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The Southern Poverty Law Center has obtained emails from 2015 and 2016 between White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller — at the time an adviser to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) — and then-Breitbart editor Katie McHugh. The emails show both Miller’s dedication to a number of prominent ideas in the white nationalist far-right circles and his determination to see them gain further exposure in the media.

Four years later, the ideas that Miller secretly mentioned in his emails are now being openly discussed on Fox News and saturate right-wing media.

Fox News hosts have avidly pushed the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, the idea that white people are being systematically “replaced” by non-white immigrants. Tucker Carlson, for example, has become Fox’s most prominent mouthpiece for white nationalism by decrying immigration and diversity for “radically and permanently changing our country.”

In one message to McHugh in September 2015, Miller praised a Carlson segment as “a good chance” to attack pro-immigration talking points.

For years, commentators on Fox News have praised Miller’s ideas for screening out and deporting refugees and asylum-seekers, and even potentially closing the U.S. southern border with Mexico entirely.

This racist rhetoric became a major story in August when a white nationalist gunman, citing talking points regularly aired on Fox Newsmurdered 22 people in El Paso, Texas. Media Matters had long identified Fox News as a nexus of white nationalist rhetoric in the Trump era; after the shooting, a major New York Times investigation found the same. Just look at how often Fox News talked about an immigrant “invasion”:

Despite deadly consequences, Fox News still pushes extreme nativism to generate ratings: Just last night, in a monologue denouncing European policies on immigration and refugees, Laura Ingraham said that the 2020 election in the United States would be about preserving “our history and our heritage.” And earlier this week, Carlson said that admitting more migrants will turn the United States into “a place you wouldn’t want to live.”

Miller praised Calvin Coolidge and immigration policies based in racism

The email messages show Miller’s great admiration of President Calvin Coolidge, who signed the restrictionist Immigration Act of 1924, which lasted as the basis of American immigration policy until major reforms in the 1960s. (Coolidge also held racist views that were inextricably tied to his immigration policy, declaring: “Quality of mind and body suggests that observance of ethnic law is as great a necessity to a nation as immigration law.”)

In April 2015, Miller joked about new additions to the immigration museum at Ellis Island: “Something tells me there is not a Calvin Coolidge exhibit.”

In an email from June 2015, Miller linked to an article about the Immigrant Heritage Month and wrote: “This would seem a good opportunity to remind people about the heritage established by Calvin Coolidge, which covers four decades of the 20th century.”

Coolidge’s immigration policy has also been championed at Fox. The network’s website published a column defending his immigration restrictions by professor and author Barry Strauss in November 2016, a couple of weeks after Trump was elected, declaring that Coolidge “was not a racist, at least not by the standards of the day.” And just this past July, Fox contributor Cal Thomas ran a syndicated column titled “The bold solution we may need to fix our broken immigration system,” praising Coolidge’s record for having immigration “reduced to a trickle.”

In an email thread in August 2015, another then-Sessions aide, Garrett Murch, wrote: “Mark Levin just said there should be no immigration for several years. Not just cut the number down from the current 1 million green cards per year. For assimilation purposes.”

Miller praised the idea from the right-wing talk show host and tied it back to the former president: “Like Coolidge did. Kellyanne Conway poll says that is exactly what most Americans want after 40 years of non-stop record arrivals.”

Levin now has his own weekend TV show on Fox News on which he talked about Democrats allegedly using immigration to take over the country politically: “For the left, it’s about power, politics, taking red border states, making them purple, and eventually blue. And you know what? They’re succeeding.”

Miller touted racist novel The Camp of the Saints

Another one of Miller’s fascinations detailed in the emails seems to be with a racist French novel, The Camp of the Saints, published in 1973. Telling the tale of a wave of non-white refugees who ultimately destroy French society, it has gained a wide far-right following. For his part, Miller urged Breitbart to get in a mention of the book in September 2015, writing, “You see the Pope saying west must, in effect, get rid of borders. Someone should point out the parallels to Camp of the Saints.” (Such an article was soon published, titled “‘Camp of the Saints’ Seen Mirrored in Pope’s Message.”)

Right-wing commentator Mark Steyn has repeatedly promoted The Camp of the Saints during his own appearances on Fox News, often as a guest or a substitute host for Carlson.

Miller shared content published by white nationalist websites

In his emails, Miller shared content from white nationalist sites VDare and American Renaissance, echoing the behavior of some Fox News hosts. Carlson’s comments on Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day this year, for instance, directly mirrored the language of American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor, a well-known white supremacist.

Taylor has praised Carlson’s show for attacking diversity. Carlson’s website The Daily Caller has published a number of white nationalists, at least one with links to Taylor.

Laura Ingraham also uses her cable show to promote Miller’s brand of anti-immigration extremism. Her August 2018 rant directly used rhetoric from Taylor and other white nationalists. Ingraham’s anti-immigrant rant in August 2018 also directly used rhetoric from Taylor and other white nationalists. A Fox News op-ed in 2018 linked to an American Renaissance article by Taylor which accused Democrats of subjecting “whites to outright racial plunder.” Another 2018 Fox News article cited a white supremacist whose book had been endorsed by Taylor.

There are also links between Fox News and white nationalist website VDare. VDare thanked Carlson after he defended far-right figures who had been kicked off social media platforms for violating their policies. Carlson’s The Daily Caller has also published VDare’s Peter Brimelow.

Breitbart and Facebook

And to bring this back to the start, a quick word on Breitbart’s own reach. It’s not really new that Breitbart is white nationalist — we already knew, for instance that the site even let neo-Nazis ghostwrite articles.

And the white nationalist rhetoric didn’t just jump from Breitbart to Fox News. It also jumped into Facebook as a whole, which is now deeply infested with white nationalist memes and talking pointsIt’s an entire self-contained ecosystem. (And it’s not just Facebook either.)

Instead of addressing this problem, Facebook’s news initiative teamed up with Breitbart as a trusted partner. Meanwhile, the site can’t go even a few days without grossly violating ethical standards, such as naming the whistleblower in the ongoing Trump impeachment inquiry.


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Rep. Bennie Thompson

Photo by Customs and Border Protection (Public domain)

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Friday afternoon announced the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has issued subpoenas to 14 Republicans from seven states who submitted the forged and "bogus" Electoral College certificates falsely claiming Donald Trump and not Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election in their states.

The Chairman appeared to suggest the existence of a conspiracy as well, noting the "the planning and coordination of efforts," saying "these so-called alternate electors met," and may know "who was behind that scheme."

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Chris Cuomo

News Literacy Week 2022, an annual awareness event started by the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to making everyone “smart, active consumers of news and information and equal and engaged participants in a democracy” has closed out. From January 24 to 28, classes, webinars, and Twitter chats taught students and adults how to root out misinformation when consuming news media.
There’s no downplaying the importance of understanding what is accurate in the media. These days, news literacy is a survival tactic. One study estimated that at least 800 people died because they embraced a COVID falsehood — and that inquiry was conducted in the earliest months of the pandemic. About 67 percent of the unvaccinated believe at least one COVID-19 myth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s not that accurate information isn’t available; people are rejecting reports of vaccine efficacy and safety because they distrust the news media. A third of Americans polled by Gallup said they have no trust at all in mass media; another 27 percent don’t have much at all.
Getting people to believe information presented to them depends more on trust than it does on the actual data being shared. That is, improving trust isn’t an issue of improving reporting. It’s an issue of improving relationships with one’s audience.
And that’s the real news problem right now; some celebrity anchors at cable news outlets are doing little to strengthen their relationships with their audiences and a lot to strengthen their relationships with government officials.
The most obvious example is how CNN terminated Prime Time anchor Chris Cuomo last month for his failure to disclose the entirety of his role in advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the sexual harassment accusation that unfolded in Albany, a scandal that eventually led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.
But there are others. Just this month, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol revealed that another anchor on another cable news network, Laura Ingraham of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last January, advising Meadows how Trump should react to reports of possible armed protests at state capitols around the country. This revelation followed the story that Sean Hannity, host of the eponymous news hour at Fox News, also texted Meadows with advice last year.
And while he didn't advise a government official, CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed information not available to the public when he texted embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett to tip him off about the Chicago Police Department’s wavering faith in his story about an assault. That’s from Smollett’s own sworn testimony.
When English philosopher Edmund Burke joked about the press being the Fourth Estate — in addition to the First, Second and Third (the clergy, nobility and commoners, respectively) — his point was that, despite their influence on each other, these “estates” — bastions of power — are supposed to be separate.
The Fourth Estate will always be an essential counterweight to government. But, since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, we’ve been so focused on stopping an executive branch from pressing the press to support an administration's agenda — either by belittling journalists or threatening to arrest them for doing their jobs — that we’ve ignored the ways that it affects and influences other Estates, and not necessarily through its reporting.
That is, we have news personalities-cum-reporters who are influencing government policy — and not telling us about it until it’s too late.
The United States has fostered an incredible closeness between the Second Estate — which in 2021 and 2022 would be political leaders — and the Fourth Estate. About a year ago, an Axios reporter had to be reassigned because she was dating one of President Biden’s press secretaries. Last year, James Bennet, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times and brother of Colorado Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Michael Bennet, had to recuse himself publicly from the Gray Lady’s endorsement process. In 2013, the Washington Post reported at least eight marriages between Obama officials and established journalists.
To be clear, there aren’t any accusations that anyone just mentioned engaged in anything other than ethical behavior. But I, for one, don’t believe that James and Michael Bennet didn’t discuss Michael’s campaign. I don’t think the Axios reporter and her West Wing-employed boyfriend — or any journalists and their federally employed spouses, for that matter — didn’t share facts that the public will never know. Such is the nature of family and intimacy.
And as long as those conversations don’t affect the coverage of any news events, there’s nothing specifically, technically wrong with them. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t damaging.
As these stories show, when we don’t know about these advisor roles, at least not until someone other than the journalist in question exposes them, it causes a further erosion of trust in news media.
What’s foolish about the Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon improprieties is that they don't necessarily need to be the problem they’ve become. Cuomo’s show contained opinion content like 46 percent of CNN’s programming. An active debate rages on as to whether Fox News is all opinion and whether or not it can rightly even be called opinion journalism since its shows are so studded with inaccuracies and lies.
What that means is that Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon are allowed to take a stand as opinion journalists; Cuomo and Lemon never really worked under a mandate of objectivity and Ingraham and Hannity likely wouldn’t honor it if they did. Indeed, a certain subjectivity — and explaining how it developed for the journalist — is part of an opinion journalist’s craft. To me, little of these consulting roles would be problematic if any of these anchors had just disclosed them and the ways they advised the people they cover.
But they didn’t. Instead, the advice they dispensed to government employees and celebrities was disclosed by a third party and news of it contributes to the public’s distrust in the media. While personal PR advisory connections between journalists and politicians haven’t been pinpointed as a source of distrust, they may have an effect. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research poll said they attributed what they deemed unfair coverage to a political agenda on the part of the news organization. No one has rigorously examined the ways in which individual journalists can swing institutional opinion so it may be part of the reason why consumers are suspicious of news.
Cleaning up ex post facto is both a violation of journalistic ethics and ineffective. Apologies and corrections after the fact don't always improve media trust. In other credibility contests, like courtroom battles, statements against one’s interests enhance a person’s believability. But that’s not necessarily true of news; a 2015 study found that corrections don’t automatically enhance a news outlet’s credibility.
It’s a new adage for the 21st century: It’s not the consulting; it’s the cover-up. Journalists need to disclose their connections to government officials — up front — to help maintain trust in news media. Lives depend on it.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.

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