Research ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH
Media figures criticized Fox News host Megyn Kelly for her “fluff” interview with Donald Trump during her Fox Broadcasting special, Megyn Kelly Presents.
Media figures criticized Fox News host Megyn Kelly for her “fluff” interview with Donald Trump during her Fox Broadcasting special, Megyn Kelly Presents.
Media are decrying Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts’ obstruction of Eric Fanning’s nomination to be Army Secretary as “unreasonable intransigence” and “part of larger inaction” by Congress to undermine President Obama’s federal nominations.
Following Donald Trump’s decisive win in the Indiana Republican primary, media outlets across the country have been quick to proclaim that Trump’s presumptive presidential nomination spells doom for the Grand Old Party.
A New York Times analysis found “historic increases” in those covered by the Affordable Care Act, destroying right-wing media predictions about health care reform including that it would “topple the stock market” and enslave Americans. The Times analysis is just one of many pieces of research that have highlighted the successes of the Affordable Care Act.
Right-wing media figures have been laying the foundation to allege a "scandal" and "cover-up" if the FBI's investigation into Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's email server does not result in Clinton's indictment, thus setting her up for a lose-lose situation. Yet multiple law experts have explained that an indictment is highly unlikely.
LA Times: Unseen Footage Proves CMP's Work Was "Geared More Toward Political Provocation Than Journalism"
On March 30, the Los Angeles Times published an investigative report calling out the fraudulent work by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) -- Media Matters' 2015 Misinformer of the Year -- as a smear campaign "geared more toward political provocation than journalism." Despite right-wing media's claim that CMP's work should be considered journalism, the Times' review of "unpublicized [smear video] footage and court records" reaffirms statements and findings by journalists, a judge, and a jury that CMP's dishonest attacks on Planned Parenthood "can be called many things, but 'journalism' probably isn't one of them."
Right-wing media have long been carrying water for CMP's appeals to First Amendment protections. When CMP founder David Daleiden was indicted by a Houston, Texas, grand jury -- an investigation that also cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing -- right-wing media figures immediately objected, calling the indictment a "political hit job," "madness," and echoing CMP's claim that Daleiden was merely using "the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights."
But new investigative work from the Los Angeles Times confirms federal Judge William H. Orrick's prior ruling that CMP's efforts "have not been pieces of journalistic integrity, but misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions ... of criminal misconduct."
According to the Times, previously unseen footage from CMP's deceptively edited videos -- filed in a civil court case -- reveals that Daleiden and his associates coerced and falsified evidence in their ideologically motivated campaign against Planned Parenthood. The Times pointed to two examples from the unreleased footage: a clip of Daleiden coaching CMP's star witness -- a former for-profit tissue research lab technician named Holly O'Donnell -- through the "testimony" she gave in three of the videos CMP released, and a second clip demonstrating CMP's efforts to "loosen the tongues of abortion providers with alcohol" so they could coerce and "plant phrases" directly into otherwise benign conversations.
Holly O'Donnell is featured in three of the deceptively edited videos CMP has released. In these videos, CMP uses O'Donnell's testimony to wrongly argue that Planned Parenthood supports a "black market in baby parts" and uses its "illicit pricing structure" to profit from fetal tissue donations. Although O'Donnell's testimony has already been discredited for being highly edited and taken out of context, the Times' new footage further undermines the authenticity of her account. According to the paper, the unreleased footage shows that "O'Donnell's apparently spontaneous reflections were carefully rehearsed" and that off-camera, Daleiden can be heard "coaching O'Donnell through repeated takes ... add details, speak 'fluidly' and be 'very natural'":
Unreleased footage shows that over the source of successive takes, Daleiden asked O'Donnell to repeat anecdotes or add details such as the gender of an aborted fetus and whether she "said goodbye" to a dissected fetal cadaver before placing it in a bio-hazard container.
"So you want to make it really dramatic?" she asked.
At one point, she laughed and said to Daleiden: "You're all like, 'Say it like this! Let me possess your body and I'll say it for you.'"
Daleiden protested that he was not coaching her, but as he asked O'Donnell to recount her experiences, her telling grew more dramatic and emotional.
In an early take, she says into the camera: "I got into the medical field because I wanted to help people, not steal fetal tissues."
On the third try, she says: "I got into the medical field to help people, not to steal dead baby parts and sell them."
The Times also pointed to CMP's targeting of particular providers who Daleiden and his associates "thought might be susceptible to alcohol." Citing court documents, the Times explained that in unreleased footage Daleiden can be seen instructing an associate -- believed to be a woman named Sandra Merritt -- to corner a specific provider "now that she's been drinking." In another section, Daleiden suggests that they talk to a provider who had "consumed 'a little wine'" and said that he believed she was "the one for our purposes." In another piece of unreleased footage, Daleiden and Merritt can be heard gloating, laughing about having perfected their act and saying they are "so good" that they could "go knock on the door of the Sacramento Planned Parenthood tomorrow morning" and be welcomed in.
After comparing this unreleased raw footage to the deceptively edited CPM videos, the Los Angeles Times concluded "that Daleiden edited out material that conflicted with his premise that Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinics profit from the sale of fetal tissue for research purposes."
There are real consequences to allowing CMP to masquerade as a journalistic entity with any credibility. Since the organization first started releasing deceptively edited videos in its effort to smear Planned Parenthood, right-wing media and anti-choice legislators have repeated CMP's misinformation about Planned Parenthood in an ongoing attempt to attack and defund the organization.
There are many places in the country where, whether because of the geographic isolation of rural communities or a patient's lack of income, Planned Parenthood is the only accessible health care provider for women. In states like Texas and Indiana, where Planned Parenthood has been forced to close clinics or refuse services due to state-level defunding efforts, low-income and rural communities have already experienced a loss of access to vital cancer screenings, HIV outbreaks, and increased rates of pregnancy and self-induced abortion. In Indiana's case, the Planned Parenthood clinic did not even perform abortions -- and the organization was the only provider to offer HIV testing to both men and women in the part of the state that was the center of the outbreak.
Following CMP's lead, Republicans in Congress have been giving Planned Parenthood the "Benghazi treatment" -- establishing the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives to investigate the baseless claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. Despite the increasing number of state investigations that have cleared Planned Parenthood, the select panel has already conducted one hearing -- relying on deceptive "evidence" taken straight from CMP's website.
Even more concerning, the select panel has issued wide-ranging subpoenas targeting not only abortion providers but also "researchers, graduate students, laboratory technicians, and administrative staff who are in any way involved in fetal tissue research." Democrats and reproductive rights advocates are warning that by collecting these names "Congress could be putting lives in danger."
There is a long history of anti-choice violence against abortion providers, and since CMP's deceptively edited videos came out, there has been a marked uptick in threats, violence, and hateful rhetoric. As just one example, in November 2015 there was a deadly shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood; after his arrest, the accused shooter in this attack, Robert Lewis Dear, used the phrase "no more baby parts" to explain his actions before later calling himself a "warrior for the babies."
In a press statement released after the latest round of subpoenas, NARAL called the select panel a "dangerous" and "partisan, taxpayer-funded witch hunt." The organization concluded that "no one should have to fear when seeking health care or conducting vital research, but that's the position the GOP members of this committee have put these individuals in."
On March 28, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) announced a legislative compromise to raise the California minimum wage gradually from $10 per hour in 2016 to $15 per hour by 2022. Right-wing media have attacked the historic wage increase, claiming it will kill jobs and that it "goes against every law of capitalism." Meanwhile, mainstream media have promoted misinformation about the minimum wage peddled by restaurant industry front groups.
Fox's Andrew Napolitano and Andrea Tantaros and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough cited a March 27 report from the Los Angeles Times to push the possibility that Hillary Clinton used a private email server unlawfully, claiming she "might be a criminal defendant in a felony prosecution." But the Times article quotes legal experts who say there is "no reason to think Clinton committed any crimes with respect to the use of her email server," and the piece says the chances of a finding of criminal liability are "low."
On March 23, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidated case brought by religious nonprofits challenging a process for opting out of the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The editorial boards of three major newspapers called the right-wing objection in the case "absurd" and pointed out that the government has gone "a long way to accommodate religious objections" already.
As details emerge about the tragic terrorist attacks in Brussels, media should take great care to accurately report on the attacks without making sweeping generalizations about the Belgian Muslim community. Media in the past have blamed European Muslim communities as a whole for terrorist attacks and parroted debunked myths about purported "no-go zones" that are supposedly off limits to non-Muslims.
On March 22, a series of explosions rocked Brussels' main international airport and part of its subway system, killing dozens of people and wounding hundreds more. Reuters reported that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attacks. Media commented that "Tuesday's explosions at Brussels airport and on the subway network will turn the spotlight on the Belgian capital's Molenbeek suburb," where one of the November Paris terrorist attackers, Salah Abdelsalam, was captured just days before.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, media noted that terrorist organizations, including ISIS and Sharia4Belgium, have "shifted [their] focus in recent years from promoting Islamic law in Belgium to recruiting for the war in Syria." Terrorist organizations have exploited Belgium's large Muslim population to draw "more jihadists to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq per capita" than have come from "any other Western European nation," according to CNN.
But to cast Brussels as a fraught city mired in inescapable terrorism not only is a mischaracterization, but also it inevitably leads to guilt by association for the entire Muslim community in the area.
Commentators should avoid conflating and blaming Molenbeek's Muslim community for the terrorist attack and its previous associations with terrorism. Media have previously reported that Molenbeek "is not a place that seems especially threatening," a key distinction after "the so-called Belgian connection in the Paris attacks ... revived the district's reputation as the 'jihadi capital of Europe.'" Los Angeles Times reporter Patrick J. McDonnell noted that the residents of Molenbeek "decry" the "jihadi capital" "characterization ... as more media hype than reality." The Atlantic similarly noted that Molenbeek "has a strong middle class, bustling commercial districts, and a gentrifying artist class," and that "journalists seem to [have] little trouble reporting" from the neighborhood, which looks "in many ways like a typical, somewhat run-down district."
Bilal Benyaich, an author of two books on radicalism, extremism, and terrorism, told Al Jazeera it is a mistake to conflate the reality of Brussels as the "European capital of political Islam" with the "exaggerated" claims that it is the "capital of jihad." Similarly, The Guardian notes, "the concentration of violent militants in Molenbeek ... may not be about places, but people," underscoring how although ISIS and other terrorist organizations have attempted to exploit Brussels' Muslim population, terrorism and violence are not inherent to the community.
Often when focus turns toward European-based terrorist attacks, media revive the debunked myth of so-called Muslim "no-go zones," or supposedly Muslim-only enclaves where media allege that outside police forces are prevented from entering and Sharia flourishes. As has been documented, no such "no-go zones" exist. Instead, as Richard Engel explained on MSNBC's Morning Joe, these areas are fraught with socioeconomic distress, and residents there "will tell you that it's about racism, that they're blocked from jobs, that they're blocked from government employment, that they don't get the same kind of social services."
Purveyors of misinformation in the past have spun these socioeconomic problems to allege that state governments "no longer [have] full control over [their] territory" and thus that these neighborhoods are off-limits to law enforcement, as U.S. historian Daniel Pipes mistakenly asserted in 2006.
In 2015, frequent Fox guest Steve Emerson -- part of the network's stable of extremists who lead its conversation about Islam -- seized on the "no-go zone" myth and provoked international outrage with the false claim that the city of Birmingham, England, is "totally Muslim" and a place "where non-Muslims just simply don't go." As the Emerson controversy raged on, another Fox News guest argued that governments should "put razor wire around" the mythical "no-go zones" and catalog the residents. Days later, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro apologized for Emerson's "incorrect" comments, telling viewers, "We deeply regret these errors and apologize to the people of Birmingham, our viewers and all who have been offended."
Already, media are beginning to inch toward the false assertion that "no-go zones" are both the cause and consequence of extremism and the Brussels terrorist attacks. The conditions of this tragedy seem to be similar to previous incidents, where pundits blamed a specific Muslim community or Muslim-majority city for the attacks.
Accordingly, media should take great care to undertake responsible, sensitive, and factually accurate reporting that avoids smearing Brussels' Muslim community and steers clear of the "no-go zone" myth.
This post has been updated for clarity.
Newspaper editorials roundly urged Senate Republicans to stop obstructing the nomination process of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court vacancy. The editorials chastised "obstructionist" senators for their "stupendous show of political malfeasance" and warned that the obstruction is "out of sync with the nation's best interests," among other criticisms.
As President Obama reportedly prepares to announce Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, media should be prepared to hear from several right-wing groups dedicated to opposing the nominee, no matter who it is. These advocacy groups and right-wing media outlets have a history of pushing misleading information and alarmist rhetoric to launch smear campaigns against Obama's highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, using tactics including, but not limited to, spreading offensive rumors about a nominee's personal life, deploying bogus legal arguments or conspiracy theories, and launching wild distortions of every aspect of a nominee's legal career.
ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox collectively spent five percent less time covering climate change in 2015, even though there were more newsworthy climate-related events than ever before, including the EPA finalizing the Clean Power Plan, Pope Francis issuing a climate change encyclical, President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, and 195 countries around the world reaching a historic climate agreement in Paris. The decline was primarily driven by ABC, whose climate coverage dropped by 59 percent; the only network to dramatically increase its climate coverage was Fox, but that increase largely consisted of criticism of efforts to address climate change. When the networks did discuss climate change, they rarely addressed its impacts on national security, the economy, or public health, yet most still found time to provide a forum for climate science denial. On a more positive note, CBS and NBC -- and PBS, which was assessed separately -- aired many segments that explored the state of scientific research or detailed how climate change is affecting extreme weather, plants, and wildlife.
On March 2, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a case that will determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law (HB 2) that severely limits women's access to abortion and medical care and disproportionately harms Latinas. Media Matters analyzed Spanish-language TV news coverage of the case and found virtually no mention of how the Supreme Court's decision could affect Latinas.
On March 2, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a controversial case that will determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law (HB 2) that severely limits women's access to abortion and medical care. In covering the case, some media outlets have relied on right-wing media talking points about the purported medical necessity of restricting women's access to abortion, as well as the false claim that HB 2 would prevent another "Kermit Gosnell scandal," in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths at a Philadelphia clinic. Here are the facts.