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In a November 14 video released on NRATV, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre claimed “Hillary Clinton made her hatred for the Second Amendment a central issue of this campaign and as a result of that fatal mistake, she’s on permanent political vacation”:
WAYNE LAPIERRE: On November 8th you, the five million men and women of the National Rifle Association of America, along with the tens of millions of gun owners all over this country who followed your lead, achieved a truly extraordinary, historic, even heroic accomplishment. In northern Florida and Pennsylvania, throughout Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan, in small towns and communities all across America, you were the special forces that swung this election and sent Donald Trump and Mike Pence to the White House. You did this. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. In the wake of this historic event, the same disgraced group of so-called experts, talking heads, pundits, and pollsters that got everything wrong before the election are trying to deceive you again. So let me remove all doubt: Gun owners made this election happen. Hillary Clinton made her hatred for the Second Amendment a central issue of this campaign and as a result of that fatal mistake, she’s on permanent political vacation.
But the NRA’s framing of the election outcome doesn’t make sense, even assuming the election was decided on policy grounds (which it apparently wasn’t). The pro-gun safety presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, received substantially more votes than NRA-endorsed President-elect Donald Trump.
Setting that aside, all available data indicates Democrat, Republican, and Independent voters overwhelmingly supported the types of gun safety measures that Clinton advocated for.
According to polling released just before Election Day, measures including “expanding background checks on gun purchases; barring those convicted of a hate crime from buying a gun; and prohibiting those convicted of stalking or domestic abuse from buying guns” received widespread support among voters polled by Public Policy Polling in Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The Center for American Progress noted that the polling shows “anywhere from 80 percent to 93 percent of Democrats in these states support them, along with 58 percent to 86 percent of critical independent voters, and even 64 percent to 80 percent of Republicans.”
There is no evidence in exit polling that the gun issue was determinative in the election outcome either, as the economy was clearly the top priority for voters. (And as The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza noted, Clinton actually won on the economy, suggesting “people weren't voting on issues. Like, at all.”)
The results of several ballot initiative votes also debunk the NRA’s attempt to create a false narrative about the election. Three out of four ballot measures where issues of gun policy were directly decided by voters passed. Ballot initiatives in California (requiring background checks for ammunition purchases and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, among other measures), Nevada (expanding background checks on gun purchases), and Washington (the creation of a legal mechanism to keep guns away from individuals who are a danger to themselves or others) were all victorious. A background check expansion ballot initiative in Maine was narrowly defeated.
Gun safety advocates were also successful in the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race where, unlike other races, gun policy was a significant issue. Proponents of expanded background checks had consistently and loudly expressed their displeasure with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) over her 2013 vote against background check legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. As Politico reported in its recap of Democrat Maggie Hassan’s victory, the race had become “a referendum on gun control.”
It’s apparent that these are facts the NRA does not want to grapple with. In his video message LaPierre said that anyone claiming that the election was not a rejection of gun safety proposals is trying to “deceive you.” But that’s just another half-baked conspiracy theory from LaPierre. The facts speak for themselves.
One Fake News Writer Spoke Out About His Work In Wash. Post Interview
An analysis by BuzzFeed News found that during the 2016 election, fake news stories generated more engagement on Facebook than did the top election articles from major news outlets.
BuzzFeed’s analysis comes amid growing criticism of Facebook’s lack of effective action against fake news. It was recently revealed that Facebook shelved plans to combat the epidemic of fake news stories due to fear of backlash from conservatives because the move would have “disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds.”
That fear of conservative backlash resulted in further fake news stories, which then generated “more engagement” on Facebook than did “the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others,” a Buzzfeed analysis has found:
In the final three months of the US presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others, a BuzzFeed News analysis has found.
During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
This new data illustrates the power of fake election news on Facebook, and comes as the social network deals with criticism that it allowed false content to run rampant during the 2016 presidential campaign. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said recently it was “a pretty crazy idea” to suggest that fake news on Facebook helped sway the election. He later published a post saying, “We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here.”
