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  • Trump’s Kitchen Cabinet: What The Media Needs To Know About The Nominee’s Top Advisers And Supporters

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Donald Trump has allied himself with a cast of characters and hangers-on who, should he win the presidency, would likely have his ear. Below is a guide to the people the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has chosen to surround himself with.

    Alex Jones

    Jones

    The Trump Connection

    Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones has been one of Trump’s loudest and most passionate supporters. And the feeling is apparently mutual. In addition to promoting Trump on his show incessantly, Jones hosted Trump for an interview, praised him as a “George Washington” figure, and encouraged listeners to donate to his campaign. (During the appearance, Trump praised Jones for his “amazing” reputation and promised, “I will not let you down.”) Trump confidant Roger Stone has also become a regular on Jones’ show, and the two worked together to organize protests on Trump’s behalf at the Republican convention.  After Trump essentially clinched the nomination, Stone went on Jones’ show and told the host, “Trump himself told me that he has seen so many of your supporters and listeners at his rallies,” adding, “I’m certain that he is grateful for your support.”

    What You Need To Know

    Alex Jones is a self-described “founding father” of the “9/11 truth movement” who believes that the terrorist attacks were a “false flag.” Jones also has promoted conspiracy theories alleging that events like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Aurora movie theater shooting were all government-orchestrated attacks.

    Roger Stone

    Stone

    The Trump Connection

    Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone is a longtime Trump ally. Stone worked on his campaign until August of 2015, continues to serve as a prominent advocate for Trump’s candidacy, and regularly speaks with Trump, including recommending top aide Paul Manafort to the campaign.

    What You Need To Know

    In addition to his political dirty tricks, Stone has an extensive history of violent, racist, and sexist comments. He started an anti-Hillary Clinton group in 2008 with the acronym “C.U.N.T.,” and has called for her to be executed. He called cable news commentators a “stupid negro” and “Mandingo,” and he promotes conspiracy theories about the Clinton and Bush families murdering dozens of people. His next book is about how the Clintons purportedly murdered JFK Jr. “because he was in the way.”

    Ed Klein

    Klein

    The Trump Connection

    Disgraced journalist Ed Klein said he has known Trump for 35 years and claimed, “I understand him better than most people outside his immediate family.” Klein recently had lunch with Trump as he campaigned in Indiana. Trump has repeatedly promoted Klein’s books on his Twitter account.

    What You Need To Know

    Journalists have described Klein’s columns and books attacking the Clintons and Obamas as “fan fiction” and “smut.” He has launched numerous unfounded smears, including the claim that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill Clinton raped Hillary (he later walked back the allegation). Publisher HarperCollins reportedly dropped Klein’s Blood Feud because it “did not pass a vetting by in-house lawyers.” Klein has repeatedly distorted quotes in his work, and even conservative figures have expressed skepticism about the veracity of his reporting.

    Rudy Giuliani

    Giuliani

    The Trump Connection

    Trump told Fox News that former New York City mayor and failed presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani might be his choice to head up a commission to review his proposal for a temporary Muslim ban.

    What You Need To Know

    Giuliani has a long history of anti-Muslim comments and statements. He argued in favor of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) idea that one way to fight terrorism is to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods,” said sexual assault in Germany proved that “these [Syrian] refugees are inherently a problem,” and praised Rep. Peter King (R-NY) for holding anti-Muslim hearings in Congress.

    Jeffrey Lord

    Lord

    The Trump Connection

    Lord, a contributor to the conservative American Spectator, has been a big booster of Trump’s candidacy. CNN hired Lord to present a pro-Trump point of view. According to Lord, Trump helped land him the gig. The Patriot-News reported last year, “Lord said Trump complained to CNN execs that the network only featured commentators who didn't get him, so CNN asked The Donald who in the world of conservative media he would suggest, and he said Jeffrey Lord.”

    What You Need To Know

    Lord infamously tried to prove that a black man who was beaten to death was not technically lynched, a position that was even condemned by his colleagues at the Spectator. During his CNN appearances, Lord has defended Trump’s attack on Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, excused Trump’s failure to disavow the KKK, and described the Klan as a “leftist terrorist organization.”  

    Ben Carson

    Carson

    The Trump Connection

    Carson endorsed Trump after he dropped his presidential bid and was then tasked with being Trump’s liaison between his campaign and Speaker Paul Ryan. Carson also apparently had some role in Trump’s vice presidential selection team.

    What You Need To Know

    Carson has caused controversy with a series of bizarre and offensive comments as an author, a Fox News contributor, and during his short-lived presidential campaign. During a Fox News appearance, Carson infamously compared marriage equality supporters to those who would advocate bestiality and pedophilia, and argued in his 2012 book that marriage equality could destroy America “like the fall of the Roman Empire.” Carson also claimed that the Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain, said being gay was a “choice,” described Obamacare as “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and argued that Jewish people could have prevented the Holocaust if they had guns.

