. Stone has become a regular fixture in mainstream election coverage. The day after appearing at the rally, Stone appeared at a discussion hosted by Politico at the convention.

    It also impacts the way Trump views the world -- as The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin explained in May, Trump’s “whole frame of reference” revolves around the fringe conspiracies peddled by outlets like Jones’ Infowars. Trump has already shown a willingness to make anti-Clinton conspiracy theories -- including the Vince Foster allegations -- a part of his general election strategy.

    This closeness between the GOP nominee and the right’s most extreme conspiracy theorists deserves special attention over the next few months.

    Stone and Jones may have held their rally outside of the Republican National Convention, but Trump’s campaign is helping bring them closer and closer to the Republican mainstream.

  • Meet Harry Houck, CNN’s Resident Race-Baiter And Police Brutality Apologist

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    CNN contributor Harry Houck -- who recently claimed that black people are prone to criminality -- has a long history of extreme race-baiting on the network, frequently blaming victims of police brutality and describing Black Lives Matter as a “thug group.”

    During the July 11 edition of CNN’s New Day, Houck -- a retired NYPD detective who works as a “law enforcement analyst” for CNN -- responded to concerns about the over-policing of black communities by suggesting that African-Americans commit crimes at higher rates than whites. When guest Marc Lamont Hill pointed out that Houck was suggesting black people are “prone to criminality,” Houck responded, “Well, they are!”:

    CNN frequently hosts Houck in the wake of high profile stories of police brutality and anti-black violence. He is a reliable race-baiter and police apologist, regularly blaming black people for police mistreatment.

    He has repeatedly suggested that minorities, and specifically black people, commit more crime than white people, and that the solution to the problem of police brutality is for black people to “stop committing crimes.” He’s denied that African-Americans receive different treatment from whites in the criminal justice system, and claimed that any police officer who acts inappropriately is punished for it.

    He’s also blamed Al Sharpton for starting riots in Ferguson and called Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance “racist.”

    Houck consistently finds ways to blame black victims of violence, especially at the hands of police officers. According to Houck:

    • Sandra Bland was arrested because she was “very arrogant” and “uncooperative.”
    • A South Carolina student who was body slammed by a police officer in her classroom “had no respect for the school… probably has no respect at home or on the street.”
    • The police officers who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice acted “properly.”
    • Trayvon Martin was killed because he had a “street attitude.”

    Houck’s Twitter presence makes his race-baiting on TV look subtle by comparison. He regularly tweets about the threat posed by “black thugs,” refers to Black Lives Matter as a “thug group,” and decries what he calls “black thug privilage” (sic).

    He’s called “Black on Black murders the real problem,” tweeted a link to a white supremacist website, and claimed that the goal of the Black Lives Matter movement is to “turn criminals into victims and cops into criminals.”

    Houck also peddles bizarre conspiracy theories. In one tweet, Houck claimed that Saul Alinsky has recruited Hillary Clinton to help promote “racism in every aspect of society” -- including releasing violent criminals from prison -- in order to make minorities dependent on Democrats, “the real slave masters.”

    In another, Houck claimed that Democrats “want all the refugees” because they want to “put them on welfare” so that they will “vote for liberals.”

    Houck’s inflammatory rhetoric isn’t limited to the black community. He’s called anti-Trump protesters “terrorists” and “the biggest danger we now face in this country.” He’s argued for wrapping the “remains of terrorists in pork fat so they go to hell!” And in October, he posted an image from a right-wing website that read “THIS IS AMERICA… WE SPEAK ENGLISH… IF YOU DONT LIKE IT TOUGH SHIT.”

    In July, 2015, the group ColorOfChange launched a petition asking CNN to “Drop Harry Houck,” writing:

    Harry Houck has a long record of victim blaming young Black people like Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and now this young Black girl at Spring Valley High School, all while blindly supporting their assailants. It is well passed time CNN dropped Harry Houck from their broadcasts and replace Harry Houck with someone capable of discussing the state of racism and prejudiced policing.

    Despite his rhetoric, CNN continues to pay Houck as an expert, bringing his race-baiting to a national audience any time a story of over-policing or police brutality makes headlines.

    Marlee Pittman contributed research to this post. Image by Sarah Wasko.

  • How News Networks Criminalize Black Victims Of Police Violence

    News Networks Reported Alton Sterling's Death By Highlighting His Criminal Record, Mugshot

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    News networks reporting on the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by a police officer in Baton Rouge highlighted Sterling’s prior criminal record and displayed his mugshot from a former arrest, reinforcing tropes about black criminality that have long tainted media coverage of instances of police violence.

    On July 5, Alton Sterling was fatally shot by Baton Rouge, LA, police outside of a convenience store. Video of the incident shows Sterling pinned to the ground by two officers, seemingly unable to move. After one officer yells “he’s got a gun,” an officer aims his gun at Sterling’s chest and shoots him several times at near point-blank range.

    The shooting has prompted the opening of a civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice and has generated widespread media coverage. But in their reporting on the shooting, many news networks chose to highlight Sterling’s criminal history -- including displaying his mugshot from a prior arrest -- without explaining why that information was relevant to Sterling’s death.

    Sterling’s criminal record is not evidence that police were justified in shooting him -- having a criminal record is not grounds for being shot by police. Nor is it evidence that Sterling, who was pinned down when he was killed, posed a threat to police. That information is irrelevant to the police officer’s decision to shoot Sterling.

    But the media practice of depicting black victims of police violence as criminals is well documented. News outlets regularly use mugshots to depict black victims and highlight black victims’ criminal histories, even when those histories have nothing at all to do with the stories they’re reporting.

    This kind of coverage reinforces dangerous and racist tropes about black criminality, and it makes audiences naturally hostile toward black victims. If you depict a black victim as a criminal or “thug” with an arrest record, it’s easier to believe that police were justified in killing them. If your first impression of Sterling is that he’s a sex offender with a criminal history, you’re less likely to view him as a victim, regardless of the details surrounding his death.

    Conservative media are far less subtle when they call upon these tropes -- right-wing news outlets have a long history of demonizing and blaming black victims of police violence, even when facing clear evidence of police wrongdoing.

    The same thing is happening in the case of Sterling, whose criminal record has already been used to suggest that he was “no gentle giant.”

    In a news conference hours after the shooting, Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of Sterling’s oldest son, told reporters that Sterling “is not what the mass media is making him out to be.” Unfortunately, many viewers who watched initial coverage of the shooting won’t be able to forget the dehumanizing and misleading image of Sterling that news outlets created.

  • VIDEO: The Flawed Way The Media Covers High-Profile Rapists

    Why Did News Outlets Highlight Brock Turner's Swimming Abilities After He Was Found Guilty?

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    After a jury found former Stanford student Brock Turner guilty of sexual assault, The Washington Post published an article that highlighted Turner’s accomplishments as an All-American swimmer. The article drew widespread condemnation from critics who argued the Post was irresponsibly emphasizing Turner’s swimming abilities rather than focusing on the crime he committed.

    But the Post’s report isn’t an isolated incident -- it’s an example of a media tendency to treat high-profile sex offenders with kid gloves, even after they’ve been found guilty.

    After two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, were found guilty of raping a minor, news outlets highlighted their athletic abilities and previously promising futures. After a former college football player in Oklahoma City was found guilty of raping multiple women as a police officer, media outlets highlighted his physical strength and athletic accomplishments.

    News outlets don’t highlight these kinds of details by accident -- they do it because those details run counter to audiences’ expectations about what sex predators look like. People don’t expect sex predators to be successful, popular, rich, or white, so when someone like Brock Turner is found guilty, news outlets jump at the chance to tell a “fall from grace” story.

    The problem with the “fall from grace” narrative is that it can make audiences naturally sympathetic towards offenders. Spend enough time hearing about someone’s athletic accomplishments or academic success, and you might start wondering, “How could someone so great have done something so awful?”

    Taken to its extreme, that framing can produce coverage that ends up treating offenders like victims. The Washington Post’s write-up stated that Turner’s “extraordinary yet brief swim career is now tarnished, like a rusting trophy.” After the Steubenville verdict, CNN’s Poppy Harlow seemed to fixate on what impact the decision would have on the perpetrators, saying they “literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”

    That kind of sympathetic news coverage is arguably even more dangerous when a trial is still ongoing. Jurors are humans, and this kind of coverage doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Glowing reports about the accused’s prior accomplishments or reputation could influence the biases and assumptions that jurors bring in with them when they enter a courtroom.

    The reality is that all crime reporting can be tricky -- people are innocent until proven guilty, and conflicting testimony means that news networks will always have to worry about sounding sympathetic to either side. But the coverage of Brock Turner’s case is a reminder that a bizarre double standard exists when it comes to high-profile sexual assault and rape reporting -- a double standard that almost works against victims who come forward.

  • VIDEO: Why Are Trump Supporters So Afraid Of Immigrants?

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    Donald Trump has made attacking immigrants a central part of his presidential campaign, tapping into anti-immigrant sentiment that’s been brewing for years thanks to a concerted effort by right-wing media outlets like Fox News.

    Trump’s campaign has been defined by his animosity toward immigrants: he launched his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and criminals, called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, and, most recently, argued that an American-born federal judge with Mexican heritage can’t be trusted to do his job.

    Trump’s attacks on immigrants are copied and pasted from right-wing media, which have spent the better part of a decade warning Republican voters that immigrants are pouring across the border to take their jobs, commit crime, and spread disease. That constant barrage of misinformation has pulled Republican voters to the right -- Fox News Republicans have a considerably more negative view of immigrants than other Republicans.

    That coverage has also had an effect on GOP lawmakers and candidates, who know that sounding too moderate on immigration might make them targets for right-wing pundits. The fear of retaliation from conservative media helps explain why, by the end of the GOP primary, Trump’s opponents sounded a lot like him when it came to immigration.

    The Republican Party’s embrace of Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry is a dramatic shift from the “compassionate conservative” approach touted during the Bush years, and demonstrates the power of right-wing media to influence Republican voters. A paper from the Harvard Kennedy School last year concluded that conservative media now dictate the direction of the Republican Party on immigration, driving it far to the right.

    Regardless of what happens in November, the Republican Party will need to come to terms with the anti-immigrant monster that right-wing outlets like Fox News have created.

  • VIDEO: The Bogus Panic About Abortion Safety

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    News coverage of laws regulating abortion clinics lends credence to bogus myths about abortion being unsafe, contributing to a wave of clinic closures that’s threatening abortion access across the country.

    Abortion is one of the safest common medical procedures in the United States: safer than childbirth, safer than a colonoscopy, and safer than wisdom teeth removal. In many cases, abortions are non-surgical -- completed through medication rather than surgery.

    Despite the safety of legal abortion, conservative lawmakers across the country are enacting TRAP laws -- Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers. TRAP laws often require abortion providers to meet absurd and unnecessary medical standards in order to stay open. Unable to keep up with the burden of TRAP laws, a number of abortion providers have been forced to close their doors.

    But when news outlets cover TRAP laws, they often uncritically echo anti-abortion activists who claim TRAP laws are necessary to protect patient’s health and safety. Reporters often describe TRAP laws the way anti-choice opponents refer to them, “as safety measures,” without noting that major medical organizations have dismissed these measures as unnecessary and thinly veiled efforts to limit abortion access.

    That kind of shoddy reporting of TRAP laws contributes to abortion stigma -- which is the collection of negative tropes and ideas about abortion as being morally wrong, dangerous, or socially unacceptable -- that pervades even mainstream news coverage.

    Legal abortion is already safe. TRAP laws make it unsafe by burying abortion providers under mountains of unnecessary regulations, putting access to legal abortion out of reach and forcing people to seek out dangerous, self-induced abortions. Any news coverage of TRAP laws that doesn’t make those facts clear to audiences actively contributes to misinformation about abortion safety.  

  • Anti-LGBT National Review Writer Reportedly Being Drafted To Run For President

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol is reportedly considering drafting David French -- a staff writer at National Review -- to run for president as an independent candidate. French has repeatedly demonized the LGBT community in his writing and worked as a lawyer at a right-wing legal group that has defended laws criminalizing homosexuality.

    According to Bloomberg, Kristol -- who has been trying to kickstart a “never Trump” movement among Republicans -- has recently focused his search for an independent candidate on French:

    Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French -- whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.

    [...]

    Reached in Israel late Tuesday afternoon, Kristol declined to comment on his efforts to induce French to run. The two Republicans confirmed that French is open to launching a bid, but that he has not made a final decision. One of the Republicans added that French has not lined up a vice-presidential running mate or significant financial support. However, according to this person, some conservative donors look favorably on the prospect of French entering the fray.

    At National Review, French has written extensively against LGBT equality and women’s access to abortion. He announced in 2010 that he had changed his mind and decided to oppose marriage equality, later warning that America was “racing off on our own cultural experiment.” He’s written multiple pieces attacking the transgender community, lamented “transgender entitlement,” described a young transgender woman as a “man” who is “on the verge of mutilating himself,” and argued that states should reject federal education funding rather than prohibit discrimination against transgender students.

    French previously served as a lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund -- from 2006 to 2010. He also offered legal advice to anti-abortion activist Lila Rose.

    Both before and after French’s tenure there, ADF worked to defend domestic and international anti-sodomy laws that criminalize homosexual behavior. ADF is also the group behind the recent wave of anti-LGBT “religious freedom” laws and anti-transgender “bathroom bills.” The group has a history of fighting to limit access to reproductive healthcare, including testifying against Planned Parenthood and taking part in the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby case.

  • VIDEO: This Conservative Legal Group Wants To Make Gay Sex Illegal Again

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA, COLEMAN LOWNDES & LEANNE NARAMORE

    News networks frequently invite Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- one of the most powerful right-wing legal groups in the country -- to defend laws like North Carolina’s anti-LGBT bathroom legislation. But media outlets typically identify ADF as merely a “Christian legal organization,” failing to mention the group’s record of defending laws that would put people in prison for being gay.

    ADF is a right-wing legal powerhouse that’s been linked to nearly every recent attack on LGBT equality and women’s reproductive health care. The group has testified against Planned Parenthood and was a major player in the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby case. Legislation like North Carolina’s bathroom law and Indiana’s “religious freedom” law are the products of ADF’s behind-the-scenes legal work. The group shops extreme model legislation to state lawmakers across the country, testifies in favor of those laws, and then defends them in local and national media.

    But news networks that host ADF often identify them as a “Christian” or “conservative” legal organization, failing to mention the group’s history of smearing the LGBT community and working to criminalize homosexuality. ADF has helped defend laws in Belize and Jamaica that would put people in prison for engaging in gay sex. The group opposes anti-bullying efforts, which it believes will indoctrinate “impressionable” children into homosexuality. Alan Sears, the group’s current president, co-wrote a book which claims that homosexuality and pedophilia are “intrinsically linked.” At a recent conference, one ADF attorney claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard had been falsely depicted as an anti-gay hate crime in order to advance the “homosexual legal agenda.”

    News networks that choose to give ADF airtime to defend rolling back LGBT and abortion rights should be honest with their audiences about who ADF is, rather than letting them get away with posing as a reasonable conservative legal group.

  • VIDEO: Stop Calling Donald Trump “Controversial”

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    News networks frequently use the word “controversial” to describe Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican comments, and it’s setting a dangerous precedent for the way the media talks about bigotry in American politics.

    Trump’s candidacy has brought religious and racial bigotry to the forefront of Republican presidential politics. He’s repeatedly demonized Muslims and Mexicans on the campaign trail, scapegoating them as security threats to justify calling for mass deportations, government surveillance, and travel bans.

    That has put news networks in the uncomfortable position of trying to remain “impartial” while covering Trump’s increasingly deplorable rhetoric. Instead of plainly labeling his campaign as “bigoted,” networks have used neutral-sounding terms like “controversial” to avoid making editorial judgments about Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican positions.

    But calling Trump’s comments “controversial” is lazy and dangerous. It treats racial and religious intolerance as just a quirk of Republican politics. It normalizes that intolerance, turning it into an unremarkable and routine partisan disagreement. It lets Trump’s defenders spin his comments as just evidence of his “tough” stance on immigration or border security. And it makes it easier for Trump to reinvent himself as a serious “presidential” candidate as he prepares for the general election.

    Failing to call out Trump’s bigotry also makes it harder for news networks to accurately tell the story of Trump’s rise in Republican politics. As PBS’s Tavis Smiley explained on Democracy Now in January:

    Trump is still, to my mind at least, an unrepentant, irascible religious and racial arsonist. And so, when we talk about how Donald Trump is rising in the poll, you can’t do that absent the kind of campaign he’s running, the issues that he’s raising. And for us to just say, "Donald Trump is rising in the polls," and not connect that to the base message that he’s putting out there, I think, just misses the point.

    Religious and racial bigotry deserves to be treated differently than other campaign trail stories, especially by journalists. News networks that shy away from making editorial judgments about Trump’s extremism are setting a dangerous precedent -- one that could last long beyond this election cycle.