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  • What Would It Take For Bill O’Reilly To Get Fired?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Over the past two years, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has drawn attention to President Barack Obama's clothing at a Muslim wedding and claimed Rep. Maxine Waters’  (D-CA) was wearing a “James Brown wig,” called “many” African-Americans “ill-educated” with “tattoos on their foreheads,” and praised the workplace conditions of the slaves who built the White House. A co-worker accused him of reducing her on-air time on his show after she turned down his repeated sexual advances. His yarns about heroically covering conflicts in the Falkland Islands, El Salvador, and Northern Ireland were exposed as fiction. His latest biography was rejected as "a disservice to history” written by "an opportunistic interloper" who "debases the historian's craft." This fall marks the 10th anniversary of O’Reilly’s shocked declaration that African-American patrons at a famous Harlem restaurant weren’t screaming expletives at the waitstaff.

    Given this track record, what would it take for Fox News to fire Bill?

    The reason O’Reilly has been untouchable is simple: He makes Fox News a lot of money. His show anchors Fox’s prime-time programming, bringing in the most viewers in cable news for 17 years, according to the network.

    There is no heir apparent. It’s difficult to imagine an Eric Bolling or Greg Gutfeld filling O’Reilly’s seat. If the network loses him, it’s screwed. And so Fox excuses offenses that would get talent at other networks -- or lesser lights at Fox -- kicked to the curb.

    Fox Does Damage Control For Fox’s Bigoted Commentary

    Don Imus, Juan Williams, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Curt Schilling, Pat Buchanan, and Laura Schlessinger were pushed out of CBS and MSNBC, NPR, CNN, ESPN, MSNBC, and her radio show, respectively, for making the sort of racially charged remarks that are a regular staple of O'Reilly's programming.

    Fox executives have a much higher tolerance for on-air bigotry (they hired Dobbs, Imus, and Williams after their scandals on other networks) but even they dropped E.D. Hill and Emily Austen after they made racially charged remarks.

    The latest controversy over O’Reilly’s casually racist attack on Waters is instructive. Seeking to stem the onslaught of criticism, a statement was released under O’Reilly’s name that minimized his comments but included the phrase “I apologize.” The statement circulated widely and was described by some journalists as O’Reilly “express[ing] regret.” Hours later, speaking to his own audience, the Fox host laughed his way through a similar statement before attacking Waters’ patriotism and dog-whistling some comments about her support for the “entitlement system.”

    Fox doesn’t appear to care about what O’Reilly says. It just does damage control.

    When O’Reilly’s Fabrications Were Exposed, Fox Attacked His Critics

    Journalists depend on the willingness of their audiences to believe them. That makes fabricating a story the profession’s greatest sin.

    When questions were raised about tales Brian Williams had told about his reporting exploits, NBC News convened an internal investigation of Williams’ claims that eventually led to his removal as anchor of Nightly News. Over the years, The New York TimesJayson Blair, The Washington Post’s Janet Cooke, and The New Republic’s Stephen Glass have all lost their jobs when stories they reported were exposed as inventions.

    O’Reilly spent much of 2015 trying to salvage his journalistic credibility after Mother Jones, Media Matters, and others dismantled a host of tall tales he had told about his journalism career. His incredible claims about reporting from the battlefield during the Falklands War, being present for the suicide of a key figure in the John F. Kennedy assassination, seeing “nuns get shot in the back of the head” during the civil war in El Salvador and “Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast,” and getting “attacked by protesters” during the Los Angeles riots were all false.

    Rather than investigate the allegations, as a credible news network would, Fox sent O’Reilly out to deny the claims in interviews and on his program. As the fabrications mounted, the network released a statement attacking O’Reilly’s critics and saying they would no longer respond to the “accusation du jour.”

    For Fox, evidence that its top host had concocted stories about his past work was an attack to be deflected, not a serious allegation to be reviewed.

    Fox Paid Off A Former Employee Who Accused O’Reilly Of Sexual Harassment

    Fox spent much of last summer embroiled in a massive scandal over dozens of allegations of sexual harassment by its employees against its founder and CEO, Roger Ailes. After an internal review, Ailes resigned.

    But just weeks after Ailes’ termination, Fox’s parent company paid off former contributor Juliet Huddy to keep her from filing a lawsuit accusing O’Reilly of sexually harassing her for years and using his position to punish her when she rebuffed him (O’Reilly and the company denied the allegations).

    This was at least the second time O’Reilly had been accused of workplace sexual harassment; he settled a 2004 lawsuit by one of his show’s producers for millions of dollars. It’s unclear if the network has taken any steps to protect its employees from its star’s advances.

    What Would It Take?

    By Fox News’ own standards and the standards of the rest of journalism, O’Reilly should have been fired long ago.

    But O’Reilly seems to be worth more to Fox than its reputation with African-Americans offended by his comments, or its duty to other employees who might be subjected to his sexual entreaties, or its stature as an outlet that cares about journalism. Until the network’s executives start caring about something more than the bottom line, or O’Reilly’s ratings fall, or he finally does something so terrible that it offends the right stakeholders, his position at the network will remain secure.

    When Fox fired an executive just this week over racist remarks she allegedly made to African-American co-workers, the network put out a statement claiming, “There is no place for abhorrent behavior like this at Fox News.

    Apparently there is a place for that behavior: hosting the network’s highest-rated broadcast.

  • Daily Beast: Ex-Breitbart Staffer Alleges Illegal Relationship Between Outlet And D.C. Landlord

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A new report from The Daily Beast reveals that a former writer for the extreme-right website Breitbart.com filed a complaint with the Department of Justice alleging the site “was acting as an illegal influence operation for its Washington, D.C. landlord,” the Egyptian businessman and politician Moustafa El-Gindy.

    The Daily Beast reports that the complaint, which it uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act request, was filed by an unidentified ex-writer for Breitbart with the Justice Department’s National Security Division “as the 2016 presidential campaign kicked into gear.” As explained by The Daily Beast, the complaint alleges that “Breitbart was acting as a de facto foreign agent for El-Gindy by providing him with friendly coverage.” The complaint also alleges that Breitbart is likely “benefiting from some substantial discount in its leasing costs” for El-Gindy’s property, which The Daily Beast notes could amount to an in-kind payment from a foreign official for friendly media coverage.

    Questions about Breitbart’s use of El-Gindy’s residential D.C. property as an office space were among the reasons cited when Breitbart was denied permanent press credentials to cover Capitol Hill earlier this week. Washington, D.C.’s public records show that El-Gindy purchased the property in 2009 and appears to have been renting to Breitbart since 2011. El-Gindy previously told an Egyptian reporter he is “just a landlord” and that he rents the house because tourism has slowed in Egypt and he needed additional income. But El-Gindy may stay at the town house sometimes (or at least is claiming the property as a primary residence for a tax deduction), and he has been cited positively in Breitbart -- without any disclosure of his landlord relationship -- at least four times. The Justice Department complaint adds further credibility to conflict-of-interest concerns about El-Gindy’s relationship with Breitbart as the outlet's attempts to receive permanent press credentials stall.  

    From the March 29 article (emphasis added):

    Two sources with direct knowledge, including one former Breitbart writer, say a reporter for the pro-Trump news organization was behind a complaint to the Department of Justice implicating then-chairman Steve Bannon and Moustafa El-Gindy, an Egyptian businessman and former legislator and the owner of Breitbart’s Washington office.

    Concerns about about (sic) that office, nicknamed the Embassy, dogged the organization Monday as it unsuccessfully sought permanent congressional press credentials. Breitbart faced conflict-of-interest questions regarding Bannon’s new role as one of President Donald Trump’s top advisers, a probe into its investors and corporate structure, and questions about El-Gindy and his property.

    [...]

    A complaint filed with the Justice Department’s National Security Division as the 2016 presidential campaign kicked into gear alleged that Breitbart was acting as a de facto foreign agent for El-Gindy by providing him with friendly coverage. The Daily Beast obtained a copy of the complaint through a Freedom of Information Act request.

    [...]

    Even as Breitbart gave him favorable coverage, the DOJ complaint alleged that the media site was likely paying El-Gindy below-market rental rates on the site. If true, that would have amounted to an in-kind payment and, taken with friendly coverage of El-Gindy, could be seen as payments from a foreign government official in exchange for supportive media coverage.

    [...]

    It “appears [Breitbart] has been disseminating what FARA [the Foreign Agent Registration Act] would regard as propaganda on behalf of a foreign principal for financial benefit, and not merely as a financially unconnected news source,” alleged the complaint, which was sent to DOJ from a FedEx Office franchise in Arlington, Virginia, on July 2, 2015. It named both Breitbart generally and Bannon individually as alleged perpetrators.

  • Media Must Choose: If Trump's Not A Liar, He's Delusional 

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    While President Donald Trump continues to rip apart the seams of honest discourse with his ceaseless collection of lies and falsehoods, some journalists remain reluctant to call him a liar. By resisting, the Beltway press continues to shy away from its primary task: truth telling.

    Additionally, by avoiding the “liar” label, journalists really leave themselves with only one other option in terms of describing Trump’s erratic behavior: “delusional.”

    The latest attempt to provide this odd cover for Trump came from Time Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs. Writing a preface to the magazine’s recent Trump-inspired cover story -- “Is Truth Dead?” -- Gibbs addressed the looming crisis in confidence by noting, “Like many newsrooms, we at TIME have wrestled with when to say someone is lying.”

    Gibbs stressed that the magazine is hesitant to use the term in conjunction with Trump because it’s hard to deduce the president’s motivations when he spreads falsehoods. Meaning, journalists need evidence that Trump purposefully misleads people with his comments and allegations.

    This continues the media’s unnecessary debate over whether it’s OK to call Trump a liar. “I’d be careful about using the word ‘lie,’” Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker cautioned in January. “‘Lie’ implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.”

    But then Gibbs added an additional layer to the argument when she wrote of Trump’s lies, “What does he actually believe? Does it count as lying if he believes what he says?”

    Appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Gibbs expounded (emphasis added):

    But to say that they are lying requires an additional level of knowledge that's very difficult to have of what their intention was. And the reason I think it's important is because in the case of President Trump -- and this came through with our interview with him over and over again -- some of the things that he says that have been disputed and completely disproven, it seems very clear he continues to believe.

    And so there's these sort of -- there's almost the philosophical, theological question of, if you believe what you're saying, even if it's not true, is that still a lie? I will leave that to the academics.

    So that brings us back into George Costanza territory: “It’s not a lie … if you believe it.”

    In other words, when Trump spreads falsehoods, he might actually believe them, therefore he might not qualify as a liar. Or, the press shouldn’t call him one because that’s more of a “philosophical, theological question.”

    That rationale rings hollow to me.

    As the most powerful public leader in the world, the president of the United States shouldn’t benefit from a media debate about whether he believes the dishonesty he pushes. He ought to be as honest as possible, as often as possible. Presidents before him have tried to adhere to that standard for over two centuries. Trump should, too. And if not, it’s not the job of the press to come up with excuses for why he cannot.

    And for the record, I don’t entirely buy the premise for this avoidance. Instead, I think pockets of the D.C. press are simply reluctant to call a prominent Republican, and especially America’s most famous Republican, a liar. They’re afraid and timid, and I’m convinced they would be neither if a leading national Democrat decided to habitually and unapologetically lie, and to do so without remorse.

    Nonetheless, if some journalists persist and cling to the idea that Trump’s not a deliberate fabricator because he believes all the misinformation he spouts, then that leaves journalists with only one option: to announce that Trump’s simply delusional.

    If, as Gibbs suggests, Trump is quietly convinced America is suffering through a historic crime spree, the unemployment rate last year was rigged, Mexico is going to pay for the border wall, the U.S. media deliberately ignores terror attacks, and millions of people voted illegally last year, that means Trump doesn’t function cognitively like most normal adults.

    Keep in mind that in conjunction with Time’s cover story, Trump participated in a Q&A with the magazine on the topic of falsehoods in which he lied, by one account, 14 different times. (Trump seems especially obsessed with claiming credit for having predicted that Brexit would pass, even though he did no such thing.)

    If journalists don’t want to call Trump a liar, are they willing to call him unstable?

    As Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald noted, “That leaves two possibilities: Trump intentionally dispenses falsehoods any smart person knows will be detected as lies, or worse, he cannot discern between reality and what he wishes was true.”

    Moving forward, news outlets have a choice. They can accurately label Trump a liar, or they can portray him as unhinged and unbalanced, based on the assumption that Trump believes the constant falsehoods that he spreads.  

    Or it’s possible there’s a third option: He’s both.

  • Trump Has Given Fox News More Than $5 Million In Free Advertising; Fox Has Given Him Millions More

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    According to The Washington Post, President Donald Trump has given Fox News more than $5 million in free social media advertising through his positive tweets. But Trump’s $5 million gift to Fox pales in comparison to the network’s promotion of Trump during the 2016 campaign.

    The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported that Donald Trump has given Fox News more than $5 million in free social media advertising since he announced his candidacy, based on an established valuation by Captiv8, an analytics and social media marketing platform. According to Captiv8’s monetary valuation, one of Trump’s tweets is worth about $60,000, so when he promotes a show on Fox it is “essentially, a gift worth $60,000.” The company also estimated that Trump’s 52 tweets about the “failing @nytimes” could be seen as “the equivalent of $3.1 million in bad publicity.” From The Washington Post:

    In other words, that tweet from Trump promoting Pirro’s show was more than a favor to Pirro and her employer, Fox News. It was, essentially, a gift worth $60,000.

    With these metrics in mind, we went back through Trump’s social-media posts since he announced his candidacy to see how often he actively encouraged people to watch or buy particular programs or products. Although the list of those posts that appears at the bottom of this article is probably incomplete, it gives a sense of the value that Trump has provided to news networks.

    By our estimates, Trump has provided Fox and its affiliated networks (Fox News, Fox Business) with more than $5 million in free advertising

    [...]

    Although no social-media company connects brands to celebrities to have the celebrities disparage them, Subramanian figured that the hit to a company’s value from a negative post would be damaging, perhaps to the extent that a positive tweet or Facebook post was helpful. In other words, Trump’s 52 tweets about the “failing @nytimes” could be thought of as the equivalent of $3.1 million in bad publicity.

    Of course, Trump’s relationship with the media is a two-way street. The New York Times reported in March 2016 that Trump had already earned close to $2 billion worth of media attention on television, in print, and online, based on an analysis by mediaQuant, a media coverage tracking firm. Media Matters calculated that, for its part, Fox News gave Trump nearly $30 million in free airtime from May 2015 through December 2015. Another Media Matters analysis found that Fox News host and Trump sycophant Sean Hannity gave Trump more than $31 million in free advertising in the form of fawning interviews with the candidate between June 2015 and August 2016.

    The relationship between Trump and the network goes back to before the 2012 election when the network helped promote Trump's political ambitions.Trump has repeatedly praised Fox News, admitted that he may not have been elected president without the network, and appears to get both his news and talking points from the network. For its part, Fox has also repeated Trump’s lines to bolster his spin.

    The Washington Post’s analysis shows that Trump’s tweets are not only a way for him to circumvent the press, they also provide him the opportunity to help favorable news networks like Fox with tweets while simultaneously lashing out at news outlets that have been more critical of his presidency.

  • Two Black Women Sue Fox News Over “Top-Down Racial Harassment”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Two female African-American Fox News employees filed a lawsuit against the network and its parent company, according to a report from The New York Times, alleging they suffered “‘top-down racial harassment’” that was “‘reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.’”

    In addition to Fox News’ well-documented history of racism and bigotry, the network has recently come under fire for discrimination. The network was forced to fire longtime comptroller Judy Slater after she made racist comments to co-workers. The new lawsuit also comes following widespread criticism of Fox host Bill O’Reilly for mocking Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), claiming he could not pay attention to what she said because of her “James Brown wig.” Media Matters has called on Fox to fire O’Reilly for the remark. Additionally, in the past year numerous female Fox employees filed lawsuits alleging sexual harassment at Fox, with many specifically citing harassment by former Fox CEO Roger Ailes. Ailes resigned in July amid the allegations, which Fox executives reportedly tried to cover up.

    According to the Times, the lawsuit from a Fox payroll manager and payroll coordinator alleges they were racially harassed with “racially charged comments” from Slater, “including suggestions that black men were ‘women beaters’ and that black people wanted to physically harm white people.” The lawsuit against Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, alleged, “Slater’s superiors did little to address her behavior, which created a hostile work environment that resulted in ‘severe and pervasive discrimination and harassment.’” In a statement to the Times, the lawyers for the plaintiffs called the conduct “‘reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.’” The lawsuit also mentioned “four other black employees who it said left or were forced out and cited similar accusations of discrimination.” From the March 28 article:

    In a lawsuit filed Tuesday night in State Supreme Court in the Bronx, two black women said they were subjected to “top-down racial harassment” in the Fox News payroll department by Judith Slater, the company’s longtime comptroller.

    The women — Tichaona Brown, a payroll manager, and Tabrese Wright, a payroll coordinator — accused Ms. Slater of making numerous racially charged comments, including suggestions that black men were “women beaters” and that black people wanted to physically harm white people.

    They also said that Ms. Slater claimed that black employees mispronounced words, such as “mother,” “father,” “month” and “ask,” and that she urged Ms. Brown to say those words aloud in a meeting. Ms. Wright said Ms. Slater once asked if her three children were all “fathered by the same man.”

    “We are confident that the good men and women of the Bronx will hold Fox accountable for what we believe to be its abhorrent racist conduct, reminiscent of the Jim Crow era,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen of the Wigdor law firm, said in a statement.

    [...]

    Ms. Brown and Ms. Wright are suing Ms. Slater, Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, claiming that Ms. Slater’s superiors did little to address her behavior, which created a hostile work environment that resulted in “severe and pervasive discrimination and harassment.”

    Ms. Wright, who joined Fox in mid-2014 and had spoken up about Ms. Slater’s behavior, was transferred out of the payroll department on Monday, a move the lawsuit described as a demotion. The company described it as a lateral move. While the suit contends that Ms. Brown, who joined Fox in late 2008, was fired on Monday, the company said on Tuesday night that she remained employed. Both women declined a Fox settlement offer, according to the suit.

    [...]

    The suit also includes allegations that Ms. Slater made disparaging comments about Ms. Wright’s hair and credit score. She and Ms. Brown said Ms. Slater had mocked the Black Lives Matter movement and referred to their majority-black department as the “urban” or “Southern” payroll department.

    The lawsuit included the names of four other black employees who it said left or were forced out and cited similar accusations of discrimination.

  • Media Matters President Angelo Carusone: Bill O’Reilly’s “Apology” Is Meaningless And He Should Be Fired

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone released the following statement after Fox News host Bill O’Reilly issued a statement apologizing to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) for comparing her hair to a “James Brown wig”:

    Bill O’Reilly’s apology ain’t shit. He should be fired.

    Don’t be fooled. O’Reilly’s apology is hollow. Immediately after O’Reilly’s spokesperson released the statement, he personally took to Twitter. Not to tweet an apology himself. But instead to decry ‘political correctness’ - a position that O’Reilly and his ilk usually retreat to when they are criticized for bigotry (or worse). You don’t need to be familiar with his long history of racially inflammatory attacks to know what he was trying to convey with this tweet.

    And yes, Bill O’Reilly should be fired. Not by my standards. I don’t think it would be fair to expect O’Reilly or Fox News to adhere to those. But instead, by Fox News’ own standard. Just four days ago, Fox News fired its longtime comptroller due to an extensive history of racially inflammatory attacks. Explaining the termination, Fox’s spokesperson said that there was ‘no place for abhorrent behavior’ like that at Fox News.

    O’Reilly didn’t get the message - and he of all people at Fox needed to hear it. Racism is just as much a fixture of O’Reilly's program as bluster is.

    Fox News set the standard for acting here. They said racism doesn’t have a place at Fox News. Now, four days later, the network has to decide: will they abandon their standard of not supporting racism in favor of their standard bearer, or will they hold O’Reilly accountable? They can’t have both.

    O’Reilly’s remarks drew a firestorm of criticism from commentators who called them racist and sexist. He will reportedly address his comments on tonight’s broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor. However, it is unlikely that any apology tonight will be sincere -- on Twitter, he has promised a "big political correctness" segment on the show.

    Media Matters has documented Bill O’Reilly’s extremely long history of not just making such comments but also of enabling and rewarding people like Jesse Watters who do the same.

    UPDATE:

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone reiterated his call for Bill O’Reilly to be fired after The O’Reilly Factor host was forced to address comments he made on Fox & Friends about Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA):

    “It was clear that the statement issued on Bill O’Reilly’s behalf earlier today apologizing for his remark about Rep. Waters’ hair was hollow. Its emptiness was confirmed when O’Reilly opened his show accusing the Congresswoman of being unpatriotic and attacking her over what O’Reilly characterized as a “love” of welfare (a textbook dog whistle).

    I’ll reiterate what I said earlier today: Bill O’Reilly’s apology ain’t shit. He should be fired.

    One other thing: What we witnessed from O’Reilly today is media manipulation 101. First, the host issued a generic hollow apology when he came under fire. Next, the media wrote up his apology -- largely treating it as sincere. But at the end of the day, O’Reilly came home to his audience, assailed his target and deployed a different racial attack.

    In this scenario, O’Reilly gets the benefits as if he apologized without any consequences or even needing to change his tune. I strongly encourage any reporter that uncritically wrote up his statement from earlier today to go back and update your story accordingly to expose its hollowness. Don’t let O’Reilly and his press flack play you for a fool.”

  • Did News Outlets Finally Learn Their Lesson About Trump’s Exaggerated Jobs Announcements?

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Since his election, President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed credit for private businesses’ decisions to invest in the United States. His flimsy and misleading boasts have been routinely amplified by compliant media outlets before the claims eventually collapse under scrutiny. Yet the response from mainstream journalists to the president’s latest jobs boast seems to indicate that perhaps some outlets have “caught on” to Trump’s exaggerated pronouncements and have stopped taking them at face value.

    On March 27, The Detroit News broke the news that the Ford Motor Co. has announced an investment of “$1.2 billion in three Michigan facilities” and that most of the investment was brokered in 2015 as part of the company’s contract with the United Auto Workers union. Roughly $350 million of that total investment represents new money, but Ford is expected to “add or retain” only 130 jobs -- a marginal amount compared to the 201,000 people the company employs worldwide.

    Trump moved early the next day to take credit, tweeting that Ford would announce an investment “in three Michigan plants” and that “car companies [are] coming back to the U.S.” before concluding, “JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!” Later in the day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer pointed to the Ford announcement as proof that “the president’s economic agenda is what American businesses have been waiting for.”

    In the past few months, Media Matters has chronicled dozens of occasions when outlets stumbled over themselves to credit Trump for creating new American jobs based on his misleading claims of playing a role in private sector business decisions that he had little to do with. (See: Alibaba, Carrier, Ford, SoftBank.)

    Trump’s tweet about Ford seemed poised to inspire more of the same media fawning, but journalists who covered the news largely downplayed Trump’s role rather than falling for his boast. The Washington Post, USA Today, Bloomberg, and Reuters all reported that the majority of the Ford investment plan far predated the Trump administration and was part of the company’s long-term restructuring plan for its American factories.

    New York Times columnist and MSNBC contributor Steven Rattner noted that “The big news ended up being only 130 jobs” and asked of the president, “When will he stop misleading [people]?” CNBC reporter Jacob Pramuk reported that the “White House on Tuesday promoted a Ford investment in American plants” even though “most of [the money] was part of a plan the automaker first announced in 2015.” Vox senior correspondent Matt Yglesias highlighted that CNBC article on Twitter and commented that reporters were “catching on” to Trump’s game. Washington Post reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee pointed out that the Ford investment “had nothing to do [with] Trump’s election.” Meanwhile, New York Times correspondent Binyamin Appelbaum mocked Trump by writing that the president’s tweet contained “three more exclamation points … than the number of new jobs that Ford created today.” In his write-up of Trump’s announcement, CNNMoney senior writer Chris Isidore added that “Ford isn't bringing any work back to the United States from Mexico, or any other foreign country” -- a blow to Trump’s claim that automakers are “coming back to the U.S.”

    In contrast to the sober reporting from mainstream media, right-wing outlets that are aligned with Trump continued to promote his unsubstantiated role in creating jobs for American workers. The “alt-right” website Breitbart.com promoted the Ford story under the banner “TRUMP JOBS BOOM CONTINUES” while the sycophants at Fox News called the investment deal “another win for American workers” and Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy hyped the investment plan by stating, “Oh, it’s so much winning.” From the March 28 edition of Fox & Friends:

    As the White House has become embroiled in scandal and legislative failure, Trump has flooded the news cycle with lies far more outrageous than his attempt to take credit for jobs he didn’t create. Journalists, therefore, still need to be mindful of the administration’s attempts to build up the myth of Trump as a unique dealmaker and economic leader.

  • O’Reilly Apologizes For Saying Rep. Maxine Waters’ Hair Looks Like A “James Brown Wig”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly issued a statement apologizing to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) for comparing her hair to a “James Brown wig.”

    During an appearance on Fox & Friends this morning, O’Reilly responded to a clip of Waters criticizing President Donald Trump’s supporters by saying, “I didn't hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James, it's the same wig.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy replied, “It’s the same one,” and Brian Kilmeade added, “And he's not using it anymore. They just -- they finally buried him.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt took issue with O’Reilly’s comments, saying, “I've got to defend her on that. I have to defend her on that. She's a -- you can't go after a woman's looks. I think she's very attractive.” O’Reilly responded, “I didn’t say she wasn’t attractive. I love James Brown, but it's the same hair.”

    O’Reilly’s remarks drew a firestorm of criticism from commentators who called them racist and sexist. O’Reilly has a long history of making such comments.

    In a statement to Business Insider, he said: “As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs. I said that again today on Fox & Friends calling her ‘old school.’ Unfortunately I also made a jest about her hair which was dumb. I apologize.”

    He will reportedly address his comments on tonight’s broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor. It is unlikely that any apology tonight will be sincere -- on Twitter, he has promised a "big political correctness" segment on the show.  

  • Trump Just Blew A Hole In Breitbart’s Case For Editorial Independence

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President Donald Trump this morning urged supporters to watch a Fox News segment that was based on research overseen by White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon in his prior role as chief executive of the conservative group Government Accountability Institute (GAI).

    Last August, Bannon promoted the GAI report in an article he co-authored at Breitbart.com, which he was simultaneously running as chief executive. Breitbart is now fighting to gain permanent reporting credentials from the Senate Press Gallery in the face of criticism that the website lacks editorial independence because of its entwinement with GAI.

    This morning Trump tried to defuse criticism of his ties to Russia by encouraging his followers to “Watch @foxandfriends now on Podesta and Russia!”:

    During the segment in question, conservative activist Peter Schweizer detailed connections between former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and a Kremlin-backed bank.

    Schweizer is both president of GAI and a Breitbart senior editor-at-large, and he and Bannon promoted the Podesta allegations last year in their roles with both. Their story provides a case study in how top Breitbart editors use the website to promote the work of a conservative group that pays them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    The Podesta claims were first raised in a July 31 GAI report titled “From Russia with Money: Hillary Clinton, the Russian Reset, and Cronyism,” which purported to detail unsavory connections between Clinton and her associates and Russia. On August 1, Bannon and Schweizer co-bylined a story breaking the news on Breitbart, and discussed it on the Bannon-hosted SiriusXM program Breitbart News Daily.

    “It’s gonna cause a firestorm because they’re going to have to answer the question, and Mr. Podesta’s gonna have to answer the question, why he failed to disclose this, and we’re going to drill down on what all this means,” Bannon commented at the time. “We’ve got a lot more of this coming.”

    The GAI report and Breitbart article were released amid a slew of news stories detailing the Trump campaign’s friendly stance toward the Kremlin, and just days after The New York Times reported that “American intelligence agencies have told the White House they now have ‘high confidence’ that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee.”

    Sixteen days after the GAI report was released, Bannon took a leave of absence from Breitbart to become the Trump presidential campaign’s chief executive.

    Between its initial promotion of the GAI report and Election Day, Breitbart produced at least six more reports on GAI’s Podesta story. Meanwhile, the Bannon-headed Trump campaign issued a statement calling on Podesta to provide more information or step down.

    Following Clinton’s defeat, conservatives largely dropped the story. But after FBI Director James Comey announced during a March 20 congressional hearing that the bureau is investigating “whether members of President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election,” right-wing politicians and media outlets began casting about for angles they could take to mitigate that damaging narrative.

    The next day, fringe gadfly Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) called for a congressional investigation into Podesta, relying on information in the August GAI report. Over the past week, Breitbart has produced two reports on the allegations, both citing GAI’s August report as the original source of the claims. The story has apparently gained enough attention on the right to catch the eye of Fox & Friends producers, generating this morning’s Trump-promoted interview with Schweizer.

    The new revelation about Breitbart’s overlap with GAI comes at a bad time for the outlet.

    Yesterday, the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery announced that it would not approve Breitbart’s request for permanent Capitol Hill credentials, citing in part concerns that key editors on the masthead have received payments from GAI. This suggests that the website falls short of the Senate Press Gallery’s requirement that outlets be “editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” The committee has sought more information from the conservative outlet, with a deadline of April 14.

    Schweizer received $778,000 from GAI between 2012 and 2015 while simultaneously appearing on Breitbart’s masthead. And while serving as chief executive of both institutions, Bannon received $376,000 from GAI.

    As the Podesta reports show, top editors at Breitbart are getting paid by another organization and using their platform to produce and oversee reporting based on that organization’s work. This violation of the press gallery’s bylaws should lead to the rejection of Breitbart’s application.

  • Trump And Fox Both Attempt "Look Over Here" Strategy To Deflect From Russia Controversy

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Desperate to change the narrative about the probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump is hyping ambiguous and tenuous connections between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her associates and Russia. Fox News is also utilizing this “look over there” tactic, and Trump is promoting their coverage.

    In the past 24 hours, Trump has twice employed the same strategy Fox News figures used to deflect from the probe into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia: They point to any other person who may have ties to Russia.

    On the March 27 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, host and Trump sycophant Sean Hannity deflected from a conversation about Trump’s ties to Russia by mentioning the “Uranium One fiasco” -- a false, debunked smear that Clinton, acting to benefit a foundation donor, personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We already know a bigger crime, and what about John Podesta's connections to the Russians during the campaign, number one. Number two, look at this whole Uranium One fiasco, while Bill Clinton -- Hillary Clinton is secretary of state, he's giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid. They get -- for the Clinton Foundation -- literally millions and millions of dollars sent to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary herself has to sign off on the Uranium One deal, where Russia literally controls 20 percent of American uranium?

    In a pair of tweets later that evening, Trump regurgitated Hannity’s argument and threw in just about everything else he could think of: “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary [Clinton] deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech … money to Bill, the Hillary Russian ‘reset,’ praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company.” He ended the second tweet with, “Trump Russia story is a hoax.”

    The next morning, Trump encouraged his followers to “Watch @foxandfriends now on Podesta and Russia!”:

    The segment that he flagged for his fans featured notorious serial misinformer and Breitbart.com editor-at-large Peter Schweizer hyping connections between former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and a Kremlin-backed bank:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): So tell us about John Podesta and his connection to a Kremlin-backed company.

    PETER SCHWEIZER: Well, in 2011, John Podesta joins the board of this very small energy company called Joule Energy based out of Massachusetts. About two months after he joins the board, a Russian entity called Rusnano puts a billion rubles, which is about $35 million, into John Podesta's company. Now, what is Rusnano? Rusnano is not a private company, Steve. It is a fund directly funded by the Kremlin. In fact, the Russian science minister called Rusnano “Putin's child.” So the you have the Russian government investing in one John Podesta's businesses in 2011, while he is an adviser to Hillary Clinton at the State Department.

    DOOCY: While he’s an adviser to Hillary Clinton.

    Though Fox News and Trump are doing their best to hype the Podesta/Russia connection, there’s some smoke, but no fire. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out:

    It’s not illegal to invest alongside a Kremlin-backed investment vehicle tasked with developing and acquiring valuable technology to benefit Russia. Nor, as far as we know, is it illegal to do so while simultaneously serving as an outside adviser to the U.S. secretary of state.

    The Trump/Fox News echo chamber isn’t a new phenomenon. The president, who has repeatedly praised Fox, has lifted talking points from the network before. For its part, Fox has also repeated Trump’s lines to bolster his spin. Trump’s possible ties to Russia is just the latest manifestation of this echo chamber, and it likely won’t be the last.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko