This year, media coverage of issues affecting women often failed badly, from trivializing sexual assault to pushing inaccurate reports on pending state abortion restrictions. Below are nine major ways the media failed women in 2014.
Right-wing media lobbed harsh criticism and conspiracy theories at Jeb Bush in response to his decision to "actively explore" a 2016 presidential bid, even urging more conservative Republicans to run against him.
The New York Times overlooked the millions of dollars in campaign contributions spent by lobbyists and special interest groups that benefitted from the provisions added to the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last week.
The Sunday broadcast political shows overwhelmingly ignored the omnibus spending bill's rollback of key regulations on Wall Street and campaign finance. Only ABC's This Week covered the provisions, which come at a time when the financial services industry and large donors are playing an increasingly outsized role in elections.
Congress' controversial $1.1 trillion spending bill to avoid a government shutdown took several days of debate to pass in the Senate and barely passed through the House of Representatives, due to the inclusion of provisions "easing rules on campaign finance and the banking industry," as NPR explained.
The deal reverses a requirement of 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform, allowing banks to "place both standard accounts and accounts that handle riskier derivative trades under the protection of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp." The provision was drafted by Citigroup bank and provides a major benefit to big banks that allows riskier trades and transfers accountability for banks' failures -- and potentially future financial crises -- onto the government and taxpayers. The bill also rolls back campaign finance regulations, dramatically increasing the limit wealthy individuals may donate to national political parties.
This erosion of key Wall Street and campaign finance regulations was all but ignored on the broadcast Sunday political talk shows. Neither NBC's Meet The Press, CBS's Face The Nation, nor Fox Broadcasting Company's Fox News Sunday acknowledged the controversial provisions in their discussion of the spending bill, glossing over the specific rollback of regulations in favor of general discussions on inner-party divisions on the vote. Only ABC's This Week highlighted the provisions. Host Martha Raddatz explained how the bill "dramatically ease[s] restrictions on the amount of cash individuals can donate to campaigns," while a later panel discussion emphasized the rollback of Wall Street regulations.
The shows' failure to cover the rollback of banking regulations and systematic erosion of campaign finance comes at a time when dark money, large donors, and outside spending are playing an increasingly outsized roll in elections and the financial services sector -- the very industry which drafted and stands to benefit from the Dodd-Frank reversal -- is already outspending all other industries in midterm elections.
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) expressed disappointment in Michigan State University's decision to honor George Will during their December commencement ceremony, citing Will's offensive comments about campus sexual assault which have received widespread backlash and prompted multiple student government condemnations on the campus.
On December 10, Stabenow issued a statement criticizing the decision to let Will speak and to award him with an honorary doctorate. From Stabenow's statement:
As a Michigan State alumna, I am deeply disappointed that George Will is being honored this weekend. His statements on sexual assault are inaccurate, offensive, and don't represent the values of our state or MSU. I urge the University to continue their efforts to combat campus sexual assault, including the recent convening of the University Task Force on Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence.
MSU invited Will to speak during the December 13 graduation ceremony despite ongoing controversy surrounding his past comments on campus sexual assault.
Will published a syndicated column in June disputing the evidence that 1 in 5 women on U.S. college campuses experience sexual assault, and arguing that efforts to combat sexual assault have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges."
Will's comments received widespread criticism at the time from four other U.S. senators, media, and women's equality groups, and have since incited campus protests. Scripps College cancelled his scheduled speaking engagement in October.
Both the MSU Council of Graduate Students and the school's undergraduate student government have passed resolutions denouncing Will's upcoming commencement address, but the university's president Lou Anna K. Simon defended the decision to honor Will on December 9.
On November 21, the Republican-led House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released the findings of its investigation into the September 2012 attacks on two U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, debunking many right-wing media myths about the attacks. Despite the fact that this is just the latest of several reports that clear Obama administration officials of any wrongdoing, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) reappointed Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to lead a special committee in furtherance of the right-wing Benghazi hoax.
This week Fox News devoted at least 57 segments to scandalizing MIT economist Jonathan Gruber's statement that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) "was written in a tortured way" in a renewed effort to delegitimize the passage of health care reform.
Gruber, who helped craft and provided data for various ACA provisions, can be heard in a recently surfaced video saying that the health care law "was written in a tortured way" to minimize criticism. Gruber was making the innocuous observation that Congress often crafts legislation to fit rules and politically acceptable limits, and in the case of the ACA, Congress went on to transparently debate the law for years.
But Fox News seized on Gruber's comment to manufacture a scandal surrounding the ACA's passage, pretending his remarks show the law was passed deceitfully. According to a Media Matters count, this week alone the network devoted at least 57 segments to trumpeting this fictional account.
Of course, as New York Times economics correspondent Neil Irwin explained, Gruber's comment illustrated the "completely commonplace" way that "Congress makes policy of all types." Irwin went on, "Legislators frequently game policy to fit the sometimes arbitrary conventions by which the Congressional Budget Office evaluates laws and the public debates them."
The Senate held years of bipartisan hearings on health care reform before the ACA was passed, explaining in part why, as The New Republic described, the debate over the health care law was "one of the most transparent in recent memory," and why the law was so difficult to pass.
METHODOLOGY: Media Matters searched internal databases for mentions of "Gruber" and "Obamacare" on the Fox News Channel between 6 AM - 11 PM from November 10-13th.
UPDATE: A subsequent PolitiFact count shows Fox News mentioned Gruber's name 779 times from Nov. 10-18, while MSNBC referenced Gruber 79 times and CNN just 27 times over the same period. PolitiFact's count defined a mention as "any time Gruber's name is said on air within a one-minute window." The search began midnight Nov. 10 and extended to 10:30 AM Nov. 18.
Conservative media attacked President Obama over a historic deal between China and the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions, claiming that the deal was a "cave" to China and that the U.S. got "steamrolled." But climate experts and others widely agree that the deal is an important step in the fight against climate change.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto took aim at one of his own network's favorite smears against Hillary Clinton -- that she's too old to run for president.
Fox News has gone to great lengths to scandalize Clinton's age in the run up to 2016 -- Hosts have questioned whether being a grandmother would hurt Clinton politically, and when Fox contributor Karl Rove claimed Hillary Clinton suffered from brain damage after a fall, network figures ran defense for him and amplified the smear. One contributor even accused Clinton of needing plastic surgery before running for president. (Notably, both John McCain and Ronald Reagan, Fox favorites, were older when they ran for president than Clinton will be if she decides to enter the 2016 race.)
But this week Fox host Neil Cavuto broke from his colleagues, blasting a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate for making the same smears against Clinton.
In a November 9 Politico interview detailing his 2016 presidential aspirations, Sen. Paul (R-KY) suggested that former Secretary of State Clinton, who is 67, may be too old to successfully campaign for president. Paul claimed that it's not "certain" Clinton would win the Democratic nomination because "it's a very taxing undertaking to go through. It's a rigorous physical ordeal, I think, to be able to campaign for the presidency."
Cavuto called out Paul on the November 11 edition of Fox News' Your World, calling his criticism of Clinton "so base and so cheap." Such "over-the-top-cheap shots" could undermine GOP efforts to expand their base, Cavuto said, noting the sexist nature of the attack and emphasizing that Paul has not criticized the age of other politicians like Reagan, Winston Churchill, and Paul's own father Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Cavuto went on to highlight Clinton's achievements as Secretary of State, saying "I think it's fair to say that Hillary Clinton was up to the physical rigors of the job and then some."
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano branded the principle of net neutrality as "Orwellian" after President Obama spoke out in favor of an open internet for consumers.
On Monday, President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt the "strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality," emphasizing that "[a]n open internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life."
But according to Fox's legal analyst Napolitano on the November 10 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co, Obama just "wants to take the choice of buyers and sellers out of the market." After host Stuart Varney accused the president of seeking "to regulate the internet," Napolitano concluded that the entire principle of net neutrality "is Orwellian."