Amid this criticism, The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey interviewed Paul Horner, a “38-year-old impresario of a Facebook fake-news empire.” Horner described the rise of fake news in 2016 and said the Trump campaign even helped push it:
You’ve been writing fake news for a while now — you’re kind of like the OG Facebook news hoaxer. Well, I’d call it hoaxing or fake news. You’d call it parody or satire. How is that scene different now than it was three or five years ago? Why did something like your story about Obama invalidating the election results (almost 250,000 Facebook shares, as of this writing) go so viral?
Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.
You mentioned Trump, and you’ve probably heard the argument, or the concern, that fake news somehow helped him get elected. What do you make of that?
My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.
(Twitter via Mediaite)
Why? I mean — why would you even write that?
Just ’cause his supporters were under the belief that people were getting paid to protest at their rallies, and that’s just insane. I’ve gone to Trump protests — trust me, no one needs to get paid to protest Trump. I just wanted to make fun of that insane belief, but it took off. They actually believed it.
I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots. But Trump supporters — they just keep running with it! They never fact-check anything! Now he’s in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it. And that feels [bad].
The entire interview is worth reading.
It’s clear now that Facebook must take concrete steps to combat fake news -- regardless of the conservative or liberal criticism the company might face. Join Media Matters in asking Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook to fix their fake news problem by signing our petition.
President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team's behavior toward the press in the nine days since he was elected -- including Trump ditching the press to have dinner Tuesday night in New York City -- is renewing concerns from veteran White House reporters about how a Trump administration will deal with the media.
Trump and his allies have waged an unprecedented war on the press since the start of his presidential campaign. The president-elect has repeatedly verbally attacked reporters, canceled media credentials for critical outlets, and suggested as a candidate that he would “open up our libel laws” as president to making suing media easier.
Trump and his team have also drawn criticism for not keeping the media updated on his schedule and whereabouts. Tuesday night, he left Trump Tower unannounced for a surprise dinner at a Manhattan restaurant after reporters covering him were originally told he was in for the night. (There was also confusion among media figures on Wednesday over which city the president-elect was in.)
His actions sparked official criticism from White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) President Jeff Mason, who issued a statement saying that “it is unacceptable for the next president of the United States to travel without a regular pool to record his movements and inform the public about his whereabouts. The White House Correspondents' Association is pleased to hear reassurances by the Trump transition team that it will respect long-held traditions of press access at the White House and support a pool structure. But the time to act on that promise is now.”
Leaders of 18 journalism organizations, including the National Press Club and the American Society of News Editors, offered their own joint letter to Trump urging that press access be improved going forward.
“Being president is an enormous responsibility and working with the White House Correspondents’ Association to ensure journalists' access is one small but important part of that,” the letter said, in part. “We call on you to commit to a protective press pool from now until the final day of your presidency. We respectfully ask you to instill a spirit of openness and transparency in your administration in many ways but first and foremost via the press pool."
Media Matters reached out to several current and former White House correspondents and WHCA presidents who said the dinner stunt is a worrisome sign that Trump may seek to bypass the press once he is in office. They said pool coverage of his activities is vital in case of a crisis or news making events.
They also said Trump’s behavior both this past week and during the campaign -- including attacking critical media outlets and withholding important information -– is a troubling sign for how his administration will approach the media.
“The thing with the dinner is troubling,” said Steve Thomma, politics and government editor at McClatchy and a former White House Correspondents Association president. “It costs the president-elect nothing to have the press follow him in the motorcade. They will not sit at the next table, he will never see them. We are there in case something happens. Even 30 cars back in the motorcade. That is just being vindictive then.”
He also questioned the way some appointments are being revealed.
“As he rolls out the senior officers, [hopefully] he will do it in person and take questions from the press about it, that is what we did with the last two transitions,” Thomma said. “He did not do that with the chief of staff announcement. I remain hopeful, but we have not seen or heard from him in a long time.”
He later added, “It is an understandable fear that he will cut off people and exclude people from Air Force One, those are fears, but there is reason to be optimistic that he will still talk to the broader media.”
George Condon, a National Journal White House correspondent who has covered the White House since 1982 and also served as WHCA president in 1993, said the press access is vital.
“There is a long recognition by multiple White Houses that the public has the right to know what is going on with the president and where he is,” said Condon, noting that if that does not occur, “the public is short-changed and doesn’t know what the president is doing and when he’s doing it. We’re giving him a lot of power and in return you are going to sacrifice a lot of your privacy.”
Another White House correspondent, who requested anonymity, said Trump’s actions so far raise multiple issues.
“There are two levels of concern,” he said. “The first is the rhetoric on the campaign trail, libel laws and banning reporters from campaign events, invective against reporters. The second level is just logistic in setting up White House coverage in the Trump era.”
He said of the dinner escapade: “We are not interested in telling the public whether he uses A1 Steak Sauce, the great concern is the press pool’s ability to relay the president’s location and possibly his message in the event of a national crisis.”
Ed Chen, a former WHCA president in 2009-2010, covered the White House for the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg for 11 years.
According to Chen, “It is really incumbent upon the president-elect and his people, however they feel about the press, to consider starting today having a protective travel pool with him at all times.”
For Steve Scully, C-SPAN senior executive producer and political editor and a former WHCA president in 2006-2007, “the same concerns we had on the campaign trail have been magnified as a president-elect.”
“It goes with the territory, it’s part of the job and what he signed up for,” Scully said about keeping reporters in the loop on Trump’s actions. “He was very anti-press during the campaign. He taunted his supporters to go after the media, the media has always been an easy target and we can handle that. But the standard protocol that has been in place stays in place with President Trump.”
Andy Alexander, a former Washington bureau chief for Cox Media, said the press can fight back.
“What should reporters do?” he asked via email “They need to constantly push back and persistently make their compelling case for why access is critical to informing citizens. Beyond that, the best way to respond is to redouble efforts to produce journalism that is accurate, fair, incisive, independent, ambitious, courageous and in the public interest.”
James Gerstenzang, who covered the White House for the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press from 1977 through 2008, said those who brush off the dinner incident do not understand the need for constant press access.
“It’s not simply thumbing his nose at the press, its thumbing his nose at the public’s right to know,” he said. “This is not the matter of him being entitled to certain personal privacy, it is the public’s right to know about the activities of the person they elected. Everything he does is a reflection of the office and has a potential impact on the people of the country. How do we know that at any moment it isn’t relevant or it is relevant? You need to be there.”
He later added, “The danger goes to the heart of an informed electorate. How can voters be informed if they don’t have access to unbiased accurate information?”
The press doesn’t know where President-elect Donald Trump is. Well, not always.
On Monday night, reporters camped outside Trump Tower in New York City were told there would be no more Trump-related news or events that day. Then hours later, they spotted a large caravan of vehicles leaving his residence. Turns out Trump ditched the press and headed out to dinner.
This has already become commonplace since Trump’s election victory: He travels without the press and his team doesn’t always bother informing journalists about his schedule. The situation became so absurd that on Wednesday there were reports Trump had flown, unannounced, to Washington, D.C., which his spokesperson then denied.
By immediately signaling that he has no interest in providing journalists with even the most basic amount of access, and thumbing his nose at the long-standing American tradition of a presidential press pool, Trump has ignited fears about how his administration will deal with reporters, and concerns about whether game-changing restrictions will emerge.
The good news is there are common sense, collective solutions for the looming press crisis. The bad news, based on their performance during the campaign and in the days since Trump’s victory, is there’s little indication news organizations are willing to stand up to Trump’s bullying behavior.
The truth is, nobody knows exactly how the Trump White House will function in terms of dealing with the press. “The operating theory among those of us who have covered him is a Trump White House will be no different than a Trump campaign,” one anonymous reporter told Politico.
He seems to be confirming as much. “Trump’s flouting of press access was one of his first public decisions since his election Tuesday,” the Associated Press recently reported.
Question: Will there even be daily briefings for reporters at the new Republican White House?
As The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone pointed out, there’s no requirement that an administration has to hold briefings and answer questions from journalists on a nearly daily basis. Instead, it’s a tradition. It’s a goodwill gesture in the name of transparency and keeping the public informed.
But if Trump doesn’t have to, why would he? Because you know what else was a long-standing tradition done in the name of transparency? Releasing your tax returns when you ran for president, releasing relevant health information, and answering questions from reporters on the campaign trail during the general election. Trump ignored all of those. He also banned certain news outlets from his events while his campaign herded reporters into restricted press pens at his rallies where he routinely mocked and smeared journalists ("disgusting" and "horrible people”) in front of his fervent supporters.
When Trump gleefully ignored all sorts of media norms on the campaign trail, he was met with modest resistance from the press, and he won the election. So why would he suddenly feel pressure to follow previous White House media traditions?
I’m not trying to belittle the media pushback we’ve seen since Election Day. It’s an important first step. I’m just stressing that journalists could soon be facing an unparalleled effort to silence them. If so, that requires an unprecedented response. Specifically, it demands a sweeping, collective response from the country’s largest, most powerful news organizations.
Because if those outlets are afraid to stand up to President Trump, if they instead try to nibble around the edges and attempt to beg and plead their way toward Trump access, they’re doomed. And so are news consumers.
Meanwhile, Trump has at his disposal an array of dishonest “alt-right” media outlets that will proudly serve as propaganda arms for the federal government. They’ll be willing to help create the illusion of information being released by a Trump White House.
Journalists recognize a crisis may be looming with Trump. But do they comprehend the potential magnitude? Peering over the horizon, The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg stressed, “I’ve said it before, but the solution will be what it has always been — good, tough reporting.”
But how do you produce good, tough reporting, for instance, if no senior officials from the Trump White House will return your calls and there are no useful press briefings? And what if the same thing happens with the departments of Treasury, or Education, or Justice? What if there’s a complete and total lockdown on information and denial of access? If the spigot gets turned off, no amount of rah-rah newsroom cheering (“better journalism!”) is going to fix that.
Moving forward, news organizations face a stark, and possibly defining choice in terms of how they respond to any radical efforts to curb the media’s White House access.
First, journalists cannot underestimate what's at stake or the depths to which Trump will go to nullify a free press. (They already made that mistake once in 2016.)
Second, the most obvious fix is to shame Trump into doing the right thing; to use the collective weight of the Fourth Estate to shine a relentless spotlight on what could be the new president’s radical attempt to undercut the free press; to make that a running news story that defines his presidency. Note that earlier this year The Washington Post instituted a running clock to taunt Hillary Clinton for her lack of media availability on the campaign trail. If Trump cuts off White House access to the press, every major news outlet in America should put up a running clock to highlight that fact.
The political press’ survival may be at stake.
Center For Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney Reportedly Advising Trump’s Transition Team On National Security Issues
Anti-Muslim hate group leader Frank Gaffney is reportedly giving President-elect Donald Trump national security advice for his transition to the White House. Gaffney has a long history of vile statements about Muslims, has embraced white nationalists, flirted with birtherism, and has stridently opposed allowing LGBTQ Americans to openly serve in the military.
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Report Fails To Mention Only Group With A More Positive Outlook Since The Election Is Republicans
Fox Business spun the first post-election consumer confidence report to misleadingly claim economic confidence “increased sharply” after Donald Trump’s election, failing to note the confidence numbers swung based on party affiliation.
