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Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump praised the media in his victory speech and in morning show interviews after sweeping all five April 26 GOP primaries, a sharp shift in his campaign’s history of attacking journalists and news outlets.
During an April 26 victory speech, Trump said, “I want to thank the media. The media’s really covered me very fair for the last two hours.” Trump continued, “They’ve been really very fair over the last few weeks.” The following morning, Trump made the morning news show circuit, telling the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the show's coverage of him has been "great." (Morning Joe has previously been widely criticized by other members of the media for their soft Trump coverage.) Trump added that hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski had given him a "hard time" in some cases, to which Brzezinski responded, "We gave you a hard time on things we disagreed with, but we always thought your candidacy was successful." On CNN’s New Day, Trump asserted that “CNN’s doing a very good job" of covering the election.
During the morning of April 27, ABC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all allowed Trump to phone in for interviews. Networks' unprecedented practice of allowing Trump to regularly do phone interviews rather than make in person or satellite appearances offers Trump an advantage against probing and hard-hitting interviews.
Trump’s tone towards the media is markedly different from his consistent attacks on the press throughout the entirety of his nearly year-long campaign. Trump’s history of attacking journalists and news outlets includes blacklisting multiple reporters from his events, kicking Univision anchor Jorge Ramos out of a news conference, and mocking a reporter’s disability after receiving supposedly unfavorable coverage. Multiple reporters and photographers have been reportedly threatened or injured by Trump campaign officials and security. Trump’s favorable comments to CNN directly contrast with his threats last month to skip a March 29 CNN town hall, where he cited “one-sided and unfair reporting” from the network.
Trump infamously attacked Fox News host Megyn Kelly for months after she asked a question about his history of sexism during the August 6 Fox Republican presidential debate, culminating in his boycott of Fox's January 28 debate. In an interview after the August 6 debate, Trump said that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” during the debate, later retweeted a comment calling Kelly a “bimbo,” and called her “Crazy Megyn.”
During a February 26 press conference, Trump promised to sue the media for negative stories about him if he’s elected president, saying he would “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money." The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called those statements a “threat to American democracy” and a “logical extension” of Trump’s attacks on the press.
In recent weeks several media figures have fallen for claims that Trump has evolved to demonstrate a more "presidential" tone, while other journalists have urged their colleagues not to forget his history of insulting and extreme statements.
The morning news programs on ABC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all allowed Donald Trump to phone in for interviews following his victories in the April 26 Republican primaries. Journalists and media critics have called out cable and broadcast news shows for allowing Trump this “shocking” “advantage,” and several programs have banned the practice.
In March, the six major broadcast and cable news networks allowed Trump to phone in for 39 of his 63 interviews. On ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News, more than half of Trump's interviews were conducted by phone.
The Associated Press has explained how television media’s unprecedented practice of allowing Trump to regularly call in gives him an advantage:
Except in news emergencies, producers usually avoid phoners because television is a visual medium -- a face-to-face discussion between a newsmaker and questioner is preferable to a picture of an anchor listening to a disembodied voice.
It's easy to see why Trump likes them. There's no travel or TV makeup involved; if he wishes to, Trump can talk to Matt Lauer without changing out of his pajamas. They often put an interviewer at a disadvantage, since it's harder to interrupt or ask follow-up questions, and impossible to tell if a subject is being coached.
Face-to-face interviews let viewers see a candidate physically react to a tough question and think on his feet, said Chris Licht, executive producer of "CBS This Morning." Sometimes that's as important as what is being said.
Several prominent journalists and media critics have panned the media’s willingness to grant Trump phone interviews. CBS This Morning, NBC’s Meet The Press, and Fox News Sunday have all banned the practice, requiring Trump to appear in person or via satellite.
Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality
Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.
Carl Bernstein: “We Talk About The New Trump The Same Way We Talked About A New Nixon”
After Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump began persuading some in the media that he will start acting more “presidential,” others in the media have expressed skepticism of Trump’s attempt to change his image and are warning their colleagues to not forget his insulting and extreme statements.
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A Media Matters analysis of the broadcast evening and weekend TV news coverage of mass protests against money in politics organized by Democracy Awakening and Democracy Spring revealed that the networks devoted only two segments -- a total of 29 seconds of airtime -- between April 11 and April 18 to the week-long demonstrations.
For Sexual Assault Awareness month, Media Matters looks back at right-wing media's history of downplaying, and questioning the legitimacy of, sexual assault. Right-wing media figures have called reporting statutory rape “whiny,” claimed sexual assault victims have a "coveted status," said the sexual assault epidemic is "not happening," blamed feminism for encouraging sexual assault, and said attempts to curb sexual assault constitute "a war happening on boys."
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ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos hosted Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for the extreme anti-LGBT group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who hyped the debunked “bathroom predator” myth to defend a discriminatory law recently passed in North Carolina.
ADF is an multimillion dollar anti-gay Christian legal organization known for its work defending discriminatory “religious freedom” laws, which allow discrimination against LGBT individuals and others based on religious beliefs. In addition, ADF actively works to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that effectively criminalize homosexuality.
This Week hosted Waggoner on April 10 to discuss mounting boycotts against North Carolina for its passage of the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act in March, which bans transgender people from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity and excludes LGBT residents from legal protection from discrimination. The law relied heavily on the “bathroom predator” myth that sexual predators will exploit transgender nondiscrimination laws to sneak into women’s restrooms. Experts in multiple states -- including law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for victims of sexual assault -- have categorically debunked that myth. Waggoner pushed this myth on This Week, characterizing the North Carolina bill as having “a common sense provision that would restrict men from accessing girls' locker rooms”:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): Kristen, I saw you shaking your head. I want to give you a chance to respond. But there's also a provision in the North Carolina bill that strips the ability of people to sue under the state discrimination law. And opponents of the law said if you're fired because of your race or gender or religion, you no longer have a basic remedy.
KRISTEN WAGGONER: Well, that's absolutely not true. That's not the case. And first of all, if we want to talk about what these laws actually do, North Carolina specifically, there are two components to the North Carolina law. The first is a common sense provision that would restrict men from accessing girls' locker rooms. It's for the safety and security, for privacy of not only our women and children but our men. We don't want to have to undress in front of someone who is of the opposite biological sex.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well you brought that up. How is that going to be enforced. You have to go back to -- you can only use the restroom that is the restroom that’s on your birth certificate. How is the state going to enforce that?
WAGGONER: The same way that they’re enforcing it and have enforced it the last 200 years. You simply respond to complaints that are received. But what we have seen, when these types of laws have been passed in other states that allow men to access the women's restroom, those laws are misused. And they violate the safety and security of people. We should have a reasonable expectation of privacy to go into a locker room and not have to undress in front of someone of the opposite biological sex. It's common sense.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the answer to that, John?
JOHN CORVINO: The idea that this is about safety and security, it's kind of like when somebody says that they ate all the ice cream in order to make room in the freezer. I mean it's just obvious that that's not the real reason. This is about discrimination, particularly against transgender people. And one of the reasons that's really sad is that our nation's history of protecting religious liberty has traditionally been about protecting marginalized groups, protecting people of minority faiths against the majority who try to marginalize them. Instead, we have a perversion of the notion of religious liberty to further marginalize people who are already vulnerable. There are absolutely no cases of transgender people trying to use these laws in order to commit assault or to threaten people's safety in bathrooms. Whereas there are many cases of transgender people suffering bullying and assault and violence because they can't have a safe and comfortable bathroom to use.
WAGGONER: That is absolutely not true. There are multiple cases of those who may not be transgender but those men who are using these laws to gain access to women and children in restrooms. These cases are documented --
CORVINO: How are they using these laws? How are they, if a man goes into a restroom to assault somebody, that's against the law. That has nothing to do with prohibiting transgender people, who just want a safe and comfortable place to use the bathroom, from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
WAGGONER: Then they can use the bathroom in a private facility, just as everyone can. These laws are gender neutral in terms of, they're not discriminating on the basis of how one identifies. They're simply saying that you go to a restroom or a private facility and you have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. But I want to get to the real victims--
STEPHANOPOULOS: I wish we could, but I’m afraid we are out of time. We're going to have to come back to this issue. Thank you both very much for your time.
The Washington Post reported that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said he would compel Mexico to pay for his proposed border wall by threatening to block money that Mexican immigrants send to their home country, commonly known as remittances. The Post called the proposal's legality "unclear," while other media outlets, including the digital news division for the largest Spanish-language network, Univision, also cast doubt on the plan's feasibility and ethics.
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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.