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Why Does DirecTV Subsidize Racist Far-Right OAN Network?

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

With research contributions from Madeline Peltz and Justin Horowitz

After the police killing of George Floyd, both DirecTV and its parent company, AT&T, made statements across social media claiming to support racial justice, including "advancing equal justice reforms" for Black Americans and promising to "continue to learn and listen" to their experiences with racism. DirecTV even promoted racial justice programming titled after some of Floyd's final words, "I can't breathe," to promote "discussion on systemic racism in our society." But these messages are a stark contrast to the racist lies spread on right-wing cable outlet One America News -- programming that DirecTV and AT&T financially support.

Like most pay-TV contracts, DirecTV pays OAN subscription fees, also known as carriage fees, in exchange for the conservative network being available to DirecTV customers, whose subscription costs pay for OAN. The network reportedly relies on these subscriber fees -- not ad revenue, which at Fox has proven vulnerable to controversy -- as its primary funding source. DirecTV is also OAN's largest distributor, making the service a vital lifeline for the up-and-coming network with an "almost pre-web" online presence and only a fraction of the audience of Fox News.

OAN claims its distribution reaches 35 million viewers compared to Fox News' 84 million, though a spring 2019 Nielsen attempt to quantify OAN ratings (since the network does not subscribe to Nielsen) with data from some large metro areas found an average of 14,000 nightly viewers, compared to Fox's 631,000. With OAN's reported 13.6 million DirecTV subscribers, at a rate of 15 cents per subscriber per month, OAN would cost DirecTV $24,480,000 every year.

OAN's three-year contract with DirecTV is reportedly set to expire in early 2021 -- possibly April 5, the anniversary of its DirecTV debut. OAN President Charles Herring has denied that the deal ends in early 2021, but neither party has provided any details. Herring told Bloomberg, "We are very pleased that AT&T seems to want to offer programming for everybody and not just people with one viewpoint." But in the case of OAN's programming, AT&T is supporting an alternative viewpoint based on racist falsehoods.

While AT&T shares statements about standing "unapologetically for equality and justice, and firmly against systemic racism," and "challenging everyone" to do the same, OAN is committed to blaming George Floyd for his own death, spreading the lie that he died of a fentanyl overdose even after two autopsies confirmed that Floyd's cause of death was homicide. Minor differences between the two reports still fuel reckless, racist speculation that "a lethal dose of fentanyl" actually killed Floyd, despite scientific evidence proving his death was caused by another human being. But OAN's business model relies on fueling our national divisions with far-right falsehoods to expand its audience.


OAN's devotion to racist lies like smearing Floyd's name, its falsehood-based hysterics against needed police reform, and its promotion of conspiracy theories to defend police brutality undermine AT&T's "moral and business obligation to engage on this fundamental issue of equality" and DirecTV's "advocacy toward equality and inclusivity" -- and yet, both AT&T and DirecTV pay for it.

Nobody is arguing that TV channels should support the views of their corporate distributors. Nobody is arguing that everyone should have to support any particular social movement or legislation. And TV services affiliated with AT&T still offer Fox News, which is its own malevolent political force. But OAN is something different -- diving farther into the fever swamps than even Fox News is willing to go.

OAN has tried everything to deliver enough bigotry, lies, and conspiracy theories to satisfy a right-wing audience expecting such content, and not just by spreading racist falsehoods surrounding Floyd's death.

  • OAN once falsely reported that "a globalist conspiracy" involving Bill Gates, George Soros, and Dr. Anthony Fauci sought "sweeping population control" by suppressing hydroxychloroquine treatment for COVID-19 patients, with help from "the deep state Democratic cabal."
  • One of OAN's stars -- the network's White House correspondent during the Trump administration -- reported that the coronavirus was developed in a North Carolina lab.
  • And the network's newest host used the first episode of her show on March 22 to promote the lie that Trump actually won the 2020 election until it was "stolen" from him.

This final lie directly led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, which was internationally condemned, including by AT&T. CEO John Stankey said the "perpetuation of [this] fiction" by elected officials was "not only reprehensible, but also a danger to our democracy, our society, and our economy." But what about the fictions spread by his company's cable partners?

AT&T and DirecTV both profess to stand for racial equality and hope that we can move past bitter divisions to better understand one another. As a business, OAN promotes the exact opposite. One has to ask: Which model do AT&T and DirecTV really believe in?

OAN exists to poison politics and society for profit, but the fledgling network is still searching for a big break. Without DirecTV distribution, OAN would seem to lose about 64% of its potential audience for its brand of desperate, corrosive misinformation. If AT&T dropped OAN altogether, that figure rises to 81 percent.

By the company's own logic, there is simply no reason for AT&T and DirecTV to fund an operation like OAN to the tune of tens of millions of dollars per year. It's time for that to end.

Unfazed By Her Infamous Lying, Fox Hires Kayleigh McEnany

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

On March 2, Fox News announced on air that former White House press secretary and former Trump 2020 senior adviser Kayleigh McEnany has joined "the Fox family." McEnany's new employment was initially reported in late January, shortly after the January 6 insurrection, though at the time Fox denied the report, and her offer was reportedly "put on pause." McEnany was a regular fixture on Fox News even when she worked at the White House - appearing on the network at least 326 times since August 2017.

Fox News Channel has long been part of a revolving door for GOP politics. Given Fox's devotion to former President Donald Trump's agenda and its flailing attempts to win back viewers from rival right-wing TV channels, McEnany is a natural fit for a network that specializes in partisan lies and misdirection. And for a Trumpist liar as prolific as McEnany, there may not be many options for her beyond Fox.

At her first briefing as press secretary, McEnany promised not to lie to the media, then told multiple lies before that 15-minute session even ended. Much like her fellow Trump lackeys, McEnany "lies the way that most people breathe," including in absurdly shameless moments like when she defended Trump's indefensible lie that COVID-9 affects "virtually nobody," or when she lied that Trump never downplayed the pandemic, despite a public tape of Trump doing exactly that at length. On virtually any topic, there are examples of McEnany bending, avoiding, or outright subverting the truth in absolute service to Trump -- exactly the outlook that is foundational to Fox News.

Perhaps the worst lie McEnany told was one that was also promoted all over Fox News: that the 2020 election may have been stolen from Trump, which ultimately led to a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. McEnany, appearing in one or two of her roles (sometimes it got confusing), pushed that lie in numerous Fox appearances after Trump lost the 2020 election, appearing on Hannity 20 times during that period. As a sign of McEnany's priorities, she gave only three press briefings (which were also full of lies) in her official White House capacity during the same time period.

Threatened by competition from both mainstream and even more conservative channels and breaking promises to its remaining advertisers, Fox News is doubling down on the malicious lies of Trumpism in hiring McEnany, including the voter fraud lie that led to an attack on Congress, five deaths, more than 280 arrests, and a second Trump impeachment. With the former president deplatformed and potentially facing legal jeopardy, it seems that those remaining stuck in the Fox-Trump revolving door will do whatever they can to hold on to ratings and influence.

Dangerous Anti-Vaccination Protest Promoted By QAnon

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

On January 30, the Los Angeles Times reported that "members of anti-vaccine and far-right groups" caused a COVID-19 mass vaccination site in LA's Dodger Stadium to temporarily shut down. Although the disruption "ultimately did little to inhibit vaccine distribution" and there was no violence reported, media should more proactively describe these actions as not mere "protests," but as expressions of a dangerous and increasingly interconnected world of conspiracy theories.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the group didn't prevent anyone from making their appointment, though some people had to wait for an extra hour. Los Angeles County has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with an estimated 1 in 3 Angelenos contracting COVID-19 at some point.

The Los Angeles Times referred to "far-right groups" present at the vaccination site shutdown, but it didn't elaborate that some of those involved were reportedly supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory. QAnon has grown from an initial lie that Hillary Clinton's arrest was imminent (over Pizzagate, a different conspiracy theory) to an all-encompassing pro-Trump conspiracy theory that's been linked to or helped inspire multiple violent crimes, including the deadly January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. CNN Business reporter Donie O'Sullivan explained that there is "an overlap between QAnon, between election conspiracy theories, and between vaccine misinformation."

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Citation

The mainstreaming and intermingling of conspiracy theories during the pandemic has been a potent vehicle for radicalization, and the Dodger Stadium anti-vaccine "protest" was a (relatively docile) example of that radicalization at work. From the Los Angeles Times story:

A post on social media described the demonstration as the "Scamdemic Protest/March." It advised participants to "please refrain from wearing Trump/MAGA attire as we want our statement to resonate with the sheeple. No flags but informational signs only.
"This is a sharing information protest and march against everything COVID, Vaccine, PCR Tests, Lockdowns, Masks, Fauci, Gates, Newsom, China, digital tracking, etc."

Despite the importance of the extremism angle, most coverage of the Dodger Stadium vaccination disruption rendered the anti-vaxxers responsible for the shutdown as just "protesters." Though their activities met the definition of a "protest," media should be wary of comparing QAnon conspiracy theorists opposed to voluntary vaccinations during a deadly pandemic to ordinary political protesters based in this reality.

Los Angeles Times

A Los Angeles Times headline reading "Dodger Stadium's COVID-19 vaccination site temporarily shut down after protesters gather at entrance"

The Times also published a good headline about the "anti-vax 'mob'"

A Los Angeles Times headline reading "Anti-vax 'mob' that closed Dodger Stadium vaccination site sparks outrage"

CBS News

A CBS News headline reading "Anti-vaccination protests temporarily shut down Dodger Stadium mega vaccination site"

The Washington Post

A Washington Post online headline reading "Anti-vaccine protesters temporarily shut down major coronavirus vaccine site at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles"

Bloomberg

A Bloomberg online headline reading "Protesters Disrupt L.A.'s Dodger Stadium Vaccination Site"

NBC News

An NBC News headline reading "Anti-vaccine protest briefly shuts down Dodger Stadium vaccination site." A sub-headline reads "The fire department closed the entrance for about an hour as protesters attempted to enter the parking lot."

BBC

A BBC headline reading "Covid vaccination: Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium 'closed by protests'"

Trump Disputes Ominous Death Projections With Fox News Talking Points

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

In an interview with ABC anchor David Muir, President Donald Trump repeated Fox News talking points about coronavirus models. This was his first broadcast network television interview since he spoke to NBC's Chuck Todd in June 2019.

Fox News personalities have been using the wide array of COVID-19 models and projections to cast doubt on all modeling predicting the number of coronavirus-related cases and deaths. In response to rising projections of COVID-19 deaths in the country -- and seizing on confusion about the number of the models, what they mean, and which ones are used by whom -- Fox figures are downplaying the accuracy of models in general, calling them "a bit of a crapshoot," and dismissing their predictions since "we don't factor in human ingenuity."

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New Study Shows ’Significant Undercount’ Of Covid-19 Deaths Across US

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Federal data on excess U.S. deaths since the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic shows a sharper rise in deaths than confirmed COVID-19 fatalities alone account for, according to a Yale University analysis conducted for The Washington Post. Though the excess deaths -- "the number beyond what would normally be expected for that time of year" -- are "not necessarily attributable directly to covid-19," the Yale analysis suggests "the death toll from the pandemic is significantly higher than has been reported."

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How Trump's Media Pals Struggled With His ‘Bleach Injection’ Blather

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

During a coronavirus press conference, President Donald Trump suggested that injecting disinfectant into people could be a potential treatment for COVID-19. This is false; disinfectants are not meant to be consumed by humans in any way, and Trump arguably clarified later that he wasn't talking about a physical injection. The initial comment prompted outcry from medical experts and media figures, and the disinfectant brand Lysol issued a statement warning against internal use of its products. While some in right-wing media admitted that Trump said what he said, others mounted an uncoordinated campaign to make some sort of sense of the president's displayed ignorance.

At the briefing, Department of Homeland Security official Bill Bryan made several comments about research indicating that "heat and humidity suppress COVID-19" and "commonly available disinfectants work to kill the virus." Then, Trump took the stage and delivered the following comment:

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New Study: Watching Sean Hannity Is A Serious Health Hazard

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

On April 22, Vox reported on a working paper from the University of Chicago's Becker Friedman Institute for Economics which shows "statistical evidence" that areas with higher viewership of Fox News host Sean Hannity's program, relative to fellow prime-time host Tucker Carlson's show, correlated with "higher local rates of infection and death" due to COVID-19.

According to the article, the study authors "calculate that Fox viewers who watched Hannity rather than Carlson were less likely to adhere to social distancing rules, and that areas where more people watched Hannity relative to Carlson had higher local rates of infection and death."

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Right-Wing Media Intensify Attacks On Dr. Fauci

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the past 36 years, is a widely respected immunologist and major public face of the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19. Despite his credibility established over decades as a public health official, right-wing media have begun to launch attacks against “Dr. Doom Fauci,” blaming the medical expert for allegedly harming the economy and undermining President Donald Trump. The New York Times reported that Trump is “losing his patience” with Fauci.  

Despite lacking the platform of someone like Fox host Sean Hannity, fringe right-wing media figures and outlets — one of which formerly had a White House correspondent in the briefing room just to troll journalists — can still reach and influence the thinking of Trump, who is exposed to a wide range of ridiculous lies online.

Pro-Trump podcaster Bill Mitchell:

Pro-Trump blog The Gateway Pundit said the “Hillary Clinton fanboy … is heading down the path of those who show-up the boss in a time of crisis.” The blog also promoted two emails stolen by Wikileaks that showed Fauci “offered glowing praise” for Clinton.

The Gateway Pundit, 3/23/20

Newsmax TV’s John Cardillo:

Not all of these attacks are coming from outlets on the fringe, however — on Sunday night, Fox News host Steve Hilton aired a segment chastising Fauci as an out-of-touch elitist who has an “easy” time overreacting to coronavirus because “he’ll still have a job at the end of this, whatever happens.” Hilton’s argument was that “our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces” like Fauci “can afford an indefinite shutdown, working Americans can’t, they’ll be crushed by it.” Trump soon echoed Hilton’s main point that “the cure is worse than the disease.”

From the March 22, 2020, episode of Fox News’ The Next Revolution With Steve Hilton

STEVE HILTON (HOST AND FORMER ADVISER TO DAVID CAMERON): There’s a much better way to flatten the economic curve. Doctor Fauci says he’s fine overreacting.

(CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI (IMMUNOLOGIST AND HEAD OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES): I like it when people are thinking I’m overreacting because that means we’re doing it just right.

(CLIP ENDS)

HILTON: Well that’s easy for him to say. He’ll still have a job at the end of this, whatever happens. Our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces — whipping up fear over this virus. They can afford an indefinite shutdown, working Americans can’t, they’ll be crushed by it.

You know that famous phrase, ‘The cure is worse than the disease’? That is exactly the territory we are hurtling towards. You think it’s just the coronavirus that kills people? This total economic shutdown will kill people. A UK study calculated that 130,000 people died avoidably from austerity there between 2012 and 2017. The years of austerity for America to pay the cost of this shutdown will be worse. Adjusting to the size of our economy, it’s over a million deaths. But the family thrown out of their home, the mom gets sick, the kids are orphans — her death won’t be counted. The dad who’s been out of work for 30 years and finally got a job last month and now he’s back on the scrap heap and turning back to drink and drugs. His death won’t show up in a neat little box on cable news.

Poverty kills, despair kills. This shutdown is deadly. The president announced a 15-day plan to beat the virus. After that, let’s say right, We came together to slow the spread, now let’s come together to protect the vulnerable, get the ventilators, get the beds, get the equipment for our heroic nurses and doctors. Keep the ban on large gatherings but stopped the total shutdown for everyone and start the total protection of the elderly and those most likely to need hospitalization. Don’t turn a public health crisis into America’s worst catastrophe.

Indeed, the argument that “the cure is worse than the disease” sweeping right-wing media can be seen as an attack on Fauci’s conclusions.

Trump Impeachment Team Features Fox News Stars

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

On January 17, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Pamela Brown reported that attorneys Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, and Robert Ray are all expected to join President Donald Trump’s legal team for his impeachment trial in the United States Senate. The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reported that former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will also be joining the team. Combined, Starr, Dershowitz, Bondi, and Ray have made at least 365 weekday Fox News appearances since January 2019. 

Starr is a former independent counsel whose work led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. He also was president and chancellor of Baylor University until he was forced to leave the school following harsh criticism of his handling of sexual assaults. Starr has recently provided Fox with reliably pro-Trump analysis of the House hearings and debates around impeachment, accepting that Trump did seek an investigation into his political opponent but refusing to acknowledge wrongdoing because there wasn’t a “corrupt bargain.” Starr had previously said that Trump’s statement of “no quid pro quo” sufficiently “covered himself” from consequences, despite considerable evidence that there was a quid pro quo with Ukrainian security aid and the investigation Trump sought. Starr, who was a Fox News contributor until joining Trump’s legal team, has made at least 125 Fox News appearances since January 2019.

Dershowitz, a Harvard emeritus professor of law and reported sexual predator, has also given Fox News consistently pro-Trump commentary, arguing that impeachment is “unconstitutional” because even if Trump did put “electoral interests before the national interests,” it wouldn’t “even be close to being an impeachable offense.” Dershowitz is being sued by Jeffrey Epstein trafficking victim Virginia Giuffre, who reported Dershowitz for sexual assault. After months of appearing on Fox News without addressing the reports, Dershowitz protested that he had a “perfect, perfect sex life during the relevant period of time” and said that Giuffre is a “sleazy” person. Dershowitz has made at least 110 Fox News appearances since January 2019.

Bondi is the former attorney general of Florida who memorably chose not to sue Trump University in 2016 shortly after then-candidate Trump donated $25,000 to her reelection campaign. She has also provided Fox News with standard pro-Trump commentary, calling impeachment “a sham from the beginning” and attempting to discredit former special counsel Robert Mueller for being associated with “the same attorney who represented one of Clinton’s people.” She also lied that Mueller “found no collusion, no obstruction.” Bondi has made at least 60 appearances on Fox News since January 2019. 

Like Starr, Ray is a former Whitewater independent counsel and special prosecutor against President Clinton. Ray has argued that the Senate should dismiss the articles of impeachment against Trump out of hand because, as Fox host Laura Ingraham said, “There’s no crime here.” Ray has also been cited by Fox hosts to defend the Trump administration against both impeachment and the Mueller report. Ray also dismissed acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s admission of a quid pro quo with Ukraine on camera during a press briefing, because “a contentious press briefing is not the place” to have that discussion. Ray has made at least 70 Fox News appearances since January 2019. 

Grisham Spent Five Months Exclusively On Pro-Trump Media

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Since starting her job on July 1, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has given zero briefings and amassed a five-month-plus streak of appearing exclusively in pro-Trump media outlets like Fox News. It wasn’t until the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on December 18 that Grisham finally gave on-camera interviews to any mainstream media outlets.

Media Matters previously documented Grisham’s Fox-centered media strategy, which was noted by The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. Grisham told Wemple that she also went on One America News Network and Sinclair Broadcasting, two other pro-Trump media outlets. But once Trump made history on December 18 by becoming the third U.S. president to be impeached, Grisham finally caved and gave interviews to CBS This Morning and ABC’s Good Morning America the following day. 

Grisham told CBS This Morning that the Trump impeachment “is going to go down in history as one that was done on partisan political lines” and that Trump “continues to work while all this is going on,” unlike the Democrats. When anchor Gayle King pressed Grisham on the “false narrative” that impeachment is about Trump voters, the press secretary claimed, “It really is about the American people because they’re trying to take a president down ever since the 2016 election, and they’re trying to stop him from winning in 2020.”

Grisham similarly told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “this has been a very partisan impeachment and history’s just not going to look kindly on the Democrats” because “Americans don’t want to see impeachment.” Grisham even defended Trump’s suggestion that deceased Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) might be in hell, saying Trump is a “counterpuncher” and that “he was just riffing on some of the things that had been happening the past few days.” Grisham also confirmed that she is still not going to do any press briefings for the foreseeable future, unless “the president decides that a briefing is a good idea.” 

Here are the rest of the press secretary’s media appearances since November 1, when we last catalogued them:

After months almost entirely on Fox, Grisham mildly shook things up on November 1 with a two-part “exclusive” interview on One America News Network, the less-popular and less-impactful of the two pro-Trump cable news channels. In part one, the OAN reporter had no pushback on Grisham calling the media “truly fake news a lot of the time,” simply saying that “one of the narratives in the media” is that Trump shouldn’t take credit for killing the leader of ISIS. Grisham took the opportunity to brag about Trump’s fight against ISIS, which also turned into an attack on the press. Part two of the interview pivoted to discussion on impeachment, and Grisham yet again complained that “the way the Dems have set this up, we’re guilty and have to prove our innocence” and that the “transcript” of his call with the Ukrainian president clears Trump of any wrongdoing.

Rather than press Grisham on her obvious misdirection, the OAN reporter suggested that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should “just shut this down by holding a vote in a day” since Senate Republicans will likely vote to save Trump. 

On November 2, Grisham went on Jeanine Pirro’s Fox show to falsely attack House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) as an “admitted liar,” and falsely suggest that Democrats are pushing impeachment to deny Trump credit for the economy and attempt “a redo” of 2016 election.

Grisham returned to Fox on November 5, appearing on Lou Dobbs Tonight to once again falsely assert that Trump “did nothing wrong” and transcripts of diplomat Kurt Volker’s closed-door testimony were “actually … good for the president.” She also complained that “instead of funding our military or passing a budget or, you know, passing USMCA or doing all kinds of other things, this is what the Democrats have been doing.”

On November 7, Grisham appeared on “straight news” show The Story, where anchor Martha MacCallum asked her marginally more difficult questions than Fox opinion hosts ask. But Grisham still effortlessly parlayed them into her standard defense, saying that “the president did nothing wrong” and that media reports about criminality in the president’s orbit are “just more palace intrigue. It’s unfortunate that the media continues just try to find palace intrigue when there’s a lot of other things that they could be covering.”

The following morning, Grisham returned to Mornings with Maria Bartiromo to field friendly questions from the pro-Trump anchor on a small number of issues, including China tariffs. Most of Grisham’s appearance was once again focused on claiming the Democrats should support Trump’s policy initiatives because “the president did nothing wrong” and arguing that the impeachment inquiry is a “sham.”

Bartiromo agreed, later adding that Trump’s desired North American trade deal would create “175,000 jobs, … so you do make a good point in terms of people’s lives are on the line” with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement “up in the air.” The interview ended with Bartiromo and Grisham both complaining that first lady Melania Trump doesn’t get enough credit from “the liberal media.”

Grisham next appeared on Fox’s “media criticism” show, MediaBuzz, on November 10. Although host Howard Kurtz asked a few somewhat challenging questions, he allowed Grisham to respond with her usual spin without any pushback. Grisham even said it was “concerning” that the whistleblower “purports to want to help the country, but won’t talk to anybody but the Dems.” Ironically, Grisham appeared exclusively in pro-Trump media for over another month after making this comment. 

Grisham made her first appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight on November 13, where she criticized State Department employees for “actively working against a president, especially a president who’s doing so well for the country.” She also once again dishonestly claimed that the impeachment inquiry is happening because people unhappy about the 2016 election want to prevent Trump from winning in 2020.

Grisham joined Sean Hannity on his Fox show on November 15, yet again claiming that the impeachment inquiry is an attempt to reverse the 2016 election, that Trump “is being so transparent in this process because he did absolutely nothing wrong,” and that Democrats started saying “bribery” because “quid pro quo” did not poll well — all standard Fox narratives against impeachment. She also misleadingly compared Trump’s termination of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch to normal staff overturn between presidents, even though Trump dismissed Yovanovitch years into his presidency and seemingly for his personal gain, furthering his Ukraine scheme.

On November 16, Grisham went back on Justice with Judge Jeanine to defend Trump against accusations of witness intimidation by accusing Schiff of “intimidati[ng]” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and the media of “intimidati[ng]” counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway. Grisham hailed Trump’s witness intimidation as him shrewdly “going around the Dems, … and that’s what made them angry.” 

On November 20, Grisham made her third overall appearance as press secretary with Sinclair host Eric Bolling. Like in her Fox appearances, Grisham claimed that the impeachment inquiry “should be over” and that “someone who’s guilty of doing anything wrong wouldn’t have released a transcript.” Grisham also defended her conduct as press secretary, claiming that “a lot of the media are upset that maybe I’m not doing things the traditional way, talking to some of the networks they think I should be talking to. … I’m doing things a different way but I think that’s OK. The press are getting more than enough.” She also said she’s “going to start asking for a dollar” every time someone asks her when the press briefings are starting again. 

On November 22, Grisham made yet another appearance on Lou Dobbs Tonight to demand that Schiff testify about the intelligence community whistleblower. Grisham agreed with Dobbs that Trump has “the patience of Job” to put up with Schiff’s “parade of nonsense,” and she once again said that “to me, [the impeachment inquiry] should be over. I don’t understand how we’re continuing to talk about it.” Grisham ended her appearance with a petty attack on former national security adviser John Bolton’s mental acuity, suggesting he’s criticizing Trump now only to get speaking fees and book deals, and Dobbs agreed.

Grisham came back to Fox on December 5, appearing on Hannity to agree with the host’s absurd premise that media coverage of Melania Trump has “crossed lines we’ve never seen.” “That’s the tolerant left for you,” the press secretary replied, going on to falsely suggest that an impeachment witness attacked Trump’s teenage son and the media supported it. Hannity also tried to revive his feud with late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel, and Grisham offered to “join in” in Hannity’s next round of fighting with the co-host of the now-defunct The Man Show

Grisham appeared on Lou Dobbs Tonight again on December 6, to denounce impeachment as “a circus,” saying, “Maybe ‘circus’ is being generous.” She said that Trump had added 266,000 jobs in November, yet Democrats “clutch at anything they can to stop him from winning in 2020.” Grisham also bragged that “unemployment is down and the stock market is soaring” under Trump, yet Pelosi was still trying to impeach Trump over his Ukrainian scandal. Grisham and Dobbs also talked about unity in the Republican caucus and a rise in donations to the Republican Party. 

Grisham returned to MediaBuzz on December 8. Kurtz mostly asked Grisham softball questions about impeachment that teed up the press secretary’s rote Trump defense that “this is [Democrats] hating the president more than they love this country [and] doing everything they can to undo 2016, and now it’s very clear they’re fearing 2020.”

In another example, Kurtz asked her whether journalists are “taking sides on impeachment,” at which point Grisham accused journalists of “cheering for impeachment and reveling in it and enjoying it.” Grisham also once again complained there was “no due process” in the impeachment inquiry, even as she was claiming that the administration would not participate in a Senate trial which would allow the White House to defend itself. Kurtz and Grisham also covered the allegedly unfair media coverage of Melania Trump and an impeachment witness’s mention of Barron Trump’s name.

On December 10, Grisham talked to Fox anchor Harris Faulkner on Outnumbered Overtime to promote the Trump administration’s spin on the surveillance of former campaign adviser Carter Page. She suggested that U.S. Attorney John Durham’s report “will show more” alleged evidence of wrongdoing by former intelligence officials like former FBI Director James Comey. Grisham also speculated that the Democrats produced only two articles of impeachment because “perhaps Speaker Pelosi had to make a deal with her Dems” to build support for any articles. She also dismissed the two articles against Trump as “silly” and “the very lowest threshold you could have.”

Later that night, Grisham returned to Lou Dobbs Tonight, an emerging favorite of hers. Grisham and Dobbs did the same thing they do every time she’s on the show: accuse the Democrats of abusing their power, complain about an alleged lack of “due process,” and denounce impeachment as “absurd.” Grisham and Dobbs did discuss the House’s approval of Trump’s USMCA trade agreement, but Grisham complained about “the timing” of the vote alongside impeachment. Grisham also predicted that “a lot of people will be held accountable” in the FBI for their unfair investigation against Trump.

Grisham returned to arguably the president’s favorite show, Fox & Friends, on December 18, the morning of the impeachment vote. She told the hosts that “history is not going to look kindly on these Democrats” for impeaching Trump “for partisan political reasons.” Grisham also falsely claimed that Americans don’t care about impeachment because they “know that this president is working for them … [because] he is such a focused president.”

Fox News Distorts Justice Dept. Report On Trump Campaign Surveillance

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

After The Washington Post reported on November 21 that the Justice Department inspector general “found evidence that an FBI employee may have altered a document connected to” the FISA warrant on Trump 2016 campaign adviser Carter Page, some in right-wing media leapt at the chance to declare that their years of theories about illegal surveillance were about to be proven true.

However, both Fox’s “news” and “opinion” sides ignored that the lede of the article also said that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz “has concluded that the conduct did not affect the overall validity of the surveillance application.”

Representing the network’s so-called “news division,” Fox chief national correspondent Ed Henry said that “this may just be the beginning” of evidence of FISA abuse, suggesting that the report will uncover that the FBI was “concocting a case” against President Donald Trump. Henry also bragged that “the president was laughed at by people in the media and a lot of Democrats said that this was a conspiracy theory and everything else. Now it is coming home to roost that something stinks here.”

Also in the “news division,” anchor Maria Bartiromo hosted Page for an interview about how “this FBI lawyer falsified documents to get that FISA warrant which ended up [with] you being surveilled.” Page took the opportunity to claim that the government has falsified many documents and testimonies concerning him; he also attacked “the fake news and the Democrats” for suggesting that Page was involved with the Russian government’s attempt to contact the 2016 Trump campaign. Bartiromo complained that “the media was involved in helping one side actually drive the story of President Trump colluding with the Russians” and that Page was unfairly caught in “this collusion conversation based on no evidence,” and might even be the victim of “entrapment.” Both Page and Bartiromo speculated about “a continued cover-up to this very day” among the intelligence community, and “defamatory” media coverage of Page.

Fox opinion host Sean Hannity excitedly declared the previous night that the Post report “looks like a major preview of coming attractions,” referring to several of his pro-Trump conspiracy theories. Hannity defended his years of wild theorizing, claiming that “every bit of reporting we have done on this program has been fully vetted, accurate, and true. Premeditated fraud on a FISA court for the purpose of spying on a presidential candidate. Then his transition team. And, yeah, then a president. It’s that bad. And there’s going to be more.

Later, Hannity hosted Fox News contributor and former House oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz, who agreed that the application edit was leaked to get ahead of the “devastating” Horowitz report, which Hannity has “been talking about for a year-plus.” Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett also predicted “criminal referrals” from the Horowitz probe, covering “corrupt acts identified by FBI, CIA, State Department, and maybe the Department of Justice itself. So brace yourself, impact is coming.” Hannity added that Jarrett and Chaffetz were both “about to be vindicated in a major way.”



Right-Wing Media Attacked Obama On Iran Talks, But Stay Silent On Trump

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

On July 30, President Donald Trump said that he would be willing to meet with Iranian leadership with “no preconditions.” Right-wing outlets were largely silent about Trump’s remarks, but had harshly criticized former President Barack Obama for saying the same thing.

While running for president and during his presidency, Obama made clear that his vision for America’s foreign policy involved meeting with Iran. In 2009, Obama said that he was willing to talk to Iran “without preconditions” to reach a deal that would end the country’s nuclear weapon program. Obama again said in 2013 that he would sit down with Iranian leadership but only if the regime signaled that it was serious about giving up its nuclear weapons. In response, conservative media pundits branded the former president as “weak” and roundly disapproved of his supposed leniency toward Iran.

But now right-wing outlets are generally silent about Trump’s remarks. Notably, Fox host Sean Hannity, who was an outspoken critic of Obama’s plans to meet with Iran, has not mentioned Trump’s announcement, and many others have followed his lead.

Here’s how right-wing media reacted to Obama previously:

  • Hannity also griped repeatedly about the possibility of Obama meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani or Russian President Vladimir Putin while supposedly sidelining Republicans.
  • Trump’s current lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on Hannity in 2012: “I have a message to the President. Mr. President, they [Iran] don’t want to negotiate with you. They want to build an atomic weapon. Wake up!” (via Nexis)
  • Hannity stated in 2012 that Obama “said he would negotiate with Iran without preconditions. I can think of a few preconditions — recognizing Israel’s right to exist, stop threatening to annihilate them and wipe them off the map, recognizing the truth that the Holocaust occurred, and also stopping your nuclear weapons program.” (via Nexis)
  • Hannity also said in 2010, “Do you think we can negotiate with Hitler Jr., [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, without preconditions?” (via Nexis)
  • Hannity said in 2008: “Iran is a tiny country and not a serious threat. Those are Barack Obama’s words. He said would you meet in your first year with people like Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejad without preconditions? Yes, his answer was. He hasn’t been held accountable, really, for a lot of these statements.”
  • Advisor to President George W. Bush Karl Rove complained to Hannity in 2011 that it is “frankly inexplicable” that Obama would continue to meet with American enemies despite “having been in office now for two-and-a-half years.” (via Nexis)
  • Anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel stated on Hannity in 2013, “The only time in the Islamic world you come to the negotiating table is to negotiate the terms of your surrender! Right now, President Obama has delivered America to Iran as weak.” (via Nexis)
  • National Review’s William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn wrote, “Barack Obama’s position on negotiating with U.S. enemies betrays a profound misreading of history.” The authors added that if Obama were to meet with Iranian officials, “he will lower the prestige of the office of the president.”
  • Fox’s Steve Doocy hosted Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. who complained that Obama would rather negotiate with “a murderous anti-Semite,” referring to Rouhani, than with Republicans. Johnson also said, “Let’s be as eager to speak with the Republicans as we are to speak with the Iranians and malefactors in this world.”
  • Then-New York Post columnist Charles Hurt criticized Obama for “promis[ing] face time” to Ahmadinejad. According to Hurt, “We’d still be fighting the Japanese if Harry Truman – a Democrat unafraid to fight – subscribed to this fuzzy fringe foreign policy.”

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Laura Ingraham Retweeted A British Neo-Nazi

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham retweeted a video from a far-right British figure who is connected to David Duke.

On January 7, Ingraham quoted a tweet alleging to show “what third world immigration does to Europe,” which included a video of trash and people apparently living on a city street. Ingraham added above the tweet, “Can anyone verify if this is really a video of Paris?”

The person Ingraham retweeted, Mark Collett, is a former chairman of the youth division of the British National Party (BNP,) a far-right political organization in the United Kingdom. Collett was eventually dismissed from the BNP and arrested for death threats against his political rival, who was then the BNP’s leader. Collett has repeatedly collaborated with and received a book endorsement from former KKK leader and radio host David Duke. Collett once said that he admired Adolf Hitler, and has said that he considered AIDS a “friendly disease because blacks, drug users and gays have it.” He has also called asylum seekers “cockroaches” and accused Asian men of “go[ing] straight to the whites ‘cos they are trying to destroy us and they are the racists.” Collett also campaigned in support of Brexit with his girlfriend, who has multiple Nazi tattoos.

Several media figures called out Ingraham for the retweet, with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes asking if Ingraham was going to “share this one next,” quoting another Collett tweet with a video comparing refugees to racoons, and CNN’s Brian Stelter suggesting Ingraham focus on a story of rejoicing fans of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills “destroying everything in sight in Jacksonville.”

Ingraham’s retweeting of a neo-Nazi comes about two weeks after her primetime Fox News colleague, Tucker Carlson, approvingly tweeted an article from a white supremacist radio show that called the Holocaust “the biggest hoax of the 20th century.” Carlson “apologize[d]” for the tweet without acknowledging he linked to a white supremacist account.