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  • It Wasn't Just Alex Jones -- Smears Against Chobani Were Also Driven By Fake News And The “Alt-Right”

    How Smears Against A Yogurt Company Illustrate The Connection Between Fake News And The “Alt-Right”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A Greek yogurt company has filed a lawsuit against a prominent fringe conspiracy outlet influential among the "alt-right" and its founder for baselessly connecting the company and its owner to an assault on a young girl in Idaho and to the spread of tuberculosis in that area. While the lawsuit specifically targets the one outlet, the smear was also propagated by others in the increasingly close ecosystem of fake news and the “alt-right.”

    In June 2016, reports emerged claiming that Syrian refugees “gang-raped a child at knife-point” in a Twin Falls, Idaho, apartment, according to the Idaho Statesman. A country prosecutor corrected the reports, saying that although, as the newspaper put it, “an incident did occur,” the refugees were not Syrian, there was no knife, and there was no gang rape. The paper said that according to officials, two boys were “charged after authorities obtained video shot on a cellphone” of the assault. Ultimately, three boys -- a 7-year-old from Iraq and 10- and 14-year-old brothers from Eritrea -- pleaded guilty in early April to felony charges for assaulting a 5-year-old girl.

    On April 24, the yogurt company Chobani filed a lawsuit against fringe conspiracy outlet Infowars and its founder Alex Jones for defamation. The Idaho Statesman described the suit as saying that Jones used his outlet to repeatedly push “false information linking Chobani, owner Hamdi Ulukaya,” and his Twin Falls, ID, plant -- which employs a number of refugees -- to that assault. The New York Times reported that according to the prosecutor in that case, “the assault case had nothing to do with Chobani.” The lawsuit from Chobani stated that Infowars pushed videos and articles that falsely connected the company to the assault incident and to tuberculosis in the area. 

    Infowars has repeatedly launched attacks against the yogurt company. In June, the outlet republished a piece from “alt-right” outlet Breitbart connecting Chobani to the incident. In August and September, the website ramped up its attacks on Chobani, connecting the company to “a 500% increase in tuberculosis and two high profile refugee rape cases in the last two months, including the gang rape of a 5 year old girl.” (As The Daily Beast noted, the supposed connections are baseless.)

    The outlet has continued to hype a connection between the company and the assault as recently as this month. An April 11 YouTube video specifically cited in the lawsuit was titled "[Mainstream Media] Covers For Globalist's Refugee Import Program After Child Rape Case.” An Infowars Twitter account subsequently tweeted out the site’s video, saying, “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists.”

    In response to the lawsuit, Jones doubled down on his claims, suggesting that the “information” Infowars reported was “part of the public record,” and that billionaire George Soros, with his “Islamacist-owned and backed U.S. company,” was behind the lawsuit. Jones was not wrong that he was not alone in his attack on Chobani. The smear that Jones adopted and amplified had already been pushed by others in the fringe and by purveyors of fake news.

    Breitbart in late August had suggested Chobani was linked to the assault, writing that the assault “led to a look at the wider conditions that led to refugee resettlement in the state of Idaho, a situation connected to the drive for cheap labor by the local food processing industry that Chobani is a major part of.” The website also pushed the baseless insinuation that an increase of tuberculosis cases in the area was due to Chobani, writing that the number of tuberculosis cases in Twin Falls “jumped 500 percent between 2011 and 2012,” the year “Chobani opened the world’s largest yogurt factory.” Fringe outlet WorldNetDaily (WND) also attempted to link the assualt to Chobani, noting in April that the family of the assaulted girl “is still considering filing a civil suit against the families of the assailants, as well as refugee boys and possibly against the College of Southern Idaho, which places refugees from several Third World countries into the Twin Falls area. Many of them work at Chobani.”

    Fake news purveyors also pushed these claims, with Before It’s News suggesting the assault was “not getting the attention it deserves” because of “someone … who happens to be a Muslim, makes Chobani yogurt in the Twin Cities and who has a hankering for bringing in hundreds of these barbarians as worker bees.” The Angry Patriot wrote that Chobani's “headquarters in Twin Falls, Idaho has endured some problematic assimilation challenges because of Ulukaya’s globalist agenda,” noting the assault that took place. Other fake news purveyors also suggested a connection.

    Chobani has long been a target for “alt-right” media and outlets that push fake news. Fake news purveyor Freedom Daily republished a piece from Breitbart contributor Pam Geller in January 2016 that accused Ulukaya of “stealth jihad” because he encouraged more people to hire refugees. Fake news purveyor Before It’s News republished a January 2016 WND piece that originally attacked Ulukaya as “call[ing] on [the] biggest American companies to join [an] Islamic surge.”

    Anonymous “alt-right” forums, such as on 4chan and Reddit, were also complicit in pushing these claims. One such post stated, “Twin Falls Refugee Rape Special Report: Why Are The Refugees Moving In? - Breitbart CHOBANI YOGURT is owned by Turkish muslim.”

    This is not the first time Infowars has gotten into legal trouble for spreading conspiracy theories. Jones was forced to apologize for pushing the fake news conspiracy theory known as “Pizzagate,” which claimed that a Washington, D.C., restaurant named Comet Ping Pong was helping Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign traffic children, in order to avoid a lawsuit from that pizzeria.

    The Chobani case also highlights fringe and fake news purveyors’ ongoing campaign of anti-Muslim fearmongering. In the last few months, these outlets have targeted activist Linda Sarsour, smearing her as a terrorist who supports Sharia law, and former National Security Council staffer Rumana Ahmed, baselessly accusing her of being a spy.

    The smears on Chobani are emblematic of the misinformation ecosystem that features fake news propagators and “alt-right” outlets and forums. This network spreads lies and innuendo that harms people, spurs harassment, and contributes to potential economic losses. Just ask Chobani and its founder.

  • Fox Anchor Kelly Wright Joins Racial Discrimination Suit Against The Network

    Wright: Being The Only Black Male Anchor “Speaks Volumes Of The Disregard For Equality At Fox News”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Reports of lawsuits against Fox News continue to shed light on the toxic work environment within the network. Kelly Wright, co-anchor on Fox’s Saturday edition of America’s News Headquarters, has joined the racial discrimination lawsuit a group of employees recently filed against the network.

    As reported by New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, nine black employees have already sued Fox News for racial harassment. The racial discrimination lawsuit follows several other sexual harassment reports and lawsuits against the network’s leadership that have revealed a toxic work environment in which offenders -- in many instances -- have been reportedly aided and abetted by current co-President Bill Shine. Fox isn’t the only major cable news network battling reports of racial discrimination. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “CNN and other Time Warner units” were sued by a former employee, Celeslie Henley, who was “allegedly fired after emailing human resources about discriminatory treatment.”

    On April 26, Wright announced during a press conference that he was joining his colleagues in their lawsuit against Fox. He bemoaned the way Fox leaders “seem to overlook the value of diversity or inclusion in the workplace,” and called the network out for their “disregard to equality.” From Wright’s April 26 press conference:

    KELLY WRIGHT (FOX NEWS ANCHOR): I’m here because leadership, while focused on making sure the brand of Fox News could dominate in the ratings -- flourish financially to benefit each and everyone of us who work there and develop a powerful organization, somewhere along the way, they have lost their way and they’ve failed to include equality for all. The greatness failed to be fair and balanced to all of our employees regardless of race, gender, faith, creed, or color. Our leaders simply seem to overlook the value of diversity or inclusion in the workplace. And yes, we have contributors who appear on our shows to express their opinions and they’re people of color but we literally have a handful of black and Hispanic-Latino reporters or anchors. As you may know by now that I am the only black male anchor, which in 2017 should not be the case, and it speaks volumes of the disregard to equality at Fox News.

    It is indefensible and inexcusable when there are so many talented black men and women who are more than capable to fulfill that role. We have a culture of systemic and institutional racial bias and so, when my colleagues from other departments began to publicly reveal their encounters with blatant acts of discrimination in their department, I watched it, I prayed about it, I cried over it. I can no longer sit in silence, collect my paycheck and act like I didn’t experience racial bias on my own level as an on-air personality. Behind closed doors I found myself confronted with race albeit in a more subtle but in a demeaning way and marginalizing my own growth and my development that would not only benefit me but benefit others. In my case, for many years I consistently and often emphatically asked leaders at Fox News to grow as a company and open the door wide to more opportunities and possibilities to hire and develop men and women of color. I knew that Fox had a weak image in terms of race. I encountered it on the job and in the public with comments from people like, “You’ll never excell there because you’re not the right color.” Or “You’re not blonde enough.” Or “They’ll only allow you to go, but so far.” Some people have even asked me, “How can a black man [inaudible] work at Fox News?” Some have even referred to me being an “acceptable black” who is tolerated but never celebrated. I’ve heard all the arguments about why I should not work at Fox News, but few people understand why I do work at Fox News and why I have every right to be there and still be there to deliver news. I have the right to work there or anywhere in this country not because of the color of my skin but certainly because of the content of my character and I stand before you -- sit before you as a human being, perfectly flawed, but perfectly loved, by my wife who is here with me today, by my children, who are not here but in support of me, and certainly by people, viewers, many viewers who like the work that I do. And even by my haters and detractors, who say I shouldn’t even be here. But I do have a right to stand up for justice. Not just for me but for the people you see behind me. I’m more than qualified, and there are other people who are more than qualified to do greater work than I do. When Doug asked me about this, he said, “What do you want?” I said, “I want to make it possible for whoever fills my shoes -- that next generation -- to never go through this.” That also means I should not have some sort of glass ceiling placed over me. It also means that management should not place an umbrella or a lid over my career or the career of anyone, to marginalize us and our development, and not extend to us the opportunity to grow simply based on the color of our skin and what they deem is acceptable to their viewers.

    Some people have said, “You’re in a good position. Forget about it. Fox will never get rid of you because they need more black men to defend themselves against the critics who accuse Fox of racial bias.” Well, I’m not here to be a token either. I’m here to be a valued employee who, like all of my fellow workers you see with me, are privileged and honored to be their voice today to do my job in the best possible environment for growth. And when I see something that needs to be addressed, I should point it out and offer ideas to help improve our company. And that’s exactly what I did. I’ve had direct talks with leaders over the past 10 years explaining and even pleading with them to allow all of us and me in particular to show the accomplishments, contributions and brilliance within America’s communities, particularly communities of color. To never overlook the negative situations that do exist within black or Latino communities but also to show the positive and inspiring people within those communities who proactively strive to right the wrongs and pave the way out of downtrodden and impoverished conditions through education, through faith, through fortitude, and forgiveness.  

  • Pro-Trump RSBN Scales Back, Cancels Mike Cernovich Program

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The pro-Trump Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN) has parted ways with two of its hosts -- including prominent “alt-right” conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich -- and is scaling back plans to become a “24/7” news outlet, its CEO told Media Matters

    After the small media upstart found success during the 2016 campaign by providing live streams of Donald Trump’s rallies, RSBN sought to use Trump’s surprise win as a springboard to a bigger platform. Politico reported in January that RSBN had begun “quietly attempting to transform itself from a small live-stream operation into a major and diverse digital media outlet” with the goal of becoming a “24/7 news outlet of the common man.”

    But in recent months, those plans have apparently floundered. RSBN has struggled to find viewership for original streaming programs and has had to apologize for incendiary comments from its personnel.

    In January, RSBN attempted to appeal to its YouTube-centric audience by hiring YouTube prankster Joey Saladino (also known as “Joey Salads”). The move backfired, as numerous self-identified conservative Trump fans criticized the hiring on Twitter and in YouTube comments sections, specifically pointing to Saladino’s production of a hoax video purporting to show that the “black community is very violent toward” Trump supporters.

    Media Matters also documented that Saladino has a history of tweeting racist remarks, including warning that you’ll get “shot” if you “steal a niggas food stamp” and claiming that “Facebook is for old people and niggers.”

    The show had trouble getting viewers; the program’s last three episodes averaged just a couple thousand views.

    The network cut ties with Saladino after airing only six episodes of The Joey Saladino Show -- the last on February 10.

    In February, RSBN began airing the commentary and call-in show The Right Mindset with Mike Cernovich. Cernovich is a prominent “alt-right” figure who is infamous for launching online harassment campaigns, promoting rape denial, pushing conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate,” and tweeting racist and misogynistic remarks.

    Though Cernovich has friends in the Trump White House and a large social media presence, his RSBN program never took off, with no episode currently garnering more than 7,500 views on RSBN’s YouTube page. The views for Cernovich and Saladino stand in stark contrast to the millions racked up by RSBN for Trump rallies and events.

    In emails to Media Matters, RSBN CEO Joe Seales confirmed Saladino is no longer with the network and said Cernovich “is no longer doing The Right Mindset with us. Was a mutual decision pretty much as the views were not what we expected.”

    He added that there weren’t “enough views on the programs to justify the cost of producing them.”

    RSBN has had other problems with personnel. It recently issued a statement apologizing for comments by host Nick Fuentes, who said it was “time to kill the globalists” who run CNN and that he didn’t “want CNN to go out of business … I want the people that run CNN to be arrested and deported or hanged.”

    Politico magazine also noted in a January profile that RSBN had to reprimand an employee for “suggesting on Twitter that Islam is an inherently inferior religion.”

    Former Infowars reporter Joe Biggs also announced that month that he was filming a “pro 2nd Amendment show” for the network. Media Matters subsequently noted that Biggs had tweeted his approval of date rape, sexual violence, revenge porn, and punching women and transgender people. (Politico reported that the tweets “may have put his chances for full-time employment at RSBN in jeopardy.”)

    In his email to Media Matters, Seales wrote that Biggs “never worked for or with us. We worked up the idea of a pilot for a show, which included him, but it wasn't meant to be.”

    He added that RSBN is “anything but racist or sexist,” writing:

    I know you folks at Media Matters like to take shots at us, but I hope you get the facts straight. We are anything but racist or sexist here.

    Our #1 producer, Brandon Davis, is African American...and as you know, so is our host Wayne Dupree.

    Steve Lookner, our #1 reporter and host is Jewish.

    And we have Margaret Howell and Liz Willis as reporters.

    RSBN’s efforts to finance its expansion plans through online fundraising have produced fewer donations than hoped. It started a GoFundMe account in late January with a goal of $50,000 but had only raised a little over $12,500 as of posting.

    RSN also started a Patreon site in early April and promised donor perks such as appearing “monthly on an RSBN Show,” “your own personalized song created by RSBN's Jacob Seales,” and a “live on-air shoutout during a news broadcast.” As of posting, the fundraiser has raised commitments of nearly $900 per month of its $20,000 goal.

    In the wake of those setbacks, RSBN said it is scaling back its original programming and reorienting its focus to what made it popular during the Trump primary.

    “It doesn't look like we'll be going to 24 hours anytime soon,” Seales wrote. “We're going to focus more on live breaking news coverage during the day and sending out crews to cover major events (such as POTUS rally this weekend).”

  • The White House’s Favorite Misogynistic Rape Denier Is Coming To Friday’s Press Briefing

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Internet troll Mike Cernovich, who has previously been promoted by persons within and close to President Donald Trump’s administration, announced on Twitter on April 24 that he had been approved for a “press pass” to visit the White House on April 28.

    In a since-deleted tweet, self-proclaimed “new right” leader Cernovich sent a message to President Donald Trump telling him that “some very dishonest people” at the White House “pulled my press pass,” warning that the action “will not go over well.” Hours later, during a live broadcast on YouTube (which has subsequently been removed) in which he ranted against the administration for denying him access, he told his audience that he just discovered his press pass has been approved. Cernovich followed up with a tweet:

    Cernovich’s presence at the White House comes as no surprise given the praise and access to information given to fringe and far-right outlets by White House officials. For example, Cernovich seemingly received special access to information involving the widely debunked smear that Susan Rice improperly unmasked Trump campaign staff under investigation and advance information that Trump would strike Syria. In addition, Cernovich has received praise from those close to Trump including Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway and the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., who both amplified Cernovich.

    In this case, while it appears that Cernovich received a day pass, not a permanent press pass like the ones given to credentialed journalists, Cernovich’s appearance at the White House, and most likely at the press briefing, reflects a larger pattern of outspoken Trump supporters and defenders getting increased access.  A similar pass was given to The Rebel Media’s Lauren Southern, who grew to fame as an “alt-right” media personality who denied rape and demonized minorities. The Trump White House briefing room has also become a hotbed for fringe pro-Trump media writers such as The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft and Lucian Wintrich, who flashed an “alt-right” hand signal inside the briefing.

  • The Worst Economist In The World Says Trump's Tax Cuts Will Do The Impossible

    Why Does CNN Even Give Stephen Moore A Platform?

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    In response to reports that President Donald Trump would unveil a plan to reduce the corporate income tax rate from 35 to 15 percent, discredited economic pundit Stephen Moore rushed to praise the budget busting corporate giveaway while misleadingly claiming that the tax cuts will help pay for themselves by boosting economic activity.

    On April 24, The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump would release a tax plan on Wednesday focused on cutting the maximum statutory corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent -- a 20 percent cut the White House is demanding regardless of the implications it would have for the federal budget deficit. The Journal also reported that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made the unfounded claim that the tax cut will “pay for itself with economic growth.”

    Economist Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and who served as economic adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, called the assertion that Trump’s tax cut would pay for itself “empirically phony” and argued that there is no correlation between cutting taxes and boosting economic growth. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman derisively referred to Trump’s trickle-down economic agenda as “voodoo economics” and laid out examples of tax cuts failing to generate growth under previous administrations. Krugman also noted that former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both raised taxes in order to generate sustainable new tax revenues without undermining the growing economy. He concluded by saying that the extreme cuts Trump would propose is the same “voodoo” Republicans have promoted for decades “with extra bad math.”

    On April 25, the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation posted an analysis of the Trump administration’s claims that the tax cut would pay for itself, concluding that the economy could not grow enough to offset the losses in revenue. According to the Tax Foundation’s charitable analysis, cutting corporate tax rates to just 15 percent would stoke economic growth by less than half as much as would be needed to make up for lost revenue and result in long-term deficit increase of at least hundreds of billions of dollars. Those conclusions follow an earlier analysis of Trump’s corporate tax proposal by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which on October 18 found that Trump’s corporate tax agenda alone would reduce federal revenue by $207.6 billion in 2018 and by roughly $2.4 trillion over ten years.

    The idea that tax cuts pay for themselves has been thoroughly debunked by years of research. Yet Moore heaped praise on Trump’s plan while parroting unfounded claims that it would grow the economy and benefit all Americans. On the April 25 edition of CNN’s New Day, Moore pushed Trump’s tax plan claiming it would create a “feedback effect” leading to growth. Moore also published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that day promoting the plan while claiming Trump’s tax agenda would help the American economy reach the arbitrary and unrealistic 3 percent annual growth target so-cherished by conservative pundits. On the April 26 edition of New Day, Moore continued his push for the tax cuts only to be debunked by economist and former Obama economic adviser Jason Furman, who reminded Moore that “this plan would actually hurt our economic growth” by adding trillions of dollars to the federal debt reducing long-term economic growth:

    Ever since CNN hired Moore, he has harmed the network’s credibility by spewing lies about the economy while peddling whatever policies are being pushed by the Trump administration. He routinely peddles partisan economic misinformation while being debunked by more reliable experts and his only purpose at the network seems to be recycling right-wing media talking points.

  • A Look At The Incestous Alternative-Media Echo Chamber Winning Over Online Audiences

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    On the coattails of President Donald Trump’s successful election campaign and an anti-"political correctness" wave, an alternative right-wing media echo chamber successfully reverberated itself into virtual relevance on social media, where it now reaches millions of people every day. This new-media ecosystem exists outside of traditional newspapers and cable news networks, instead taking to social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Reddit, and YouTube to promote its far-right nationalist politics and conspiracy-laden worldviews to an audience it has isolated and now dominates as its preferred news source.

    Key players in this circular far-right alt-media echo chamber, such as online troll Mike Cernovich and Infowars’ Alex Jones, have successfully crafted a false impression of credibility. They have synthesized a “new right” echo chamber from “alt-right” ideologies and orchestrated a media machine that disseminates content across multiple media platforms with extreme efficiency.

    Key voices in this ecosystem often work a redundant media circuit across allied platforms to reinforce each other’s worldviews and concepts of reality, cast doubt on mainstream media, and suggest widespread conspiracies along the way. Cernovich demonstrated this tactic as he circulated a faux scandal story that suggested Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser to former President Barack Obama, was responsible for improper unmasking of Trump officials caught in surveillance of foreign officials.

    Cernovich toured the Rice story around the alternative media sphere he occupies until it eventually broke into mainstream media. On April 2, Cernovich first tweeted the “breaking news” that Rice had ordered the unmasking. Later that day, Cernovich published his full story about the explosive allegations. On April 3, Cernovich promoted the story in a livestream broadcast to his tens of thousands of Periscope followers. The same day, “alt-right” thought leader Richard Spencer publicly slammed Cernovich in his own broadcast, granting the story a direct platform into the "alt-right" fanbase. On April 4, Cernovich took his story through the alternative media circuit, appearing on Infowars and Free Domain Radio and earning shoutouts from Stefan Molyneux, Lee Stranahan, and Donald Trump Jr. After riding the wave, Cernovich continued his self-promotion in a Reddit AMA thread and a post-story interview with Rebel Media.

    Members of the echo chamber attract and maintain a fan base by developing an abusive relationship with their audience members -- a process they label “redpilling.” They gaslight their audiences until readers and viewers feel unable to trust any media other than those particular outlets to deliver them “the truth.” As a result, these new-media companies have groomed rabid fan bases that turn to them as beacons of honesty in a media world that they believe is orchestrated to distract the public from this echo chamber’s version of “the truth.”

    Many media outlets disregard this new-media echo chamber, continuing to speak about the movement with the same blanket terms and condescension they used before the so-called “new right” distanced itself from “alt-right” leaders. But now, months later, this far-right alternative media apparatus is encroaching on its mainstream competition online. For example, Infowars recently surpassed CNN in its number of subscribers on YouTube, which marked a major milestone in far-right alternative media's encroachment on the video site’s news ecosystem.

    According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in early 2016, about half of people age 49 and under said they get their news online. And as cable news viewership declines and as Americans’ trust in news media sinks to an all-time low, alternative new-media stars have leveraged a unique opportunity to redefine right-wing media and reach mass audiences once loyal to established journalism outlets. The alternative media ecosystem has also benefited from attention from top government officials and those close to them; presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway recently elevated Cernovich on Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. pushed an Infowars conspiracy theory, and Michael Flynn Jr., the son of Trump’s former national security advisor, has promoted Infowars and conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate” sourced from the alternative media sphere.

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko

  • VIDEO: How News Outlets Fail Rape Survivors

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN, DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but based on the way most news outlets cover sexual assault and harassment cases year-round, it seems they didn’t get the memo.

    Since the month of awareness was officially instituted in 2001, the goal has been to educate the public about sexual violence and teach people how to prevent it. Yet media tend to make the same three mistakes when covering cases: They blame victims, they treat offenders like the “true” victims, and they almost exclusively cover cases that confirm pre-existing cultural biases about “believable” survivors and culpable offenders.

    Although high-profile cases that dominate media coverage may make sexual assault seem like an isolated problem, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.” Similarly, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that “nearly half” of survey respondents “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.” Given the sheer number of challenges survivors face when reporting sexual assault and harassment, these numbers are likely much higher. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 63 percent of rapes and sexual assaults already go unreported.

    Beyond cases of rape and assault, sexual harassment is also rampant in the United States. Although Fox News has finally parted ways with Bill O’Reilly after multiple women reported that he sexually harassed them, the problem goes beyond him or even the network.

    After 2005 footage that showed President Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault was leaked to the media last year, networks downplayed the severity of his comments -- calling them merely “vulgar” or “lewd” -- and attacked the credibility of the women who came forward with specific allegations against him.

    Sexual assault isn’t just “vulgar” -- it’s unacceptable. And what’s really “vulgar” is media’s refusal to call it what it is. This is rape culture: the willingness to treat sexual assault or harassment as natural, inevitable, or acceptable. Rape culture not only silences survivors, it’s also at the root of why stalking, domestic violence, and workplace and online harassment are so pervasive: People treat these behaviors as if they’re normal or somehow the recipients invite them.

    Media have an obligation to cover the issue in a fact-based and stigma-free way.

    First, media need to ditch the victim-blaming rhetoric and quit treating survivors as if they are even partly responsible for what happened. Survivors are not, and will never be, responsible for inciting acts of sexual violence. Period.

    When writing about sexual assault and harassment, choosing the right words is crucial to clearly, accurately, and compassionately communicate with broad audiences. A report from the Columbia Journalism Review found that when reporting on sexual assault, media rely on “leading language, scant statistics, and a whole lot of victim blaming” -- all of which contribute to downplaying and at times dismissing sexual violence allegations. Similarly, the Dart Center for Journalism instructs media to “avoid any language that might imply that the [survivor] is responsible in any way.”

    Media coverage around former Stanford student Brock Turner showed that media outlets also tend to treat offenders as the real victims -- sympathetically highlighting past accomplishments, or bemoaning the costs to their careers.

    Particularly when offenders are high-profile figures, media treat the issue as merely a “scandal.” Writing about allegations against his father Woody Allen, The Hollywood Reporter’s Ronan Farrow explained how these reactions cultivate a “culture of impunity and silence” around reporting on sexual assault allegations. By getting caught up in a cult of celebrity -- even when focusing on a deserved fall from grace -- media can either trade fact-based reporting for access or lose sight of their “obligation to include the facts, and to take them seriously.”

    Finally, media scrutinize every move made by a survivor -- how they dressedwhen they reported, and even their possible “ulterior” motives. While doing so, they tend to focus on cases that confirm pre-existing cultural biases about the identities of survivors and offenders.

    Sexual violence happens in a wide variety of contexts and communities. And more often than not, survivors know their assailants prior to the assault. Nevertheless, media fixate on the myth of the “perfect victim”: an unrealistic expectation that believable victims of sexual assault are attractive, innocent white women who unwittingly provoke attack from an unknown (usually non-white) predator. As MSNBC’s Irin Carmon reported, accounts of sexual assault shouldn’t have to “be black and white, starring a perfect victim and a perfect set of villains, in order for us to get outraged.”

    Rather than fixating on only these “perfect” examples, media should cover cases from across the spectrum of experience, and they should provide audiences with critical context about the widespread nature of sexual violence.

    Sexual assault isn’t just a problem at Fox News or in “other communities”; it’s all around us. People look to the media to tell stories about their lives and the world at large, so reporters and outlets have an obligation to educate audiences about this reality and correct harmful misconceptions.

    If the Trump-era media have shown us anything so far, it’s this: Survivors deserve far better.

  • Fox's The Five Moves To Prime Time, Calls For Anti-Abortion Violence

    Greg Gutfeld: "If You Are Pro-Life And You Believe It Is Murder, You Should Be Willing To Fight For It"

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    After the ouster of Bill O’Reilly following public reports that he sexually harassed multiple colleagues (and a subsequent advertiser boycott), Fox News was forced to shuffle its evening lineup -- a move that elevated the show The Five to the coveted 9 p.m. time slot. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for co-host Greg Gutfeld to take a page out of the O’Reilly playbook and call for anti-abortion violence.

    O’Reilly spent years at Fox not only spreading misinformation about abortion and reproductive rights, but also openly bullying abortion providers. Dr. George Tiller -- who was assassinated in 2009 by anti-choice zealot Scott Roeder -- was a frequent target of O’Reilly’s. Prior to Tiller’s death, O’Reilly referred to the doctor as “Tiller the baby killer” and insisted there was a “special place in hell” for him. After a deadly shooting attack at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, O’Reilly defended his previous attacks on Tiller, claiming his reporting on the doctor was accurate.

    Although Gutfeld did not target an individual abortion provider like O’Reilly did, his call for violence in the service of the anti-choice movement is an inauspicious start to The Five’s new time slot.

    Alongside co-hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle, Jesse Watters, Bob Beckel, and Dana Perino, Gutfeld engaged in an incendiary segment about abortion advocacy in the Democratic Party. After Guilfoyle falsely suggested that so-called “partial-birth” abortions or “abortion on demand” were issues Democrats must contend with (in reality, neither describes a medically accurate or extant procedure in the United States), Gutfeld compared abortion to slavery, saying that it would have been cowardly in the 1850s to have expressed opposition to slavery but said there's "nothing I can do about it" and that the same was true of what he called "pro-life cowards." He said he had “a problem with saying you’re pro-life but you respect the other side” because “if you are pro-life and you believe it is murder, you should be willing to fight” and “start a war” over this.

    Conservatives have frequently made inappropriate allegations that abortion providers are targeting black communities. Anti-choice groups have even gone so far as to openly co-opt the language of Black Lives Matter to attack abortion access -- this in spite of the disproportionately negative impact anti-abortion laws have on women and communities of color.

    Gutfeld’s disturbing call to arms also comes after a recent report from the National Abortion Federation (NAF) warned of a disturbing trend of escalating threats and harassment against abortion providers, patients, and clinics. According to NAF, in 2016, there was “an increase in a wide range of intimidation tactics meant to disrupt the provision of health care at facilities, including vandalism, picketing, obstruction, invasion, trespassing, burglary, stalking, assault and battery, and bomb threats” as well as “an escalation in hate speech and internet harassment, which intensified following the election in November.”

    The severity of this targeted harassment is exacerbated by the fact that evening cable news shows rarely discusses the topic. As a recent Media Matters study found, during 12 months of coverage about abortion and reproductive rights there was almost no discussion of anti-choice violence or its consequences for abortion access. Out of 354 total segments about abortion or reproductive rights on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, only four discussed anti-choice violence.

    There has been a great deal of speculation about what O’Reilly’s departure means for Fox News’ toxic culture, and in particular, its new evening lineup. If this debut performance by the The Five is indicative, we should expect more of the same attacks on abortion access and on those who obtain this legal and essential medical service.

    A transcript of the April 24 edition of The Five is below:

    KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Since when is it OK to just be abortion on demand? Why do you have to put that -- but why can't you say yes we respect life and we respect the lives of women and we respect the lives of children and babies? And I understand the idea to say you want to have individual choice, and the state not telling everyone what they have to do. But there is a healthy interest in protecting life in terms of not going for this, with partial-birth abortions. There has to be some regulations. Just like we have regulations with the FDA or with health care, et cetera, to make sure that people are protected. That the innocent are. And so I don't think [Democrats are] currying any favor by being that strident and just really that caustic in terms of their rhetoric.

    [...]

    JESSE WATTERS (CO-HOST): Greg, quickly, how much damage do you think is done by these comments?

    GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): I don’t know. First, I would like to state the obvious: The strongest pro-choice voices have the amazing luck of being born. It’s an incredibly obvious point, but we -- a lot of people forget about that. We can’t be hypocrites here. Would a pro-choice Republican win the presidency ever? Trump is pro-life, but that’s after a lot of pro-choice-ing. So, this prison of two ideas both parties are involved in -- there’s another, I have a problem with saying you’re pro-life but you respect the other side. Because that’s a PLC -- I’m a PLC, I’m a pro-life coward, which means I believe, and it’s untethered to religion, that it is killing a baby. But I’m not going to do anything about it because I realize there’s nothing I can do about it.

    GUILFOYLE: Well, you talk about it.

    GUTFELD: Yeah, you talk about it --

    GUILFOYLE: You educate.

    GUTFELD: Yeah, but think about it. If in the 1850s there was a talk show called the Ye Olde Five Shoppe and we're sitting there and we’re going like --

    [CROSSTALK]

    GUTFELD: And you're going, "I'm against slavery, but you know, I think it's immoral, it's wrong, but there's nothing I can do about it.” If you are pro-life and you believe it is murder, you should be willing to fight for it. That’s the hypocrisy behind this whole idea is that you should be able to start a war if you believe in this that strongly, but we aren't. We aren't because we are “PLCs.” I'm a “PLC.” I'm a pro-life coward. It's what I am.

  • Fox Host: Obama Admin Researchers Put Out A "False Narrative" To Get People To "March And Go Nuts”  

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle suggested that protesters who took part in the March for Science were motivated to do so by a “false narrative” about climate change dating back to the Obama administration.

    During a discussion about Bill Nye the Science Guy’s climate activism and the March for Science on the April 24 edition of Fox News’ The Five, Guilfoyle claimed that Nye “doesn't want the facts and the science out there” about climate change, because “he might lose his show.”

    Guilfoyle also argued that Nye’s actions mirrored those of researchers during the Obama administration who “refused to comply with requests to release the internal data and the information that, really, the public has a right to see, to back these claims up. … They do this thing to try to hide it because they want to put forward a false narrative so that they can get people to come out and march and go nuts about this, saying that the earth is going to be over, and the whole deal, and get upset about cumulus clouds.”

    Guilfoyle was presumably referring to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which in 2015 refused House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s subpoena for internal communications on a study about climate change. The Hill reported at the time, “NOAA spokeswoman Ciaran Clayton said the internal communications are confidential and not related to what Smith is trying to find out. ‘We have provided data, all of which is publicly available online, supporting scientific research, and multiple in-person briefings,’ she said.”

    From the April 24 edition of Fox News’ The Five:

    GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): Why should debate scare [Bill] Nye? Because climate fear is his livelihood. It’s his game. And if you don’t play along, then you’re off the field. And that way, he can't lose. And so far, it works. It got him a new show.

    […]

    Kimberly, you’re a prosecutor, which is like being a scientist.

    KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Yes. A prosecutor of justice, Greg.

    GUTFELD: That’s right. Science is about stating a theory, then attempting to disprove it. You want people to disprove it because that makes your theory or hypothesis stronger. He doesn't want that. Why?

    GUILFOYLE: Well, because he doesn't want the facts and the science out there because then he might lose his show, right? So there’d be a problem. And you can't walk with intention and talk with intention if the facts get in the way, right? But this is what we saw, too, during the Obama administration. Sorry to upset you, Bob. But they refused to comply with requests to release the internal data and the information that, really, the public has a right to see, to back these claims up, right? What are they so afraid of? Why don't they want to turn it over, despite subpoenas and requests? They do this thing to try to hide it because they want to put forward a false narrative so that they can get people to come out and march and go nuts about this, saying that the earth is going to be over, and the whole deal, and get upset about cumulus clouds.

    Related:

    NPR: Is This Congressman's Oversight An Effort To Hobble Climate Science?

    Mashable: A Texas Republican And NOAA Are In A Standoff Over Global Warming Emails

    Union Of Concerned Scientists: The Chair of the House Science Committee Is Harassing NOAA Climate Scientists Again

    Previously:

    San Antonio Express-News Won't Endorse Lamar Smith, Citing “Bullying Tactics” On Climate Change

    Fox's The Five Uses Earth Day To Push Debunked Climate Change Denier Myths

    Fox Host Praises Weather Channel Co-Founder's Climate Change Denial: "It's Weather, Not Global Warming

  • Congressional Credentialing Committee Deals Breitbart A Devastating Rebuke

    Website’s Bid For Congressional Credentials Was Just Rejected -- And Reporters Will Lose Their Temporary Passes

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The credentialing committee for congressional reporters has denied Breitbart.com’s bid for permanent press credentials and declined to extend its temporary passes, a dramatic rebuke for the website, which has sought in recent months to burnish its reputation as an independent, legitimate news source.

    Since late last year, Breitbart has been seeking permanent credentials from the Standing Committee of Correspondents of the Senate Press Gallery, which would have allowed it to join the White House Correspondents’ Association and participate in the White House press pool. Obtaining the credentials would have represented a substantial step forward for a website that has recently sought to downplay its role as a platform for the white nationalist and misogynist “alt-right” movement.

    But Breitbart has been stymied by the Senate Press Gallery’s requirement that news outlets be editorially independent of other organizations; the committee turned down their bid last month, seeking more information. Breitbart is actually part of a web of self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and corruption, as Media Matters has documented, with top editors using the site to promote nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, and personal clients who in turn pay them hefty salaries.

    Breitbart is inextricably linked to its former executive chairman, White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon; the major right-wing donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who are part owners of the website; and the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a nonprofit funded by the Mercers and previously run by Bannon, which employed several top Breitbart staffers. For these reasons among others, Media Matters called on the standing committee to deny Breitbart’s application.

    At a hearing this morning, the committee again rejected Breitbart’s bid, and said they would not extend their temporary passes, which expire May 31:

    The committee expressed concern that Breitbart had repeatedly offered inconsistent information about its operations, specifically about the end dates of employment for Bannon and Wynton Hall, the Breitbart managing editor who had simultaneously served as GAI's communications specialist. According to Breitbart CEO Larry Solov, Hall resigned in February, but he was listed in a masthead Solov provided to the committee in late March. As Media Matters reported last week, Hall created a mammoth conflict of interest by frequently using his position at the website to promote his private and nonprofit communications clients.  

    UPDATE: CNN's Oliver Darcy reports that according to a source, Hall is still "very involved" at Breitbart and plays a role in assigning stories.