• Debate Moderator Chris Wallace Has Been Wildly Inconsistent In How He Talks About Immigration

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Fox’s Chris Wallace is slated to moderate the third and last presidential debate in Las Vegas, NV, on October 19, and has chosen immigration as one of the topics the candidates will be discussing. Throughout his tenure Wallace has been inconsistent in the way he’s framed the issue, at times pushing culturally incompetent slurs and using the language of immigration reform opponents, and at others stepping up to criticize Trump for “demoniz[ing]” Mexican immigrants. Which Wallace will show up at the debate stage on Wednesday?

    Even though immigration is the “cornerstone” of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, moderators have yet to bring it up at a general election debate. Wallace has announced he will be the first moderator to do so. While Wallace’s conflicts of interest as a moderator are a problem in their own right -- for two decades Wallace worked for Trump ally and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and he defended Ailes amid the sexual harassment allegations that caused Ailes to be ousted from his position running Fox News -- having him frame immigration for discussion among the candidates will also bring its own set of problems. Those issues stem from Wallace’s own inconsistencies on the topic and his promised passivity in the face of a candidate whose immigration positions have been described as “impractical,” “clueless,” and “inhumane.”

    When it comes to the immigration debate, Wallace belongs to the camp of those who still use culturally insensitive slurs like “illegals” to refer to undocumented immigrants. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) has long condemned that term for its dehumanizing nature, and both the term “illegals” and “illegal immigrant” violate current Associated Press journalistic standards. Wallace has also previously embraced the language of those who oppose immigration reform, asking whether creating a path to citizenship would be “amnesty.”

    While moderating a Republican presidential debate in August 2015, Wallace neutrally introduced an immigration question about Kate’s Law without disclosing the active role Fox News had played in proposing and pushing for the anti-immigrant federal legislation. The proposed law, which sought to establish mandatory minimum sentences for undocumented immigrants who re-enter the country after deportation, failed to pass.

    On the other hand, Wallace was critical of Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric against Mexican immigrants during a June 2015 appearance on KFTK’s Allman in the Morning, taking a more compassionate stance by saying it’s not “right” to “demonize a group of people”:

    CHRIS WALLACE: I vastly prefer what Jeb Bush -- and I’m not in the tank to Jeb Bush on this, but I vastly prefer what he's saying, which is, which I think is the truth, which is that people come to this country -- and I'm not saying that they should. I mean, a great country has to be able to defend its borders, but people don't come to the United States because they're criminals. I think most people come to the United States because they think they'll be able to provide for their families and have better lives, and to demonize a group of people is -- I don't think it's right.

    Many Latinos in the media have been clamoring for a substantive discussion about immigration during the presidential debates, but given Wallace’s announcement that he won’t be pushing back on candidates while moderating, the stage on Wednesday night might just be another platform for Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

  • As Trump Wages War On The Press, News Outlets Refuse To Fight Back

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Like everything else about Donald Trump’s vitriolic campaign, his attacks on journalists, and the way those assaults are being fervently amplified by Trump’s whipped-up supporters, have become genuinely frightening during the finals weeks of the Republican’s faltering run.

    Fronting a nihilistic campaign that seeks to do lasting damage to our electoral and democratic process, Trump has shifted his all-encompassing war on the media onto more dangerous terrain this month. Graduating from his previous claims that reporters are "disgusting" and "horrible people," Trump now insists they’re all part of the “rigged” infrastructure this election cycle that’s conspiring against the former beauty pageant owner.

    Forget blaming the messenger -- Trump’s now trying to bury the messenger. And his fans want to help.

    In addition to lobbing regular abuse at journalists on social media, Trump and his supporters have waged their vendetta at the candidate’s rallies, where journalists are corralled behind metal barricades. And his fans have become increasingly unhinged. “The traveling press corps covering Donald Trump‘s rally in Cincinnati had to be escorted out the back door of the event to a heavily guarded motorcade after being greeted with boos, middle fingers and a seemingly ‘arena-wide’ chant of ‘Tell the truth!’ from a crowd of 15,000 people, according to a pool report,” People recently reported.

    Meanwhile, journalists have been sharing disturbing rally snapshots on Twitter:

    From NBC News’ Ali Vitali:

    CNN’s Jim Acosta:

    Washington Post’s Jose DelReal:

    None of this is new, unfortunately. On Monday, The New York Times published a piece headlined “Criticism of the News Media Takes on a More Sinister Tone,” which raised concerns about “dangerous” anger targeted at reporters.

