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With Facebook’s recent announcements that it is partnering with fact-checking news organizations in the United States and Germany to fight fake news on its website, conservative media are trying to discredit those organizations by claiming their fact checks -- and fact-checking in general -- are too subjective, suggesting bias due to staffers’ backgrounds or the organizations’ funding sources, launching personal attacks, and making claims of censorship. As Facebook expands its partnerships in France, future fact-checkers in Europe will likely face similar lines of attack.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s “exclusive interview” with Breitbart.com crashed and burned. Reporters mocked the two-and-a-half-minute sit-down as “the most awkward thing ever” and “a glorious two-minute comedy of errors” that suffered from terrible production values.
Breitbart.com had announced on February 8 that Spicer would appear in an interview the following day with White House correspondent Charlie Spiering, who regularly produces fawning coverage of President Donald Trump. Breitbart is a leading defender of Trump, and several White House staffers are Breitbart alumni, including chief strategist Steve Bannon, who formerly chaired the website.
Spicer gave a short interview to the pro-Trump outlet last evening following the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ unanimous decision to not reinstate Trump’s travel ban targeting seven majority-Muslim countries.
The interview produced little of value; Breitbart.com was not even promoting the interview’s results on the top of its homepage as of posting time (the site is instead attacking comedian Rosie O'Donnell).
Reporters reacted to the interview by noting its “moments of awkward silence,” comparing Spiering to “a 10-year-old who snuck into 1600 Penn,” and calling it a “total disaster” from a “production standpoint”:
The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers: “Sean Spicer’s Facebook Live interview with Breitbart News is the most awkward thing ever. … From a production standpoint, it was what Spicer's boss likes to call a ‘total disaster.’”
The Huffington Post’s Rebecca Shapiro: “The interview suffered from moments of awkward silence, unpleasant background noises and some strange camera angles.”
Esquire’s Sammy Nickalls: “This Breitbart interview was...not good.”
Death and Taxes’ Candace Bryan: "The interview is rife with awkward silences, harsh changes in sound levels, abrupt push-ins, and a reporter that looks like a 10-year-old who snuck into 1600 Penn after hiding behind the colonnades until Secret Service went on break and is now terrified he’s about to have his cover blown. ... Spicer himself looks as though he’s isn’t certain he isn’t being trolled."
Fusion’s Katherine Krueger: The interview was “insanely cringey.”
The A.V. Club’s Clayton Purdom: It was “a glorious two-minute comedy of errors, with production qualities rivaling the cringe-inducing crap cinema of Fateful Findings, A Talking Cat!?!, and even The Room.”
The Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern:
This is 'Nathan for You'-level awkwardness right here. Breitbart is such a joke. https://t.co/fcMckyXvTt
— Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) February 10, 2017
ThinkProgress’ Ned Resnikoff:
Steve Bannon must not have been a very good movie producer if this is the production values for state propaganda. https://t.co/0O4FWuM7Lh
— Ned Resnikoff (@resnikoff) February 10, 2017
Gizmodo's Ashley Feinberg:
WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS pic.twitter.com/WM0wfD2k8u
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) February 10, 2017
BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick:
Hey, I took the dead air from the beginning of Breitbart's Facebook Live interview with Sean Spicer and looped it for a full minute. Enjoy! pic.twitter.com/aupMelOajG
— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) February 10, 2017
White House press secretary Sean Spicer will participate in an “exclusive interview” with “alt-right” website Breitbart.com -- a development that underscores the growing relationship between the Trump administration and the notoriously inflammatory outlet.
Breitbart announced the interview in a February 8 post, touting an “exclusive interview” with Spicer to be streamed on Facebook at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on February 9. Breitbart White House correspondent Charlie Spiering will conduct the interview. The post encouraged Breitbart readers to suggest questions for Spicer in the website’s infamous comments section, which has been called “a sewer of mindless hatred and racism.”
Ties between the White House and Breitbart.com run deep. The website was formerly run by chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, who previously termed Breitbart “the platform for the alt-right.” Other current Trump administration employees who used to write for Breitbart include deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka and Bannon assistant Julia Hahn.
During Trump’s first press conference as president-elect, the only reporter given a reserved seat was Breitbart reporter Matthew Boyle, and Trump called on him in short order to ask a sycophantic question about what “reforms” the new president would recommend for the media industry.
Trump and his allies have engaged in an unprecedented war on the press, dating back to his campaign. A day after being sworn in as president, Trump referenced his “running war” with mainstream media. Bannon later called mainstream press “the opposition party” and suggested that “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile.” Meanwhile, the White House has repeatedly elevated pro-Trump propaganda outlets like Breitbart. Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette, a website that frequently publishes false reports, received the first question at a recent White House press briefing. The Gateway Pundit, a notoriously sloppy conservative blog, and conspiracy theory outlet Infowars have both claimed they will soon be credentialed by the White House.
In contrast to the widespread derision Spicer has drawn because of his tendency to lie from the press briefing room lectern, Breitbart’s coverage of Spicer’s briefings has been fawning, amplifying perceived victories over the press. Here’s a sampling of recent Breitbart Spicer headlines, all of which ran atop articles written by Spiering:
During President Obama’s final farewell address on January 10, conservative media figures criticized and smeared Obama, claiming he had "destroyed a basic sense of solidarity," was "racially divisive," and was "faking tears" while talking about Michelle Obama.
Right-wing media figures attacked Facebook for announcing that it would partner with third-party fact-checking organizations like PolitiFact and The Associated Press to combat fake news. The freakout from conservative pundits follows their repeated attempts to hijack the term “fake news” in order to discredit mainstream news sources.
President Obama delivered remarks on the recent massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, and included observations that current gun laws fail to stop terror suspects and disturbed individuals from legally purchasing assault weapons. Right-wing media were quick to attack the president's “insulting” comments.
Right-wing media figures attacked Hillary Clinton for saying that she always carries hot sauce with her during an interview with a New York hip-hop radio show, attacking her for “pandering” and “casual racism.” But Salon reports that Clinton “has been talking about carrying hot sauce since 2008,” and various outlets over the years have reported that Clinton “packed pepper sauce” in her bag and had “a collection of more than 100 hot sauces” when she was first lady.
Right-wing media mocked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Obama prior to and during Trudeau's historic visit to Washington, D.C., calling the event a "first date" and dismissing Trudeau as "the Obama of the North," a "fanboy," and "not the smartest guy in the world."