Cable and network TV news devoted more segments to coverage of economic issues during the first half of 2015 compared to the last six months of 2014, an increase driven by heightened public interest in the debate over economic inequality and a flurry of economic policy proposals from nearly two dozen 2016 presidential candidates.
ABC's This Week host George Stephanopoulos passed on the opportunity to question Republican presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker about how his health care plan would harm low-income Americans. Stephanopoulos failed to question Walker on this topic despite mainstream media outlets highlighting the issue in articles detailing Walker's plan.
On August 18, Walker revealed his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act if he is elected president. A key feature of his plan is to issue tax credits based on age rather than income to help Americans purchase health insurance plans, but mainstream media outlets quickly detailed how this change would hurt the ability of low-income Americans to afford robust health insurance coverage.
The Upshot blog from The New York Times explained how Walker's plan is "much less concerned about ensuring health care access for the poor," and "appears to be less generous for many poor Americans":
Governor Walker's plan appears to be less generous for many poor Americans. It would roll back the Medicaid expansion that has provided free insurance to low-income adults. It would distribute tax credits to those with private coverage on the basis of age, not income.
But it means that for people without a lot to spend on insurance, a comprehensive health plan may slip back out of reach. For others, an affordable plan might be so bare-bones that it wouldn't kick in before a major health catastrophe.
Wealthier people, on the other hand, could fare better under this plan, as long as they're healthy. They would get more federal money to buy insurance plans, and they would have the choice of buying cheaper, less comprehensive plans than those offered under Obamacare rules.
Vox highlighted the detrimental impact Walker's plan would have on the poor and demonstrated how an age-based tax credit plan could help the rich while hurting low-income earners of the same age:
For high earners, this might be great. Under Walker's plan, Taylor Swift would get $1,200 to help buy coverage because she's 25, while Obamacare would give her nothing on the grounds that she's superrich. For lower-income people, this is a lousy deal: A 25-year-old earning $17,000 at a low-wage job would get a $1,962 credit under Obamacare.
A world in which Obamacare is repealed, and the Walker plan enacted, is one in which the individual market is friendlier to higher-income, healthy shoppers -- but likely worse for the poor and the sick, both those seeking private coverage and those on Medicaid.
Instead of questioning Walker about this pressing problem with his health care plan, harming the ability of low-income Americans to afford quality health insurance compared to Obamacare, Stephanopoulos only asked him about criticism from an opponent, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), about the cost of his plan and how he would fund it. Watch:
ABC's Martha Raddatz debunked GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson's claim that Planned Parenthood engages in racist population control by targeting black communities.
On the August 16 edition of ABC's This Week, Carson spoke with Raddatz on the campaign trail in Iowa. Raddatz asked Carson about his controversial comments he made on August 12, when he said Planned Parenthood is targeting African-American communities to control their population by placing "most of their clinics in black neighborhoods." Raddatz debunked this claim, saying, "Planned Parenthood estimates that fewer than five percent of its health centers are located in areas where more than one-third of the population is African-American":
NPR also debunked Carson's statement in an August 14 fact check:
In 2014, the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research center, surveyed all known abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood clinics, in the U.S. (nearly 2,000) and found that 60 percent are in majority-white neighborhoods.
[R]esponding to a request for demographic information, the organization said that in 2013, 14 percent of its patients nationwide were black. That's nearly equal to the proportion of the African-American population in the U.S.
UPDATE: An August 18 post by Glenn Kessler for The Washington Post's Fact-Checker blog also deemed Ben Carson's claim that Planned Parenthood targets black communities to be false. Giving the claim "four pinnoccios," Kessler explained that "the evidence shows that a relatively small percentage of clinics are in black-majority neighborhoods - or even in neighbothoods where blacks are more than one-quarter of the population."
From the August 9 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
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Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) criticized the "lack of news coverage" of a House bill that would ban labeling requirements for genetically modified foods, in a statement to Media Matters.
Responding to Media Matters' July 24 analysis of coverage by network and cable news programs, Rep. Conyers said that "[p]eople deserve to know what's in their food" but that a lack of media attention means "most Americans have been denied basic information about the debate in Congress." Conyers added, "It's time for our nation's major news organizations to shine light on sweeping changes to our food system."
Conyers' full statement read:
HR 1599 is an unprecedented corporate power-grab, which would not only stop the Food and Drug Administration and states from labeling GMOs but also block many state and local efforts to protect farmers and the public from threats including pesticide drift. People deserve to know what's in their food. More than 90% of Americans want GMO labelling according to recent polling. Sadly -- due to a lack of news coverage about HR 1599 -- most Americans have been denied basic information about the debate in Congress. It's time for our nation's major news organizations to shine light on sweeping changes to our food system.
H.R. 1599, which passed the House on July 23 and now heads to the Senate, would block states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from labeling foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO), and allow food companies to describe products containing GMO ingredients as "natural." Environmental and consumer rights organizations have denounced the bill because it would keep consumers in the dark when a vast majority of Americans support the right to know whether their food contains GMOs.
In recent weeks, major broadcast networks and primetime cable news programs have completely ignored debate and passage of a House bill that would prevent states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring labels for foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Consumer rights advocates, environmental groups, and the vast majority of Americans support the right to know whether foods contain GMOs.
En un nuevo informe sobre el "síndrome monotemático", Media Matters encontró que los programas dominicales en español continúan dedicando considerable atención al tema migratorio, aparentemente a expensas de temas que son de igual importancia para la comunidad latina. Adicionalmente, a pesar de que los latinos constituyen más del 17 por ciento de la población estadounidense, solo cuatro por ciento de los invitados a los programas dominicales en inglés entre el 4 de enero y el 3 de mayo de 2015 eran latinos - una reducción de un 42 por ciento en los niveles de participación para finales de 2014.
A new Media Matters report on the "single issue syndrome" found that Spanish-language Sunday shows continue to devote considerable attention to immigration at the apparent expense of issues equally important to the Latino community. In addition, although Latinos make up more than 17 percent of the U.S. population, only 4 percent of guests on English-language Sunday shows between January 4 and May 3, 2015 were Hispanic - a drop of 42 percent from their 2014 appearances over a similar time period.
Amid widespread condemnation of Donald Trump from his fellow Republican presidential candidates following his attack on Sen. John McCain's military service, media are highlighting Republicans' collective failure to denounce Trump's past bigotry and xenophobia.
From the July 19 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
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Several months into the 2016 presidential campaign, the media is frequently failing to fact-check statements by presidential candidates denying the science of climate change. Seven major newspapers and wire services surveyed by Media Matters have thus far failed to indicate that candidates' statements conflict with the scientific consensus in approximately 43 percent of their coverage, while the major broadcast and cable news outlets other than MSNBC have failed to do so 75 percent of the time.
ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos hosted the Family Research Council's Ken Blackwell to discuss the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, without disclosing the the organization's longstanding "hate group" designation.
On the June 28 edition of This Week, George Stephanopoulos hosted FRC senior fellow Ken Blackwell to discuss the Supreme Court's ruling on Friday that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. Blackwell suggested that LGBT Americans should have been made to wait until they were granted equal rights through a constitutional amendment instead of through the Supreme Court.
Stephanopoulos failed to disclose that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the FRC a "hate group" since 2010, owing to its promotion of extreme and bigoted myths about LGBT people and calls by its employees to criminalize homosexuality. The FRC supported Uganda's 2012 "Kill the Gays" bill, and president Tony Perkins has consistently linked homosexuality to pedophelia, calling homosexuality a health risk.
In 2014, Blackwell blamed the 2014 mass murder in Isla Vista, California on "the attack on ... natural marriage." In a 2009 column, Blackwell compared same-sex marriage to incest. He also bizarrely suggested that transgender and bisexual individuals would use same-sex marriage laws to demand participation in polygamous marriages.
In April, CBS' Bob Schieffer helpfully identified Perkins as a "hate group" leader before an interview on same-sex marriage, saying "the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group." Stephanopoulos could follow this example when hosting members of hate groups on This Week.
It has become increasingly clear that human-induced climate change is exacerbating California's historic drought and will continue to make droughts in the western U.S. more common and more extreme, as many studies and leading climate scientists have concluded. Yet a Media Matters analysis reveals that over a one-month period, the local television stations in California's two largest media markets addressed the role of climate change in less than two percent of their drought coverage, and when they did it was usually in segments that also included climate science denial.
Broadcast evening news programs have been virtually silent on Congressional Republicans' repeated efforts to restrict women's access to reproductive health care by pushing an extreme 20-week ban on abortion.
House Republicans voted this week to ban the majority of abortions after 20 weeks. As The New York Times reported, the legislation is a new "version of a bill that Republican leaders had abruptly pulled in January amid objections from some of their own members" over a provision "that would have required women who became pregnant through rape to report their assault to law enforcement authorities" in order to gain an exemption from the ban.
Such legislation would have dangerous implications for women's health should it become law, as many serious health conditions for both mothers and fetuses cannot be discovered until around the 20th week of pregnancy. The latest version of the legislation requires sexual assault survivors to attend counseling 48 hours prior to receiving an abortion, a requirement that, as ThinkProgress noted, "appears to closely resemble the mandatory counseling and waiting period requirements that are already popular on the state level" which have been roundly criticized by health experts and medical professionals for being unnecessary and harmful to women.
Yet broadcast evening news programs have been all but silent in covering the Republicans' abortion ban.
According to a Media Matters review of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS' nightly news programs since January 1, ABC's World News Tonight and NBC's Nightly News have completely ignored the legislation, while CBS Evening News ran one segment highlighting the GOP proposal on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. PBS' Newshour devoted four segments to the legislation this year, and was the only network to cover the House's passage of the latest abortion ban.
The virtual silence of the broadcast evening news comes amid an unprecedented push by Republicans at both the national and state level to restrict women's constitutional right to abortion. An April 2 report from the Guttmacher Institute found that the first few months of 2015 have seen 332 provisions to restrict access to abortion introduced in the legislatures of nearly every state.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS evening news programs from January 1 to April 13, 2015 for the terms "abort!" or "reproduct!" We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the keywords.
Broadcast nightly news programs have remained silent on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) over the past three months of weekday programming, even as Congress is scheduled to vote this week on whether to grant President Obama authority to finalize the terms of the massive trade deal. The coverage blackout continues a trend extending back to 2013.
On May 12, the Senate plans to vote on legislation that would grant "fast-track" trade promotion authority to Obama as he attempts to complete negotiations among the 12 member nations that comprise the TPP. "Once Congress grants a president trade promotion authority, lawmakers have the ability to vote up or down on a final trade agreement, but they forfeit the right to amend the deal or filibuster it," The New York Times explained.
Debates over the merits of the deal itself and of granting the president trade promotion authority have erupted among Democratic and Republican members of Congress, but coverage of the negotiations has been largely absent from evening news programming on the major broadcast networks.
A Media Matters analysis of ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC's Nightly News from August 1, 2013, through May 10, 2015, found that the programs completely ignored the trade negotiations and related policy debates. Only PBS NewsHour devoted substantive coverage to the TPP, with 14 total segments:
Coverage of the TPP among major cable outlets has been similarly one-sided. Since August 1, 2013, MSNBC has mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 124 evening and primetime segments, the overwhelming majority of which (103) came during The Ed Show. Fox News trails far behind with just 12 mentions of the TPP over that time period, 10 of which have come since February 1, 2015. CNN has been almost completely absent from the discussion, registering only 2 mentions of the trade negotiations: