Rep. Maxine Waters: “Don’t Allow These Right-Wing Talking Heads, These Dishonorable People To Intimidate You Or Scare You”
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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 President Angelo Carusone reiterated his call for Bill O’Reilly to be fired after The O’Reilly Factor host was forced to address comments he made on Fox & Friends about Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA):
“It was clear that the statement issued on Bill O’Reilly’s behalf earlier today apologizing for his remark about Rep. Waters’ hair was hollow. Its emptiness was confirmed when O’Reilly opened his show accusing the Congresswoman of being unpatriotic and attacking her over what O’Reilly characterized as a “love” of welfare (a textbook dog whistle).
I’ll reiterate what I said earlier today: Bill O’Reilly’s apology ain’t shit. He should be fired.
One other thing: What we witnessed from O’Reilly today is media manipulation 101. First, the host issued a generic hollow apology when he came under fire. Next, the media wrote up his apology -- largely treating it as sincere. But at the end of the day, O’Reilly came home to his audience, assailed his target and deployed a different racial attack.
In this scenario, O’Reilly gets the benefits as if he apologized without any consequences or even needing to change his tune. I strongly encourage any reporter that uncritically wrote up his statement from earlier today to go back and update your story accordingly to expose its hollowness. Don’t let O’Reilly and his press flack play you for a fool.”
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was widely criticized for his racist remarks in which he mocked the hair of an African-American congresswoman, saying it looked like she was wearing a “James Brown wig.” This isn’t the first time O’Reilly has made such comments; in fact, he has a history of saying racist things.
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.”
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.
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Women's Outlets Explain How These Stories Are Significantly And Routinely Undercovered
A social media post about missing black and brown girls in the Washington, D.C., area went viral, but the numbers it cited were incorrect. Women’s outlets -- primarily those geared toward young, black and brown audiences -- took the lead in explaining the underlying reality about media coverage of missing children that made the post so believable.
CBS’ 60 Minutes featured an interview with self-professed “alt-right” figure and noted men’s rights activist Mike Cernovich on its March 26 edition, highlighting how he pushes false stories. Cernovich also has a history of racist and misogynistic rhetoric, has encouraged and promoted harassment, and has promoted numerous conspiracy theories, in addition to "Pizzagate."
A coalition of 21 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups signed a letter expressing concern that iHeartRadio has not confirmed whether it gave a “talk personality of the year” award to a conservative radio host who regularly featured a racially charged segment dedicated to mocking victims of Chicago gun violence.
For several years, conservative syndicated radio host Michael Berry hosted a “Butcher Bill” segment in which he ridiculed Chicago’s gun violence victims and smeared the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry also played “bingo” with the victims’ injuries and mockingly suggested that if “you don’t want to hear shots and feel pain” in Chicago -- referring to the common police blotter description of what happened to victims -- you should wear “earmuffs.” In a February 27 press release, Talkers magazine announced that Berry would receive an award for “best news/talk” personality of the year at the March 5 iHeartRadio Music Awards in Los Angeles.
After receiving criticism for his segment, Berry announced that The Michael Berry Show would stop airing the weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, saying he has “to make better decisions.” But it is not clear whether he actually received the award, and iHeartRadio has not answered questions about the matter.
Media Matters and 20 other civil rights and gun violence prevention groups are asking iHeartRadio to break its silence and publicly state whether it honored Berry. From the March 24 letter:
YouTube is losing advertisers as big-name companies pull ads from the site because, according to a report from The New York Times, “The automated system in which ads are bought and placed online has too often resulted in brands appearing next to offensive material on YouTube such as hate speech.”
More and more major companies are abandoning the ad services of YouTube's parent company, Google, amid concerns that ads for their brands are being placed next to extremist material. On March 22, The New York Times reported that AT&T and Johnson & Johnson “were among several companies to say Wednesday that they would stop their ads from running on YouTube and other Google properties amid concern that Google is not doing enough to prevent brands from appearing next to offensive material, like hate speech.” The decision by advertisers comes as Google has struggled in its efforts to prevent websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising services to profit. It also comes as Google and YouTube have been criticized following a BuzzFeed News report for driving revenue for conspiracy theorists who broadcast to millions and monetize conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate,” which led to an armed confrontation in a DC-pizza shop.
Now, The New York Times reports that “the technology underpinning YouTube’s advertising business has come under intense scrutiny” as “other deep-pocketed marketers [are] announcing that they would pull their ads from the service.” According to the Times report, the problem “is particularly jarring” for YouTube specifically, because “YouTube splits advertising revenue with its users, meaning advertisers risk directly funding creators of hateful, misogynistic or terrorism-related content.” From The Times’ March 23 report:
YouTube is now one of the pillars of Google’s advertising business and the most valuable video platform on the internet. In recent years, advertisers, unable to ignore its massive audience, flocked to YouTube to reach younger people who have started to shun traditional broadcast television.
But the technology underpinning YouTube’s advertising business has come under intense scrutiny in recent days, with AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and other deep-pocketed marketers announcing that they would pull their ads from the service. Their reason: The automated system in which ads are bought and placed online has too often resulted in brands appearing next to offensive material on YouTube such as hate speech.
That technology, known as programmatic advertising, allows advertisers to lay out the general parameters of what kind of person they want to reach — say, a young man under 25 — and trust that their ad will find that person, no matter where he might be on the internet. This approach plays to the strengths of tech giants like Google and Facebook, allowing advertisers to use automation and data to cheaply and efficiently reach their own audiences, funneling money through a complicated system of agencies and third-party networks.
But more than 400 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and while Google has noted that it prevents ads from running near inappropriate material “in the vast majority of cases,” it has proved unable to totally police that amount of content in real time. And that has advertisers increasingly concerned.
While brands have expressed concern about showing up next to unsavory photos and videos uploaded to digital platforms by users — like pornography on Snapchat — the situation with YouTube is particularly jarring. YouTube splits advertising revenue with its users, meaning advertisers risk directly funding creators of hateful, misogynistic or terrorism-related content.
The revenue-sharing model has minted stars, some of whom gain cultlike followings for edgy and inappropriate content. Last month, the platform cut business ties with its biggest star, Felix Kjellberg, known to his 54 million subscribers as PewDiePie, after The Wall Street Journal reported on crude anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi imagery in his comedy videos. He was part of YouTube’s premium advertising product called Google Preferred — a category of popular, “brand safe” videos on YouTube.
After the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) added the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) to its annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” report, CIS executive director Mark Krikorian responded in a Washington Post op-ed downplaying the extremism of white nationalism and the white nationalists connected to CIS, including its founder. CIS has a long record of publishing anti-immigrant reports with deeply flawed methodologies, and Krikorian -- who is now saying that labeling his group marginalizes it and thus diminishes public debate -- has in the past assigned his own negative labels to other groups.
Breitbart’s xenophobic “Sweden YES” tag is a dog whistle to the “alt-right,” and the misleading articles marked with the label serve as the foundation for the outlet’s anti-immigrant campaign in both Europe and the United States.
In a March 17 interview with NBC News, Breitbart.com’ Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow attempted to distance his site from the “alt-right,” claiming that it’s “not a hate site.” But one of the website’s new favorite content tags -- “Sweden YES!” -- is an “alt-right” catchphrase that began as an effort to mock Sweden’s multiculturalism, gender equality, and positive stance on immigration.
According to Know Your Meme, “Sweden Yes” began on a German international messageboard, Krautchan/int/, in 2012. From there, it became a subreddit, which is currently “quarantined” due to its “shocking or highly offensive content.” The phrase is also popular on the anonymous online message board 4chan, where there is currently an archived Sweden Yes thread on the /pol/ page, with activity as recent as March 20. The meme is associated with Captain Sweden, a series of Swedish webcomics named for an anthropomorphized multicultural Sweden, often depicted engaging in interracial intercourse or featuring immigrants engaged in criminal behavior.
The Breitbart content organized under the “Sweden Yes” tag is written almost exclusively by Chris Tomlinson, a Breitbart London contributor who often retweets far-right French political leader Marine Le Pen and far-right, anti-Muslim Dutch political leader Geert Wilders, as well as Lauren Southern, an “alt-right” media figure who was recently allowed into a White House press briefing. Virginia Hale, a white nationalist Breitbart reporter with a history of using anti-Muslim rhetoric, has also written “Sweden Yes” content in recent weeks.
The first Breitbart content tagged “Sweden Yes” was published in November 2015. But that article was one of only five pieces of content given the tag before President Donald Trump’s February 18 speech in which he instructed the audience to “look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” which he said “took in large numbers” of Muslim immigrants and refugees. Trump followed up his remarks about Sweden by mentioning three French and Belgian cities attacked by domestic terrorists over the past two years. Trump’s comment was a clear suggestion that Muslims and refugees are responsible for a so-called “crime wave” in Sweden. Multiple fact-checkers have debunked both Trump’s seeming implication of an attack the night before he spoke and his claim about migrant crime in Sweden. But the damage had already been done. Since his speech, Breitbart has labeled 32 pieces of content (of a total of 37) with the “Sweden Yes” tag.
The site’s “Sweden Yes” content often makes evidence-free claims, exaggerates unrelated past incidents of crime to report on recent events, or exploits incidents in other countries to stoke fear about immigrant crime in Sweden. For example, a March 8 Breitbart article fearmongered about the takeover of Malmö due to “mass migration, predominantly from Middle Eastern nations” to claim that the the city’s longtime residents are leaving the city, possibly due to an “explosion in crime” and “warring gangs.” But the words “warring gangs” are hyperlinked to another Breitbart article about these so-called gangs, which cites a Reuters article. Reuters makes no mention of whether the perpetrator of the gang shooting of a 16-year-old boy in Malmö was an immigrant.
Another Breitbart article, about a Swedish program to train asylum seekers from the Middle East to work in correctional facilities, acknowledges that “so far the program has not run into a glaring issue that plagues many prisons across Europe, the growth of radical Islam and radicalization of inmates,” before claiming that French and British prisons have becoming a “breeding ground for radical Islamic indoctrination.” But the training program is in Sweden, not France or Britain, and while it places recently arrived immigrants in jobs within prisons, these program participants are guards, not inmates. The article also claims, “In HMP Gartree, a maximum security prison in the UK, entire cell blocks are run under a variation of Islamic sharia law according to reports.” The words “Islamic sharia law” link to another Breitbart article, which cites a Sun article to claim “Muslim extremists … are running an entire [cell] block under sharia law.” However, the Sun quotes a prison spokesman in the U.K. saying, “There is no evidence to back-up any of these claims about HMP Gartree."
The exploitation of longstanding anti-Muslim tropes in the context of Swedish crime is merely the latest iteration of Breitbart’s anti-immigrant crusade in Europe. A false report Breitbart published in January alleging that a "mob" of Muslims attacked a German church spurred the German government to investigate what it deemed the “unprecedented proliferation” of fake news, a phenomenon which the Swedish prime minister recently mentioned as a concern his government is committed to investigating.
The Trump administration has drawn criticism for its seeming embrace of the anti-immigrant "alt-right" movement. The incoming Trump administration was criticized in December 2016 because "A senior member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and a delegation of US Republican and European lawmakers canceled a briefing  with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely over a refusal to allow a Swedish far-right member of the group into the meeting[.]" Nevertheless, President Trump in January gave former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon a seat on the National Security Council's principals committee, which affords him access to meetings with senior-most national security officials. While Bannon is no longer formally associated with the outlet, according to a former Breitbart spokesperson, the site is still heavily influenced by Bannon’s editorial guidance.
Trump’s baseless February 18 claim about immigrants committing crimes in Sweden is just one more example of how his administration both validates outlets like Breitbart and mainstreams “alt-right” narratives under the guise of keeping Americans safe.
What is wrong with Liz Spayd?
This morning, The New York Times’ public editor fell for an “alt-right” harassment campaign against a reporter of color for the paper, devoting her entire column to scolding the writer over a tweet.
On Wednesday, the rapper Bow Wow sent an ugly tweet warning President Donald Trump to stop criticizing the rapper Snoop Dogg “before we pimp your wife and make her work for us.” Times culture writer Sopan Deb responded on Twitter by first criticizing the rappers and then by joking that “The outrage from @BreitbarkNews” -- a satirical Twitter feed that uses dog puns -- “is going to be through the woof.”
Mike Cernovich -- a racist, misogynist writer who frequently directs his Twitter followers to launch harassment campaigns -- immediately set his sights on Deb. In a series of tweets, Cernovich declared that Deb thinks “rape threats against the President’s wife" are funny, repeatedly asked Spayd to comment, and urged his fans to email her to “ask about @SopanDeb’s view that human trafficking is funny.”
To be clear, this is what Cernovich does: unleash his followers on what he considers his enemies in order to make them miserable. He was one of the leading proponents of “pizzagate,” a conspiracy theory that baselessly alleged Hillary Clinton’s inner circle was orchestrating a child sex-trafficking ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. After Cernovich and and others in the “alt-right” pushed the story on social media, the pizzeria’s staff received a host of “abusive social media comments” and phone calls. Eventually a man who was trying to “self-investigate” the claims entered the business and fired a gunshot.
Cernovich’s campaign against Deb worked. Times public editor Liz Spayd devoted today’s column to scolding Deb over his tweet; she explicitly links her decision to receiving numerous emails yesterday from critics. As Spayd relates in excruciating detail, she interviewed Deb, the paper’s culture editor, and the paper’s associate managing editor for standards, and consulted the Times guidelines on social media for the piece.
Spayd concludes that Deb’s “intentions were innocent,” and even acknowledges that the emails she received may have been the result of a campaign by what Deb told her were “far-right conservative groups [that] have latched onto his tweet for their own purposes.”
But having learned that the dogs were rabid, she nonetheless decided to throw them a bone, validating a fringe campaign against her paper’s own writer. According to Spayd, “The problem is, not everyone is ‘in’ on the joke. Conservatives may use such tweets -- or retweets -- to further their case that the ‘liberal media’ will do and say anything.”
This is nonsense. Deb isn’t being criticized by earnest people who really think that he was joking about violence against women. He’s the target of a campaign by professional trolls who want to hurt Deb and have seized on the tweet as an opportunity. As Commentary associate editor Noah Rothman noted, “It's not about conservatism but a willful effort to find offense in humor” by people who are “trying to be offended.”
And Spayd played right into their hands by treating them as if they have a legitimate grievance. Now Cernovich has the opportunity to demonstrate to his fans that they can have an impact by marching to his tune, and he’s taking a curtain call, while continuing to push the envelope
It’s not the first time Spayd has bowed to pressure from conservatives whose only interest is hurting the paper. In December, Spayd denounced tweets from three Times reporters during an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who read the tweets on-air. She drew opprobrium from the rest of the press for saying the tweets in questions were “over the line” and should have been met with “some kind of consequence.” Carlson, of course, isn’t interested in journalistic standards -- he founded the Daily Caller and has a show on Fox -- but he is very interested in trying to delegitimize the Times.
Spayd is an obvious, easy target for these campaigns. A central throughline of her columns as public editor has been that conservative complaints that the Times is too liberal need to be treated with respect and responded to promptly. The decades-long effort by Republican activists, politicians, and conservative media outlets to convince conservatives that only avowed right-wing sources can be trusted seems to have escaped her.
That’s frankly par for the course, and at this point I can’t imagine Spayd’s work improving. But perhaps this horrendous failure will at least convince her to pause and reflect before doing the “alt-right”’s dirty work.
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1,200 Advertisers Have Reportedly Sworn Off The Site
Recent visitors to Breitbart.com have been inundated with ads for products at the site's official store, like the tasteful "RINO Hunter Jumbo Coffee Cup." But one thing that has been noticeably absent from President Donald Trump’s loyal "alt-right" media hub this year: ads from big-name companies.
“A recent check of the Breitbart site showed there are few if any ads for large consumer brands,” Fortune recently confirmed. “Most of the advertising appears to consist of ads for diet supplements and conservative newsletters, among other things.”
Breitbart staffers concede the ad boycott has hurt business. “People inside Breitbart say while the website may in fact be profitable, it is also suffering from a business standpoint with advertising dollars shrinking significantly,” Fox Business reported last month.
So it’s official: Breitbart now has a Glenn Beck and a Rush Limbaugh problem. Its unapologetically offensive content has driven away hundreds and hundreds of advertisers, according to a tally kept by the group Sleeping Giants. And based on Beck and Limbaugh’s previous boycott struggles, it’s probably safe to predict those advertisers are never coming back.
To recap: Following Trump’s November victory and Breitbart’s emergence as the center for the hateful "alt-right" movement, an online crowd-sourcing campaign led in part by Sleeping Giants began contacting companies whose products were popping up in ads on Breitbart -- ads surrounded by odious content -- and the site’s equally hateful online community. (One former Breitbart editor called the site’s comments section a “cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”)
When contacted by progressive activists, companies seemed unaware that their ads were running on Breitbart.
Why? CNET explained:
Most online ad placement services use "programmatic advertising," which targets people instead of websites. That's why when you're online shopping for something like shoes, you may see an ad for those shoes across various sites you visit. With programmatic advertising, those shoes seemingly walk in your footsteps around the internet.
Previously, companies and ad agencies made sure their programmatic ads didn’t appear on porn sites, for instance. But they hadn’t made provisions to keep their ads off race-baiting, homophobic, "alt-right" sites like Breitbart.
For lots of companies, the decision to ditch Breitbart was apparently an easy one. “We determined that the site violates our hate speech prohibition,” an AppNexus spokesman told The Los Angeles Times.
Progressive groups that have been involved in the boycott efforts – including Avaaz, MoveOn, Ultraviolet, and SumOfUs – have recently focused their attention on Amazon and Google, two companies that continue to maintain relationships with the conservative site.
Here’s the bottom line: Breitbart’s online traffic has undeniably surged as the site has ridden the right-wing Trump wave, but that traffic isn’t being monetized. Breitbart’s recent rise in popularity is not only not attracting more advertisers, it’s running concurrent with a mass exodus of advertisers.
Note that Breitbart recently surpassed ESPN.com in terms of reader traffic. But does anyone think Breitbart, facing a reported 1,200-company ad boycott, is banking more ad revenue that ESPN.com? I certainly don’t. And I’m not alone.
“[P]eople inside the publication say the divergence between its web traffic and its ad revenues is fairly significant,” according to Fox Business.
It’s worth noting that Breitbart’s response to the ad boycott has shifted over time. One of the first high-profile advertisers to pull out from Breitbart was Kellogg’s, which announced its exit in November. (Breitbart wasn’t “aligned” with Kellogg’s' values, according to the company.)
Breitbart quickly swung into action, loudly denouncing the food giant by issuing a declaration of "war” against the “un-American” company and introducing the #DumpKelloggs rallying cry.
But as hundreds of additional advertisers followed Kellogg’s lead and bolted, it became clear that Breitbart’s initial defiant strategy didn’t work. Today, executives are noticeably mum about the sweeping ad boycott.
And the bad news for Breitbart? Once a flood of advertisers decides to leave offensive, right-wing media outlets, those advertisers rarely return.
Just ask Beck and Limbaugh.
Beck lost his Fox News show because the cable channel simply couldn’t find advertisers willing to support the wildly offensive host. (Especially after Beck called President Barack Obama a “racist” who "has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.") Fox News found out that having a show like Beck’s that attracted 2 million viewers was great. Having a show with 2 million viewers that couldn’t land advertisers didn’t make sense.
Limbaugh has also watched as hundreds of radio advertisers fled his program and wrecked his business model. Madison Avenue’s rejection of Limbaugh was sparked by the AM talker’s days-long sexist meltdown over Sandra Fluke in 2012. Unable to land advertisers, Limbaugh was soon demoted in major radio markets such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis, where he was shipped off to weaker, underperforming stations.
Today, the larger question for Breitbart is, how much does this matter? Because here’s the truth about Breitbart: It behaves more like an "alt-right" think tank, or a super PAC, than a news organization. And like lots of purely partisan conservative entities, Breitbart is privately funded by rich ideologues, with a mission to drive a political agenda, not to publish journalism.
Robert Mercer has reportedly given Breitbart “at least $10 million.” Mercer is a billionaire hedge fund manager, and he and his family’s foundation (which is headed by his daughter Rebekah) have emerged as key Trump allies who have given millions of dollars to far-right causes in recent years, causes like the Heritage Foundation, Citizens United, the Media Research Center, and the Cato Institute. Note that there's no record of the Mercers doling out millions of dollars to nonpartisan journalism enterprises. They dole out millions to purely partisan, right-wing political operations.
In truth, there’s little indication that without rich donors Breitbart could survive in the marketplace as an advertising-driven entity. Like the New York Post and other conservative outlets with failed business models, Breitbart needs the support of deep-pocketed ideologues to stay afloat.
So for now, Breitbart relies on people like Mercer to pay the bills, while more than a thousand advertisers insist they want nothing to do with the "alt-right" site.