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Julie Alderman

Author ››› Julie Alderman
  • Cable news networks forgot Trump sexually assaulted women, until the Harvey Weinstein stories broke

    Evening programming on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all devoted much more time to the allegations against Trump after The New York Times reported on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    By and large, 2017 was a year of reckoning for men who have sexually harassed and assaulted women. But 2017 was also the year evening programming on cable news forgot about the women who said President Donald Trump sexually assaulted them.

    Over the past year, we’ve seen powerful men lose their jobs and reputations after women and men came forward telling their stories of harassment and assault. One man whose reckoning has yet to come, however, is the president of the United States. By October 2016, at least 20 women had said then-candidate Trump engaged in sexual misconduct, including 12 nonconsensual physical encounters. The accusations largely came after a video clip emerged of Trump admitting to sexual assault in 2005.

    A Media Matters analysis found that the stories these women told about Trump’s alleged -- and admitted -- sexual misconduct were largely forgotten by evening cable news hosts and guests in 2017, especially on Fox News. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of coverage came only after The New York Times initially reported on Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and assault, which precipitated a wave of coverage about dozens of men who now stand credibly accused of sexual misconduct.

    This study found:

    Fox News spent less than 40 minutes on Trump's sexual misconduct in 2017

    Between January 1 and December 15, 2017, evening Fox News programs spent a total of 37 minutes and 21 seconds on the women who said Trump assaulted or harassed them.


    John Whitehouse / Media Matters

    In contrast, CNN spent 2 hours, 53 minutes, and 22 seconds on the allegations, while MSNBC spent 2 hours and 16 minutes discussing them.


    John Whitehouse / Media Matters

    While many shows ignored and minimized the allegations against Trump, some of his most ardent defenders on Fox faced them head-on to merely dismiss them out of hand.

    On the December 13 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham attempted to discredit the allegations against Trump, asking, “If someone accused of you something from 20 years ago and you denied it ... would it be fair for people to say, God, he’s accused?"

    And on the November 16 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity alleged that the women who spoke out against Trump said they were “taken out of context purposely by The New York Times.”

    Most of the discussions of Trump's sexual misconduct took place after reporting about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and assault

    The vast majority of the reporting on the accusations made against Trump on evening cable news took place after The New York Times reported on October 5 about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and assault. The so-called “Harvey effect” spurred women to come forward to discuss their experiences of sexual violence. In turn, the reporting on Weinstein also appeared to create an opening for cable news to bring up the allegations made against the president. In the nine months before The New York Times reported on Weinstein, evening cable news spent less than an hour discussing the allegations made against Trump. However, in about 2 1/2 months after the Times reported on Weinstein, evening cable news devoted nearly five hours to reporting on the accusations against Trump.


    John Whitehouse / Media Matters

    For many survivors across the country, it’s nearly impossible to forget that 20 women have reported sexual harassment and assault committed by our president, who has admitted to such behavior. Cable news shouldn’t forget about it, either.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis for mentions of “Trump” within 50 words of all permutations of “assault,” “rape,” “harass,” “grope,” “grab,” “sexual,” or “allege” that took place on evening ( 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.) programs on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News between January 1 and December 15, 2017. For inclusion in this study, segments had to feature a significant discussion of the allegations made against Trump.

    We defined a “significant discussion” as one of the following:

    • a segment where the allegations against Trump were the stated topic of discussion;

    • a segment in which two or more speakers discussed the allegations; or

    • a host monologue during which the allegations were the stated topic of discussion.

    Qualifying segments were then timed using iQ media. Repeated segments were not counted. Teasers for upcoming segments were also not counted.

    * Due to substantial reorganization of Fox News’ programming during the study period, programs that were either added or removed from the network during the study period are marked with an asterisk.

  • How right-wing media are laying the groundwork for an assault on voting rights in 2018

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    For years, right-wing media have systematically attacked voting rights in America. In 2017 especially, right-wing media continued to push falsehoods and flawed talking points in an attempt to justify voter suppression, and with the support of the Trump administration are laying the groundwork for a renewed assault on the right to vote.

    Right-wing media have long excelled at pushing misleading talking points and myths, no matter how stale, about voting. And since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder dismantled part of the seminal Voting Rights Act, these falsehoods have been used by lawmakers in support of discriminatory policies to disenfranchise voters at a dangerous pace.

    This year was no exception. Following the results of special elections in which Democrats overperformed and exceeded expectations, right-wing media once again turned to a series of myths and talking points parroted by Republicans. Whether intentional or not, this misinformation will likely be used by GOP lawmakers and anti-voting activists to make it harder for everyone to cast a ballot in 2018.

    Voter fraud in Alabama

    Following the surprising victory of Sen.-elect Doug Jones, a Democrat, in Alabama, right-wing and far-right media cried voter fraud in an attempt to discredit the results.

    While voting took place and shortly thereafter, several fake news and so-called “satirical” websites attempted to claim that voter fraud had taken place. Perhaps the most successful myth promoted by fake news websites, pro-Trump Twitter trolls, and far-right conspiracy outlets was a video claiming to show that a man admitted people had committed voter fraud by coming in from out-of-state to vote for Jones.

    What the unidentified Jones supporter actually said was not as much an unlikely admission of illegality but clearly a likely reference to the coordinated attempt to canvass and assist voter registration and voting. He told FOX10 News in Alabama:

    We came here all the way from different parts of the country as part of our fellowship, and all of us pitched in to vote and canvas together, and we got our boy elected.

    As Splinter News pointed out, the man’s comment was “casual and seemingly innocuous,” and not an admission of voter fraud. Nevertheless, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican, announced on December 18 that he planned to launch an investigation into potential voter fraud in the election based on that video, even though he reportedly admitted that the state doesn’t have any evidence of voter fraud and the young supporter could have been “play[ing] a canvassing roll (sic)” or “was part of a process that went out and tried to register voters.”

    For years, politicians have used the specter of “voter fraud” as grounds not only to implement discriminatory voter ID laws, but also to launch chilling investigations designed to depress future voting efforts. Alabama voter fraud claims from the far-right and conspiracy theorists may be just helping these efforts come to fruition even faster.

    Voter ID laws in Alabama

    One of the most recycled hot takes to come out of the Alabama special election came from Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley, who cited high Democratic turnout numbers to dismiss criticism over voter ID laws. Riley wrote in a December 19 op-ed:

    Democratic Party officials and media elites insist that asking people to prove their identities before voting effectively disenfranchises minorities, but most Americans understand the importance of ballot integrity. And if such laws make it too difficult for blacks to cast a ballot, what explains the Obamalike minority turnout for Mr. Jones, given that Alabama implemented one of the country’s toughest voter ID requirements in 2014?

    Scaremongers liken voter ID laws to the literacy tests and violence used to intimidate black voters under Jim Crow. But what happened last week in Alabama is not uncommon. Strict voter ID laws were passed in Georgia and Indiana more than a decade ago, and in 2008 the Supreme Court concluded that they are reasonable and constitutional. Subsequently, minority turnout increased not only within both states but also compared with other states that lack voter ID laws. Similarly, black voter registration and turnout remained level in Texas and went up in North Carolina after those states implemented voter ID mandates.

    Riley is wrong for several reasons.

    The first is that many people did have trouble voting in the election due to the onerous voter ID requirements in Alabama. Voters in Mobile told AL.com that they were “referred to a clerk rather than being allowed to immediately vote” if their addresses on their driver licenses didn’t match the ones of their voter registration. According to Courthouse News, poll watchers with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund “found voters running into trouble casting their ballots” due to the state’s voter ID law. Additionally, ThinkProgress reported that black Alabamians were forced to cast provisional ballots due to inconsistencies between IDs and voter rolls.

    The second is that Riley’s argument about high turnout proving a lack of voter suppression has been used in other states before -- and when it has, it’s been found to be ridiculous. Sundeep Iyer, formerly of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, pointed out years ago that those who claim that higher-than-expected turnout rates excuse voter ID need "a simple statistics lesson.” As election law expert Justin Levitt told TalkingPointsMemo, “It’s called the correlation-causation fallacy, and anybody who’s had statistics for a week can talk to you about it.”

    (It’s also not inconceivable that the racist rhetoric and fondness for slavery expressed by Jones’ opponent, Republican Roy Moore, may have spurred turnout among African-Americans in Alabama to a degree that even voter suppression couldn’t depress.)

    Study after study has found stringent voter ID laws negatively affect minority voters when implemented. But Riley’s argument is simplistic and convenient enough for anti-voting advocates and lawmakers to apparently never cease repeating it in order to support these laws.

    Felon voting in Virginia

    Meanwhile, after a surprise win for Democrats in Virginia, Fox News host Tucker Carlson used the results to attack a policy implemented by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, to restore voting rights to convicted felons. After Democrat Shelly Simonds defeated a Republican incumbent by a one-vote margin for a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates (thereby creating a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans in the legislative body) in a race that was later deemed a tie, Carlson blamed McAuliffe’s move to re-enfranchise convicted felons for Simonds’ victory and the ensuing power shift in the House of Delegates:

    But winning an election by one vote means that everything from felon re-enfranchisement to an on-time bus could change the course of a race.

    Carlson’s comments cannot be taken in good faith. Carlson is joining a chorus in conservative media decrying and fearmongering over felon re-enfranchisement in an attempt to deter lawmakers from following McAuliffe’s lead and allowing American citizens to vote

    While all of these recent attacks have been made for years, they must be taken even more seriously now. With a cooperative administration in place -- not to mention a continuous loop between conservative media and the White House -- these attacks over the right to vote have a real chance of taking hold and informing law and policy. As the 2018 midterms get closer and closer, these attacks could be devastatingly effective, and potentially leave a real-life stain on our democracy.

  • Fox’s Napolitano baselessly claims GSA acted unlawfully by not informing Trump transition team of Mueller's request for emails

    GSA told Trump officials that it would comply with requests for information from law enforcement

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly claimed that the Government Services Administration (GSA) “had a legal obligation to tell” President Donald Trump’s transition team that the agency had handed over emails to the team investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election at the request of special counsel Robert Mueller. Not only is there no indication GSA has a  legal requirement of the sort, but officials at the GSA said they warned Trump officials that anything they created could be turned over to law enforcement.

    When discussing on Fox & Friends a (false) claim from Trump’s lawyers that Mueller’s team improperly obtained emails from the presidential transition team by going to the GSA rather than the transition team itself, Napolitano claimed, “The GSA had a legal obligation to tell” Trump’s transition team that it had handed over the emails to the special counsel. Co-host Brian Kilmeade agreed, saying, “I would think so. It seems logical.”

    But the GSA did notify the Trump transition team that it would be handing over documents and other materials to law enforcement if asked. BuzzFeed reported that GSA Deputy Counsel Lenny Loewentritt said, “Transition team members were informed that materials ‘would not be held back in any law enforcement’ actions.” Additionally, a memorandum of understanding between the GSA and the transition ream obtained by Crooked Media’s Brian Beutler shows “no provision denoting the documents as being the property of the transition team” and suggests transition members agreed to rules that “include a privacy waiver, which notes that, ‘Users have no expectation of privacy on GSA IT resources since all activities are subject to monitoring.’”

    From the December 19 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    ANDREW NAPOLITANO (FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST): But [special counsel] Bob Mueller and his team did obtain the emails of the transition team. So we’re talking about the three-month period from Election Day until Inauguration Day. How did he get them? Well, he can't issue a subpoena, only a grand jury can. And the grand jury will only issue a subpoena if somebody gives them a reason. So some FBI agent testified under oath before the grand jury as to what they thought was in the emails, why they needed them. The grand jury issues the subpoena. Now the problem arises. So when the subpoena is served on the GSA, Government Services Administration, which is part of the executive branch, which had the records of the transaction.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): The custodian.

    NAPOLITANO: Correct. Donald Trump’s now president when this is happening. The GSA should have said to the transition team, “Hey, the -- it still exists, we have a subpoena from the special prosecutor’s grand jury. We’re going to comply with it in 10 days. If you want to challenge it, here’s a copy. Go to court and challenge it.” They didn't do that. When no challenge came, they complied with it. And so Mueller's people had tens of thousands of emails.

    You may say so what? Well, I’ll tell you the significance: Mueller's team interviewed, the FBI agents interviewed, most people in the West Wing who also worked for the transition team. Those people at the time of the interviews undoubtedly did not know that the --

    DOOCY: Didn’t know they had the emails.

    NAPOLITANO: Correct. The FBI agents who were interviewing them had already read their emails. Remember, it's a crime to lie to the FBI. It is not a crime for the FBI to trick you into lying. Just ask [former national security adviser] Mike Flynn.

    DOOCY: A perjury trap.

    [...]

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Just so you know, they feel as though they were told by a GSA official who now have died that if we need any of this information on the computer equipment that we gave you for the transition, we’ll tell you [INAUDIBLE] to subpoena it. That guy’s dead. So, let's just move on real quick.

    NAPOLITANO: The GSA had a legal obligation to tell [the] transition [team].

    KILMEADE: I would think so. It seems logical.

  • Study: Hannity's crusade against Robert Mueller and the Russia probe, by the numbers

    Hannity and now the rest of Fox evening programming are on a mission to discredit the Russia probe. Here’s how they’re doing it.

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN, GRACE BENNETT, NICK FERNANDEZ & DINA RADTKE

    Fox News’ Sean Hannity, and now the rest of Fox’s evening lineup, are actively working to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. A Media Matters analysis found:

    Hannity and his guests have questioned Mueller's legitimacy or called for Mueller to remove himself or be fired 79 times since the special counsel was appointed

    Hannity and his guests have made over 364 statements suggesting Mueller and/or his team have a “conflict of interest” since the special counsel was appointed

    Hannity and his guests have used several other canards to attack Mueller and the investigation since the special counsel was appointed

    Fox’s other evening shows have followed Hannity’s lead in the first week of December, attacking Mueller and the probe

    Trump's lawyer and Hannity regular calls for special counsel to investigate Justice Department

    Trump's lawyer and frequent guest on Hannity's shows calls for special counsel to investigate DOJ official connected to Russia probe. After Fox News reported on December 11 that "A senior Justice Department official demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump 'dossier' had even closer ties to Fusion GPS," President Donald Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, told Axios that the Department of Justice and FBI "cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests." Sekulow added, "These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate." [FoxNews.com, 12/11/17; Axios, 12/12/17; Media Matters, 9/13/17; Twitter, 12/12/17]

    Hannity and his guests have questioned Mueller's legitimacy or called for Mueller to remove himself or be fired 79 times since the special counsel was appointed

    Sean Hannity and his guests have called for Mueller’s firing, resignation or recusal, or attacked his legitimacy 79 times. Since the investigation began on May 17, Hannity and his guests have questioned Mueller's appointment or called for Mueller to remove himself or for his firing 79 times. Hannity has questioned Mueller's legitimacy or demanded Mueller’s firing, resignation, or recusal 44 times. Guests of his Fox show, Hannity, who have attacked Mueller in a similar fashion include former Secret Service agent and conspiracy theorist Dan Bongino and Fox legal analyst and ardent defender of President Donald Trump Gregg Jarrett.

    Hannity and his guests have made over 364 statements suggesting Mueller and/or his team have a “conflict of interest” since the special counsel was appointed

    Hannity and his guests brought up alleged “conflicts of interest” 364 times. Since May 17, Hannity and his guests have made 364 statements alleging that Mueller and/or his team have a “conflict of interest” that would prevent him from fairly conducting the probe. Of those statements, Hannity himself made 294.

    Two of Hannity’s most frequently cited “conflicts of interest” are not really conflicts. Of the 294 statements that Hannity made about the alleged “conflicts of interest,” two of the most popular so-called conflicts, cited a combined 173 times, are not actually conflicts at all:

    • On 115 occasions, Hannity claimed that Mueller’s team was compromised or had conflicts of interest because it included several investigators who had previously donated to Democrats. As a group of political science professors wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, “According to the Justice Department’s own rules, campaign donations do not create a conflict of interest.”

    • On 58 occasions, Hannity suggested that Mueller has a conflict of interest because of his relationship with former FBI Director James Comey. But, as The Associated Press (AP) pointed out, Mueller and Comey are “not known to be especially close friends.” Additionally, “legal experts say whatever connection they do have doesn't come close to meriting Mueller's removal as special counsel.”

    Hannity and his guests have used several other canards to attack Mueller and the investigation

    Hannity and his guests used a variety of other talking points and canards to discredit the investigation and Mueller:

    • On 43 occasions, Hannity and his guests referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt.” Of those statements, Hannity made 41. Trump has been reportedly obsessed with this characterization since June.

    • On 32 occasions, Hannity and his guests suggested that the investigation was a political attack on Trump, his administration, and potentially even the Trump family. Hannity himself claimed that Mueller’s investigation was an attack on Trump 17 times.

    • On 89 occasions, Hannity and his guests attempted to discredit Mueller by hyping his connections to the repeatedly debunked Uranium One “scandal.” Hannity touted these connections 75 times.

    • Just since November 4, Hannity and his guests claimed on 51 occasions that Mueller and his investigators harbored anti-Trump sentiments. Hannity himself made 35 of these statements. (This variable was only coded for between December 4 and December 8).


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox’s other evening shows in the first week of December followed Hannity’s lead, attacking Mueller and the probe

    In the first week of December, hosts and guests on other Fox evening programs followed Hannity and attacked Mueller's legitimacy, or called on Mueller to remove himself or be fired 27 times. From December 4 to December 8, Fox News hosts and guests on evening shows joined Hannity and commented that Mueller should never have been appointed, should now resign, recuse himself, or be fired 27 times. Most of these statements occurred on Hannity, but also appeared on other shows as well:

    • One such statement occurred on The Five;
    • One other statement occurred on The Story with Martha MacCallum;
    • and three of these statements occurred on The Ingraham Angle.

    In that same time frame, Mueller and/or his team’s alleged “conflicts of interest” were brought up 151 times. Fox hosts and guests made 151 statements during the first week of December asserting that Mueller and/or his team have “conflicts of interest.” On 63 occasions, Fox guests and hosts claimed the “conflicts of interest” existed because of campaign donations. On nine occasions, Fox guests and hosts claimed “conflicts of interest” because of Mueller's relationship with Comey. Other instances vaguely charged Mueller of having conflicts without specifics or evidence.

    • Mueller's "conflicts" were mentioned seven times on The Five, with five statements about the campaign donations of Mueller's investigators and one statement about Mueller's relationship with Comey.
    • Mueller's "conflicts" were mentioned once on Special Report, with one statement about the campaign donations of Mueller's investigators.
    • Mueller's "conflicts" were mentioned five times on The Story, with two statements about the campaign donations of Mueller's investigators and two statements about Mueller's relationship with Comey.
    • Mueller's "conflicts" were mentioned four times on Tucker Carlson Tonight, with three statements about the campaign donations of Mueller's investigators.
    • Mueller's "conflicts" were mentioned 18 times on The Ingraham Angle, with six statements about the campaign donations of Mueller's investigators.

    On 158 occasions, Mueller and/or his team was accused of being “anti-Trump.” Hosts and guests on Fox evening programs accused Mueller and/or members of his team of being “anti-Trump” 158 times.

    • 12 statements accusing Mueller and/or his team of being "anti-Trump" occurred on The Five;
    • 13 statements occurred on Special Report;
    • 20 appeared on The Story;
    • 19 appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight;
    • and 41 appeared on The Ingraham Angle.

    On 22 occasions, Fox evening hosts and guests called the investigation an attack on Trump, his presidency, and his family. Hosts and guests claimed 22 times that Mueller’s investigative team was out to get Trump, at one point referring to the investigation as a “scam.”

    • Two of these statements occurred on The Five;
    • One occurred on Tucker Calrson Tonight;
    • and four appeared on The Ingraham Angle.

    On 23 occasions, Mueller’s investigation was called a “witch hunt.” Fox hosts and guests referred to Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” 23 times throughout the first week of December. While most occurred on Hannity, two statements also occurred on Tucker Carlson Tonight.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the first week of December, Hannity far outpaced other Fox evening shows in attempting to discredit Mueller and the investigation. While other evening programs on Fox worked to discredit the Mueller investigation and the special counsel himself, Hannity was far and away the most aggressive about it during the week-long time period.

    • 22 statements urging Mueller to be removed from the investigation occurred on Hannity;
    • 116 statements discussing Mueller and/or his team's "conflicts" occurred on Hannity;
    • 46 statements invoking the political donations made by Mueller's investigatiors to assert the investigation is conflicted were made on Hannity;
    • Six statements hyping Mueller's relationship with Comey were made on Hannity;
    • 15 statements insisting the investigation was nothing more than an attack on Trump, his administration, and his family were made on Hannity;
    • 21 statements referring to the investigation as a "witch hunt" were made on Hannity;
    • Four statements attempting to link Mueller to the Uranium One conspiracy theory were made on Hannity;
    • and 53 statements asserting the investigation and the investigators were inherently anti-Trump were made on Hannity.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis for transcripts of Fox News’ Hannity between May 17 and December 8 mentioning the words “Mueller” or “special counsel.” Transcripts were then coded for statements -- which in this study we defined as a sentence -- which included the following:

    • calls for Mueller to resign or recuse himself or calls that he be fired, or suggestions that he never should have been appointed as special counsel;

    • suggestions that Mueller and/or his team have a conflict of interest with the investigation;

    • mentions of Mueller’s investigators who had previously donated to Democratic lawmakers;

    • mentions of Mueller’s alleged friendship and relationship with Comey;

    • claims that the investigation is a political attack on Trump, his administration, or his family;

    • suggestions that the investigation is a “witch hunt”;

    • attempts to link Mueller to Uranium One deal; and

    • claims that Mueller and/or his team is inherently partisan against the president.

    Media Matters also searched Nexis for mentions of “Mueller” or “special counsel” from December 4 to 8 on Fox News between 5 and 11 p.m., including the following programs: The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, The Story with Martha MacCallum, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and The Ingraham Angle. Transcripts were coded for the same variables.

    Transcripts were reviewed by two independent coders and differences were then reconciled.

    This study includes data from a previous study published on November 21.

    CORRECTION: This study previously referred to the official referenced by Sekulow as an FBI official. In fact, he was a senior DOJ official and part of the Criminal Division. 

  • Breitbart follows Fox & Friends fearmongering about felon voting in Alabama’s special election

    The state passed a law earlier this year allowing some former felons to register to vote

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    A week before the special election in Alabama to fill a vacancy in the Senate, Fox & Friends and Breitbart fearmongered about felon voting -- even attempting to portray it as a Democratic conspiracy -- despite the fact that the state’s Republican legislature passed and Republican governor signed the law allowing felons to register.

    In a December 3 piece, Breitbart wrote that “An organization partnered with a George Soros-financed group and led by a radical leftist who is the half-brother of the infamous controversial Rev. Al Sharpton has been diligently working over the past few weeks to register convicted felons across Alabama.” It isn’t until 12 paragraphs into the piece that Breitbart noted that earlier this year Alabama's Republican governor signed the law that restored voting rights to thousands of felons.

    Similarly, Fox & Friends was criticized after it ran multiple segments and teases on the November 30 edition of the program saying that Democrats are trying to get "felons registered to come out and vote" in the election. Only once did Fox host Jillian Mele acknowledge that “for decades, felons in Alabama were not allowed to vote,” but “the law was changed last year.” As the Washington Post noted, "Never mind that the felons' voting rights were restored by Republican lawmakers or that one of history's best-known conservative Supreme Court justices determined 32 years ago that bigotry had motivated Alabama's sweeping disenfranchisement. On “Fox & Friends,” the right of certain citizens to vote was presented as a nefarious “secret weapon” of Democrats."

    Right-wing media have a history of cheering for discriminatory laws that curtail voting rights and pushing myths about illegal voting.

  • Three lies about the Senate Republican tax plan that journalists need to correct

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As Republicans prepare to vote on a bill to drastically alter the tax code by slashing corporate rates and creating carve-outs for the wealthy at the expense of some of the most vulnerable, some Republican senators took to cable news to hype the proposal. The lawmakers relied on debunked myths to encourage voters and their colleagues to support the historically unpopular legislation. In some cases, journalists pushed back on these talking points. But in the future, reporters must be quick to immediately debunk this onslaught of misinformation and deception.

    Republicans claim everyone will get a tax cut

    Several Republican lawmakers pitched the plan by claiming that every income group would receive a tax cut. On the November 30 edition of Fox News’ The Daily Briefing, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) stated that “everybody does get a tax cut” from this plan in response to questioning from host Sandra Smith.

    In an interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer on the November 29 edition of America’s Newsroom, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) claimed that “every income group is going to get a tax cut,” to which Hemmer offered no push back.

    Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) went a step further on the November 29 edition of CNN’s New Day, asserting that “every income bracket will benefit and the lower income brackets … will benefit the most.” Cornyn’s comments came after CNN’s Chris Cuomo pointed out that “this was billed as a middle-class” plan, but “there is no analysis that shows them being helped disproportionately to the top tier.”

    These claims are not true. According to The Washington Post, Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that the bill would “give large tax cuts to the rich while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade.” Additionally, The New York Times found that “two-thirds of middle-class households would get a tax increase in 2027, and none — zero percent — would get a tax cut.”

    Republicans assert Medicare will be unaffected by the bill

    In a November 29 interview on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed that Republicans are “not touching Medicare at all in this bill” with no pushback from host Laura Ingraham.

    This claim was also made by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who, according to The Wall Street Journal, asserted that the bill includes “no cuts to Medicare.” But the Journal correctly noted, “Medicare would be cut by $25 billion in fiscal 2018 as a result of the bill because it would trigger automatic spending cuts under a pay-as-you-go budgeting law.”

    Additionally, according to Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) essentially admitted that the tax bill “is the prelude to a larger attack on Social Security and Medicare.” During a November 29 interview forum hosted by Politico, Rubio said tax cuts would help with “instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.” Rubio’s claim is also backed up by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which found that to offset deficit increases, automatic cuts would be made to Medicare of up to $25 billion next year.

    McConnell insists the bill will not increase the deficit

    Also in his interview with Laura Ingraham, McConnell claimed that the tax bill “is not going to be a deficit producing effort.” Once again, Ingraham did not give any pushback to McConnell on his claim.

    This, of course, is false. According to The New York Times, the JCT found that “the legislation would add $1 trillion to federal budget deficits over a decade, even after accounting for economic growth."

  • Fox & Friends revives debunked myths on the deficit, health care, and middle-class tax increases to push Senate GOP tax plan

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    In an attempt to defend the Republican tax bill, Fox & Friends hosts purported to debunk “myths” about the proposal, but actually just pushed a number of falsehoods and misleading statements themselves. For the segment, they hosted Rosemary Becchi, a tax attorney and lobbyist who previously worked as the Republican tax counsel on the Senate Finance Committee.

    Claimed the plan won’t add $1 trillion to the deficit just one day after congressional committee found that it would. Becchi asserted that it was “completely false” that the bill would add $1 trillion to the deficit. Co-host Brian Kilmeade cited so-called “dynamic scoring” to allege that the bill could “actually reduce the deficit.” But, according to The New York Times, an estimate from Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) found that “the legislation would add $1 trillion to federal budget deficits over a decade, even after accounting for economic growth” through dynamic scoring.

    Falsely claimed the plan won’t hike taxes on middle-income people. Becchi also insisted that the tax bill would cut taxes “at all levels. It cuts at the high-income earners, as well as middle- and low-class taxpayers, as well.” But, according to The Washington Post, the JCT estimated that the bill would “give large tax cuts to the rich while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade.” Additionally, The New York Times found that “two-thirds of middle-class households would get a tax increase in 2027, and none — zero percent — would get a tax cut.”

    Whitewashed the harm the plan will do to Americans’ health care. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked Becchi whether a potential “health care tax hike” under the proposed law will happen, which Becchi dismissed. Becchi correctly noted that the proposal includes a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, which would not lead to a tax hike. But Becchi and the hosts did not explain that as a result of repealing the mandate, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated, 13 million more people would lose their insurance and premiums would rise by about 10 percent in the ACA’s individual market.

    Admitted that tax cuts will help the rich the most while claiming to be “debunking” the “myth” that tax cuts help the rich most. When asked about the impact the bill would have on the wealthiest Americans, Becchi noted that “these tax cuts will disproportionately help upper-income taxpayers,” but suggested that that was just because “most wealthy Americans pay the most taxes in this country.” This is a drastic understatement; based on the initial framework of the Republican tax bills, the Tax Policy Center found that “about 80 percent of the total benefit would accrue to taxpayers in the top 1 percent, whose after-tax income would increase 8.7 percent.”

    From the December 1 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): First off, we hear about the deficit, and we hear that it’s going to add $1 trillion dollars to the deficit.

    ROSEMARY BECCHI: And that's just completely false. There’s so much in this bill that will generate an economic growth. And that economic growth will put us on a path to fiscal responsibility. So, there’s a lot to be in this bill for everybody.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): OK, to chew on, and that's why we are looking at it, we just heard from [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi [(D-CA)]. She called it a “scam.” What about the fact that so many Democrats, Rosemary, have said it's going to be a tax hike on the middle class?

    BECCHI: And that's just not true. This bill will give benefits to both the low-, middle-, and high-income earners. It provides tax cuts straight across the board.

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): She also said health care tax hike. Is that going to happen?

    BECCHI: No. Not at all. What the bill includes is the repeal of the [individual] mandate. And if you recall, the mandate is simply a penalty for not purchasing health care. All it does is eliminate that penalty. That's not a tax.

    EARHARDT: So it saves people money if they don't want to do it.

    BECCHI: Exactly, exactly.

    KILMEADE: Right. And disproportionately it hurts people who make $50,000 and less, because they’re the ones who have to make the decision, do I have to pay the fine on the mandate for health care, or I do actually buy a plan --

    BECCHI: Correct.

    KILMEADE: -- which, sadly, the Obamacare plans are not what they promised -- the high premiums, high deductibles. Therefore, these people are in a conundrum. This would help them.

    BECCHI: That's absolutely correct.

    KILMEADE: Moving on to what I said before about the deficit. It would add $1 trillion  to the deficit, if you don't put a --  factor in the fact that the economy is supposed to grow, bringing in additional revenue called dynamic scoring. If you feel as though the economy is going to stay the same, it would blow a hole. But if you’re betting that it’s going to grow, it would actually reduce the deficit.

    BECCHI: Right, that’s right. This bill will put more money into the pockets of both Americans, as well as businesses. And people will reinvest that money. And as a result of that reinvestment, we will have economic growth. And economic growth will generate more taxes.

    EARHARDT: Now what about the wealthy? Because when the president was running he said I'm going to decrease taxes for everybody. He said in a press conference yesterday or the day before that he -- he said I'm going to pay the penalty. I'm going to pay more in taxes because I'm one of the wealthy.

    BECCHI: Right. Most Americans, most wealthy Americans, pay the most taxes in this country.

    EARHARDT: That's the way it is now, right?

    BECCHI: Exactly. That's the way it is. So, as a result, these tax cuts will disproportionately help upper-income taxpayers. And that's just the reality. But, what this tax bill does, it cuts at all levels. It cuts at the high-income earners, as well as middle- and low-class taxpayers, as well.

  • CNN's "both sides" problem infects coverage of Trump's anti-Muslim retweets

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President Donald Trump’s latest anti-Muslim retweet spree was racist, misleading, and, above all, indefensible.

    Somehow CNN didn’t get the memo.

    Trump on November 29 retweeted three anti-Muslim videos that were posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the far-right, ultranationalist Britain First political organization, who has previously been "charged with causing religiously aggravated harassment.”

    Beyond being incredibly racist, these tweets were also highly misleading. Several media outlets fact-checked the claims in these videos, determining one of them to be “false” and all three “overlaid with a message meant to be a blunt hammer blow for a cause.” Additionally, civil rights groups pointed out that Trump’s tweets “further inflame” violence and hate aimed at Muslims in a climate when “hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim bias are at an all-time high.”

    Trump's retweets were widely condemned by American and British officials, including Prime Minister Theresa May. However, CNN covered these tweets, as it covers many other issues, through a series of panel discussions comprising talking heads who move the conversation absolutely nowhere. Many of these panels were stacked with a Trump supporter who attempted to defend the president’s atrocious social media posts.

    On CNN Newsroom with John Berman and Poppy Harlow, CNN contributor Ben Ferguson stated, “If I would have seen these videos … I would have probably tweeted that out and said to myself, ‘This is something the world needs to see.’”

    On CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, CNN political commentator Andre Bauer claimed the U.S. has gotten “numb to the continual victimization of American people by people that come over to this country to cause us harm” and praised Trump for “continu[ing] to remind us about it.”

    On The Lead with Jake Tapper, CNN political commentator and former Trump campaign strategist David Urban dismissed “the notion that somehow we’re radicalizing folks in the rest of the world” through the spread of anti-Muslim propaganda.

    On Anderson Cooper 360, panelist James Schultz, who served as White House ethics lawyer under Trump, attempted to defend the president by asserting that “radical Islamic terrorists do bad things.” Schultz claimed, “It’s not the best choice of videos. Without a doubt, they are fake videos. But for you to say [Trump’s] characterizing all Muslims that way, it’s just flat out wrong.”

    And on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, CNN political commentator Ed Martin said the series of tweets was “not a very good move,” but that critics of the tweets were “missing the forest for the trees. No one that looks with a serious eye at Europe doesn’t recognize that there is a problem with Muslim and Islamic fanatics.” Martin contended that Trump’s tweets were helping the problem by “starting a conversation.”

    CNN’s “both sides” panel structure assumes that every issue has two valid sides, and that often those sides are best defined along partisan lines. In the case of Trump’s tweets, that is patently false. These tweets are bigoted and misleading, and anyone who says otherwise is not being intellectually or morally honest.

    By introducing two sides to this debate, CNN is muddying the truth about these videos. Given that we now live in an age where the president often takes his cues from what he sees on cable news, CNN’s “both sides” strategy is irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

  • 17 disturbing warning signs NBC ignored from Matt Lauer

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    NBC News announced on November 29 that it fired Today host Matt Lauer after “a detailed complaint” was filed about "inappropriate sexual behavior that took place during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.” The complaint also noted that Lauer’s “alleged behavior continued in the workplace after the games.” Lauer has a well-documented history of disturbing and sexist behavior that should have served as a warning sign to management long before this recent investigation took place. Here are just a few examples:

    1. According to The New York Times Magazine, Lauer was part of “the boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes” at Today, which Curry said “undermined her from the start” and was partially responsible for pushing her out in 2013.

    2. In 2012, former Today host Katie Couric told Andy Cohen that Lauer’s most “annoying” trait was that he “pinch[ed] me on the ass a lot.”

    3. In 2006, according to video footage on TMZ, Lauer told Meredith Vieira to "Keep bending over like that. It's a nice view," during a commerical break.

    4. According to HuffPost, Lauer acted incredibly skeezy during a 2014 interview with then-18-year-old skier Mikaela Shiffrin.

    5. In a 2012 interview with actress Anne Hathaway, Lauer started off by discussing a wardrobe malfunction of hers, telling Hathaway he had “seen a lot of you lately.”

    6. Lauer, then in his late 40s, told singer Kelly Clarkson that she had a “hot new look.” When Clarkson, who was in her early 20s at the time, responded by asking “I have a hot new look?” Lauer replied, “Well, I'm back from vacation and you got my attention, I'll tell you that.”

    7. During an interview with Pippa Middleton, Lauer focused on the “very flattering” dress she wore to her sister’s wedding and the way it fit her, saying, “I thought it was the best of British pomp and circumstance.”

    8. During an interview with Lauer earlier this year, actor Corey Feldman discussed child molestation in Hollywood, including his own experience of abuse. In response, Lauer questioned Feldman’s culpability in the matter, asking why he didn’t come forward sooner: “Why are you sitting down talking to me? Why aren’t you sitting down with the police right now?” Feldman replied, “I’m the victim here. I’m the one who’s been abused. I’m the one who’s trying to come forward and do something about it.”

    9. During a 2008 “roast” of Lauer, he misogynistically joked about sleeping with his former co-hosts Katie Couric and Ann Curry, asking, “What’s with all the small-dick jokes? It was fun to look over and see Ann Curry laughing … like she doesn’t know how big my dick really is.”  

    10. In 2012, Lauer was part of an incredibly distasteful mockumentary on sexual harassment at Today, where he said he was the “real victim” after co-host Willie Geist jokingly touched him inappropriately.

    11. In a 2014 sketch, Lauer pretended to flash his colleagues, urging his female colleagues to “drink it in, ladies.”

    12. In September, Lauer, who reportedly had notable influence over which stories appeared on Today, interviewed serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly, giving him a platform to attack a woman who had reported him for harassment and deny knowledge about the multiple settlements he’d reached for misconduct.

    13. During an interview with GM chief executive Mary Barra in 2014, Lauer asked her if she thought she could do a good job at being both a high-powered executive and a mother.

    14. During a 2015 interview with musician Adele, Lauer questioned whether she was “concerned at all that now, with the explosion of this album, that you're going to have to get back on that career treadmill and have less time to dedicate” to her young son.

    15. During a national security forum during the 2016 presidential campaign, Lauer “behaved toward the presidential candidates in a way that was consistent with much of the research about gender stereotypes and discrimination,” according to the Harvard Business Review. Specifically, Lauer “interrupted Clinton more often than Trump, asked her more challenging questions, and questioned her statements more often.”

    16. During the same forum, Lauer failed to push back on then-candidate Donald Trump’s assertion that is was “correct” to claim that rape should be “expected” when men and women both serve in the military.  

    17. While reporting on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Lauer referred to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen as one of Brazil’s “most recognizable exports.”

    A TMZ report initially identified the woman in the third bullet as Katie Couric. TMZ now reports it was Meredith Vieria. This piece has been updated accordingly.

  • 6 of OANN’s most bizarre and desperate attempts to elect Roy Moore in Alabama

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    One America News Network (OANN) has gone scorched earth in its efforts to elect Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. The network, which President Donald Trump apparently watches and has praised, has used a combination of desperate and bizarre segments to raise support for Moore, despite several women saying Moore made sexual advances toward them while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Given the network’s outlandish history that includes racism and a penchant for pushing conspiracy theories, its support for Moore may not be surprising, but the tactics it uses are nonetheless ridiculous.

    1. Creating a confusing web of ties to “the underground world of illicit drugs” to discredit Moore’s accusers and the media

    OANN made a desperate attempt to link Faye Gary, a former Alabama cop who said she had to keep Moore from harassing cheerleaders at sporting events in the 1980s, to “the underground world of the illicit drug business,” because her sons were arrested for distributing drugs. Sharp also claimed that Moore prosecuted Gary’s brothers for drug crimes, which is why Gary “has a personal ax to grind with Roy Moore.” Sharp also insinuated that Moore made a “powerful enemy” when he convicted Richard Hagerdon for drug dealing, because his brother, David Hagerdon, worked for The Washington Post. Though Sharp admitted that “it’s not clear what the connection could be between Hagerdon and the publication of sexual allegations,” he nevertheless speculated that the “coincidence” still “throws the entire case into question.” Moore even promoted the segment on Twitter.

    From the November 29 edition of One America News:

    2. Calling on Sean Hannity to apologize “for not standing by the judge”

    OANN lashed out at Fox’s Sean Hannity after the host gave Moore an ultimatum to “get out of this race” if he couldn’t refute the allegations. The network said it believes “Sean Hannity owes Moore an apology for not standing by the judge,” despite the fact that Hannity eventually backed off from his original demand.

    From the November 26 edition of One America News:

     

    3. Playing Moore’s campaign ad in full and calling his opponent a “fascist”

    On The Daily Ledger, OANN played one of Moore’s campaign ads -- that called the allegations against the former judge “false” -- at the start of a segment about Moore and the Alabama special election. Host Graham Ledger then attacked Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, by calling him a “real fascist left radical,” despite the fact that Jones helped convict members of the Ku Klux Klan. Ledger also falsely claimed that Jones wants “abortion on demand and up until birth” and that “from a constitutional perspective, Jones cannot be allowed to win.” Additionally, Ledger suggested that the reports about Moore’s misconduct were a “conspiracy to deny Moore a seat in the United States Senate.”

    From the November 28 edition of One America News Network’s The Daily Ledger:

    4. Hyping the “violent past” of one of Moore’s accusers

    In yet another attempt to sow doubt about one of Moore’s accusers, OANN hyped a report from Breitbart which claimed that one of Moore’s accusers, Tina Johnson, has a “‘violent nature’” and a “history of criminal fraud” against her family. OANN reported that “as time goes by, many are uncovering the skeletons” in the accusers’ past, “raising questions about their potential motives.” OANN also asserted that Johnson’s claims could be “revenge from when Moore represented her mother in the custody battle” over Johnson’s child.

    From the November 27 edition of One America News:

    5. Citing handwriting and body language “experts” to discredit one of Moore’s accusers

    One of OANN’s earliest attempts to defend Moore was on November 14 when the network tried to cast doubt over Beverly Nelson, a woman who said Moore sexually assaulted her in 1977. OANN suggested that a note Moore wrote in Nelson’s yearbook might be “fake,” citing discredited figure Thomas Wictor. OANN also claimed that “body language experts are also speculating about the authenticity of Nelson's claims” after her appearance at a news conference.

    From the November 14 edition of One America News:

    6. Airing a mini-documentary about Moore

    OANN also aired a bizarre 13-minute mini-documentary about Moore. Before the clip began, the anchor suggested that “without ever having had a trial, Moore has been convicted by the jury of public opinion and whether or not he’s guilty doesn’t really seem to matter to the media or mainstream politicians.” The documentary began with a short section that presented some of Moore’s most stalwart supporters in an attempt to create an image of a person who "repeatedly fought the establishment over various issues, always to uphold his beliefs." The documentary also claimed that many of the allegations “were based on nothing more than hearsay and rumors.” At the end, the documentary stated, “if the only evidence required is unproven hearsay without any verifiable proof, then the support of the thousands of people coming out with stories of Roy Moore's sterling character must surely outweigh the evidence against him.”

    From the November 26 edition of One America News: