The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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

Tag: one america news

AT&T Spent Over $57 Million To Finance Fascistic OAN Cable Network

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Reuters published the first part of a special report today, revealing AT&T's central role in the creation and continued survival of One America News Network.

According to court records reviewed by Reuters, OAN founder Robert Herring Sr. testified that AT&T "told us they wanted a conservative network. … When they said that, I jumped to it and built one." Records also indicate that according to an OAN accountant, "ninety percent of OAN's revenue came from a contract with AT&T-owned television platforms." According to an AT&T filing that cites Herring's numbers, AT&T has paid OAN "about $57 million" in fees, though an AT&T spokesperson claimed this number is inaccurate.

OAN and all of its lies would not exist, and could not survive, without AT&T's blessing.

Whatever the figure AT&T has paid to help keep OAN alive, the network has been using the airwaves to push toxic -- and often dangerous -- misinformation.

That includes a deadly TV campaign against COVID-19 vaccines, hateful anti-LGBTQ content, and a network-wide assault on elections meant to hype bogus claims of fraud and overturn the 2020 results. The election attacks include a reporter's nonprofit seeking to fund fraudulent election "audits" around the country, a demented obsession with the MyPillow CEO and his money, and a correspondent's call for mass executions of election officials. And that's to say nothing of the host who used a racial slur on air or another host's apparent wish to shoot unhoused people.

We now know that AT&T didn't just choose this; it asked for this. Herring delivered, and we are all worse off for it.

Outside of AT&T, OAN is actively trying to expand its reach by encouraging its audience to pressure both Comcast and Charter Spectrum to carry the network. Its website features a prominent call for readers to call both providers and tell them that "you want OAN added to your channel lineup."

From the first of two parts of the Reuters special report:

OAN founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr has testified that the inspiration to launch OAN in 2013 came from AT&T executives.
"They told us they wanted a conservative network," Herring said during a 2019 deposition seen by Reuters. "They only had one, which was Fox News, and they had seven others on the other [leftwing] side. When they said that, I jumped to it and built one."
Since then, AT&T has been a crucial source of funds flowing into OAN, providing tens of millions of dollars in revenue, court records show. Ninety percent of OAN's revenue came from a contract with AT&T-owned television platforms, including satellite broadcaster DirecTV, according to 2020 sworn testimony by an OAN accountant.
Herring has testified he was offered $250 million for OAN in 2019. Without the DirecTV deal, the accountant said under oath, the network's value "would be zero."

In a pivotal moment for the company, the Herrings say in court filings, depositions and sworn statements, unidentified AT&T executives told them there was an audience for another conservative news network. Herring seized the opportunity.
In his 2019 deposition in the labor suit unrelated to AT&T, the elder Herring said he created OAN for two reasons.
"To make money, number one," Robert Herring said. "But number two, is that AT&T told us … they wanted a conservative network."
The lawyer questioning Herring, Rodney Diggs, followed up.
"So," the lawyer said, "AT&T kind of dictated the kind of network that they wanted. Because there was an opportunity, you jumped at it?"
"Yes, sir," Herring replied.

Gaetz Falsely Claims He Is ‘Exonerated’ In Trafficking Case

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) seized on right-wing media reports on Wednesday to falsely suggest that he has been exonerated in a federal investigation into whether he engaged in sex trafficking of a minor. There is no indication that prosecutors have cleared him of anything.

Gaetz retweeted a One America News report titled "Rep. Matt Gaetz Exonerated, Fla. Developer Charged With Extortion." That story claimed, without any evidence, "Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has been exonerated and the Department of Justice's sex trafficking investigation has been shut down as the man who made the false allegations is now behind bars."

Gaetz also tweeted a Newsmax story about the indictment of a man in an alleged scheme to extort him with the comment "EXONERATED: Alford Indicted for Extortion Plot Against Matt Gaetz. 'It certainly shows that these claims about me were never true. They were used to try to bleed my family out of tens of millions of dollars.'"

But even the friendly Newsmax report he shared contradicts this claim: "The indictment does not clear Congressman Matt Gaetz, but it most certainly adds to his credibility. He told us there was an extortion scheme at play."

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida announced Tuesday that it has indicted Stephen Alford in a "scheme to defraud a victim out of $25 million" based on a dishonest claim that he "could deliver a Presidential Pardon for a family member of the victim."

The Justice Department did not respond to an inquiry for this story. But sources told the Washington Post that the referenced victim was Gaetz's father, former Florida state Sen. Don Gaetz, and that the pardon would have been for his son.

The Post reported that Alford and others involved in the alleged extortion scheme were unconnected to the ongoing sex-crimes investigation into Matt Gaetz; they merely knew about it before it was reported publicly.

On March 30, the New York Times first reported that Gaetz was facing a federal investigation into whether he had engaged in a sexual relationship with an underage girl and paid for her travel in a possible violation of sex trafficking laws.

A spokesperson for Gaetz did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story, but the Florida Republican has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, ABC News reported that Gaetz's former "wingman," former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, had provided federal investigators records of Venmo and Cash App transactions, photos, videos, and social media communications that could implicate Gaetz.

After pleading guilty in May to charges of sex trafficking of a child and five other federal offenses, none of which to date have named Gaetz, Greenberg said he would give "substantial assistance" to the Justice Department.

So far, House Republicans have stood by Gaetz and let him keep his committee posts — including on the House Judiciary Committee — during the investigation.

"Those are serious implications," Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News in March. "If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that was the case. But right now Matt Gaetz says it is not true, and we don't have any information. So let's get all the information."

The progressive research group American Bridge 21st Century posted audio on Monday of Gaetz at an August 27 New Hampshire campaign event in which he jokes about his response to a question from tourists about "weird sexual allegations" that he and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) have in common. Gaetz says he responded, "No, that was Jordan."

Jordan has been accused by former student wrestlers at the Ohio State University of ignoring sexual abuse by a team doctor during his tenure there as an assistant coach. Jordan has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Dominion Serves Newsmax, OAN, And Ex-Overstock CEO With Billion Dollar Lawsuits

Dominion Voting Systems dished out more billion dollar lawsuits on Tuesday-- filing defamation complaints against cable channels Newsmax and One America News (OAN), as well as former CEO of Overstock.com Patrick Byrne for allegedly lying about the company's role in the 2020 election.

"The defendants in today's filings recklessly disregarded the truth when they spread lies in November and continue to do so today," said Dominion CEO John Poulos. "We are filing these three cases today because the defendants named show no remorse, nor any sign they intend to stop spreading disinformation. This barrage of lies by the Defendants and others have caused—and continue to cause—severe damage to our company, customers, and employees. We have no choice but to seek to hold those responsible to account."

The Newsmax lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of Delaware, accused the channel of "creat[ing] an entire brand out of defaming."

In the OAN' lawsuit, filed in the District Court for the District of Columbia, Dominion charged that "facts did not matter" to the network. Instead, "what mattered was feeding the audience the alternate reality OAN had helped create and its audience now expected — even if it was spreading false information."

Byrne, a staunch Trump ally, "continues to stick to his manufactured, inherently improbable, profitable, and demonstrable lies," according to the complaint filed against him. Dominion legal counsel Stephen Shackelford added that Byrne "is responsible for bankrolling and promoting a viral disinformation campaign about Dominion that reached millions of people worldwide."

In response, Newsmax defended its coverage of the 2020 election.

"Newsmax simply reported on allegations made by well-known public figures, including the President, his advisors, and members of Congress -- Dominion's action today is a clear attempt to squelch such reporting and undermine a free press," a Newsmax spokesperson said in a statement.

But as ABC News notes, Newsmax has retracted some of its 2020 election reporting, much of which bolstered Trump's Big Lie, after the right-wing news channel reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought by a Dominion employee.

Byrne took a much more aggressive approach, saying through a spokesperson, "Between the imminent release of the Maricopa Audit, and Mike Lindell's current activities in South Dakota, Dominion Voting is about to have a very difficult week. They are simply doing this as a distraction."

OAN has yet to offer a public response to the Dominion lawsuit.

Since far-right Republicans made it their mission to spread baseless lies about the 2020 election, Dominion and other voting system companies have filed multiple defamation lawsuits against the biggest perpetrators.

Back in March, Fox News -- the largest conservative news channel --- was served a similar $1.6 billion lawsuit by Dominion. This followed a $2.7 billion Smartmatic USA defamation suit against the Murdoch outfit.

Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell have also felt Dominion's wrath in the wake of their deranged attempt to overturn the free and fair 2020 election.

"OAN, Newsmax, and Patrick Byrne have knowingly and continuously sold the false story of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, with Dominion cast as the villain, severely injuring Dominion in the process," said Shackelford, adding, "We are suing to set the record straight, to vindicate Dominion's rights, to hold the Defendants accountable, and to recover damages for the devastating economic harm done to Dominion's business."

While GOP Pushes Anti-Vax Message, McConnell Claims To Be ‘Perplexed’

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that he is "perplexed" by the ongoing unwillingness of some Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"We need to keep preaching that getting the vaccine is important," he told reporters. "Part of it is just convincing the American people of the importance of doing this."

While McConnell didn't say as much, that message is particularly important for members of his own party. Republicans and conservatives are much more likelythan others to tell pollsters that they have not and do not plan to take the vaccines, even amid a surge of new U.S. cases and with data showing hospitalizations and deaths almost entirely concentrated among unvaccinated populations.

What is driving this refusal by Republicans to get vaccinated? One factor is their party's success in inoculating them against something conservatives have long considered a major threat -- mainstream journalism.

Generations of GOP leaders urged their supporters to ignore the mainstream press and instead patronize and trust a parallel apparatus of right-wing propaganda outlets. This campaign encased the Republican base in an impermeable bubble of lies, paranoid demagoguery, and reflexive opposition to Democrats, creating a politically potent echo chamber that served the party well for years.

But now -- whether from hope of political gain, fear of losing market share, genuine stupidity, or some combination thereof -- that right-wing media apparatus is using the same tools to sabotage the coronavirus vaccination campaign for its own audience.

Fox News, the crown jewel of the right-wing effort to create a parallel media, has for months aired a steady drumbeat of segments undermining the vaccines.

Hours after McConnell spoke to reporters, Fox prime-time host Laura Ingraham devoted a segment to the superiority of "natural immunity" -- achieved by getting and recovering from the virus -- over vaccination. Earlier Tuesday evening, Lara Trump, former President Donald Trump's daughter-in-law and a Fox contributor, told Sean Hannity that the vaccination effort is part of a public health approach that has "been about control from day one." Tucker Carlson, the face of the network, offered a similar comment about the vaccine as "social control" on Monday.

Fox's right-wing cable TV competitors are, if anything, even less responsible.

Newsmax viewers have been subject to a broad network campaign to dissuade them from taking the vaccine; one of its hosts recently made news by claiming that vaccines go "against nature" because some diseases are "supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people."

And over on One America News, this week alone the audience has been told that the vaccines are "a threat to everyone that gets them" and that the mainstream media have ignored the "man-made disaster" of mounting "deaths from the coronavirus vaccines."

Those outlets have smaller audiences and are less influential than Fox, but their behavior creates a strong incentive for Fox to behave irresponsibly to retain its market dominance.

Republicans are getting the same message of skepticism about the vaccines and the vaccination campaign from other parts of the right-wing media apparatus, from digital outlets to talk radio to podcast shows to Sinclair Broadcast stations to the new generation of social media influencers. There are a handful of conservative media figures who try to push back against this tide, but they largely lack influence, having been marginalized within the movement for their insufficient Trump support.

McConnell wants more "preaching" to help get the Republican flock vaccinated. But the media figures who the GOP's strategy placed in the pulpit have lined up against the effort. It's going to get their audience members killed, and they don't seem to care.

Right-Wing Propaganda Outlets Intensify Schizoid Vaccine Scare

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The White House has been stepping up its community outreach efforts for the coronavirus vaccines, with President Joe Biden announcing an effort to get ahead of emerging variants in a speech on July 6. But at the same time as many public health experts say there should be even more stringent requirements for people to get vaccinated, right-wing media outlets are instead waging their own scare campaign against even the community outreach, continuing their shameful record of undermining the vaccination campaigns.

Polling data has shown that Republican voters are far less likely than Democrats to even want to get the vaccines, seriously contributing to the country having missed Biden's goal for 70 percent of adults to have been vaccinated by July 4. (Most of the states that fell short were won by former President Donald Trump in 2020, while the states that have surpassed the goal were all won by Biden.)

But conservative media figures have quickly seized on one particular line from Biden's speech on Tuesday, in which he appealed to people to get vaccinated as "a patriotic thing to do."

"Now we need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus," Biden said. "Look, equity, equality — it remains at the heart of our responsibility of ensuring that communities that are the hardest hit by the virus have the information and the access to get vaccinated."

Now, right-wing media is engaged in a dishonest and irresponsible spin operation, warning people that the government is coming to get them with the vaccine.

Saving Lives With Vaccine Is 'Worse Than The Iraq War'

Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson, who has led a propaganda campaign in concert with anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists and with Fox's full corporate support, fear-mongered about Biden's speech during his program on Tuesday night.

Following a segment in which he claimed the pandemic had been "overhyped "because most deaths occurred in the elderly — though this argument also disregarded other adverse effects associated with "long COVID" — Carlson warned anyone who might come knocking to promote the vaccine to "stay the hell out of my house, for real." Carlson then claimed that a door-to-door vaccine promotion campaign was a "much bigger" scandal than even the Iraq War.

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): So, because this disease -- the median age in Ohio of death is 80, your 15-year-old needs to have Joe Biden's health authority show up at your house with a needle. I mean, I don't — this is the — I think — I honestly think it's the greatest scandal in my lifetime by far. I thought the Iraq War was, it seems much bigger than that.

The idea that you would force people to take medicine they don't want or need, is there a precedent for that in our lifetimes?

BRIT HUME (FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST): Well, look to be fair, it seems to me that what they're doing is — what their argument would be, Tucker, that what they're trying to do is make it as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine and, for people who are hesitant, to perhaps encourage them that they have nothing to fear. However, you know, vaccines do have side effects.

This after all is not yet an FDA-approved medicine. This is operating under a temporary use — a temporary emergency-use authorization. Perhaps it will in the future be authorized, fully authorized by the FDA, fully approved. But it's not yet, and if people — it seems to me, if people are hesitant to take it, particularly if they're not in the vulnerable category, it seems to me that's not an unreasonable thing and should be respected.

So that's what I would have to say about that.

CARLSON: Yeah, not letting kids get education if they're not vaccinated. Pretty amazing.

Fox's far-right competitors were not to be outdone Tuesday night, either. One America News warned its viewers that "the Biden administration is threatening to send political operatives to the homes of people who refuse to take an experimental COVID vaccine." Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield declared, "Hey, Joe, how about no — and I'm the guy that steps out onto my porch and calmly asks you to get off my lawn," even as Stinchfield capped off a defense of people refusing the "vaccine Kool-Aid" being pushed by both government agencies and businesses.

Shouldn't We Give Trump Credit For The Vaccine?

During a Wednesday morning panel discussion, however, it was disgraced former MSNBC analyst and Newsmax contributor Mark Halperin who reminded other conservative commentators that they ought to be promoting the vaccines on behalf of former President Trump.

"I think this is the depth of partisan lunacy," Halperin told former Trump administration staffer Hogan Gidley, who had been denouncing the "government overreach" of the vaccination campaigns and defending people for not trusting the expert advice.

"With all due respect to Hogan — Hogan, who developed the vaccine?" asked Halperin. "Your former boss, President Trump doesn't get nearly enough credit for what he did to unshackle the administration and the regulation and allowed these private-sector companies to go forward. The vaccines are, by historical standards, effective and safe, and everybody should get them. If people don't want to get them, it's their choice, but everybody should get them."

People "Up In Arms" — According To Fox & Friends

Meanwhile, the manufactured outrage continued on Fox & Friends, with co-host Ainsley Earhardt declaring: "People are up in arms about this, because we as Americans can make our own choices for our own families, for our own bodies. And when someone's knocking at your door with a vaccine — are they going to have the shot in their hand? Or are they going to encourage you to go, ask you questions like the Census Bureau does?"

Co-host Brian Kilmeade also warned of negative side effects from the vaccines.

"More and more people are saying — I'm not saying it's an epidemic and a problem — but no one addresses the fact that there are some people having negative reactions," Kilmeade said, discussing worries about vaccine requirements being imposed for sports at his own daughters' schools.

"How scary is that for you as a parent," Earhardt said, "because you're hearing all these kids that are having heart problems, inflammation."

Despite what Kilmeade and Earhardt said, media outlets and experts are indeed addressing these questions: The New York Times reported in late June that researchers had "estimated that out of a million second doses given to boys ages 12 to 17, the vaccines might cause a maximum of 70 myocarditis cases, but would prevent 5,700 infections, 215 hospitalizations and two deaths."

In a later segment, Fox News medical correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel — who had previously downplayed the pandemic and publicly supported various missteps by Trump — attempted to play a political game of gotcha: "I don't think we have to allow Biden on our door with a syringe yet and say here's a vaccine — after he doubted the vaccine to begin with." (Siegel appeared to be referring to statements Biden made during the 2020 campaign, saying he would trust scientists on the vaccine but not Trump's promises to have a vaccine distributed in time before the election.)

Knocking On Doors "Goes To The Core Of Our Country"

And during America's Newsroom on Wednesday, co-anchor Dana Perino spoke with Fox medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier, with the two actually talking about the importance of educating the public about vaccines — but Saphier argued that the appearance of compulsion and being "confrontational" about it would go against "the core of our country."

DANA PERINO (CO-ANCHOR): I also noted today, in The Washington Post it said in Maryland, 100 people died of COVID in June in Maryland — and 100% of them were unvaccinated. And that was one of the things that the president was trying to say yesterday, I suppose.

DR. NICOLE SAPHIER (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well, and that's not just Maryland, that's many states across the country, and other countries are seeing that as well. Yes, the deaths that are still occurring from SARS-Cov2 tend to be those that are unvaccinated. So, the best way to protect people is to get vaccinated.

But again, this is a freedom of choice, and that is what is very important. It goes to the core of our country. When you turn on other media outlets, you actually hear people calling for requiring them -- and mandates. And if — you can't declare independence and the freedom to choose vaccination and then require them as well and say we're going to be sending government officials. These are conversations that need to be had between physicians and patients and not by low-level grassroots people knocking on doors.

Mollie Hemingway: Just Stop Trying — And Declare It A "Win"

Co-anchor Bill Hemmer spoke later in the program with Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, who has spent much of the pandemic era undermining public efforts around mask-wearing and previously denounced Biden's July 4 goal as "just so un-American." So it might seem odd that Hemingway was brought on by a purported "news side" program to discuss the matter at all.

This time around, Hemingway's advice was for Biden to essentially "take the win" by moving his own goalposts.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): More importantly, vaccine — vaccination rates among the vulnerable populations, older people and people with comorbidities, is really high. And so, President Biden needs to just take the win. I know he missed his own personal goal for vaccination rates, but we've done a good job, and he should accept that and keep going forward.

BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): We can still get there, probably get there pretty soon actually.

Of course, the strategy of simply trying to do nothing and declare victory goes back a long way during the pandemic — and it kept failing.

Fox's "Straight News" And Opinion Hosts Push Same Scare Campaign

On Wednesday's edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, guest anchor Trace Gallagher opened a segment by likening "door-to-door vaccine pushers" to door-to-door salesmen. Gallagher then ended a discussion with Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Will Cain by quoting an old line from Ronald Reagan about being afraid of the government — sounding remarkably similar to a tweet sent by a right-wing U.S. representative about an hour-and-a-half earlier.

TRACE GALLAGHER (FOX NEWS ANCHOR): Yup. Ronald Reagan once said, "The government's at your door saying, 'We're here to help.' And that's when —

(CROSSTALK)

WILL CAIN (CO-HOST, Fox & Friends Weekend): The scariest thing you could hear. Right?

GALLAGHER: Right.

CAIN: That's right.

Things only got worse that night. In a segment titled "Power Grabs & Needle Jabs," Laura Ingraham connected the vaccination campaign to the conspiracy theory of "global resetters" purportedly involved in COVID-19 public health protocols, and praised Americans for "wising up" by refusing the vaccines. (The monologue also featured a cartoonish visual of Biden holding a needle to a crying baby. Just to be clear, the COVID-19 vaccines have thus far been recommended for children ages 12 and up, not for infants.)

LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Every day, the barbarity of the left's COVID lockdowns and school closures becomes more apparent. The great global resetters, who love seeing us shut in and shut up, who were fine with seeing our economy destroyed, and even turning kids into screen zombies. The political forces that exploited health fears, the medical officials who became stars by helping them, and the media that covered for them all. All of them should be held accountable.

Now, it took a while, but Americans are wising up to this charade. Yet, despite everything the experts either got wrong or lied about, they still think that parents should trust them and inject their kids with an experimental drug to prevent a disease almost none of those kids will ever get sick from.



Going door-to-door? This is creepy stuff. You know, someone comes up to your door, outside wearing a mask, showing up at your house, claiming to work for the government, asking you personal medical questions. What could possibly go wrong there?

By the way, are these government vaccine ambassadors going to ask people about their vaccine status? What sort of notes will they take on each door-to-door encounter? And what will be done with those notes? How will this information be used? These are all important questions that bear directly on matters of personal medical privacy.

And on Fox & Friends, Kilmeade warned again: "They're going to be knocking on your doors, I guess with a cotton ball and a needle, and they're going to look to put a needle into your deltoid — stop asking questions."

Kilmeade then responded to a video of Dr. Anthony Fauci the night before on MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes, urging people to "get over this political statement" of not taking the vaccine, and instead to "try and save the lives of yourself and your family."

Kilmeade then got nearly to the same point that Halperin did the day before: "How about saying, 'I just have to underline the fact that this vaccine was driven by the Trump administration, and conducted by and pushed forward by Operation Warp Speed. It was put together by the previous administration, and implemented by this one.' As much as they want you vaccinated, they are determined not to let you know who came up with it."

In response, though, Earhardt continued to warn of harmful side effects from the vaccines, and then Hegseth cued up a video clip from Ingraham's show the night before, in which a guest claimed that "no one under age of 30" should get the vaccines.

So it appears that right-wing media have arrived at a new resolution of competing ideas: The vaccines are one of the great accomplishments of the Trump administration, for which Trump is being denied his personal credit — and they are also very dangerous, and people shouldn't take them.