The Top 18 Media Grinches of 2018


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Pete Hegseth, a “Fox & Friends” weekend co-host, said that the slow-moving “caravan” of migrants making their way toward the United States “looks more like an invasion than anything else.” A frequent Fox guest, Sidney Powell, accused the migrants of bringing diseases with them, and another Fox News guest, David Ward, got more specific, claiming that they would bring to the United States “smallpox and leprosy and TB.” (Smallpox was eradicated as of 1980!) Chris Farrell, a guest on Lou Dobbs’s Fox Business Network show, said that the groups supporting the migration were propped up by the “Soros-financed State Department,” a callback to anti-Semitic tropes about the Hungarian-born liberal financier George Soros, who is Jewish. Fox later condemned the comments and banned the guest from future appearances. But it all played to President Trump’s xenophobic message at the close of the midterm campaign. And more recently, Tucker Carlson, a Fox News prime-time host, said immigration made the United States “poor and dirtier and more divided.”

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In a less heated political environment, the story of a star journalist who was found to have passed off fiction as fact would be worth little more than a chuckle from general readers and a scolding from media critics. But now that people from both ends of the political spectrum routinely accuse reporters of creating “fake news,” this kind of thing hurts journalists everywhere. Claas Relotius, a writer for Der Spiegel, a German magazine known for its fact-checking department, is the latest in a line of fabulists (Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, among others) to have made a name for himself by hoodwinking editors and readers with stories that really were too good to be true. Pick a new field, Herr Relotius. We hear Hollywood’s hiring.

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It wasn’t me, Charter Spectrum — it was you! How many commercials did you run promising higher internet speeds? A million? Well, last week came the news that you have agreed with the New York attorney general that Charter Spectrum did not deliver the speeds it had advertised. Sure, Time Warner, which was previously running the service, started the pattern of bad-faith promises. And the company will try to make good by offering its customers payments of either $75 or $150. But that’s not going to get back the eBay bid that the cursed spinning pinwheel caused me to lose.

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The 2020 race has yet to start in earnest, but in the days before the midterm elections, the Donald J. Trump for President organization managed to do something I’ve never seen any other presidential political team come close to pulling off: It produced a commercial so racist and xenophobic that all the major networks rejected it, after it had aired on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” This piece of propaganda featured footage set to ominous music of an undocumented immigrant bragging in court about his murder of two police officers, followed by images of the caravan that originated in Central America. What other exciting firsts are in store for us in the next 22 months, Trump ad team?

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When reports that she had made homophobic remarks on her old blog surfaced toward the end of 2017, the MSNBC host Joy Reid apologized for her “choice of words and tone.” Fine. But when Mediaite reported on more posts of a similar vein, she claimed they were planted by hackers. When that defense fell apart, she apologized again, saying she still didn’t “believe” she wrote them but her views had changed, anyway. And that was that — no investigation by NBC News, which oversees MSNBC, no further comment from Ms. Reid. Either the blog was hacked or she invented a cover story. MSNBC and Ms. Reid still owe viewers a full explanation.

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Long before Twitter and Facebook, the magazine racks in supermarket checkout aisle were the original platforms. In 2016, those racks featured covers of The National Enquirer as it pilloried Hillary Clinton with false allegations that she had covered up a “child sex scandal,” committed treason and was hiding a deadly illness (from which she seems to have miraculously recovered). The supermarkets arguably played as much of a role in spreading politically motivated misinformation as any online entity swarmed by Russian bots.

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The fish rots from the head. And as a number of articles published over the last year have shown, a culture of sexual harassment pervaded every part of CBS. Its morning show had as a co-anchor Charlie Rose, who was fired after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. Among the network’s prime-time hits was “Bull,” whose star, Michael Weatherly, was accused of sexual harassment by the actress Eliza Dushku, whom the company paid $9.5 million in a confidential settlement. The news division’s standout program, “60 Minutes,” was run by Jeff Fager, who was fired after sending a threatening text message to a CBS reporter looking into allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior against him. The executive suite was the domain of Leslie Moonves, the recently fired company head, who was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. And the CBS corporate boardroom had a place for Arnold Kopelson, who died in October after dismissing the accusations against Mr. Moonves by saying, “I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff. Les is our leader and it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.”



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