DR. CAROL SWAIN: Well, one of the reasons why they are having so much difficulty communicating to people is that they are blurring distinctions among and between Americans, and they're painting everyone with the same broad brush.
When I wrote the book The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge To Integration, I called it "The New White Nationalism" to distinguish it from old-style white supremacy.
And I would argue that there are four groups of white Americans, the white supremacists, tiny percentage of Americans.
But a much larger group that I would call "new white nationalists" or "alt-right," who are not necessarily espousing any hatred towards other groups, but they are making a case for white rights, white identity, for white people to organize.
And then you have white people who are just trying to make a living. They may have voted for Donald Trump, but they are concerned about America.
And then the last group are the leftist whites that are trying to overthrow the country.
STEPHEN MOORE: When it comes to this economic council, look, the CEOs have to do what's in the best interest of their companies and follow their own conscience. I had warned the White House that the first time there was any controversy, that these CEOs, who most of them were not for Trump in the first place, would probably abandon him. I predicted this kind of thing would happen, and so it's not surprising to me that you're seeing a lot of these folks leave this council. In the meetings that I was in when Trump would have these council meetings, by the way, they really, truly were listening, towards where Donald Trump would sit around the table and listen to these CEOs and ask them, "what do you need from the federal government, how do you want it to work better, how can we in the federal government help you create jobs". That's what it was all about and it's a shame that this council now has to be, I believe, Brooke, it's being disbanded.
RANA FROROOHAR: Brooke, I got jump in here and say I spoke to many people this morning in the C-suite and the reports that I got were that many of these meetings didn't go well at all and there have been concerns even since the Paris Accord, frankly, amongst a lot of these CEOs, a lot of internal hand-wringing about whether they should be involved with the White House or not. They told me the meetings had not been going well. The proper officials from various federal departments weren't even in attendance and I think that this really marks a tipping point and I think this is a huge deal for the Trump administration and the White House. If you think about it, Brooke, for starters, the strategic committee had already decided to disband before President Trump tweeted that this morning, following a conference call that was led by Steve Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone. When you think about the business community losing faith in the White House and also labor, you know, Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO had already resigned. That's two core groups, that's the business community and working class white men and I think this is a real blow for the White House.
MOORE: Well, but wait a minute. You just -- hold on. I just want to respond to that. You said that a lot of these CEOs basically decided they didn't want to be part of this when Trump pulled out of --
FOROOHAR: There had been hand-wringing since the Paris Accord.
MOORE: Let me make a point about this. A lot of these CEOs, basically said they didn't want to be a part of this because Trump wanted to drop out of the Paris Accord but guess what? Donald Trump said he was going to do that during the campaign so if they didn't want to be part of a council with somebody who is going to pull us out the Paris Accord, then why did they join the council in the first place?
FOROOHAR: You know what, they joined it for two reasons because they believed that you should join a council when your president asks you to but also later on because they wanted to keep some adults in the room around important policy conversations like tax reform, infrastructure, health care. None of that stuff has gotten done.
MOORE: When he did what he said he was going to do -- when he said he was going to do what he was going to do, then why did they say, "I'm so outraged by this." They knew his positions when they took these positions. Now, look --
FOROOHAR: These folks--many of these folks have been trying to influence the president and the White House around things like the skills agenda, around infrastructure, now I'm not saying that many of them possibly shouldn't have taken a stand and stood down earlier but I think let's not fool ourselves. The entire business community has been worried about the Trump agenda for some time, and this -- the disaster that is his handling of Charlottesville is just the apex of that.
MOORE: Okay, but let me make a point. What is business really, mostly concerned about? What are CEOs concerned about? About a healthy economy. My goodness. Has any president in the first six months delivered a healthier economy than Donald Trump.
FOROOHAR: Stephen, don't even get me started on this--
MOORE: You're seeing a boom in jobs. You're seeing a pickup in optimism. You're seeing a pickup in employment. I made this point yesterday on CNN, it's worth repeating, that for all the talk about how Donald Trump has an anti-black agenda, this is a president who's created black jobs just in the first six months in office at twice the pace that Barack Obama did.
FOROOHAR: I'm sorry. God bless you but we've been through this before. We've fact checked the fact that Donald Trump does not deserve credit for anything good that has happened in the American economy in the last six months.
Fox News’ The Specialists included racist Ted Nugent on its panel for the full hour one day after President Donald Trump praised the “very fine people” participating in a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA, that resulted in the murder of a woman protesting the racism and bigotry espoused by the white supremacists.
Nugent was introduced as a “rock and roll legend” who specializes in “planting trees.” The hosts neglected to mention Nugent’s history of racism and gave him the forum to spout white supremacist talking points and give cover to the Nazis who murdered a woman by claiming “all sides” instigated violence at the rally:
Fox News’ decision to book Nugent should embarrass everyone at the network given his history of racist comments. In January 2014, Nugent referred to Barack Obama as a “subhuman mongrel,” a slur he said before, referring to African-American rappers as “big uneducated greasy black mongrels.” In 2013, Nugent appeared with conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Alex Jones, and said African-Americans could solve “the black problem” if they put their “heart and soul into being honest, [and] law-abiding.” In 2013, Nugent defended George Zimmerman's shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin by claiming Martin showed “the same mindless tendency to violence we see in black communities across America.” In 2012, Nugent wrote in The Washington Times that he was “beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”
JAKE TAPPER (HOST): Today, former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush issued a statement condemning racial bigotry, antisemitism, and hatred. They were joined by the chiefs of staff of the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the National Guard.
Now, none of them referred to President Trump, but all, for some reason, felt the need to tweet condemnations of the racist, hateful ideologies of the Klan, and neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, and alt-right, on display in Charlottesville within hours of President Trump's suggesting a moral equivalence between Nazis, and those protesting Nazis.
TAPPER: The president of the United States of America there, saying that the press has treated unfairly those people who marched alongside neo-Nazis, and white nationalists, and the Klan. Now, Vice News was embedded with the marchers, let's take a look and see how many, quote, "very fine people" we can find.
TAPPER: I'm still not really certain where these, quote, "very fine people" the media has been unfair to were. The march was billed from the beginning as a rally for racists. Here's the organizer of the March before it happened.
TAPPER: And that's what it was, complete with torches, and swastikas, racist and antisemitic chants, and barbarism.
BILL PRESS (CO-HOST): Looks like the media is Donald Trump’s enemy except when it comes to Fox News.
ANGELO CARUSONE (MEDIA MATTERS PRESIDENT): That’s right.
PRESS: And I've heard it said that Donald Trump is going to be loud and strong as long as Fox News stays with him. Will Fox News every break?
CARUSONE: I think they could.
CARUSONE: Certainly, because they don’t have Roger Ailes anymore, nor do they have Bill Shine, who was really somebody who implemented much of what Roger Ailes' vision was, who was the president that got pushed out after Bill O'Reilly because he had helped cover up some of the sexual harassment. So they had two really important implementers that are gone, and you can see some of the fissures and cracks within the network. It's still an alternative universe. And the irony in all of this is that, as much as Fox News is Trump's greatest ally, in many respects they're also his worst enemy because they've created much of the reality that he has that leads him to go out there and give these kinds of press conferences where he can warn about the "alt-left" or say "both sides," because that is literally parroting the kinds of things that you hear on Fox and right-wing talk radio.
PRESS: For example, when we’re talking about having to -- if we go after Robert E. Lee, then of course you have to tear down the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. He said that yesterday, Tuesday. Monday night, here's Martha MacCallum and Newt Gingrich on Fox News.
PRESS: So your point is he's parroting a lot of what he hears on Fox.
CARUSONE: Completely. Much of the stuff he was saying sounded exactly like Fox News. So for example, I think one of the issues on Saturday to be honest was that he was watching Fox. And if you were watching the coverage on Fox on Saturday before his statement, it was almost a 50/50 split. They did not call or say anything about the car attack; they called it an accident, number one. And number two, they said that the drivwer very likely could have been acting in self-defense. And so that was -- almost half of their coverage pointed out that the driver was likely acting in self-defense. So if you're Donald Turmp, and you're sitting there watching Fox News, of course when you get to the microphone, aside from the fact that you have sort of a sympathetic ear to a lot of white supremacists, you've also just been told that maybe the guy was acting in self-defense by the network that you pretty much only trust. And so I do think that, in large part, part of the reason he keeps making these big, public stumbles is because he is just parroting what he hears in this alternative universe.
Click here for the full interview.
SHEPARD SMITH (HOST): Our booking team -- and they're good -- reached out to Republicans of all stripes, across the country today. Let's be honest, Republicans often don't really mind coming on Fox News Channel. We couldn't get anyone to come and defend him here, because we thought, in balance, someone should do that. We worked very hard at it throughout the day, and we were unsuccessful. And of those that are condemning the president's condemnable actions, I've not heard any prominent leaders, former presidents, members of the House or the Senate use his name while speaking in generalities.
CNN law enforcement analyst Harry Houck tweeted today that “the left has to take some responsibility” for the death of anti-racism activist Heather Heyer. He also defended the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA:
— Harry J Houck (@harryjhouck) August 16, 2017
Houck had previously claimed that “antifa” (short for anti-fascists) and Black Lives Matter “started the violence” and that “haters on both the far left and far right invaded what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration in VA yesterday.”
Seeing many reports by individuals that Antifa & BLM started the violence & police were told to stand down by the Mayor of Charlottesville??
— Harry J Houck (@harryjhouck) August 13, 2017
Haters on both the far left and far right invaded what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration in VA yesterday. This has to stop!
— Harry J Houck (@harryjhouck) August 13, 2017
He has also claimed:
If you didn't see Trumps press conference just now u gotta see it. He was amazing!!! Go Trump!!!!
— Harry J Houck (@harryjhouck) August 15, 2017
Nobody has embraced and promoted racism and hate more than the democrats!
— Harry J Houck (@harryjhouck) August 15, 2017
Media Matters has documented that Houck has a long history of race-baiting commentary, which includes frequently blaming victims of police brutality and describing Black Lives Matter as a “thug group.” He also regularly uses his national platform on CNN to peddle racist tropes about black criminality. He recently claimed that President Donald Trump encouraging police brutality is not "that big a deal."
As Carlos Maza -- now with Vox -- wrote for Media Matters last year: “Despite his rhetoric, CNN continues to pay Houck as an expert, bringing his race-baiting to a national audience any time a story of over-policing or police brutality makes headlines.”
ANDREA MITCHELL (HOST): Peter, you're an expert at what the government does to try to track these white supremacists group, but I do believe that funding was just cut for one of these major programs.
PETER VINCENT: Right, Andrea. I spent the vast majority of my career at the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security doing everything I could to combat threats to the homeland. Most recently at the Department of Homeland Security, I worked on counterterrorism efforts specifically and so I was deeply disturbed to see that the White House, shortly after taking power, decided to stop focusing countering violent extremism efforts and funding on all sorts of extremism, and to focus it solely and exclusively on radical Islamic terrorism, as the president points out.
MITCHELL: And, Maya, what signal does that send? Does that send a signal of empowerment to the David Dukes of the world?
MAYA WILEY: Absolutely. And I think we've seen that the white supremacists and neo-Nazi movements have seen themselves as supported by the president, particularly after his comments of yesterday. And we have to remember that the domestic terrorism threats that we face in this nation since 2002 has been disproportionately from white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and other racist groups. And that's something we have to take seriously as a country if we want to counter domestic terrorism.
MITCHELL: And, finally, Peter, at this point, what do people very concerned about the rise of white nationalism and possible violence, what do they do in their communities?
VINCENT: Well, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have warned on the rise of white nationalism. In fact, we need to remind ourselves, Andrea, that, with respect to killings associated domestically in the United States, associated to terrorism, 70 percent of those have been committed by white supremacists, so-called white nationalists. And so I think communities need to have a very strong dialogue on what we are doing wrong in our own country that is radicalizing people that are born and raised here.
The Colorado resort that was scheduled to host a conference for the white nationalist group VDare has canceled those plans.
As Media Matters reported, VDare recently announced, and started taking reservations for, its April 2018 conference at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, CO. The event was scheduled to feature “a weekend of candor, fellowship, and top-notch speakers, as we celebrate the shifting political tides and discuss the way forward for patriotic immigration reform and American national identity.”
Those plans were canceled today by the resort, which is a part of Benchmark Resorts & Hotels. The resort emailed the following statement: “Cheyenne Mountain Resort will not be hosting the VDARE Foundation in April of next year. We remain committed to respecting the privacy of guests at the resort.”
VDare regularly posts white nationalist content that argues against nonwhite immigration and attacks minorities. For its conference next year, VDare had similarly scheduled speakers with a history of pushing racist, anti-immigrant, and white nationalist views. Those speakers included Breitbart.com columnist and former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who demonized immigrants as dangerous and disloyal invaders; writer John Derbyshire, who has described himself as “a mild and tolerant” “racist” and “homophobe” and was fired from the National Review after he penned a column suggesting that white and Asian parents warn their children about the supposed threats posed by black people; and VDare leader Peter Brimelow, who has warned that nonwhite immigrants are destroying the country.
Jason Kessler, the white supremacist who organized the recent August rally in Charlottesville, VA, has written multiple articles for VDare.
Numerous media outlets based in Colorado covered VDare’s plans for the conference and noted the group’s white nationalist ideology. Anti-racism activists in the area organized against VDare’s plans and were scheduled to voice their opposition to the event. Colorado Springs Republican Mayor John Suthers issued a statement saying he “would encourage local businesses to be attentive to the types of events they accept and the groups that they invite to our great city” and the city wouldn’t “provide any support or resources” to the event.
VDare had attempted to hold a conference earlier this year at Tenaya Lodge in at Yosemite National Park. The company that owns the lodge ultimately decided to cancel that booking.
It’s been 17 days since retired Gen. John Kelly joined the White House amid a wave of media goodwill. As chief of staff in the place of the feckless Republican political operative Reince Priebus, the theory went, Kelly might be able to “rein in” President Donald Trump. Kelly would impose “military discipline” on a White House that had devolved into warring factions, controlling the information the president received, restoring order to the decision-making process, and curtailing Trump’s Twitter habit. “There hasn’t been much good to say about Trump in a long time,” wrote Vanity Fair’s T.A. Frank. “But recruiting Kelly suggests that he learns, very belatedly, from his mistakes, and that he’s capable of some small degree of humility.” Journalists often caveated their commentary with acknowledgments that the White House’s problem was far deeper than communications failures, and that much would depend on whether Trump was willing to listen to Kelly’s advice. But expectations for the new chief of staff were sky-high -- Frank’s piece was titled, “Will John Kelly Save Trump’s Soul?” The pivot, at long last, had arrived.
To put it mildly, those takes haven’t aged well.
Under Kelly’s tenure, the president offered up unhinged, improvised threats toward North Korea that suggested he was on the brink of ordering a nuclear strike. He lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats, and his White House openly admitted he had helped draft his son’s deceptive response to reports that he had met with Russians during the presidential campaign. And yesterday, Trump used a press conference to all but offer open support to the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rampaged through Charlottesville, VA, over the weekend in support of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Kelly was present yesterday as Trump put those racists on equal footing with those who showed up to oppose them, declaring that both sides included some “very fine people” and were equally to blame for the violence that erupted. He watched with apparent despair as the president praised protesters who had carried torches while chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” He looked on as Trump did his best to shred the fabric of a nation sorely in need of healing. No American general has been so thoroughly routed since Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.
And yet, while the events of recent weeks are horrifying, they are not entirely surprising. Critics -- including Trump’s Democratic opponent -- warned throughout the campaign that Trump lacked the necessary temperament to be trusted with the U.S. nuclear arsenal, that he would never be able to work with Congress, that he was too closely tied to Russia, and that he was the candidate of choice for white nationalists and other deplorables. These were all known quantities; things are proceeding as we might have expected. And that leads us, inexorably, to the following conclusion.
The pivot is not coming. There is no decision this president can make that will alter the trajectory of his administration. It’s long past time for journalists to stop predicting a change in course is imminent, or even possible.
For more than a year, every brief moment of normalcy -- every instance in which Trump did not devolve into crude attacks on his opponents during a speech, or fired a controversial staffer, or even managed to avoid tweeting anything “controversial” for a handful of days -- has been accompanied by journalists willing to say that Trump had hit the “reset” button, that now he was finally becoming “presidential.” Inevitably, those journalists found themselves with egg on their faces in a matter of days, as Trump reverted to form and proved those moments anomalies, not the beginnings of a trend.
I understand why reporters and commentators might be overeager to declare that change is on the way. It is uncomfortable to live in a world in which the president of the United States is an unhinged egomaniac who offers sympathy for literally the worst people in American society and lashes out at the institutions that support democratic governance. It makes sense that those whose jobs involve trying to make sense of this situation might grasp for anything that could reestablish normalcy.
There’s also a bias in the press toward a change in storylines. Reporters strive to identify “new news,” and as such are susceptible to over-reading discrete instances as the start of a new trend. “Trump is doing something new” is a much more interesting story to tell than “Trump is doing the same thing,” and so it’s a story that gets told disproportionately to the reality.
But the reality is, things aren’t normal because Trump is the president -- no shuffle in the White House or effort to change the message can change that. This is who he is. He rose to political prominence by questioning the legitimacy of the first black president, started his campaign with a racist rant against Mexicans, and was elected in spite of the publication of a tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women. He obviously cares more for his private interest than he does for public service. He values people and organizations solely on the basis of whether they support him personally. He has shown over and over again that he lacks either the intellect or the temperament to do his job. He is 71 years old -- none of this is going to change.
This week, there were rumblings (though to some extent they have dissipated) that White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon might be on his way out, having lost the president’s favor. It would be an unalloyed positive for the despicable former chief of Breitbart.com to no longer have a job steps from the Oval Office. If that were to happen, I would expect some in the media to declare that the pivot had finally arrived. They would be wrong. As Trump said yesterday, Bannon joined his campaign late in the game. Trump was an unhinged racist before Bannon, and he’ll still be one if Bannon leaves. Anyone who claims that a Bannon removal would be the start of a real change will inevitably be quickly embarrassed.
Instead of constantly looking for signs of the pivot, journalists should be stressing the remarkable consistency of Trump’s tenure. The administration’s throughline is chaos and hate, failure propagated by laziness and stupidity. Trump told us who he was, and he is living up to it.
Trump doubled down on blaming violence that stemmed from a white supremacist, neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville on “both sides.” President Donald Trump held an unscheduled press conference on August 15 in which he “blamed the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend on both sides of the conflict,” CNN reported. The violence, which broke out on August 12 when white supremacists and neo-Nazis gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, left one woman dead after a driver drove a car through a crowd of counter-protesters. [CNN.com, 8/15/17]
Trump: “What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” When asked whether the “alt-right” was responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, Trump responded, “What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump added that the so-called “alt-left” protesters “came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs.” From the press conference:
REPORTER: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those that perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I can't tell you. I'm sure Senator McCain must know what he is talking about, but when you say the alt-right, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead. Define it for me, come on, let's go.
REPORTER: Senator McCain defined them as the same group.
TRUMP: Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging at [indiscernible] – excuse me – what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
REPORTERS YELL INDISTINCTLY
TRUMP: What about this? What about the fact that they came charging – they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. [Politico, 8/15/17]
Wash. Post: The phrase “alt-left” comes from “right-wing websites, commentators and Fox News personalities.” The Washington Post explained that the term “alt-left” has been used “for months” by “some right-wing websites, commentators and Fox News personalities” to describe “a violent segment of left-wing activists.” The Post added that Fox host Sean Hannity “has expanded the term in recent months to include members of the news media.” And, as the Post’s Aaron Blake previously noted, “the ‘difference between alt-right and alt-left is that one of them was coined by the people who comprise the movement and whose movement is clearly ascendant; the other was coined by its opponents and doesn't actually have any subscribers.’" [The Washington Post, 8/15/17]
Trump: “So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee. … I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” During the press conference, Trump referred to the removal of Lee’s statue, asking, “Where does it stop?” and referring to the removal of the statue of Lee, adding, “I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” From Trump’s remarks:
REPORTER: Do you think what you call the alt left is the same as neo-Nazis?
TRUMP: Those people – all of those people, excuse me – I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.
REPORTER: Well, white nationalists –
TRUMP: Those people were also there, because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue Robert E. Lee. So – excuse me – and you take a look at some of the groups and you see, and you’d know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you’re not. Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after. You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop? [Politico, 8/15/17]
Fox News’ Laura Ingraham: “How long before they show up at Monticello … How long before they show up at Mount Vernon?” The morning of Trump’s press conference, Fox contributor Laura Ingraham called out people who, she said, are “just roundly denouncing anyone who had any connection to the South,” and rhetorically asked “how long before” protesters “show up at Monticello,” where there is a shrine to former President Thomas Jefferson. Ingraham also asked, “How long before they show up at Mount Vernon,” the home of former President George Washington. From the August 15 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
LAURA INGRAHAM: I think, when you see people who have no idea, it seems, about the history of this country, just roundly denouncing anyone who had any connection to the South, we're in very precarious times. I mean, how long before we see the Workers Party, as you saw them yesterday, the communist party of the United States was represented there in Durham. They had the big banners. They were marching down the streets. How long before they show up at Monticello, where I spent three years in law school at Charlottesville in Virginia? How long before they show up at Mount Vernon?
PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): Or Mount Rushmore.
INGRAHAM: What else will be subjected to their eradication and denunciation? This is not about racial healing. This is about the control of the narrative and a destruction of historical recognition. That is terrifying. And what about books? Are they going to start burning books, too? I mean why not? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/15/17]
Fox’s Martha MacCallum: “You can make that argument for [statues of] Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.” A day before Trump’s media conference, Fox host Martha MacCallum and contributor Newt Gingrich criticized the removal of statues of Confederate leaders, with Gingrich asking, “Where does it stop?” Gingrich speculated that people could demand to “take down all the statues of Franklin Delano Roosevelt” over sensitivity to the Holocaust, and MacCallum said, “You can make that argument for Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Are you going to change the name of the Washington Monument?” From the August 14 edition of Fox News’ The Story:
NEWT GINGRICH: Where does it stop? And I think that this whole effort on the left, they are going to have a run right now that is emotional, destructive, and wrong. It is anti-American. It is anti-American history. And I can appreciate the anger that somebody who is African-American might feel about somebody who was a Confederate. But let me suggest to you, there were 4,000 people shot in Chicago last year. Not a single one of them is helped by focussing on symbolic issues that are total baloney. And where are you going to stop it? You want to say, “What if you weren’t sensitive enough to the Holocaust?” We should take down all the statues of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? You could make an argument for that. You go right down this list, and once you start rewriting history --
MARTHA MACCALLUM (HOST): You can make that argument for Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Are you going to change the name of the Washington Monument? Are you going to --
GINGRICH: If you want to take out slave owners.
MACCALLUM: Exactly, that’s my point. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 8/14/17]
CNN’s Matt Lewis: “When is Robert E. Lee is not enough? When do they go after Thomas Jefferson?” On the morning of August 15, before Trump’s press conference, CNN contributor and Daily Beast writer Matt Lewis asked, "When is Robert E. Lee not enough? When do they go after Thomas Jefferson?" From the August 15 edition of CNN Newsroom:
MATT LEWIS: Look, in Charlottesville, the city council or whatever voted and decided to move that statue of Robert E. Lee to a different park. That is local government. That is their decision. This is citizens being iconoclastic. When do they go after -- when is Robert E. Lee not enough? When do they go after Thomas Jefferson? That's the question that I have. [CNN, CNN Newsroom with John Berman and Poppy Harlow, 8/15/17]
Trump: “I don’t want to rush into a statement” about the violence in Charlottesville because “you still don’t know the facts.” When asked why he took such a long time to decry the violence in Charlottesville, Trump claimed, “I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement.” Trump continued, saying, “This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts, so I don’t want to rush into a statement.” From Trump’s August 15 remarks:
REPORTER: Why did you wait so long to denounce neo-Nazis?
TRUMP: I didn't wait long. I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement, but you don't make statements that direct unless you know the fact. And it takes a little while to get the facts. You still don't know the facts. And it is a very, very important process to me. It is a very important statement. So I don't want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to my statement, in fact I brought it. I brought it.
As I said on remember this, Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America. And then I went on from there. Now here is the thing. Excuse me, excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here is the thing, when I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. A lot of the event didn't happen yet as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts, so I don't want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman who I hear is a fantastic young woman and it was on NBC, her mother wrote me and said through I guess Twitter, social media, the nicest things, and I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman, but her mother on Twitter, thanked me for what I said. Honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. – excuse me – unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts. [Politico, 8/15/17]
Fox’s Mike Huckabee: Is Trump supposed to “jump to a conclusion” like Obama? Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee asked if Trump was “supposed to do what Barack Obama used to do and jump to a conclusion” about the violence in Charlottesville. Huckabee claimed Obama did just that “in Ferguson, MO, which turned out to be totally untrue.” From the August 12 edition of Justice with Judge Jeanine:
JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): Governor, what do you say to those people who say that the president wasn’t specific enough, he wasn’t hard enough? And I have to tell you, I mean, he condemned in the strongest possible terms the egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. It’s been going on for far too long. It has no place in America. We need a swift restoration of law and order. Are these just Trump haters who just will look for any reason to dump on the president?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, it seems like that a lot of them are. I don’t know what they expect the president to do. At the time that he made the comment, the driver of the car had not even been identified.
PIRRO: That’s exactly right.
HUCKABEE: Nothing had been attributed to him at that point. And so, what is he supposed to say? Is he supposed to do what Barack Obama used to do and jump to a conclusion and make a decision about something like he did in Ferguson, MO, which turned out to be totally untrue?
PIRRO: To be wrong.
HUCKABEE: The president has to be careful in taking steps. [Fox News, Justice with Judge Jeanine, 8/12/17]
Fox’s Jesse Watters: Trump didn’t make a statement because he didn’t “know who the driver was.” Fox host Jesse Watters suggested that Trump could have delayed his condemnation of the violence because he didn’t “have all the facts” and wanted to know “who the driver was” who injured 19 and killed one person. Watters also said he didn’t think Trump was “going to let left-wing violence off the hook.” From the August 14 edition of Fox News’ The Five:
JESSE WATTERS (CO-HOST): Perhaps the president was thinking, “You know what, we don't have all the facts,” like Dana said. “Let's just take a big picture approach because both sides are rumbling. I don't know who the driver was before I make a statement.” And I don’t think he was going to let left-wing violence off the hook. [Fox News, The Five, 8/14/17]
ABBY HUNTSMAN (CO-HOST): Alright, this has become really a hot button issue and a big debate around this county. Wendy, where do you fall on this?
WENDY OSEFO: To be quite honest, the take down of the confederate soldiers monument in my home state of Durham, North Carolina -- it's beyond a monument. This is about hatred, this is about white supremacy. And to have Heather Heyer killed on U.S. soil by Nazis, Deandre Harris beaten and bludgeoned by Nazis -- this is not talking points here, this is not partisanship, this is human life. And as a mother, to hear the president of these United States not sit here and condemn what has happened, as a black woman of two black boys, my heart bleeds. This is not talking points here, this is personal and we as a nation, as a county, have to do better.
HUNTSMAN: John do you -- I mean sorry Gianno, do you agree with that? Do you think -- I mean, there are good people on both sides of this debate. We talk about keeping these statues up, people that I've talked to say this is about history. How do we move forward, how do we learn from those mistakes, if we just tear everything down?
GIANNO CALDWELL: I come today with a very heavy heart. Last night I couldn't sleep at all, because President Trump, our president, has literally betrayed the conscience of our country. The very moral fabric in which we've made progress when it comes to race relations in America, he's failed us, and it's very unfortunate that our president would say things like he did in that press conference yesterday, when he says, "Well there's good people on the side of the Nazis. They weren't all Nazis, they weren't all white supremacists." Mr. President, people, good people, don't pal around with Nazis and white supremacists. Maybe they don't consider themselves white supremacists and Nazis, but certainly they hold those views. This has become very troubling. And for anyone to come on any network and defend what President Trump did and said at that press conference yesterday, is completely lost and the potential to be morally bankrupt.
HUNTSMAN: No --
CALDWELL: I am sorry. No, I believe that, and I'm being very honest. As someone who's been talking about these issues for a very long time, I'm sorry that this is where we are right now, and I hope the president learns a lesson from his press conference on yesterday. It's disturbing.
HUNTSMAN: Gianno, these are very sensitive topics --
CALDWELL: Very sensitive.
HUNSTMAN: -- and it's tough to talk about. And look, this country is all about free speech, so both of you have every right to come on here and be emotional and be real and be open about how you're feeling. What we're talking though Gianno about the debate of these statues, and whether or not they should stay up or go down. I mean, this argument that it's a slippery slope, where does that end? Where do you fall specifically on that debate?
CALDWELL: Well, first and foremost, people who are taking down the statues, they should do so legally. If you want to petition your government, sure, do so. Obviously you can't destroy property, that's against the law, that's obvious. But what we also must keep in mind that President Trump's comments yesterday is emboldening those who want to destroy property. And obviously that doesn't excuse their behavior by any means, but if you have a president in office, who's a moral leader, who should be a moral leader, who is saying things that people believe, they may take actions into their own hands and say, "Look, I can go about this because our president doesn't care." My grandfather, James Earl Williams, who lived in Helena, Arkansas -- where the Klan, it was a hotbed of racism there, Klan activity -- who left the South to go into the North in Chicago, who called called me on yesterday, who said, "Look, when you get that opportunity, tell President Trump, he should take a look in the mirror and look at the people, not just the black folks who may feel marginalized by his comments, but the white Americans who fought, fought against slavery, fought against the marginalization of black folks in America, people of color, and even the Jews. Let him know that it's time to have a real conversation on race." And as I did on Monday, when I reached out to the White House, I told them, I said President Trump must speak to this America -- this country, in very clear terms, very distinct terms, just like President Obama did, Senator Obama in 2008 when we had a national dialogue on race. It's time for us to have that conversation again. Absolutely necessary.
HUNTSMAN: Well, Wendy, look, he is the president of the United States, he is the commander in chief for all of us.
OSEFO: Yes he is.
HUNTSMAN: Last word here Wendy, what would you like to hear more of from the president on this?
OSEFO: I would like the president not to use inflammatory terms, we are all healing. We need to come together as a country, we need leadership, we need moral leadership. We do not need anyone who does anything nefarious to people, who are citizens of this country, to feel as though they are empowered. That's not what we're here for. People are hurting, my colleague on the other side of the aisle and I are both tearing up. This is beyond talking points, this is beyond partisanship. We need to come together as a country.
CALDWELL: It's not politics.
OSEFO: It's not politics. These are raw emotions, and our president needs to speak from his heart and bring us together, because right now, we are a nation divided.
Anti-abortion group Operation Save America held a week-long protest in Kentucky. During the final week of July, the anti-abortion extremist group Operation Save America (OSA) swarmed Kentucky to protest in front of the state’s one remaining abortion clinic, EMW Women's Surgical Center, in the hopes of shuttering it and making abortion inaccessible in the state. OSA gained considerable media attention after announcing it would be holding its national event in Kentucky this year. [Media Matters, 8/1/17]
Of 209 segments, 64 percent included quotes from or interviews with anti-choice activists. In July, there were 209 segments about OSA’s protests across the Lexington, Louisville, Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg, and Bowling Green television markets. Of these 209 segments, 134 (64 percent) included quotes or interviews with anti-choice extremists such as OSA director Rusty Thomas, OSA leader and pastor Joseph Spurgeon, or OSA attorney Vince Heuser.
In comparison, only 41 percent included quotes or interviews with pro-choice activists. Of the 209 segments, 85 (41 percent) included quotes or interviews with pro-choice figures. When including comments from pro-choice activists, stations largely turned to Dr. Ernest Marshall and Executive Director Anne Ahola, both of EMW Women’s Surgical Center.
Twenty-four percent of segments included quotes from, or interviews with, only anti-choice activists while only 4 percent featured exclusively pro-choice voices. Of 209 segments, 51 (24 percent) included quotes from, or interviews with, only anti-choice figures. These 51 segments exclusively promoted anti-abortion voices and provided no counter balance with pro-choice activists or service providers. In comparison, only nine segments (4 percent) featured exclusively pro-choice voices.
Segments with anti-choice advocates often featured violent and inflammatory language. In segments featuring anti-choice advocates, the language used was often extreme. In one segment from WBKO (ABC) in Bowling Green, OSA pastor Joseph Spurgeon said, “We look at violence in the streets and in the West End, in particular, and wonder how to stop it. Do we really think God will help us stop the violence in our streets when we have sanctioned killing?” In a segment from WHAS 11 (ABC) in Louisville, OSA director Rusty Thomas said, “Babies are being murdered and thrown away like a piece of trash under our watch! And it’s not an if -- it is a when -- that death camp is gonna go the way of every bloody tyranny of men. They’re done! They’re over! They are history in Jesus’ name.” [WBKO, AM Kentucky Live, 7/20/17; WHAS, News 11 @ 11, 7/25/17]
WLKY (CBS) and WHAS (ABC) featured the largest imbalance of anti-choice to pro-choice guests. Of the four major networks in Louisville, WLKY (CBS) and WHAS (ABC) featured the greatest imbalance between anti-choice and pro-choice activists. Out of 55 segments on WKLY, 39 (71 percent) included anti-choice activists and only 17 (31 percent) included pro-choice voices. Beyond giving these anti-choice voices a disproportionately large platform, WLKY also aired the greatest number of imbalanced segments -- where anti-choice activists were the sole voices in a newscast -- with 28 of 55 (51 percent) featuring no pro-choice activists. WLKY was also the only network to advertise OSA’s “solemn assembly” protest -- an event where the group leads church congregations in asking for repentance -- on the evening of July 23. Louisville’s WHAS (ABC) had a similar representation problem, with 20 of its 30 segments (67 percent) highlighting anti-choice voices, and merely 11 of its 30 segments including pro-choice advocates (37 percent). [Operation Save America, accessed 8/10/17]
Louisville’s WDRB (FOX) and WAVE (NBC) both had a smaller imbalance in terms of anti-choice versus pro-choice guests. WDRB (FOX) aired 66 total segments about the protests, 47 of which (71 percent) included anti-choice activists and 39 of which (59 percent) included pro-choice voices. In addition, through the month of July, Louisville’s WAVE (NBC) aired 15 segments about the OSA protests, including six segments (40 percent) with anti-choice guests and four segments (27 percent) with quotes or interviews with pro-choice activists.
Louisville’s WLKY twice aired a national CBS segment featuring graphic language and spreading anti-choice misinformation. On July 24, CBS Evening News aired a segment that quoted OSA members using graphic language and spreading anti-choice misinformation. OSA members interviewed called Roe v. Wade “a covenant with death” and reinforced misinformation about so-called “sex-selective” abortions -- a term used by anti-choice legislators as justification to restrict abortion access, especially among minority communities, even though there is little scientific evidence supporting the necessity of a ban on the practice. In the segment, CBS highlighted comments from activist Jason Storm and his wife, Sara, including her claim that “little baby girls are also being murdered in these abortion clinics.” CBS included pro-choice comments only from clinic director Anne Ahola. WLKY aired this segment twice, despite these issues in tone and balance. [CBS Evening News, 7/24/17; Media Matters, 4/3/17]
Out of 209 segments, zero included context about OSA’s past violence and rhetoric. Out of 209 segments in Kentucky broadcast media, zero segments provided viewers with context about OSA’s history of harassment and extremism. The closest these outlets came to detailing OSA’s history was mentioning the arrest of 10 OSA members in May 2017 for blocking the entrance of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which they did in 89 of the 209 segments (43 percent). In addition, during the Kentucky protest, OSA used the tactic of circulating flyers labeled “KILLERS AMONG US” in the providers’ neighborhoods. Although some segments mentioned this tactic, media largely failed to connect this stunt with OSA’s history or with wider instances of anti-choice violence against and even murder of abortion providers.
OSA has a long history of conducting protests and engaging in targeted harassment of abortion clinic providers. In addition to the May arrests, local coverage could have mentioned that OSA is best known for its “Summer of Mercy” protest in 1991, where 1,718 protesters were arrested. OSA also carries out targeted harassment of abortion clinic providers, which typically entails the group protesting in the neighborhood of the providers and distributing flyers to their neighbors with identifying information -- including the provider’s photo and home address. All of OSA’s leaders have espoused violence as a tactic, including founder Randall Terry. In 1995, Terry advocated for implementing biblical law in the U.S. and urged Christians to “take up the sword” and “overthrow the tyrannical regime that oppresses them.” Current OSA leader Rusty Thomas has claimed abortion is the cause of terrorism. He blamed the 9/11 terrorism attacks on abortion, claiming, “If we repent and end abortion, God will deliver us from the evil of Islamic terrorism.” [Media Matters, 8/1/17]
The FACE Act was enacted to protect access to reproductive health facilities. In response to escalating incidents of anti-choice violence and protest -- including the 1993 murder of abortion provider Dr. David Gunn -- the federal government enacted the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act in 1994 to protect access to reproductive health facilities. The act forbids protesters from blocking the entrances of abortion clinics “by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction.” [Rewire, 5/15/17; Department of Justice, accessed 8/8/17]
OSA violated the act in May, but Kentucky broadcast media mentioned the act in only 9 percent of segments. OSA violated the FACE Act on May 13, when members of the group were arrested for blocking the entrance of EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Nevertheless, only 19 of 209 segments (9 percent) mentioned that OSA violated the FACE Act in May.
Local media failed to note buffer zone violations by OSA documented by National Abortion Federation staff and Kentucky clinic escorts. According to the accounts of on-the-ground pro-choice activists, OSA potentially violated the clinic’s protective buffer zone during the week-long protest. On July 24, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) noted on Twitter three times that U.S. marshals had to tell anti-abortion protesters to step outside the buffer zone, including one incident when a protester began chalking anti-abortion messages in the protected area. On July 26, NAF and the Twitter account of Louisville clinic escorts tweeted that OSA’s attorney was violating the buffer zone. Despite the documentation of these violations, local media failed to note that buffer zone infractions were occurring. [Twitter, 7/24/17, 7/26/17, 7/26/17, 7/26/17]
Media Matters searched iQ media for coverage of Operation Save America and its clinic protests between July 1, 2017, and July 31, 2017, in the Lexington, Louisville, Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg, and Bowling Green television markets. This resulted in 209 segments, including the airing and re-airing of CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News. These segments were then coded for:
number of appearances by anti-choice figures;
number of appearances by pro-choice figures;
mention of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act;
mention of Operation Save America’s violent history; and
mention of arrests of Operation Save America members in May 2017.
Charts by Sarah Wasko
JOE MADISON (HOST): So give me your description of what you heard, saw, and how is Media Matters going to handle this -- what do you got, what do you have your staff doing? I've been up there to your place. It's a hell of an operation, you guys do amazing job. So you must be extremely busy now. What's going on and what's your position on this?
ANGELO CARUSONE (MEDIA MATTERS PRESIDENT): Well thank you for that and thank you for having me. I -- put aside what -- one thing that I think, at least from my perspective that's sort of interesting is that what most people saw was something that was off-the-wall, outrageous, ridiculous, confusing, and obviously seemed deeply -- to sort of align with real racial animus. But from my perspective, what I saw was just another day in sort of like the right-wing media echo chamber, and I think that's the -- from my perspective, the biggest top-line takeaway from the sort of press conference today was that Donald Trump has really become basically a vessel for right-wing media. What he said today perfectly tracked much of the misinformation and the narrative that has been percolating on -- in sort of right-wing media circles, not just recently, but even going back years. So all of the stuff about both sides, the idea and notion of an "alt-left" coming from [Fox News host] Sean Hannity's circle.
CARUSONE: The idea of an "alt-left" came from Sean Hannity's circle. So, I mean, it was really just -- it just perfectly parallels what we heard, what we hear in right-wing media. So what we're doing basically is lining up everything that Donald Trump said today and showing where it comes from.
CARUSONE: And then we're -- we're just going to start digging in there.
MADISON: So let me -- so let me see if I -- if because -- in other word -- now here's something that's interesting. So this morning, and last night, right-wing media, including Drudge and the whole gang out there, they were jumping Donald Trump. Oh, they were -- I mean, talking about he was going to get the finger, can't get rid of [White House chief strategist] Steve Bannon. We took calls last night and I asked that conservatives who usually -- who may listen to the show but don't call in call in, what do you think. And these folks, these folks were really on Donald Trump. Even David Duke kicked him under the bus. All right, now, so now what media -- which I hear you saying, is that Media Matters, you're going to now follow and there's probably this trend where they're now applauding Donald Trump. He's now their boy. Is that what I'm -- in essence?
CARUSONE: Absolutely, and you pointed out correctly that you're right on, that what they had felt after what he had said yesterday was that he had in someway betrayed them. And what he did today was really signal to them, not in sort of any subtle way, but in an explicit way, that he is still on their side. Or as he used to say during the campaign, he would always say, "Oh, these are my people." I mean he was so -- he was so proud of that. And it really -- it started this morning. What he did this morning when he retweeted Jack Posobiec was really a sign that this was the direction that he was going to be heading in.
MADISON: Now tell this audience who -- tell what this audience what that tweet was like.
CARUSONE: Well what he was really doing -- what he was doing was retweeting this sort of right-wing, "alt-right" figure, who claims to be an investigative journalist, but he's really just sort of somebody who is an operative that engages in chicanery, with tricks, in order to advance an agenda. And what the tweet had basically done was attack Chicago, which is a -- a pretty consistent refrain amongst not just conservative talk, but some of the -- sort of like the "alt-right" and the other parts of the right-wing media that prey on racial anxieties. That you're not allowed to really ever talk about any harm or ill that anyone does because there's always violence in Chicago. And what they do is use that narrative to do two things: one, to consistently remind their audiences they sort of really try to amplify the scary black person idea, and so there's an important -- that's part of their core narrative, and so the fact that there's crime and violence in Chicago reinforces that false portrayal. And then they use it as a way to deflect. And so what Donald Trump did was retweet him, not just from that narrative perspective, but the real importance was who he retweeted because this person is really someone who's gaining a lot of prominence and influence within the extremist circles that we saw on display on Saturday. And so it was really a good way to start the day to reassurance that "hey, I'm still with you" and what he did tonight was just carry that through.
NEWT GINGRICH: I think if a city wants to take a statue out of the center of the city and put it in a museum, that makes some sense. I don't think we want to be like the Taliban, who were destroying Buddhist temples or Buddhist statues. I don't think we want to be like ISIS, which was destroying historic monuments.
And you have a great deal of people on the left who if they could destroy our entire memory of America, they would wipe it out and we would have no knowledge of what it meant to be an American.