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  • How Mainstream Headlines Have Been Normalizing Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President-elect Donald Trump is not a normal politician, which is evidenced by his actions, statements, and tendency to make and promote outright lies. But Trump’s break from the norm would not be clear to readers who only glance at headlines, as most do. For months, media have helped normalize Trump with headlines that sanitize his ties to extremists, uncritically echo his lies, and whitewash his incendiary comments. As media prepare to cover a Trump administration, they must work harder to craft headlines that portray Trump’s actions and statements accurately.

    Headlines about the appointments Trump has made to his cabinet and White House staff have helped sanitize his nominees, despite their bigoted rhetoric. After Trump appointed Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart.com, to serve as his chief strategist, newspapers labeled Bannon as a “Conservative flame-thrower,” a “conservative firebrand,” and a “tormenter of establishment GOP.” These descriptions downplay the fact that Bannon ran an unabashedly white nationalist and anti-Semitic website, as well as Bannon’s own history of alleged anti-Semitism. Even when The New York Times reported that Bannon “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners,” the headline referred to him as “Combative, Populist Steve Bannon,” ignoring completely his remarks. When Trump appointed Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to serve as his national security adviser, headlines downplayed his Islamophobia and his conflicts of interest and branded him as someone who “brings experience and controversy” and is “not afraid to ruffle feathers.” While the headlines may be accurate, they do not give readers the essential information they need to know about the people who will have Trump's ear.

    Headlines have also left out important context about Trump’s lies. After Trump falsely claimed that he “worked hard” to keep a Ford plant “in Kentucky,” media promoted Trump’s spin in headlines, leaving out the fact that the plant in question was never going to close. After Trump lied in a tweet claiming that he would have “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” mainstream media uncritically echoed him in their headlines and on social media. Trump is an unprecedented liar, and by simply echoing Trump’s statements, the headlines might as well have come from a Trump press release.

    This problem persisted before the election as well. When Trump addressed his history with the birther movement, headlines failed to mention that Trump had not apologized for his years-long crusade to delegitimize President Obama and that he lied by asserting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had started the rumors that President Obama was born in Kenya.

    In the run-up to the election, headlines also helped normalize Trump’s behavior, which would be unacceptable for anyone else, let alone a candidate for president. Following the release of a 2005 Access Hollywood video where Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, media headlines characterized the conversation as “lewd.” Lewd is correct, but it misses the point. Trump was talking about imposing himself physically on women without consent. That is sexual assault. Media shouldn’t hide behind creative adjectives to normalize this behavior.

    Headlines are indisputably the most important part of an article. As The Washington Post reported, “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week,” and “that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won't want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.” By continually refusing to use headlines to call out Trump’s ties to extremists, incessant lying, and his atrocious behavior, media are normalizing his actions. There have been pleas from many in media to stop normalizing Trump. Headlines would be a good place to start.

  • Too Little, Too Late: Weeks After Election, Media See Trump's Conflicts, Potential Self-Dealings, And Corruption

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    New York Times editors and reporters might’ve thought they were going to be congratulated by readers for Sunday’s front-page, six-reporter expose on President-elect Donald Trump’s nearly endless business conflicts. But a chorus of media observers and critics had other ideas.

    Rather than applaud the Times for its report, lots of commentators wondered why the newspaper waited until after the election to wave large red flags about Trump’s obvious conflicts, especially when the Times -- and so much of the campaign press -- spent an extraordinary amount of energy obsessing over potential conflicts of interest, and possible ethical lapses, supposedly surrounding Hillary Clinton.

    Looking back, there certainly seems to be a perception that the political press didn’t really care about Trump’s looming, impossible-to-miss conflicts or the bad “optics” they might produce. And it appears that the press was overly infatuated with conflict questions about Clinton -- questions today that seem quaint compared to Trump’s far-flung business dealings, which represent a possible gateway to corruption.

    That’s not to say the topic wasn’t addressed or that some journalists didn’t tackle it in real time during the campaign season. Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek produced a helpful deep dive back in September. And the business press was urgent and upfront in detailing the unprecedented nature of Trump’s looming problem. Bloomberg in June: “Conflicts of Interest? President Trump's Would Be Amazing.”

    But in general, the political press seemed less engaged with this issue and appeared reluctant to tag the obvious Trump storyline as a campaign priority. There didn’t seem to be an institutional commitment to pursuing and documenting that storyline, even though the potential problems for Trump were obvious and the story might have disqualified him.

    Even today, the story isn’t being treated with the urgency it deserves. Yes, more new organizations are tepidly acknowledging the colossal conflicts and looming inside deals, but so much of the coverage still lacks resolve. Question for journalists: If Clinton arrived at the White House with open and boundless business conflicts, how would you cover that story? What kind of outraged, lecturing tone would you take? Now treat the Trump story the same way.

    Newsrooms need to learn from their lackluster campaign coverage and treat the unfolding Trump controversy as a permanent beat inside newsrooms for the next four years. It certainly demands that kind of attention and focus.

    Note that aside from the Times’ big Sunday Trump conflict piece, the newspaper also published detailed articles on the topic November 21 and 14, and before the election on November 5. But aside from a few exceptions, in the months prior to Election Day, when voters were assessing the candidates, the intense focus on Trump’s conflicts just wasn’t there. (As Media Matters reported, the same trend played out on network newscasts, which devoted scant time to Trump’s conflicts of interest before the election only to ramp up coverage after Trump’s victory.)

    Where was there lots of media campaign interest? (And also lots of bad journalism?) Trying to detail Clinton’s possible conflicts, a storyline forever deemed by the press to be a Very Big Deal.

    Recall that the Times and The Washington Post considered potential Clinton conflicts stemming from the family charity to be so pressing that both newspapers entered into unusual exclusive editorial agreements with Peter Schweizer, the partisan Republican author who wrote the Breitbart-backed book Clinton Cash. (The Times also breathlessly hyped the book in its news pages.)

    And that was 18 months before Election Day. The topic remained a media priority throughout the campaign.

    Clinton Cash, a hodgepodge of innuendo and connect-the-dot allegations, was riddled with errorsU.S. News & World Report described the book as a "somewhat problematic" look at the Clintons' financial dealings, while Time noted that one of the book’s central claims was "based on little evidence.”

    Yet Clinton’s alleged conflicts were considered to be so important inside newsrooms -- and it was deemed so crucial for the Beltway press to suss out every conceivable detail -- that the Times and the Post were willing to make dubious alliances with GOP operatives.

    Needless to say, no such partisan unions were formed to report out Trump’s massive business conflicts. Indeed, most news consumers would be hard-pressed to suggest Trump’s obvious business conflicts constituted a centerpiece of his campaign coverage for the previous 18 months.

    Meanwhile, recall that lots of media elites demanded Clinton take action before the election in order to eliminate the supposed conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation. During August and September, that topic created yet another wave of frenzied Clinton coverage, fueled by the media’s “optics” obsession

    At the time, NBC’s Chuck Todd perfectly summed up the media’s weird pursuit when he announced, “Let’s be clear, this is all innuendo at this point. No pay for play has been proven. No smoking gun has been found.” Todd then quickly added, “But like many of these Clinton scandals, it looks bad.”

    From NPR:

    There's no question the optics are bad for Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. But no proof has emerged that any official favors -- regulations, government contracts, international deals -- were curried in exchange for donations or pledges.

    And from Time:

    If she didn’t do anything wrong, why won’t she defend herself? By avoiding taking responsibility, Clinton only exacerbates the perception she is dishonest and untrustworthy, the primary hurdle on her path to the White House. Optics matter when the issue is transparency.

    According to the media mantra, Clinton’s possible big-money conflicts looked really, really bad. Reporters hammered the theme for weeks and months, while only occasionally glancing over in the direction of Trump’s concrete conflicts.

    Today, coverage of Trump’s conflicts and self-dealing has belatedly arrived. But it often comes with an odd sense of delayed wonder, as if journalists are just now realizing the epic size of the pay-for-play problem at hand for the country, while still hedging their bets. 

    For instance, the headline for the Post’s November 25 article announced, “Trump’s Presidency, Overseas Business Deals And Relations With Foreign Governments Could All Become Intertwined.”

    Could? The president-elect’s business dealing could be a conflict for U.S. foreign policy? That Post framing seems to dramatically underplay what’s currently unfolding. As the Post itself has reported, “Trump has done little to set boundaries between his personal and official business since winning the presidency.”

    Indeed, Trump’s refusal to divest himself from a sprawling array of business interests is certain to create an ethical morass that even Republican attorneys insist will produce endless, possibly debilitating, conflicts for Trump.

    The media mostly missed this pressing story once during the campaign. They can’t afford to overlook it a second time. 

  • Breitbart Uses Nazi-Inspired Anti-Semitic Rhetoric In George Soros Attack

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Breitbart News’ Twitter account used anti-Semitic rhetoric, commonly used in 1930’s Nazi propaganda, to attack philanthropist George Soros’ efforts to combat voter suppression laws. The anti-Semitic attack is in keeping with a troubling pattern of anti-Semitism from Breitbart, which President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon formerly ran and has bragged is home to the “alt-right,” a racist white nationalist movement.

    Linking to a “flashback” story about Soros’ financial role supporting “legal battles against state voting laws,” the Breitbart Twitter account tweeted on November 28, “Like an octopus.”

    The “octopus” wording is overt anti-Semitic rhetoric dating back to at least the 1930s, when it was a common theme in Nazi propaganda. The imagery of a Jewish octopus engulfing the globe or ensnaring political institutions can be found on other white supremacist and neo-Nazi online forums, as well as on Fox News’ airwaves.

    That Breitbart is attacking Soros with anti-Semitic rhetoric is not surprising -- the white nationalist site was formerly run by Bannon, who has bragged that Breitbart News had become home to the “alt-right” -- which is merely a racist code word for white nationalists. In 2007, Bannon’s ex-wife swore in court that Bannon “said he doesn’t like Jews” and didn’t want his children to go to school with Jews. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart attacked media and political figures using anti-Semitic rhetoric, to the point where a former Breitbart employee accused the website of embracing “a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

    Major media outlets are already whitewashing Bannon’s history of white nationalism and anti-Semitism. Given that Trump also has an extensive relationship with the white nationalist movement and Bannon’s extreme influence in Trump’s White House, media efforts to identify and criticize anti-Semitic rhetoric are more critical than ever.

  • NY Times Reports Steve Bannon Holds Theory Of “Genetic Superiority” While Headline Calls Him “Combative, Populist”

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Bannon

    A New York Times profile of incoming Trump chief counselor Stephen Bannon is headlined “Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man In Donald Trump,” but the most noteworthy bit of information about Bannon is not referenced in the headline.

    Bannon served as CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and led Breitbart.com before leaving to join Trump. As Media Matters and others have reported, under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart became a haven for the white nationalist “alt-right” movement.

    The Times reports in the piece that one of Bannon’s former colleagues said he “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.” The colleague said he told Bannon that such a law would exclude a lot of African-American voters, and he said Bannon responded, "Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.” (The piece also quotes the former colleague in question saying, “Steve’s not a racist … he’s using the alt-right -- using them for power.”)

    This revelation is made in the second half of the piece, and the headline gives no indication that it is in the story.

    The story also discusses Bannon’s history of racially divisive advocacy at Breitbart, as well as that site’s anti-Muslim stance during his time managing its editorial tone and posture. The Times notes, “Breitbart.com’s scorn for Muslims, immigrants and black activists drew a fervent following on the alt-right, an extremist fringe of message boards and online magazines popular with white supremacists, and after Mr. Bannon took control of the website in 2012, he built a raucous coalition of the discontented.”

    Despite the information contained in the story, the headline considerably downplays the subject’s controversial past and present in favor of a generic description.

  • Monica Crowley, Possible Trump Press Secretary, Regularly Pushes Conspiracies On Fox News

    Crowley Routinely Attacks Journalists As "Corrupt" And "Leftist"

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering Fox News contributor Monica Crowley for White House press secretary. Crowley has long derided journalists as “corrupt” and “leftist,” and has pushed numerous conspiracy theories concerning President Obama’s race, religion, parentage, and birthplace; former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s health; and various progressive pieces of legislation and administrative actions.

    With the recent reporting on Trump’s potential corruption, it may be surprising that Crowley would want to serve in a Trump administration, given this declaration she made in 2012:

    But Crowley shares Trump’s disdain for journalism, and she praised Trump for trolling of reporters by calling a phony news conference to supposedly put his birther claims to rest, calling Trump’s actions a “masterstroke.” She also defended Trump from the numerous sexual harassment and assault allegations against him during the presidential campaign, claiming they were “a classic political hit job.”

    Crowley Regularly Disparages The Press As Corrupt And “Leftist”

    Crowley Has Often Tarred The Media As “Corrupt.”

    Crowley: “Obama Has Gotten Away [With] Bloody Murder,” “Literally,” With “The Protection Of The Press.”

    Crowley Accused Media Of Running “Mafia-Like Protection Racket” On Behalf Of President Obama.

    Crowley Frequently Derides Media As “Leftist.”

    Crowley Is A Conspiracy Theorist

    Crowley Supported Trump’s Birtherism And Pushed Other Conspiracy Theories About President Obama’s Race, Faith, And “Real Father”

    Crowley: Trump’s Birtherism “Gaining Traction” Because Obama Has “Adopted Some Policies That Are Seriously Antithetical To American Values.”

    Crowley: Trump’s Questions About Obama’s Birth Certificate And Educational History Are “Very Legitimate.”

    Crowley: “Issues About [Obama’s] Origins … Have Traction” Because He Does "Un-American" Things That Give Impression He's "Not One Of Us."

    Crowley Questioned Whether Obama Is A “Natural-Born Citizen” And Eligible To Be President.

    Crowley Enthusiastically Endorsed “Dynamite” Conspiracy Theory Film Alleging Obama’s Real Father Is Communist Frank Marshall Davis. [Media Matters, 10/25/12]

    Crowley Claimed Obama Is An Arab, Not Black, And That He’s Lying By Presenting Himself As African-American. [Media Matters, 6/26/08]

    Crowley Pushed Myth That Obama Is Muslim By Falsely Claiming His Half-Brother Told The Jerusalem Post That “Obama’s Got A Really Solid Muslim Background.” [Media Matters, 6/20/08]

    Crowley Pushed Clinton Health Conspiracy Theories

    Crowley Pushed Conspiracy Theory That Clinton Faked Illness And Concussion To Avoid Benghazi Testimony.

    Crowley Helped Push Conspiracy Theory About Clinton’s Health During Presidential Campaign By Highlighting “Major Coughing Fits.”

    Crowley Routinely Pushes Claims Of Democratic Takeover Of Americans’ Daily Lives Through Legislation And Administrative Action

    Crowley: 2009 Cap And Trade Legislation Was “Really About … The Government Taking More And More Control Over Your Life.”

    Crowley On Health Care Reform Debate In 2009: “We’re Talking About Nationalizing … Health Care.”

    Crowley: Obama Was Trying To “Indoctrinate Our Children” With 2009 Education Speech; “This Is What Chairman Mao Did.”

    Crowley Pushed Conspiracy Theory That ATF’s Fast & Furious Operation Was Meant To Create Conditions For Passing Stronger Gun Laws.

    Crowley: The Social Safety Net’s Purpose Is To Create A "Cult Of Victimhood And Dependency."

    Crowley: Obama’s “Whole Objective Is To ... Get People Dependent On Government."

    Crowley Has Made Inflammatory And Offensive Statements About The LGBTQ Community, President Obama, And Others

    Crowley: Justice Sonia Sotomayor Was “Basically Alexander Hamilton In Drag” During 2009 Senate Confirmation Hearing.

    Crowley: Justice Department’s Decision Not To Defend DOMA Is A “Form Of Dictatorship From “Mubarak Obama.”

    Crowley Insinuated Sandra Fluke Was Gay And Later Apologized After Outcry.

    Crowley Said Obama And Accused Murderers Have A Similarly Negative Influence On Children.

    Crowley: “From A Conservative Perspective,” Obama’s Re-Election “Was A National Suicide.”

    Crowley Called 2011 Shooting Of Rep. Gabby Giffords A “Personal Tragedy … Not A National Tragedy,” Dismissed Memorial Service For Slain As An Obama Campaign Rally.

    Crowley: Syrian Refugee Crisis “Is Not A Migrant Crisis. This Is An Invasion.”

  • Journalists Should Follow Politico’s Lead And Press Betsy DeVos On LGBTQ Student Equality

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    After President-elect Donald Trump annouced he would nominate billionaire conservative activist and megadonor Betsy DeVos as education secretary, Politico highlighted civil rights groups’ deep concern about LGBTQ student equality under a DeVos Department of Education. While the DeVos family has a “long history” of supporting anti-LGBTQ causes, Betsy DeVos’ personal stance on LGBTQ student equality is unclear.

    On November 23, news reports confirmed that Trump named conservative megadonor DeVos as his nominee to head the Department of Education under his administration. DeVos is part of the “ultra-rich, ultra-conservative” DeVos family -- which routinely bankrolls education privatization, anti-choice, and anti-union causes nationwide -- and her education advocacy work is an epicenter of the right-wing corporate “education reform” echo chamber. The DeVos family also has a long record of donating to anti-LGBTQ causes and organizations, including giving more than $6.7 million to the anti-LGBTQ group Focus on the Family since 1998. Focus on the Family promotes the harmful and discredited practice of so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy and has accused anti-bullying programs in schools of “promoting homosexuality.”

    Politico spotlighted those donations in a November 25 article detailing concerns about DeVos’ potential to dismantle the Obama administration’s protections for LGBTQ students. Those protections include urging schools to extend anti-bullying policies to LGBTQ students, allow LGBTQ student groups on campus, and protect transgender students’ right to use facilities that match their gender identity.

    While the DeVos family’s opposition to LGBTQ equality is well-documented, Stephanie White of Equality Michigan told Politico that she believes Betsy DeVos’ personal views aren’t “accurately reflected by her family’s past donations” and said she hopes that DeVos will protect LGBTQ students. Politico also interviewed Eliza Byard, executive director for the LGBTQ student advocacy group GLSEN, who pointed out that DeVos’ support for school vouchers threatens at-risk LGBTQ students by undercutting federal civil rights enforcement and draining public funds from traditional public schools.

    Notably, DeVos did not respond to a request for comment for Politico’s story. Given the critical importance of nondiscrimination and anti-bullying protections for LGBTQ students, journalists should continue to push DeVos to articulate her views on LGBTQ student equality. 

    From the November 25 Politico article:

    Civil rights groups say they're “deeply concerned" that the extension of civil rights protections to gay and transgender students by President Barack Obama’s Education Department will be dismantled by Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick to lead the department.

    They note the DeVos family has a long history of supporting anti-gay causes — including donating hundreds of thousands to groups that push “conversion therapy” — raising questions about how, if at all, she would address discrimination against gay and transgender students.

    [...]

