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  • NY Times Reports Steve Bannon Holds Theory Of “Genetic Superiority” While Headline Calls Him “Combative, Populist”

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Bannon

    A New York Times profile of incoming Trump chief counselor Stephen Bannon is headlined “Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man In Donald Trump,” but the most noteworthy bit of information about Bannon is not referenced in the headline.

    Bannon served as CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and led Breitbart.com before leaving to join Trump. As Media Matters and others have reported, under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart became a haven for the white nationalist “alt-right” movement.

    The Times reports in the piece that one of Bannon’s former colleagues said he “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.” The colleague said he told Bannon that such a law would exclude a lot of African-American voters, and he said Bannon responded, "Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.” (The piece also quotes the former colleague in question saying, “Steve’s not a racist … he’s using the alt-right -- using them for power.”)

    This revelation is made in the second half of the piece, and the headline gives no indication that it is in the story.

    The story also discusses Bannon’s history of racially divisive advocacy at Breitbart, as well as that site’s anti-Muslim stance during his time managing its editorial tone and posture. The Times notes, “Breitbart.com’s scorn for Muslims, immigrants and black activists drew a fervent following on the alt-right, an extremist fringe of message boards and online magazines popular with white supremacists, and after Mr. Bannon took control of the website in 2012, he built a raucous coalition of the discontented.”

    Despite the information contained in the story, the headline considerably downplays the subject’s controversial past and present in favor of a generic description.

  • Monica Crowley, Possible Trump Press Secretary, Regularly Pushes Conspiracies On Fox News

    Crowley Routinely Attacks Journalists As "Corrupt" And "Leftist"

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering Fox News contributor Monica Crowley for White House press secretary. Crowley has long derided journalists as “corrupt” and “leftist,” and has pushed numerous conspiracy theories concerning President Obama’s race, religion, parentage, and birthplace; former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s health; and various progressive pieces of legislation and administrative actions.

    With the recent reporting on Trump’s potential corruption, it may be surprising that Crowley would want to serve in a Trump administration, given this declaration she made in 2012:

    But Crowley shares Trump’s disdain for journalism, and she praised Trump for trolling of reporters by calling a phony news conference to supposedly put his birther claims to rest, calling Trump’s actions a “masterstroke.” She also defended Trump from the numerous sexual harassment and assault allegations against him during the presidential campaign, claiming they were “a classic political hit job.”

    Crowley Regularly Disparages The Press As Corrupt And “Leftist”

    Crowley Has Often Tarred The Media As “Corrupt.”

    Crowley: “Obama Has Gotten Away [With] Bloody Murder,” “Literally,” With “The Protection Of The Press.”

    Crowley Accused Media Of Running “Mafia-Like Protection Racket” On Behalf Of President Obama.

    Crowley Frequently Derides Media As “Leftist.”

    Crowley Is A Conspiracy Theorist

    Crowley Supported Trump’s Birtherism And Pushed Other Conspiracy Theories About President Obama’s Race, Faith, And “Real Father”

    Crowley: Trump’s Birtherism “Gaining Traction” Because Obama Has “Adopted Some Policies That Are Seriously Antithetical To American Values.”

    Crowley: Trump’s Questions About Obama’s Birth Certificate And Educational History Are “Very Legitimate.”

    Crowley: “Issues About [Obama’s] Origins … Have Traction” Because He Does "Un-American" Things That Give Impression He's "Not One Of Us."

    Crowley Questioned Whether Obama Is A “Natural-Born Citizen” And Eligible To Be President.

    Crowley Enthusiastically Endorsed “Dynamite” Conspiracy Theory Film Alleging Obama’s Real Father Is Communist Frank Marshall Davis. [Media Matters, 10/25/12]

    Crowley Claimed Obama Is An Arab, Not Black, And That He’s Lying By Presenting Himself As African-American. [Media Matters, 6/26/08]

    Crowley Pushed Myth That Obama Is Muslim By Falsely Claiming His Half-Brother Told The Jerusalem Post That “Obama’s Got A Really Solid Muslim Background.” [Media Matters, 6/20/08]

    Crowley Pushed Clinton Health Conspiracy Theories

    Crowley Pushed Conspiracy Theory That Clinton Faked Illness And Concussion To Avoid Benghazi Testimony.

