Coverage of the economy on weeknight television news shows during the last six months of 2014 continued to focus heavily on policies meant to boost job creation and economic growth, but discussions overwhelmingly lacked input from actual economists. Additionally, a Media Matters analysis uncovered a relative decline in the number of segments promoting the conservative media myths that Obamacare and increasing the minimum wage hurt the labor market.
Media Matters conducted an analysis of education coverage on weeknight cable news programs so far in 2014 to determine how many of the shows' guests who discussed the topic were educators. The analysis found that across MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, educators made up only 9 percent of guests during education segments.
CNN's Crossfire will be hosting David Bossie, the conservative activist whose smears of Hillary Clinton were so dishonest they got him fired from his job as a House Republican aide in the 1990s, to discuss whether Clinton is "ready for the spotlight."
Today, Hillary Clinton released her new biography, Hard Choices. CNN chose Bossie to debate the book and her media tour promoting it from the right on tonight's Crossfire. (Bossie will appear opposite Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden, along with regular co-hosts Newt Gingrich and Stephanie Cutter.)
In 1998, Bossie was forced to resign from his role as top investigator on the House Government and Reform Committee for his alleged role in releasing selectively edited transcripts and video of prison conversations by Clinton confidant Webster Hubbell. The transcripts and video, whose editing was overseen by Bossie, removed exculpatory statements from Hubbell that downplayed alleged wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton at their former law firm.
Bossie's actions drew bipartisan condemnation at the time, with Gingrich, then Speaker of the House, reportedly pressuring Bossie to resign and apologizing to the House Republican Conference for the events. Gingrich told then-House Government and Oversight Committee chair Dan Burton, "I'm embarrassed for you, I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the conference at the circus that went on at your committee."
Before taking a job as a House investigator, Bossie worked for Citizens United, a right-wing group that was devoted to pushing smears about Whitewater and other Clinton pseudoscandals. During the 1992 presidential campaign Bossie worked for another right-wing group that was condemned by then-President George H.W. Bush for "filthy tactics." Bush filed an FEC complaint against their group to distance his campaign from their attacks on the Clintons. His son, George W. Bush, urged the campaign's supporters not to donate to the group.
After leaving Congress Bossie returned to Citizens United, where he has been president since 2001.
Bossie previously appeared on the March 7 and May 20 editions of Crossfire.
From the May 28 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
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From the May 12 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
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A Media Matters analysis of major cable news coverage of the National Climate Assessment (NCA) revealed that CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News devoted more than three hours of total coverage to the report on its release date, May 6, and the day after. Some reporting, however, gave false balance a national platform, and cable news outlets were more likely to interview politicians than scientists about the threat of global warming.
From the March 7 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
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Subscribers to CNN host Newt Gingrich's email list are receiving supposed insider information about cancer "cures," the Illuminati, "Obama's 'Secret Mistress,'" a "weird" Social Security "trick," and Fort Knox being "empty."
Gingrich Productions, the company run by the Crossfire co-host, has been sending sponsored emails from shady sources filled with dubious claims. CNN has been helping Gingrich build his list by not only employing him, but also by promoting Gingrich Productions and its website.
While Gingrich's team has previously claimed that they work hard to "vet" the organizations they rent the email list to, they have repeatedly violated their own apparently low standards.
For example, Gingrich Productions has sent at least 15 sponsored emails for Stansberry & Associates since June 2013. Stansberry is a disgraced financial firm that was fined $1.5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for engaging in "deliberate fraud" and profiting from "false statements." The firm sells financial products by pushing conspiracies about the Obama administration. Founder Porter Stansberry recently said it's "fucking bullshit" that people get upset at him for using slurs like "nigger" and "fag" when he's "not the least bit bigoted."
Gingrich's team previously claimed to distance the former speaker from Stansberry after questions surfaced about a sponsored email suggesting Obama would win a third term. ABC News reported in November 2012 that "according to Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, Stansberry & Associates should have been on the blacklist. 'We do not rent to the entity in question,' Hammond said, speaking by phone Thursday. 'In fact, we go to lengths to vet where we rent.'"
Gingrich is part of a movement where, as MSNBC's Chris Hayes noted, "much of conservatism is a con and the base are the marks." Fox News contributor Scott Brown was recently forced to distance himself from Newsmax after he sent a sponsored email for the group touting the findings of quack Dr. Russell Blaylock. The New Republic's Ben Adler wrote in a piece about Gingrich and fellow hucksters Herman Cain and Mike Huckabee that they "are pioneering a new, more direct method for post-campaign buckraking. All it requires is some digitally savvy accomplices--and a total immunity to shame."
Gingrich's list is primarily managed by TMA Direct. A data card on TMA's site indicates that the list contains over 400,000 emails and costs $8,000 per order. The company is headed by Mike Murray, who is also the founder and president of Gingrich's American Legacy PAC. Perhaps it's no surprise then that American Legacy has advertised on Gingrich Productions' list, and disbursed thousands of dollars to TMA.
Gingrich offers a testimonial for TMA on its website, stating: "Mike Murray and the TMA Direct team are irreplaceable strategic partners in our online and offline marketing. They bring insight and expertise that enables us to expand our communication reach and meet our business goals."
Each year, Republican Senator Tom Coburn releases a "Wastebook" reviewing government projects that he views as wasteful, and each year, the media eagerly promote his report. Yet television news ignored a report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that U.S. taxpayers are being stiffed by coal companies buying federal land for less than its worth, which a previous report estimated has cost taxpayers nearly $30 billion over the last 30 years.
On Tuesday, the GAO found that the Bureau of Land Management was not adequately documenting reasons for accepting bids below the determined market value. Furthermore, as many states are not considering exports in their market value analyses, they may be underestimating the value in the first place. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), who requested the study, stated that "Given the lack of market competition in coal leases" -- the GAO found the vast majority did not have a single competitor, as seen in the chart below -- "if the fair market value set by Interior is low, it can lead to significant losses for taxpayers. For instance, for every cent per ton that coal companies decrease their bids for the largest coal leases, it could mean the loss of nearly $7 million for the American people."
Based on the report, Sen. Markey's office estimated that recent leases could have yielded an additional $200 million in revenue and "possibly hundreds of millions more." A previous report from the Institute for Energy Economics estimated that selling federally-owned coal for less than fair market value has cost taxpayers $28.9 billion in lost revenue over the last 30 years. That finding adds to the economic damages that coal pollution and disasters exact on the economy. A 2011 study, for instance, found that air pollution from coal-fired power plants imposes more costs on society than the value added to the economy by the industry -- and that study did not include climate change damages. Recently, the spill of a chemical used to clean coal in West Virginia cost the local economy $61 million, according to a preliminary study that did not include the cost of clean-up or emergency expenditures.
Yet none of the major television networks covered the GAO report confirming that coal companies are underpaying the federal government*.
The "Wastebook" received considerably more attention when it was released in December 2013, drawing uncritical coverage from all the major television networks except MSNBC (ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News uncritically touted the report at least once, and NBC hosted Sen. Coburn where he raised the report without pushback). LiveScience reported that nearly a quarter of the projects Sen. Coburn's office listed in 2013 were science-related and that the "Wastebook" often distorts the studies. Last year, for instance, Fox News promoted the Wastebook's attack on a "government study" on Tea Party intelligence that was actually a non-government funded blog post. CNN's S.E. Cupp and others also attacked a study of duck penises included in the "Wastebook," contributing to the pattern of basic research being cut in the face of what MSNBC's Chris Hayes called "ignorant mockery."
From the January 22 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
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CNN lived up to its reputation of providing false balance on climate science once again on the latest edition of Crossfire.
On January 6, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and presidential candidate and current co-host of Crossfire, opened the segment by introducing guests "on opposite sides of the global warming debate." He claimed to present some "inconvenient facts" to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on manmade global warming, stating that "temperatures have flat lined for the past 16 years," (which is not true) and asking "Is it cold enough for you?" By contrast, Van Jones began by saying, "we should not be debating whether global warming is real, whether it's caused by humans," because scientific certainty on the matter is at the "same level of agreement that you got that HIV causes AIDS."
Recent cold weather nationwide apparently spurred the debate; earlier in the day, Crossfire's Twitter account tweeted, "TONIGHT's #Crossfire:historic lows bring out the climate change skeptics." They are right about the skeptics -- cold winter weather has prompted the right wing media to resume their tradition of "snow-trolling" in force, with some even suggesting that the planet has entered a period of global cooling.
But cold winter weather is not expected to go away with climate change and does not negate the long-term trend of global warming. And it is misleading to look at the United States' weather alone when talking about global warming -- for example, this past December tied for being the second-hottest December on record since 1979 globally, even while it was unusually cold in the United States. Additionally, the polar vortex responsible for dangerous Arctic-style weather across the Midwest could be connected to global warming.
As for Crossfire's "debate," the segment only demonstrated CNN's tendency to provide false balance on climate change. The show featured League of Conservation Voter's Navin Nayak and the Heritage Foundation's David Kreutzer. Kreutzer, an economist who has no scientific degree and who previously believed that global cooling defined this century's first decade, claimed that "what you call deniers agree" that "the world is getting warmer" and "some of that warming is due to man, maybe a significant amount." But that didn't stop him from debasing the scientific consensus throughout the "debate" -- calling the 97 percent consensus a "bogus term."
CNN's Jake Tapper issued a correction for a segment that misleadingly took comments by Vice President Joe Biden out of context. Tapper's decision to correct the record is commendable, but has yet to be imitated by Newt Gingrich, who first brought the bogus story to the network.
On December 3, Biden visited the Toyko headquarters of the Japanese company DeNA. According to the Wall Street Journal, that firm "is known for encouraging its female employees to continue working through motherhood," and Biden was there to "meet with its female employees to chat about achieving a work-life balance in a country where 60% of women don't return to work after giving birth." As part of that dialogue, Biden asked a group of five young female employees, "Do your husbands like you working full time?" Illustrating the vulnerability of journalists working in the current media environment, numerous media outlets ripped Biden's comments from their context and presented them as a sexist gaffe.
That dishonest framing reached CNN the same day, when Crossfire's Gingrich tried to use them to diffuse criticism of the GOP's toxic rhetoric on women. He commented: "Democrats like to complain about a Republican war on women. That was before Vice President Joe Biden started his current tour of Japan. Today, while touring a Japanese game company, he walked up to a group of women and asked them, 'Do your husbands like you working full-time?'" Gingrich used Biden's comments to ask, "How do you explain Biden's inability to stay in touch with reality?"
The next day on his CNN program, Tapper played the same clip to illustrate the media's propensity to highlight the Vice President's gaffes and asked if Republicans are right to say there is a double standard about sexist comments.
Tapper issued a full correction on the December 6 edition of his show, apologizing for doing the vice president and the viewer "the exact same ill service" of focusing on Biden's gaffes without "providing the proper context":
Last month, Newt Gingrich's media production company was paid $9,500 by the Republican National Committee, a fact he has not divulged on Crossfire, the CNN program he co-hosts. It's the latest ethics headache brought to the network by their new host.
The RNC made the payment to Gingrich Productions on September 25 for "media services," as National Review's Jonathan Strong first reported. Gingrich Productions is a multimedia production company founded by the former Speaker of the House that features his work and that of his wife Callista, who has served as the company's president since Newt transferred control of the company to her in 2011 in preparation for his presidential run.
According to financial disclosure forms that Gingrich filed during that campaign, Gingrich Productions paid him $2.4 million in 2010. It's unclear whether such payments have restarted following the conclusion of his run, but an April 2013 Time.com article reported that Gingrich's future plans were "centered around" the company.
Gingrich Productions' website highlights Gingrich's role as host of CNN's Crossfire, "where he continues to advocate bold policy ideas." As a Fox News contributor, Gingrich regularly appeared on air to promote the work of the for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations he headed, including Gingrich Productions.
A Media Matters review of CNN transcripts found no indication that Gingrich had disclosed the RNC payment on-air. A CNN spokesman declined to comment.
From the October 17 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
From the September 29 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources: