National Journal

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  • National Journal's Ron Fournier And CNN's Jake Tapper Admit They Failed To Cover Flint Water Crisis

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    National Journal's Ron Fournier and CNN's Jake Tapper each admitted that they failed to cover the crisis involving Flint, Michigan's water supply until recently.

    In a January 20 National Journal column headlined "How Government--and This Columnist--Failed Flint," Fournier acknowledged that he "blew it" by failing to bring up Flint's ongoing water crisis in a December 2015 column about Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's "refreshing approach to politics." By December, Snyder had already been widely criticized for his handling of the situation, which has resulted in children across the city suffering from lead poisoning. 

    From Fournier's January 20 column, in which he also pointed to a broader failure on the part of the media to cover the crisis:

    Like the story about Johnny Whit­mire, the scan­dal in Flint is a re­mind­er of how gov­ern­ment and oth­er in­sti­tu­tions fail.

    --Ar­rog­ant lead­er­ship, with a lack trans­par­ency, fol­low-up, and sin­gu­lar at­ten­tion to mis­sion.

    --Lack of power at the bot­tom of so­ci­ety's bru­tal peck­ing or­der. This would not have happened in a wealthy city like Tra­verse City, Michigan, or Snyder's ho­met­own of Ann Ar­bor.

    --Fi­nally, a lack of over­sight from tra­di­tion­al in­sti­tu­tions. Where was the state le­gis­lature and Con­gress? Where was the me­dia? Why did a sci­ent­ist in Vir­gin­ia crack the case with a FOIA re­quest, rather than an in­vest­ig­at­ive journ­al­ist?

    For that mat­ter, why did I write a column about Snyder's lead­er­ship that didn't even men­tion Flint? There's no good an­swer, no ex­cuse. I took my eye off the ball. I blew it.

    In addition, during an interview with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver on the January 20 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper, Tapper apologized for failing to cover the Flint crisis over the many months that it was becoming worse and worse. After promising to "shame" Snyder or President Obama if they don't provide Weaver with "the response you need," Tapper admitted, "I'm sorry that it took us so long to get on this story."

    From the January 20 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper:

  • Media Condemn Donald Trump's "Dangerous," "Fascistic" Ban On Muslims Entering The US

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN & BRENDAN KARET

    Media figures across the ideological spectrum are condemning Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, calling it "dangerous," a violation of the First Amendment, and "fascistic." Trump's proposal builds on previous calls from Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush to exclude Muslim Syrian refugees from entering the United States.

  • What Media Should Know About The Fossil Fuel Industry's Latest Pro-Smog Pollution Campaigns

    One Group Relies On Debunked Study, Another Is Front Group For Energy Industry

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Environmental Policy Alliance are each running TV ad campaigns attacking the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) forthcoming smog pollution reduction rule. But before members of the media repeat the ads' claims, they should know that NAM's ads are based on a misleading study, and that the Environmental Policy Alliance is a front group for oil and gas PR executive Richard Berman.

  • Media Miss Why Oil Industry Is Wrong About New EPA Methane Standards

    Industry Claims It Has Already Reined In Methane Emissions, But Studies On Unreported Leaks Prove Otherwise

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    In coverage of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) newly-proposed standards to lower methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, several major media outlets uncritically quoted oil industry officials who claim that the new rules are unnecessary because the industry is already effectively limiting its emissions. By contrast, other outlets mentioned a new study by the Environmental Defense Fund showing that methane emissions are far higher than official estimates, part of a body of evidence that undercuts the industry's claim.

  • Media Are Overlooking Public Health, The Biggest "Winner" From EPA's Clean Power Plan

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Asthma-Free School Zone

    There has been a lot of media discussion lately about the "winners and losers" from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which will fight climate change by placing the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. But with all of their focus on the political, financial, and legal ramifications of the carbon pollution standards, reporters are frequently overlooking the biggest winner of all: public health, particularly that of children, seniors, low-Income communities, people of color, and anyone with heart or lung disease.

    As the American Lung Association (ALA) has put it, the Clean Power Plan "will directly save lives." The EPA estimates that its plan will result in up to 3,600 fewer premature deaths every year -- not to mention 90,000 fewer asthma attacks and 1,700 fewer heart attacks -- once it is fully implemented in 2030.

    But the landmark policy will be even more important for certain communities that are particularly vulnerable to air pollution and the effects of climate change. According to the ALA, those most at risk include "infants, children, older adults, people with lung disease, people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works outdoors." These Americans face some of the greatest risks associated with unchecked climate change, such as worsened ozone and soot pollution.

    People of color are also disproportionately impacted by climate change, as EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Green for All Executive Director Nikki Silvestri have explained. According to a report by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), nearly three-quarters of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. The NAACP has also noted that African-Americans, who are more likely than whites to live in urban and coastal areas, are particularly at risk from climate impacts such as rising sea levels, food insecurity, and heat-related deaths. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that African-Americans are three times more likely than whites to die from asthma-related causes.

    Similarly, Latinos are 60 percent more likely than whites to go to the hospital for asthma and 40 percent more likely than whites to die from asthma, according to HHS. Meanwhile, the 2014 National Climate Assessment stated that new Hispanic immigrants are particularly "vulnerable to changes in climate," due to "[l]ow wages, unstable work, language barriers, and inadequate housing," all of which are "critical obstacles to managing climate risk."

    For all these reasons and more, the Clean Power Plan will help address what the Natural Resources Defense Council calls "the disproportionate health impacts of dirty, coal-fired power generation on low-income communities and people of color."

    So while there will be plenty of time to discuss whether cap-and-trade programs or climate science denial are politically "toxic," there should also be room in the conversation for the role the Clean Power Plan will play in making the air we breathe cleaner and safer.

    Image at top via Flickr user Mike Licht using a Creative Commons License.

  • Media Largely Ignore The GOP's Dark Money Problem

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Bush Walker Rubio Composite

    Media have largely ignored news that likely Republican presidential contenders in 2016 are using dark money and secretive nonprofit groups to sidestep campaign finance laws, despite continuing to scandalize publicly disclosed charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation in anticipation of Hillary Clinton's bid for president. 

    Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is the latest GOP presidential hopeful linked to a "secret money" nonprofit groupsupporting his 2016 aspirations, according to a National Journal report on April 10. The nonprofit Conservative Solutions Project Inc., which shares a name and founder with Rubio's official super PAC, will not have to disclose donors and expenses as does the super PAC, and already the group has "commissioned a minutely detailed, 270-page political research book on early-state primary voters last year" from a firm on Rubio's payroll. National Journal noted that while nonprofits cannot legally coordinate with campaigns, the dark money group released their extensive research to the public so that Rubio's campaign may access it. 

    Yet media have been largely silent on National Journal's revelation about Rubio's dark money connection, just as they've neglected to cover the growing list of Republican presidential contenders utilizing secret-money nonprofits to boost their candidacies with large, undisclosed donations.

    Former Republican Florida governor Jeb Bush gave "his tacit endorsement" to the dark money group Right to Rise Policy Solutions, a nonprofit established by a former Bush staffer which shares a name with two Bush-affiliated political committees, The Washington Post reported in March. Like the Rubio-linked nonprofit, this group allows Bush to work around disclosure requirements and campaign finance laws that cap donations from individual donors. Yet news of Bush's shadow campaign group failed to garner significant media attention, with just a scattering of articles outlining the dark money connections and merely two segments running on broadcast and cable news the day following the Washington Post report, both on MSNBC, according to a search of Nexis and Media Matters internal archives.

    Media similarly ignored allegations that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) participated in a pay-to-play dark money scheme, allegedly providing special tax credits for the company of the "richest man in Wisconsin" after he made secret donations to a Walker-linked political advocacy group. After Yahoo News reported the revelations on March 23, the news went unmentioned on broadcast and cable news aside from a single segment on the March 24 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, and received only scant newspaper coverage. 

    The lack of coverage stands in stark contrast to the weeks of analysis spent speculating about donations to the Clinton Foundation in advance of Hillary Clinton's 2016 bid, despite the fact that those donations were publicly disclosedAttacks on the Clinton Foundation have become a lead talking point for the GOP, and with the media largely ignoring Republicans' increasing dark money problem, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is given a pass for his simultaneous attempts to further scandalize Clinton Foundation donations. 

  • Right-Wing Media's EPA Shower Police Myth Jumps To Rand Paul's Presidential Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Right-wing media's bogus claim that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will monitor hotel guests' use of the shower has made the jump to Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) 2016 presidential campaign.    

    The EPA recently awarded a $15,000 grant to student researchers at the University of Tulsa to allow them to develop a device that will "assist hotel guest[s] in modifying their behavior to help conserve water." Conservative media seized on the news to claim the EPA wants to "spy on" people in the shower. Fox News' Heather Nauert claimed that hotel guests should "forget about taking a long, hot shower on vacation, and if you think you're doing it in private, well, you might want to think again" while on-screen text during the segment read "They're Always Watching! EPA To Start Monitoring Showers At Hotels." And Rush Limbaugh asserted that the EPA would not "stop at hotels. You're gonna have one of these [devices] in your house."

    Sen. Paul appears to be parroting right-wing media's false claim that the EPA is going to monitor water usage in people's showers. According to National Journal, Paul's campaign sent out a fundraising email on Tuesday claiming the "'EPA is announcing it wants to use our tax dollars to track how long hotel guests spend in the shower so they can start working to 'modify their behavior'!" The Journal also noted that the grant has similarly "been attacked in conservative circles and was subject to coverage by several conservative websites and news outlets last month." 

    However, the claim has been thoroughly debunked. The EPA is simply supporting research to create a central wireless device that would supply information about guests' overall shower water consumption to hotels, which could help companies reduce waste and save money. EPA deputy press secretary Laura Allen told The Washington Free Beacon, "Let us be very clear: EPA is not monitoring how much time hotel guests spend in the shower." EPA's Liz Purchia added to the Journal:

    The marketplace, not EPA, will decide if there is a demand for this type of technology. EPA is encouraging creativity with water-conservation efforts. It's up to hotels to determine their water usage and whether technology like what's being developed at the University of Tulsa is helpful to them.

    The University of Tulsa students' research could help reduce some of the millions of gallons of water wasted each year by hotel guests -- a valuable goal, considering the West Coast is currently experiencing a catastrophic drought.

  • Media Recycle Old News To Attack Hillary Clinton Over Foundation Donors

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON, OLIVIA KITTEL & LIS POWER

    Media are recycling old news that The Clinton Foundation accepts foreign donations when neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton hold political office to fearmonger over "ethical concerns" surrounding the donations, ignoring the fact that it is not unusual for foundations to receive foreign donations and that Clinton's record as Secretary of State makes clear that she was not politically influenced by previous donations to the Foundation.

  • National Journal Turns Exclusively To The GOP For Talking Points Over DHS Shutdown

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    In a piece exploring the political spin surrounding the fight over funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), National Journal turned exclusively to House Republicans for commentary -- even while noting that Republicans are strategically lecturing journalists for political gain.

    On February 27, DHS will shut down if Congress fails to pass a spending bill that will fund the department. The bill has been stuck in the Senate after House Republicans attached a measure to defund President Obama's executive actions on immigration to the legislation and Democrats subsequently refused to pass it.

    In a February 16 article, National Journal presented the talking points of Republicans defending their use of the spending bill to block Obama's actions on immigration. Explaining "how to spin a government shutdown," the article outlined the GOP's claims that forcing a shutdown of DHS would be blamed on Democrats, that the shutdown "won't be that bad," and that it will end up blowing over. But the perspective given on the shutdown was roundly one-sided -- of the sources quoted in article, all were Republicans.

    What's more, National Journal quoted top Republicans confessing a need to manipulate media coverage to their advantage:

    More and more, Republican members are beginning to sound like journalism professors, instructing reporters in person on several occasions over the last week on how to report out the story. Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, put his editor cap on for a moment during a press conference on Thursday.

    [...]

    "I would suggest to our friends in the Fourth Estate," Cruz said, "that every one of those Democrats when they walk off the Senate floor, you should be asking them: 'If DHS funding is so important, why are you filibustering funding for DHS?' ... I would suggest to each of you in the Fourth Estate another question that would be entirely appropriate to ask them: 'Were you telling the truth or were you lying when you said you opposed the president's unconstitutional executive amnesty? Because if you were telling the truth, why then are you filibustering?' "

    Indeed, National Journal seemed to fall prey to a reporting style that privileged the GOP -- setting up the entire piece about the shutdown by equating the severity of the acts from either side of the aisle, "pox on both houses" style of reporting:

    Congress has packed its bags and gone home for the week, leaving lawmakers with just five legislative days to find a way to keep the Homeland Security Department open. Senate Democrats remain intractable in their filibuster of legislation to fund the department, just as House Republicans refuse to bring up a clean bill, leaving open the real possibility that Congress will allow part of the federal government to shut down for the second time in two years.

  • When A Mainstream Journalist Falls Down The Benghazi Rabbit Hole

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    It's become commonplace for the right-wing fringe to respond to breaking news by invoking Benghazi. The Ebola outbreak, the NFL's domestic violence problems, and the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 are just three recent examples in the panoply of events that remind conservatives of the terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound, which they've spent the last two years trying to turn into a political scandal.

    It's more unusual for a journalist from a mainstream outlet to engage in this sort of behavior. But here's how Josh Kraushaar, the political editor for National Journal, responded to the October 8 Washington Post report that suggested senior White House aides had hidden their knowledge of the fact that "a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room" of one of the volunteers on the advance team for President Obama's 2012 trip to Colombia:

    Kraushaar's National Journal colleague Ron Fournier also recently invoked the administration's response to Benghazi as a reason for the public to doubt the federal government's response to Ebola.

    Others referencing Benghazi in their discussions of the prostitution story include Ronald Kessler, the investigative journalist described as "a bit of a kook" who recently drew fire for suggesting that President Obama would be to blame if he were assassinated, and Steve Doocy, the Fox News host who previously complained that the deadly Hurricane Sandy "knocked [Benghazi] off the front page."