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  • 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. 

  • The role of journalism in exposing a culture of violence at Rikers Island

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NINA MAST

    After years of investigations into a culture of violence, abuse, and neglect for human life at Rikers Island prison complex, correction officials’ attempts to cover it up, and the failures of New York City’s elected officials to implement real reforms, Rikers prison is set to be closed in the next 10 years. Here, we document some of the crucial investigative journalism and storytelling by The Village Voice, The New Yorker, and The New York Times that helped expose the extent of the horrors at one of the worst prisons in America.

  • Before Ben Jacobs, there was Jorge Ramos

    Assaults on reporters are too frequent in the Trump era; the Ramos example shows what can come next

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Journalists reacted in disbelief after reports surfaced that Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for Montana’s House seat, allegedly “body-slammed” and punched Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs after he asked Gianforte a question. This incident is sadly just the latest in a string of increasingly hostile attacks on the press that President Donald Trump has encouraged both as candidate and president. An earlier confrontation Trump had with Univision and Fusion reporter Jorge Ramos serves as a warning about what can come next.

    Gianforte’s alleged assault on Jacobs has spurred a national outcry from journalists. Many are blaming Trump for encouraging “fear and anger and resentment” toward the press. And the altercation itself is not without precedent. Since Trump declared his candicacy and made his hostility to the press a central part of his persona, while covering political events (many Trump-related), members of the media have been reportedly choked, slammed to the groundpunched, shovedarrested, pinned, slapped, and dragged down.

    In August 2015, Jorge Ramos was another of these examples, when he was forcibly removed from a news conference after pressing candidate Trump on his proposals to build a physical wall across the southern border of the United States and to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. Trump told Ramos to “go back to Univision” and claimed that Ramos was removed because he “stood up and started screaming” and later commented, “He's obviously a very emotional person.” Ramos was later granted re-entry into the news conference and was able to ask multiple questions. At the end of their exchange, Trump reminded Ramos that he was suing Univision and that Ramos was part of the lawsuit.

    Later, Ramos was harassed by an unidentified man who told him, “Get out of my country.” In response to the confrontation, Ramos commented, “It’s the first time in my life anywhere in the world in which I’ve been escorted out of a press conference.”

    But what happened next was another first. As the campaign continued, Trump refused every single one of Ramos’ requests for an interview, despite his prominence in both English and Spanish-language news media -- though he did solicit a donation from Ramos and sent him a bumper sticker -- and blacklisted Univision along with nearly every other Spanish-language outlet. Ultimately, Trump did only two interviews with Spanish-language media throughout the 16 months of his presidential campaign.

    Just as right-wing media rushed to defend Gianforte after his assault of Jacobs, conservatives subsequently attacked Ramos, with the conservative Media Research Center even launching an (unsuccessful) pressure campaign for him to resign.

    During the campaign, Spanish-language outlets and those focused on Latin American affairs didn’t hesitate to compare Trump’s antagonism toward the press to that of Latin American dictators and warn of the dangers that would come with Trump’s war on the press. This incident is just the latest evidence that Trump’s antipathy to a free press is not only becoming normalized but is even spreading.

    The outrageous assault on Jacobs is a reminder that when journalists are dehumanized they become targets for political violence. What happened to Ramos is a reminder that once the actual reporters are dehumanized, aggressively blacklisting the media is an easy next step. 

  • Trump Lied About Why He Fired Comey, And Right-Wing Media Helped Him Sell It

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NICK FERNANDEZ

    In a letter explaining his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, President Donald Trump cited “letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending [FBI Director James Comey’s] dismissal as the Director of the” FBI. After removing Comey, various White House officials and right-wing media figures pushed the claim that Trump “took the recommendation of his deputy attorney general” and fired Comey, but days later, Trump himself admitted that he was thinking of "this Russia thing with Trump" and “was going to fire [Comey] regardless of [a] recommendation” from the Department of Justice or the deputy attorney general.

  • This Is Who Fox News Has Chosen To Replace Ousted Co-President Bill Shine 

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NINA MAST

    After Fox News co-president Bill Shine resigned following revelations about his reported role in enabling and covering up the extent of the sexual harassment problem at his network, Fox News announced that he would be replaced in part by executive vice president Suzanne Scott. Scott has been referenced in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the network, has reportedly taken part in enforcing the network’s sexist culture, and allegedly assisted in retaliation campaigns against employees who reported sexual harassment.