    Paul Manafort

    Manafort

    The Trump Connection

    Republican strategist Paul Manafort was hired by Trump as a senior aide to his political campaign. Manafort was later promoted to campaign chairman and chief strategist.

    What You Need To Know

    Manafort was partners with Roger Stone in the lobbying and consulting firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly. After a congressional investigation, Manafort admitted that the work he performed after receiving consulting fees was “influence peddling.”

    Manafort and his firms have worked with several unsavory clients including “a business group tied to Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator of the Philippines; Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted Ukrainian president and ally of Vladimir Putin; and Lynden Pindling, the former Bahamian prime minister who was accused of ties to drug traffickers.”

    During the Republican primaries, Manafort accused Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign of engaging in “Gestapo tactics” in order to win over convention delegates.

    Michael Savage

    Savage

    The Trump Connection

    Radio host Michael Savage was an early backer of Trump in the conservative media who has described himself as “the architect of Trump’s messaging." Trump has appeared on his program multiple times -- in one appearance, Savage offered himself up to head the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a suggestion that Trump described as “common sense.”

    What You Need To Know

    Savage has a long history of outrageous and violent rhetoric. In 2008, he warned, “I fear that Obama will stir up a race war … in order to seize absolute power.”

    Savage also claimed that President Obama “wants to infect the nation with Ebola” and is gearing up the government to “fight a war against white people.” Savage accused Obama of engaging in “genocide” against the white race.

    Savage has described PTSD and depression sufferers as “weak” and “narcissistic” “losers.” Referencing military veterans suffering from PTSD, Savage said, “no wonder ISIS can defeat our military.”

    Additionally, Savage has called for a “revolution” in response to multiculturalism, said “I’d hang every lawyer who went down toto Guantanamo” Bay, accused President Obama of being the “new Mao,” theorized that Democrats would declare martial law, and said “the radical left and the radical Muslims are natural blood brothers.”

    Savage and Trump swapped notes on the conspiracy theory that Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered.

    Ann Coulter

    Coulter

    The Trump Connection

    Conservative columnist Ann Coulter has repeatedly promoted Trump’s candidacy. Trump called Coulter’s anti-immigrant book, Adios, America! “a great read.” In return, Coulter said she believes that Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was inspired by her.

    What You Need To Know

    Coulter has developed a reputation over the years for making hateful and disgusting public comments, often with a bigoted message that even conservatives have recoiled from. The conservative National Review dropped her column when, after 9/11, she said America should “invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

    Coulter’s book was apparently modeled on the rhetoric of white nationalists and other anti-immigrant extremists, and she credited white nationalist Peter Brimelow as an “intellectual influence” on her work.

    While defending Trump, Coulter called South Carolina-born Governor Nikki Haley an “immigrant” who “does not understand America’s history,” and made derogatory attacks on Jews while complaining about Trump’s rivals in a primary debate.

    She has also regularly offered bigoted anti-immigrant rhetoric, including the claim that “immigrants are more dangerous than ISIS” and “‘real’ Hispanics are on welfare.”

    Laura Ingraham

    Ingraham

    The Trump Connection

    Radio host Laura Ingraham has been a staunch supporter of Trump’s candidacy and has praised his anti-immigrant rhetoric. She once compared Trump to Abraham Lincoln.

    What You Need To Know

    Ingraham has often used her show to demonize and attack immigrants. Ingraham said Mexicans “have come here to murder and rape our people,” called the children of undocumented immigrants “anchor fetuses,” and suggested that deported immigrants attempting to re-enter the country should be “shot.”

    Chris Christie

    Christie

    The Trump Connection

    New Jersey governor Chris Christie endorsed Trump after he dropped out of the campaign and has served as a leading surrogate for the candidate

    What You Need To Know

    Christie has become infamous for his public arguments with voters and other figures. He told a critical voter he was “a real big shot shooting your mouth off,” called a reporter “a complete idiot,” and told a resident asking about stalled rebuilding efforts after Superstorm Sandy to “sit down and shut up.”

    In addition to his demeanor, Christie’s administration was involved in the Bridgegate scandal, where his subordinates conspired to block traffic on the George Washington Bridge as payback for political slights against the governor.

    Larry Kudlow

    Kudlow

    The Trump Connection

    Larry Kudlow was part of the Office of Management and Budget in Reagan’s first term, and is now a columnist and on-air personality for CNBC. Trump enlisted Kudlow (along with Stephen Moore) to work on changes to his economic plans.

    What You Need To Know

    Kudlow was a big supporter of George W. Bush’s economic policies and was infamous for missing the warning signs of the coming economic meltdown.

    Kudlow dismissed people concerned about the real estate bubble in the mid-2000s as “bubbleheads who expect housing-price crashes.” In December 2007, as the National Bureau of Economic Research marked the beginning of the Great Recession, Kudlow wrote, “there’s no recession coming.”

    Stephen Moore

    Moore

    The Trump Connection

    Conservative economic columnist Stephen Moore was enlisted, along with Larry Kudlow, to tweak Trump’s economic policy in the general election.

    What You Need To Know

    Like Kudlow, Moore has a terrible track record when predicting the effect of both conservative and progressive policies on the economy. He also regularly makes false claims to attack policies like taxes, regulation, the minimum wage, and Obamacare.

    The editorial page director of the Kansas City Star declared she “won’t be running anything else from Stephen Moore” after he used false employment numbers in a column attacking economist Paul Krugman.

    In a column promoting Trump's candidacy, Moore wrote, "It is striking that Trump is the anti-Obama in every way."

    General Michael Flynn

    Flynn

    The Trump Connection

    Retired Army Lt. General Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is reportedly “a trusted Trump adviser and go-to man on intelligence and national security.”

    What You Need To Know

    Flynn was forced out of his position in 2014 after clashing with senior officials. He has complained that “‘political correctness’ has prevented the U.S. from confronting violent extremism, which he sees as a ‘cancerous idea that exists inside of the Islamic religion.’”  Flynn accuses the U.S. government of concealing “the actions of terrorists like bin Laden and groups like ISIS, and the role of Iran in the rise of radical Islam.”

    Flynn has publicly supported Trump’s idea that the families of terrorist suspects should be killed, and he also backs Trump’s proposal for a ban on Muslim travel to the United States. Flynn has written that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”

    In 2015, Flynn flew to Moscow and was filmed having a formal dinner with Vladimir Putin. The Daily Beast reported that “Pentagon brass were taken by surprise that he didn’t notify the department.”

    Scottie Nell Hughes

    Hughes

    The Trump Connection

    Scottie Nell Hughes is a cable news pundit who has often spoken in defense of Donald Trump. Glamour notes she “has been on the front line for Trump campaign since she introduced him at a September mega rally in Dallas.”

    What You Need To Know

    Hughes was previously the news director for the “Tea Party News Network.” She uses odd logic to launch defenses of Trump’s actions.

    When some called for riots at the Republican convention in defense of Trump, Hughes told CNN “it’s not riots as in a negative thing.” Hughes said that Trump’s statement that women should be punished for abortions had been “misconstrued,” and that the media paying attention to Trump’s sexist tweets is unfair.

    Images by Sarah Wasko

  • NRA Complains The Media Aren’t Taking Its False Attacks On Garland Nomination Seriously

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The NRA complained that media outlets are ignoring their false attacks on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in an article that offered more falsehoods.

    In a May 24 article at the NRA’s online magazine America's 1st Freedom, Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist who also runs the group’s political efforts, lashed out at the New York Times editorial board for dismissing the NRA’s false claims about Garland’s record. Cox’s article, titled “Media Ignore Facts In Dismissing NRA’s Concerns About Supreme Court Nominee,” criticized the Times for concluding that there is “no fact-based reason” for the NRA to claim Garland is hostile to the Second Amendment.

    In complaining about “the most extreme case of media bias in recent memory,” Cox accused the Times of “spouting assumptions without checking facts” and “journalistic malfeasance to insist that the NRA has no basis for opposing him.”

    To make the case that Garland’s record does indicate an anti-gun bias, Cox went on to cite Garland’s role in the 2007 decision Parker v. District of Columbia which came before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit where Garland is now chief judge.

    But Garland’s role in this decision was minimal, and countless legal experts have repeatedly refuted claims that it indicates any particular views on the Second Amendment.

    Here are the facts about the Parker case.

    In a 2-1 panel decision -- in which then-circuit judge Garland did not participate -- the D.C. Circuit reversed a lower court's decision upholding D.C.’s handgun ban, finding that the law violated the Second Amendment.

    Following the ruling, Garland was one of four judges -- including George H.W. Bush appointee Judge Raymond Randolph -- who voted whether to have the entire D.C. Circuit rehear the case in a procedural move known as an en banc rehearing. A majority of D.C. Circuit judges voted not to rehear the case, and it moved on to the Supreme Court, where it became the landmark Second Amendment decision District of Columbia v. Heller.

    In the NRA article, Cox falsely alleged that Garland’s vote to rehear the case means that he would have reversed the decision striking down D.C.’s handgun ban, writing, “the fact is, judges do not vote to rehear decisions with which they agree. If a judge thinks a panel’s opinion was wrong, he or she votes to have the full court rehear it. If a judge thinks a panel’s opinion was correct, he or she lets it stand. Plain and simple.”

    According to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Cox is wrong to claim that a vote to rehear a case indicates that a judge agrees or disagrees with the court’s initial ruling.

    As Rule 35 explains, en banc rehearings “ordinarily will not be ordered unless” there is disagreement among courts about the correct outcome of the case or if “the proceeding involves a question of exceptional importance”:

    (a) When Hearing or Rehearing En Banc May Be Ordered. A majority of the circuit judges who are in regular active service and who are not disqualified may order that an appeal or other proceeding be heard or reheard by the court of appeals en banc. An en banc hearing or rehearing is not favored and ordinarily will not be ordered unless:

    (1) en banc consideration is necessary to secure or maintain uniformity of the court's decisions; or

    (2) the proceeding involves a question of exceptional importance.

    According to PolitiFact, both conditions of the en banc rule were satisfied by the Parker case. Indeed, the case came at a time when there was disagreement among the courts about whether the Second Amendment conferred a “collective” or “individual” right.

    The case was also exceptionally important -- the Supreme Court at the time had not made a significant ruling on the meaning of the Second Amendment since 1939 in United States v. Miller. In fact, the question of whether handgun bans were permissible under the Second Amendment was so important that the NRA spent years crafting a case to challenge the D.C.’s handgun ban. (The NRA’s case, Seegars v. Gonzalez was poorly crafted, and the NRA later joined the Parker efforts.)

    Legal experts have refuted the type of claim being made by the NRA about Garland's vote to rehear Parker. As Andrew Bradt, assistant professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law explained, “A vote to rehear a case can be based only on the importance of the issue and the need to have the full court address it or it can be because the issue is a complicated and confusing one that demands the clarity provided by a discussion of the full court of appeals. It doesn't at all indicate a pre-judgement that the panel's decision was wrong.”

    The claim that Garland’s en banc vote in Parker means that he is anti-gun is a smear was first developed by the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), a discredited right-wing group that is spending millions to oppose Garland's nomination, and now is repeated by the NRA. Numerous legal experts, however, have already debunked the claim that an en banc vote is representative of how a judge would rule on the merits if the case were reheard. Plain and simple.

  • Embracing The Clinton Crazies, Trump Becomes AM Talk Radio’s Nominee For President

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Rolling out a 1996-era campaign that primarily targets Bill Clinton instead of Hillary, Donald Trump continues to wallow in all kinds of conspiracies that were once eagerly promoted by right-wing “Clinton Crazies” two decades ago. Those were the hardcore Clinton haters who spent the 1990s absorbing AM talk radio’s chronic toxicity and obsessing over the president’s possibly murderous ways.

    By digging up long-forgotten `90s attack lines and pushing them today, Trump seems content to focus his campaign on the distant past, and on the Clinton who isn’t running for president in 2016. In doing so though, Trump has emerged as right-wing radio’s dream Republican nominee, someone eager to debase public debate and to wallow in not-even-half-baked conspiracy theories.

    So the good news for the Clinton Crazies is that Trump’s running an AM talk radio campaign for president. The bad news for the GOP? Trump’s running an AM talk radio campaign for president.

    “He’s never been involved in policy making or party building or the normal things a candidate would do. … His whole frame of reference is daytime Fox News and Infowars,” Alex Jones’ conspiracy website. That, according to a Republican strategist quoted in today’s New York Times.

    Trump’s unorthodox primary run this year has set off countless intramural spats within the conservative movement, and specifically pitting well-known Republican allies against Trump, at least temporarily. (See: National Review and Megyn Kelly.) But talk radio – outside of some prominent anti-Trump voices like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin -- has largely remained Trump’s key ally and helped normalize his radical behavior.

    As Michael Brendan Dougherty recently wrote in The Week:

    Donald Trump talks about politics the way talk-radio hosts do, like a dramatic clash of personalities. This is a very different view of politics from the one espoused by conservative opinion writers, where politics are questions of policy, popular opinion as it exists, and the structure of institutions that shape the decisions of politicians.

    Media observers outside the talk radio bubble, and from across the political spectrum, shook their heads in amazement at Trump’s decision to resurrect the Clinton Crazies’ fever swamp touchstone: the 1993 suicide death of Vince Foster, a longtime Clinton aide and friend who was serving as the White House’s deputy counsel. 

    “He knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide,” Trump said of Foster’s relationship with the Clintons at the time of his death. “It’s the one thing with her, whether it’s Whitewater or whether it’s Vince or whether it’s Benghazi. It’s always a mess with Hillary,” Trump told The Washington Post.

    When even a professional conspiracy theorist like Glenn Beck suggests Trump’s gone too far with the Foster nonsense, it might be time to reel it back it in. “We were joking on the air yesterday, how long before he gets to the list of the people that the Clintons have killed. Well, yesterday, he started with Vince Foster,” noted Beck.  

    The fact Trump reached for the preposterous Foster card just highlights how, within the insular world of right-wing politics, the topic -- like so many Clinton conspiracies -- maintains a strong following.

    In 2007, while preparing for a possible Hillary Clinton nomination, Fox News took the fact-free plot out of storage. Sean Hannity led the charge, suggesting Foster was murdered, asking if there had been a Clinton-led “coverup,” and teasing "the strange and unanswered questions involving the death of Vince Foster."

    Just ugly and reckless stuff.

    More recently, Rush Limbaugh suggested Bernie Sanders was worried Hillary Clinton would have him shot, like Vince Foster. And while promoting his anti-Clinton book on talk radio, author Peter Schweizer was told by host Dana Loesch, "There is always that concern for anyone who goes up against the Clinton machine that they could be Vince Fostered," and asked if he considered that possibility when "getting himself security.” Schweizer responded, "Yeah, I mean look -- there are security concerns that arise in these kinds of situations."

    For those who weren’t around, or weren’t actively engaged in the early '90s, the Vince Foster conspiratorial attack is basically the equivalent to birtherism during the Obama era -- if birthers had also accused Obama of murdering somebody while supposedly growing up in Kenya. (Note that birther architect Joseph Farah from WorldNetDaily was also a vocal Vince Foster conspiracy advocate.)

    Like birtherism and white nationalists, Vince Foster chatter makes professional Republicans cringe when it arises during the campaign season when the party’s trying to put on its best face for November. But Trump has now made the phony `90s claim synonymous with the party. 

    Not surprisingly, there’s been a lot of shorthand this week in terms of the Foster story as journalists try to sum up Trump’s `90s reference in one or two sentences. But that shorthand doesn’t do justice to the Foster story, which means many journalists aren’t doing justice to Trump current lunacy.

    The facts: Foster was the deputy White House counsel who committed suicide in Northern Virginia's Fort Marcy Park on July 20, 1993, not far from Washington, D.C. According to multiple investigations, Foster died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His suicide and the fictionalized plot where the president and his wife hatched some sort of plot to murder their friend (he knew too much!), quickly become one of the more despicable claims that was casually lobbed in the 1990s. Conservatives, led by Limbaugh, incessantly cast doubt on Foster's suicide, suggesting instead that the Clinton White House had murdered Foster and covered it up.

    But there must have been legitimate questions if the right-wing scheme has lived on so long, right?

    Wrong.

    Jamison Foser, writing for Media Matters in 2010 [emphasis added]:

    Like any good conspiracy theorist, they became more and more certain of foul play as time went on -- their certainty only reinforced by facts and evidence and official investigations to the contrary.

    The United States Park Police investigated Foster's death and ruled it a suicide; the conspiracy theorists disagreed and demanded another investigation. Whitewater special prosecutor Robert Fiske (a Republican) investigated the death, concluding it was a suicide. The conspiracy theorists were unsatisfied, and demanded more. Congressional committees investigated (with Republican Dan Burton of Indiana going so far as to shoot up his vegetable garden in a creative if misguided attempt to prove that Foster was murdered) but they, too, failed to produce any evidence of murder. The conspiracy theorists were unswayed. Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr, leaving no stone unturned in his effort to find something -- anything -- to make Clinton look bad, investigated. Starr, too, ruled the death a suicide. The conspiracy theorists announced that Starr was covering for Clinton.

    The Washington Post noted there were “five official investigations into Foster’s death, conducted by professional investigators, forensic experts, psychologists, doctors and independent prosecutors with unlimited resources” and they confirmed there was “nothing fishy or mysterious about Foster’s tragic suicide.” 

    So of course Trump resurrects it for the 2016 campaign. Because that’s what a talk radio candidate for president does.

  • NY Times Highlights How Trump’s “Whole Frame Of Reference” Is Right-Wing Media Conspiracy Theories

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin explained that because presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “‘whole frame of reference’” for his campaign strategy has been conservative media outlets and discredited conspiracy theories, he’s “obliterated” the line separating elected officials and “conservative mischief makers.”

    Trump has long had a symbiotic relationship with conservative media. Fox News and other right-wing news outlets have built up his campaign and repeatedly defended his controversial policies and rhetoric while Trump has echoed their talking points and peddled their conspiracy theories -- most recently including the claim the Clintons were involved with the death of aide Vince Foster. Trump regularly surrounds himself with and lauds known conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, an infamous 9/11 truther, and Roger Stone, a notorious dirty trickster who alleges the Clintons are murderers.Trump has also courted and pushed the claims of discredited author and conspiracy theorist Ed Klein, whose conspiracies on the Clintons have been called “fan faction” and “smut.”

    In a May 25 piece, Martin noted that Trump has obliterated “the line separating the conservative mischief makers and the party’s more buttoned-up cadre of elected officials and aides.”Martin also quoted Republican strategists explaining that Trump’s “whole frame of reference is daytime Fox News and [Alex Jones’] Infowars.” From the May 25 New York Times piece:

    Ever since talk radio, cable news and the Internet emerged in the 1990s as potent political forces on the right, Republicans have used those media to attack their opponents through a now-familiar two-step.

    Political operatives would secretly place damaging information with friendly outlets like The Drudge Report and Fox News and with radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh — and then they would work to get the same information absorbed into the mainstream media.

    Candidates themselves would avoid being seen slinging mud, if possible, so as to avoid coming across as undignified or desperate.

    Yet by personally broaching topics like Bill Clinton’s marital indiscretions and the conspiracy theories surrounding the suicide of Vincent W. Foster Jr., a Clinton White House aide, Donald J. Trump is again defying the norms of presidential politics and fashioning his own outrageous style — one that has little use for a middleman, let alone usual ideas about dignity.

    “They’ve reverse-engineered the way it has always worked because they now have a candidate willing to say it himself,” said Danny Diaz, who was a top aide in Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, speaking with a measure of wonder about the spectacle of the party’s presumptive nominee discussing Mr. Clinton’s sexual escapades.

    With Mr. Trump as the Republican standard-bearer, the line separating the conservative mischief makers and the party’s more buttoned-up cadre of elected officials and aides has been obliterated. Fusing what had been two separate but symbiotic forces, Mr. Trump has begun a real-life political science experiment: What happens when a major party’s nominee is more provocateur than politician?

    […]

    Roger J. Stone Jr., the political operative who is Mr. Trump’s longtime confidant and an unapologetic stirrer of strife, called Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney “losers” for their more restrained approaches.

    But that is precisely what has many Republicans, and some Democrats, nervous.

    “He’s never been involved in policy making or party building or the normal things a candidate would do,” said Jon Seaton, a Republican strategist. “His whole frame of reference is daytime Fox News and Infowars,” a website run by the conservative commentator Alex Jones.

    Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s former chief of staff, said Mr. Trump was making common cause with “the lunatic fringe,” citing his willingness to appear on the radio show of Mr. Jones, who has claimed that Michelle Obama is a man.

  • CNN Criticizes Clinton Wealth While Ignoring Trump’s Shady Financial History

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    A segment on CNN’s OutFront criticized Hillary Clinton, claiming that she “avoids drawing attention to the vast wealth she and her husband have accumulated,” while ignoring the controversial business practices and wealth accumulated by presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump. Ironically, the CNN segment collected their information from tax returns released by the Clinton campaign, but failed to note Trump’s reluctance to release his own tax returns after repeatedly saying he would do so.

    CNN national correspondent Sunlen Serfaty highlighted Clinton’s “posh properties” and “luxurious vacations” after Bill Clinton left the White House. And while Serfaty admitted that the Clintons were millions in debt following Bill’s presidency, she argued that “the speaking circuit” allowed the Clintons to “cash in on their political fame.”

    The segment mirrors attacks lobbed at Hillary Clinton during her 2014 book tour, where media outlets painted Clinton as “out of touch with average Americans,” despite polls finding that most Americans believe Clinton understands the problems of everyday Americans.

    Despite the segment’s focus on the financial status of the Democratic frontrunner, Donald Trump’s lavish lifestyle and financials were completely ignored. Trump has failed to release his previous tax returns, claiming he will only release them after IRS audit is complete. But in 2012, Donald Trump criticized Mitt Romney’s reluctance to release his tax returns that “It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters, especially one who has not been subject to public scrutiny in either military or public service.” This came after Trump had promised in February that he would release his taxes “over the next three, four months.”

    Furthermore, while media has shown a fascination with Clinton’s financial history, Trump’s reportedly shady dealings have received relatively little attention. Trump is also currently facing a fraud lawsuit alleging that he scammed students out of $40 million, has received millions in tax deductions by donating land that he valued between 13 and 50 times what he paid for it, and has been accused of running a nutritional supplement scam that he billed as a “recession-proof” venture that bilked people out of thousands of dollars. Trump also took advantage of a government program meant to help small businesses hurt by 9/11, a move that netted him $150,000. None of this was mentioned in CNN’s Segment.

  • Journalists Should Stop Validating Trump Ally And Conspiracy Theorist Roger Stone

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Journalists have regularly validated top Donald Trump ally and infamous conspiracy theorist Roger Stone in their reporting by uncritically quoting Stone without acknowledging his history of dirty tricks, racism, sexism, and violent rhetoric.

    Political reporters turn to candidates’ campaign staff and other political allies in order to provide insight into campaign strategy. Journalists have used Stone as a source for this insight with regard to the Trump campaign, often referring to him as merely a Trump “associate” or “ally.”

    But Stone is not a typical political adviser, and when the press treats him as one they miss out on a key election story: the extremism of Trump’s supporters. Stone’s decades-long history of dirty tricks includes playing a role in Watergate that later caused him to be fired from a job in the Senate. He has a record of racist and misogynistic rhetoric that caused MSNBC and CNN to ban him from their networks. Stone also regularly calls for public figures to be executed.

    Stone’s history of extremism is particularly relevant for readers when he is quoted discussing the Clintons. Stone has alleged that the Clintons are “plausibly responsible” for the deaths of roughly 40 people, including John F. Kennedy Jr. He has also claimed that Bill Clinton is not Chelsea Clinton’s real father. In 2008, he ran an anti-Hillary Clinton group that went by the acronym “C.U.N.T.”

    Recent articles that have quoted Stone without providing readers with any context regarding his history include:

    • A May 16 BuzzFeed article that quoted “longtime political ally and former campaign adviser to Donald Trump” acknowledging that Trump “posed as his own publicist.”
    • A May 24 Fox News segment discussed comments from “Trump confidant Roger Stone” about whether the candidate had given money to Kathleen Willey.
    • A May 23 Washington Post article quoted “Trump confidant” Stone on the candidate’s strategy for attacking the Clintons.
    • A May 17 USA Today article cited “Trump adviser” Stone on the candidate’s position on Wall Street.

    The media’s validation of Stone closely echoes the mainstreaming of Trump’s extremism. On CNN, Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington called out the media for just that, noting that “by not challenging” Trump’s “extreme statements,” media “are allowing them to become part of the conversation, to become part of the mainstream; we’re getting used to these absurdities.” Journalists should keep that in mind when covering Stone, too.

  • Stone Backtracks On Claim That Trump Paid Willey, Raises New Questions

    Roger Stone Tells Alex Jones That He "Was Told" Trump Paid Willey, Does Not Say Who Told Him

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Stone

    Roger Stone is now backing away from his claim that Donald Trump gave Kathleen Willey money so she could attack the Clintons. While he said in February that Trump had donated to a fund to help Willey pay off her mortgage, Stone today claimed that “at one time I was told that Donald Trump made an online contribution to the fund” set up to help Willey, but “in retrospect he did not.”

    Stone also told Jones today that, “I, along with others did set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to try to pay off her mortgage.” Despite his apparent role in initially setting up the account, Stone did not explain who originally told him about the alleged donation or how he came to the conclusion that Trump had not donated.

    Yesterday, the Trump campaign released a web video highlighting Willey’s allegation that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her in 1993. (Willey’s claim was later investigated by the Office of the Independent Counsel.)

    As Media Matters reported, during a February interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Stone assured Jones that Trump had contributed money to help pay off Willey’s mortgage “so she can hit the road and start speaking out on Hillary.” While soliciting donations to Willey’s mortgage fund from Jones’ audience, Stone claimed at the time, “We have raised a substantial amount of money. Trump is himself a contributor -- I’m not ready to disclose what he has given.”

    Asked by Fox News about Stone’s comments, the Trump campaign said there was “no truth” to the claim. Stone also responded by tweeting, “A bald face Lie- @realDonaldTrump has not paid @kathleenwilley mortgage.”

    Stone is a longtime associate of Trump who says that he speaks regularly with the candidate, including a phone call this morning to congratulate him on the Willey web video.

    He has for decades been involved in conservative politics, orchestrating political dirty tricks and spouting racist, sexist, violent rhetoric while publishing numerous conspiracy theories about the Clintons.

  • Rush Limbaugh Silent After Politico Magazine Piece Details His Business Woes

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Rush Limbaugh responded with uncharacteristic silence to the Politico Magazine piece that detailed the business woes of his long-running radio program.

    Limbaugh completely ignored the contents of the May 24 article during the three hours of his show that aired on the same date. According to Politico Magazine, Limbaugh also ignored “multiple interview requests” before the piece was published.

    The news items of the day that he did feel compelled to rant about included a tropical storm forecast piece. The host signed off of his May 24 show saying there had been “absolutely nothing in the news.”

    Politico Magazine says Limbaugh’s radio show is, “as a business proposition, … on shaky ground” because of the ongoing advertiser boycott largely pushed by the Media Matters campaign “Flush Rush,” which came as a response to the radio host’s infamous tirade in which he referred to then-Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut.” Because Limbaugh has been branded with a “scarlet letter among national brand advertisers,” as talk radio consultant Holland Cooke told Politico Magazine, major radio stations have dropped The Rush Limbaugh Show from their lineup in the past year.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • The Danger Of Giving Anti-Choice Misinformation Equal Weight As Medical Consensus

    Rewire Explains False Equivalencies In Media Coverage Of Abortion Access

     

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In a May 23 article, Rewire president and Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson criticized journalists for creating false equivalencies between anti-choice extremists and medical experts to seemingly “represent both sides” of the debate over abortion access.

    Jacobson’s criticism centered on a May 18 article from the Associated Press about a bill passed by the South Carolina legislature to ban abortion after 19 weeks based on the false premise that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks post-fertilization. She noted that although AP fairly covered the bill’s political context it failed to accurately represent the most important part: “the medical accuracy of claims underlying such bans.”

    Jacobson wrote that the groups supporting 20-week abortion bans include a number of anti-choice organizations such as Americans United for Life, the National Right to Life Committee, and the Susan B. Anthony List -- all of which rely on “false science and unfounded claims of ‘fetal pain’ to pass legislation.” In contrast, “every relevant, respected, and recognized medical body in the world opposes such bans.” Jacobson argued that by reducing coverage of abortion access to a conversation between “supporters versus opponents” it gives false credibility to “a group of people with absolutely no legitimacy making and passing legislation rejected by the weight of the international medical and public health communities.”

    She concluded that given the importance of access to abortion and other basic reproductive health care, “The media’s reliance on false equivalencies has to stop. People’s lives are at risk, and we can’t afford it.”

    From Rewire’s May 23 article:

    Using false equivalencies effectively means giving equal time to those who spread misinformation and, in many cases, outright lies, abrogating the ethical responsibilities of journalists to be accurate and fair. And this is exactly what the Associated Press did last week when it published an article on 20-week abortion bans that epitomized the worst of reporting on abortion.

    [...]

    “Supporters” of 20-week abortion bans (and many other such laws) include groups like Americans United for Life and the National Right to Life Committee (both of which have drafted model legislation for these bans), as well as others such as the Susan B. Anthony List. Each of these groups uses false science and unfounded claims of “fetal pain” to pass legislation that threatens access to critical reproductive health care; the anti-choice movement’s self-important “pro-life” designation elides the fact that women’s health and lives are in grave danger wherever such care is unavailable.

    Who are the “opponents” of 20-week abortion bans? These include the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and a range of international bodies such as the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. In other words, every relevant, respected, and recognized medical body in the world opposes such bans.

    [...]

    Is it “fair and accurate” to posit the assertions of anti-choice groups, which base their claims on ideology and contrived “evidence,” as equal to medical and public health experts? Is it in the public interest to suggest that an issue that is fundamental to both human rights and public health be decided by reducing a vast body of evidence to equal that of organizations with an overriding political agenda? Is it good journalism by any standard?

    There is only one answer to all of these questions, and it is “no.” AP’s piece was irresponsible, but it also reflects that current state of reporting on reproductive health care by many outlets, including NPR, the Washington Post, and others.

    No matter how strong the backlash from the small but loud contingent of people within the anti-choice movement, it is the media’s job to report fairly and responsibly. Making the claims of anti-choice “supporters” of abortion bans equivalent to the consensus of the medical and public health community not only abrogates the public trust, it puts all of us in danger.

  • How Coverage Of Transgender Issues In Hispanic Media Is Improving

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Univision and Telemundo, the biggest players in Spanish-language media, are making notable strides in their coverage of transgender issues, a topic in need of improved visibility among Hispanic audiences. 

    During the first third of 2016, a Media Matters guest demographic study showed transgender voices were absent from Spanish-language Sunday shows. But recently, Univision and Telemundo have both included transgender voices -- Univision on their nightly news show and Telemundo on their Sunday show -- in their reporting on the recent slew of  anti-LGBT bathroom bills, which bar transgender people from using facilities that correspond to their gender identity. On the May 22 edition of their Sunday show Enfoque, Telemundo brought on a transgender teenager to talk about discrimination:

    Latinos and Latinas face extra hurdles compared to other LGBT folks in the form of family structure and religion that may often suppress their ability to be open about their gender and/or sexuality. When Hispanic media gives transgender people a platform to tell their own stories, it helps educate viewers and debunk myths and stereotypes about transgender people.

    In the past, Spanish-language news networks have aired stories that include inaccurate and dehumanizing language about transgender people. Last year, networks also failed to cover a wave of deadly violence against  transgender women of color. National news networks have a history of irresponsible and inaccurate journalism when it comes to transgender issues, but Spanish-language networks are taking a much-needed step in the right direction.