Nick Fernandez

Author ››› Nick Fernandez
  • Bill O’Reilly Hosted A Fake Swedish Defense “Advisor” To Fearmonger About Refugees

    Swedish Armed Forces Press Secretary: "We Do Not Know Who He Is"

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News has been accused, yet again, of using deceptive tactics to fearmonger about refugees in Sweden.

    On the February 23 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly brought on a guest named Nils Bildt, who was introduced as “a Swedish defense and national security advisor,” to discuss Sweden’s refugee policies. During the segment, Bildt argued that Swedish authorities “are unable … to socially integrate” refugees, and claimed that, as a result, “There is a problem with socially deviant activity, there is a problem with crime, [and] there is a problem with areas or hotspots of crime” in Sweden. Bildt alleged that these “problems” are“not being openly and honestly discussed … because if you don't agree with the liberal, shall we say, common agenda, then you are viewed as an outsider or not even taken seriously.”

    The Swedish Armed Forces, however, do not appear to know who Bildt is. According to a translation of an article in the Swedish outlet Göteborgs-Posten, the press secretary of the Swedish Armed Forces has said that they “do not know who [Bildt] is,” and that he is “definitely not a spokesman for the Armed Forces.” The translated Göteborgs-Posten article reported that Bildt currently lives in Japan.

    O’Reilly’s characterization of Bildt as “a Swedish defense and national security adviser” is the latest deceptive attempt from Fox News to portray the refugee population in Sweden as deviant and “unable … to socially integrate.” Just two days earlier, on February 21, Fox host Tucker Carlson showed an interview between filmmaker Ami Horowitz and two Swedish police officers about the supposed surge in refugee violence in the country. After the segment ran, the officers featured in the interview were “shocked” by the deceptive editing of the interview, claimed they were not asked about immigration at all, and asserted “that their testimony had been taken out of context.”

    Right-wing media have claimed that the Swedish government is “importing thousands of men from countries … that embrace rape for men as something that is acceptable” and that Swedish authorities “don't want to tell the world what is going on” with their refugee population, and have attempted to revive the fearmongering myth of Muslim “no-go zones” in Sweden.

  • Trump Appeared On TV To Talk About Terrorist Attacks He Now Says Were Not Covered

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    After President Donald Trump claimed that “the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report” on terrorist attacks, the White House provided a list of 78 attacks that the administration says didn’t receive adequate attention from the media. But Trump himself appeared on at least four segments covering high-profile terrorist attacks included on the list to give his opinion, which counters his claim that the media failed to satisfactorily report on them.

  • Right-Wing Media Wrongly Cite Obama To Justify Trump’s Muslim Ban

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media figures echoed misleading claims from President Donald Trump’s administration that his executive order seeking to ban travel from seven specific, predominantly Muslim countries “came from the Obama administration,” citing what they call a 2011 “ban” on “immigration from Iraq” and the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015. But, as experts have noted, the comparison to the Obama administration's actions in 2011 and 2015 are “misleading,” as “The Obama administration’s 2011 review came in response to specific threat information” and was not an “outright ban,” and the 2015 legislation still allowed visa applications from those seven countries.

  • STUDY: Evening Cable News Devoted Nearly 250 Segments To Wikileaks Emails In The 5 Weeks Before The Election

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & ROB SAVILLO

    In the five weeks before the November 8 presidential election, evening cable and broadcast news, major newspapers, and the Sunday morning broadcast network political talk shows combined to flood the media landscape with coverage of hacked emails released by Wikileaks, according to an analysis by Media Matters.

    After its July release of emails that were stolen from the Democratic National Committee, Wikileaks released a daily stream of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta starting in early October.

    Between October 4 and November 8, weekday evening cable news aired a combined 247 segments either about the emails or featuring significant discussion of them; evening broadcast news and the Sunday morning broadcast network political talk shows aired a combined 25 segments; and five of the country’s most-circulated daily newspapers -- Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post -- published a combined 96 articles about the emails released by Wikileaks in their print editions.

    Following Donald Trump’s presidential victory, the U.S. intelligence community released a report with its assessment that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” The assessment, which represents the view of the 16 federal intelligence agencies, concluded “with high confidence” that as part of this effort, “Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”

    In response to mounting evidence that Russia sought to swing the election in Trump’s favor, in part through allegedly releasing hacked emails through channels like Wikileaks, Trump and his allies have in recent months downplayed the impact of the hacks. Trump, who has repeatedly sought to de-emphasize Russia’s alleged role in the election-related hacking to begin with, has also argued that the hacks had “absolutely no effect on the outcome” of the election. As ThinkProgress noted, “This was not the view of candidate Trump, who talked about Wikileaks and the content of the emails it released at least 164 times in last month of the campaign.”

    And Trump wasn’t alone.

    Media Matters’ review shows that news media treated the emails released by Wikileaks a major news story in the lead-up to the election. (It’s important to note that this is only a quantitative study; Media Matters did not attempt to assess the quality of articles and news segments about the hacked emails. A segment or article criticizing coverage of the emails or highlighting suspicions about Russia’s potential involvement was counted the same as a segment or article breathlessly promoting the contents of the hacked emails.)

    Data-driven news site Fivethirtyeight.com determined that the hacked emails released by Wikileaks were “almost exclusively an October story. Over 72 percent of people who searched for Wikileaks from June onward did so during October or the first week of November. Interest really got going with [Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief] Julian Assange’s press conference on Oct. 4.” We reviewed transcripts and articles beginning on October 4, when Assange first announced during a press conference that Wikileaks would release additional information pertaining to the election, through November 8, Election Day.

    Evening cable news -- defined as shows airing weekdays from 5 p.m. through 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC -- devoted massive coverage to the Wikileaks story, with Fox leading the way. In total, Fox News aired 173 segments over the course of the period studied. Fox also aired teasers 64 times to keep audiences hooked throughout broadcasts. The hacked emails were also mentioned in passing by a guest, correspondent, or host 137 times during additional segments about other topics.

    Fox’s coverage was a near-daily obsession for its evening news hosts. Four of the six programs in the study ran at least one segment every weekday or nearly every weekday between October 7 and November 7. Special Report with Bret Baier ran segments every weekday between October 7 and November 4; On the Record with Brit Hume ran segments every weekday between October 7 and November 7; The Kelly File ran segments on all but four weekdays between October 7 and November 7 (and on those four days, Wikileaks was still mentioned in passing at least once); and Hannity ran segments nearly every weekday between October 7 and November 7 (excluding October 10 and 20, the latter of which featured at least one mention of the story).

    CNN aired the second most Wikileaks coverage, with 57 segments teased to audiences 21 times and an additional 75 mentions during segments about other topics. MSNBC aired only 17 segments teased six times and tallied 23 mentions during additional segments. (MSNBC’s 6 p.m. hour, which at the time aired With All Due Respect, was not available in Nexis and was therefore excluded from this analysis).

    On broadcast network news, the numbers are smaller, but over the course of the period studied, the networks each aired a significant number of segments on their evening news programs and Sunday morning political talk shows. ABC programs World News Tonight and This Week with George Stephanopoulos devoted the most coverage to the Wikileaks emails, with 10 segments and five mentions during additional segments combined. CBS’ Evening News and Face the Nation with John Dickerson followed, with nine segments and three mentions during additional segments combined. NBC’s Nightly News and Meet the Press with Chuck Todd aired just six segments and 12 mentions during additional segments combined.

    The five major newspapers we studied each published numerous articles in their print editions (we did not include online coverage) about the Wikileaks emails in the month before the election, but three stood out from the rest. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal each published 27 articles about the emails and mentioned them in 26 and 10 other articles, respectively. The Washington Post was the third paper in this group with 26 articles about the Wikileaks emails published and mentions in 14 additional articles.

    USA Today published 11 articles about the Wikileaks emails and mentioned them in three other articles while Los Angeles Times ran just five stories and mentioned the Wikileaks emails in only seven other articles.

    As was the case with Trump, conservative media figures who hyped and encouraged reporting on hacked emails quickly adjusted their views on the significance of the hacked emails during the presidential transition period. After touting the release of the stolen emails, credulously reporting on numerous illegally obtained emails published by Wikileaks, encouraging Trump to “just read” the stolen emails at campaign rallies, advising Trump to “study[] Wikileaks,” and repeatedly providing a platform for Assange to promote the publication of the stolen emails, right-wing media figures downplayed the influence the disclosure of the emails had on the 2016 campaign. Taking the lead from Trump's transition team, some right-wing media figures then argued that “no one can articulate or specify in any way that” the publication of the private emails “affected the outcome of our election.”

    Although right-wing media figures have claimed that there is “no indication that” the publication of the private emails “affected the election,” the breathless reporting on the contents of the Wikileaks disclosures by media outlets played into the hands of the Russian government’s “influence efforts to … amplif[y] stories on scandals about Secretary Clinton and the role of Wikileaks in the election campaign,” according to the intelligence community’s report. Days after the first trove of private emails was published by Wikileaks, a group of former top national security officials and outside experts warned “the press … to be cautious in the use of allegedly ‘leaked’ information,” which “follows a well-known Russian playbook.”

    The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum summarized the strategy in an interview with Slate months before the first disclosure of Podesta’s personal emails:

    I didn’t think about the United States because I thought the United States is too big, American politics isn’t moved by these smaller amounts of money the way that Czech politics are or Polish politics are. But I hadn’t thought through the idea that of course through hacking, which is something they’re famously very good at, that they could try and disrupt a campaign. And of course the pattern of this is something we’ve seen before: There’s a big leak, it’s right on an important political moment, it affects the way people think about the campaign, and of course instead of focusing on who did the leak and who’s interest it’s in, everyone focuses on the details, what’s in the emails, what did so-and-so write to so-and-so on Dec. 27, and that’s all that gets reported.

    The press could have seen this coming. On the August 24, 2016, edition of The Kelly File, then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly interviewed Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, who used the platform to hype the “material” Wikileaks planned to publish, and announced it would be released in “several batches.” Kelly asked Assange if he thought the information in his “possession could be a game changer in the US election.” Assange said the effectiveness of the release “depends on how it catches fire in the public and in the media.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters reviewed the Nexis database for news transcripts and articles that mentioned Julian Assange or Wikileaks approximately within the same paragraph as variations on any of the following terms: Hillary Clinton, Democratic National Committee, DNC, or John Podesta. We included cable news networks’ weekday evening programming (5:00 p.m. through 11:00 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC; the evening news shows (ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, and NBC’s Nightly News) and Sunday morning political talk shows (ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS’ Face the Nation with John Dickerson, and NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd) on ABC, CBS, and NBC; and five of the most-circulated daily print newspapers: Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. (MSNBC’s 6:00 p.m. hour, which hosted With All Due Respect was not available in Nexis and was therefore excluded from the analysis).

    Data-driven news analysis website Fivethrityeight.com determined the hacked emails released by Wikileaks “was almost exclusively an October story. Over 72 percent of people who searched for Wikileaks from June onward did so during October or the first week of November. Interest really got going with Julian Assange’s press conference on Oct. 4.” Therefore, we reviewed articles beginning on October 4, 2016, when Assange first announced during a press conference that Wikileaks would release additional information pertaining to the election, through November 8, 2016, Election Day.

    For television, we coded as “segments” news segments where the hacked emails released by Wikileaks were the stated topic of discussion, and we also coded as “segments” when signification discussion about the hacked emails from Wikileaks occurred during segments with a different initially stated topic or during multi-topic segments. We defined significant discussion as at least two or more speakers discussing the hacked emails to one another during the course of the segment. We determined the start of a segment to be when the show’s host introduced either the topic or guests and determined the end of a segment to be when the show’s host concluded discussion or bid farewell to the show’s guests.

    We coded as “mentions” comments made by a speaker about the hacked emails without any other speaker in the segment engaging. We coded as “teasers” introductions by the host of upcoming segments on the hacked emails where the segment in question did not immediately follow.

    For print, we coded as “articles” news stories and opinion pieces where the hacked emails were mentioned in the headline or the lead of the story or article. If the hacked emails were used as a piece of evidence within a larger story or used to provide context, those were coded as “mentions within an article.”