    It’s true that the level of contempt seems to have spiked in recent days as Trump takes his campaign off the rails, with his crowds “spontaneously targeting the press on their own, at a scale not yet seen in this campaign, or any in memory on American soil,” according to Politico.

    But Trump’s outrageous, out-of-bounds press attacks have been a staple of his campaign for more than a year.

    Last winter, after Trump from a rally stage targeted NBC reporter Katy Tur as a “dishonest” “third rate reporter” and after the Trump crowd turned on her "like a large animal, angry and unchained,” the Secret Service took the precaution of escorting Tur to her car after the event.

    The unyielding harassment hasn’t abated, according to Tur: “The wave of insults, harassment, and threats, via various social-media feeds, hasn't stopped since. Many of the attacks are unprintable.”

    Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists passed a resolution “declaring Trump an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists and to CPJ's ability to advocate for press freedom around the world.” Also, the National Press Club recently condemned Trump’s anti-media crusade: “We find this renewed pattern of journalist intimidation to be unacceptable and dangerous to our democracy.”

    These condemnations are important and welcomed, but unfortunately they’re the exception and not the rule this cycle -- and they arrive woefully late. In the face of Trump’s ongoing bullying, much of the press hasn’t fought back.

    For more than a year, the Trump campaign has beat up the media, and news organizations did little in response while showering him with even more coverage and hiring his former campaign manager as an election commentator. What kind of signal does that send? Why didn’t news executives ever say "enough" to the campaign bullying? And why didn’t they opt for collective action to fix the obvious problems with how the Trump campaign was manhandling the press?

    I am not blaming the victims here -- the victims being the journalists who have been doused with verbal attacks and rancid condemnations at Trump rallies. Obviously, hard-working reporters never deserve to be treated like that.

    But I do think those journalists’ bosses deserve part of the blame for never summoning the courage to effectively and unapologetically push back against Trump’s ugly war.

    At key junctures during the election season, dating back to the summer of 2015, Trump and his campaign have pushed the press around, sometimes literally. Institutionally, how did the press respond? With hallmark timidity, driven, perhaps, by the high ratings and advertising revenue that Trump’s campaign provided.

    I’ve highlighted this contrast before, but it’s absolutely essential in terms of understanding how toothless the press has been in dealing with Trump’s campaign intimidation, and how the press never would have let those types of hardball attacks go unanswered coming from a Democratic candidate.

    Last year, 17 journalists representing a multitude of news organizations met for two hours in Washington, D.C., because they were so angry with how Hillary Clinton's campaign was limiting access for journalists. Note that the Democratic nominee wasn’t besmirching journalists, calling them names, or inciting her followers to rain insults down on reporters. She was simply accused of not granting reporters enough access, which produced a collective response from news organizations.

    Last November, several news organizations did discuss their concerns with the Trump campaign, according to The Huffington Post, but seemingly nothing came of it. In fact, "facing the risk of losing their credentialed access to Trump's events, the networks capitulated," BuzzFeed reported.

    So yes, the press has adopted separate standards for dealing with Democratic and Republican campaigns, especially when journalists feel they’re being treated unfairly. Trump sensed that, took advantage of it, and steamrolled news organizations that seemed more concerned with not losing access to Trump’s clicks/ratings-heavy campaign than with combating the candidate’s smear campaign and making sure their reporters were guaranteed safe environments to work in.

    The end result is the current shit show that’s unfolding, where journalists remain corralled inside Trump rally press pens while his fanatic followers unleash their venom.

  • The Washington Post: CNN’s Zucker Defends Corey Lewandowski And Ignores The Ethical Problems With His Employment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called out CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker for skirting the issue of hiring former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski by offering a dishonest defense of the decision.

    CNN hired the Republican presidential nominee’s former campaign manager in June, a week after he was fired from the campaign for allegedly manhandling a reporter. Since joining the news organization, Lewandowski has echoed and defended Trump’s most questionable statements, including reviving Trump’s birther claims against President Obama and recommending that the Republican nominee sue The New York Times “into oblivion.”

    Jeff Zucker’s decision to hire Lewandowski came under fire after it was discovered that he was still being paid by the Trump campaign, which CNN said was severance pay. In August, Lewandowski announced on Twitter he was joining Donald Trump and his campaign in New Hampshire. In September, The Washington Post discovered Lewandowski was doing “consulting work” for Trump, and he recently joined the campaign for more events in Maine and New Jersey.

