Racial Justice

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  • VIDEO: Stop Calling Donald Trump “Controversial”

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    News networks frequently use the word “controversial” to describe Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican comments, and it’s setting a dangerous precedent for the way the media talks about bigotry in American politics.

    Trump’s candidacy has brought religious and racial bigotry to the forefront of Republican presidential politics. He’s repeatedly demonized Muslims and Mexicans on the campaign trail, scapegoating them as security threats to justify calling for mass deportations, government surveillance, and travel bans.

    That has put news networks in the uncomfortable position of trying to remain “impartial” while covering Trump’s increasingly deplorable rhetoric. Instead of plainly labeling his campaign as “bigoted,” networks have used neutral-sounding terms like “controversial” to avoid making editorial judgments about Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican positions.

    But calling Trump’s comments “controversial” is lazy and dangerous. It treats racial and religious intolerance as just a quirk of Republican politics. It normalizes that intolerance, turning it into an unremarkable and routine partisan disagreement. It lets Trump’s defenders spin his comments as just evidence of his “tough” stance on immigration or border security. And it makes it easier for Trump to reinvent himself as a serious “presidential” candidate as he prepares for the general election.

    Failing to call out Trump’s bigotry also makes it harder for news networks to accurately tell the story of Trump’s rise in Republican politics. As PBS’s Tavis Smiley explained on Democracy Now in January:

    Trump is still, to my mind at least, an unrepentant, irascible religious and racial arsonist. And so, when we talk about how Donald Trump is rising in the poll, you can’t do that absent the kind of campaign he’s running, the issues that he’s raising. And for us to just say, "Donald Trump is rising in the polls," and not connect that to the base message that he’s putting out there, I think, just misses the point.

    Religious and racial bigotry deserves to be treated differently than other campaign trail stories, especially by journalists. News networks that shy away from making editorial judgments about Trump’s extremism are setting a dangerous precedent -- one that could last long beyond this election cycle.

  • The O’Reilly Factor Peddles Racist Myths About High Incarceration Rate For Drug Violations 

    Eric Bolling: “Maybe More Blacks Are Committing More Of The Same Crimes”

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    During a segment on drug incarceration, Fox News’ Eric Bolling suggested the higher incarceration rates for African Americans are not about race, but instead because “blacks committed more of the same crimes.” From the April 22 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:

    BILL O’REILLY (HOST): I feel very strongly that if my children were addicted to heroin and I knew who was selling them the heroin, I would not consider it a nonviolent action. How about you?

    ERIC BOLLING: No, I think you have to go hard on the drug dealers, distributors.

    O’REILLY: Even the punks on the street?

    BOLLING: Even the punks on the street. I don’t think it has anything to do with race, it has to do with what they are doing. They are providing access for kids, people to hurt themselves.

    O’REILLY: Why does the left see it differently and is trying to diminish the harmfulness of their actions?

    BOLLING: Well Russell Simmons tried to make it about race. He said more blacks are incarcerated than whites therefore --  

    O’REILLY: Well it's a big issue.

    BOLLING: Because maybe more blacks are committing more of the same crimes. It's still illegal to sell heroin. It's still illegal to sell opiates.

    O’REILLY: May not be much longer, Colmes, the way the trends are going in this country.

    According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, prison sentences of African American men were almost 20 percent longer than white men for similar crimes. The Wall Street Journal attributed the gap to judicial discretion, restored by the Supreme Court in 2005. In a September 2014 article, the Washington Post reported that, while whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rate, and whites are more likely to sell, blacks are “far more likely” to be arrested for sale and possession.

    Fox’s Bill O’Reilly has a history of campaigning against drug sentencing reform, despite the evidence that current laws target minorities. O’Reilly has previously stated that drug sentencing reform sends a message that drugs aren’t dangerous.

  • Cable News Largely Silent On Report Finding “Systemic Racism” In Chicago Police Department

    Fox News Did Not Cover The Report After Frequently Dismissing Concerns Over Police Actions In Chicago

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Cable news only devoted just over two minutes of coverage to findings of “systemic racism” in the Chicago Police Department after a Chicago task force released a “blistering” report. Although the report made the front page of The New York Times, MSNBC and CNN spent less than two minutes each on covering the report while Fox News -- which has regularly dismissed protests over police brutality and systemic racism in Chicago -- failed to cover the report at all.

  • A Comprehensive Guide To Megyn Kelly’s History Of Right-Wing Media Misinformation

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Megyn Kelly, the host of Fox’s The Kelly File, is often billed as a “straight news” anchor known for occasionally "bucking ... the conservative party line" on Fox. Here’s a look back at some of her most egregious misinformation campaigns and out-of-touch comments regarding race, LGBT issues, gender, reproductive rights, Islam, immigration, climate change, and Hillary Clinton.

  • New Report Presents Opportunity For Networks To Address How Climate Change Affects Public Health

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Extreme Heat Danger

    The Obama administration has released a comprehensive new scientific report detailing how climate change affects human health, presenting the broadcast networks' nightly news programs with a good opportunity to cover a critical topic that they rarely addressed last year.  

    The Climate and Health Assessment, which is the result of three years of research by approximately 100 health and science experts in eight federal agencies, builds on the findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program's National Climate Assessment and signifies increased "scientific confidence in the link between climate change and a broad range of threats to public health."

    These threats include some of the most severe effects of global warming, such as increased incidence of death from extreme heat waves and worsened air quality, as well as some less discussed impacts, including the potential for carbon pollution to make our food crops less nutritious and the toll that weather-related disasters can take on our mental health. The report also details how climate change will increase or otherwise alter the risks of suffering from various diseases and illnesses, including Lyme disease from ticks, West Nile virus from mosquitos, water-borne illnesses, and Salmonella poisoning from food.

    Any of these topics could provide fodder for an important and informative nightly news segment that would help viewers better understand the threats and challenges posed by climate change.

    NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News did each provide a substantial report last year on the ways climate change is impacting allergies and asthma, respectively. But here, too, the Obama administration report provides opportunities for additional coverage.

    For instance, the networks could examine these issues from an environmental justice perspective; the report finds that minority adults and children "bear a disproportionate burden associated with asthma as measured by emergency department visits, lost work and school days, and overall poorer health status." And when considering all of the various health impacts, the report identifies many specific populations that are "disproportionately vulnerable" to climate change:

    [C]limate change exacerbates some existing health threats and creates new public health challenges. While all Americans are at risk, some populations are disproportionately vulnerable, including those with low income, some communities of color, immigrant groups (including those with limited English proficiency), Indigenous peoples, children and pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.

    The networks could also cover some of these public health findings alongside a distressing new study on sea level rise, which projects severe impacts on coastal cities that will undoubtedly have profound implications on the health and well-being of millions of Americans. Or they could address the public health benefits of the most significant U.S. climate policy in U.S. history, the Clean Power Plan, which the networks infrequently covered in 2015 -- and which polluting fossil fuel industry groups and allied attorneys general are now fighting in court.

    Major news outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, Time magazine, The Associated Press, and McClatchyDC have already covered the new White House report. Now is the time for the broadcast networks' nightly news programs to improve on last year's coverage and educate their viewers about the myriad ways that a changing climate is affecting our health.

    Image at top via Flickr user Graeme Maclean using a Creative Commons license.

    public health