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  • “Trump TV” Will Be In The White House Press Briefings

    Right Side Broadcasting Network Announces They Will Get A Seat In White House Press Briefings

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    Right Side Broadcasting Network’s (RSBN) announcement that they will be participating in White House press briefings is raising new questions about whether President-elect Donald Trump intends to bypass traditional media as President and create a press corps more favorable to his administration.

    During their live coverage of President-elect Donald Trump’s “Thank You” rally in North Carolina on December 6, the show’s host Joe Seales announced that the network is “going to become a 24-hour network very soon.” Seales also said the network will “be in the White House” and “be at the press briefings” during the Trump administration:

    According to Foreign Policy magazine, to get accredited to report in the White House, “a reporter first needs to be approved for a congressional press pass by the Standing Committee of Correspondents, elected by accredited reporters.” RSBN must also meet a number of other requirements along with their application to be credentialed as a reporter in the White House:

    Among other requirements, congressional reporters must demonstrate that they work for a publication whose "principal business is the daily dissemination of original news and opinion of interest to a broad segment of the public" and is "editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government." The White House also requires an additional Secret Service background check.

    Trump could, however, circumvent press rules and procedures by allowing a non-credentialed reporter to ask questions during the briefings, which is exactly what happened in the last Republican administration. Jeff Gannon of the right-wing Talon News was “admitted on a day-to-day basis” into the White House briefing room where he was “repeatedly allowed to ask — usually friendly” questions to the Bush administration.

    It is unclear whether RSBN has applied or meet any of the standards set by the rules governing the press galleries, but their relationship with Trump makes their announcement problematic.

    The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers has described Right Side Broadcasting as “the unofficial version of Trump TV since last summer,” noting the Trump campaign had “teamed up with Right Side to produce pre- and post-debate analysis shows that streamed on Trump’s Facebook Page.” Borchers additionally noted Right Side Broadcasting CEO Joe Seales had previously told Reddit users to address mainstream media outlets by “continu[ing] to discredit them.”

    The announcement also comes as right-wing media figures are urging Trump to exclude mainstream news outlets from press briefings. Fox host Sean Hannity has repeatedly questioned why journalists from CNN, NBC, Politico, and the New York Times “have a seat in the White House press room,” claimed “it’s time to reevaluate the press and maybe change the traditional relationship with the press and the White House,” and urged the Trump administration to get rid of the White House press office and “start over.”

    Given Trump’s long adversarial relationship with the press, it appears he is taking this advice to heart and attempting to push out mainstream journalists in favor of reporters made in his own image.

  • BuzzFeed: “Most Americans Who See Fake News Believe It”

    People Who Use Facebook As “A Major Source Of News” Are More Likely To Believe Fake News

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A survey conducted exclusively for BuzzFeed News found that “fake news headlines fool American adults about 75% of the time.” 

    The problem of fake news was a major factor in the 2016 presidential election. Fake right-wing news sites, sometimes presented as legitimate news outlets, flooded social media with false and misleading articles that outperformed actual news during the election. 

    BuzzFeed reported on December 6 that their survey was the “first large-scale public opinion research study into the fake news phenomenon.” Their results revealed that a majority of American adults can be fooled by fake news headlines “about 75% of the time,” in part because evaluating headlines is difficult “without context on social media platforms.” The survey further “call[ed] into question” Facebook’s defense that “consumers themselves” can distinguish between real and fake news, because the survey “suggest[ed] that consumers are likely to believe even false stories that don’t fit their ideological bias”:

    Fake news headlines fool American adults about 75% of the time, according to a large-scale new survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for BuzzFeed News.

    The survey also found that people who cite Facebook as a major source of news are more likely to view fake news headlines as accurate than those who rely less on the platform for news.

    This survey is the first large-scale public opinion research study into the fake news phenomenon that has had a sweeping effect on global politics, and that recently caused a gunman to threaten a DC pizza place. The results paint a picture of news consumers with little ability to evaluate the headlines that often fly toward them without context on social media platforms. They also — surprisingly — suggest that consumers are likely to believe even false stories that don’t fit their ideological bias. And the survey calls into question the notion — which Facebook has reportedly begun testing — that consumers themselves can do the work of distinguishing between real and fake news.

