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Questioned By Cruz, FBI Official Debunks January 6 Conspiracy Propaganda

In a development that perfectly illustrates the right-wing media’s collective moral incorrigibility and imperviousness to facts, conservative commentators are now digging in further on a conspiracy theory about the January 6 insurrection — right after it was thoroughly dispelled on Tuesday.

The claims surround an Arizona man named Ray Epps who, on the night of January 5, 2021, was seen on video telling a crowd of Trump supporters to enter the Capitol the next day, and was also seen outside the Capitol building during the siege. Epps was identified online and interviewed by The Arizona Republic in the days following the attack, and it does not appear that he ever actually entered the Capitol or personally committed any violent acts that day.

In a hearing Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked FBI official Jill Sanborn a series of leading questions aimed at making it appear that Epps was connected to the FBI — questions that Cruz had been urged to pursue by Fox host Tucker Carlson last week. There is no credible evidence that Epps was some kind of point man in leading the entire attack, but his name has been spread prolifically by Darren Beattie, a former Trump administration staffer who has worked with Carlson to spread a propaganda campaign that the riot had been a setup by elements in the federal government to entrap conservatives.

Sanborn had responded to Cruz’s questions by explaining that the FBI could not get into specifics on sources and methods of investigations. But toward the end of the exchange, he asked her: “Did federal agents or those in service of federal agents actively encourage violent and criminal conduct on January 6?”

She responded: “Not to my knowledge, sir.”

In response, former Trump adviser and far-right media personality Steven Bannon — who has his own record of incitement leading up to the January 6 insurrection — immediately accused Sanborn of having perjured herself.

Beattie appeared with Bannon as a guest and delivered something of a backhanded compliment to Cruz for his reversal from calling the rioters “terrorists” to now spreading the theory that the riot was a false-flag operation: “And so I have to give credit to Ted Cruz. I think this is a testament to the fact that constructive bullying does work.”

Later in the broadcast, Bannon delivered a tirade in response to the January 6 committee’s tweet explaining that it had spoken to Epps, who confirmed he was neither an FBI agent or informant.

“You're liars, and we're going to get to the bottom of all of it, and you're not going to be able to hide,” Bannon proclaimed. “Save your receipts, preserve your documents.”

Tucker Carlson, the man who arguably had done more than anyone else to pressure Cruz into parroting these conspiracy theories, followed up on this broad range of denials Tuesday night by asking new rhetorical questions to suggest the committee was lying: “Supposedly this interview was conducted in secret last November. If that is true — we don't know that it is, but let's say it is — then why did the committee wait months to tell us today in a tweet? … Can we see a transcript of this interview? If not, why not?”

The new pile of follow-up questions that Carlson asked were remarkably similar to tweets from Tuesday afternoon from right-wing commentator Julie Kelly, a frequent guest on Carlson’s January 6 conspiracy theory beat who has also claimed that a D.C. police officer testifying about his violent and traumatic experiences that day was a “crisis actor.” Kelly also claimed that the committee’s denial that Epps had ever worked at the direction of a law enforcement agency was “a pretty narrow denial, by the way.”

Cruz also appeared that night on Fox News, this time with prime-time host Sean Hannity, who said that Cruz had “asked the FBI very important questions about that day. Their answers, or lack thereof, are very telling.”

It is very much worth remembering that text messages released a month ago revealed that during the January 6 riot, Hannity sent text messages to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows urging that Trump make a statement asking people to leave the Capitol. But later that same evening, the Fox host spread false claims that the Capitol rioters may have been left-wing militants disguised as Trump supporters — which had to have been a deliberate lie, because if he had actually believed that, then his private message for Trump to call off the mob would have been pointless.

Hannity and Cruz also claimed that Sanborn had failed to deliver a blanket denial of agency involvement in fomenting January 6 — even though she in fact did state that no such deeds occurred according to her knowledge, video of which was included right before that in the segment. Meanwhile, the segment chyron claimed that “Top FBI official dodges when Cruz asks if agents participated in Jan 6th.”

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Senator, what an exchange that was. OK, so the FBI — this is the executive assistant director, says, “I can't answer that, we can't reveal sources and methods.” That doesn't prohibit, though, the FBI, senator, in my mind that they could have said the FBI did nothing illegal, the FBI did nothing unethical, the FBI would never encourage any type of violence or participate and such. That would be a broad sweeping generalization without giving out any sources, any methods, or any evidence whatsoever. Why couldn't there be a blanket denial that that's not who we are, that's not the way we act?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Well, there should have been and if they were doing their jobs, that was what they would have said.

Fox Nation host Lara Logan also retweeted a message from right-wing radio host Jesse Kelly, who continued to insist that Epps was “an FBI informant who was tasked by the FBI to get people to break the law so the FBI could attack Republicans.”

It may also be worth noting that Cruz’s persistent conflation of terms like “agent” and “informant” could have led to problems in Sanborn’s ability to answer his questions. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a member of the House select committee investigating January 6, explained in a Twitter thread that these terms are actually very different categories, with informants usually being “criminals that turn to save their own butt. An informant is not an agent. But Ted wants you to think it is.” (Kinzinger also reiterated that Epps was not even an informant.)

With that in mind, the sort of questions Cruz asked, such as, “Did any FBI agents or confidential informants actively participate in the events of January 6th? Yes or no?” were overly broad because they could have potentially covered anyone who became an informant in the period of time since the riot — that is, to “save their own butt” after the fact — something that law enforcement officials would not publicly comment about.

By contrast, Sanborn actually was able to answer Cruz’s final question on the topic. But that is not going to stop right-wing commentators from acting in extremely bad faith by continuing to spread false-flag conspiracy theories that shift blame for the Capitol attack — especially when they’ve got some serious skeletons in their own closets.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

How Republicans Learned To Stop Worrying And Love January 6

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

As the nation approaches the one-year anniversary of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a disturbing trend has emerged in the right-wing media ecosystem: the open approval and valorization of the event.

Such thoughts first emerged that very day, when far-right commentators like former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka and right-wing site The Gateway Pundit cheered on the “patriots” who had “taken over Capitol Hill.” But after the coup attempt failed, right-wing media proceeded in the following days and months to come up with other explanations of what had happened. While they painted various conspiracy theories of left-wing infiltration or claimed there had been no insurrection at all, they also urged strongly against any attempts to investigate the event further — which did not exactly demonstrate much confidence in the alternative hypotheses.

But more and more, conservative media outlets are collectively ending up right back where they started, with a full embrace of the event, consistent with former President Donald Trump’s claims that “the insurrection took place on November 3rd,” and that January 6 was a “protest of the rigged election.” (This has also spread through official Republican circles, such as the local Republican Party in suburban Cobb County, Georgia, which is preparing to hold a “Candlelight Vigil for J6 Patriots.”)

This right-wing media campaign to excuse the Capitol attack is seemingly reflected by views among the rank-and-file GOP: A recent CBS News/YouGov poll finds that Republican voters have become less disapproving of the events of January 6 than they once were. While the vast majority still say they disapprove, a deeper look finds that this opinion has become spread between those who “strongly disapprove” and a plurality who only “somewhat disapprove.” Moreover, only 21 percent of Republicans will describe the riot as an “insurrection,” while 47 percent describe the people who entered the Capitol as having been motivated by “patriotism,” and 56 percent say they had been “defending freedom.” Moreover, 38 percent of Republicans say that political violence could be justified over election results.

Indeed, much of the response to January 6 has depended on the source’s view about whether such an event could succeed — or only result in ignominious defeat. Far-right activist and talk show host Charlie Kirk, in the days following January 6, deleted a tweet in which he had boasted that his organizations were sending “80+ buses full of patriots” to Washington in order to “fight for this president.” A Turning Point Action spokesperson claimed that the organization had sent only seven buses, but it also later emerged that at least one suspect in the Capitol insurrection had traveled to D.C. on one of Turning Point Action’s buses.

It is also worth looking at what Kirk now has to say about political violence. When an audience member at one of Kirk’s events asked this past October, “How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?” Kirk responded that the questioner was “playing into all their plans,” because their opponents were “trying to make you do something that will be violent that will justify a takeover of your freedoms and liberties.” (Others pointed out that Kirk’s supposed objection to violence was based on its high probability of failure instead of any moral qualms.)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has created a propaganda series claiming that the attack was a false flag operation mounted by government elements in order to persecute conservatives, has also for long time cultivated a parallel narrative in which the insurrectionists were just regular citizens who “talked about the Constitution, and something called their rights.” Moreover, Carlson has claimed, they “were correct” that the 2020 presidential election had been rigged against Trump — and “if a mass of people show up angry at the Capitol, you should at least pause for a second,” and “maybe we should address their concerns.”

And on New Year’s Eve, right-wing site American Greatness — whose contributors have spread lies about the 2020 election and attacked Capitol Police officers — upped the ante with a piece titled “Of Reichstags and Bastilles.” Repeating a series of false claims that there was “overwhelming evidence of widespread voter fraud in multiple swing states,” contributor Eric Lendrum declared that “thus, the protesters were justified.”

The piece also claimed that Ashli Babbitt, the QAnon conspiracy theorist who was killed by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to climb through a broken window leading to the Speaker’s Lobby, was “an actual hero … who was willing to give her life for her country—and ultimately did just that, albeit in a far more tragic way.” (Babbitt had posted online the day before the Capitol attack that “Nothing will stop us,” further adding: “They can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours… dark to light!”)

Lendrum concluded his piece with a declaration that conservatives should “stop trying to qualify their stances on January 6 with an obligatory disavowal,” and instead openly celebrate the actions of that day as “a reaction to a long train of abuses and usurpations perpetrated against the American people by an entrenched elite class that has infected our institutions.”

"The only course of action at this point is to be just as firm in our stance as the Left is. If they truly want to address January 6 by making dramatic historical comparisons, then so should we. If their aim is to make January 6 their Reichstag Fire, then we should go forward celebrating the events of that day as our Storming of the Bastille; a day where a symbol of the degeneration of our ruling class into total corruption and tyranny was challenged, and the elites were shown just what happens when millions of freedom-loving citizens finally grow sick and tired of a boot perpetually stomping on their necks."

Another peculiar set of visuals and commentary came Monday night on the far-right One America News.

OAN host Natalie Harp interviewed right-wing author Lee Smith about how the events of January 6 had supposedly been used to defame Trump supporters in general, with Harp calling the date a “plot against the people.” (This phrasing was in contrast to a book that Smith published in 2019, The Plot Against the President, denouncing the Trump-Russia investigations.)

While OAN aired B-roll photos and video of the January 6 attack itself, Smith claimed that the investigations were “effectively the demonization and in some cases the criminalization of opposition” to the Obama and Biden “faction” in American politics. “It’s despicable, but that's what we're up against. We're up against a very, a very ugly faction of the American public sphere.”

Violence As Metaphor: Fox News Host Urges ‘Kill Shot’ ‘Ambush’ Of Fauci

Fox News host Jesse Watters encouraged an audience of young right-wing activists to “ambush” Dr. Anthony Fauci with a rhetorical “deadly” “kill shot” while describing a gotcha question they could ask Fauci based on a conspiracy theory about the origins of COVID-19.

Watters’ comments come as Fox News has led an unprecedented wave of attacks against a leading public health figure. Fox News personalities have attacked Fauci over 400 times just since February 22, according to a Media Matters analysis of Fox’s weekday programming. These attacks can often feature violent rhetoric, as Fox personalities have likened Fauci to historical dictators and Nazis, fearmongered about a “medical deep state,” suggested Fauci should be subject to a criminal investigation, and falsely accused him of creating the coronavirus.

While Watters might defend his exhortations ( his allies already are), he also really ought to know better from his own professional history. Over 10 years ago, when Watters was a producer for disgraced Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, the show engaged in a long pattern of incitement against George Tiller, a Kansas doctor who performed abortions. This included an instance of Watters staging an ambush interview of Tiller’s lawyer, and fellow O’Reilly producer Porter Barry performing a similar ambush interview on Tiller himself. Tiller was later murdered in 2009, while he was at his church.

In addition, the venue where Watters made this latest comment must be considered. He was speaking at the “AmericaFest” event organized by Turning Point USA. This is the organization founded and run by right-wing provocateur Charlie Kirk, who has run a relentless anti-vaccine campaign, including during his appearances on Fox News. Kirk’s events have previously seen incitements to political violence (including yesterday), and his organization was also linked to the January 6 insurrection.

Watters encouraged audience members to publicly confront Fauci, should he ever come to their college campuses, with the false claim that Fauci was responsible for the creation of COVID-19 in a Chinese lab. (The conspiracy theory has been promoted by multiple Fox News hosts including Maria Bartiromo, Steve Hilton, and Tucker Carlson.)

JESSE WATTERS (FOX NEWS HOST): You have the goods, you have the goods, because he's been able to dodge and weave on the ABC and NBC, no one's ever hit him in the face like this, not even [U.S. Sen.] Rand Paul has been able to get in his face, and point with the grant in his face. Then, he's in trouble.
Now you go in for the kill shot. The kill shot, with an ambush, deadly, because he doesn't see it coming. This is when you say, “Dr. Fauci, you funded risky research at a sloppy Chinese lab, the same lab that sprung this pandemic on the world. You know why people don't trust you, Don’t you?” Boom, he is dead, he is dead, he’s done.
Now how you do that, 30 seconds, that’s all you need, 30 seconds. Now, you get that footage to us, you get it to Fox, you get it to Human Events, you get it to Breitbart, you get it to Daily Caller, you get it to the Turning Point pipeline. Imagine Tucker Carlson teases out of the A-block, “Coming up, brave college student confronts Lord Fauci at dinner. Exclusive footage, right back.” Get us that — that's what we want. That changes the whole conversation of the country.
I’ve authorized it, just make sure it's legal.

Fauci responded on Tuesday morning’s edition of CNN’s New Day, calling out Fox News for the likelihood that it was “not going to do anything” about Watters.

JOHN BERMAN (CO-ANCHOR): On the subject of divisiveness, Dr. Fauci — I'm not going to play it because, frankly, I think it is dangerous. But Jesse Watters, who is a Fox News entertainer, was giving a speech to a conservative group where he talked about you and suggested to the crowd that they ambush you with what he said was some kind of rhetorical “kill shot.” That was his exact word. I'm wondering, you know, how much that concerns you when you hear language like that about you and your well-being?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI (CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT): Well, John, that's horrible. I mean, that just is such a reflection of the craziness that goes on in society. The only thing that I have ever done throughout these two years is to encourage people to practice good public health practices, to get vaccinated, to be careful in public settings, to wear a mask. And for that, you have some guy out there saying that people should be giving me a kill shot, to ambush me? I mean, what kind of craziness is there in society these days? That's awful that he said that.
And he's going to go, very likely, unaccountable. I mean, whatever network he's on is not going to do anything for him. I mean, that's crazy. The guy should be fired on the spot.

About three weeks ago, Fox Nation host Lara Logan compared Fauci to the Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele. At the time, Fauci called the comparison “unconscionable” and an “insult to all of the people who suffered and died under the Nazi regime in the concentration camps.” Logan, meanwhile, tweeted further attacks at Fauci for his past research on AIDS drugs and amplified another user’s tweet attacking the Auschwitz Museum for having condemned her remarks.

Since then, Logan has apparently been absent from Fox’s on-air programming. But Fox has not taken any similar measures with Watters, at least not so far. Instead of holding Watters accountable, Fox has posted Watters’ speech on its own Fox Nation site and promoted a link to it on Twitter.

screen grab

Article reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Fox News Posts — And Then Deletes — Anti-Semitic Soros Cartoon

Fox News is trying to paper over its use of antisemitic imagery in promoting conspiracy theories against liberal philanthropist George Soros, after deleting a political cartoon it had posted on social media depicting him as the “puppet master” supposedly manipulating Democratic officials to create “lawlessness” and “chaos.” But the invocations of his name as a destroyer of all things good and American are still continuing from the network’s on-air talent.

The lesson here is very simple: In response to any given public outrage against the network’s content, Fox will do what it believes is the minimum necessary to deal with the immediate problem — and then just continue the rest of its bad behavior. The Daily Beast reported that Fox had deleted an offensive cartoon from its Facebook and Instagram accounts, after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had tweeted that it “conjures up longstanding anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish power.”

Around 45 minutes before the ADL demanded the cartoon’s removal, Fox News contributor Leo Terrell claimed on the “straight news” program America Reports that a supposed crime wave was part of a deliberate political conspiracy by “left-leaning, George Soros Democratic prosecutors” to entrap police.

“I think the police department is being set up,” Terrell said. “All it takes, Trace, is one — one disputed shooting, one disputed arrest — and excuse my language, all hell’s going to break loose. And all this is going to be — those liberal prosecutors are to go after the police. The police department, they know what’s going on, and these individuals are being released because of left-leaning, George Soros Democratic prosecutors.”

Fox anchor Trace Gallagher then told Terrell that he had made “a very good point there, Leo.”

The invective also continued on Thursday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends, during a segment on organized retail thefts and other crimes that the show attributed to “soft-on-crime policies” in “liberal cities,” which co-host Brian Kilmeade said aligned with Soros’ purported efforts to “knock America down” in ways that a foreign enemy could not have accomplished.

It must be noted, however, that the premise of all these segments was wrong in the first place. A report this week in the Los Angeles Times found that organized retail thefts could amount to as little as 0.07% of total sales — with their notoriety coming from online visibility and the easy dissemination of surveillance camera videos, rather than constituting any genuine crisis or pattern of new criminal behavior. In addition, CNN has noted that recent increases in homicides still put the murder rate in major U.S. cities at only just over half of what it had been back in the mid-1990s.

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): So there’s smash-and-grab, and there’s also murders, which are up everywhere. And mainly, most cops will tell you, focus on the DAs. And who put those DAs there? George Soros and his fund, was out there to put liberal DAs, empty your prisons, and not prosecute crime. I mean, China could not have — or Russia, or Iran — could not have scripted a better formula to knock America down at its foundation. You don't have law and order, you don't have a country, and we don't have law and order.”

Kilmeade's description of Soros was also similar to a segment last week from Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson, who aired a parody video featuring Soros’ face alongside a graphic declaring: “We Kill America!”

Soros has long been a focus of right-wing media attacks for his role in funding progressive political candidates and organizations. Those attacks often feature anti-Semitic overtones, and network personalities have smeared Soros with the overtly racist “puppet master” slur for more than a decade. The anti-Soros smears cover topics ranging from the manifestly silly to the outright dangerous. Fox News has spent years promoting dangerous lies tying Soros to migrant caravans in Mexico and suggesting he is funding refugee resettlement groups as part of a planned “great replacement” of white Americans. (This smear in particular motivated a man to murder 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2018.)

Article reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Deafening Silence From Fox News On Network Hosts' January 6 Texts To Meadows

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News let over 16 hours pass before even mentioning the bombshell information released by the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, which revealed failed attempts by multiple Fox personalities to convince then-President Donald Trump to call off a mob of his supporters who had attacked the Capitol. Those same hosts have deliberately lied about the attack ever since, and sought to stop the investigation.

During a committee meeting Monday night, which preceded a motion to refer former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for criminal contempt for obstructing the investigation, select committee Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) read a series of texts sent to Meadows during the siege of the Capitol, including several from Fox News hosts who implored the White House to put a stop to the chaos:

  • Sean Hannity texted to Meadows: “Can he make a statement. Ask people to leave the Capitol.”
  • Laura Ingraham wrote: “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
  • Brian Kilmeade said: “Please, get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”

Cheney’s presentation was carried live in its entirety by CNN and MSNBC and dominated programming for the rest of the evening, but it was barely covered on Fox News. Fox’s prime-time programming neglected to mention the story, despite the personal involvement of Hannity and Ingraham. The next morning, Fox & Friends also neglected to mention the story, despite Kilmeade’s personal involvement.

It was not until later on The Faulkner Focus that the network gave even the slightest mention of the text messages. Fox congressional correspondent Chad Pergram briefly noted that “the committee revealed messages sent by Donald Trump Jr. and Fox hosts to Meadows during the riot. They implored the White House to convince the president to intervene and urge his supporters to stand down.”

Pergram then read one text message from Donald Trump Jr., saying, “We need an Oval Office address. … It has gone too far.” Pergram did not name Hannity, Ingraham, or Kilmeade, nor any of the contents of their messages to Meadows that day.

Behind 'Critical Race' Hysteria, Right-Wing Dark Money And Murdoch Minions

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A recently released IRS filing for the right-wing activist group Parents Defending Education (PDE), which was founded to promote the ongoing scare campaign against the supposed teaching of “critical race theory” in schools, reveals the symbiotic relationship between the right-wing media echo chamber and conservative political activists stoking a cultural panic.

The group’s president, Nicki Neily, has appeared on Fox News as part of the network’s dishonest coverage of efforts by school board officials and the FBI to respond to threats and harassment. But Neily is not just a parent defending education, as she has a long history of managing right-wing organizations funded by the Koch brothers and Bradley Foundation networks.

Among the list of directors of PDE is Karol Markowicz, a columnist at Fox’s corporate cousin the New York Post. Markowicz has publicly disclosed her involvement with PDE on her Twitter account, but she and the Murdoch media outlets have not been so upfront during education-related stories.

For example, Markowicz wrote columns in the New York Post ostensibly related to the Virginia gubernatorial election to promote PDE's political agenda, such as piece on October 31 titled “There’s nothing fake about parents’ outrage in America’s culture war,” as well as a November 14 column headlined “Now that school parents are finally being taken seriously, here’s what’s got to change.” Neither piece contained any disclaimer about her leadership role with PDE.

Markowicz also appeared on the November 10 edition of America’s Newsroom. In a segment about critical race theory, the network’s purported “straight news” program identified her as a Post columnist but not as one of the leaders of a right-wing activist group pushing an agenda for public schools. During the appearance, Markowicz falsely claimed that “Democrats have spent a week calling parents racist” for identifying supposed “problems with their schools,” while the segment also ran b-roll images featuring various anti-CRT content.

From the November 10, 2021 edition of America's Newsroom

Markowicz has appeared on Fox News weekday programming at least 31 times in 2021, according to Media Matters' internal guest database, during which she has often railed against policy choices made by public schools including COVID-19 public health responses as well as instructional content.

Fox has also promoted another figure from PDE, former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani. Nomani appeared on Fox & Friends on the morning of the Virginia elections last month, as part of the network’s specially curated panels of concerned parents in the state who are often Republican activists. The chyron identified her as a parent, a former Journal columnist, and as part of PDE. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt also remarked that Nomani had helped start the group — which made this piece of Fox opinion programming more honest than the “straight news” segment a week later.

From the November 2, 2021, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends

Another director of PDE is Edward Blum who has a long association with right-wing funding networks that have backed his challenges to civil rights laws. These challenges include a successful case in 2013 in which the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key protections of the Voting Rights Act.

Meanwhile, PDE introduces its mission statement in its 1023 filing, a document required for tax exemption as a 501(c)(3) organization:

Parents Defending Education (PDE) is a national membership nonprofit organization formed for the purpose of defending human and civil rights secured by law and open to all parents of K-12 students, education faculty and administrators, and members of the public who share a common concern about preserving student's civil rights. Specifically, PDE is formed for the purpose of defending and protecting students' rights to freedom of speech and due process guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and ensuring that students are not subject to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, or sex, as guaranteed by federal and state law.

These statements might seem somewhat ironic, given the actual political fruits of the anti-CRT panic. Thus far, the overall effort has been based on attacks against diversity in education, opposition to the inclusion of transgender students, efforts to ban books, and even moves to promote a both-sides narrative about the Holocaust. In fact, the whole project is a political campaign against decades of civil rights progress.

And indeed, PDE’s claims to be “defending human and civil rights” are somewhat questionable. One of its actions this year was to complain about a Massachusetts school district’s emotional support meetings for Asian-American students and other students of color, following the high-profile killing of six Asian women in Atlanta and other racist violence over the past year. Neily alleged that such meetings for Asian-American students amounted to “racial segregation” against white students. (The school district said in a statement that white students were not excluded, and several did in fact attend, though it also added that language in the event invitation was “imperfectly stated.”)

Biden Disavows More Lockdowns -- So Fox News Straight Up Lies About It

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

President Joe Biden spoke to reporters on Monday, saying that the new omicron variant of COVID-19 was “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” and that the public response would be done “not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.” Fox News quickly began spreading false claims that Biden was about to impose more lockdowns — in a disinformation campaign that has spread across the network’s purported “straight news” side and even to its financial news channel.

CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter noted in his daily newsletter that Fox’s coverage presents a significant obstacle for the Biden administration, expressly because it presents viewers with a diametrically opposite version of what Biden has actually said.

“The words ‘not with shutdowns or lockdowns’ have been baked into [Biden’s] public appearances. He could not be any more clear,” Stelter pointed out. “And yet Tucker Carlson told his fan base on Wednesday that ‘the Biden administration is once again locking down the country’ in response to the new variant. One of Carlson's banners said ‘POWER-HUNGRY DEMS WILL ONLY INTENSIFY LOCKDOWNS.’ So the president said A, but Fox says the president is doing Z. Is there any remedy for disinformation like that?”

It turns out that Stelter has actually understated the extent of the problem at Fox.

Here is Carlson’s entire Wednesday night monologue, with the comment about Biden “once again locking down the country” almost halfway through, and the chyron about Democrats being set to “intensify” lockdowns toward the end, mixed in with Carlson’s other pronouncements of an impending police state and his various denials about the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

Earlier, on the Wednesday afternoon edition of Fox Business’ Kudlow, the former Trump economic adviser and current TV host Larry Kudlow hosted former Florida Attorney General and Trump impeachment attorney Pam Bondi, for a conversation claiming that Biden was indeed going to pursue lockdowns. In addition, Bondi continued to rehash conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, while tying them to the supposedly imminent shutdown of the economy. (Ironically enough, the segment accused the White House and public health officials of “trying to create fear.”)

On the Wednesday night edition of Fox News Primetime, rotating host Pete Hegseth claimed that “Democrats are already using [the omicron variant] to jam through their pro-lockdown, anti-freedom agenda.”

And on Hannity, guest Donald Trump Jr. claimed that Democrats “want to implement more ridiculous lockdowns,” also attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci: “And as long as we keep giving that clown his 15 minutes of fame, the TV that he so desperately craves, we're going to be in these lockdown situations forever until we say enough is enough.”

Blame Fox News -- Not Fauci -- For His Reported Refusal To Appear On Murdoch Network

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Politico reported Wednesday night that Dr. Anthony Fauci has turned down invitations to appear on Fox News since July, with the article complaining that the move has left the Biden administration “with few go-to communicators for conservative audiences who remain hesitant about the vaccine.”

Politico’s soft criticism of Fauci — and its treatment of Fox News as any kind of legitimate news outlet that would deserve an appearance by serious public health officials — reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of Fox’s propaganda operation. In reality, Fox has spread lies about the pandemic, vaccines, and public health officials at an industrial scale. So there's no indication that an appearance on the network would actually persuade its viewers, especially given that its biggest names have cast Fauci as a shadowy and ill-intentioned figure for more than a year. (My colleague Matt Gertz wrote of Fox primetime hosts trying to get Trump to fire Fauci in May of 2020.)

While Politico acknowledged that the NIAID director “likely has limited effectiveness with Fox News’ audience,” it nevertheless lamented that “the Biden administration’s most public-facing figure in the effort to contain Covid-19 is not a presence on the country’s most watched cable news network, with an audience that includes many of the people the Biden team is still trying to get vaccinated.”

Such an approach puts the burden of getting Fox viewers vaccinated on the Biden administration, instead of pointing out the network’s obvious pattern of sabotage aimed at blaming the White House for insufficiently high vaccination rates. This also presupposes that Fox viewers even want to be reached. When Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto urged the network’s viewers to get vaccinated following his own recent breakthrough infection as an immunocompromised person, he got bombarded with hate mail. If Fox viewers are that unreceptive to a personal appeal from one of the network's hosts, it seems unlikely that they would be responsive to public health figures whom the network has demonized throughout the pandemic.

Politico also points out that Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, “has helped fill the void with several appearances on Fox News shows.” Collins’ appearances, however, further illustrate the problems that come from serious public health experts trying to reach out to Fox audiences or communicate with the network’s hosts.

During an interview Tuesday on America’s Newsroom, Collins explained some key points about the omicron variant and the ongoing process of understanding it. But his promotion of vaccination was still blunted by his abstract bemoaning of the influence of “politics” in the debate, instead of directly calling out the network for its politicization of the pandemic.

Immediately following the end of Collins’ appearance, co-anchor Bill Hemmer read from a Wall Street Journal editorial denouncing vaccine mandates for hospital workers and attacking prominent Democratic officials — thus undermining everything that Collins had just tried to communicate.

In one of Fauci’s rare appearances on the network in October, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace questioned him about his purported status as a “polarizing” figure, asking: “Why do you think you’ve become so controversial? And honestly, do you think there's anything you have done that has contributed to that?”

Fox Sabotaged Vaccination Campaign But Blames Biden For Low Vaccine Uptake

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In a monumental display of hypocrisy on Sunday, a Fox News anchor and his guest attacked President Joe Biden for the fact that America’s vaccination rate against COVID-19 is too low.

“This year we have lost more people in this country to COVID than we did during the first year of the pandemic, when Donald Trump was president — and now we have the vaccines,” anchor Jon Scott said.

Hugo Gurdon, editor-in-chief of the Washington Examiner, further pointed out that “the vaccination rate is only 58 percent here, considerably lower than in other places. So [Biden] hasn't got his arms around it.”

But Fox News itself has undermined the Biden administration’s vaccination campaign relentlessly, running at least one claim that undermined vaccines nearly every day in a six-month period. At the same time, the company has implemented its own stringent health policies, including vaccination and testing mandates and masking at company offices — even as the network has elevated those who refuse the vaccine in other places into culture war heroes, calling for Americans to “fight back.”

Considering that the company is now attacking Biden for his supposed failure to get the whole country vaccinated, it can no longer be denied that the network’s anti-vaccine campaigning is part of a deliberate campaign of political sabotage — even if this could potentially damage its own viewers’ health. (Fox News viewers, meanwhile, have become visibly angry at the few network personalities who encourage vaccination.)

On Sunday’s edition of Fox Report with Jon Scott, the anchor and his guest accused Biden of hypocrisy for implementing travel restrictions on South Africa after that country had identified the new omicron variant of COVID-19. As the conversation progressed, Scott and Gurdon accused Biden of having over-promised the extent to which the country would become vaccinated — ignoring the extent to which the network’s opinion commentators and purported “straight news” anchors have baselessly spread fears about the vaccines.

Upon further thought, the two concluded that Biden could not be specifically blamed “if people don't want to get the vaccine,” but Gurdon insisted that the president still should not have claimed the U.S. would reach his goal of 70% of the population being vaccinated.

As for figuring out whom to blame for continued vaccine hesitancy, though, perhaps they should try watching more Fox News programming, in which the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine for people over age 16 was treated as bad news, and since then vaccinations for children have been relentlessly propagandized against. And in the wake of the omicron variant having been identified, the network’s anti-vaccine misinformation from its hosts and guests still isn’t stopping.

'End Of' Story: Fox News And Other Right-Wing Outlets Fabricate Biden Gaffe

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Right-wing media outlets have tried to manufacture a story falsely claiming that President Joe Biden misread a teleprompter — supposedly reciting an "end of quote" cue that was not meant to be read aloud. In reality, Biden was directly telling his listeners that he was ending a quote. And even after corrections have piled up, some are still trying to depict this moment as some kind of gaffe when it was nothing of the kind.

A quick Google search also shows that Biden has used the "quote … end of quote" construction before. Indeed, he had also used it just the day before, in his remarks on Monday when he nominated Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell for a second term.

During remarks Tuesday, Biden briefly quoted Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, who had extolled the cooperation between the government and private sector in resolving supply-chain interruptions.

Republicans Stir Fake Outrage Against FBI Over School Board Threat Watch

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News and other right-wing media voices are now hyping a letter from House Republicans claiming that the FBI is targeting parents who show up to complain at school board meetings. But the document they have produced does not even say that at all.

Previously, Fox News lied about an FBI letter on efforts to track violent threats against school officials, to then claim that parents across the country would be labeled as "domestic terrorists." In fact, an official memorandum specifically differentiated such threats from "spirited debate about policy matters" that is protected by the Constitution.

The outlets are now misusing an FBI term of art, "threat tag," to make it sound like individual parents are being tracked. An FBI spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal (one of Fox's corporate cousins) that such tags are used to track information on a range of issues, but that "the creation of a threat tag in no way changes the long-standing requirements for opening an investigation, nor does it represent a shift in how the FBI prioritizes threats."

The statement also bluntly explained: "The FBI has never been in the business of investigating parents who speak out or policing speech at school board meetings, and we are not going to start now."

The text of the latest memo, as posted on Twitter by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, does not call for anyone to report people simply showing up at local government meetings. In fact, the memo made clear that anyone filing an example should identify any potential laws being broken, with an emphasis on violations that would require a federal presence:

When evaluating potential threats, we ask that you attempt to identify the following:
a) Is there a federal nexus?
b) Are there potential federal violations that can be investigated and charged?
c) What's the motivation behind the criminal activity?
We appreciate your attention to this matter and welcome any engagement to identify trends, strategies, and best practices to accomplish discouraging, identifying, and prosecuting those who use violence, threats of violence, and other forms of intimidation and harassment pertaining to this threat.

In short, if there are no violent acts or threats of violence, then there would be no incidents to file, and thus nothing to track.

But that was not how the story was presented on Fox's afternoon news program, The Story with Martha MacCallum, during an interview between the anchor and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).

New Poll Reveals Deadly Impact Of Fox’s Pandemic Disinformation

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The Kaiser Family Foundation has a new poll out this week, also reported on by The Washington Post, showing the alarming extent to which COVID-19 misinformation has penetrated among American adults, but particularly Republicans and people who consume right-wing media. The really scary thing: A lot of people actually believe the things they see on Fox News and further right networks like Newsmax.

The poll found that Republicans' No. 1 most trusted source for information is Fox News. Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between trusting Fox News and believing one or more pieces of COVID-19 misinformation, with 36% of people who trust Fox believing or being unsure about four or more pieces of COVID-19 misinformation.

And while Kaiser made clear that it could not "disentangle" the complex issue of whether these news sources are causing their viewers to believe misinformation — or if instead people who are predisposed to such misinformation are flocking to Fox News and other right-wing media outlets — that kind of chicken-or-the-egg question does not simply acquit Fox from its responsibility for encouraging these apparently widespread misconceptions among its viewers.

Even if this is a vicious feedback loop between media outlets that push misinformation and an audience eager to hear it, Fox is still choosing to be part of the problem rather than the solution. The network is enthusiastically spreading misinformation — and looking to make a buck from it, since according to Fox insiders, the COVID-19 lies have been "great for ratings."

Fox News Under Trump Played Down COVID-19 Deaths

The poll found that a whopping 84 percent of Republicans either believe or are unsure about whether the government has exaggerated the number of COVID-19 deaths. By contrast, researchers have said throughout the pandemic that the numbers are likely undercounted. But there is a reason so many Republican voters believe this: Right-wing media, especially Fox News, mounted a full-scale push to spread doubt about the COVID-19 death count during the first year of the pandemic— that is, while former President Donald Trump was in office.

Very early on during the pandemic, Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume claimed in April 2020 that "we're going to get a very large number of deaths" attributed to COVID-19, but which he said would not be an "accurate count" due to co-morbidities. Fox host Tucker Carlson replied, "There may be reasons that people seek an inaccurate death count, but we can address that later." At that point, the official death toll in the United States was only 13,000, but Fox news anchor Harris Faulkner also argued even that was too high a count: "How many of those people had other health risks at play, though? And maybe it wasn't, in fact, COVID-19 that caused their death."

As the death count kept climbing, network figures pushed a full propaganda campaign arguing that the numbers were too high, and siding with the Trump White House in "pushing back" against the official reports. Polling then showed that Fox viewers believed the conspiracy theory about supposedly inflated death tolls, even as public health experts argued that the official numbers were actually too low. By December 2020, Fox host Laura Ingraham argued that "the virus is a lot less lethal than previously thought," even as the official death count reached 300,000.

Fox News Under Biden Imagined Mass Vaccine Deaths

The poll also found that 28 percent of Republicans believe the government is hiding vaccine-related deaths — while another 16 percent have heard this claim but are unsure about it, and only 8% know it is false. And here, too, Fox News has done its part to spread the lie.

While Carlson and other Fox hosts set out to claim that COVID-19 deaths were being overcounted in 2020, they have set out to paint a frightening picture of the vaccines in 2021. Carlson claimed in May that nearly 4,000 people had died from the vaccine, and that "the actual number is almost certainly higher than that — perhaps vastly higher than that." Those claims had circulated online for months before Carlson picked them up, and the online chatter has only picked up since then.

The claims are based on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a government-run public database where individuals can self-report side effects or other incidents following a vaccination. The problem, however, is that the information in VAERS is unvetted and does not always differentiate negative health events from their normal frequency in the population — or even confirm whether they happened at all. As Meredith Wadman of Science notes, "One of VAERS's strengths — its openness — is also a potential weakness in the politicized COVID-19 era."

Earlier this year, for example, a VAERS report that a two-year-old allegedly died after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine during clinical trials was later removed from the system for being "completely made up" — in fact, vaccine testing for children that young had not even begun at the time of the report.

Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch stood by Carlson's escalating series of claims. "He basically just went into the CDC data, right?" Murdoch said. "So there's nothing the CDC itself isn't saying." (In fact, a disclaimer on the VAERS site actually makes clear: "The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable.")

By now, Carlson's show and other Fox programming have used these claims in order to argue that the vaccine is deadlier than COVID-19 itself. Fox News could not possibly believe all of this at the company level, though — despite Lachlan Murdoch's public support for Carlson — because the company also practices a strict vaccination and testing mandate at its company offices, as well as at its upcoming corporate shareholder meeting.

Republicans Seek The Easy Drug — But Not Vaccines — With Fox's Help

The poll also found that 28 percent of Republicans believe that the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19, while another 17 perecent were familiar with the claim but unsure of its validity, and only six percent know it is false. Fox News has promoted ivermectin for about a year, in something of a sequel to the network's earlier promotion of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

Going by the same playbook, Fox hosts have denounced the "medical establishment" for purportedly lying about the drug because it is a "threat" to the adoption of the vaccines; claimed that researchers "will never develop a drug that is more effective than ivermectin"; and that it is a "miracle drug" with "little to no side effects."

Following a warning in August from the Food and Drug Administration, which highlighted the drug's "highly dangerous" side effects if taken to excess or in combination with other medications, the network has continued to advocate for the drug. One Fox guest imagined the rest of the media thinking, "If we could have just maybe stopped some people from taking ivermectin, maybe we can get more people to take the vaccine."

What this really did, though, was expose via psychological projection the entire right-wing influence operation to keep pushing any possible drug except the vaccines on their audiences.

Fox News Hunts Big Bird For Promoting Vaccines--Despite Network's Own Mandate

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Fox News has joined the right-wing attack against Sesame Street over a TV special that ran Saturday morning on CNN to help answer kids and parents' questions about getting vaccinated against COVID-19, which the CDC now recommends for children aged 5-11. Fox's attacks have just served to highlight the network's own ongoing hypocrisy — practicing safe pandemic policies internally while urging its audience to resist those measures as part of a destructive culture war.

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House Committee To Probe Right-Wing Ivermectin Racket

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

The House of Representatives is opening an investigation into a network of right-wing organizations that have pushed anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and anti-parasitic drug ivermectin, which have become a right-wing cause célèbre as discredited alternatives to vaccines or conventional treatments for COVID-19.

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Fox Shareholder Meeting: Vaccine Passports And Strict Pandemic Protocols

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

The Fox Corporation's upcoming annual shareholder meeting in Los Angeles will feature something that totally contradicts its own media outlets' right-wing editorial line: vaccination passports, mask requirements, and a variety of other COVID-19 safety measures as part of Fox's health and safety protocols.

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