    Zucker defended hiring Corey Lewandowski during an October 14 interview at the Harvard Institute of Politics, claiming it is necessary to have someone who represents the “14 million people who voted for” Donald Trump, and that opposition to Lewandowski’s presence at CNN is “because they don’t like the idea of the Trump candidacy.” Wemple discounted Zucker’s defense, explaining that “the critical case against” employing Lewandowski “rests on ethical considerations.” From Wemple’s October 17 Washington Post blog post:      

    In an extensive interview on Friday at the Harvard Institute of Politics, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker faced a question about the No. 1 ethical issue facing the 24/7 cable network over the course of campaign 2016. “What was your thought process in hiring [Donald] Trump’s former campaign manager and surrogates in general and where do you draw the line for CNN between reporting on the campaign and becoming a mouthpiece for the campaigns?” asked a member of the audience.

    No stranger to tough questions about CNN’s moves, Zucker, a Harvard graduate, took this one in stride. For months, critics of the channel have ripped the June decision to hire Corey Lewandowski just after he’d been fired from his job as Donald Trump’s campaign manager. As he broke into the CNN commentating lineup, he was asked about any nondisclosure and non disparagement clauses that might swamp his candor. His responses were unconvincing. Then CNN revealed that he was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign — payments that continued in July and August; a final pay-out occurred last month.


    Speaking specifically to the Lewandowski situation, Zucker said this: “So, look, you know — the Trump surrogate voices, including Corey Lewandowski … are there to represent those 13-14 million voters who have voted for him. Now, I know that there’s are a lot of people who don’t like Corey Lewandowski or the other Trump surrogates that we have on staff,” he said. “I think a lot of that is because they don’t like the idea of the Trump candidacy and that’s just a projection of ‘How could you have those people on the set?’ Well, we have them on the set because somebody’s got to represent 14 million people who voted for the guy. I understand that there are people who might not like that, who might not like those people who are supporting him, but that’s what happened.”

    CNN is entitled to rejigger its lineup of commentators in reaction to political events. Such is its prerogative. What it may not do, however, is recast the controversy over Lewandowski’s employment as a matter of taste. Though some folks surely object to Lewandowski because they simply do not like him, the critical case against the move rests on ethical considerations. Lewandowski was hired fresh off the Trump campaign, and evidence is strong that he remains part of its inner circle, as both Politico and the New York Times reported last month.


    Though many commentators have certain loyalties and affections, Lewandowski is all but prohibited from indulging in Trump-oriented skepticism while on CNN airwaves. That is the problem with Lewandowski. Not that certain people don’t like him.

  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution Exposes Dark-Money Funding Behind Georgia School Takeover Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Private corporations, lobbyists, and a national group connected to major dark-money, anti-teachers-union donors are major contributors to a campaign supporting a state education proposal that is fiercely opposed by teachers and parents, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

    A proposed amendment to the Georgia state constitution -- Amendment 1 -- would allow the state to take over schools that are deemed “failing” and create an “Opportunity School District,” a move proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal and opposed by public educators and parents. As the Journal-Constitution explained, the amendment would “enable an appointee of the governor to seize ‘chronically failing’ schools and the local tax dollars that support them. Those schools would either be shuttered, run directly by a new statewide district or converted to charter schools under independent management.”

    Amendment 1, which will be on state ballots in November, has attracted millions in funding from groups in support and in opposition of the proposal, including substantial funding from national teachers unions for an advertising campaign opposing the measure.

    Teachers groups and the state PTA have spoken out against Amendment 1, explaining that its passage could eliminate local control by school boards and community members -- particularly in black and Latino communities -- and could shift tax dollars to private charter management companies or other groups that are subject to less oversight. As the Journal-Constitution reported, the National Education Association has spent heavily on a campaign opposing the amendment representing 35,000 Georgia teachers who are among its ranks.

    But the identities of donors bankrolling the advertisements in support of the proposed amendment -- as part of an organization called Opportunity For All Georgia Students -- were purposely concealed using a group set up by supporters of Gov. Nathan Deal. The group, Georgia Leads, is categorized as a “social welfare” group with a 501(c)(4) tax status, and as such is not required to disclose its donors. Of the four donors contributing a total of $1.22 million to the campaign in support of Amendment 1, Georgia Leads contributed the most substantial amount -- $810,000. 

    On Friday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an investigative report revealing some of Georgia Leads’ donors -- and the biggest names were private corporations and lobbying firms (emphasis added):

    The biggest donor to the pro-OSD amendment this year — as of Sept. 30 — was Georgia Leads Inc., a fund set up to push Deal’s agenda. Georgia Leads had put $850,000 into Opportunity for All Georgia Students as of the end of September.


    While Georgia Leads doesn’t disclose donors, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found more than $250,000 in contributions to the group by reviewing expenditure listings by companies and political action committees who file reports with the state ethics commission. All the donors have big stakes in legislation at the state Capitol, including AT&T, the retail store lobby, McGuireWoods (one of the best-connected lobbying firms at the Statehouse), Hospital Corporation of America, beer distributors and bank lobbyists.

    The investigation also identified the national group 50CAN as another major donor to the pro-Amendment 1 campaign, second only to Georgia Leads. 50CAN is affiliated with a dark-money-fueled echo chamber pushing conservative, anti-union policies under the guise of “education reform,” and has supported past Georgia initiatives to open up schools to private competition, as well as similar Opportunity School District-type initiatives in other states. It is affiliated with a number of other national groups that received dark-money funding from anti-teachers-union private donors. 

    Graphic created by Sarah Wasko.

  • The Questions Chris Wallace Should -- But Probably Wont -- #AskAboutAbortion In The Final Debate

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On October 19, moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News will have the last opportunity in a 2016 presidential debate to ask either candidate a direct and meaningful question about abortion -- an opportunity that, if history is any guide, will likely be ignored.

    Throughout this election cycle, reproductive rights advocates have been pushing for debate moderators to #AskAboutAbortion. Unfortunately, given the history of debate questions asked about reproductive rights topics since 1960, if Wallace does ask about abortion it will most likely be framed in the context of the candidates’ faiths or preferences for judicial nominees.

    On October 12, the Commission on Presidential Debates released the topics for the third and final presidential debate -- a list that includes debt, immigration, the economy, and the Supreme Court. Although abortion is not among the given topics, it could play a significant role in any comprehensive conversation about the candidates’ policies for addressing economic insecurity or even immigration.

    Here are the debate questions Chris Wallace should -- but probably won’t -- ask about abortion in the final debate:

    1. Debt And Entitlements

    The intersection between entitlements and federal support for reproductive health care is both substantive and significant in the wider landscape of abortion access advocacy.

    Since 1977, the Hyde amendment has restricted federal funding -- and in particular, Medicaid funds -- from supporting abortion services. The amendment has been re-enacted annually to prevent the use of federal funds for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.

    Because of its restrictions, the Hyde amendment has created a significant barrier for low-income patients attempting to access safe and legal abortion care. In a July 2016 study, the Guttmacher Institute found that the “number of women potentially affected by the Hyde Amendment is substantial” given the significant number of women dependent on federally subsidized medical services.

    As Medicaid is an entitlement program, asking about abortion in the context of entitlements would be particularly appropriate given that both Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump, have taken an explicit stance on the Hyde amendment.

    As Rebecca Traister explained in New York magazine, Clinton was the first presidential nominee to speak out against the Hyde amendment when she decided to “publicly do battle” against the restriction in January. The Democratic Party also formally adopted repealing the Hyde amendment as a priority in its platform -- marking the first time a major political party has targeted the anti-choice restriction on this scale.

    In contrast, Trump has committed himself to making the Hyde amendment “permanent law” in order to prevent “taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.”

    2. Immigration

    Abortion access is also a fruitful topic for discussion in the context of U.S. immigration policy, particularly the impact of reproductive health care policies that disproportionately affect Latinas and mixed immigration status families living in the border state of Texas.

    Disparate access to health care coverage is an issue impacting many immigrants -- both documented and undocumented -- in the United States. As the Kaiser Family Foundation explained in a January 2016 brief, “Immigrants, particularly those who are not citizens, historically have faced disproportionate barriers to accessing health coverage and care.” These findings affirmed a 2014 study done by the Pew Research Center which concluded that “Hispanic immigrants are more than twice as likely to not have health insurance as Hispanics born in the U.S.”

    In particular, Latinas’ access to reproductive care is significantly impacted not just by the Hyde amendment but also by the financial and logistical barriers created by anti-choice restrictions in states, like Texas, that have a high percentage of Latinos.

    An independent analysis of Texas’ 2014 abortion statistics data by the Texas Observer pointed out the disparate loss of access to abortion experienced by Texas Latinas after the anti-choice law HB 2 went into effect. As Alexa Garcia-Ditta reported, “In 2013, over 24,000 of Texans who got abortions were Hispanic; in 2014, that number decreased by 18 percent to under 20,000.” In comparison, she noted, there was “a 7.7 percent decrease among black Texans who got abortions” and a “6.7 percent drop among white Texans, after the law went into effect.”

    In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) argued that the additional barriers to abortion access created by HB 2 would be particularly devastating to undocumented women, who would face “[b]order patrol agents and internal immigration checkpoints” when forced to travel farther for health care due to clinic closures.

    3. Economy

    Chris Wallace could use the economy category as an opportunity to discuss the myriad financial obstacles individuals confront when trying to obtain abortion care.

    As Salon’s Christina Cauterucci explained, “Studies show that poor women take up to three weeks longer than other women to secure an abortion” partly because of the time necessary to gather the money for the procedure. In a July 2015 report, the National Women’s Law Center noted that low-income persons are also put at a substantial financial disadvantage because they “may have to postpone paying for other basic needs like food, rent, heating, and utilities in order to save the money needed for an abortion.”

    This financial challenge of covering the cost of an abortion adds to the usual barrage of anti-choice restrictions already complicating access to abortion care. Between mandatory waiting periods, long wait times to get an appointment, and the great distances many patients must travel to reach a clinic, abortion care is already out of reach for many -- circumstances media frequently ignore or underestimate when talking about abortion.

    Given the numerous financial considerations that can make both abortion and wider reproductive health care inaccessible, Wallace should use the economy category during the debate to ask the candidates a substantive question about abortion care.

    4. Supreme Court

    In a recent report, Media Matters analyzed all abortion questions asked in presidential or vice presidential debates from 1960 to 2012 and found that 56 percent of questions were framed around religion or used abortion as a litmus test for judicial appointments. Media Matters found that since 1960, a total of 34 moderator or panelist questions cited abortion, and 23 of those were framed in terms of religion or judicial appointments or presented abortion in a stigmatized and negative way.

    This framing for questions is ineffective, unilluminating, and ultimately fails to provide the American public with any understanding of how presidential candidates would support or inhibit access to essential reproductive health care.

    The second presidential debate was a good example of the limited and ineffective nature of this framing. During the October 9 debate, the only mention of reproductive rights came during a question about the nomination of Supreme Court justices -- when Clinton mentioned that her ideal nominee would support upholding Roe v. Wade.

    Questions like this -- although useful in a limited sense -- clearly do not go far enough in pressing candidates to explain and defend their positions on an essential reproductive health issue and the ramificiations of upending abortion law. As a possible solution, the reproductive rights advocacy group Ultraviolet has been conducting a campaign encouraging individuals to submit questions about the issues that “have taken a backseat in the news coverage this election” but that “they think are the most important questions facing women.”

    In a petition, NARAL Pro-Choice America further explained why it is essential that Chris Wallace take advantage of the final opportunity to ask about abortion in a 2016 presidential debate:

    Donald Trump has said women should be punished for accessing their right to abortion, and suggested doctors who provide abortion care be thrown in jail.

    A candidate's position on abortion speaks to their position on gender equality, to whether or not they think all people, regardless of gender, should be able to plan their families and determine their futures for themselves. Such a crucial issue cannot be left unaddressed on the national stage this election year.

    UPDATE: On October 18, after allegations emerged that Trump has sexually assaulted and harassed numerous women, NARAL Pro-Choice America issued a letter urging Wallace to take advantage of a "critical opportunity to hold candidates accountable" and "demand answers about whether our candidates believe women are equal to men in the eyes of the law." The letter -- cosigned by EMILY's List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, CREDO, UltraViolet, All* Above All Action Fund, the National Organization for Women, and Feminist Majority -- continued, "For that reason, we request that you ask the candidates about how they plan to address the crisis of abortion access in our country."

  • Three Weeks Before The Election, Top Trump Ally Roger Stone Spoke At A JFK Conspiracy Conference

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Longtime Donald Trump adviser and ally Roger Stone spoke at the conspiracy-fueled “Lee Harvey Oswald Conference 2016” this weekend, telling attendees that former President Lyndon Johnson was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and promising that a President Trump would put the entire Clinton family in prison.   

    The conference, which had the theme of “Oswald: The Patsy,” was executive produced by Kris Millegan, whose publishing company Trine Day specializes in conspiracy theory books with titles like The 9/11 Mystery Plane: And the Vanishing of America, which posits that the 2001 terror attacks were carried out by the U.S. government. The event was co-produced by Lorien Fenton, who also organizes conferences on UFOs and “secret space programs.”

    Stone described the Oswald conference as “furthering the scholarship on the question of who killed John F. Kennedy and why.” (Stone has published a book alleging that Lyndon Johnson was behind JFK’s assassination. He has also claimed to be working on a book about the Clintons secretly murdering JFK Jr.)

    In his presentation on October 16, Stone devoted a large chunk of his remarks to touting Trump’s candidacy to the audience, describing the campaign as “an insurrection” and “an uprising” against the “ruling elite.” He added, “This is D-Day for the ruling elite. They know, among other things -- and I think Trump made this very clear in the last debate -- if he’s elected, Bill and Hillary and their crooked, nasty, foul-mouthed little daughter, they’re going to prison.” (Stone and fellow conspiracy theorist Alex Jones have led the charge on calling for Hillary Clinton to be sent to prison, which Trump has recently adopted as a talking point.)

    During his remarks, Stone revisited his warning that America is “headed into a nuclear war with the Russians.” He also later alleged that President Obama is “prepared to have a war, if that's what it takes to elect this gravely ill woman to succeed him.” He also re-upped his bizarre allegation that Bill Clinton is not really Chelsea Clinton’s father.

    Stone has long been an active conspiracy theorist (though during his remarks, Stone dismissed being labeled a "conspiracy theorist," saying instead he is a "conspiracyologist" and a "conspiracy realist"). His book Jeb and the Bush Crime Family argues that President George H.W. Bush was involved in the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Stone also claims that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin was connected to the 9/11 attacks, that the Clintons have had numerous people murdered (including four people during the summer of 2016 alone), and that the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 was “suspicious,” along with numerous other fringe and disproven theories.

    Throughout the 2016 election cycle, Stone has allied himself with and become a regular guest on the radio program of Alex Jones, the self-described “founding father” of the 9/11 conspiracy theory movement.

    During the campaign, Stone has been in regular contact with Trump, who has increasingly pushed conspiracies peddled by Stone in recent weeks, including the outlandish claim that the election is “rigged” against the Republican nominee.

  • Will Megyn Kelly Stand Up Against Donald Trump’s Racial Voter Intimidation?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Megyn Kelly devoted weeks of her Fox News program in 2010 to pushing fraudulent claims that the Justice Department engaged in racially charged corruption by failing to act against two members of the New Black Panther Party who had supposedly intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling station during the 2008 election. Will she devote similar coverage to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s declarations that his overwhelmingly white supporters should engage in “racial voter intimidation on Election Day” to prevent nonexistent voter fraud?

    On Election Day 2008, two members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside a polling station in Philadelphia dressed in all-black clothing displaying the group’s characteristic insignia. One carried a nightstick; the other was a registered Democratic poll watcher. After video of the pair went viral and Republican poll watchers complained, the Justice Department opened an investigation. While no individual ever came forward to say they had been intimidated from voting, the Obama Justice Department sought and received default judgment against the New Black Panther member who had carried the nightstick, dropping initial cases against the other one, as well as the organization and its leader.

    This should have been a local news story detailing a single interaction at one of the tens of thousands of polling places across the country. But because the defendants, the new president elected that day, and the attorney general he would nominate to lead the Department of Justice (DOJ) were all black, it became a cause celebre on the right.

    The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, whose board had been packed with conservatives under President George W. Bush, opened an investigation, even as the group’s vice chair warned that the case was “small potatoes.” And J. Christian Adams, a Republican activist who had been hired as part of the Bush administration’s effort to politicize the Justice Department, left government and publicly declared that the case was an indication of racially charged corruption at President Obama’s DOJ.

    Adams would find a ready champion for his baseless accusations at Fox News: Megyn Kelly. Days after he first leveled his allegations in a Washington Times op-ed, he sat for a two-part interview with the Fox daytime anchor. Those were the first of an astonishing 45 segments Kelly would run on the story over the next two weeks, totaling more than three and a half hours of airtime. The rest of the network would support her effort to manufacture a scandal, with Fox evening shows devoting an additional 50 segments to the story over the same period. A year later, she would devote just 20 seconds to an independent review of the case, which concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred.

    Critics pointed out that that Kelly’s obsession with the case crossed the line into “embarrassing race-baiting” and a “minstrel show,” which resulted in “fear and distrust of their DOJ [caused] by round-the-clock videos of one racist idiot brandishing a nightstick for a couple hours in 2008.” Even on her own show, Fox personalities criticized Kelly for “doing the scary black man thing” and noted that she had no evidence for her claims of misconduct by a supposedly corrupt or racially biased Obama administration.

    Kelly’s obsession with nonexistent voter intimidation supposedly perpetrated by black men raises questions about how she will react now that the Republican nominee for president is suggesting that his supporters engage in a nationwide campaign of voter intimidation in minority neighborhoods.

    Trump has been warning his supporters since at least August that the “election is going to be rigged” and that they need to be “watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.” During a rally earlier this month in central Pennsylvania, he revived the argument, urging his fans to band together and “watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas. I hear too many bad stories and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.” On Twitter, he has warned of “large scale voter fraud” at “many polling places.”

    As Slate chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie has noted, Trump’s “rhetorical time bombs... could be the catalyst for actual intimidation and violence, before and after Election Day. And if that violence and intimidation strikes, it will be against the chief targets of Trump’s campaign: people of color.”

    During the debate over the New Black Panthers case, Kelly furiously denied claims that she was less concerned about voter intimidation against people of color than intimidation against white people. And in the past, she has openly admitted that there is no “overwhelming” evidence of voter fraud in U.S. elections. Those positions require her to denounce Trump’s push for voter intimidation.

    If she doesn’t, it will suggest that she’s fully bought into Fox’s race-war mentality.

  • Univision Explains How Trump’s Bogus Voter Fraud Crusade Could Intimidate Minorities From Voting

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In response to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s baseless claims that there is “large-scale voter fraud happening on and before election day,” Univision pointed out the intimidating and deterring effect the claims could have on minority voters.

    In an October 12 article, Univision reported that Donald Trump is galvanizing his supporters to sign up as “observers” at polling locations on election day in order to fight back against what he calls “large-scale voter fraud.” The claims contradict extensive evidence that demonstrates in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent. Univision spoke to Latino electorate experts who pointed out that the presence of “observers” at polling locations “intimidates” and suppresses minority voters. Univision highlighted concerns from Hispanic groups about “tactics like these” because they “generate a hostile environment,” especially for first-time voters and pointed out that “Trump’s words graze a dangerous line between legal and illegal.”

    While this line of attack was initially propagated by right-wing media -- which continue to assist Trump in pushing these false claims -- Univision joins others in condemning these statements as “bogus” and “irresponsible.” Translated from the Univision article:

    Donald Trump has started to spread a new message to his followers: vote and then go to “other communities” to make sure “that no one robs the election from our hands.” Hispanic leaders fear that the mogul’s politics of fear might damage voter turnout.


    Even in the campaign’s website, people can sign up to be observers of the elections.

    From long experience, Hispanic leaders know that this type of tactics intimidate minority voters.

    “We have seen similar strategies before, where they assign people to observe, who basically scare Hispanics and tell them off. Even when they don’t say anything, their presence and the way they dress intimidates,” explained Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO.


    Vargas insisted that tactics like this “generate a hostile environment, especially for people who are voting for the first time and that’s why it’s important for those participating to know their rights.”

    The director of NALEO also insisted that it’s necessary for the Department of Justic to place the largest possible amount of observers in polling places.


    Trump’s words graze a dangerous line between legal and illegal.

    In 1982 a decree was issued based on multiple complaints about the intimidation of minority voters between 1970 and 1980.

    The decree specified that the Republican party should not carry out any security activity in voting locations where the ethnic and racial composition is a factor to decide to monitor these areas.

    The order expires in 2017 and can be renewed by the Supreme Court.

  • Five Climate Change Questions Chris Wallace Could Ask At The Final Presidential Debate

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Fox News’ Chris Wallace has selected “Debt and entitlements,” “Immigration,” “Economy,” “Supreme Court,” “Foreign hot spots,” and “Fitness to be President” as the topics for the final presidential debate, which he will moderate on October 19. But the fact that neither “the environment” nor “energy” are among the topics would not excuse Wallace if he fails to ask a question about climate change.

    Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing our country and the planet, and it’s far more than strictly an environmental or energy issue. As Christine Todd Whitman, the former Republican Governor of New Jersey who ran the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, has said, climate change “has very serious implications for our country from a national security point of view, from an economic point of view and a health point of view.”

    The nonpartisan Open Debate Coalition recently launched a petition urging Wallace to ask the questions on the coalition’s website that have received the most votes from the public. A question about how the presidential candidates would address climate change currently has the fourth-most votes, trailing only two questions about guns and one about Social Security.

    If Wallace refuses to ask Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump about climate change, it will mark the culmination of a stunning media failure. It would mean that presidential debate moderators failed to address climate change in two consecutive election cycles, after climate questions were asked in two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate in 2008. Even worse, it would mean that Trump avoids fielding a single debate question on climate change during the entire presidential campaign, spanning 14 primary and general election debates over the last 14 months.

    Climate change has far-reaching impacts and ramifications, as Whitman explained, so there are many ways Wallace could weave it into most -- if not all -- of the topics he’s selected. Here are five questions that he could ask:

    Topic: Immigration

    Possible Debate Question: Studies show that climate change worsened the extreme drought in Syria that contributed to the Syrian refugee crisis, and that the effects of climate change on crop yields will drive millions of Mexicans to seek entry into the United States in the coming decades. Will you incorporate climate change into your immigration policies, and if so, how?

    Topic: Economy

    Possible Debate Question: A 2016 survey of 750 top economists found that climate change is now the single greatest threat to the global economy. What will you do to protect our economy from the effects of climate change?

    Topic: Supreme Court

    Possible Debate Question: Following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling and a scientific assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA is legally required to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change under the Clean Air Act. Will you implement the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the EPA’s emissions reduction strategy, and if not, how will your administration fulfill the Supreme Court’s mandate to cut greenhouse gas pollution?

    Topic: Foreign Hot Spots

    Possible Debate Question: The Pentagon has determined that climate change will “aggravate existing problems -- such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions -- that threaten domestic stability in a number of countries.” To what extent do you believe climate-related risks should be integrated into military planning?

    Topic: Fitness To Be President

    Possible Debate Question: The scientific community is nearly unanimous in saying that global warming is happening and caused by burning fossil fuels, yet many politicians refuse to acknowledge this is the case. Will you listen to the scientists on climate change, and do you believe that those who refuse to do so are unfit for our nation’s highest office?

  • Chris Wallace Changed His Stance On Fact-Checking At Debates. Why?

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Chris Wallace

    Fox News host Chris Wallace has said his role is to be “a timekeeper,” not a “truth squad” who fact-checks the candidates when he moderates the final presidential debate of this election on Wednesday. But that statement stands in stark contrast to Wallace’s previous effort to fact-check eventual Republican nominee Donald Trump while serving as a moderator of Fox News’ March Republican primary debate. Wallace even explained after that debate that because Trump frequently repeats the same lies, he had taken steps to ensure he could “fact-check him” “in real time.”

    Shortly after Wallace was announced as the moderator of the final general election debate, Fox News host Howard Kurtz asked Wallace what he planned to do if the nominees “make assertions that you know are untrue.” Wallace replied, “That's not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It's up to the other person to catch them on that.” He later added that such “truth squading” is “a step too far.” He reiterated during an October 16 interview that he believes the proper role of a moderator is to merely act as “a timekeeper,” not “a participant.”

    That stance undeniably helps Trump, who has an unparalleled history of telling lies throughout the campaign. Indeed, Trump praised Wallace’s comments, saying, “I think the candidates should police themselves.”

    Wallace’s assertion contradicts his performance as a co-moderator of the March 3 Fox News Republican primary debate. During one exchange with Trump over the candidate’s economic plan, Wallace repeatedly said that Trump’s “numbers don’t add up,” stated that Trump was incorrect to say that one of his proposals would cut the deficit by “hundreds of billions of dollars,” and explained to the candidate -- and the audience -- that it “doesn’t cut the federal deficit.” Wallace’s exchange with Trump relied on what Washington Post media reporter Callum Borchers called “instant, graphical fact-checks” and “full-screen graphics” that “cast serious doubt over the feasibility of Trump’s [economic] plans.”

    Borchers praised Wallace for producing “a memorable TV moment that will likely have people talking about his fact-checks after the debate.” The Post’s Erik Wemple similarly wrote that the “revolutionary” fact-checking graphics forced Trump to “look at the data” without being able to spin the facts.

    Wallace himself even noted the importance of fact-checking Trump after the March 3 debate. During a March 10 interview on Fox host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show, Wallace described the thinking behind the video fact checks, saying that “the only way you could catch [Trump] is in real time, in effect what the newspapers do the next day or the blogs do hours later, … fact-check him”:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (HOST): You held his feet to the fire there, and it never added up.


    CHRIS WALLACE: Here was the deal -- and I’m glad you liked it, I must say a lot of people did -- when you’re talking to Trump, he throws around a lot of numbers and you know, I thought, it was funny, there is a tremendous amount of planning that goes into these debates and I thought the only way you could catch him is in real time, in effect what the newspapers do the next day or the blogs do hours later, is fact-check him. There were about three or four things I knew he might say, like cut these departments, or we could negotiate a better deal on drugs, so I had these four full screens made up.

    Chris Wallace is still moderating the debate. Donald Trump is still one of the candidates. The only difference between when Wallace thought fact-checking was vital and when he decided it was improper “truth squading” is that Trump’s opponent is no longer a group of Republicans, but Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

    This debate may be the last chance a journalist has to ask questions of Trump before a national audience. But as Wallace’s own comments make clear, without vigorous, “real time” fact-checking, Trump will be able to lie to that audience with impunity.