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  • First Amendment Watch: November 2016

    Trump Ditched His Press Pool And Repeatedly Bashed NY Times And CNN On Twitter

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    During his 2016 campaign for president, Donald Trump launched an unprecedented war on the press. Since his election, Media Matters has tracked his and his team’s continuing attacks on the media as well as his breaking of presidential norms regarding press access, a dangerous threat to our First Amendment freedoms. Following is a list of President-elect Donald Trump’s attacks on the media -- and demonstrations of disregard for the press -- from Election Day through the end of November.

  • Mainstream Outlets Rush To Give Trump Credit For Vague Tweets About His Business

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media allowed President-elect Donald Trump to, once again, take over the news narrative with his Twitter activity -- this time with a series of vague tweets in which he claimed he would be leaving his business to avoid conflicts of interest. The announcement, however, provides no details about what will become of his business holdings and distracts from news that highlights the degree to which those holdings are ripe for future conflicts.

    In a series of tweets on November 30, Trump announced that he will be “holding a major news conference” on December 15 to discuss his plans for “leaving” his “great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country.” Trump added that while he is “not mandated” to “do this under any law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”

    As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out, “The only real news in those Trump tweets is that he’ll actually be doing a press conference,” given that Trump has already said that he would hand off management of his businesses to his children. The tweets included no new information on how Trump’s business dealings would be handled after he, allegedly, leaves them behind. But that reality didn’t stop media from making a story out of the tweets and leading with it.

    USA Today:

    CNN:

    The Associated Press:

    ABC News:

    CBS News:

    NBC News:

    The tweets do nothing to squash mounting concerns over the conflicts of interest Trump could face as president, and it’s unclear whether his promised response would address these conflicts. Shortly after the election, a Trump Organization spokesperson told CNN that Trump was planning to transfer “‘management of The Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump,’” his children. But as ethics experts explained to Politico, “installing Trump’s adult children as caretakers doesn’t eliminate conflict questions, since he’d still know what his interests were, and he’d presumably still be in contact with his children.”

    With his tweetstorm, Trump also continued his pattern of hijacking the media narrative when it suits him. In this case, Trump’s tweets give media outlets an excuse to downplay or ignore reports about the “ethical concerns” raised after the Kingdom of Bahrain reserved space in Trump’s D.C. hotel. Trump also used his tweets to continue to disseminate information on his own terms, which in the past has allowed him to avoid hard interviews and limit his press conferences.

    Media are falling into Trump’s trap again by giving his tweets the front-page treatment.

  • Trump National Security Pick Monica Crowley Pushed WMD Lies And Smeared Refugees As Terrorist Infiltrators

    Crowley Also Has Attacked The Media As “Corrupt” And Pushed Numerous Conspiracy Theories

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly picked Washington Times columnist and (now former) Fox News contributor Monica Crowley as deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, after considering her for press secretary. Crowley repeatedly pushed false claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Iran, smeared Syrian refugees fleeing war as terrorists, routinely attacks journalists as “corrupt” and “leftist,” and has pushed numerous conspiracy theories.

    Crowley Supported Bush Administration Lie That Iraq Possessed Weapons Of Mass Destruction Before 2003 Invasion, Fearmongered About Iran WMD As Far Back As 2004

    In 2002, Crowley Said, “We Do Know That Saddam Hussein Possesses Weapons Of Mass Destruction.” Monica Crowley said on the October 8, 2002, edition of Fox News’ Fox Wire that “we do know that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction.” She continued, “We know he has chemical weapons, we know he has biological, and he has a nascent nuclear capability.” [Media Matters, 5/1/06]

    In Late 2004, Crowley Claimed Iraq Might Have Moved Weapons Of Mass Destruction Out Of The Country. On a radio show in October 2004, Crowley cited a discredited Washington Times article about Russian forces allegedly removing explosives from an Iraqi facility to suggest something similar had happened to prevent American forces from finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [Media Matters, 10/29/04]

    In April 2004, Crowley Claimed Iran “May Already Have” A Nuclear Weapon. On the April 17, 2004, edition of MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, Crowley said that Iran has “weapons of mass destruction, possibly even nuclear at this point.” She later reiterated her claim about “nuclear weapons that they may already have” and claimed Iran would hand them to Al Qaeda to detonate in America. [Media Matters, 4/20/06]

    In September 2010, Crowley Allowed A Guest To Misrepresent CIA Director Leon Panetta’s Remarks To Claim “The Iranians Are About A Year Away From The Bomb.” On the September 7, 2010, edition of Fox’s The O'Reilly Factor, guest Scooter Libby -- former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney -- stated, "In June, of this year, the CIA director, Leon Panetta, I think on one of these shows, said that two things. One, the Iranians are about a year away from the bomb." Guest host Crowley responded, "Right." In fact, Panetta said that were Iran to decide to fully enrich its uranium, "it probably would take a year to get there," adding: "Probably take another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable." [Media Matters, 2/21/12]

    In August 2012, Crowley Said The Obama Administration Wants To “Advance Our Enemies” And Might “Want Iran To Have A Nuclear Weapon.” While guest hosting the August 24, 2012, edition of Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor, Crowley said of Iran, “we’re on the cusp of them having a nuclear weapon, if they don’t already.” She then said that it seems to her that the Obama administration “almost want[s] Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” [Media Matters, 8/24/12]

    Crowley Has Smeared Syrian Refugees As Terrorist Infiltrators

    Crowley At The Berlin Wall: "Walls Work”

    Crowley: Refugees Fleeing To Europe Are An “Invasion” Of “Fighting-Age Males.”

    Crowley On Trump’s Anti-Muslim Immigration Proposal: “This Is A Holy War. This Is Essentially The Constitution Versus The Quran On Every Level.”

    Crowley Commenting On Story About Fears Of Refugees In U.S.: “ISIS, Come On In!”

    Crowley Supported False Claim Syrian Refugees Participated In Paris Terror Attacks. Crowley twice tweeted out the false claim that Syrian refugees were involved in the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. In fact, European officials explained that the attackers were all European Union citizens. [Politico, 10/4/16]

    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 Fearmongers About A 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 Women's Rights Activist 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.”

  • Trump's Other Putin-Praising, Anti-Muslim National Security Pick K.T. McFarland Has Supported Torture And War With Iran

    McFarland Is The Latest Fox News Personality To Be Named To New Trump Administration

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President-elect Donald Trump has named Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland as his pick for deputy national security adviser, joining frequent Fox guest and fellow anti-Muslim Putin fan retired Gen. Michael Flynn on Trump’s White House national security team. McFarland has repeatedly advocated for war with Iran and misled about its nuclear program, expressed support for torture, and has made bizarre and incendiary statements about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other topics.

    McFarland’s Praise Of Russia’s Putin

    McFarland: “Vladimir Putin Is The One Who Really Deserves That Nobel Peace Prize.” In a September 10, 2013, FoxNews.com column, K.T. McFarland credited Putin with offering Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry "a way out of the mess they'd created" with a proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control. McFarland went on to say "the world knows that Vladimir Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize" for saving "the world from near-certain disaster." [Media Matters, 9/10/13]

    McFarland Lauded Putin For Seizing Ukraine’s Crimea: “Winners Write History.”

    McFarland’s Support For Profiling Muslims

    McFarland Blamed Charlie Hebdo Terror Attack On "Political Correctness," Called For More Profiling To Prevent Future Attacks.

    McFarland’s Response To Brussels Terror Attack: “Political Correctness” By Not Discriminating Against Muslims “Is Getting Us Killed.”

    New York’s Muslim Surveillance Program Failure Shows Profiling American Muslims Doesn’t Work. An April 2014 New York Times report on the shuttering of the NYPD's Muslim surveillance program admitted that after years of collecting information on Muslims in the city, "the police acknowledged that it never generated a lead." The extensive program had police mapping “communities inside and outside the city, logging where customers in traditional Islamic clothes ate meals and documenting their lunch-counter conversations.” [Media Matters, 11/19/15]

    McFarland’s Support For War Against Iran And Opposition To Nuclear Deal

    Since 2008, McFarland Repeatedly Claimed Iran Is A Year Or Two Away From Nuclear Weapons. In December 2008, McFarland claimed “Iran is probably two years away from a nuclear weapon.” In April 2010, McFarland said, “In a couple of months time -- 6 months, 9 months -- we're going to be faced with this choice: bombing Iran or letting Iran get the bomb." And in June 2012, McFarland said Iran is “on the verge of getting nuclear weapons." [Media Matters, 2/21/12; 6/6/12]

    McFarland In 2012: “Either Bomb Iran, Or Let Iran Get The Bomb."

    McFarland: “The Military Option Should Not Be Off The Table” For Dealing With Iran. On the October 11, 2011, edition of Fox News’ America Live, McFarland said:

    MEGYN KELLY (HOST): I want to pick up on your point then that if this is, or can be considered, an act of war, what is that mean? Is that a decision that our government will make, whether to use that terminology, and if they do, does that not raise the stakes?

    McFARLAND: It raises the stakes enormously. What are things that we might do other than sanctions? I mean, we can scold them, but that's not very effective. We could put a blockade around Iran. You know, it's certainly -- if Iran continues with its nuclear weapons program and sort of thumbs its nose at the world, it lends credibility to the idea that the military option should not be off the table, for example. [Media Matters, 10/14/11]

    Numerous Nuclear And Military Experts Supported Nuclear Deal With Iran. In August 2015, the nonpartisan Arms Control Association released a statement from nuclear nonproliferation specialists backing the Obama administration’s deal with Iran over its nuclear program, calling the agreement "a net-plus for nonproliferation." The statement, which was signed by 75 experts, called the agreement "strong, long-term, and verifiable" and noted that it "advances the security interests" of the United States and its allies. Many retired generals and admirals also released an open letter in August 2015 in support of the deal, which they described as “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons." [Media Matters, 8/18/15]

    McFarland’s Support Of Torture

    McFarland Defends Waterboarding: "Even If It's Torture, It's Probably Worth Doing"

    McFarland Criticized Senate’s Publication Of Torture Report: It “Was Completely Political.”

    Click here for the testimonies of numerous experts regarding how techniques like waterboarding are ineffective.

    McFarland’s History Of Incendiary And Bizarre Comments

    McFarland Said Of Hillary Clinton: You Have “Blood On Your Hands” From Benghazi Attack.

    McFarland Claimed Obama Administration Made “Political Decision Not To Rescue” Americans Killed In Benghazi. [Media Matters, 10/10/12]

    McFarland: Saudi Arabia Was Hiding Opposition To Iran Nuclear Deal Because “They’re Arabs” And Thus Dishonest.

    McFarland: "We Should Eventually Take Our Troops Out Of Europe And Put Them On The Mexican Border."

    McFarland Claimed During 2006 Senate Run That Clinton “Had Helicopters Flying Over My House.” TPM Media’s Josh Marshall noted that during her 2006 attempt to run against Clinton for Senate in New York, “McFarland claimed that Clinton was so worried about her candidacy that she sent secret helicopters to spy on her house in the Hamptons and also cased her apartment Manhattan. ‘Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures.’" [TPM Media, 11/25/16]

    McFarland Fell For Obviously Fake Rudy Giuliani Twitter Account.

  • “Nixonian”: Journalists React To Trump’s Declaration That As President, He “Can’t Have A Conflict Of Interest”

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    During an on-the-record meeting with The New York Times staff, President-elect Donald Trump declared that there is no legal need for him to free himself of his international business affairs to avoid conflicts of interest, flatly saying that presidents “can’t have a conflict of interest.” Journalists responded to Trump’s declaration by calling it “Nixonian,” referencing former President Richard Nixon’s comment to journalist David Frost that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

    Times reporters live-tweeted the meeting between Trump and newspaper staff, where he was asked about the numerous conflicts of interest he is facing with his business ties and his plans to turn over his businesses to his children while simultaneously involving them in his White House transition. In his replies, Trump said it’s not necessary for him to put his businesses in any kind of trust and that, as president, he “can’t have a conflict of interest” -- echoing an argument made by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani that financial conflict-of-interest laws don’t apply to the presidency.

    Journalists responded to Trump’s declaration by calling it “Nixonian” in nature, a reference to President Richard Nixon telling David Frost in a May 1977 interview that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal”:

    In fact, legal experts across the political spectrum have warned that presidential conflicts of interest of this type “could violate a crucial constitutional protection against corruption and influence by other governments,” specifically the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution -- “essentially an antibribery rule, which forbids public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign powers without explicit congressional approval.”

  • Media Should Not Sanitize Trump Immigration Adviser Kris Kobach’s Extremism, Ties To White Supremacists

    Kobach “Wrote The Book” On Muslim Registry And Was Behind Anti-Immigrant SB 1070

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    A reported architect behind President-elect Donald Trump’s extreme immigration proposals, radio host and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has received significant media attention following the announcement that he was joining Trump’s transition team. However, media outlets are failing to note his ties to hate groups and nativist organizations and his attacks on immigrants and LGBTQ people.

  • Eric Bolling Is Trying To Cover His Bigoted Tracks (And Failing)

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Bolling

    Eric Bolling, a Fox News host who is reportedly discussing a possible position in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, deleted a five-year-old racist tweet about President Obama immediately after Media Matters unearthed it.

    Bolling drew criticism in May 2011 after tweeting that Obama had been “chugging 40’s” in Ireland “while tornadoes ravage” Missouri. Earlier today, Media Matters called attention to that tweet in a post exploring Bolling’s history of making bigoted commentary and pushing conspiracy theories.

    Moments after I flagged Bolling’s May 2011 comment on Twitter, he deleted the tweet and blocked me.

    Unfortunately for Bolling, we have a screenshot of his tweet:

    And a screenshot of his identical Facebook post, which he hasn’t yet deleted:

    And video of him saying the same thing on his Fox show, which he can’t delete:

    Bolling is trying to hide his racism, and he’s doing a terrible job of it. He is both too bigoted and too dumb for public service.
  • ABC’s Martha Raddatz Falls Into The Trap Of Normalizing Trump’s Anti-Muslim National Security Adviser Pick

    Raddatz Briefly Mentions Michael Flynn’s Anti-Islam Views At The Beginning Of This Week, But By The End Ignores Them Entirely

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    ABC chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz demonstrated how easily journalists can normalize bigotry while hosting ABC’s This Week. Raddatz noted the anti-Muslim views of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn at the beginning of This Week, but in subsequent discussions of Flynn she refrained from mentioning them at all.

    President-elect Donald Trump has named Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, as his pick for national security adviser on Friday. In addition to holding international conflicts of interest, Flynn is also explicitly anti-Muslim. Flynn has said that “fear of Muslims is rational,” is a board member of the anti-Muslim hate group ACT! For America, defended Trump’s proposed Muslim ban during the presidential campaign, compared Islam to cancer, and denied that Islam is a religion.

    During her guest hosting of the November 20 edition of This Week, Raddatz briefly referenced some of Flynn’s anti-Islam comments while reviewing who Trump has selected to serve in his administration so far. When highlighting at the top of her show the criticism that some of Trump’s picks have drawn, Raddatz noted that Flynn “is under fire for calling Islam a cancer and his tweet that ‘fear of Muslims is rational.’”

    Next, when interviewing Trump’s incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus, Raddatz said Flynn “has a history of controversial views about Islam,” noting that Flynn has said that “Islam is not a real religion, but a political ideology masked behind a religion.” When asked if Trump shares that view, Priebus answered, “I think so,” but “phrasing can always be done differently.”

    Later, when leading into an interview with former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, Raddatz merely said Flynn is known “for his controversial views on Islam.”

    During her interview with Hayden, Raddatz said Flynn was “praised for his intelligence gathering” and asked about his qualifications as national security adviser -- but made no mention of Flynn’s anti-Muslim bigotry.

    And during a panel discussion near the end of the show, Raddatz lumped Flynn in with other retired military personnel, framing him as just someone with military experience, and made no mention of his anti-Muslim bigotry.

    The media’s coverage of Trump -- including his policies, rhetoric, and hires -- will set the tone for the national political dialogue about his presidency. 60 Minutes showed what not to do in Trump’s first sit-down interview after the election, allowing him to reintroduce his most criticized positions as reasonable while glossing over the most dangerous features and promises of his campaign. There has also been a concerted effort in conservative media to rehabilitate Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief adviser who until recently ran Breitbart News, the “platform of the alt-right.”

    One pitfall media has run into is describing the bigoted rhetoric and draconian positions of Trump -- and the people he surrounds himself with -- as “controversial.” Media use neutral-sounding words like controversial to avoid making what they consider editorial judgments about Trump’s rhetoric and policies, but doing so ultimately treats bigotry as a valid political belief.

    Over the course of one show, Raddatz described Flynn as “controversial” and painted him as highly respected, while essentially disappearing his anti-Muslim bigotry. In doing so, Raddatz helped normalize Trump and the bigots he is choosing to staff his incoming administration with.