The New York Times

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  • Trump Has Given Fox News More Than $5 Million In Free Advertising; Fox Has Given Him Millions More

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    According to The Washington Post, President Donald Trump has given Fox News more than $5 million in free social media advertising through his positive tweets. But Trump’s $5 million gift to Fox pales in comparison to the network’s promotion of Trump during the 2016 campaign.

    The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported that Donald Trump has given Fox News more than $5 million in free social media advertising since he announced his candidacy, based on an established valuation by Captiv8, an analytics and social media marketing platform. According to Captiv8’s monetary valuation, one of Trump’s tweets is worth about $60,000, so when he promotes a show on Fox it is “essentially, a gift worth $60,000.” The company also estimated that Trump’s 52 tweets about the “failing @nytimes” could be seen as “the equivalent of $3.1 million in bad publicity.” From The Washington Post:

    In other words, that tweet from Trump promoting Pirro’s show was more than a favor to Pirro and her employer, Fox News. It was, essentially, a gift worth $60,000.

    With these metrics in mind, we went back through Trump’s social-media posts since he announced his candidacy to see how often he actively encouraged people to watch or buy particular programs or products. Although the list of those posts that appears at the bottom of this article is probably incomplete, it gives a sense of the value that Trump has provided to news networks.

    By our estimates, Trump has provided Fox and its affiliated networks (Fox News, Fox Business) with more than $5 million in free advertising

    [...]

    Although no social-media company connects brands to celebrities to have the celebrities disparage them, Subramanian figured that the hit to a company’s value from a negative post would be damaging, perhaps to the extent that a positive tweet or Facebook post was helpful. In other words, Trump’s 52 tweets about the “failing @nytimes” could be thought of as the equivalent of $3.1 million in bad publicity.

    Of course, Trump’s relationship with the media is a two-way street. The New York Times reported in March 2016 that Trump had already earned close to $2 billion worth of media attention on television, in print, and online, based on an analysis by mediaQuant, a media coverage tracking firm. Media Matters calculated that, for its part, Fox News gave Trump nearly $30 million in free airtime from May 2015 through December 2015. Another Media Matters analysis found that Fox News host and Trump sycophant Sean Hannity gave Trump more than $31 million in free advertising in the form of fawning interviews with the candidate between June 2015 and August 2016.

    The relationship between Trump and the network goes back to before the 2012 election when the network helped promote Trump's political ambitions.Trump has repeatedly praised Fox News, admitted that he may not have been elected president without the network, and appears to get both his news and talking points from the network. For its part, Fox has also repeated Trump’s lines to bolster his spin.

    The Washington Post’s analysis shows that Trump’s tweets are not only a way for him to circumvent the press, they also provide him the opportunity to help favorable news networks like Fox with tweets while simultaneously lashing out at news outlets that have been more critical of his presidency.

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

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Hate Group's Explanation For Why It's Not A Hate Group Exemplifies Why It's A Hate Group

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    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.

  • How Broadcast Networks Covered Climate Change In 2016

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    In 2016, evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox Broadcast Co.'s Fox News Sunday, collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015, even though there were a host of important climate-related stories, including the announcement of 2015 as the hottest year on record, the signing of the Paris climate agreement, and numerous climate-related extreme weather events. There were also two presidential candidates to cover, and they held diametrically opposed positions on the Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate agreement, and even on whether climate change is a real, human-caused phenomenon. Apart from PBS, the networks also failed to devote significant coverage to climate-related policies, but they still found the time to uncritically air climate denial -- the majority of which came from now-President Donald Trump and his team.

  • NY Times Public Editor Helps Out An "Alt-Right" Harassment Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    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.

  • Reporting On Trans Rights Supreme Court Case, Major Outlets Failed To Call Alliance Defending Freedom A Hate Group

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) was quoted in four major publications’ coverage of the Supreme Court’s recent decision not to hear a monumental transgender equality case. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN and Reuters wire services all failed to label ADF as a hate group, instead misleadingly identifying the extremist group as merely a “conservative Christian” organization and effectively erasing the context readers deserve.

    On March 6, the Supreme Court issued a one sentence order announcing it would not hear G.G v. Gloucester County School, which would have been its first major case on transgender equality. In its order, the Supreme Court vacated the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ previous ruling -- which stated that a transgender Virginia high school student, Gavin Grimm, had the right to access restrooms and locker rooms appropriate for his gender identity -- and asked the lower court to reevaluate the decision. This ruling was a direct result of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of Obama-era nondiscrimination protections for transgender students last month.

    In reports on the March 6 Supreme Court order, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters, and CNN’s wire service all quoted a representative of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, according to a Media Matters search of four leading papers and three major wire services in the two days following the decision.

    The outlets all published similar variations of a statement from ADF’s communication director Kerri Kupec, who said that anti-transgender policies are needed to “protect” students’ privacy. None of the articles noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated ADF as an anti-LGBTQ hate group for its well-documented history of working domestically and internationally to criminalize gay sex, as well as spreading dangerous lies and misinformation that harm LGBTQ people and their families.

     A Washington Post blog also quoted an ADF representative, and while it did note that ADF opposes “allowing transgender children to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity,” it similarly failed to contextualize ADF’s long track record of anti-LGBTQ extremism or hate group status. 

    ADF has an undeniably prominent role in leading the fight against transgender student equality. But the group is not merely a “conservative” an organization concerned with protecting “religious freedom” and “privacy.” It’s an extremist organization that has actively worked against protecting LGBTQ students from bullying in public schools. Identifying ADF as only a “conservative” or “conservative Christian” organization -- as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and Reuters did -- only helps ADF pretend its opposition to equality isn’t motivated by anti-LGBTQ animus.

    These dangerous oversights are just the latest in mainstream outlets’ journalistic failure to accurately label anti-LGBTQ hate groups, despite employing SPLC’s designation for other extremist ideologies. And it does a disservice to readers looking for the full story -- to properly asses ADF’s red herring plea for “privacy,” readers need to know up front that the group is disreputable and driven by hate.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched major publications The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, CNN Wire, and the Associated Press in Nexis for coverage between 10 AM March 6, through 10 AM March 8, 2017, using the the search terms “Alliance Defending Freedom" OR “Defending Freedom.” OR "Family Research Council" OR "American Family Association" OR "Liberty Counsel." The same search was repeated for Reuters using a site search of the Reuters website, and The Wall Street Journal in Factiva.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko. 

  • Do’s And Don'ts Of Covering Immigration Under Trump

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    President Donald Trump is turning his anti-immigrant campaign promises into policies by signing an executive order advancing his plans to build a wall across the southern border and expanding the definition of individuals who constitute deportation priorities. Journalists covering immigration policy should keep in mind that a significant segment of the U.S. population views immigration coverage as indispensable in planning their future.

    There are 42.4 million immigrants in the United States, with various immigration statuses. Many depend on news to navigate the uncertainty of the current environment on immigration, which makes accurate coverage of immigration policy crucial. Inaccurate coverage, and reports that focus on the politics of the issue or fail to highlight the human cost of these policies, do audiences a disservice.

    Following are some elements that media covering the enforcement of Trump’s deportation-focused executive order need to take into account to be accurate and provide clear information to audiences that need it most.

    Do: Explain How Trump's Executive Order On Immigration Changes Deportation Priorities

    In an executive order signed on January 25, Trump significantly changed deportation priorities to include “convicted criminals, immigrants who had been arrested for any criminal offense, those who committed fraud, and anyone who may have committed a crime.” As The New York Times pointed out, the order “expands the definition of ‘criminal,’” to include anyone who has crossed the border without authorization -- a criminal misdemeanor -- in the priority category for deportation.  According to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, under the Obama administration, 87 percent “of unauthorized immigrants now residing in the United States” were not a priority for deportation, as they had not committed serious crimes. Journalists need to emphasize that the new enforcement priorities enacted by Trump “vastly expanded the group of immigrants considered priorities for deportation, including those without criminal records,” if they are to accurately represent the plight of many undocumented immigrants who have not been convicted of crimes and who are being targeted by the administration.

    Don’t: Uncritically Parrot Administration’s Statements On Detentions

    The administration’s statement -- and Donald Trump’s tweets -- regarding recent raids conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seek to paint all undocumented immigrants with a wide brush by characterizing them as dangerous criminals:

    However, according to The Washington Post, “about a quarter” of the immigrants rounded up during recent ICE raids “had no prior convictions,” and immigrant rights groups are pointing out that the recent raids have been “out of the ordinary” and that “most of those swept up were not dangerous.” An immigrant without a criminal record who had benefited from President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was among those arrested, which calls into question the administration’s characterization of those targeted. Given the mischaracterizations by the Trump administration, it’s important that journalists pay attention to evidence that shows foreign-born residents are less likely than native-born residents to commit crimes, as demonstrated by the American Immigration Council:

    For more than a century, innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime.

