Craig Harrington

Author ››› Craig Harrington
  • Census Report On Median Income, Poverty Gives Broadcast News A Chance To Prove Itself

    Generally Strong Coverage Of Census Data Shows TV News Outlets Can Still Cover The Economy Well When They Try

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The major broadcast evening news programs each provided great examples of how network news can still be a source of concise and informative coverage on the economy this week when they covered new data releases from the Census Bureau.

    On September 13, the U.S. Census Bureau released annual updates to its ongoing reports on income and poverty and health insurance coverage in the United States. The reports revealed stunning positive news about the state of the American economy: a record-setting 5.2 percent increase in median household income from 2014 to 2015, median income at its highest point since before the Great Recession, a drop in the official poverty rate of 1.2 percentage points, more than 3.5 million Americans lifted out of poverty, a 1.3 percentage point drop in the uninsured rate, and roughly 4 million fewer uninsured Americans. In response to the data, Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) noted that 2015 marked just the second year since 1988 “that brought simultaneous progress on poverty, median income, and health insurance.”

    Print and online coverage of the Census data was overwhelmingly positive, with CNNMoney writer Tami Luhby and Washington Post contributor Paul Waldman both noting that the data undermine a key (albeit, “false”) talking point frequently used by Republicans: that there has been wage stagnation, and President Obama is to blame.

    Just as importantly, the positive coverage continued during the September 13 editions of major nightly broadcast news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS, which collectively draw more than 20 million daily viewers. Only ABC failed to note all three of the key Census data findings -- the increase in median income, the drop in poverty, and the drop in the uninsured rate -- during its reporting.

    As is often the case, PBS NewsHour offered the most in-depth and detailed discussion of the Census reports. Correspondent Lisa Desjardins spent just under three minutes detailing the data and discussing its possible political ramifications and effect on the upcoming election. The segment even included some cautionary notes, including reasons that some Americans have not seen a boost in take-home pay despite the surge in median earnings and some potential problems faced by customers on the private insurance market.

    Next in terms of quality of coverage were CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News, both of which discussed all of the key takeaways from the data. CBS anchor Scott Pelley said the Census reports were “great news” and stood as proof that “more Americans are cashing in on the recovery.” NBC anchor Lester Holt added that “middle class incomes had their fastest rate of growth ever recorded” and “incomes increased across all racial groups.”

    ABC’s World News spent the least amount of time on the topic, mentioning the Census data as just part of a discussion about the stock market, but anchor David Muir still noted that the 5.2 percent median income increase was “the largest rise in nearly 50 years.”

    The individual segments might not seem like cause for celebration, but, according to recent Media Matters analyses of broadcast news coverage, each segment should serve as an example of how these programs can adequately discuss the economy.

    Overall coverage of the economy fell considerably from the first to second quarter of 2016, as the major networks focused more of their limited time on horse-race political coverage detached from the economic issues that actually drive voter behavior. Coverage of economic inequality and poverty also decreased from the first to second quarter of the year overall -- only ABC and CBS focused more attention on those crucial subjects from April through June than they had in the first three months of the year:

    Unfortunately, throughout the first half of the year, major news outlets have been focusing less and less attention on the economy, creating a void that can easily be filled with misinformation. As broadcast and cable outlets retreated from covering the economy, misleading and biased stories emanating from Fox News and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump accounted for a higher proportion of coverage.

    Broadcast evening news shows face considerable challenges in trimming segments down to fit abbreviated commercial schedules, but their coverage on September 13 demonstrated that the flagship programs can still balance brevity and substance when they try.

  • Fox Business Cherry-Picks Economic Data To Accuse Obama Of "Cherry-Picking" Economic Data​

    Panelists Ignore The Entire Bush Administration And Great Recession

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    A Fox Business panel attempting to downplay the latest round of positive economic indicators devolved into self-parody. The host and guests misleadingly framed median income data to omit the economic calamities of the Bush administration while accusing President Obama of “cherry-picking the time frame” and “playing with the numbers” related to other examples of economic improvement.

    On the September 14 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney and guests Elizabeth MacDonald and Tammy Bruce slammed President Obama for defending his economic legacy during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. The segment began with Varney and MacDonald lamenting that new median household income data released yesterday by the Census Bureau is “still below the peak back in 1999,” with MacDonald mockingly adding, “You’re nearly [as] rich as you were 17 years ago.”

    Varney complained that Obama was “cherry-picking” data to claim his administration has created nearly 15 million net new jobs, and MacDonald added, “He’s not factoring in 2009, … so he’s playing with the numbers.” MacDonald further claimed that a “majority of net new jobs” during the Obama administration have been in “low-paying fast-food or health sector” industries. Bruce concluded the segment by lamenting the administration’s so-called “spin” and “theater” while citing evidence from outside sources that she claimed contradicts the significant increase in median household income from 2014 to 2015.

    The complaint that Obama is “not factoring in 2009” is particularly telling, given that the segment began with Varney and MacDonald ignoring all of the reasons that median incomes remained lower in 2015 than at their 1999 peak. What happened between 1999 and 2015 to cause this income stagnation? The answer is simple: two recessions, both of which occurred during the Bush administration and neither of which was Obama’s fault. From the Census report:

    Contrary to Varney’s claim, President Obama was not “cherry-picking” data to prop up his economic legacy. Even Fox’s complaint about shifting the “time frame” on net job creation carries little weight. CNNMoney explained last January that the president is basing his calculation on net jobs created since the low point of his presidency. He does not include 2009, because the economy the president inherited that year was rocked by recession and “it took time for the administration’s policies to take effect.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Obama administration has overseen the creation of 15.1 million private sector jobs since that indicator bottomed out in February 2010 and 10.9 million private sector jobs overall since he took office in January 2009.

    The Census report showed major improvements in the poverty rate and the health care insurance rate and revealed broadly shared income gains across all racial and ethnic groups and by workers at every level of income. The gender wage gap narrowed slightly, with women earning roughly 80 percent as much as men in 2015, up from 79 percent the year before. The Census deemed that increase not to be “statistically significant,” and more work remains to be done to achieve equal pay, but the latest data still reveal the narrowest pay gap in history. Meanwhile, the year-to-year median income increase of 5.2 percent represented “the largest single-year increase since record-keeping began in 1967,” according to The New York Times.

    Fox News and Fox Business have a long history of cherry-picking data to frame the Obama administration and progressive economic policies in the worst possible light. The economy continues to improve despite their protests.

    View the full segment from Varney & Co. here:

  • Fox Falls For Trump Lie: Clinton’s Child Care Plan Has Been Available For More Than A Year​

    Journalists Called Trump Out In Real-Time, While Fox Repeated His False Claim On Air As If It Was News

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron repeated a false claim pushed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during a policy speech in Aston, PA, intended to outline the candidate’s newly-proposed reforms to child care and maternity leave. Trump attacked Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for producing no such policy proposals -- a lie which Cameron then repeated on air.

    During Trump’s September 13 speech, in which he attempted to flesh out the details of his convoluted reform agenda for child care and maternity leave, Trump falsely claimed that Clinton “has no child care plan.”

    Journalists immediately slammed Trump’s claim. Political reporters Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, and Dan Merica of CNN called the statement “patently untrue” and “patently false.” And both noted that Clinton’s comprehensive child care reform agenda, which is far more detailed and expansive than Trump’s, has been online since June 2015.

    Despite Trump’s false claim, Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron repeated the lie during a speech recap with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. Cameron claimed that Trump’s speech was aimed at the “moderate voters” he needs to win swing states like Pennsylvania. He then added that Trump “has laid out his child care policies before Hillary Clinton has done anything in serious detail”:

    CARL CAMERON: He’s both trying to get ahead of Hillary Clinton while she’s taken ill, but he’s also checking off boxes one of which Hillary Clinton has claimed to be a leader on. He has laid out his child care policies before Hillary Clinton has done anything in serious detail. As of earlier this morning, there wasn’t the types of policy statements on the Hillary Clinton web page that will soon be on the Trump web page. So, he’s going to places that Republicans don’t often go: he’s talking about policies that Republicans don’t often talk about, in order to expand his electorate, expand his support.

    As of the end of his speech, Trump’s campaign website does contain a link to his child care policy fact sheet as well as a transcript of tonight’s speech. By comparison, the Clinton campaign published specific proposals to expand early childhood education and child care opportunities to American families on June 15, 2015 (one day before Trump announced his candidacy). The campaign expanded on those proposals with a renewed K-12 education reform agenda on March 10, and proposed an expansion of paid family and medical leave on May 23.

    According to an August 29 review by the Associated Press (AP), Clinton’s campaign website contains pages filled with policy proposals on 38 different “issues,” totaling more than 100,000 words -- Trump’s site at the time covered just 7 issues in “just over 9,000 words.” AP reported on September 13 that “by any measure, Clinton has released far more specific plans on far more topics than her GOP rival.”

    Perhaps Cameron, who claimed to have checked Clinton’s website “earlier this morning,” just got confused.

  • STUDY: Networks Focus Less On Poverty As Coverage Of Inequality Drops

    PBS Sets Itself Apart From Broadcast Outlets On Inequality And Poverty, Fox News Remains Major Source Of Misleading Coverage

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    In the second quarter of 2016, prime-time and evening weekday news programs on the largest broadcast and cable outlets dedicated significantly less time to economic inequality and poverty than they had in the first quarter of the year. The weekday drop-off was led by CNN and MSNBC, which dramatically reduced their programming on inequality. PBS remained the gold standard among broadcast outlets in terms of covering inequality and poverty, while Fox News remained a prevalent source of misinformation on the same topics.

  • Media Figures Praise Optics Of Trump’s Mexico Visit, Ignoring Trump Campaign’s Bigotry Toward Mexicans

    ››› ››› NINA MAST & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Media figures across the political spectrum praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s joint press conference in Mexico with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, which Trump’s aides reportedly said was specifically designed as a “photo opportunity” to make Trump appear “presidential.” Numerous figures accordingly praised Trump as “presidential.” Regardless of optics, Trump has a long history of anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican rhetoric and xenophobia.

  • NBC Reveals Yet Another Contradiction In Trump's Tax Plan

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was blasted by NBC after it was revealed that the candidate’s latest campaign ad cites two distinct and contradictory tax plans, neither of which are Trump’s current plan. This “confusion” follows months of Trump contradicting himself on economic policy.

    On August 29, MSNBC and NBC News political reporter Benjy Sarlin reported that Trump's new campaign ad, which is part of a $10 million ad buy in key swing states, seems to make promises about lower taxes, boosted job creation, and economic growth that are "generic enough for a Republican politician." Yet, on closer inspection, Trump's promises are actually buttressed by citations linking to two different tax plans that he has either disavowed or has not endorsed.

    The ad's promises of wage growth and a thriving business community are based on a September 2015 analysis by the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation of Trump's original tax plan, which he replaced with a different and less detailed plan on August 8. Meanwhile, the ad's promise of tax relief for working families and increased job creation is based on a Tax Foundation analysis of the 2016 tax reform plan outlined by House Republicans, which Trump has yet to endorse. From NBC News:

    Trump has not endorsed the House GOP plan outright, but his new proposal,announced earlier this month, has some similarities. Most notably, they both advocate collapsing the tax code into three brackets with rates of 12%, 25%, and 33%. But there are also important differences: Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan reported that Trump's plan would preserve a deduction on business loans that the House GOP plan would scrap that would save up to $1.2 trillion in revenue over 10 years.

    NBC’s Sarlin later reported that the Trump campaign was still issuing press releases containing the tax policy discrepancies even after they were revealed, and noted a half-hearted defense from the Trump campaign’s deputy policy director:

    Numerous other journalists picked up on Trump’s contradictory campaign ad, noting that it was “odd for Trump to cite the House GOP’s plan as if it were his own,” and arguing that the confusion might stem from Trump’s refusal to “fill[] in all the details” for his latest plan.

    Trump's inconsistency with the facts and noncommittal approach to his own economic policy outlines has become a feature of his presidential campaign. Trump’s latest tax plan was blasted by the media for being “light on details” and “ridden with more of the same empty tropes” exemplified during his previous economic policy speeches. Economists trashed the plan as “nonsense” and an attempt to re-write his previous tax and economic policy plan into just more of the “standard voodoo” economics frequently pushed by Republican supply-side advocates.

    At the outset of his campaign last year, Trump frequently said he would raise taxes on wealthy people like himself, but his initial plan overwhelmingly favored the very rich. Despite publishing a tax plan that included tax cuts for millionaires, he spent months falsely claiming the opposite was true. Trump has claimed for months that the only reason he has not released his tax returns is because they are under audit from the IRS, but the candidate has actually released his returns in the midst of an audit before, and continues to defy media inquires into tax years that are no longer under IRS review.

  • Fox Business Guest Completely Dismantles Any Economic Case For Trump’s Presidency

    Robert Powell: “The Reality Is Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    During an appearance on Fox Business, former Economist editor Robert Powell dispelled claims from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign that the candidate’s tax and economic policy proposals would generate at least five consecutive years of economic growth in excess of 4 percent annually.

    Powell, who is now the global risk briefing manager for the Economist Intelligence Unit, a forecasting and advisory business operated by The Economist, was interviewed on the August 24 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co. Host Stuart Varney opened the segment by asking for a response to Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore’s guarantee earlier this week that the massive tax cuts proposed by the Republican nominee would generate sustained economic growth far outpacing anything witnessed in the United States since 1966. Along the way, Powell poked holes in the arguments in favor of the budget-busting supply-side tax cuts Trump and other Republicans have advocated for years as a silver bullet solution to economic malaise.

    Powell mocked Moore’s guarantee, noting that “the reality is money doesn’t grow on trees,” and slammed Trump’s tax plan for promising to add trillions of dollars to the debt -- far more than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s proposal might. He undermined Varney’s unsubstantiated claim that cutting taxes will kickstart economic expansion, and reminded the Fox Business audience that President Reagan actually had to raise taxes to regain revenue lost to early tax cuts. Powell noted that to make up for built-in revenue losses, the rate of economic expansion would actually have to hit 10 percent or more -- which is not a “feasible” rate of growth. Most importantly, he questioned why Varney and his Fox Business cohort are gripped with so much economic anxiety when “unemployment is 4.9 percent” and the American economy is doing “relatively well” and is “a star performer” when compared with other developed countries around the world. From Varney & Co.:

    Powell mentioned during the interview that The Economist does not believe either Trump’s or Clinton’s plan can meet Moore’s arbitrary growth threshold, stating that “we’re perfectly reasonable, and we don’t think Hillary Clinton will deliver 4 percent growth either.” But Powell did argue that Trump’s position on taxes and economic policy is “less responsible” than his Democratic opponent’s.

    Trump’s inherent lack of responsibility is why the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global risk forecast for September 2016 ranks Trump being elected president as a threat to the global economy that is as big as “the rising threat of jihadi terrorism” and “a clash of arms in the South China Sea,” the site of a territorial dispute between China and other neighboring countries, including U.S.-allied Taiwan:

    One of the things that went unsaid during the interview was how absurd it was for Varney to accept Trump’s 4 percent growth target in the first place. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the United States has not witnessed five consecutive years of growth in excess of 4 percent in five decades. When failed Republican candidate Jeb Bush first promoted the target in June 2015, experts slammed it as “impossible” and “nonsense.” Since then, arbitrary targets of 4 or 5 percent growth have been adopted by other GOP hopefuls, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and now Trump. For its part, Fox News has consistently fixated on setting arbitrary growth targets for the American economy in excess of 3 percent, which it claims is proof of a failed economic recovery under President Obama.

  • TV News Misses Golden Opportunity To Recognize Title IX During Rio Olympics

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    As thousands of athletes from around the world descended on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics, broadcast and cable news programming missed a golden opportunity to discuss the incredible legacy of the legislative reform largely responsible for the growth and success of women’s sports in the United States and around the world -- Title IX.

    One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2016 Summer Olympics was the sheer dominance of American athletes in general, and American women in particular. American swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles finished the games with four gold medals each (and five medals overall) and, at just 19 years old, they both are widely considered the most dominant athletes in their respective sports. Meanwhile, as the United States men’s basketball team struggled before coalescing in the gold medal match, the American women’s team blasted every opponent en route to a sixth consecutive Olympic championship.

    According to The New York Times, the United States brought home 121 medals from Rio, far outpacing China (70) and Great Britain (67) for first place, and became the first nation in 40 years to lead all nations in each medal category: gold, silver, and bronze. As was the case in 2012, more than half of that total medal haul (61) was won by American women, whose unparalleled athletic success would have been unlikely without the unique progressive legacy of the Title IX provision in federal education policy, which prevents sex discrimination in federally funded programs like school sports. From the Times:

    The United States is one of the few countries to embed sports within the public education system. And equal access to sports for women comes with legal protections, gained with the education amendment known as Title IX in 1972 and the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act in 1978.

    About one of every two American girls participates in sports in high school. Of the 213 American medalists in individual and team sports in Rio, according to the [United States Olympic Committee], nearly 85 percent participated in university-funded sports.

    “Those things don’t exist elsewhere in the world,” said Donna Lopiano, a former executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “We have the largest base of athletic development. Our women are going to dominate, not only because of their legal rights but because women in other parts of the world are discriminated against.”

    Broadcast And Cable News Ignored Importance Of Title IX Despite Flood Of Olympic Coverage

    A Media Matters review of broadcast evening news coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS, as well as cable evening and prime-time coverage on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between the days of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics revealed only two substantive mentions of Title IX as it relates to current or former American or international Olympians. A similar lack of interest was on display on the major Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC.**

    A review of available Nexis transcripts from August 5 through August 21 returned 259 results mentioning the Olympics in Rio, including just two references to Title IX’s role in encouraging and supporting female athletes and women’s sports: NBC Nightly News and PBS NewsHour each mentioned the legislation during Olympic segments on August 18 and August 19, respectively. By contrast, there were dozens of mentions of American swimmer Ryan Lochte’s infamous and unsubstantiated story of being robbed at gunpoint outside a Rio gas station.

    Major print outlets including like The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today gave Title IX special attention in 2016, but their television counterparts once again dropped the ball. Title IX was also conspicuously absent from print and television coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics, according to a February 2014 Media Matters analysis.

    Title IX’s Global Legacy At The Olympic Games

    As noted above, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which was authored by Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN) and Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI) and signed into law by President Richard Nixon, has left an indelible mark on women's sports over the past 44 years. But American women aren't the only beneficiaries of the legislation; Title IX’s prohibition against gender discrimination at most educational institutions is a major contributing factor in making American universities a magnet for athletes from around the world.

    Stanford University, the most successful athletic institution in the world this year in terms of Olympic medals, produced a number of American women medalists -- including burgeoning swimming stars Ledecky, Maya DiRado, and Simone Manuel. It also produced Greek pole vault gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi. If not for Ledecky, the most successful women’s swimmer of the summer would have been Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, an alumna of the University of Southern California. (Controversial Russian swimmer and two-time silver medalist Yulia Efimova, though not an alumna of the school, is coached by Southern Cal head coach Dave Salo.) Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller, an alumna of the University of Georgia, edged out former Southern Cal sprinter Allyson Felix to win gold in the women’s 400-meter. Canadian swimmer Chantal van Landeghem, another Georgia alum, took home a bronze medal in the women’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay alongside teammate and Ohio State University graduate Michelle Williams. Canadian track and field star Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who won a bronze medal in the heptathlon, attended the University of Oregon.

    This is just a snapshot of the Title IX impact that was on display at the 2016 Summer Olympics, but broadcast and cable news almost completely ignored the success story, despite offering a torrent of Olympic-centered stories and features.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening and prime-time (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, and network broadcast news (ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS) from August 5, 2016, through August 21, 2016. Media Matters also reviewed Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC during the same time period. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: olympics or rio or title nine or title 9 or title ix.

    The following programs were included in the data: World News Tonight, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press**, PBS NewsHour, The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight, The Five, Special Report, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The O'Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, Hannity, MTP Daily, With All Due Respect, Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.

    **NBCUniversal pre-empted Meet the Press on August 14 and August 21 to air exclusive coverage of the Olympics on NBC.

  • Trump Names Serial Misinformer Betsy McCaughey To Economic Advisory Council

    New York Post Columnist’s Claim To Fame Was Having Helped Popularize Mythical Obamacare “Death Panels”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced that his campaign was expanding its so-called “economic advisory council” to include New York Post columnist Betsy McCaughey, a serial misinformer with no economic expertise and a long track record of promoting outrageous lies through conservative media.

    According to an August 11 press release from the Trump campaign, McCaughey and eight others will join Trump’s team of economic advisers, adding to a group that had been pilloried by journalists and policy experts for initially including no women and only two individuals with more than an undergraduate background in economics. McCaughey, a former one-term lieutenant governor of New York, has no background or experience in economic policy but gained considerable acclaim in conservative media in 2009 when she alleged that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare” would create “death panels” to ration care for sick and elderly patients. PolitiFact awarded the “death panel” charge the inglorious honor of Lie of the Year.

    Since sparking the death panel myth in conservative media, McCaughey has been a frequent and outspoken critic of the Obama administration.

    McCaughey recently suggested that the United States was “heading into a recession” despite being unable to cite any evidence to back up her claim. She has claimed for years that Obamacare was doomed to fail and could ruin the American economy, only to be proved wrong time and again. In 2014, McCaughey became a go-to expert for right-wing outlets hoping to stoke fear about the spread of Ebola in the United States. She has even attempted to deny the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change. She has also never quite given up on her bogus lie that Obamacare would create “death panels” that enforce end-of-life decisions for American citizens. When confronted with her lies on the September 11, 2014, edition of The Daily Show, McCaughey walked off set rather than face further questioning: