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  • 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. 

  • Rupert Murdoch’s Disturbing Corporate Legacy: Chronic Sexual Harassment In US, Rampant Lawbreaking In UK

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Bill O’Reilly may be gone at Fox News, but Rupert Murdoch’s festering Fox News mess isn’t going away anytime soon.

    Murdoch cut ties with the host last week after multiple women's reports of sexual harassment became public. Since then, seven black Fox News employees indicated that they plan to join a racial discrimination suit filed last month by two colleagues, according to New York magazine, and three former Fox employees -- Margaret Hoover, Alisyn Camerota, and Kirsten Powers -- said on CNN that the culture of sexual harassment at Fox News is deeply ingrained. "The culture ... is still there because the executives are still there," said Hoover.

    Then on Monday, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros filed a new lawsuit against the company in federal court, which alleges, “A person working for Fox News was responsible for hacking Ms. Tantaros’s computer so that she could be spied upon.” (Last year, Tantaros sued Fox News for $30 million, claiming sexual harassment.)

    Murdoch, his sons James and Lachlan, and 21st Century Fox -- which they control and which owns Fox News -- are still facing numerous corporate challenges, which might still be raging on July 6.

    That date will mark the one-year anniversary of Gretchen Carlson filing her sexual harassment lawsuit against former Fox News boss Roger Ailes, which triggered numerous other reports of harassment from women working at Fox News. “As a direct and proximate result of Carlson refusing Ailes’ sexual advances, and retaliation for Carlson’s complaints about discrimination and harassment, Ailes terminated her employment, causing her significant economic, emotional and professional harm,” Carlson stated in her filing. (She later reportedly settled the suit for $20 million.)

    It's quite possible that 52 weeks later, Fox News and the Murdoch family will still be mired in the mess.

    Yet I get a sense that the media mogul and his sons are getting something of a pass in the press in the wake of the reports about O'Reilly and Ailes, which followed Murdoch’s ugly wiretapping chapter in the U.K.

    How many strikes do they get?

    As the media grappled with the reports about O'Reilly last week, Murdoch was portrayed as a “pragmatist” and a “savvy political observer.” And driving the Murdoch sons? They're determined to steer “the family ship far into a new century, with new standards of workplace behavior,” according to The New York Times. Additionally, the Times stressed that the sons “seem determined to rid the company of its roguish, old-guard internal culture and tilt operations toward the digital future.”

    Somehow Murdoch, a famously active manager, has been portrayed as a distant player who was oddly not culpable for what has transpired at the highest levels of Fox News.

    And that’s absurd.

    If Murdoch were a “pragmatist” who was actually concerned with cleaning up the rotten culture at Fox News, he would have thoroughly addressed the raging problem last summer when the reports of Ailes harassing female employees were making headlines.

    Instead of addressing the huge problem, Murdoch and his sons consciously chose to paper it over by simply dismissing Ailes, while actually promoting a top Ailes deputy, Bill Shine, even though he’d been accused of helping to cover up claims against both Ailes and O’Reilly. Those don’t sound like executives concerned with ridding the company of an “old-guard internal culture,” as the Times claims.

    Then, months later, Murdoch renewed O’Reilly’s contract despite the fact that O’Reilly and Fox News had settled five harassment suits.

    That’s not the Murdochs being pragmatic. That’s them being wildly cavalier and irresponsible.

    Yet some journalists seem to be viewing the latest issues within Murdoch’s corporate empire through a soda straw and not seeing the entire, unsettling picture. They’re treating last week’s firing of O’Reilly as strictly a Fox News problem, instead of as part of a larger culture of criminality that Murdoch has fostered for years at his media companies.

    Recall that in the 2011 phone-hacking scandal, reporters at Murdoch’s British newspapers illegally tapped into the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, and even a murdered teenager, Milly Dowler.

    As Vanity Fair noted at the time (emphasis added): “The hacking story has confirmed the fears of those who see the hand of Murdoch everywhere: the News of the World was hacking into thousands of people’s private voice mails. The paper was paying off the police.”

    By 2015, it was estimated that the scandal had cost Murdoch’s company more than $500 million, which included “paying out some 377 legal settlements to victims of voicemail interception and a further 341 payouts through a voluntary compensation scheme, which was set up as an alternative to litigation.”

    The hacking was thought to represent Murdoch’s professional low point. But now come the revelations of Fox News’ apparent disregard for workers' rights.

    British regulators are currently deciding whether Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox would qualify as “fit and proper” to purchase satellite TV giant Sky. Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents several women who say O’Reilly sexually harassed them, recently stressed to British officials, “The similarities between the current harassment scandal and the phone-hacking scandal reveal the company’s approach to business and management – a lack of oversight, intervention, and decency.”

    Note that in recent years, Murdoch employees have been accused of not only hacking into phones, computers, and emails, but also of paying off news sources. And today, Fox News is reportedly under federal investigation for allegedly try to hide the mountainous payments the company has made to women claiming sexual harassment.

    Rupert Murdoch’s not a savvy pragmatist committed to cleaning up the harassment culture at Fox News. He’s been a profound enabler who placed profits above workplace decency. He deserves no gentle treatment from the press.

  • Lawsuit: Former Fox Host Had Digital Devices “Spied On” By Fox After Reporting Sexual Harassment  

    Andrea Tantaros Has Sued Fox News For Spying On Her Private Communications “As Part Of A Campaign Of Intimidation”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to NPR’s David Folkenflik, Andrea Tantaros, former Fox News host and plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network and its former CEO Roger Ailes, has presented a new lawsuit against the network. The new lawsuit, according to Folkenflik, says the network arranged “to have her private communications spied on as part of a campaign of intimidation” that involved Twitter “sock puppet” accounts tweeting the contents of her private conversations after she reported sexual harassment incidents at Fox News.

    As reported by NPR, Tantaros’ lawsuit says that “Fox News executives including co-President Bill Shine orchestrated the use of material gathered by electronic eavesdropping that was fed to Twitter accounts acting on the network's behalf.” According to multiple articles, Shine has reportedly participated in retaliation campaigns against women who have reported sexual harassment within the network and has “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid.”

    This is not the first time Fox has been accused of spying on the women who report sexual harassment: in 2004, the network paid private investigator and former network contributor Bo Dietl “to dig up information” about former producer Andrea Mackris, who reported sexual harassment from now-ousted Fox host Bill O’Reilly. Other claims in the lawsuit seem to corroborate previous reporting, such as Folkenflik’s reporting on Fox’s past use of online “sock-puppet accounts” to spread misinformation and attack perceived rivals, as well as New York magazine’s reporting by Gabriel Sherman detailing the use of a “black room” used to “conduct PR and surveillance campaigns against people [Roger Ailes] targeted, both inside and outside the company." 

    It’s also not the first time a company owned by Murdoch has been accused of hacking or spying. Fox News allegedly sought through “legally questionable means” the private communications of Media Matters senior reporter Joe Strupp, who had written articles citing “anonymous Fox sources.” 

    The incidents are also consistent with the Murdochs’ -- whose company 21st Century Fox controls Fox News -- shoddy journalistic practices involving hacking. In 2011, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was involved in a phone hacking scandal that had them face legal consequences. As explained by NPR’s Folkenflik, “a bribery and hacking scandal at their London tabloids led to the closing of a newspaper, the criminal conviction of a former editor in chief, millions of dollars in settlements and the loss of a potential $11 billion takeover of a big British broadcaster called Sky.” In yet another example, News America Marketing, a division of News Corp., “illicitly accessed its competitor’s password-protected website,” while the two companies were reportedly “at war.” Tantaros’ lawsuit is just the latest allegation of misdeeds against Fox News. From David Folkenflik’s April 24 NPR article:

    A new lawsuit filed Monday by a suspended Fox News host accuses the network and senior executives of arranging to have her private communications spied on as part of a campaign of intimidation.

    The host, Andrea Tantaros, alleged in a previous lawsuit that she had been sexually harassed by former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and former top-rated Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. That suit has been stayed while her complaints against the network are being heard in binding private arbitration. All defendants, through their own representatives or through Fox's parent company, 21st Century Fox, vehemently denied Tantaros' initial allegations.

    In Monday's federal lawsuit, Tantaros alleges that Fox News executives including co-President Bill Shine orchestrated the use of material gathered by electronic eavesdropping that was fed to Twitter accounts acting on the network's behalf. Ensuing tweets, she says, reflected knowledge of details of intimate conversations and exchanges with family members and friends. Tantaros alleges this was done to try to undermine her resolve in challenging the network on sexual harassment.

    [...]

    The case appears to build on a recent report by Salon's Matthew Sheffield. He reported that Fox News under Ailes allegedly paid for "sock puppet" accounts online to promote his private agendas, and also covertly supported the development of blogs that sexualized the network's female hosts and anchors. Tantaros' new suit names, among others, the head of a digital media consulting company who had a prominent role in Sheffield's account.

    [...]

    The suit alleges a rise in offensive material on social media accounts directed toward Tantaros in early 2015, when she says she first notified Shine and other Fox News executives that Ailes had harassed her. Then in May 2016, according to the complaint, several Twitter accounts started to post material suggesting direct knowledge of her conversations.

    [...]

    The phrase "hacking" carries particular resonance for the Murdoch family, which controls Fox News. In 2011, a bribery and hacking scandal at their London tabloids led to the closing of a newspaper, the criminal conviction of a former editor in chief, millions of dollars in settlements and the loss of a potential $11 billion takeover of a big British broadcaster called Sky. The Murdochs are now back in front of a British regulator, once again attempting to take over the 60 percent of Sky they do not already control.

  • Networks Covering March For Science Provided Platform For Climate Deniers

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators participated in the March for Science in Washington, D.C., and sister marches around the globe. Many participants were protesting the Trump administration and Republican Party’s climate denial and their attacks on science. But some television networks covering the marches also devoted airtime to climate deniers, who misled their viewers about the impacts and extent of global warming.

    The April 22 edition of CNN’s New Day Saturday featured a guest panel discussing the marches that included Bill Nye the Science Guy and physicist William Happer, a climate change denier. In the segment, Happer perpetuated the myth that carbon dioxide is not a harmful pollutant and that it benefits the planet, and he claimed incorrectly that temperatures are not rising as fast as climate models predicted. He also called for the cancellation of the Paris climate agreement because it “doesn’t make any scientific sense. It’s just a silly thing,” and then compared it to the Munich Agreement and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

    Nye rebutted Happer in each instance and expressed his disappointment with CNN’s decision to host the climate change denier, stating, “I will say, much as I love the CNN, you’re doing a disservice by having one climate change skeptic and not 97 or 98 scientists or engineers concerned about climate change.” Indeed, the segment was in line with CNN’s typical approach of elevating conflict among panelists over truth telling.

    On the same day, CBS Weekend News aired a segment on the marches, as well as a report on rapidly melting Arctic ice and the future impacts of climate change. But later in the program, a segment titled “Climate Realists” featured an interview with Joseph Bast, the president of the climate-denying Heartland Institute. Bast, who is not a scientist, falsely argued that the warning signs of climate change are just the natural order of things and that climate change is beneficial because of decreased deaths from cold (it’s not).

    The segment briefly noted that “most climate scientists, the United Nations, as well as NASA dismiss these arguments as propaganda for fossil fuels.” But given that 97 percent of climate scientists fall into this category, featuring Bast in the first place perpetuates a false balance by giving viewers a skewed picture of the issue. The report also neglected to mention that the Heartland Institute is funded by fossil fuel interests, including the Koch Brothers and Exxon. Heartland later celebrated Bast’s appearance on the program in a press release that states, “On Saturday, April 22, millions of viewers watching CBS News got a rare glimpse of what many scientists have been saying for years: Global warming is not a crisis, and the war on affordable and reliable energy should be ended.”

    Lastly, immediately following its coverage of the march, C-SPAN aired a “Science & Public Policy” panel discussion (which did not include any scientists) hosted by the climate denial groups the Heritage Foundation and the Discovery Institute about “what some consider the suppression of their dissenting views on climate change, evolution, and other issues.” During the discussion, Marlo Lewis of the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute wrongly declared that “consensus” climatology is “not supported by observations.” Lewis’ claim runs directly in contrast to the facts released by NASA, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the United Kingdom’s national weather service.

    The March for Science is an important story that highlights concerns over the GOP and Trump administration’s opposition to scientific evidence and facts. It’s a shame, then, that these networks chose to juxtapose their coverage of the marches with the very sort of climate science denial and misinformation that so many took to the streets to protest.

  • Wash. Post Highlights GOP’s Latest Attack On The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    A Washington Post column highlighted the latest attempt by congressional Republicans to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a longtime target of the banking lobby and right-wing media outlets intent on unwinding public protections put in place after the financial crisis.

    On April 21, Washington Post financial columnist Michelle Singletary called attention to an attempt by Republican lawmakers to block new protections from the CFPB that would give prepaid card users federal guarantees similar to those afforded to credit and debit card users. Prepaid cards, which are not attached to bank accounts, are often used by customers without access to financial services, but they currently offer few protections for consumers. Some of the new protections authorized by the CFPB include requiring institutions to investigate fraud charges, granting cardholders access to account balances, and mandating that fee information be “upfront and clear.” Singletary pointed out the absurdity of Republicans’ position that they “don’t think prepaid cards deserve the same protections” as credit and debit cards and chided their “ridiculous” complaint that fee transparency might help consumers reduce their costs. From the Post:

    On this issue, it comes down to this: Opponents of the new rules object to helping people who can least afford a whole bunch of fees so that card companies can make more money off them. It’s an example of putting business interests first and the interests of the nation’s most financially vulnerable consumers last.

    On April 21, the right-wing website The New American published a column by conservative commentator Veronique de Rugy slamming the new CFPB rules, claiming these basic protections are an attempt to strangle innovative products with “excessive regulation.” Similar attacks on the CFPB’s prepaid card rules were pushed by conservative think tanks the Institute for Liberty, Americans for Tax Reform and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

    On April 20, the Center for American Progress (CAP) reported that roughly 23 million Americans -- or one in 10 households -- used prepaid cards in 2015 for a total of over $270 billion in transactions and pointed out the danger of blocking protections for millions of consumers. CAP’s Joe Valenti noted how bizarre the GOP’s actions are, since many major prepaid card companies do not object to these new rules, and he said the only gains to killing these rules would likely be for “companies looking to evade regulation and profit from unsavory business practices.”

    The GOP’s attempt to block new public protections devised by the CFPB is the latest in a years-long assault on the agency by right-wingers hoping to curb necessary financial regulations and oust the agency’s director. These attacks have only increased with the GOP takeover of the White House, which left the CFPB as “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” remaining in a Republican-dominated federal government

  • Right Side Broadcasting, The “Unofficial Version Of Trump TV,” Forced To Apologize For Contributor’s Call To “Kill The Globalists” At CNN

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN) host Nick Fuentes went on a violent, on-air tirade, suggesting that it was “time to kill the globalists” who run CNN, adding, “I don’t want CNN to go out of business … I want the people that run CNN to be arrested and deported or hanged.”

    RSBN was deemed “the unofficial version of Trump TV” by The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers after the network, Borchers reported, “teamed up” with the Donald Trump’s presidential campaign  “to produce pre- and post-debate analysis shows that streamed on Trump’s Facebook Page.” The network’s CEO, Joe Seales, hosted an “ask me anything” session on a pro-Trump Reddit page and wrote that ”Trump built RSBN.” In December, the network announced that it received  White House press credentials to cover the Trump administration. Among the network’s staff is date rape promoter Mike Cernovich, racist YouTube prankster "Joey Salads,” and islamophobe Nick Fuentes.

    In an April 19 on-air tirade, Fuentes claimed that Muslims and immigrants are not protected under the First Amendment and called for the people who run CNN to be “arrested and deported or hanged.” From the April 19 edition of RSBN’s America First with Nick Fuentes:

    NICK FUENTES (HOST): The First Amendment was not written for Muslims, by the way. It wasn't written for a barbaric ideology that wanted to come over and kill us. It was written for Calvinists. It was written for Lutherans and Catholics, not for Salafists, not for Wahabists, not for the Saudi royal family. Don't think the founders had that one in mind. And it also was intended for citizens, not for immigrants. If the First Amendment protected everyone's right to have their religion and express it in every country, we'd have our police in the Congo or in Uganda fighting against the Lord's Resistance Army. And you never hear that side of the story on the mainstream media, and why not? Why don't we hear about it? Why do none of our elected officials talk about this or like this? They know it's true. Why don't we hear about in the mainstream media? We don't hear about it on Fox News, by the way, either. And why not?

    Who runs the media? Globalists. Time to kill the globalists. I don't want to not watch CNN. I don't want CNN to go out of business. I don't want CNN to be more honest. I want people that run CNN to be arrested and deported or hanged because this is deliberate. This is not an accident. It's not, “Oh, you know journalists have a liberal bias because they're educated, and educated people tend to be” -- none of that. It is malicious intent. There is a design, there is an agenda here. And the people behind CNN that are pushing outright lies, and you see the people who try and expose the truth are cut off so obviously. They get their mics cut off, and they say, “Oh whoops, we've lost the signal. Technical difficulties.”

    The network did issue a statement apologizing for the comments, calling them “unacceptable” and “inappropriate.” The apology, however, was promptly contradicted when the show’s producer thanked the Twitter users who heaped praise on Fuentes’ call for violence and praised him as “a smart young man.”

    Fuentes’ extremist view of mainstream media reflects the network’s unofficial mission, which Seales said is to discredit traditional news outlets and replace them with other far-right outlets.

    A reader tip contributed to this story. Thank you for your support and keep them coming.