Timothy Johnson

Author ››› Timothy Johnson
  • 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.

  • 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.