    Advocates point to one DeVos relationship that they say gives them hope for how she may approach LGBT issues: Greg McNeilly, a political adviser to DeVos and the chief operating officer of the DeVos family’s company Windquest Group, is gay and was one of the first to marry his same-sex partner in Michigan after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. McNeilly declined to comment for this story.

    Stephanie White, executive director of Equality Michigan, said she believes that with McNeilly as an influence, DeVos’ views on LGBT issues have evolved. She noted that DeVos doesn’t speak out against gay rights, and even called on Dave Agema, a Michigan Republican National Committee member, to step down from the RNC in 2014 after making comments highly critical of gays.

    [...]

    Still, the DeVos family has a long history of supporting groups that espouse anti-gay rights views.

    DeVos and her husband have given hundreds of thousands to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group whose founder called the battle against LGBT rights a "second civil war," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group has also pushed so-called “conversion therapy” — discredited practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation — according to the Human Rights Campaign.

    DeVos’ ties to a group that pushes “conversion therapy” is “most alarming,” and DeVos needs to clarify her stance on the practice, Griffin said.

    [...]

    Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, a group that advocates for LGBT rights in education, said her concerns extend beyond what DeVos might do with the Office for Civil Rights. She contends that DeVos’ support for measures such as school vouchers undercut civil rights enforcement and drain public funds from public schools.

  • Trump’s Fake Election Claims Came From Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones, But Media Aren't Reporting That

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    President-elect Donald Trump’s false claim that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally” can be traced to conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Alex Jones. But multiple media reports on Trump’s falsehood failed to report the connection, which is only the latest in a growing list of conspiracy theories espoused by both Jones and the president-elect.

    Trump made his claim in response to ongoing vote counting showing former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton amassing a popular vote lead of over 2 million votes.

    Trump’s lie echoes a story from Infowars, the conspiracy-laden website run by Jones. Jones has promoted numerous outlandish conspiracies, including the allegation that the American government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, and that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a “false flag” event involving actors and green screens.

    An Infowars story headlined “Report: Three Million Votes In Presidential Election Cast By Illegal Aliens,” which cites a tweet from “Greg Phillips of the VoteFraud.org organization,” is the basis of Trump’s fraudulent allegation.

    Phillips, without providing any evidence for his claim, wrote on Twitter, “We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.”

    Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson then published an article on Phillips’ tweet that baselessly claimed, “Virtually all of the votes cast by 3 million illegal immigrants are likely to have been for Hillary Clinton, meaning Trump might have won the popular vote when this number is taken into account.” As The Washington Post explained, Infowars was vital in bringing the conspiracy theory to a wider audience -- the Jones-led website's story on Phillips’ tweet was linked near the top of the Drudge Report on November 14.

    In a YouTube video entitled “Proof Donald Trump Won The Popular Vote” released following the Infowars report, Jones himself claimed “it is uncontrovertible (sic) fact that three million illegals voted” in the election and “tens of millions of people were on the voter rolls who were dead and at least four million of them voted as well,” and concluded, “Donald J. Trump didn’t just win the Electoral College in a landslide, he also clearly won the popular vote.”

    In covering Trump’s allegation (and often uncritically echoing it), multiple media outlets failed to make the connection between Trump and Jones and the other conspiracy theorists pushing this baseless story.

    The New York Times acknowledged that Trump’s claim was “baseless” but did not make the connection between the president-elect and conspiracy sites or Jones.

    The L.A. Times pointed out there is “no evidence” to back up Trump’s claim, but did not point out the false story’s origins.

    NBC News omitted references to Infowars and Alex Jones in their report on Trump’s remarks.

    Trump adopting a conspiracy from Jones and Infowars is not out of the ordinary. The relationship between the politician and the conspiracy theorist has flourished for months.

    Trump appeared on Jones’ radio/internet show in December of 2015 and praised him for his “amazing” reputation. Trump’s informal adviser, Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone, has been a regular contributor to Jones’ radio program for months and the two have made joint appearances at pro-Trump events.

    Throughout the campaign, Trump echoed Jones’ conspiratorial rhetoric as Jones said he was in contact directly with Trump, giving him advice.

    In an October speech attacking “global financial powers” while using anti-Semitic tropes and dog whistles, Trump was parroting an argument that Jones has used for years.

    After Jones said Trump should begin complaining the election was “rigged,” Trump began making similar complaints on the campaign trail.

    When Trump alleged that President Obama was “the founder of ISIS,” he was echoing Jones, whose website once wrote that “the Obama administration has been backing ISIS since the beginning.”

    After Trump delivered his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Jones saw so much of his rhetoric included that he bragged on his radio show that Trump was “totally synced” with him and his conspiratorial world view. Following Trump’s victory, Jones claimed that Trump called him to “thank” Jones’ audience and promised to appear on his show in the near future.

    This latest outburst shows that the two men remain in sync, and it’s time for the media to let the public know who is pulling the next president’s strings.

  • Evening News Virtually Ignores Paul Ryan’s Medicare Privatization Plan

    MSNBC Only Outlet To Vet Ryan's Scheme To Gut The Social Safety Net

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Weekday evening programming on the largest cable and broadcast news outlets almost completely ignored a long-standing Medicare privatization scheme favored by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) in the days since he first resurrected the idea of radically reshaping the American health care system toward for-profit interests.

    During a November 10 interview with Fox News host Bret Baier, Ryan misleadingly claimed that due to mounting “fiscal pressures” created by the Affordable Care Act, the Republican-led Congress would be forced to engage with what Baier called “entitlement reform” sometime next year. Ryan falsely claimed that “because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke” and that the popular health insurance system for American seniors will have to be changed as part of any legislation to “repeal and replace” President Obama’s health care reform legacy. From Special Report with Bret Baier:

    According to a Media Matters analysis of broadcast and cable evening news coverage from November 10 to November 27, Ryan’s plan to privatize the nationwide, single-payer health care coverage currently enjoyed by millions of seniors has gone unmentioned on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News. Ryan’s so-called “premium support” plan was briefly mentioned on the November 22 edition of PBS NewsHour when co-host Judy Woodruff pressed President-elect Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, as to whether Trump would accept Ryan’s privatization proposal. By comparison, during the same time period, MSNBC ran six prime-time segments exposing Ryan’s privatization agenda:

    According to a July 19 issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation, conservative lawmakers are likely to pursue “a proposal to gradually transform Medicare into a system of premium supports, building on proposals” adopted by Ryan when he served as chairman of the House Budget Committee. These so-called “premium supports” would provide each Medicare beneficiary with a “voucher” that can be used for the purchase of private health insurance; they represent “a significant change from the current system” that pays health care providers directly for services rendered.

    In essence, Ryan’s plan would privatize Medicare and redirect hundreds of billions of tax dollars that currently go to doctors, hospitals, and other medical service providers through the costly private health insurance market.

    This startling scheme bears similarities to a failed 2005 attempt by the Bush administration to partially privatize Social Security. Democratic members of Congress are already aligning themselves against Ryan’s throwback plan to gut Medicare, and it’s not actually clear if Trump is supportive of the initiative, which he refused to fully endorse on the campaign trail.

    As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) pointed out last July, claims that Medicare is “nearing ‘bankruptcy’ are highly misleading,” and Ryan’s specific charge that Medicare is “broke” because of the ACA is completely wrong. President Obama’s health care reform law greatly improved Medicare’s long-term finances and extended the hospital insurance trust fund’s solvency by 11 years.

    The looming fight over the future of Medicare, which serves over 55 million beneficiaries and accounted for 15 percent of the entire federal budget in 2015, has been well-documented, but it has garnered almost no attention on major television news programs.

    Millions of Americans who rely on broadcast and cable evening news are completely unaware of the stakes in this health care policy fight. They are also unaware that Ryan’s privatization scheme would leave millions of retirees at the whims of the same private insurance market that right-wing media are currently attacking because of increased rates.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of weekday network broadcast evening news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS and weekday prime-time news programming (defined as 8 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from November 10, 2016, through November 27, 2016. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any mention of “Medicare.”

  • Congressman Promotes Breitbart Poll Asking If He Should Be Trump's Secretary Of State

    Media Matters Urges Senate Press Committee To Reject Credentials For Breitbart

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    A Republican member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), is urging his supporters to vote for him in a new Breitbart.com poll asking readers who should be secretary of state. The poll and the congressman’s subsequent email to his supporters are further evidence that Breitbart lacks the editorial independence to receive the permanent Senate press credentials the site is seeking.

    Breitbart.com has reportedly requested “permanent Capitol Hill credentials” from the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery, which regulates congressional press access. According to Rule 4 of the standards for issuing a permanent press pass, “publications must be editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” In an open letter to the members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery, Media Matters laid out several reasons that Breitbart fails to meet the Senate’s press standards for receiving permanent congressional press credentials, including Breitbart’s strong connection to President-elect Donald Trump, which could potentially allow the site to serve as a state-allied propaganda outlet.

    Now, Breitbart.com is conducting a poll asking readers who they would “prefer” to have “serve as the country’s chief diplomat.” The choices include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former CIA Director David Petraeus, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

    Rohrabacher, apparently believing that his bid for secretary of state will be improved by his position in the Breitbart poll, sent an email to his supporters encouraging them to vote and noting that “it would be a privilege and an honor to serve as [Trump’s] Secretary of State.” Rohrabacher is best known for his service on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and for his various affiliations with the Russian Federation.

    Breitbart.com’s poll -- and Rohrabacher’s reaction to being included in it -- underscore the site’s total absence of editorial independence, bolstering Media Matters’ argument that the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery should not grant permanent credentials to the outlet.

  • NRATV Urges President-Elect Trump To Continue Attacking The Press

    NRATV Commentator Dana Loesch: “Rat Bastards” In The Mainstream Media Got “Curb-Stomped” By Trump’s Victory

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The host of NRATV urged President-elect Donald Trump to “not stop holding the media accountable” and to not “stop his tough straight talk about the dishonesty of the media” shortly before an NRATV commentator said she was happy that mainstream media was “curb-stomped” by Trump’s victory.

    NRATV has served as a pro-Trump attack dog against the media since its launch in October, several weeks before the presidential election.

    During the November 23 broadcast of NRATV, host Grant Stinchfield said, “I hope that Donald Trump does not stop holding the media accountable, and I hope he doesn't stop his tough straight talk about the dishonesty of the media because I really do think that's what endeared him to so much of the American public.” Trump’s campaign and transition period have both been notable for the attacks the candidate -- and now president-elect -- has levied against the press and press freedoms.

    Following Stinchfield’s comment, NRATV commentator and conservative radio host Dana Loesch ranted about the “mainstream media,” claiming that its members were “curb-stomped” by Trump’s election and that the mainstream press is “the boil on the backside of American politics” and its members are “the rat bastards of the earth.”

    There seem to be no lengths to which NRATV won’t go to defend Trump. For example, during the show’s October 27 broadcast, Stinchfield attacked the media for covering numerous sexual assault allegations against Trump, saying outlets should instead have been reporting on people who used guns in self-defense.

    Like Trump, the NRA frequently pushes the talking point that the press is in cahoots with so-called global elites who are trying to take guns away from ordinary Americans. Most recently, the group’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, railed against the media in a post-election message where he claimed that “the disgraceful media attempted to manipulate” Trump supporters’ “emotions.” In another representative example of the NRA’s attacks on the press, LaPierre told attendees at a 2014 conservative gathering that the press is one of America’s “greatest threats” and said, “NRA members will never, and I mean never, submit or surrender to the national media.”