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  • How nativist groups are taking down DACA

    Conservative and mainstream media have facilitated nativist groups’ influence in the immigration debate

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The “nativist lobby,” which consists of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and NumbersUSA, has consistently opposed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows undocumented immigrants to live, work, and go to school in the United States without fear of deportation and it has used both right-wing and mainstream media outlets to rally support for its message. The Trump administration’s lack of support for the program and a threat by 10 Republican states’ officials to sue the federal government if it doesn’t rescind DACA by September has now aligned with the nativists' demands, meaning protection for over 800,000 undocumented immigrants could soon come to an end. 

  • STUDY: Prime-time cable news drowned out negative impacts of Senate health care bill in favor of covering process

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN, NICK FERNANDEZ, DINA RADTKE, NINA MAST & ROB SAVILLO

    When Republicans’ Senate health care bill looked like it was hurtling toward a vote two weeks ago, prime-time cable news largely neglected to cover several negative consequences of the bill and instead spent a disproportionate amount of time on the political process surrounding the legislation.

    Media Matters reviewed the two nights of cable news coverage -- from 5 to 11 p.m. -- between the release of the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) score of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2016 (BCRA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) announcement that the bill would be temporarily tabled until after congressional recess. We analyzed Nexis transcripts for individual statements -- defined as a single sentence -- about a wide range of reported negative impacts of the bill (including cuts to Medicaid funding, potential cuts to essential health benefits (EHBs), and a one-year freeze in federal funding for Planned Parenthood) and compared those to statements about the process surrounding the potential vote on the bill. We also reviewed coverage to see whether it included personal stories about people who would be impacted by the bill.

    During those two nights of coverage -- when media outlets were under the impression the bill was imminently coming up for a vote and potentially taking a major step toward becoming law -- process overwhelmed policy:

    • CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News made more than four times as many statements about process as they did about the negative impacts of the bill.

    • There were over 33 times more statements about process than personal stories of those who would be most affected by the law.

    • None of the three networks featured statements about potential cuts to mental health benefits, special education programs, or the negative impact of the proposed legislation on people with HIV.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    While the process surrounding the bill is a crucial part of the discussion (McConnell intentionally kept the drafting process secret and has been trying to rush the bill through the Senate), the extent to which process discussion eclipsed coverage of the impacts of the bill was staggering. On Fox News, the ratio between statements about process and statements about the negative impact of the bill was roughly 10-to-1, while on MSNBC and CNN, that ratio was nearly 5-to-1.

    Cable news made over 1,800 statements about process

    Over the two-day period, prime-time cable news made 1,835 statements about the process of passing the bill through the Senate. CNN made 792, Fox News made 274, and MSNBC made 769.

    There were no statements on any network about cuts to special education programs in public schools

    CNBC reported that out of approximately 11.2 million children in the U.S. who have special needs, “nearly 5 million rely on coverage from Medicaid and its Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.” The BCRA’s cuts to Medicaid, made by phasing out the ACA’s Medicaid expansion program, threaten the funding for this program. The Washington Post noted trepidation among school districts that say that in order “to fill the hole they anticipate would be left by the Republican push to restructure Medicaid, they would either have to cut those services or downsize general education programs that serve all students.” There were no statements made about these cuts on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC.

    There were no statements on any network about cuts to mental health treatment

    Cuts to Medicaid and a rollback on essential health benefits (EHBs) means that people with mental illness would be receiving “less coverage for more money,” according to HuffPost. As the Center for American Progress (CAP) noted, “The CBO’s prediction matches the reality of the pre-ACA insurance market,” when “a significant number of people did not have coverage for … mental health services.” There were no statements about these cuts on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC.

    MSNBC aired no statements about the one-year freeze on federal funds to Planned Parenthood

    The GOP Senate bill called for freezing federal funds to Planned Parenthood for one year, blocking access to family planning and related women’s health services that the clinics offer to millions of Americans. Defunding Planned Parenthood on a state level has had detrimental effects on public health. When Indiana shuttered five Planned Parenthood facilities -- at least one of which did not offer abortion services -- in 2015, the state experienced “an unprecedented HIV epidemic caused by intravenous drug use” due to a lack of access to preventative and testing measures. In Texas, after cuts to Planned Parenthood funding, fewer women “received contraceptive services, fewer use highly effective methods, some have had unintended pregnancies, and some have had abortions they would not have had if not for these policies." There were nine statements about this freeze on CNN and two on Fox News. There were no statements about it on MSNBC.

    There were no statements on any network about the detrimental impact on those with HIV

    Three members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) resigned in the wake of the proposed Senate bill. One of the former members, Scott Schoettes, told BuzzFeed News that the bill will “kill people” and force more Americans into bankruptcy due to high medical emergency costs. The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) condemned the bill, calling it “catastrophic for our nation’s health care system,” specifically by causing people living with or at risk of HIV and STDs to suffer and by impeding efforts to end the HIV and STD epidemics. There was no statement made about this impact on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC.

    Statements about increases in premiums for low-income people were scarce

    As CBS reported, the CBO found that “for low-income people ... ‘the premium for a silver plan would typically be a relatively high percent of income,’ while the deductible for a bronze plan ‘would be a significantly higher percentage of income. As a result, despite being eligible for premium tax credits, few low-income people would purchase any plan.’” Vox noted that this would result in “making poor people pay more for less health insurance.” Additionally, The Washington Post pointed out that “by adjusting subsidy numbers and implementing policies that are projected to increase premiums, low-income people by and large end up with higher health-care costs.” There were seven statements made about these increases on CNN, one on Fox News, and five on MSNBC.

    Fox News and MSNBC did not mention potential cuts to essential health benefits

    The Senate bill “allows states to use a waiver to opt out of covering the essential health benefits package” that was put in place by the ACA, The Washington Post reported. The ACA provision requires insurers to cover things such as ambulatory care, hospital visits, and maternity care. Vox explained that in order for a state to opt out of a certain essential health benefit requirement under the ACA, it “has to show that its alternative plan would allow it to cover as many people, with coverage as generous, without increasing federal spending.” But the Senate bill “removes the guardrails that ensured state-based alternatives would offer strong coverage.” Without these standards, many patients “are likely to drop their coverage,” which, as one health care expert noted, would not serve to reduce costs because cost burden would shift entirely to the individuals who need the coverage. CNN made two statements about these cuts, and Fox News and MSNBC made zero.

    CNN and Fox News each aired only one statement about the Senate bill’s impact on patients with pre-existing conditions

    As The Atlantic pointed out, decreasing the requirements that a state must meet to waive coverage for essential health benefits would create a “backdoor way” to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Los Angeles Times columnist Jon Healey wrote that, while the bill does not “directly” remove coverage for pre-existing conditions, it “would leave” those with pre-existing conditions “open to indirect attack by state officials eager to cut insurance premiums the easy way: by allowing insurers to cater to the customers they really want to serve, which are the ones who don’t need healthcare.” As CAP’s Topher Spiro summed up, under the Senate bill, “coverage would be eviscerated for millions of people with preexisting conditions.” There was one statement about these impacts on CNN and one on Fox News, and there were seven on MSNBC.

    Fox News didn’t mention cuts in funding for substance abuse treatment

    Time reported that if the Senate bill’s proposed changes to state essential health benefits waivers were implemented, “insurers may not continue to cover … out or inpatient substance use disorder services.” And while the BCRA “offer[s] $2 billion in funding to help combat the ongoing opioid epidemic,” lawmakers and activists for addressing substance use disorders have said that “much more money is needed”; one health economics professor told Mother Jones that the opioid epidemic funding allocation is merely “a joke.” Mother Jones also pointed out that slashes to Medicaid, which is “the largest payer for addiction services across the country,” would be “crippling,” particularly “for many of the communities that voted Trump into office.” CNN made 13 statements about these cuts, and MSNBC made nine. Fox made none. 

    Fox News made just two statements about the bill's major tax cut for the most wealthy

    PBS reported that under the Senate bill, the wealthiest Americans will receive an average annual tax cut of nearly $52,000, according to analysis by the Tax Policy Center. The bill would repeal the Obama-era tax on wealthy investors, as well as repeal a Medicare payroll tax on high-income families. There were 20 statements about these tax cuts on CNN, two on Fox News, and 22 on MSNBC.

    Cable news aired only a handful of statements about the bill's potential to reinstate lifetime caps on coverage

    NPR reported that the Senate bill “could even bring back lifetime caps on how much an insurer would pay for such services for a particular patient.” According to an estimate by CAP, “About 20 million people with employer-based coverage would face lifetime limits on coverage.” There was one statement about these caps made on CNN and there were five on MSNBC. There were no statements made on Fox News.

    Fox News made only four statements about cuts to Medicaid

    The CBO report projected that the Senate health care bill would cut $772 billion in federal money from Medicaid over a 10-year period. Between 14 and 15 million people would reportedly lose their health insurance under this drastic cut. According to CAP, under the Senate bill, “many states would face serious funding shortages for their Medicaid programs.” There were 58 statements about these cuts on CNN, four on Fox News, and 54 on MSNBC.

    Fox News made only 15 statements reporting that millions more would be uninsured under the Senate bill

    According to the CBO report, under the Senate bill, the number of people without health insurance would increase by 22 million over the next 10 years. There were 66 statements made about the increase in uninsured people on CNN, 15 on Fox News, and 67 on MSNBC.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched news transcripts in the Nexis database on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for the following programs: CNN’s The Situation Room, Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360, and the 10 p.m. hour of CNN Tonight; Fox News’ The Fox News Specialists, Special Report with Bret Baier, The Story with Martha MacCallum, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Five, and Hannity; and MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily, For the Record with Greta Van Susteren, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. We searched for any of the following terms in the body of the text: health care, Better Care Reconciliation Act, BCRA, Senate health, GOP health, Republican health, Affordable Care Act, ACA, Obama care, or Obamacare.

    Segments were included in the study if the Better Care Reconciliation Act was the stated topic of discussion or if two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the BCRA with one another. If a speaker mentioned the BCRA in a multitopic segment and no other speaker in that segment engaged with the comment, then it was excluded from the analysis as a passing mention. All teasers of upcoming segments about the BCRA were also excluded from the analysis.

    For each segment we included in the study, two researchers independently coded the number of statements -- defined as a single sentence -- that included:

    1. Mentions of a personal narrative that contextualized how the BCRA would impact the subject of the narrative.

    1. Mentions of the process, e.g., how the bill would pass, how members of the Senate would or would not vote, how Senators would negotiate for votes, the optics of the bill, and anything that could influence a Senator’s vote for or against the BCRA.

    1. Mentions of the following negative impacts of the BCRA:

    • Mentions of cuts to Medicaid.

    • Mentions of the increase in premiums or out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans.

    • Mentions of the potential elimination of essential health benefits.

    • Mentions of the impact of persons with pre-existing conditions.

    • Mentions of potential cuts to mental health care.

    • Mentions of cuts to substance abuse treatment.

    • Mentions of how cuts to Medicaid would impact special education programs in schools.

    • Mentions of cuts to Planned Parenthood.

    • Mentions of the impact of the BCRA on persons with HIV.

    • Mentions that the BCRA would provide significate tax cuts to wealthy or high-income Americans.

    • Mentions that the BCRA would allow insurers to reinstate lifetime caps.

    • Mentions of the reduction of the total number of insured Americans.

  • Despite conservative media claims, James Comey didn't leak classified information to NY Times

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Right-wing media, pro-Trump internet trolls, and fake news purveyors are boosting a report from a right-leaning journalist in a way that suggests former FBI Director James Comey might have intentionally leaked classified information to The New York Times. The report presents already-known information about Comey’s memos that recounted his interactions with President Donald Trump. Politico also reported that the source that passed along the memo to the Times confirmed that it did not contain classified information.

  • A dangerous anti-immigrant policy O'Reilly dreamed up on Fox's airtime could become the law of the land

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Congress is expected to vote on a new version of “Kate’s Law,” an anti-immigrant law that was first proposed by Bill O’Reilly when he was a Fox News host.  

    Named after Kate Steinle, a young woman who was fatally shot by an undocumented immigrant in 2015, O’Reilly’s proposed legislation was part of a wave of anti-immigrant reactions to Steinle’s death. Like others in right-wing media, O’Reilly immediately fixated on the alleged assailant’s immigration status and exploited Steinle to push his anti-immigration policy ideas to the forefront. Focusing on the fact that the shooter had been deported and repeatedly re-entered the country illegally, O’Reilly subsequently used his Fox News platform to launch a relentless lobbying campaign to pressure lawmakers into passing a law that would mandate a five-year minimum prison sentence for certain illegal re-entries. After he first proposed it on air, a Nexis search of transcripts of The O’Reilly Factor during the month of July in 2015 shows the former host devoted at least sixteen episodes to hyping his proposed policy.

    Ousted Fox News host Bill O’Reilly first proposed the original Kate’s Law on July 6, 2015, on his now-defunct show The O’Reilly Factor:

    The next day, O’Reilly proposed language about the mandatory minimums:

    O’Reilly’s campaign for Kate’s Law employed the familiar right-wing media tactic of wildly stereotyping and fear-mongering about immigrants. In the past, conservative media have used Ebola fears to cast immigrants as disease-carrying invaders and seized upon terror attacks in Europe to curry favor for President Trump’s ban on refugees. One of these outlets' favorite constructed narratives is the false link between immigrants and crime.

    Breitbart and others have endless caches of articles depicting immigrants as murderers. When two undocumented immigrants were initially accused of allegedly raping a girl in Rockville, Maryland, right-wing outlets led by Fox’s Tucker Carlson touted the story at length and then hardly whispered when both immigrants were cleared.

    Right-wing media’s supposed evidence of an immigrant-crime crisis holds no water when faced with statistics, but Republicans have ignored the facts and offer policy solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist. Now, in an environment riddled with conservative media lies about immigrants, O’Reilly’s anti-immigrant sentiments have a chance of being imminently voted on in Congress.

    The legislation the House is expected to vote on is different than O’Reilly’s original proposal, but would still lead to the overcriminalization of a problem of widespread immigrant crime that does not exist, by expanding the two-year maximum prison sentence for re-entering the country to a 10-year maximum and expanding the penalty for re-entry after being convicted of criminal offenses -- including nonviolent ones -- to up to 25 years.

    As The Daily Beast pointed out with O’Reilly’s original proposal, Kate’s Law “could sizably increase the prison population by forcing nonviolent offenders to spend years in prison—and, conservative criminal justice experts say, without having a sizable impact on how many deported immigrants unlawfully return to the United States.” Moving away from mandatory minimum sentences has gained bipartisan support, especially given that “skyrocketing federal prison budgets are stealing critical funding for investigators, police, and prosecutors,” which could have a negative impact on public safety, according to a study by the Families Against Mandatory Minimums. In fact, the libertarian Cato Institute already stated its opposition to the legislation, citing its outsized cost and low effectiveness.

    Because of a slow bipartisan move away from ineffective and wasteful sentencing policies, Kate’s Law was repeatedly killed in the Senate. But the fact that it has been brought to a vote multiple times shows the dangerous power that right-wing media’s xenophobia still wields over legislators.

  • Guide to right-wing media myths and facts about the Senate health care bill

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media figures are trying to curry favor for the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) by attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA), pushing lies about the BCRA, disparaging the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) or distorting its analysis of the legislation, and muddying the truth about the health care system in general. Here is a guide to the myths right-wing media are employing to sell the Senate Republican health care bill.

  • Right-wing media is attempting to resuscitate an already misused survey to push debunked voter fraud claims

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Conservative media are pointing to a new report based on a recurring academic survey that was already misused to bolster debunked claims about non-citizen voting to claim that President Donald Trump is vindicated in stating that undocumented immigrants are committing voter fraud en masse.

    The conservative group Just Facts recently published a report based on Harvard data collected regularly to claim that 5.7 million undocumented immigrants may have voted in the 2008 presidential election. Right-wing media seized upon the skewed report to claim that “Trump was right.” Fox & Friends was promptly mocked on Twitter for lifting up the blatantly flawed study:

    In October 2016, PolitiFact published a piece explaining that the Harvard survey Just Facts relies on has been hotly challenged by experts as proof of voter fraud, and the authors who initially wrote about it themselves warned against using the data for future claims along those lines.

    Nonetheless, in November 2016, a man purporting to be the founder of voter fraud reporting app VoteStand alluded to the data to tweet the myth that 3 million noncitizens voted illegally, a claim that right-wing media blindly shared with their audiences. The data was quickly debunked at that time.

    Now, Just Facts has taken cues from this past stint and published its own study citing the same flawed data. And once again right-wing media are eating it up.

    Meanwhile, experts are responding to the study with reproof. HuffPost spoke to University of Massachusetts Amherst political science professor Brian Schaffner, who explained that the Just Facts study “makes the same error as the old study” by taking survey respondents at their word even when their claim that they voted illegally could not be corroborated. The article also quoted Eitan Hersh, a political science professor at Yale, who called the Just Facts methodology “a crazy extrapolation.”

    This is just the latest instance of conservative media pushing facts aside to bolster Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims. And as their defense becomes increasingly desperate, it is becoming obvious that their underlying agenda is to legitimize Republican efforts of voter suppression to help tilt future elections in the GOP’s favor.

  • Visibility for immigrants in detention increasingly urgent in Trump era

    Univision sets an example for how to report on immigrant detention

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    New revelations from Univision’s exclusive report on a private immigration detention center demonstrate that a well-rounded investigative report of detention centers requires detainees’ perspectives, especially as the current administration continues to embolden private immigrant detention centers and strip detainees of protections.

    Univision correspondent Luis Megid spoke to two undocumented immigrants being held at Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, CA, the largest immigrant detention center on the West Coast, which is owned and operated by private prison company GEO Group. One detainee, Omar Riveras, talked about the night he was abruptly removed from his home. In a moment rarely seen in mainstream media outlets, an undocumented immigrant was presented with a face, a name, and a story, rather than just a slur of a label.

    Another detainee, who chose not to be identified by name, offered startling revelations about what immigrants face while detained at Adelanto, claiming that they are barred from using outdoor facilities and that “mistreatment is something that happens on a daily basis.” From the June 1 edition of Noticiero Univisión:

    Both testimonies shed light on the personal journeys of detained immigrants and on life inside detention centers, details that are too often left out of media reports. And notably, one detainee revealed that the experience inside Adelanto Detention Center may not be what GEO Group officials and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) suggest.

    GEO Group has boasted about its spacious, clean facilities, but the private prison company has drawn backlash from undocumented immigrant detainees for years. Just this week, a hunger strike and sit-in protest at Adelanto turned violent when nine protesters requesting more reasonable bail and other basic accommodations, such as unused underwear and clean water, were pepper sprayed and beaten, they said. ICE is claiming that the strike is over, but groups in contact with the detainees are reporting that nearly 30 women have joined the ongoing hunger strike. La Opinión recently reported that ICE and GEO Group have recognized that officials used excessive force in their June 12 confrontation with protesters and that they would be launching an investigation into the matter.

    In the last three months, three immigrants have died at Adelanto. Detainees at another GEO Group facility have accused the facility of violating anti-slavery laws, and according to ICE statistics, the detention centers with the most complaints of sexual harassment are operated by GEO Group or CoreCivic, one of the other major private detention center companies. Other instances of abuse involve “significant and life-threatening delays or denials of medical and mental health care,” “verbal abuse, employee theft, retaliation, [and] abusive solitary confinement.”

    President Donald Trump’s misguided immigration policies are only serving to exacerbate the problem. A New York Times report suggests that the administration is considering rolling back basic standards for how undocumented immigrants are held in detention at a time when there is already “little accountability” for enforcing these standards, as the graph below indicates (data, graph, and information from Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), available at http://www.endisolation.org/resources/immigration-detention):

    At the same time, the administration is moving to end “catch-and-release,” a malignant term for the practice of allowing undocumented detainees out of the detention centers “while awaiting a deportation court hearing.” Arrests of noncriminal undocumented immigrants has “more than doubled” since Trump took office, and a White House memo called for nearly doubling the number of immigrants in detention to 80,000 per day. GEO Group was given the first immigrant detention center project in the Trump era.

    As right-wing media ramp up their efforts to sell Trump’s anti-immigrant crackdown as sound policy, journalists have an obligation to portray immigrant detention accurately.

    According to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), an organization that supports undocumented immigrant detainees, there was three times more reporting on immigrant detention in 2016 than in 2009, but “the complex realities of the detention system remain hidden from public view and there remains a dearth of first-hand migrant accounts.” CIVIC recommended that media should “increase their efforts to include first-hand migrant accounts in their reporting, and collaborate with organizations like CIVIC that serve migrants in detention and affected communities.”

    Reporting in recent years about Rikers Island prison serves as a case study of how first-hand testimonies from inmates or detainees can have a palpable effect on readers and decision-makers. Journalists who homed in on inmates’ stories brought the reality of violence at Rikers to the forefront of the conversation on prison and criminal justice reform, and their stories -- particularly The New Yorker’s profile of Kalief Browder -- put enormous pressure on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who eventually promised to close the prison. Documentaries depicting life at Rikers continue to put inmates' harrowing experiences at the top of peoples' minds.

    Journalists reporting on immigrant detention can also take cues from these reporters on how to overcome barriers in communicating with inmates. In Browder’s case, journalist Jennifer Gonnerman interviewed him after he was released from Rikers, sidestepping the problem of accessing the prison itself. Other reporters have suggested following “the paper trail” of documents that prisons are required to keep in order to tell a more detailed story.

    Spanish-language outlets often use telephone interviews with undocumented immigrant detainees to hear their stories directly or speak to detainees’ family members. Immigrant advocacy groups that are in frequent communication with detainees are also a valuable resource for reporters.

    While the stories of undocumented immigrants in detention usually do not make it into mainstream media, they have the power to impact even far-right conservatives.

    For the sake of transparency, accountability, and quality reporting on undocumented immigrant detention, it is critical that journalists overcome barriers to make the detainees’ voices heard.

  • Here's why no one should listen to Newt Gingrich

    Gingrich, who accused Bill Clinton of obstruction of justice, claims presidents can’t obstruct justice

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In his flimsiest statement yet in his crusade to delegitimize the ongoing FBI investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign, Fox News contributor and Trump adviser Newt Gingrich falsely proclaimed that "technically, the president of the United States cannot obstruct justice."

    From the June 16 event at the National Press Club:

    Twitter users were quick to point out that Gingrich, during his time as speaker of the House, helped impeach then-President Bill Clinton, in part for obstructing justice.

    But this is only the latest instance in which Gingrich has stretched the truth -- or flat-out lied -- to defend Trump. Gingrich and his right-wing media allies are currently engaged in a campaign to discredit former FBI Director James Comey and the current special counsel in charge of the investigation, Robert Mueller, even resorting to baseless conspiracy theories. Gingrich and other conservative media figures are attempting to smear Mueller as biased or having an “agenda,” with Gingrich commenting, “Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair.” These same media figures have praised Mueller in the past, and Trump himself considered Mueller as a replacement for Comey to lead the FBI.

  • Right-wing media lash out at Sen. Kamala Harris after she was repeatedly interrupted by GOP men while questioning Jeff Sessions

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & DINA RADTKE

    Conservative media figures lashed out at Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) after she was interrupted and chastised by her Republican male colleagues during her questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, claiming she was interrupting Sessions and calling her “hysterical,” “a total fraud,” and rude. Women in mainstream media responded, pointing out the clear sexism in both the attacks on Harris and the double standard she was held to.

  • Minority voices largely excluded from Paris climate agreement discussion

    Research shows that black and Hispanic communities are most impacted by the effects of climate change

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    A Media Matters study found that cable news outlets mostly marginalized people of color from discussions about climate change and the Paris accord following President Donald Trump's June 1 announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. This trend is particularly problematic in discussions of climate change because studies show that climate change disproportionately affects black and Hispanic communities.

    A review of guests discussing climate change on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN between June 1 and June 2 found that out of 286 guests* who cable channels invited on to discuss the issue, only about 17 percent were people of color -- 9 percent were black, 3 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were of Asian descent, and less than 1 percent were of Middle Eastern descent.

    The lack of representation is striking because studies show that climate change disproportionately affects minorities. In a June 2 article for Essence magazine, activist and political commentator Symone Sanders explained that leaving the Paris agreement will exacerbate some of the problems African-American communities face, including natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and environmentally related health problems including respiratory diseases and heart conditions. A 2015 report by the NAACP noted that the tendency of African-Americans to live in cities, in coastal areas, and near polluting facilities like coal-fired power plants poses specific health risks and makes them more vulnerable than others to the effects of climate change. A 2016 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) pointed out that Hispanic communities are disproportionately harmed by climate change in part because a majority of Latinos live in states prone to extreme heat, air pollution, and flooding. Additionally, climate-related health concerns are particularly dire for Latinos given that they are “heavily represented in crop and livestock production and construction,” which contributes to them being “three times more likely to die ... from excessive heat than non-Latinos.” They are also less likely to have health insurance coverage than non-Latinos.

    These factors may help explain why people of color are more likely than white voters to support the Paris agreement and to support regulation designed to combat climate change, and why lawmakers who belong to minority groups have “near-perfect” environmental voting records.

    Yet, despite the intersectionality, TV news outlets often fail to make the connection between climate change and racial justice -- perhaps, in part, because they don't include many minority voices in their coverage.

    Minority groups have condemned the dearth of minority voices in the media. Hispanic groups have called on the media to improve the visibility of Hispanics on air, noting that Hispanic voices are mostly restricted to discussing immigration, which creates the perception that they are a single-issue constituency. Other communities of color and low-income communities are also excluded from media coverage of climate change, as NAACP’s Jacqueline Patterson pointed out in an interview with The Nation in 2014: “The voice of frontline communities, the ones that are most impacted, usually don’t make it to the airwaves.”

    When minority voices do find a foothold in the climate change discussion, the intersectionality of the issues becomes more apparent. African-American journalist April Ryan, one of the few non-white guests invited to discuss the Paris decision on CNN, emphasized the real-life human consequences of climate change, including disasters like Katrina, floods, droughts, and mosquito-borne diseases.

    Additionally, in Spanish-language media’s coverage on Univision and Telemundo, reports on the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris accord explained the impact of climate change on Hispanics and provided a platform for Latinos to voice their opposition to the move. 

    Irissa Cisternino contributed research to this piece.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream and Nexis using the search terms "climate or Paris" on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News from June 1 through June 2 and reviewed the transcripts for segments about Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement that aired between between 5 a.m. EST and 11 p.m. EST. Segments where Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris accord was the stated topic of discussion or segments where there was significant discussion of Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris accord were counted. "Significant discussion" was defined as at least two speakers in the segment engaging on the topic with one another (e.g., the host asking a guest a question on Trump's decision). Segments where a guest mentioned the decision in passing -- where no other guest engaged with the comment -- were excluded. All guests were coded for race/ethnicity. In one case, the race/ethnicity of the guest was unclear, so that person was not counted.

    *For one guest who is both black and Hispanic, both backgrounds were counted. As a result, there are 288 race/ethnicities listed for the 286 guests. Because the study was focused on representation of minorities, guests who are both white and belonging to a minority group were coded only for the latter.