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  • Pro-Choice Groups Call On NBC’s Lester Holt To Ask Candidates About Abortion During First Presidential Debate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On September 22, a coalition of reproductive rights groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, UltraViolet, All* Above All Action Fund, National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, and CREDO, issued a joint letter encouraging NBC News’ Lester Holt, moderator of the first presidential debate on Monday, September 26, to “press the candidates on their plans to address the crisis in abortion access in our country.”

    The letter proposes three potential questions asking the presidential nominees, if elected president, how would they “ensure that the constitutional right to abortion is guaranteed to all Americans,” would they allow or restrict a pregnant woman infected with Zika to access abortion, and “what steps would [the candidates] take to reverse maternal mortality in this country?”

    During the Democratic primary, critics called out debate moderators for failing to ask either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders questions about abortion, including starting a Twitter hashtag #AskAboutAbortion. Eventually, Clinton and Sanders were asked abortion-related questions during Fox News’ March 7 Town Hall. Pro-choice group have revived the hashtag campaign prior to Monday’s presidential debate.

    From the September 22 joint letter:

    While many topics deserve the candidates’ consideration—from job creation to immigration to national security—safe and reliable access to abortion is fundamental to all Americans’ ability to determine our own destinies. One in three women in this country has had an abortion, and the majority (over 60%) are mothers who are trying to take care of the families they already have. Despite the fact that seven in 10 Americans support legal abortion, many in government are actively trying and succeeding in blocking access to what is, at its core, a constitutionally protected right. Consider the following facts, which paint a picture of dwindling access to abortion across the country:

    • 261 anti-choice laws have passed through state legislatures since 2010
    • 27 states have anti-choice legislatures where both chambers are anti-choice
    • 87% of counties in this country have no abortion provider at all

    Throughout this presidential campaign, we’ve heard Hillary Clinton outline her plan to expand abortion access by repealing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, and we’ve heard Donald Trump say that a woman should be punished for her decision to have an abortion. These starkly different approaches to such important issues deserve to be contested on the national debate stage. Voters deserve a fulsome debate on how to expand access to abortion so they can decide for themselves which candidate will do right by their family.

    In presidential debates since at least 1984, moderators have typically posed questions on abortion that border on entirely theoretical because they focus on extreme outlier cases. We hope that your questions capture the true needs of women and the lived experiences surrounding abortion access.

  • Media Call Out Donald Trump's Sequester Flip-Flop

    Trump Claimed Sequestration Was "Over-Exaggerated" In 2013

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Media are calling out Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for flip-flopping on the 2013 federal spending sequester after Trump pledged to “eliminate the defense sequester” and increase military spending during a September 7 speech. Back in 2013, Trump supported the congressionally imposed sequester, saying “Frankly, this is a very minor amount of the cuts that have to be made.”

  • NBC News Mainstreams Conspiracy Theories About Hillary Clinton's Health

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    NBC News helped mainstream conservative media conspiracy theories about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s health by devoting an entire article to a "coughing fit" she had. The report -- while widely criticized by members of the media -- was pushed by right-wing media figures who for years have led the charge in spreading debunked conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health.

    On September 5, NBC News reported that Clinton suffered from a "coughing fit" on the campaign trail in an article titled, “Hillary Clinton Fights Back Coughing Attack,” writing:

    Hillary Clinton struggled to fight back a coughing fit while campaigning in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday.

    [...]

    The former secretary of state has suffered from coughing fits at times throughout the Democratic presidential primary.

    However the frog in Clinton's throat on Monday was one of the most aggressive she's had during her 2016 run and left her almost unable to finish her remarks.

    Clinton’s coughing was also brought up on broadcast morning shows on September 6, including NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning, where CBS correspondent Nancy Cordes claimed Clinton’s coughing from seasonal allergies “got the better of her.”

    The NBC News report was embraced by right-wing media figures, who have spent years pushing conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health. The Drudge Report linked to the NBC News story on its banner, blaring the headline: “GETTING WORSE: CLINTON COUGH VIOLENTLY RETURNS,” adding Clinton’s “HEALTH STATUS UP IN THE AIR.” The story was also tweeted out by conservative media figures, with Fox Business host Lou Dobbs writing that “it’s time for answers” about Clinton’s health:

    The piece, however, was widely derided by mainstream media figures declaring “this ain’t news” and asking if NBC “seriously ran this story?”:

    As James Poniewozik, The New York Times’ TV critic, points out, the fact Clinton coughed is “news only [because] of a context of rumor, which NBC is indulging.” The NBC News report sent a dog-whistle to right-wing conspiracy theorists and gave legitimacy to their ridiculous claims that Clinton is suffering from serious health problems. For years, right-wing media have obsessed over Clinton’s bodily functions, including coughing fits and using the restroom.

    More dangerously, mainstream media have also hyped these conspiracies, even when their own outlets have debunked them. Even NBC Nightly News previously dispelled the “conspiracy theories” surrounding Clinton’s health.

    Media figures have recently criticized the right-wing figures promoting these myths. CNN’s Brian Stelter said it “does a disservice” to the audience “by peddling these conspiracy theories.” Michael Smerconish argued “it’s unhealthy for us as a society and electorate to all play armchair physician and go on and make some diagnoses,” especially since these claims have been debunked numerous times.

  • FBI’s Clinton Email Findings Show That Fox Got Played By Running With Imprisoned Hacker’s Lie

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Recently released FBI notes pertaining to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server reveal that Fox News’ interview and subsequent hyping of claims made by imprisoned Romanian hacker Marcel Lehel Lazar were all based on a lie. The FBI report states that “analysis” showed no “evidence that Lazar hacked the server,” and also notes that Lazar “admitted to lying to FOX News.” Fox’s willingness to report an imprisoned hacker’s claims as fact doesn’t represent the first time the network has been burned by sources in an attempt to scandalize Clinton’s use of a private email server.

  • NBC Reveals Yet Another Contradiction In Trump's Tax Plan

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was blasted by NBC after it was revealed that the candidate’s latest campaign ad cites two distinct and contradictory tax plans, neither of which are Trump’s current plan. This “confusion” follows months of Trump contradicting himself on economic policy.

    On August 29, MSNBC and NBC News political reporter Benjy Sarlin reported that Trump's new campaign ad, which is part of a $10 million ad buy in key swing states, seems to make promises about lower taxes, boosted job creation, and economic growth that are "generic enough for a Republican politician." Yet, on closer inspection, Trump's promises are actually buttressed by citations linking to two different tax plans that he has either disavowed or has not endorsed.

    The ad's promises of wage growth and a thriving business community are based on a September 2015 analysis by the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation of Trump's original tax plan, which he replaced with a different and less detailed plan on August 8. Meanwhile, the ad's promise of tax relief for working families and increased job creation is based on a Tax Foundation analysis of the 2016 tax reform plan outlined by House Republicans, which Trump has yet to endorse. From NBC News:

    Trump has not endorsed the House GOP plan outright, but his new proposal,announced earlier this month, has some similarities. Most notably, they both advocate collapsing the tax code into three brackets with rates of 12%, 25%, and 33%. But there are also important differences: Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan reported that Trump's plan would preserve a deduction on business loans that the House GOP plan would scrap that would save up to $1.2 trillion in revenue over 10 years.

    NBC’s Sarlin later reported that the Trump campaign was still issuing press releases containing the tax policy discrepancies even after they were revealed, and noted a half-hearted defense from the Trump campaign’s deputy policy director:

    Numerous other journalists picked up on Trump’s contradictory campaign ad, noting that it was “odd for Trump to cite the House GOP’s plan as if it were his own,” and arguing that the confusion might stem from Trump’s refusal to “fill[] in all the details” for his latest plan.

    Trump's inconsistency with the facts and noncommittal approach to his own economic policy outlines has become a feature of his presidential campaign. Trump’s latest tax plan was blasted by the media for being “light on details” and “ridden with more of the same empty tropes” exemplified during his previous economic policy speeches. Economists trashed the plan as “nonsense” and an attempt to re-write his previous tax and economic policy plan into just more of the “standard voodoo” economics frequently pushed by Republican supply-side advocates.

    At the outset of his campaign last year, Trump frequently said he would raise taxes on wealthy people like himself, but his initial plan overwhelmingly favored the very rich. Despite publishing a tax plan that included tax cuts for millionaires, he spent months falsely claiming the opposite was true. Trump has claimed for months that the only reason he has not released his tax returns is because they are under audit from the IRS, but the candidate has actually released his returns in the midst of an audit before, and continues to defy media inquires into tax years that are no longer under IRS review.

  • The Four Ways Right-Wing Media Reacted To Trump’s Alleged Immigration Shift

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    The right-wing media reactions to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claim that he is considering softening his position on immigration, varied wildly, including criticizing his shift as a mistake, slamming his lack of policy consistency, praising him for “seeing the light on immigration reform,” and simply ignoring his latest comments entirely.

  • On Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, Media Highlight Plight Of Women Of Color In The Workplace

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    According to the most recently available data, African-American women on average are paid only 60 percent of what white men are paid in a year, meaning they would have to work almost nine additional months to catch up. August 23 is an annual day of action, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, focused on that issue, and numerous media outlets have noted the event by highlighting the plight of African-American women in the workforce.

  • Media Blast Trump For Criticizing Policies He Once Supported

    Trump's ISIS Speech Ridiculed: He "Supported Every Single Foreign Policy Decision He Now Decries”

    ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    Numerous media outlets criticized and fact-checked the “contradictions” in Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s recent foreign policy speech, pointing out that he once supported several foreign policy decisions that he now claims he opposed. 

  • Here Are All The Reasons Media Think Trump Is Not Releasing His Tax Returns

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reiterated his plan not to release his tax returns prior to the election due to an IRS audit -- despite the IRS saying he is not precluded from doing so -- media figures questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s excuse, arguing instead that it could be due to his possible business dealings with Russia, paying little to no taxes, and not giving to charity, among other reasons.

  • Gretchen Carlson Isn’t Alone: A History Of Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Roger Ailes And Fox News

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes -- alleging he “retaliated against” her because she would not have a “sexual relationship with him” -- is only the latest in a long line of sexual harassment complaints and lawsuits against the network’s executives and on-air personalities.

  • Media Fell For Bogus “New Information” Spin In GOP Benghazi Report

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Several media outlets falsely reported that the final report released by Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi contained “new information,” when in fact all of the “key findings” in the report had been previously reported. Committee Republicans reportedly released “embargoed ‘exclusives’” strategically to manipulate reporters into presenting details in the releases as new information.

  • Don’t Get Spun By Bogus “New Revelations” In The GOP Benghazi Report

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi are taking advantage of the complexity surrounding the 2012 attacks by trying to pass off old details as “new revelations.” Reporters should be careful not to fall for their spin.

    Among the “many new revelations” the Benghazi Select Committee Republicans claim to show in the press release accompanying their final report on the attacks is that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was preparing for a trip to Libya at the time of the attacks, and that as part of that trip Ambassador Chris Stevens wanted the Benghazi diplomatic facility to be made a permanent Consulate:

    Emails indicate senior State Department officials, including Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, and Huma Abedin were preparing for a trip by the Secretary of State to Libya in October 2012. According to testimony, Chris Stevens wanted to have a “deliverable” for the Secretary for her trip to Libya, and that “deliverable” would be making the Mission in Benghazi a permanent Consulate.

    This has been cited as a “new detail” in The Washington Post, a “new revelation” in The Hill, and a “previously unreported detail” by NBC News.

    In reality, former Deputy Chief of Mission to Libya Gregory Hicks detailed these facts in public testimony before the House Oversight Committee on May 8, 2013 (via Nexis, emphasis added):

    REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Mr. Hicks, why was ambassador Stevens headed to Benghazi? There were a lot of concerns about him. There were a lot of security issues that Mr. Nordstrom had listed in numerous reports leading up to his trip there.

    Why was the ambassador headed there?

    HICKS: According to Chris, Secretary Clinton wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post.

    [...]

    REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): OK.

    Did you tell the Accountability Review Board about Secretary Clinton's interest in establishing a permanent presence in Benghazi?

    Because, ostensibly, wasn't that the reason that the ambassador was going to Benghazi?

    HICKS: Yes, I did tell the Accountability Review Board that Secretary Clinton wanted the post made permanent. Ambassador Pickering looked surprised. He looked both ways on the -- to the members of the board, saying, "Does the 7th floor know about this?"

    And another factor was our understanding that Secretary Clinton intended to visit Tripoli in December.

    This isn’t the only case where Republicans are pushing out “new revelations” that have been previously reported, as Roll Call columnist and Hillary Clinton biographer Jonathan Allen noted:

    The Benghazi story is extremely complex, and “bombshells” have often turned out to be reheated old news. Journalists should be careful not to be a conduit for Republicans efforts to turn such details into new scandals.

    UPDATE: The Washington Post's Erik Wemple reports on one reason why initial stories on the Republican report have been so vulnerable to spin from GOP: Reporters from several outlets were given embargoed portions of the report, but under the terms of their agreement with the committee were barred from discussing it with Democrats until the embargo ended -- at 5 a.m. ET this morning. Wemple notes that this timeline made it impossible for reports to both be released in a timely fashion and include reasoned responses from sources other than the Republicans on the committee or their staff. 

    He concludes that this "should prompt all the participants to examine how they do business, especially considering that reporting on Benghazi has been marred in the past by highly consequential, skewed leaks," but that that won't happen. From Wemple's post.:

    The embargo against news organizations appears to have lifted around 5:00 a.m.; the report was released to the public at around 8:30 a.m.; Benghazi committee Democrats received a paper copy at 7:45 a.m. and a digital one at 8:00 a.m. What this all means is that organizations that received the early peek at sections of the report could check with their Clinton campaign and State Department sources around dawn. The problem: Those sources themselves likely didn’t have the report at that time.

    Upshot: People at the Clinton campaign and the State Department played a great deal of catch-up today. Politico’s story on all of the alleged stonewalling, for instance, first hit the Internet without any specific rebuttal from the State Department itself, the target of much of Politico’s piece. 

    [...]

    Embargoes have existed for years, so there’s nothing terribly new about this rash of silver-platter stories. And many Washington journalists have played ball with this awful institution — including the Erik Wemple Blog. The stories that today resulted from this journo-exclusive culture will surely do well in terms of pageviews and other Internet metrics. They won’t endure, however: Any 800-page report takes days, not hours under the harrowing rules of an embargo, to digest and properly vet. The notion that news organizations were trying to abridge the thing based on partial spoon-feeding and lightning-quick responses from the targets should prompt all the participants to examine how they do business, especially considering that reporting on Benghazi has been marred in the past by highly consequential, skewed leaks. Nothing of the sort, of course, will happen. In any case, the best stories on this report have yet to be published.

    For more information, visit Benghazihoax.com