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Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.
Media are pointing out Donald Trump’s reversals on his tax and minimum wage policy stances, calling the pivots “a big change” from his positions in the Republican primary election.
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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.
Carl Bernstein: “We Talk About The New Trump The Same Way We Talked About A New Nixon”
After Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump began persuading some in the media that he will start acting more “presidential,” others in the media have expressed skepticism of Trump’s attempt to change his image and are warning their colleagues to not forget his insulting and extreme statements.
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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.
For Sexual Assault Awareness month, Media Matters looks back at right-wing media's history of downplaying, and questioning the legitimacy of, sexual assault. Right-wing media figures have called reporting statutory rape “whiny,” claimed sexual assault victims have a "coveted status," said the sexual assault epidemic is "not happening," blamed feminism for encouraging sexual assault, and said attempts to curb sexual assault constitute "a war happening on boys."
ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos hosted Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for the extreme anti-LGBT group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who hyped the debunked “bathroom predator” myth to defend a discriminatory law recently passed in North Carolina.
ADF is an multimillion dollar anti-gay Christian legal organization known for its work defending discriminatory “religious freedom” laws, which allow discrimination against LGBT individuals and others based on religious beliefs. In addition, ADF actively works to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that effectively criminalize homosexuality.
This Week hosted Waggoner on April 10 to discuss mounting boycotts against North Carolina for its passage of the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act in March, which bans transgender people from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity and excludes LGBT residents from legal protection from discrimination. The law relied heavily on the “bathroom predator” myth that sexual predators will exploit transgender nondiscrimination laws to sneak into women’s restrooms. Experts in multiple states -- including law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for victims of sexual assault -- have categorically debunked that myth. Waggoner pushed this myth on This Week, characterizing the North Carolina bill as having “a common sense provision that would restrict men from accessing girls' locker rooms”:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): Kristen, I saw you shaking your head. I want to give you a chance to respond. But there's also a provision in the North Carolina bill that strips the ability of people to sue under the state discrimination law. And opponents of the law said if you're fired because of your race or gender or religion, you no longer have a basic remedy.
KRISTEN WAGGONER: Well, that's absolutely not true. That's not the case. And first of all, if we want to talk about what these laws actually do, North Carolina specifically, there are two components to the North Carolina law. The first is a common sense provision that would restrict men from accessing girls' locker rooms. It's for the safety and security, for privacy of not only our women and children but our men. We don't want to have to undress in front of someone who is of the opposite biological sex.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well you brought that up. How is that going to be enforced. You have to go back to -- you can only use the restroom that is the restroom that’s on your birth certificate. How is the state going to enforce that?
WAGGONER: The same way that they’re enforcing it and have enforced it the last 200 years. You simply respond to complaints that are received. But what we have seen, when these types of laws have been passed in other states that allow men to access the women's restroom, those laws are misused. And they violate the safety and security of people. We should have a reasonable expectation of privacy to go into a locker room and not have to undress in front of someone of the opposite biological sex. It's common sense.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the answer to that, John?
JOHN CORVINO: The idea that this is about safety and security, it's kind of like when somebody says that they ate all the ice cream in order to make room in the freezer. I mean it's just obvious that that's not the real reason. This is about discrimination, particularly against transgender people. And one of the reasons that's really sad is that our nation's history of protecting religious liberty has traditionally been about protecting marginalized groups, protecting people of minority faiths against the majority who try to marginalize them. Instead, we have a perversion of the notion of religious liberty to further marginalize people who are already vulnerable. There are absolutely no cases of transgender people trying to use these laws in order to commit assault or to threaten people's safety in bathrooms. Whereas there are many cases of transgender people suffering bullying and assault and violence because they can't have a safe and comfortable bathroom to use.
WAGGONER: That is absolutely not true. There are multiple cases of those who may not be transgender but those men who are using these laws to gain access to women and children in restrooms. These cases are documented --
CORVINO: How are they using these laws? How are they, if a man goes into a restroom to assault somebody, that's against the law. That has nothing to do with prohibiting transgender people, who just want a safe and comfortable place to use the bathroom, from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
WAGGONER: Then they can use the bathroom in a private facility, just as everyone can. These laws are gender neutral in terms of, they're not discriminating on the basis of how one identifies. They're simply saying that you go to a restroom or a private facility and you have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. But I want to get to the real victims--
STEPHANOPOULOS: I wish we could, but I’m afraid we are out of time. We're going to have to come back to this issue. Thank you both very much for your time.
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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?
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."
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.