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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ imminent departure, announced via tweet last week by President Donald Trump, will inspire few laments from the nation’s journalists. Inhabitants of Sanders’ office are supposed to balance their political service defending the president with their public service keeping the nation informed through the press. But Sanders has rejected the latter role, shamelessly spreading misinformation and lies while accusing journalists of doing the same, viciously belittling members of the press and stripping them of access as she effectively eliminated White House press briefings.

There’s no official word yet on who Sanders’ successor will be. The lists of possible picks circulating in the press include current administration officials, current Fox News personalities, and current and former administration officials who were previously Fox News personalities, underscoring the propaganda network’s unique role under the Trump presidency.

What seems likely is that Sanders’ replacement will either be as bad as she was or will have a remarkably short tenure in the position. Her dishonesty and antagonism toward the press may be personal character flaws. But under the Trump administration, they are also all-but-official job requirements for the post.

No politician’s record of honesty is entirely unmarred, putting their spokespersons in the difficult position of trying to spin their words to skeptical journalists. But Trump lies constantly, at a rate and scale far beyond that of a typical politician, and demands his aides show fidelity to him when he tells untruths. These shameless and brazen lies are a core function of the Trump presidency, a way for him to bind together his coalition by regularly spreading disinformation. Any press secretary will face constant questions about the president’s relentless falsehoods, and it is difficult to imagine them lasting in the job if they fail to provide Trump with a vigorous defense.

Anti-media invective has long been a staple of conservative commentary. But because Trump has sought to assert himself as the final arbiter of reality, he has needed to make delegitimizing the press a central plank of his political platform. His use of authoritarian language about the press has continued even as his supporters have threatened and enacted plots to murder journalists. This Saturday, for example, he accused The New York Times of committing a “virtual act of Treason” for publishing a story Trump claimed was “bad for our Country”; the next day, he claimed that both the Times and The Washington Post are “a disgrace to our Country, the Enemy of the People.” The next press secretary will be asked to reckon with Trump’s rhetoric and will likely not have the option of simply saying that he or she disagrees with the president.

Sanders’ replacement may offer some stylistic differences and could lack some of the sheer glee she seems to take in the worst aspects of her work. But her successor will be a liar and an antagonist of journalists. The position requires it.

Blake Neff

Twitter screenshot

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

On July 10, CNN's Oliver Darcy reported that Blake Neff, the top writer for Tucker Carlson's prime-time Fox News show, had been anonymously posting racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and other offensive content on an online forum for five years. Neff used racist and homophobic slurs, referred to women in a derogatory manner, and pushed white supremacist content while writing for Carlson's show. Neff resigned after CNN contacted him for comment.

As Darcy reported, in an interview with the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Neff claimed anything Carlson read during his show was initially drafted by him. Darcy also found instances where there was "some overlap between the forum and the show," as sometimes the "material Neff encountered on the forum found its way on to Carlson's show."

During a 2018 appearance on Fox's The Five to promote his book Ship of Fools, Carlson mentioned Neff by name, calling him a "wonderful writer." Carlson also included Neff in the acknowledgments of the book.


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Before joining Fox News, Neff worked at The Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet that Carlson co-founded. The outlet has published a number of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and bigots.


Carlson has a long history of promoting white supremacist content on his show. His show has featured many guests who have connections to white supremacy and far-right extremism. Carlson has regularly been praised by Neo-Nazis and various far-right extremist figures, and he's been a hero on many white supremacist podcasts. Users of the extremist online message boards 4chan and 8chan have repeatedly praised Carlson.

The manifesto released by the gunman who killed 20 people in El Paso, Texas, in 2019 was strewn with content that echoed talking points from Carlson's show. Days after the shooting, Carlson declared that calling white supremacy a serious issue is a "hoax" as it is "actually not a real problem in America."

Carlson has been hemorrhaging advertisers following his racist coverage of the Black Lives Matters movement and the recent protests against police brutality. Now that we know his top writer was using content from white supremacist online message boards for Carlson's show, it is more imperative than ever that advertisers distance their brands away from this toxicity.