Justice & Civil Liberties

Issues ››› Justice & Civil Liberties
  • New Study Finds Misinformation About Abortion Pervades Across Television

    Study By ANSIRH Found That Depictions Of Abortion in Popular Culture Likely Plays A Role in Promoting Inaccurate Information

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    Media Matters has consistently found that evening cable news can’t stop misinforming about abortion, and a new study from the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) demonstrates that the stigma this misinformation supports isn’t just pervasive in the news; it dominates popular culture as well.

    Abortion stigma assumes that having an abortion is inherently wrong, and it contributes to negative assumptions about those who have them. Although this definition may seem broad, these assumptions are reinforced through some media coverage and popular culture -- and by many people’s lack of accurate information about the procedure itself. The resulting stigma can cause individuals, including politicians, to push dangerous myths, policies, and laws restricting abortion access.

    A study by Media Matters that examined segments about abortion or reproductive rights on evening cable news programs on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC from March 7, 2016 through March 1, 2017, found that 64 percent of cable news segments about abortion contained inaccurate information. More specifically, cable news reported inaccurate information about late-term abortion a staggering 88 percent of the time. While abortion is a safe procedure undergone for a host of different personal reasons, cable news often depicts it as dangerous and morally bankrupt based on misinformation from discredited and biased anti-abortion groups.

    Beyond cable news, television plotlines overwhelmingly depict abortion in inaccurate and stigmatizing ways. In a new study, ANSIRH researched plotlines on American television from 2005 and 2016 where a character underwent an abortion or referred to having obtained an abortion. ANSIRH identified 80 abortion plotlines during this time period and found that 37.5 percent of them depicted abortion procedures with complications, medical interventions, or other negative health consequences. In real life, only 2.1 percent of abortion procedures involve these issues.

    The most egregious abortion plotlines involved the supposed long-term consequences characters faced after having an abortion. Of the 80 stories, 23.8 percent depicted negative long-term consequences for characters who had an abortion. For example, 4 percent of characters who had an abortion were shown to have committed suicide, 11 percent were rendered infertile, and even 5 percent of characters were shown dying. As ANSIRH and Media Matters have pointed out, other studies have definitively shown that mental health is not substantially impacted following an abortion. In addition, having an abortion -- even multiple abortions -- is not likely to have a negative impact on fertility.

    Finally, abortion is a common and overwhelmingly safe medical procedure. Although some of the plotlines examined by ANSIRH were set in time periods or places where abortion was illegal (procedures that have higher rates of complications and death), ANSIRH explained that television exaggerates these dangers, which can negatively impact audience’s views on contemporary, legal abortion. Even in instances where the storylines depicted legal abortion, ANSIRH still found that a “markedly high” percentage misrepresented the long-term health consequences. Depictions like these, ANSIRH explained, “could be a contributing factor in the political erosion of abortion rights.”

    Right-wing media and anti-choice organizations have worked relentlessly to stigmatize abortion and vilify abortion providers -- resulting in medically unnecessary laws and decreased abortion access. While depicting medical complications from abortion may make for dramatic television, these representations are inaccurate and ultimately harmful. Right-wing media and cable news don’t need any help misinforming about or stigmatizing abortion. Television shows ought to stop helping them spread lies and discourage public dialogue about a safe, legal, and common medical procedure.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • 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.

  • How Fox News’ Male Hosts Are Endangering Women All Across America 

    Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson, And Sean Hannity Are Almost Always Wrong About Abortion, And They’re Giving Other Men A Platform To Push Further Misinformation

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    If you’re searching for the most misinformation-filled block of television during evening cable, look no further than the Fox News lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity. In a finding that will shock almost nobody with even cursory knowledge about abortion and reproductive rights, this all-male lineup has spent the past 12 months promoting rampant misinformation on these topics.

    Media Matters analyzed evening prime-time news programs on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC from March 7, 2016 through March 1, 2017, for segments featuring a substantial discussion of abortion and reproductive rights. The 354 total segments were then coded for the number of accurate or inaccurate statements they contained about three topics: the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and late-term abortion.

    Out of 116 total statements made during The O’Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity (out of 120 total statements on the network), 103 were inaccurate. If the sheer amount of misinformation isn't enough, the vast majority of them were made by men. Of the 110 total appearances by hosts, guests, or network correspondents on these programs in 12 months, 81 were made by men (74 percent).

    When seeking information about abortion -- particularly accurate information -- most women presumably wouldn’t turn first to a man. Fox News, however, has ensured its prime-time block is dominated by male voices.

    With the exception of The Kelly File, which ceased airing after then-Fox news host Megyn Kelly left the channel, and The First 100 Days, which didn’t begin airing until after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Fox’s prime-time evening lineup is dominated by male-hosted programs. And these programs also promote mainly male voices when it comes to the topics of abortion and reproductive rights.

    From March 7, 2016, through March 1, 2017, The O’Reilly Factor featured 47 appearances from men (71 percent) and only 19 from women (29 percent) during segments about abortion. During the same 12-month period, there were 26 appearances by men (76 percent) and only eight by women (24 percent) to discuss reproductive rights on Hannity. Tucker Carlson Tonight did not begin airing until after the 2016 election, making the sample size smaller than either The O’Reilly Factor or Hannity. However, of the five months of Tucker Carlson Tonight considered in Media Matters’ analysis, the program featured 80 percent male appearances in discussions about the reproductive rights of women.

    Overall, during the 12-month study period, 74 percent of appearances among all three programs featured men talking about abortion and reproductive rights. Excluding guests who were employed by Fox News (as professional commentators, analysts, or contributors), all three programs also largely hosted male guests, many of whom have a history of anti-choice policy making.

    For example, The O’Reilly Factor served as a platform for guests including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Mike Pence -- all of whom have openly supported anti-choice policies. The male guests on Hannity unsurprisingly included Reince Priebus, who would become Trump’s chief of staff, and then-Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci.

    Hannity was also the only person on evening cable news to host discredited anti-choice activist David Daleiden, founder of CMP. Every other program -- even, surprisingly, other Fox News programs -- deemed the anti-abortion activist who deceptively edited smear videos and has since been charged with 15 felonies in California an unpalatable guest.

    Luckily for Daleiden, there’s always Sean Hannity. With their powers combined, Daleiden and Hannity managed to conduct a full segment featuring 100 percent inaccurate information in terms of CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential services, and late-term abortion. During his April 2016 appearance on Hannity, Daleiden made five inaccurate statements about the veracity of CMP’s work -- even though multiple state and federal investigations found that the organization's claims about abortion providers were baseless. Hannity himself contributed three inaccurate statements about CMP during the segment and zero accurate ones. This pattern was not limited to just his segment with Daleiden, however. Hannity managed to make only inaccurate statements on these topics throughout the entire study period.

    Although Tucker Carlson appears to share Daleiden’s affinity for employing deceptive editing and even using actors to represent highly curated versions of opposing viewpoints, he managed -- without Daleiden's help -- to be wrong 100 percent of the time about CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential services, and late-term abortion.

    O’Reilly, Hannity, and Carlson also featured primarily guests who openly represent anti-abortion organizations, including Marjorie Dannenfelser (president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List), conservative commentator Crystal Wright, Alveda King (anti-abortion activist for Priests for Life and Civil Rights for the Unborn), and Abby Johnson (founder of CEO of And Then There Were None).

    Overall, Media Matters’ analysis found that 80 percent of statements about CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential servies, and late-term abortion made during Fox News’ evening prime-time programming were inaccurate. It should come as no surprise that The O’Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity were responsible for 67 percent of the network’s inaccurate statements.

    Then again, if your ace prime-time lineup is composed of a man accused of being a serial sexual predator who can’t stop advertisers from fleeing his program (and is likely about to lose it), a hero of white nationalists who is known for bullying his guests, and Sean Hannity, you’re probably not that worried about ensuring accuracy or giving women’s voices an equal platform.

    *Graphics by Sarah Wasko

  • San Bernardino School Shooting Shows Which Crime Victims Matter For TV News

    Television News Ignored The Dangerous Intersections Of Intimate Partner Violence, Access To Firearms, And Black Women’s Lives After San Bernardino School Shooting

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    On the morning of April 10, a man entered a special education classroom at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, CA, and opened fire with a revolver. He shot and killed the teacher -- his estranged wife Karen Smith -- and an 8-year-old student named Jonathan Martinez, and injured another student before killing himself. By April 12, national television news had virtually stopped talking about it.

    News media coverage of intimate partner violence has the power to shape public perception of the issue, and inadequate or dismissive coverage can ultimately normalize or perpetuate this epidemic of violence against women.

    In the United States, a woman is assaulted every nine seconds, and “an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute.” One in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by an intimate partner. And access to firearms, like the revolver used to murder Karen Smith and Jonathan Martinez, only increases the likelihood that intimate partner violence will end with a woman dead.

    According to Everytown for Gun Safety, in more than half of U.S. mass shootings from 2009 through 2016, “the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member.” One study found that among women living in the United States, “about 4.5 million have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun and nearly 1 million have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner.” A 2016 Associated Press analysis of FBI data concluded that “an average of 760 Americans were killed with guns annually by spouses, ex-spouses or dating partners between 2006 and 2014.” The connection between intimate partner violence and firearm deaths can also sometimes carry a larger body count: “Many mass shooters have a history of domestic violence,” like the San Bernardino school shooter did.

    And this dangerous intersection of normalized intimate partner violence and access to firearms hurts black women, like Karen Smith, most. As Teen Vogue’s Morgan Jerkins noted:

    It's also important to note that intimate partner violence disproportionately affects black women, like Smith. In 2014, Time reported that black women are nearly three times as likely to experience death as a result of domestic violence than white women. What’s more, in 2014, black women were murdered by men more than twice the rate of white women. And like the murder in San Bernardino, most homicides against black women are committed by men whom they know.

    Yet Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone pointed out that, though “a shooting at an elementary school might be expected to receive outsize coverage due to the shocking nature of the act,” that didn’t seem to happen with the Monday murders of Karen Smith and Jonathan Martinez:

    On Monday night, the three major broadcast evening newscasts led with the San Bernardino school shooting story, but the anchors remained in New York. By Tuesday, the story was already receding from the headlines. Cable morning shows, like CNN’s “New Day” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” only covered it in passing. And The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Wall Street Journal didn’t run front page stories on it.

    And a search of Nexis and Snapstream transcripts from the major news networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- for the week since the shooting has come up almost completely empty on necessary context.

    In these available transcripts from Monday, April 10, through Monday, April 17, not a single segment or report on the shooting shooting mentioned the prevalence of intimate partner violence in the U.S. or hinted at the role guns play in making instances of intimate partner violence deadlier. There were also no mentions of the disproportionate danger to black women that intimate partner violence poses.

    Mainstream media seem unwilling to devote much coverage to intimate partner violence, even when women die. And there is a particular lack of coverage concerning the violence routinely perpetrated on black women’s bodies. When television media silence helps to perpetuate the normalization of violence -- particularly against black women -- it becomes deafening.

    Methodology

    For the time period between April 10 and April 17, Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for any mentions of the terms “San Bernardino,” “Karen Smith,” or “Karen Elaine Smith.” The search included all available news transcripts for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Nexis transcripts include all-day programming on CNN, evening programming on MSNBC and Fox News, and morning, evening, and Sunday news shows on the broadcast networks. Snapstream transcripts were used to analyze daytime programming on MSNBC and Fox News.

    Do You -- Or Does Someone You Know -- Need Help?

    If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

    For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

    Image at top created by Sarah Wasko.

  • STUDY: How Cable News Keeps Getting It Wrong About Abortion And Reproductive Rights

    Evening Cable News Can’t Seem To Talk About Abortion Without Relying On Men And Anti-Choice Myths

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    A 12-month-long Media Matters study of evening cable news programs found that discussions of abortion, reproductive rights, and reproductive health were heavily dependent on male speakers and anti-choice misinformation. In particular, Media Matters found that men were participants in 60 percent of conversations about abortion and reproductive rights, and that 64 percent of statements about abortion that aired during this time period were inaccurate.

  • Murdoch Takeover Of Sky Would Undermine British Broadcasting Standards, Joint Report Shows

    Fox News And 21st Century Fox Have Faced Legal Action For Enabling Pervasive Workplace Discrimination And Sexual Harassment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters, in partnership with global activism group Avaaz, submitted a report to U.K.'s chief broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, detailing the risks Rupert Murdoch’s desired takeover of British satellite broadcasting company Sky poses to British broadcasting standards. On March 16, U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley had referred Murdoch's takeover bid to Ofcom for a thorough investigation on the grounds of "media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards." Ofcom has to report back to Secretary Bradley by May 16.

    Since the referral, more alarming information has come out about the toxic corporate culture and alleged improper conduct in Murdoch’s company. Media Matters and Avaaz detailed these additional concerns in their report:

    In recent months, serious allegations of sexual harassment, other abuse and discrimination, and corporate misgovernance have been levelled at subsidiaries of 21C Fox. Many of these allegations are against the highest and most influential people at the organisation. Investigative news reports, victims’ testimonies, and court documents paint a picture of a management with no meaningful accountability and no credible governance structure. The situation is so serious that federal prosecutors are now investigating.

    In July 2016, Fox News anchorwoman Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes in the New Jersey Superior Court. After reportedly trying hard to campaign against the culture of harassment, she alleges that Ailes “sabotaged” her career because she “refused his sexual advances.” She was forced to file against Ailes and not Fox News because her contract had a clause that mandated employment disputes be resolved in private arbitration - an approach Fox News adopts repeatedly, denying victims their day in court.

    A stark pattern of corporate negligence and management failure emerges, with a number of alleged incidents occurring after 2012, the date when 21C Fox claims to have introduced a new corporate conduct compliance mechanism. This pattern has strong echoes of years-long attempts by executives to mislead authorities, investors, staff and the public about phone hacking and other illegal activity in the UK.

    This joint report builds upon a previous report on 21st Century Fox’s unsuitability to take over Sky -- which oversees Sky News. The new document, details the corporate governance failures of Murdoch-controlled 21st Century Fox, including the new lawsuits and reports of sexual harassment.

    This culture of discrimination and abuse is also reflected in the programming of Fox News. As detailed in the new report, the network has repeatedly violated the standards of the Broadcasting Code of Britain’s 2003 Communications Act through “a consistent pattern of derogatory or abusive statements about a variety of groups, religions and communities as well as singling out specific individuals for unfair treatment. … All in all, there is a consistent pattern of regular abusive and derogatory treatment of a range of individuals, groups, religions and communities that is absolutely not justified by the context of the broadcasts in question. Fox has largely failed to adequately correct or respond to complaints, and has let similar abusive and derogatory material air on subsequent occasions -- again, uncorrected."

    Murdoch's Fox Effect: How full ownership of Sky risks undermining British broadcasting standards by Media Matters for America on Scribd

  • VIDEO: Media Can't Ignore The Voices of Activists

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    In a time of historic protests and activism against bigoted and hateful policies of President Donald Trump and his administration, news outlets need to scrap the so-called “fair and balanced” panels of pundits and politicians speculating and judging protests from a studio.

    Since day one of the Trump administration, there have been organized efforts around the country to protest the president’s policies. These include the Women’s March On Washington in January which mobilized an estimated 3.6 to 4.6 million protestors around the world, demonstrations at airports across the U.S. a week later to protest banning and detaining Muslim travelers, the International Women’s Day Strike, the upcoming Tax Day March in April to pressure Trump to release his full tax returns, the People’s Climate March in the same month, and the Immigration March in May. Journalists can no longer ignore the activists, organizers and protestors who are taking to the streets and to town halls across the country to demand accountability and change.

    Media have dismissed the protests as spectacles, alleged that they are being staged, or falsely claimed that the protesters are paid to show up. Activists have been central to the evolution of American democracy and have fought for policies that are more inclusive and that better their communities.

    News outlets need to let activists tell their stories.

  • NRA Readies Next Attack Against The First Amendment

    NRA To Launch Ads Against The “Anti-Freedom” “Propaganda Machine” New York Times

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV announced a new “series of messages” against The New York Times that will air on the Fox News Channel beginning Monday. The NRA previewed the ad with the claim that the newspaper has “gone on the offensive to take away your liberties.”

    The new NRA ad evidences a new phenomenon since the election of President Donald Trump where the gun group now routinely labels protected speech reporting that it doesn’t like as oppositional to traditional democratic values.

    On the April 7 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield called the Times “a liberal propaganda machine that is out of control,” and claimed the newspaper has carried out an “assault on journalism.” He then played a preview of a message featuring NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre in which LaPierre claimed the media has “weaponized the First Amendment against the Second,” and that America “would have fallen long ago” had people placed their trust in the “failing American news media.”

    From Stinchfield:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Well, they will lie, they will deceive, they will exploit the ignorance of so many Americans, all with one goal. They will lie, deceive it all, all with the goal to push an anti-freedom agenda that includes an assault on your Second Amendment rights. I’m talking, of course, about The New York Times. A liberal propaganda machine that is out of control. This machine has gone on the offensive to take away your liberties. This machine has gone on the offensive to make an assault on journalism and weaponize it. The New York Times is upping its fight, so are we here at NRATV. So sit back, we are going on the offensive with a series of messages that will air on Fox News Channel starting Monday. Here is a preview.

    [BEGIN CLIP]

    WAYNE LAPIERRE (NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CEO): To every dishonest member of the failing American news media, let me explain why you’ve never been less trusted, less credible, or less respected. For decades you ignored calls from millions of gun owners to just tell the truth. All you had to do was just get the facts right about our guns, and our freedom. But you never even pretended to listen. Instead, you weaponized the First Amendment against the Second. And now the whole country sees you for the mockery we’ve always known. Your claim to the truth is as legitimate as a thief’s. If the fate of individual freedom had rested in your hands, America would have fallen long ago. But Americans put their trust somewhere else, and now in that place stands the most trusted defender of individual freedom in American history. We’re the National Rifle Association of America, and we’re freedom’s safest place.

    [END CLIP]

    The NRA has previously run messages against The New York Times for fact-checking the Trump administration. On February 3, after the newspaper corrected Trump aide Kellyanne Conway for her “Bowling Green Massacre” falsehood, NRATV issued a tweet that claimed the Times was “aiding terrorists” by correcting Conway as opposed to covering the “threat of ISIS.” 

    On February 27, days after the Times aired a promotional TV ad during the Oscars about the importance of journalism in the Trump era, the NRA fired back with its own 75 second ad claiming Americans have “stopped looking to The New York Times for the truth.” The NRA ad claimed the Times ignored several major news stories because they didn’t show liberals in a positive light, but according to a February 28 ThinkProgress post, the ad missed “that the newspaper did, in fact, cover every event it mentions, often with extensive reporting.”

    Since Trump was elected, NRATV has effectively become a pro-Trump propaganda arm that routinely labels protected speech fact-checking and reporting on the president as an “assault against freedom and the Constitution,” and a plot to destroy the United States. Stinchfield has gone as far as to say the reports raising critical questions about Trump’s transition team were “anti-patriotic.” 

  • Trump's Baseless Smear Of Susan Rice Follows Two Days Of Right-Wing Speculation

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump pushed a claim hyped by right-wing media that former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime and could face legal jeopardy for “unmasking” Trump associates caught in surveillance.

    On April 2, “alt-right” leader Mike Cernovich originally wrote that the White House Counsel’s office had “identified Rice as the person responsible for the unmasking [of Trump transition officials incidentally captured in legal surveillance] after examining Rice’s document log requests.” Cernovich’s post, which cited no other source for the claim other than the White House, noted that Rice would have been “authorized” to request that the names be unmasked, and did not claim she broke any laws. Cernovich’s post was amplified by fringe “alt-right” outlets, conservative media, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, and the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.

    But some right-wing media figures, including Rush Limbaugh, have taken the still unconfirmed claim a step further, suggesting that Rice’s actions were illegal. However, that claim has been debunked by numerous national security experts who explained that nothing reported so far indicates that Rice violated the law, and that if she did unmask these officials, she would have been carrying out her duty as national security advisor. Former National Security Director Michael Hayden said it was “absolutely lawful. Even somewhat routine,” and, “There are very plausible, legitimate reasons why she would request such information.” Former CIA Acting Director John McLaughlin also defended Rice, saying, “she was doing her job. That’s what national security advisors are expected to do.”

    But Trump has now parroted the claim that Rice may have acted illegally, commenting on the issue in an April 5 interview with The New York Times. The president said “‘I think’” Rice had committed a crime "by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were mentioned on intercepted communications," adding that “‘it’s going to be the biggest story’” for “our country and the world.’” From the article:

    President Trump said on Wednesday that he thought that the former national security adviser Susan E. Rice may have committed a crime by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were mentioned on intercepted communications and that other Obama administration officials may also have been involved.

    “I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Mr. Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office, declining repeated requests for evidence for his allegations or the names of other Obama administration officials. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”

    He declined to say if he had personally reviewed new intelligence to bolster his claim but pledged to explain himself “at the right time.”

    When asked if Ms. Rice, who has denied leaking the names of Trump associates under surveillance by United States intelligence agencies, had committed a crime, the president said, “Do I think? Yes, I think.”

  • When O'Reilly Urged People To Boycott An Advertiser That Featured "A Man Who Degrades Women"

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & BRENNAN SUEN

    Nearly 15 years ago, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly used his television and radio shows to call for an advertiser boycott of Pepsi “for using a man who degrades women” in an ad, a reference to the rapper Ludacris. In recent days, O’Reilly has been losing advertisers for his show following a report that he and Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid nearly $13 million in settlements to five women after they accused him of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.