• Breitbart News To Hire Curt Schilling Days After He Was Criticized By The Head Of The Anti-Defamation League

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The “alt-right” website Breitbart News is reportedly set to announce that they have hired former ESPN analyst Curt Schilling to host a conservative talk radio show. Schilling was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League on Friday for “positioning Israel as a partisan issue” after he pushed the anti-Semitic trope that American Jewish people should all support Republicans because that party is supposedly more supportive of Israel.

    New York magazine reported Sunday that Schilling, a Donald Trump supporter and former MLB pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Boston Red Sox, “will begin hosting a daily online radio show featuring political commentary and calls from listeners” for Breitbart News. New York quoted Breitbart News editor in chief Alex Marlow explaining, “He got kicked off ESPN for his conservative views. He’s a really talented broadcaster.”

    In fact, Schilling was fired from ESPN after he shared an anti-transgender image on Facebook; he had previously been suspended for comparing Muslims to Nazis on Twitter. In other social media postings, Schilling has repeatedly demonized Muslims as killers, shared a picture calling Hillary Clinton a drunk murderer, and suggested civil rights leaders like Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) aren't patriotic.

    The announcement that Schilling will join Breitbart News comes just days after the retired pitcher, failed businessman, and would-be Senate candidate drew criticism for asking CNN anchor Jake Tapper “as a person who is practicing the Jewish faith” how he explains “how people of Jewish faith can back the Democratic Party” given that the party has supposedly been “so clearly anti-Jewish Israel.” Tapper responded that while he doesn’t “speak for Jews,” he believes that Jewish Americans prioritize what they see as the interests of their own country over those of Israel.

    After I posted video of the exchange on Twitter, ADL National Director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt responded, “I liked Curt Schilling more when he was winning World Series for my #RedSox rather than positioning #Israel as a partisan issue.”



    The Democratic Party is not anti-Israel; the 2016 party platform states that “a strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism.” Moreover, the notion that Jewish people prioritize the state of Israel and Jews collectively over the countries in which they reside is a classic anti-Semitic trope.

    Breitbart News has been repeatedly criticized for publishing anti-Semitic discourse. Stephen Bannon, who has taken a leave of absence as chairman of the outlet to serve as CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign, has played a leading role in mainstreaming the anti-Semitic “alt-right” movement.

  • Media Matters’ Angelo Carusone Explains How Donald Trump Consumes Conspiracy Theories “Directly” From Alex Jones

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters executive vice president Angelo Carusone explained how conspiracy theories travel “directly” from Trump ally Alex Jones’ radio show to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in an interview with the Austin American-Statesman.

    Jones, the host of the nationally radio program The Alex Jones Show, is a self-identified founder of the 9/11 Truth movement and promotes numerous conspiracy theories, including claiming that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and other national tragedies were events staged by the government.

    Despite this background, Trump has appeared on Jones’ program and praised his “amazing” reputation. Jones has taken credit for policy positions advanced by Trump and has marveled at how “it is surreal to talk about issues here on air and then word-for-word hear Trump say it two days later.”

    Conspiracy theories and attacks that have jumped from Jones’ show to the Trump campaign include claims that election will be rigged, calls for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to be jailed, conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health, and the claim Clinton used an earpiece during a debate.

    A profile of Jones in the Austin American-Statesman explained how many conspiracy theories prevalent in the 2016 election make their way from Jones to the Trump campaign. Describing the phenomenon, Carusone told the American-Statesman that there used to be “two, three, four, five steps” between Jones and Trump, but in part because of the promotion of Jones by conservative website The Drudge Report, “It’s not working its way up the food chain any more. Donald Trump is consuming it directly.”

    From the American-Statesman’s October 21 article:

    But, as the 2016 campaign draws to a close, it’s becoming plain that Austin’s Alex Jones -- a right-wing broadcast personality and conspiracy theorist extraordinaire who until recently flew under the mainstream radar -- might as well be the voice in Donald Trump’s head.


    Hillary for Prison. That’s Alex Jones. Obama founded ISIS. That’s Jones. The election is rigged. Again from Jones. Hillary Clinton is at death’s doorstep. Jones. And only drugs keep her going. Jones. Bill Clinton as rapist and Hillary his enabling enforcer. Jones.


    [Trump adviser Roger] Stone saw how ripe Jones’ anti-globalist audience was for Trump’s nationalist appeal.

    “The majority of them are under 50, and they are all engaged. They are part of this digital sharing economy. They are willing to get out on the streets and do stuff,” said Angelo Carusone, executive vice president of Media Matters for America, a not-for-profit progressive media watchdog group.


