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  • Statement By Media Matters President Angelo Carusone On Trump Blacklisting Media Outlets

    Carusone: Outlets That Participate In Briefings While Outlets Are Banned "Lend Legitimacy To A Process That Is Fundamentally Inconsistent With A Free Press"

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone issued the following statement after the Trump White House banned members of the media from attending a briefing:

    Media Matters sounded the alarm about the clear and present danger Donald Trump presented to a free press. We told White House correspondents that Trump’s blacklist was only going to get worse over time if they didn’t act. And it wasn’t just us. More than 300,000 people signed a petition urging White House correspondents to stand up to Trump’s blacklist by refusing to participate if Trump banned one -- or more -- of their colleagues.

    Today’s actions underscore the importance of White House correspondents standing up to Trump’s blacklist. It's no coincidence that the outlets that have been at the forefront in breaking stories about Trump’s conflicts of interest and his associates’ ties to Russia were banned from today’s gaggle. Trump is trying to delegitimize and punish news outlets for practicing rigorous journalism while simultaneously giving their spots to pro-Trump propagandists.

    Outlets like Time and The Associated Press did the right thing in standing up to Trump’s blacklist by refusing to participate in the gaggle in solidarity with their banned colleagues.

    It’s unfortunate and damaging for the profession of journalism that ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg chose to support Trump’s blacklist by attending the briefing. It may sound harsh to characterize their participation in the event as support, but that’s what it is. By participating, these outlets not only make it easier for Trump to continue blacklisting journalists, but they also lend legitimacy to a process that is fundamentally inconsistent with a free press.

    Over 320,000 individuals have signed Media Matters' petition calling for the White House press corps to stand up to Trump's blacklist.

  • Fox Covers For White House After News Outlets Banned From Press Gaggle

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The White House banned several media outlets from attending a press gaggle today, including CNN and The New York Times, which have broken stories on connections between Trump and Russia. While some mainstream outlets were included in the gathering, the White House supposedly hand-picked others, including several right-wing or pro-Trump outlets such as Breitbart and One America News Network. Several prominent journalists noted that they’ve never before seen this sort of press exclusion. Even Fox News’ Bret Baier criticized the decision, noting that news outlets stood with Fox when it was excluded from certain Obama administration interviews and that “a WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs.” But on air, Fox News told a different story, with White House correspondent John Roberts downplaying the severity of the situation:

    MELISSA FRANCIS (HOST): There are new tensions right now, even new tensions between the White House and the media. Some networks being excluded today from the gaggle. Others were invited but declined. It’s all anybody's talking about right now. Chief White House correspondent John Roberts is there. There is conflicting stuff floating around online. You’re actually there -- tell us what’s going on.

    JOHN ROBERTS: What’s the conflicting stuff and I’ll tell you what really happened.

    FRANCIS: Who is allowed to be in there and are certain news operations being kept on the sidelines intentionally?

    ROBERTS: Well I can tell you that they did not have an on-camera briefing today in the Brady briefing room as they normally do, which typically would see upwards of 70, maybe even 80, people in there, kind of jammed to the rafters. The president had a big speech at CPAC today, so they decided that they were going to let his speech speak for itself and Sean Spicer wasn’t going to have a traditional briefing. So he invited a number of news organizations up to his office to have what's called an off-camera gaggle. It's on the record but off-camera, so we recorded it. And there were probably 20 news organizations that were invited to that and then there were hundreds of other news organizations that were not invited to that. Sean Spicer was asked about it after one network started running a headline that it was excluded from this gaggle. Spicer said that they had a number of requests. There were only so many requests that they could accommodate because there was only so much room. As to their actual motivation, whether it was just a room thing or maybe it was something else, I can’t say at this point because Spicer did not give us that information. I mean, I can speculate, but that would only be speculation on my part.

  • Trump Just Blacklisted Media Outlets. We Warned You This Would Happen.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Hours after President Donald Trump denounced critical journalists as “the enemy of the people” before a cheering crowd of supporters, major news outlets were blacklisted from a White House press gaggle while the administration’s sycophants were ushered in.

    “CNN was not permitted to attend, along with the New York Times, Politico, Buzzfeed and much of the foreign press that regularly attends White House briefings,” CNN reported. Instead, White House press secretary Sean Spicer found room for the pro-Trump outlets Breitbart.com, The Washington Times, and One America News Network.

    The restrictions mark the return of the Trump campaign’s strategy of revoking reporters’ press credentials and denying them access to events following unfavorable coverage of the now-president.

    They also cap off a week of vitriolic attacks on the press from Trump’s administration. Last Friday, Trump tweeted that “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) ... is the enemy of the American People!” Spicer and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus have since defended Trump’s comments, blaming the media for failing to be fair to the president.

    Yesterday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), White House chief strategist and former Breitbart chief Stephen Bannon referred (again) to the press as “the opposition party,” telling the audience that the administration’s feud with the “corporatist, globalist” media will only get worse because they are “adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda.”

    And at CPAC this morning, Trump devoted six minutes of his speech to an anti-media screed, characterizing outlets doing critical reporting as “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.” He described some reporters as “terrible, dishonest people” who “do a tremendous disservice to our country and to our people.”

    The good news is that The Associated Press and Time magazine reportedly stood up for their profession, showed solidarity with their colleagues, and boycotted the gaggle. The bad news is that NBC, ABC, Fox, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg News did not, leaving open the question of whether the administration will face consequences if officials continue to use such tactics to divide and conquer the press.

    The press had no qualms about acting collectively to defend Fox News when the Obama administration excluded the network from a round of interviews in 2009. The other television news networks staged a “revolt” and boycotted their scheduled interviews.

    Eight years later, Fox appeared to have no qualms about walking into a White House press gaggle when other outlets were banned. Reporters from mainstream publications joined the network in ignoring their blacklisted colleagues and attending the gaggle.

    Trump and his administration will happily trample all over the press while giving favorable treatment to outlets willing to play ball. They want propaganda partners, not an adversarial press.

    This is not going to stop until reporters make it stop. Unless they all stand together, things will continue to get much worse.

    Sign Media Matters’ petition urging the White House press corps to “close ranks and stand up for journalism” against Trump’s attacks.

    UPDATE: In a statement to Politico's Hadas Gold, The Wall Street Journal says it would not have participated in the gaggle if it knew others were banned and will not do so in the future.

    UPDATE 2: Politico reported that the BBC and Los Angeles Times were also blocked, Hearst Newspapers joined the gaggle as part of the press pool, and that McClatchy Newspapers also attended. The latter issued a similar statement to the Journal:

    Media Matters president Angelo Carusone issued the following statement on the events:

    "Media Matters sounded the alarm about the clear and present danger Donald Trump presented to a free press.We told White House correspondents that Trump’s blacklist was only going to to get worse over time if they didn’t act. And it wasn’t just us. More than 300,000 people signed a petition urging White House correspondents to stand up to Trump’s blacklist by refusing to participate if Trump banned one -- or more -- of their colleagues.

    "Today’s actions underscore the importance of White House correspondents standing up to Trump’s blacklist. It's no coincidence that the outlets that have been at the forefront in breaking stories about  Trump’s conflicts of interest and his associates’ ties to Russia were banned from today’s gaggle.  Trump is trying to delegitimize and punish news outlets for practicing rigorous journalism while simultaneously giving their spots to pro-Trump propagandists.

    Outlets like Time and The Associated Press did the right thing in standing up to Trump’s blacklist by refusing to participate in the gaggle in solidarity with their banned colleagues.

    “It’s unfortunate and damaging for the profession of journalism that ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg chose to support Trump’s blacklist by attending the briefing. It may sound harsh to characterize their participation in the event as support, but that’s what it is. By participating, these outlets not only make it easier for Trump to continue blacklisting journalists, but they also lend legitimacy to a process that is fundamentally inconsistent with a free press."

  • In The CPAC Bubble, "Every Day Is Christmas" With President Trump In Office

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    While President Donald Trump is off to a rocky, even chaotic, start by many accounts -- with the "highest disapproval for a new elected president since polls began tracking those results," according to CNN -- at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, he was cheered as a success.

    Trump has waged a war on the press, regularly seeking to undermine critical media outlets while elevating propagandists who applaud his every move. CPAC attendees have heard the message loud and clear, saying they favor outlets like Fox News and Breitbart for their information over the supposedly dishonest mainstream media.

    Trump again played to that anti-media fervor when he spoke at the conference Friday, accusing certain media outlets of being "an enemy of the people."

    A year after many CPAC attendees said they didn't want Trump to attend the annual D.C.-area event, prompting him to stay away, the majority of the conferencegoers who spoke to Media Matters this week rated his first month in office positively. Many said he's living up to his promises, including on issues like immigration, foreign affairs, and business relations. And both conservative media voices and regular attendees were unified in their support.

    “I think it’s been fantastic,” said Lars Larson, a syndicated conservative radio talk host. “He’s moving at the speed of business, and everybody else is having to adjust. The media is having to adjust to the idea that they have a president who will push back when appropriate. The media has to adjust to the fact that he moves fast and the rest of the government moves slow.”

    As for chaos, Larson added, “I think the chaos is almost entirely created -- the impression of chaos. I don’t know how in the world someone could take over any operation, chief executive, bring in 4,000 new employees in the span of 30 days -- how do you do that without some missteps?”

    Larry O’Connor, a local D.C. talk radio host and online editor at The Weekly Standard, added that Trump is “doing what he promised and you can’t ask for more than that.”

    As for media coverage of Trump, he joined others in saying, “The media has fallen into a bit of a trap of propping themselves up as the last bastion of truth when they criticize the White House for playing fast and loose with the facts, but they didn’t seem to care about it for the past eight years.”

    Rick Tyler, an MSNBC and Sirius Radio commentator and former Newt Gingrich aide and Ted Cruz spokesperson, said, “On balance, I think he is doing very well. Stylistically, he’s been terrible.”

    Asked why many at CPAC who didn't want him around last year are welcoming him with open arms today, Tyler said one reason is that he won the election.

    “There are a lot of reasons why," he said. “One is that he beat Hillary Clinton. He got two pipelines back in, he won major coal rights. … He is trying to create a rational immigration system.”

    John Fredericks, a Virginia-based radio talk show host, called Trump’s first month “phenomenal, unbelievable. If you are a Trump supporter, this has been the most phenomenal first month because he is in the face of his detractors.”

    Like many at the conference, he says Trump owes no apologies: “He's turning the whole Washington elite media on its head. It's the great disruption of his time. You’ve got to start by breaking the system to pieces, then you can get things done.”

    The conference's non-media attendees -- many of them students -- were even stronger in their praise of Trump’s first few weeks. And they, too, attacked the press.

    But there was no talk of Trump's questionable ties to Russia, criticism of the FBI, or other internal problems.

    “I like him a lot. He's doing what he said he could do,” said Jennifer Perrautt, a University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, student who spoke as she waited in line to see Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday. “On immigration and on wanting to overturn Obamacare.”

    Like most at the conference, Perrautt is a Fox News viewer. Asked about other mainstream outlets, she said: “I don’t really like it. They always try to paint him in a bad light. They nitpick everything he says.”

    Isabella Olson of Fond du Lac, WI, a Fox News viewer and a member of the University of Wisconsin College Republicans, agreed.

    “I’m happy with what he's doing. He's doing what he said he would. I’m happy for the immigration moves,” she said, later adding about the media, “They've mistreated him. They say he's evil.”

    Kathy Frey, an attendee from Edina, MN, said she and her friend drove to D.C. to see Trump and help support him this week.

    “I love him. Every day is Christmas,” she said. “He’s fulfilling his promises. We need a thriving economy, and I trust he will do what is needed.”

    As for media coverage of Trump, she called it “horrendous, negative and not to be trusted. They should be objective. We don’t have objective media.” Frey said her news sources are Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.

    Her friend Barb Sutter, also a Fox News fan, added that she was “impressed at the [Trump] work ethic. He never made a secret of what he would do.”

  • STUDY: Nightly Broadcast News Virtually Ignores Rise In Anti-Semitic Threats

    Among Cable Outlets, Fox Had By The Far The Least Prime-Time Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Nightly broadcast news shows have proven incredibly reluctant to cover the spate of anti-Semitic threats and attacks made since President Donald Trump’s election. Cable outlets provided a bit more coverage during prime-time, with Fox News as the exception, clocking just one segment on the topic. Given the rise of the “alt-right” and white nationalist groups -- and given Trump’s repeated reluctance to discuss the rise of anti-Semitism -- it’s particularly important for news media to provide audiences with information on the threats and attacks which have targeted Jewish institutions across the country.

    Anti-Semitic Threats And Attacks Have Been On The Rise

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recorded 100 anti-Semitic incidents in the days following now-President Donald Trump’s election. And as Vox’s Sarah Wildman pointed out, the number “may be enormously underreported because, as with all hate crime statistics, the incidents were largely self-reported by groups that may not feel comfortable talking to law enforcement.” In addition, SPLC’s report did not take into account online harassment, which was rampant during the election.

    This wave of anti-Semitic hate has not gone away. Since January, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Association of North America’s members have received 68 bomb threats at 53 facilities in 26 states and one Canadian province. And in February, vandals damaged more than 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis, echoing the vandalism committed by Nazis during World War II.

    Nightly Broadcast And Prime-Time Cable News Have Largely Neglected The Trend

    Despite the fear among many Americans, broadcast news outlets have drastically undercovered these stories. Since the election, ABC’s World News has spent 5 minutes and 45 seconds on the threats, while CBS’ Evening News and NBC’s Nightly News have spent 3 minutes and 1 second and 3 minutes and 6 seconds, respectively on the topic. Out of the eight segments the newscasts aired in the four-month period, four aired on NBC, and two aired on each ABC and CBS. NBC was the only network to report on the trend in January; all the other segments took place in February.

    Prime-time shows (between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.) on CNN and MSNBC fared slightly better. In total, CNN aired 10 segments on the trend, devoting a total of 45 minutes and 38 seconds to it, while MSNBC’s five segments clocked in at 20 minutes and 23 seconds. All of the segments, except one that MSNBC aired in November, took place between February 17 and 22.

    Fox News’ coverage, on the other hand, was especially abysmal. Since November 9, the network has only aired one segment on the trend, on the February 21 edition of Hannity, and host Sean Hannity used it to segue into a smear campaign against Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).

    Now More Than Ever, Media Must Highlight These Incidents

    Especially now, media must devote significant attention to these hate incidents and threats. During the election, the anti-Semitic white nationalist movement known as the “alt-right” rose from the fringe to become one of the most significant factions in conservative media. Trump’s candidacy and subsequent election have also elevated the white nationalist movement.

    And media cannot rely on Trump to bring up these incidents himself. It was only after he came under increasing pressure -- and some reporters made failed attempts to broach the subject -- that Trump finally acknowledged and denounced the rising violence aimed at Jews, on February 21. If media continue to wait for Trump to acknowledge these incidents before reporting on them, viewers may never know that they are happening.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for mentions of “Jewish,” “cemetery,” “JCC,” “anti-Semitism,” “anti-Semite,” “anti-Semitic,” “St. Louis,” “University City,” and “Chesed Shel Emeth Society” on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS November 9 through February 22. Mentions on cable news must have taken place between 8 and 11 p.m. on weekdays and mentions on broadcast news must have taken place during the nightly newscasts on a weekday. Segments included in the analysis featured a significant discussion of a specific incident or threat or a significant discussion of the overall trend in anti-Semitic threats and incidents.

  • Michael Savage Says He Spent “Over An Hour Alone” With Trump And Urged Him To Continue Denying Human-Caused Climate Change

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Radio host Michael Savage claims he recently sat with President Donald Trump for “over an hour” and advised the president to continue falsely claiming that climate change “has nothing to do with mankind.” According to Savage, the president credited him with helping swing the election and encouraged him to keep broadcasting for “another 25 years.” Savage has used his radio program to attack people with autism, PTSD, and depression, and has advocated for killing “100 million” Muslims.

    Savage spent his February 22 radio program recounting his February 18 visit with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. He began by stating that he “sat with the president for well over an hour, alone. ... We had dessert together.” Savage said he talked with Trump about a variety of topics, including climate science:

    MICHAEL SAVAGE: I said, "Let me tell you the story about global warming, President Trump, it’s real simple. There have been at least five ice ages on this earth that we know of in recorded history. Five ice ages came and went long before there was industrialization. It has nothing to do with mankind." Big smile. Big smile. It’s simple. It’s simple. I don’t need mathematical formulae. If you went to the fifth grade you could understand that.

    While the ice ages Savage referenced -- as well as historical warm periods -- did occur due to natural causes, Skeptical Science and others have debunked the ice ages argument and explained that today’s climate change can be explained only by human activity. An overwhelming majority of climate scientists have concluded that human activities are the primary cause of climate change.

    Trump has repeatedly pushed junk science when it comes to climate change, calling it “a total, and very expensive, hoax!

    Savage has no credibility to talk about science. He’s called autism "a fraud, a racket," said people with PTSD and depression are "losers," advised people not to get flu shots because you can't trust the government, and theorized that liberals have been driven insane because of seltzer bubbles.

    He has also pushed numerous conspiracy theories and has advocated killing “100 million” Muslims. The radio host once worked for MSNBC but was fired when he told a critical caller to "get AIDS and die.”

    Savage later claimed during his program that Trump told him “we need this guy for another 25 years” and “without you I wouldn’t be president.”

    He also said that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus came up to him and said, “Savage Nation, Michael Savage, love your show! … Love you, love your show!” Priebus reportedly added: “You’re not like the others. … You’re an edgy guy. … I’ve listened to you since I’m a kid.” He added that Priebus gave him his email address and cell phone number and said, “Text me anytime.”

    Savage wrote on Facebook today that he has a plan “to investigate the subversive groups destroying America” and “will ask the president to allow me to help create this investigation.”

  • Facebook CEO’s Immigration Reform Group Donated To Trump’s Transition To “Curry Early Favor” With Administration

    Latest Report Adds To Growing List Of Questionable Donations And Meetings With Conservatives

    Blog ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s immigration reform lobby FWD.us, donated $5,000 to President Donald Trump’s transition according to a report from Politico.

    Despite a contentious history opposing Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, the group donated to Trump “hoping to curry early favor and help shape the incoming administration.” From Politico:

    But months later the nonprofit, founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a $5,000 check to Trump’s presidential transition — the latest indication that it’s still business as usual for the tech industry in Washington despite the revulsion many Silicon Valley engineers and executives feel toward Trump.

    Hoping to curry early favor and help shape the incoming administration, FWD.us joined a handful of tech and telecom companies like AT&T, Microsoft and Qualcomm in funding Trump’s months-long transition operation, which raked in roughly $6.5 million through Feb. 15, according to a transition disclosure report filed last weekend and obtained by POLITICO on Thursday.

    [...]

    FWD.us has had a fractious history with Trump and some of his top lieutenants, dating back to well before the election. Jeff Sessions, now the U.S. attorney general, blasted the group and its founder, Zuckerberg, in a blistering anti-immigration speech from the Senate floor in 2014. When Trump, as a candidate in 2015, detailed his immigration policy blueprint, Schulte described the approach as “just wrong.” While he didn’t mention Trump by name, the FWD.us founder took aim at “anti-immigrant voices” that seek to “forcibly expel millions of immigrants, period.”

    Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have faced increasing criticism over their efforts to reach out to conservatives. Recently Facebook donated more than $120,000 to the American Conservative Union’s annual event the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).  In 2016, Facebook met with conservative leaders to listen to their complaints of anti-conservative bias in Facebook’s trending topics feature. Facebook subsequently fired their human editors in August. 

  • NBC Nightly News Thinks Kicking Out One White Nationalist Absolves CPAC's Promotion Of The "Alt-Right"

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET


    NBC Nightly News
    ’ White House correspondent Hallie Jackson whitewashed CPAC’s promotion of “alt-right” nationalism by uncritically reporting that CPAC attempted to distance itself from white nationalist Richard Spencer, ignoring CPACs speaking invitations to “alt-right” provocateurs Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos.

    In a February 23 report, Jackson described Stephen Bannon as “the power behind the populist brand” promoted by President Trump and argued that CPAC was filled with “talk of economic nationalism” by Bannon and other CPAC speakers. Jackson claimed that CPAC had “no tolerance for a different kind of nationalism … the white nationalism popularized by Richard Spencer, who was kicked out today”:

    LESTER HOLT (HOST): Just outside the nation's capitol, members of the Trump administration dominated the stage at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, ahead of the president's appearance tomorrow. On stage today, a rare public appearance by Steve Bannon, the architect of the Trump campaign, who has quietly worked behind the scenes as the president’s chief strategist. Today, however, he spoke out. NBC News White House correspondent Hallie Jackson has details.

    HALLIE JACKSON: Today, a Trump team take over at a conservative conference, and stepping out of shadows of the West Wing, one of the president's most trusted advisors in a rare public appearance.

    STEPHEN BANNON: I want to thank you for finally inviting me to CPAC. JACKSON: That's controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon, the power behind the populist brand that propelled Donald Trump to victory.

    [...]

    JACKSON: For all the talk of economic nationalism on stage, no tolerance for a different kind of nationalism off it, the white nationalism popularized by Richard Spencer, who was kicked out today. CPAC organizers explicitly denouncing the fringe movement he helps lead.

    DAN SCHNEIDER: They are anti-semites, they are racists, they are sexists. They are not an extension of the conservatism. 

    But CPAC was filled with far right zealots who have promoted “alt-right” ideology. Steve Bannon, the former executive chair for Breitbart.com, had a prominent speech at the conference despite Breitbart’s history of promoting white-nationalists. Bannon even said during his time as executive chair that Breitbart.com had become “the platform for the alt-right” under his leadership.

    CPAC also invited former Breitbart.com editor Milo Yiannopoulos as a keynote speaker at the conference, before disinviting Yiannopoulos when videos emerged showing Yiannopoulos justifying the sexual abuse of a minor by an adult. Yiannopoulos himself described Richard Spencer and other white nationalists as “dangerously bright,” and ACU's Matt Schlapp promoted Yiannopoulos’ keynote speech by tweeting “We think free speech includes hearing Milo’s important perspective.”

  • James O’Keefe, Donald Trump, And The “CNN Leaks” Disinformation Attempt

    Sad!

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe has spent months hyping his plans to take on mainstream media. Today, his launch of a laughably underwhelming “CNN Leaks” project shows that O’Keefe was so eager to validate President Donald Trump’s war on the mainstream media that he hyped a blockbuster revelation before he actually discovered one.

    O’Keefe, a partisan activist who styles himself as a “citizen journalist,” purports to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions” through his nonprofit, Project Veritas. Under the guise of this mission, O’Keefe has spent years hyping and releasing secretly recorded and heavily edited videos aimed to discredit and attack almost exclusively progressive organizers, leaders, and government officials.

    O’Keefe’s videos often fall flat and rarely match their billings. He has had to issue public apologies, been arrested for trespassing, and foiled his own plots, yet his videos have been promoted by the president. O’Keefe also regularly incites his loyal internet followers to practice their own brand of “investigative journalism.”

    Since the election, O’Keefe has expanded his sights beyond progressive targets to “main stream media” and issued categorical threats of surveillance aimed at CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, among other figures. “The media is a huge target of mine right now,” O’Keefe told CNN’s Brian Stelter as he previewed his new “CNN Leaks” project earlier this week. O’Keefe also hyped “CNN Leaks” in a radio appearance with Fox’s Sean Hannity and in social media posts. The Associated Press also wrote about the anticipated release -- not to mention the numerous conservative blogs that breathlessly follow O’Keefe’s so-called investigations. Politico’s Hadas Gold wrote, “Some staffers at CNN were legitimately alarmed that O'Keefe would be releasing tapes that could be embarrassing for the network.”

    And then the release happened.

    What The “CNN Leaks” Don’t Show

    On Thursday morning, Project Veritas released 119 hours of raw audio recordings from inside CNN’s headquarters (with “more than 100 hours” yet to be released). The recordings were taken in 2009, and given to Project Veritas by an anonymous source. O’Keefe said his group has not had the time to review and transcribe all of the recordings, instead telling his supporters to listen, transcribe, and send tips about the hours of footage to him. These full audio recordings were not available until the late afternoon due to issues with Project Veritas’ website.

    O’Keefe did post a nearly eight-minute video on YouTube explaining the project and highlighting a few excerpts from the tapes that he claims show “profound liberal bias” and “CNN's misrepresentation of polling data.” As Politico explained, these assertions “fall flat.”

    O’Keefe’s press release led with two segments from the recordings that he suggests “show CNN's misrepresentation of polling data.” As Gold points out, the first section actually depicts “two producers talking about the use of certain polls and why then-CNN polling director (now NH1 News political director and anchor) Paul Steinhauser declined to use a poll by Rasmussen, a group whose polling methods are still not widely accepted.” The recordings did not, by any stretch, confirm Trump’s claim that CNN polls are “fake news,” as O’Keefe suggested.

    O’Keefe also described this accurate statement about the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change from the former news desk editor for CNN’s “The Wire” as “profound liberal bias”:

    That issue, climate change, I mean science is pretty much on board and there are a few dissenters. There's no debate. It's like you know, born-agains saying there's a debate over, you know creationism, and all that stuff. There is no debate.

    Speaking of bias, while this CNN editor was correctly describing the consensus on human-caused climate change in 2009, a Fox News executive was instructing staff to undermine that consensus on air.

    Among the supposedly incriminating statements O’Keefe singled out for the “CNN Leaks” press release was this from CNN’s Richard Griffiths, now a vice president and senior editorial director at the network (from Project Veritas transcript):

    If we are journalists, what is our role as a journalist? What is the fundamental role as a journalist, for us to do? Tell a story. Tell what's going on. There's a secondary corollary to that, right? Aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To a degree, right? Is that not part of the traditional role of a journalist. It's actually one of the things I can be most proud of as a journalist. You know we try to show the ugly side of humanity so we can do something about it. It's hard, very hard.

    Shocking stuff.

    Trump, O’Keefe, And “Fake News”

    As Gold points out, it’s certainly possible something embarrassing from the network will be uncovered in the hours of footage. But right now, there’s no there there. The real story of the “CNN Leaks” -- at least in terms of what O’Keefe deemed newsworthy in his press release -- is how explicitly the "overrated" release seems aimed to confirm Trump’s anti-CNN assertions.

    On the campaign trail, Trump specifically cited distortions from O’Keefe’s videos, and his charitable foundation gave thousands to Project Veritas in 2015. Trump also personally validated and encouraged “new media” (as O’Keefe likely imagines himself to be) to combat “the total dishonesty of the press” during a Reddit discussion. The similarities between Trump’s attacks on the media (and CNN, specifically) and O’Keefe’s distortions of the concept of journalism are striking, and seemingly create an anti-fact echo chamber among the internet masses, O’Keefe, and the White House. The purposeful twisting of the term “fake news” is the latest iteration.

    O’Keefe’s video release for the “CNN Leaks” began with a clip of his announcement, made at the Deploraball Inauguration event, that he would “investigate and expose the media -- particularly the mainstream media." Before O’Keefe showed any excerpts from the 2009 audio recordings, he rehashed clips of Trump calling CNN and mainstream media “fake news.” After playing Griffiths’ quote about journalists’ duty to “aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” O’Keefe questioned whether the statement “now applies to President Trump.”

    The potentially ongoing anti-media mindmeld between Trump, O’Keefe, and other self-styled citizen journalists who follow them now includes O’Keefe’s newest offering (or, as the Drudge Report gleefully calls it, a "bounty"): a “citizen journalist” award of $10,000 to “anyone who comes forward with legally obtained materials exposing media malfeasance.” There are hours of years-old CNN recordings that have yet to be reviewed by his followers, but based on the highlights, Trump is sure to love whatever they decide is there.

    In fact, O’Keefe says the president already thinks the project is “so cool.” 

  • Sean Hannity Falls For Misleading Claim From Gateway Pundit (Again)

    Gateway Pundit, Which Recently Got White House Press Credentials, Is Known For Inaccuracy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On February 22, Jim Hoft posted an article on his website The Gateway Pundit alleging that a “Wikileaks Document Shows John McCain Requested Donations From Russians!” Fox News’ Sean Hannity retweeted a tweet that both linked to the Gateway Pundit post and called McCain a “globalist war criminal,” adding, “Wow if true”:

    [Screencap via Mediaite]

    But Hoft’s article is wildly misleading. His source for the claim was “Reddit users,” and his blog failed to note that the incident had already been reported -- and dismissed -- as a mere clerical error. In 2008, McCain’s presidential campaign stated that the Russian Embassy in the United States had mistakenly received a standard campaign solicitation in the mail, with campaign spokesperson Brian Rogers calling it “just an error.” The Russians agreed with Rogers’ explanation, dismissing the fundraising request as “a computer failure,” according to a 2008 Associated Press report

    When McCain’s Senate office shot down Hoft’s slapdash reporting with a statement condemning Hannity for “attacking Senator McCain over a fake news story,” Hannity deleted the tweet and extended his “apologies” to McCain (and got defensive over people criticizing him for spreading false information).

    Unfortunately for Hannity, this is not his first experience being burned by Hoft’s amateur reporting. On November 2, Hannity was forced to “humbly apologize” for spreading a totally false Gateway Pundit story that claimed “Barack and Elizabeth Warren had wiped references to Hillary Clinton in their Twitter feeds.” 

    Jim Hoft’s Gateway Pundit is a known source of lies and misinformation. True to form, Hoft has not deleted the erroneous McCain article from February 22, nor has he deleted the now months-old lie about top Democrats scrubbing Hillary Clinton from their Twitter accounts. Such behavior is hardly surprising coming from Hoft, who he has been absurdly wrong about everything from his suggestion that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade was the crowd at a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to his claim that a Confederate flag lapel pin was allegedly made by Barack Obama’s campaign. Despite Gateway Pundit’s bipartisan reputation for being wrong, Trump’s administration saw fit to give the site White House press credentials.

    But Hannity can’t blame Hoft alone for his habit of spreading misleading and fake news stories. Back in 1989, Hannity was fired from a local radio show for peddling the homophobic lie that gay people are prone to disease because they eat each other’s feces during sex. More recently, Hannity has also embraced the world of supermarket tabloids, lending credence to the National Enquirer’s absurd lie that Rafael Cruz, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father, was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and hosting the former publisher of Weekly World News -- the supermarket tabloid responsible for “Bat Boy” -- to describe his alleged time as a Clinton “fixer.”