The Slatest
Your News Companion

Feb. 25 2017 12:42 PM

Trump Tweet Once Again Appears to Show President Is Glued to Fox News

Donald Trump wants you to know he’s such a great president that even though he’s only been in office one month, he has already boosted the economy and helped reduce the national debt. "The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo," tweeted Trump at 8:19 a.m.

Those words sounded awfully familiar to anyone who was watching Fox News’ Fox & Friends early Saturday morning as former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain espoused pretty much the same talking point an hour earlier on the show.

Advertisement

Cain, for his part, was pretty much parroting a recent piece by Gateway Pundit, a conservative pro-Trump blog that now has credentials for White House press briefings. Earlier this week, the blog that has peddled false information about Hillary Clinton's health and voter fraud wrote about how Trump had cut the national debt, which is pretty much hogwash. Even though the debt has decreased “this is accounted for by ordinary rotations in intra-governmental accounts,” as the Atlantic’s David Frum wrote on Twitter. Plus the comparison is pretty meaningless anyway, considering the debt increased after President Obama took office because of a stimulus package that Congress had approved before he had even been sworn in. Under the same token, Trump is still working off last year’s budget so even if there had been a real decrease, his administration can’t take credit.

PolitiFact wrote that Trump’s statement was “mostly false” and said the numbers the president is touting don’t really mean much:

Trump would be wise to not read too much into this figure, which sounds more noteworthy than it actually is. The national debt fluctuates up and down depending on the day. While the debt is "down" after one month, experts say that trend will reverse and the debt will continue to rise.
This factoid is a gross misrepresentation of the state of the debt and the role the new president had in shaping the figure.

More than just another misleading talking point though, the tweet seemed to be a pretty clear illustration of how a talking point made its way from conservative blog post to a Fox News pundit to a presidential tweet, reflecting the conservative echo chamber that appears to be a key source of news for the administration. Just last week Trump acknowledged he had implied there had been a terrorist incident in Sweden after he watched a Fox News segment on the country’s refugee program.

Trump then followed up with another tweet celebrating the state of the economy and the rising stock market.

He also called on supporters to hold a mass rally, claiming it “would be the biggest of them all.”

Feb. 25 2017 11:37 AM

Muhammad Ali Jr. Detained at Florida Airport, Repeatedly Asked About Religion

Immigration officials detained the son of the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali for nearly two hours after he arrived from a trip to Jamaica. Muhammad Ali Jr. was arriving with his mother at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7 after participating in a Black History Month event in Jamaica when they were suddenly pulled aside while going through Customs. Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the second wife of Muhammad Ali, was apparently quickly let go after she showed officials a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but her son was repeatedly questioned about his origin and religion, family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

When Ali Jr. told immigration officials he is a Muslim, officers questioned him about his nationality even though he was born in Philadelphia and holds a U.S. passport. "To the Ali family, it's crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump's efforts to ban Muslims from the United States," Mancini said, referring to President Donald Trump's executive order that barred citizen from seven Muslim-majority countries. Even though the ban has been blocked by the courts, Mancini said Ali Jr.’s experience demonstrates immigration officials are still enforcing the spirit of the measure.

Advertisement

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it couldn’t comment on the incident “due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act.” Now Mancini says the Ali family is considering filing a lawsuit and they’re trying to figure out how many other people were subjected to religious-based questioning at the airport.

Earlier this month, the Trinidadian husband of journalist Stacy-Marie Ishmael was detained for more than three hours at the Fort Lauderdale airport. Border patrol agents reportedly asked him about his ethnicity and “how he got his name,” Ishmael wrote on Twitter.

Feb. 24 2017 5:07 PM

Today in Conservative Media: Trump’s “Triumphant” Return to CPAC

170106_Logo_Conservative_Media5

A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

On Friday, conservative publications extensively covered Donald Trump’s address to the Conservative Political Action Conference, discussing both his remarks and the crowd’s reportedly enthusiastic response to his appearance.

Advertisement

The Daily Caller exemplified the latter tendency, featuring one short post headlined “Crowd Chants ‘USA! USA! USA!’ as President Trump Takes the Stage” and another in which, it states, he “drew thunderous applause from the crowd” after promising “to protect the Second Amendment.” (On the site’s home page, that post was headlined, “When Trump Said This at CPAC, the Crowd Jumped to Its Feet and Cheered.”) In a longer article, the publication summarized and quoted from the president’s speech, largely without commentary, though it did describe the performance as “a campaign-style speech.”

LifeZette was more explicitly enthusiastic in its write-up, calling Trump’s return to CPAC “triumphant” and claiming that “he mapped out his vision for the nation” in it. Breitbart, similarly, wrote that the president received “a rock star welcome from the packed ballroom” in its primary recap of the event. Gateway Pundit called attention to a moment in which the crowd “immediately started chanting, ‘Lock her up! Lock her up!’ ” after Trump alluded to Hillary Clinton. The site featured a clip of this moment under a headline that read, in part, “It Never Gets Old.”

Breitbart—which relied on multiple anonymous White House sources in a recent article suggesting that Reince Priebus was on his way out—also singled out Trump’s criticism of anonymous sources in a post describing his remarks about the media. Those comments also featured prominently in CPAC reporting from other sites, including the Daily Caller, which set them side by side with Steve Bannon’s similar assertions from the day before. HeatStreet, for its own part, noted, “In what is sure to be the most controversial segment of his speech, Trump even attacked the First Amendment, calling on journalists to reveal the names of anonymous sources.”

In addition to its multiple articles on Trump’s speech, Breitbart ran several on Bannon’s. One, headlined, “The New Yorker: ‘How Steve Bannon Conquered CPAC and the Republican Party,’ ” quotes at length from a Ryan Lizza article. Another headline on the site declared “Krauthammer on Bannon at CPAC: He Showed He Was ‘the Brains of the Operation.’ ” A third post by Breitbart’s own Lee Stranahan offered similar praise for Bannon, who previously served as executive chairman of Breitbart News.

LifeZette, meanwhile, took Trump’s address as an opportunity to revisit his prior appearances at the conference. “In all four [past] speeches, he offered a glimpse of the bold ideas and agendas that Establishment Republicans were hesitant to embrace once he launched his presidential campaign in 2015,” the publication wrote, proposing that Trump had laid out a relatively coherent set of positions over the years.

Posts about Trump’s speech were widely shared from conservative Facebook pages:

Feb. 24 2017 4:10 PM

The White House Kicked Several Nonconservative Media Outlets Out of Friday’s Press Briefing

The president's press secretary usually holds a daily press briefing in the room you can see pictured above. Friday, though, current POTUS spokesguy Sean Spicer ditched the podium and held an informal "gaggle" briefing elsewhere in the White House. Except he didn't invite a bunch of mainstream media outlets, presumably because they have been too mean to the president, who considers them "enemies of the people." Among the outlets that didn't make the cut: CNN, the New York Times, BuzzFeed, the Los Angeles Times, the Hill, Politico, and the BBC. Breitbart.com, the Washington Times, and the One America News Network—all conservative outlets—were allowed in, as were ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox News.

For an explanation of what seems to be going on here, I recommend this New York Times Magazine piece about how Trump has taken advantage of 21st-century technological trends in order to undercut and embarrass the media with stunts like this one. It's written by a guy I know, and it starts with a reference to a Slate piece by another guy I know. We all live in the same neighborhood, in which many high-end "artisanal" food products are sold, in Brooklyn. You know, maybe Trump has a point about the press being a little cabal of snooty jerks! Down with the press!

Feb. 24 2017 3:41 PM

The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre at CPAC: The Left Wants to Kill You. So Buy Guns!

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland—National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre had a message on Friday for Trump supporters who think the election of their beloved tough on crime and terrorism candidate will be enough alone to tackle those two problems: You’re wrong. Dead wrong. “Folks, our long nightmare—it may not be over,” he told CPAC during his address. “The fact is it may be just be beginning. Because right now, we face a gathering of forces that are willing to use violence against us." Who are those violent and dangerous forces needing to be dealt with, if not criminals and terrorists that the Trump administration will soon deal with? Liberals! From the speech:

I think we all agree we live in a more angry, dangerous world than we've seen in a long time. A lot of people, for a lot of reasons, want to blow it all up and tear the whole thing down. It’s in the Saul Alinksy strategy of sowing grievance and indignation to raise holy hell. It's in the leftist radical plan to tax capitalism to collapse. And it’s in the Rahm Emanuel doctrine of ‘Never let a crisis go to waste.’ And it's in the ISIS dream of a worldwide caliphate. So, what happens when it all collects and collides like a hurricane? What happens when the national media wind machine blows it up into a firestorm? And what happens, if, God forbid our enemies use that to their advantage?
Advertisement

The protests against Trump’s presidency, LaPierre said, offer an opportunity for terrorists, who could piggyback on left activism to strike Americans. “What happens when terrorists tag along with a flash mob protest at your local airport,” he asked. “What happens when some freeway Facebook protest on your interstate highway brings it all to a screeching halt?”

The protesters, of course, welcome this LaPierre implied, because the protesters are themselves essentially terrorists. LaPierre opened his speech with clips from isolated incidents of violence from anti-Trump actions.“The left's message is absolutely clear,” he intoned. “They want revenge. You have to be punished. They say you are what is wrong with America. And now, you have to be purged.”

“Another name for terrorism,” he said, “is violence in the name of politics and criminal violence has no place in political debate.”

What to do, then, about these protesters who LaPierre claimed “use the same brutal tactics that the fascists used in Europe”?

“With all the threats facing America today, you are right to protect yourself and your family may be more relevant and more urgently needed than ever before,” he said. “Americans know that in their heart. Americans can feel that in their bones. That is why they joined the National Rifle Association.”

Join the NRA! And purchase these fine NRA-endorsed products.

“Make no mistake, if the violent left brings their terror to our communities, our neighborhoods or into our homes," he concluded, “they will be met with the resolve, and the strength, and the full force of American freedom in the hands of the American people and we will win because we are the majority in this country.”

It feels safe to assume that by “the full force of American freedom” he might partially mean maximum stopping power.

Feb. 24 2017 1:09 PM

You’ll Never Believe What Happened at CPAC: Trump Attacked the Media and Lied a Bunch

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland—On Friday morning, the attendees of CPAC were finally treated to the oratorical gifts of the man White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called straight-facedly the greatest rally speaker “since William Jennings Bryan.”* President Donald Trump began inauspiciously, as he often does, with an attack on the media. His tweet castigating five of the most significant news outlets in America as fake news–peddling “enemies of the people,” had been, he said, mischaracterized:

I am only against the fake news media or press—fake, fake, they have to lead that word. I'm against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name. Let their name be put out there.
Advertisement

This coming from a man who spent years—years—parading himself in front of the press claiming that unnamed sources and investigators had produced evidence that the president’s birth certificate was a fraud. As Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley noted, this is a man who moreover admitted to having impersonated an imaginary publicist to update the press about his sex life and reportedly spent years doing this.

In any case, Trump is soundly losing his war with journalists. According to a Public Policy Polling survey released on Friday, 53 percent of voters disagree with Trump that the critical mainstream press are enemies; 48 percent of voters see Trump as a greater threat than the media.

The mendacities of Trump’s speech, like his sentences themselves, ran on and into each other. He claimed Friday that Obamacare covers “very few people.” It expanded coverage by an estimated 20 million people. He said he had been endorsed by the federal agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the campaign. He was not. He said that the Keystone XL pipeline would likely create around 42,000 jobs. A month ago, while signing an executive order greenlighting Keystone, he claimed it would create 28,000. Keystone will create 50 permanent jobs by the end of its construction; no more than 16,000 people will be employed in building it, many of them only for a few months.

Ludicrously and predictably, Trump additionally claimed that supporters had lined up for six blocks outside the Gaylord Convention Center to try to get into the speech. The fake news media, up to their dirty tricks again, responded on Twitter with photographs:

All of this passed either without notice or to splashes of applause from a wildly enthusiastic crowd, which was revved up enough to revive the “lock her up” chant and treated to yet another relitigation of Clinton’s “deplorables” comment from Trump.

“Who would have thought that a word would place so badly,” Trump asked. “That’s the problem with politics. One wrong word and it’s over.”

Another falsehood. Contradicted in full by the Trump presidency thus far.

*Correction, Feb. 24, 2017: This post originally misattributed the William Jennings Bryan quote to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Feb. 24 2017 12:24 PM

Everyone Needs to Stop Passing Along Facebook Rumors About ICE Checkpoints

New Yorkers were sharing a bracing message on Facebook on Thursday: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had set up checkpoints at subway stations in the Bronx and were demanding that people show their papers. “Anybody without documents,” the message instructed, should avoid the 6 train. Two stops in particular—the one at 149th and 3rd Ave and the one at 149th and Southern Boulevard—were singled out as especially high-risk.

There were two problems with this warning. The first was that there was no ICE checkpoint at the 6 train station at 149th and Southern Boulevard on Thursday afternoon. According to an MTA attendant manning the help desk at the station around 4 p.m., there hadn’t been one at any time this week, or ever. The second problem with the warning was that the 6 train does not stop at 149th and 3rd Ave.

Advertisement

Neither issue stopped well-meaning Facebook users from sharing the post, which came punctuated with a plea for all who read it to spread it further by copying and pasting the message. As of this writing, people are still posting it every few minutes, and there is no sign of its viral momentum slowing down.

The fact that there are no ICE agents in the Bronx demanding people’s papers is a good thing. The fact that undocumented immigrants are living in acute fear of deportation as a result of these Facebook posts is not. As legitimate concerns about a Trump-enabled immigration crackdown have taken root, so has unconfirmed alarmism about specific, nonexistent checkpoints. On Friday morning, a quick search on Facebook showed posts similar to the one about the 6 line having popped up in Chicago (“They're checking IDs on the red line”); Richmond, Virginia (“From trusted source—ICE (immigrations) checkpoint is at Richmond Costco right now”); and Los Angeles (“ICE Checkpoint on Van Nuys Blvd. and Oxnard St.”).

Identifying the origins of such viral rumors is almost as difficult as stopping them from spreading. In some cases, people might see law enforcement agents at work and jump to the conclusion that they are from ICE. Reports of ICE raids in Sacramento, California, that began circulating on Feb. 1 might have originated with a joint FBI-DHS operation involving a bomb threat that “had nothing to do with anything related to immigration," according to a spokesman for the West Sacramento Police Department. In other cases, these “checkpoints” might be scams perpetrated by criminals. According to a spokeswoman for the New York Attorney General’s Office, a Latino immigrant in Queens was recently approached by “four men dressed as ICE agents who told him they would detain him unless he gave them all of his money.”

The fake-checkpoint phenomenon has forced immigration activists to spend their time debunking rumors. The Verge recently spoke to a representative of the New York Immigration Coalition who had been tracking a report of ICE agents in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. “The Flatbush one won’t die,” Camille Mackler said, after visiting the location. “I can assure you there was no checkpoint.” An immigration advocate in Queens, meanwhile, told CBS2 that the rumors have made people “afraid to leave their homes,” even to go to work. “A lot of people are putting up reports about suspected ICE raids online and they just proliferate and spread like wildfire,” Fahd Ahmed told the station.

There is good reason to be worried that, under the new administration, undocumented immigrants in America’s cities will be targeted for deportation. Trump has all but promised it. But passing on rumors does not help anyone, while making immigrants feel needlessly unwelcome and under threat. Bottom line: Unless you see an ICE checkpoint with your own eyes, don’t share these posts on Facebook. Immigrants have enough to fear.

Feb. 24 2017 11:48 AM

Trump, Now Trashing Anonymous Sources, Once Called People Anonymously to Brag About Having Had Sex

Here's President Trump (!) at CPAC in Maryland on Friday discussing the journalistic practice of quoting anonymous sources:

There are some terrible, dishonest people, and they do tremendous disservice to our country and to our people, a tremendous disservice. They are very dishonest people, and they shouldn't use "sources"—they should put the name of the person. You [would] see stories dry up like you have never seen before.
Advertisement

Here's a People magazine story about the time in 1991 that Trump admitted he'd called a People reporter named Sue Carswell and pretended to be a spokesman named "John Miller" in order to brag about how many women he (Trump) was dating:

When [Carswell] played the recording for friends of Trump and his then-girlfriend, Marla Maples, they were unanimous: the voice was Trump’s own, a ruse that Carswell noted in her story for the July 8, 1991, issue of PEOPLE.
By the time PEOPLE was putting its July 22, 1991, issue together, Trump had called Carswell to confess that he was, in fact, the so-called John Miller who called a couple weeks earlier.

"Miller" told People that Trump "gets called by everybody in the book, in terms of women," had at least three girlfriends in addition to Maples, and was being pursued by both Madonna and Carla Bruni. (There is no evidence that Trump ever dated Madonna, and Bruni responded to the claims by calling Trump a "lunatic" who she'd only met once in passing.)

Feb. 23 2017 10:45 PM

Chemical Weapon Nerve Agent Was Used to Kill Kim Jong-un’s Half Brother in Airport Attack

The strange story of the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half brother took a turn for the even more surreal with Malaysian police confirming on Friday (local time) that a substance classified as a chemical weapon was used in the murder of the leader's sibling at the Kuala Lumpur airport earlier this month. Traces of VX nerve agent were found on the skin of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged family member of the country’s ruling family, after two women approached Jong-nam in the terminal and appeared to smear a substance on his face. Jong-nam immediately sought medical help, but suffered seizures shortly after the altercation and reportedly died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

VX is odorless and tasteless, as well as one of the most potent nerve agents, according to the CDC. The chemical discovery “will add to the increasing evidence suggesting that Kim Jong-un’s regime in North Korea was behind the brazen and public attack… an apparent move by the young North Korean leader to get rid of potential rival, the Washington Post reports. Here’s more from the Post:

South Korean authorities have accused Kim Jong Un, who came to power in North Korea in 2011, of putting out a “standing order” to assassinate his older half brother. This would fit with Kim Jong Un’s track record of getting rid of potential contenders for the leadership of North Korea. He had his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, executed at the end of 2013 for apparently amassing his own power base. Jang was a mentor to Kim Jong Nam, who had previously been considered a possible leader in the three-generation communist dynasty. North Korea had strongly objected to Malaysia conducting an autopsy on the man’s body, saying that he carried a diplomatic passport and therefore was not subject to local laws… There were also reports that of an attempted break-in at the hospital morgue where Kim Jong Nam’s body is being held.
Advertisement

Pyongyang has been sharply critical of the handling of the murder, but Malaysia, which has had friendly relations with North Korea, has proceeded with its investigation, naming eight suspects in the killing. Four of the suspects are at-large in Malaysia while the “other four left Malaysia on the day of the attack, taking a circuitous route—via Dubai and Vladivostok, Russia—to get back to Pyongyang without going through China,” according to the Post. “The Chinese government had been protecting Kim Jong Nam and was widely thought to consider him a potential replacement for Kim Jong Un if he became intolerably hostile to Beijing.”

Feb. 23 2017 9:02 PM

Donald Trump Casually Suggests the U.S. Should Lead the World Into a New Nuclear Arms Race

Donald Trump, after a lifetime of real-estate deals and reality TV show whatever, is now the president of the United States, and as the president, he now gets to have an opinion about things he knows little about, has never shown an interest in, and, unfortunately, affect us all. The latest example of this is Trump’s advocating—in an interview with Reuters Thursday—for the United States to bulk up its nuclear arsenal. Really. “It would be wonderful; a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack,” Trump said. Russia currently has roughly 400 more deployed nuclear warheads than the U.S., which has 1,367 deployed, according to the State Department.

That’s unsettlingly loose rhetoric after decades of careful negotiation to try to limit the supply of nuclear weapons and their potential for use. Trump went one step further during the interview, suggesting that he was dissatisfied with the New START strategic arms–limitation treaty between the U.S. and Russia, which requires both countries to limit their nuclear arsenals to equal levels over the next decade. “The treaty permits both countries to have no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed land-based intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear weapons, and contains equal limits on other nuclear weapons,” according to Reuters.

Advertisement

Trump called the treaty “a one-sided deal” and “another bad deal.” Trump has made similar remarks in favor of nuclear proliferation in the past.

At least in December he was only about to be the leader of the free world, he wasn’t the actual thing yet.

If you were watching a news program, say, three years ago on any station, even Fox News, and a discussion about nuclear proliferation came on, and the anchor turned from his panel of guests and said “let’s bring Donald Trump in on this discussion to get his take on things,” you would have lost your mind. But here we are.

READ MORE STORIES