    What few saw coming was a Republican presidential candidate with a weakness for conspiratorial thinking who prized the reporting of the National Enquirer and had his news consumption curated by Matt Drudge, who in the last five years switched his allegiance for political news of the weird from Glenn Beck to Jones.

    “Drudge gave Jones a whole new audience and access to a whole new group of thought leaders, like Donald Trump,” Carusone said.

    It used to be that there were “two, three, four, five steps” between Jones spinning a conspiracy theory and it gaining broader traction. But now, Carusone said, “It’s not working its way up the food chain any more. Donald Trump is consuming it directly.”

  • Fox’s Brit Hume Attacks Latest Trump Accuser’s Claim Because She “Has Sex On Camera For” Money

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume attacked the latest woman to accuse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, writing on Twitter, “Woman who has sex on camera for $ says Trump propositioned her. ‘This is not acceptable behavior.’ Please.”

    During an October 22 press conference Jessica Drake, who directs and performs in adult films, accused Trump of “inappropriate sexual contact” at a charity golf tournament where she alleges he kissed and touched her without her permission. Drake also says that Trump also propositioned her with a $10,000 offer, which she declined. “This is not acceptable behavior for anyone -- much less a presidential candidate,” she told the press.

    Hume responded to Drake’s allegations by suggesting that Drake could not be offended by Trump’s alleged proposition because of her line of work.

    From Hume’s Twitter account:



    Hume previously cast doubt on the claim of a woman who told The New York Times that Trump groped her by after lifting the armrest between her and Trump while the two were on an airplane flight during the early 1980s. Hume said on Fox News’ On the Record, “The kinds of armrests that I'm accustomed to seeing in those airplanes don't mysteriously disappear. … So it could be that the Trump camp has a point about the impracticability of such an assault.”

    Hume also sought to diminish the credibility of former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson after she sued former Fox News CEO and chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment in July. Commenting on the fact that Carlson filed her suit after her Fox News contract was not extended, Hume wrote on Twitter, “Here's another suggestion. Why didn't she quit & sue instead of suing only after she got fired?”

    Fox News later paid Carlson $20 million to settle her claims and released a statement that read, in part, “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”

  • BuzzFeed: Supposedly “Apolitical” Media Group Tried To Place Right-Wing Stories In Black Newspapers Before Election

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    BuzzFeed reports that the American Media Institute (AMI) “proposed an 11th-hour effort to place news articles critical of Hillary Clinton and other Democrats in black newspapers in the runup to the November election.”

    AMI bills itself as an “independent source of exclusive in-depth investigative journalism,” but the non-profit is largely funded by right-wing donors and is headed by Richard Miniter, a conservative author and journalist with a long history at right-wing publications. 

    In recent months AMI has placed “investigations” with a right-wing tilt in mainstream outlets including Fusion, Politico Magazine, and U.S. News & World Report. AMI’s 2014 tax filings indicate that it is largely funded through Donors Trust, a right-wing group that has been called “the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement.”

    Buzzfeed reported that AMI “approached Republican donors to finance” articles attacking Clinton to be distributed through AMI’s Urban News Service. A source told Buzzfeed that the plan “looks like voter suppression” intended to decrease Democratic turnout:

    A right-leaning nonprofit has proposed an 11th-hour effort to place news articles critical of HIllary (sic) Clinton and other Democrats in black newspapers in the runup to the November election, BuzzFeed News has learned.

    The American Media Institute has approached Republican donors to finance the articles, three sources said. They were to run in a nominally apolitical black wire service that serves the black press, the sources said.

    One source shared details of the plan with BuzzFeed News out of concern that the proposal “looks like voter suppression,” the source said. The group’s founder, Richard Miniter, adamantly denied that charge. It is also unclear whether any donors have committed to financing the project in the election’s final weeks.

    Miniter, a former Washington Times editorial page editor who is CEO and founder of the American Media Institute, has told associates that the that the stories would be distributed by the nonprofit’s Urban News Service, adding that the articles would include attacks on Obamacare and on the Clintons’ failures regarding people of color.

    Miniter’s pitch, according to a source closely familiar with its details, centers on the prospect of reaching black voters through news articles, rather than obvious opinion pieces or advertisements.

  • Breitbart News Claims Paul Ryan Wants To Elect Clinton And Shares Her “Globalist Worldview”

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Breitbart News accused House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) of conducting a “months-long campaign” to elect Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The attack echoes Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and escalates the website’s war on Ryan, which had been pushed by Breitbart chief executive and current Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon.

    The October 21 Breitbart News article, written by Julia Hahn, is headlined “He’s With Her: Inside Paul Ryan’s Months-Long Campaign To Elect Hillary Clinton President.” Hahn wrote, "Both Ryan and Clinton share a progressive, globalist worldview, which is at odds with Trump’s ‘America first’ approach,” adding that Clinton and Ryan “see themselves as representatives not only for American citizens, but also for foreign nationals and foreign interests.” She later states that “Both Clinton and Ryan view being American as an intellectual ‘idea’ rather than a national identity, and both support the donor-class’s agenda of open borders.”

    The article ramps up Breitbart’s years-long campaign against Ryan, which was pushed by Bannon. The website in particular boosted the unsuccessful campaign of Ryan’s opponent in the Republican primary earlier this year, calling Ryan a “double agent,” claiming he supports an “open borders agenda,” accusing him of running “misleading television ads,” and describing him as a “saboteur” who is “betray[ing] America.”

    Breitbart staffers have also said that Bannon directed them to “destroy” Ryan, telling them in December 2015 that the “long game” was for Ryan to be “gone” by spring of the following year. One Breitbart staffer told The Hill that Bannon “thinks Paul Ryan is part of a conspiracy with [billionaires] George Soros and Paul Singer, in which elitists want to bring one world government.”

    Bannon’s conflict with Ryan has continued through Trump’s campaign (Bannon has taken a leave of absence from Breitbart to help lead the campaign). Ryan recently irritated Trump by disinviting him from a campaign event after a video of Trump bragging about assaulting women was released, and then Ryan announced he would no longer defend Trump and would focus on preserving the Republican majority in the House. In response, Trump has called Ryan a “very weak and ineffective leader” who is giving him “zero support.” The Breitbart article also is similar to Trump’s expressed doubt that Ryan wants him to win. After ABC News asked Trump whether he thought Ryan was rooting for him to win, he responded, “Well, maybe not, because maybe he wants to run in four years or maybe he doesn’t know how to win.”

    Breitbart’s article may also be a preview of what’s to come. According to The Hill’s Jonathan Swan, Bannon is “only going to escalate” the conflict with Ryan, who may seek reelection to the speakership in January, regardless of the 2016 election results.

  • Daily Caller Rewrites Woman’s Personal Story About Late-Term Abortion To Demonize Her

    Using Stigmatizing Right-Wing Media Misinformation, The Daily Caller Lashes Out Over  A Woman’s Personal Narrative About Receiving Necessary Medical Care

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s inaccurate attacks on late-term abortion at the final presidential debate, The Daily Caller “edited” a woman’s personal story to vilify and shame her for having a legal and medically necessary late-term abortion.

    On October 20, The New York Times published an op-ed by Meredith Isaksen about her decision to terminate a wanted pregnancy after the 20th week. In the op-ed, titled “Late-Term Abortion Was the Right Choice for Me,” Isaksen described deciding to terminate after discovering that the developing fetus “was missing half his heart” and was “very unlikely [to] survive delivery.” Isaksen wrote that to “Trump and politicians like him, a late-term abortion is the stuff of ’80s slasher films” -- a depiction that is “void of consideration for women, medical professionals or the truth” -- and concluded that she had no doubts that “we made the right decision for our family.”

    In response, The Daily Caller attacked Isaksen -- mocking her personal experience and rewriting her narrative “for accuracy and clarity” by substituting stigmatizing language about late-term abortion that is frequently pushed by right-wing media. In one example, The Daily Caller “revised” Isaksen’s statement that she was “a better wife, daughter and friend” after making “the right decision for our family” to read as: “I am a better wife, daughter and friend [because I chose to kill him].” In another, The Daily Caller wrote:

    As the day of my termination [the death of my baby boy] approached and I felt my baby’s kicks and wiggles, I simultaneously wanted to crawl out of my skin and suspend us together in time. I wanted him to know [before I killed him] how important he was to me, that the well of my grief and love for him would stretch deeper and deeper into the vastness of our family’s small yet limitless life.He may have moved inside me for only five months, but he had touched and shaped me in ways I could never have imagined [and soon he would feel an abortionist rip him apart piece by piece].

    Women do not elect to terminate their pregnancies after the 20th week on a whim because they simply “don’t want to have the kid” anymore.

    Stigmatizing language about late-term abortion is often used by anti-choice groups and media to “vilify women” who are often facing the “loss of a wanted pregnancy.” The language used by The Daily Caller is a prime example of how not to speak about abortion no matter where you stand on choice, or about the countless women across America who have made the decision to have one or will need to in the future.

    As Isaksen wrote (in her original words):

    As the two-year anniversary of my abortion approaches, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that we made the right decision for our family — and that our government has absolutely no place in the anguish which accompanies a late-term abortion, except to ensure that women and their families have the right to make their choice safely and privately.

    Saying goodbye to our boy was the single most difficult and profound experience of my life, and the truth is, it has come to define me. Today I am a better mother because of him. I am a better wife, daughter and friend. He made me more compassionate and more patient. He taught me to love with reckless abandon, despite the knowledge that I could lose it all.

  • After Saying He Would Be An “Uncompensated” “Volunteer,” Roger Stone Pockets Pro-Trump Super PAC Money

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Roger Stone received $12,000 from his pro-Trump super PAC despite previously bragging that he was working for the group as an “uncompensated” “volunteer.”

    Stone is a longtime ally and adviser to the Republican presidential nominee. In December 2015, he announced that he was joining the Committee To Restore America’s Greatness to support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

    After Stone joined the super PAC, he reportedly “said ‘it would probably be wise’ for him to cease conversations with Trump about the campaign due to conflict of interest rules which bar coordination between the two entities.” Stone has nonetheless continued to talk regularly with Trump throughout the campaign and informally advises his campaign on strategy.

    When Stone made the move from the campaign to the super PAC, he dismissed the idea that he was trying to cash in on his Trump connections and emphasized on Twitter: “I am a volunteer and uncompensated as a matter of fact.”

    Stone has apparently changed his mind about taking contributor money, according to the Committee To Restore America’s Greatness’ recently filed Federal Election Commission report covering July 1 through September 30 of this year. The super PAC paid $12,000 in July to Drake Ventures for “consulting.” Stone owns Drake Ventures and used the LLC when he worked as a consultant for Trump’s presidential campaign last year. (The business registration is now technically inactive as it was revoked in September 2015 because of a failure to file an annual report, according to the Florida Department of State's website database).

    The Committee to Restore America’s Greatness' activities include spending $32,000 on its “Super Trump” advertisement   in Florida and the non-swing state of New York.

    Stone also heads the connected 527 group Stop the Steal, which aims “to stop the Democrats from stealing the election from Donald Trump.” The Guardian noted that Stone claims he has “around 1,300 volunteers” who will conduct “their own crowd-funded exit polling on election day, ostensibly due to fears that electronic voting machines in certain areas may have been ‘rigged.’” However, election experts told the newspaper that the tactic “could intimidate voters” and “exit polls in particular were a dangerously inaccurate way to gauge the legitimacy of an election.”

    Stop the Steal’s third quarterly report to the IRS stated that the group received only $7,162 during that period and transferred $63,000 to the Committee to Restore America's Greatness to “provide for programs of Stop the Steal.” (The committee gave Stop the Steal $50,000 in April.) Both Stop the Steal and the Committee to Restore America's Greatness share the same address and contact person.

    Stop the Steal’s website is currently signing up volunteers to be “vote protectors.” Its website also features headlines from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ website and a bizarre “exit polls” map:

  • NY Attorney General: “Dark Money Machine” Is Using Media To Defend Exxon’s Climate Deceit

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called out the “dark money machine” that is attacking him through the media over his investigation into whether ExxonMobil committed fraud by deceiving its shareholders and the public about climate change.

    Schneiderman launched his probe into ExxonMobil in November 2015 after investigations by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times found that Exxon officials knew about the science of climate change decades ago but continued to fund climate denial groups for many years. California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey have since followed suit and also launched investigations of Exxon.

    During an October 19 forum on public integrity, Schneiderman explained that fossil fuel front groups are “directing a disinformation campaign aimed at bolstering Exxon’s case,” Politico reported. Schneiderman specifically called out Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Heritage Foundation, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), all of which are conservative organizations that have been heavily funded by fossil fuel industry interests, including Exxon. He also identified how these and other front groups pursue a media strategy, stating that they seemed to have “pulled a lever on the dark money machine,” and “60 or 70 op-ed columns or editorials” appeared attacking Schneiderman’s investigation. He added: “The challenge is, in most media markets in the country, all people have heard is the other side of the argument because [the conservative groups’] infrastructure is so remarkable.”

    Indeed, several of the nation's most widely read newspapers have provided a platform for fossil fuel front groups to deceptively defend Exxon. As of September 1, The Wall Street Journal had published 21 opinion pieces in less than a year criticizing government entities for investigating Exxon, including an op-ed written by CEI lawyers and a column that falsely claimed AFP has “never received a dime from Exxon.” The Washington Post also published an op-ed by officials from CEI, syndicated columns by George Will and Robert Samuelson, and a letter by the Heritage Foundation’s Hans A. von Spakovsky, all of which falsely claimed that the attorneys generals’ investigations violate Exxon’s First Amendment rights. And contributors at USA Today and Bloomberg View also peddled the false claim that the attorneys general are threatening Exxon’s right to free speech. (As Schneiderman noted, “The First Amendment is not designed to protect three-card monte dealers. … You can’t commit fraud and argue, ‘Oh, I’m exercising my First Amendment rights.'”)

    Other conservative media outlets have also provided space for CEI and the Heritage Foundation to defend Exxon and other oil companies that may have purposely misled the public on climate change to protect their profits, including the National Review, Townhall, and The Washington Times (on many occasions).

    Image at the top from Flickr user Azi Paybarah with a Creative Commons license.

  • Trump’s Attack On Late-Term Abortion Is Unconstitutional, Ignorant, And Fueled By Right-Wing Media

    “Partial-Birth” Abortion Is A Right-Wing Media Myth Used To Completely Eliminate Abortion Access After 20 Weeks

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the final presidential debate, Republican nominee Donald Trump invoked the right-wing media myth of “partial-birth” abortion to falsely allege that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supported abortion procedures that “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month [of pregnancy.]”

    Trump’s “scare rhetoric” about so-called “partial-birth” abortion is both misinformed and problematic, but the issue goes beyond his repetition of this particular stigmatizing, anti-choice talking point. Media take note: Trump isn’t just echoing right-wing media myths about abortions occurring moments before live full-term birth; he’s using them to advocate for an unconstitutional ban on all abortions after 20 weeks.

    If elected, Trump has promised a panacea to right-wing media’s favorite anti-choice complaints: He’s promised a “national ban on [all] abortions after 20 weeks,” committed to “defunding Planned Parenthood,” and even pledged to appoint “pro-life justices” who would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade.

    Trump’s anti-choice agenda, much like the right-wing media myths at its foundation, fails to account for the realities of abortion, or those who have them.

    The term “partial-birth” -- and by extension Trump’s misleading description -- is a fiction conjured up by anti-choice groups to vilify and shame individuals who have an abortion later in pregnancy. Although approximately 99 percent of abortions in the United States take place before the 20th week of pregnancy, the Supreme Court has explicitly protected the right to an abortion beyond this point when the life or health of the mother is endangered. As a result, some courts have rejected late-term abortion bans that either exclude these exemptions or attempt to restrict abortion prior to the point of fetal viability.

    For Trump and right-wing media to suggest women impudently or frivolously terminate pregnancies at the 20th week or beyond is not just insulting, but also a blatant misrepresentation of the circumstances many women face. As Vox’s Emily Crockett explained, women can obtain an abortion at this stage only when "there is something seriously wrong with either the fetus or her own health." She continued that "pretending otherwise" not only "misrepresents reality," but also “inspire[s] legislation that does real harm to women who have to make heartbreaking medical decisions very late in pregnancy” by eliminating their access to a necessary medical procedure.

    Unfortunately, these lived realities appear unimportant to Trump, who pushes what Talking Points Memo called “a grossly inaccurate view of abortion in the United States.” Rolling Stone concluded that “nowhere in [the third debate] was his ignorance on brighter, flashier display than on the subject of late-term abortion.”

    Following the debate, Breitbart News published its approximation of a fact-check: an inaccurate article claiming that Trump’s description of “partial-birth” abortions as “ripping babies apart” was “correct.” To reach this conclusion, the article conflated the “dilation and extraction” (D&X) procedure -- which it described as “puncturing the skull [of the fetus] with scissors” -- with the legal, and most common, late-term abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation (D&E).

    In Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court decided that although D&X procedures could be prohibited under the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, banning the vastly different -- and in fact, medically necessary -- D&E procedure constituted an “undue burden” on the constitutional right to an abortion. As Justice Kennedy explained, “The Act does not proscribe D&E,” which was found by a district court “to have extremely low rates of medical complications.” Clearly, the procedure being described by the Supreme Court as both legal and safe is a far cry from Breitbart News’ “partial-birth” abortion fever dream.

    In a similar show of ignorance, during the October 20 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly denounced women’s health exemptions for late-term abortion because “the health of the mother could be anything.” O’Reilly previously had the audacity to suggest that women abuse health exemptions by fabricating conditions like sprained hands or headaches because they have glibly decided to terminate pregnancies, even if the “kid is going to be born next week.”

    After a campaign steeped in misogyny, it’s not surprising that these are the right-wing media talking points Trump has adopted about abortion. And they are every bit as insulting, ignorant, and inaccurate as when anti-choice groups first invented them in order to stigmatize both abortion and those who exercise their constitutionally protected right to have one.

  • Trump Supporters Are Using Fox’s Contrived New Black Panther Scandal From 2010 To Defend His “Rigged Election” Claim

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Conservative media and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are revisiting the debunked right-wing media pseudo-scandal of voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party to defend Trump’s assertion that “large scale voter fraud” will affect the election.

    After the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, a video went viral of two members of the New Black Panther Party standing outside a Philadelphia polling station on Election Day. One was a registered Democratic poll watcher; the other held a nightstick. Under President George W. Bush, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into the incident after Republican poll watchers complained (no voters ever alleged that they were intimidated by the men). Later, under Obama’s administration, the DOJ obtained a default judgment against the member carrying the nightstick and dropped the case against the poll watcher, the organization, and its leader.

    Bush’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which at the time was packed with conservative activists, responded to the conclusion of the case by opening an investigation, even though the Republican vice chairwoman of the commission called the case “very small potatoes” and criticized the “overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges.” Nevertheless, J. Christian Adams, an activist Republican member of the commission, went on a lengthy crusade against Obama’s Justice Department for dropping the charges, resigning and claiming the decision showed unprecedented, racially charged corruption.

    Adams found a friendly and eager platform for his position in Fox News, particularly with host Megyn Kelly. In 2010, Fox News devoted at least 95 segments and more than eight hours of airtime in two weeks to the phony scandal, including more than 3.5 hours on Kelly’s America Live. Adams admitted that he had no first-hand knowledge of the conversations leading to the decision.

    One year later, an internal investigation at the Justice Department found that “politics played no role in the handling” of the case and that “department attorneys did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment.” Fox News spent only 88 seconds covering the debunking of a phony scandal of its own creation. Kelly spent only 20 seconds of her show covering the report.

    But the damage was already done, and the obsessive coverage of the non-event has bubbled back up in the 2016 presidential election.

    On October 17, Trump tweeted, “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day.” As they tried to play defense for their candidate, right-wing media figures invoked the faux New Black Panther scandal. CNN’s paid Trump surrogates Kayleigh McEnany and Scottie Nell Hughes got in on the action, with McEnany claiming that Trump “doesn’t want a scenario where there's New Black Panthers outside with guns, essentially like intimidating people from coming into the polls” and Hughes saying that “voter suppression happened when the Black Panthers stood outside the election room.” (CNN’s Kristen Powers retorted, “There was not a single complaint from a single voter.”)

    Conservative radio hosts joined in, with Mike Gallagher asserting that “in Philadelphia we know all about the New Black Panther movement and what they did in Philadelphia at the polling places,” and Howie Carr accusing the Obama administration of “refus[ing] to prosecute” them for “roaming outside polling places, precincts in Philadelphia with baseball bats and threatening white people.”

    Key figures in creating the scandal have also resurfaced to defend Trump’s voter fraud narrative. Fox & Friends hosted J. Christian Adams to push the myth that “dead people are voting … and it’s going to affect the election” (in reality, claims of dead voter fraud are “plagued by recurring methodological errors” and actual instances of this kind of fraud are exceedingly uncommon). The Trump campaign also hired Mike Roman as head of a “nationwide election protection operation.” Roman is a Republican political consultant who shopped the 2008 video to Fox News, worked with Adams to push the scandal, and offered to contact every Republican voter in the Philadelphia precinct to determine if any were intimidated at the polling location.

    The New Black Panther Party pseudo-scandal’s resurgence is only the latest example of how obsessive right-wing coverage of a comprehensively debunked myth, followed by scant coverage of news that does not fit the narrative, can allow a myth to pass as truth for years. Fox’s infatuation with Benghazi still continues to this day and, like the New Black Panther Party issue and other myths, it is frequently revived to attack Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or bolster ridiculous assertions by Trump. By bringing the overblown and debunked New Black Panther story back into the mainstream, Trump backers in the media are grasping at straws to defend his rigged election nonsense.