Women accounted for a small share of total guests featured during weekday evening economic coverage on the three major cable news networks, despite a renewed focus on economic discussions that significantly affect American women.
A Media Matters analysis conducted over the past year revealed that women comprised just 28.4 percent of total guests featured in weekday evening segments dedicated to economic news and policy debates on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.
Women make up slightly more than half of the total United States population and represent a significant majority of the voting public, but their voices remain vastly underrepresented in cable news segments on the economy.
Previous Media Matters studies have shown that weekday evening cable news coverage of the economy in particular fails to feature economists and experts. This failure is more shocking when measured in terms of gender -- women made up less than 10 percent of economist appearances in the past year.
Given that women make up more than 50 percent of the country, all economic issues are women's issues, and the lack of adequate female representation in these segments is a significant failure. But it is particularly glaring given the recent emphasis from policy makers and advocates across the political spectrum to highlight economic issues that disproportionately affect American women.
For example, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), roughly 56 percent of minimum wage workers are women, and recently dozens of women in the economics profession signed a public letter circulated by EPI imploring lawmakers to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Raising the minimum wage to this level and tying it to inflation now has the support of congressional Democrats and the White House, but weekday cable guest lists have mostly not included female economists whose research and advocacy support the effort.
The lack of adequate female guest representation in economic discussions is not a result of a lack of available and qualified candidates. Heidi Hartmann, the president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), is a prominent advocate for public policies focused on issues of particular importance to women. Economists Heidi Shierholz and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute have written extensively on the impact of low wages on women and the importance of health care reform. Jeanneatte Wicks-Lim of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) also specializes on studying policy effects on low-wage workers. Michigan State University economist Lisa Cook has been a recurring guest on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry in the past, but did not appear during MSNBC's evening weekday lineup in the past year. Christina Romer of the University of California, Berkeley is the former chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and co-authored President Obama's economic recovery plan in 2009 with economist Jared Bernstein, himself a regular guest on MSNBC.
The economics profession produces more than enough women with the talent necessary to advocate policies or comment on research in the cable news sphere. It is time for guest lists to start reflecting the diversity of opinion and expertise held by women in the field.
Over the past year, weekday evening cable news shows have hosted significantly more male than female guests to discuss the economy, and have hosted only a handful of female economists.
Media reports on the Senate vote to renew long-term unemployment benefits established a false contrast between providing a safety net for unemployed Americans and policies designed to create jobs. In fact, experts note that unemployment benefits boost job creation and economic growth.
Fox News is celebrating Equal Pay Day by downplaying the problem of a pay gap between men and women in the United States.
April 8 marks the observance of Equal Pay Day, an awareness campaign to educate the public about the pay discrepancy between working men and women in the United States. According to the most recent report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women working full-time in 2012 took home approximately 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man working full-time, a ratio that has remained stagnant for nearly a decade.
Despite the discrepancy in take-home pay between American men and women, right-wing media voices, led by Fox News, continue to disregard the issue entirely, claiming either that the gap is not real or that it is too insignificant to merit a proactive response.
Watch Fox deny reality as it attempts to pretend the gender pay gap away:
Narration by Meagan Hatcher-Mays
From the April 7 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Weekday broadcast and cable evening news covered a variety of economic topics including deficit reduction, economic growth, and effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) throughout the first quarter of 2014. A Media Matters analysis shows that many of these segments lacked proper context or input from economists, with Fox News continuing to advance the erroneous notion that the ACA and the minimum wage are causes of poor job growth.
From the April 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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While defending the Supreme Court's decision to undo decades of precedent and policy in campaign finance law, hosts of Fox News' The Five falsely suggested that unions can donate unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. In fact, unions are barred from directly donating to candidates and political parties.
In its April 2 decision on McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court decided that overall campaign contribution limits, previously set at $123,200 per individual per two-year election cycle, were unconstitutional. This allows future contributions to be spread among an unlimited number of political candidates, political parties, and PACs.
On April 4, as The Five co-host Bob Beckel criticized the decision and explained that these contribution limits were passed into law following the Watergate scandal, his fellow hosts Dana Perino and Eric Bolling claimed that unions face no limits on contributions, while there were limits on individuals.
But Perino and Bolling are incorrect. While unions, as well as corporations, can as of the 2010 Citizens United decision spend unlimited amounts on elections, they are still barred from direct contributions to candidates or political parties -- which is what the McCutcheon case was about. As USA Today explained:
It's the most important campaign-finance ruling since the high court's 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts independently to influence elections.
The limits on campaign contributions had stood for nearly 40 years. The high court drew a distinction between those contributions, which it said could lead to corruption, and money spent independently in its landmark 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling. Independent spending was expanded in the Citizens United case to include unlimited spending by corporations and labor unions.
Independent expenditures, which unions are allowed to make, are not the same as direct contributions to political candidates and political parties. A guide to federal election rules from The Campaign Legal Center states: "Corporations and labor unions are prohibited from using treasury funds to make a contribution to candidates, political parties, and many types of PACs."
From an April 1 Capitol Hill Hearing recorded on C-SPAN2:
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Fox News' Sean Hannity lauded Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's latest budget, a proposal that has been criticized by economists for its potential destructive impact on the economy, employment, and poverty.
CNN devoted less than two minutes to a report by top international climate experts, who warned of hunger problems, coastal flooding and other calamitous impacts if climate change is left unchecked. The network's coverage stands in stark contrast to other cable news networks, which devoted an average of over 22 minutes to the report, and broadcast nightly news programs, some of which led with the report.
Fox News misrepresented economic research while arguing against efforts to extend lapsed long-term unemployment benefits, ignoring the fact that the research itself noted the benefits of extending unemployment insurance to the jobless.
This week, the Senate is expected to vote on a bipartisan bill that would restore benefits to the long-term unemployed. Emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) lapsed in December 2013, and Congress has put forth multiple proposals to restore the program over the past few months.
On the March 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business' Charles Payne was brought on to preview the effort to extend lapsed benefits. Payne touted a Brookings Institution study co-authored by economist and former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger, which found that only 10 percent of the long-term unemployed are able to find new employment within a year. Payne used this finding to argue against extending long-term EUC benefits, claiming that the unemployed "have to be pushed back into the job market" and that being unemployed should not be "too comfortable."
If Payne had actually taken time to read the study he cited, he would have found that the authors actually note the exact opposite.
Contrary to Payne's claim that unemployment benefits keep people from entering the job market, Kruger and his co-authors point out that the benefits, which require the unemployed to search for jobs "[have] been shown to induce unemployed workers to stay in the labor force." Indeed, the idea that unemployment insurance somehow suppresses labor participation is a well-worn falsehood, and multiple studies have shown EUC benefits do not discourage job seeking.
Furthermore, while the Fox & Friends segment attempted to paint Krueger's research as an indication that he opposes government efforts to help the unemployed, he recently stated that the government should be more aggressive at preventing people from becoming long-term unemployed.
Fox News dishonestly attacked the solar industry, implying that Yuma, Arizona's unemployment rate is higher than that of Midland, Texas due to the presence of a solar power plant and lack of natural gas or petroleum exploration. However, Yuma and Midland have completely different economic bases, and the Yuma solar plant has been lauded as a success.
From the March 20 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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A national coalition of organizations has signed a letter to four major broadcast network heads expressing their concern over the failure of broadcast evening news programs to note the public cost of low wages.
A recently released Media Matters report found that over the past year, evening news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS have been largely silent about the burden that low minimum wages place on the financial security of public safety net programs. The report found that from March 1, 2013, through March 10, 2014, the networks only mentioned the reliance of minimum wage workers on federal, state, and local anti-poverty programs such as food assistance and welfare programs eight times, with PBS providing the majority.
22 national organizations that advocate on behalf of the millions of workers that would benefit from a minimum wage increase wrote the heads of the broadcast networks to express their "deep concern" over coverage of "the impact of low minimum wages on hard-working Americans, their families, and our country":
When it comes to growing our economy and improving the livelihoods of workers, it's increasingly imperative that your evening news programs cover the cost of inaction. Because of low wages, many workers in the fast food industry alone -- many of whom make wages at or just above the current minimum wage -- are forced to rely on government assistance to the tune of almost $7 billion annually. Additionally, a recent analysis found that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce necessary spending on food stamps by $4.6 billion annually.
Your evening news programs reach millions of Americans every night and frequently set the tone for how this issue is debated at the kitchen table, state legislatures, and the Halls of Congress. We urge you to correct this oversight and hope you will take greater action in the future to ensure that these programs tell the full story. We are happy to meet with you to discuss ways to make your minimum wage coverage more informative.
The full letter can be read below: