Missouri Attorney General Opens Investigation Into Media Matters

Austin Alonzo
By Austin Alonzo
December 12, 2023Science & Tech
Missouri Attorney General Opens Investigation Into Media Matters
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks to reporters after taking the oath of office in Jefferson City, Mo., on Jan. 3, 2023. (David A. Lieb/AP Photo)

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has announced an investigation into the progressive media monitor Media Matters of America for “potentially unlawful business practices.”

On Dec. 11, the office of Mr. Bailey, a Republican, sent a notice to Media Matters President and CEO Angelo Carusone, informing him that the Missouri Attorney General’s Office has opened an investigation into the Washington-based organization.

Founded in 2004, Media Matters calls itself a “progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”

X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, filed a federal defamation suit in Texas against Media Matters in November.

The suit came after Media Matters filed a report claiming that X placed ads for major corporations—such as Apple Inc. and International Business Machines Corp.—next to “content that touts Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party.”

Media Matters followed up with another report saying companies like Amazon.com, Inc. are seeing ads served next to “white nationalist hashtags.”

Corporations Pulled Ads

Leading firms like IBM, Apple, Walt Disney Co., and Warner Bros Discovery Inc., according to Media Matters, began to pull their advertising from X on Nov. 17.

“As you are no doubt aware, a federal lawsuit has been filed against Media Matters, raising serious allegations that your firm falsely and deceptively manipulated the algorithm on X (formerly known as Twitter) through coordinated, inauthentic behavior and that you did so in an attempt to defame the organization and cause advertisers to pull their support from the platform, thus harming free speech,” Mr. Bailey’s letter said.

“The lawsuit alleges that you lied to the public, falsely suggesting that fringe, extremist content regularly appears next to content from corporate advertisers when in fact the opposite is true.  At the same time, you appear to have used this coordinated, inauthentic activity to solicit charitable donations from consumers across the country.”

For his part, Tesla Inc. CEO and owner of X Elon Musk told advertisers during televised remarks on Nov. 29 that he won’t be blackmailed by advertisers pulling away from X, nor will he be cowed into changing his behavior. He used choice words telling advertisers to go ahead and leave if they find him or his social media network objectionable.

“Radicals are attempting to kill Twitter because they cannot control it, and we are not going to let Missourians get ripped off in the process,” Mr. Bailey said in a release. “I’m fighting to ensure progressive tyrants masquerading as news outlets cannot manipulate the marketplace in order to wipe out free speech.”

The Missouri Attorney General’s letter went on to say he believes Media Matters’ actions “may have violated Missouri consumer protection laws.”

Mr. Bailey’s letter instructed the organization to “preserve all records” related to its alleged effort to “solicit charitable contributions under false pretenses.”

Failure to preserve the documents “may result in a finding of contempt from the court or in sanctions.”

The Epoch Times reached out to the Missouri Attorney General’s office but did not receive a reply by press time.

NTD Photo
Media Matters founder David Brock speaks at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Ark., on March 25, 2014. (Danny Johnston/AP Photo)

Media Matters, which has called The Epoch Times and its sister media outlet NTD peddlers of “unchecked misinformation” and a “right-wing organization,” is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, a 501(c)(3) organization should not inure—or enrich—any private shareholder or individual, nor should it be an “action organization” attempting to influence legislation. Furthermore, nonprofit entities “may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.”

As a 501(c)(3) organization, Media Matters is not required to disclose who funds it. According to its 2021 Form 990 tax filing with the IRS—the most recently available document—the organization raised about $18.8 million in 2021.

It spent about $15.9 million and ended the year with about $11 million in net assets or fund balances.

‘Take Direct Action’

The IRS filing said Media Matters spent about $12.6 on notifying “activists, journalists, pundits, and the general public about instances of misinformation, providing them with the resources to rebut false claims and take direct action against offending media institutions.”

Media Matters’ organizational mission, according to the filing is, “comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”

The same filing listed liberal activist David Brock, who founded Media Matters, as the organization’s chairman. He was paid $292,151 for an average of 27 hours of work a week at the institution in 2021.

Mr. Carusone was paid $453,651 for an average of 71 hours of work per week. On its website, Mr. Carusone is now listed as the chairman.

Media Matters chose not to disclose its backers in 2021. According to its website, Media Matters is currently preparing its 990 report for 2022.

On its website, Media Matters is asking for donations as part of a year-end fundraiser using the tagline: “Don’t let right-wing lies set the agenda in 2024.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Media Matters but did not receive a reply by press time.

However, in a Dec. 2 appearance on MSNBC’s “American Voices with Alicia Menendez,” Mr. Carusone said that Mr. Musk and others use the guise of free speech to weaponize the government and attack “all those they identify as the enemy.”

“The pen is supposed to be mightier than the sword–and this is an area where they’re trying to take away the pen from any critics,” Mr. Carusone said in his television appearance. “We increasingly start to slide into authoritarianism. It’s a real dangerous time.”

From The Epoch Times

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