Carlos Maza

Author ››› Carlos Maza
  • VIDEO: Lester Holt Proved We Need Fact-Checking In Debates

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

    Lester Holt challenged Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on claims he made during the first presidential debate, highlighting the value of having moderators who are willing to fact-check false claims in real-time.

    During the September 26 presidential debate, moderator Holt challenged Trump on inaccurate claims the candidate made about releasing his tax returns, promoting the birther conspiracy, and supporting the war in Iraq:

    Holt stayed out of much of the debate, but intervened when Trump made glaring factual errors about his own record. Holt’s restraint made his fact-checks more powerful, drawing significant attention to Trump’s falsehoods, and tripping up the candidate before he could turn those lies into attacks on his opponent.

    Holt’s fact-checking likely had a significant impact on the millions of voters for whom the debate was a first hard look at the candidates. But it’s just one battle in the larger struggle over whether moderators should fact-check the candidates in real-time. Both campaigns have argued over the issue, with Trump’s campaign predictably arguing that moderators should stay out of factual disputes during the debates.

    That argument has gained some notable supporters -- NBC’s Matt Lauer was harshly criticized for failing to fact-check Trump’s claims about opposing the Iraq War during this month’s presidential forum. Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who will moderate the final presidential debate, has already said he doesn’t believe it’s job to be a “truth squad.” Even the executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates told CNN recently that moderators shouldn’t be fact-checkers.

    But leaving the fact-checking to the candidates, rather than the moderators, can contribute to spreading misinformation among voters. Research suggests that audiences that watch this kind of “he said/she said” debate end up feeling less capable of figuring out the truth, causing some to give up trying to resolve factual disputes altogether. Moderators who can carefully choose to intervene during important factual disputes offer a powerful antidote to that kind of passive misinformation.

    Lester Holt’s performance set a powerful example of the value that measured fact-checks can have in keeping candidate’s honest. If the other debate moderators follow his lead, they’ll be doing voters, and the whole of campaign journalism, a real service.

  • WATCH: Three Minutes Of Race Baiting From CNN’s Paid “Law Enforcement Analyst” Harry Houck

    "Where Is The Crime? African American Neighborhoods. Hispanic Neighborhoods."

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    On September 22, CNN’s law enforcement analyst Harry Houck attempted to defend the police shooting of Terence Crutcher, the unarmed black man who was killed in Tulsa, OK, after his car broke down on the road. Houck argued Crutcher was being uncooperative and might have been making a “furtive move” for a weapon in his car. Prior to that appearance, Houck accused critics of the shooting of “playing [the] race card,” describing outrage over Crutcher’s death as part of “the war on police.”

    Since being hired as CNN’s law enforcement analyst in May 2015, Houck has used his national platform to defend police officers accused of violence and other misconduct by peddling racist tropes about black criminality, demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement, and blaming black victims of police violence.

    One month after the death of Freddie Gray -- as cable news networks debated racial bias in the criminal justice system -- CNN hired former New York Police Department Detective Harry Houck as a “law enforcement analyst.” During one of his first appearances on the network as a paid analyst, Houck specifically thanked anchor Anderson Cooper for helping get him the job, saying, “This man is responsible for this occurrence.”

    Houck appeared on CNN 204 times between May 18, 2015, and August 1, 2016. And while he’s often invited to discuss crime stories like active shooter situations, Houck is best known for his absurd defenses of police officers accused of mistreating African-Americans. In dozens of segments, Houck has found ways to blame black victims of police violence, deny the existence of racial profiling in law enforcement, and peddle racist tropes about black criminality.

    Race Baiting And Black Criminality

    Houck has repeatedly suggested that African-American and Hispanic communities are policed more aggressively than white communities because “they’re not behaving.” He frequently echoes the racist myth that people of color are more likely to commit crimes, prompting pushback from other CNN guests who have repeatedly had to respond to his race-baiting remarks. During the July 11, 2016, edition of New Day, when asked by a fellow guest if he was suggesting that black people are “prone to criminality,” Houck responded, “They are!”

    Houck also downplays the reality of racial profiling in the criminal justice system, calling it “something that somebody made up.” He regularly dismisses evidence showing unequal treatment for minorities in the criminal justice system, mocking comprehensive studies and academic research showing that African-Americans are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. In Houck’s view, African-Americans are targeted by law enforcement because they’re the ones committing crime.

    On Twitter, Houck is even less subtle about his race baiting. He regularly tweets about the threat posed by “black thugs,” decries what he calls “black thug privilage” (sic), and even tweeted a link to a white supremacist website. In July, Houck posted a link to a video from “men’s rights” activist Tommy Sotomayor calling on President Obama to “ban niggas.”

    Victim Blaming

    Houck has also used his CNN platform to blame high-profile African-American victims of police violence, going to absurd lengths to defend police officers while denying the existence of racial bias. Houck consistently finds ways to blame black victims for their mistreatment by police -- in his view, Eric Garner was resisting arrest, Sandra Bland was being “arrogant” and “uncooperative,” and Alton Sterling wasn’t complying with officers. He defended the police killing of Tamir Rice, saying officers “didn’t have a choice” but to shoot the 12-year-old boy. He defended a police officer who grabbed a South Carolina high school student and yanked her from her classroom desk, claiming the student “probably has no respect at home or on the street.”

    Houck’s victim-blaming often leads him to make blatantly false statements about these incidents on national television, like falsely claiming Bland refused to identify herself to police, and falsely claiming an officer informed a pregnant California woman she was being arrested before attempting to arrest her.

    Criticizing Black Lives Matter

    Houck has also used his CNN platform to demonize the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Houck has described the movement as part of the progressive “war on police,” claiming that “the left does not give a damn about police officers’ lives.” During the August 30, 2015, edition of CNN Newsroom, Houck compared BLM to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Houck also blames the murder of police officers on protests against police brutality. After the December 2014 killing of two NYPD police officers, Houck went on CNN and declared, “Two dead police officers, and I guess Al Sharpton got what he wanted.”

    Houck has also used Twitter to attack BLM, describing it as a “thug group” and a movement to “turn criminals into victims and cops into criminals.” On August 15, 2016, Houck retweeted an image calling BLM “the new KKK.”

    Petition To Drop Houck

    CNN’s decision to continue employing Houck has been criticized by the group ColorOfChange, which launched a petition in October 2015 asking CNN to stop hosting him. ColorOfChange criticized Houck’s “character assassination” of the black 16-year-old South Carolina student who was thrown from her desk by a police officer, also noting Houck’s “blind hero worshiping of the officer.”

    In July 2016, following Houck’s comments about black criminality, ColorOfChange again asked the network to stop inviting him to discuss racial bias in law enforcement, writing:

    Racist statements like this drive the attitudes and stereotypes that lead police officers to regularly commit brutal acts of violence that result in Black people like Alton Sterling and Philando Sterling being killed.

    We are sick of CNN contributor and ex-NYPD detective Harry Houck’s one-man crusade against Black victims of law enforcement violence. Houck’s blind support of police abuse and reinforcement of racist stereotypes is dangerous.

    The group’s petition has garnered over 70,000 signatures, but that hasn’t stopped CNN from continuing to employ Houck as the network’s “law enforcement analyst.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters used iQ media and Nexis to search CNN transcripts for the name “Houck” between May 18, 2015 -- Houck’s first appearance as a network “law enforcement analyst” -- and August 1, 2016. Reruns and snippets from pre-recorded interviews were excluded. For blocks of ongoing coverage of active shooter situations, segments were counted only when the host would begin by introducing and identifying Houck for the audience.

    Top image created by Sarah Wasko.

  • CNN Law Enforcement Analyst: Outrage Over Terence Crutcher Shooting Is Part Of "The War On Police"

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    CNN law enforcement analyst Harry Houck accused Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton of playing the “race card for black votes” following her comments about the police shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, OK, describing the comments as part of "the war on police."

    On September 20, Clinton commented on several recent police shootings of black men, including Crutcher, who was unarmed when he was killed. Clinton lamented the shootings, calling Crutcher’s death “unbearable” and saying the country must “tackle systemic racism.”

    Following Clinton’s remarks, Houck took to Twitter to accuse her of playing the “race card for black votes”:

    Houck’s comments came shortly before he appeared on the September 22 edition of CNN’s New Day to discuss Crutcher’s death. During the segment, Houck argued that Crutcher wasn’t being compliant with the officer and that he might have been making a “furtive move” for a weapon -- continuing Houck’s long history of blaming black victims of police violence:

    On Twitter, Houck also attempted to defend the Tulsa officer’s decision to shoot Crutcher, writing:

    If there was a gun in the car, and he was reaching for it, and the officers waited until they saw it, then an officer might be dead right now. This is why you must comply with officer’s commands.

    Houck also appeared on Newsmax TV, where he defended the shooting of Crutcher as well as the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a black man who was killed by police in Charlotte, N.C. “This is a disgusting display of alleged leadership,” Houck said of Clinton’s comments, adding, “This is all part of the war on police that I always talk about”:

    Houck has been a constant source of race baiting and police apologism on CNN, repeatedly suggesting that black people are prone to criminality and blaming victims of police brutality for their own mistreatment.

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

  • VIDEO: Inside The “Alt-Right’s” White Nationalist, Pro-Trump Press Conference

    “We Have Not Been Made By Trump, But We Want To Make Trump”

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

    On September 9, three of the country’s most notorious white nationalists held a press conference in Washington, D.C., titled “What Is The Alt-Right?” The event, organized by the white nationalist “think tank” the National Policy Institute (NPI), came in response to growing media interest in the “alt-right” movement. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has helped mainstream the racist movement, including by hiring Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon as his campaign CEO. As the Southern Poverty Law Center has noted, under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has “has been openly promoting the core issues of the Alt-Right, introducing these racist ideas to its readership.”

    The press conference, which mixed plainly racist propaganda with praise for Trump’s campaign, highlights the “alt-right’s” desire to become a mainstream, professional, and legitimate part of American politics. Trump’s extreme position on immigration and other issues has propelled members of the “alt-right” into the spotlight, giving them unprecedented access to news networks and national audiences.

    But while the speakers at the conference acknowledged that the movement had been “riding [Trump’s] coattails,” they also made clear that they weren’t interested in being a “Trump cheerleading squad.” For them, this election is an opportunity to make the case for a pro-white political agenda that goes far beyond 2016. “The ideas of the alt-right are gaining ground rapidly, Trump or no Trump,” said one speaker. “We are gaining ground because we are right.”

  • The New York Times Proves "False Balance" Is Ruining Good Campaign Coverage

    Why Treating Every Campaign Controversy Equally Is A Recipe For Bad Reporting

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    The New York Times’ public editor defended the paper’s coverage of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton from criticism by arguing journalists should try to treat controversies involving Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump equally. It’s a defense that highlights the real danger posed by “false balance” in campaign journalism during the 2016 election.

    In a September 10 piece titled “The Truth About ‘False Balance,’” New York Times public editor Liz Spayd defended her paper’s extensive reporting on the controversies surrounding the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Critics say the Times’ coverage has hyped minor scandals and contributed to a perception that Clinton and Trump are equally flawed candidates. That coverage, critics argue, perpetuates a “false balance” that fails to reflect the uniquely dangerous and divisive nature of Trump's campaign.

    In her response, Spayd accused critics of trying to force newspapers to insert “moral and ideological judgments” into their campaign coverage, warning of a “slippery slope” if journalists are asked to decide which campaign controversies are worth prioritizing:

    The problem with false balance doctrine is that it masquerades as rational thinking. What the critics really want is for journalists to apply their own moral and ideological judgments to the candidates. Take one example. Suppose journalists deem Clinton’s use of private email servers a minor offense compared with Trump inciting Russia to influence an American election by hacking into computers — remember that? Is the next step for a paternalistic media to barely cover Clinton’s email so that the public isn’t confused about what’s more important? Should her email saga be covered at all? It’s a slippery slope. [emphasis added]

    The problem with Spayd’s argument is that one of the basic functions of a newsroom is to make judgment calls about which stories deserve attention and which don’t.

    When a local TV station interrupts a weather report to cover a deadly terrorist attack, it’s making a judgment about which story should be more important to the public. When a newspaper puts a major oil spill on the front page rather than a story about a low-level crime, it’s making a similar judgment.

    Conversely, if CNN spent the same amount of time covering a celebrity’s stint in rehab as it did on a terrorist attack, it would be rightly mocked. Not because the celebrity rehab story isn’t true, but because one story obviously deserves more attention than the other.

    Those types of editorial decisions don’t create a “slippery slope” -- they define the actions of respectable news sources. Even the Times’ masthead -- “All The News That’s Fit To Print” -- asks the reader to trust the paper’s editorial judgment when deciding what news qualifies as “fit to print.”

    Every journalist in every newsroom in America already makes those decisions. They’re not machines, and they’re not blank slates. Part of their job is exercising their judgment to figure out which stories are worth telling, and how to tell them.

    But Spayd’s argument suggests that journalists should withhold judgment and pretend voters should fixate just as much on emails as they do on mass deportations, or a Muslim ban, or any of the dozens of other unprecedented controversies that would have ended a normal candidate’s campaign but haven’t derailed Trump.

    Spayd suggests that critics of “false balance” are likely liberals hoping to pass off “partisan” judgments as objective facts:

    I can’t help wondering about the ideological motives of those crying false balance, given that they are using the argument mostly in support of liberal causes and candidates. CNN’s Brian Stelter focused his show, “Reliable Sources,” on this subject last weekend. He asked a guest, Jacob Weisberg of Slate magazine, to frame the idea of false balance. Weisberg used an analogy, saying journalists are accustomed to covering candidates who may be apples and oranges, but at least are still both fruits. In Trump, he said, we have not fruit but rancid meat. That sounds like a partisan’s explanation passed off as a factual judgment.

    That Spayd can’t bring herself to admit that Trump and Clinton are categorically different, that Trump is a uniquely dangerous and unqualified candidate, should make any reader wary of the Times’ coverage.

    Listing all of the reasons that Trump deserves to be treated differently -- his ties to white nationalists, his ties to Russia, his calls for an unconstitutional Muslim ban, his racist attacks on Mexican immigrants -- feels silly at this point. The differences between the two candidates are not merely “partisan,” which is why so many high-profile Republicans have come out against their party’s candidate.

    Spayd acknowledges that Trump’s behavior has led many Republicans to reject Trump, but she claims that “If Trump is unequivocally more flawed than his opponent, that should be plenty evident to the voting public come November. But it should be evident from the kinds of facts that bold and dogged reporting unearths, not from journalists being encouraged to impose their own values to tip the scale.”

    This argument ignores how the editorial judgments that journalists make help shape how the voting public weighs those facts and reports. If the Times publishes 16 front page articles on the Clinton Foundation before it gets around to reporting on the Trump Foundation, readers will be left with the impression that the former is more important, no matter how damning the latter story may be.

    Spayd points to the fact that neither candidate is well-liked or trusted, arguing that “if ever there was a time to shine light in all directions, this is it.” It’s a bizarrely self-fulfilling argument. Breathless media coverage about Clinton’s email server and ties to the Clinton Foundation have undoubtedly contributed to voters’ perceptions that Clinton isn’t trustworthy. But Spayd cites that perception to justify yet more breathless media coverage of those controversies, even as she acknowledges it was “not good journalism” when some of the paper’s reports have “revealed relatively little bad behavior, yet were written as if they did.”

    But the more important point is that voters’ biases or perceptions of the candidates shouldn’t dictate what stories news organizations prioritize. If voters are equally suspicious of both candidates, but one is dramatically more dangerous or untrustworthy than the other, good editorial judgment should challenge that suspicion, not merely echo it.

    The truth is no candidate, Clinton or otherwise, can run a campaign without controversies. Journalists will always be able to find a gaffe on which to fixate. But not all campaign controversies are created equally. Part of a journalist’s job is to help readers cut through the noise of a presidential campaign and focus on what really matters.

    And that’s the real problem with Spayd’s argument: Refusing to treat campaign stories differently is a judgment call. It communicates to readers that Clinton’s email server is as shocking and newsworthy as, for example, Trump’s pledge to ban Muslims from entering the country.

    It’s not.

    And any newspaper that’s afraid to make that judgment call -- that’s afraid of telling readers what’s really at stake in November -- is shirking one of the most basic and important functions of a free press during election season.

  • White Nationalists See Trump As A Chance To Break Into The Media Mainstream

    Hours Before Clinton Highlighted Trump’s Racist Supporters, Three “Alt-Right” Leaders Gathered To Salute The GOP Nominee

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Prominent white nationalists touted their growing media influence in the wake of Donald Trump’s rise to the Republican presidential nomination on a wave of bigoted rhetoric at a September 9 press conference titled “What Is The Alt-Right?

    The press conference, organized by white nationalist “think tank” the National Policy Institute (NPI), aimed to explain how the “alt-right” -- a movement of fringe modern white supremacists -- had “become a force in American politics in such a short period of time.” The racist movement has garnered renewed interest from media outlets in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s August 25 speech decrying the Trump campaign’s cozy relationship with the movement, including the hiring of Breitbart News executive chairman and alt-right leader Stephen Bannon as campaign CEO.

    The press conference featured three prominent white nationalist speakers: NPI president Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right;” Jared Taylor, who publishes the white nationalist online magazine American Renaissance; and Peter Brimelow, who founded the white nationalist anti-immigration site VDare.com.

    The press conference came just hours before Clinton told supporters at a fundraiser that half of Trump’s supporters belonged to a “basket of deplorables” -- people who harbor "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” animus who have been “lifted … up” by the Republican nominee. Indeed, the white nationalist movement has provided Trump with some of his most fervent supporters and praised him for helping to grow their ranks.

    Spencer began the press conference by noting the “alt-right’s” unprecedented media moment. The movement, which has for years been relegated to the extreme racist fringes of the internet, has broken into the American public’s consciousness, thanks in large part to the “alt-right’s” vocal support of Trump’s anti-immigration platform. “We’re not just some marginal movement that you could dismiss,” Spencer told the room of supporters and journalists. “The fact is our ideas are so powerful that despite the fact that we’re doing all this on a shoe-string, we’re getting at people. We’re affecting them. They know we’re right.”

    Indeed, the Trump campaign has helped bring the racist "alt-right" movement into the mainstream -- rubbing elbows with white nationalists, echoing many of their common themes, and demonizing Muslims and immigrants.

    That willingness to flirt with the racist fringe is what has captured the imagination of people like Spencer, who see in Trump a "leader" who is willing to shirk norms when talking about race and identity. “He seems to be willing to go there, he seems to be willing to confront people.  And that is very different from the cuckold.”

    Spencer described Trump’s campaign as a kind of jumping-off point for the “alt-right” -- an opportunity to introduce their pro-white agenda to a broad national audience. “Certainly we have been, you could say, riding his coattails, there’s been more interest in us because we’re generally pro-Trump, because we’re inspired by him and things like that.”

    The press conference also featured a significant amount of the explicitly racist rhetoric that one would expect from white nationalists -- Taylor argued that blacks and Latinos are genetically predisposed to have lower IQs and behave less ethically than whites, Spencer waxed poetic about the importance of protecting a white cultural identity in America, and all three speakers expressed concern about the influence of Jewish people in American politics.

    But beyond that, the press conference pointed to the speakers’ emerging awareness of the need to transform the “alt-right” from a disorganized and anonymous movement of internet trolls and meme-creators into a serious, professional political movement.

    “I think the big challenge for the alt-right is a professionalization,” Spencer told his audience. “We’ve got to have professional organizations, professional people doing it… We want to increase our exposure, increase our influence.”

    For the “alt-right” speakers in the room, being Trump supporters, while important, was secondary to their primary goal of advancing their pro-white agenda. Spencer acknowledged that Trump could not fairly be described as “alt-right,” instead describing Trump’s campaign as an opportunity to influence a major political party’s candidate to advance a pro-white agenda.

    “We have not been made by Trump but we want to make Trump,” Spencer declared, “and we want to imagine him in our image.”

  • Sean Hannity Has Given Donald Trump $31 Million In Free Publicity

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS, CARLOS MAZA & BEN DIMIERO

    Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has been informally advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign while serving as its primary media cheerleader, has effectively turned his nightly prime-time show into Trump’s second campaign headquarters. According to a Media Matters analysis, Hannity’s program has given Trump what amounts to more than $31 million in free advertising in the form of dozens of fawning interviews with the candidate since Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015.

    Hannity has devoted just over 22 hours of airtime to broadcasting interviews with Trump since the launch of Trump’s campaign. That airtime is worth more than $31 million according to advertising value calculated by media monitoring service iQ Media. That coverage includes 51 original interviews and over a dozen re-airings of previously aired interviews. This year alone, Hannity has aired thirteen and a half hours of Trump interviews, four and a half hours of which have come since Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the Republican primary in early May, effectively ending the race.

    IQ Media uses Nielsen data to determine the viewership of a given program and price data for advertising from Sqad to come up with an equivalent advertising rate.

    These numbers only count the amount of time Hannity spent airing interviews featuring Donald Trump -- they do not include the countless time Hannity spends carrying the Trump campaign's water without the candidate present, including similarly fawning interviews with Trump family members, surrogates, and supporters.

    Hannity has repeatedly faced criticism for his obsequious Trump coverage, including from conservatives who have mocked Hannity for his “slavish” Trump cheerleading and accused him of hosting a “nightly infomercial” for Trump’s campaign.

    According to a previous Media Matters study, Hannity devoted far more airtime to interviews with Trump than with any of his 16 Republican presidential primary opponents. Just before dropping out of the race, Cruz complained that Rupert Murdoch and former network head Roger Ailes had “turned Fox News into the Donald Trump network.”

    New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg recently reported that, in addition to serving as “Trump’s biggest media booster,” Hannity has “for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging.” Hannity defended himself by telling the Times that he’s “never claimed to be a journalist” and that he is “not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.”

    Hannity’s efforts to promote Trump's candidacy aren't ending anytime soon -- he’s slated to host the second half of a two-hour Trump town hall tonight.

    Methodology

    Media Matters used iQ Media to ascertain the monetary value of Donald Trump's appearances on Hannity from May 1, 2015-August 23, 2016. The study includes all original appearances in Hannity’s usual 10 p.m. EST time slot -- repeat and reaired appearances were counted if they aired on a new day between 6 a.m. and midnight (overnight reairings of Hannity were not included). Trump interviews during early morning post-debate Hannity specials were counted. Interviews with Hannity guest hosts and guest interviewers were included if they aired on the program.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • 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.