National Security & Foreign Policy

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  • How The Drudge Report Became Vladimir Putin’s Top Media Cheerleader

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    On Labor Day, visitors to the Drudge Report, the conservative news aggregator operated by Matt Drudge, were greeted by an above-the-fold story about the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama at the G20 Summit in China. Drudge’s headline for the story was “Lion And The Pussycat”:

    http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/uploader/image/2016/09/06/drudge-obama-putin.jpg

    The Drudge headline is part of a larger pattern from the site of consistently promoting Putin and his strongman style of leadership (the “Lion”), which Drudge has often contrasted with President Obama, whom he characterizes as a weaker leader (the “Pussycat”). Drudge has also consistently promoted pro-Russian news and information, repeatedly harping on the idea that American power is weakening and in decline.

    Matt Drudge has extolled the virtues of Vladimir Putin for some time. In 2013, Drudge declared that “Putin is the leader of the free world,” adding to a chorus of conservatives backing the Russian leader. Around the same time, Drudge featured Putin at the top of his site as “Putin To The Rescue” (a headline he would re-use two years later) as the leader began discussing a possible military role for Russia in Syria.

    Over the past few years, Drudge has used his site to promote a steady stream of stories favorable to Putin, often while denigrating President Obama and the United States.

    Drudge’s boosterism of Putin has continued even as the FBI and other investigative services have alleged that hackers working at the behest of Russian intelligence have compromised American computer systems, including via an intrusion at the Democratic National Committee.

    The U.S. director of national intelligence has also recently testified that an inquiry is currently underway to see whether Russians are attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election.

    Drudge Makes A Putin/Trump Connection

    Drudge has couched some of his stories about Putin with accompanying articles and headlines comparing his leadership style to that of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    In December, Drudge highlighted a Financial Times piece that compared Putin to Trump using the text, “Russian president offers glimpse of strong leader.” This was paired with an article describing Putin as part of a “strongman revival” showing a “global trend.”

    During the Republican primaries, Drudge spotlighted a comment from Putin describing Donald Trump as a “very talented man.”

    Drudge Hypes Putin As A Strongman

    The Drudge Report has repeatedly highlighted stories focusing on Putin as a strong or tough world leader, often in a military context.

    The Drudge Report placed an above-the-fold link to a threat from Putin that he could use nuclear weapons against ISIS.

    Putin made it above-the-fold in a link to a Breitbart News article referring to ongoing negotiations over Syrian chemical weapons. The headline was “Hand ‘Em Over,” with a photo of Putin.

    Drudge hailed Putin for “flex[ing] muscle” as elections approached in Russia, bundling that link with others offering defenses of Putin against American criticism:

    Drudge gave above-fold treatment to a story asking if Russian airstrikes had killed the leader of ISIS (they hadn’t) with the headline “Did Putin Kill ISIS Leader?” The report linked did not name Putin or even reference Russian forces and their activities in the Middle East at the time. It appears Drudge invoked Putin’s involvement on his own.

    As Putin moved to annex Crimea, Drudge put the headline “Putin Promises ‘Aid’ For Ukraine” above-the-fold.

    As the annexation progressed, Drudge labeled the campaign as “Putin In Control.”

    Hailing Putin, Attacking Obama

    In addition to articles promoting Putin as a strongman, Drudge has also sought to use those stories as a contrast to President Obama and United States policy.

    When Putin wrote a New York Times op-ed questioning the concept of American exceptionalism, it was featured at the top of the Drudge Report.

    While linking to a New York Post story claiming that Obama has turned Putin into the most powerful leader in the world, Drudge used the headline “Red Planet: Putin Snubs Obama.”

    Drudge promoted a Chinese claim that “Putin Humiliated USA.”

    He also highlighted a story about a “Putin cafe” that “has Obama toilet paper.”

    Drudge linked to a story purporting to tell “how Putin beat Obama in Syria.” The original headline referred to “monstrous Putin,” but Drudge removed the adjective once he aggregated the story.

    After Russia engaged in airstrikes in Syria, Drudge juxtaposed a news link of that action with another story in which Putin called America “weak.”

    After the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, Drudge led his site with a headline asking if Putin would be the one to “rescue” the world from ISIS

    Defending Putin

    When Putin has been involved in international controversies, the Drudge Report has been a part of his administration’s pushback, often with links to official Russian news outlets, or those with state sponsorship.

    The Drudge Report highlighted a story from the state-financed Russian news outlet RT in which Putin claimed that he would neutralize a purported “missile shield threat” coming from America.

    When leaked files showing international efforts to move money offshore to avoid taxes referenced Putin, Drudge linked to an official denying Putin’s involvement.

    Putin Chronicler

    Drudge has also used his platform to chronicle Putin’s day-to-day activities as leader of Russia.

    He made a note of a Putin visit to Iran, which for some reason was featured above-the-fold.

    When Putin said he was considering running for a fourth presidential term, Drudge compared him to Stalin, and it was meant in a positive light.

    A story from the official Russian news agency Tass speculating that Elton John might meet with Putin while in Russia for a concert received a Drudge link.

    Drudge headlined photos of Putin working out “Ripped Putin Hits The Gym.”

    When Russian planes bombed targets in Syria, Drudge headlined the story above-the-fold as “Putin Blitz.”

    When world leaders attended a meeting of the G20 in Russia, Drudge posted photos of Putin greeting them along with the headline, “World Into The Arms of Putin.” He also wrote that “Obama shows up late -- and alone -- to dinner with Putin.”

    A story about the Russian Defense Ministry purchasing dolphins was paired with an article headlined “Fighter Jets Sent To Watch Putin.”

    An announcement that a state media agency in Russia was dissolving also made it above-the-fold on Drudge.

    Drudge linked to a report from the Russian news agency Tass about a meeting between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping with a picture captioned “Putin Courts Xi.”

    When Putin played in a hockey game, that made the Drudge Report too.

    Drudge illustrated an ABC News story on Putin’s exercise regimen with a photo of the president.

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    Drudge took note of a Putin encounter with leopard cubs in Sochi, Russia.

    After the 2014 Olympics in Russia had concluded, Drudge put “Games Over: Putin Ready to Take Off Gloves?” above-the-fold.

     

  • The Media Aren't Buying Trump’s Claim That Intelligence Officials Criticized Obama During Confidential Briefing

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Media figures immediately denounced Donald Trump’s claim during NBC’s Commander-In-Chief Forum that during an intelligence briefing, CIA officials expressed disappointment in President Obama and his handling of foreign affairs.

    In August, Trump began receiving intelligence briefings, which NBC News described as a description of “how US intelligence agencies see a variety of global issues.”

    During the forum, moderator Matt Lauer asked Trump if he had learned anything about strategy to combat ISIS or anything that would make him reconsider his promise to defeat the terror organization quickly. Trump replied that he did not learn anything like that during the briefing but he did learn that President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry are “total disaster[s]” and that Obama “did not follow … what our experts said to do.”:

     

    MATT LAUER (MODERATOR): Did anything in that briefing, without going into specifics, shock or alarm you?

    DONALD TRUMP: Yes, very much so.

    LAUER: Did you learn new things in that briefing?

    TRUMP: First of all, I have great respect for the people that gave us the briefings. They were terrific people. They were experts on Iraq and Iran and different parts of -- and Russia. But yes, there was one thing that shocked me. And it just seems to me that what they said, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, who is another total disaster, did exactly the opposite.

    LAUER: Did you learn anything in that briefing, again, not going into specifics, that makes you reconsider some of the things you say you can accomplish like defeating ISIS quickly?

    TRUMP: No. I didn't learn anything from that standpoint. What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our truly -- when they call it intelligence, it's there for a reason. What our experts said to do.

    Trump’s claim was met with immediate skepticism. On MSNBC, former CIA Director Leon Panetta said he would be “very surprised” if the interaction Trump described took place and said it would be a “violation of [intelligence officials] responsibility.” Media figures described it as “untruthful,” and “hard to believe.” Furthermore, The Washington Post’s David Ignatius said the intelligence community would not make policy recommendations and that they would be “deeply upset” by Trump’s comments.

  • Reporters Castigate NBC's Matt Lauer For Letting Trump Lie About Opposing Iraq War

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Reporters slammed NBC's Matt Lauer for allowing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to lie about his purported opposition to the Iraq War. 

    Trump regularly claims in interviews and on the stump that he opposed the war from the beginning, and repeated that claim during NBC's September 7 Commander-in-Chief Forum. There is no evidence to support this claim and February reporting from BuzzFeed News showed Trump voiced support “for invading Iraq” in 2002 and termed it a "tremendous success" after the invasion began.

    When Lauer allowed Trump to repeat the lie, journalists across the spectrum highlighted the falsehood and ripped into him for failing to follow up.

     

  • Media Call Out Donald Trump's Sequester Flip-Flop

    Trump Claimed Sequestration Was "Over-Exaggerated" In 2013

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Media are calling out Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for flip-flopping on the 2013 federal spending sequester after Trump pledged to “eliminate the defense sequester” and increase military spending during a September 7 speech. Back in 2013, Trump supported the congressionally imposed sequester, saying “Frankly, this is a very minor amount of the cuts that have to be made.”

  • Fox Salutes Trump Plan To "Listen To The Generals" Despite His Claim To Know More About ISIS

    Trump Has Also Mentioned A Secret Plan For ISIS That He’s Withholding In Order To Be "Unpredictable"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivered a foreign policy speech in which he promised to “ask the generals to present a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS,” the hosts of Fox News’ Outnumbered took “a lot of comfort in the fact that he would say he’d listen to the generals.” But in the past, Trump has said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do,” and he has claimed that he has a secret plan for defeating ISIS that he is keeping quiet so as to be “unpredictable.”

    This shift is both the latest of Donald Trump’s flip-flopping, “patently uninformed,” and “literally insane” foreign policy proposals and the most recent example of Fox News jumping to defend them. From the September 9 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered:

    CHARLES HURT: The most important point on there is the first one, where he says that immediately after taking office, Mr. Trump will ask his generals to present a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS. What he’s doing there, and I think that he did a very good job of this, is he’s saying that he’s going to trust his generals to go after ISIS in a very forceful way. Donald Trump has impeccable timing. He is very lucky in this respect. And that is that Hillary Clinton is running for Barack Obama's third term and as such he gets to run against her resumé, he gets to run against everything that’s going wrong in the world today. And as long as he stays there and just says, “I’m going to listen to my generals,” as long as he says that, he is going to beat her when it comes to military, foreign policy, and all that stuff.

    HARRIS FAULKNER (CO-HOST): Well it’s interesting too because you start there, that’s exactly where President Obama has had so much criticism, the questions about whether he listens to the people who are the experts militarily. What are your thoughts?

    MEGHAN MCCAIN (CO-HOST): My first thought was the best line was when he was talking about Hillary Clinton showing how vulnerable we are when it comes to cyberterrorism. Every foreign policy expert I’ve spoken to says this is the final frontier, this is what’s coming next. This woman has shown first and foremost that if you don’t follow the rules you can literally put our national security at risk and give our secrets to our enemies. So I thought that was very vulnerable -- or very powerful, excuse me. He wasn’t talking exactly about how we’re going to pay for everything, so I would like a little more policy specifics when it comes to that. But I think this is actually a really strong speech. A lot of us have been asking for him to start showcasing what he’s going to do, and I take a lot of comfort in the fact that he would say he’d listen to the generals in the first 30 days.