MSNBC is giving Chris Hayes the network's 8 p.m. primetime weekday slot beginning in April. Hayes' current program, Up with Chris Hayes, has provided a beacon of diversity compared to the Sunday morning political talk shows on other major broadcast and cable networks, which overwhelmingly feature white men.
The Sunday morning edition of Up with Chris Hayes, which runs from 8 to 10 a.m., is currently more diverse than any of the Sunday morning talk shows on the other networks, as a Media Matters examination of guests since January 1 demonstrates. Most tellingly, white men make up 41 percent of total guests on Up with Chris Hayes (according to data from the U.S. Census, white men make up roughly 31 percent* of the U.S. population). In contrast, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox's Fox News Sunday, NBC's Meet the Press, CNN's State of the Union, and ABC's This Week host white men 66 percent, 64 percent, 64 percent, 67 percent, and 61 percent of the time, respectively.
Further, Up with Chris Hayes has more than double the proportion of African-American guests -- 21 percent -- as compared to each of the other programs. In all, 34 percent of guests on Up with Chris Hayes are non-white. Hayes also hosts more women -- 37 percent -- than any of the other networks' shows.
*This report originally stated that white men represented 39 percent of the U.S. general population. The correct figure is 31 percent. Media Matters regrets the error.
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) bills itself as an event convened to "crystallize the best of the conservative thought in America" that will showcase "all of the leading conservative organizations and speakers." Media covering CPAC 2013 should know that the conference's speakers, from the most prominent to the lesser-known, have a history of launching smears, pushing conspiracy theories, and hyping myths about the validity of President Obama's birth certificate.
A top executive at a Colorado newspaper has sparked controversy after he sent an email to a state senator opposing legislative efforts to strengthen gun laws that the legislator took as a threat of retaliation by the paper.
Ray Stafford, general manager of the Pueblo Chieftain, sent a March 3 email to State Sen. Angela Giron (D) in which he highlighted his position with the paper and said he opposed legislation to strengthen the state's gun laws. Giron had been undecided on the legislative package under discussion, but ultimately voted for the five bills which passed the state Senate on March 11.
The email from Stafford, sent on his official Chieftain email account, stated: "I am the General Manager and responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom ... I have never written a legislator, but I want you to know I oppose all the bills currently being considered involving guns, ammunition, magazines and ownership transfers because I think they're poorly written and a knee-jerk reaction to recent deaths. I also believe such legislation is a challenge to our Second Amendment."
Stafford denies that his email was intended to intimidate Giron. But Jane Rawlings, assistant publisher of the Chieftain, criticized Stafford for failing to clearly indicate his complaints were his own opinion in the email in which he emphasized his role at the paper.
"A person who works for us should identify this as their personal opinion and he did not state those words in his email, 'this is my personal opinion' and he probably should have," Rawlings told Media Matters.
Giron told KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs, "You don't use work e-mails to send personal stuff out and you certainly don't send and he's literally typed in his name, general manager of The Chieftain and a gun owner. I didn't even know his name so if he didn't send it from The Chieftain, if he didn't say he was the general manager, if he didn't say he was in charge of the newsroom, it probably wouldn't have even been noted."
Stafford's email also did not sit well with Colorado Senate President John Morse, who raised concerns during an appearance on Friday with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, stating, "He threatened her with how he's going to cover her and then followed through, really, she was on the paper and the front page for practically a week straight."
The dispute comes during a highly charged gun debate in Colorado and elsewhere across the country, during which state legislators who support stronger firearms laws have been subjected to intimidation and threats.
On the same day that Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) high profile filibuster of John Brennan's nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency received widespread media attention, another filibuster that blocked confirmation for one of President Obama's nominees went completely unnoticed by the broadcast networks and cable news channels.
Paul's filibuster, which delved into serious questions about drone policy and national security, touched off a robust debate in the media. Paul's talking filibuster garnered extensive media attention the same day. According to a Nexis search, Paul was featured in at least 20 news segments Wednesday: 9 on CNN, 6 on Fox News, 4 on MSNBC, and 1 on NBC.
By contrast, not a single broadcast network or cable news channel reported on the silent filibuster of Caitlin Halligan's nomination to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
President Obama first nominated Halligan to the DC appellate court in September 2010. Senate Republicans blocked her nomination via filibuster in December 2011. Obama renominated Halligan on January 3, but Republicans again blocked her nomination on Wednesday when 40 Senate Republicans rejected a motion that would allow her confirmation to proceed to an up-or-down vote.
As The Washington Post noted, this GOP obstruction came in the face of widespread support for Halligan in the legal community:
Against the distorted view of Ms. Halligan's record that Republicans have offered stand the endorsements of prominent legal minds both liberal and conservative, a unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association and a storied career in public service and private practice.
While Paul's rare example of a talking filibuster attracted widespread media coverage, silent filibusters have become increasingly common tools to block Obama's nominees.
A November 2012 report from the Alliance for Justice illustrated how Senators' use of the filibuster on judicial nominations has increased drastically during the Obama administration:
The strategy comes amid what the Center for American Progress has described as a judicial vacancy crisis in the federal courts system.
The contrast between the media's extensive coverage of Paul's filibuster and the one used to block Halligan rejection is a testimony to how common the silent filibuster is under the Obama administration, and why it's important for the media not to go quiet.
Tucker Carlson has defended The Daily Caller's reporting on Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) patronizing prostitutes in the Dominican Republic as "traditional, straightforward journalism" as that story has come under fire. But when Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was accused of patronizing prostitutes in 2007, Carlson defended Vitter and lambasted the media for digging into what he described as private matters that were no business of theirs.
In their initial much-hyped pre-election bombshell, the Caller reported on allegations from two Dominican prostitutes that Menendez had paid them for sex. Menendez has repeatedly denied the allegations, and the FBI has reportedly found no evidence of their veracity.
This week the story has unraveled after the Washington Post and ABC News reported that one of the prostitutes who alleged that she had sex with Menendez has recanted her story in an affidavit and claimed that she was paid to lie about the senator. ABC further reported that they also looked into the story last year but decided not to run it because they doubted the women that they and the Caller had spoken to were telling the truth.
From the March 5 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
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Media ignored economists in their reports leading up to the initiation of the economically damaging across-the-board spending cuts commonly known as sequestration.
If Congress fails to act by midnight, across-the-board spending cuts of up to $85 billion in 2013 alone will take effect. While sequestration is inherently an economic issue, media are ignoring the last chance to have economists weigh in on the consequences.
Media Matters reviewed news coverage leading up to the sequestration deadline, specifically the February 28 evening news broadcasts; March 1 reports from The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times; and the March 1 morning news programs on the major cable and broadcast networks. We found that economists have been almost completely shut out. Of 122 total guests and quoted figures appearing in a total of 43 articles or television segments, one lone economist was mentioned, Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner in a report from the Journal.
Zeb Colter, an anti-immigrant character from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) that has recently drawn the ire of right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck, would be right at home in the conservative media. Many of Colter's bigoted and flawed arguments have been the right's stock-in-trade for years.
Beck targeted the Colter character on his radio show, arguing that Colter is "demonizing the Tea Party." Beck also accused the WWE of "mocking me for standing up for the Constitution." Beck's co-host Stu Burguiere complained: "It seems that the villain, the guy you're supposed to hate, is this stereotype of a conservative that I've never met."
Colter currently appears on WWE programming alongside wrestler Jack Swagger, spouting a lot of heated anti-immigrant rhetoric in the middle of a scripted feud with Mexican-born wrestler Alberto Del Rio. According to WWE, Colter's rhetoric is intended to "to build the Mexican American character Del Rio into a hero given WWE's large Latino base."
WWE explains that in order "to create compelling and relevant content for our audience, it is important to incorporate current events into our storylines."
Joe Scarborough dishonestly cited Princeton economist Alan Blinder to bolster his campaign to undermine Nobel laureate Paul Krugman and accuse Democrats of being anti-math.
Scarborough has been engaged in a rhetorical assault on Krugman ever since the New York Times columnist appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe and called on lawmakers to focus on economic growth and job creation in the short-term, pivoting to long-term deficits only after the economy is stronger. Scarborough has spent weeks mocking Krugman, comparing him to National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre and calling Krugman a deficit denier.
In a February 15 Politico column, Scarborough turned his attention to "bloggers," who he said were "mixing up the most basic concepts of economics" in order to back Krugman. Scarborough took particular offense at what he called "a fabulously misleading Business Insider post that claimed to list 11 economists who shared Krugman's debt-denying views." Scarbough continued:
Never mind the fact that most of the links provided actually undercut Krugman's reckless position and supported my view that the most pressing fiscal crisis is not next year's deficit but next decade's debt.
Blinder, a former Fed vice chairman and Princeton economics professor, warned of "truly horrific problems" caused by long-term debt, health care costs and interest on the debt. Paul Krugman's Princeton colleague even shared my conclusion that the coming Medicare crisis will be so great that Democrats won't be able to tax their way out of it.
Far from supporting Mr. Krugman's extreme position, the link to Professor Blinder's New Yorker article undercuts his Princeton colleague's exaggerated "In-the-end-we'll-all-be-dead" approach to U.S. long-term debt.
It is intellectually dishonest for Scarborough to cite Blinder as a fellow traveler.
Here's what Blinder wrote in the Atlantic piece that Business Insider cited (Scarborough incorrectly sourced the column to The New Yorker):
In plain English, the costs of everything on which the federal government spends money except health care and interest -- and that includes Social Security, defense, you name it -- are projected to fall over time as a share of GDP. The message is clear: America doesn't have a generalized spending problem that requires severe cuts across the board. We have, instead, a massive problem of exploding health care costs.
This is the analysis Scarborough claims totally backs him on long-term debt.
But here's what Scarborough had to say earlier this week taking on what he calls the "debt deniers" with their supposed inability to grasp the seriousness of the country's spending problem:
I think we found like 3 or 4 people in America who think we don't have a spending problem, and they're just writing in circles. But as I said yesterday, Josh, it's funny watching this, because, Josh, I said, you got Republicans who don't believe in science, you got some liberals that don't believe in math. Both ways, not good.
But most Americans understand, when you run trillion-dollar deficits for four years, you probably have a spending problem.
Scarborough's problem is that one of the people in America who says we don't have a spending problem is Alan Blinder.
Right-wing pundits frequently use former President Ronald Reagan's name to apply a stamp of approval on anything or anyone they deem symbolic of the ideal conservative -- even when Reagan's actual record on issues ranging from taxes to the deficit deviated far from the ideological standards of today's conservative movement.
Republican darling du jour Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) is the latest to receive the Reagan badge. Ahead of his delivery of the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address, Karl Rove said Monday that "in Rubio, the Republicans have got probably one of their best communicators since Ronald Reagan." On MSNBC's Morning Joe, The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis called Rubio "Reaganesque." And in November 2012, pundit Cal Thomas published a column on Townhall.com titled, "Marco Rubio: A Hispanic Reagan?"
Rubio is just the latest in a long line of Republican politicians to receive the ubiquitous accolade:
Mitt Romney: Fox News figures repeatedly linked former presidential candidate Romney to the Gipper during both opinion and news shows in the months leading up to the 2012 election. Bill O'Reilly said that Romney "is going to mirror the ghost of Ronald Reagan," while political correspondent Carl Cameron said Romney, on his bus tour, spent a lot of time "sort of echoing Ronald Reagan."
Rep. Paul Ryan (WI): Fox News figures from K.T. MacFarland to Megyn Kelly compared Ryan to Reagan as part of their cheerleading for Ryan after he was chosen as Romney's vice presidential candidate.
Gov. Chris Christie (NJ): Fox Nation highlighted a column by the director of the American Enterprise Institute with the headline, "Christie's Starting to Look Like Reagan."
Sarah Palin: A post on Breitbart's BigJournalism.com said that Palin "carries the torch of liberty and American exceptionalism in the palm of her lovely hand" before calling her the "surviving embodiment of the spirit of 1776 and the Reagan reformation."
Gov. Scott Walker (WI): On Sean Hannity's Fox show, conservative radio host Mike Gallagher called Walker "the Ronald Reagan of our time."
Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA): Karl Rove, on Hannity's show, called Virginia governor Bob McDonnell "a Reaganite conservative."
Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA): In February 2008, Rush Limbaugh called Jindal "the next Ronald Reagan."
Right-wing media figures have splashed the "Reagan" label about so freely that they're in danger of rendering the compliment meaningless.
On MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough continued to harp on Medicare and deficit spending as a pressing economic problem and twice claimed that "liberals are denying math" to avoid tackling the issue. However, economists widely disagree with that assessment, suggesting that it is Scarborough, not liberals, who has a weak understanding of math.
On the February 12 edition of Morning Joe, Scarborough, who has previously hit Paul Krugman on his view of long-term debt and attempted to discredit the Nobel Prize winning economist for defending Medicare, claimed that "liberals should want to reform middle class entitlements" so as to not "steal from welfare programs...for the poorest Americans."
Scarborough's attempt to paint Medicare as one of America's most pressing issues completely misses the point behind its current problems. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich points out that Medicare, rather than being the "problem," is actually to solution to the real issue -- rising health care costs. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, even goes as far as to say that Medicare is "by far the most efficient part of the national healthcare system."
Indeed, evidence suggests that Medicare provides a more economically viable delivery system for healthcare. According to both the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute, Medicare is better than the private sector at controlling costs, and projections of future cost growth in public health care programs are lower than those for private sector.
Furthermore, many economists, including Reich and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, note that Medicare can use its bargaining leverage to negotiate prices of medical procedures and prescription drugs. In fact, according to economist Jared Bernstein, provisions in the Affordable Care Act -- many of which have not yet been implemented -- will help control costs of healthcare, brightening the prospects for sustainable Medicare.
In addition to being wrong on Medicare, Scarborough claimed that those who disagree with him on today's deficits amount to just a few "bloggers eating Cheetos," implying that the majority opinion is on his side and that "the American people know" he's right about spending.
Scarborough displayed the same willful ignorance of economic discourse in his January Politico op-ed, "Paul Krugman vs. the world." Economists like Mark Thoma, Brad DeLong, Jared Bernstein, Dean Baker, Henry Aaron, Alan Blinder and Larry Summers agree that deficits are not worthy of concern, so long as economic output lags behind its potential, as do former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett and John Makin of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal lists a few others.
The simplest math is this: at least 15 experts, including 13 economists, a congressman, and a Reagan budget adviser, reject Scarborough's argument.
The Congressional Budget Office's new baseline projections back Krugman as well: The CBO found that the sharp rise in debt-to-GDP that Scarborough laments has stopped, and that the ratio of public debt to economic output will hold at or near its current level for the next decade. Further, the report notes a trillion-dollar gap between actual and potential economic output. The CBO doesn't explicitly state policy recommendations, but Rex Nutting of the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch noted that the report amounts to a call for four more years of high deficits.
This wealth of professional economists and empirical facts may explain an apparent shift in Scarborough's argument from the February 12 segment, in which he said even Krugman's supporters "agree with me that deficits aren't the problem, the long-term debt is the problem." If Scarborough believes that deficits aren't a problem, then what does he think he and the entire mainstream of the economics profession are arguing about? Throughout the recent weeks' debate, Scarborough has attacked deficits, and conflated them with the long-term debt. He blamed "a Keynesian spending spree" for slowed economic growth in late 2012, and bragged in Politico of his sterling deficit-hawk track record dating back to 1994.
It is true that the economists making the textbook argument for running deficits today also note that deficits will need to be controlled in the medium-near future. Jared Bernstein refers to this conceptual balance as being a CDSH: a cyclical dove and a structural hawk. Is Scarborough now looking to join that club, by declaring support for near-term deficits coupled with restraint in the middle distance? If so, Krugman, and his fellow "math-challenged" supporters, would be justified in declaring victory.
As the Boy Scouts of America considered lifting its ban on openly gay members, cable news network coverage of the story gave undue attention to the right-wing smear that exposing young boys to gay scout leaders would put them at higher risk of sexual abuse and/or assault.
As a TV pro, Roger Ailes is routinely praised in the press for his Midas touch. According to years of fawning coverage, Ailes has an uncanny ability to tap the programming pulse of the public. If that's true, now would be a good time for him to find his magic stroke because he just signed a contract reportedly worth more than $20 million annually, and two of his most important properties are flailing.
Fox's latest Nielsen numbers are bad. Really bad. Its worst in 12 years. And early indications are the slump may be part of a larger, systemic problem that could cause bigger headache as fast-climbing MSNBC continues to post gains.
President Obama's first term proved to be a ratings winner for Fox News as the channel gleefully projected the inner demons of the right wing and marketed itself as the final defender of freedom. Early 2013 indicators though, suggest that ratings cycle may be played out.
Question: Does Ailes the programming guru have a Plan B?
That's not the Fox chief's only problem. Ailes also runs Fox Business, whose cable ratings remain anemic, and whose entire audience of 25-54 viewers can often fit inside a hockey arena, despite the fact Fox Business is available in 60 million homes coast to coast.
But that problem pales to the one looming at Fox News. According to Nielsen numbers, not only did MSNBC enjoy big gains in January, but for the Monday-Sunday primetime shows Fox logged its worst ratings since August 2001. (For Monday-Friday primetime, it was Fox's worst showing since May 2006.) Fox is still the most-watched cable news channel, but the margins are shrinking in a hurry, especially in the coveted 25-54 demo during primetime. (On The Record With Greta Van Susteren appears to be just weeks away from losing the 10 p.m. demo battle to MSNBC's The Last Word.)
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough blamed "a Keynesian spending spree" for the contraction in GDP at the end of 2012, while holding evidence that the opposite is true in his hands. Scarborough's claims fit into his ongoing effort to deny and marginalize demand-side economic policies which continue to enjoy broad support from trained economists.
During a discussion of the 2012 fourth quarter GDP report on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Scarborough implied that the 0.1 percent drop in output was due to government spending since the recession. From Morning Joe:
Scarborough's claim is contradicted by the Wall Street Journal article he held up during the segment, which states that "government spending, which has been a drag on growth for more than two years, declined for the ninth time in 10 quarters." The article's subhead - "GDP Shrinks 0.1% on Government Cuts, but Consumer, Business Spending Offer Hope" - also splashed across the screen moments before Scarborough made his argument.
The Wall Street Journal's reporting is in line with the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis report. The BEA calculates the component parts of the GDP figure for each quarter. This most recent report is notable not because the government spending component of GDP continues to be negative due to shrinking direct spending into the economy, but because, for the first time in the recovery, the government component of GDP was so negative that it overwhelmed the positivity in other components.
Washington Post policy blogger Ezra Klein lays out this chart:
In light of news that the economy declined in the fourth quarter of 2012, media outlets have a responsibility to refocus their coverage of the economy, which has largely ignored the issue of economic growth and instead highlighted secondary concerns.
A January 30 report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis highlighted a grim reality - in the fourth quarter of 2012, the economy contracted by 0.1 percent. Media outlets have been rightfully promoting the figure, which is in stark contrast to their recent approach in covering the problem of stagnant economic growth.
A Media Matters report analyzing television news coverage of the debt ceiling found that the topic of economic growth was largely absent from discussions. In fact, of the 273 segments analyzed, only 33 even mentioned that growth should be a priority of any fiscal policy.
Economists, however, have strongly promoted growth as a means of reducing the deficit. Throughout the debt ceiling debate, many attempted to argue that economic expansion was far more important than worrying about short-term deficit reduction. Since the media ignored the topic of growth and rarely hosted economists as part of discussions, their voices went largely unheard.
In light of this economic contraction, economists are taking the opportunity to re-inject growth and jobs back into public debate. The Economic Policy Institute released the following statement:
The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today that the U.S. economy contracted at a 0.1 percent annualized rate in the last quarter of 2012. While this quarter's contraction likely does not signal a return to recession (it was driven by decelerating inventory investments and a very large reduction in defense spending, which are not likely to be repeated in coming quarters), the economy had grown at an average rate of just 2.1 percent for the first three quarters of 2012, which is not fast enough to lead to rapid improvements in the nation's job situation. Today's data emphasizes the need to reorient the policy debate back to growth and jobs and away from rapid fiscal contraction.
Economists have long realized that growth is far more important than what the media has been focusing on, namely deficit and debt reduction. With this clear indication that economic growth is in fact a pressing concern, will the media shift its focus to acknowledge this reality?