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Craig Harrington

Author ››› Craig Harrington
  • Fox & Friends uses made-up Confederate memorial controversy to amplify Virginia gubernatorial candidate’s talking points

    Ed Gillespie: “My opponent is in favor of removing all historical Civil War monuments in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I think they should stay up.”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    For days, Fox & Friends has been promoting a debunked story about a church in Alexandria, VA, supposedly removing a memorial plaque honoring George Washington, a parishioner of the church, because some find it “offensive.”

    The October 29 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend and the October 30 and October 31 editions of Fox & Friends, which seem to have gotten the story from The Washington Times, featured deeply misleading segments questioning the decision of church leaders at Christ Church to remove a memorial plaque dedicated to the nation’s first president. Each segment largely glossed over the fact that Washington’s plaque is simply being moved because of its twin plaque commemorating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who also attended the church and who has become the subject of intense debate regarding public commemorations to those who rebelled against the United States government in the cause of secession and white supremacy. According to a statement from the church, the plaques are being moved together because they represent a single installation that is out of place in “the worship space” of the building and will be “relocated to a place of respectful prominence” where they can be viewed in the full context of the church’s “long and many-faceted history.”

    Fox’s knee-jerk attempt to politicize the church’s decision, and the network’s attempt to obfuscate the removal of a plaque commemorating Lee by hyping the removal of a twin plaque commemorating Washington, marks another step backward in the network’s increasingly outlandish defenses of monuments to the Confederacy. Fox & Friends’ attempts to capitalize on the network’s ginned-up controversy culminated in a softball October 31 interview with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, who used the issue to accuse Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam of seeking to erase Virginia's history. Gillespie has made defending Confederate monuments a core issue of his platform and has benefited from favorable coverage at Fox News and elsewhere in right-wing media. From the October 31 edition of Fox & Friends:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Ed, where you're sitting right now, in Alexandria, that's the same city that we were talking about earlier today where at Christ Church, which is a church that George Washington himself attended, there is a plaque inside the vestibule that commemorates the fact that he was there. But they're taking it down because apparently it makes some people feel uncomfortable. What do you make of this? Because I know statues in Virginia -- another big topic this election cycle.

    ED GILLESPIE: Well, obviously, I was disappointed by that, removing the plaque of George Washington at the church where he worshiped because people find it offensive. And that is another debate in this campaign. My opponent [Ralph Northam] is in favor of removing all historical Civil War monuments in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I think they should stay up. We should add historical context to them. And the fact is Virginia was front and center, obviously. Of course, we've been at the forefront of American history from the very founding here of Virginia and Virginians. Now, it doesn't mean we've always been on the right side. And in the Civil War, we were on the wrong side of history. But these statues around the commonwealth that commemorate those who served in the Civil War, I believe we should educate about them and teach about them. He wants to take them all down, and he made that an issue when he called for taking down and removing all of the statues. And when I disagree with that position, which, by the way, two-thirds of Virginians agree with me, you get attacked.

  • Cable news obsesses over Flake and Corker's meaningless grandstanding, but barely acknowledges their pro-Trump votes

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Cable news networks spent the better part of Tuesday afternoon obsessing over comments made by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in which they reignited feuds with President Donald Trump over his inability to tell the truth and his contribution to political discord. However, during the windfall of coverage -- which oftentimes touted the two senators “blast[ing] Trump” -- there was barely any mention of the fact that both Flake and Corker have almost always voted with Trump’s agenda.

    On October 24, an ongoing fight between Trump and Corker escalated with Corker lashing out at the president for “‘debasing’ the country with his ‘untruths,’ ‘name-calling’ and ‘attempted bullying,’” according to The Washington Post. On the same day, Flake announced that he wouldn’t be running for re-election, noting that “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is.’”

    Cable news networks, particularly CNN and MSNBC, provided extensive coverage of the events, hyping the fact that “two Republican senators” were blasting Trump. Overall, on October 24, CNN covered the topic for five hours, 20 minutes, and 14 seconds; Fox News spent one hour, 41 minutes, and 11 seconds on the topic; and MSNBC ran five hours, 23 minutes, and 49 seconds of coverage detailing the feuds.

    Yet, according to FiveThirtyEight, Flake has voted with the president’s agenda 90 percent of the time and Corker has voted in favor of Trump’s agenda 86 percent of the time as of October 25. In fact, on the same day they spoke out against the president, both senators voted with Trump to upend a major consumer protection rule. With the significant amount of discussion spent on Flake’s and Corker’s words, one would think that the networks could have found plenty of time to mention the senators’ voting records. But they were barely mentioned. For example, in the over 12 hours of coverage from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on October 24, a Media Matters review of keywords in SnapStream (“Flake” or “Corker” in conjunction with “vote” or “support”) found just 14 references to Flake’s and Corker’s pro-Trump voting. The senators’ voting records were mentioned five times on Fox and CNN and four times on MSNBC, according to that search.

    When two sitting senators in the same party as the president criticize him publicly, it will undoubtedly get covered. It’s important, however, to put the criticism into perspective. While Flake and Corker did criticize Trump, their collective actions throughout his presidency have just enabled his agenda -- and that, too, must be pointed out. 

  • Fox News' exclusive reporting on Iran nuclear deal echoes pretext for Iraq War

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Fox News / Screengrab

    Fox News is promoting a report from an Iranian exile organization that the government in Tehran has restarted nuclear weapons development in violation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. President Donald Trump is expected to decertify the deal in coming days, and given his penchant for watching Fox News, it’s possible he will use this report as part of his justification. Fox’s rush to promote the exile group’s claims echoes moves made in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, when “bogus intelligence” provided by politically motivated Iraqi exiles set the pretext for a U.S. invasion.

    An October 10 exclusive article published by FoxNews.com detailed a new report by the exile group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which “asserts that the country’s nuclear weapons program has far from halted.” According to FoxNews.com, “The Iranian Resistance has identified four major sites that ‘with high degrees of certainty’ have been involved in various aspects of the allegedly ongoing nuclear weapons project.” Fox & Friends further promoted the NCRI report during its October 11 episode. Fox contributor Newt Gingrich vouched for the group as “the best source of information inside Iran” and claimed its allegations were “probably right.” Gingrich then used the report as justification for Trump to decertify Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear regulatory framework brokered by the Obama administration and five other nations:

    During a later segment, Fox’s Jillian Mele highlighted the report, claiming “it appears [Iran’s] weapons program is fully operational,” adding that the report “shows at least four nuclear development sites have secretly been constructed and used to avoid international inspectors”:

    Fox continued promoting the NCRI report during Happening Now, with co-host Melissa Francis claiming that an “explosive report” demonstrated Iran “already [has] the weapon” and is in violation of its commitments. Conservative national security analyst Michael Singh of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy cautioned that the report had yet to be verified and “is at odds with the findings of our intelligence community,” noting that “you have to take it with a bit of a grain of salt.”

    If true, these allegations from NCRI would demonstrate that the Iranian government is no longer in full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the “Iran nuclear deal,” negotiated between China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Iran to limit the latter’s nuclear weapons capabilities. The report could provide justification for the Trump administration to decertify the Iran nuclear framework, which is widely expected to happen after the president, in a speech at the United Nations last month, called the deal “an embarrassment” to the United States and international community.

    However, there are multiple reasons to question NCRI’s conclusions.

    None of the other nations involved in JCPOA negotiations and enforcement believe Iran is in violation of compliance standards. Indeed, on the same day Fox News published NCRI’s conclusions, British Prime Minister Theresa May personally urged Trump to remain in the deal, which she argued was “vitally important for regional security.” And just one day before that, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reiterated that Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA framework, stating "the nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran ... are being implemented." In recent weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pointed to the Iran deal as a workable framework for solving the North Korean nuclear standoff, and her government has reasserted its commitment to preserving international nuclear cooperation on Iran.

    NCRI’s motivations also need to be scrutinized. The group calls itself a “parliament in exile” and was founded in 1981 after losing a power struggle for control of Iran. It acts as an umbrella organization for numerous Iranian dissident and exile groups that stand to benefit from American action against the Iranian government -- including the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), which had previously been designated a terrorist organization.

    Additionally, in many ways, NCRI resembles the Iraqi National Congress (INC) under Ahmed Chalabi, which was formed with the explicit mandate of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. Chalabi and the INC supplied the U.S. government with exaggerated and fabricated intelligence in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and its leader was richly rewarded after the U.S.-led invasion created a power vacuum in Baghdad for his group to exploit.

    Right-wing media outlets, led by Fox News, always opposed Obama-era diplomatic overtures to Iran and have long advocated that the Iran nuclear deal be dismantled regardless of the facts on the ground. Conservative outlets and personalities have spread lies about the negotiations and enforcement of the deal and now, they may be supplying Trump with the questionable intelligence he needs to formally abandon American diplomatic commitments in Iran.

    This piece was updated with additional information​

  • After years of nitpicking Obama, Fox sees nothing to worry about in September jobs report

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Fox News / Screengrab

    Fox News seemed unfazed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) estimate that the economy lost 33,000 jobs last month -- a figure far short of most economist’s expectations. The network’s rosy interpretation of an aberrant monthly jobs report stands in stark contrast to years of nitpicking and misrepresentation during the Obama administration, and it reveals once again that Fox is working to prop up President Donald Trump.

    According to the BLS’ monthly employment report for September 2017, the economy lost 33,000 jobs last month while the unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent. Job creation for the months of July and August was revised down by a combined 38,000, meaning that the average pace of job creation over the past three months fell to just 91,000. According to a BLS statement, part of the job loss in September was the result of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which may have disrupted data collection and likely prevented some businesses from hiring. The storms devastated parts of Texas and Florida and are expected to exert downward pressure, at least temporarily, on the overall economy.

    The impact of the hurricanes was no surprise, but economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal still predicted roughly 80,000 new jobs to be created last month. As Business Insider reported, if the economy did indeed lose jobs in September (final revisions are due in December), it would mark the first negative month of job creation since 2010. As New York Times reporter Ben Casselman noted, the economy had created jobs for 83 consecutive months:

    During the Obama administration, the team at Fox News would have pounced on a jobs report with such a stark negative jobs number. Indeed, when the jobs figure from December 2016 merely came in under expectations, Fox claimed it was proof that the Obama economy was sputtering and “sick.” Fox completely reversed the tone of its economic coverage after Trump’s inauguration, and that reversal was on full display this morning.

    Fox & Friends covered the report for mere seconds before moving on to other news, but co-host Abby Huntsman worked in mentions of the hurricanes and lower unemployment rate while glossing over job losses:

    On Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, the host and guests spent several minutes hyping record stock market valuations and stressing that the September jobs number should be ignored due to damage from the hurricanes. After correspondent Adam Shapiro unveiled the report, guest Joanie Courtney pivoted away from the job losses to highlight “positive news in this report,” including wage growth and a slight uptick in labor force participation. The rest of the panel then spent the next several minutes explaining why stock investors should not be worried by a single monthly hiccup:

    On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney opened his show by bragging that what he calls “the Trump rally” on the stock market has created trillions of dollars of wealth since Election Day. Varney dismissed the job losses in September before claiming that the backbone of the economy was “humming along.” In a later segment, Varney returned to bragging about the supposed “Trump rally” -- he has promoted this fiction for months, crediting Trump for positive economic trends inherited from the prior administration -- with author and investment analyst Hunter Lewis. To Varney’s surprise, Lewis immediately threw cold water on boasts about the economy, warning that he believes the stock market is “in a bubble” and may actually be headed for “a nasty correction”:

  • News outlets promote ISIS' evidence-free claim of connection to Las Vegas shooting

    Intelligence officials quickly debunked story linking terror group to worst mass shooting in American history

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    MSNBC / Screengrab

    In an October 2 dispatch, The Associated Press promoted the terror group ISIS’ claim that it was responsible for a mass shooting in Las Vegas that left more than 50 dead and 500 others injured, even though the AP acknowledged ISIS provided no evidence to support the assertion. Other outlets rushed to parrot the AP’s report over the next few hours, until the FBI stated the shooter has no connection to ISIS or any other terrorist group.

    A 10:15 a.m. EST dispatch from the AP’s Cairo, Egypt, bureau carried the headline “Islamic State Claims Las Vegas Attack” followed by a single sentence noting that ISIS provided “no evidence” to support its claim. Moments later, a corresponding tweet from the AP reiterated the claims:

    Following the AP’s lead, Newsweek and the New York Post ran with the same misleading headline, providing varying degrees of clarification demonstrating that the claim of ISIS involvement was completely unsubstantiated. Bloomberg reposted the AP report with no alterations, while Time amended the headline to reflect that ISIS “didn’t give any proof” to support its claim. Just a few minutes after the AP flash, Fox News correspondent John Roberts also promoted the claim, speculating about how ISIS involvement, if confirmed, might change the tone of President Donald Trump’s response to the incident. Roughly one hour after AP pushed the story, NBC News legal analyst Pete Williams also discussed the unsubstantiated link to ISIS on MSNBC, but stressed that federal law enforcement and intelligence sources he has spoken with “have absolutely no reason to believe” the supposed link “is true”:

    At a press conference at roughly 11:45 a.m. EST, Aaron Rouse, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Las Vegas, said that federal officials have found “no connection to an international terrorist group.”

    After a series of extensive updates, the AP article now mentions that ISIS “often claims attacks by individuals inspired by its message but with no known links to the group.” A similarly styled report from CBS News also reflects, after several updates, that the Las Vegas gunman demonstrated “no early signs of any ties to radical Islamic groups or signs of radicalization,” and notes that ISIS “offered no proof of a link with” the gunman.

    In a series of tweets shortly after the AP published its initial report, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank explained that ISIS is a notoriously unreliable source of information and noted that it has a history of claiming a connection to unrelated shootings and attacks. Rather than simply running with ISIS’ self-aggrandizing propaganda for the sake of adding new angles to developing stories, news outlets should refrain from publishing until all the facts are in. 

  • MSNBC hosts offer a perfect cable news template for covering Trump’s tax cut charade

    Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle dismantle arguments that Trump plan will benefit the economy

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In response to the release of a new Republican tax proposal, three consecutive segments hosted by MSNBC’s Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle offered a perfect example of how cable news ought to cover President Donald Trump’s tax agenda.

    The September 27 edition of MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle opened with the co-hosts breaking down the entire Trump tax cut plan. Velshi argued that proposed income tax changes were “a little smoke and mirrors” and would have no “meaningful effect on prosperity” for most Americans, additionally explaining how Trump’s proposal to eliminate the estate and alternative minimum taxes -- which would result in massive tax giveaways to the Trump family -- “is a boon for the wealthy.”

    When Velshi explained Trump’s proposal to cut corporate tax rates, Ruhle interjected that Trump’s own companies (along with “law firms and hedge funds”) would benefit from the changes. Velshi concluded that the plan “overwhelmingly supports those who are higher earners” while Ruhle argued it is simply “disingenuous” to claim the middle class would benefit from Trump’s plan:

    The hosts then brought in CNBC correspondent John Harwood to discuss the tax plan, where he, too, stressed that the Trump plan “is simply not a tax proposal that is geared toward the middle class” and reminded viewers that Trump’s strategy resembles the failed tax cuts enacted by President George W. Bush. Obama administration press secretary Josh Earnest joined the conversation, concluding the segment by noting that none of Trump’s rally goers are motivated by reduced taxes for the rich and corporations:

    After thoroughly dismantling the Trump administration’s tax agenda, the program turned to conservative policy analyst Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), who also noted that the plan, as it stands today, would be unlikely to fulfill Trump’s promises of increased economic growth and would end up adding to federal budget deficits. At the end of the segment, Earnest once again noted the “internal inconsistency” at play when Trump, after recently arguing the rich don’t need a tax cut, proposes a plan that gives them one:

  • Local TV coverage of Graham-Cassidy largely overlooked some of its scariest flaws

    Cuts to Medicaid were more likely to be mentioned, but effects felt by many disadvantaged communities were neglected

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Evening news coverage in several crucial local television markets failed to adequately convey the ramifications of the so-called “Graham-Cassidy” health care plan, the latest Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A majority of local news coverage last week in the selected markets focused on GOP attempts to wrangle support for the pending legislation with few, if any, significant mentions of how the bill would affect residents.

    Media Matters analyzed local television coverage of the Graham-Cassidy bill between September 18 and 22 in five major markets represented by Republican senators -- Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) -- who, at the time, had not yet committed their votes for or against the legislation (McCain and Collins have since said they could not support the legislation). According to this analysis, local affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC in the selected markets aired a total of 43 segments about the legislation during their evening newscasts, but much of the coverage involved little substance:

    • The loss of ACA guarantees for coverage of essential health benefits (EHBs) was mentioned zero times.
    • Graham-Cassidy proposals specifically targeting Planned Parenthood were mentioned just three times, while the legislation’s disproportionate impact on women was mentioned just once.
    • The disproportionate impact of Graham-Cassidy on low-income Americans was mentioned just three times.
    • Predicted insurance premium spikes resulting from Graham-Cassidy were mentioned just two times.
    • Projected insurance coverage losses for millions of Americans were mentioned just seven times.
    • The loss of ACA protections for Americans with pre-existing health conditions was mentioned just nine times.
    • Projected cuts and restrictions to the Medicaid program were mentioned just 19 times across 43 segments.

    Dangerous Medicaid cuts, insurance losses underreported

    Of the 43 total segments across all five markets, just 19 -- roughly 44 percent -- mentioned that  the Graham-Cassidy proposal to convert Medicaid funding into federal block grants while rolling back the ACA’s expansion of the program would result in significant benefit cuts for millions of Americans. According to a September 20 analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the steep cuts Graham-Cassidy would make to Medicaid in 2027 make the bill “likely [to] be even more damaging” than simply repealing the ACA in full would.

    According to a January 2017 report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), completely repealing the ACA’s individual insurance mandate, its expansion of Medicaid, and its provision of tax credits for individual insurance market customers would result in 32 million fewer people having insurance by 2026. Graham-Cassidy promises to do all three, which is why a September 20 analysis from the Center for American Progress predicted insurance losses of 32 million by 2026 should the bill become law. Unfortunately, this staggering reversal of Obama-era insurance gains was mentioned only seven times by qualifying local news coverage -- roughly 16 percent of segments.

    Loss of protections for pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits

    Of the 43 segments included in this analysis, just nine -- roughly 21 percent -- mentioned that  the Graham-Cassidy proposal would weaken ACA protections serving millions of Americans living with pre-existing health conditions. As Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) explained to Axios, though Graham-Cassidy does not completely repeal ACA rules regarding pre-existing conditions, "they might end up only existing on paper." The bill would replace ACA protections against charging higher premiums to customers with existing medical problems with language that professors told PolitiFact is " vague and subject to broad interpretation.” A new draft of the bill issued over the weekend includes even more “weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” wrote Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik. As Hiltzik explained, the previous draft “would have allowed states to apply for a waiver of federal rules” regarding individuals with pre-existing conditions, while the newest draft “doesn’t even require a waiver” to skirt the requirements.

    None of the segments reviewed for this analysis mentioned that Graham-Cassidy proposes to roll back essential health benefits (EHBs) enshrined by the ACA, by letting states opt out of requiring insurers to cover some particularly costly health care products. As FamiliesUSA explained in a June 27 blog, hollowing out these insurance requirements would be detrimental to millions of Americans who currently need or may one day seek treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders or require prenatal and maternity care. By rescinding EHB guarantees, Graham-Cassidy “would be a return to the days before the ACA” when “millions of people purchasing coverage on their own couldn’t get coverage for critical care,”including maternity care, ambulatory care, and hospitalization.

    Low-income families, the elderly, people with disabilities and mental health concerns

    Local TV coverage often neglected the disastrous effects of Graham-Cassidy’s Medicaid cuts on low-income communities that are served by the program. Just three segments (7 percent) mentioned that the law would harm low-income Americans by rolling back the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid benefits to “poor, working-age adults, a population traditionally not eligible for coverage.” As CBPP noted in its breakdown of the legislation, individual states would face “no requirement to offer low- and moderate-income people coverage or financial assistance.” Indeed, the toll Graham-Cassidy would have on working- and middle-class Americans is particularly harsh given that the legislation is also expected to result in a spike in insurance premiums -- a fact mentioned just twice in 43 segments.

    Graham-Cassidy’s disturbing impact on older Americans merited only four mentions -- in just over 9 percent of segments -- despite concerns voiced by the AARP that the bill “would result in an age tax for older Americans who would see their health care costs increase” as a result of the loss of consumer protections surrounding EHBs and pre-existing conditions.

    At the same time, the impact of the legislation on the tens of millions of Americans living with a disability was virtually absent from local coverage of Graham-Cassidy, and the legislation’s harmful effects on people dealing with mental illness was entirely neglected. Just one segment out of 43 mentioned that Graham-Cassidy would harm people with disabilities by restricting programs they rely on, such as Medicaid, and removing protections they have under current law. The harmful effects the law would have on health care providers and patients dealing with mental illness were never mentioned.

    Graham-Cassidy’s impact on women’s health overlooked

    Just three of 43 segments mentioned that the Graham-Cassidy legislation would freeze federal funding for Planned Parenthood. According to Stats, the law “effectively defunds Planned Parenthood by prohibiting Medicaid reimbursements to organizations that meet a narrow description” clearly intended to target Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is a comprehensive national health care provider that disproportionately serves low-income women, but which is misleadingly portrayed as, at best, nothing more than an abortion clinic and, at worst, a criminal enterprise.

    In addition to the financial hit to Planned Parenthood, which right-wing opponents erroneously claim can be replaced by other community health centers, a Washington Post review of the legislation revealed that Graham-Cassidy is actually designed to impose a backdoor ban on constitutionally protected rights to an abortion. The legislation as currently proposed would begin funneling tax credits for individual market insurance plans through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2021, making the money subject to the Hyde amendment, “which prohibits taxpayer funds from paying for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or if the woman’s life is at stake.”

    In addition to the restrictions Graham-Cassidy would impose on reproductive health care, the bill also limits ACA-enshrined protections for maternity care and contraceptive coverage, thereby increasing the cost burden for women who wish to prevent, maintain, or terminate a pregnancy. Despite the fact that Graham-Cassidy seems uniquely designed to harm women’s health, local TV news mentioned the disproportionate impact it would have on American women only once during the survey period.

    Impact on minority communities

    Local coverage of the Graham-Cassidy proposal failed entirely when discussing how the law would negatively affect minority communities if enacted. According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while roughly 21 percent of all Americans rely on Medicaid as their primary form of health insurance, the number spikes to over 34 percent for Native Americans and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders, over 33 percent for African-Americans, and over 30 percent for Hispanic Americans. Given their increased reliance on Medicaid, minority communities are among several disadvantaged groups that are particularly ill-equipped to handle additional cuts to the program.

    Furthermore, by eliminating protections for people with pre-existing conditions, the legislation would leave many minority communities at the mercy of massive premium increases in an unregulated insurance marketplace. Due to a confluence of environmental factors, some of the “health disparities affecting people of color” include increased susceptibility to cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other ailments.

    A tax giveaway to the wealthy

    Another aspect of the Graham-Cassidy bill that went unmentioned during the survey period was that Graham-Cassidy’s proposed expansion of the existing health savings account (HSA) model is effectively a tax giveaway to wealthier Americans. The legislation would increase the amount of pretax income families and individuals can contribute to HSAs, but it would do nothing for low- and middle-income Americans who already cannot afford to save money. As CBPP vice president Edwin Park noted in a November 2016 takedown of GOP proposals to expand HSAs, such a plan “would mostly help wealthy, not uninsured” people. Economist Kathryn Phillips further elaborated in a December blog for Health Affairs that HSAs “primarily benefit the wealthy, the healthy, and the educated” by providing a savings vehicle to tackle modest expenses. Additionally, KFF found in 2006, when the GOP was vetting a major health care overhaul during the Bush administration, that HSAs can increase out-of-pocket costs for “people with chronic conditions, disabilities, and others with high-cost medical needs” and would do nothing to increase coverage among the uninsured.

    Methodology

    Media Matters used iQ media to search evening newscasts (airing at 9 p.m., 10 p.m., or 11 p.m.) from local affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC in Anchorage, AK; Cincinnati, OH; Charleston, WV; Phoenix, AZ; and Portland, ME for segments that aired between September 18 and 22 about Graham-Cassidy. The markets included were either the largest television market in the selected states or, in the case of Cincinnati, a large market where Sen. Portman lives. We identified and reviewed all segments that included one or more the following words or phrases: Graham, Cassidy, Senate health, GOP health, Republican health, Affordable Care Act, ACA, Obama care, Obamacare. Segments were then coded for mentions of the following issues regarding Graham-Cassidy:

    • cuts to Medicaid;
    • increase in uninsured people;
    • impact on the elderly;
    • impact on minority communities;
    • impact on low-income people;
    • impact on disabled people;
    • impact on women;
    • increase in reliance on health savings accounts (HSAs);
    • increase in premiums;
    • potential rollback of essential health benefits (EHBs);
    • impact on people with pre-existing conditions;
    • freeze in Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood;
    • impact on mental health care;
    • impact on addiction care; and
    • impact on rural hospitals.

    We also coded for mentions that:

    • HSAs primarily help the wealthiest and/or do nothing to help low-income or uninsured people; and
    • a bipartisan group of governors criticized the bill in a September 18 letter.
  • How GOP leaders are using TV to misinform the public about the potential health care repeal

    Interviews with Graham-Cassidy supporters spread misinformation, devolve into misleading deflection

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Republican senators took to the airwaves this week to shore up support for the so-called “Graham-Cassidy” health care bill, the latest GOP proposal that aims to dismantle much of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a series of proposals adopted from previously failed legislation. The often contentious interviews frequently devolved into stonewalling and deflection when reporters pressed lawmakers for answers about the ways the legislation would affect tens of millions of Americans who rely on programs such as Medicaid, live with pre-existing medical conditions, or have gained coverage under the ACA.

    Republican lawmakers have attempted to build support for the latest attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, which is in jeopardy of collapse amid reports that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is opposed to the bill, by once again recycling worn-out myths about the Obama-era health care reform law and spreading falsehoods about the proposed legislation. With Republicans set to appear on the Sunday morning political shows this weekend to build support for the bill, which many lawmakers seem to know little about, their refusal to engage in a factual debate about the legislation should be a red flag for the journalists conducting those interviews.

    Sen. Bill Cassidy

    During September 20 appearances on CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) spread several falsehoods about the health care repeal legislation that bears his name. (He spread much of the same misinformation from the friendly confines of Fox News, where he was allowed to push his talking points completely unchallenged.) During his CNN and MSNBC appearances, Cassidy falsely claimed the proposal would result in more people getting health insurance coverage and asserted that the new bill protects the tens of millions of Americans living with pre-existing medical conditions. When CNN’s Chris Cuomo pressed Cassidy to provide proof of his claims, Cassidy pivoted to attack the ACA’s individual insurance mandate. And when MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle confronted him about coverage cuts for “low-income seniors, children, and people with disabilities,” Cassidy evaded the question while claiming that his bill would simply reroute money currently allocated to those groups through the existing Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP):

    In reality, the Center for American Progress, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), and The Commonwealth Fund each reported that, according to previous estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Graham-Cassidy proposal to end private market health insurance tax credits, along with its severe cuts to Medicaid and rollback of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, would result in 32 million people losing health insurance over the next decade. And as Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation explained to Axios, though the Graham-Cassidy bill would not repeal the ACA's rules about pre-existing conditions, "they might end up only existing on paper." That's because, as PolitiFact has also noted, the bill removes ACA protections against charging higher premiums to customers with existing medical problems and the language about pre-existing conditions "is vague and subject to broad interpretation.”

    Sen. Lindsey Graham

    During a September 20 appearance on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) emphasized the supposed need to pass his health care agenda because “Obamacare is collapsing around us.” Graham also asserted that under the ACA, “access to health care is going down” nationwide:

    Graham’s claim that the ACA “is collapsing” echoes years of conservative smears about the law, which exaggerate any hiccup in the implementation of ACA reforms as proof of an impendingdeath spiral.” In reality, the insurance marketplaces established by the law have stabilized considerably over the past year, and lingering issues are largely the result of Republican sabotage, not a failure of the ACA. Graham’s additional claim that the newest GOP bill is a solution to reduced health care access could not be further from the truth: The number of uninsured Americans reached an all-time low in 2016 before the Trump administration launched its efforts to dismantle the ACA and, as previously noted, Graham’s bill would strip insurance from millions of Americans.

    Sen. Ron Johnson

    During a September 19 interview on CNN’s New Day, bill co-sponsor Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) bemoaned health care reforms instituted by the ACA, which he called “Washington, D.C.’s one-size-fits-all model” for health care coverage. Johnson reiterated his support for the proposal in the Graham-Cassidy bill to convert ACA revenue into block grants to states, which he claimed would be “far more responsive to their citizens than Washington, D.C., will.” Co-host Alisyn Camerota largely let Johnson push his talking points unchecked, and she seemed more interested in Johnson’s plan to recruit additional Republican supporters than with the ways the legislation would affect millions of Americans:

    Johnson approached his September 21 interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe with a similar strategy, stressing that Graham-Cassidy would help states be more responsive to their citizens and deflecting questions about concerns from several Republican governors that the bill’s Medicaid cuts will devastate low-income communities. When co-host Willie Geist pressed Johnson about whether some Medicaid recipients would be “denied coverage they have now” by Graham-Cassidy’s rollback of the program, Johnson again deflected those concerns and suggested the problem could be avoided if governors “manage their programs properly”:

    In fact, according to CBPP, any proposal to convert federal Medicaid funding into a block grant system would inevitably lead to major funding cuts and program restrictions. CBPP estimated that millions of Americans would lose Medicaid coverage from the block grant system proposed by Graham-Cassidy, a concern shared by the bipartisan group of governors opposed to the bill.

    Sen. John Barrasso

    On the September 19 edition of MSNBC’s MTP Daily, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) falsely claimed that Medicaid had “failed” as a result of ACA reforms and argued that the program insuring low-income Americans is unpopular with patients. (Host Katy Tur, however, correctly noted that Medicaid is extremely popular.) Barrasso also asserted that “this bill protects everyone with a pre-existing condition” and smeared ACA patient protections requiring insurance plans to cover essential health benefits (EHBs), which protect consumers from inadequate plans. When Tur pressed him to provide support for his claims, Barrasso simply talked over her repeated inquiries while reiterating the same talking points:

    On the September 20 edition of CNN Newsroom, Barrasso had a less contentious interview with co-hosts John Berman and Poppy Harlow, during which he spread even more misinformation about the Graham-Cassidy plan. Barrasso bizarrely claimed that Graham-Cassidy would not kick millions of people off their plans, but would instead empower millions to drop coverage with “the free choice they have as Americans.” He also falsely claimed the Graham-Cassidy bill would result in states “get[ting] more money to deal with” the health care needs of their own residents. A September 20 report from Avalere Health, however, has revealed that the bill would actually “reduce federal funding to states by $215 billion” through 2026, by $489 billion through 2027 when block grants for Medicaid run out, and by a staggering $4 trillion through 2036. In the end, Graham-Cassidy would redistribute billions of dollars from states that enacted ACA provisions to those (like Wyoming) that refused to do so:

    Media Matters research coordinator Julie Alderman contributed to this research

  • Fox & Friends spread false information about London attack, hosted anti-Muslim hate group leader

    Fox & Friends also hosted architect of CIA's illegal Bush-era torture program

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox & Friends’ coverage of an apparent terror attack in London demonstrated Fox News’ playbook for exploiting acts of terrorism at home and abroad by spreading misinformation about the incident and turning to discredited Islamophobes for insight into the nature of terror threats.

    According to reporting from the BBC and other news outlets, an “improvised explosive device” was detonated in a London Underground passenger car as it waited at the Parsons Green station during Friday morning rush hour traffic. According to The New York Times, more than 20 people were hospitalized for injuries as a result of the explosion, which is being treated as a terrorist attack, and an investigation is underway to find those responsible. As the story unfolded, little was known of the device, the person or people involved, or the extent of damage sustained in the explosion. But the lack of evidence did not stop Fox News from exploiting the event to promote its own agenda.

    The September 15 edition of Fox & Friends -- President Donald Trump’s preferred news source -- offered nearly wall-to-wall coverage on the events in London during the program’s opening hour. The coverage began with co-host Brian Kilmeade interjecting with unsubstantiated claims that police were actively trying to defuse “another bomb in the same station” during a report from Fox correspondent Amy Kellogg in London. Kilmeade repeated the unsubstantiated report of a second bomb -- seemingly sourced from British tabloids -- several times during the course of the program. Reports of a second explosive device, as well as of a knife-wielding assailant evading police, which Fox also reported, were soon debunked.

    In addition to spreading false information, Fox & Friends’ response to the incident followed a rubric established during previous terror attacks: promoting the supposed national security expertise of notorious Islamophobe Jim Hanson and discredited torture architect James Mitchell:

    Hanson is a frequent Fox guest and a vice president at the Center for Security Policy, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an anti-Muslim “hate group.” During his first September 15 appearance, Hanson surmised without evidence that the individual responsible for the London bombing was a Muslim and likely “known to police.” He used a later appearance to endorse Trump’s attempts to ban certain Muslim travelers from entering the United States. He also hyped the supposed threat of “second generation” Muslim immigrants, whom he claimed make up “a lot of the bombers … and the knifers and the truck drivers” who attack civilians. (Terror plots and attacks in the U.S. overwhelmingly emanate from largely white, right-wing extremist groups, not Muslim communities.)

    Mitchell, another frequent Fox guest regularly called upon to comment on terror attacks, was the architect of the CIA’s illegal Bush-era torture program, for which Fox News called him a "patriot.” The September 15 segment quickly glossed over his involvement in what co-host Steve Doocy referred to as “interrogating terrorists” before Mitchell was given free rein to slam the United Kingdom’s “immigration policies,” which he believes “deliberately or inadvertently … allowed these hotbeds of radical Islamic ideologies to be created.” (Mitchell's "hotbeds" rhetoric seems to mimic Fox News’ obsession with so-called “no-go zones” in the U.K., which it claims are a breeding ground for Islamic extremism -- a stance that has proved to be an embarrassment to the network in the past.)

  • Some journalists can see through Trump's economic ruse. Time for everyone else to catch up.

    Trump wants credit for economic progress, but the continued recovery has little to do with him

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    President Donald Trump has been promoting record high valuations on the Dow Jones industrial average as proof of his supposed economic accomplishments and has attacked news outlets for not covering the stock market gains and steady job creation during the first six months of his presidency. In response to both his boasts and his frequent criticism, journalists have been quick to point out that Trump deserves little credit for positive economic trends that predate his administration given his lack of substantive policy accomplishments while in office.