Wall Street Journal

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  • The Media Keep Failing To Publish Accurate Headlines About Trump: An Updated List

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Before and since the election, media outlets have repeatedly failed to write headlines that adequately contextualize President-elect Donald Trump’s lies. Simply echoing his statements normalizes his behavior and can spread disinformation, particularly given the high proportion of people who read only headlines. Below is an ongoing list documenting the media’s failure to contextualize Trump’s actions in headlines and sometimes on social media. Some of the initial versions were subsequently altered (and these are marked with an asterisk), but many of the updates still failed to adequately contextualize Trump’s remarks.

  • How Donald Trump Could Make Rupert Murdoch Even More Powerful

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President-elect Donald Trump may be preparing to give Rupert Murdoch a big reward for the positive coverage Murdoch’s outlets provided during the election.

    Trump has asked Murdoch to submit the names of possible nominees for Federal Communications Commission chairman, according to a report from New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. Trump’s FCC will be positioned to roll back regulations that have kept Murdoch from buying up newspapers and television stations across the country.

    The two New York City-based moguls historically dislike one another, and Murdoch repeatedly criticized Trump in the early stages of the campaign and reportedly pressured Fox News to be more critical when covering Trump.

    But after Trump sewed up the Republican nomination, Murdoch reportedly “signaled he plans to fully back Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton” in order to ensure “an open line to the new administration” if Trump won. They subsequently dined together during Trump’s June trip to Scotland, and Murdoch made a pilgrimage to Trump Tower following the election.

    Now Murdoch reportedly has the opportunity to cash in on the overwhelmingly positive coverage that his properties -- including Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Post -- gave the incoming president.

    Murdoch has repeatedly been prevented from adding more newspapers to his media empire by FCC “cross-ownership” rules that restrict common ownership of broadcast TV and radio stations and newspapers in the same media market. The rules are intended to prevent consolidation of too much media power in too few hands. Media companies are also barred from owning television stations across the nation that collectively reach more than 39 percent of U.S. television households, and from owning two stations in a local media market if both stations are ranked in the top four in that market.

    By law, the FCC must review those rules every four years. After a years-long review process, the FCC board, composed of President Obama’s nominees, voted to retain the rules in 2016. Under Trump, all of those rules will be on the table for repeal.

    While Murdoch is far from the only head of a media company to oppose the cross-ownership rules, he has been among their fiercest opponents for decades. Those rules forced him to sell The New York Post in 1988, and he would be a major beneficiary of their elimination.

    Through 21st Century Fox, Murdoch currently owns 28 television stations in 17 markets in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Orlando and Charlotte. His stations reach roughly 37 percent of U.S. television households, just under the FCC’s cap. If that cap is changed or eliminated under Trump, Murdoch would be able to purchase more stations and increase his impact on the media landscape.

    That matters because stations owned by 21st Century Fox frequently push the same conservative slant in their broadcasts as the Fox News cable channel does, often running the same news packages and hosting the same personalities.

    Cross-ownership rules have also prevented Murdoch from purchasing newspapers in the media markets where he owns television stations (he has a waiver to own the Post now, and his ownership of The Wall Street Journal is not subject to the rule because it is considered a national paper). In 2014, Murdoch complained that he was unable to purchase the Los Angeles Times or the Tribune Company because cross-ownership restrictions prevented him from owning papers in Chicago or Los Angeles since he already owned TV stations in those markets. He also dropped his 2008 bid for Newsday amid reports that the seller was concerned Murdoch would not be able to get a waiver to allow the deal to go through.

    If a Trump FCC changes or eliminates the cross-ownership rules, Murdoch may be able to snap up papers across the country. In the years after Murdoch purchased the Journal in 2007, dozens of journalists fled the paper, with many telling Media Matters that its coverage had shifted to the right and away from more in-depth reporting.

    Staffers were particularly disturbed when Gerard Baker, a well-known conservative columnist for Murdoch's The Times of London, was installed as the paper’s deputy editor-in-chief in 2009. Baker was promoted to editor-in-chief in 2013. Baker reportedly urged editors to be “fair” to Trump at a May morning news meeting; in October, the paper’s reporters criticized their own election coverage, telling Politico they had produced “galling,” “flattering” pro-Trump “stories on the front [page]” and the “false balance in treating him just like another nominee” was “absurd.”

    If Trump gives Murdoch his reward, we could see the same pattern play out in media markets nationwide.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • The 15 Most Ridiculous Things That Media Figures Said About Environmental Issues In 2016

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER & ANDREW SEIFTER

    Donald Trump and the presidential election dominated news coverage in 2016. But talking heads still found plenty of time to make jaw-dropping comments about climate change, energy, and the environment. This year’s list of ridiculous claims includes a dangerous conspiracy theory about Hurricane Matthew, over-the-top worship of fracking and coal, and absurd victim-blaming around the Flint water crisis. Here is our list of the 15 most ridiculous things that media figures said about climate, energy, and environmental issues in 2016.

    1. Rush Limbaugh And Matt Drudge Peddled A Reckless Conspiracy Theory Downplaying The Threat From Hurricane Matthew. Shortly before Hurricane Matthew made landfall in the U.S., Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge concocted a conspiracy theory that the federal government was overstating the hurricane’s severity in order to manufacture concern about climate change. On The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh accused the National Hurricane Center of "playing games" with hurricane forecasting and added, “It's in the interest of the left to have destructive hurricanes because then they can blame it on climate change, which they can desperately continue trying to sell.”

    Limbaugh doubled down on this theory the next day, telling his audience, “There’s politics in the forecasting of hurricanes because there are votes.”

    Drudge, the curator of the widely read Drudge Report website, promoted the conspiracy as well, suggesting that federal officials were exaggerating the danger posed by Hurricane Matthew “to make [an] exaggerated point on climate.”

    [Twitter, 10/6/16]

    [Twitter, 10/6/16]

    Drudge also used his website to persuade Southeast residents not to take the storm seriously, with a banner “STORM FIZZLE? MATTHEW LOOKS RAGGED!” and additional headlines “IT’S A 4?” and “RESIDENTS NOT TAKING SERIOUSLY...”.

    Climate scientist Michael Mann explained that people "could die because of the misinformation that folks like Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge are putting out there," and two actual hurricane experts provided a point-by-point rebuttal of Drudge’s claims. But that did nothing to dissuade Drudge, who refused to give up on the conspiracy theory.

    2. Fox News Blamed The Flint Water Crisis On Climate Change Policies, "PC Stuff,” And Even Flint Residents Themselves. National media outlets largely ignored the water crisis in Flint, MI, as it unfolded over almost two years, but when the story did finally make national headlines, Fox News pundits were quick to pin the blame on anyone and anything other than the Republican governor of Michigan.

    On Fox & Friends, host Heather Nauert and guest Mark Aesch suggested that “misplaced priorities,” including climate change and “PC stuff,” allowed the water crisis to happen:

    And on The Kelly File, Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt placed blame on Flint residents themselves, saying that the "people of Flint should have been protesting in the streets" after noticing that their water was poisoned. Stirewalt also blamed Flint parents for giving their children contaminated water, declaring: "If you were pouring water into a cup for your child and it stunk and it smelled like sulfur and it was rotten, would you give that to your child? No, you'd revolt, you'd march in the street." In addition to being offensive, Stirewalt’s comments were premised on a falsehood; Flint residents did in fact repeatedly protest throughout the year to demand safe drinking water for their families.

    3. CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Claimed Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt “Hasn’t Denied Global Warming.” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, is a climate science denier who has refused to accept the clear consensus of the scientific community that human activities such as burning fossil fuels are primarily responsible for global warming. Yet according to CNN New Day anchor Alisyn Camerota, Pruitt simply “sees nuance” and “hasn’t denied global warming.” Camerota falsely claimed that Pruitt only disputes climate “predictions” and “forecasts,” when in fact he has also denied that global warming is human-caused, and even Camerota's premise that climate models are unreliable is incorrect. As Camerota wrongly absolved Pruitt of climate denial, CNN’s on-screen text read: “Climate Change Denier Scott Pruitt To Lead EPA.” Co-anchor Chris Cuomo also pushed back on Camerota, stating that Pruitt “says it’s ‘far from settled.’ That means he’s not accepting the science.”

    Camerota badly butchered climate science, but it's noteworthy she was even discussing the issue given CNN’s spotty track record. In April, a Media Matters analysis found that CNN aired almost five times as much oil industry advertising as climate change-related coverage in the one-week periods following the announcements that 2015 was the hottest year on record and February 2016 was the most abnormally hot month on record. And in one segment later in the year where CNN did cover climate change, CNN Newsroom host Carol Costello speculated, “Are we just talking about this and people's eyes are glazing over?”

    4. MSNBC's Mike Barnicle: ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson "Is A Huge Green Guy.” Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil companies. Exxon is currently under investigation in several states for possibly violating state laws by deceiving shareholders and the public about climate change, while Tillerson himself has misinformed about climate science and mocked renewable energy. Yet according to Mike Barnicle, a regular on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “Rex Tillerson is a huge green guy.” And alas, no, we don't think he was comparing Tillerson to the Jolly Green Giant or the Incredible Hulk.

    5. Disregarding Everything Trump Has Said And Done On The Subject, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough Claimed “I Just Know” Trump Believes In Climate Science. On Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough defended Trump after it was announced he had selected Pruitt, a climate science denier, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Scarborough -- who along with co-host Mika Brzezinski has repeatedly carried water for Trump -- insisted, “I just know” that Trump “has to believe” in climate science.

    Scarborough’s comments followed a wave of TV coverage about how Trump had supposedly “reversed course” on climate change, which was based on a New York Times interview in which Trump said he has an “open mind” about the Paris climate agreement and that “there is some connectivity” between human activities and climate change. But few of these reports addressed any of the substantive reasons that such a reversal was highly unlikely, such as his transition team’s plan to abandon the Obama administration’s landmark climate policy, indications that he will dismantle NASA’s climate research program, and his appointment of fossil fuel industry allies as transition team advisers -- not to mention the full context of Trump’s remarks to the Times.

    6. Trump Adviser Stephen Moore: Being Against Fracking “Is Like Being Against A Cure For Cancer.” While discussing his new book Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy on C-SPAN2's Book TV, conservative economist and Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore stated that opposing fracking “is like being against a cure for cancer” because it is “one of the great seismic technological breakthroughs” that is “giving us huge amounts of energy at very low prices.” Never mind that many of the chemicals involved in fracking have actually been linked to cancer. 

    7. Stephen Moore: “We Have The Cleanest Coal In The World.” Moore’s preposterous praise for fossil fuels wasn’t just confined to fracking. On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., he declared that the U.S. has “the cleanest coal in the world.” That statement is quite difficult to square with the fact that “Coal combustion contributes to four of the top five leading causes of death in the U.S.—heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases—according to Physicians for Social Responsibility,” as Climate Nexus has noted.

    Pro-coal propaganda also found a home on Fox Business’ sister network, Fox News, where The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld asserted that “coal is a moral substance. Where coal reaches, people live longer, happier lives.”

    8. Breitbart’s James Delingpole: Climate Change Is “The Greatest-Ever Conspiracy Against The Taxpayer.” In an article promoting a speech he gave to the World Taxpayers’ Associations in Berlin, Breitbart’s James Delingpole wrote: “Climate change is the biggest scam in the history of the world – a $1.5 trillion-a-year conspiracy against the taxpayer, every cent, penny and centime of which ends in the pockets of the wrong kind of people.” In the speech itself, Delingpole similarly claimed that “the global warming industry” is “a fraud; a sham; a conspiracy against the taxpayer.”

    Breitbart, which was until recent months run by Trump’s chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon, has frequently denied climate change and viciously attacked climate scientists. Delingpole, in particular, has described climate scientists as “talentless lowlifes” and referred to climate advocates as “eco Nazis,” “eco fascists,” and “scum-sucking slime balls.” Bannon has criticized Pope Francis for succumbing to “hysteria” about climate change; The Washington Post has written about how Bannon influenced Trump’s views on the issue during his time at Breitbart.

    9. Fox Report On Law Gas Prices: “Put The Tesla In The Garage And Break Out The Hummer.” Just 10 days after Trump was elected president, Fox News began giving him credit for low gas prices, the latest proof of the network’s blatant double standard when it comes to covering gas prices under Republican and Democratic presidents. But simply shilling for Trump was apparently not enough for Fox Business reporter Jeff Flock, who provided the slanted gas prices report on Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters. At the conclusion of the report, Flock also displayed a brazen lack of concern about climate change, declaring: “I would say put the Tesla in the garage and break out the Hummer.”

    10. Wall Street Journal’s Mary Kissel Instructed Viewers To “Trust” A Climate Science-Denying Fossil Fuel Front Group. In a video interview posted on The Wall Street Journal’s website, Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel instructed viewers who are “confused about the science surrounding climate change” to “trust” Rod Nichols, chairman of a climate science-denying fossil fuel front group known as the CO2 Coalition. During the interview, Nichols denied that human activities such as burning oil and coal are responsible for recent global warming, claiming that “climate change has been going on for hundreds of millions of years,” “there is not going to be any catastrophic climate change,” and “CO2 will be good for the world.” Kissel asked Nichols, “Why don't we hear more viewpoints like the ones that your coalition represents,” and concluded that the CO2 Coalition’s research papers are “terrific.”

    The Wall Street Journal has made a habit of “trusting” climate science deniers like Nichols -- or at least repeating their false claims about climate science. A recent Media Matters analysis of climate-related opinion pieces found that the Journal far outpaced other major newspapers in climate science misinformation, publishing 31 opinion pieces that featured climate denial or other scientifically inaccurate claims about climate change over a year-and-a-half period.

    11. Fox Host Clayton Morris: Rubio's Climate Science Denial At Presidential Debate Was An "Articulate Moment.” During a Fox News discussion of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s performance at a CNN presidential debate, Fox and Friends co-host Clayton Morris described Rubio’s claim that the climate is “always” changing -- a common talking point among climate science deniers -- as “a really articulate moment.” 

    While Morris’ endorsement of Rubio’s climate denial as “articulate” is particularly striking, a 2015 Media Matters analysis found that media frequently failed to fact-check GOP presidential candidates’ climate change denial.

    12. Fox Hosts Mocked Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar Speech On Climate Change: "Focus On Something Else Other Than The Weather.” When actor Leonardo DiCaprio took home the Oscar for best actor for his role in The Revenant, the hosts of Fox News’ The Five and Fox and Friends mocked DiCaprio for devoting much of his acceptance speech to making the case for climate change action. On The Five, co-host Jesse Watters declared, “So the guy finally gets an Academy Award and he's talking about the weather. What's going on here?” Co-host Eric Bolling helpfully added, “Focus on something else other than the weather.”

    That wasn’t the only time in 2016 that DiCaprio was caught in Fox News’ crosshairs for having the nerve to talk about climate change. Later in the year, The Five aired footage from an event in which President Obama criticized congressional climate deniers and DiCaprio said, “The scientific consensus is in, and the argument is now over. If you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in facts, or in science, or empirical truths, and therefore in my humble opinion should not be allowed to hold public office.” The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld then responded by likening criticism of climate science deniers to religious extremism, saying: “You have to wonder about a belief system that doesn't want any challenges, that doesn't want any of their theories to be questioned. This -- what he is talking about is radical Islam of science. He is actually turning science into a religion.”

    13. Fox’s Meghan McCain: "The Liberal Hysteria Over Climate Change Was So Overblown That Now People Have A Hard Time Even Believing It.” Rather than criticize conservatives or Republicans who frequently deny climate science, Fox News host Meghan Mccain blamed liberals for public confusion about climate change, declaring on Fox News' Outnumbered that “the liberal hysteria over climate change was so overblown that now people have a hard time even believing it and believing that it's something that's justified.” McCain, who also mocked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for campaigning on the issue with Al Gore, added, “I do think there are signs we should look at, but if Al Gore, if you take his word for it, there's a big flood that's going to come in and wipe us all away in five minutes.”

    McCain is the daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who notoriously flip-flopped on climate change legislation in 2009, undercutting congressional efforts to address the issue.

    14. Fox’s Steve Doocy: Obama’s Monument Designation Was Done To “Appease Environmental Terrorists.” On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy declared that President Obama’s designation of the first marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean was “done to appease environmental terrorists.” Not so shockingly, Doocy and his co-hosts did not comment when their guest, Deadliest Catch’s Keith Colburn, acknowledged that "increased water temperatures" from climate change are impacting fisheries across the United States.

    15. Fox Hosts Flipped Out About Portland Public Schools Decision To Stop Teaching Climate Denial To Children. In May, the Portland Public Schools board unanimously approved a resolution “aimed at eliminating doubt of climate change and its causes in schools.” But while climate science denial may no longer be taught in Portland public schools, it still has a place on Fox News, as the hosts of Outnumbered demonstrated in their flippant response to the resolution.

    Co-host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery said the Portland schools decision is “so anti-scientific,” adding, “There are still scientists, believe it or not, out there who say, ‘No, we still have to look at the data.’ And it's impossible to predict how the climate is going to change over hundreds or thousands of years.” Co-host Jesse Waters remarked, “So getting out of the ice age, how did the Earth warm up after the ice age? There were no humans there with cars and factories.” He also stated, “It gets hot, it gets cold, this spring has been freezing. It's not getting warmer, it seems like it's getting colder. Am I wrong?”

    But Fox News pundits aren’t just defenders of teaching climate science denial; they’re also partially to blame for it, according to researchers at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Last year, the SMU researchers released a study that found some children's textbooks that depict the reality of human-caused climate change with uncertainty are influenced by a climate science knowledge gap that finds its roots partly in conservative media misinformation. In particular, the SMU researchers pointed to previous research that showed Fox has disproportionately interviewed climate science deniers and that its viewers are more likely to be climate science deniers themselves.

  • How The Media Elevated Anti-Immigrant Nativist Groups

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Throughout 2016, media outlets were complicit in mainstreaming the “nativist lobby,” made up of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA, groups with ties to white supremacists whose mission is to drastically limit both legal and illegal immigration. Even though these groups have a record of producing shoddy research and pushing misinformation about immigrants, their agenda has now inspired many of President-elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Many mainstream media outlets contributed to the normalization of these nativist groups by repeatedly referencing them under the pretense of balance while failing to acknowledge their insidious anti-immigrant agenda or provide context about their nativist origins.

  • Twofer: Editorial Proves Wall Street Journal Is In Denial About Fracking AND Climate Change

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final report on the drinking water impacts of hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) has provoked howls from The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, which blasted EPA analysts as “science deniers” pushing “fake news.” But the editorial’s deeply flawed reasoning is the latest evidence that the Journal is in denial when it comes to scientific findings that conflict with its pro-fossil fuel agenda, whether they relate to fracking or climate change.

    In the December 18 editorial, the Journal misrepresented the changes the EPA made to its draft version of the report, which was released in June 2015:

    After being barraged by plaintiff attorneys and Hollywood celebrities, the EPA in its final report substituted its determination of no “widespread, systemic impact” with the hypothetical that fracking “can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances” and that “impacts can range in frequency and severity” depending on the circumstances.

    [...]

    The EPA now asserts that “significant data gaps and uncertainties” prevent it from “calculating or estimating the national frequency of impacts.”

    In reality, all of the findings the Journal pointed to in the final version of the report were also present in the draft version. The draft version stated that “there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources,” identified “factors affecting the frequency or severity” of those impacts, and acknowledged that "data limitations" prevent the agency from having "any certainty" of how often fracking has actually impacted drinking water.

    The one change the Journal correctly identified was that in the final version of the report, the EPA rescinded its draft conclusion that there was no evidence fracking has “led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.” But contrary to the Journal’s claim that the EPA disavowed that finding because the agency had been “barraged by plaintiff attorneys and Hollywood celebrities,” it was actually changed after the EPA’s scientific advisory board, which evaluates the agency’s “use of science,” pointed out that the draft conclusion wasn’t supported elsewhere in the report:

    The [Science Advisory Board] has concerns regarding the clarity and adequacy of support for several major findings presented within the draft Assessment Report that seek to draw national-level conclusions regarding the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.

    [...]

    Of particular concern in this regard is the high level conclusion statement on page ES-6 that “We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.” The SAB finds that the EPA did not support quantitatively its conclusion about lack of evidence for widespread, systemic impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, and did not clearly describe the system(s) of interest (e.g., groundwater, surface water), the scale of impacts (i.e., local or regional), nor the definitions of “systemic” and “widespread.” The SAB observes that the statement has been interpreted by readers and members of the public in many different ways. The SAB concludes that if the EPA retains this conclusion, the EPA should provide quantitative analysis that supports its conclusion that hydraulic fracturing has not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.

    EPA Deputy Administrator Tom Burke recently confirmed that the EPA chose to remove the “no widespread, systematic impacts” language after receiving feedback from the science advisory board, and “Burke said the EPA opted to remove the phrase because it ‘could not be quantitatively supported’ and it ‘showed that sentence did not clearly communicate the findings of the report,’" as American Public Media reported.

    The Journal further claimed that “the EPA’s faulty construction of a monitoring well caused contamination” in Pavillion, WY, citing that situation as an example of how “any technology has the potential to inflict some damage” if mismanaged. However, that claim – which has been pushed by a fossil fuel industry front group – has been debunked by experts at Stanford University, as the Casper Star-Tribune reported:

    Industry critics once argued samples from the EPA’s groundwater monitoring wells should be discounted because of faulty construction. But the compounds found in those monitoring wells are more commonly associated with fracking—not the cements used to encase a well, [Stanford researchers Dominic DiGiulio and Robert Jackson] say.

    The Journal concluded its editorial by asserting that it is “ironic” that liberals who “denounce anyone who cites uncertainties about carbon’s climate impact as ‘deniers’” are now “justifying their opposition to fracking based on scientific uncertainties.” As quite possibly the most frequent purveyor of climate science misinformation in the entire media landscape, the Journal has rightly received substantial criticism for its climate denial. The difference, of course, is that there is near-universal scientific consensus that carbon pollution is warming the planet, whereas both the draft and final versions of the EPA report show that no such consensus yet exists about the impacts fracking has had on drinking water resources.

    Such false equivalency only goes to show that the Journal editorial board is in denial about both climate change and fracking.

  • AP Got This Trump Headline Right; Other Mainstream Outlets Didn't

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Multiple media outlets published headlines that uncritically echoed a claim from President-elect Donald Trump’s spokesperson that Trump had sold his stocks, even though Trump’s team offered no actual proof that he had done so. The Associated Press correctly characterized the news by noting the lack of evidence in its headline, but many others continued a disturbing pattern of uncritically parroting false or unsubstantiated claims by Trump and his aides in their headlines, in effect giving Trump favorable coverage when he offers vague details or even spouts verifiable lies.

    Trump on December 6 tweeted that the aircraft manufacturer Boeing was “building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion,” adding, “Cancel order!” In a conference call later that day, a reporter asked Trump spokesperson Jason Miller if Trump “had investments in Boeing,” and Miller “said the president-elect had sold all of his stocks in June,” according to The Associated Press (AP).

    But there is no proof that Miller’s claim is true, given that Trump has not submitted any kind of financial disclosure since May and that, as the AP noted, Trump didn’t announce he was selling his stocks at the time. Transition officials have also refused to provide evidence of the sales:

    Trump's campaign did not announce the sell-off at the time, despite the fact that it could have been politically advantageous for the businessman to be seen taking steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

    Miller, as well as other transition officials and lawyers from the Trump Organization, did not respond to requests from The Associated Press to provide evidence of the transactions.

    The AP published this report with a headline that accurately paired Miller’s claim with the crucial context that he “provides no evidence”:

    But other major outlets did not note the lack of evidence in their headlines, instead reporting Miller’s comments without necessary context:

    Reuters:

    The New York Times:

    The Washington Post:

    The Wall Street Journal:

    CNN:

    These headlines continue a mainstream media pattern of publishing article titles that are favorable for Trump and that promote his claims, even when those claims are false or unsubstantiated. When Trump on November 18 falsely claimed that he prevented a Kentucky Ford plant from moving to Mexico -- even though there were never plans to move the plant -- multiple headlines ran with Trump’s bogus statement. When Trump on November 27 falsely claimed that “millions of people” illegally voted in the election, multiple mainstream outlet quoted Trump’s words in headlines and on social media without noting that they were false. And when Trump on November 30 sent a series of tweets claiming he would be leaving his business to avoid conflicts of interest, headlines ran with his statement, even though Trump offered no new information on how he would actually carry out the plan. As ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum noted, Trump has been “able to generate whatever headlines he wants based on substance-free tweets” and claims.

    It is crucial that headlines accurately explain a story because, for most people, the phrase at the top of a piece is the only part of the article they will actually read. As The Washington Post reported, “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week,” and “that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won't want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.”

    Trump has been a documented liar throughout the course of his presidential campaign and transition. When his claims lack proof or are demonstrably false, headlines should reflect that reality, rather than giving a serial misinformer the benefit of the doubt.

  • WSJ Op-Ed Rehashes Discredited Evidence To Fearmonger About Noncitizen Voting

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    The Wall Street Journal opinion page provided a platform for serial misinformers -- citing discredited research -- to falsely suggest that a large number of noncitizens voted in the 2016 election. The evidence used by the authors, who have made careers out of pushing misleading claims to advocate for laws that would result in voter suppression, has been criticized by academics and flies in the face of data showing no evidence that noncitizens have voted in recent U.S. elections in any significant numbers.

    In a November 30 op-ed, Hans von Spakovsky, a National Review contributor and a current senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and John Fund, a columnist for National Review, asserted that “there is a real chance that significant numbers of noncitizens and others are indeed voting illegally, perhaps enough to make up the margin in some elections.” The authors declare that “the honor system doesn’t work” and that “there are people—like those caught voting illegally—who are willing to exploit these weaknesses that damage election integrity.”

    The evidence von Spakovsky and Fund cite to back up their claim is seriously misleading, is methodologically flawed, and has been debunked by experts. Von Spakovsky and Fund point to one “2012 study from the Pew Center on the States estimating that one out of every eight voter registrations is inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicate.” But as USA Today pointed out in a write-up of the study, “experts say there's no evidence that the [registration] errors lead to fraud on Election Day.” The article quoted David Becker, the director of Pew’s election initiatives, warning that “‘the perception of the possibility of fraud drives hyper-partisan policymaking.’”

    The authors also cited a 2014 study that “used extensive survey data to estimate that 6.4% of the nation’s noncitizens voted in 2008 and that 2.2% voted in 2010.” That study was endlessly hyped by right-wing media, but Brian Schaffner, a political scientist who was “a member of the team that produces the datasets upon which that study was based,” wrote, “I can say unequivocally that this research is not only wrong, it is irresponsible social science and should never have been published in the first place. There is no evidence that non-citizens have voted in recent U.S. elections.” Another expert, Michael Tesler, pointed out that the study had “methodological challenges” that rendered its conclusions "tenuous at best.”

    The authors additionally cited a Heritage Foundation report that they call “a list of more than 700 recent convictions for voter fraud” to dispute “academics who claim that voter fraud is vanishingly rare.” However, as FactCheck.org noted, the report found "less than a dozen individual cases of noncitizens convicted of registering or actually voting since 2000," and USA Today found that the report, which is “based largely on news clippings and news releases,” contains “only a handful of allegations of voter impersonation that voter ID could have prevented.”

    In fact, a 2014 study conducted by Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt found only 31 credible allegations of in-person voter fraud among the more than 1 billion votes cast in "general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014."

    Von Spakovsky and Fund’s reliance on discredited research is no surprise, given their history of pushing misinformation about voting. Von Spakovsky, who has been featured on Fox News and on National Review for years, has demonstrated an unending willingness to distort the truth in the service of restrictive and discriminatory voter ID laws. Von Spakovsky, in particular, has repeatedly overstated the prevalence of in-person voter fraud and continues to push for voter ID laws that disproportionately affect minority communities and suppress legal voters. At National Review, he also characterized the modern civil rights movement as "indistinguishable" from "segregationists." Even former President Ronald Reagan’s attorney general Dick Thornburgh accused von Spakovsky of being “wrong on both the facts and the law.”

  • What You Need To Know About Rumored Trump Labor Secretary Andy Puzder

    Trump Reportedly Leaning Toward Prolific Right-Wing Op-Ed Writer And Fast Food CEO To Head Department Of Labor

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    **UPDATE: Several news outlets reported on December 8 that the president-elect is expected to choose Puzder to serve as the country’s 27th secretary of labor. The New York Times noted that Puzder “will arguably have less experience in government than any labor secretary since the early 1980s.”

    Media outlets have reported that President-elect Donald Trump is considering Andy Puzder, a right-wing commentator and fast food CEO, for secretary of labor. Puzder is known for writing op-eds denouncing worker rights and the minimum wage, and his company is infamous for its “supermodel-centric marketing strategy” designed to offend viewers and stoke sales.

    According to a November 15 article in Politico, Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which operates burger chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, was on the short list to replace Tom Perez as the secretary of labor in the incoming Trump administration. The same day, The Atlantic also reported on Trump’s possible choice of Puzder, noting the CEO’s history of fundraising for Trump and his staunch opposition to Obamacare and raising the minimum wage.

    In his op-eds and media appearances, Puzder frequently peddles right-wing misinformation advocating policies that hurt American workers. Puzder has praised the job destruction that comes with workplace automation, boasting in a March 16 interview with Business Insider that he wanted to automate more of his restaurants to avoid paying worker salaries and benefits. Puzder claimed that replacing people with machines would be preferable because machines “never take a vacation” or complain when discriminated against. From Business Insider:

    "They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," says Puzder of swapping employees for machines.

    Puzder opposes new overtime rules proposed by the Department of Labor that would extend guaranteed overtime pay to qualified salaried workers making less than $47,476 a year. Puzder defended his position by claiming that having a salaried position -- and thus no overtime pay -- is an “opportunity” that confers “prestige” and “an increased sense of ownership” to overworked and underpaid managers. Puzder has also frequently attacked the push to raise the minimum wage and Obamacare’s health insurance expansion, misleadingly claiming that stronger wages and benefits actually hurt workers.

    Puzder even attacked working-class Americans during an appearance on Fox & Friends, claiming that low-income workers might be wary of higher paying jobs if the salary increase results in a loss of government benefits. Puzder wrote in an op-ed in The Hill of a so-called "Welfare Cliff," where employees turn down promotions that could lead to $80,000 salaries because they "don't want to lose the free stuff from the government." Yet, by Puzder's own admission, the company he runs does not pay anywhere near the $80,000 annual salary that his employees were supposedly passing up so as to qualify for anti-poverty assistance.

    In addition to being an outspoken media advocate of poverty wages in the fast food industry and an opponent of policies aimed at helping American workers, Puzder also runs a company that boosts its sales via a “supermodel-centric marketing strategy” catered to exploiting his customers’ base impulses. Puzder told Entrepreneur magazine that complaints that his ads are sexist “aren't necessarily bad” for the company and that he thinks his company’s “sales go up” amid public outcry over ads that degrade women. The fast food chain has been running these ads for years, and Jezebel compiled “a history of disgusting Carl's Jr. ads” from 2005 to 2013. Puzder’s stance on objectifying women for commercial gain is eerily reminiscent of Donald Trump’s own history of degrading remarks about women.

    As the president-elect begins the transfer of power, media need to inform Americans of Trump’s potential cabinet picks, the potential policies these cabinet members may support, and how those policies will affect American workers. Experts have already started to express fear that Trump’s proposals for the economy -- budget-busting tax cuts for the rich and unfunded deficit spending -- may create a short-term “sugar high” followed by an economic crash. The next labor secretary could exacerbate those economic worries if he or she promotes policies that undermine the livelihoods of millions of Americans.

  • Right-Wing Media Attempt Last-Ditch Effort To Smear Raising The Minimum Wage In Four States

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    As four states appear poised to pass ballot initiatives to raise their minimum wages, right-wing media are launching an eleventh hour smear campaign falsely claiming that a wage increase will kill jobs and hurt workers.

    On November 8, voters will decide in four states -- Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington -- whether or not to raise their state’s minimum wages. While none of the states go as high as $15 per hour, three are pushing for $12 per hour with Washington proposing a $13.50 hourly wage by 2020. If all four states raise their minimum wages it would boost pay for over 2 million workers. As Thinkprogress reported, recent polling shows all four states are on track to approve these initiatives, with Arizona seeing 58.4 percent support, Colorado 55 percent, Maine 57 percent, and Washington 58 percent.

    In an attempt to dissuade voters from approving these popular initiatives, Michael Saltsman, the research director of the business front group Employment Policies Institute, attempted to push false claims about the minimum wage in The Wall Street Journal on November 3. Saltsman cherry-picked from a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report to claim a proposed federal minimum wage increase “would cost the country a half-million jobs” and he pointed to a study by researchers at the University of Washington on Seattle’s phase-in of a $15 per-hour wage to claim the city had seen a loss of employment.

    Saltsman failed to mention that the CBO report also found a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour in 2016 would have boosted net income by $2 billion, raised wages for more than 16 million workers, and lifted 900,000 Americans out of poverty. Furthermore, the CBO’s director at the time, Douglas Elmendorf, made clear in testimony before Congress in March of 2014 that while the CBO considers a wide range of effects on employment, it did not analyze potential job growth from the greater consumer demand created by higher incomes as a result of raising the minimum wage.

    Saltsman also did not mention that the study by researchers at the University of Washington ultimately found the Seattle economy saw a “boom in job growth” over the 18 months studied. And when researchers attempted to predict what potential job growth might look like for Seattle without raising wages, researchers found the city created 99 percent as many new jobs with a wage increase than it might have without.

    The last minute campaign against raising the minimum wage was also pushed on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. on November 4. Fox host Stuart Varney proclaimed the far-right view that “I just don’t think you should legislate wages period” and guest Anthony Scaramucci claimed raising wages is “a real problem for the youth and this is the reason why you've got [a] 60 percent increase in African-American unemployment in the inner cities.” Scaramucci’s opposition to the minimum wage matches the stance once espoused by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, for whom he serves as a prominent fundraiser. Trump claimed during the GOP primary that “wages [are] too high” when asked to offer his opinion on raising the minimum wage.

    This last-ditch effort follows an October 28 report from the conservative American Action Forum (AAF) that claimed raising wages in these four states would cost 290,000 jobs. The AAF claim was picked up by both the The Washington Examiner and The Washington Free Beacon. But AAF based its models on a 2015 study by economists Jonathan Meer and Jeremy West that did not actually predict hard job losses. According to the August 2015 study by Meer and West, raising the minimum wage could lead to a reduction in potential job growth but would not lead to "an immediate drop in relative employment levels."

    Counter to right-wing media claims that raising the minimum wage hurts workers, researchers at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center found states that raised the minimum wage saw stronger low-wage earnings gains than states that did not raise wages. The right-wing media myth that raising the minimum wage kills jobs has been debunked by studies that found increasing the minimum wage to have a negligible effect on low-wage employment. Researchers at Cornell University found that over the past 20 years, raising the regular and tipped minimum wage for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries has "not had large or reliable effects" on the number of people working in those industries. Researchers at the University of California, in a March 2015 report for Los Angeles on how a $15.25 minimum wage would affect that metro area, actually found “employment changes" would be "quite small when compared to projected job growth of 2.5 percent a year in the city," and it estimated that the cumulative effect would be an increase of “5,262 jobs by 2019 at the county level.”

    Right-wing media have a history of attacking the minimum wage, giving business executives a platform to push myths about the minimum wage and bemoan the labor victories of workers. Despite the onslaught of misinformation about minimum wages, a majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage and appear to be rejecting right-wing media myths.

  • Right-Wing Media Revive Discriminatory Effort To Discourage Early Voting

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Several Fox News hosts have recently been critical of early voting, a process that is especially important to voters of color who face systemic barriers to voting on Election Day. Fox hosts baselessly claimed that voters who already took advantage of early voting now want to change their votes and suggested voters “don’t know all of the information” prior to voting, which raises questions about “the wisdom of early voting.” Right-wing media figures’ contempt for early voting is not new.

  • Bret Baier Is Serving As A Mouthpiece For Unknown Sources On FBI Stories

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Amid an unprecedented stream of leaks from anonymous FBI sources to various media outlets, Fox News’ Bret Baier is reporting unverified but explosive allegations about bureau investigations involving Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton based on extremely sketchy sourcing, escalating the scandalized tenor of the campaign just days before its climax. Baier’s unsubstantiated claims based on anonymous sources contradict reports from other media outlets and public FBI statements and are overplaying what is reportedly a common dispute between law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

    In a November 2 report, Baier cited “two separate sources with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations into the Clinton emails and the Clinton Foundation” to claim that the investigation “into possible pay-for-play interaction between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Foundation” is a “‘very high priority'” and that “agents are actively and aggressively pursuing this case.” Baier said FBI agents “had collected a great deal of evidence” to suggest wrongdoing -- though his reporting did not indicate what the alleged evidence concerned or who it suggested committed a crime.

    Baier also alleged, per his anonymous sources, that the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server has turned up “new emails, not duplicates, that have been transported … [through Clinton’s] server,” and that FBI officials are claiming with “99 percent accuracy” that the server “had been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies.” Baier ultimately claimed that the investigation “will continue to likely an indictment.” Since Baier broke the news, a steady stream of fellow Fox hosts and correspondents have been furiously hyping his claims.

    Baier’s uncritical reporting of anonymous sources first and foremost calls into question the veracity and motivation of the allegations being made. Who are Baier’s sources? They could be disgruntled FBI agents pursuing the investigations. But the description of “sources with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations” doesn’t require that the sources have firsthand knowledge -- Baier’s sources could include partisan congressional Republicans seeking to influence the election or even someone like Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly has “illicit FBI sources” who “[circumvent] bureau guidelines to discuss a case with a public partisan.”

    Regardless of the source, Baier has decided to parrot their claims with no scrutiny, turning him into a mouthpiece for these unknown actors.

    Having accepted that role as a de facto spokesman for whomever is leaking information, Baier is effectively turning what is reportedly a common dispute between intelligence agencies into an election scandal on the cusp of Election Day. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Senior officials in the Justice Department and the FBI didn’t think much of the evidence [related to the Clinton Foundation investigation], while investigators believed they had promising leads their bosses wouldn’t let them pursue.” Thus, agents and officials in the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) have become “increasingly frustrated with each other, as often happens within and between departments” (emphasis added). As the Journal previously reported, “It isn’t unusual for field agents to favor a more aggressive approach than supervisors and prosecutors think is merited.”

    Baier’s reporting on the Clinton Foundation investigation is taking one side of a two-front battle, and thus leaving out critical context that senior DOJ and FBI officials believe there to be no case in the Clinton Foundation investigation and that disputes like this are common. His reporting also ignores context reported by the Journal that FBI agents have repeatedly been told to drop the investigation specifically because information gathered was “weak” and unimpressive.

    Baier’s decision to trumpet these claims is reminiscent of Fox’s endless flogging of the New Black Panthers Party pseudoscandal. In 2010, the network devoted hours of coverage to generating a scandal around the decision by senior career Justice Department officials to overrule a push from lower-level attorneys to seek more charges in the case. An internal investigation ultimately cleared DOJ officials of any wrongdoing or misconduct in that case.

    Moreover, Baier’s allegations about the Clinton email investigation raise more questions than answers about the claims. In choosing to parrot his sources, Baier is willingly ignoring the obvious holes in the story. His claim that FBI officials are “99 percent” sure that the server “had been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies” flies in the face of the FBI’s public statements that there is “no evidence” Clinton’s server was hacked -- leading to question why Baier didn’t raise that contradiction. While Baier reports that his sources think the email investigation will “likely” result in "an indictment," he doesn’t bother to answer the questions of who is supposedly going to be indicted, and for what?

    Baier is essentially taking information already known about a dispute over the significance of the Clinton Foundation investigation, uncritically amplifying one side of that dispute with shaky claims, and parroting anonymous leaks that are likely overblown to further cast an aura of scandal right before the election. The reports leave little doubt that Fox News is acting as “the pipeline for the fifth column inside the bureau” that is publicly seeking to influence the election.

  • The Guide To Donald Trump's War On The Press (So Far)

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.

  • Media Shouldn’t Fall For Trump’s Spin That He Can Fix Tax Laws

    Trump’s Damage Control After NY Times Tax Bombshell At Odds With His Own Tax Plan That Favors His Own Businesses 

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Following The New York Times’ report that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may have been able to avoid federal income taxes for 18 years after declaring a $916 million loss in 1995 as his businesses collapsed, some pundits are adopting the Trump campaign’s spin that the story proves that Trump “knows the tax code far better than anyone … and he is the only one that knows how to fix it.” In fact, Trump’s tax plan “doesn’t just preserve those breaks, it piles on new ones for real estate developers like Mr. Trump himself,” according to The Washington Post. The proposal would deliver a massive tax cut to Trump’s own businesses while providing a multi-trillion dollar tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.