Media Matters for America
Tucker Carlson wonders why the Mandalay Bay guard who was shot is considered a hero
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): I mean, look, I feel for Campos. He didn't do anything wrong. He was walking by, shot or hit by a ricochet. I'm still not clear exactly what happened.

So, I'm not attacking him in any way, I'm just asking an honest question when I ask you, "Why is he a hero, exactly?" Ellen DeGeneres did this whole thing, "You're a hero and we love you, we're celebrating you."

According to the timeline, I don't -- where does the "hero" part come in? I'm honestly confused. What does that mean?


Tucker Carlson forced to issue correction after Mandalay Bay shuts down conspiracy theory that injured guard worked under false Social Security number

Tucker Carlson says Las Vegas gunman's bump stock may have saved lives because it was less accurate

NRATV host speculates without evidence that Las Vegas shooting was motivated by a desire to attack Trump supporters

Hannity conspiracy theory: Christopher Steele paid Russians "to give false stories about Donald Trump, with hookers in the Ritz"
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): And one of the most revealing aspects of what is wrong with the Democratic Party on issues involving national security -- there's a report out that the special counsel's role -- that he may have had a major role in covering up all this Clinton, Russia bribery scandal, Robert Mueller, and that raises questions about himself, and whether he might be involved. Maybe we need to investigate him for obstructing justice, maybe he needs to be investigated for compromising national security.


You got Fusion GPS, do you know the group -- talk about Russia, the people that came up with the phony dossier, the Steele dossier? Oh, Fusion GPS specialized in disinformation.

Well, the guy they used, Christopher Steele, he would use sort of like, walk-around money, to actually pay Russians to give false stories about Donald Trump, with hookers in the Ritz in Moscow, urinating on a bed, among others. And why did James Comey then want to then hire this guy? And Lindsey Graham is now threatening to subpoena Comey. It's about time.


Contra right-wing media, US officials have verified core aspects of the Trump dossier

Hannity again steals from Alex Jones, interviewing a pro-Trumper who has contributed to Infowars

How Trump's lawyers, Sean Hannity, and a Sinclair outlet tried to cover up Trump Jr.'s Russia meeting

The Periscope that shows how there's no difference between the "new right" and "alt-right"
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

For over an hour and a half, Gateway Pundit’s White House correspondent Lucian Wintrich broadcast a Periscope session that was meant to show “three gentlemen ... exchang[ing] ideas” but in actuality featured praise for Adolf Hitler, racial slurs, homophobic imagery, and a swastika flag. If Wintrich and his companions were aiming to troll and trigger social-justice-warrior (SJW) snowflakes, they had just the right ingredients: Consider me triggered! However, the Periscope session -- dubbed “Alt-Right Vs New Right, Debate Of The Century” -- managed to do a lot more by also offering clear evidence that the attempt to rebrand the “new right” as different from the toxic “alt-right” is merely performative, and that the movements are more alike than dissimilar.

The October 18 Periscope video, an episode of Wintrich’s podcast Wintrich Report, featured “new right” personality Ali Akbar, an avid supporter of President Donald Trump, and Matt Colligan, who goes by “Millennial Matt” online and was a participant of the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. Wintrich and Akbar kicked off the broadcast by setting the rules of engagement, which included Akbar clarifying, “We’re not going to be mean. We’re not going to be super racist -- funny racist is a whole different story. And for the most part, we’re going to leave ethnicities alone, but there’s no problem talking about power structures and people who control certain industries and stuff like that.”

The “honest exchange of ideas” included Millennial Matt waving a swastika flag in front of the camera, saying “Adolf Hitler, he was a great man,” and referring to white nationalist Richard Spencer as “a good guy.” Wintrich passionately defended Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as “one of the most brilliant generals that has come out of the United States” and bemoaned that his “legacy” was being destroyed. Both Wintrich and Akbar sat through the conversation and laughed at Millennial Matt’s jokes -- including his sporting of a T-shirt that read “Fags R gay” -- only politely objecting, “We don’t fully share views,” but with Wintrich eventually seeking common ground in the argument that “there are huge cultural problems where white people in this country are being demonized.”   

The Periscope session  follows months of ostensible feuding and debating between representatives of the two factions, led by -- in one corner -- Will Chamberlain, newly minted executive director for the MAGA Meetups group, and Mike Cernovich, the most prominent MAGA troll, and -- in the other --  YouTuber James Allsup, Nick J. Fuentes, and Richard Spencer. The two groups have been publicly criticizing and debating each other, mostly for show, a strategy the “new right” trolls, in a quest to gain legitimacy, use to show contrasts with the vitriolic, outwardly racist “alt-right” by attempting to prove that the latter’s leaders dislike them.

By hosting Millennial Matt -- a Holocaust joke lover who agrees “almost a hundred percent with” the “alt-right,” Wintrich managed to shed light on just how similar the two factions are. They talked about uniting against pedophilia in Hollywood to combat “these Marxists, these progressives … who are oppressing white people,” apparently unaware of the fact that one of the most prominent apologists of pedophilia is closer to the “alt-right” than to any progressive.

During the conversation, Millennial Matt described the “new right” as “a bunch of guys and girls who got social media presences during the Donald Trump election,” to which Wintrich quipped, “Much like yourself.” Inadvertently, the exchange highlighted the common genesis of the factions. The overlapping nature of the factions was similarly apparent when Millennial Matt mentioned “free Kekistan,” alluding to a fictional country invented by message board users that tells the “tongue-in-cheek ethnic origin” of online trolls. Millennial Matt noted it as part of the culture of the “new right,” but Wintrich said it belonged to the “alt-right” just as much.

By the end, the disastrous video -- during which Akbar reminded audiences that it wasn’t a debate, “there’s no winner, there’s no loser” -- managed to effectively blur the fictional lines between the factions. Members of the “alt-right” called it “refreshing,” and the groups showed they share an audience that enjoys anti-Semitism. Coincidentally, it might have poured cold water on attempts by supposed new-righter Cernovich -- who participated by trolling other users in the chat and even promoted the live broadcast in a now-deleted tweet -- to legitimize himself by doing “a big pivot” away from the toxic elements of the groups with which he’s been associated. Most importantly, though, it was useful in showing clear evidence that the attempt by some supposed members of the “new right” to rebrand is bullshit. They might purport to condemn and disavow racism after events like the rally in Charlottesville, but they allow it as long as it’s the "funny racist" kind. Their effort to draw contrasts with extremists did nothing but highlight their similarities, including how their origin story is the same -- hate speech and extremism disguised as meme culture.

Report: Sean Hannity’s attacks on the press are concerning colleague Chris Wallace
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

According to a recent article by The Associated Press, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace is put off by his colleagues' support for President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press. As the AP notes, it’s not hard to extrapolate that one of the hosts Wallace is upset with is Sean Hannity, who “is the president’s fiercest defender on Fox,” and often references the “destroy Trump media” and “fake news” in his campaign to delegitimize the press for the sake of defending Trump.

In the October 19 article, the AP reported that Wallace takes issue with the way many of his Fox colleagues attack the press, noting that while Wallace “doesn't call out press-bashing colleagues by name,” “it's no secret that prime-time star Sean Hannity is the president’s fiercest defender on Fox.” Citing a Media Matters study on Hannity’s authoritarian approach to defending Trump, the AP explained that “Hannity criticized the press in 90 percent of his monologues from May 15 to Sept. 1, according to the liberal media watchdogs Media Matters for America, and used the term  ‘fake news’ 67 times.”

The AP’s reporting shows that even Hannity’s colleagues are starting to get fed up with his sycophancy and propaganda, and for that reason and many others, Media Matters has been taking action to address and highlight Hannity’s toxic distortion of reality.

From the October 19 Associated Press article:

Sunday host Chris Wallace generally lives in peaceful co-existence with Fox News Channel's opinion folks, except when he hears some of them echo President Donald Trump's criticism of the news media.

Fake news? He's fighting back.

"It bothers me," Wallace said in an interview. "If they want to say they like Trump, or that they're upset with the Democrats, that's fine. That's opinion. That's what they do for a living.

"I don't like them bashing the media, because oftentimes what they're bashing is stuff that we on the news side are doing. I don't think they recognize that they have a role at Fox News and we have a role at Fox News. I don't know what's in their head. I just think it's bad form."


He doesn't call out press-bashing colleagues by name. It's no secret that prime-time star Sean Hannity is the president's fiercest defender on Fox, with frequent references to the "destroy Trump media." Hannity criticized the press in 90 percent of his monologues from May 15 to Sept. 1, according to the liberal media watchdogs Media Matters for America, and used the term "fake news" 67 times. [The New York Times, 10/19/17]

Breitbart adopts Ed Gillespie’s spin in attempt to link sanctuary cities to murder of Muslim teenager
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Breitbart politicized the death of a Muslim teenager in a seeming attempt to vindicate Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie after he released a number of ads falsely linking so-called sanctuary cities to the gang MS-13.

In a series of widely criticized campaign ads, Gillespie attacked his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, for allegedly “increasing the threat of MS-13” in Virginia by voting in favor of sanctuary policies. The ads are built on a number of falsehoods, including the myth that sanctuary cities embolden gangs like MS-13 and increase violent crime, even though law enforcement officials have said sanctuary policies facilitate their efforts to fight the gang.

In a seeming attempt to justify Gillespie’s anti-immigrant rhetoric -- which originated in right-wing media -- Breitbart published an article haphazardly linking the death of a Muslim teenager in Virginia to sanctuary cities. From the October 17 Breitbart article:

The Washington Post willingly ignored the illegal alien-status of a man who is accused of brutally murdering a Muslim teenager in Fairfax County, Virginia.

In a piece about the trial of Darwin Martinez Torres, a 22-year-old illegal alien from El Salvador, the Post did not mention the fact that when Torres was accused of murdering 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen, he was never supposed to have been in the United States.


Torres now has a detainer on him by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which demands he be turned over to federal immigration officials should he be released from local custody at any point.

Despite efforts by the mainstream media to label the murder a “hate crime” that was perpetrated by an anti-Muslim attacker, police have said there is no evidence indicating that the illegal alien targeted the teen because of her religion.

In the Virginia governor’s race, sanctuary cities, which protect criminal illegal aliens, has become a hot-button issue between populist conservative Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam.

This year, Northam was the deciding vote in supporting sanctuary cities, which have helped violent, El Salvadorian street gangs like MS-13, to proliferate across the state.

Gillespie, most recently, hit back at Northam’s support for illegal aliens and sanctuary cities by releasing a multitude of ad campaigns directly mentioning how the MS-13 gang poses a grave danger to Virginia residents.

Breitbart’s arbitrary mention of sanctuary cities is seemingly meant to imply that Hassanen’s tragic death was the result of sanctuary policy, even though Virginia technically does not have any sanctuary cities. Indeed, conservative media outlets’ crusade against sanctuary cities is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to smear undocumented immigrants as criminals and further an anti-immigrant agenda.

Fox's Tucker Carlson is mad about an undocumented teen paying for her own abortion
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

Fox News host Tucker Carlson and guest Kristan Hawkins, president of the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America (SFLA), on Wednesday repeated the right-wing myth of so-called “taxpayer-funded abortion,” alleging that a recent judicial ruling requires taxpayers to pay for abortions for undocumented immigrants.

On October 18, a federal judge in Texas ordered the Trump administration to quit barring abortion access for an undocumented teen (referred to as Jane Doe) who is being held in federal custody in the state by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement. During the hearing, lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) argued that the government was not impeding Jane Doe’s access to an abortion because she was “free to return to her home country for the procedure." Judge Tanya Chutkan said she was “astounded” by DOJ’s argument. “She can leave the country or not get her abortion. That’s your position,” she replied. On October 19, the DOJ appealed the ruling, and a federal appeals court in D.C. announced that it would hear oral arguments on October 20. The D.C. court also issued an administrative stay temporarily blocking the teen from having an abortion.

Rather than discuss the facts of the case, on October 18, Carlson hosted Hawkins to repeatedly lie that the ruling would require taxpayers to fund abortions for undocumented immigrants. Carlson claimed, “Liberals are arguing that U.S. taxpayers somehow have an obligation to fund abortions for illegal aliens.” Hawkins agreed, stating that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) -- which argued the case on behalf of Jane Doe -- “sees this opportunity, along with their abortion allies, to mandate that taxpayers facilitate her abortion.” She also said that the organization was attempting to claim that the teen has a “constitutional right to have a taxpayer-funded abortion.” Hawkins alleged that the ruling would set a “dangerous precedence” (sic) for other people to “come to the United States illegally or legally” because the country would “fund a taxpayer-funded abortion for you.”

Unfortunately for Carlson, the facts of the case run contrary to his and his guest’s claims. Despite Carlson and Hawkins’ allegations, Jane Doe requires no government support to receive an abortion. According to BuzzFeed News, Jane Doe did not ask for “the government to pay for the procedure or arrange the transportation.” Instead, as Politico reported, Jane Doe “has [already] obtained the money to pay for” the abortion. But rather than acknowledge those facts, Carlson and Hawkins instead joined in the Fox News chorus of xenophobic scare tactics about undocumented immigrants in the United States. Carlson also has a history of advancing anti-choice misinformation, often by hosting anti-abortion leaders.

Beyond Carlson, right-wing media frequently push the myth that taxpayers fund abortions. Under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortion is prohibited except in cases of rape or incest or if the life of the mother is in danger.

During the October 18 segment, Hawkins additionally talked about the importance of having a “pro-life HHS” because “they’re the ones trying to protect this young girl from the ACLU, from Planned Parenthood who are just simply using her.” However, as Rewire’s Tina Vasquez detailed, this so-called protection is actually harmful: She explained that there are numerous allegations of HHS using underhanded tactics to impede access to abortion for Jane Doe and other undocumented immigrants -- often in direct opposition to the individual’s wishes. As Vasquez noted, this interference is so extreme that some advocates have called Jane Doe's case “a harbinger of the ‘anti-choice fanaticism’ working its way into the immigration system since Trump’s presidential inauguration.”

For example, according to the ACLU’s complaint, Jane Doe and other undocumented immigrants have been forced to go to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which employ deceptive tactics and push medical misinformation to dissuade or intimidate individuals from receiving desired abortion care. And unlike abortion providers, CPCs actually can receive taxpayer funding, despite providing little that resembles genuine health care. The ACLU also alleged that Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, “personally contacted” one or more pregnant undocumented minors in order to dissuade them from having abortions. In one related incident, the ACLU found that an undocumented minor was taken to the emergency room after she had taken the first of two pills used in a medical abortion in order “to determine the health status” of the “unborn child” and potentially stop the procedure.

The stark reality is that, as the complaint stated, many of the undocumented pregnant minors who cross the Mexico border have an “acute need” for reproductive health care; studies have shown that many are pregnant as the result of rapes committed in their home countries or during the dangerous journey across the border. But instead of acknowledging that reality, Carlson and Hawkins opted to advance lies about immigrants and abortion access in order to vilify undocumented minors seeking medical care.

Right-wing media falsely call crucial ACA subsidies "bailouts" to defend Trump's decision to halt them
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Trump ends cost-sharing reduction payments, calling them a “bailout” for the insurance industry

Trump ends cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies, calling them a “bailout.” President Donald Trump on October 12 said the government would stop issuing insurers cost-sharing reductions (CSR) payments, subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that, as NPR reported, were “designed to help low-income Americans get health care.” In a statement, the White House called the payments a “bailout of insurance companies.” [NPR, 10/12/17]

Trump decries bipartisan deal to shore up health insurance markets for “bailing out” insurers. After Senate leaders reached a bipartisan deal to shore up insurance markets with legislation to reinstate CSR payments for a short time period, Trump tweeted, “I can never support bailing out [insurance companies] who have made a fortune” with the ACA. [NPR, 10/17/17]

Trump had also called the payments “BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies” in a July tweet:

CSR payments are not a “bailout” to insurers

NY Times: CSR payments “are more accurately characterized as a reimbursement that the government pays to insurance companies.” The New York Times pointed out that calling CSR payments “‘a bailout’ is misleading,” noting that they “are more accurately characterized as a reimbursement that the government pays to the insurance companies.” The paper added, “It is done not to save the companies from financial ruin — unlike the banks in 2008, they are not in danger of failing — but to cover the cost of cheaper health care for low- and moderate-income Americans.” From the October 18 New York Times article:

“Bailout” typically refers to financial assistance offered to prevent the bankruptcy of a company or industry. The 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (which Mr. Trump largely supported) was a bailout because it provided $700 billion for the Treasury Department to buy troubled securities from banks that were at risk of collapse.

The funds Mr. Trump now refers to, on the other hand, are more accurately characterized as a reimbursement that the government pays to the insurance companies. It is done not to save the companies from financial ruin — unlike the banks in 2008, they are not in danger of failing — but to cover the cost of cheaper health care for low- and moderate-income Americans. [The New York Times, 10/18/17]

Wash. Post: “Trump is misusing the term ‘bailout.’” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave Trump “Four Pinocchios” for his July 29 tweet, writing, “President Trump is misusing the term ‘bailout.’” The Fact Checker pointed out that “Insurance companies don’t make money through cost-sharing — they are being paid back for money they’ve already spent on behalf of people who purchased their health plans.” [The Washington Post, 8/7/17]

Right-wing media have repeatedly referred to CSR payments as “bailouts” for the insurance industry

Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt: “Our tax dollars have been bailing out these insurance companies.” When discussing CSR payments, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt alleged that “our tax dollars have been bailing out these companies.” Co-host Steve Doocy also called the subsidies a “bailout for the insurance companies.” From the October 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): By the way, if anyone was fearful on Friday the 13 of Obamacare imploding, that was doing it on its own, but the president is actually taking action and is pretty much fed up with what’s been going on. So last night around 9 o'clock, he had his second shot at taking it out.

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): The first shot, he signed [an] executive order encouraging competition, more choices, lower cost. And then he stopped the bailouts to the insurance companies.

KILMEADE: Which is about $7 billion.


STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): What [Trump’s] talking about is the administration has been propping up the insurance companies that take part for, as Brian just mentioned, $7 billion a year. Essentially what it's going to do, it’s going to end the payments. And here's the reason why this makes sense, because they were never approved. When they carved up the law of Obamacare, they never said, “OK, and then there’s going to be this bailout for the insurance companies.” In 2014, the Republican Party sued the federal government. In 2016, a federal judge said, “You know what? The Republicans are right, those payments are improper.”

EARHARDT: So because the government, our tax dollars, have been bailing out these companies, they’re able to stay in Obamacare. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/13/17]

Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz: Funding CSR payments is “bailing out the insurance cartel.” Daniel Horowitz, a senior editor at Conservative Review, blasted CSR payments during an appearance on One America News’ The Daily Ledger, claiming that funding them is “bailing out the insurance cartel.” Host Graham Ledger made similar remarks, calling CSR payments “a payoff for the participation of the insurance companies” and “a bribe.” From the October 18 edition of One America News’ The Daily Ledger:

GRAHAM LEDGER (HOST): We have [Sen.] Lamar Alexander [(R-TN)] come along, and he’s saying we'll now just make what is unconstitutional -- and by unconstitutional, I don’t mean just the entire law; I mean the subsidy component. This was not appropriated by Congress. Obama just simply took this money, and has been giving it, and I call it a payoff for the participation of the insurance companies. It's a bribe. He’s been just giving it, and then the Republicans have continued giving it to the insurance companies. So we have two tracks here, two competing tracks that really is kind of mind-boggling when you try and piece it together.

DANIEL HOROWITZ: Think about how Orwellian this is. Republicans, during the last number of years, ran on two things: no Obamacare, no bailouts. Now they're bailing out the insurance cartel and the people that burned down health care in America over the years long before Obamacare. [One America News, The Daily Ledger, 10/18/17]

CNN’s Stephen Moore: CSR payments are “a bailout of the insurance companies.” When asked about Trump’s characterization of the subsidies, CNN contributor and former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore agreed with the president, calling CSR payments “a bailout of the insurance companies.” [CNN, Erin Burnett OutFront, 10/13/17]

Fox Business’ Ashley Webster: “You could argue that the subsidies to the insurance companies was a bailout.” Fox Business’ Ashley Webster claimed that “the subsidies to the insurance companies was a bailout, as Mr. Trump has stated.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 10/16/17]

Frequent Fox guest Dan Bongino: CSR payments are a “taxpayer-funded bailout of the health insurance companies.” Frequent Fox guest and talk radio host Dan Bongino asserted that CSR payments are a “taxpayer-funded bailout of the health insurance companies.” [Fox News, Justice with Judge Jeanine, 10/14/17]

Fox Business’ Liz Claman: CSR payments are “bailout cash going to the insurers.” Fox Business host Liz Claman referred to CSR payments as “bailout cash going to the insurers.” [Fox Business, Risk and Reward with Deirdre Bolton, 10/13/17]

Townhall: Bipartisan compromise on ACA includes “new bailouts of insurance companies.” In a piece for Townhall, Brian Darling wrote that the bipartisan compromise to shore up ACA markets includes “new bailouts of insurance companies,” referring to a provision to reinstate CSR payments. [Townhall, 10/18/17; CNN, 10/17/17]

Gateway Pundit: Trump blocked “Obamacare insurance bailouts.” The Gateway Pundit lashed out at Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) after she “attacked President Trump for his actions to block Obamacare insurance bailouts.” [The Gateway Pundit, 10/15/17]

NY Post’s F.H. Buckley: Trump halted the “bailout” to insurers. New York Post columnist F.H. Buckley said that by ending CSR payments, Trump had halted “the bailout” to insurers. [New York Post, 10/13/17]

Ending CSR payments would increase some premiums, cost the government more, and possibly push insurers out of exchanges Without CSR payments, “some insurers might well decide that the government is an unreliable partner and give up on the exchanges for 2018.” contributing editor and consumer liaison representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Timothy Jost explained that if the government were to withhold CSR payments, “some insurers might well decide that the government is an unreliable partner and give up on the exchanges for 2018.” [, 8/2/17]

CBO: If the government were to withhold CSR payments, premiums for some plans “would, on average, rise by about 20 percent in 2018.” In an August analysis, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that without CSR payments, premiums for some plans would “rise by about 20 percent in 2018” compared to current projections. Additionally, the CBO found that premiums would “rise slightly more in later years” without CSR payments. [Congressional Budget Office, August 2017]

Kaiser Family Foundation: Ending CSR payments “would result in a net increase in federal costs of $2.3 billion” in the next year. An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that ending CSR payments for the fiscal year “would result in a net increase in federal costs of $2.3 billion” compared to current projections. Additionally, in 10 years, “the federal government would end up spending $31 billion more if the payments end.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 4/25/17]

How Trump helps Fox & Friends set the media agenda
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

President Donald Trump often spends large chunks of his mornings tweeting along to recordings of the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends, a fun-house mirror of a program that serves up a ready stream of praise for the president and condemnations of his political foes. This unusual feedback loop leads to bizarre phenomena: The hosts often seem to be using their show to advise the president, Republican politicians try to pitch ideas to the president during on-air interviews, and Trump singles out the show for praise when confronted by more critical journalists. But because the president’s tweets are treated as breaking news by journalists at other outlets, the president’s superfan status and his tendency to comment on the show to his 40 million Twitter followers also gives Fox & Friends rare power to set the agenda for the rest of the press.

That’s what happened this morning. Fox & Friends devoted several segments to a story that the other cable news morning shows did not cover. But then Trump tweeted about the Fox & Friends segment. And within a few hours, CNN and MSNBC had both reported on his tweets, thrusting the Fox & Friends narrative into the mainstream media spotlight.

The Fox morning show devoted multiple segments this morning to the decision yesterday by two executives at the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to refuse to give testimony to a Senate committee. The company is reportedly trying to avoid being compelled to violate its clients’ guarantee of confidentiality by revealing who funded the production of a controversial dossier authored by a former British intelligence agent. While some portions of the dossier have reportedly been verified by U.S. intelligence officials, co-host Doocy described it as the “fake Trump dossier that helped kick start the FBI's Russia probe.” During the segment, Fox senior judicial analyst Anthony Napolitano said, “We all want to know the origins of this fake dossier. Did the FBI pay for it? There are reports out there that the FBI offered $50,000 for it.”

At 7:56 a.m. EST, Trump, who was apparently watching the segment and tweeting in response, highlighted the Fusion GPS decision to plead the Fifth and questioned whether the dossier may have been commissioned by the FBI, echoing Napolitano:

Trump’s repetition of a conspiracy theory that he is being victimized by the FBI is consistent with his efforts to undermine the federal investigation into his ties to Russia. There’s no evidence to support this; while the FBI reportedly did consider compensating the dossier’s author for further work on Russian interference with the election, there’s nothing to indicate that the bureau funded the original dossier, which was paid for by Republican and Democratic sources.

The White House’s failure to treat Napolitano’s claims with skepticism has previously had disastrous results. In March, then-press secretary Sean Spicer quoted from Napolitano's report that a British intelligence service had spied on Trump on President Obama’s behalf during a press briefing. This caused an international incident, with furious denials from the British, and led to Napolitano’s suspension from Fox.

By highlighting Napolitano’s latest claim on Twitter, Trump pushed the Fusion GPS story out of the right-wing media echo chamber and into the mainstream.

Fox & Friends’ MSNBC counterpart, Morning Joe, had not mentioned Fusion GPS on this morning’s broadcast. But at 8:58 a.m., the hosts brought up Trump’s tweet on the story. Mika Brzezinski portrayed it as “Trump’s latest attempt to change the conversation away from the four American soldiers killed overseas,” while co-host Joe Scarborough said the president had “finally show[ed] his hand” by “bashing American law enforcement officers who protect us.”

CNN also had not mentioned the story this morning, until a segment on the president’s tweet that ran in the 9 a.m. EST hour. “Amid all of this this morning, and there is a lot going around and swirling around this White House, the president chose to tweet about Russia,” CNN Newsroom anchor Poppy Harlow said before reading the tweet. “It's an extraordinary charge,” added co-anchor John Berman, “to suggest that the FBI was paying to put together a big giant dossier of negative information about him. I mean it’s, he says it in passing right there, but that really jumps out at you. That’s not the kind of thing you normally see, the president accusing the FBI of coming after him.”

Within a few hours, The Associated Press, The Washington Post, Politico, PBS, and a host of other news outlets had run stories on Trump’s tweet. Many of the reports indicated that Trump’s claim had been baseless. But the reaction nonetheless shows the ability of Fox & Friends to warp the contours of the news environment, shifting the discussion that plays out in the press because of the newsiness of the comments made by the program’s most powerful viewer. Before, most media outlets were not focused on Fusion GPS. Now, thanks to Fox & Friends and Trump, they are.

Trump often spends his early mornings dashing off thoughts on Twitter on a number of seemingly unrelated items. But there’s often a method to the apparent madness. On three occasions over the past few weeks, I’ve found a strong correlation between his tweets and Fox & Friends’ programming that indicate that he is watching the show and tweeting about what he sees. It can be difficult to match up tweets to corresponding segments because the president is known to record shows and watch them at his leisure, and because Fox & Friends will often air similar segments during multiple hours of the broadcast.

Here’s my effort to chronicle the pattern on Twitter this morning (note that I went back and reconsidered my correlations when Trump added an additional tweet after I had started working).

Trump was apparently also watching Fox & Friends and tweeting about it yesterday morning:

He seems to have done the same thing on October 10:

Breitbart editor-in-chief defends online harassers, says it's un-American to take action against them
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

ALEX MARLOW (HOST): Right, and Twitter has made announcements, they're going to be making massive crackdowns voluntarily on hate speech, and they've made a calculation that their business model is to be a site that regulates speech, that infringes on free speech, and not a site that is a promoter of free speech. And this is something that -- I think it’s extremely anti-American, and it's really something that we're seeing more commonly in China. So it's an interesting development that we're seeing throughout the world as the world grapples with mean online commenters, which is, again -- I -- we've come a long way, John, from "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me," to now we have Twitter cracking down on free speech and The New York Times praising China for doing the same.


After Breitbart attacked an author for criticizing Trump, a horde of "alt-right" trolls harassed her

Here's what you need to know about BuzzFeed's Breitbart bombshell

Breitbart radio: Women are using #MeToo to share their stories of sexual harassment as a "status symbol"

Fox host: "We are addicted to Obamacare. Obamacare is heroin, the subsidies are methadone."
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY (CO-HOST): We're looking in the wrong place for a solution. So grandma is in one foot platforms and she's real wobbly. OK? Because she hasn't had anything to eat, she's 90 years old, and we shouldn't expect that we can just prop her up and she can keep dancing. We have to get her out of the shoes. So right now, we are addicted to Obamacare. Obamacare is heroin, the subsidies are methadone. That's just making a mild shift.


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If you read only headlines, you might think Jeff Sessions has become a champion of transgender people
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Several media outlets’ headlines portrayed Attorney General Jeff Session as defying his anti-LGBTQ image by sending a federal lawyer to help prosecute a plaintiff accused of murdering a transgender high school student, but these characterizations omit the crucial context that Sessions is still attempting to roll back LGBTQ protections. And studies have found that headlines influence the way people understand the news and that a majority of news consumers do not read past the headlines, including on articles they share.

On October 15, The New York Times reported that Sessions had “dispatched an experienced federal hate crimes lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute a man charged with murdering a transgender high school student last year.” The Times also enumerated many of Sessions’ anti-LGBTQ moves, including his opposition as a senator to same-sex marriage and to “expanding federal hate crimes laws to protect transgender people,” as well as a number of his discriminatory moves as attorney general. Yet the paper portrayed the attorney general’s latest action as “sending a signal that he has made a priority of fighting violence against transgender people individually, even as he has rolled back legal protections for them collectively.” The headline went further, claiming Sessions “defies his image” on LGBTQ issues:

The Times was not alone: Newsweek and HuffPost portrayed Sessions’ move as support for the LGBTQ community. HuffPost’s headline said Sessions “confound[ed] critics” with the decision, and Newsweek said he had joined the “fight for justice for [the] slain transgender teen”:

These headlines give readers the initial impression that Sessions has moderated his position toward the rights of transgender people. But investigating the murder of one transgender person hardly constitutes initiating some sort of large-scale progressive change. Indeed, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Program Director Harper Jean Tobin said in May, “It is somewhat reassuring that while Attorney General Sessions has apparently no problem with transgender people being fired, or bullied in school, or kicked out of public places because of who they are, he has apparently come around to believing that transgender people should not be murdered in the streets.” NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling noted that Sessions’ move “rings hollow — even hypocritical — in the face of his systematic and relentless attacks against transgender people and other LGBTQ people.”

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow noted that Sessions was “seeking credit for prosecuting a hate crime” just one week after he made two major moves that make it easier to discriminate against queer and transgender people, including launching what Warbelow called “a sweeping license to discriminate against LGBTQ people” and reversing a policy that protected transgender people under Title VII. Warbelow added that Sessions’ opposition to transgender rights breeds a climate allowing hate and violence: “We believe Americans deserve an Attorney General willing to address systemic discrimination and enforce policies and laws that prevent hate violence in the first place.” In the Times report, Vanita Gupta, former Justice Department civil rights division head under the Obama administration, made a similar point, saying, “It would behoove Sessions to connect the dots between his policies that promote discrimination and hate that can result in death.”

Lambda Legal released a statement blasting Sessions as a “hypocrite,” calling the move a “publicity stunt,” and saying it was “the height of cynicism” for him to “use this - frankly rare - instance of civil rights enforcement under his tenure to deflect from the current department’s sustained opposition to its historic mission.” The statement noted that “it is important and right that the Department of Justice assist in bringing to justice the murderer of Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson,” but that “no one in the Trump administration has done more to harm LGBT people, and especially transgender people, than Jeff Sessions.”

What does this all mean for the audience that saw only lazy headlines about Sessions? It could mean news outlets unwittingly fooled readers into believing that the attorney general had shifted on LGBTQ issues. In 2016, computer scientists from Columbia University and the French National Institute estimated that that a majority (59 percent) of links shared on Twitter are not clicked at all, meaning that for news stories, the headline is often all people read. “In other words,” The Washington Post wrote of the study, “most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it. Worse, the study finds that these sort of blind peer-to-peer shares are really important in determining what news gets circulated and what just fades off the public radar. So your thoughtless retweets, and those of your friends, are actually shaping our shared political and cultural agendas.” Similarly, a 2014 study by the American Press Institute found that only “4 in 10 Americans report that they delved deeper into a particular news subject beyond the headlines in the last week.”

In 2014, The New Yorker published a piece titled “How headlines change the way we think” that explained how “the crafting of the headline subtly shift[s] the perception of the text that follows.” It noted that headlines “can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting.” The piece cited a series of studies by psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist Ullrich Ecker that found that headlines do “more than simply reframe the article” and that “a misleading headline hurt a reader’s ability to recall the article’s details.” Ecker also found that misleading headlines “impaired a reader’s ability to make accurate inferences.” The New Yorker’s piece demonstrates that even the minority of readers “who do go on to read the entire piece may still be reacting in part to that initial formulation” from the headline.

Misleading headlines have been a pattern in news coverage of the right and LGBTQ issues. Despite President Donald Trump and his administration’s relentless attacks on LGBTQ people, including banning transgender people from the military, numerous headlines have praised him as pro-LGBTQ. When anti-LGBTQ extremist Roy Moore won Alabama’s Republican primary for Senate, headlines whitewashed him as simply a “firebrand.” Moore has suggested 9/11 was punishment for “legitimized sodomy,” called homosexuality “the same thing” as having sex with a cow, and repeatedly asserted that “homosexual conduct should be illegal.” He was also kicked off Alabama’s Supreme Court for discriminating against same-sex couples. Readers, however, may have been left with the impression that he was just another anti-establishment candidate, just as they may now believe Sessions has done something extraordinary.

Fox's Steve Doocy calls the Trump dossier, parts of which have been verified, a “fake,” "political, dirty trick document"
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): On the other side of Capitol Hill, two witnesses from Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm behind the fake Trump dossier that helped kick start the FBI's Russia probe, they took the Fifth a lot yesterday.


JOSHUA LEVY: No American should experience the indignity that occurred today. No American should be compelled to appear before acongressional committee just to invoke his constitutional privileges. 



DOOCY: That's the lawyer for GPS. 

KILMEADE: Alright, here to react -- nobody should be able to revoke -- Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano. Judge, what was that? 

ANDREW NAPOLITANO: That was the lawyer for the two GPS guys basically saying you can't drag somebody before Congress just because Congress is curious about their work. And I happen to agree with him. We all want to know the origins of this fake dossier. Did the FBI pay for it? There are reports out there that the FBI offered $50,000 for it. Was it done by Trump haters, and was it totally made up? Or is there some evidentiary basis for it? We all want to know the answers to that, but just because Congress wants to know the answers to something doesn't give them the right to drag the person before Congress and force them to answer their questions. If I were the lawyer, I would have given the same advice, invoke the Fifth. They don't have the right to ask you these questions. 

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Is that normal for the FBI to pay for a dossier? 

NAPOLITANO: Absolutely not. This is the dossier that [former Director of the FBI] Jim Comey spoke to President-elect Trump about in Trump Tower alone after the others had left the room. And the question is did he tell him about this because he wanted him to know about it directly from the source, the FBI. Or did he tell him about it because he wanted it like J. Edgar Hoover-like, dangle something over the president-elect's head. We know how that ended up. 

DOOCY: Didn't - I think I read that John McCain apparently gave the copy of the dossier to James Comey at some point. But what’s interesting is it does look like -- clearly it was a political, dirty trick document. But what's interesting is a source close to the matter told Fox News that Democratic staffers in the hearing were aggressive and ran interference to protect Fusion GPS. So it looks like the closer they get to the truth, the worse for the Democrats. 

NAPOLITANO: As incredible and reprehensible as are the contents of the dossier, which I'm not going to repeat, the Democrats would love nothing more that if it were true or if people believed it were true because it's just horrific about what the alleged personal behavior of then Mr. Donald Trump, which he has clearly and convincingly denied. 


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Fox & Friends: All the bad reports on Trump's interactions with Gold Star families are just spin
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): According to the congresswoman Frederica Wilson, President Donald Trump said, "Well, your husband knew what he signed up for." President Trump came out and said that she had totally fabricated that and there is proof that they are politicizing it. And later Sarah Huckabee Smith -- Sanders, that is to say -- said there was no recording, but there were a number of people including John F. Kelly in the room who heard the conversation.

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): But Cowanda Johnson, the wife (sic), did put on Facebook that she backed the congresswoman's account that the president did say he knew what he signed up for, but what he followed up with, it doesn't make it any easier and that's the part of the conversation, the exchange back and forth. The other thing is, as you know, there is nothing to say in this situation. Have you ever dealt with anybody who lost someone tragically in an accident or to any sudden circumstances? There is nothing you could possibly say to make them feel better. Maybe you could actually say something that maybe that they would deem that might be soothing. However, I think it's also important to point out the president of the United States has on record -- actually this Army Sergeant Lee says that, yeah, the president did call me. And at which time he said to me I bet after my son died in battle in Afghanistan and he said I bet he never gave you an ounce of trouble in his life. And the president -- and his response was you are absolutely right, Mr. President. And he said, you know, I voted for you once and that's why I'm going to vote for you again.

AINSELY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): We had guests that were saying yesterday that this is just the mainstream media trying to spin the fact that president was calling families and doing a good thing. So they were trying to say -- trying to make it negative. The Associated Press put out a tweet yesterday. They were actually soliciting Gold Star families to come and give their accounts because I don't know if they just want to tell the truth or if they’re trying to get negative stories on the president.


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Tucker Carlson forced to issue correction after Mandalay Bay shuts down conspiracy theory that injured guard worked under false Social Security number
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

Fox host Tucker Carlson was forced to issue a correction after parroting far-right internet troll and conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer, who baselessly claimed Mandalay Bay security guard Jesus Campos worked under someone else’s Social Security number.

Carlson promoted the baseless conspiracy theory during the October 17 edition of his show, claiming Mandalay Bay security guard Jesus Campos had worked under “someone else's Social Security number.” One day later, Carlson admitted “MGM reached out” to him, and verified that Campos used had his own Social Security card when MGM verified his employment in 2015:

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Meanwhile, MGM reached out to us after a report came out suggesting that Jesus Campos was using someone else's Social Security number.

MGM Company claims they verified his employment eligibility back in 2015, and it was his Social Security card.

Conspiracy theorist and far-right troll Laura Loomer first promoted the claim, tweeting, “EXCLUSIVE: #JesusCampos intel report reveals he shared SSN w/ Jesus Quintero. Is #JesusCampos an illegal alien?” Loomer’s unsubstantiated conspiracy theory was subsequently promoted by Jim Hoft’s conspiracy theory-driven website, The Gateway Pundit.

Sean Hannity and guest criticize athletes' "obsession" with "so called" equality because "not very many" unarmed black men were killed by police last year
December 31st, 1969, 07:09 PM

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Meanwhile looks like professional athletes and their obsession with so-called "social justice in the workplace" is now spreading to the NBA. On the opening night of the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers locked arms during the anthem and Lebron James even wore sneakers with the words "equality" written on them. Joining us now is radio talk show host, he's nationally syndicated Larry Elder, civil rights attorney Daryl Parks. I thought Roger Goodell wimped out today. This is the same NFL, Larry, as we've been discussing. You can't honor slain police in Dallas after the tragedy last year, you can't, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, can't put the date on your cleats, "never forget." So why is the NFL, why now are other sports defying what the American people are saying loudly they don't want, politicizing sports this way? 

LARRY ELDER: It's a good question. It's also a good question about why the players, irrespective of how they feel about racism, about Donald Trump, and how Donald Trump in their opinion dissed Colin Kaepernick. Wouldn't you think they wouldn't want to take a baseball bat to a very successful business model? The NFL is probably the most successful sports business in the world. They are losing patrons, they're losing fans. And fans also, Sean, double as taxpayers. Jerry Jones got $300 million from taxpayers to build the stadium that he later on sold for a profit. They are taking a baseball bat to a very successful business model. The bottom line is this, Colin Kaepernick did this because of his perception of police brutality. In 2015 according to The Washington Post, there were 250 black people that were killed by the police, 500 whites. I dare say most of the people in your audience can't name a single one. My point is when it happens as it happens rarely, of course the media goes into a frenzy over this.


One more quick thing. 17 unarmed black men were killed by the police last year. 17. That is not very many. As opposed to 5,000 blacks killing other blacks. Mostly young black men killing other young black man.


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