    [...]

    In other words, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not “criminals” by any commonly accepted definition of the term. For this reason, harsh immigration policies are not effective in fighting crime. Unfortunately, immigration policy is frequently shaped more by fear and stereotype than by empirical evidence. As a result, immigrants have the stigma of “criminality” ascribed to them by an ever-evolving assortment of laws and immigration enforcement mechanisms.

    Do: Provide A Platform For Immigration Experts

    It’s easy for journalists to overlook the complicated nuances and crucial distinctions of immigration policy and to unintentionally misrepresent the situations of many immigrants and thus misinform the general public. Because immigration law is complicated and difficult to navigate, audiences are better served by hearing the insights of experts -- rather than political pundits -- who can thread the needle through the most nuanced aspects of immigration policy. Spanish-language networks do admirable work in providing a platform for individuals familiar with immigration policy, including immigrant rights advocates and immigration attorneys who can answer common questions.

    Media Matters spoke to Maria Fernanda Durand, communications manager at the Latino and immigration advocacy/assistance organization Casa de Maryland, who said there are “very few voices, especially in cable news, that actually represent the people that this [policy] is harming.”

    Durand remarked on the importance of turning to  experts, rather than pundits, to discuss immigration issues, noting that “a lot of people really don’t understand the process -- of how people come over, and the fact that there are very few benefits you’re allowed as an undocumented immigrant -- basically food for your children if you qualify.” Durand added that audiences in general don’t necessarily know that when it comes to fixing the irregularities of their status, “there is no line” for undocumented immigrants to get in -- “there is no path to citizenship.”

    Cable news outlets, specifically, still have to make a priority of including Latino and other immigrant voices in the stories they cover. Regarding the representation of Latinos specifically, Durand said: “They're talking about us, not with us. These are issues that affect us all, but we are at the center of it.”

    Don't: Lend Your Platform To Nativist Groups

    Media appearances by members of nativist groups that promote the work of white nationalists are an ongoing problem. Groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has described as part of the “nativist lobby” -- the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an SPLC-designated hate group, NumbersUSA, and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) -- do not deserve to have their images sanitized, but that’s just what happens when media outlets repeatedly reference them and cite their work without accurately describing their focus.

    Characterizing these groups as “conservative” organizations that call “for added immigration restrictions” or that favor “stricter control on immigration” without disclosing that their founder, John Tanton, advocates for a “European-American majority, and a clear one at that,” is inaccurate. Doing so omits the full picture of their intentions and helps them access a seat at the immigration policy discussion table, where bigotry should not have a place.

    Do: Mention The Real-Life Consequences Of Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Policies

    Journalists should keep in mind that the subjects of their stories are people whose real lives are deeply affected by immigration policy. They owe it to these residents -- and their children, parents, and other relatives -- to present their stories in a substantive way, capturing their unique experiences and putting them in context.

    Don't: Perpetuate The Use Of Politically Charged Anti-Immigrant Slurs

    While multiple institutions and journalistic style guides recommend avoiding the use of the word “illegal” to describe people because it is “grammatically incorrect” and simply dehumanizing, many networks continue perpetuating the anti-immigrant slur. The words media use when they discuss a significant segment of the U.S. population have consequences in molding audience images of these communities. By referring to immigrants in a dehumanizing way, media help reduce them to statistics and deportation targets, instead of presenting them as human beings.

  • The Biggest Myth About Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Debunked

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have been surprisingly successful in pushing the myth that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) bases its hate group designations on conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. But SPLC has clearly stated multiple times that it designates organizations as “hate groups” when they engage in inflammatory, hateful name-calling, spread malicious lies and misinformation, or support the criminalization of LGBTQ people -- not because of biblical or conservative beliefs. Journalists have a responsibility to be armed with the facts and accurately cover SPLC’s recent report on extremism and designated hate groups.

    On February 15, SPLC released its annual census of hate and extremism in the United States for 2016, which includes 52 active anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Over the six years that it has tracked anti-LGBTQ extremism, SPLC has clearly and repeatedly explained that it designates anti-LGBTQ organizations as hate groups when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies about the LGBT community,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people.

    As SPLC stated in 2010, when it first began listing anti-LGBTQ hate groups, “viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.” But despite SPLC’s clear explanations of its criteria, mainstream media outlets have long allowed anti-LGBTQ hate groups to defend themselves with that very myth. For example, a 2016 Media Matters study found that from June 2014 through June 2016, the only instance in which The New York Times referenced SPLC’s “hate group” label when reporting on an anti-LGBTQ organization was in an article that questioned the validity of the designation and SPLC’s expertise. The article improperly characterized the designation criteria, alleging that SPLC has been “criticized for including groups that fall within the conservative mainstream, like the Family Research Council, based on their stances on gay issues.”

    For years, media coverage of LGBTQ equality has followed a "God vs. gays" narrative that pits LGBTQ people against religious -- and specifically Christian -- communities. But in recent years, a growing number -- now a majority -- of Christians believe that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.” And current public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans from all religious denominations support same-sex marriages and broad-based LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections without religious exemptions. Now more than ever, it’s bad journalism to equate mainstream Christian organizations with hate groups that actively fund and manufacture junk science to serve as “evidence” to harass and attack LGBTQ people.

    The newest anti-LGBTQ hate group on SPLC’s list is the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a media-savvy legal giant with a $48 million-plus annual budget that has actively worked to criminalize gay people. Despite this background, journalists typically identify the group merely as a “Christian legal organization.” Given ADF’s staggeringly high number of active lawsuits and its successful track record with the United States Supreme Court, it’s a hate group that will remain in the media spotlight. Journalists need to be aware of ADF’s -- and other hate group’s -- extremism and history of spreading malicious disinformation and be ready to fact-check anti-LGBTQ lies. 

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • Trump Has Called Dozens Of Things Fake News. None Of Them Are.

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President Donald Trump has attacked news outlets, individuals, and reports that portray him in an unflattering light as “fake news.” But in doing so he’s continuing conservative media’s bastardization of the term, as none of the things he points to actually constitute “fake news.” At the same time, several people close to Trump have propagated fake news through social media.

  • Taking A Cue From Conservative Media, Trump Consistently Misuses The Term "Fake News"

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Conservative media and President Donald Trump have repeatedly misappropriated the term “fake news” to attack journalists and news organizations that publish stories Trump views to be unfavorable to him and his administration. Despite the accusations leveled against these news outlets, they are not putting out “fake news,” which involves an intent to deceive for political or profit-driven purposes.

    Last month, CNN reported that Trump and his staff were briefed on a dossier that alleged Russia had “compromising personal and financial information” that could be used to blackmail him and his confidants. In response, Trump declared the report to be “fake news.” Later that week at a press conference, Trump attacked CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta when he tried to ask a question. Trump told Acosta that he would not take his question because his “organization is terrible” and because he was “fake news.”

    In another instance from early February, after public opinion polls found that a majority of Americans opposed the Trump administration’s travel ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, Trump tweeted that “any negative polls are fake news.”

    Most recently, Trump shared a link to an article by right-wing website The Federalist that listed “16 Fake News Stories Reporters Have Run Since Trump Won,” which falsely equated reporting errors and misinformation with fake news.

    Trump’s use of the phrase "fake news" to criticize journalists and outlets builds upon conservative media attempts to delegitimize the term and use it to attack credible news outlets. And that has the effect of downplaying the unique threat that fake news actually poses to the public information ecosystem. By repurposing fake news in his own terms and claiming that reporting from The New York Times and CNN, for example, constitutes fake news, Trump continues conservatives’ efforts to delegitimize responsible news sources and their reporting, opening a space for disinformation and propaganda to thrive.

    Media Matters has defined “fake news” as involving a specific phenomenon in which fabricated information is packaged as news items and distributed among the public with intent to deceive its audience -- often for political or monetary gain. None of the examples Trump labeled “fake news” adhere to this practical definition.

    In a telling exchange reported by CNN’s KFile, Trump deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka told conservative radio host Michael Medved that the Trump administration will continue to use the term “fake news” regarding critical news outlets “until the media understands how wrong that attitude" of attacking the president "is, and how it hurts their credibility.”

