Author Page | Media Matters for America

Dayanita Ramesh

Author ››› Dayanita Ramesh
  • Video: Climate change worsens extreme weather and hurts people of color the most. When will mainstream media tell this story?

    Media severely under-covered Hurricane Maria, which affected mostly Latinx people.

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


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Thousands of people died as a result of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, researchers estimate, and it took 11 months to restore power to all residents. Maria was the worst weather disaster to affect Puerto Rico in 80 years and potentially the deadliest hurricane to hit the U.S. since 1900. But many news outlets failed to give much coverage to the storm and the ongoing recovery efforts.

    Why?

    Maybe because most of the victims of Hurricane Maria were people of color: 99 percent of the population of Puerto Rico is Latinx.

    Extreme weather and climate disasters have the biggest effects on people of color, the poor, and women, both in the U.S. and around the world -- and the media need to be talking about that.

    The first Sunday after Hurricane Maria made landfall, the five major Sunday political talk shows cumulatively dedicated less than one minute of coverage to the storm. When outlets did turn their coverage to Maria, it was because of the president’s antics. Coverage spiked when President Donald Trump got in a Twitter fight with the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, and when he visited the territory and threw paper towels out into a crowd. When the drama ended, coverage dropped significantly and has stayed low even as Puerto Rico continues struggling to recover.

    On top of this lack of coverage is the problem that many mainstream outlets don’t talk to the people who are most affected by climate change, and they also don’t talk enough to scientists or climate researchers. Only 13 percent of guests featured during climate-related segments on Sunday shows in 2017 were people of color, just 29 percent of the guests were women, and no climate scientists or journalists were featured at all -- the second year that scientists and journalists were completely excluded.

    Mainstream media outlets need to talk to the people who are being hurt the most by climate change. They also need to connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather, to help everyone understand that climate change isn’t just something that will happen in the future or in faraway places. It's happening now, and it's happening everywhere.

  • Video: There's a housing discrimination crisis in America -- and coverage of the issue should reflect that

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


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    The Fair Housing Act was passed 50 years ago, but housing discrimination is still rampant, and media coverage of the issue is overly focused on President Donald Trump’s history of racism and discrimination in this arena. While his past is notable, it’s important for mainstream outlets to inform viewers about the widespread and complicated nature of housing discrimination by interviewing victims and highlighting fair housing research.

    The Fair Housing Act was supposed to protect the right to fair housing for all people. And yet the act is not fulfilling its goals, with unprecedented attacks from the Trump administration and continued discrimination by banks, lenders, landlords, and/or developers, against Black and Latinx people, the poor, the formerly incarcerated, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and single women who are looking to rent or buy a home. There were 28,181 reported complaints of housing discrimination in 2016, but according to the National Fair Housing Alliance, housing discrimination is seriously underreported. The organization estimates that there are actually over 4 million cases of housing discrimination each year in America.

    Mainstream television coverage of housing discrimination has been overly focused on Trump's personal history with discrimination. Mainstream news outlets are right to warn viewers about his history of racism and discrimination against Black people. However, mainstream outlets such as MSNBC and CNN should follow the lead of PBS and Democracy Now and use these opportunities to inform viewers about the issue, including by interviewing victims of housing discrimination and highlighting important fair housing research.

  • Activist groups deliver 600,000 petitions to the FCC demanding the merger of Sinclair and Tribune be stopped 

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, JOHN KERR & MILES LE

    On July 12, 2018, activist groups gathered outside the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington, D.C., to deliver over 600,000 petitions demanding that the unprecedented acquisition of Tribune Media by conservative local TV giant Sinclair Broadcast Group not go through.

    Video shot by John Kerr

    Are there Sinclair stations near you? Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more.

  • Video: Activists at the Supreme Court continue to fight for #NoMuslimBanEver

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

    On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump’s travel ban that bans or restricts travel from predominantly Muslim majority countries. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent from the majority 5-4 ruling traced the ban’s roots in Trump’s anti-Muslim statements throughout his campaign and and since he took office, writing that “a reasonable observer would view” Trump’s “executive policy” as “motivated by animus against Muslims." She also found that this case had “stark parallels” to Korematsu v. United States (1944), which upheld an executive order that forced Japanese Americans into concentration camps.

    Activists gathered in Washington D.C. to protest the ruling and stand up to the blatant anti-Muslim discrimination, racism, and xenophobia that this ban perpetuates.

    Here’s what they had to say to this administration and the media covering this decision:

  • How cable news poisons the conversation about abortion

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

    Media Matters’ abortion rights and reproductive health team monitored evening cable news programs for 12 months and found that Fox News was responsible for 54 percent of all abortion related coverage, more than MSNBC (29 percent of all segments) and CNN (17 percent of all segments) combined. And of those segments on Fox, 77 percent included misinformation and outright falsehoods about four common abortion-related topics: the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), abortion funding rules, Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and “extreme” abortion procedures.

    The bottom line: Fox News isn’t just dominating the conversation about abortion; it’s also filling an information void left by CNN and MSNBC with misinformation and stigma. Other networks need to stop treating abortion as a political football and present frank, fair, and factual conversations about this necessary form of health care.

  • 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

    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

    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.