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Breitbart Uses Nazi-Inspired Anti-Semitic Rhetoric In George Soros Attack

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Breitbart News’ Twitter account used anti-Semitic rhetoric, commonly used in 1930’s Nazi propaganda, to attack philanthropist George Soros’ efforts to combat voter suppression laws. The anti-Semitic attack is in keeping with a troubling pattern of anti-Semitism from Breitbart, which President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon formerly ran and has bragged is home to the “alt-right,” a racist white nationalist movement.

Linking to a “flashback” story about Soros’ financial role supporting “legal battles against state voting laws,” the Breitbart Twitter account tweeted on November 28, “Like an octopus.”

The “octopus” wording is overt anti-Semitic rhetoric dating back to at least the 1930s, when it was a common theme in Nazi propaganda. The imagery of a Jewish octopus engulfing the globe or ensnaring political institutions can be found on other white supremacist and neo-Nazi online forums, as well as on Fox News’ airwaves.

That Breitbart is attacking Soros with anti-Semitic rhetoric is not surprising — the white nationalist site was formerly run by Bannon, who has bragged that Breitbart News had become home to the “alt-right” — which is merely a racist code word for white nationalists. In 2007, Bannon’s ex-wife swore in court that Bannon “said he doesn’t like Jews” and didn’t want his children to go to school with Jews. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart attacked media and political figures using anti-Semitic rhetoric, to the point where a former Breitbart employee accused the website of embracing “a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Major media outlets are already whitewashing Bannon’s history of white nationalism and anti-Semitism. Given that Trump also has an extensive relationship with the white nationalist movement and Bannon’s extreme influence in Trump’s White House, media efforts to identify and criticize anti-Semitic rhetoric are more critical than ever.

Bret Baier Is A Fox News Mouthpiece For Unknown Sources On FBI Stories

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Amid an unprecedented stream of leaks from anonymous FBI sources to various media outlets, Fox News’ Bret Baier is reporting unverified but explosive allegations about bureau investigations involving Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton based on extremely sketchy sourcing, escalating the scandalized tenor of the campaign just days before its climax. Baier’s unsubstantiated claims based on anonymous sources contradict reports from other media outlets and public FBI statements and are overplaying what is reportedly a common dispute between law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

In a November 2 report, Baier cited “two separate sources with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations into the Clinton emails and the Clinton Foundation” to claim that the investigation “into possible pay-for-play interaction between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Foundation” is a “‘very high priority’” and that “agents are actively and aggressively pursuing this case.” Baier said FBI agents “had collected a great deal of evidence” to suggest wrongdoing — though his reporting did not indicate what the alleged evidence concerned or who it suggested committed a crime.

Baier also alleged, per his anonymous sources, that the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server has turned up “new emails, not duplicates, that have been transported … [through Clinton’s] server,” and that FBI officials are claiming with “99 percent accuracy” that the server “had been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies.” Baier ultimately claimed that the investigation “will continue to likely an indictment.” Since Baier broke the news, a steady stream of fellow Fox hosts and correspondents have been furiously hyping his claims.

Baier’s uncritical reporting of anonymous sources first and foremost calls into question the veracity and motivation of the allegations being made. Who are Baier’s sources? They could be disgruntled FBI agents pursuing the investigations. But the description of “sources with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations” doesn’t require that the sources have firsthand knowledge — Baier’s sources could include partisan congressional Republicans seeking to influence the election or even someone like Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly has “illicit FBI sources” who “[circumvent] bureau guidelines to discuss a case with a public partisan.”

Regardless of the source, Baier has decided to parrot their claims with no scrutiny, turning him into a mouthpiece for these unknown actors.

Having accepted that role as a de facto spokesman for whomever is leaking information, Baier is effectively turning what is reportedly a common dispute between intelligence agencies into an election scandal on the cusp of Election Day. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Senior officials in the Justice Department and the FBI didn’t think much of the evidence [related to the Clinton Foundation investigation], while investigators believed they had promising leads their bosses wouldn’t let them pursue.” Thus, agents and officials in the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) have become “increasingly frustrated with each other, as often happens within and between departments” (emphasis added). As the Journal previously reported, “It isn’t unusual for field agents to favor a more aggressive approach than supervisors and prosecutors think is merited.”

Baier’s reporting on the Clinton Foundation investigation is taking one side of a two-front battle, and thus leaving out critical context that senior DOJ and FBI officials believe there to be no case in the Clinton Foundation investigation and that disputes like this are common. His reporting also ignores context reported by the Journal that FBI agents have repeatedly been told to drop the investigation specifically because information gathered was “weak” and unimpressive.

Baier’s decision to trumpet these claims is reminiscent of Fox’s endless flogging of the New Black Panthers Party pseudoscandal. In 2010, the network devoted hours of coverage to generating a scandal around the decision by senior career Justice Department officials to overrule a push from lower-level attorneys to seek more charges in the case. An internal investigation ultimately cleared DOJ officials of any wrongdoing or misconduct in that case.

Moreover, Baier’s allegations about the Clinton email investigation raise more questions than answers about the claims. In choosing to parrot his sources, Baier is willingly ignoring the obvious holes in the story. His claim that FBI officials are “99 percent” sure that the server “had been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies” flies in the face of the FBI’s public statements that there is “no evidence” Clinton’s server was hacked — leading to question why Baier didn’t raise that contradiction. While Baier reports that his sources think the email investigation will “likely” result in “an indictment,” he doesn’t bother to answer the questions of who is supposedly going to be indicted, and for what?

Baier is essentially taking information already known about a dispute over the significance of the Clinton Foundation investigation, uncritically amplifying one side of that dispute with shaky claims, and parroting anonymous leaks that are likely overblown to further cast an aura of scandal right before the election. The reports leave little doubt that Fox News is acting as “the pipeline for the fifth column inside the bureau” that is publicly seeking to influence the election.

IMAGE: Fox News

Right-Wing Media Fail In Effort To ‘Scandalize’ McAuliffe PAC Donation

After initially failing to scandalize a Wall Street Journal story about political donations made by Clinton ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) political action committee (PAC) to the wife of an FBI official, conservative media are trying to revive the story. Now they’re trying to hype flawed, speculative allegations of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s alleged role in the fundraising for McAuliffe’s PAC in hopes of undermining the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails.

In an October 23 article titled “Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official’s Wife,” the Journal reported, “The political organization of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an influential Democrat with longstanding ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave nearly $500,000 to the election campaign of the wife of an official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation who later helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email use.” The piece implied that the McAuliffe PAC’s donation may have influenced FBI official Andrew McCabe, who is married to the donation’s recipient, Jill McCabe, in his later investigation of Clinton’s email use.

Not only did journalists deride the piece’s flimsy, “embarrassing” claim, but the Journal’s own reporting also failed to support the idea that there was any impropriety by McAuliffe or McCabe. Indeed, other media outlets noted that “there’s literally nothing” to the story, both because “the timing is complicated if you’re trying to prove a Clinton email connection” and because “McAuliffe’s support of Jill McCabe was part of a much broader effort at the time to try to win back a Democratic majority in the state Senate.”

That didn’t stop right-wing media figures from hyping the “appearance of impropriety” and claiming that McAuliffe “acted as a bag man to pay off people sniffing around Hillary’s emails.”

After briefly piercing into the mainstream media current, the toothless story seemed to fade away, until theDaily Mail reported on October 28 that “Clinton headlined a major fundraiser” for McAuliffe’s PAC “before the group steered nearly $500,000 to” Jill McCabe. The paper suggested that Clinton’s involvement in the fundraiser again “raise[s] questions about the impartiality of the FBI’s investigation.”

But just as the initial Journal story fell apart under scrutiny of the timeline — Andrew McCabe didn’t become involved in the FBI investigation until several months after McAuliffe’s donation to Jill McCabe — so too does the Daily Mail’s bizarre and complicated suggestion that Clinton headlined a fundraiser because she was able to foresee that resulting donations would months later go to the wife of a man who would later be promoted twice to play a lead role in an investigation that did not yet exist.

After organizing a timeline of the fundraiser, donation, and investigation — and lightly suggesting the optics don’t look good (a common media technique employed when investigating many of Clinton’s nonscandals) — Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote:

What hasn’t been proven is that Hillary Clinton did anything improper. Clinton would have had to be a pretty advanced political chessmaster to do a June 2015 fundraiser with the knowledge that, in October 2015, it would benefit the wife of an FBI official who would be promoted to an oversight position into her email investigation the next February. And McAuliffe would have to be an even savvier operator to have recruited Jill McCabe to run for office in March 2015 in the hopes that, sometime down the line, her husband would get promoted to the point of overseeing an investigation that didn’t yet exist. There’s also no evidence Andrew McCabe actually influenced the email investigation in a way that benefited Clinton. For all we know, he could’ve been pushing for her prosecution only to be overruled by Comey.

Indeed, perhaps a much simpler explanation for Clinton’s fundraising appearance and the McAuliffe PAC’s donation is that a leading Democrat raised money for the Virginia state party and the governor’s PAC to try to swing the legislature to benefit the Democratic governor — who is also an old friend — during one of the few major off-year elections in the country.

Yet, even though almost nothing about the story has changed, right-wing media are now hyping the Daily Mail’s “exclusive” to suggest impropriety by Clinton and McAuliffe and a compromised FBI investigation. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson said the situation was “sleazy,” and the pro-Trump Breitbart News suggested the donations are “unusual” and raise questions, despite the continued lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

Photo: mdfriendofhillary/Flickr

Trump Takes A Page From The Kremlin’s Media Playbook

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s public flirtation with Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the 2016 campaign has been met with extensive public interest, skepticism, and criticism. Whether definitive ties exist between Trump and the Kremlin remains to be seen, but the degree to which Trump has seemingly co-opted the Kremlin’s propaganda playbook, and the extent to which conservative media has helped Trump execute a Russian-style media strategy built upon the spread of disinformation, is unnerving and portends trouble for the state of objective truth in American democracy.

Red flags have been raised about Trump’s alleged relationship with Russia and Putin: Trump has effusively praised Putin; publicly invited the Russian government to hack Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails; deliberately lied that Russia was not involved in hacking attempts aimed at interfering with the U.S. election; recited Russian state-sponsored misinformation; and allegedly has Russian investments in his businesses.

Further, Trump has managed to exploit the fragmented state of American media to seemingly execute the Russian model of “information warfare,” as outlined by NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence’s Keir Giles. The parallels between the Kremlin’s strategy for planting and spreading disinformation — with the ultimate goal of “undermining the notion of objective truth” — and Trump’s use of conservative media to spread lies and delegitimize traditional news sources are striking and play out in these ways:

Disinformation Initially Placed On “Sock Puppet Websites”

Russian disinformation strategy, which rests on “‘undermin[ing] the very fundamentals of information and credibility that informed debate are supposed to rest upon,’” begins by “placing disinformation” on “sock puppet websites which appear to provide or aggregate news” and “can achieve substantial reach and penetration,” according to Giles.

The primary “sock puppet website” at the heart of Trump’s Kremlin-style media campaign is The Drudge Report, the conservative media news aggregator that traffics in conspiracy theories, lies, and anti-Clinton smears. The Drudge Report has been a stalwart Trump cheerleader and a launching pad for a series of smearcampaigns and conspiratorial claims meant to undermine Clinton, including long-running conspiracies about her health.

Drudge frequently aggregates stories from notoriously right-wing fringe and conspiratorial websites including WorldNetDaily (WND), Zero Hedge, and Gateway Pundit. At its height in July, Drudge had 1.47 billion page views.

As The Washington Post notes:

Drudge is an ideal landing place for hard-hitting opposition research on one of your political opponents. He’s more likely to simply take it and post it rather than looking for where the holes are — as a more mainstream site would do. And, because of Drudge’s traffic, which isn’t just big but also influential (think reporters, cable TV bookers and other campaigns), everyone you want or need to see it will see it.

To underscore The Drudge Report’s jolting parity to Russian “sock puppet websites,” the website has openly embraced Putin himself and has linked to Russian propaganda sites at least 91 times thus far in 2016.

InfoWars, a fringe conspiracy website led by 9/11 truther Alex Jones, has also been the birthplace of nonsense claims and anti-Clinton attacks.

Trump has praised Drudge and InfoWars and repeated their conspiracy theories on the campaign trail, effectively mainstreaming the reputation of otherwise unsound sources and giving widespread credence to a variety of baseless claims. Jones himself once announced on his radio show that it has been “surreal to talk about issues here on air and then word-for-word hear [Donald] Trump say it two days later. It is amazing.”

New Media Exploited To “Plant, Disseminate, And Lend Credibility To Disinformation”

In his report, Giles notes that “pro-Russian trolls and bots” also “exploit specific features of the relationship between traditional and social media in order to both plant, disseminate and lend credibility to disinformation.” They utilize “a range of fora including online discussion boards, Twitter and more” to “act as a force multiplier for driving home the Russian message.”

New and non-traditional online forums like Reddit, 4Chan, and Twitter have served as effective tools for Trump supporters to coalesce and subsequently blast out conspiracy theories and anti-Clinton attacks in unison.

As The New York Times highlighted:

[I]f major social media platforms are where Mr. Trump amplifies his pronouncements, sites like Reddit and 4chan have become a sort of proving ground, where an extreme, Internet-amped version of Mr. Trump’s message is shared and refined.

[…]

[Reddit] users promote favorable stories, feud with foes and rally support through phone-banking or “Facebanking” — campaigning to Facebook friends. On The Donald, the message is relentless — as are the insults. Opponents are referred to as “cucks,” which is short for “cuckservative,” as in “cuckold” — now used as a derisive term for liberals and moderate Republicans recently popularized by far-right online commentators and white nationalists, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group shares content and tone with parts of 4chan, the infamous and anonymous message board that traffics in shock, and where Mr. Trump — who regularly scorns “political correctness” — has found substantial, if oblique, support.

Bogus anti-Clinton attacks, like the claim that the Clintons did “the same thing” with their taxes as Trump —who “used a $916 million loss that he reported on his 1995 income tax returns to avoid paying personal federal income taxes for years” — by claiming a “$700,000 loss” on their 2015 tax return, originated on the pro-Trump reddit page “The_Donald” and subsequently rocketed through right-wing media.

Disinformation Then Is “Fed Into The Mainstream News Flow”

After Russian propaganda is placed on aggregate sites and gains traction among these “pro-Russian trolls and bots,” writes Giles, the disinformation is then “fed into the mainstream news flow” and “picked up and reported by reputable traditional media.”

Similarly, disinformation in the American media track often jumps from fringe websites like Drudge and InfoWars (frequently after and precisely because Trump cites them) to Fox News, the unabashedly pro-Trump cable network that nonetheless brands itself as “fair and balanced,” and other right-wing media outlets.

Seemingly attempting to stay in sync with Trump, Fox has mainstreamed fringe right-wing conspiracies and elevated anti-Clinton smears about Clinton’s health (which Trump has promoted), character, and leadership style (which Trump has echoed) — while also promoting fringe claims of a “rigged” election (which Trump ishyping), “garbage” online polls that favor Trump (which he loves to cite), allegations that Clinton has her foes murdered (which Trump nodded to), and claims regarding the Clintons’ personal marriage (which Trump has floated), all sourced from the fever-swamps of conservative fringe websites.

As Trump’s own campaign manager Kellyanne Conway once said, “You can draw a straight line from a Drudge link to what gets covered on cable that night.”

Credible Outlets Not Wanting “To Be Left Behind” Repeat The Disinformation

Once disinformation pierces the mainstream news flow “at one or more points,” “others will follow,” Giles notes. “Even in the new climate of awareness, major news media do not wish to be left behind on a story which has made it to the news agenda.”

Credible mainstream American outlets and journalists, perhaps concerned “they will be labeled ‘biased,’” as claims John A. Tures, adopt stories that often are cultivated in the right-wing echo chamber and given life by Trump. After Clinton’s September pneumonia diagnoses, several mainstream outlets went all-in on hyping how “talk of Clinton’s health [is] no longer just the stuff of conspiracy theorists.” Media outlets have time and timeand time again parroted right-wing pseudo-scandals about Clinton’s use of a private email server and about the Clinton Foundation (stories that were also hyped by right-wing outlets like Drudge and Fox News).

Conservative shaming of the “liberal media” also is often intended to induce mainstream coverage of an otherwise fringe or unsubstantiated story. Speaking about hacked emails from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, Fox host Ainsley Earhardt exclaimed, “Do you think the mainstream media will talk about it?” Co-host Steve Doocy added, “Or at least Donald Trump?” Guest Steve Hilton replied, “I don’t think so, so that’s why [Trump] needs to talk about it. Because otherwise, it’s just going to disappear into the ether.”

Ultimate Goal Of “Undermining The Notion Of Objective Truth”

In his assessment of “Russian objectives” behind the Kremlin’s “information warfare” strategy, Giles writes, “it has as one aim undermining the notion of objective truth and reporting being possible at all,” which ultimately “‘undermines the very fundamentals of information and credibility that informed debate are supposed to rest upon.’”

In executing a similar media strategy, Trump and the conservative media have worked to discredit historically legitimate sources of truth. Both by planting, cultivating, and bolstering disinformation and through an unprecedented war on the press, Trump and right-wing media have ushered in an era of post-truth politics where voters have “been successfully persuaded that everything is a lie, so the only political choice you have is to select the fiction that most fits your self-conception,” as explained by journalist Ned Resnikoff.*

Just as how “credibility is not always a metric of success for Russian information warfare campaigns” and that Russian disinformation thrives despite its “lack of plausibility,” as Giles writes, Trump’s promotion of lies and conspiracies are not depressed by the overwhelming number of fact-checks he receives, precisely because truth may not be the measure of success he is seeking.

Indeed, as CNN’s Brian Stelter warned, “Trump and his supporters … are delegitimizing institutions the United States holds dear” — which, frighteningly, is exactly what Giles notes was the goal of Soviet propaganda campaigns that the current Kremlin “information warfare strategy” is emulating.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

IMAGE: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the annual VTB Capital “Russia Calling!” Investment Forum in Moscow, Russia, October 12, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin via REUTERS

New Roundups Of Trump’s Lies Prove Why Fact-Checking Is Vital During Presidential Debates

Published with permission from Media Matters For America

The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico all independently published on September 24 and 25 reviews of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies” in just the last week. Given that Trump’s “mishandling of facts and propensity for exaggeration” is so “frequent,” these reports of Trump’s “untruths” bolster the case for debate moderators to fact-check the candidates during the presidential debates.

Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are set to debate on September 26 in the first of three meetings. Given that Trump has a startling penchant for lying and that Trump’s debate prep team is filled with conspiracy theorists and disreputable political operatives, journalists and veteran debate moderators have called on the moderators to hold the candidates to a high level of truth-telling and fact-check their inaccurate statements.

Media Matters has also called on the debate moderators to fact-check the candidates in real-time, so a debate over settled fact does not become a “‘he said, she said’” situation. Failing to fact-check Trump’s lies during the debate will also feed into the growing media tendency to lower the bar for Trump and hold the two candidates to different standards.

Those calls for asking “tough follow-up questions” have been given even more importance with these new studies. Trump, according to a five-day Politico analysis of his most recent remarks, “averaged about one falsehood every three minutes and 15 seconds.” The Politico analysis found 87 different lies of Trump’s, including on issues such as the economy, health care, national security, immigration, and Clinton, among others. The study also noted Trump’s September 16 lie that “he was not the person responsible for the birtherism campaign to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency.”

The New York Times also “closely tracked Mr. Trump’s public statements from Sept. 15-21, and assembled a list of his 31 biggest whoppers, many of them uttered repeatedly.” The Times spotlighted Trump’s “most consistent falsehood he tells about himself” — “that he opposed the war in Iraq from the start” — which the “evidence shows otherwise.” The Times also highlighted Trump’s “unfounded claims about critics and the news media,” “inaccurate claims about Clinton,” and “stump speech falsehoods.”

The Washington Post similarly examined “one week of Trump’s speeches, tweets and interviews” and found that Trump “continues to rely heavily on thinly sourced or entirely unsubstantiated claims.” The Post’s roundup of Trump’s recent “false or questionable claims” and “controversial and debunked statements” included his erroneous assertion that the black community is “in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever” and his false claim that law enforcement cannot question a person suspected of carrying an explosive.

Though print media outlets are becoming increasingly comfortable spotlighting Trump’s compulsive lying, his habit is not new: PolitiFact found that 70 percent of Trump’s assertions throughout his campaign have been “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.” The Times, Post, and Politico’s roundups of Trump’s lying just in the past week show how crucial it is for debate moderators to be vigilant fact-checkers during the debate.

Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump walks off his plane at a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S., September 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar

After Terror Attacks, Fox News Brings On Anti-Muslim Fearmongers To Push Lies And Anti-Refugee Rhetoric

Published with permission from Media Matters for America.

Fox News is providing a platform for conservatives to spread misinformation about refugees and stoke anti-Muslim fears following a series of apparent terror attacks around the country. Fox’s open-door policy for fearmongers is in keeping with the network’s disconcerting history as a source of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment after terror attacks at home and abroad.

Authorities have arrested a suspect in the September 17 bomb explosions in Manhattan and Seaside Park, N.J.; a suspect was shot in a stabbing spree the same day in Saint Cloud, MN. New York Mayor Bill de Blasiosaid, “We have every reason to believe this was an act of terrorism,” referring to the two New York area bombings, and ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Minnesota mall attack.

President Obama advised that “the press try to refrain from getting out ahead of the investigation” and warned against the dissemination of “false reports or incomplete information” — a warning Fox News ignored as it hosted a series of guests who peddled anti-Muslim talking points and xenophobic rhetoric.

During a segment that led off with Fox host Ainsley Earhardt asking, “Is the Somali refugee crisis now a terror crisis?” Fox contributor Pete Hegseth warned of the “incubation” of radical Islam in “radical mosques” in Minnesota, claiming that “the problem is that a lot of those communities have not assimilated the way we would want them to.” Hegseth then proclaimed that there “is a terrorist recruitment problem in Minnesota.” Hegseth regularly fearmongers on Fox’s airwaves about terror and the “concerns about integration” of Muslims.

Jim Hanson, executive vice president of the anti-Muslim hate group Center for Security Policy, argued for heightened policing of Muslim communities because the New York attacker was “conducting jihad” and “saying Allahu Akbar.” Hanson also baselessly speculated that the Chelsea neighborhood of New York was targeted because it “is a prominently gay area” and claimed that “there’s a decent chance that this might have been another attempt to attack the gay community.” Hanson has regularly appeared on Fox to spread fears about Islam and terror.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared on Fox & Friends to fearmonger about refugees and immigration, claiming that President Obama’s policy of “letting people in by the thousands and tens of thousands” will lead to terror attacks “happen[ing] perhaps more and more all over the country.”

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a senior adviser to Trump and a Fox regular, exploited the attacks to call for surveilling the Muslim community, adding that it “is absolute nonsense” to say that going “into these communities” for that purpose is Islamophobic. Flynn suggested that heightened surveillance of Muslim communities doesn’t occur because of “political correctness” and that “political correctness kills. It will cause death.” Fox has a record of responding to terror attacks by pushing profiling and mosque surveillance, which have been found to beineffective and, according to the ACLU, lead to stigma, interference with religious worship, fear, free speech violation, and damaged relationships with law enforcement.

Conservative columnist and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich claimed that the government is letting refugees come “into the country unvetted from terrorism hotspots all over the world,” even though the United States has a rigorous and stringent vetting process for refugees and immigrants.

Fox News consistently turns to fearmongering, anti-Muslim narratives after terror attacks, adopting racially charged rhetoric and recycling distorted lies about Muslims and refugees. Fox hosts and guests exploited theEuropean refugee crisis and used the Paris terrorist attacks to stoke fears about admitting refugees into America; conservatives used Fox to advocate for profiling Muslim Americans following the San Bernardino, CA, shooting; and right-wing pundits twisted the Brussels attack to whip up anti-Muslim fears.

Fox News Is Laying The Groundwork For Trump To Skip Out On Presidential Debates

Published with permission from Media Matters.

Fox News figures are helping rationalize Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s threat that the 2016 presidential debates must have “fair” moderators or he won’t participate, pointing to Candy Crowley’s 2012 debate moderation in which she fact-checked Republican candidate Mitt Romney as an “unacceptable” example. But Fox’s attacks on Crowley are based on a lie, and they’re helping lay the groundwork for Trump to justify withdrawing from the debates.

Trump Says He Might Try To “Re-Negotiate” Debate Terms For “Fair Moderators”

Trump: “I’ll Have To See Who The Moderators Are. Yeah, I Would Say That Certain Moderators Would Be Unacceptable.” Time magazine reported that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “will commit to three debates this fall with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, but may try to re-negotiate the terms that have been agreed upon by a bipartisan commission.” Trump told Time, “‘I’ll have to see who the moderators are. Yeah, I would say that certain moderators would be unacceptable, absolutely.’” [Time magazine, 8/9/16]

Fox News Figures Justify Trump’s Threat, Pointing To Candy Crowley’s 2012 Debate Moderation

Fox’s Eric Bolling: “That’s Your Right” To Negotiate Moderators And Make Sure There’s No “Candy Crowley Situation.” After Fox regular Rudy Giuliani said that “what we are going to negotiate is — we’re not going to walk into a Candy Crowley situation,” — referring to the 2012 presidential debate where moderator CNN’s Candy Crowley interjected to correct Mitt Romney’s false attacks on President Obama. Fox host Eric Bolling responded, “And that’s your right. That’s typical debate negotiations.” Giuliani added that “we’re not going to fall into the trap that [2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt] Romney fell into with Crowley … . We’re not going to have some moderator do that to us.” From the August 11 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:

ERIC BOLLING (GUEST HOST): You know, this business about going up against the NFL, that’s not going to become an issue? It’s done? That’s been fixed?

RUDY GIULIANI: He is going to be there, he’s going to be there for the debates. What we are going to negotiate is — we’re not going to walk into a Candy Crowley situation. After all, we are New Yorkers. We are not suckers.

BOLLING: And that’s your right. That’s typical debate negotiations that go on at every level, primary level as well. It’s a give and take on who can moderate? Is that what it is?

GIULIANI: I used to — I participated in 11 primary presidential debates and we negotiated the size of the podium, how much time you get. Stuff like that.

BOLLING: Moderators?

GIULIANI: This time we’re going to negotiate moderators because we’re not going to fall into the trap that [2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt] Romney fell into with Crowley when she announced that Obama was right and Romney was wrong and it turned out the next day that it was the other way around. We’re not going to have some moderator do that to us.

BOLLING: I always said Romney should have had that in his back pocket to know that she was wrong. He could have fought back a little bit harder. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor,8/11/16]

Fox’s Charles Krauthammer: If The Moderators “Are Unacceptable,” Like Crowley, “You Can Say I’m Not Going To Participate Unless We Get Somebody Else.” Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer, calling Crowley’s debate moderation “shameful,” said, “I think it’s very important for the commission to think very hard about who would be acceptable to both sides.” Krauthammer added that “if they are unacceptable, you can say I’m not going to participate unless we get somebody else.” Fox contributor Laura Ingraham also said that “people were furious” about Crowley’s debate moderation and that picking debate moderators is “the more interesting question” than that of scheduling conflicts with the NFL. From the August 10 edition of Fox News’Special Report with Bret Baier:

LAURA INGRAHAM: I think the more interesting question here, Chris, is what the Republicans have been concerned about in the past. Remember, Romney, in the national poll average, I was looking back at this before the show, was six points ahead going into that Candy Crowley debate. And everybody remembers the transcript Candy moment on Benghazi, and people were furious. Candy Crowley ultimately said that Romney had had a good point except in the wording of what he said about the act of terrorism.

CHRIS WALLACE (GUEST HOST): But let’s just point out that in the debate she seemed to side with Obama.

INGRAHAM: Right, exactly. So that infuriated Republicans and some people believe that really turned the tide against Romney. I don’t know if it did or didn’t.

[…]

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The real issue is who moderates. And the Candy Crowley moment, I don’t know if it was decisive one, but it was shameful. She clearly took the side of Obama and she was wrong, which made it even worse. So I think it’s very important for the commission to think very hard about who would be acceptable to both sides. Generally speaking, the media overwhelmingly liberal, so if you are going to take a random sample you are going to get liberal moderators who will try to be objective, but in the end it’s very hard to be. So I think it’s important to make the point that we are going to be watching very carefully who the moderators are, and if they are unacceptable, you can say I’m not going to participate unless we get somebody else. Ask a bunch of respected, retired judges to be the ones who choose. [Fox News, Special Report, 8/10/16]

Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle: Trump “Reserves The Right To Renegotiate If He Feels” The Moderators Won’t Be “Fair And Balanced.” Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle said that “Trump is worried the same will happen to him,” referring to Crowley’s debate moderation, and added, “He wants them to be fair and balanced. He reserves the right to renegotiate if he feels in fact they are not.” From the August 11 edition of Fox News’ The Five:

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): We all remember when Candy Crowley took President Obama’s side while moderating a 2012 presidential debate. This time around Donald Trump is worried the same will happen to him when he faces off against Hillary Clinton. He has agreed to participate in all three general election debates, but warns he may try to renegotiate the terms if it’s not fair and balanced.

[…]

Dana, so he wants to do the debates. He wants them to be fair and balanced. He reserves the right to renegotiate if he feels in fact they are not. How should this play out? [Fox News, The Five, 8/11/16]

Fox Contributor Karl Rove: Crowley’s Debate Moderation “Caused A Lot Of People To Be Concerned About The Impartiality Of The Moderators.” Fox contributor Karl Rove said that “in recent years, there have been questions” about whether the 2016 presidential debates can have a fair moderator, pointing to “Crowley getting herself involved in that [2012] debate.” Rove said her moderation “caused a lot of people to be concerned about the impartiality of the moderators.” From the August 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

STEVE DOOCY (HOST): Donald Trump says now he’s happy to do three debates if there’s a fair moderator. How often does that actually happen where there’s a fair moderator, fair to the various candidates?

KARL ROVE: Well, look, we used to have in the 20th century a general consensus that the moderators were fair and impartial. Jim Lehrer, for example, had a great reputation of being an impartial moderator. But in recent years there have been questions. I call it the Crowley effect, Candy Crowley getting herself involved in that debate, seeming to take, seeming to correct Mitt Romney. She was wrong, he was right in the debate. It has caused a lot of people to be concerned about the impartiality of the moderators. That’s only been made worse by the performance of some of these moderators in the Democratic and Republican presidential debates where they appeared to be unfair. So there’s a lot of concern about it. I’m not certain there’s an easy solution. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/11/16]

But Fox’s Attacks That Crowley Wasn’t “Impartial” Are Premised On A Lie

Crowley In 2012 Presidential Debate Corrected Romney’s False Attack On Obama. During a 2012 presidential debate between Romney and President Barack Obama, Romney claimed that “it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror,” when in fact Obama had used that language the day after the attack. Crowley interjected, saying, “He did call it an act of terror.” Right-wing media figures subsequently lashed out at Crowley, calling her “disgraceful” and comparing her to a “suicide bomber.” [CNN.com, 10/20/12; Media Matters, 10/19/12]

Obama Did In Fact Use The Term “Act Of Terror” The Day After The Benghazi Attacks. Discussing the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, the day after they occurred, Obama said, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.” [Remarks By The President On The Deaths Of U.S. Embassy Staff In Libya, The White House, 9/12/12]

Crowley Debunked Right-Wing Claims That She Later Walked Back Her Fact Check. After Crowley faced harsh criticism from conservatives over her correct fact check of Romney, she addressed the situation, saying, “So we knew that the president had said, you know, these acts of terror won’t stand or whatever the whole quote was.” She conceded that Romney was right in saying that it took the administration two weeks to clarify the cause of the attacks. Right-wing media claimed that Crowley was walking back her fact check, but she quickly debunked that narrative. [Media Matters, 10/17/12]

Photo: Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly poses on the set of his show “The O’Reilly Factor” in New York March 17, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The Problem With The Media’s ‘Trump Is Pivoting’ Narrative

Published with permission from Media Matters for America. 

Media figures have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “pivoting” to the general election every time he does something that they think makes him look or sound “presidential.” Media’s constant search for Trump’s “pivot” effectively whitewashes all of the racist, sexist, slanderous, and conspiratorial attacks Trump has doled out, and mainstreams the idea that Trump’s past diatribes can be forgiven so long as he assumes a veneer of conventional, tempered behavior.

Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump and the media have engaged in a cycle wherein Trump launches offensive broadsides and character attacks; He gets bad press; Republican leaders clamor for Trump to tone down his rhetoric; Trump obliges, often using a teleprompter to restrain himself; Media figures claim Trump has “pivoted” and is “becoming more presidential”; and repeat.

As MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said, Trump constantly shatters the “pivot” narrative “by trotting out conspiracy theories” — or, as others have noted, outrageous insults — within hours of being lauded as “presidential.”

In following this pattern, the media are both applauding Trump for having simply mastered “campaign 101,” as CNN’s David Gregory noted, and excusing his past remarks as political maneuvering and electoral showmanship.

In early June, after Trump launched a multiday racist crusade against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over Trump University lawsuits, Republican leaders beseeched Trump to “get on message” and “quit attacking … various minority groups in the country.” That very night, Trump delivered a speech — devoid of any attacks and with the aid of a teleprompter — that “sought to calm fretful Republicans bolting from his side over his latest controversy,” CNN reported.

Media figures immediately claimed that Trump’s restraint showed he was “pivoting.” NBC News reporter Ali Vitaliwrote that Trump “acted presidential” in the speech, which “finalized his pivot to the general election.” CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.” Unsurprisingly, Trump also received praise from right-wing media for sounding “more presidential than ever.”

CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill explained the phenomenon:

“It’s kind of a good outcome for Trump, because we’re not talking about a Mexican judge anymore. We’re not talking about something controversial. We’re talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign. That can only be good news for him, based on what the last three weeks have been.”

GOP leaders condemned Trump’s repeated “offensive” suggestions that President Obama had sympathies for terrorists, but changed their tune once Trump delivered his next teleprompter-guided speech following the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. Some media figures said Trump sounded “more presidential” and was “behaving like general election nominees behave,” and Trump’s slanderous accusations against the president quickly fell out of the news cycle.

The “pivot” claim, which has repeatedly surfaced since at least February, has also helped wash away many of Trump’s past actions and comments: his doubling down on his proposed Muslim ban, his accusations that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and his questioning of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s faith.

Some media figures have noted the journalistic malpractice associated with the constant fallback on the “pivot” narrative. New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich, calling the narrative “absurd,” wrote:

But really, how do you pivot away from saying that Mexicans are rapists? (Will he negotiate “great deals” with more moderate Mexican rapists?) If your campaign is a cult of personality, how can you modulate that personality and still have the cult? In Trump’s case, a “pivot” would constitute a complete overhaul of his very essence.

Similarly, Washington Post opinion writer Kathleen Parker lambasted media’s “softening of criticism” of Trump and warned “the commentariat,” “Nothing makes Trump more acceptable today than yesterday or last week — or six months ago.”

The “pivot” narrative has become a reset button, allowing media to excuse or forget all of Trump’s past rhetorical assaults. Media figures are essentially condoning all of his racism, sexism, and conspiracies, so long as he sounds and acts subdued and presidential.

Image by Dayanita Ramesh and Sarah Wasko. 

Media figures have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “pivoting” to the general election every time he does something that they think makes him look or sound “presidential.” Media’s constant search for Trump’s “pivot” effectively whitewashes all of the racist, sexist, slanderous, and conspiratorial attacks Trump has doled out, and mainstreams the idea that Trump’s past diatribes can be forgiven so long as he assumes a veneer of conventional, tempered behavior.

Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump and the media have engaged in a cycle wherein Trump launches offensive broadsides and character attacks; He gets bad press; Republican leaders clamor for Trump to tone down his rhetoric; Trump obliges, often using a teleprompter to restrain himself; Media figures claim Trump has “pivoted” and is “becoming more presidential”; and repeat.

As MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said, Trump constantly shatters the “pivot” narrative “by trotting out conspiracy theories” — or, as others have noted, outrageous insults — within hours of being lauded as “presidential.”

In following this pattern, the media are both applauding Trump for having simply mastered “campaign 101,” as CNN’s David Gregory noted, and excusing his past remarks as political maneuvering and electoral showmanship.

In early June, after Trump launched a multiday racist crusade against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over Trump University lawsuits, Republican leaders beseeched Trump to “get on message” and “quit attacking … various minority groups in the country.” That very night, Trump delivered a speech — devoid of any attacks and with the aid of a teleprompter — that “sought to calm fretful Republicans bolting from his side over his latest controversy,” CNN reported.

Media figures immediately claimed that Trump’s restraint showed he was “pivoting.” NBC News reporter Ali Vitaliwrote that Trump “acted presidential” in the speech, which “finalized his pivot to the general election.” CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.” Unsurprisingly, Trump also received praise from right-wing media for sounding “more presidential than ever.”

CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill explained the phenomenon:

“It’s kind of a good outcome for Trump, because we’re not talking about a Mexican judge anymore. We’re not talking about something controversial. We’re talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign. That can only be good news for him, based on what the last three weeks have been.”

GOP leaders condemned Trump’s repeated “offensive” suggestions that President Obama had sympathies for terrorists, but changed their tune once Trump delivered his next teleprompter-guided speech following the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. Some media figures said Trump sounded “more presidential” and was “behaving like general election nominees behave,” and Trump’s slanderous accusations against the president quickly fell out of the news cycle.

The “pivot” claim, which has repeatedly surfaced since at least February, has also helped wash away many of Trump’s past actions and comments: his doubling down on his proposed Muslim ban, his accusations that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and his questioning of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s faith.

Some media figures have noted the journalistic malpractice associated with the constant fallback on the “pivot” narrative. New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich, calling the narrative “absurd,” wrote:

But really, how do you pivot away from saying that Mexicans are rapists? (Will he negotiate “great deals” with more moderate Mexican rapists?) If your campaign is a cult of personality, how can you modulate that personality and still have the cult? In Trump’s case, a “pivot” would constitute a complete overhaul of his very essence.

Similarly, Washington Post opinion writer Kathleen Parker lambasted media’s “softening of criticism” of Trump and warned “the commentariat,” “Nothing makes Trump more acceptable today than yesterday or last week — or six months ago.”

The “pivot” narrative has become a reset button, allowing media to excuse or forget all of Trump’s past rhetorical assaults. Media figures are essentially condoning all of his racism, sexism, and conspiracies, so long as he sounds and acts subdued and presidential.

Image by Dayanita Ramesh and Sarah Wasko. 

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump looks at the crowd while addressing The Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road To Majority” conference in Washington, U.S., June 10, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts