Author Page | Media Matters for America

Dayanita Ramesh

Author ››› Dayanita Ramesh
  • Video: Activists at the Supreme Court tell the Trump administration #NoMuslimBanEver

    Here's what protesters have to say about Trump's Muslim ban and how the media covers it

    Blog ››› ››› SANAM MALIK, DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE

    Miles Le / Media Matters
    Miles Le / Media Matters

    More than a year ago, thousands of protesters flooded the streets and airports across the U.S. after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that barred all refugee admission to the U.S. and also denied people from seven Muslim-majority countries to travel to the country. After intense legal battles, coupled with extreme public outrage, the federal district courts successfully but temporarily blocked two versions of the Muslim Ban, as it came to be known, from going into effect deeming them unconstitutional. However, the Trump administration’s third attempt, Muslim Ban 3.0, was allowed to go into full effect by the U.S. Supreme Court as lawsuits were litigated.

    Finally, on Wednesday, April 25, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the ban, which affects more than 150 million people. The court will issue a decision by the end of June on its legality. Protesters, faith leaders, activists, and lawmakers once again came together outside the Supreme Court to voice their opposition and stand in solidarity with those affected.

    While the mainstream media largely ignored the protest, we spoke to some of the protesters and here’s what they had to say:

    The lack of coverage and representation of Muslim Americans in media weaponizes anti-Muslim sentiment that comes from the right-wing media. With an increase in hate crimes against Muslim Americans, the mainstream media should do its part to avoid fueling anti-Muslim extremism.

  • Video: Coverage of gun violence must include police violence against black people

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, MILES LE & SARAH WASKO

    Police in America shoot and kill more people than police in other highly developed countries do, and a disproportionately high number of those killed are black Americans. In 2012, black people accounted for 31 percent of police killings, even though they made up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. Research shows that black Americans are more likely to be shot and killed by police than other races.

    This is the grim reality. But right-wing media, conservative personalities, and some mainstream media figures criminalize black victims of police violence. Here are some examples:

    • Former CNN “law enforcement analyst” Harry Houck said the officers who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice acted “properly” when they shot him while he played in a park.

    • After a police officer shot and killed Walter Scott, who was unarmed and merely ran, Fox’s Geraldo Rivera said: “This civilian has dared to have a physical altercation with the officer.” (Rivera has also repeatedly victim-blamed black teenagers.)

    • After Stephon Clark was shot eight times, mostly in the back, Fox News’ William La Jeunesse remarked: “Now, Clark does have a criminal record.”

    • Fox host Sean Hannity called Freddie Gray, who died “days after suffering a severe spinal injury while riding in the back of a police van,” the “lowest scum parasite in the world” and said: “Look at this guy's record, look at his arrest record. … I'm saying that he's obviously not a pillar of the community.”

    • Hannity also said that Terrence Crutcher, who was shot even after following orders by a police officer, “has a long criminal history and appeared to be under the influence.” (More of Hannity's race-baiting remarks can be found here.)

    • CBS’ David Begnaud claimed that Alton Sterling, who was pinned to the ground, tased, and shot, “has a lengthy criminal history.”

    • Fox’s Mark Fuhrman said of Sterling: “Now, this man has to take responsibility that he did have a gun, and he conducted himself in some manner to draw attention to a citizen who called the police.” (Fuhrman has a long history of making racist remarks.)

    • In another instance, Fox News blatantly ignored dashcam footage in its coverage of the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by police officer Jeronimo Yanez. The footage revealed that Castile had alerted the officer that he was armed and had a valid permit for his firearm.

    Following the school shooting in Parkland, FL, and the resulting March for Our Lives movement for gun regulation, Parkland students have tried to shift media focus to the widespread gun violence against people of color, which they note has not drawn as much media attention as they have.

    The disparity shows a failure by national media to highlight black and brown voices and to recognize the systemic failures and historical context that have led to the unfair targeting of black Americans by law enforcement. State violence against people of color has been part of the fabric of the U.S. since its formation. But you wouldn't know that from some media coverage.

    Black Americans are dying at the hands of police officers. Media should hold law enforcement accountable and treat victims of police brutality the same way they treat victims of gun violence.

    (Charts and Images via CBS News, Family of Stephon Clark, Fibonacci Blue on Flickr, MSNBC, NBC News, Sun Sentinel, Tiffany Dena Loftin, Vox, Wikimedia Commons, and WLRN. Footage via CBS News, CNN, The Crisis Magazine, Fox News Channel, Tiffany Dena Loftin, and WJLA.)

  • Sinclair is flooding local news with pro-Trump propaganda. Find out if it owns a station near you.

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, MILES LE & SARAH WASKO

    President Donald Trump has a secret weapon that might just ensure his re-election. Sinclair Broadcast Group is a Trump-friendly media company that is notorious for pushing right-wing propaganda. The company already owns or operates more than 190 local stations across the country and is close to acquiring Tribune Media. With this merger, Sinclair would be able to reach more than 70 percent of American TV households that have a TV.

    Media Matters is now launching FindSinclair.com so you can find out if Sinclair controls a local news station near you. FindSinclair.com has information on Sinclair stations across the country, resources about the company, and an interactive map that can show you if it owns or operates one of your local stations.

    Video by Dayanita Ramesh, Miles Le, and Sarah Wasko

  • Video: The real story about ICE agents is that they're terrorizing people across the country

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Officials of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are rounding up immigrants and immigrant rights activists, and terrorizing communities across America. None of this should be considered normal.

    Here are just a handful of these nightmarish stories:

    • A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was on her way to a hospital in an ambulance to receive emergency gallbladder surgery when ICE officials apprehended her. (Her deportation proceedings are "ongoing.")

    • Immigrant rights activist Ravidath Ragbir was being taken into custody by ICE in New York City when he fainted. His wife accompanied Ragbir as he was taken the hospital. ICE officials took the couple to one hospital, ditched Ragbir’s wife there alone, and sped off with her husband to another hospital. Ragbir was then taken to two different detention centers before finally ending up at Krome Detention Center in Florida the same day to await deportation. (A federal judge recently granted Ragbir a stay.)

    • The father of a sick young boy was detained by ICE. The boy can’t verbalize his anxieties and couldn’t understand why his own father wasn’t at his birthday party.

    • Syed Ahmed Jamal, a chemistry teacher who has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years, was getting ready to take his daughter to school outside his house when ICE agents detained him and led him away in handcuffs. (He has since been granted temporary stay.)

    • Jesus Berrones, an undocumented man from Mexico scheduled to be deported soon, has a 5-year-old son battling leukemia. (He was recently granted a one-year stay.)

    • Lukasz Niec, a doctor, was brought to the United States when he was just 5 years old by his parents from Poland. He had a renewed green card and has lived in the country for nearly 40 years. ICE officials detained him and he is awaiting possible deportation. (He is currently in deportation proceedings.)

    • ICE agents are reportedly stopping worshippers as they go to church and interrogating them about their immigration status.

    • Ninety-two Somali people "were shackled with chains on their wrists, waists, and legs for more than 40 hours; forced to urinate in bottles or on themselves" on an ICE-chartered flight to Somalia. The Intercept reported that "ICE officers beat and threatened some passengers," which ICE has denied. The 92 were flown back and are now being held at the Krome Detention Center and the Glades County Detention Center in Florida, as their lawyers are fighting their deportion orders.

    During the George W. Bush administration, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 set the wheels in motion for creation of ICE in 2003. Bush’s approach to immigration “tended to reflect the philosophy that all unauthorized immigrants in America ought to feel that deportation was a possibility at any given time.” Over 10 million people were deported during his tenure. When Obama took office, he “used a strategy called ‘prosecutorial discretion’ to prioritize the deportation of certain types of immigrants (especially those convicted of crimes) and discourage deporting others (like parents of US citizen children).” But still over 5 million people were deported when he was president.

    Though both Bush and Obama administrations set the precedents for President Donald Trump to follow, the Trump administration seems to have adopted the Bush-era policies as the stories above show. In fact, as The Washington Post reported, the “agency made 37,734 ‘noncriminal’ arrests in the government’s 2017 fiscal year, more than twice the number in the previous year. And its reach is only expanding, as the ICE officials look into the possibility of joining the intelligence community.

    When right-wing media, most notably Fox News, talk about ICE, they treat ICE’s actions as normal and even worthy of praise. It's no coincidence that Trump, who relies on Fox News, invited an ICE agent to the State of the Union and called him “brave.”

    What ICE is doing across the country is nothing short of dehumanizing. That’s the real story. 

    Video edited by John Kerr and Miles Le

  • Video: How conspiracy theories and attacks on the Parkland shooting survivors spread across the internet and right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Survivors of the Parkland, FL, mass shooting, in which 17 people lost their lives, are speaking out and demanding action on gun violence. In response, right-wing media figures are spreading conspiracy theories and attacking these students, and online platforms, like YouTube and Facebook, are enabling the spread of these lies. (Videos spreading these conspiracy theories have gone viral, with one video even trending No.1 on YouTube.)

    These are some of the conspiracy theories and attacks the right-wing media figures have launched against the students:

    • Infowars' Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and host of The Alex Jones Show, called the attack "the perfect false flag." (He also claimed that "there's a cover-up going on.")

    • CNN political commentator Jack Kingston doubled down on his earlier tweet that the “left-wing gun control activists” are setting up the Parkland high school students for political reasons. Kingston said on CNN that he doubted these students could plan a rally without “being hijacked” by pro-gun control groups.

    • A Twitter account that regularly peddles in "The Storm" conspiracy theory, accused the students of being “crisis actors” who should be “charged and sent to jail.” (The tweet has since been deleted.)

    • Discredited author Dinesh D’Souza mocked students on Twitter for speaking out.

    • Lucian Wintrich, The Gateway Pundit’s White House correspondent, called the students “little pricks” who are “completely entitled” and are “milking the deaths of their peers for careers.”

    • Tucker Carlson, while interviewing NRATV’s Dan Bongino, claimed anti-gun groups are using the students as “a kind of moral blackmail, where you are not allowed to disagree or you are attacking the child.”

    • TruePartisan, a fringe right-wing site, claimed that student survivor David Hogg, who spoke out about ending gun violence, was a plant because his father formerly worked at the FBI. (Donald Trump Jr. promoted this conspiracy theory.)

    • NRA board member Ted Nugent shared an article on Facebook that claimed David Hogg was “coached by cameraman.” (The post has since been deleted.)

    These attacks are nothing new. Whenever there is a mass shooting, right-wing and far-right figures and outlets spread conspiracy theories to avoid talking about the real problem: the need for gun reform. Students are tired of “thoughts and prayers.” They demand an end to gun violence. They want action, and they won’t stop until they get it.

  • Republicans want the media to ignore their draconian abortion bill. So far, the media is playing along.

    The House passed a 20-week abortion ban based on junk science -- and if anti-choice groups get their way, the Senate will do the same

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN, MILES LE & DAYANITA RAMESH


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Anti-choice politicians are making moves on an extreme anti-abortion bill -- but if you’re watching cable news, you might not have heard much about it.

    In October 2017, members of the House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy -- and if anti-abortion leaders and their legislative allies get their way, the Senate may soon vote to do the same. In a January 24 article, Bustle warned that a procedural vote on the 20-week ban could come as early as “the start of next week” and described the effort as “a new and more aggressive chapter in the Republican fight against women’s reproductive freedoms.” This comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s Rose Garden speech addressing the 2018 March for Life participants, where he called on lawmakers to pass the 20-week ban and send it to his desk.  

    But if you’re watching cable news, you might not hear much about this draconian measure or the junk science used to justify the harmful and medically unnecessary restriction. Unfortunately, right-wing media are taking full advantage of the silence since last October to fill the void with anti-abortion misinformation and spin:

    Twenty-week abortion bans are built on the inaccurate claim that fetuses can feel pain by 20 weeks in pregnancy, despite the wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary that such claims do not track with the majority of scientific consensus.

    For example, Dr. Anne Davis, an abortion provider and consulting medical director at Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Salon in 2013 that the push for 20-week bans caused patients to begin asking her about fetal pain, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that the fetus does not feel pain at 20 weeks. Davis said, “It’s just another thing these women have to struggle with. And why? These are created concerns. They are not based in science, they are based in politics.”

    Undeterred, right-wing media seized on the passage of the House bill to promote anti-choice misinformation. Outlets such as Townhall and Breitbart lauded the House vote, with the latter arguing that the legislation was “based on the science” that a fetus can feel pain “as early as 18 weeks.” The Washington Examiner claimed that there was “no doubt” about fetal pain or the necessity of banning abortions at 20 weeks. The Daily Signal criticized the Journal of American Medicine Association for disputing the occurrence of fetal pain by 20 weeks and alleged that there were “subsequent studies finding otherwise.”

    Even the researchers behind studies commonly cited by anti-abortion groups and politicians reject such use of their findings. As The Daily Beast explained in a May 2016 article, one researcher “told The New York Times that his frequently-cited research ‘did not deal with pain specifically’” and was being misrepresented by anti-abortion advocates.

    Although the science behind 20-week bans may be scarce, the harm such restrictions do is anything but.

    A ban on abortion at 20 weeks would disproportionately impact low-income people. As the Guttmacher Institute explained, these patients may have to delay an abortion to later in pregnancy “because they had difficulty raising funds for the procedure and travel costs, or because they had difficulty securing insurance coverage.” But anti-choice politicians and right-wing media frequently vilify people who have later abortions and largely ignore the reality that people who seek these procedures do so for a variety of personal and medical reasons. 

    The bottom line is this: Right-wing and anti-choice media are going to talk up unsupported claims of “fetal pain” before 20 weeks and the harmful legislation that follows. Journalists have an obligation to debunk the junk science and right-wing talking points behind this 20-week ban as it moves through the Senate

  • Video: Mainstream media ignored the Women's March. Here's what Women's March participants said about the media.

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    On January 20 and 21, over a million protesters marched all over the United States and the world for the 2018 Women’s March. Some estimates include: 200,000 marchers in New York City, 300,000 in Chicago, and 600,000 in Los Angeles. But despite the high turnout especially one year after the first Women’s March -- which not only broke records for attendance, but has since grown into a movement -- news outlets largely ignored these historic protests let alone actually interview anyone who organized or participated in them.

    We went to a sister march in Washington D.C. on Saturday, January 20 and spoke to a few of the estimated 10,000 protesters and activists who were there.

    Here’s what they had to say:

  • VIDEO: Asian-American and Pacific Islander activists demand that Congress pass a clean DREAM Act

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Miles Le / Media Matters

    In early September, Trump called for an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The repeal would threaten the 800,000 DACA beneficiaries or so-called “Dreamers,” young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Roughly 20 percent of DACA recipients came to the United States from Asian countries. This week, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders rallied on Capitol Hill to call for passage of a “clean” version of legislation governing Dreamers, meaning one that doesn’t “further negatively impact our immigration system.”

    DACA recipients are required to renew their status, which puts them at the mercy of state bureaucracies -- a systemic failure which came startlingly into focus when the United States Postal Service failed to deliver some applications by the October 5 deadline.

    According to the group, a clean Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) Act would be one “without the attachment of any other provisions that would further negatively impact our immigration system … such as increasing the number of immigration agents, expanding the grounds of deportability or inadmissibility such as additional criminal bars, persecuting jurisdictions with policies that limit entanglement with ICE, and expanding the number of detention beds; add restrictive changes to our visa system; and further limit immigrants’ access to public benefits.”

    Here’s what the protesters had to say:

  • It’s time to pay attention to Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters 

    Myanmar government forces, under Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, are committing genocide against the country’s ethnic Rohingya minority group, the majority of whom are Muslim. The government of Myanmar claims these are “clearance operations” in retaliation for attacks by an insurgent terrorist military group that attacked police outposts, even though experts have found that the insurgents are few in number and poorly equipped.

    The United Nations has called the government of Myanmar’s actions “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” International investigators and reporters have gathered evidence and heard stories of entire villages being burned to the ground, women being gang-raped, and soldiers shooting at Rohingya as they attempt to flee violence. Over half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar to escape state violence since August 25.

    Right-wing media outlets are portraying this expulsion of the Rohingya as a “refugee crisis,” accusing the Rohingya of posing “a serious security threat” and even trying to justify the government violence as a response to what they refer to as “Islamic terrorism.” But in trying to justify the government’s violent and horrific actions by claiming it’s just a response to terrorism, thI thinkey are ignoring decades of oppression inflicted by the Myanmar state.

    The Rohingya are a stateless minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state; they are not a nationally recognized ethnic group and are not considered citizens of the majority-Buddhist Myanmar. As a result, the Rohingya are systematically barred from jobs, education, medical care, free worship, and open travel, in part due to reactionary ethnic nationalism laws put in place by the military regime that followed British colonialist rule. State laws restrict Rohingya families to two children, with those who break the law imprisoned and their children put on a blacklist. They’re not recognized as citizens, but rather seen as outsiders or intruders, even though many have lived in Myanmar their entire lives.

    Nobel Peace Prize winner and de facto civilian Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to denounce her government’s role in, and denied allegations of, ethnic cleansing, despite considerable evidence. She has been long been criticized for her anti-Muslim remarks and outright erasure of the plight of the Rohingya. Her fellow Nobel laureates are condemning her silence, and the Oxford City Council has withdrawn its “Freedom of Oxford” awards.

    The state-sponsored violence targeting the Rohingya has only gotten worse. It’s time to pay attention or the world will continue to miss the telltale signs of genocide.

    Resources for how to help the Rohingya (list via The New York Times):

    BRAC, a group founded in Bangladesh, was ranked the No. 1 nongovernmental organization in the world by NGO Advisor, which cited its adaptive approaches and strong community presence. Of the 350 staff members directly serving the refugee population in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, many are locals who speak a dialect similar to that of the Rohingya in Rakhine State. BRAC has built thousands of latrines, hundreds of tube wells and more than 50 child-friendly spaces and emergency health clinics that see thousands of children and patients every day, according to Emily Coppel and Matt Kertman, spokespersons for the group.

    Action Against Hunger is responding to the Rohingya crisis with hundreds of full-time staff members on the ground in Bangladesh, delivering hot meals and water, according to Elizabeth Wright, a spokeswoman for the group. Health workers are treating malnourished children, while mental health counselors are providing support to refugees suffering from acute stress and trauma. Having been in Bangladesh since 2007, Action Against Hunger is partnering with many local organizations and international groups in distributing food and water.

    Unicef is prioritizing shelter, food and water in its efforts to protect children and women, according to Jean-Jacques Simon, Unicef’s communications chief in Bangladesh. In addition to distributing water daily, the group has plans to install water pumps and deep tube wells in the camps. Malnourished children are receiving therapeutic food and supplements. In a news release on Sept. 17, the group also announced plans to vaccinate 150,000 children against measles, rubella and polio.

    Save the Children has been working in Bangladesh since 1970. In addition to distributing essentials like tents, cooking kits and hygiene kits to the displaced Rohingya, Save the Children is paying special attention to helping children, particularly those who are not accompanied by family members. It says 45 staff members are currently dedicated to the Rohingya response. The number of staff and local partners could be increased to 780 by the end of the year to support long-term aid for these refugees, according to Evan Schuurman, a spokesman for the group.

    Doctors Without Borders (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières) has worked in Bangladesh since 1985. At least 300 staff members are in Cox’s Bazar, treating ailments including severe dehydration, diarrheal diseases, violence-related injuries and cases of sexual violence, according to the group.

    The International Rescue Committee is helping the Rohingya remaining in Rakhine, with 400 staff members and volunteers providing medical care and emergency relief. Sanna Johnson, the group’s regional director for Asia, says its operations are complicated by restrictions from Myanmar’s government, which has banned international nongovernmental organizations from some areas of the state.

    UNHCR, the refugee agency for the United Nations has been working with Rohingya migrants since 1978. Of the UNHCR staff members responding to the most recent crisis, about 150 are in Bangladesh and nearly 30 are in Myanmar, according to Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, an emergency response coordinator. In addition to distributing emergency aid and shelter materials, the group gives protection and support to unaccompanied children, the elderly and survivors of rape and trauma.

    World Food Program is a United Nations agency that has been distributing high-energy biscuits to migrants as they have arrived in Bangladesh. It will continue to address food scarcity through subsidies in rice and nutritional powder. As of the end of September, 26 staff members were working with NGO partners and support staff in Cox’s Bazar, according to a spokeswoman, Silke Buhr.