Video ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE
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The New York Times reported on Thursday that President Donald Trump “ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer.” Even though the decision could pose serious national security risks, Fox News shows either ignored or downplayed the report.
On February 28, The New York Times reported that Trump ordered top-level security clearances for Kushner despite opposition and concerns from the FBI, the CIA, the White House counsel, and his then-chief of staff John Kelly. According to the Times, “Officials had raised questions about [Kushner’s] own and his family’s real estate business’s ties to foreign governments and investors, and about initially unreported contacts he had with foreigners.” Kushner regularly expressed his frustration to Trump, but when the White House counsel’s office recommended to the president in May that Kushner not be given a top-secret clearance, Trump “ordered Mr. Kelly to grant it to Mr. Kushner anyway.” The Washington Post released a separate investigation on the topic later that day, confirming the Times report.
Kushner’s clearance had been held up for over a year and was even “downgraded from interim top secret to secret” in February 2018. But after he was given the top-security clearance, the White House claimed that the president was not involved in the security clearance process. Kushner’s lawyer said that his client followed a standard process. Ivanka Trump, Kushner’s wife and Trump’s eldest daughter who also serves as a senior adviser in the White House, said only a few weeks ago that Trump “had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance, zero.” Ivanka also pushed back on reports that Kushner had trouble receiving a clearance, dismissing them as “anonymous leaks.” In a January interview with the Times, Trump also repeatedly denied being involved in the security process, saying that he “was never involved with the security.”
Trump’s decision to sidestep security processes posed egregious national security risks, and it was an insult to public servants who have to go through the standard process. But Fox News failed to emphasize the seriousness of his decision. Most of the network’s shows ignored the report entirely, and those that did cover it worked to downplay the story’s significance. On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox Business analyst Ed Rollins dismissed the report, saying, “Ultimately, the president has the right to clear anybody he wants to clear.” He added, “The bottom line is we should be grateful [Kushner is] there.”
On The Ingraham Angle, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who says he was pushed off the presidential transition team over his personal conflict with Kushner, said that the “president had the absolute right to give a security clearance to whoever he wanted to,” but that the real issue is that Trump and Ivanka repeatedly lied about it. Host Laura Ingraham argued that Ivanka “might not have any knowledge of any of this” before conceding, “We all commit unforced errors in our lives, and it’s an unforced error if the reporting is accurate.”
On Fox News @ Night, host Shannon Bream mentioned the report for less than 20 seconds.
On the March 1 edition of Fox & Friends, Christie talked about the report in a segment that lasted for about one minute and 30 seconds. Christie again asserted that “ordering the clearance is not problematic” and that “the problem is they didn’t tell the truth.”
America’s Newsroom aired one brief segment on Kushner’s denial of the report. When asked about the story, White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway replied, “We don’t discuss security clearances.” Later in the show, Fox News host Chris Wallace discussed the report and described Conway’s comments as “a classic non-denial denial,” pointing out that Ivanka and others have discussed the security clearance in the past. Wallace also pointed out that if the report was “false, if in fact the president hadn’t been involved, I can’t imagine they wouldn’t say that. They have no qualms about saying when news is fake, when [there’s] reporting they think is inaccurate. They are not saying that about this story, so I think that speaks for itself.
On Outnumbered, the five-person panel sought to justify Trump's actions, with co-host Melissa Francis asking, "Why are they continuing to make a big deal out of this story?" Co-host Morgan Ortagus said she would have liked the report to discuss whether Clinton officials lost their security clearances while she was secretary of state.
On Outnumbered Overtime, host Harris Faulkner mentioned the report briefly in a segment that lasted less than one minute.
Media Matters looked at Fox News segments from when the Times' report was published on February 28 until 2 pm on March 1.
Fox News is once again misrepresenting comments from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in an attempt to smear her as an extremist. This time, the network’s faux outrage is over comments Ocasio-Cortez made in an Instagram video about the concerns young people have about having children in a world that scientists predict will become increasingly uninhabitable due to climate change.
During a February 25 livestream video on Instagram, Ocasio-Cortez talked about the reality that many young people face under the looming threat of climate change:
Our planet is going to be a disaster if we don't turn this ship around, and so it's basically, like, there's scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult. And it does lead, I think, young people to have a legitimate question, you know, should -- is it OK to still have children?
Unsurprisingly, Fox News figures were quick to misinterpret and distort what Ocasio-Cortez said, implying that she is discouraging people from having children, suggesting that her comments sound like they’re coming out of “communist China,” and even accusing her of wanting to “get rid of children.” This latest freakout is just another manifestation of Fox News’ obsession with mocking Ocasio-Cortez and distorting her statements.
CNN has announced it hired former Department of Justice spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores as a political editor to "coordinate political coverage for the 2020 campaign at the network." This hiring decision is surprising given Isgur’s lack of journalism experience, her conflicts of interest stemming from previous roles in the Trump Justice Department and multiple GOP campaigns, and the fact that she personally pledged loyalty to President Donald Trump. But, additionally, Isgur repeatedly made cable news appearances where she pushed false and highly partisan talking points over the years, raising even more questions about the value of involving her in 2020 campaign coverage.
On February 13, hosts of the New York radio show The Breakfast Club dismissed overblown conservative outrage attempting to smear presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) over her responses to questions about marijuana and music during their show. Despite the host criticizing and debunking Fox’s version of events, some Fox figures have continued to use the incident to smear Harris’ character.
On February 11, right-wing media attempted to scandalize an interview Harris did with The Breakfast Club, claiming she lied about smoking marijuana in college to seem relatable to voters. During the interview, Harris had said that she supports marijuana legalization and revealed that she smoked in college before answering one of the hosts’ question about what music she listens to. Right-wing media figures decided to interpret the sequence as Harris claiming she smoked marijuana in college while listening to Snoop Dogg and Tupac, which they noted would be impossible because their music wasn’t released until after Harris graduated from college. This trivial nitpicking of details gave right-wing media figures an opportunity to smear Harris as unrelatable.
The hosts of The Breakfast Club debunked right-wing coverage of the story two days later on their show. Co-host Charlamagne Tha God criticized conservative outrage while praising HuffPost for accurately reporting what happened, saying, “Finally, someone with no agenda; someone with no bias; someone who is just reporting on the facts and not some alternative version of the facts simply because they don’t like Kamala Harris.” He added that HuffPost “reported it exactly how it happened,” saying, “We can’t be reaching like this. All right? This [could be] dangerous.”
Despite The Breakfast Club’s rebuke of the version of events right-wing outlets originally reported, some Fox News figures have continued to run with the lie.
The same afternoon, Fox co-host Jesse Watters criticized the 2020 Democratic candidates for trying “to be everything to everybody,” adding, “Kamala, you’re not hip-hop. Trump’s more hip-hop than you are.” As Watters spoke, the chyron at the bottom of the screen read, “The art of the pander. 2020 hopefuls bend over backwards to impress voters.”
From the February 13 edition of Fox News’ The Five:
On her Fox Nation show First Thoughts the next day, Tomi Lahren dedicated a segment that lasted over two minutes to talking about the The Breakfast Club interview. She condescendingly berated Harris, calling her “Kam-Kam” multiple times and saying it is “another example of Ms. Harris saying and doing things [that] just don’t quite add up.”
From the February 14 edition of Fox Nation’s First Thoughts:
On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, guest Mark Steyn sarcastically said Harris “just lights up and suddenly Tupac is there in the room with her, six years before he’s made his first CD,” adding, “That’s a magical Valentine right there.”
From the February 15 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
UPDATE (2/13): The Breakfast Club responded to conservative media’s smear of Harris, explaining that their conversation was misrepresented.
On February 11, presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) waded into the debate on marijuana legalization during an episode of the radio show The Breakfast Club. While responding to multiple questions, Harris revealed that she supports legalization and smoked in college. Harris also shared, in response to a question, that some of her favorite music artists include rappers Snoop Dogg and Tupac. While she was answering that question, one of the hosts further asked what she listened to when she was “high.”
Right-wing media figures decided to interpret the sequence as Harris clearly saying she smoked marijuana in college while listening to Snoop Dogg and Tupac, which they note wouldn’t be possible because their music wasn’t released until after Harris graduated from college. They almost immediately started trying to turn the trivial nitpicking of details into a big scandal for Harris, accusing her of maliciously lying about smoking marijuana in college. Wednesday morning, this attempt to scandalize the moment made its way to Fox News’ morning show Fox & Friends. The three co-hosts treated the story as a “gotcha” moment for Harris, saying that “there’s a problem with the timeline.”
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): And then Kamala Harris came out and gave a very impressive introductory "look at me -- I want to run for president." However, if you look at some of the things she is saying about giving insurance for everybody, destroying private insurance and giving Medicare-for-all, you wonder where that came from. Then she admits on a morning radio show that she smoked marijuana because she wanted to in college.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): She was listening to Snoop and Tupac when she was in college. We took a look at the record, and take a look at this. That was the appearance on the so-called world's most dangerous morning show, The Breakfast Club, here in New York. She graduated from college at Howard in 1986. She finished law school in 1989. She was admitted to the state bar of California in 1990 and then in 1991, Tupac's first album came out and in 1993, Snoop Dogg's first album was released. So there's a problem with the timeline.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): So seven years after she graduated from undergrad, Snoop Dogg's debut album was released. And five years after she graduated from undergrad, Tupac's album was released.
DOOCY: So she doesn't remember what she was listening to when she was smoking.
KILMEADE: Right. I just don't know why -- she’s a scholar, her career is on a fast trajectory; she should embrace it, go behind it. Whoever you are, you have to be that person or it's not going to work. Did Donald Trump show you anything? For better or for worse, Donald Trump shows you exactly what he's doing every day and who he is.
As President Donald Trump prepares to hold his first campaign rally of the year in El Paso, TX, on February 11, Trump’s allies on Fox & Friends have already picked up on his lie that violence in El Paso decreased following the construction of border fencing. The morning show hosts are pushing this false narrative as fact even though multiple outlets have already debunked it.
During his State of the Union address on February 5, Trump falsely claimed, “The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime - one of the highest in the country, and [was] considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities.” State and local officials quickly pushed back on this claim. PolitiFact also debunked it, writing that El Paso’s “violent crime rate has been significantly below the national average compared to cities of similar size” every year between 1985 and 2014. And as NBC News reported, “Violent crime has been dropping in El Paso since its modern-day peak in 1993 and was at historic lows before a fence was authorized by Congress in 2006.” Both outlets also noted that the violent crime rate in the city increased after the fence was put up. In fact, the El Paso Times reported, “From 2006 to 2011 — two years before the fence was built to two years after — the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent.” But as criminologist Charis E. Kubrin told PolitiFact, the increases or decreases in the city’s crime rate aren't necessarily linked to the fence.
Despite the statistical evidence contradicting Trump’s claims, the hosts at Fox & Friends supported the president in lying about crime rates in El Paso. During the February 11 edition of the show, co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that Democrats are “upset with [Trump] saying in the State of the Union address that the wall works in El Paso.” Co-host Brian Kilmeade replied, “Right, which it did.”
From the February 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News all failed to cover the proposed rule change
On February 6, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under President Donald Trump announced a proposal to weaken an Obama-era rule designed to protect consumers from predatory payday lenders. Despite this move’s implications for consumers, network and cable news almost entirely ignored the rule change.
The Obama-era rule, which had set August 19, 2019, as a deadline for the payday lenders to start complying with its provisions, “was the first significant federal effort to regulate payday lenders and took more than five years to develop.” Part of its provisions would require payday lenders to verify potential borrowers' income and debts when deciding whether they could afford a high-interest loan, thus protecting vulnerable consumers from predatory lenders. Advocates of these provisions argue that “ability-to-repay requirements protect borrowers from getting caught in loans with exorbitant interest rates,” which can exceed 300 percent.
The latest proposal by the CFPB would eliminate the ability-to-repay requirements and delay implementation of the rule until 2020. This change would be a huge win for payday lenders, who lobbied lawmakers to block the rule last year. When those efforts failed, payday lenders “turned their attention to convincing the CFPB, now under the leadership of a Trump appointee, to change course.”
The proposal is the latest step in the Trump administration’s efforts to remake the CFPB, which was created after the 2008 global financial crisis in an attempt to protect consumers. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, argued, “This proposal essentially sends a message to predatory payday lenders that they may continue to harm vulnerable communities without penalty.” Richard Cordray, the CFPB’s former director who was in charge of finalizing the rule, described the rollback as “a bad move that will hurt the hardest-hit consumers,” adding, “It should be and will be subject to a stiff legal challenge.”
Network and cable news almost entirely ignored the CFPB’s proposed rollback, which will be open to public comment for 90 days, despite its potential to affect millions of borrowers. The only significant coverage occurred on MSNBC’s MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle in a segment that lasted over seven minutes and emphasized the detrimental impact the rollback will likely have on consumers.
MSNBC and NBC also featured two brief headline segments covering the topic on their early morning shows that each lasted less than 30 seconds. There has been no other coverage on MSNBC or NBC. CNN, Fox News, ABC, and CBS have not covered the story at all.
UPDATE (2/8): After noon on February 7, MSNBC ran two more segments covering the CFPB proposal. On MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle, host Stephanie Ruhle again presented the facts in a segment that lasted over six minutes and featured New York University business professor Scott Galloway. The following hour, on MSNBC Live with Katy Tur, Katy Tur hosted former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich to discuss the damaging impact this rule will have on consumers in a segment that lasted a little over one minute.
Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of "CFPB," "consumer protections," "consumer financial," "roll back," "payday," "community financial services," "CFSA," and "Kraninger" on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, and CBS from February 6 to noon on February 7.