  • Voter Fraud Myths Pushed By Trump Have Long Been Propagated By Right-Wing Media

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CAT DUFFY

    Throughout his campaign, and continuing now as President, Donald Trump has made a series of baseless claims alleging mass voter fraud in order to either preemptively cast doubt on the election results, or to dispute the fact he didn’t win the popular vote. Trump’s allegations, which ranged from “people are going to walk in” and “vote ten times,” to claiming “he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes,” and most recently his decision to ask for “a major investigation into voter fraud” are based on a series of myths that right-wing media have pushed for years -- including the arguments that strict voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, that dead people are voting, and that there is widespread noncitizen voting.

  • Morning Joe Still Loves Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & LEANNE NARAMORE

    MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and his Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski have been criticized repeatedly for their “softball” coverage of President-elect Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign and into the transition, and they’ve lashed out in response. And yet, since the beginning of 2017, their Trump reporting has been nothing less than fawning.

    After a New York Times article noted that Scarborough and Brzezinski were present at a New Year’s Eve party at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and a reporter suggested Scarborough may have “partied” with the president-elect, Scarborough resorted to smearing the reporter instead of setting the record straight. The MSNBC host “blew up,” “accused [the reporter] of lying” and “pushing fake news,” and “sought to undermine [his] credibility." This “over-the-top response,” according to The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers, was in line with Scarborough’s sensitivity “to any suggestion that he is too cozy with” Trump.

    And yet, while Scarborough has insisted that he and Brzezinski have “treated” Trump “tough” throughout the campaign, he has chosen to spend the first two weeks of 2017 bragging about how he and Brzezinski have “known and have been friends with Donald Trump for a decade,” praising him as “the master of many things,” and attacking journalists who apparently “aren’t doing their jobs” while covering Trump. Watch: 

  • Headlines Tout Trump’s False Claim That Intel Briefing “Was Delayed,” Omitting Intelligence Community’s Pushback

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Multiple outlets pushed President-elect Donald Trump’s false claim on Tuesday, January 3, that an intelligence briefing had been “delayed until Friday” because officials “needed” extra time “to build a case” regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 election. While some outlets noted in their headlines that intelligence officials have said that there was never a briefing scheduled for January 3, many others simply framed their headlines around Trump’s false claim that the briefing had been “delayed.”

  • How Right-Wing Media Helped Trump Voters Warm Up To Vladimir Putin

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    A new YouGov/Economist poll found that among registered Republicans and Trump voters, more than a third now hold a “favorable” view of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Though a majority still view Putin negatively, right-wing media -- which spent years holding Putin up as a “better leader” than President Barack Obama -- set the stage for Republican opinions to shift in the autocrat’s favor, leading to a nearly 50-point swing in support from conservatives in just over two years. And after the United States intelligence community publicly disclosed that its members believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election, many right-wing media figures doubled down on their support for Putin and are downplaying Russia’s involvement in the election.

    Putin is an authoritarian “strongman” who has cracked down in Russia on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, signed into law draconian anti-gay legislation, and invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula, part of Ukraine. Nevertheless, for years, right-wing media have praised Vladimir Putin as a great leader, comparing him favorably against Obama. Fox figures have consistently lauded the Russian autocrat as “a real he-man” and have claimed that Putin has “come to the diplomatic rescue” of President Obama. One Fox host even went so far as to proclaim that she would like Putin to be president of the United States “for 48 hours,” so he could fight ISIS. In 2014, conservative commentator Pat Buchanan suggested that Putin is “one of us” and applauded him for "planting Russia's flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity" with his policies against reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights -- evidence, Buchanan suggested, that God is on Putin's side in his clash with the West. Even conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh once admitted that Putin was “saying things I agree with” when the Russian president announced that he “opposed the adoption of Russian orphans by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender foreign couples.”

    Primed by right-wing media, Trump voters now hold a more positive view of Putin and Russia. Since July 2014, Republican voters’ opinions overall of Putin have improved by 56 points, and in 2016 they voted for a candidate in Trump who is openly sympathetic to the autocrat and even invited his government to hack personal emails from Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. According to the poll, 35 percent of Trump voters and 37 percent of registered Republicans now hold a “favorable” view of Putin.

    Now, even though the U.S. intelligence community has stated that its members are “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations,” some right-wing media are siding with Putin and downplaying the severity of the hacks. Security experts have characterized the Russian interference in the 2016 election as “Watergate 2.0” and “a concern to all those who share democratic values,” but the president-elect, who has consistently been enabled by those same conservative media figures, insists the claims of Russian interference are “just another excuse” and that he does not “believe it.” It seems, that right-wing media will follow Trump’s lead and continue to use Putin’s personality to advance partisan goals over the national security of the United States.

  • In The Clash Between US Intelligence Agencies And Russia, Fox's Tucker Carlson Picks Russia

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson has repeatedly downplayed the claims that Russia was involved in interfering in the 2016 presidential election, and in several interviews over the last week he attacked those supporting reports from the government agencies that found Russia played a role in getting Donald Trump elected. But Carlson’s personal effort to spin away the Russian interference in the American political system downplays its severity and runs counter to the warnings issued by American and international intelligence experts.

    On the December 7 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson hosted Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, to discuss Russian interference in the presidential election. Throughout the contentious interview, Carlson downplayed the U.S. intelligence community’s allegations that Russian intelligence services interfered in the American election, claiming the reports were made “without any evidence.” He also chastised Schiff for providing his evaluation of the classified evidence, saying, “I just think if you’re going to make a serious allegation about an actual country with an actual government, you ought to know what you’re talking about. And you don’t.”

    Since his interview with Schiff, Carlson has hosted two Democratic strategists on his show to relitigate the Schiff interview, prefacing the segments with a clip from the combative discussion earlier in the week. In both segments, Carlson downplayed the significance of a foreign power intervening in our election, suggesting that the reaction to the findings has been “disingenuous” because, as Carlson admitted, “There’s almost no institution in Washington that hasn't been hacked, probably in some cases by the Russians. Also the Chinese. And yet, you haven't seen any kind of response like this.” Carlson also argued that because “bad intelligence” led the United States into Iraq in 2003, he is correct to be skeptical.

    During Carlson’s appearance on the December 12 edition of Fox & Friends -- his first since The Washington Post reported that “Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman” -- he argued that the cyberattacks actually provided a public benefit because “voters got more information than they would have had otherwise.” He also again acknowledged Russian interference by saying the Russians have been hacking Americans “for years” and “so have the Chinese.” Later that day on his own show, Carlson hosted Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and asked him indignantly why he should trust the intelligence community “that missed the fall of the Soviet Union,” adding, “It's pretty lame if that's your job and you miss like, everything.”

    Given Carlson’s previous praise for Putin and his ongoing failure to acknowledge Russia's confirmed role in the presidential election, his most recent unwillingness to accept the findings of the American intelligence community is not surprising. Carlson has made a point of repeatedly and unequivocally insisting that the U.S. intelligence community was pushing “an utterly unsubstantiated claim from the Clinton campaign that” the cyberattacks on American political institutions are “a Russian propaganda effort.” But considering the intelligence community’s findings since the election, Carlson’s repeated denials of the severity of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election seem to be getting more and more desperate.

    While Carlson fails to accept the CIA’s conclusions, the allegations of Russian hacking have been corroborated by intelligence agencies in the United States and internationally. The Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement on election security stating that the “U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” And the intelligence services of various American allies also allege that Russian cyberattacks “represent a fundamental threat to … sovereignty” and “should be a concern to all those who share democratic values.” Even Republican senators on Capitol Hill have issued warnings and called for investigations into the matter, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who stated that the Russians “are not our friends.”

    While many have rallied around the idea that Russia’s role in the election requires investigation, at least Carlson will have one ally in his opposition. Earlier this year, like Carlson, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the hack was “important” because the “content [of the hacked emails] was given to the public.” Considering Carlson’s role as a prime-time TV news host, his failure to inform his viewers of the seriousness of the intelligence community’s evaluations on Russian interference in the 2016 election -- and his defense of Russia and echoing of the Russian president -- are especially problematic. And they provide the Russian government with a major defender in American media.