John Kerr

Author ››› John Kerr
  • VIDEO: Donald Trump's Years Of Birtherism

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Donald Trump has pushed birtherism in years of interviews:

    As he tries to erase all of this, the press cannot forget that Trump's entire political identity was based on pushing this racist conspiracy.

  • VIDEO: What Right-Wing Media Get Wrong About The Unemployment Rate

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR & DAYANITA RAMESH

    Right-wing media personalities have long claimed that the economy is worse off than it is in reality by citing inappropriate figures to distort the full picture. They claim that the “real” unemployment rate is much higher than the figure reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and they often point to the labor force participation rate as the main indicator of how healthy job growth is.

    Donald Trump has claimed that the unemployment rate is as high as 42 percent, saying “these are the real unemployment numbers – the 5 percent figure is one of the biggest hoaxes in modern politics.” PolitiFact gave that claim a rating of “Pants on Fire,” its worst possible verdict, but right-wing media have repeatedly enabled this lie by claiming that as many as 94 million Americans are "not in the labor force," failing to note that this 94 million includes: students, retirees, stay-at-home parents, and those institutionalized in mental health or penal facilities. As of August 2016, the official unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, down from a peak of 10 percent in October 2009 following the financial crisis.

    Conservative pundits like to cite the labor force participation rate, which is the percentage of the population that is in the labor force, as proof that the economy is in decline. They use this rate because it is downward trending while the unemployment rate has been steadily improving for nearly six years. The reason the labor force participation rate is on the decline though, is because "baby boomers" are retiring en masse; in fact, roughly 10,000 people reach retirement age every day. Labor force participation peaked during the Clinton administration, and President Obama inherited an economy in the midst of a deep recession from President Bush. The idea that Obama is to blame for an imaginary economic decline is just misinformation.

    Many economists agree that the employment to population ratio is a better measure of economic health -- as it represents the number of jobs available as a proportion of the total population -- and the ratio has been gradually improving since the end of the recession.

    These types of myths are harmful. CNN Money recently highlighted a study from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University which found that while the unemployment rate is only 4.9 percent, 57 percent of Americans “believe it is a lot higher” because the “general public has ‘extremely little factual knowledge’ about the job market and labor force.” The article also noted how “Donald Trump has tapped into this confusion” by “repeatedly call[ing] the official unemployment rate a ‘joke’ and even a ‘hoax.’”

  • VIDEO: How Right-Wing Lies Become Mainstream News

    The Fox Cycle, Explained

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    The Fox Cycle is the process by which Fox News pushes right-wing fringe stories into the mainstream news. Fox distorts facts, spreads myths as truths and devotes heavy, one-sided coverage to make viewers believe in baseless, manufactured stories -- and, worse, to convince mainstream media outlets to cover these lies.

    The Fox Cycle occurs in six steps:

    1. Right-wing bloggers, talk radio hosts, and other conservative media outlets start promoting a fringe or false story.
    2. Fox News picks up the story and gives it heavy, one-sided coverage.
    3. Fox News and conservative media attack the "liberal media" for ignoring it.
    4. Mainstream media outlets eventually cover the story, echoing the right-wing distortions.
    5. Fox News receives credit for promoting the story.
    6. The story is later proved to be false or wildly misleading, long after damage is done.

    The Fox Cycle is the reason why some people believe that Planned Parenthood is in the business of selling fetal body parts, why some people still think the 2012 presidential election was rigged against Mitt Romney, why some people are convinced that voter ID laws prevent fraud and why climate denial is rampant. Even after the truth has emerged, proving the story false, there are still many people left with the impression that there’s some truth or credibility to the claims.

    While Fox News is mainly to blame for picking up these fringey stories in the first place, mainstream news outlets must be careful not to echo their right-wing manufactured distortions as truths. Fact checking and debunking misinformation is especially important this campaign season.

  • Fox News' Obscene And Ridiculous Trump Infomercial

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    On May 26, Fox News aired an hour-long special, Meet The Trumps, in which On The Record host Greta Van Susteren spent the hour asking flattering questions of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump and his immediate family. Multiple critics compared the special to the state-run media of a dictatorship.

    This is what the special looks like when you remove Trump and his family's answers:

  • VIDEO: Megyn Kelly Repackaged A Year’s Worth Of Fox Interview Questions To Trump

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY, COLEMAN LOWNDES & JOHN KERR

    Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s widely panned interview with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump failed to bolster her carefully crafted image as a hard-hitting journalist. Indeed, Kelly recycled a series of softball questions her fellow Fox personalities have previously asked Trump.

    Kelly’s May 17 interview was promoted as an exclusive, hard-hitting exchange and reconciliation between the presumptive nominee and Fox’s primetime anchor after the months-long public feud between Trump and the network over Kelly’s questioning of the candidate. Kelly herself said her goal for the interview was an “interesting, compelling exchange.”

    But the interview not only featured a series of fuzzy, softball questions -- “Has anyone ever hurt you emotionally?,” “Are you going to stop [combatively tweeting] as president?” -- it also mirrored the way other Fox News hosts have engaged with Trump on air, shattering the illusion that Kelly is somehow different than her colleagues. A series of questions that Kelly tossed to Trump last night sounded conspicuously familiar, and for a good reason: they echoed questions that her colleagues have asked the presumptive GOP nominee over the past year.

    Take Bill O’Reilly back in March, asking Trump:

    BILL O’REILLY: Donald Trump now is not speaking as the Art of the Deal guy or The Apprentice guy. You’re not speaking anymore on that level. Now you are speaking for the United States. You may be president. I mean, so your rhetoric means so much more than it used to mean. You know, you’re in a different place. A place you have never been in. I'm just wondering how much you’ve thought about all that.

    And compare with Megyn Kelly last night:

    MEGYN KELLY: You're no longer just Donald Trump, businessman, or Donald Trump, host of Celebrity Apprentice. Now you're steps away from the presidency. Have you given any thought, in this position, to the power that your messaging has on the lives of the people you target and on the millions of people who take their cue from you?

    Megyn Kelly has spent years cultivating a reputation as an unbiased journalist, which has been boosted by a number of laudatory profiles that have largely ignored that her show “is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows at any other time" and that “her talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own.” 

  • VIDEO: Media Repeatedly Praise Donald Trump As "Presidential"

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR & MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    As Donald Trump won the New York primary, media covering the news repeatedly said Trump sounds "more presidential" and "more disciplined," downplaying the bigoted, racist, and sexist things that the GOP front-runner has said throughout the course of his campaign.

    Later on primary night, Trump was caught pushing content from another white supremacist on Twitter.

  • The Extreme Radio Host Who Helped Ted Cruz Win The Iowa Caucuses

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA, JOHN KERR & LEANNE NARAMORE

    Ted Cruz's victory in the Iowa Republican caucuses is due in part to the vocal support of Steve Deace -- an influential local radio host who spent the past few months urging his listeners to back Cruz in the nomination process. Deace has become a kind of kingmaker in Iowa Republican politics, and Cruz openly touted his endorsement in the lead up to caucus night.

    Deace is also one of the most extreme voices in right-wing media -- accusing Democrats of leading a "war on whites," warning of an army of jihadists coming to take over America to argue for a higher white birth rate, and claiming President Obama is a Marxist and not a Christian.

    Deace reserves his worst comments for the LGBT community. Deace calls homosexuality an "un-American and pagan ideology," a "sin orientation," and a "death sentence unto itself." He asserts the acceptance of homosexuality and marriage equality have created a slippery slope to pedophilia and has described gay activists as "homo-fascists" bent on promoting a "Rainbow Jihad." He argues gay people should be disqualified from serving as judges, and praised laws that criminalized homosexuality, which he wrote "punished evil" and protected civilization. He describes transgender people as "trannies" and mentally ill. He's even promoted an article that accused Obama of being secretly gay.

    If Cruz continues performing well in the GOP primary race, Deace will likely become a constant fixture in mainstream media's election coverage. It's up to media outlets to identify the right-wing extremism of the man who helped secure Cruz his first big victory in the presidential primary. 

  • VIDEO: Stop Blaming Students For America's Student Debt Crisis

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA, JOHN KERR, LEANNE NARAMORE & PAM VOGEL

    Student loan debt in America has reached a staggering $1.3 trillion, surpassing even credit card debt. But right-wing media figures have criticized efforts to combat student loan debt by pushing misinformation and blaming students for pursuing higher education.

    Conservative media have labeled higher education as a "privilege" and suggested students ought to choose fictional cheaper colleges. Some outlets have even defended schools that take advantage of students and leave them with significant debt. But research shows college matters now more than ever, and the cost to attend is rising across the board. The student debt crisis is especially damaging for poor students and students of color, who more frequently attend cheaper open-access and community colleges and are still forced to borrow in higher numbers to pay for their education.

    Blaming students for the student loan debt crisis ignores the facts and distracts from finding real solutions to America's skyrocketing student debt burden.

    Previously:

    Myths And Facts About The College Debt Crisis