Zachary Pleat

Author ››› Zachary Pleat
  • First Amendment Watch: January 2017

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    During his 2016 campaign for president, Donald Trump launched an unprecedented war on the press. Since his election, Media Matters has tracked his and his team’s continuing attacks on the media and their abandonment of presidential norms regarding press access, which poses a dangerous threat to our First Amendment freedoms. Following is a list of attacks Trump and his team made against the media -- and instances in which they demonstrated disregard for the press -- from January 1, 2017, up to his January 20 inauguration as president.

  • Rumored Ouster Of White House Press Corps Was Months In The Making

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON, JARED HOLT, CYDNEY HARGIS & ZACHARY PLEAT

    According to reports, the incoming Trump administration has given “serious consideration” to the idea of removing the permanent press corps from the White House. This potential exclusion of the press from White House access has been months in the making, with President-elect Donald Trump, his political allies, and his right-wing media sycophants clamoring for the next administration to restrict access for outlets that have criticized his policies and statements and attacking the press in general. Meanwhile, the president-elect has been building up alternative, pro-Trump outlets.

  • Will Megyn Kelly Bring The Hate Group Leaders And Extremists Who Frequented Her Fox Show To NBC?

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    In her past role at Fox News, new NBC News hire Megyn Kelly has invited onto her show a number of extremists and hate group leaders who spread and espouse anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant views, statements, and lies. Will she continue her practice of hosting bigotry in her upcoming daytime news and Sunday evening programs?

  • First Amendment Watch: December 2016

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    During his 2016 campaign for president, Donald Trump launched an unprecedented war on the press. Since his election, Media Matters has tracked his and his team’s continuing attacks on the media and their abandonment of presidential norms regarding press access, which poses a dangerous threat to our First Amendment freedoms. Following is a list of attacks President-elect Donald Trump made against the media -- and instances in which he demonstrated disregard for the press -- during the month of December 2016.

  • Fox’s “War On Christmas” Prompts Jewish Family To Fear “Pizzagate”-Style Response

    Fox And Breitbart Focused Attention On Parents Who Expressed Concerns About Elementary School Christmas Play

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Pennsylvania news outlets are reporting that a Jewish family fled Lancaster County in fear after stories from Fox News and Breitbart.com suggested they could be partially to blame for the cancellation of an elementary school Christmas play. The family cited comments from Breitbart readers about doxing the family (“It would be nice if we had the addresses”) for their decision to flee, saying they feared another “pizza incident,” referencing a situation in which a man opened fire in a Washington, D.C., pizzeria after reading fake news stories.

    LancasterOnline.com reported in a December 22 article:

    A Hempfield elementary school is under fire for ending its longstanding production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” and a Jewish family has fled the county in fear because it’s being blamed for the cancellation. The unfolding controversy at Centerville Elementary School played out this week in national conservative media outlets including FOX News and Breitbart News Network, which portray the school’s move as part of a “war on Christmas.” The school, however, has said it put an end to the play this year because it took 15 to 20 hours of classroom time to produce.

    [...]

    The fifth-grader’s parents, who spoke to LNP on the condition that they not be named, say they didn’t complain about the play or request that it be canceled, but just asked in September if their child could be excused from the play, and were told yes. Since the school announced the cancellation in November, however, they say the child has been harassed by classmates. Principal Tom Kramer, who is in his first year at the school, posted a letter on the school website on Dec. 15 confronting rumors “that one or two families influenced this decision” to cancel the play. “That’s just not true,” he wrote.

    [...]

    Since the Fox and Breitbart stories, a spokeswoman for the school district said, the school has received at least 200 emails and phone calls either supporting or objecting to the decision or asking for additional information. The Jewish student’s parents say some of the reactions to the stories frightened them. After seeing reader comments like “It would be nice if we had the addresses of those concerned citizens and, I bet, this info is known to people living in the area” on the Breitbart story, the parents pulled their child out of school and headed out of the area for a bit. “There’s no way we’re going to take a chance after the pizza incident,” they said, referencing the man who fired an assault rifle in a Washington D.C area pizzeria after reading a fake-news story that said Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of there.

    Both Fox & Friends Sunday and Fox News Radio’s Todd Starnes covered the story, as did Breitbart, pushing local parents’ claims that the school canceled the play because of a Jewish student’s parents complaining about the line “God bless us, everyone.” Fox News has done hundreds of stories highlighting a so-called “War on Christmas” going back at least 12 years, covering its invented narrative to such a ludicrous extent that some Fox hosts have actually spent more time on the topic than on, say, veterans or actual wars. Fox has pushed the “War on Christmas” narrative so much, for so long, that according to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Fox may have changed Americans’ preferences for the holiday greetings they prefer to hear.

    The climate Fox has created with its “War on Christmas” has turned frightful, rather than delightful. Thanks to the attention it received from right-wing media outlets, the Pennsylvania family feared for its safety. The story had zero national news value, yet Fox pushed the narrative to continue its “War on Christmas” drivel. Fox and other conservative outlets should use this incident to reflect on the repercussions of their culture war next time they want to complain about Starbucks cups. But it doesn’t show signs of stopping.

    UPDATE: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a press release on December 22 stating that the organization spoke to the family who reportedly fled and they clarified that their departure was in fact a planned vacation. The headline for this piece has been clarified to reflect this new information.

  • Possible Trump Press Secretary Kimberly Guilfoyle Wanted Putin To Be President

    Guilfoyle Has Also Repeatedly Attacked Black Lives Matter, Refugees, And Immigrants

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Kimberly Guilfoyle, one of the co-hosts of Fox News’ The Five, has reportedly had multiple meetings with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team about possibly serving as his press secretary. Like Trump, Guilfoyle has expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and even called for him to run America for a short time. She has also demonized the Black Lives Matter movement, calling it a hate group that thinks it’s “OK" to "kill cops.” And she has made incendiary comments about terror suspects, refugees and immigrants, including denying that Muslims have faced discrimination in America.

    Guilfoyle’s Positive Comments About Putin Included Request That He Run America To Defeat ISIS

    Guilfoyle Requested We Get “Putin In For 48 Hours” To Be President And Defeat ISIS.

    Guilfoyle Defended Trump’s Praise Of Putin As A Great Leader, Noting That It's "More Of A Strength Model To Say That Putin Will Do What It Takes To Defend His Country.”

    Guilfoyle Has Denigrated Blacks Lives Matter And Criticized Speaking Out Against Police Brutality

    Guilfoyle On Ferguson Black Lives Matter Protests: “It’s Like Savagery. It’s Barbaric.”

    Guilfoyle: Black Lives Matter Is “A Hate Group Against Police Officers.”

    Guilfoyle: Black Lives Matter’s Agenda Is “It’s OK To Go Ahead And Kill Cops.”

    Guilfoyle: Quentin Tarantino Speech At Police Brutality Protest Could “Engender More Violence Towards Police Officers.”

    Guilfoyle Called For Murdering Guantanamo Detainees And Reinstating Torture

    Guilfoyle: “Just Kill Them All And Close Gitmo.”

    Guilfoyle Claimed Waterboarding Was Legal And Said, “We Are Entitled To Do … Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”

    Guilfoyle Fearmongered About Refugees And Immigrants

    Guilfoyle: Refugee Resettlement In America Is “Forced Infiltration.”

    Guilfoyle Falsely Claimed Syrian Refugees Entering America Are Overwhelmingly “Adult Males Of Fighting Age.”

    Guilfoyle Compared Immigration To “A Tumor Or A Disease.”

    Guilfoyle: Sanctuary Cities Mean U.S. Is “Importing Criminals Instead Of Exporting Them.”

    Guilfoyle Denied That Muslims Face Discrimination

    Guilfoyle: “Who’s Vilifying Any Of The Muslims? Who’s Doing That?”

    Guilfoyle Joined Co-Hosts In Questioning Prevalence Of Hate Crimes Against Muslims.

  • Possible Trump Pick John Bolton Says Allegations Of Russian Electoral Interference Could Be A “False Flag”

    Bolton Previously Suggested Sanders Supporters May Have Hacked DNC In A “Disinformation” Effort To Implicate Russia

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News contributor John Bolton aided President-elect Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine the CIA’s assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf, repeatedly suggesting the hacking could be a “false flag operation.” Bolton was previously under consideration for secretary of state and is currently a front-runner for deputy secretary of state in the Trump administration.

    The Washington Post reported on December 9 that “the CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency.” An anonymous U.S. official briefed on the intelligence said this was “the consensus view” of the intelligence community. Trump, in a Fox News Sunday interview that aired on December 11, called the assessment “ridiculous,” adding that he doesn’t “believe it at all.”

    Bolton, in appearances on Fox News on December 11 and 12, suggested that the hacking could have been a “false flag operation” meant to misleadingly implicate Russia.

    On Sunday’s America’s News Headquarters, Bolton acknowledged the seriousness of a foreign government intervening in the presidential election, but questioned the assessment that Russia did so. Bolton said, “It’s not at all clear to me, just viewing this from the outside, that this hacking into the [Democratic National Committee] and the [Republican National Committee] computers was not a false flag operation.” Bolton claimed that, because the FBI was unable to find evidence that Russia had hacked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private server, it was unlikely that Russia would have hacked the DNC and RNC computers and left fingerprints for the CIA to find. Bolton’s claim was based on the unfounded assumption that Russia did successfully hack Clinton’s computer. Bolton also suggested that it was possible someone in the Obama administration or the intelligence community was behind the alleged false flag, answering that “we just don’t know” when asked if he believed that could have happened.  

    Later Sunday on Fox Report, Bolton defended his assertion, saying that he meant to call the CIA’s assessment a “false flag in the sense that this conclusion that the Russians did it, I think, is arrived at too easily.”

    On Monday’s Fox & Friends, Bolton then said, “I think it’s at least a question to be asked, whether or not this was a false flag operation with some foreign government other than Russia.”

    During his Fox & Friends appearance, Bolton also addressed news reports about his comments from the previous day, saying they claimed "I said on Fox yesterday that I thought the Obama administration had conducted the hack into the RNC and the DNC," and calling it “typical bad reporting." He added, “I have never believed that. I didn’t believe that yesterday, I don’t believe it today.” But both CBS News and Politico explained that Bolton in fact did suggest just that. From the CBS News article (emphasis added):

    Though Bolton didn’t elaborate on the term “false flag,” he seemed to be suggesting that someone in the Obama administration or the intelligence agencies could have been attempting to falsely lead the public into believing Russia was to blame for the hacking.

    Shawn followed up by asking, “Are you actually accusing someone here in the administration or in the intelligence community of trying to throw something?”

    Bolton was not specific: “We just don’t know,” he replied. “But I believe that intelligence has been politicized in the Obama administration to a very significant degree.”

    After Bolton made his third appearance on Fox to claim that the hacking could be a “false flag operation,” former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page said the “U.S. government might have deliberately orchestrated cyberattacks to make it look as though they were coming from Russia,” according to New York Times reporter Ivan Nechepurenko.

    This is not the first time Bolton has tried to discredit accusations that Russia interfered in the election. In July, while discussing the first dump of DNC emails by WikiLeaks, Bolton suggested that supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders might have actually hacked the DNC and framed Russia. Bolton claimed, “Somebody who wanted to cast blame on the Russians could put in those indications of other Russian hacking efforts. If I were a Bernie Sanders supporter, and I wanted [the DNC emails] out, and I were good at computers, maybe I'd do that.”

  • Twitter Restores Accounts Of White Supremacists

    "Alt-Right" Leader Richard Spencer Resumes Tweeting From Verified Account

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Some Twitter accounts belonging to white supremacists that were suspended earlier this year have been reinstated and have since gone back to sending out bigoted tweets. Some of the accounts have also been verified again by Twitter.

    The Washington Post reported on November 16 that Twitter accounts of prominent so-called “alt-right” white supremacists were suspended following the July barring of Breitbart.com editor Milo Yiannopoulos from Twitter for his harassment campaign against actress Leslie Jones. Included among the suspended accounts, reported the Post, “was the verified account of Richard Spencer,” who the paper previously described “as a leader of the alt-right and ‘one of the most media-savvy thinkers in the movement.’” Twitter had also suspended the accounts of the National Policy Institute, which the Post described as “an alt-right white nationalist think tank of which Spencer is the president,” and that of the Radix Journal, “a magazine run by Spencer.” Other white supremacists accounts such as “Paul Town, Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers also had their accounts suspended.”

    Spencer’s account was reactivated on December 10. BuzzFeed News reported that Spencer had run afoul of Twitter’s policy against “creating multiple accounts with overlapping use,” and after Spencer selected one account to reactivate, it was turned back on. His account has also been verified. BuzzFeed also noted that Spencer was already “back to form” on Twitter:

    Twitter’s hateful conduct policy supposedly does not allow “promot[ing] violence against or directly attack[ing] or threaten[ing] other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”

    In addition to Spencer, Paul Town’s Twitter account has also been reinstated, but he has blocked tweets from public view. Ricky Vaughn, who has spoken of his support for creating all-white communities and the shunning of interracial marriages “to maintain our unique culture and racial heritage,” has been actively tweeting again for weeks. Most of his tweets have simply been in support of President-elect Donald Trump, but his account includes several retweets that push fear of Muslim refugees and immigrants, or are supportive of Trump’s lie that thousands of American Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey.

    The accounts for the National Policy Institute, Radix Journal, Yiannopoulos, and Dickinson remain suspended.

    Update:

    As noted by Twitter user Liam Hogan, Twitter has also verified Matthew Heimbach, who the Southern Poverty Law Center described as "the face of a new generation of white nationalists."

  • The Right-Wing Media’s Government Takeover, Via Donald Trump

    Trump Has Picked -- Or Considered -- Over A Dozen Right-Wing Media Veterans For His Administration

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President-elect Donald Trump has picked -- or considered -- nearly a dozen people who have worked in right-wing media, including talk radio, right-wing news sites, Fox News, and conservative newspapers, to fill his administration. And Trump himself made weekly guest appearances on Fox for a number of years while his vice president used to host a conservative talk radio show.

  • First Amendment Watch: November 2016

    Trump Ditched His Press Pool And Repeatedly Bashed NY Times And CNN On Twitter

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    During his 2016 campaign for president, Donald Trump launched an unprecedented war on the press. Since his election, Media Matters has tracked his and his team’s continuing attacks on the media as well as his breaking of presidential norms regarding press access, a dangerous threat to our First Amendment freedoms. Following is a list of President-elect Donald Trump’s attacks on the media -- and demonstrations of disregard for the press -- from Election Day through the end of November.