During the November 16 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., guest host Ashley Webster used the latest consumer confidence report from Gallup to push so-called “Trumponomics” as “a winning formula” for the American economy. Conservative columnist Liz Peek added that she thought the Gallup numbers showed Americans were “cheered up by the idea that Republicans have [control of all three branches of government]”:
In reality the Gallup poll found the only Americans who are “cheered up” by Republicans having complete control of the federal government are other Republicans. Gallup concluded that Donald Trump becoming the president-elect of the United States “transformed the way Republicans and Democrats view the economy” but it was “too early to say” if these numbers will hold.
Republicans, who had been unduly pessimistic about the economy under President Obama, substantially lifted their outlook on the economy after the election. According to Gallup, Republican opinions of whether or not the economy was getting better or worse went from -65 points before the election to +5 points after, while Democratic opinions on the same topic shifted from +26 points before the election to -1 point after. At the same time, Republican opinions of the current state of the economy also improved markedly after Election Day, with GOP opinions improving from -21 points to -5 points, while Democratic opinions sagged from +26 points to +17 points.
Republican economic optimism may be short-lived after Trump takes office, as experts have expressed fear that his proposals for budget-busting tax cuts for the rich and unfunded deficit spending may create a short term “sugar high” followed by an economic crash. Trump’s proposals to severely restrict immigration and international commerce could create the conditions for another recession in the United States and his proposed monetary policies could imperil the financial system. The spending cuts and restrictions to vital anti-poverty programs proposed by Trump and congressional Republicans would push millions of working-class Americans into poverty, while his anti-trade policies could cost 4 million jobs.
From the November 9-13 Gallup U.S. Daily Survey:
Journalists Need To Stand Up Or Risk Losing Traditional Access Forever
In the week following the election, President-elect Donald Trump’s actions in curtailing the access of the press and continuing to lash out at media outlets have demonstrated the need for journalists to take a stand before those restrictions and behaviors are codified under a Trump administration.
So far during his transition period, Trump has violated the norms of any president or president-elect when it comes to his relations with the media. Most recently, on November 15, Trump left his home to get dinner without his press pool, after his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, had told reporters that nothing else would happen that day. As the Huffington Post wrote, “Private events, such as family dinners, can be closed to the press, but reporters should be made aware of them.” CNN’s Brian Stelter explained that Trump’s behavior “breaks with well-established norms governing a president's relationship with the press corps,” adding, “Those same norms are also applicable to the president-elect.” The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Jeff Mason, criticized Trump’s actions as “unacceptable,” while Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, noted on Twitter that Trump should have told the press where he was going and “a press van would normally be included in the motorcade” even if “the pool waits outside” the restaurant.
This was hardly the first instance in the past week where Trump made his hostility to the press known. On November 10, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Trump “refused to allow journalists to travel with him to Washington for his historic first meetings with President Barack Obama and congressional leaders” after his aides “rebuffed news organizations' requests for a small ‘pool’ of journalists to trail him as he attended the meetings.” The Washington Post noted that later in the day, “Trump ditched the media again” and provided the press with no information about his whereabouts. The White House Correspondents’ Association said in statement at the time that they were “deeply concerned” by his disregard for the press.
Since the election, Trump has taken to Twitter several times to lash out at The New York Times for their “BAD coverage.” In a November 13 tweet, Trump falsely claimed that the Times was “losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage” about him, despite the fact that the paper is adding subscribers.
Trump also has not held a news conference since being elected, which NBC News explained is “the longest any recent president has waited to speak to the press.” In fact, Trump's last press conference was in July. NBC added, “The media covering the president-elect have also not yet been offered briefings on his transition efforts, which was a typical practice for past presidents that allowed the public to keep apprised of the details of the new government.”
In addition, Trump is reportedly considering conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham to serve as White House press secretary, despite Ingraham’s hostility and disdain towards media, especially Spanish-speaking outlets, which she has claimed are “toxic” and “revile the American experience.”
Trump’s campaign for the White House offered no positive signs for the future of his relationship with media. Trump declared war on the press, which included mocking specific reporters as “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time.” He retreated to softball interviews during the final weeks of the campaign with largely friendly interviewers, Fox News, and fringe media.
Trump also argued in favor of making it easier to sue the media for libel, even threatening to sue The New York Times for a report in which two women say he groped them. The Trump campaign also released a statement threatening that a Trump administration would “break up” media conglomerates that criticized him.
During the campaign, the Committee to Protect Journalists declared Trump an “unprecedented threat” to free press. So far, his transition has indicated that won’t be changing anytime soon.
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Hate Group Leader Gaffney To Jared Taylor: “I Appreciate Tremendously The Work You're Doing"
Frank Gaffney, who is reportedly advising President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, previously praised and promoted the "wonderful" work of leading white nationalist Jared Taylor. Gaffney later retracted the adulation after criticism.
Trump’s presidential transition period has already been marred by ties to white nationalism. He appointed Stephen Bannon, who has a history of pushing anti-Semitism and white nationalist “alt-right” views, to a senior White House position. Trump's entrance into politics has energized and emboldened the white nationalist movement.
Gaffney is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Gaffney has questioned President Obama's birth certificate; was banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference after accusing prominent conservatives of somehow being Muslim Brotherhood operatives; and has been described by SPLC as "one of America's most notorious Islamophobes." Media Matters and a coalition of civil rights groups last month released a report documenting anti-Muslim extremists who regularly appear in the media, including Gaffney, and called on the media to hold them accountable for their rhetoric.
Gaffney hosted Jared Taylor on the September 29, 2015, edition of his Secure Freedom Radio program. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which first noted Taylor's appearance, wrote that Taylor is one of the country's "most outspoken and prominent white nationalists." The non-profit group explained that Taylor hosts a conference "where racist intellectuals rub shoulders with Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists" and "founded the New Century Foundation, a pseudo-intellectual think tank that promotes 'research' arguing for white superiority."
As Media Matters previously documented, Gaffney introduced Taylor by saying, "I'm very pleased to have him with us. He is the editor of a wonderful online publication, American Renaissance ... and the author of six books, including White Identity." SPLC wrote that American Renaissance "has been one of the vilest white nationalist publications, often promoting eugenics and blatant anti-black and anti-Latino racists. In 2005 for example, after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Taylor wrote, 'When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western Civilization -- any kind of civilization -- disappears.'"
The Anti-Defamation League wrote that Taylor "upholds racial homogeneity as the key to fostering peaceful coexistence," and they called American Renaissance a "white supremacist journal."
During the interview, Gaffney and Taylor attacked the "invasion" of Muslim refugees worldwide. Gaffney warned about the alleged dangers of Muslim refugees regarding violence and Sharia law, and later suggested such problems could come to the United States "if President Obama has his way.”
Gaffney concluded by telling Taylor: "I appreciate tremendously the work you're doing at American Renaissance and The New Century Foundation. Keep it up and get back to us again very soon."
Following the controversy, the Center for Security Policy posted a statement on its website claiming Gaffney "strongly disagrees" with "much" of the American Renaissance website and "Had due diligence been done beforehand, such disagreements would have resulted in Mr. Taylor not being invited on the show, routine compliments to such guests not made and an offer to appear again not extended."
The Southern Poverty Law Center noted that Gaffney’s backtracking rang hollow since he “wasn’t repulsed by Taylor’s views and complimented American Renaissance [during the interview]. That's not surprising given Gaffney's own comments.”
UPDATE: Trump spokesman Jason Miller has claimed that Gaffney is not advising the transition team. NBC News reported that though the Trump camp has "denied that Gaffney is advising the team, a source close to Gaffney said while he's not formally involved, he ‘has advised them on nominees and policy through [former UN Ambassador John] Bolton and [Ret. Gen. Mike] Flynn,’ both advisers to Trump's transition.” Gaffney reportedly released a statement that he “had not been contacted by anyone from the team and appreciate the campaign's clarification today.” He added, "I look forward to helping President-elect & the national security-minded team he is assembling in whatever way I can."
Conservative-leaning Israel advocacy groups are defending or refusing to condemn President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Stephen Bannon for a senior White House role despite his history of promoting anti-Semitism. Their behavior is in stark contrast to leaders of other Jewish and civil rights groups, who are criticizing the move as “deeply troubling” and “horrifying.”
Bannon’s hiring has sparked widespread criticism, due to his reported anti-Semitism (his ex-wife swore in court that Bannon had said “he doesn’t like Jews”), and his years of making Breitbart News home base for the white nationalist “alt-right.” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt condemned the move in a statement Sunday, saying, "It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the 'alt-right' — a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists — is slated to be a senior staff member in the 'people's house.’” Progressive Israel advocacy group J Street also condemned Bannon, saying that he "has an extensive history of championing the views of the extreme right in the United States and around the world."
But the conservative-leaning American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has avoided weighing in, saying in a statement that it “has a long-standing policy of not taking positions on presidential appointments.” And Republican Jewish Coalition board member Bernie Marcus has defended Bannon.
Meanwhile, in interviews with Media Matters, several other Jewish leaders are joining the chorus speaking out against Bannon.
“The President is entitled to choose advisors who he believes will help him implement his agenda. However, both in his roles as editor of the Breitbart website and as a strategist in the Trump campaign, Mr. Bannon was responsible for the advancement of ideologies antithetical to our nation,” Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in a statement. “Including anti-Semitism, misogyny, racism and Islamophobia. There should be no place for such views in the White House.”
Bend the Arc Jewish Action CEO Stosh Cotler called the choice “horrifying.”
“President-elect Trump’s selection of Stephen Bannon, a professional purveyor of white nationalist and anti-Semitic rhetoric, as his top adviser is as horrifying as it is unsurprising,” Cotler said in a statement. “Those of us who were alarmed by Trump's campaign when it began over a year ago are starting to see the things we feared come to pass, and this is one of them - the elevation of an avowed bigot to a position of incredible official power.
“On Election Day, a majority of voters rejected the hatred central to the Trump campaign. We know many of them would join us in condemning this attempt by the President-elect to normalize and legitimize white supremacy, and we call on leaders across the political spectrum to denounce it as well.”
National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy K. Kaufman said in a statement she was “utterly appalled.”
“As former chairman of the ‘alt-right’ web outlet Breitbart News, Bannon has made his white-supremacist, racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim views widely known,” the statement said, in part. “Upon joining the Trump campaign, Bannon roused a large portion of Trump’s base with a hateful mix of conspiracy theories, bigotry, misogyny, racism, and homophobia.
“If President-elect Trump truly wants to bring together his supporters with the majority of the country that voted against him — by a margin that is nearing two million people, Bannon and his ilk must be barred from his administration. This appointment requires no Senate confirmation. It is up to the president-elect to show leadership for all Americans by reversing this dreadful decision immediately.”
Leaders of other civil rights groups are also strongly criticizing Bannon's hiring.
“It sends the exact wrong message,” said National Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial, who added that Bannon is a “racist, homophobic, misogynistic defender of the alt-right white nationalist interest in this country. His selection in such an important position certainly isn’t consistent with what the president-elect said on election night, that he would work to unify the nation.”
Morial said Bannon “has been right at the center of the angry white nationalist movement in this country. For him to hold a position as chief strategist on par with the chief of staff does not send a message of unity, but a message of division.”
Farhana Khera, President and Executive Director of Muslim Advocates, said, "for Americans who care about our commitment to pluralism, tolerance and equality for all, the choice of Steve Bannon to be the President-elect's chief strategist is deeply troubling. If your hair wasn't already on fire with the election of Trump, it should be now."
In contrast to appalled civil rights and Jewish leaders, white nationalist media figures and leaders are thrilled.
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