Cabinet & Agencies

Issues ››› Cabinet & Agencies
  • Major Publications Fail To Identify Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups In Transgender Policy Coverage

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Major news outlets have failed to label the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council -- groups praising President Donald Trump’s repeal of nondiscrimination protections for transgender students -- as anti-LGBTQ hate groups. This failure is part of a larger trend of major news outlets failing to properly identify anti-LGBTQ hate groups or acknowledge their extremism.

  • Trump Calls On Only Right-Wing Outlets, Again Avoiding Questions About A Top Adviser Possibly Breaking Federal Law

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    For his second straight press conference, President Donald Trump called on only conservative reporters, this time during a joint presser with the Canadian prime minister. By responding solely to friendly press, Trump avoided answering any questions about reports that national security adviser Michael Flynn may have violated federal law.

    Reporters have been questioning whether Flynn can retain his job after multiple current and former American officials told The New York Times that he discussed lifting Russian sanctions with the country’s ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration -- a potential violation of the Logan Act, “which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in disputes involving the American government.” Vice President Mike Pence previously denied that Flynn had discussed this topic, but his assurance relied solely on Flynn’s recollection of the conversation.

    During Trump’s February 13 press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, reporters had a chance to ask the president about this pressing issue, but Trump skirted that possibility by calling on only reporters for conservative outlets friendly to Trump -- Scott Thuman of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s WJLA, the Washington, D.C., affiliate of ABC, and Kaitlan Collins of The Daily Caller, a pro-Trump outlet founded by Trump shill Tucker Carlson.

    During the election, Sinclair reportedly struck a deal with the Trump campaign to “secure better media coverage” in exchange for “more access to Trump and the campaign.” Thuman, who is also a political correspondent for conspiracy theorist Sharyl Attkisson’s Full Measure, asked Trump about how his philosophical differences with Trudeau would affect cooperation on trade and terrorism:

    The next question came from Collins, who also failed to ask about Flynn but did question Canada’s security measures surrounding refugees. Her previous work on refugees includes an article about Syrian refugees who she dubbed “Syria-sly hot,” suggesting governors opposed to allowing refugees into the country would change their minds if they saw these women:

    Many journalists criticized the selection of these reporters. Even Fox News’ national security correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, asked if the queries were “planted questions”:

    On CNN, Wolf Blitzer immediately followed the end of the presser by highlighting the lack of questions about Flynn’s future, explaining, “Presumably that’s what the White House wanted.” CNN’s Gloria Borger also questioned whether “they arranged that in advance.”

    The press conference with Trudeau followed a similar one from February 10 featuring Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where Trump also took questions from only two reporters representing a couple of conservative media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets, the New York Post and Fox Business Network. Those reporters likewise avoided asking about Flynn, even though the reporting on his possible violation of the Logan Act had come out the previous day.

  • Right-Wing Media Urge A Great Bureaucratic Purge

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Conservative media figures praised President Donald Trump’s firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates and called on him to further purge the federal government of “Obama appointees” and “lifelong leftists.” Trump has also frozen federal hiring and is reportedly considering a “reduction in force.” His press secretary also suggested State Department employees should “get with the program or … go.”

  • Here Are The Hacks In Charge Of Broadcasting Trump's Propaganda Internationally

    Trump Appointed Two Campaign Aides To Oversee The Transition Of The Broadcasting Board Of Governors

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The work of the U.S. government’s largest public diplomacy program is currently being reviewed by two of President Donald Trump’s former campaign aides. It would be difficult for the administration to have found less qualified candidates for the job.

    The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), whose mission is to “inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy,” oversees a global network of broadcasters. Through Voice of America, a government-run news agency that provides the world with news about the United States and its policies, and nonprofit grantees like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which works to inform foreign populations that lack a free press about the news in their own nations, BBG reaches an audience of 278 million people in 100 countries and 61 languages.

    This is a critical moment for U.S. public diplomacy. Russia is fighting an information war in Europe and across the world in order to produce electoral victories for favored political parties and candidates. China continues to expand its economic influence in Asia and Africa. The Islamic State group uses a vast social media apparatus to recruit new adherents to violent extremism. U.S. efforts to counter those challenges depend in part on ensuring that accurate, meaningful information is conveyed to foreign communities.

    As the new administration takes over that vast apparatus, it has deputized Matthew Ciepielowski and Matthew Schuck “to the CEO suite at the BBG where they will work with senior management” to oversee the transition, Politico reported. "As is routine for many federal agencies during any presidential transition, yesterday we welcomed the two-person landing team from the Trump administration," BBG CEO John F. Lansing said in a statement to the publication. "We look forward to working with them as we continue to fulfill our mission, and support the independence of our journalists around the world."

    Lansing joined the BBG in 2015 following nine years as president of Scripps Networks, where he oversaw a $2.5 billion portfolio of six cable television networks and a digital division. Before that, he managed 10 television stations. He also had experience running a marketing association composed of 90 U.S. and Canadian television programmers. He got his start as a field producer in broadcast television and worked his way through newsrooms in that industry.  

    In short, Lansing has decades of experience managing media bureaucracies, working with foreign journalism outlets, and working as a reporter himself.

    Trump has sent two hacks with little to no experience in journalism and none at all in public diplomacy or international relations to review Lansing’s work.

    Matt Ciepielowski: The Ineffectual Political Operative

    Ciepielowski is a 2011 graduate of Quinnipiac University, where he majored in political science and public relations, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was news editor and senior managing editor for the Quinnipiac Chronicle; the school paper’s archive shows his byline on 11 news stories or opinion pieces between September 2010 and March 2011. He once interned with the marketing firm Silver Lake Productions. That is the sum total of what could, under the most charitable circumstances, be described as his journalism background.

    In an unusual twist for someone now helping to oversee a massive U.S. public diplomacy effort, Ciepielowski titled one of his college opinion pieces “Truth doesn’t kill people, our government does.” In that essay, Ciepielowski praises Wikileaks for releasing U.S. diplomatic cables, disparages Julian Assange’s arrest on Swedish rape charges, and states that the U.S. military “has killed thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians” in Afghanistan.

    After graduation, Ciepielowski spent three and a half years as a field organizer, first for former Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX) presidential campaign in Louisiana and then for the Koch brothers’ organization Americans for Prosperity in New Hampshire. In March 2015, he became one of the first hires to Trump’s presidential campaign when he was named New Hampshire state director. Corey Lewandowski’s hiring was announced the same day.

    Ciepielowski does not appear to have been very good at his job. During the New Hampshire primary, a more veteran operative was moved into the state due to reported fears that Ciepielowski was “in over his head.”

    Trump won the primary and Ciepielowski remained in the role, but he still didn’t seem to make much of an impact. In August, he was the subject of a Politico article detailing how “Veteran Republican operatives and key leaders from several critical battleground states say that at best, they've never heard of Trump's state directors or have only limited familiarity with them — and at worst, they know them, and question their ability to do the job.”

    Ciepielowski was also a central figure in a Trump campaign finance scandal. In July, experts highlighted “red flags” in Trump’s Federal Election Commission filings, including a potentially illegal pattern of “what appeared to be double reimbursements” for the same employee expenses, according to CNBC. Ciepielowski “received the most money, bringing in $7,199 — all tax free,” according to the channel.

    The Trump campaign paid Ciepielowski nearly $200,000 for his work, federal filings show.

    It’s unclear whether Ciepielowski’s radical theories about the correct size of government allow room for public diplomacy. During a 2014 appearance on the libertarian Rebel Love Show, Ciepielowski was asked, “Are you participating [in politics] because you want to do whatever you can and take it down from within?” He replied, “It doesn’t even necessarily have to be take it down -- I want to do whatever I can to lessen the boot of the state on people’s throats as we go along.” Asked, “If you could get rid of that boot, would you?” he responded, “Once we get the government down to 20 percent, 10 percent, 5 percent of the size it is now, then I would be more ready to have that conversation.”

    Matt Schuck: The Right-Wing Media Hack

    After graduating in 2012 from Montgomery College, where he studied broadcast radio and mass communications, Schuck rotated between jobs in the right-wing media and conservative and corporate public relations gigs before becoming Trump’s Wisconsin communications director in August.

    Schuck got his start in radio, helping launch the Heritage Foundation’s show and working as an executive producer for the Virginia-based right-wing radio host John Fredericks. He has flacked for the Koch-funded Conservative Veterans for America and for the Online Lenders Alliance, the trade organization for the disreputable payday-lending industry.

    Between PR jobs, Schuck spent 18 months working for second-tier conservative media outlets.

    First he was a staff writer at Jason Mattera’s Daily Surge. Mattera was once a conservative wunderkind, becoming the editor of the venerable right-wing magazine Human Events in 2010, at age 26. He was terminated two years later, soon after accidentally conducting an ambush interview of a Bono impersonator (he thought he was actually ambushing Bono).

    At Daily Surge, Schuck produced garden-variety right-wing clickbait and aggregation, along with a hefty helping of culture war outrage. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get him a job as a political correspondent at One America News Network (OANN), the then-two-year-old conservative cable news network which has positioned itself as a more conservative competitor to Fox News.

    At OANN, Schuck conducted softball interviews with a wide variety of Republican and conservative leaders, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Citizens United’s David Bossie, and American Conservative Union’s Matt Schlapp.

    One such interview stands out. In September 2015, Trump announced that he had decided to boycott Fox News for “treating me very unfairly.” Fox responded by saying that Trump’s tweet came after the network had canceled a scheduled interview with him because of his “personal attacks on our anchors and hosts.”

    While Fox tried to patch things up, Trump did an interview with Schuck instead. Schuck introduced the segment by stating that Trump had just appeared before “a room packed full of supporters” to discuss, among other topics, “why Donald Trump will make America great again.” In the interview, Schuck offered Trump an open forum to discuss his grievances with Fox and repeat talking points. He also interviewed a Trump supporter. Schuck closed the segment by declaring that “one thing is clear: Donald Trump is in it to win it.”

    Trump apparently enjoyed the interview:

    A few weeks later, Schuck highlighted Trump’s praise of OANN:

    Schuck left OANN the next month to become communications director for the Online Lenders Alliance. In August 2016, he joined the Trump campaign. And now he’s helping to lay the groundwork for our international public diplomacy efforts.

  • Former Breitbart Chief Now Writing America's Foreign Policy: Trump Gives Stephen Bannon Place On National Security Council

    Media And Security Experts React To Bannon's NSC Appointment: "Unprecedented," "Lunacy," "Truly Dangerous"

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    National security experts and media figures denounced President Donald Trump’s “dangerous” decision to give his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, a prominent role on the National Security Council. Bannon is an extremist anti-Semite who formerly ran the white nationalist “alt-right” website Breitbart.com.

  • Trump’s Immigration Order Targeting Muslims Is Greeted With Praise By Conservative Media And Dismay By Experts

    ACLU: The “Intent To Discriminate On The Basis Of Religion, Even Hidden Behind Pretextual Religious Neutrality, Violates The Establishment Clause And Equal Protection”

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The executive action President Donald Trump has signed to limit immigration of refugees from a group of majority-Muslim countries was condemned by national security experts and media figures when he initially floated them. Those experts have noted that Trump’s plans are unconstitutional and antithetical to American values and that they would cost the U.S. billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.