Politics & Policy

NYT Reporter: Trump Allies Targeting Journalists Are Deploying Media Matters Playbook

President Donald Trump speaks about the shootings in El Paso and Dayton in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., August 5, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

New York Times media reporter Jeremy Peters said Monday that allies of President Trump are employing the opposition research model pioneered by the liberal advocacy group Media Matters to tar journalists that report critically on the administration.

Peters appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss his recent report detailing how a loose network of Trump allies are combing the social media histories of hundreds of journalists at mainstream media outlets to expose  political bias and other potentially embarrassing information.

“They’ve tried to pull embarrassing things, find unflattering things in the social media histories of these journalists. And I’m talking about journalists at the nation’s top news organizations…and what they do is they publicize unflattering things that they’ve found in these social media histories when they want to retaliate against an outlet for publishing a story that is unflattering to the president,” Peters said.

Asked by host Joe Scarborough how that approach differs from the one used by Media Matters to discredit conservative journalists and activists, Peters admitted “it’s not really all that much different.”

“It’s not really all that much different. In fact, the people we spoke to as we interviewed for this story…told us that their template was Media Matters. And their template was this exhaustive — basically, what’s called opposition research that people do all the time,” Peters said.

Peters did draw a distinction between Media Matters and the tactics employed by the Trump allies by arguing that Media Matters typically targets high-profile conservatives while the president’s allies have attacked low-level journalists who do not have influence over how the administration is covered.

“The difference, though, is that its being deployed against very low-level people in a lot of cases,” Peters said. “When you look at what these guys have uncovered here, and who it’s hurt, it’s low-level journalists at places like CNN; a photo editor who had nothing to do with CNN’s coverage of Donald Trump, for example.”

Founded by billionaire liberal activist David Brock in 2004, Media Matters has, as Peters points out, routinely targeted well known conservative pundits. But the organization has also researched and exposed the social media histories of lesser known reporters at conservative media outlets.

The group declined to take action after the Daily Caller exposed that its president, Angelo Carusone, authored a number of blog posts in 2005 that include mocking references to “trannies,” “jewry,” and Bangladeshis.


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