    Crowley Helped Push Conspiracy Theory About Clinton’s Health During Presidential Campaign By Highlighting “Major Coughing Fits.”

    Crowley Routinely Pushes Claims Of Democratic Takeover Of Americans’ Daily Lives Through Legislation And Administrative Action

    Crowley: 2009 Cap And Trade Legislation Was “Really About … The Government Taking More And More Control Over Your Life.”

    Crowley On Health Care Reform Debate In 2009: “We’re Talking About Nationalizing … Health Care.”

    Crowley: Obama Was Trying To “Indoctrinate Our Children” With 2009 Education Speech; “This Is What Chairman Mao Did.”

    Crowley Pushed Conspiracy Theory That ATF’s Fast & Furious Operation Was Meant To Create Conditions For Passing Stronger Gun Laws.

    Crowley: The Social Safety Net’s Purpose Is To Create A "Cult Of Victimhood And Dependency."

    Crowley: Obama’s “Whole Objective Is To ... Get People Dependent On Government."

    Crowley Has Made Inflammatory And Offensive Statements About The LGBTQ Community, President Obama, And Others

    Crowley: Justice Sonia Sotomayor Was “Basically Alexander Hamilton In Drag” During 2009 Senate Confirmation Hearing.

    Crowley: Justice Department’s Decision Not To Defend DOMA Is A “Form Of Dictatorship From “Mubarak Obama.”

    Crowley Insinuated Sandra Fluke Was Gay And Later Apologized After Outcry.

    Crowley Said Obama And Accused Murderers Have A Similarly Negative Influence On Children.

    Crowley: “From A Conservative Perspective,” Obama’s Re-Election “Was A National Suicide.”

    Crowley Called 2011 Shooting Of Rep. Gabby Giffords A “Personal Tragedy … Not A National Tragedy,” Dismissed Memorial Service For Slain As An Obama Campaign Rally.

    Crowley: Syrian Refugee Crisis “Is Not A Migrant Crisis. This Is An Invasion.”

  • Journalists Should Follow Politico’s Lead And Press Betsy DeVos On LGBTQ Student Equality

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    After President-elect Donald Trump annouced he would nominate billionaire conservative activist and megadonor Betsy DeVos as education secretary, Politico highlighted civil rights groups’ deep concern about LGBTQ student equality under a DeVos Department of Education. While the DeVos family has a “long history” of supporting anti-LGBTQ causes, Betsy DeVos’ personal stance on LGBTQ student equality is unclear.

    On November 23, news reports confirmed that Trump named conservative megadonor DeVos as his nominee to head the Department of Education under his administration. DeVos is part of the “ultra-rich, ultra-conservative” DeVos family -- which routinely bankrolls education privatization, anti-choice, and anti-union causes nationwide -- and her education advocacy work is an epicenter of the right-wing corporate “education reform” echo chamber. The DeVos family also has a long record of donating to anti-LGBTQ causes and organizations, including giving more than $6.7 million to the anti-LGBTQ group Focus on the Family since 1998. Focus on the Family promotes the harmful and discredited practice of so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy and has accused anti-bullying programs in schools of “promoting homosexuality.”

    Politico spotlighted those donations in a November 25 article detailing concerns about DeVos’ potential to dismantle the Obama administration’s protections for LGBTQ students. Those protections include urging schools to extend anti-bullying policies to LGBTQ students, allow LGBTQ student groups on campus, and protect transgender students’ right to use facilities that match their gender identity.

    While the DeVos family’s opposition to LGBTQ equality is well-documented, Stephanie White of Equality Michigan told Politico that she believes Betsy DeVos’ personal views aren’t “accurately reflected by her family’s past donations” and said she hopes that DeVos will protect LGBTQ students. Politico also interviewed Eliza Byard, executive director for the LGBTQ student advocacy group GLSEN, who pointed out that DeVos’ support for school vouchers threatens at-risk LGBTQ students by undercutting federal civil rights enforcement and draining public funds from traditional public schools.

    Notably, DeVos did not respond to a request for comment for Politico’s story. Given the critical importance of nondiscrimination and anti-bullying protections for LGBTQ students, journalists should continue to push DeVos to articulate her views on LGBTQ student equality. 

    From the November 25 Politico article:

    Civil rights groups say they're “deeply concerned" that the extension of civil rights protections to gay and transgender students by President Barack Obama’s Education Department will be dismantled by Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick to lead the department.

    They note the DeVos family has a long history of supporting anti-gay causes — including donating hundreds of thousands to groups that push “conversion therapy” — raising questions about how, if at all, she would address discrimination against gay and transgender students.

    [...]

    Advocates point to one DeVos relationship that they say gives them hope for how she may approach LGBT issues: Greg McNeilly, a political adviser to DeVos and the chief operating officer of the DeVos family’s company Windquest Group, is gay and was one of the first to marry his same-sex partner in Michigan after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. McNeilly declined to comment for this story.

    Stephanie White, executive director of Equality Michigan, said she believes that with McNeilly as an influence, DeVos’ views on LGBT issues have evolved. She noted that DeVos doesn’t speak out against gay rights, and even called on Dave Agema, a Michigan Republican National Committee member, to step down from the RNC in 2014 after making comments highly critical of gays.

    [...]

    Still, the DeVos family has a long history of supporting groups that espouse anti-gay rights views.

    DeVos and her husband have given hundreds of thousands to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group whose founder called the battle against LGBT rights a "second civil war," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group has also pushed so-called “conversion therapy” — discredited practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation — according to the Human Rights Campaign.

    DeVos’ ties to a group that pushes “conversion therapy” is “most alarming,” and DeVos needs to clarify her stance on the practice, Griffin said.

    [...]

    Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, a group that advocates for LGBT rights in education, said her concerns extend beyond what DeVos might do with the Office for Civil Rights. She contends that DeVos’ support for measures such as school vouchers undercut civil rights enforcement and drain public funds from public schools.

  • Trump’s Fake Election Claims Came From Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones, But Media Aren't Reporting That

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    President-elect Donald Trump’s false claim that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally” can be traced to conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Alex Jones. But multiple media reports on Trump’s falsehood failed to report the connection, which is only the latest in a growing list of conspiracy theories espoused by both Jones and the president-elect.

    Trump made his claim in response to ongoing vote counting showing former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton amassing a popular vote lead of over 2 million votes.

    Trump’s lie echoes a story from Infowars, the conspiracy-laden website run by Jones. Jones has promoted numerous outlandish conspiracies, including the allegation that the American government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, and that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a “false flag” event involving actors and green screens.

    An Infowars story headlined “Report: Three Million Votes In Presidential Election Cast By Illegal Aliens,” which cites a tweet from “Greg Phillips of the VoteFraud.org organization,” is the basis of Trump’s fraudulent allegation.

    Phillips, without providing any evidence for his claim, wrote on Twitter, “We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.”

    Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson then published an article on Phillips’ tweet that baselessly claimed, “Virtually all of the votes cast by 3 million illegal immigrants are likely to have been for Hillary Clinton, meaning Trump might have won the popular vote when this number is taken into account.” As The Washington Post explained, Infowars was vital in bringing the conspiracy theory to a wider audience -- the Jones-led website's story on Phillips’ tweet was linked near the top of the Drudge Report on November 14.

    In a YouTube video entitled “Proof Donald Trump Won The Popular Vote” released following the Infowars report, Jones himself claimed “it is uncontrovertible (sic) fact that three million illegals voted” in the election and “tens of millions of people were on the voter rolls who were dead and at least four million of them voted as well,” and concluded, “Donald J. Trump didn’t just win the Electoral College in a landslide, he also clearly won the popular vote.”

    In covering Trump’s allegation (and often uncritically echoing it), multiple media outlets failed to make the connection between Trump and Jones and the other conspiracy theorists pushing this baseless story.

    The New York Times acknowledged that Trump’s claim was “baseless” but did not make the connection between the president-elect and conspiracy sites or Jones.

    The L.A. Times pointed out there is “no evidence” to back up Trump’s claim, but did not point out the false story’s origins.

    NBC News omitted references to Infowars and Alex Jones in their report on Trump’s remarks.

    Trump adopting a conspiracy from Jones and Infowars is not out of the ordinary. The relationship between the politician and the conspiracy theorist has flourished for months.

    Trump appeared on Jones’ radio/internet show in December of 2015 and praised him for his “amazing” reputation. Trump’s informal adviser, Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone, has been a regular contributor to Jones’ radio program for months and the two have made joint appearances at pro-Trump events.

    Throughout the campaign, Trump echoed Jones’ conspiratorial rhetoric as Jones said he was in contact directly with Trump, giving him advice.

    In an October speech attacking “global financial powers” while using anti-Semitic tropes and dog whistles, Trump was parroting an argument that Jones has used for years.

    After Jones said Trump should begin complaining the election was “rigged,” Trump began making similar complaints on the campaign trail.

    When Trump alleged that President Obama was “the founder of ISIS,” he was echoing Jones, whose website once wrote that “the Obama administration has been backing ISIS since the beginning.”

    After Trump delivered his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Jones saw so much of his rhetoric included that he bragged on his radio show that Trump was “totally synced” with him and his conspiratorial world view. Following Trump’s victory, Jones claimed that Trump called him to “thank” Jones’ audience and promised to appear on his show in the near future.

    This latest outburst shows that the two men remain in sync, and it’s time for the media to let the public know who is pulling the next president’s strings.

  • Evening News Virtually Ignores Paul Ryan’s Medicare Privatization Plan

    MSNBC Only Outlet To Vet Ryan's Scheme To Gut The Social Safety Net

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Weekday evening programming on the largest cable and broadcast news outlets almost completely ignored a long-standing Medicare privatization scheme favored by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) in the days since he first resurrected the idea of radically reshaping the American health care system toward for-profit interests.

    During a November 10 interview with Fox News host Bret Baier, Ryan misleadingly claimed that due to mounting “fiscal pressures” created by the Affordable Care Act, the Republican-led Congress would be forced to engage with what Baier called “entitlement reform” sometime next year. Ryan falsely claimed that “because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke” and that the popular health insurance system for American seniors will have to be changed as part of any legislation to “repeal and replace” President Obama’s health care reform legacy. From Special Report with Bret Baier:

    According to a Media Matters analysis of broadcast and cable evening news coverage from November 10 to November 27, Ryan’s plan to privatize the nationwide, single-payer health care coverage currently enjoyed by millions of seniors has gone unmentioned on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News. Ryan’s so-called “premium support” plan was briefly mentioned on the November 22 edition of PBS NewsHour when co-host Judy Woodruff pressed President-elect Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, as to whether Trump would accept Ryan’s privatization proposal. By comparison, during the same time period, MSNBC ran six prime-time segments exposing Ryan’s privatization agenda:

    According to a July 19 issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation, conservative lawmakers are likely to pursue “a proposal to gradually transform Medicare into a system of premium supports, building on proposals” adopted by Ryan when he served as chairman of the House Budget Committee. These so-called “premium supports” would provide each Medicare beneficiary with a “voucher” that can be used for the purchase of private health insurance; they represent “a significant change from the current system” that pays health care providers directly for services rendered.

    In essence, Ryan’s plan would privatize Medicare and redirect hundreds of billions of tax dollars that currently go to doctors, hospitals, and other medical service providers through the costly private health insurance market.

    This startling scheme bears similarities to a failed 2005 attempt by the Bush administration to partially privatize Social Security. Democratic members of Congress are already aligning themselves against Ryan’s throwback plan to gut Medicare, and it’s not actually clear if Trump is supportive of the initiative, which he refused to fully endorse on the campaign trail.

    As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) pointed out last July, claims that Medicare is “nearing ‘bankruptcy’ are highly misleading,” and Ryan’s specific charge that Medicare is “broke” because of the ACA is completely wrong. President Obama’s health care reform law greatly improved Medicare’s long-term finances and extended the hospital insurance trust fund’s solvency by 11 years.

    The looming fight over the future of Medicare, which serves over 55 million beneficiaries and accounted for 15 percent of the entire federal budget in 2015, has been well-documented, but it has garnered almost no attention on major television news programs.

    Millions of Americans who rely on broadcast and cable evening news are completely unaware of the stakes in this health care policy fight. They are also unaware that Ryan’s privatization scheme would leave millions of retirees at the whims of the same private insurance market that right-wing media are currently attacking because of increased rates.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of weekday network broadcast evening news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS and weekday prime-time news programming (defined as 8 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from November 10, 2016, through November 27, 2016. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any mention of “Medicare.”

  • Congressman Promotes Breitbart Poll Asking If He Should Be Trump's Secretary Of State

    Media Matters Urges Senate Press Committee To Reject Credentials For Breitbart

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    A Republican member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), is urging his supporters to vote for him in a new Breitbart.com poll asking readers who should be secretary of state. The poll and the congressman’s subsequent email to his supporters are further evidence that Breitbart lacks the editorial independence to receive the permanent Senate press credentials the site is seeking.

    Breitbart.com has reportedly requested “permanent Capitol Hill credentials” from the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery, which regulates congressional press access. According to Rule 4 of the standards for issuing a permanent press pass, “publications must be editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” In an open letter to the members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery, Media Matters laid out several reasons that Breitbart fails to meet the Senate’s press standards for receiving permanent congressional press credentials, including Breitbart’s strong connection to President-elect Donald Trump, which could potentially allow the site to serve as a state-allied propaganda outlet.

    Now, Breitbart.com is conducting a poll asking readers who they would “prefer” to have “serve as the country’s chief diplomat.” The choices include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former CIA Director David Petraeus, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

    Rohrabacher, apparently believing that his bid for secretary of state will be improved by his position in the Breitbart poll, sent an email to his supporters encouraging them to vote and noting that “it would be a privilege and an honor to serve as [Trump’s] Secretary of State.” Rohrabacher is best known for his service on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and for his various affiliations with the Russian Federation.

    Breitbart.com’s poll -- and Rohrabacher’s reaction to being included in it -- underscore the site’s total absence of editorial independence, bolstering Media Matters’ argument that the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery should not grant permanent credentials to the outlet.

  • NRATV Urges President-Elect Trump To Continue Attacking The Press

    NRATV Commentator Dana Loesch: “Rat Bastards” In The Mainstream Media Got “Curb-Stomped” By Trump’s Victory

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The host of NRATV urged President-elect Donald Trump to “not stop holding the media accountable” and to not “stop his tough straight talk about the dishonesty of the media” shortly before an NRATV commentator said she was happy that mainstream media was “curb-stomped” by Trump’s victory.

    NRATV has served as a pro-Trump attack dog against the media since its launch in October, several weeks before the presidential election.

    During the November 23 broadcast of NRATV, host Grant Stinchfield said, “I hope that Donald Trump does not stop holding the media accountable, and I hope he doesn't stop his tough straight talk about the dishonesty of the media because I really do think that's what endeared him to so much of the American public.” Trump’s campaign and transition period have both been notable for the attacks the candidate -- and now president-elect -- has levied against the press and press freedoms.

    Following Stinchfield’s comment, NRATV commentator and conservative radio host Dana Loesch ranted about the “mainstream media,” claiming that its members were “curb-stomped” by Trump’s election and that the mainstream press is “the boil on the backside of American politics” and its members are “the rat bastards of the earth.”

    There seem to be no lengths to which NRATV won’t go to defend Trump. For example, during the show’s October 27 broadcast, Stinchfield attacked the media for covering numerous sexual assault allegations against Trump, saying outlets should instead have been reporting on people who used guns in self-defense.

    Like Trump, the NRA frequently pushes the talking point that the press is in cahoots with so-called global elites who are trying to take guns away from ordinary Americans. Most recently, the group’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, railed against the media in a post-election message where he claimed that “the disgraceful media attempted to manipulate” Trump supporters’ “emotions.” In another representative example of the NRA’s attacks on the press, LaPierre told attendees at a 2014 conservative gathering that the press is one of America’s “greatest threats” and said, “NRA members will never, and I mean never, submit or surrender to the national media.”

  • NY Times Cites Anti-Immigrant Groups, Doesn't Mention Their Ties To White Supremacists

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A New York Times article cited anti-immigrant groups Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and ignored their ties to nativists while reporting on sanctuary cities’ efforts to combat costly federal immigration proposals.

    The November 27 Times report cited FAIR president Dan Stein and Center for Immigration Studies director of policy Jessica Vaughan. Both took the opportunity to advocate for President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities unless they enforce immigration policy, a role that historically falls under the responsibility of the federal government. The article identified FAIR as a group that “opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants” and said the Center for Immigration Studies “supports reduced immigration.”

    FAIR, which has already influenced Trump’s immigration proposals, has ties to white supremacists and was labeled an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The founder of FAIR also helped launch the Center for Immigration Studies, which, like FAIR, uses the veneer of impartiality to inject lies about immigration into mainstream media. By including commentary from nativist groups while failing to properly identify them, the Times is recycling misinformation and robbing its audience of essential context. From the November 27 New York Times report:

    Across the nation, officials in sanctuary cities are gearing up to oppose President-elect Donald J. Trump if he follows through on a campaign promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants. They are promising to maintain their policies of limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agents.

    [...]

    Supporters of tougher immigration policies, however, expect a swift response. Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants, predicted “a very aggressive, no-holds-barred support for using the full power of the federal government to discourage this kind of interference.”

    “These local politicians take it upon themselves to allow people who have been here for a long time to stay here and receive services,” Mr. Stein said. “The Trump administration is basically saying, ‘If you want to accommodate, don’t expect the rest of us to pay for your services.’”

    Some believe Mr. Trump could go further than simply pulling federal funding, perhaps fighting such policies in court or even prosecuting city leaders.

    “This is uncharted territory in some ways, to see if they’re just playing chicken, or see if they will relent,” said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports reduced immigration.

    Cities have “gotten away with this for a long time because the federal government has never attempted to crack down on them,” Ms. Vaughan said. [The New York Times, 11/27/16]

  • Colorado Springs One Year Later: Right-Wing Media’s Campaign To Deny The Severity Of Anti-Choice Violence

    Colorado Abortion Provider To Anti-Choice Lawmakers: “The Blood Of Any Of Us Who Are Assassinated Is On Your Hands.”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    November 27 marked the one-year anniversary of a deadly shooting attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood center that killed three and wounded nine more.

    Despite the gunman’s statement that he was “a warrior for the babies,” right-wing media -- in a long-standing pattern -- responded to the fatal attack by denying the severity of anti-choice violence.

    In July 2015, the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos falsely alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood employees. Multiple investigations have not only cleared Planned Parenthood, but also consistently debunked the fraudulent claims the organization has advanced. Nevertheless, right-wing media and anti-choice lawmakers have continued to attack providers and spread misinformation about the essential services they provide. This campaign of misinformation makes reproductive health care less accessible, but also incites violence against clinics, patients, and providers.

    From the inception of CMP’s smear campaign, right-wing media were among the most enthusiastic champions of the anti-choice group’s misinformation. For example, following the release of CMP’s second video on July 21, 2015, Fox News dedicated 10 segments across seven separate programs to hyping the deceptively edited footage in a single day. In addition, Media Matters found that during a 14-month period (from January 1, 2015, through March 6, 2016), Fox News’ evening news programs frequently relied on extreme anti-choice figures and misinformation to promote CMP’s fraudulent claims about Planned Parenthood and abortion.

    The Washington Post reported the day after the attack that the Colorado Springs shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, explained his actions using the phrase “no more baby parts” -- mirroring the language used by CMP to falsely accuse Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. Media Matters found that Fox News and Fox Business were responsible for 83 of 119 mentions of the phrase “baby parts” or “parts of babies” on major cable news networks’ reports about the release of CMP’s videos before the subsequent Colorado Springs attack. In comparison, Fox spent just 30 seconds covering reports that Dear stated, “I’m guilty. There’s no trial. … I’m a warrior for the babies,” during his first court appearance on December 9, 2015.

    In fact, right-wing media have continually dismissed anti-choice violence and resisted classifying such attacks as acts of terrorism. Rather than account for the severity of anti-choice violence, right-wing media have instead denied its systemic nature, downplayed incidents, and dismissed individuals like the Colorado Springs gunman as anomalous “kooks.”

    For example, on the June 21 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly downplayed the dangers of clinic violence, claiming he was unable to remember a time when “a Christian blew up an abortion clinic.” Previously, in December 2015, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson wrote that he was surprised “more Planned Parenthood facilities and abortionists are not being targeted” and suggested that such violence was only “getting rarer.”

    In reality, the threat of anti-choice violence is ongoing, severe, and has seen an uptick since the release of CMP’s deceptively edited videos.

    Prior to the Colorado Springs attack, the FBI released an intelligence assessment that warned of an increase in violence against abortion providers and clinics. This assessment was later supported by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which found that in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” of abortion providers that coincided with CMP’s incendiary allegations and rhetoric. NAF president and CEO Vicki Saporta noted that the ninefold increase in harassment and threats of abortion providers in the month after the release of the first CMP videos was “unprecedented.”

    The FBI’s warning was prescient. After Dear allegedly carried out his deadly attack, a clinic in St. Louis was vandalized while a Washington man was arrested for making death threats against employees of StemExpress, the biomedical company targeted in several of the discredited CMP videos. As reported by The News Tribune, Scott Anthony Orton posted more than 18 different threatening messages online before he was arrested. In April 2016, Orton pleaded guilty to threatening StemExpress employees.

    In May, The New York Times reported that MedStar Washington Hospital Center in D.C. barred abortion provider Dr. Diane J. Horvath-Cosper from publicly speaking about the need for greater abortion access. The hospital’s medical director issued the gag order after the Colorado Springs attack “out of concerns for security,” saying he didn’t want to draw attention to MedStar’s abortion and reproductive health care services in the nation’s capital.

    A Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, WI, was forced to close its doors due to security concerns in August 2016. This move left “any patient who does not live in Madison or Milwaukee” without a nearby provider, according to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin director of government relations Nicole Safar.

    More recently, an Alaskan man, Robert Joseph Klima, was indicted in November for making threatening phone calls to a Planned Parenthood call center, claiming he would bomb an Anchorage clinic. Alaska Dispatch News reported that Kilma made multiple calls and insisted that “he knew how to carry out the destruction of the building.”

    Despite the clear threat posed when the names and details about abortion providers are made public, a congressional panel created to investigate Planned Parenthood has worked to expose even more such information. And the panel -- the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives -- has consistently relied on CMP and other anti-choice groups to fuel its politically motivated attacks on abortion access.

    Established in October 2015, the select panel has been criticized by mainstream media outlets for its “Benghazi treatment” of Planned Parenthood -- prompting numerous lawmakers to call for its disbandment. Although the panel has found no substantial evidence of wrongdoing during its tenure, Rewire reported that congressional leadership approved a request for additional funding that would “more than doubl[e] the total cost of the investigation," bringing it to $1.59 million. Equally concerning, extreme anti-choice groups like Operation Rescue have asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to extend the sham investigation beyond its originally authorized end date in December 2016.

    The select panel Republicans have already been criticized for showing little concern for the safety of the targets of their investigation. In June, select panel chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and her colleagues failed to redact identifying information about abortion providers and patients from subpoenaed documents. Similarly, the select panel Republicans have also publicly released identifying information about abortion providers whom they believe (but have not proved) were involved in malfeasance.

    Just this month, Warren Hern -- a late-term abortion provider who lives just hours from Colorado Springs in Boulder, CO -- received a letter from Blackburn implying that he has been involved in wrongdoing and demanding information about Hern and his practice.

    In response, Hern lambasted Blackburn, writing that her “clear and unabashed purpose is to obstruct women seeking abortions, to control their lives, and to crush physicians who help them.” He dismissed Blackburn’s allegations as “outrageous,” “patently false,” and based on an “unfounded fantasy” while warning of the danger the panel’s attacks posed to women’s health and scientific advancement. Hern also warned Blackburn that her attempts to demonize abortion providers and ally with anti-choice groups threatened the safety of providers, their patients, and clinic staff:

    I am determined to give my patients the safest possible medical care in a humane and dignified environment that supports their emotional and social needs to the fullest extent possible. I have a superior staff of nurses, counselors, and other health professionals who are dedicated to help these women and their families. Your sordid exploitation of this activity for political purposes places all of us -- patients, physicians, and all members of my staff -- at risk of violent retaliation by anti-abortion fanatics. You know this. This is not some paranoid fantasy. A number of physicians specializing in abortion services have been assassinated, on at least one occasion in the physician’s church, and numerous other people, including an off-duty police office and one physician’s bodyguard, have been murdered in cold blood by anti-abortion fanatics, each assassin a so-called “peaceful” anti-abortion protester up until the moment of the murder.

    When is the last time you ever spoke out and condemned these senseless and spineless murders?

    You and your Republican Party are vigorously allied with a violent terrorist movement that threatens the lives of women, their families, and health care workers. As part of this shame “investigation,” your letter to me and letters to other physicians constitute a program of target identification for anti-abortion assassins. You can deny this, but it is a fact.

    Your “investigation” is legislative harassment that endangers our lives. The blood of any of us who are assassinated is on your hands.

    While anti-choice groups and lawmakers continue targeting abortion providers like Hern, the people of Colorado Springs are still healing from a violent attack on their community fueled by extreme anti-abortion sentiments.

    In October 2016, several survivors of the Planned Parenthood attack spoke to Cosmopolitan about their experience and continuing fears of becoming targets of anti-choice violence. But as the clinic manager explained, “We have come through this and are stronger.” She concluded: “We are going to be there for this community because they need us.”

  • Open Letter: Senate Press Gallery Should Reject Breitbart’s Application For Permanent Credentials

    Breitbart Violates Rules On Editorial Independence

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    To the members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery:

    Breitbart.com has reportedly come before the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery seeking permanent Capitol Hill credentials. We urge you to reject the request based on Breitbart’s disqualifying inability to demonstrate editorial independence as required by your rules.

    According to Rule 4 of the standards for issuing a permanent congressional press pass, “publications must be editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” In rejecting the application of the Supreme Court reporting outlet SCOTUSBlog, the committee explained that editorial firewalls are insufficient when personnel are inextricably connected between the federal government and an applying publication.

    Breitbart fails this standard in several ways:

    1. Breitbart Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon is on leave while working as the top adviser for President-elect Donald Trump, and he has been appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to Trump once he is sworn in as president.

    2. Even if Bannon completely severs his position with Breitbart, his likely financial interest and the possibility that he could return to his position after serving in the Trump administration suggests that Breitbart News cannot be editorially independent.

    3. Numerous media observers and former employees suggest that given Bannon’s position in the Trump administration, Breitbart could serve as a state-allied propaganda outlet.

    4. Rebekah Mercer, daughter of a major Breitbart investor, is reportedly serving on the executive committee of the Trump transition team, and could end up serving in the Trump administration.

    5. Breitbart has already engaged in similar conduct internationally. Notably, Breitbart London editor in chief Raheem Kassam left the website to become chief of staff to UK Independence Party’s Nigel Farage during the 2015 UK General Elections; rejoined the website following the elections and spent the next year using his editorial post to support and advocate for UKIP’s signature policy initiative, Brexit; then briefly ran for UKIP leader.

    It is simply not credible for an outlet to claim the editorial independence required under your rules given that their longtime executive chairman is about to become the closest advisor to the president.

    In addition to these documented, inextricable, and disqualifying links between the outlet and the Trump administration, Breitbart has secretive business ties that it refuses to disclose as a matter of policy, including financial ties to foreign businessmen that are kept equally secret. The Committee should also be wary of granting additional credibility to an extremist website -- Bannon himself called it “the platform of the alt-right,” an ideology that features white nationalism.

    Given these facts, we urge the Standing Committee to reject the Breitbart application.