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  • NBC News Latino Debunks Conservative Falsehood That “The Number Of Uninsured Hispanics” Grew Under ACA 

    Other Publications Uncritically Ran With The American Action Network’s False Claims

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Unlike other media outlets that uncritically parroted the conservative American Action Network’s false claims about Latino coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), NBC News Latino showed evidence disproving the political group’s false statement that “the number of uninsured Hispanics has grown” under the ACA. This statement was based on the group’s misinterpretation of a report that actually found that more Hispanics have gained health insurance under the ACA.

    In an effort to boost the Republican effort to repeal the ACA, the American Action Network -- a conservative political group affiliated with the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC -- announced that in addition to English-language television ads, it would also be launching Spanish-language television ads to garner opposition to the ACA among Hispanics. In the press release, AAN executive director Corry Bliss falsely asserted that “Obamacare supporters claimed this law helps Hispanics, yet the number of uninsured Hispanics has grown.” In reality, the ACA has expanded minority access to free preventive care, improved the overall quality of care in minority communities, and reduced the number of uninsured persons of color.

    The Washington Post repeated Bliss’ claim uncritically, noting that “AAN cited a study last year by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund … that found that the share of Latinos without health-care coverage grew from 29 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2016, higher than other racial or ethnic groups.” The Hill also echoed AAN’s misinterpretation of the Commonwealth Fund report.

    On the other hand, NBC Latino accurately interpreted the report and corrected AAN’s misleading statement by explaining that “American Action Network's press release points to an NBC Latino story that cites a Commonwealth Fund report that found that the share, though not the number, of uninsured Hispanics grew.” That means that even though Hispanics make up a larger share of the uninsured, the number of Hispanics who gained health insurance under the ACA grew, albeit slower than other groups. The article pointed out that Republican states that “opted to not expand Medicaid under Obamacare” have large Latino populations, which, among other reasons, explained why Latinos’ uninsured rate decreased more slowly than other groups’ rates. From the January 18 NBC News Latino report:

    In a news release, Bliss asserted that "the number of uninsured Hispanics has grown."

    In fact, the number of Hispanics without health care has dropped, meaning the percentage of Hispanics without insurance has gone down.

    [...]

    American Action Network's press release points to a an NBC Latino story that cites a Commonwealth Fund report that found that the share, though not the number, of uninsured Hispanics grew. Latinos are 40 percent of all uninsured, including whites and blacks, a share that grew from 29 percent in part because Hispanics gained coverage at a slower rate than whites.

    The report cites several reasons why Latinos are a growing share of the uninsured, among them:

    - Many uninsured Latinos live in states such as Texas and Florida that opted to not expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

    -- There is a disproportionate share of Latinos who are poorer or lower income but not eligible for Medicaid either because their state didn't expand the program or they are not aware of eligibility.

    -- There are Latinos who are legal residents and their state restricts access of legal immigrants who have not had legal residency for at least five years, as the Affordable Care Act allows. (The uninsured rate among U.S. born Latinos is about 12 percent but for foreign born Latinos, it is 39 percent.)

    -- Many Latinos are immigrants who don't have legal status and therefore are not eligible for Obamacare. Immigrants who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, program also are not eligible for Obamacare. (Attempts to extend Obamacare to immigrants without legal status drew heavy Republican opposition while the law was being debated.)

    -- There are Latinos who qualify for coverage under Obamacare but won't sign up out of fear that their family members who lack legal status may be found out by the government and detained and deported. The fear of turning over information to the government has increased with the election of Donald Trump.

    These are factors that would have to be addressed in order to make a dent in the number of Hispanics who are uninsured.

  • Corporation For Public Broadcasting: Reported Trump Privatization Plan Would Be “Devastating” To Public Media

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is pushing back on reported efforts by the Trump administration to privatize it, saying the proposal would have a “devastating effect” and that “the entire public media service would be severely debilitated.”

    CPB is a private nonprofit corporation that receives almost all of its funding from the federal government and distributes those funds as grants to public television and radio stations and their programs. It is the “single largest source of funding for public television and radio programming.”

    “Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy,” The Hill reported this morning. CPB’s annual federal funding of roughly $445 million -- a minuscule fraction of the federal budget -- is one of the items reportedly on the chopping block.

    In a statement to Media Matters responding to the reports, CPB said that “This thinking and proposals like the one being reported in the mainstream media and elsewhere today have been circulating around Washington for years and have been soundly rejected on a bipartisan basis.”

    While many think only of National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) when they think of public media, it actually consists of “a system of independently owned and operated local public radio and television stations” that air a combination of commercial-free original programming and programming licensed from other stations through organizations like NPR and PBS. This programming includes broadcasts on local issues, children’s education, the arts, and public affairs.

    The stations derive funding from multiple sources, but that funding is often contingent on the federal grants CPB provides to more than 1,041 radio stations and 365 television stations.

    The George W. Bush administration tried to use its authority to swing public programming to the right. Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Bush’s appointee to chair CPB, used federal funds to examine alleged liberal bias on the PBS program NOW, formerly hosted by Bill Moyers. He also helped raise $5 million to produce a PBS show hosted by The Wall Street Journal’s right-wing editorial board.

    But under Obama, congressional Republicans pushed to eliminate funding for public broadcasting altogether. The found a ready cheering section from right-wing media, which frequently lashed out at “liberal” PBS and NPR. Critics typically say that public media should be able to easily make up the loss of the federal dollars.

    That’s not the case. According to CPB’s statement, “The federal investment in public media is vital seed money -- especially for stations located in rural America, and those serving underserved populations where the appropriation counts for 40-50% of their budget. The loss of this seed money would have a devastating effect.”

    Indeed, “the loss of federal support would mean the end of public broadcasting,” according to a 2012 report commissioned by CPB from Booz & Company.

    The study reviewed alternative funding mechanisms but determined that none could adequately replace federal funding without compromising the mission of public broadcasting. “A reduction or elimination of CPB funding will put 63% (251) of radio stations and 67% (114) of television stations in the public broadcasting system at risk,” according to the report. Many of the stations at greatest risk for shuttering altogether are in rural areas that have more limited programming options -- some are the only broadcast stations available to their audience.

    Booz’s report could not have been more explicit about the “inevitable consequences” of cutting off public funding:

    This report concludes that there is no substitute for federal support of public broadcasting, and that the loss of federal support would mean the end of public broadcasting, and with it the end of an extraordinarily useful national teaching tool, the loss of the most trusted source of news and public affairs programs in the nation, the erosion of our national memory and exceptional culture, the compromise of our civil defense and emergency alert system, and the demise of a federal investment that the American people consider a better use of tax dollars than any other except national defense.

    These are the inevitable consequences of a loss of federal funding for public broadcasting, as this report will demonstrate in detail.

    Booz’s conclusions are consistent with a 2007 report from the federal General Accountability Office, which found that “substantial growth of nonfederal support to offset a reduction or elimination of federal support appears unlikely.”

    Trump isn’t the first U.S. president to go after federal funding for public media. In 1969, President Nixon called for cutting funding for CPB in half. Thanks to the effort of a young Fred Rogers before a congressional committee, those efforts were defeated. Watch:

    You can read CPB’s full statement below:

    Public media is a public-private partnership in the best tradition of America’s free enterprise system. It is one of America’s best investments. It is not a large investment compared to most of what government does – just about $1.35 per citizen per year – but it pays huge dividends in education, public safety and civic leadership to millions of Americans and their families.

    By statute, the majority of the $445 million federal expenditure goes through the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation, which is the steward of the federal appropriation, to more than 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations across the country.

    From time to time, some argue the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and funding for public media are no longer needed. This thinking and proposals like the one being reported in the mainstream media and elsewhere today have been circulating around Washington for years and have been soundly rejected on a bipartisan basis – most recently by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 2015. Further, a national survey of 2,000 self-identified Trump voters confirmed that a majority of those voters support level or increased federal funding for public broadcasting.

    The federal investment in public media is vital seed money — especially for stations located in rural America, and those serving underserved populations where the appropriation counts for 40-50% of their budget. The loss of this seed money would have a devastating effect. These stations would have to raise approximately 200 percent more in private donations to replace the federal investment. Moreover, the entire public media service would be severely debilitated. This is because CPB, in addition to direct payment to public media stations, pays for the system’s technical backbone, copyright and other fees, and makes major investments in national content from which all stations and the families they serve benefit. Most critically, public media reaches 68% of all kids age two to eight, providing educational media that’s proven to prepare kids for school, especially low-income and underserved children who do not attend pre-school.

    Indeed, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), as well as others, following comprehensive study, have concluded there is no viable private substitute for the federal funding that ensures universal access to public broadcasting' programming and services.

    We look forward to working with the new Administration and the new Congress in the continued pursuit of our public service missions of education, public safety and civic leadership, which the American people overwhelmingly support.

  • CBS Atlanta Anchor Who Gave “Pizzagate” Conspiracy Theory Credence Previously Worked With Anti-Semitic Outlet

    Anti-Defamation League Criticized Swann’s Former Network For Featuring “Programs Hosted By Anti-Semites”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Ben Swann, an anchor at CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL who is under fire for hosting a segment giving credibility to the dangerous “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, previously had a radio show with Republic Broadcasting Network (RBN), a fringe outlet that is a hotbed of anti-Semitism.

    During the January 17 broadcast of WGCL’s evening news program, Swann gave credence to several components of the discredited “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton’s campaign trafficked children through a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. That baseless claim recently inspired a man to enter the pizzeria and fire an assault weapon while “self-investigating” the allegations.

    Swann and his employer have come under criticism for the “Pizzagate” segment. Reporters have also noted that Swann has routinely used reports packaged as real news programming to push conspiracy theories about the 9/11 terror attacks, the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, and other calamities.

    Swann joined WGCL in June 2015. He previously worked at Cincinnati Fox affiliate WXIX, where he also used his airtime to host a “Reality Check” segment that promoted conspiracy theories. Swann left WXIX in 2013. In between those two gigs, he worked at RT, a Russian state-sponsored news outlet, and for several months he hosted a radio show that was broadcast by RBN.

    The Ben Swann Radio Show was first broadcast in March 2014 and ended in June 2014, with Swann issuing a statement saying he is “grateful to RBN for the opportunity to launch a new platform for our brand” but that “after trying the talk radio format we have made a decision to move away from radio and to an internet broadcast format.”

    In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center profiled RBN and its owner, John Stadtmiller, as part of a series on the anti-government Patriot movement. SPLC reported that RBN’s “talk radio fare is peppered with warnings about enslavement by a one-world government” and highlighted that RBN broadcasted a show hosted by “Michael Collins Piper, who has written copiously for the anti-Semitic American Free Press and its predecessor, The Spotlight, as well as The Barnes Review, a Holocaust denial journal.” (When Piper passed away in 2015, RBN issued a statement saying he had been subject to “unwarranted criticism by people who disagree with some of his perceptions” but that “he has continued to be the stalwart standard of journalistic truth.”)

    The Anti-Defamation League also criticized RBN in 2010, stating that it “regularly features programs hosted by anti-Semites.”

    In 2009, Stadtmiller aired a “series exposing zionists and elite Jews” that included topics such as “Jewish Money Controls US.” Stadtmiller, who is also the host of an RBN program, interviewed former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and notorious anti-Semite David Duke “for a conversation about current events” in 2015.

    In 2014, when Swann joined RBN, his colleagues included several anti-Semite radio hosts.

    During Swann’s tenure, the station broadcasted The American Freedom Party Report w/ James Kelso. SPLC calls Kelso “David Duke’s former right-hand man” and describes the American Freedom Party as “a political party initially established by racist Southern California skinheads that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule.”

    RBN also broadcasted Current Issues w/ Dr. Hesham Tillawi. According to the Anti-Defamation League, a televised version of his radio show “has become a megaphone for Holocaust deniers and white supremacists seeking to broadcast their hatred and anti-Semitism into American homes. Tillawi has hosted a ‘who’s who’ of American anti-Semites on his show, including David Duke, Willis Carto, Edgar J. Steele, Mark Weber and Bradley Smith.”

    Another program on RBN during Swann’s run was Spingola Speaks with Deanna Spingola, a show that has also served as a platform for Holocaust denial. Spingola is the author of the book The Ruling Elite: The Zionist Seizure of World Power. According to a 2012 RBN archive, Spingola discussed topics such as “the alleged holocaust” on her program.

    All three of these programs remain on the air at RBN.

    RBN was also the home of prominent white nationalist radio program Political Cesspool until it moved to Liberty News Radio Network in 2009.

    A cursory review of RBN’s website indicates that it was rife with anti-Semitic and racist material before, during, and after Swann’s association with the outlet.

    Days before Swann began broadcasting with RBN, the outlet published an article complaining about “the constant reminder of the mythical ‘six million jews’ who died in ‘homicidal gas chambers’ at Auschwitz, despite all evidence to the contrary.”

    During Swann’s time with RBN, the outlet published an article on May 4, 2014, with the headline “5 Geniuses who believed in Jewish Conspiracies.” The article featured quotes from prominent anti-Semites, such as Henry Ford’s claim that “Jewish bankers” started World War I. Also during Swann’s tenure, RBN published a racist article attacking President Obama as “some mongrel masquerading as an American.”

    RBN continued to publish anti-Semitic material after Swann left. For example, a 2015 article promotes a video that it claims proves “Hitler saved Jews of Ukraine.”

  • How The Press Never Stopped Blaming Obama For Radical GOP Obstruction

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Right on cue, as President Obama readies his exit from office, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza this week published a misguided critique of the Democrat’s two terms. His analysis focused specifically on Obama’s broken “promise” and parroted a favorite Beltway media talking point: Both sides are to blame for the federal government being mired in “partisan gridlock” during his eight years, and it’s largely Obama’s fault he didn’t “fix” politics. Obama didn’t create “a government that worked for all of us”; he failed to create “something new, different and better,” wrote Cillizza.

    Cillizza acknowledges that “Democrats immediately point to the fact that congressional Republicans, almost from the first day of Obama's time in the White House, made opposing him a political strategy,” but dismisses it as being the primary cause for the partisan mess. (In Cillizza’s view, it’s both sides’ supposed culpability for the failed “grand bargain” in 2011 that serves as the key event.)

    The erroneous analysis represents a safe refrain that’s been repeated by journalists for years, as they’ve collectively convinced themselves that Obama’s culpable for the radical Republican obstruction that partly defined his two terms. They’re comfortably certain that if Obama had just reached out earlier, or more aggressively, or more sincerely (or “schmooz[ed]" a bit harder), things could have played out more smoothly and Obama could have written a different Beltway script where harmony and progress reigned. 

    It’s pure fantasy, of course.

    Fact: When Republican leadership adopted the radical position that they’d refuse to even hold hearings for Obama's next Supreme Court nominee, the GOP systematically shred more than 100 years of protocol in the process. That’s what Obama faced for much of the last eight years, and the press’s messaging has helped Republicans every step of the way.  

    Still, the bipartisan fantasy endured: Republicans wanted to work with Obama and make serious, good-faith deals, it’s just that Obama wasn’t savvy enough to read their signals (i.e. Why won’t he just lead?).

    What’s so bizarre about this parallel universe that the press concocted is that by the end of Obama’s second term, Republicans weren’t even trying to hide their radically obstructionist ways in closed-door strategy sessions. They bragged about refusing to work with Democrats. (Today, they insist that Trump, who lost the popular vote, somehow secured a “mandate” that Democrats must respect.)

    Yet here’s Cillizza in the face of Republican obstructionist boasts, still pretending Obama’s largely at fault for screwing things up and that he passed up a great chance to forever fix partisan rancor. So desperate is the media’s need to portray the Republican Party as a mainstream institution that has not drastically veered toward the fringes in recent years, that journalists are willing to blame the victim. And they’ve been willing, and eager, to normalize Republican behavior.

    Just logically, why would the president who's had his agenda categorically obstructed be the one blamed for having his agenda categorically obstructed, and not the politicians who purposefully plotted the standoff? It doesn’t make sense, other than because the Beltway press is opting to give in to Republicans and downplaying the party’s radical ways -- in an apparent effort to maintain the preferred media mirage that “both sides” are to blame when the government doesn’t function.

    When Republicans obstructed Obama's agenda, the president was responsible for not changing the GOP's unprecedented behavior. And if it wasn’t entirely Obama’s fault, then "both sides" were to blame for the GOP's extremist actions and the grand gridlock it purposefully produced. 

    And the media blame game started from essentially day one for Obama. On January 29, 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported, "As the House on Wednesday gave President Obama the first big legislative victory of his term, it was clear that his efforts so far had not delivered the post-partisan era that he called for in his inauguration address."

    Meaning, nine days after first being sworn in, Obama was being blamed for not having ushered in a shiny, new "post-partisan era." (Loved that Times headline, too: “Newpolitical era? Same as the old one.”)

    But no, Obama didn’t usher in a new bipartisan era, because Republicans wouldn’t let him -- and that’s according to Republicans. "If he was for it, we had to be against it," was how former Republican Ohio Sen. George Voinovich once explained the GOP’s knee-jerk response to Obama proposals.

    Given a path by the press to obstruct Obama and to also be rewarded for scoring victories over him in the process, Republicans seized every opportunity and soon defied historic norms.

    We saw it with the sequester obstruction, government shutdown obstruction, paid leave obstruction, cabinet nominee obstruction, Hurricane Sandy emergency relief obstruction, the consistent obstruction of judicial nominees, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act obstruction, and of course the 2013 gun bill obstruction.

    That was the expanded background check bill featuring a centerpiece proposal that enjoyed nearly 90 percent public approval, including overwhelming support from Republican voters and gun owners. But Obama couldn’t get most Republican senators to budge. “There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it,” explained Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA), who was one of just four Republicans who voted for the compromise bill.

    But most of the context was left out of the gun vote coverage in 2013, as pundits and press rushed in to blame “Obama and his allies” for the actions of obstructionist Republicans.

    For the record, there were some lonely voices in the Beltway wilderness who specifically debunked the “both sides” meme and placed the gridlock responsibility squarely on the shoulders of activist Republicans.

    "We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional," scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein wrote in The Washington Post in 2012 in an essay adapted from their then-new book. "In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party."

    Perhaps not surprisingly, the Sunday morning broadcast network political talk shows and much of the media at large wasn’t interested in their analysis, which Ornstein told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent was unfortunate given the fact that their assessment “focused on press culpability — it would be hard to find a more sensitive issue for the media than the question of whether they’re doing their job.”

    That simply wasn’t the preferred story the Beltway press wanted to tell during the Obama years.

  • “We Can’t Be Intimidated”: Journalists Speak Out On How The Press Should Cover Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Facing the reality of President-elect Donald Trump’s impending inauguration, traditional media outlets can either band together in the face of Trump’s bullying anti-press tactics or risk being steamrolled by the incoming administration.

    In interviews with Media Matters, journalists and other media experts argue that reporters need to be ready to recommit to solid, rigorous reporting to hold Trump accountable and to stand together in the face of the Trump administration’s inevitable anti-press crusade.

    Since being elected, Trump has continued to lash out at critical media outlets through his Twitter account. At his long-delayed first press conference as president-elect last week, Trump berated CNN reporter Jim Acosta, refused to let him ask a question, and dubbed his network “fake news.” Other journalists who were gathered for the press conference essentially just watched.

    Several experts told Media Matters that the Acosta incident highlights the need for journalists to stand up to Trump.

    “Part of the problem here is the press is walking into a buzzsaw,” said Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker. “There is a large percentage of the population that don’t believe us. Anytime a Jim Acosta raises his hand and tries to get the attention of the president-elect, there is a sizeable part of the population that says, ‘There they go again.’”

    “You don’t get the public to pay attention by caving. We can’t be intimidated,” he said. “The fourth estate has a role to play. That role is we are representatives of the public -- we are supposed to ask the question to better inform the public.” 

    In an open letter to Trump, Columbia Journalism Review Editor-in-Chief Kyle Pope argued that the days of Trump trying to pit journalists against one another “are ending. We now recognize that the challenge of covering you requires that we cooperate and help one another whenever possible.” He added, “So, when you shout down or ignore a reporter at a press conference who has said something you don’t like, you’re going to face a unified front.” 

    Pope elaborated on his proposal in comments to Media Matters, writing, “Working together at press conferences could mean not asking a question until a shunned organization has had a chance to be answered; it could mean actually jointly working on stories that are beyond the capabilities of a single news organization, much like ProPublica and the NY Times do now; it definitely means calling attention to good work from our competitors that may not otherwise get adequate notice.”

    Adam Clymer, a former longtime New York Times political reporter, said press organizations need to unify and keep tabs on Trump’s anti-press treatment, recalling when the National Press Club once issued a report on President Nixon’s lack of press conferences.

    “In a public setting, a little solidarity is probably called for,” he said. “In public, they should not tolerate his picking on one person. That is intolerable.”

    Walter Shapiro, a Roll Call correspondent whose experience also includes stints at The Washington Post and Time, predicts, “It is going to be more anti-press. … It is really important for the press to stand together.”

    Media Matters president Angelo Carusone recently launched a petition on MoveOn.org calling on news organizations to stand up to Trump’s attempts to blacklist or ban critical news outlets. (As of January 19, the petition has more than 285,000 signatures.)

    Lynn Walsh, president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), told Media Matters that her group has heard from journalists who “feel threatened” by Trump’s behavior, and they are “talking internally about how we respond.”

    She also said reporters must support each other, citing Shepard Smith of Fox News' quick defense of Acosta last week. SPJ is one of several journalism groups expected to co-sign a joint letter to Trump that raises concerns about his treatment of the press and his moves and plans to limit access, including possibly evicting journalists from the briefing room in the White House.

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) and the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) issued a joint statement of concern last week about Trump’s press treatment following a meeting of 50 such groups last week.

    It said, in part, “In discussing top priorities as the Trump administration takes shape, the group agreed that countering legal threats to reporters – such as leaks investigations, libel suits, and a disregard for the Freedom of Information Act – and promoting a public policy in support of the public’s right to know are crucial areas that require a unified response.”

    The journalists Media Matters spoke to also highlighted Trump’s regular disregard for the truth and his complex conflict-of-interest entanglements as challenges media outlets need to overcome in order to properly cover a Trump administration.

    “I think it is going to be very challenging. We have to develop new ways of getting around” attempts to limit access, said George Condon of National Journal, who has covered the White House since 1982 and served as WHCA president in 1993 and 1994. “We will see how much access we have, how the press conferences are and the daily press briefing. If something becomes a pattern, we’ll react. You have to do your job -- find out what the president is proposing, what it will cost, who it will affect.”

    During the campaign, several veteran political reporters and journalists told Media Matters that one of the main deficiencies of media coverage of then-candidate Trump was a routine failure to follow up on important investigative reporting on Trump in favor of latching onto his outrageous comment du jour.

    Steve Scully, C-SPAN senior executive producer and political editor and a former WHCA president, urged reporters to pick and choose what is important to cover and not get drawn into the outlandish story: “Don’t necessarily go for the shiny object; cover the substance. Is it harder? It is harder because he is very adept at trying to redirect the news cycle. We’ve never had somebody quite like Donald Trump in the White House. It is a whole set of new standards.”

    As Media Matters and others have noted, during the transition, outlets have routinely dropped the ball -- especially in headlines -- by parroting Trump’s spin on current events without providing necessary context.

    Lynn Walsh argued that media outlets need to be aggressive about highlighting falsehoods from the administration.

    “If he is saying something that is incorrect, we have to say that is not true,” she said. “If it is incorrect or false, we absolutely have to say that is not true. We have to be better than we’ve ever been. We have to be accurate in our reporting and don’t put information out there that is false or misleading.”

    “This is, I’m sure, going to be the most difficult administration ever to cover because of Trump, because of the internet, because of his apologists,” said Walter Mears, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press political reporter from 1956 to 2001. “I don’t think there is any question.” 

    “All you can do is listen, write down what he says, and be as aggressive as possible in finding out what’s behind it," Mears added. "He’s already demonstrated that he can misrepresent anything by simply saying his version of truth and he’s got a lot of people who will believe it.”

    Several major news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico, have already announced plans to increase White House staffing, doubling it in some cases.

    David Folkenflik, NPR's media correspondent, said it's going to be “very important to follow his business entanglements and legislation. The important thing is not to let the Trump administration off the hook and keep your eye on the ball. We have not heard a full picture of Trump’s relationship with the Russians.”

    He added, “News organizations are going to have to scrutinize and disentangle some of the business relationships, his foreign entanglements, and policy decisions." Given the "combination of the lack of previous scrutiny of Trump and many of his most important figures and the skepticism to contempt he has for the roles the press plays in accountability and transparency," media will "have to be willing to forgo access in order to serve the larger job.”

  • Donald Trump's Hotel Bans Press For The Inauguration, Raising First Amendment Concerns

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President-elect Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel is banning reporters from its premises during inauguration week, according to Politico’s Daniel Lippman. The move underscores the incoming president’s personal hostility toward the press and raises First Amendment issues, as the hotel space is leased by the president-elect from the federal government.

    Throughout the 2016 campaign and into the transition, Trump has made his hostility to the press a centerpiece of his political strategy. Trump declared war on the press, which included mocking specific reporters as “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time.” He retreated to softball interviews during the final weeks of the campaign with largely friendly interviewers, Fox News, and fringe media. Since the election, Trump has lashed out at The New York Times several times for its “BAD coverage.” Trump’s own incoming press secretary also admitted that he threatened to remove a journalist who was trying to ask the president-elect a question, and prominent Trump supporter and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich applauded the threat, calling it “a signal, frankly, to all the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” for proper behavior.

    Moreover, as Politico notes, Trump’s D.C. hotel is under “a 60-year lease with the federal General Services Administration, which owns the property.” Given that arrangement, a blanket ban on the press raises First Amendment concerns. Trump’s D.C. hotel has also been an ethical sticking point during Trump’s transition, as some in Congress have raised concerns about a conflict of interest between the president-elect’s business interests and his administration’s influence over the General Services Administration. From Politico’s January 18 article:

    The Trump International Hotel in Washington is banning the media from its premises during inauguration week.

    “Media is not allowed in this week in respect of the privacy of our guests,” Patricia Tang, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing wrote in an email.

    A POLITICO reporter attempted to enter the hotel Wednesday morning for a previously scheduled breakfast meeting but was stopped at the door. He then identified himself as a journalist and was told “media” was not allowed.

    President-elect Donald Trump and his three adult children own the project after winning a 2012 bid to redevelop D.C.’s Old Post Office. They have a 60-year lease with the federal General Services Administration, which owns the property.

  • Des Moines Register Demands Specifics About So-Called “Alternatives” To Planned Parenthood

    Register’s Editorial Board Showed Local Papers What Questions To Ask When Anti-Choice Lawmakers Threaten Access To Essential Care

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    As conservatives on Capitol Hill threaten to defund Planned Parenthood under dubious pretenses, Iowa’s Des Moines Register is modeling how state papers should handle efforts by local anti-choice lawmakers to do the same.

    The Register’s editorial board called on Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) to “sit down and write the names of the entities that can provide comprehensive family planning services in Iowa” before following through on his budget plan to eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood. The paper quoted Branstad saying that his plan “redirects family planning money to organizations that focus on providing health care for women and eliminates taxpayer funding for organizations that perform abortions.”

    Branstad’s plan comes from a familiar anti-choice playbook. To justify defunding Planned Parenthood, right-wing media and anti-choice politicians in a number of states have wrongly claimed that the organization uses taxpayer money to subsidize abortion services. Although in reality, the government reimburses Planned Parenthood only for non-abortion services, and that money is provided via Medicaid, lawmakers use this incorrect allegation to demand that funds be shifted to so-called “community health clinics” (CHC). Lawmakers believe these CHCs could absorb patient demand should access to Planned Parenthood be eliminated -- a claim experts call “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do.”

    By demanding specifics from conservatives who claim that there are numerous “alternatives” to Planned Parenthood, the Register modeled the kind of reporting local outlets should be doing about threats to defund essential health care in their communities.

    1. Demand To Know What So-Called “Alternatives” To Planned Parenthood Are Available

    Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans nationally, 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through Medicaid. In Iowa, this process is facilitated through the Iowa Family Planning Network (IFPN) waiver program, which gives patients the option to receive “a form of limited insurance coverage” through Medicaid that covers “basic family planning services.”

    As the Register noted, Branstad “must know that many of the more than 30,000 Iowans obtaining services made possible by the waiver receive them from Planned Parenthood,” which means that if he “rejects this particular organization, he should specify exactly who has the statewide ability to take its place.”

    There’s ample reason to believe that this task will prove impossible for the long-serving anti-choice governor. As the Register reported, providers have already warned state officials that there “are not enough providers in Iowa to absorb the patients Planned Parenthood of the Heartland currently serves.”

    Rather than taking Branstad or other anti-choice lawmakers at their word about the viability of so-called alternatives, the Register performed a critical journalistic function and demanded to know what these facilities were, and whether they have the capacity to meet the medical needs of low-income patients across the state.

    2. Ask About The Types Of Services “Alternatives” Can Actually Provide

    Beyond asking Branstad to name specific alternatives to Planned Parenthood, the Register also asked that the list exclude clinics that are “no longer in business” and include only facilities that “actually provide family planning services.”

    This may seem like an odd stipulation, but the Register’s specific question about alternative providers’ actual services is exactly the kind of scrutiny local outlets should apply when lawmakers threaten to radically alter the infrastructure of essential health care systems.

    Across the country, anti-choice lawmakers have conflated the total number of CHCs with the much smaller number of those facilities that are actually equipped to provide primary care and family planning services. As the Register explained:

    Florida lawmakers learned that lesson the hard way. After passing an anti-Planned Parenthood bill last year, they sought to demonstrate there were numerous, alternative providers. Their list became a national joke because it included the names of elementary and middle schools, dental practices and at least one eye clinic.

    While Planned Parenthood clinics all offer preventive and basic care services, CHCs can qualify for that classification while providing more limited care -- making direct comparisons between the overall numbers a misleading measure of actual health care provision capacity.

    By demanding specific answers about threats to defund Planned Parenthood, The Des Moines Register’s editorial board provided a model for local outlets to critically interrogate claims by lawmakers about so-called alternatives -- questions that are essential when access to health care is on the line.

  • CBS Atlanta Affiliate Gives Credibility To Debunked Pizzagate Conspiracy

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A CBS affiliate in Atlanta gave credibility to the dangerous conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate, which falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton’s campaign trafficked children through a Washington, D.C. pizzeria, with an anchor reporting that it’s wrong to say “there’s nothing to this story.”

    The conspiracy, which started on fringe and fake news-purveying websites before conspiracy theorists like radio host Alex Jones and the son of Donald Trump’s national security adviser promoted it, alleged that hacked emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta showed that Washington, D.C., restaurant Comet Ping Pong was involved in a pedophilia ring. The baseless claim spurred at least one death threat for the restaurant’s owner, and in December a gunman opened fire inside the pizzeria in order to “self-investigate” the conspiracy.

    During the January 17 edition of CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL’s evening news program, anchor Ben Swann said that while “not one single email in the Podesta emails discusses child sex-trafficking or pedophilia, … there are dozens of what seem to be strangely worded emails dealing with pizza and handkerchiefs.” Swann claimed “self-described online investigators say that those words in the emails … is code language used by pedophiles.” Swann also claimed there were “some very strange connections” between Comet Ping Pong and another pizzeria nearby, comparing that pizzeria’s logo to an alleged FBI report on pedophile signals. Swann concluded by saying, “Investigators have already proven there's nothing to the story, right? Well actually, no,” and questioning why police were not investigating.

    The segment has since been hyped on 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit -- which were among the websites that first pushed the conspiracy theory -- with users calling Swann’s commentary “fucking amazing” and an “unbiased report about Pizzagate.”

    Swann has a history of pushing conspiracy theories. In 2013, he questioned the “official narrative” of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the 2012 Aurora, CO, shooting. According to The New York Times, he has also “raised questions about the collapse of one of the buildings at the World Trade Center.”

  • Donald Trump Wants An Army Of Jeff Gannon Shills In The White House Press Briefing Room

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Trump administration’s reported proposal to move the White House press briefing to a large room that can accommodate pro-Trump sycophants and propagandists is brazen and destructive. But it’s also not entirely new -- the Bush administration adopted a similar strategy in 2004, granting press briefing access to a shill working for a right-wing outlet who they could rely on for softball questions.

    That shill’s name was Jeff Gannon. Actually, that shill’s name was James Guckert. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

    Gannon parlayed a two-day, $50 broadcast journalism workshop at the right-wing Leadership Institute into a job reporting from the White House briefing room for Talon News. Talon News was a shell organization run by a GOP political operative that used articles written by right-wing activists to drive traffic to another conservative website run by the operative.

    Thanks to the access the White House press office provided, Gannon had a platform to draw plaudits from Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, get his work published by the American Enterprise Institute, and even attend White House Christmas parties.

    The White House got something in return: Gannon became the lifeline for Bush’s press secretary at the time, Scott McClellan.

    Here’s how it would work: Other journalists would be grilling McClellan over the Bush administration’s activities. McClellan would call on Gannon for a question. And Gannon would bail McClellan out, frequently with a leading question ladened with false assumptions.

    In August 2004, for example, after taking several questions from a reporter about whether American forces had killed any innocent people in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and another seeking President Bush’s opinion of the disgraced Ahmad Chalabi, McClellen turned to Gannon. And Gannon came through: He asked McClellan about a new “piece of evidence showing the direct terror ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda” and followed up by asking “how damaging” a New York Times story had been “to our war on terror.”

    In June 2004, McClellan escaped from a series of tough questions about Bush’s foreign policy record by calling on Gannon, who offered up the following question: “Why hasn't the administration made more of the U.N. inspectors' report that says Saddam Hussein was dismantling his missile and WMD [weapons of mass destruction] sites before and during the war? And doesn't that, combined with the now-proven Al Qaeda link between Iraq -- between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist organization -- unequivocally make the case for going to war in Iraq?”

    The list goes on and on.

    Gannon even got to ask a question at Bush’s January 26, 2005, White House press conference. He used that opportunity to inquire how the president would be able to “work with” Democratic leaders given that they had, in Gannon’s words, “divorced themselves from reality.”

    But that appearance was the beginning of the end for Gannon. He drew tremendous scrutiny from Media Matters and others, and with his schtick (and the fact that “Jeff Gannon” was a pseudonym) exposed, he was forced to resign within two weeks.

    Thirteen years later, the landscape has shifted. Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer is openly discussing moving the press briefings to a larger space in order to accommodate “talk radio, bloggers and others.” While the White House Correspondents Association currently determines who gets the 49 seats in the briefing room, the White House Press Office handles credentialing and distributes daily press passes, giving Spicer significant control over the composition of the press room.

    In practice, that means that Spicer could have a sea of Jeff Gannons on which to rely -- “reporters” from openly pro-Trump propaganda outlets who will side with the president over their colleagues in the press.

    If ABC News gives him trouble during the briefing, he could turn to the reporter from Breitbart.com. When The Washington Post tries to pin him down, he could retreat to the representative from Right Side Broadcasting Network. If The Associated Press and CNN and NBC News are all pressing him for answers, he could take questions from Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette or One America News Network or Infowars to stall.

    We could even see our first all-shill press briefing, with reporters from mainstream outlets entirely shut out while Spicer calls on the sycophants.

    Meanwhile, Trump is warning that there will be repercussions for the press if they fight back against the move, suggesting that his administration will use the limited space in the current briefing room as an excuse to deny access to credible news outlets and grant it to more supportive ones. “There’s too many people for this small room,” he said this morning during an interview on Fox & Friends. “We have so many people that want to go, so we'll have to just pick the people that go into the room.” He added that if that happens, the press will “be begging for a much larger room very soon. You watch.”

    Trump has already deployed the Gannon strategy as president-elect. During his press conference last week, he pivoted away from a series of questions about the intelligence community’s fears about his interactions with Russia to take one from Matt Boyle from Breitbart, the conservative website previously run by his chief strategist and that spent the election pushing his candidacy. Boyle’s softball sought Trump’s opinion of what “reforms” the media industry should undertake to avoid the “problems” of its election coverage. We should expect Trump to continue to use his platform to lift up such supportive outlets.

    It gets worse. Gannon was forced out because he and his outlet could not withstand the light of scrutiny, and because he was an outlier in a press corps that made his continued presence untenable. Once it became clear that he was acting as the press secretary’s safety net, it was no longer a plausible strategy for him to do so.

    Those inhibiting factors no longer hold true under a Trump administration. The sheer number of pro-Trump shilling operations means that the Gannon strategy will be extremely difficult to sequester and stop. And neither Trump nor those outlets have enough shame to care how obvious the practice will be.

    When the press is the enemy, taking briefing questions from propagandists makes perfect sense.

    Sign Media Matters’ petition urging the White House press corps to “close ranks and stand up for journalism” against Trump’s attacks.

  • Trump Speaks With Foreign Diplomats, Regales Them With Fake News Story

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    During the Chairman’s Global Dinner pre-inauguration event, President-elect Donald Trump bragged about the “record crowds coming” to celebrate his inauguration, including a group called “bikers for Trump.” Trump regaled his audience with tales of photos showing thousands of bikers purportedly making their way to Washington D.C., a fake news story uncovered by BuzzFeed hours before Trump went on stage. 

    Trump's comments were made during the event dubbed the "most exclusive event" preceding the inauguration which gives nearly 200 foreign diplomats the opportunity to meet the president-elect and his team. Footage of the event aired on the January 17 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 which included Trump's remarks to the diplomats and guests at the dinner (emphasis added):

    DONALD TRUMP: I also want to tell you, you know, so many people are talking about what's going on and now they’ve just announced we're going to have record crowds coming. I saw the bikers for Trump. Boy, they had a scene today. I don't know if I'd want to ride one of those, but they do like me. That's like additional security with those guys. They're rough when they get on that Harley, usually a Harley, made right here in America. And they had a scene today where they had helicopters flying over a highway someplace in this country and they had thousands of those guys coming into town. And let me tell you they are great people. And we are getting -- I think I must have gotten 100% of their votes between the military and the police.

    CNN host Anderson Cooper did not comment on Trump's remarks during the dinner due to technical difficulties with the video, but according to a BuzzFeed report, the photo Trump claimed purportedly showed a group of 5,000 motorcyclists on their way to Washington D.C. among various other photos, were actually photos taken years ago. BuzzFeed’s report explains that “several pro-Trump accounts on social media are using pictures and videos that falsely claim to show large groups of bikers on their way to the inauguration in Washington” and that, although pro-Trump bikers have requested a permit to attend the inauguration, no permit has been granted to date. 

    Trump has a history of sharing false claims or fake news that originate from fringe right-wing media sites