Timothy Johnson

Author ››› Timothy Johnson
  • 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.

  • Trump Supporters Receive “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey” Moments After President Slams Reporters

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Moments after President Donald Trump concluded a press conference at which he unleashed numerous attacks on the press, his fundraising committee circulated a “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey” urging supporters to “do your part to fight back against the media’s attacks and deceptions.”

    Trump and his administration have engaged in an unprecedented war on the press. The president routinely singles out legitimate outlets and reporters as “fake news,” and his chief strategist has labeled the press the “opposition party.” During his February 16 press conference, Trump was particularly "combative" with reporters, turning the event -- which was ostensibly to announce a new labor secretary nominee -- into a “screed against the media.”

    The email blast from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, which presumably is also an attempt to build its email list, calls his supporters “our last line of defense against the media’s hit jobs” and urges readers to fill out a “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey” in order to “do your part to fight back against the media’s attacks and deceptions”:

    The survey asks respondents whether they “trust” CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC to “report fairly on Trump's presidency” and asks, “On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans”:

    The survey also includes laughable push-poll questions such as, “Were you aware that a poll was released revealing that a majority of Americans actually supported President Trump's temporary restriction executive order?”; “Do you believe that political correctness has created biased news coverage on both illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism?”; and “Do you believe that contrary to what the media says, raising taxes does not create jobs?”

    The survey contains at least one serious grammatical error:

    The last question of the survey asks, “Do you believe that our Party should spend more time and resources holding the mainstream media accountable?”

    Submitting the survey leads the user to a fundraising pitch for Trump Make America Great Again Committee, “a joint fundraising committee composed of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. (‘DJTP’) and the Republican National Committee (‘RNC’).”

    During the campaign, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee sent out a similar “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey,” complaining that the media was “trying to rig this election against us”:

    The full February 16 survey:

  • NBC News Appoints An Iraq War Cheerleader As Its New President

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE & TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    As NBC News faces growing questions about moving to the right, the network’s chairman, Andrew Lack, announced that Noah Oppenheim, a Today show producer who was an outspoken supporter of the Iraq War and has a lengthy history with conservative media, will be the new president of NBC News.

    During 2003 and into 2004, Oppenheim was a pro-Iraq War pundit on MSNBC. On July 19, 2003, four months after the invasion, Oppenheim appeared on MSNBC Live to respond to a firestorm stemming from President George W. Bush’s false assertion in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraq’s supposed nuclear weapon capabilities. Oppenheim defended the Bush administration for misleading the public in order to make the case for war by saying that that intelligence business “is not an exact science” and you have to “make educated guesses.” Transcript via Nexis (emphasis added):

    LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: Noah Oppenheim, last week we talked about -- was that the worst week for the president after things have gotten so messy on the whole how did these 16 words get into the speech? Now, this week the story kept going. We've narrowed it down, to, you know, the suspects, of who got the words in there. It looks like it's the National Security Council people, which means it looks like it's Condi Rice. Is Condi Rice the next person to have to take the blame in this story?

    NOAH OPPENHEIM, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, I don't know if she's the next person to have to take the blame. But we are -- the whole country is getting a very useful lesson in how the intelligence business works. And it is not an exact science. It is a very inexact science. And we now all understand that when we are trying to predict what's going on in countries like Iraq, we make educated guesses, and that's exactly what happened here. The British made an educated guess about the way Saddam was trying to reconstitute his nuclear program. They actually stand by that educated guess. We now know that the line, how the line made it into the speech, we understand the consultations that go on between the National Security Council staff and the White House, the CIA. It seems like this line shouldn't have made it in. It's unfortunate that it did, but I have seen no evidence of any sort of egregious wrongdoing on anyone's parts, no malicious plotting, no conspiracy here to drag the country into war. You see the governing -- government functioning as it does, imperfectly at times.

    When asked, on the same program, about the plan for leaving Iraq, Oppenheim said that “no matter what happens,” Iraq “will be better than … before we came”:

    OPPENHEIM: I cannot give you an exact date. The exit plan is as we help the people of Iraq rebuild their country, like we help the people of Germany and Japan rebuild theirs after World War II. We put in place a government that represents the various groups in Iraq, and we hopefully nudge them toward a liberal democracy. But ultimately, we take off the training wheels and see what happens. And you know what? No matter what happens, it will be better than what they had before we came.

    MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell asked Oppenheim on the July 12, 2003, edition of MSNBC Live how many people would die in Iraq. Via Nexis:

    O'DONNELL: Noah, is it a decade, or is it less than a decade?

    OPPENHEIM: It is between one and five years, and I do not know how many people are going to die, but it may be in the hundreds, it may even be in the low thousands, but it will still be worth it.

    150,000 Iraqi civilians and over 4,600 members of coalition forces have died in Iraq as a result of the war.

    On August 23, 2003, Oppenheim told O’Donnell on MSNBC Live that the majority of Iraq was actually peaceful and predicted the country was “headed in a positive direction.” Via Nexis (emphasis added):

    O'DONNELL: Noah, what if he doesn't? What if Iraq continues along the path that's going now, with roughly the same number of disruptions and killings, and then what if the peace process in the Middle East stays off track where it is now? How do Bush's numbers look six months from now if everything keeps going the way it is in the Middle East?

    OPPENHEIM: Well, look, you've got to -- what direction is it going? If you read "The New York Times" today, which is not exactly President Bush's greatest cheerleader, they report about how the great majority of Iraq is actually quite peaceful and actually happy to have an American presence there. We have a problem in Baghdad. We have a problem in the predominantly Sunni areas in the center of the country and in parts of the northwest. But for the majority of the country, it is pretty calm and peaceful and actually headed in a positive direction.

    Now, with regard to the Mideast peace process, no president has ever been able to bring peace to the Israel and the Palestinians. If Bush is unsuccessful there, I don't think someone's going to say, you know what, John Kerry is going to be able to do it, but George Bush couldn't. I mean, that's outrageous.

    Oppenheim even admitted that he is a conservative, stating on MSNBC Live on June 26, 2003, that he agreed with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s concurrence in Lawrence v. Texas, stating, “Even as a conservative, I felt like it was a rightly decided case.” (via Nexis)

    Andrew Kirell, now of The Daily Beast, examined Oppenheim’s background when Today brought him back on board in 2015. As Kirell noted, Oppenheim’s stint as executive producer of the TV show Scarborough Country occurred when host Joe Scarborough was portraying a much more conservative figure than he has done recently.

    Oppenheim has also written multiple columns for the neoconservative outlet Weekly Standard. In an April 2001 column, he attacked civil rights activist Jesse Jackson’s activism as “shakedowns” and “an old-style protection racket,” complaining that “Jackson threatens boycotts and the stigma of being labeled racist by this country's most prominent black leader.” Five months after the 9/11 terror attacks, Oppenheim accused the American Muslim community of assuming a “see-no-evil posture” and lacking “resolve” to fight terrorism.

    Oppenheim’s most notable Weekly Standard column came in 2004, when he, as an outspoken “supporter” of the Iraq War, traveled to Baghdad and castigated war reporters in Iraq of not doing enough to cover the good stories. It is worth reading at length:

    Four weeks ago, MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" asked me to go to Baghdad in search of the story most of the mainstream media were missing. The network's vice president knew I was a supporter of the war, and suggested I find out if things had really gone as horribly wrong as the evening newscasts and major print dailies reported. What I found is that, in Iraq, the mounting body count is heartbreaking, but the failure of American journalism is tragic.

    […]

    Along with freedom, America has brought to Iraq the notorious Red State-Blue State divide. Most journalists are Blue State people in outlook, and most of those administering the occupation are Red. Many of those who work for the Coalition, including civilians, carry guns. This either amuses journalists or makes them uncomfortable. Most of those who work for the Coalition are deeply invested, emotionally, in the success of America's enterprise in Iraq. (How else to explain why someone leaves an apartment in Arlington to live in a trailer in Baghdad and endure mortar attacks?) Most journalists did not support this war to begin with, and feel vindicated whenever the effort stumbles.

    Journalists will point out that they, too, are braving significant risks and discomfort to do their jobs. This is true, but would carry more weight if it seemed they were doing their jobs well. Instead, their sense of peril fuels a certain self-aggrandizement and sometimes a selfish myopia.

    […]

    To be fair, the [Coalition Provisional Authority] is not likely to win any awards in the field of public relations. I arrived in Baghdad explicitly sympathetic to its message. And I found its press officers friendly and easy to deal with. But there are only so many schools and police stations you can visit before you almost start wishing for a bang. The CPA is understandably proud of Iraq's rebuilt infrastructure. The water I saw gushing through new irrigation ditches throughout the Sunni triangle roars accomplishment.

    […]

    The best metaphor I've heard about Iraq is that the country is like a child, and the American press is its parent. When you're around a child every day, you don't notice how dramatically he's growing and maturing. But a more distant relative who sees the child only once a year is astounded by how much taller he keeps getting. Iraq is getting taller and healthier every day, but those responsible for documenting the growth are not noticing--or if they are, they're not telling the people back home.

    Oppenheim would leave his position at MSNBC after Steve Capus (now the executive producer of CBS Evening News) and anchor Tom Brokaw complained that his column did a disservice to journalists covering a war zone. Oppenheim, in the meantime, worked as a producer on the Today show and would later return to MSNBC in 2008 to work on David Gregory’s MSNBC show Road to the White House. When Oppenheim returned to MSNBC, New York Observer columnist Felix Gillette wrote of the move:

    A former NBC News staffer compared Mr. Oppenheim’s return to MSNBC—only four and a half years after seemingly burning some important bridges on his way out—as typical of a business where institutional memory can be fleeting.

    “TV is like politics,” said the source. “You can rehabilitate yourself very quickly because the game is always changing and so are the people.”

    Oppenheim’s selection as NBC president comes as increasing questions are arising about NBC News and MSNBC moving to the right. Beyond hiring Fox News hosts Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren, Scarborough has been cheering on and defending President Donald Trump. Just last week, MSNBC host Chris Matthews had an on-air meltdown in defense of Trump’s Muslim ban. Appointing an Iraq War media lapdog as the head of the entire division does nothing to distance NBC News from these accusations.

    Oppenheim replaces Deborah Turness, who became president of NBC News International. Turness, the first woman to be named president of NBC News, hired Oppenheim to take over the Today show in early 2015.

  • Legal Expert Trump Erroneously Cited To Defend Muslim Ban Actually Thinks Trump Is A Threat To Democracy

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The national security law expert miscited by President Donald Trump to criticize a court ruling against his administration is actually a frequent critic of the president who has called the president’s travel ban “malevolence tempered by incompetence.”

    Following the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal’s February 9 unanimous ruling against the Trump administration that declined to reinstate the administration’s executive order targeting people from seven majority-Muslim countries, Trump attacked the decision by citing on Twitter a Lawfare article authored by the site’s editor-in-chief, Benjamin Wittes:

    Unfortunately for Trump, the article he cited actually reached the conclusion that the 9th Circuit “is correct to leave the [temporary restraining order] in place.” (ThinkProgress notes that Trump likely discovered the article by watching MSNBC’s Morning Joe, which had a segment highlighting the portion of the Lawfare article Trump referenced on Twitter.)

    Wittes, who is also a senior fellow in governance studies at The Brookings Institution, took to Twitter to ridicule Trump over other parts of his Lawfare article that Trump could have cited:

    Wittes also referenced his harsh critique of the travel ban executive order in a January 28 Lawfare article (headlined “Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence: Trump’s Horrifying Executive Order on Refugees and Visas”), where he wrote that “the malevolence of President Trump’s Executive Order on visas and refugees is mitigated chiefly -- and perhaps only -- by the astonishing incompetence of its drafting and construction”:

    He also shared some of his past criticism of the president, such as his routine argument that Trump is a threat to democracy in the United States:

    Wittes also called Trump’s patriotism into question after Trump held a July 2016 press conference where he encouraged Russia to commit espionage against his then-opponent Hillary Clinton. In a July 27 article, Wittes wrote, “I am pretty careful about not questioning people's patriotism, but when a presidential candidate calls on a foreign intelligence service to engage in operations against the United States, he leaves us little choice.” That same day he co-authored another article that described Trump as a “useful idiot” for Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting that Trump “has taken public positions exceedingly favorable to Russia and far outside of the American mainstream.”

  • Sean Spicer Grants “Exclusive Interview” To Breitbart.com

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer will participate in an “exclusive interview” with “alt-right” website Breitbart.com -- a development that underscores the growing relationship between the Trump administration and the notoriously inflammatory outlet.

    Breitbart announced the interview in a February 8 post, touting an “exclusive interview” with Spicer to be streamed on Facebook at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on February 9. Breitbart White House correspondent Charlie Spiering will conduct the interview. The post encouraged Breitbart readers to suggest questions for Spicer in the website’s infamous comments section, which has been called “a sewer of mindless hatred and racism.”

    Ties between the White House and Breitbart.com run deep. The website was formerly run by chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, who previously termed Breitbart “the platform for the alt-right.” Other current Trump administration employees who used to write for Breitbart include deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka and Bannon assistant Julia Hahn.

    During Trump’s first press conference as president-elect, the only reporter given a reserved seat was Breitbart reporter Matthew Boyle, and Trump called on him in short order to ask a sycophantic question about what “reforms” the new president would recommend for the media industry.

    Trump and his allies have engaged in an unprecedented war on the press, dating back to his campaign. A day after being sworn in as president, Trump referenced his “running war” with mainstream media. Bannon later called mainstream press “the opposition party” and suggested that “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile.” Meanwhile, the White House has repeatedly elevated pro-Trump propaganda outlets like Breitbart. Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette, a website that frequently publishes false reports, received the first question at a recent White House press briefing. The Gateway Pundit, a notoriously sloppy conservative blog, and conspiracy theory outlet Infowars have both claimed they will soon be credentialed by the White House.

    In contrast to the widespread derision Spicer has drawn because of his tendency to lie from the press briefing room lectern, Breitbart’s coverage of Spicer’s briefings has been fawning, amplifying perceived victories over the press. Here’s a sampling of recent Breitbart Spicer headlines, all of which ran atop articles written by Spiering:

     

  • “Great News!”: White Nationalists See Sessions’ Attorney General Confirmation As Major Step Toward Achieving Their Racist Goals

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    White nationalists cheered the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, claiming that “we are one step closer to solidifying Trump’s authoritarian dictatorship,” and “we finally have an AG who will defend decent American people - rather than thugs,” and predicting that Sessions “will truly make our country great” and target “domestic terrorist groups” like Black Lives Matter.

  • Conservative Media Figures Backing Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Are Whitewashing 293 Days Of GOP Obstruction

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conservative media figures celebrated President Donald Trump’s nomination of federal appellate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and suggested the Senate should confirm him. This view is hypocritical in light of the historic Senate GOP obstruction used to kill former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, who was a far less ideological choice than Gorsuch.

  • A White Man Allegedly Murdered 6 People At A Mosque, But Fox News Is Still Identifying A Moroccan As A Suspect

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    UPDATE:

    Fox News has deleted its tweet labeling a suspect in the shooting as being "of Moroccan origin." Earlier today, Kate Purchase, Director of Communications for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, called on the network to "either retract or update" its false claim. 

    Twenty-four hours later, Fox News still has not corrected its erroneous tweet that a suspect in the mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City is “of Moroccan origin.” The suspect is actually a French Canadian man named Alexandre Bissonnette who is described in one news report “as an online troll who was inspired by extreme right-wing French nationalists, stood up for U.S. President Donald Trump and was against immigration to Quebec -- especially by Muslims.”

    During the evening of January 29, a gunman entered the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center and opened fire, killing six people and wounding eight others. Police initially arrested two suspects in the attack: Bissonnette and Mohamed Belkhadir, who is of Moroccan descent.

    What happened next exemplifies Fox News’ tendency to try to pin the blame for high-profile acts of violence on entire communities -- but only when doing so suits the outlet’s conservative world view. Here’s a brief timeline:

    At 12:05 and 12:06 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on January 30, Quebec police released two tweets indicating that only one of the arrested individuals was a suspect, and that the other is considered a witness to the attack:

    At 12:31 p.m., Fox News issued its erroneous tweet, claiming, “Suspect in Quebec mosque terror attack was of Moroccan origin, reports show.” It is noteworthy that at the time the tweet was sent, Bissonnette’s identity had also been leaked to the press, but Fox News made no reference on Twitter to the French Canadian, who was a bona fide suspect:

    This mistake would have been easy to correct. Given developments in the story that clearly identified Bissonnette as a suspect and Belkhadir as a witness, Fox News could have issued a new tweet with accurate information along with a note saying that it would delete the inaccurate earlier report.

    Instead, hours later, Fox News responded to its initial tweet with two identical tweets that failed to clarify the earlier mistake. At 6:12 and 6:14 p.m., Fox wrote on Twitter, “@FoxNews Mosque attack suspect formally charged w/ six counts of murder; Second man cleared, identified as a witness”

    At best, this update fails to clarify that the Moroccan individual is no longer a suspect in the shooting: It indicates that a “second man” was “cleared” without saying who that man is.

    At worst, the update makes it seem as if the Moroccan man had subsequently been charged with murder. Imagine relying on Fox’s Twitter account as a sole source of information on who police believe perpetrated the shooting. First, there is a “suspect” who is “of Moroccan origin.” Second, the “suspect” has been charged with murder, while another man has been “cleared” and identified as a witness.

    And as a practical matter, Fox News’ response likely did little to stop the spread of misinformation. The update was sent more than six hours later. While the initial erroneous report was retweeted more than 900 times, the two identical follow-up tweets were retweeted fewer than 140 times.

    But there is a larger, more troubling context to Fox News’ mistake and the outlet’s subsequent failure to set the record straight.

    The shooting took place just days after President Donald Trump created a national firestorm by signing an executive order temporarily barring individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. While many condemned the order as discriminatory, contrary to American values, and unconstitutional, others, including people within the Trump administration, view the order as a first step, saying it should or will be expanded to other Muslim-majority countries. In this context, it would be especially important for Fox News to correct an erroneous report that labels a person from Morocco, a majority-Muslim country, as the suspect in an act of apparent terrorism.

    Fox’s actions also have implications in terms of the network's tendency to use high-profile shootings to play a collective blame game. When high-profile tragedies occur, Fox News is quick to scapegoat entire communities if doing so aligns with a conservative agenda. When Islamic extremism is the motivation for terrorist acts or African-Americans are accused of killing police officers, those communities are condemned as a whole on Fox News. When white suspects are accused of killing police officers or terrorism is motivated by right-wing extremism, Fox News goes silent.

    In the case of the Quebec mosque shooting, Fox News was clearly getting ready to play the collective blame game. At the time of Fox’s erroneous tweet, both Belkhadir and Bissonnette’s names had leaked, but Fox News focused on only the Moroccan “suspect.” Now that there is no Moroccan suspect -- only a white, right-wing, Trump-supporting French Canadian suspect -- we can expect to stop hearing from Fox about this tragedy and what broader implications it might portend.