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  • Report: Trump Supporters Are Trying To Manipulate French Social Media To Artificially Boost The Far-Right

    BuzzFeed News Discovers An “'Agenda … To Get Far Right, Pro-Russian Politicians Elected Worldwide'” Via “'Chaos On Social Media'”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    BuzzFeed News reported on a secretive online campaign, organized in the “private chatrooms [of] Trump supporters,” to “create as much chaos on social media as possible to make right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen and her supporters in the National Front (FN) seem like the most legitimate voice in French politics” ahead of French elections. 

    The manipulation of social media by trolls, shell accounts, and bots has had a significant impact on Western elections in recent years. Elections in the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, and Germany have all been affected by a surge of hyper-partisan social media posts sowing confusion about basic facts to support right-wing candidates. Breitbart News, which also pushes false, misleading, hyper-partisan stories, is undertaking an expansion into France, Germany, and Italy, compounding concerns that the site will promulgate misleading or outright fake news to provide a boost to far-right candidates.

    The January 24 BuzzFeed report investigates “a chatroom called The Great Liberation of France,” an organized hub for “creating fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to manipulate French social media users.” In a Google Doc labeled “‘MEGA GENERAL’ — ‘Make Europe Great Again,’” group members, mainly Trump supporters, “teach fellow right-wing trolls how to make memes that would be believable in their country” and then direct “users to 4chan’s politics message board, 8chan’s The Bureau of Memetic Warfare, and Reddit’s /r/The_Europe” to “post pro-FN memes and jokes about François Fillon,” the front-runner for the French presidency. The “Great Liberation of France” is but one “part of a larger constellation of private rooms” that are working together to, in the words of one anonymous member, “pull the next revolution in France”:

    The large majority of the work being done in “The Great Liberation Of France” is based around creating fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to manipulate French social media users.

    The users in “The Great Liberation Of France” want to create as much chaos on social media as possible to make right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen and her supporters in the National Front (FN) seem like the most legitimate voice in French politics.

    [...]

    The chatroom’s admins have instructed users to make fake Facebook accounts that are “ideally young, cute girl, gay, Jew, basically anyone who isn’t supposed to be pro-[FN].” Users are then instructed to lock down these dummy accounts so no one can tell they’re fake. Once they have their fake Facebook profiles, they’re told to infiltrate the comment sections of large French Facebook pages and post pro-FN memes and jokes about François Fillon, France’s current frontrunner for the presidency.

    [...]

    The group has made it extremely easy for English-speakers to participate, as well. They have a Google Doc labeled “MEGA GENERAL” — “Make Europe Great Again” — that they use for planning out social media campaigns.

    It has instructions for how users can help teach fellow right-wing trolls how to make memes that would be believable in their country. “You have to provide reconnaissance for us. WE DON’T KNOW SHIT about your internet segment,” one section reads.

    [...]

    The document ends by directing users to 4chan’s politics message board, 8chan’s The Bureau of Memetic Warfare, and Reddit’s /r/The_Europe.

    [...]

    The “Great Liberation Of France” Discord group is part of a larger constellation of private rooms and they will share links between each other.

    [...]

    The user who initially invited BuzzFeed News to “The Great Liberation Of France” wished to remain anonymous and said he believes the Discord group is mostly made up of 4chan users.

    “Immediately after the election, this dude coming from a bunch of [IP addresses] posts regular threads on 4chan, inviting people to join his little troll army to pull the next revolution in France,” the anonymous user said. “The chat has been much quieter in weeks, but I suspect that’s because they have moved more to private twitter chats.”

    [...]

    “The shared agenda is to get far right, pro-Russian politicians elected worldwide. It’s not so much a conspiracy as it is a collaboration,” the anonymous user said. “The alt-right sees the US as compromised and Russia as the good guys who will ‘remove kebab’ (kill Muslims).”

    It’s simply that they’re learning from each other and figuring out how to spread their pro-fascist memes.

  • Yosemite Venue Cancels White Nationalist VDare Event Booking After It Learns Of Group’s Views

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The venue for the 2017 public conference for VDare has canceled the white nationalist group’s booking after it “became aware of the nature of” the organization.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) states that the nonprofit VDare Foundation is a white nationalist organization and that its website, VDare.com, “regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites.”

    The website heavily supported President Donald Trump’s campaign, and leader Peter Brimelow donated a small amount of money. Brimelow attended Trump’s inauguration and wrote, in a piece about his experience, that Trump “was the clear choice of the founding stock of the Historic American Nation -- 63 % of white males and 53 % of white women voted for Trump.” The Republican National Convention displayed a tweet from VDare during the convention.

    VDare scheduled its “first-ever public conference” on March 31 through April 2 at Yosemite National Park at Tenaya Lodge. A description for the event states that it will “celebrate our well-earned victory and the hope afforded by the new Trump administration” and “bring together the prophets of our movements.” Speakers at the event include Brimelow, Breitbart columnist and former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and white nationalist leader Jared Taylor, who has argued that “the races are not equal and equivalent.”

    Media Matters criticized the event on January 23 and noted that White House chief strategist and former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon previously praised event speaker Tancredo as “one of the top immigration experts in this country” and said the columns he’s “been doing for Breitbart are just amazing.” SPLC also wrote about the conference and said it “presents a noticeable shift away from the organization’s strategy of using the Internet to propagate racism toward one of real-world activism -- a shift echoed by other white nationalist groups like Richard Spencer's National Policy Institute and fueled by a sentiment widespread on the far-right that President Trump’s election offered a legitimizing win for white nationalism.”

    After the publication, a spokesman for Tenaya Lodge contacted Media Matters on January 24 and said in a statement that the venue took “steps to immediately cancel this booking” when it “became aware of the nature of VDare Foundation. … Unfortunately, at the time of booking we did not realize this group has values that are in conflict with our embracement of diversity among our employees and guests, including people of different cultures, lifestyles, creeds, nationalities, races and ages.” From a statement by a spokesman for Tenaya Lodge:

    Tenaya Lodge today became aware of the nature of VDare Foundation, an organization that several weeks ago booked meeting space and rooms from March 31 to April 2.

    Unfortunately, at the time of booking we did not realize this group has values that are in conflict with our embracement of diversity among our employees and guests, including people of different cultures, lifestyles, creeds, nationalities, races and ages. We are also concerned that providing meeting space and rooms to this group could be disruptive to our other guests’ enjoyment of Tenaya Lodge and the services we provide to those guests.

    In response, we’ve taken steps to immediately cancel this booking. We regret the mistake and want to assure our employees and guests that in no way does Tenaya Lodge endorse this group.

  • Trump Embraces Weird Conservative Media Habit Of Fabricating Crowd Sizes

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    When President Trump claimed that as many as 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, and when Trump’s press secretary categorically announced that Trump’s swearing-in had been the most-watched "both in person and around the globe," the new Republican administration set off a firestorm -- not only about the crowd estimate, but about “alternative facts” and truth-telling.

    That Trump and his communications team would begin his presidency with such an easily debunked falsehood about the size of the inauguration crowd stunned plenty of Beltway observers. Even days later, the topic was still gnawing at Trump, as he reportedly bragged to congressional leaders yesterday about how enormous his inauguration crowd was.

    But in truth, the pattern of lying about how many people assemble en masse to support conservative causes enjoys a long history within the right-wing media; a history Trump has revived. (Note that lots of pro-Trump propaganda outlets gladly propped up the inauguration crowd lie.)

    Most famously, when former Fox News host Glenn Beck sponsored an anti-Obama rally in September 2009, the conservative media was awash in wild, unfounded claims about how massive the protest crowd was. Blogger Michelle Malkin even announced two million people had assembled. (That would be a bigger crowd than Obama’s 2009 inauguration.)

    According to one aerial estimate that day, Makin’s quote of two million was only off by about 1.9 million.

    More recently during the presidential campaign, conservative outlets routinely propped up Trump’s phony claims about crowd size. Breitbart even got caught publishing a photo from a CNN.com news report about a massive gathering of Cleveland Cavs fans celebrating their home team’s NBA championship, and then presented the image as being from a Trump rally in Florida.

    It’s one thing for dishonest bloggers to make up crowd size estimates for political purposes. It’s obviously quite another when the White House takes that tact and turns it into official government policy.

    What’s so strange about the obsession over crowd size is that conservatives often make fantastic, unbelievable claims about crowds that are already respectably large.

    Nothing made that point more clearly than the Beck-sponsored march in 2009, the so-called 9/12 Project rally. Riding the wave of the burgeoning Tea Party movement, conservatives wanted to send a message that American was suffering from Obama buyer’s remorse and that all the good will he had earned the previous year was gone because Americans were appalled by his agenda.

    Tens of thousands of activists showed up. But all day long, conservatives online insisted (or fantasized) that the anti-Obama crowd had swelled to astonishing, historic, unimaginable proportions. In a weird game of telephone tag, a Tea Party activist first claimed ABC News had reported the 9/12 crowd was 1.5 million strong, even though ABC did no such thing. Another activist then tweeted that ABC was reporting the crowd at 2 million. (False.) Malkin then embraced the baseless 2 million figure to spread it.

    From there, the phony figure ricocheted around the right-wing blogosphere.

    Also that day, conservatives bloggers passed around a photo that supposedly proved the march was one-million strong. But the photograph was actually from a rally that took place 12 years earlier. Even after the 9/12 rally, Beck still claimed his rally had attracted nearly 2 million anti-Obama activists.

    Two months later, Fox News’ Sean Hannity had to apologize after Comedy Central caught him using footage from the 9/12 rally to tell the story about a much less-well attended D.C. rally, the Super Bowl of Freedom. “The effect was that the latter event seemed like a much bigger deal than it was,” Mediaite noted.

    Fast forward to the Trump campaign and the Republican candidate seemed to take the bogus crowd size strategy right off the shelf and put it in play, while supportive conservative media outlets pitched in. “Trump has routinely exaggerated the already large numbers” at his rallies, noted the Washington Post.

    Back in July 2015, Trump tweeted out that 12-15,000 people had attended his rally in Phoenix, even though the local police put the number closer to 4,000. Nonetheless, the phony 15,000 figure was embraced by media outlets friendly to Trump. Not to be outdone, right-wing blogger Gateway Pundit upped the ante: “20,000 PATRIOTS TURNED OUT TO SEE DONALD TRUMP IN ARIZONA!!”

    That’s five times what the local police estimated the actual crowd to be.  

    On the surface, Trump’s weird post-inauguration obsession with puffing up the numbers of his celebration might seem like a baffling, insecure tick. It is -- he's just advertising that insecurity via an established right-wing media tactic.

  • Rape-Promoting White Nationalist Mike Cernovich Announces New Show On Right Side Broadcasting Network

    Cernovich: “If You Love Black Women, Slut Shame Them” To Keep Them From Getting AIDS

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    White nationalist Mike Cernovich announced that he will host a new show on Right Side Broadcasting Network, an outlet dubbed the “unofficial Trump TV” network which has made a name for itself by live-streaming Donald Trump’s campaign events during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Cernovich announced in a January 23 tweet that he was “pleased to announce The Right Mindset will launch” on Right Side Broadcasting Network, and linked a Right Side Broadcasting’s YouTube stream. According to Right Side Broadcasting’s Youtube page, Cernovich’s program “will air February 1st,” and will feature “call-in’s and discussion of national/world topics.”

    Right Side Broadcasting Network has been labeled the “Unofficial Trump TV” network by the Washington Post, which also noted Trump’s presidential campaign had previously “teamed up with Right Side to produce pre- and post-debate analysis shows that streamed on Trump’s Facebook page.” The hiring of Mike Cernovich indicates the network continues to find value in hiring proud racists, following RSBN’s hiring of racist YouTube personality Joey Saladino.

    Cernovich’s ties to white nationalism and the “alt-right” have been repeatedly documented on Twitter and in the media. In 2015 he explained, “I went from libertarian to alt-right after realizing tolerance only went one way and diversity is code for white genocide.” Additionally, in a series of now-deleted tweets, Cernovich declared, “white genocide is real,” and “white genocide will sweep up the SJWs.”

    Cernovich also traffics in sexist rhetoric, and has stated “date rape does not exist,” “misogyny gets you laid,” and declared “If you love black women, slut shame them” to keep them from getting AIDS.

    When Cernovich is not peddling white supremacy, or denying the existence of date rape, he promotes unfounded conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate,” a fabricated story about child trafficking that led to death threats for employees of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, and convinced accused shooter Edgar Welch to enter Comet Ping Pong with a rifle to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory.

  • The White House Press Secretary Pivots From Attacking The Press To Gaslighting Them

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    On Saturday night, White House press secretary Sean Spicer unleashed a brutal thrashing of the press, repeatedly lying about the size of the crowd that attended President Trump’s January 20 inaugural festivities. His bizarre, reality-defying statement was widely disparaged by journalists across much of the political spectrum.

    Today, in the first official White House press briefing of the Trump administration, Spicer instead offered a gentler gaslighting. The effect was just as insidious -- he manipulated the press and tried to delegitimize criticism with falsehoods. But the method -- without Saturday’s yelling and direct attacks on the media -- went down much easier with his targets.

    Some journalists and pundits rushed to praise his effort and suggest it represented a “reboot” of the Trump administration's relationship with the media:

    In fact, Spicer peppered his press briefing with a series of comments that implicitly urged reporters and the public to defy their own memories of past events and set the stage for a new reality in which facts are malleable. Here are four such cases.

    “Sometimes We Can Disagree With The Facts”

    Roughly 20 minutes into the question and answer period, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl raised the issue of Saturday’s press statement, asking Spicer, “Is it your intention to always tell the truth from that podium, and will you pledge never to knowingly say something that is nonfactual?” Spicer responded, “It is” -- then went on to say that “sometimes we can disagree with the facts.” He explained that he might occasionally pass on information that is incomplete, but his “intention is never to lie to you,” adding that he would “tell you the facts as I know them, and if we make a mistake, I’ll do our best to correct it.”

    Spicer went on to call this a “two-way street,” comparing administration falsehoods to the media making mistakes and saying that it wouldn’t be appropriate in those cases to say the press was “intentionally lying.”

    Spicer’s remarks demand that reporters forget that he had, reading from a written statement, accused the press of deliberately lying on Saturday night. He said photographs of the inaugural proceedings had been “intentionally framed” to “minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.”

    The latest comments also demand that reporters forget that President Trump, in a speech at CIA headquarters that day, also accused the press of deliberately lying. He called them “among the most dishonest human beings on Earth,” and accused them of deliberately undercounting the inaugural turnout, saying, “We caught them, and we caught them in a beauty. And I think they're going to pay a big price.” Again, this happened two days ago.

    Believing Spicer’s too-cute claim that he just happened to err, the way that journalists sometimes makes mistakes, also requires reporters to ignore the vast array of false statements that Spicer crammed into his brief statement Saturday, all of which, curiously, happened to aid his premise that the press had been lying and the Trump inauguration had a record turnout.

    "For Too Long It's Been About Stats"

    That’s a reporter spending three minutes trying to pin Spicer down on which unemployment statistic the administration considers official -- and thus on which it should be judged. Spicer refuses to provide a straight answer, saying that “for too long it’s been about stats, ... about what number we are looking at, as opposed to what face we are looking at.”

    Trump spent more than a year on the campaign trail using a variety of statistics to falsely claim that up to 42 percent of American people were unemployed. That stat was widely denounced for including all people “not in the workforce,” including retirees and stay-at-home parents. Spicer would like reporters to forget about that -- and create a reality in which unemployment statistics are irrelevant, and thus Trump cannot be held accountable for them.

    “I Don’t Know How You Can Interpret It Differently”

    You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me with this:

    REPORTER: So are you retracting your claim on Saturday that it was the largest crowd “in person” for an inauguration?

    SPICER: That’s not what I said.

    REPORTER: Well you said, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.”

    SPICER: Right.

    REPORTER: Both in person –

    SPICER: To witness – and around the globe. Yes, in total audience it was.

    REPORTER: In total audience but not simply in person.

    SPICER: But that – right, but again, I didn’t say in person, both in person and around the globe. To witness it.

    REPORTER: You’re saying those together?

    SPICER: No, that’s actually what I said. It’s not – I don’t know how you can interpret it differently, that’s literally what I said. To witness it in person and around the globe. Total audience, yes.

    Literally everyone interpreted it differently because that’s what that collection of words -- words written ahead of time to be delivered publicly, not comments off the cuff -- actually mean when they are placed next to each other.

    “This Rift That So-Called Exists”

    Asked why Trump had chosen the CIA headquarters as the venue for a speech to discuss his crowd size, Spicer claimed that Trump “kept hearing about this rift that existed” with the CIA and wanted to go before their staff to tell them that “what you are hearing on television or in reports about this rift are” are incorrect. He added that Trump’s message to the CIA was, “You see and hear all this stuff on TV about this rift that so-called exists,” but “it doesn't matter.” According to Spicer, Trump also wanted the CIA to hear “how much he respects them -- how much he wanted to dispel the myth that there was a quote-unquote ‘rift.’”

    Where did the “myth” come from and why are there so many “reports” on it? As dictated by Spicer, it came out of nowhere, the result of the media. Trump himself attributed it to his “running war with the media,” composed of “the most dishonest human beings on earth,” who “sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.”

    Here’s why journalists reported on the “rift that so-called exists”:

    After Spicer’s briefing today, Media Matters president Angelo Carusone broke down the impact of the last three days:

  • Newt Gingrich’s White House Press Briefing Plan: Ban Questions From Adversarial Journalists, Have A Live Audience

    Proposal Would Send Journalists Back To The Campaign Press Pen

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Newt Gingrich has a new proposal for the Trump administration’s efforts to delegitimize and weaken critical journalists: turn White House press briefings into a “town hall” format where presumably hand-picked citizens would join the “total left-wing propagandists” in the press corps, while banning the most critical reporters from asking questions.

    Gingrich, a former speaker of the House, Fox News contributor, and sometime adviser to President Donald Trump, has urged the new administration to use the power of the White House to shatter the credibility and influence of the press. He previously said the administration should respond to critical coverage from CNN by blackballing a reporter for months and including more “courteous,” less “adversarial” journalists from local outlets, in addition to “propaganda organizations” like CNN and The New York Times.

    During a January 23 interview on Fox & Friends, Gingrich suggested moving the briefings to a “larger auditorium” in order to allow “one-fourth or one-half of the people at the press conference to be citizens.” “Are you suggesting that it’s kind of like a town hall with some journalists in it?” responded co-host Steve Doocy. “Sure,” Gingrich replied.

    Gingrich also discussed the plan during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, where he asked, “Why pretend that your mortal enemies are the people who ought to ask you questions?” He added, “If you took the people who sit in the front two rows” at the press briefing and reviewed their Trump commentary, “you’d ask yourself why would any rational person allow these people to ask questions. You don’t have an obligation to be a masochist.”

    Presenting his briefing before a studio audience would allow White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to adopt the anti-press strategies Trump deployed on the campaign trail. The crowd could jeer critical questions from journalists and cheer Spicer’s attacks on the media.

    He would also have the option of taking presumably easier questions not only from sycophantic pro-Trump outlets, but from Trump supporters in the audience.

    This seems like an absurd plan. But it is entirely consistent with the Trump administration’s view of the press. It doesn’t see journalists as a valuable part of the democratic process, or even as a necessary evil. Instead, they are “hate objects,” an enemy to be crushed, publicly, for the enjoyment of their supporters.

    Trump’s fans don’t care if reporters can get their questions answered at press briefings. The right-wing media has primed them for decades to see the media as unacceptably liberal and dishonest. But to watch the White House press secretary -- or the president -- grind adversarial reporters into the dirt to the crowd’s applause? That is the WWE-style entertainment for which they yearn.

    Gingrich’s call for the White House to refuse to answer questions from critical reporters echoed Trump ally Sean Hannity’s post-election claim that "until members of the media come clean about colluding with the Clinton campaign and admit that they knowingly broke every ethical standard they are supposed to uphold, they should not have the privilege, they should not have the responsibility of covering the president on behalf of you, the American people."

    Gingrich presented his plan as retaliation for Time magazine reporter Zeke Miller falsely reporting via Twitter that the Martin Luther King Jr. bust had been removed from the Oval Office when Trump replaced Obama. Miller corrected his report, offered an apology to his colleagues, and deleted the tweet within an hour after learning that the bust had been “obscured by an agent and door.”

    Spicer criticized Miller’s report during a January 21 statement, and White House aide Kellyanne Conway renewed that criticism during a January 22 appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press.

    Asked about her interview with Chuck Todd, Gingrich commented, “We’ve got to start talking about mainstream propaganda. They're not news stories. They're not news outlets. Chuck’s not a newsman. All these people are propagandists for the left.” He went on to say that Miller’s report had been “a big deal because it was part of an underlying effort to say that Trump is a racist at a time when America has substantial racial tension. It was exactly false and exactly divisive.”

    Gingrich’s sudden concern with the “racial tension” stoked by criticism of the president is shocking coming from the man who accused President Obama of having a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview and called him the “food stamp president.”

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

  • UPDATED: Breitbart Columnist Tom Tancredo To Speak At White Nationalist Conference

    White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon Praised Tancredo As “One Of The Top Immigration Experts In This Country”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    UPDATE (1/24/17): The venue for the 2017 public conference for VDare has canceled the white nationalist group’s booking after it “became aware of the nature of” the organization. Read more here.

    Bretibart.com columnist Tom Tancredo will speak at an upcoming conference for the anti-immigrant white nationalist group VDare. Tancredo is a former Republican congressman from Colorado who has a long history of pushing white nationalist and anti-immigrant views -- much like the pro-Trump propaganda website he writes for.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center states that VDare.com is a white nationalist website that “regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites.”

    VDare heavily supported President Donald Trump’s campaign, and leader Peter Brimelow donated a small amount of money to Trump’s campaign. Brimelow attended Trump’s inauguration and wrote in a piece about his experience that Trump “was the clear choice of the founding stock of the Historic American Nation -- 63 % of white males and 53 % of white women voted for Trump.” The Republican National Convention displayed a tweet from VDare during the convention.

    VDare is currently selling tickets to its 2017 conference at Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite National Park. Tancredo is scheduled to speak alongside Brimelow and white nationalist leader Jared Taylor, who has argued that “the races are not equal and equivalent.” Taylor also attended Trump’s inauguration and wrote that he sat in “the VIP section” thanks to fellow attendee and white nationalist radio James Edwards' "media connections."* 

    Tancredo is a Breitbart.com columnist and a favorite immigration "expert" for White House chief strategist and senior adviser Stephen Bannon, who previously led the site. During a June 26 appearance on the Breitbart News Sunday radio program, Bannon introduced Tancredo by saying he’s “one of the top immigration experts in this country” and that the columns he’s “been doing for Breitbart are just amazing.”

    Tancredo’s Breitbart columns demonize immigrants as dangerous and disloyal invaders. His columns carry headlines such as “Mexico Is Sending Us Colonists, Not Immigrants,” “European Colonization, Not Refugee Resettlement,” and “From Jenner to D.C., Multiculturalism Virus Is Destroying the U.S.” He warned last January that “Muslim rape culture … could be coming to a town near you all too soon” because of immigration.  

    Tancredo has a long history of making anti-immigrant and racist statements. He once suggested that the United States bomb Mecca, criticized Miami, FL, for purportedly becoming “a Third World country” because so many people speak Spanish there, and proposed a “civics literacy test” for voting.

    *Inauguration sentence updated for clarity. 

  • NY Times Remains Embroiled In Controversy Over Its 2016 Coverage Of Russia And Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Nearly three months after The New York Times published an influential report on the eve of Election Day insisting “law enforcement officials” had been unable to find concrete links between Russia and the Trump campaign – or find proof Russian operatives were trying to help get Trump elected -- Times editors are still grappling with the controversial coverage. They also remain slow to provide answers to critics who wonder how an article essentially clearing Trump and his associates of links to Russia -- which “hasn’t aged well,” as Chris Hayes put it -- made it into print during such a crucial juncture of the campaign.

    New questions have also been raised about the Times’ decision late in the campaign to sit on the story that Russian officials may have compromising information on Trump; information that was contained in a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence official.

    Times executive editor Dean Baquet remains defiant and is lashing out at critics; even one who writes for the Times.

    As for Russia allegedly trying to help elect Trump, Media Matters recently highlighted the Times’ October 31 article, which was headlined, “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”

    We noted that an avalanche of revelations have since confirmed the FBI did suspect there were ties between Russia and Trump during the campaign. And when it was published, it was gleefully endorsed by the conservative media as proof that any speculation of there being Russia-Trump connection had been debunked by Times.

    In real time, coming on the eve of the election, the article helped put the media brakes on the unfolding Russian hacking story; the same Russian hacking story that has since turned into a full-time Trump controversy.

    Last Friday, Times public editor Liz Spayd addressed the Times’ Russia-Trump coverage from last fall. Overall, she critiqued the paper’s work as being “timid,” and too often relying on the actions of law enforcement officials, rather than by the paper’s own investigative reporting.

    She was specifically critical of the paper’s handling of the explosive Trump dossier story, noting, “Only after learning from CNN that Trump and President Obama had been briefed on the document did The Times publish what it had known for months.”

    What had the Times known for months? Spayd spells out that Times reporters knew about the dossier, they interviewed its author, knew he was a legitimate former intelligence officer, and could find no “significant red flags” while trying to fact-check the dossier. Despite all that, the Times sat on the dossier story.

    Spayd suggests that part of the reason they didn’t run with the “explosive allegations” was that journalists didn’t think Trump was going to win the election, so the paper didn’t want to risk sparking a controversy by reporting on the dossier.

    Spayd’s appraisal echoes criticism she made last November, just days before the election, when she stressed the Times newsroom hadn’t given enough time and attention to the Russia hacking story. Times readers, she wrote, had been “shortchanged.” (By contrast, she noted the Times newsroom seemed “turbocharged” while covering the Hillary Clinton email saga.)

    The public editor’s most recent critique immediately sparked outcry from within the Times, leading to the odd spectacle of executive editor Baquet airing his complaints about Spayd’s column to the Washington Post. Denouncing Spayd’s critique as a “bad column” that reached a “fairly ridiculous conclusion” (“she doesn’t understand what happened”), Baquet vigorously defended the paper’s election season work on the Russia-Trump story, and stressed that he personally oversaw much of it.

    If that’s the case, Baquet should be able to answer some key, lingering questions about the Times’ misguided October 31 story about there being no evidence of Russia trying to help elect Trump during the campaign:

    • Does Baquet know who the unnamed “law enforcement” sources were who mislead the newspaper about the FBI not being to uncover any evidence of any Russia-Trump link?
    • If those sources lied to the Times, and especially if they did so for partisan reasons, does Baquet agree that the paper is under no obligation to protect their identity?
    • And were those sources part of an anti-Clinton cabal within the FBI, and specifically within the FBI’s New York bureau?
    • Are Times reporters today still using those untrustworthy sources?

    Banquet’s continued defensive posture is reminiscent of the strategy Times editors took in the wake of the Iraq War in 2003 when it became increasingly clear that the paper’s pre-war coverage had failed badly, especially its over-eagerness to help the Bush administration sell a story about the looming threat of Iraq WMDs. For a year, Times editors defended the paper’s performance.

    It wasn’t until May 26, 2004, that the Times published a mea culpa of sorts. (Days later, the paper’s public editor offered up a scathing critique of the newsroom’s effort during the run-up to the war.)

    Today, Banquet is taking the same approach regarding the Times and the Russian hacking story: The newspaper did nothing wrong and all questions ought to be dismissed.

    But they’re not. From Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior advisor to President Obama:

    Public editor Spayd made a good-faith effort to put the Times’ 2016 Russia-Times hacking coverage into perspective and to offer up an honest appraisal. It would be helpful if the Times leadership did the same.

  • NRATV Co-Host: Time To Scrub "Obama's Mocacchino Stain" Off America 

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Just two days after President Trump’s inauguration, Chuck Holton, co-host of NRATV’s Frontlines, wrote on Twitter that the “party’s over” and it's time to scrub “Obama’s mocacchino stain off of America!”

    “Mocacchino” is a term for a chocolate coffee drink -- and, in this case, an apparent reference to the former president’s race.

    Launched by the National Rifle Association in late October 2016 with the mission of providing “the most comprehensive video coverage of Second Amendment issues, events and culture anywhere in the world,” NRATV has largely served as a pro-Trump propaganda outlet.

    As part of NRATV’s programming schedule, Holton co-hosts the military-themed show Frontlines alongside Fox News contributor Oliver North.

    Holton has a history of making racially insensitive and sexist commentary. In a 2015 column for the NRA magazine America’s 1st Freedom, Holton attacked a State Department spokeswoman as "spokesperson barbie (sic)," and described her as one of various "clueless, poorly accessorized mouthpieces." During an August 2016 appearance on the NRA radio program Cam & Company, Holton referred to “white privilege” as “simply the culture that we have created, that our fathers and grandfathers have work hard to create” while lobbing numerous attacks against the black community.

    The January 22 tweet was also not Holton’s first inflammatory attack on Obama. On November 16, the NRATV co-host responded to a picture on Twitter of Obama and Trump shaking hands by calling the then-president a “pussy.” 

  • Fox News Under Fire For Undercovering The Women's March

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox News is receiving criticism for its minimal coverage of the historic Women’s March on Washington and dozens of sister marches worldwide that brought together millions of people to stand up for human rights under the Donald Trump administration.

    The New York Times reported that the Women’s March on Washington alone had “at least 470,000” attendees. Washington Post transportation reporter Faiz Siddiqui tweeted that January 21 was the “second-busiest day in metro history” for Washington D.C.’s public transportation system, with over one million trips taken. Across the country, one compilation of march attendance estimated participation of between 3.3 and 4.2 million people in various women’s marches, making it one of the largest manifestations of political activism in U.S. history:

    Despite the historic nature of the event, however, Fox News dipped in and out of their coverage of the march while CNN and MSNBC covered it almost non-stop throughout the day. The Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara reported that minimal coverage on Fox compared to MSNBC and CNN  “firmly reinstated” the “historical divide between Fox News and its compatriots.” McNamara continued that though Fox correspondent Jennifer Griffin “reported from the scene … it was a far cry from minute-by-minute analysis of a huge news event,” while also adding that Fox figures “questioned whether the crowd estimates were accurate” or whether liberals “refuse to accept reality.”

    PolitiFact compared closed captioning transcripts of the three networks for terms “women,” “march,” and “Women’s March” and found large disparities between Fox and the other two cable news networks.

    The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck pointed to CNN and MSNBC’s “daylong coverage of the protests” before stating that “the massive anti-Donald Trump demonstrations around the world may well be the start of a new political revolution, though you'd never know it if you were tuned into Fox News.” Scheck added that “Fox pretended that nothing special was going on” and that when the network did report on the march, “it was often in a smug, dismissive tone.”

    On January 22, the day following the march, Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz offered a tepid admission his network had not given enough coverage to the marches, saying on his show MediaBuzz that “perhaps” Fox News “undercovered it.” Kurtz also suggested that a CNN headline about the marches sending a “message to Trump” was “overplaying what happened”:

    HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): Yesterday CNN and MSNBC offered virtually nonstop coverage of a huge Women's March here in the nation's capital and in other major cities across the country. We're back with the panel. So while CNN and MSNBC were wall-to-wall, Fox kind of dipped in and out, perhaps undercovered it. I'd be interested to hear your view on that. CNN headline: "Women's marches across the U.S. send message to Trump." Was that overplaying what happened? Was there a clear message?

    JOE TRIPPI (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): I don't think it was overplaying it yesterday. I mean yesterday was pretty big. It was pretty big news. I think you can get into did they overcover and did Fox under, and probably both of those arguments are correct in my view. We should have probably done more.

    Other critics of Fox’s coverage took to Twitter to point out the disparities between Fox, CNN, and MSNBC: