From the October 16 edition of NBC's post-debate coverage:
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A wave of mass shootings have occurred over the past few years, often garnering extensive media coverage. Despite those tragic attacks and the roughly 30,000 deaths by firearms that occur every year, moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS' NewsHour failed to ask the presidential candidates about gun violence during the first presidential debate, the only forum specifically dedicated to domestic policy.
14 mass shootings have been committed over the past four years, according to an analysis by Mother Jones. These include recent tragedies that rocked the American public this year, such as the attack at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and an assault at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Last year, a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, nearly claimed the life of then-U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords.
Nonetheless, in the first presidential debate for the 2012 election, Lehrer asked no questions on the topic of gun violence. This continues the troubling pattern established during the 2008 presidential debates, which similarly featured no discussion of the topic even in the wake of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech the previous year. Past presidential debates have featured this subject regularly: A Media Matters review found that in 1992, the second debate spent over six minutes on it; in 1996, the first debate gave it almost four minutes; in 2000, the second and third debates devoted more than 13 minutes combined; and in 2004, the third debate spent nearly three minutes on it.
NBC host David Gregory covered up a distortion of the Obama administration's tax plan by Bob McDonnell, letting the Republican Virginia governor claim that Vice President Joe Biden said the administration plans to "raise your taxes about $2 trillion" when in fact the administration has only proposed raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
McDonnell appeared on Meet the Press today to discuss, among other things, the October 11 vice-presidential debate. Commenting on Biden's performance, McDonnell claimed that Biden's remarks affirmed that "absolutely, Obama and Biden are going to raise your taxes about $2 trillion over the next couple months -- over the next four years."
Gregory made no effort to point out that McDonnell misstated the administration's tax plan. Biden did not say the administration will raise everyone's taxes, but very clearly restated the Obama administration's stance that tax cuts should expire for the wealthiest Americans, while tax cuts for middle-class Americans should be extended.
Indeed, during the vice-presidential debate, moderator Martha Raddatz, a reporter for ABC, asked Biden, "If your ticket is elected, who will pay more in taxes? Who will pay less?" The vice president replied that the Obama administration wants to "extend permanently the middle-class [Bush] tax cut" and allow "the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy" to expire:
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: The middle class will pay less, and people making a million dollars or more will begin to contribute slightly more. Let me give you one concrete example: the continuation of the Bush tax cuts. We're arguing that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire. Of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, 800 million -- billion dollars of that goes to people making a minimum of a million dollars. We see no justification in these economic times for those -- and they're patriotic Americans. They're -- they're not asking for this continued tax cut; they're not suggesting it; but my friends are insisting on it. A hundred and twenty thousand families, by continuing that tax cut, will get an additional $500 billion in tax relief in the next 10 years, and their income is an average of $8 million.
We want to extend permanently the middle-class tax cut for -- permanently from the Bush middle-class tax cut.
Gregory also made no mention of the fact that analysts have said it's the Romney-Ryan plan that could actually raise taxes on the middle class. Studies from the Tax Policy Center concluded that Romney's tax plan would almost certainly have to "increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers" in order to remain revenue neutral.
Arctic sea ice is declining much faster than scientists expected, which has important implications for the rate and impacts of climate change. But the major TV news outlets have largely ignored the record sea ice loss this summer, while making ample time to cover Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's physical fitness.
A Media Matters analysis finds that Fox News has aided Republican efforts to make Solyndra the face of clean energy in 2012 by incessantly covering it a year after the company declared bankruptcy. Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets have disproportionately hosted opponents of clean energy to discuss Solyndra, and uncritically repeated allegations that Solyndra's loan guarantee was politically motivated, even though a yearlong investigation has found no evidence to support the "crony capitalism" narrative.
Today on NBC's Meet The Press, Newt Gingrich became the latest conservative to revive the oft-debunked falsehood that President Barack Obama voted as a state legislator to allow doctors to "kill babies." Neither Meet The Press host David Gregory nor the other members of the panel pushed back on this offensive smear.
Gingrich criticized Republican leaders for calling for Rep. Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race for comments he made about "legitimate rape" and abortion. In defending Akin, Gingrich claimed that Obama holds the truly extreme position because he voted to allow doctors to "kill babies":
NEWT GINGRICH: The President of the United States voted three times to protect the right of doctors to kill babies who came out of an abortion still alive.
Gregory did not push back on this claim even though it has been widely debunked. The Associated Press noted in a fact check of a previous attempt by Gingrich to push this claim that Illinois law already required that doctors to provide medical attention if a live birth resulted from a botched abortion on a viable fetus:
As an Illinois state senator, Obama voted against legislation promoted by anti-abortion activists that would have conferred protection to fetuses showing any signs of life after an abortion, even if doctors did not believe the fetus was viable. Obama pointed to an existing Illinois law requiring doctors to protect fetuses they believed were likely to survive after an abortion, and said he was concerned the proposed new law was so broad it could interfere with routine abortions.
NBC's David Gregory muddied the waters on the Medicare debate, saying that President Obama "claims that he would extend the solvency of Medicare eight years until 2024." However, this is not just a claim put forth by the Obama campaign; the Medicare Board of Trustees has estimated that Medicare will remain solvent until 2024 thanks to the health care law.
CNN and NBC Sunday shows allowed Mitt Romney campaign surrogates to claim that the American people aren't interested in seeing more of Romney's tax returns, even as polling shows most Americans think Romney should release more of his returns.
The National Journal's Major Garrett brought up the Republican campaign to use the "you didn't build that" line to attack President Obama during both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, but let stand the distortion at the heart of that campaign. In fact, during his speech -- as independent fact-checkers have noted -- Obama was explaining how small businesses have benefitted from the successes and contributions of others, including government, which Garrett failed to point out.
There's no question Obama inartfully phrased those two sentences, but it's clear from the context what the president was talking about. He spoke of government -- including government-funded education, infrastructure and research -- assisting businesses to make what he called "this unbelievable American system that we have."
In summary, he said: "The point is ... that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."
During a discussion about the 2012 presidential election on NBC's The Chris Matthews Show, Garrett, a former Fox News White House correspondent who is now a National Journal congressional correspondent, referred to how "Republicans will use the president's 'you didn't build that' against him" at the respective party conventions. Garrett continued by explaining that the comments would be used "thematically at the Republican convention and with traveling hecklers in Charlotte," where the Democratic National Convention will be held.
But as the full context of Obama's comments show, he was simply noting that the success of small businesses comes not only from their own initiative, but also can come from outside influences such as "a great teacher somewhere in your life" and investment "in roads and bridges."
Scientists say that human-induced climate change made this year's record heat more likely, and project that extreme heat will become more common in the United States. But a Media Matters analysis of media coverage of record-breaking heat in July finds that major television outlets rarely made the connection between heat waves and a changing climate.
A Media Matters analysis of wildfire coverage in July finds that nearly 14 percent of articles and segments mentioned climate change -- over four times more than in previous months.
From the August 2 edition of NBC's Today:
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Fox News' Greta van Susteren last night became the sixth journalist to interview Mitt Romney without asking him about the conservative conspiracy theory alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood is using supposed ties to an aide for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to infiltrate the U.S. government. Two surrogates for Romney's campaign have defended that conspiracy during the past week, while Republican leaders like John Boehner and John McCain have condemned it.
American television news outlets continue to devote sparse time to one of largest banking scandals in history. The controversy over whether major banks have been manipulating the LIBOR, a crucial interest rate that banks use to borrow money from one another, has been gathering steam for more than a month since U.S. and U.K. regulators fined British bank Barclays $450 million for its role in trying to rig the rate.
CNN's Erin Burnett has explained that LIBOR is "an interest rate at the core of our entire economy," adding, "It's really not wrong to say that if you can't trust LIBOR, you can't trust anything in banking." According to The Economist, the LIBOR is used "as a benchmark to set payments on about $800 trillion worth of financial instruments." Baltimore City filed a lawsuit against major banks in the first of what may be a wave of such actions, alleging that the LIBOR manipulation potentially cost it millions of dollars in investment returns.
Despite the enormous implications of the scandal, ABC's World News and NBC's Nightly News both ignored the story in the 16 days after news of the Barclays fine broke, as we documented earlier this month. In the 16 days following the period of our original study, the LIBOR blackout has continued on ABC and NBC's flagship evening news programs. Those programs have gone more than a month without mentioning the controversy.
CBS Evening News devoted more than five and a half minutes to the story in the first 16 days following the Barclays fine, but has not returned to the scandal in the subsequent 16 day period despite a host of new developments.
After spending roughly six and a half minutes combined covering the scandal on their evening newscasts and opinion programming between June 27 and July 12, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News devoted less than 32 minutes to stories related to the controversy from July 13 to July 28, with more than two-thirds of that coverage coming from CNN.
These same news outlets spent significantly more time on trivialities like shark sightings and the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce than on the banking scandal. For context, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN spent 44 minutes combined on the LIBOR scandal during their evening programming from June 27 to July 28. By contrast, these same outlets devoted nearly 65 minutes to stories about sharks for only the first sixteen days of that period.
Far from being a dormant story, fallout from allegations that the LIBOR has been manipulated has been steady.
On July 14, the New York Times reported that the U.S. Justice Department had "identified potential criminal wrongdoing by big banks and individuals at the center of the scandal" and was building criminal cases "against several financial institutions and their employees." The Times explained that the "prospect of criminal cases" was expected to "rattle the banking world."
The scandal has also reached Capitol Hill, with both Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke being questioned about regulators' response to allegations that banks were manipulating the LIBOR. During his appearance in front of the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke said the LIBOR is "structurally flawed" and called the controversy "a major problem for our financial system."
The story has gotten major coverage in financial press and on shows like Current TV's Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer and MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes, but, with a few exceptions, has still received little attention on major American television news outlets their during evening newscasts and primetime programming. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple has urged media outlets considering LIBOR coverage to "Get on it," providing "Nine reasons to cover" the scandal.
Instead of covering one of the largest banking scandals in history, American television news outlets have focused on the divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, shark sightings, and a chimpanzee attack.
Last week, we documented how television news outlets are practically ignoring an emerging controversy over whether major financial institutions have been manipulating the LIBOR, a key interest rate banks use to borrow money from each other that is "used as a benchmark to set payments on about $800 trillion worth of financial instruments." MIT professor of finance Andrew Lo told CNN Money that the LIBOR-manipulation story "dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scams in the history of markets."
In the fifteen days after news broke that U.S. and U.K. regulators had fined British multinational bank Barclays $450 million for its role in trying to rig the LIBOR, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC spent only 12 minutes combined reporting on the story during their evening newscasts and opinion programming.
With few exceptions -- notably MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes and Current TV's Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer -- the scandal has been largely relegated to financial outlets. In a post chiding ABC and NBC for ignoring LIBOR entirely during their flagship nightly news programs, Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple joked that ABC "[c]an't bump complicated, clunky old LIBOR for fins protruding from the ocean."
Wemple's suggestion that the networks' failure to cover LIBOR was not caused by their preference for other important hard news stories is depressingly accurate. The same outlets that found only 12 minutes of time to report on LIBOR from June 27 to July 12 during their evening programming devoted nearly 65 minutes to stories about sharks during that same time period.
The numbers are even worse when comparing LIBOR coverage to coverage of the divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC devoted almost 91 minutes to stories related to the celebrity divorce, which is more than seven times longer than they spent on LIBOR during the same period. Only CBS' Evening News, which was the only network newscast to cover LIBOR during the time of this study, ignored the divorce.
Similarly, a story about chimpanzees attacking an American student at an animal sanctuary in Africa received more than 20 minutes of primetime coverage.
CBS was the only network to devote more coverage to LIBOR than to these trivial stories during the study.