    As Gorka confirmed, Trump's use of the term “fake news” to delegitimize and attack outlets he disagrees with is the newest weapon in his concerted effort to attack and shame any news outlet that criticizes him or his administration.

  • Kellyanne Conway's Embarrassing Interview With Jake Tapper Confirms The “Questions About Her Credibility”

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway has drawn criticism from many in the media for having a tenuous relationship with the truth, which led to CNN’s refusal to interview her on the February 5 edition of State of the Union. Conway’s interview on the February 7 edition of The Lead with Jake Tapper serves as an example of why Conway’s credibility has become an issue that news outlets should take into consideration before booking her as a guest.

    On February 6, Conway replied to a New York Times report that CNN had declined to have her on State of the Union due to “serious questions about her credibility” by tweeting that she “could do no live Sunday shows this week BC of family.” CNN replied that Conway “was offered to SOTU on Sunday by the White House. We passed. Those are the facts.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer then shared with the media his “understanding” that CNN had “walked back” the tweet, prompting the network to correct Spicer by stating that “CNN was clear, on the record about our concerns about Kellyanne Conway’s credibility … We have not ‘retracted’ nor ‘walked back’ those comments.”

    [Twitter, 2/6/17]

    [Twitter, 2/7/17]

    Conway did appear on the February 7 edition of The Lead with Jake Tapper, for an interview that only confirmed her credibility issues. Despite Tapper’s pointed questioning, Conway repeatedly ducked the issues to promote the administration’s misinformation, and complain about being attacked by the media.

    When Tapper challenged her on President Trump’s baseless assertion that CNN and mainstream media did not cover major terror attacks, Conway replied by saying Trump really meant that “we just can’t allow ourselves to become inured” to terrorism. Tapper acknowledged “that’s lovely spin, but that’s not what he was saying,” reasserting that Trump accused the media of “some sort of agenda.” Conway replied by attacking Hillary Clinton and discussing the alleged importance of saying the words “radical Islamic terrorism.”

    Tapper asked Conway why Trump was so quick to comment on an attempted terror attack at the Louvre that did not kill anyone, but still had not commented on an attack by an alleged Trump supporter at a Quebec mosque that killed six. Conway did not respond to the question. Rather, she retorted that Trump “believes his executive order is not just within his authority but also his duty and responsibility to do what he sees best.”

    Tapper then asked Conway about Trump’s claim of “the murder rate being at its highest level in 47 years,” a claim that is “not true,” which Tapper highlighted as part of “a larger campaign … to undermine the credibility of everybody in the news media, except for certain supportive outlets.” Conway responded with a complaint about her treatment in the media, saying, “I’m now being attacked by the media, including networks that are familiar to you, and I’m just going to keep soldiering on.” When Tapper again pressed her on the White House’s “war on people who are providing information,” she replied that “it has to go both ways,” and that some coverage “doesn't have a great deal of respect, I think, for the office of the president.”

    Kellyanne Conway’s embarrassing interview was filled with more examples of misleading spin, joining “alternative facts” and the nonexistent “Bowling Green Massacre” as the latest examples of lies and misinformation Trump’s “propaganda minister” exploits to “barrel right past the boundaries of truth.” Kellyanne Conway’s media appearances prove that CNN is right to be wary of her credibility issues. Other media outlets should take note.

  • How To Get Away With White Supremacy In Trump's White House

    Stephen Bannon: White Supremacist Or Just #1 Fan Of White Supremacists?

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Stephen Bannon

    With the appointment of former Breitbart chief Stephen Bannon as a permanent member of President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, white nationalist forces in America have achieved what Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson could only dream of: a revanchist, retrograde ethno-nationalist at the highest levels of the United States government.

    You might think this would be a major news story, but instead the focus has been more parochial, largely focused on the extremism of Breitbart.com under Bannon. And indeed, the website was extreme.

    But the driver of Breitbart is not its focus on or use of verboten topics or words. Breitbart is driven by the horde of white supremacists and misogynists who frequent the site. Don’t take my word for it. Take it from Stephen Bannon himself. In late December, Bannon told Breitbart radio, “The best thing we ever had was both the comments section at Breitbart and the callers, the great audience we’ve got here at SiriusXM, to call and share every day what their feelings were.” He reiterated the importance of the “intensity in the comments” later in the interview.

    There is no ambiguity about which commenters Brannon was referencing. He bragged to Mother Jones at the Republican National Convention in August that Breitbart was “the platform for the alt-right.” And the “alt-right” loves Bannon back. Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro said that “Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [editor Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers” (emphasis added). Beyond Yiannopoulos, Breitbart has also hired white nationalists as reporters. Shapiro said the “alt-right” is “shot through with racism and anti-Semitism” and explained the connection with Breitbart at length:

    I’d heard, of course, that the some (sic) of Breitbart’s comment sections had been occupied over previous months by a motley collection of white supremacists and anti-Semites (I generally never check the comments). I’d certainly felt their online wrath, accused by alt-righters of being an anti-Trump “cuck” — accusations that came with memes of gas chambers and “shekelmeister” cartoons that could have come directly from Der Stürmer. Such material flowed into my inbox and Twitter feed. That flow escalated dramatically after I declared that I would not support Trump, and it escalated again after I left Breitbart over its attempts to smear its own reporter, Michelle Fields, in order to shield then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski against charges that he’d yanked her by the arm at a campaign event.

    But it wasn’t until March 29 that Breitbart’s full embrace of the alt-right became clear. That’s the day the site featured Yiannopoulos’s lengthy piece glorifying the alt-right. Yiannopoulos had already given interviews in which he stated that “Jews run the banks” and “Jews run the media,” dismissing anti-Semitic memes as merely “mischievous, dissident, trolly.” He wrote, along with co-author Allum Bokhari, this insane sentence: “There are many things that separate the alternative right from old-school racist skinheads (to whom they are often idiotically compared), but one thing stands out above all else: intelligence.”

    And this is the cast of characters, and their enablers, to whom Trump has turned.

    White nationalists and white supremacists were overjoyed when Trump appointed Bannon as his chief strategist. Former KKK grand wizard David Duke told CNN, "You have an individual, Mr. Bannon, who's basically creating the ideological aspects of where we're going." Duke added on his radio show that Bannon had “been right on about a lot of the issues facing European Americans.” A neo-Nazi website described Bannon’s White House position as “pure awesomeness.” Richard Spencer, the Nazi who was punched during inauguration weekend, lauded Bannon’s ability to chart Trump’s “macro trajectory.” Andrew Breitbart himself reportedly called Bannon “the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement,” referring to the German filmmaker who made propaganda films for the Nazis.

    And yet the mainstream media is still insistent upon protecting Stephen Bannon’s reputation. NPR’s deferential interview with Breitbart editor Joel Pollak was a signal of what was to come. After House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) twice called Bannon a “white supremacist,” mainstream figures rushed to his defense.

    Speaking to MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren, The New York Times’ Nick Confessore literally scoffed at the idea of Bannon as a white supremacist:

    Scott Pelley on CBS Evening News described Bannon as “controversial” and said that CBS Evening News could not find “any quotes from Bannon himself advocating white supremacy.”

    Stephen Bannon spent years empowering white supremacists and publishing a white nationalist website, and his ex-wife even swore in court that “he said he doesn’t like Jews” and didn’t want his children to go to “school with Jews.” And yet, mainstream media give him a pass because he has enough sense to not say anything in public that explicitly reveals white supremacist views. This is narrowing the definition of white supremacy to just the cartoonish, David Duke version. Bannon’s longest description of his own worldview described an apocalyptic clash of civilizations, even invoking the siege of Vienna in 1529.

    From a perspective — this may be a little more militant than others. I think definitely you’re going to need an aspect that is [unintelligible]. I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam. And I realize there are other aspects that are not as militant and not as aggressive and that’s fine.

    If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places… It bequeathed to use the great institution that is the church of the West.

    Because it is a crisis, and it’s not going away. You don’t have to take my word for it. All you have to do is read the news every day, see what’s coming up, see what they’re putting on Twitter, what they’re putting on Facebook, see what’s on CNN, what’s on BBC. See what’s happening, and you will see we’re in a war of immense proportions. It’s very easy to play to our baser instincts, and we can’t do that. But our forefathers didn’t do it either. And they were able to stave this off, and they were able to defeat it, and they were able to bequeath to us a church and a civilization that really is the flower of mankind, so I think it’s incumbent on all of us to do what I call a gut check, to really think about what our role is in this battle that’s before us.

    The “alt-right” is counting on the media using only the cartoonish definition of white supremacy and white nationalism. Its adherents take advantage of the hesitancy of mainstream media and establishment figures to call out connections between Bannon and white supremacy. The “alt-right” is self-organizing and aims to protect the reputation of their allies.

    BuzzFeed gained access to secret chat rooms in France and documented Trump supporter’ efforts to manipulate the conversation to favor the “alt-right” by making far-right Marine Le Pen supporters appear to be the most reasonable political group. Trump supporters in America are undeniably using the same tactics.

    It’s more than fine if news outlets want to fact-check statements made about the chief strategist to the president of the United States. But it would be nice if they also gave a little more scrutiny to what, exactly, he is planning for America’s future.

  • The Muslim Ban Is A Religious Test Built On A False Premise

    Right-Wing Media Adopt Trump’s Absurd Claim That His Executive Order Is Not A Muslim Ban

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    After Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, his administration and right-wing media allies defended the action as “perfectly legal” and “not a Muslim ban.” Yet mainstream media figures and experts explained that the executive order’s exception for religious minorities renders it a de facto religious test. Trump and his advisers explicitly called for a Muslim ban during the last year of his campaign, and the administration’s claim that the order’s religious exception is necessitated by disproportionate persecution of Christians in the Middle East has been debunked.

  • Journalists: Don’t Let Trump Pretend He’s “Supportive” Of LGBTQ Rights

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Following a flurry of rumors that the Trump administration is planning to overturn Obama-era LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections for federal employees and contractors, the White House issued a statement saying the president will continue to enforce the Obama order. The press release made the claim that Trump “continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights,” but journalists shouldn’t be fooled. President Donald Trump has a proven record of supporting anti-LGBTQ laws and surrounding himself with anti-LGBTQ extremists -- and he could still issue a broad executive order undermining equal protections under the guise of “religious freedom.”

    On Monday, numerous outlets reported on rumors that the Trump administration was planning to issue an executive order overturning President Obama’s 2014 order protecting LGBTQ federal contractors from workplace discrimination. Monday evening, the White House issued a statement claiming that Trump would not overturn the Obama-era nondiscrimination protections (emphasis added):

    President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression. The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.

    But his own record on LGBTQ equality disproves the White House’s claim that Trump is “respectful and supportive” of LGBTQ rights. Trump has long publicly opposed marriage equality, and in early 2016 he said he would “strongly consider” appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn the court’s recent ruling in support of marriage equality. He has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act, “religious freedom” legislation that would codify a broad right to anti-LGBTQ discrimination and nullify the current federal protections for LGBTQ people Trump just pledged to protect. And he has repeatedly surrounded himself with anti-LGBTQ extremists -- both on the campaign trail and in the White House. These extremists include hate group leaders like Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who came to embrace Trump as a “teachable” candidate who Perkins could “shape.” 

    Yet despite Trump’s record, journalists have repeatedly fallen for his attempts to rebrand himself as LGBTQ-friendly. Throughout the 2016 campaign, multiple outlets ran with baseless claims that Trump is an advocate for the LGBTQ community:

    • NBC’s Hallie Jackson said in April that Trump "is considered one of the more LGBT-friendly Republican candidates";
    • in June, Politico fed into Donald Trump’s attempt to rebrand himself as an advocate for LGBT rights by describing his response to the Orlando mass shooting at a gay nightclub as a “welcoming tone toward LGBT Americans” and saying that “in Trump, pro-gay rights Republicans see a new hope”;
    • ABC’s Jonathan Karl called Trump the “most pro-gay rights” Republican presidential candidate ever; and
    • Fox’s Gregg Gutfeld falsely claimed that Trump supports marriage equality.

    Journalists covering Trump’s most recent attempt at rebranding himself as LGBTQ-friendly shouldn’t fall for the same old trick -- though at least one already did. The claim that Trump is “respectful and supportive” of LGBTQ rights just because he isn’t dismantling Obama’s executive order is just further evidence that the press should stop treating White House statements as fact. 

    Additionally, as The New York Times noted, leaving in place the Obama protections “does not preclude another executive order that would roll back gay rights in other areas.” And as Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in response to the White House statement, “LGBTQ refugees, immigrants, Muslims and women are scared today, and with good reason.” Journalists should be ready to call out hypocrisy in possible future anti-LGBTQ executive orders, especially “religious freedom”-type orders that could codify a broad right to discriminate against LGBTQ people.