Watch Ted Cruz Repeatedly Duck Chuck Todd's Questions About Whether He'd Support Trump As The Nominee
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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.
Meet the Press host Chuck Todd and panelists on his NBC show cited Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s claim that he opposes anti-LGBT “bathroom bills” as evidence that Trump is moderating his views as he looks toward the general election. But at no point was it mentioned that Trump backpedaled later, saying that states should decide whether to enact “bathroom bills” that discriminate against their LGBT residents.
“Bathroom bills” -- legislation that often aims to ban transgender people from public restrooms that do not correspond with the gender on their birth certificate -- are increasingly in the news as 44 bills in 16 different states targeting transgender people have been introduced as of February 2016. An anti-LGBT “bathroom bill” in North Carolina, HB 2, has come under particular scrutiny.
Trump commented on North Carolina’s law during an April 21 appearance on NBC’s Today, apparently opposing the law by stating, “there have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble. … . Leave it the way it is.” But he reversed himself during an appearance on Fox News’ Hannity later that day, stating, “I think that local communities and states should make the decision.” In Trump’s new view, states would be within their rights to pass discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation.
Media coverage which cites Trump’s first position on “bathroom bills” while omitting his later comment comes as Trump tries to convince the media that he will be more “presidential” throughout the rest of his presidential campaign.
NBC's Meet the Press seemed to fall for Trump’s ploy, with Todd referencing Trump’s first answer to NBC to ask, “Is Trump pivoting to a general election?”
During a panel discussion of Trump’s comment to NBC, Republican strategist and NBC News political analyst Nicole Wallace said, “Trump’s answer made so much sense, and I think what is also on the line in this cycle is the power and the saliency of social issues, and I think if Trump wins it delivers a massive blow to the idea that you have to be up and down on social issues to be the Republican nominee.”
Robert Costa, a reporter for The Washington Post, added, “Trump’s answer tells us a lot about how he would be in a general election, this is someone who has not climbed the ladder, forming relationships with social conservatives along the way.”
Costa went on to claim of Trump, “he has relationships with all kinds of people, he’s not just someone who surrounds himself with Republicans and conservatives, and that actually strangely worries Democrats, that he would be appealing to moderates.”
Wallace ended the segment by saying, “Trump’s answer got him a lot of credit with a lot of people,” with Todd agreeing, “It did.”
During the segment an on-screen graphic read, “Trump Campaign: More Accepting On ‘Bathroom Laws’.”
At no point was there mention that Trump had amended his stance to favor allowing states to pass discriminatory anti-LGBT laws or that Trump has for months said that as president he would sign into law the First Amendment Defense Act, a piece of Republican-sponsored legislation that would nullify existing federal LGBT protections and allow anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.
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.
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In case you missed it over the weekend, something remarkable happened on Meet The Press during a round table discussion about the state of the 2016 campaign: Moderator Chuck Todd hosted an all-female panel, featuring NBC correspondents Hallie Jackson, Katy Tur, Kristen Welker and Andrea Mitchell.
The good news is that Meet the Press deserves credit for bucking a long Sunday morning trend in which male guests dominate the discussions and set the Beltway policy agenda. The bad news is that it's still considered a newsworthy event when Meet the Press, or any of the Sunday shows, features an all-female discussion, especially when the topic isn't considered to be a gender-based one, such as contraception and choice.
Does the recent Meet the Press episode suggest the Sunday shows are finally going to get serious about trying to address their stubborn lack of diversity? Let's hope so. Media Matters has been documenting the trend for years and our latest study, for 2015, confirmed the unfortunate imbalances: The Sunday shows, those elite bastions of public policy debate, remain wed to conservative, traditional bookings, where conservative white men still dominate. (Yes, even with a Democrat in the White House, Republicans pile up more appearances.)
"In 2015, the guests on the five Sunday morning political talk shows were once again overwhelmingly white, conservative, and male in every category measured," Media Matters reported. Last year, while the campaign season featuring Hillary Clinton was in full bloom, 27 percent of the guests on the Sunday shows were women.
But here's the truly strange part about the overall lack of diversity today: It comes at time when the political press has reported, analyzed, and even lectured the Republican Party about how it needs to embrace diversity in order to thrive in a changing America. (And if not embrace, then to at least not purposefully offend and drive away non-white voters.)
"Republicans Can't Win With White Voters Alone," wrote Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic years ago. The Washington Post confirmed the point this election cycle, writing, "Winning more and more of the white vote will become an increasingly futile endeavor for Republicans if they can't find a way to win more of the Hispanic and/or black vote."
As lots of analysts have pointed out, white voters aren't driving the 2016 election. In fact, it's very likely that if Clinton wins the presidency, she will have done so without winning a majority of white voters. In fact, thanks to America's shifting demographics, she doesn't even have to come close to winning the white vote.
Just ask Mitt Romney. He won the white vote by 20 points in 2012 and lost to Barack Obama badly on Election Day. And obviously, if Clinton does especially well among women, she won't need a majority of male voters to win in November.
But turn on the Sunday shows, and white men are dominating the conversation. And white conservative men in particular seem to be in charge. White Republicans were the largest group of elected and administration guests on the Sunday shows, according to Media Matters' data. And on four of the five shows, conservative men made up the largest group of journalists invited as guests.
Question: Why do the Sunday shows reflect a center-right white country that doesn't actually exist? (Note that the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as "liberal" has surged in recent years.)
Like the Republican Party, the Beltway press corps -- and specifically the very elite members who appear on the Sunday morning talk shows -- often refuses to embrace the increasingly diverse United States, despite the possibility that Democrats may shatter another diversity milestone by nominating the first women to become president.
In many ways, diversity is defining the 2016 campaign season. But the Sunday shows, whose editorial focus has remained transfixed on the 2016 campaign since last summer, appear to be detached from the rapidly changing political landscape. Rather than mirror the transformation, the Sunday shows too often remain entrenched, manning the ramparts against change.
Some other diversity lowlights of 2015, as documented by Media Matters:
* Men represented between two-thirds and three-quarters of all Sunday show guests.
* Men made up more than four-fifths of all elected and administration guests.
* Whites comprised three-quarters or more of all elected and administration guests on all shows.
* Whites made up two-thirds or more of all journalist guests on the Sunday shows.
* Whites comprised more than three-quarters of all guests.
* There were twice as many conservative men guests as compared to progressive men.
This problem is hardly a new one. Four years ago, in February 2012, I noted:
This past Sunday, for instance, NBC's Meet the Press, CBS's Face The Nation, ABC's This Week, Fox News Sunday and CNN's State of The Union hosted 16 interview subjects, 14 of which were with men. That imbalance has been consistent throughout the month. A total of 56 guests were booked on the Sunday programs to discuss national affairs in February. Of those, 52 were men.
Especially galling was the discussion Sunday shows held in February 2012, when controversy erupted regarding the administration's plan to require religious institutions to offer contraception as part of their health care plan for employees. The Sunday programs discussed that story with 24 of their newsmaker guests, but only two of them were women -- Republican women.
Yes, but Sunday show producers are limited in terms of their booking choices, and if Beltway politics is driven by men, then producers have to invite lots and lots of men on the shows, right?
Wrong, because the numbers, as reported by Talking Points Memo, tell a much different story about the makeup of Beltway politics and especially the Democratic Party (emphasis added):
By House Democratic leadership's count, there are 78 white men who are Democrats, out of 188 Democratic members in the chamber. This means that white men do not make up a majority of the House Democratic caucus.
So how is it that political press stalwarts, such as the Sunday shows, remain stubbornly white, male and conservative while the rest of the country, and the rest of our politics, moves in the opposite direction?
Journalists and foreign policy experts criticized the "unintelligble" foreign policy positions Donald Trump described during interviews with The New York Times and The Washington Post, and called the GOP presidential front-runner's "ignorance" "breathtaking," saying he has "no understanding of the post-war international order that was created by the United States."
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The Associated Press highlighted the backlash to Donald Trump's "fondness" for phone interviews, writing that the practice "is changing habits and causing consternation in newsrooms, while challenging political traditions."
Media critics have called out news channels' new habit of granting phone interviews to Trump -- an advantage AP explains has not been granted by Sunday political talk shows to any other candidate -- arguing that the format "lacks the balance of a face-to-face exchange because the audience and the interviewer are not allowed to see Trump's expressions and reactions" and "is also more difficult to follow-up and put the subject on the spot to answer questions more directly." Bloomberg View columnist Al Hunt also pointed out that "a phone interview is a lot easier than an in-person interview, and Trump almost always does well in those situations." As AP reported, Media Matters and MomsRising have launched petitions to ask the media to end Trump's phone privilege.
In a March 26 article, AP examined Trump's phone interview privileges with the media and the growing backlash to them, writing that the practice "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." AP also noted that Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace and Meet the Press' Chuck Todd are refusing to grant Trump phone interviews:
In television news, a telephone interview is typically frowned upon. Donald Trump's fondness for them is changing habits and causing consternation in newsrooms, while challenging political traditions.
Two organizations are circulating petitions to encourage Sunday morning political shows to hang up on Trump. Some prominent holdouts, like Fox's Chris Wallace, refuse to do on-air phoners. Others argue that a phone interview is better than no interview at all.
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.
Trump tends to take over phone interviews and can get his message out with little challenge, Wallace said.
"The Sunday show, in the broadcast landscape, I feel is a gold standard for probing interviews," said Wallace, host of "Fox News Sunday." ''The idea that you would do a phone interview, not face-to-face or not by satellite, with a presidential candidate -- I'd never seen it before, and I was quite frankly shocked that my competitors were doing it."
Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," has done phoners with Trump but now said he's decided to stick to in-person interviews on his Sunday show. He's no absolutist, though.
"It's a much better viewer experience when it's in person," Todd said. "Satellite and phoners are a little harder, there's no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, you'll take something over nothing."
Since the campaign began, Trump has appeared for 29 phone interviews on the five Sunday political panel shows, according to the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America. Through last Sunday, ABC's "This Week" has done it 10 times, CBS' "Face the Nation" seven and six times each on "Meet the Press" and CNN's "State of the Union."
None of these shows has done phoners with Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, said Media Matters, which is urging that the practice be discontinued.
The activist group MomsRising said the disparity "sends the message that some candidates can play by different rules, without consequences, and that's just un-American."
Chuck Todd, host of NBC's Sunday morning political talk show, Meet the Press, told The New York Times he will no longer allow Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to call in to the show in lieu of appearing on camera, taking away a media advantage that has been solely granted to Trump thus far this campaign season.
Trump has dominated the Sunday morning political talk shows since the beginning of 2015, appearing more than any other candidate, (63 times) including 28 interviews by phone -- a privilege the shows have not allowed any of the other four remaining presidential candidates. Media critics, who say the format gives Trump an upper hand, have called out the practice noting that allowing him to interview by phone "is a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump."
According to a March 20 New York Times column, NBC's Chuck Todd told The Times' Jim Rutenberg that he "will no longer allow Mr. Trump to do prescheduled interviews by phone." Rutenberg noted that Fox's Chris Wallace has also refused to allow Trump to phone in. From the article:
Then there are the Sunday morning public affairs programs. For decades they have served as proving grounds where candidates must show up on camera, ideally in person, to handle questions without aides slipping them notes, their facial reactions and body language on full display. It's why the programs were named "Face the Nation" and "Meet the Press" -- not "Call the Nation" or "Phone the Press."
And yet, as the campaign began in earnest, all of the shows went along with Mr. Trump's insistence that he "appear" by phone -- all except one, "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace."
"I just thought even if we took a ratings hit -- and to some degree we did -- it was a line worth holding," Mr. Wallace told me.
On Friday, Chuck Todd, the moderator of "Meet the Press," told me he had only grudgingly allowed Mr. Trump to call in to his show earlier in the campaign, determining that he would rather have Mr. Trump take questions via phone than not at all.
Now, Mr. Todd said, he will no longer allow Mr. Trump to do prescheduled interviews by phone on the NBC program. And CNN told me it would think twice before giving full coverage to a Trump news conference that devolves into an infomercial.
I thought I might be witnessing a midcampaign course correction. But then I tuned in to "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" on ABC and there was Mr. Trump, or, that is, his disembodied voice.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cited what he called the "Biden rule" on several Sunday political talk shows as precedent for not holding hearings or a vote on Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court, which the Sunday show hosts did question. Yet the "rule" McConnell was referencing was, in fact, a call for a "compromise" nominee and was in reference to a hypothetical vacancy by resignation, not a vacancy caused by death.
Update 3/27: This study has been updated to reflect appearances by the candidates on the March 27, 2016, Sunday shows. The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg reported in a March 20 column that Meet The Press host Chuck Todd says he "will no longer allow Mr. Trump to do prescheduled interviews by phone."
Republican front-runner Donald Trump has appeared on the five Sunday morning political talk shows 65 times since the beginning of 2015, more than any other presidential candidate. The five shows have allowed Trump to be interviewed by phone a total of 30 times, but none of the other four remaining presidential candidates have been interviewed by phone a single time.
ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, and CNN's State of the Union have conducted 423 total interviews of the 22 current and former presidential candidates since the start of 2015. The five candidates still in the running -- former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Trump -- account for nearly half, or 209 interviews. Trump was first with 65 interviews, followed by Sanders in second with 58, then Kasich with 43, Cruz with 26, and Clinton with 17.
Outlets have recently come under heavy criticism for allowing Trump to call in for interviews. Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik told Media Matters that the phone format "really shifts control away from the interviewer." NPR media reporter David Folkenflik called the phone interviews "a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump because he is such an unpredictable and explosive figure."
This Week has allowed Trump to call in for his interviews more than another other show -- 11 times total. Face the Nation followed with seven phone interviews, and Meet the Press and State of the Union have each conducted six such interviews with Trump. 23 of Trump's phone interviews were conducted during 2015 -- seven have happened this year.
Standing out from the other shows, Fox News Sunday did not interview Trump by phone. Host Chris Wallace explained why during an interview last August, saying, "The idea you would do a phoner with a presidential candidate where they have all the control and you have none, where you can't see them, they may have talking points in front of them. ... We are not a call-in radio show, we are a Sunday talk show and he is a presidential candidate -- do an interview on camera."
Media Matters has launched a petition asking news networks to end their practice of phone interviews with Trump.
Appearance numbers for all current and former candidates from the start of 2015 through March 27, 2016 (or whenever the candidate ended their campaign) are below:
|Candidate||Party||Still Running?||Total Appearances|
Media Matters searched the Nexis transcript database and iQ media's video archive for interview appearances starting January 1, 2015, on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation with John Dickerson (previously Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer prior to June 7, 2015), NBC's Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, and CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper (previously State of the Union with Candy Crowley prior to June 14, 2015) by the 22 former and current presidential candidates on both the Democratic and Republican sides: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Lincoln Chafee, Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Martin O'Malley, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, and Jim Webb.
When video was unavailable in iQ media, we checked the show's website. We also coded the five candidates still running for their parties' nominations for whether or not their interviews were conducted by phone. We counted interviews that occurred before a candidate officially announced, but we excluded any interviews after candidates end their campaigns.
It is nothing short of stunning that in 2015, a year that featured more newsworthy climate-related events than ever before, the broadcast networks' coverage of climate change declined. The networks have a responsibility to educate the public about the impacts that climate change is having on our security, our economy, and our health.
In response to Media Matters' new analysis of climate change coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox in 2015, members of Congress, climate scientists, environmental advocates, and other experts criticized the networks for providing too little climate change coverage and too much climate science denial.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI): "In a year when nearly 200 countries around the world collectively recognized the threat of climate change and the United States made historic commitments to cut carbon pollution, major networks actually cut their media coverage of climate change. In 2015, the network Sunday shows devoted just 73 minutes to climate change, a ten percent decrease from the year before. What makes these findings even more troubling is the fact that with the little time devoted to climate change, these Sunday shows continued to mislead their audiences by including climate denial as part of the discussion. The facts are clear. Scientists, governments, and major corporations around the world have accepted the facts about climate change and are having real debates on solutions. In this consequential election year, it's time for news broadcasters to do the same."
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY): "As the co-founder of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, I read Media Matters' new study and it's a wake up call to the news networks. The most important long term global and national issue shouldn't be getting short-thrift. People need more information, not less."
Michael Mann, climate scientist at Penn State University: "It is unconscionable that so many purportedly mainstream media outlets continue to misinform the public when it comes to the matter of human-caused climate change. History will not look back kindly upon television news networks that had an opportunity to inform the public about this existential threat, and instead chose to serve as willing mouthpieces for denialist fossil fuel interests."
Kevin Trenberth, climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research: "These results are disturbing. ... It is evident that the networks are gun shy about climate change, most likely because advertisers demand it. It is a very sad state of affairs that the science of climate change and the continuing evidence about it is hidden from listeners. What is done about the problem should be a separate matter entirely from whether we have a problem. Climate change is already with us and is causing mostly adverse effects every day, but the public is not well informed."
Liz Perera, Sierra Club climate policy director: "This past year, we have seen unprecedented progress tackling the unprecedented danger that climate change poses to our families, yet the major networks seem to dedicate more time to covering the Kardashians than this public health crisis. Americans deserve to know the truth about how the climate crisis is affecting the world around us and how clean energy is helping solve the problem. Ignoring that reality only serves the interests of the big polluters and undermines the health and well-being of all American families."
David Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen's climate program: "It is beyond shocking that broadcast network coverage of climate change declined in 2015. If we don't act quickly to mitigate climate change, it will cause devastating harm to our economy, our health, and our security. Last year's high temperatures shattered the previous record, set just one year earlier. At the same time, 2015 was probably the most momentous year in history on climate change, with a landmark Paris deal, the Obama Administration's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, the first-ever federal rules curbing carbon pollution from power plants, the Pope's encyclical, and more. The media should be covering climate change as if it were World War III, and they have plenty of material to work with. It's a travesty of journalism to commit such a small and declining amount of air time to the existential threat we face from runaway greenhouse gas emissions."
Riley Dunlap, environmental sociologist at Oklahoma State University: "I am not surprised that there was more TV coverage of climate change denial in 2015, as historically there is a pattern of the 'denial machine' ramping up its efforts whenever the possibility of meaningful action on climate change seems imminent. This began with the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, and has continued, so I'm not surprised to see more coverage of denialists last year because of the Paris [climate agreement]. The conservative think tanks and front groups behind the denial campaign, and the small number of contrarian scientists aligned with them, have great success in obtaining media exposure in general. And they really go into overdrive when they fear that national legislation or an international treaty could be enacted. The disappointing thing is that mainstream media still give them a forum."