Timothy Johnson

Author ››› Timothy Johnson
  • Donald Trump Jr. Interviewed By Racist NRA Commentator At NRA Annual Meeting

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Donald Trump Jr., the son of President Donald Trump, was interviewed by NRATV commentator Bill Whittle during the NRA’s 2017 annual meeting, which is being held in Atlanta, GA.

    In the past, Whittle has promoted the racist notion that black people are inherently intellectually inferior to people of other races, cited a white nationalist to claim people in inner cities “don't have access to cognition,” and claimed African-Americans are compliant “slaves” of the Democratic Party who trade a willingness to engage in voter fraud for welfare.

    Trump will speak later today at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum.

    Whittle interviewed Trump Jr. during NRATV’s broadcast from the NRA annual meeting exhibition hall alongside NRATV host Grant Stinchfield.

    During the interview, Whittle claimed that former President Barack Obama’s administration had “weaponized” the government against “half of the country” and suggested that Obama was a dictator.

    He also suggested that Obama was lazy compared to Trump, telling Trump Jr., “There was a picture, very early, it might have been the very first or second day after the inauguration, where you’re looking at the Oval Office and there is the Resolute Desk and there’s just all these piles of paper. It’s almost like it’s an executive who's got work to do and is ready to actually do some work. There’s one picture I think of Barack Obama where there is a piece of paper on the desk and he is kind of looking down at it disdainfully whether he should grace the presence of this thing. It’s nice to have a businessman, and the hours that he puts in, the organizational skills, it’s making a real difference.”

    During a 2016 appearance on the webshow of libertarian-turned-“alt-right”-commentator Stefan Molyneux, Whittle revealed he accepted theories commonly called “academic” or “scientific” racism that tie together IQ scores, race, and crime.

    In addition to positively citing prominent white nationalist Linda Gottfredson and widely denounced book The Bell Curve in advancing the claim that there are inherent intelligence differences between races, Whittle made a racist comment about aboriginal Australians and cited an episode of Star Trek in trying to explain his belief that races can be divided along the lines of “civilized man” and “barbarian.” (Biologists and anthropologists have long-rejected the theories that Whittle promoted).

    Unsurprisingly, Whittle’s appearance on Molyneux's show was lauded by infamous neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

    In addition to promoting “scientific” racism, Whittle frequently offers racist commentary, particularly on Muslim immigrants and African-Americans.

    While discussing “black America” during a December 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s program, Whittle described African-Americans who support the Democratic Party as literal slaves who prefer to remain in captivity. He said that the party has “30 million” slaves and the “terms of their slavery are very simple -- there’s a word for somebody who is fed, and clothed, and housed, and whose health care is taken care of by another person, and that word is slave.”

    Whittle then suggested that African-Americans commit voter fraud on behalf of Democrats as a condition of their slavery, claiming, “On the voting plantation that the Democratic Party has set up in America, we demand two hours of work from you every two years. Every two years we demand that you go down to the voting places and vote, once, twice, three, four times, however [many] times as you can imagine, or manage, and that’s the work we expect for you in exchange for keeping you in bondage.”

    During another 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s show, Whittle said there is an “Islamic invasion of Europe” which he compared to “inner cities” in America “that are absolutely toxic, violent, enraged, bitter, [and] racist.” He went on to claim Black Lives Matter is “the street muscle” of the Democratic Party and that the group will make sure “everything’s gonna burn” if welfare is reduced.

    Again drawing a comparison between Europe and the United States, Whittle said, “We have the exact same problem here with these same kind of communities. They’re unemployable -- unemployed and unemployable -- they’ve been on assistance their entire lives, they’ve never had to work before,” and he said that these people should get jobs because a job “beats the laziness” out of people and “disciplines” them into “civility.”

    During a January 2016 appearance on Molyneux’s show, Whittle called Obama an “unqualified, unknown individual” who was elected “specifically and only because he is black” and said that electing Obama was “atoning for our slavery.” Moments later he said, “I didn’t own any slaves, and therefore I’m not responsible for slavery. I’m not benefiting from slavery because I never owned any slaves,” and he said, “There’s nothing in this country that survived the Civil War that was the result of slavery.”

    Continuing to discuss the Civil War, Whittle said the “greatest tragedy in American history” is “not slavery, it’s not the Civil War, it’s what happened after,” before complaining about the philosophy of W.E.B. DuBois.

    White nationalists have thrown their support behind Trump and have been particularly fond of Trump Jr. During the presidential campaign, Trump Jr. made a “gas chamber” reference, retweeted an anti-Semitic author, and compared Syrian refugees to Skittles, endearing himself to neo-Nazi websites.

  • Meet The NRA’s Resident Academic Racist

    NRATV’s Bill Whittle Has Promoted “Scientific” Racism On Intelligence And Crime

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON & CYDNEY HARGIS

    Bill Whittle, a newly hired commentator for the National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV, has promoted the racist notion that black people are inherently intellectually inferior to people of other races and suggested that races could be divided along the lines of "civilized man" and "barbarian."

    Whittle is a commentator for the NRA who appears on a daily basis during the NRA’s live updates, which are broadcast at the top of the hour between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. He typically appears during the 1 p.m. hour, where he discusses issues of the day with host Grant Stinchfield.

    According to his website, Whittle began his gig with the NRA on January 3. “Since then, he has guest-hosted for Grant and [NRATV host] Collion (sic) Noir” and co-anchored the NRA’s afternoon coverage of the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference, the site notes. The NRATV website lists more than 80 appearances by Whittle on NRA programming this year. In addition to his employment with the NRA, Whittle is a longtime conservative commentator who is best known for his work with conservative outlet PJ Media.

    Whittle will be part of NRATV’s broadcast crew during the outlet's live coverage of the NRA’s annual meetings, which will be held this year in Atlanta, GA, from April 27 through 30.

    During a 2016 appearance on libertarian-turned-“alt-right”-commentator Stefan Molyneux’s webshow, Whittle revealed his acceptance of theories commonly called “academic” or “scientific” racism that tie together IQ scores, race, and crime. He also positively cited a white nationalist to claim people in inner cities “don't have access to cognition.”

    In the February 12 broadcast, which was released with the title “Why Liberals Are Wrong About Inequality,” Molyneux premised his discussion with Whittle with claims that in terms of average IQ scores, Ashkenazi Jews “clock in at about 115” and “after the Jews come the East Asians, right, the Koreans, the Chinese, the Japanese, and so on. They clock in at 105, 106, but very good on visual-spacial skills and very, very fast reaction times, which is another way that they measure intelligence. Caucasians come in at about 100 and then below that are Hispanics, clocking in at around 90, and then American blacks, clocking in at around 85 -- partly because they have 20 percent European mixture in their gene pool -- and then sub-Saharan Africans, clocking in at around 70, which is obviously very tragic, but this is the reality of what's happened. And slightly below that are the aboriginals in Australia, clocking in around 67 or whatever.”

    The attempt to classify certain races as genetically inferior on the basis of IQ scores is a classic example of academic racism promoted by white nationalists like Richard Lynn, and it has served as the premise for widely denounced “research” by writers like Charles Murray in The Bell Curve and Jason Richwine in his infamous proposal on Latino immigration.

    This type of sorting of the races by supposed genetic differences relating to intelligence has been widely discredited by scientists and anthropologists, even as white nationalists have increasingly attempted to revive the theories to push a racist agenda.

    During his conversation with Molyneux, however, Whittle accepted and promoted ideas based on these discredited theories.

    INDEX:

    Whittle Cited A White Nationalist To Promote "Scientific" Racism

    Neo-Nazi Website Feted Whittle's Appearance

    Scientists And Anthropologists Have Rejected Whittle's Claims

    Whittle Has A History Of Racism

    What Is NRATV?

    Whittle Prefaced His Racist Claims On Molyneux’s Show By Citing A White Nationalist And Indicating An Acceptance Of Academic Racism

    At the top of Whittle’s appearance, he cited The Bell Curve in indicating his acceptance of the notion there are differences in intelligence between races while offering an analogy he said Molyneux has used -- that “you can’t put somebody on a basketball team to make them taller” -- and linking race and intelligence to crime:

    STEFAN MOLYNEUX: We, of course, have had a whole bunch of experts from both the left and the right on talking about IQ differences between ethnicities, and I think that helped to bring the issue more to the forefront of your thinking, is that fair to say?

    BILL WHITTLE: Yeah, I mean obviously that's the controversial part of The Bell Curve is the IQ difference between ethnicities, but I think the deeper issue is since IQ seems to -- general IQ, g, right is the term they use -- since it so closely correlates to both poverty and crime on one hand and generally success and wealth on the other, it would be useful to be thinking about what a society that was recognizing these differences looked like. You can't -- I just love your example, I’ve used it every time with attribution, although it’s hard for me because it’s such a damned good analogy, but it’s like you said, you can’t put somebody on a basketball team to make them taller.

    Later in the broadcast, Whittle turned to the “enormous societal problems” we have “to solve,” and said of research claiming to show differences in intelligence among races: “It's not a question of whether or not this is true; it's a question of what do we do with what appears to be overwhelming information that IQ correlates to a lot of our social problems.”

    Whittle then cited Linda Gottfredson, saying, “She said that when you really get down to it, it's not that we have a -- that in terms of like really rigid poverty, it's not that we have a money problem; we have a cognitive problem. They don't have access to cognition, I think is what she said.”

    Gottfredson is a well-known white nationalist who has received funding from the Pioneer Fund. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), “Gottfredson argues that racial inequality, especially in employment, is the direct result of genetic racial differences in intelligence.” SPLC notes that the Pioneer Fund’s “original mandate was to pursue ‘race betterment’ by promoting the genetic stock of those ‘deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.’” It says the organization “still funds studies of race and intelligence, as well as eugenics, the ‘science’ of breeding superior human beings that was discredited by various Nazi atrocities.”

    In his appearance, Whittle also made a racist characterization of aboriginal Australians, claiming that members of that ethnicity would be unable to learn how to do a job such as Molyneux’s to make the point: “That’s the thing about intelligence is it can adapt down, but you can’t adapt beyond your ability”:

    WHITTLE: Well it's interesting when somebody would say that a bushman in Australia survives in the desert much better than you could -- that's undoubtedly true -- but the part that they're leaving out is that with several months or weeks or a year of being with the Aborigines, you could learn those techniques about as well as they could or certainly well enough to survive. The question is could they learn the techniques that you use in order to do what you do for a living and the answer apparently is not. That’s the thing about intelligence is it can adapt down, but you can’t adapt beyond your ability. 

    Arguing that an IQ difference among the races “certainly seems to be real,” Whittle also offered an analogy to a Star Trek episode in suggesting his claims of IQ differences among races is like comparing a “civilized man” to a “barbarian”:

    WHITTLE: If this IQ difference is real -- certainly seems to be real -- then it is not a two-way street. Forgive me for going back to my entire studio, which is nothing but a museum of Star Trek, right, but I mean there was a really fascinating point and I remember hearing it when I was probably 7, 8, 9 years old when I heard it. And it's from the classic, classic episode called Mirror, Mirror where they teleport into the alternate universe and Spock has a goatee … and Kirk in the alternate universe succeeds because of his savagery and his ruthlessness, right? Here's the whole line -- they finally solve all the stuff, they beam back to their own ships and the universes go their separate ways and Spock says to Kirk, he says, “You as a civilized man had a much easier time portraying a barbarian than a barbarian ever could as a civilized man.” And I thought yeah, yeah, yeah that's it, right?

    Perhaps most disturbingly, Whittle made clear that his beliefs about intelligence differences among races should inform public policy, claiming during his appearance that “if we don’t understand, as you said, that this cognitive ability has an impact on society in the same way that a height ability has an impact on the society of the NBA, for example, we’re going to just be throwing money at problems.”

    Neo-Nazi Website The Daily Stormer Feted Whittle’s Appearance

    The week following Molyneux’s broadcast, Andrew Anglin, the neo-Nazi operator of The Daily Stormer, celebrated the episode with an article headlined “Stefan Molyneux has Gone Full Shitlord.” (Although “shitlord” seems like an insult, neo-Nazis have appropriated the term as a compliment.)

    The Daily Stormer is a virulently racist and anti-Semitic website. For example, it recently characterized offensive claims about the Holocaust made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer by saying Spicer “confirms Hitler never gassed anyone” while joking (warning: disturbing image) that Nazis instead drowned Jewish babies “in buckets.” Anglin was recently sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for allegedly orchestrating a harassment campaign against a Jewish woman.

    In his write-up of Molyneux’s broadcast, Anglin said, “Here’s a good interview with Bill Whittle,” and wrote, “As I predicted would happen, Stefan Molyneux has pretty well entirely abandoned his libertarian claptrap and family counseling nonsense and gone full shitlord. Ultimately, everyone who is honestly looking for the truth is going to come to the same conclusions that we have, and he has, for the most part, come to these conclusions.”

    Real Scientists And Anthropologists Have Rejected The Claims About Race And Intelligence That Whittle Promoted

    Claims that genetic differences make certain races inherently less intelligent, often linked to the IQ test -- like those pushed by Whittle and Molyneux -- have been discredited by mainstream science.

    To begin, race is no longer viewed as a biological phenomenon by the majority of scientists. As explained in a 1992 article in peer-reviewed academic journal Ethnicity & Disease, “For some time, biologists and anthropologists have overwhelmingly rejected the partitioning of modern humans into biological ‘races.’ An examination of recent human evolutionary history suggests that the zoological definition of race, based on significant genetic differences, cannot be legitimately applied to contemporary humans.”

    As Ta-Nehisi Coates explained at The Atlantic, claims that are premised on supposed racial differences in intelligence proceed “from a basic flaw -- no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.” The leading view among scientists is that race is a “social construct without biological meaning.”

    On race and intelligence specifically, research published in 2012 found that “heritability of IQ varies significantly by social class,” and that “almost no genetic polymorphisms have been discovered that are consistently associated with variation in IQ in the normal range.” Put another way, the findings offered strong evidence that non-genetic factors are primarily responsible for intelligence.

    According to the late Robert Sussman, who worked as an anthropology professor at Washington University, “There is no indication from any scientific evidence that different populations have any specific physical or intellectual attributes, or abilities. Those characteristics relate back to one’s socialization or upbringing (or nutrition).”

    Strong evidence that intelligence is a product of environmental factors rather than genetics is found in the Flynn effect, which is “the observed rise over time in standardized intelligence test scores, documented by [psychologist James] Flynn ... in a study on intelligence quotient (IQ) score gains in the standardization samples of successive versions of Stanford-Binet and Wechsler intelligence tests.”

    Rejecting claims that linked race and intelligence on the basis of IQ scores, science journalist John Horgan wrote in 2013 that “to my mind the single most important finding related to the debate over IQ and heredity is the dramatic rise in IQ scores over the past century. This so-called Flynn effect, which was discovered by psychologist James Flynn, undercuts claims that intelligence stems primarily from nature and not nurture.”

    Whittle Frequently Makes Racist Commentary About Black People And Middle Easterners

    Whittle has offered racist commentary during appearances on Molyneux’s other broadcasts, in videos released under his own brand, and on NRATV:

    • Whittle claimed that there is a “Muslim invasion” of Europe during a November 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s show. Whittle’s comments came during a discussion of r/K selection theory. The theory posits that r-selected species emphasize having large numbers of offspring, and investing few resources in each offspring, while K-selected species have fewer offspring to which they devote more resources. Humans are a K-selected species under the theory, although Whittle and Molyneux attempted to brand Muslim immigrants as an r-selected species.
    • While discussing “black America” during a December 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s program, Whittle described African Americans who support the Democratic Party as literal slaves who prefer to remain in captivity. He said that that the party has “30 million” slaves and the “terms of their slavery are very simple -- there’s a word for somebody who is fed, and clothed, and housed, and whose health care is taken care of by another person, and that word is slave.” Whittle then suggested that African Americans commit voter fraud on behalf of Democrats as a condition of their slavery, claiming, “On the voting plantation that the Democratic Party has set up in America, we demand two hours of work from you every two years. Every two years we demand that you go down to the voting places and vote, once, twice, three, four times, however [many] times as you can imagine, or manage, and that’s the work we expect for you in exchange for keeping you in bondage.”
    • During another 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s show, Whittle compared the “Islamic invasion of Europe” to “inner cities” in America “that are absolutely toxic, violent, enraged, bitter, [and] racist.” He went on to claim Black Lives Matter is “the street muscle” of the Democratic Party and that the group will make sure “everything’s gonna burn” if welfare is reduced. Again drawing a comparison between Europe and the United States, Whittle said, “We have the exact same problem here with these same kind of communities. They’re unemployable -- unemployed and unemployable -- they’ve been on assistance their entire lives, they’ve never had to work before,” and he said that these people should get jobs because a job “beats the laziness” out of people and “disciplines” them into “civility.”
    • Whittle called President Obama an “unqualified, unknown individual” who was elected “specifically and only because he is black” and said that electing Obama was “atoning for our slavery” during a January 2016 appearance on Molyneux’s show. Moments later he said, “I didn’t own any slaves, and therefore I’m not responsible for slavery. I’m not benefiting from slavery because I never owned any slaves,” and he said, “There’s nothing in this country that survived the Civil War that was the result of slavery.” Continuing to discuss the Civil War, Whittle said the “greatest tragedy in American history” is “not slavery, it’s not the Civil War, it’s what happened after,” before complaining about the philosophy of W.E.B. DuBois.
    • In 2013, Whittle published a video for PJ Media with the title “The Lynching” that discussed the February 2012 shooting of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Whittle suggested that George Zimmerman, who killed Martin, had an experience tantamount to a lynching. Whittle said that text messages found on Martin’s phone, which he said were “not ‘airable’ here for extreme graphic content,” showed that Martin was “violent and highly sexualized.” What was “airable” on Whittle’s video, however, was an image (warning: disturbing image) of Martin’s body after he had been shot, which Whittle left on the screen for several minutes.
    • Whittle bizarrely labeled CNN anchor Don Lemon “racist” against white people because Lemon pointed out that President Donald Trump sounds different when he is using a teleprompter, as compared to when he speaks without one, during a March NRATV appearance.

    What Is NRATV?

    Whittle’s outlet, NRATV, was launched in October 2016 as a rebranding of the NRA’s long-running news outlet NRA News with the aim of offering more live programming created by the gun group and its advertising firm Ackerman McQueen.

    While NRA News flagship program Cam & Company, which continues to air on NRATV, serves as a font of misinformation about the debate over guns in the United States, new NRATV programming, such as the live updates on which Whittle appears, are better characterized as pro-Trump propaganda with a heavy dose of xenophobic commentary, particularly on the topic of Islam.

    NRATV is strident in its defense of Trump, and the overall NRA organization has said that it will serve as “Donald Trump’s strongest, most unflinching ally.” For example, shortly after launching NRATV, host Grant Stinchfield attacked the media for covering numerous reports of sexual assault against Trump, saying outlets should instead cover instances where guns were used in self-defense.

    While the NRA has long claimed that the media are part of a conspiracy against everyday Americans, the group’s attacks against the press in defense of Trump have entered new territory in recent months, with the gun outlet labeling both dissent against Trump and protected-speech reporting about Trump and his administration as oppositional to the U.S. Constitution and American values.

  • Republicans Threaten To Use Nuclear Option On Gorsuch, Media Blame Democrats

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Media figures, many of them conservative, are pushing the false talking point that Senate Democrats are to blame for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s threat to change the rules and allow Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed by a simple majority vote. In fact, past Senate rule changes effectuated by Democrats have not applied to Supreme Court nominees, and they were made in response to historic GOP obstruction of noncontroversial Obama nominees. Gorsuch, on the other hand, is considered to be a highly ideological nominee who falls to the right of Antonin Scalia.

  • Conservative Radio Host Michael Berry: "We All" Miss My Canceled Segment That Mocked Chicago Gun Violence Victims

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A week after ending a weekly segment that mocked victims of gun violence in Chicago, iHeartRadio’s Michael Berry said he hasn’t “had any racial conversations since I got in trouble, so maybe we’ll delve back into that” and added that he missed doing the segment.

    Berry previously hosted a weekly segment on The Michael Berry Show, which is syndicated in several major media markets and broadcast by iHeartRadio, in which he mocked victims of gun violence in Chicago. His commentary included making fun of victims’ names with racially charged comments and joking about where on their bodies the victims sustained the shooting injuries. Berry called the segment the “Chicago Weekend Crime Report” and the “Butcher Bill.”

    Controversy around the segment arose after a February 27 announcement in Talkers magazine said iHeartRadio would honor Berry with a “talk personality of the year” award at the March 5 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

    Following that announcement, Media Matters published a post documenting Berry’s history of mocking gun violence victims and using other extreme rhetoric, including his claim in 2010 that someone should blow up a mosque proposed for a site near ground zero in New York City.

    The Chicago Tribune and WGN reported on Berry’s comments, including his ridicule of the name of an innocent 14-year-old bystander gunned down in a drive-by shooting and his frequent call for listeners of his show to play “bingo” with victims’ gunshot injuries.

    The 2017 iHeartRadio Music Awards passed without any indication of whether Berry actually received the award. iHeartRadio has not discussed Berry publicly and has not confirmed whether he was honored. (On March 24, Media Matters and 20 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups sent a letter to iHeartMedia CEO Robert Pittman asking him to publicly state whether Berry received the award.)

    For his part, Berry announced on March 10 that he was canceling the segment and offered an apology, promising to “make better decisions” about the words he uses. Berry’s apology also included the self-serving explanation that he merely meant to “highlight” the “precious lives” being lost in Chicago with a feature “that was tinged in humor.” A review of Berry’s “Chicago Weekend Crime Report” indicates that instead, his segments were filled with callous ridicule.

    Berry set aside any contrition for the segment during his March 24 broadcast, telling callers, “We haven’t had any racial conversations since I got in trouble, so maybe we’ll delve back into that,” and stating that “we all” miss the segment.

    CALLER: You got to bring up chaos from New York City.

    BERRY: “Chaos from Harlem,” yes, “Chaos” needs to be back. We haven’t had any racial conversations since I got in trouble, so maybe we’ll delve back into that. Caller, you’re up.

    CALLER: Michael?

    BERRY: Yeah?

    CALLER: Yeah, I miss you in the “Chicago Crime Report.”

    BERRY: Yeah, well, we all do. We all do.

  • Trump Ally Alex Jones Attacks "The Jewish Press" For Reporting On His "Jewish Mafia" Commentary

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Responding to controversy over claims he made about “the Jewish mafia,” conspiracy theorist Alex Jones attacked “the Jewish press” that reported on his claims, saying the outlets are “complicit in covering up the stuff that is going on.”

    During the March 29 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones, a prominent media ally of President Donald Trump, responded to a caller pushing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory by saying, “Well there is undoubtedly a Jewish mafia and the [Anti-Defamation League] will say you’re anti-Semitic. No, there’s an Italian mafia, Irish mafia, Jewish mafia, Jamaican mafia, and there’s mafias, there’s Dixie mafia. And absolutely, the Jewish mafia, then, if you criticize it, it says you’re anti-Semitic, but the Jewish mafia is a very powerful mafia.”

    In his remarks, Jones also said that the Jewish mafia “worked with Hitler” and claimed that “the head of the Jewish mafia is [financier and philanthropist] George Soros; he’s out to get Jews.”

    Several Jewish news outlets reported on Jones’ comments. Jones criticized these outlets, saying on his March 30 broadcast, “It really is disgusting what the sell-out media, whether it’s the Jewish press and all this, that always attacks people that expose this. I just have to ask The Forward and everybody else, what the hell, man? I mean, are you really want to be complicit in covering up the stuff that is going on when you know, when any Jews that I talk to that are educated know all about this.”

    Throughout the segment, Jones’ largely focused on reporting from Jewish publication The Forward. Jones falsely claimed, “They don’t give all my quotes or all my comments where I said he was a Nazi that fed on Jews and rounded them up.” (The Forward’s article did include the relevant transcript posted by Media Matters that contextualized Jones’ claims, including quoting him as saying Soros is “out to get Jews.”)

    During the segment, Jones singled out the author of the Forward article by name -- while showing an enlarged image of her face on the online broadcast of his show -- and said the reporter “looks like she’s 12 years old. I’m glad you’re there to expose the anti-Semites, sweetheart.”

    Jones also revived the years-old smear that as a child, Soros, who is Jewish, was a Nazi collaborator and claimed that Soros “had a Hungarian handler and they would send him in when he was 13, 14, 15, 16 to ferret out where Jews were hidden and then they would rob all their stuff and sell them out to the Nazis.”

    This version of history is incorrect, as Tablet has reported:

    After his father made the agonizing decision to split up his family in the hopes of a better chance of its partial survival, Soros was given forged documents and sent to live in hiding with a Hungarian official charged with confiscating property from the country homes of deported Jews. This man occasionally brought the young Soros along, rather than leave him alone in a war-torn city that the retreated Germans were beginning to blow up. This official, who confiscated Jewish property yet also, at incredible personal risk, saved the life of a Jewish boy, is a human contradiction that [Glenn] Beck’s idiot Manicheanism is ill-equipped to handle.

    Jones’ claim echoes comments made by conservative radio host Glenn Beck in 2010 when he said Soros “used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off.” Then-Anti-Defamation League Executive Director Abraham Foxman called those claims “completely inappropriate, offensive,” and “horrific,” explaining that “to hold a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the Holocaust as part of a larger effort to denigrate the man is repugnant.”

  • Alex Jones Apologizes For Pizzagate Coverage, Blames Other Media Outlets

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones was pressured to air an apology for his role in spreading the false “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which led to a Jones listener firing a gun inside a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. Jones aired a pre-taped video in which he acknowledged that he made commentary about the pizzeria owner that “in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him.”

    Watch Jones’ statement here (transcript here):

    On December 4, Edgar Maddison Welch entered Comet Ping Pong during business hours while wielding an assault weapon to “self-investigate” the false conspiracy theory that the restaurant was helping the campaign of Hillary Clinton traffic children. After patrons and employees fled, Welch fired several shots. On March 24, The Washington Post reported that Welch had pleaded guilty to two violations of federal and local gun laws.

    The New York Times interviewed Welch several days after the shooting, and he told the paper that he was a listener of Jones’ show and that Jones “touches on some issues that are viable,” but that sometimes Jones “goes off the deep end.” The criminal complaint against Welch alleged that he shared a YouTube video with the message “Watch PIZZAGATE: The Bigger Picture.” Alex Jones’ website Infowars published a December 1 article with the headline “Pizzagate: The Bigger Picture” which included an Infowars YouTube video.

    Following the Comet incident, Jones claimed that Welch is an “admitted actor” and that the incident “is classic scripting. I’m not saying it’s scripted -- it has all the telltale signs, they’ve been caught doing it before.”

    Infowars also scrubbed some Pizzagate-related content from its website and YouTube, including a video posted before the Comet incident in which Jones told his listeners to personally “investigate” the conspiracy theory.

    A February Infowars article falsely denied that Infowars had promoted the conspiracy theory.

    Jones, a top media ally of President Donald Trump, is a self-proclaimed founder of the so-called 9/11 Truth movement and has repeatedly alleged that the September 11, 2001, terror attacks were carried out by the U.S. government. He frequently claims that calamities such as natural disasters, mass public shootings, and terror attacks are “false flag” events orchestrated by the government.

    In particular, Jones has promoted conspiracy theories about the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, that left 20 children and six educators dead. Family members have said they have been regularly harassed and threatened by conspiracy theorists, and they have criticized Jones for his smears.

    Jones has close ties to Trump. During a December 2015 appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Trump praised Jones as having an "amazing" reputation and promised, "I will not let you down." Following Trump’s victory, Jones said Trump had called him to “thank” his audience. Jones has also bragged in recent months that the president calls him.

    Transcript (emphasis added):

    ALEX JONES (HOST): First, an important piece here when it comes to being accurate, dealing with Pizzagate. Here it is.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    JONES: Alex Jones here with an important note to our viewing, listening, and reading audiences. I’m going to read to you from a statement that is also posted to Infowars.com that I wrote yesterday.

    Last fall, before the presidential election, a large number of media outlets began reporting on allegations arising from emails released by WikiLeaks that appeared to come from John Podesta, who served President Clinton and Obama and was the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

    Dozens of those stories and articles raised or discussed theories that some of Podesta’s emails contained code words for human trafficking and/or pedophilia. Stories also included allegations connecting members of the Democratic Party with a number of restaurants allegedly involved with a child sex ring. These stories were cited and discussed in social media and went viral on the internet.

    One of the persons mentioned in many of the stories in the media was a Washington, D.C., restaurant owner named James Alefantis, and his pizza restaurant Comet Ping Pong. It is fair to say that Mr. Alefantis is a prominent individual who has been mentioned as a power player in Washington. Mr. Alefantis and his restaurant were mentioned in many stories published by a lot of different outlets. Mr. Alefantis was quoted in many subsequent stories, and he denied any involvement in such reported child sex rings. These denials were reported in the national media and many other outlets and news websites.

    The volume of stories was substantial, generating national headlines and came to be known across the country as “Pizzagate.” We at Infowars became part of that national discussion. We broadcast commentary about the allegations and the theory that the emails contained code words. We raised questions about information in Mr. Podesta’s emails and the Comet Ping Pong restaurant. We believed at the time that further investigation was necessary. In December of 2016, we disassociated ourselves from the “Pizzagate” claims and theories, a position we reiterated last month after being contacted by Mr. Alefantis.

    In late February of 2017, we received a letter from Mr. Alefantis asking that we retract certain statements that he says were made in seven of our broadcasts between the last week of November and the first week of December in 2016. We have attempted, through our lawyers, to contact Mr. Alefantis to discuss with him what sort of statement he would like to see made.

    In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him. We were participating in a discussion that was being written about by scores of media outlets, in one of the most hotly contested and disputed political environments our country has ever seen. We relied on third-party accounts of alleged activities and conduct at the restaurant. We also relied on accounts of reporters who are no longer with us. This was an ever-evolving story, which had a huge amount of commentary about it across many, many media outlets.

    As I have said before, what became a heightened focus on Mr. Alefantis and Comet Ping Pong by many media outlets was not appropriate. To my knowledge today, neither Mr. Alefantis, nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate that were being written about in the media outlets and which we commented upon.

    I want our viewers and listeners to know that we regret any negative impact our commentaries may have had on Mr. Alefantis, Comet Ping Pong, or its employees. We apologize to the extent our commentaries could be considered as negative statements about Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong, and we hope that anyone else involved in commenting on Pizzagate will do the same thing.

    Here’s what we have done to clarify to the public. Months ago, we took down the majority of broadcasts and videos including ones that only passingly mentioned Pizzagate. This happened months before we were even contacted by Mr. Alefantis. Mr. Alefantis objected to portions of seven particular radio/TV broadcasts. We have taken down those seven broadcasts and we have attempted to take down any broadcasts that mentioned Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong. We have attempted to do so not just on our website but also on social media sites such as our YouTube channel. If Mr. Alefantis has any other objections, we invite him to let us know. Two reporters who used to be associated with us are no longer with us. In a recent broadcast, I invited Mr. Alefantis on our program to state what he wanted to, and I again do so here. He has given interviews to many media outlets, and he is welcome to come on our show.

    In issuing this statement, we are not admitting that Mr. Alefantis, or his restaurants, have any legal claim. We do not believe they do. But we are issuing this statement because we think it is the right thing to do. It will be no surprise to you that we will fight for children across America. But the Pizzagate narrative, as least as concerning Mr. Alefantis and Comet Ping Pong, we have subsequently determined was based upon what we now believe was an incorrect narrative. Despite the fact that we were far from the genesis of this story, it is never easy to admit when your commentaries are based on inaccurate information, but we feel like we owe it to you the listeners, viewers and supporters to make that statement, and to give an apology to you and to Mr. Alefantis, when we do.

    We encourage you to hold us accountable. We improve when you do.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    JONES: And again, ladies and gentlemen, that was -- we got distracted off by MSM on this stuff in D.C. when it was all going on in New York and that’s why day one, I saw it, I saw the media, and I said, “Get off that.” And I did that because we’re not psychopaths, we actually look at what is reality and then focus on that. We don’t go like MSM with their misinfo and just cold-bloodedly spew lies, this person’s a racist, this person’s this, this person’s that. Just because it gets us ahead in what we’re doing, we’re all about integrity, and that’s why we make mistakes by covering MSM, focusing on it, and the huge debate. We will absolutely own up to it, and make right for it, as we just did. 

  • White Nationalists Fete Racist Iowa Congressman Steve King For Openly Advocating White Nationalism

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    After Rep. Steve King (R-IA) wrote that “we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," white nationalist and neo-Nazi media rallied around the Republican congressman, calling him a “hero” for “openly endorsing White nationalism,” and saying they hoped the comment “is a signal that conservatives are moving in the right direction under [President Donald] Trump.”

  • iHeartRadio Won’t Say Whether It Honored Conservative Radio Host Who Mocks Chicago Gun Violence Victims

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    iHeartRadio is refusing to say whether it honored conservative radio host Michael Berry -- who routinely mocks Chicago victims of gun violence -- at the 2017 iHeartRadio Music awards. The online radio broadcasting company previously announced that Berry would be named “talk personality of the year” at the March 5 award ceremony.

    Talkers, the radio industry’s trade publication, reported on February 27 that iHeartRadio was giving a “news/talk personality of the year” award to Berry, writing that the award “is a first” and that the “competition was open only to talk hosts who work for iHeartMedia stations.” The report quoted Berry claiming that he hosts “a show that dares to be funny.”

    The Talkers article originally included the line “The award will be given in Los Angeles on March 5 at the iHeartRadio Music Awards,” but that language was subsequently removed without explanation. During the February 23 broadcast of The Michael Berry Show, Berry talked about being chosen for the award, saying, “It’s the first time our company has done this -- they have a big awards ceremony next month.”

    On March 1, Media Matters published a piece documenting Berry’s regular ridicule of Chicago gun violence victims in a weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, which often includes playing “bingo” and other games with victims’ gunshot injuries. For example, during a February 20 broadcast, Berry said of a slain gun violence victim:  “Saturday, 4:25 a.m., po-po responding to a call of shots fired, found 36-year-old John Gonzalez with a gunshot wound to -- to his head. To his head, everybody. B4, his head.”

    The piece also mentioned that Berry frequently picks on teenage victims of gun violence in Chicago. After 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter was killed in a drive-by shooting, Berry joked that the teenager, who was an innocent bystander, “won't have to live with that name anymore.”

    Following the piece’s publication, Media Matters sent multiple requests for comment to iHeartRadio asking them to explain the rationale behind honoring Berry, but received no response. A March 2 Chicago Tribune article on Berry’s propensity to mock gun violence victims noted that “Berry and his producer did not respond to calls from the Chicago Tribune this week. Nor did bosses at Berry's Houston station, KTRH, nor did representatives of its parent company, iHeartMedia.” (The Tribune article references the deleted line from the Talkers report -- “Talker magazine also reported the award, which it said would be given to Berry in a televised ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles” -- indicating the line was removed after Media Matters’ piece was published.)

    Similarly, a March 2 WGN News broadcast reporting that Berry “makes fun of shooting victims with racially charged commentary” noted that iHeartRadio had not responded to a request for comment.

    On March 5, the iHeartRadio Music awards show was held in Los Angeles. The event was broadcast on TNT, TBS, and TruTv. With the event now concluded, it is unclear whether Berry was honored during the ceremony. A search of iQ media turned up no evidence that Berry was honored during the televised portions of the event, and on March 6, iHeartRadio published a “complete” list of winners from the event, which does not include Berry, instead listing the musicians who won awards, including Justin Timberlake, Adele, and Justin Bieber.

    Media Matters has again sent iHeartRadio multiple requests for comment, asking the company to confirm whether Berry received the award at the event as previously planned. iHeartRadio has not responded.

    It is important that leadership at iHeartRadio clarify whether they stand with the values represented by Berry’s show and believe that a host like him should be elevated by receiving an award alongside high-profile performers.

    If iHeartRadio decided to honor Berry in secret, that suggests the company is comfortable giving an award to someone who ridicules gun violence victims, but also doesn’t want to face any public backlash over the situation. If the award was rescinded, that is an important point too, and iHeartRadio should explain its rationale for not going forward with the honor.

    Additional reporting by Media Matters' Joe Strupp.

  • Mainstream Outlets Are Normalizing Trump's Impeachable Offense

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    During the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency, broadcast evening news shows and Sunday political talk shows devoted a total of just over 10 minutes to discussing the allegation that Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution by receiving foreign government payments. The scant reporting that did address this issue failed to mention that such conduct is an impeachable offense. 

    Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, known as the Emoluments Clause, creates a broad prohibition on federal officeholders, including the president, receiving payments from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. It reads: “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

    The provision is much broader than a ban on receiving bribes. According to legal experts, even “fair market value transactions that result in any economic profit or benefit” count as an emolument, because the Founding Fathers wanted a “prophylactic” rule aimed at preventing even the appearance of corruption.

    A president’s violation of the clause is an impeachable offense.

    According to legal experts, Trump’s retention of an ownership interest in the Trump Organization as president means that he has been violating the Constitution since the moment he took the oath of office. Indeed, just two days after the inauguration, the watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit in federal court “to stop President Trump from violating the Constitution.” A press release about the suit notes that the president “is now getting cash and favors from foreign governments, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad.” (Other presidents have avoided violating the clause by placing their assets into an independently controlled blind trust, something Trump has refused to do.)

    In what should serve as a prompt for investigative journalists, the exact nature of the emoluments Trump has received is unclear in many instances due to Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. As Emoluments Clause expert Zephyr Teachout, an associate law professor who is a lawyer on CREW’s lawsuit, explained in The Washington Post, while some emoluments Trump is receiving are known -- including rent paid by the Qatari state airline at a Trump property, licensing fees paid by several foreign countries for rights to the TV show The Apprentice, and construction permits granted by the Indian government -- the full extent of his violations is unknown because “Trump hasn’t disclosed any information about his finances.”

    In spite of Trump’s secretive business dealings, two concrete new violations emerged during the first month of his presidency.

    According to a February 9 report from Politico, “A lobbying firm working for Saudi Arabia paid for a room at Donald Trump’s Washington hotel after Inauguration Day, marking the first publicly known payment on behalf of a foreign government to a Trump property since he became president.” The article notes that the payment “raises questions about whether it represents a violation of the foreign emoluments clause.”

    Politico quoted Obama ethics attorney Norm Eisen, who described the payment as part of a “systemic problem,” and constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe, who said, “This example is bound to be one of a vast stream of instances.” Both Tribe and Eisen are lawyers on CREW’s lawsuit.

    Then The Associated Press reported on February 14 that Trump was set to score an “unlikely” legal win in China by way of a “trademark for building construction services” following “a decade of grinding battle in China's courts.” According to the report, the legal victory “could signal a shift in fortune for the U.S. president's intellectual property in China. At stake are 49 pending trademark applications -- all made during his campaign -- and 77 marks already registered in his name, most of which will come up for renewal during his term.” (China announced the trademark two days after AP’s article.)

    As the AP report aptly noted, “Trump's foreign trademarks have raised red flags with ethics lawyers across the political spectrum who say they present grave conflicts of interest and may violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.” (Indeed, a post at the libertarian Volokh Conspiracy blog concluded that the trademark grant qualifies as an emolument received by Trump.)

    The nation’s leading news programs have insufficiently covered a story about a president openly taking actions that not only violate the Constitution but also are grounds for impeachment.

    CBS Evening News, ABC World News Tonight, and NBC Nightly News have each devoted a single segment to foreign payments to Trump.

    A January 20 CBS Evening News segment didn’t mention the Emoluments Clause explicitly, but it included an interview with George Washington University law school professor Steven Schooner, who explained how Trump can profit from foreign governments via the Trump Organization.

    ABC World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News each devoted brief segments on January 23 to CREW’s lawsuit.

    In total, the issue was covered for just over seven minutes on broadcast nightly news between January 20 and February 20. None of the segments mentioned violating the Emoluments Clause is an impeachable offense:

    Sunday political talk shows provided even less coverage. During the January 22 broadcast of ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos directly asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about Trump and the Emoluments Clause. During the January 29 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked White House chief of staff Reince Priebus why Muslim-majority countries with business ties to Trump were left out of Trump’s travel ban, although the Emoluments Clause was never directly cited. CBS’ Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, and CNN’s State of the Union all failed to discuss the issue.

    Sunday show coverage of the issue totaled just under four minutes, with no discussion of how the offense is grounds for impeachment:

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, and CNN for "emoluments," "emolument," "Trump Organization," "Trump Hotel," Trump w/10 “trump international hotel,” Trump w/10 impeach, Trump w/10 constitution, Trump w/10 "conflict of interest," Trump w/10 conflicted, Trump w/10 payment, Trump w/10 “foreign payment,” and Trump w/10 divest. We identified segments that mentioned foreign payments to Trump in the context of conflict-of-interest questions and/or the Emoluments Clause directly, and then counted those segments for time in iQ media.

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko.