Government

Issues ››› Government
  • News Outlet Owned By Trump Son In-Law Posts Op-Ed Calling For FBI Investigation Of Anti-Trump Protests

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    The Observer, a news site owned by President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, posted an op-ed calling for an FBI investigation into the “political thuggery” of anti-Trump protests taking place in the wake of the presidential election.

    Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump threatened and criticized protesters during campaign events, saying of one that he’d like to “punch him in the face” and reminiscing of the “good old days” when protesters would be “carried out on a stretcher.” Trump even threatened to “start pressing charges” against protesters after demonstrations during a Chicago campaign rally caused the event to be postponed after fights broke out between demonstrators and Trump supporters. Now Trump supporters want an FBI investigation of of anti-Trump protests.

    On December 2, the Observer posted an op-ed written by University of Texas in Austin adjunct professor Austin Bay, which called for FBI Director James Comey to conduct a “detailed investigation” into the anti-Trump protests taking place across the country. To make his point, Bay invokes “Kristallnacht,” a 1938 incident in which Nazis burned synagogues, vandalized Jewish-owned businesses and homes, and resulted in 30,000 Jewish men being sent to concentration camps. Bay even cites notorious conspiracy theorist Jim Hoft’s blog post claiming anti-Trump protesters were paid to protest, a claim that gained traction based on a fake news story.

    The posting of the op-ed is extremely concerning given the influence Kushner has on his father-in-law. In July, The New York Times reported that Kushner had “become involved in virtually every facet of the Trump presidential operation” and wrote that many viewed him as the “de facto campaign manager.” Following the election, Kushner also explored legal loopholes that would allow him to bypass federal nepotism laws and join the Trump administration in an official capacity:

    Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President-elect Donald J. Trump, has spoken to a lawyer about the possibility of joining the new administration, a move that could violate federal anti-nepotism law and risk legal challenges and political backlash.

    […]

    Mr. Trump is urging his son-in-law to join him in the White House, according to one of the people briefed. The president-elect’s sentiment is shared by Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist for the White House, and Reince Priebus, who was named chief of staff. Mr. Kushner accompanied Mr. Trump to the White House on Thursday, when the president-elect held his first in-person meeting with President Obama.

  • AP Got This Trump Headline Right; Other Mainstream Outlets Didn't

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Multiple media outlets published headlines that uncritically echoed a claim from President-elect Donald Trump’s spokesperson that Trump had sold his stocks, even though Trump’s team offered no actual proof that he had done so. The Associated Press correctly characterized the news by noting the lack of evidence in its headline, but many others continued a disturbing pattern of uncritically parroting false or unsubstantiated claims by Trump and his aides in their headlines, in effect giving Trump favorable coverage when he offers vague details or even spouts verifiable lies.

    Trump on December 6 tweeted that the aircraft manufacturer Boeing was “building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion,” adding, “Cancel order!” In a conference call later that day, a reporter asked Trump spokesperson Jason Miller if Trump “had investments in Boeing,” and Miller “said the president-elect had sold all of his stocks in June,” according to The Associated Press (AP).

    But there is no proof that Miller’s claim is true, given that Trump has not submitted any kind of financial disclosure since May and that, as the AP noted, Trump didn’t announce he was selling his stocks at the time. Transition officials have also refused to provide evidence of the sales:

    Trump's campaign did not announce the sell-off at the time, despite the fact that it could have been politically advantageous for the businessman to be seen taking steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

    Miller, as well as other transition officials and lawyers from the Trump Organization, did not respond to requests from The Associated Press to provide evidence of the transactions.

    The AP published this report with a headline that accurately paired Miller’s claim with the crucial context that he “provides no evidence”:

    But other major outlets did not note the lack of evidence in their headlines, instead reporting Miller’s comments without necessary context:

    Reuters:

    The New York Times:

    The Washington Post:

    The Wall Street Journal:

    CNN:

    These headlines continue a mainstream media pattern of publishing article titles that are favorable for Trump and that promote his claims, even when those claims are false or unsubstantiated. When Trump on November 18 falsely claimed that he prevented a Kentucky Ford plant from moving to Mexico -- even though there were never plans to move the plant -- multiple headlines ran with Trump’s bogus statement. When Trump on November 27 falsely claimed that “millions of people” illegally voted in the election, multiple mainstream outlet quoted Trump’s words in headlines and on social media without noting that they were false. And when Trump on November 30 sent a series of tweets claiming he would be leaving his business to avoid conflicts of interest, headlines ran with his statement, even though Trump offered no new information on how he would actually carry out the plan. As ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum noted, Trump has been “able to generate whatever headlines he wants based on substance-free tweets” and claims.

    It is crucial that headlines accurately explain a story because, for most people, the phrase at the top of a piece is the only part of the article they will actually read. 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.”

    Trump has been a documented liar throughout the course of his presidential campaign and transition. When his claims lack proof or are demonstrably false, headlines should reflect that reality, rather than giving a serial misinformer the benefit of the doubt.

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

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

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

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

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

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

    “Boeing is building . . . ”

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

    “ … a brand new 747 Air Force One … ”

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

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

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

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

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

    [...]

    “Cancel the order!”

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

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

  • Here Are 5 People Close To Trump Who Have Propagated Fake News

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and continuing into the transition period, President-elect Donald Trump has surrounded himself with people who have helped propagate fake news, which got more attention than real news did on Facebook toward the end of the election cycle. That list includes two of his sons, his former campaign manager, his pick for national security adviser, and the adviser’s son, who was involved in the transition until recently. The fake news stories they pushed included a piece claiming Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton paid people to protest Trump’s election and a fake claim that Clinton and her campaign were involved in a child trafficking ring.

  • Trump Picks Former Fox News Contributor Ben Carson To Serve As Secretary Of Housing And Urban Development

    Carson Has Repeatedly Expressed Opposition To Government Aid For Poor Americans

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CAT DUFFY

    President-elect Donald Trump has selected Dr. Ben Carson to serve as his secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson, a former Fox News contributor, has repeatedly said he opposes government efforts to eradicate poverty, and he has a long history of making off-color and offensive remarks during his stint with the network.

  • Breitbart’s Climate Science Misinformation Embraced By GOP-Led House Science Committee

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    On December 1, the House Science Committee -- chaired by climate science-denying “bully” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) -- tweeted out a Breitbart.com article promoting false claims about climate science and castigating “climate alarmists”:

    The Breitbart article was written by James Delingpole, who has previously disparaged climate scientists at NASA, NOAA, and other respected institutions as “talentless low-lives who cannot be trusted." In the article, Delingpole claimed: “Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year – the biggest and steepest fall on record. But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community.”

    As purported evidence, Delingpole cited an article by David Rose in the British tabloid Daily Mail. But Rose’s article is based on egregious cherry-picking, as climate blogger Tamino explains:

    [Rose] wants you to think that the worldwide heating we’ve seen for decades now has somehow, magically, come to an end … that it has shown some kind of “pause.” To give that impression, he had to search far and wide for one set of data from which he can cherry-pick one span of time in which he can focus on one recent event, so he can blame this year’s record-breaking heat on something other than mankind and our greenhouse-gas emissions. Thanks to the many many organizations that publish climate data, there are lots and lots and lots of data sets to choose from … so it’s no surprise he found one.

    [...]

    It’s global average temperature, not for Earth’s surface where we live, but for the lower layer of the atmosphere … not for the whole world, but for the land areas only … and it’s not all the data, it leaves out the part David Rose doesn’t want you to see.

    [...]

    Data like this, in fact almost all data, are a combination of trend — the long-term pattern that actually has some persistence — and fluctuation — the short-term ups and downs that are only temporary. And there are fluctuations. Plenty. They go up and down and down and up, but never really get anywhere.

    It’s abundantly obvious, resoundingly unambiguous, completely clear, and pretty simple, that when it comes to climate what matters is the trend, not the fluctuations. For climate deniers, what’s abundantly obvious, resoundingly unambiguous, and completely clear is what they want to avoid. Because it’s so simple, they have to bend over backwards to distract you from it. Like David Rose did.

    Breitbart has a long track record of blatant climate science misinformation, and is even considered a go-to outlet for academics who are bought off by the fossil fuel industry. So the decision by the Republican-led House Science Committee to approvingly cite Breitbart on climate change is ill-advised, to put it mildly. Indeed, it prompted a quick response from Democratic committee member Mark Takano (D-CA), who tweeted: “If Republicans on the House Science Committee are getting their science news from Breitbart, that would explain a great deal.”

    Republican committee chairman Lamar Smith, a climate science denier who has taken over $770,000 in career campaign contributions from the oil and gas and electric utility industries, has a track record of harassing and falsely attacking climate scientists -- just like Breitbart does. So it should come as no surprise that Smith has written his fair share of op-eds for Breitbart.

  • CNN Needs To Do Better Than This Trump Chyron

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A CNN graphic that misleadingly claimed President-elect Donald Trump “deliver[ed] on [his] vow to save” jobs at Indiana-based manufacturer Carrier demonstrates the need for the network to continue using on-screen graphics as a way of fact-checking Trump during his transition and presidency.

    Carrier announced on November 29 that it had struck a deal with Trump and the State of Indiana to keep about 1,000 jobs it had planned to move to Mexico in the United States. According to The Wall Street Journal, the state will provide Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies Corp. (UTC), $7 million in tax breaks over the next decade in exchange for keeping the jobs there. In addition to the $7 million in tax breaks, Trump reportedly promised UTC CEO Greg Hayes millions more in future corporate tax reductions.

    Discussing the announcement on the December 1 edition of CNN Newsroom, panelists noted multiple problems with Trump’s actions, including that the announcement could cause a “slippery slope” where “every company will expect to get huge tax incentives to stay in the United States,” a point economists and policy experts have also made. CNN commentator and New Yorker editor Ryan Lizza agreed, noting that “the precedent here can be very dangerous,” and adding, “You basically have this sort of extortion game that companies can now play because Trump has set himself up this way.” Echoing economist Jared Bernstein, Atlantic editor Ron Brownstein argued it is “unlikely that individual interventions in the decisions of individual companies is going to make a big dent in the long-term trajectory of a more automated and globalized manufacturing supply chain.”

    However, someone looking at only the TV screen would not know these potential stumbling blocks with the deal. Instead, they would see only a graphic saying, “Trump Delivers On Vow To Save Carrier Jobs,” essentially giving Trump the talking point he wanted. That graphic presents a stark contrast from what CNN’s own Kate Bolduan noted during a later segment of At This Hour in which she stated: “1,000 jobs remaining in Indiana that would have left, that is to be celebrated. … But it is a far cry from what Trump promised … on the campaign trail.”

    During the presidential campaign, CNN repeatedly used on-screen graphics to call out Trump’s lies and misleading rhetoric, such as "Trump: Never Said Japan Should Have Nukes (He Did)," "Trump’s Son: Father Apologized To Khans (He Hasn’t)," and "Trump Calls Obama Founder of ISIS (He’s Not)." CNN was not the only network to do this, with MSNBC also joining in to fact-check Trump’s claim he watched a “video of Iran receiving cash.” MSNBC’s graphic pointed out that the video was “nonexistent.”

    As ABC News legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams noted during the campaign, this practice of fact-checking Trump in real time helped solve “one of the big problems in cable news” where things sometimes are “just not true” and need to be called out as such.

    CNN’s failure to express the nuanced issues with the Carrier announcement highlights the need for CNN and other networks to have clearer on-screen graphics and continue their practice of on-screen fact-checking. These measures are crucial in preventing misleading talking points and falsehoods pushed by Trump from gaining traction.