Fox News hires Donna Brazile as political contributor
By DAVID BAUDER
AP Media Writer
Monday, March 18
NEW YORK (AP) — Former Democratic National Committee chief Donna Brazile, who was fired by CNN for tipping off the Hillary Clinton campaign about debate topics in 2016, has joined Fox News Channel as a political commentator.
Brazile said Monday she knows fellow liberals will criticize her for joining Fox, but that it’s important for people not to retreat to “safe spaces” where they just talk to people who agree with them.
“There’s an audience on Fox News that doesn’t hear enough from Democrats,” Brazile said in a statement.
Her conduct at CNN was revealed as part of emails exposed by Wikileaks. She had contacted the Clinton campaign about topics that would be covered in a March 2016 town hall when the competition was Bernie Sanders.
Brazile initially denied the accusation, but admitted to it after the election. She wrote in March 2017 that sending emails to the Clinton campaign was “a mistake I will forever regret.”
At Fox, Brazile will not have anything to do with campaign debates or town halls, said a Fox executive who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak about contract details. That may be a moot point, anyway: the Democratic National Committee recently said it would not allow Fox News to host any of its upcoming primary debates.
She’ll now be going to work alongside some people at Fox who hammered her in the aftermath of the leaked questions story.
On the day that she admitted to tipping Clinton’s team, guests on the Fox commentary program “The Five” lit into her. “She’s as corrupt as the day is long,” then-panelist Eric Bolling said.
Fox has not given up on hosting any Democratic primary debates or town halls, and wants to counter charges from an explosive New Yorker magazine article that outlined its ties to President Donald Trump.
Brazile said that if Americans learned anything from the 2016 election, “it is that we can’t have a country where we don’t talk to those who disagree with our political views.”
“You can be damn sure that I’m still going to be me on Fox News,” she said. “I’m going to do what I always do, and dish it out straight, exactly as I see it, with just as much New Orleans hot sauce as folks expect.”
The decision didn’t necessarily sit well with all Fox News viewers, either, particularly in the wake of the apparent suspension of Saturday night host Jeanine Pirro following remarks she made questioning the allegiance of Muslim U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. Even Trump over the weekend tweeted that Fox should reinstate Pirro.
The conservative Breitbart News tweeted: “Well, looks like she won’t have access to any debate questions.”
Brazile made her debut as a contributor Monday afternoon on Dana Perino’s program.
“We’re not going to get ahead by yelling at each other and sending nasty tweets,” she said.
Jeanine Pirro case squeezes Fox News in two directions
By DAVID BAUDER
AP Media Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The apparent suspension of Jeanine Pirro is squeezing Fox News Channel in two directions.
A prominent Muslim-American civil rights organization is calling for advertisers to boycott Fox News, while another group is petitioning to have the weekend host reinstated.
Pirro wasn’t on the air Saturday, a week after Fox publicly condemned her for comments questioning U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s loyalty because she wears a Muslim head covering. Fox hasn’t explained the former New York-area district attorney’s absence, declining to comment on “internal scheduling matters.”
The network’s schedule for the upcoming weekend lists another program in Pirro’s time slot.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, this week said that advertisers should boycott Fox News until Pirro and prime-time host Tucker Carlson were fired. Carlson has been fighting back since being criticized last week for comments made on a radio show a decade ago and unearthed last week.
Meanwhile, the lobbying group Act for America urged its members write to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to complain about Pirro’s absence. In its online message, Act for America said that instead of rewarding its anchor for opening a much-needed debate, “Fox News caved to pressure from the radical left.”
“Jeanine Pirro did nothing wrong,” the group’s leader, Brigitte Gabriel, said via tweet. “People should be outraged.”
Act for America has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for anti-Muslim rhetoric. Gabriel has tweeted in recent days that she considered SPLC a hate group.
Act for America said more than 20,000 people have responded to its request to email Scott. Fox News had no comment on the campaign Tuesday.
Act for America was echoing tweets by President Donald Trump last weekend. He had also proclaimed his support for Pirro and advocated for her reinstatement.
Pirro has issued one statement through Fox, saying she did not call Omar un-American and that “my intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution.”
Gabriel had appeared with Pirro last Friday on the online Fox Nation service, where the advocacy group leader referred to Omar and a colleague, Rep. Rashida Talib, as anti-Semitic, in a transcript provided by the liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America. Of the two representatives, Pirro said, “it’s almost as though they think they’re representing another country.”
Gabriel also criticized Fox in the wake of its hiring Monday of former Democratic National Committee chief Donna Brazile as a political commentator.
Between the suspension of Pirro and hiring of Brazile, “if that doesn’t show you the direction Fox News is headed I don’t know what will,” she tweeted.
Meet the 24-year-old who found the Tucker Carlson tapes
By ELI ROSENBERG, The Washington Post
Friday, March 15
WASHINGTON (AP) — Madeline Peltz works the night shift at the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America. Given the timing of that particular shift, one of her main responsibilities is watching Tucker Carlson’s 8 p.m. show on Fox News.
And she’s watched a lot of Tucker Carlson.
Carlson has been in the public eye for some 20 years — first as a print journalist, then a television commentator, founder of the conservative site the Daily Caller, and now, Fox News host, with a prime-time slot and a salary in the millions. But people have been confused by Carlson’s tone on Fox since he took over for Bill O’Reilly in 2018, noting concern about diversity and demographics in his show.
After many Carlson-watching hours, the 24-year-old researcher developed a working theory, which she outlined on the nonprofit’s website: that Carlson is using his platform on Fox News to introduce white-nationalist ideas to the mainstream, making him a uniquely prominent “mouthpiece for white supremacy.”
Peltz dug into his recent past and discovered a trove of appearances he made on shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge’s radio show between 2006 and 2011. She found a series of misogynistic, racist and homophobic remarks Carlson made, the audio of which Media Matters published this week.
In response, Carlson was defiant, casting himself as the victim of “the great American outrage machine,” a mob of power-seeking organizations and people he says are waging a political war to censor him.
In reality, credit for the tapes’ publication is due to Peltz: a 20-something in her first adult job who lives in the basement of a D.C. house she rents with five other people, a few cats and a dog named Noodles.
“I’m not like some high-power-wielding globalist,” Peltz said, adopting the conspiracy-inflected jargon of the far right. “I’m this kid who’s been on the Internet my whole life and knows how to get around it.”
It’s been a busy week at Media Matters, which tracks conservative media trends and has engaged in a years-long effort to cast light on the ways Fox News and its hosts sidestep traditional journalism guidelines.
The organization released the first audio of Carlson on Sunday. In that, Carlson called rape shield laws “totally unfair” and was adamantly supportive of Warren Jeffs, the former leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who is serving a life sentence for child rape. Carlson also said he would “love” a scenario involving young girls sexually experimenting and described women as “extremely primitive.”
The next day, Media Matters for America released another audio file just moments after Carlson’s show began. In that, Carlson said that white men deserve credit for “creating civilization,” called Iraqis a bunch of “semiliterate primitive monkeys,” and spoke about his desire for a presidential candidate to blame the “lunatic Muslims who are behaving like animals.”
There was more on Tuesday. This time, Carlson could be heard joking about having sex with someone he thought was an underage beauty pageant contestant.
On his Tuesday night show, Carlson did not address the audio itself. Instead, he took aim at Media Matters, calling it “a George Soros-funded lobbying organization whose sole mission is to punish critics of the Democratic Party.”
But the tapes have turned up pressure on the show, teeing off an advertiser boycott and a protest in front of Fox News’s headquarters in New York on Wednesday, which Media Matters helped organize.
When asked for a comment for this story, Fox News spokeswoman Carly Shanahan pointed to Carlson’s statements on his show this week.
Media Matters for America is not currently funded by George Soros; he has not donated to the organization in many years, its president, Angelo Carusone, said in an interview.
While Carlson described Media Matters as working to “bully” corporations, it is a fraction of the size of Fox News, whose revenue for 2018 has been estimated to be more than $3 billion. Media Matters has about 80 employees and a budget of about $14 million that mostly comes from private donors, Carusone said.
The group conducts media analysis from a left-leaning perspective, studying trends and themes to see how political discussions play out in the nation’s media bubbles. Its staff monitors some 50,000 hours of live programming on television and radio every year, and the organization tapes another million hours of audio and video.
Media Matters, which has an active website that highlights and contextualizes some of these moments, drew criticism during the 2016 election campaign for what some saw as an attempt to malign coverage that was critical of Hillary Clinton. But it has found a renewed prominence in the Trump era by turning its sights to the new information economy: the rise of conspiracy theories and misinformation online, the increased visibility of fringe right-wing websites and ideas, and an energized conservative media ecosystem that helps amplifies those ideas.
“When we did a power mapping of the landscape at the end of 2016, early 2017, what we found was that so much of what used to be dismissed as the fringes was now where power was being organized: 4chan, Daily Stormer comment sections, subreddits,” Carusone said. “These would never have been considered worthy enough or important enough to monitor (before). But we looked at it, and they were — they were driving a lot of the misinformation and fake news of 2016. They were creating a lot of material that was making it onto Fox News or Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.”
Carusone said the organization had to build some new digital technology to track the online conversations in forums and message boards that he said have such a large effect on political discourse in the United States.
“It’s basically it’s just a giant DVR for the ‘chans, an archive of these message boards,” Carusone said.
And Media Matters has been doing studies and using other data to advocate better practices. It pushed Google to stop allowing what it had assessed as fake-news-purveying websites to use the company’s AdSense program. It has met with the big three technology companies — Facebook, Google and Twitter — Carusone said, but he said nondisclosure agreements prevented him from disclosing more about that. It also works with journalists to publicize problems or issues when other methods of persuasion fail.
“It’s a combination of building up public pressure or direct lobbying,” Carusone said.
Peltz’s project was her idea, Carusone said. He said the organization decided to publish portions of what she had found after deciding it was relevant to understanding Carlson’s current political views.
“We didn’t just try to embarrass him,” Carusone said. “We took things that directly echo his show now, and things that had some relevancy today.”
Carlson has responded by attacking Media Matters for America, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose categorization of hate groups is used widely by media organizations.
He has also been engaged in a long-running feud with CNN; on Tuesday he called anchor Brian Stelter a “eunuch” multiple times, name-calling that was omitted from the text of his monologue later posted on the Fox News website.
“This is what an authoritarian society looks like,” Carlson said. “It was only a matter of time before they came for Fox News.”
He also took aim at Media Matters’s designation as a tax-exempt nonprofit and urged viewers to call the Internal Revenue Service.
“In its original tax application to the IRS, Media Matters claimed that the American news media were dominated by a pro-Christian bias and that they were needed to balance it,” Carlson said. “It has been violating the terms of that status ever since.”
He interviewed Boyden Gray, a former counsel to President George H.W. Bush, who has filed a complaint with the IRS about Media Matters.
“There is something wrong with the IRS,” Gray said. “There is nothing more harmful than to keep silent when you shouldn’t be defending yourself.”
The Daily Caller, which Carlson founded in 2010, also repurposed a story it had written previously about some racist and transphobic slurs that Carusone used on a blog in 2005. Carusone had used slurs about transgender people, Jews and Japanese people.
In October 2005, for example, he wrote about his boyfriend, now husband, saying that “despite his jewry, you KNOW he’s adorable.”
Carlson pointed to Carusone’s comments on his show Wednesday, speaking about the “irony” of the offense and saying that Media Matters should issue a press release about them. “They’ve done a lot more for a lot less,” he said.
Carusone, he said, is an “enthusiastic bigot.” But Carlson also said that he didn’t care what Carusone wrote on his “dumb blog” and that his “dumb opinions don’t interest me at all.”
Carusone said the posts, which he intended as satire, recirculate every time Media Matters is in the news. And he said that the persona of the blog, which he wrote in college, was designed to parody a “right-wing blowhard.”
“It didn’t work very well, and I killed it,” he said. “It’s not funny, and it’s not nice.”
Peltz said there’s no doubt in her mind that Carlson has been trying to “thread the needle of mainstreaming overt white nationalism” while also avoiding the consequences for it. She cited well-publicized instances: when Carlson said in December that immigration was making the country “dirtier,” and another segment in which Carlson claimed the South African government was seizing land from white owners, simply because they were white. Carlson has defended that story.
Peltz said she believes the extremism has been escalating.
“It’s clear in the editorial choices that he makes that he covers demographic change as basically the end of white people,” Peltz said. “As someone with one of the largest platforms in media, he frequently portrays himself as a victim. And that’s a long tactic of white nationalists, going back all the way to the civil rights struggle in the South.”
She said Carlson’s response to the audio’s publication is a sign that it had an effect. Media Matters says it has more material; it is not clear if the releases will continue.
“There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t think Fox News is super proud of,” Peltz said. “It just took 10 hours a day (listening to) Bubba the Love Sponge to figure out.”
Shivani Vora, Michael Brice-Saddler and Allyson Chiu contributed to this report.
Information from: The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com
Fox Corp. begins trading as Disney completion looms
NEW YORK (AP) — Fox Corp., the Fox assets that are not part of Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment assets, began trading as a stand-alone company on Tuesday.
The New York company also appointed several people to its board of directors, including former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Chase Carey, a former executive Twenty-First Century Fox.
Disney’s acquisition of Fox assets is set to close around 12 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, more than a year after the mega deal was first proposed in December 2017.
Fox Corp. consists mainly of Fox Broadcasting, Fox Sports and Fox News. Disney is acquiring the Fox movie business, including Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000 as well as Twentieth Century Fox Television, FX Productions and Fox21, with shows including “The Simpsons” and “Modern Family.”
Fox Corp. is trading under “FOX” and “FOXA” on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. In morning trading, shares dipped $1 to $40.70.
Virginia’s Corey Stewart to lead pro-Trump super PAC
Friday, March 15
MANASSAS, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Republican who embraced Confederate monuments and associated with white supremacists during failed statewide office bids will head a conservative super PAC.
The Washington Post reports Corey Stewart is joining the Keeping America Great PAC, which will raise money for the 2020 campaigns of President Donald Trump and like-minded state and federal candidates. The PAC was previously tied to Dave Brat, the Virginia congressman who lost his 2018 re-election bid.
Stewart briefly chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in Virginia before being fired.
Before losing to Sen. Tim Kaine last November, Stewart ran unsuccessfully for Republican nominations for governor and lieutenant governor. He’s spent 15 years on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, but said in January he’d leave politics “until and unless the Commonwealth is ready” for his views.
Information from: The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com
Teen at center of viral encounter sues CNN over reporting
Wednesday, March 13
COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky teen at the heart of a January encounter with a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington has sued CNN for $275 million, alleging the Cable News Network falsely labeled him a racist who instigated a threatening confrontation.
The attorneys for Nicholas Sandmann also filed suit last month against The Washington Post and are threatening numerous other news organizations, including The Associated Press.
In papers filed Tuesday in federal court in Covington, Sandmann and his parents alleged that CNN had engaged in “falsely attacking, vilifying and bullying” Sandmann.
“Contrary to its ‘Facts First’ public relations ploy, CNN ignored the facts and put its anti-Trump agenda first in waging a 7-day media campaign for false, vicious attacks against Nicholas,” the lawsuit states.
A CNN spokesperson declined to comment.
Sandmann’s attorneys also are threatening legal action against The Associated Press and other news organizations. In a letter to the AP, dated Feb. 15, Atlanta-based attorney L. Lin Wood called on the news cooperative to “retract and correct” what his letter asserts are “defamatory statements.” Sandmann also provided his version of the events.
The Associated Press took great care to ensure its stories were measured and fair, reporting the facts of what transpired and adding details as they emerged, said spokeswoman Lauren Easton, adding that AP stands by its stories.
The actions of Sandmann and his Covington Catholic High School classmates have been intensely debated since video and photographs emerged of them wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and facing off with Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips.
Both Sandmann and Nathan Phillips say they were trying to defuse tensions that were rising among three groups on a day Washington hosted both the anti-abortion March for Life, attended by the Covington students, and the Indigenous Peoples March. But video of Sandmann and Phillips standing very close to each other, with Sandmann staring and at times smiling at Phillips as he sang and played a drum, gave some who watched it a different impression.
She had been let go from a similar role at CNN in 2016 after it was revealed that she had shared material about topics that would be addressed at a Democratic forum with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)