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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.

 

Sunday Talk Shows Ignore Catastrophe In Puerto Rico

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

On September 20, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, and knocked out power to the entire island of 3.5 million people. Puerto Rican officials have described “apocalyptic” destruction, and a dam is in danger of bursting, threatening to flood already devastated areas. Officials fear power could be out for months. Despite the extensive destruction, on their first editions since the storm hit, the five major Sunday political talk shows dedicated less than one minute in total to covering the growing humanitarian emergency.

Even though Maria first made landfall in Puerto Rico several days ago, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday all failed to mention the extensive destruction and the millions of American citizens without power or shelter. CNN and NBC’s Sunday political talk shows both mentioned the story but spent minimal time covering the devastation. On CNN’s State of the Union, Our Revolution President Nina Turner implored President Donald Trump to “use his energy to fight for our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico who have no power,” and on NBC’s Meet the Press, moderator Chuck Todd closed the program by telling its viewers how they could “help your fellow Americans in Puerto Rico” and displaying contact information for four highly-rated charities assisting recovery efforts.

Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and contributing writer for Grist, demonstrated the importance of reporting on the devastation in Puerto Rico in a September 22 article, which noted that Hurricane Maria’s “rains fell at a rate exceeding that of Hurricane Harvey in Texas with wind speeds exceeding that of Hurricane Irma in Florida.” Holthaus also reported that “90 percent of homes and businesses have suffered ‘complete’ damage,” comparing the “$30 billion” in estimated destruction in Puerto Rico to “a $500-billion disaster in New York City or a $700-billion disaster in California.” Holthaus warned that “if the aid response is not swift, the situation in Puerto Rico has all the makings of a major humanitarian crisis”:

The rain and winds may be over, but Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico is only just beginning.

The storm’s rains fell at a rate exceeding that of Hurricane Harvey in Texas with wind speeds exceeding that of Hurricane Irma in Florida. In the span of 24 hours, Maria knocked out Puerto Rico’s entire power grid, 95 percent of cellphone towers, the bulk of the island’s water infrastructure, as well as roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, and seaports.

Officials warn it may take up to six months to fully restore power. In some communities, 90 percent of homes and businesses have suffered “complete” damage. To make matters worse, more than 40 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents live below the poverty line, making the uphill climb to recovery even more steep.

All indications are that Hurricane Maria has inflicted one of the most extreme and catastrophic weather events in American history. If the aid response is not swift, the situation in Puerto Rico has all the makings of a major humanitarian crisis.

[…]

Initial estimates of damage to the island exceed $30 billion. That’s roughly one-third of Puerto Rico’s annual economic output — making Maria the rough equivalent of a $500-billion disaster in New York City or a $700-billion disaster in California. With the Puerto Rican government already saddled with more than $70 billion in debt, help is going to have to come from outside the island.

Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “Puerto Rico,” “Hurricane,” and “Maria” on the September 24 editions of CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday.

 

Far Right Falsely Claims Manafort Wiretap Vindicates Trump

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Right-wing and fringe media are claiming yet again that President Donald Trump was correct when he accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping in Trump Tower, now arguing that a legal wiretap targeted at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is proof of Trump’s claim. However, said wiretap was pursuant to a warrant and targeted at Manafort, not Trump. This is at least the fifth time in six months right-wing media has attempted to validate Trump’s lie.

 

CNN: “US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election.” The Obama administration “wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders” initially as part of a 2014 investigation into “work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party,” CNN reported on September 18. Though the surveillance was discontinued “at some point” in 2016, according to the report, the FBI restarted it “after obtaining a new FISA warrant” as part of its investigation into potential ties between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government:

US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.

The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.

Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is leading the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election, has been provided details of these communications.

A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party, the sources told CNN.

The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.

The FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year.

Sources say the second warrant was part of the FBI’s efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. Such warrants require the approval of top Justice Department and FBI officials, and the FBI must provide the court with information showing suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power. [CNN, 9/18/17]

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Fox’s Tucker Carlson: Report suggests “he was wiretapped by the Obama people in Trump Tower may have been true all along. … That’s an actual subversion of democracy.” Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson reported on Tucker Carlson Tonight that the CNN report, “if accurate,” shows that Trump’s wiretap claim “may have been true all along” and Obama’s action represents “an actual subversion of democracy.” From the September 18 edition of the show:

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Got an unexpected Fox News alert tonight. There’s a new report that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was wiretapped by the Barack Obama administration both before and after the 2016 election. The wiretap required a warrant that needed approval from top Justice Department officials in the Obama administration. The report’s from CNN and, if it’s accurate, it suggests that the president’s claim that he was wiretapped by the Obama people in Trump Tower may have been true all along and may have been occurring for much of the 2016 election. If that’s true, that’s a huge and shocking story, and that’s an actual subversion of democracy. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 9/18/17]

Fox’s Ed Henry: Trump may have been “correct about his claim that Trump Tower was wiretapped and this was a witch hunt.” On Fox News’ The Five, chief national correspondent Ed Henry mentioned that Manafort, the wiretap subject, “also owned a home in, yes, Trump Tower” to suggest that Manafort being surveilled by the Obama administration may mean Trump was correct to complain about a “witch hunt” against him. From the September 18 edition of the show:

ED HENRY: So, tonight, the plot thickens, not just on whether Manafort and others in the Trump orbit will face indictment, but the plot thickens on whether the president was correct about his claim that Trump Tower was wiretapped and this was a witch hunt. The president’s critics laugh that off, but remember, we’ve been told Manafort also owned a home, yes, in Trump Tower, and CNN is reporting that Manafort was wiretapped during a time period where he was still in phone contact with President Trump. [Fox News, The Five9/18/17]

Breitbart: “Trump Vindicated: Report Says Obama Government Wiretapped Trump Campaign.”Breitbart.com reported on the Manafort wiretap with the exculpatory, even celebratory, headlines “Trump Vindicated: Report Says Obama Government Wiretapped Trump Campaign” and “CNN Admits Trump Campaign Was Wiretapped: Breitbart News and Mark Levin Right, Mainstream Media Wrong.” [Breitbart, 9/18/179/18/17]

Mark Levin shares Breitbart piece, noting, “Shameless media.”

Frequent Fox guest Dan Bongino: “Was Trump right the entire time about the wiretaps?” Former Secret Service agent and regular Fox News guest Dan Bongino rhetorically asked in a Facebook post if the CNN report meant that “Trump [was] right the entire time about the wiretaps” accusation that he had leveled against former President Barack Obama.

[Facebook, 9/18/17]

Discredited conservative author Dinesh D’Souza: “So Obama WAS wiretapping @realDonaldTrump after all–once again Trump is right & the media hyenas prove to be wrong.”

Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton: “Obama gang stole 2012 election by abusing IRS.And tried to steal the 2016 elections by wiretapping @realDonaldTrump?”

Far-right troll Jack Posobiec: “The Night The Media Was Exposed – Trump Was Right About Wiretap.”

Conspiracy theorist and internet troll Mike Cernovich: “Wait I thought it was fake news when @realDonaldTrump said he was wire tapped?”

Far-right vlogger Stefan Molyneux: “Life comes at you fast!” 

Radio host Bill Mitchell: “TRUMP RIGHT…AGAIN! NEVER GETS OLD.”

Fake news purveyor World Politicus: “Trump was right the whole time.” World Politicus, a fake news purveyor, wrote about the CNN report under the headline “Breaking: Obama Administration Wiretapped Trump Campaign.” The September 19 article declared that “Trump was right the whole time, and Obama won’t like the latest revelations” about “his little spy game”:

Obama’s administration wiretapped Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. President Donald Trump was right the whole time, and Obama won’t like the latest revelations.

President Donald Trump has long warned about the treatment he received during the presidential campaign. The ‘treatment’ involved wiretapping and stuff. So, Obama played his little spy game, and nobody ever said anything about that. [World Politicus, 9/19/17; PolitiFact, 7/11/17]

Fake news purveyor Freedom Daily: “Thank God the truth is coming out, and, as usual, Trump was right.” Fake news purveyor Freedom Daily similarly wrote on September 18 that the CNN report showed that, “as usual, Trump was right” in his accusation that “Obama had tapped his ‘wires’ during the election campaign.” The article added, “The deep state & leftwing media are out to destroy Trump & they will do anything to succeed”:

We all remember back when President Trump shocked the political world when he Tweeted out that former President Obama had tapped his “wires” during the election campaign. Democrats at the time were screaming at the top of their lungs that Trump won the election because he “colluded” with Russia and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

The world was stunned at the notion a sitting U.S. president would tap the phones of a candidate from the opposing party running for the top office of the land.

Almost immediately, leftwing media that had supported Hillary during the election fired up their smear machine and began saying that Trump was lying.

[…]

Well now, CNN’s tune has changed after secret documents just released reveal that Obama’s FBI did, in fact, tap former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s communications. The FBI was listening in before the election, and after Trump had taken office when he was known to speak to Manafort via phone even though he wasn’t part of the administration.

[…]

The deep state & leftwing media are out to destroy Trump & they will do anything to succeed. Thank God the truth is coming out, and, as usual, Trump was right. [Freedom Daily, 9/18/17Media Matters12/14/16]

Reddit’s “r/The_Donald”: “Oh you mean Trump was right again? Shocking.” Members of the pro-Trump subreddit “r/The_Donald” predictably reacted to the CNN report as proof that “Trump was right again.”

[Reddit, accessed 9/19/17]

The legally authorized warrant targeted Manafort, not Trump

Wash. Post: “Trump’s tweet again seems to claim more than CNN is reporting.” The Washington Postreported that Trump’s allegations of being wiretapped by the Obama administration remain unsubstantiated, even after CNN’s Manafort report. The Post reported that since Manafort had a residence in Trump Tower, it’s “possibly true” Trump Tower was wiretapped in that unit, for the purposes of legally surveilling Manafort. However, “there is still no indication that Trump himself was targeted by wiretapping,” and “Trump’s tweet again seems to claim more than CNN is reporting,” because nothing in the CNN article implicates Obama personally. From the September 19 article:

There are three elements here: 1) Trump’s “wires” were “tapped”, 2) It happened at Trump Tower, and 3) Obama did it.

The first part is still unproven. If the CNN report is correct, there is still no indication that Trump himself was targeted by wiretapping; the report leaves open the possibility that a conversation with Trump may have been swept up in the Manafort tap, but we have no indication that it was.

Even if it was, Trump wasn’t the named target of the wiretap. This would be what’s known as “incidental collection.” You may recall that phrase from the last time the White House claimed some measure of vindication for Trump’s wiretapping claim, when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) disclosed that members of Trump’s transition team were wrapped up in other legal surveillance that wasn’t targeted at them.

The second part — the Trump Tower part — is also possibly true based on what CNN reported, though again we just don’t know for sure. While Trump himself wasn’t the reported target of the wiretap, Manafort did have an apartment at Trump Tower, so it’s possible that location was, in fact, wiretapped.

As for the third part, on Obama, Trump’s tweet again seems to claim more than CNN is reporting. FISA warrants require sign-off from top Justice Department and FBI officials, but Trump was suggesting that Obama was personally involved. [The Washington Post9/19/17]

Justice Department and former FBI Director James Comey have said there is no proof of Trump’s wiretap claim. On September 2, Politico reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) found “no evidence to support President Donald Trump’s claim” that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Former FBI Director James Comey had also said in his testimony to Congress that neither the FBI or the DOJ had any information that would support Trump’s claim, according to Politico:

There is no evidence to support President Donald Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Justice Department said in a new court filing.

The DOJ made the statement in a motion for summary judgment filed Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the watchdog group American Oversight.

“Both FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets,” the government said, referring to the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

James Comey, who was FBI director at the time Trump made the statements, also said, in sworn testimony before Congress, that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department had information to support the tweets. Trump later fired Comey, a move that has come under increasing scrutiny amid federal investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. [Politico9/2/17]

Rep. Devin Nunes: Trump “is not right about” his claim that Obama personally had Trump Tower wiretapped. In a press conference on March 22, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced that Trump’s transition team, and possibly Trump himself, faced incidental surveillance after the 2016 election. Nunes also said, according to Politico, that he did not have any evidence to support Trump’s claim that Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower. The same day Nunes appeared on CNN and clarified to Jake Tapper that Trump’s original claim about an Obama wiretap was “not right.” From the March 22 edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper:

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): Look, I think the bottom line here is that President Trump, to some degree, is right that he did end up in some intelligence reports and I don’t think he knew about it.

JAKE TAPPER (HOST): But how is he right if he said that he was — that President Obama wiretapped him in Trump Tower?

NUNES: No, he’s not right about that, Jake. But as you know, I’ve told you that, I think, many times that he wasn’t right about that.

TAPPER: Right, but you just said he was right. I’m just trying — what was he right about?

NUNES: In terms of — it does appear like his name and people and others ended up into intelligence reports. So, I mean, look, you can make what you want of it, but most people would say that is surveillance. [CNN, The Lead3/22/17Politico3/22/17]

Right-wing media has made increasingly desperate attempts to validate Trump’s wiretap lie

Sean Hannity: “Trump has been proven right about wiretapping,” “The conspiracy theory media lies to you yet again.” During the September 19 edition of his Fox News show, host Sean Hannity claimed “Trump has been proven right about wiretapping,” and claimed “the all-knowing, holier-than-thou, destroy-Trump propaganda media has been caught in a massive lie and a major cover-up.” Hannity continued, claiming “the conspiracy theory media lies to you yet again”:

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): President Trump has been proven right about wiretapping, and guess what? The all-knowing, holier-than-thou, destroy-Trump propaganda media has been caught in a massive lie and a major cover-up. The mainstream media has been misleading all of you, the American people, for months and months about this story.

So tonight, we will once again do their job and set the record straight so you have the facts. Now, according to a new report, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was in fact wiretapped by the FBI under FISA court warrants, before and after the 2016 election. Now, according to reporting, the FBI was monitoring Manafort over concerns that he was communicating with, quote, “Russian operatives.” But what’s even more disturbing is this: Manafort was under surveillance earlier this year, when he was known to be communicating with President Trump.

[…]

So, for all of you lazy, overpaid, ideological liberal mainstream media people out there, you have now been exposed for the frauds you are, yet again. And as we’ve been saying, the biased press, they’re not interested in reporting the truth. In fact, they only care about smearing and delegitimizing President Trump, and this is more evidence. And after President Trump tweeted back in March, March 4th that he was wiretapped by President Obama or people in the administration, the destroy-Trump-media lost it. They were viciously mocking and attacking him.

[…]

The conspiracy theory media lies to you again. Now, this is not surprising considering the left-wing media — it’s like an echo chamber. They all find one topic to attack the president on, and they repeat and repeat the same talking points. This is beyond pathetic, predictable, frankly dangerous in a lot of ways. [Fox News, Hannity9/19/17]

Infowars’ Jerome Corsi and Alex Jones claimed an NSA leak proved Trump was wiretapped. Infowars’ Jerome Corsi and Alex Jones claimed in March that secret NSA documents showed Trump had been spied on for years. Right-wing media outlets regurgitated these claims by Corsi, a birther, and Jones, a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, Sandy Hook truther, and friend of Trump’s. [Media Matters3/20/175/3/17]

Right-wing media falsely claimed that the fact of Trump associates getting caught in “incidental surveillance” of other targets meant that Trump was personally targeted. After Nunes commented that some of then-President-elect Trump’s transition aides were caught in “incidental surveillance” of other targets, right-wing media proclaimed that Trump was “vindicate[d],” even though Nunes himself admitted it does not prove Trump’s false claim is correct. [Media Matters3/22/17]

Right-wing media echoed Trump’s misinterpretation and lies about an old NY Times article to claim he was wiretapped and that the Times tried to cover it up. In an interview, Trump claimed that a January New York Times article proved Trump was right about his wiretap claim and suggested that the newspaper later changed the article’s headline to remove the word “wiretap.” Both claims about the article come from fringe and right-wing media. In fact, the Times article does not prove Trump’s claim, and its headline was never altered. [Media Matters3/23/17]

Right-wing media used an Obama official’s old TV appearance about preserving intelligence to claim she outed Obama’s wiretap. In March, right-wing media figures and fringe outlets took a weeks-old interview with Evelyn Farkas, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia under Obama, out of context to claim she “admitted” that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower. However, in the interview Farkas did not mention the surveillance; instead, she discussed a New York Times article about preserving intelligence related to Trump and Russia. [Media Matters3/30/17]

Right-wing media bizarrely claimed that a FISA warrant on one Trump associate meant Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. After The Washington Post reported that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to investigate Trump associate Carter Page during the summer of 2016, right-wing media claimed that the FBI investigation into Page was evidence that Obama had Trump wiretapped, even though the legally obtained warrant was only about Page. Nunes once again denied that the news supported Trump’s claim. [Media Matters4/12/17]

When Right-Wing Media Was In Love With Paid Protesting

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

Many right-wing media figures have accused anti-Trump protesters of being “paid” on a widespread basis to demonstrate against President Donald Trump. Not only do these allegations lack any evidence of a systematic effort, they also ignore the fact that the conservative tea party protests of the early 2010s were “astroturfed” — heavily supported and organized by large, outside groups.

Evidence-free claims and suggestions of paid protesters driving anti-Trump sentiment have circulated throughout right-wing media for years but have increased since the inauguration of Donald Trump. Both Trump himself and White House press secretary Sean Spicer have repeated the claim that anti-Trump protests are, in Spicer’s words, a “very paid astroturf-type movement.” Rush Limbaugh warned that the airport protests against Trump’s Muslim ban were “bought and paid for by George Soros, prearranged. … and waiting for the moment to be cued to action.” The Daily Caller wrote that protests directed against a vocal Trump supporter at the University of California, Berkeley were “backed by a progressive charity that is in turn funded by George Soros, the city of Tucson, a major labor union and several large companies.” The claims have also circulated among fake news purveyors and state-owned Russian propaganda.

Despite the charge being leveled at nearly every anti-Trump protest, there is no proof that they protesters were systematically paid by any group. Recently, claims that a group called Demand Protest was paying people $2,500 a month to protest Trump nationwide were exposed as a hoax, much like a viral claim during the election season of craigslist ads offering $3,500 to protest Trump, which ended up being a lie created by a fake news writer to generate profit.

Right-wing media’s concerns about supposed liberal paid protesters also conveniently forgets times when they were enamored by protesters who were financially supported by outside groups.

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump ally Alex Jones’ website offered a cash reward to protesters that interrupted Hillary Clinton rallies, an open attempt to pay protesters. Even more significant, right-wing media was also an ally of the Tea Party movement during the first term of former President Barack Obama, which was widely documented to be backed by big money donors.

The Tea Party, described as “the biggest Astroturf operation in history,” was heavily financed and supported by billionaires, most prominently Charles and David Koch. In addition to financial support from conservative billionaires, the Tea Party enjoyed glowing coverage across right-wing media, most prominently on Fox News, which encouraged its viewers to head to the “conservative Woodstock.” “Party on!” Fox hosts, such as Sean Hannity, attached themselves to and tried to boost the protests, and Tea Party activists even thanked the network for its assistance in spreading their message.

IMAGE: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.com