    The new data comes from an online survey of 3,015 US adults conducted between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1. For more on the methodology, see the bottom of this article. A detailed summary of results to all questions can be found here. Additional calculations can be found here.

    “The 2016 election may mark the point in modern political history when information and disinformation became a dominant electoral currency,” said Chris Jackson of Ipsos Public Affairs, which conducted the survey on behalf of BuzzFeed News. “Public opinion, as reflected in this survey, showed that ‘fake news’ was remembered by a significant portion of the electorate and those stories were seen as credible.”

    The survey found that those who identify as Republican are more likely to view fake election news stories as very or somewhat accurate. Roughly 84% of the time, Republicans rated fake news headlines as accurate (among those they recognized), compared to a rate of 71% among Democrats. The survey also found that Trump voters are more likely to rate familiar fake news headlines as accurate than Clinton voters.

  • Washington Post Corrects "Inaccuracies" In Trump's Air Force One Tweet

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler broke down the numerous errors in a tweet sent out by President-elect Trump calling for the cancellation of the building of an Air Force One plane claiming that “costs are out of control.”

    In a December 6 tweet, Trump said the cost of a new Boeing 747 Air Force One plane would be “out of control, more than $4 billion,” and called for the government to cancel the order.

    Later in the lobby of his New York Trump Tower, the president-elect called the alleged price of the plane “ridiculous … We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.” But Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler found that Trump’s tweet is incorrect. Boeing will design a replacement “for the aging pair of Air Force Ones” but is technically not building the jet, and the cost of the project has not been set. The Department of Defense estimates “a cost of $2.9 billion over the next five years,” with a possible additional $1 billion “to complete and procure the aircraft.” Kessler explained Trump cannot “cancel the order” because nothing has been ordered yet. From the December 6 Washington Post article:

    Trump is not a stickler for accuracy, but there are number of inaccuracies in his tweet. Let’s break them down one by one.

    “Boeing is building . . . ”

    Earlier in 2016, Boeing received a $170 million contract to design a replacement for the aging pair of Air Force Ones used by the president. Boeing is not actually building the jet, though logically it is the only U.S. manufacturer with the capability to build such an aircraft.

    “ … a brand new 747 Air Force One … ”

    At a minimum, there would be two Air Force Ones. You need a spare in case there is a problem with one. The jets generally have a life cycle of 30 years.

    A plane only receives the call sign “Air Force One” when the president is on board. This is actually a highly modified version of the Boeing 747-8 jet.

    “Costs are out of control, more than $4 billion”

    Cost have actually not been set. The Defense Department’s five-year plan indicates a cost of $2.9 billion over the next five years for design and development. It’s logical to assume at least another $1 billion in additional expenses to complete and procure the aircraft.

    So an estimate of $4 billion — for design, testing and manufacture of at least two jets — is not completely out of line. But the budget is subject to approval by Congress and the actual design of the aircraft. Boeing literally needs to re-engineer the plane from the ground up, so there are many one-time expenses.

    [...]

    “Cancel the order!”

    Nothing has been ordered yet. But the program could be eliminated. This may not be a problem for Trump, but certainly would affect his successors, especially if no order is placed before Boeing stops making 747s. The current aircraft were delivered in 1990, and as we noted, the life cycle is about 30 years. The Pentagon says the current fleet “faces capability gaps, rising maintenance costs, and parts obsolescence as it reaches the end of its planned 30-year life-cycle.”

    Boeing seemed to “shrug off” the tweet, which caused the company’s stocks to dip about one percent in the morning, but bounced “back in the black” later that same day.

  • Morning Joe Gets Scoops On Trump’s Transition While Its Hosts Reportedly Advise Him

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    MSNBC Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski have reported multiple scoops on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition efforts and potential cabinet selections since the election. The exclusives come as the pair, who often give Trump friendly coverage, have confirmed that they regularly speak directly to Trump and have reportedly been advising him, including on his cabinet selections. These reports raise questions about the journalistic ethics surrounding Morning Joe’s Trump coverage, as well as the extent of the hosts’ relationship with the president-elect.

    Since the election, Scarborough and Brzezinski have frequently cited “sources” when reporting exclusive details about Trump and his transition efforts. On November 22, Brzezinski claimed that “a source with direct knowledge of Donald Trump's thinking” told Morning Joe that Trump would “not pursue any investigations into Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server and the Clinton Foundation” because Trump believes she had “‘been through enough.’” On November 28, Brzezinski reported that “sources” told MSNBC that Trump was “furious” at his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, for publicly criticizing Mitt Romney, a former Trump critic and possible candidate for secretary of state. Scarborough a few minutes later on the show said Trump told him personally he did not want Romney to apologize for his previous criticism. The next day, Scarborough reported that Conway was the “only noise internally, based on all of my sources” within Trump’s transition team, opposing Romney. And on December 6, Brzezinski claimed that “sources familiar with Trump's thinking” told the show that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was “not in serious contention” for the secretary of state position, retired Gen. David Petraeus was “no longer a serious candidate,” and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was also “fading” in contention for the position.*

    Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on November 19 that Trump “often seeks out” advice from Scarborough. And in late November, Brzezinski met Trump’s daughter Ivanka for coffee at Trump Tower. Politico also reported that Scarborough “tells Trump his opinions on Cabinet picks, both in private and on air.” Scarborough, speaking with Politico, confirmed that he and Brzezinski “‘talk to Trump a few times a week,’” claiming that they “‘say the same thing to him on the phone that we say publicly on the show.’” These reports raise the question of whether the hosts are reporting scoops on Trump’s cabinet that they themselves have advised on.

    This apparent arrangement also comes as Scarborough and Brzezinski continue to defend Trump, a pattern they exhibited throughout much of the presidential campaign and for which multiple media figures have criticized them. As Politico noted, the hosts seem to have a “symbiotic relationship” with Trump, where “Scarborough and Brzezinski need the access to Trump and his inner circle to break news, provide analysis and exert influence,” and Trump “needs the pair for their audience.”

    * The piece has been corrected to clarify that Brzezinski said retired Gen. David Petraeus was "no longer a serious candidate" for the secretary of state position. It originally inaccurately quoted her as saying he was "not a serious candidate” for the position.

  • Fox Continues To Downplay Fake News And Its Dangerous Consequences

    Fox News Spent Just Two Minutes On A Gunman Storming A Pizzeria As A Result Of Online Conspiracies

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News barely covered news of an armed man who fired off shots in a Washington, D.C., pizzeria in an effort, he said, to “self-investigate” a fake news report. The network’s dismissal of the story -- which got plenty of coverage on other cable networks and broadcast nightly newscasts -- fits into an overall conservative media approach in which some outlets discount the problem fake news poses while some actually push the false stories, despite their dangerous consequences.

    On December 4, a man was arrested after he walked into Comet Ping Ping, a D.C. pizzeria, with an assault rifle and, according to The Washington Post, fired “one or more shots.” The Post reported that the man “had come to the restaurant to ‘self-investigate’” a fake news item claiming that former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her aides were engaging in illegal sex trafficking at the pizzeria. As The Daily Beast noted, “The fake news began proliferating on websites like 4chan and Reddit, especially a Reddit forum frequented by Trump supporters and the alt-right.” The bogus claim eventually made its way to to Alex Jones, an ally of President-elect Donald Trump and a conspiracy theorist, and his website Infowars.

    The day after the conflict, Fox News didn’t mention the event until 6:30 p.m., and then it addressed the topic only glancingly, devoting no more than two minutes over three brief mentions to explain what happened at the pizzeria or how fake news inspired it. Rather than investigating how fake news led to the armed incident, Fox host Tucker Carlson used a brief mention to kick off a segment that attempted to delegitimize the idea of fake news. Carlson’s takeaway from the armed invasion was that “it’s convinced many on the left that the speech they disagree with on the internet, which they’re calling now ‘fake news,’ should be actively suppressed by the authorities.” Carlson’s guest, Washington Free Beacon writer Bill McMorris, described fake news as “whatever people living in the liberal bubble determine to be believed by the right,” and suggested that The New York Times’ reporting on a possible surge in Hispanic voters should be considered fake news.

    CNN and MSNBC, however, both devoted considerable time to the incident throughout the day, with CNN mentioning it during nearly every show in its lineup and highlighting the dangerous consequences of the proliferation and spread of fake news. CNN’s senior justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, noted on the December 5 edition of Anderson Cooper 360 that “people connected to Donald Trump’s transition team spread the baseless claim” that spurred the attack, including Michael Flynn Jr., the son and chief of staff of Trump’s national security adviser pick, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

    Even the December 5 editions of ABC’s World News Tonight, NBC’s Nightly News, and CBS’ Evening News -- all just 30-minute shows -- managed to devote time to examining “how a fake news story can lead to real world consequences."

    Fox News figures and others in right-wing media have dismissed the impact of fake news altogether, calling concerns about its proliferation and spread “nonsense” and “silly.” At the same time, conservatives have repeatedly fallen for fake news stories. Fox media critic Howard Kurtz hyped a fake quote that his network had already apologized for taking seriously. Fox’s Sean Hannity was forced to back down and apologize after pushing a fake news item alleging that “Michelle Obama had deleted … tweets” praising Clinton “from her timeline” because of the FBI’s investigation into the former secretary of state. People in positions of power and influence, like Trump national security adviser pick Flynn, Trump’s son Eric Trump, and Trump’s former campaign manager and frequent adviser Corey Lewandowski have fallen for and pushed fake news.

    All news networks -- including Fox -- should take seriously the crucial task of combating fake news and highlighting its dangerous impacts, particularly given that those who will drive policy have shown they are not immune to its impact.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched Snapstream for mentions of “Comet” and “pizza” on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on December 5.

  • Univision Lifts Up Nativist Center For Immigration Studies As Credible Source

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Univision’s daily email brief cited the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant nativist group that often peddles in misinformation, continuing the leading Spanish-language media outlet’s pattern of promoting anti-immigrant groups and failing to label them as such.

    The December 5 edition of Univision’s Daily Brief claimed, “New government data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows more than three million new documented and undocumented immigrants settled in the United States in 2014 and 2015 — a 39 percent increase over the prior two years.”

    CIS is one of three anti-immigrant groups, all spearheaded by retired ophthalmologist John Tanton, that use the veneer of impartiality to inundate media outlets with false statistics and misinformation about immigrants. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated CIS -- along with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA, both also founded by Tanton -- as anti-immigrant white nativist groups for their ties to racist extremists. CIS’ Jessica Vaughan, a right-wing media regular, has used her media platform to misinform about sanctuary cities and peddle lies about undocumented immigrants voting and being released to commit violent crimes.

    Some media outlets, like The Daily Beast, have reported on this “shady network” of anti-immigrant groups that bolster right-wing media talking points and routinely creep into mainstream media, noting that their problematic studies are often characterized by a lack of context. Univision’s propensity to cite CIS and FAIR contributes to this dangerous media pattern and threatens the integrity of immigration information.

  • TV News Takes The Bait On Trump’s Climate Remarks, Ignoring Ample Warning Signs

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    When President-elect Donald Trump made seemingly open-minded remarks about climate change during a November 22 meeting with staff of The New York Times, it set off a wave of television coverage about how Trump had supposedly “reversed course” on climate change. But few of these reports addressed any of the substantive reasons that is highly unlikely, such as his transition team’s plan to abandon the Obama administration’s landmark climate policy, indications that he will dismantle NASA’s climate research program, and his appointment of fossil fuel industry allies as transition team advisers -- not to mention the full context of Trump’s remarks to the Times.

    In his interview with reporters, editors and opinion columnists from the Times, Trump contradicted his long-held stance that climate change is a “hoax” by stating that he thinks “there is some connectivity” between human activities and climate change (although even that statement doesn’t fully reflect the consensus view of climate scientists that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming). Trump also declined to reaffirm his earlier statements that he would “renegotiate” or “cancel” the international climate agreement reached in Paris last year, instead saying that he has an “open mind” about how he will approach the Paris agreement.

    But there are many reasons to take these comments with a grain of salt. For one, Trump has given no indication that he will preserve the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is the linchpin of the United States’ emissions reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement. To the contrary, The Associated Press reported that internal documents from Trump’s transition team “show the new administration plans to stop defending the Clean Power Plan and other recent Obama-era environmental regulations that have been the subject of long-running legal challenges filed by Republican-led states and the fossil fuel industry.” Moreover, a senior Trump space policy adviser recently indicated that the Trump administration plans to eliminate NASA’s climate change research program, a move that would likely be accompanied by significant funding cuts to climate research.

    Additionally, Trump has appointed Myron Ebell, a climate science denier from the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, to lead his EPA transition team, and two other close allies of the fossil fuel industry, Kathleen Hartnett White and Scott Pruitt, are reportedly Trump’s leading contenders to run the EPA. Trump also named Thomas Pyle, president of the fossil fuel-funded American Energy Alliance, to head his Energy Department transition team. According to The Washington Post, “Hartnett-White, Pyle and Ebell have all expressed doubt about climate change and have criticized the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

    Then there are Trump’s Times comments themselves, which have been “wildly misinterpreted” in the media, as Grist’s Rebecca Leber has explained. In addition to saying there is “some connectivity” between human activities and climate change, Trump said during the Times interview that there are “a lot of smart people” on the “other side” of the issue, and added: “You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views.” Trump also appeared to reference the thoroughly debunked “Climategate” scandal about emails among climate scientists at a U.K. university, stating, “They say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists.”

    Nonetheless, Trump’s two seemingly climate-friendly remarks to the Times -- that he has an “open mind” about the Paris climate agreement and that humans play some role in climate change -- generated a tremendous amount of uncritical television coverage:

    • ABC: On the November 23 edition of ABC’s morning show, Good Morning America, correspondent David Wright stated that Trump “hit hard” on climate change during the campaign but is “now more noncommittal” about it. Later that day, on the network’s evening news program, World News Tonight, congressional correspondent Mary Bruce reported that Trump was “softening on a host of campaign promises,” including his pledge to “pull out of the Paris climate change deal.” And in an interview with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on the November 27 edition of ABC’s Sunday news show, This Week, chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz said that Trump had “changed his tune” on climate change.
    • CBS: On the November 22 edition of CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley stated that Trump “revised” his position on climate change, and national correspondent Chip Reid reported that Trump “changed his tune on the issue of climate change, and whether it`s caused by human activity.” The following morning, on CBS Morning News, correspondent Hena Daniels said that Trump “reversed course on the issue of climate change,” and on that day’s episode of CBS This Morning, co-host Gayle King similarly said that Trump is “reversing” his campaign position on climate change.
    • NBC: On the November 27 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked: “From the border wall to global warming, is there a change in the air?” Todd also listed climate change as one of the issues on which Trump “has either backed away from some of the rhetoric or just stayed silent.”

    Trump’s climate remarks also received wall-to-wall coverage on cable news, although unlike the broadcast networks’ reports, several of the cable segments did feature pushback on the notion that Trump had actually changed his position on the issue.

    Trump’s climate comments were uncritically covered on several CNN programs, including New Day, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon. And on the November 27 edition of Inside Politics, host John King and senior political reporter Manu Raju agreed that Trump’s climate remarks were a “big deal.” Some of these programs included speculation about whether Trump truly meant what he said to the Times or whether it was a negotiating ploy, but none mentioned any specific steps Trump has taken since the election that undermine claims that he has reversed course on climate change.

    By contrast, several other CNN programs included pushback on the notion that Trump had “softened” or “reversed” his position on climate change. For instance, on the November 23 edition of Erin Burnett Outfront, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein cited Trump’s plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan as evidence that although Trump is “signaling a different tone” on climate change, “when you get into the guts of the policy, he is going in the same direction”:

    Brownstein made the same point during appearances on the November 22 edition of CNN’s The Situation Room and the November 27 edition of CNN Newsroom.

    Similarly, in an interview with NextGen Climate founder Tom Steyer on the November 27 edition of Fareed Zakaria GPS, host Zakaria noted that despite his comments to the Times, Trump “still has a leading climate change denier [Myron Ebell] as the head of his EPA transition, [and] his actions and contradictory words have climate change activists concerned.” Zakaria added that Trump “does say he's going to reverse a lot of these executive actions that Obama has taken, whether it's on coal-fired plants or vehicle emissions.”

    A couple of CNN guests also challenged the premise that Trump had shifted his stance on climate change. On the November 22 edition of CNN’s Wolf, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) said of Trump’s climate remarks to the Times, “The real test is who is he appointing and what will his policies be.” And on the November 23 edition of CNN’s At This Hour, Michael Needham of Heritage Action for America (the sister organization of the fossil fuel industry-funded Heritage Foundation), pointed to other remarks Trump made to the Times in order to dispute the idea that Trump had accepted that climate change is “settled science.” Needham stated:

    I read the actual transcript of this thing. If you look at what [Trump] says on climate change, it's pretty much what we would have said at Heritage. He said there are questions that need to be looked at, there's research on both sides of the issue, this is not settled science the way some people on the left want to say.

    Finally, all of the prime-time MSNBC shows that featured substantial discussions of Trump’s climate remarks included proper context. For instance, on the December 2 edition of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Hayes explained that incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had “clarif[ied]” that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is “that most of it is a bunch of bunk.” Hayes also explained that a senior Trump adviser had indicated that “NASA would be limited to exploring other planets rather than providing satellite information and data about what’s happening on the only planet we currently inhabit”:

    Similarly, on the November 30 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews, Matthews aired a clip of Priebus confirming that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is that “most of it is a bunch of bunk.” And on the November 22 edition of MTP Daily, guest host Andrea Mitchell pointed out that Trump “appointed somebody from a very conservative, climate-denying, Koch-sponsored organization, policy institute, to lead the transition on energy and climate issues,” although Mitchell nonetheless maintained that Trump’s statement that he is now open to the Paris climate agreement was “a very big signal internationally.”

  • Nightly News Shows Combat Fake News About Pizzeria With Real Reporting

    ABC, NBC, CBS Show “How A Fake News Story Can Lead To A Real Life-Threatening Situation"

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Nightly news programs on NBC, CBS, and ABC examined “how a fake news story can lead to real world consequences” in their reports on a shooting incident at Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, DC, pizzeria.

    Accused shooter Edgar Welch entered the pizzeria on December 4 with an AR-15 assault rifle, fired at least one round into the floor, and told authorities he was there to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory that dozens of prominent liberals are complicit in an international child sex trafficking ring, because emails stolen from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta referenced “pizza.”

    While conservative media outlets have typically downplayed fake news stories calling them “silly” and “nonsense,” broadcast nightly news programs on NBC, CBS, and ABC reported how fake news can have dangerous consequences.

    NBC correspondent Tom Costello reported on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt that “the Pizzagate conspiracy began with the Clinton WikiLeaks and an email stolen from campaign chief John Podesta about a fundraiser involving the restaurant.” Costello noted that 4chan users “suggested without any proof whatsoever that the word ‘pizza’ was code for ‘child sex trafficking’ at the restaurant,” and from there the malicious rumor spread “to Reddit and YouTube, feeding fake online news stories, then jumping to Facebook and Twitter.” Even though “both DC police and federal agents say the story is false,” Costello added that “discredited rumors about sex trafficking” targeting Democrats are “even shared by President-Elect Trump’s choice for national security adviser, General Michael T. Flynn.”:

    On CBS’ Evening News with Scott Pelley, Chip Reid took apart the “fictitious online conspiracy theory” started by “right-wing sites that make up fake news” alleging Clinton and her associates were involved in a pedophile ring. Host Scott Pelley noted that the shooter gave up when he “found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant,” as the lies on the internet baselessly alleged:

    ABC senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas highlighted the “egregious and deliberate lie” that is the Pizzagate conspiracy on ABC World News Tonight with Scott Pelley. Thomas reported that the suspect “aimed a rifle at an employee and fired a round into the floor” because he decided to “self-investigate” the “utterly false story about child abuse” at Comet Ping Pong. Thomas further reported that “employees have been besieged by death threats” since the right-wing lie gained traction online, “shows how a fake news story can lead to a real life-threatening situation”:

  • Sunday Show Hosts Fail To Hold Trump Surrogates Accountable For His Voter Fraud Lies 

    Journalists Must Be Better Prepared In The Trump Era

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Sunday show hosts failed to sufficiently press Donald Trump's surrogates on the president-elect’s blatant lies about voter fraud in the 2016 election. Journalists must raise the bar even higher when interviewing Trump and his surrogates, from merely calling out falsehoods to actively putting statements into context and offering facts and data. Failure to aggressively push back on lies and contextualize misleading statements in the “post-truth” era of Trump risks leaving viewers unclear about which party is ultimately correct and tells them only what they don’t know, rather than ensuring they are informed.

    On November 27, Trump tweeted, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” In fact, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, is expected to win the popular vote by about 2.5 million votes. Additionally, the Washington Post’s Phillip Bump found just three documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election. Nevertheless, Trump’s surrogates later defended his lie in a conference call with reporters.

    On December 4, CBS host John Dickerson interviewed Reince Priebus, who Trump has tapped for White House chief of staff, on Face the Nation and addressed Trump’s claims that he would have won the popular vote if not for mass voter fraud:

    While Dickerson did tell Priebus that “there is no evidence” that millions voted illegally, he made a series of missteps. First, he allowed Priebus to cite a Wall Street Journal op-ed that recycled discredited evidence, failing to note that the evidence was flawed and misleading. Second, while Dickerson asked if Trump needs to “tighten up his standards of proof,” he allowed Priebus to redirect the conversation away from Trump’s lies to a discussion of Trump’s penchant for tweeting in general. Finally, Dickerson never mentioned any of the numerous studies that show that claims of widespread voter fraud are false.

    CBS compounded the problem by issuing a tweet that merely read “Reince Priebus: ‘It’s possible’ millions voted illegally.” Several media outlets have recently botched their headlines and tweets when reporting on false statements made by Trump, omitting context that would illustrate the inaccuracies.

    CBS later deleted the tweet, replacing it with this one:

    The second CBS tweet still drew criticism from media observers for its failure to note that Trump’s claim is false.

    ABC’s George Stephanopoulos interviewed Vice President-elect Mike Pence on This Week and also raised the question of Trump’s voter fraud tweets:

    Stephanopoulos did repeatedly press Pence to offer evidence for Trump’s claim and consistently pointed out that these claims of voter fraud are false, but he failed to provide counter-evidence to effectively establish that Trump was wrong. Stephanopoulos pushed back on Pence when he cited a Pew Research Center study as evidence that Trump’s voter fraud claims could be true, noting that the authors of the study said “it is not any evidence about what happened in this election.” This pushback, however, was insufficient to properly contextualize for the audience why this evidence is flawed, leaving it up to them to figure out which Pew study is being cited and why it doesn’t apply. Stephanopoulos also neglected to cite studies that provide persuasive proof that claims of voter fraud are grossly exaggerated and largely inaccurate.

    Given the total lack of proof for the right-wing’s voter fraud claims, journalists must be prepared to more thoroughly press Trump surrogates if he continues to lie. And more generally, journalists must be armed with the facts and data they need to hold surrogates accountable on the variety of issues about which President-elect Trump lies. In what has been dubbed a “post-truth” presidency, it will no longer be sufficient to merely say “that’s false.” Journalists must call out instances of cherry-picked data or flawed sources and counteract the misuse of data. Journalists can and must harness the power of fact-checking by using studies and data to relentlessly press Trump and his surrogates in order to convey the truth to the American public.

  • Native Water Protectors, Veterans, And Activists At Standing Rock Got Zero Attention On Major Sunday Shows Again

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    UPDATE: Hours after the Sunday political talk shows ignored the story, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they will deny the current route for the pipeline in favor of exploring alternate routes. 

    Sunday morning political talk shows entirely ignored the ongoing demonstration at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, continuing a troubling pattern of scant media attention being paid to the historic protests and the violent crackdown on the movement for environmental, civil, and Native peoples’ rights.

    Law enforcement and private security officers armed with rubber bullets, water cannons, and dogs have clashed with peaceful protesters at the reservation in North Dakota, where Native demonstrators known as water protectors have sought to delay, and ultimately redirect or derail, construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is currently slated to run near the reservation. The pipeline, which was originally supposed to be built near Bismarck, was redirected near the reservation after residents of Bismarck raised concerns that the pipeline would contaminate their water supply. The protest has become “the longest-running protest in modern history” with “the largest, most diverse tribal action in at least a century, perhaps since Little Bighorn.” 

    On December 3 and 4, thousands of U.S. veterans arrived at Standing Rock to support the Native water protectors, join their cause, and “call attention to the violent treatment that law enforcement has waged on the protesters.” The Army Corps of Engineers has ordered the water protectors to vacate the site on their own reservation by December 5.

    Despite the ongoing violent retaliation against the activists by law enforcement personnel, the December 4 editions of the major Sunday morning political talk shows -- including ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press -- entirely ignored the events at Standing Rock.

    The Sunday political talk shows’ outrageous Standing Rock blackout is in line with how cable news has covered, or not covered, the protests. From October 26 through November 3, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC combined spent less than an hour covering the ongoing demonstration and violent law enforcement response. Fox News stood out for its minimal coverage, devoting just four and a half minutes to reporting on the events during the time frame analyzed. A review of internal Media Matters records shows that the five main Sunday shows have failed to devote time to the events at Standing Rock since at least September.

    CNN’s media criticism show, Reliable Sources, discussed the media blackout on Standing Rock and provided some guidance on how cable news should cover the gathering moving forward. The show’s host, Brian Stelter, lamented that “one of the most important civil and environmental rights stories of our time” was receiving “off and on attention from the national media,” noting that too often, the story seems to completely “fall off the national news media’s radar.”

    Stelter’s guest -- Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, who was charged with trespassing while reporting live on the ground -- implored "all the media” to be "there on the ground giving voice to the voiceless” and said that “all the networks” “have a responsibility” to show images of police cracking down on protesters. Goodman also linked the media’s Standing Rock blackout to the national political media’s silence about climate change during the presidential campaign: “Not one debate moderator raised that as a question,” Goodman decried. “This is a key issue.” 

    Some shows on MSNBC did cover the events at Standing Rock, with Al Sharpton giving a “shoutout to the protestors” and noting that, “until recently, they weren't getting any attention from the outside world.” Joy-Ann Reid, who said that “there needs to be a lot more reporting on this,” provided exemplary coverage of the protests, inviting a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to be interviewed by MSNBC’s Cal Perry on the ground in North Dakota. Reid’s segment -- by devoting time to Standing Rock in the first place, talking with a person directly affected, and having a media presence at the site -- is a model for all news shows to follow. Reid also covered the “grossly underreported story” the week prior.

    Online publications and public media have given some coverage to the actions against the pipeline amid the national news media’s virtual blackout, bringing videos and images of the clashes directly to the nation in ways TV news networks are not. And Democracy Now, which has diligently reported on the activity at Standing Rock, posted a video of private security hired by the Dakota Access Pipeline Company attacking protesters with dogs and pepper spray that has over one million views on YouTube.

    NowThisNews’ Facebook page has an informational video about the protests, including images of violent attacks by law enforcement personnel on the protesters and interviews from activists, that also has over one million views. 

    Media have a responsibility to provide coverage of the environmental and human rights battles occurring at Standing Rock. Denying the activists due coverage allows right-wing spin to infiltrate the conversation, plays into a long-standing problem of both the lack of representation of people of color in media and a double standard in covering progressive protesters, and is a barrier to generating the public pressure necessary to induce change.