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

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • Why Did The NRA Attend Trump's Signing Of An Anti-Hunting Law?

    NRA And Trump Stab Hunters In The Back To Serve Oil And Gas Interests

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist, Chris Cox, bragged about attending a White House ceremony where President Donald Trump signed legislation repealing an Obama-era regulation favored by conservation and hunting groups that gave citizens a greater say in corporations’ plans to mine, log, and drill on federally managed public lands.

    During the March 28 edition of NRATV’s news show Stinchfield, Cox said he was “honored” to be invited to the White House to represent the NRA, and claimed that repealing this “last-minute Obama" regulation would be good for “sportsmen's access” as well as good for “business interest.” Host Grant Stinchfield praised the president’s invitation as “another sign that we have a friend in the White House”: 

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): So first off before we get to the [Neil] Gorsuch confirmation, you were at the White House yesterday. This just seems to me -- they invite you there as another sign that we have a friend in the White House, the NRA does.

    CHRIS COX: Well they invited the National Rifle Association there and I was honored to represent our members all across the country. The president was signing a number of different bills into law through the Congressional Review Act. All of these last-minute Obama regulations that they put through, they’re taking a look at all of those. We saw one recently with the Social Security Administration where we were able to fix that. What this one yesterday, the one of particular interest to us, was the Bureau of Land Management, BLM. They manage almost 250 million acres, that’s about the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined -- a little bigger than Texas and Oklahoma combined. So whether it's sportsmen’s access or business interest, removing that power out of D.C., putting it back to the states is good for sportsmen, it's good for America. So I was honored to be over there and it's a nice change because we know Hillary Clinton wouldn't have been doing that.

    The repeal invalidated the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 rule, which was created to “increase public involvement and incorporate the most current data and technology to decide whether and where drilling, mining and logging will happen on public land.” Rolling it back would also prevent the agency from creating similar regulations in the future because it was repealed under the Congressional Review Act.

    In February, 19 sportsmen and conservation groups, including Oregon Hunters Association, the Wildlife Management Institute, and Pheasants Forever, wrote a letter to the Natural Resources Committee opposing efforts to repeal the Planning 2.0 rule, saying the rule both increased “federal agency transparency” and incorporated “best practices in land-use planning” while also maintaining the “cooperating agency role of .... local governments.” When the rule was enacted in 2016, the Montana Wildlife Association called the regulation “a boon to Montana hunters,” explaining that “Planning 2.0 will allow sportsmen (and every citizen) to have a bigger role in deciding how they want to see their favorite spots to hunt and fish managed.”

    This is not the first time the National Rifle Association has sided with corporate interests over hunters and conservationists. According to a 2014 Mother Jones feature, oil and gas companies are some of the biggest donors to the NRA, donating between $1.3 million and $5.6 million in 2012. Following large donations, the NRA has repeatedly “teamed up” with these companies to lobby for anti-conservation legislation in Congress. From Mother Jones:

    The NRA calls itself "the number-one hunter's organization in America." But two new reports published by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Gun Truth Project and Corporate Accountability International show that, following contributions from oil and gas companies, the NRA lent its support to legislation that would open up more federal public lands to fossil-fuel extraction, compromising the wilderness that many hunters value.

    In 2012, six oil and gas companies contributed a total of between $1.3 million and $5.6 million to the NRA, according to CAP. (The companies are Clayton Williams Energy, J.L. Davis Gas Consulting, Kamps Propane, Barrett Brothers Oil and Gas, Saulsbury Energy Services, and KS Industries.)

    [...]

    Despite these concerns from parts of its longtime constituency, the NRA teamed up with oil and gas interests—including the American Petroleum Institute and the National Mining Association—to lobby for the bill. The NRA explained its position with an appeal to hunters and a dig at conservationists. McCarthy's bill, it said, "will make public hunting lands not suitable for wilderness designation available to millions of Americans that are unfairly closed out from them now…protecting the ability of the American people to access lands that belong, not to the government, or to extremist environmental groups, but to the people."

  • Trump Tweets Congress Should Investigate Clintons After Hannity Promotes Uranium One Conspiracy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    President Donald Trump tweeted that Congress should investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton for a “deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia,” hours after Fox News host Sean Hannity promoted the story on his radio show.

    On the March 27 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity revived the long-debunked conservative claim from discredited Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allegedly sold “20 percent” of American uranium to the Russian government in exchange for Clinton Foundation donations. Hannity and guest Pat Buchanan argued that the “whole Uranium One fiasco” involved Bill and Hillary Clinton, with the former president “giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid.” Hannity also mentioned “John Podesta’s connections to the Russians” as something that is a “bigger crime” than Trump and Russia:

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

    PAT BUCHANAN: Well exactly, all of these things were revealed, but the question is who will investigate the investigators? I mean, I saw, I think it was in the Post this morning or one of the papers, they're said, "Look at these -- they're trying to divert the attention away from the Russia connection to the WikiLeaks and to the getting into the DNC and Podesta files to this other thing." But look, I’m not against doing that, going into the Russian connection, if it's fair, but after eight months of investigating and you’ve turned up -- you can't even say who talked to who?

    A few hours later, Trump, who has pushed the smear before, parroted Hannity’s comments on Twitter, asking, “Why isn't the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia.” Trump also said Congress should investigate the “Russian speech" and the "money to Bill,” as well as the “Podesta Russia Company.”

    This appears to be the latest public example of Trump responding to segments from Fox News figures. In January, Trump responded to a segment on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor about crime in Chicago, tweeting, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ … I will send in the Feds!” Trump has also responded directly to Fox & Friends at least half a dozen times in March. On March 17, Trump blamed Fox News as the reason for his false claim that former President Barack Obama used British intelligence agencies to spy on him. Even after causing an international incident by citing a Fox figure, Trump continues to follow their lead, this time by resurrecting the repeatedly debunked Uranium One smear.

  • Trump's Golfing Reveals The Shameless Hypocrisy Of The Right-Wing Media Bunker

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    “What do most men do when they retire?” Greg Gutfeld asked the other hosts of Fox News’ The Five, three days before President Barack Obama left office in January. “They play golf. But what if you've been playing golf for the last eight years of your job? He should go back and work. He should get a job.”

    A week later, when his colleague Eric Bolling claimed that President Donald Trump had already “accomplished possibly more than former President Obama accomplished in many, many years,” Gutfeld had a ready rejoinder: “That's what happens when you don't play golf.”

    Right-wing media figures like Gutfeld spent years turning Obama’s golf hobby into a ready-made attack. They cited the president’s golf game as evidence he hadn’t “really been that engaged,” and claimed that false rumors that he was a Muslim circulated because he “is much more diligent at golfing than he is at church attendance.”

    They criticized Obama for playing the sport during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while the economy was “doing really poorly,” during a Washington, D.C., earthquake, after a series of tornadoes hit the southeastern United States, following an earthquake in Japan, instead of attending the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, and in lieu of visiting the Gulf Coast to assess the response to the 2010 oil spill (which he had already done). In the eyes of these critics, the president shouldn’t play while “men and women in uniform are still getting killed in Afghanistan.”

    Obama’s rounds of golf -- either 306 or 333 over eight years, depending on the count -- became a shorthand way for conservatives to claim that he was lazy, disengaged, and self-indulgent.

    Those criticisms never made much sense.

    “Presidents have regularly turned to golf as a way to relax from their abnormally stressful job,” as CNN has noted. Given that presidents carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, it seems pointlessly cruel to begrudge them the leisure they need to recuperate. The specific criticism from the right wing -- that Obama was playing golf instead of doing something more important -- also never added up: When one is president, there is literally always something critical happening somewhere in the world. And indeed, polls showed that the American people largely found this line of criticism against Obama unfair.

    When Trump because president, conservative pundits suddenly stopped complaining about the “Golfer in Chief.” But 66 days after taking the oath of office, Trump has already taken 14 trips to golf courses.

    That’s still a far cry from the 1,200 and 800 rounds that Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Dwight Eisenhower played during their tenures in office. But there are a number of factors that make Trump’s golf habit worthy of note.

    First of all, Trump was one of those conservative media figures who regularly lashed out at Obama for golfing. “Trump was adamant that his predecessor, Barack Obama, spent too much time on vacation while president,” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted last month. “He tweeted his objections 38 times from 2011 to 2014.”

    On the presidential campaign trail, Trump continued to slam Obama in office. During one 2016 event in Virginia, he claimed that if he was elected, "I'm going to be working for you; I'm not going to have time to go play golf." Obama has “played more rounds just about than people who play professionally on the PGA Tour,” he complained at another rally.

    Meanwhile, just over two months into his presidency, Trump is visiting golf courses at a rate that translates to 77 trips per year, much more frequently than his predecessor, who played around 40 rounds per year. (The national average is reportedly 19 rounds. I have never played a round of golf.) And Obama didn’t play a round as president until April 26, 2009, more than three months into his tenure. By that time, he had negotiated through Congress and signed a $787 billion economic recovery bill, an expansion providing health care to 4 million children, and legislation making it easier to sue employers for wage discrimination based on gender. President Trump is still looking for his first legislative victory.

    Second, Trump’s golf trips are part of his broader tendency to visit properties that bear his name, which he has done “on 21 of the 66 days he has been in office, meaning that for the equivalent of three full weeks of his just-over-nine weeks as commander in chief, he has spent all or part of a day at a Trump property,” according to the Post. From the White House, Trump has made three trips to Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, VA; in Florida, he has visited Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach 10 times and Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter once.

    Meanwhile, the president is calling his Mar-A-Lago resort -- which doubled membership fees following Trump’s inauguration -- the “Southern White House” and making regular weekend trips to his home there. And he’s stopped in at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for two meals as president. All of these businesses benefit from the publicity they received when Trump visits. And their success ultimately benefit Trump and his family financially.

    “It is normal for presidents to get out -- and it can be a boost for small businesses across the city and the country,” Robert Weissman, the president of the nonprofit Public Citizen, told The New York Times. “But with President Trump, he spends his down time as a walking advertisement for his businesses. It is a major departure from historic norm and degradation of the office.”

    Third, Trump’s White House is actively seeking to hide from the public whether he’s playing golf or not. Aides refuse to confirm to White House correspondents whether the president is playing golf when he visits his golf courses; reporters instead are piecing together what happened from social media posts of those Trump is playing with, concluding that he has played golf at least 12 times.

    “The level of secrecy around golf is new for the presidency,” CNN noted. “While the Obama administration was hesitant to allow cameras to regularly get shots of the President hitting the links, they would tell reporters who joined the President for each round. Trump's nascent administration has not done that.”

    In fact, press secretary Sean Spicer has tried to convince reporters not to assume that Trump is playing golf when he visits his golf courses. “Just because you go somewhere doesn’t necessarily mean you did it,” he told reporters last week. “So, on a couple of occasions, he’s actually conducted meetings there, he’s actually had phone calls. So, just because he heads there, it doesn’t mean that that’s what’s happening.”

    Of course, the White House has places to conduct meetings and make phone calls. What it doesn’t have is a golf course.

    Finally, it is difficult to apply to Trump the argument that the president is working really hard and so deserves whatever leisure time he wants. The president is spending several hours a day watching cable news. He was so manifestly ignorant of the details of his top-priority policy agenda item, repealing and replacing Obamacare, that he lacked “sufficient command of the policy details to negotiate” on the legislation with members of Congress. It wouldn’t hurt him to spend more time learning how to do his job, before he gets all of us killed.

    Nonetheless, the conservative commentators and Fox News hosts who spent years demonizing Obama’s golfing have gone silent under Trump.

    The change has been so dramatic that on one broadcast last month, The Five’s hapless liberal host, Bob Beckel, complained that he “used to listen to Eric and Kimberly talk about how much -- Greg -- how much golf Obama played.” But he noted that Obama hadn’t played a round in his first several months in office while “Trump didn't even wait a week.” “Well, he does have excellent company that he golfs with,” Kimberly Guilfoyle responded. “He was with Rory McIlroy this weekend.”

    In fact, Fox is helping Trump’s White House hide his golf habit. Late Sunday afternoon, after Trump visited his Virginia golf club on two consecutive days, the network tweeted:

    “The sad thing about this tweet is that it really would be news if Donald Trump was at the White House working this weekend,” Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum commented. “But no: Trump played golf at his club in Virginia this weekend, so it's not clear what Fox was up to here. Perhaps they meant to say that by 5:26 pm on Sunday, Trump was back in the White House.”

    Fox could have told its audience the truth about the president’s weekend. But after eight years of priming its fans by attacking Obama for playing golf, the network knows exactly which buttons that would push.

  • Google Is Funding Alex Jones' Harassment And Hate On YouTube

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & KATIE SULLIVAN

    Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist radio host who is one of President Donald Trump’s media sycophants, appears to be monetizing his content as part of the YouTube Partner Program even though Infowars' content regularly violates the program’s policies and guidelines for advertising. Jones’ YouTube videos and other content feature extreme anti-LGBTQ and racist commentary, and Infowars promotes conspiracy theories that have encouraged harassment of families that lost children in the Sandy Hook massacre and led to a gunman firing shots in a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.

    The YouTube Partner Program allows content creators to “monetize content on YouTube in many ways, including advertisements, paid subscriptions, and merchandise,” as long as their content is “advertiser-friendly” and meets YouTube’s “community guidelines.” Google, which owns YouTube, recently changed its advertising policies after major European corporations and the British government raised concerns over their ads being placed next to extremist content. In response, Google wrote that it was “raising the bar for our ad policies” and that it would “tighten safeguards to ensure that ads show up only against legitimate creators in our YouTube Partner Program”:

    We know advertisers don't want their ads next to content that doesn’t align with their values. So starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content. This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories. This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites.

    We’ll also tighten safeguards to ensure that ads show up only against legitimate creators in our YouTube Partner Program—as opposed to those who impersonate other channels or violate our community guidelines. Finally, we won’t stop at taking down ads. The YouTube team is taking a hard look at our existing community guidelines to determine what content is allowed on the platform—not just what content can be monetized.

    Google’s promise to better ensure that ads appear only alongside content of “legitimate creators in our YouTube Partner Program" indicates that Jones’ channel is a partner. An online post by the Houston Chronicle also explained that a YouTube partner can be identified by “look[ing] for advertisements on the user’s pages."

    Jones’ videos, which often violate YouTube’s policies for its advertising partners, frequently appear with ads for brands such as Trivago, Playstation, and a corporation that is contracted by the state of Hawaii to promote tourism. These ads appear on a targeted, automated rotating system, so they may alternate or change. 

    On March 19, Jones claimed that his website “Infowars got knocked off of Google ads through AdRoll, their subsidiary company they work with.” AdRoll -- which is actually a Google competitor, though it does use some Google technology -- did in fact cut ties with Infowars, citing violations of its policies, which require that a website’s content be accurate and verifiable and that it not have “derogatory content” about a political candidate. But it appears that Google, through YouTube, has not taken any similar action.

    YouTube’s Community Guidelines And Advertising Guidance Ban Threats And Harassment

    YouTube’s community guidelines include banning content creators -- and not just their advertising -- for threats, including “harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people's personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts.” Infowars is no stranger to harassment and threats. In addition, YouTube’s content guidelines, which apply to pages hosting advertisements, say that videos with “inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language” are “inappropriate for advertising.” Jones, including on his YouTube page, regularly makes vulgar and harassing comments, and his role in spreading conspiracy theories has helped incite others to commit threatening and violent acts.

    Jones played a crucial role in pushing the false “Pizzagate” conspiracy, which claimed that a Washington, D.C., pizzeria hid a pedophilia ring run by prominent Democratic politicians. Jones told his audience members in late November that they “have to go investigate" the conspiracy theory for themselves. Days later, a Jones listener fired his gun inside the pizzeria. After that incident, Jones scrubbed Pizzagate-related content from his YouTube page and elsewhere. In February, Jones uploaded a new video breaking down the “PizzaGate pedophile cult,” months after the shooting incident; an ad for LinkedIn appeared next to that video on March 23. On March 24, Jones apologized to the pizzeria and its owner for his attacks on them. An advertisement for TBS’ late night talk show Conan appeared before the video on March 27.

    Jones also relentlessly pushed conspiracies about the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, in which 20 children and six adults were murdered during a shooting at an elementary school. Jones has attacked the families of the victims as “actors” who helped pull off a “hoax,” and family members have said that they have repeatedly faced harassment and threats and have criticized Jones for his smears. On March 23, an advertisement for FedEx appeared on a video exploring “false narratives vs. the reality” of Sandy Hook, and an ad for PNC showed up on another video alleging that Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Wolfgang Halbig was “stonewalled and threatened” as he investigated the massacre.

    Jones has made other threatening and violent comments. In a now-deleted YouTube video, Jones told conservative Washington Post columnist George Will to “put a .357 Magnum to your head, and blow what little is left of your brains out all over yourself.” Jones also asserted that Will is a “constitutional rapist” who is “literally mounting America, raping it in the ass, and telling us how great he is.”

    Jones also recently challenged actor Alec Baldwin to a “bare knuckle” fight, saying, “I will break your jaw, I will knock your teeth out, I will break your nose, and I will break your neck.” During the 2016 Democratic primary, Jones suggested that supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) needed to have their "jaws broken" and their "moron heads" slapped (following criticism, Jones claimed he was speaking only “figuratively” about breaking their jaws).

    YouTube Already Pulled A High-Profile User From Its Advertising Platform For Content Violating The Guidance On “Controversial Or Sensitive Subjects”

    YouTube’s advertising guidelines also note that content “is considered inappropriate for advertising” when it includes “controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.”

    Jones has made his name weighing in on controversial subjects and spreading conspiracy theories. He is an ardent 9/11 truther who calls the attacks an “inside job.” He has also spread conspiracy theories about the Oklahoma City bombing, Boston Marathon bombing, a number of mass shootings, and vaccinations. A Google AdChoices advertisement appeared next to a video calling 9/11 a “false flag”

    Jones has also made numerous disparaging comments about LGBTQ people. After more than 40 people were killed at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, FL, Jones charged “the LGBT community in general with endangering America and with the blood of these 50-plus innocent men and women.” Many of Jones’ comments about the attack were uploaded to his YouTube channel. Jones also once claimed that the U.S. government is trying to “encourage homosexuality with chemicals so that people don’t have children,” adding that being gay is a “destructive lifestyle.” A static in-video advertisement and, separately, an advertisement for Wix.com appeared in a March 16 YouTube video on Jones’ page during which Infowars guest host Anthony Cumia mocked a 15-year-old transgender girl and compared her decision to transition to children deciding they want “to be a dinosaur.”

    A sponsored Funny or Die video appeared before one of Jones’ YouTube videos in which he lamented the introduction of an autistic muppet to Sesame Street and pushed the dangerous, debunked myth that vaccines cause autism by claiming “it burns out their pancreas. It burns out their brain.” The video and the video’s summary asserted that the character’s inclusion was “an effort to normalize the epidemic of childhood mental disorders.”

    Jones also frequently makes controversial comments on race and gender, such as when he went on a racist rant against former President Barack Obama on his YouTube channel, saying he was “elected on affirmative action” and “ain’t black, in my opinion.” Jones also accused Obama of having “some big old donkey dick hard-on.”

    Jones has made other vulgar comments about politicians and their families, particularly about women. These statements include calling Obama’s mother a “sex operative” for the CIA on his radio show and calling Hillary Clinton a “lying whore” on his YouTube channel. He has also said that Chelsea Clinton looks like Mister Ed the Horse and made numerous other sexist comments about women and their looks.

    Removing Jones’ channel from the YouTube Partner Program would hardly be unprecedented. The Independent reported in February that YouTube removed user “PewDiePie from its advertising platform after anti-Semitic videos were posted to his account.” PewDiePie has more than 53 million subscribers and has been called “by far YouTube’s biggest star.” The report noted that the videos could no longer “be monetised because they are in violation of YouTube’s ‘advertiser-friendly content guidelines’, which are stricter than the normal guidelines.” The report added that YouTube’s community guidelines “include restrictions on hate speech”:

    The videos are no longer allowed to be monetised because they are in violation of YouTube's "advertiser-friendly content guidelines", which are stricter than the normal guidelines and require that people cannot feature "controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown".

    But they are still available to view on the site, where they were posted in January.

    Google requires that all videos uploaded to the site comply with its community guidelines, which include restrictions on hate speech. The guidelines specifically note that YouTube will consider the "intent of the uploader", and that videos may stay online if they are "intended to be humorous or satirical", "even if offensive or in poor taste".

    It would appear to be consistent with YouTube’s existing policies to pull advertising from Jones’ videos. If YouTube fails to take action, advertisers can request to have their ads removed from videos appearing on Jones’ channel; Google has pledged to implement “account-level controls to make it easier for advertisers to exclude specific sites and channels.”

  • Breitbart Denied Permanent Senate Press Gallery Credentials

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The credentialing committee for Capitol Hill reporters announced today that it will not grant Breitbart.com’s request for permanent credentials at this time, citing the website’s failure to demonstrate editorial independence from key supporters of President Donald Trump.

    Members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery referenced several concerns with Breitbart’s bid for permanent status at a hearing this morning. These included the lack of evidence proving that former Breitbart chief executive and current White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon had actually separated himself from the website; questions about whether Rebekah Mercer, who owns part of the outlet and was a key funder of Trump’s presidential campaign, also plays an editorial role; the fact that some on the masthead have also received payments from the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a nonprofit group funded by Mercer and previously led by Bannon; and issues surrounding Breitbart’s apparent use of office space not zoned for commercial leases.

    The committee is requesting more information from Breitbart by April 14.

    For Breitbart to receive a permanent congressional press pass, its leaders must follow gallery rules by demonstrating that the website’s principal business is "the daily dissemination of original news and opinion of interest to a broad segment of the public" and that it is “editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.”

    Breitbart fails these standards in a number of ways, as Media Matters documented in a December letter urging the members of the standing committee to reject its application. Bannon’s position in particular raises significant concerns, as even if he did actually separate himself from the publication, the possibility that he could return to his position after serving in the Trump administration suggests that Breitbart News cannot be editorially independent. Moreover, Bannon, at-large editor Peter Schweizer, and managing editor Wynton Hall each have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary from GAI while simultaneously working for Breitbart.

    These ties between Bannon, Mercer, and GAI suggest that Breitbart is and will remain a propaganda arm for President Trump, not an editorially independent news outlet.

    The conservative operation’s status as a provider of “original news and opinion” is also in question -- according to a Media Matters review of Breitbart’s October 2016 content, only 17 percent was original; 78 percent of the website’s articles were wire copy, and the remainder were aggregated.

    Permanent congressional credentials would represent a substantial step forward for Breitbart. As BuzzFeed reported: “For newer outlets in Washington, winning permanent congressional press passes is a tedious process — but an important one. The hard passes are seen as the first step towards joining the White House Correspondents’ Association, where member news organizations rotate their reporters to travel with the president at home and abroad. Reporters also use the hard passes to get into other events around Washington.”

    Below is the full text of the letter Media Matters president Angelo Carusone sent the standing committee in December:

    To the members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery:

    Breitbart.com has reportedly come before the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery seeking permanent Capitol Hill credentials. We urge you to reject the request based on Breitbart’s disqualifying inability to demonstrate editorial independence as required by your rules.

    According to Rule 4 of the standards for issuing a permanent congressional press pass, if an outlet does not have General Publication periodicals mailing privileges under U.S. Postal Service rules and publishes daily, then the outlet's principal business must be "the daily dissemination of original news and opinion of interest to a broad segment of the public."

    Additionally, “publications must be editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” In rejecting the application of the Supreme Court reporting outlet SCOTUSBlog, the committee explained that editorial firewalls are insufficient when personnel are inextricably connected between the federal government and an applying publication.

    Breitbart fails these standards in several ways:

    a. Media Matters analyzed all content published on Breitbart.com in the month of October and found that Breitbart published 82.7 percent unoriginal content. In fact, 78 percent of all Breitbart.com articles in October were wire copy. By contrast, just over 17 percent of Breitbart's content was original.

    b. Breitbart Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon is on leave while working as the top adviser for President-elect Donald Trump, and he has been appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to Trump once he is sworn in as president. Bannon also serves on the board of the data mining company Cambridge Analytica, which is reportedly seeking White House contracts.   

    c. Even if Bannon completely severs his position with Breitbart, his likely financial interest and the possibility that he could return to his position after serving in the Trump administration suggests that Breitbart News cannot be editorially independent.

    d. Many of Breitbart's top staff members have regularly been involved in other activities that raise questions about their editorial independence. They are intertwined with the Government Accountability Institute, a non-profit conservative research organization

    • Stephen Bannon served as chief executive of both institutions, receiving $376,000 from GAI from 2012-2015.  

    • At-large editor Peter Schweizer received $778,000 over that term to serve as GAI's president, secretary and treasurer.

    • Managing Editor Wynton Hall received $600,000 from GAI over the same period to serve as its communications strategist.

    e. Additionally, Wyton Hall is the owner of Wynton Hall & Co., a celebrity ghostwriting agency. His website claims he has worked for "NBA stars, White House presidential officials, Hollywood producers and movie stars, Fortune 500 CEOs, college presidents, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks, NCAA Hall of Fame coaches, top international motivational speakers, TV celebrities, and fashion models," all of which could presumably be written about at Breitbart.

    f. Numerous media observers and former employees suggest that given Bannon’s position in the Trump administration, Breitbart could serve as a state-allied propaganda outlet.

    g. Rebekah Mercer, daughter of a major Breitbart investor, is reportedly serving on the executive committee of the Trump transition team, and could end up serving in the Trump administration.

    h. Breitbart has already engaged in similar conduct internationally. Notably, Breitbart London editor in chief Raheem Kassam left the website to become chief of staff to UK Independence Party’s Nigel Farage during the 2015 UK General Elections; rejoined the website following the elections and spent the next year using his editorial post to support and advocate for UKIP’s signature policy initiative, Brexit; then briefly ran for UKIP leader.

    It is simply not credible for an outlet to claim the editorial independence required under your rules given that their longtime executive chairman is about to become the closest advisor to the president.

    In addition to these documented, inextricable, and disqualifying links between the outlet and the Trump administration, Breitbart has secretive business ties that it refuses to disclose as a matter of policy, including financial ties to foreign businessmen that are kept equally secret. The Committee should also be wary of granting additional credibility to an extremist website -- Bannon himself called it “the platform of the alt-right,” an ideology that features white nationalism.

    Given these facts, I urge the Standing Committee to reject the Breitbart application.

    Respectfully,

    Angelo Carusone

    President, Media Matters for America