The Washington Post's David Weigel highlighted how Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz "actually benefits from Trump's full-spectrum dominance of the national media conversation," which "obscure[s]" Cruz's extreme positions.
Donald Trump has dominated media coverage since June 2015, when he announced his presidential bid. In 2015, Trump received over 22 hours of air time on Fox and was covered on ABC's evening news program for 81 minutes, compared to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders' one minute. Much of the coverage has focused on Trump's controversial positions and inflammatory rhetoric. Other GOP presidential candidates have attempted to distance themselves from Trump -- even though their own extreme positions often don't differ dramatically from Trump's -- but they have not received the same media condemnation.
In a January 7 post for The Washington Post's blog Post Politics, Weigel explained how "obscured by the endless Trump news-cycles" is the fact that "Cruz is the most conservative candidate" and is "ready to indulge questions" that are usually dismissed for their extremism. Weigel noted that "[w]ithout Trump in the race, questions and issues such as these -- the sort of things that have stymied some tea party candidates for lower offices -- might be controversial," but are overlooked because of Trump's media dominance (emphasis added):
So far, given the lack of damage from the Canada story to his image among conservatives, Cruz actually benefits from Trump's full-spectrum dominance of the national media conversation.
Cruz does this by blaming every incoming attack on two factors. The first is his strength in the polls; Cruz will suggest that "three weeks ago, every Republican was talking about Donald Trump." Not so much now, in his view. The second is the mainstream media, one of the softest targets in Republican politics. (Cruz's stump speech, which changes subtly from stop to stop, always includes a joke about reporters "checking themselves into therapy" after his hypothetical presidency ends in 2025.)
In Webster City, Cruz used most of his news conference to gently chide the media, saying they are not asking about anything Iowans seemed to be interested in. When CNN's Dana Bash asked whether Cruz would take Trump's advice and embark on a legal route to prove his eligibility to be president, he took another chance to ask why no one was covering the proverbial Real Issues.
After one more question about whether establishment Republicans such as McCain were feeling more confident in attacking him, Cruz started his town hall. Something obscured by the endless Trump news cycles was suddenly much clearer: Cruz was the most conservative candidate in the race and ready to indulge questions that other Republicans dismissed.
One questioner asked about the alleged influence of the Trilateral Commission and David Rockefeller, two bugbears of conspiracy theorists. "It's a very good question," said Cruz, pivoting to discuss the Medellin national sovereignty case, which is featured in some of his TV ads here. Another questioner asked whether the Federal Reserve was constitutional, prompting a short monologue by Cruz about why America should return to the gold standard.
And another questioner asked about the potential threat of Muslim courts issuing their own sharia-based rulings within the United States.
Without Trump in the race, questions and issues such as these -- the sort of things that have stymied some tea party candidates for lower offices -- might be controversial. But Trump, who has courted controversy again and again in the past few months, is in the race.
From the January 7 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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After years of pushing birther myths that President Obama may not have been eligible for the presidency, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh hypocritically dismissed Republican claims that GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz may face eligibility problems due to being born in Canada.
Fox News' three primetime shows wholly ignored GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX)'s announcement that he would not only deport all 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the country, but would also halt legal immigration and "oppose" "allowing folks to come back in and become citizens."
At a campaign stop in Iowa on January 4, Cruz was asked to compare his immigration plan to that of GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who advocates deporting all 11.3 million undocumented immigrants. Cruz responded that he would not only deport all 11.3 million immigrants, but would also not allow deported immigrants to re-enter the country or apply for citizenship:
QUESTIONER: Both you and Donald Trump are really strong on immigration, but he supports deporting all the illegal immigrants. Are you willing to say the same?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Absolutely, yes. We should enforce the law.
CRUZ: We should enforce the law.
CRUZ: And in fact, look, there's a difference. He's advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens. I oppose that.
Fox's three primetime shows - The O'Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, and Hannity -- all ignored the remarks and failed to discuss Cruz's deportation plan on the January 4, 5, and 6 editions of their shows. While Cruz's comments were entirely disregarded on the January 4, 5, and 6 editions of The O'Reilly Factor and The Kelly File, Fox host Sean Hannity had an opportunity to bring up the issue directly with Cruz during an interview on his show.
On the January 4 edition of Hannity, Sean Hannity hosted Cruz, and despite discussing the topic of immigration, failed to ask Cruz directly about his plan to halt legal immigration. Hannity asked Cruz "what happens to the eleven million people that are here illegally?" When Cruz dodged the question, Hannity gave him a pass and moved on to a new topic:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): The issue of immigration is so key this year, and both Marco Rubio and Donald Trump have gone after you. Trump said you copied his immigration plan. You had that battle in the last debate with Rubio. And your statement was "I oppose legalization today, tomorrow, and forever." Meaning what, that we build the fence, that we secure the border, what happens to the eleven million people that are here illegally?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): We enforce the law. Existing law provides that if we apprehend someone here illegally, we deport them. That's what existing law is, and we have a president, Barack Obama, who refuses to follow the law. I've spent my whole life fighting to defend the rule of law, fighting to defend theConstitution. When it comes to immigration, 2013 was really, as Reagan would say, a time for choosing. It's when a line was drawn in the sand. On one side, you had Barack Obama and you had Chuck Schumer, and you had a whole lot of establishment Republicans in Washington lining up behind a massive amnesty plan. On the other side of the line were people like Steve Sessions, where people like Iowa's own Steve King, and I stood with Jeff Sessions and Steve King. And we led the fight to defeat theGang of Eight amnesty plan, to preserve the rule of law and to fight to secure our borders. And you know, it's interesting. A lot of presidential candidates suddenly have discovered illegal immigration is an issue. I'll point out, Sean, you remember that 2013 fight. You were standing there leading the fight, Mark Levin was leading the fight, Rush was leading the fight. You look at the men and women standing on that debate stage, in 2013 when Obama was on the verge of getting his amnesty win, most of the other men and women on that debate stage were nowhere to be found.
Media outlets are challenging both the substance and form of Ted Cruz's latest anti-immigration ad, calling it out for factual errors as well as racism and classism.
From the January 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox host Bill O'Reilly gave GOP frontrunner Donald Trump a friendly platform to respond to criticism of his misleading campaign ad that misrepresented the U.S. southern border by using footage of Moroccan immigrants crossing into Spain.
After Donald Trump's campaign released his first televised campaign ad, a Politifact analysis of the ad found that it misleads viewers by using footage of immigrants crossing the border between Morocco and Spain while a narrator claims that Trump will "stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border."
On the January 4 edition of his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly discussed the ad with Trump pointing out that the footage was misleading but dismissed the criticism, telling Trump that he must "be careful" because "the media's after [him]":
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): Now, you just put out an ad that features the southern border, and you're saying that you're going to put up a wall and stop the madness. Now you're criticized because some of the video in the ad, which looks like it's from Mexico, is from Morocco. So, the press is all over you on that. How do you react?
DONALD TRUMP: All it is, is a display of what it is going to look like, and what our country looks like. That was just video footage. It's just a display of what our country's going to look like. We're like a third world country. We're a dumping ground, so you can just take it anywhere you want, but it's really merely a display of what a dumping ground is going to look like. And that's what our country is becoming very rapidly.
O'REILLY: Alright, so you don't think the video was a little misleading, with the talk of the border fence? For Mexico, you use a Morocco video. You don't think that's misleading?
TRUMP: No, I think it's irrelevant. All we want to do is what it's going to look like. They picked something. They could have picked something else. We could pick plenty of footage, that I could tell you Bill.
O'REILLY: You should have probably put the Mexican footage in there though, because you got to be careful about -- you know, with the media's after you.
From the January 4 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the January 4 edition of MSNBC's MSNBC Live with Kate Snow:
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From the January 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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2015 was an important year in education policy, with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the beginning of the 2016 election campaigns, and local fights for teachers and public schools making national headlines. In an important year for students and teachers across the education spectrum, however, some media outlets used their platforms to push falsehoods. Here are five of the worst media failures on public education this year.
This summer, teachers union opponent and former journalist Campbell Brown launched a "non-profit, non-partisan news site about education," called The Seventy Four. In spite of the site's stated mission to combat "misinformation and political spin" with "investigation, expertise, and experience," Brown hired Eric Owens, who has a long history of attacks on students and teachers, to write for the site. Owens has a long history of attacking and mocking teachers and students with transphobic, sexist, victim-blaming, and racially insensitive rhetoric as the education editor at the Daily Caller.
This year, The Wall Street Journal continued its campaign of misinformation on teachers unions, pushing harmful, union-opposed policies such as a Louisiana voucher program that was found to violate desegregation requirements and a Washington, D.C. voucher program reported to waste federal dollars on "unsuitable learning environments." The WSJ editorial board often explicitly attributed its support of these unsuccessful policies to combating teachers unions. In an October editorial, for example, the board wrote that being "unpopular with unions... ought to be a requirement for any education leadership position," ignoring the troubling realities of the programs they attempted to defend in spite of well-founded union concerns.
As ESSA moved through Congress in late November, the editorial board doubled down on its teacher-blaming rhetoric, claiming that the new legislation was favored by "teachers unions who want less accountability," and advocating for the continuation of unpopular high-stakes testing and voucher policies in the states.
The Washington Post editorial board similarly advocated for continuing the extensive testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation, lending support to a high-stakes testing policy with questionable public or research support, and villainized teachers unions in the process. In its February editorial on the issue, the Post claimed that teachers unions "give lip service to accountability as long as their members aren't the ones held to account," and cited this self-interest as the source of unions' opposition to flawed teacher evaluation models that utilize students' standardized test scores to punish teachers.
Fox News featured offensive and often inaccurate commentary on public education and the teaching profession throughout the year -- in some cases doubling down on the anti-teacher rhetoric many Fox figures pushed in 2014.
In February, Outnumbered co-host Kennedy kicked off the teacher-bashing by arguing that "there really shouldn't be public schools," before the hosts agreed that the federal Department of Education ought to be abolished. In April, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy slurred prospective bilingual educators, referring to immigrants with legal permission to work in the United States as "illegals" during a segment highlighting an initiative to boost language learning in schools.
In August, Fox & Friends included a segment where Fox News regular Frank Luntz conducted a live focus group segment about public education. Questions for the focus group included "Who here has issue with teachers unions?" and "Doesn't it make you angry that you're putting all this money into public schools?" Luntz followed up his leading question about teachers unions by singling out a teacher from the group and asking him to "defend" himself.
In an October discussion about New York City schools on Fox's The Five, the co-hosts implored the city's public school teachers to "become a better teacher" and "don't suck at your job." That same month, co-host Juan Williams attacked unions' endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, asserting that an "unholy alliance between education unions and Democrats" would be "dangerous for our kids" and would "hurt" "minority communities" and "poor people."
This year also marked the launch of the 2016 presidential campaign season, with five Republican and three Democratic debates held this fall. While candidates outlined their positions time and again on national security issues, women's health care, and taxes, the debates barely mentioned education issues. A Media Matters search of all eight full debate transcripts found only nine mentions of any variation of the term "teach." In fact, according to this review, no candidate or moderator uttered the phrases "No Child Left Behind," "Race To The Top," or "Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)" throughout the 2015 debate season, despite the recent passage of the landmark ESSA legislation replacing No Child Left Behind.
Moderators did discuss schools and teachers a handful of times throughout the debate season, mostly in relation to national security. In the August 6 Republican debate on Fox News, moderator Bret Baier questioned former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on their disagreement on the Common Core state standards and asked former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) whether he would abolish the Department of Education, among other federal agencies. The moderators of the October 28 CNBC Republican debate also mentioned teachers once, when moderator Carlos Quintanilla asked Donald Trump about his comments that educators ought to be armed. And on CNN's December 15 Republican debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer asked candidates about the closure of the Los Angeles Unified school district following an email threat.
The other five debates did not feature questions regarding K-12 education policy.
Public school educators and their unions in major cities made national headlines in 2015 following strikes, contentious contract negotiations, school board elections, and school funding battles. While research shows that teachers unions not only protect the rights of educators but also benefit students and their communities, state newspapers editorializing on union activities framed unions and educators as selfishly seeking higher pay at the expense of others.
Amidst a victory year for teachers unions on several fronts, Media Matters found that state newspapers in New York, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, California, and Washington published editorials distorting the facts to question the motives of teachers and attack their right to organize.
In Buffalo, New York, The Buffalo News repeatedly claimed that teachers unions supporting a parent-led movement against standardized testing want to maintain "the wretched, costly, dysfunctional status quo" and require children to "pay the price." In Scranton, Pennsylvania, The Scranton Times-Tribune lamented that teachers unions had the ability to strike and dismissed teachers' calls to be treated with respect and dignity. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, The Albuquerque Journal mocked teachers' concerns over an unfair evaluation method that was subsequently struck down by a district court that agreed with the unions. In Los Angeles, California, the Los Angeles Times dismissed unions' worries that a charter expansion plan created by one of the paper's education reporting funders would financially jeopardize local public schools, telling those who opposed the plan to "quit whining." And in Seattle, Washington, The Seattle Times repeatedly attacked the local union for "using their students as pawns," as they advocated for fair pay, guaranteed recess time, more funding for schools, and greater equity in school discipline policies.
These editorial board attacks on educators -- because of the readers they serve and the prominence of local priorities on education policy -- have the dangerous potential to shift public conversation away from the facts and to pit communities against the teachers who advocate for them. After a year where the importance of education policy has become more critical than ever, hopefully this disturbing trend will not continue in 2016.
Image by Ian MacKenzie under a Creative Commons license.
Leading up to the 2016 elections, media should be careful not to perpetuate the same myths about Latino voters that many pushed in 2015, including portraying Latinos as a monolithic voter bloc exclusively interested in immigration or superficially attracted to Hispanic or bilingual candidates regardless of their policies, and suggesting this growing demographic will be a "non-factor" in 2016.
Right-wing media spent 2015 defending, praising, and peddling several of GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's debunked falsehoods, which PolitiFact rounded up as one big "lie of the year."
From the December 22 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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The Guardian highlighted UN High Commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres, who recently responded to anti-Muslim and anti-refugee rhetoric pushed by Donald Trump and other conservatives, stating that "[t]hose that reject Syrian refugees, and especially if they are Muslim, are the best allies of the propaganda and the recruitment of extremist groups."
Guterres' comments come in the wake of Donald Trump's unconstitutional proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, and vindicates media outlets that argued Trump's extreme rhetoric "feeds into the ISIS narrative," and is "counterproductive to our efforts" to defeat the terrorist group. Guterres affirmed to the UN Security Council that "We must not forget that - despite the rhetoric we are hearing these days - refugees are the first victims of such terror, not its source." From The Guardian:
People who reject Syrian refugees are the "best allies" of Islamic State militants and other extremists, the United Nations refugee chief said on Monday after US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed an entry ban on foreign Muslims.
More than 4.3 million Syrians have fled a nearly five-year civil war. UN High Commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres told the Security Council they cannot be blamed for the terror they are risking their lives to escape."
Those that reject Syrian refugees, and especially if they are Muslim, are the best allies of the propaganda and the recruitment of extremist groups.
Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Saturday that Islamic State is using Trump's rhetoric to enlist fighters to radical jihad. Trump rejected her claim and called her a "liar."
Several US states said they would close the door to Syrian refugees, while Trump - currently the Republican Party's front-runner for the November 2016 election - called for a ban on foreign Muslims entering the United States."
We must not forget that - despite the rhetoric we are hearing these days - refugees are the first victims of such terror, not its source," Guterres said. "They cannot be blamed for a threat which they're risking their lives to escape.
[Photo credit: U.S. Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers]