Diversity & Discrimination

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Nine Black Employees Are Now Suing Fox News For Racial Harassment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Seven more African-American Fox News employees are expected to join two black colleagues who are suing the network for racial harassment from former comptroller Judy Slater and accounting director Tammy Efinger, according to a new report from New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman.

    This escalation in Fox’s legal troubles comes amid longtime host Bill O’Reilly’s ouster due to multiple sexual harassment allegations and an adviser exodus from his show, and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over British satellite broadcasting company Sky News -- which threatens British broadcasting standards thanks to the toxic corporate culture exposed by allegations of widespread sexual and racial harassment at Murdoch’s key American TV network. It also comes as the explicit sexism and racism of Fox News continues to fester, with the leadership of Fox now under Bill Shine, a man who helped cover up harassment at the network by former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.

    The network was originally forced to fire Slater after she made racist comments to co-workers. According to The New York Times, the original lawsuit from a Fox payroll manager and payroll coordinator alleges they were racially harassed with “racially charged comments” from Slater, “including suggestions that black men were ‘women beaters’ and that black people wanted to physically harm white people.” The lawsuit alleged, “Slater’s superiors did little to address her behavior, which created a hostile work environment that resulted in ‘severe and pervasive discrimination and harassment.’”

    New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported in an April 23 piece that seven other black employees plan to join this racial discrimination lawsuit. According to lawyers representing the affected employees, “Not once did Ms. Efinger step in or attempt to interfere with Ms. Slater’s outrageous conduct," instead “laugh[ing] or giggl[ing] following Ms. Slater’s vitriol.” The letter also details new racist, Jim Crow-era behavior from Fox’s accounting department, such as forcing the black employees to have “‘arm wrestling matches’ with white female employees in [Slater’s] office.” In an appearance discussing his report on MSNBC’s AM Joy, Sherman said these new descriptions of racist behavior at Fox “are really evident of a culture that is entrenched and that has not changed in the wake of Bill O'Reilly's departure.” From the report:

    The Murdochs hoped firing Bill O’Reilly would signal a changing culture at Fox News. “We want to underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect,” Rupert and his sons, James and Lachlan, wrote in a memo to Fox News employees on Wednesday. But the dismissal of Fox News’s highest rated host isn’t going to end the crisis at the network. The toxic culture, fostered for 20 years by former CEO Roger Ailes, is proving far more difficult to remedy.

    Next week, according to sources, seven black Fox News employees plan to join a racial discrimination suit filed last month by two colleagues. The original lawsuit alleged that Fox News’s longtime comptroller, Judy Slater, subjected members of Fox’s payroll staff to racial insults for years. (Fox News fired Slater in February after those employees began litigation against the network.)

    Lawyers representing the payroll employees are demanding that Fox’s accounting director, Tammy Efinger, also be removed from supervising an employee because she allegedly participated in Slater’s racist behavior. In a letter to the network’s lawyers obtained by New York, the attorneys state: “Not once did Ms. Efinger step in or attempt to interfere with Ms. Slater’s outrageous conduct.” The letter adds, instead, “Ms. Efinger chose to laugh or giggle following Ms. Slater’s vitriol.”

    According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Slater demanded that black employees hold “arm wrestling matches’” with white female employees in her office, just down the hall from Ailes’s office on the 2nd floor of Fox headquarters. “Forcing a black woman employee to ‘fight’ for the amusement and pleasure of her white superiors is horrifying. This highly offensive and humiliating act is reminiscent of Jim Crow era battle royals,” the letter says, referring to the practice of paying black men to fight blindfolded at carnivals for white spectators’ entertainment. The lawyers argue that Efinger bragged about wanting to “fight” a black employee.

  • After Fox Fired O'Reilly, Bill Shine Should Be Next

    Shine Continues At The Helm Despite Reports That He Helped Cover Up Sexual Harassment At The Network

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    It took years of sexual harassment reports, millions of dollars in non-disclosure agreements, and a successful advertisers boycott, but Bill O’Reilly was finally fired from Fox News. But his ousting cannot be taken as indicative of a major culture shift within the network as long as current co-president of Fox News Bill Shine continues to be at the helm. As senior executive vice president, Shine reportedly retaliated against women who reported sexual harassment by former-CEO Roger Ailes and helped participate in covering up the reports that eventually led to Ailes’ ouster.

    After Ailes was fired in August 2016, the network swiftly promoted Shine and Fox executive Jack Abernethy as co-presidents. In September, Fox announced that Shine had signed a new multi-year contract with the network, saying the deal guaranteed "stability and leadership to help guide the network for years to come.” Shine, however, has been named in various lawsuits against the network for his “complicity,” and it has previously been reported that Shine played a key role in helping cover up Ailes’ conduct by silencing and “smearing” women who complained.

    According to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, Shine aided Ailes in handling Laurie Luhn, a woman who reported Ailes for sexual and psychological harassment, by checking her into hotels in different cities after she suffered a mental breakdown and monitoring her outgoing emails. Former Fox host Andrea Tantaros named Shine as a defendant in her sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Fox News and Roger Ailes. According to Tantaros’ lawsuit, she met with Shine to discuss “relief from Ailes’ sexual harassment and [Executive Vice President Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," but Shine “told her that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that she ‘needed to let this one go.’” Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky also named Shine in a lawsuit against Ailes, in which she said Shine was complicit in “Ailes’ harassment and of punishing her for raising the issue.”

    Shine, who has been described as Ailes’ “right-hand man,” has reportedly “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid,” which is consistent with the recent New York Times reporting about five women who “received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations.” The payouts amount to “about $13 million.” According to Sherman, Shine “played a role in rallying the women to speak out against Roger Ailes’ accusers and lead this counter-narrative to try to say don't believe Gretchen Carlson.” NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik corroborated such reporting in a tweet, writing, “Some within Fox News tell me programming/opinion EVP Bill Shine, an Ailes confidant, knew of misconduct & ensuing complaints by women.”

    If Fox wants people to believe that they’re trying to improve the culture at the network, Shine should be the next one to leave.

  • STUDY: Cable News Morning Shows Drastically Skew White And Male

    Latino, Black, Asian-American, And Middle Eastern Voices Are Critically Underrepresented, And Women Comprise Only A Quarter Of The Guest Appearances On Morning Shows

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    A Media Matters analysis of morning shows on cable news networks from January 1 to March 31 found that white men make up an overwhelming percentage of guest appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC's morning shows. The study found that black, Latino, Asian-American and Middle Eastern voices are critically underrepresented, and women make up only a quarter of guest appearances.

    Guests On Cable Morning Shows Were Overwhelmingly White. Black, Latino, Middle Eastern, and Asian-American guests were routinely underrepresented on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC’s morning shows. On MSNBC, 89 percent of guests who appeared on Morning Joe during the time period were white. Of all the guests who appeared on Fox & Friends, 85 percent were white. And 83 percent of guests who appeared on CNN’s New Day were white. Additionally, white men comprised 72 percent of total guest appearances on MSNBC's Morning Joe, 66 percent of all guest appearances on CNN's New Day, and 65 percent of guest appearances on Fox & Friends.

    Racial And Ethnic Minorities Are Underrepresented On Morning Shows. Morning shows aren’t reflective of the racial and ethnic demographics of the United States. Latinos, who according to the census make up 17 percent of the population, were notably absent on morning shows. Just 5 percent the total guest appearances on New Day were Latino; Fox & Friends had 4.6 percent, and Morning Joe had less than 2 percent Latino representation. And even though 13 percent of the U.S. population is black, black voices were severely underrepresented on the cable morning shows. Across all three networks, the percentage of black guests did not reach double digits; 7 percent of guests who appeared on Fox & Friends were black, compared to 8 percent on New Day and 9 percent on Morning Joe. Across all networks, the representation of Asian-Americans -- the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. -- was less than 3 percent, with Fox & Friends leading with 2.3 percent, and New Day and Morning Joe following with 1.4 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively. The census doesn’t yet include data for the population size of people of Middle Eastern heritage. Media Matters’ analysis found that people of Middle Eastern heritage made up 2.4 percent of all guest appearances on New Day, 1.3 percent on Fox & Friends, and 0.2 percent on Morning Joe. Additionally, Middle Eastern women were entirely left out of Fox & Friends and Morning Joe.

    Women Were Significantly Underrepresented On Cable Morning Shows. It wasn’t just racial and ethnic demographics that didn’t match reality, but the gender breakdown as well. Even though men make up 50 percent of the U.S. population, men comprised more than three-quarters of all guests invited on morning shows. During the first three months of 2017, only 19 percent of guest appearances on Morning Joe were women. On New Day, 23 percent of guest appearances were women, while on Fox & Friends women made up 25 percent of total guest appearances.

    Methodology

    Media Matters reviewed every edition of CNN's New Day, Fox News' Fox & Friends, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe from January 1 to March 31, 2017, and coded all guest appearances for gender and ethnicity. Network contributors and correspondents were included as guests when they were brought on to provide commentary and engaged in significant discussions with other guests or hosts, as opposed to just reporting on a news package. Media Matters defines a significant discussion as a back-and-forth exchange between two or more people.

    Not all percentages add up to 100 due to rounding, inability to satisfactorily identify some guests' ethnicities, and some guests identifying as multiple ethnicities. U.S. Census data comes from the most recent 2015 estimates and adds up to more than 100 percent due to respondents selecting more than one race in surveys. Census data for Middle Eastern guests could not be found as the census does not provide that category in its reports.

    Madeleine Peltz and Katherine Hess contributed research to this study. Graphics by Sarah Wasko.

  • Here Are Some Of The Sexist Things Neo-Nazi Favorite And O'Reilly Replacement Tucker Carlson Has Said

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. , BOBBY LEWIS & CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    Fox News announced that host Tucker Carlson would be taking over Bill O’Reilly’s prime-time 8 p.m. slot after O'Reilly was forced out following pressure from advertisers amid an increasing number of sexual harassment reports against the longtime host. However, Carlson has a long record of minimizing rape and sexual harassment reports, as well as making sexist and demeaning comments against women and gender equality.

  • Fox News Promotes Eric Bolling, Noted Bigot, Conspiracy Theorist, And Muppet-Hater

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY, ZACHARY PLEAT & JARED HOLT

    In the wake of Bill O’Reilly’s departure from Fox News following an advertiser boycott stemming from sexual harassment settlements involving the prime-time host, Fox News announced a new lineup that includes giving host Eric Bolling his own show at 5 p.m. This promotion comes despite Bolling’s history of trafficking in racist stereotypes, promoting fear of Muslims in America, and engaging in conspiracy theories, including the birtherism made famous by now-President Donald Trump.

  • As He Leaves Fox, Here Are Bill O’Reilly’s Worst Moments On The Air

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & KATHERINE HESS

    Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has helped set the bar for the normalization and dissemination of right-wing hatred, offering incendiary commentary about sexual harassment and assault, gender, race and ethnicity, low-income people, the LGBTQ community, Muslims and refugees, immigrants, and reproductive rights. Now that O'Reilly has been forced to step down from The O'Reilly Factor after an advertiser revolt over revelations that Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid $13 million in settlements to women who came forward with reports that O’Reilly was a sexual predator, Media Matters takes a look back at some of the lowlights of his career, including his history of inaccurate and embellished reporting.