Nina Mast

Author ››› Nina Mast
  • This is how right-wing media reacted to ISIS terrorism under President Obama

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN, NINA MAST, BRENNAN SUEN & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    ISIS has claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack in Manchester, England, which killed more than 20 people. During Barack Obama’s presidency, right-wing media figures exploited terrorist attacks that ISIS claimed responsibility for to blame, criticize, and attack the president. Additionally, right-wing media figures castigated Obama for not leaving a foreign trip in the aftermath of an attack.

  • Parroting Trump, Right-Wing Media Figures Misrepresent Clapper’s Statements About Trump-Russia Collusion

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    President Donald Trump and right-wing media obfuscated comments that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made during his May 8 congressional testimony about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Clapper said he was not aware of evidence of such collusion, and Trump and commentators cast that comment as indication that there was no collusion. However, as others noted, just because Clapper wasn’t privy to any such evidence does not mean it doesn’t exist. 

  • Recent Arkansas Executions Demonstrate Need For Greater Media Access To Capital Punishment

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Arkansas’ recent spate of executions of prisoners on death row, conducted with the use of nearly expired and improperly obtained drugs, was marred by reports that the drugs used were ineffective and caused the inmates to suffer. But uncertainty about what happened to inmates in the death chamber illustrates the need for greater reporter access to these events -- life and death stories for which they may be the only impartial witness.

    The Arkansas Department of Corrections executed four men in eight days, an abridged version of its initial, unprecedented plan to execute eight men in 11 days before one of its lethal injection drugs expired. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer called using the expiration date “as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die … close to random.” Four other planned executions were blocked by court orders for multiple reasons, including possible issues with the clemency process and concerns over use of the sedative midazolam. The four executions were the first in Arkansas since 2005, and at least two of them may have been botched. But because of Arkansas’ restrictions on media access to executions, the public may never know for certain. As The Associated Press’ (AP) Kelly Kissel noted:

    About two dozen people witness each execution in Arkansas, though the term "witness" is a misnomer. No one among the media or citizen witnesses can see as the inmate is secured to a gurney, watch as medical personnel place intravenous lines or hear what's happening as the actual execution takes place. If there's a dispute over what happened, resolution is difficult.

    Sure enough, events in two of four executions in Arkansas are already in dispute. Lawyers say that during Jack Jones’ execution, “infirmary workers had tried unsuccessfully to insert a central line in Mr. Jones’s neck for 45 minutes, before placing it elsewhere on his body” and that “Mr. Jones gulped for air during the execution ... ‘evidence of continued consciousness.’” The state of Arkansas contradicted these reports, and because of the witness restrictions Kissel described, neither claim is independently verifiable. Similarly, during the execution of Kenneth Williams, as NBC News reported, “Media witnesses reported [Williams] ‘coughing, convulsing, lurching, jerking’ for a 10 to 20 second period.” Kissel, who was present at the execution, “explained that Williams ‘lurched’ 15 times in quick succession, followed by five slower lurches, three minutes after the sedative midazolam was introduced.” Witnesses stated that Williams could be heard even after the mic was shut off. State Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, a citizen witness to the execution, described the movements in a federal court affidavit as "brief involuntary muscle spasms" and noted that he saw no evidence of "pain or suffering," such as a grimace. As a result of the conflicting witness accounts surrounding Williams' death, a federal judge has called for his execution to be investigated more closely.

    It is reportedly not unusual for states to record executions. Of the four states in which executions were held this year, taping was permitted at least in Texas (Media Matters was unable to ascertain whether Virginia or Missouri allow audio or video recording during executions). But the Arkansas Department of Corrections does not audio or video record its executions and, even in written next-day logs, the department does not typically document the specific times that the drugs are administered or that the inmate is deemed unconscious.

    And in the case of Ledell Lee, the first person Arkansas executed this year, the state told media witnesses that they would not be allowed to document his execution using pen and paper. Although the Department of Corrections reversed its decision just half an hour before Lee was set to be executed, it is unclear whether the reversal will remain.

    Over the last several years, a number of executions in various states have been both reported and confirmed to have been botched, as states use untested and potentially dangerous combinations of drugs, many of which were not created for the purpose of lethal injection. Drug companies are increasingly objecting to use of their drugs to kill people, making it harder for states to obtain those drugs. And the relationship between prisons and lethal injection drug manufacturers that do permit the use of their drugs in executions has become less transparent, with several states attempting to enact secrecy laws to protect their suppliers. Questionable execution practices make transparency and media access a needed check on the system, but reports suggest that some states are actually making the execution process less transparent.

    KUAR, an NPR affiliate in Little Rock, AR, reported that Texas, Missouri, and Virginia -- the only other states to have carried out executions this year -- allowed media witnesses to witness and document executions, at least once the inmate is secured to the gurney and his IV lines have been placed. Previously, for decades, the Virginia Department of Corrections allowed witnesses to observe the inmate being secured to the gurney and IV lines being inserted. But earlier this year, the department changed its policy to prevent witnesses from observing the inmate from beginning to end. And Oklahoma’s policies became so egregiously restrictive after the botched April 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett, despite promised reforms, that the ACLU filed a lawsuit arguing that “the press, and by extension the public, were deprived of the First Amendment right of access to observe the initiation and termination of the execution proceeding.” The Oklahoma governor also delayed executions until further notice, and in April 2017, a bipartisan commission unanimously recommended the state extend its moratorium on the death penalty “until significant reforms are accomplished,” but the attorney general just last week announced his plans to resume execution protocols planning regardless.

    During Lockett’s execution, which a prison warden described as “a bloody mess,” Lockett showed “clear signs of discomfort” after being administered the lethal injection drugs, and then officials “closed the blinds to the chamber and left witnesses unable to see his final moments.” Lockett “died 43 minutes after the first execution drug was administered”; there were initially concerns that he had died of a heart attack, but while the state autopsy found no evidence of that, an independent autopsy examination was also never able to confirm this because the examiner was not given access to his head and neck.

    Back in Arkansas, after the state tried to bar reporters from using pen and paper during the execution, Robert Dunham, the director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told KUAR reporters that he couldn’t think of another state with the same rule. He used the execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona as an example of why it was important for reporters to be able to document the event, saying, “Reporters counted that [Wood] hacked more than 640 times. That was not something they could have done if they [didn't] have paper and pencil because they were making tick marks each time that he gasped.”

    Journalism is instrumental in bringing awareness to, and holding states accountable for, executions that have potentially violated prisoners’ 8th amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment. An estimated 3 percent of executions from 1890-2010 have been botched in some way, with lethal injection yielding the highest percentage of botched executions. The stakes are high for inmates, their families, and the country. Arkansas and other states that conduct executions should at least let the media fully bear witness.

    Image by Dayanita Ramesh.

  • 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.
     

  • Right-Wing Media Figures Want Trump To Shut Down The Government So They Can Blame Democrats

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Right-wing media figures are displeased after the likelihood of a government shutdown seemed to fade following a breakthrough after days of failed negotiations and speculation. Specifically, right-wing media figures cheered the idea of a shutdown because they wanted to make sure that “Democrats get blamed” and to exact revenge after, as they claimed, Democrats made previous shutdowns “as painful as possible.”

  • Fox News Omits Key Facts Regarding Unprecedented Arkansas Death Penalty Cases

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    During its reporting on the state of Arkansas’ unprecedented plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days, Fox News repeatedly omitted important details about the legal challenges to the plan, downplayed the extent of criticism to the plan, and misled its viewers on the reasons the executions have not yet been carried out.

    On the April 18 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now, host Jon Scott opened a panel discussion by asking, “The reasoning for this holdup has nothing to do with the lethal injection drugs that are currently in question, right?” In fact, one of the orders blocking the executions was issued for that exact reason. The Arkansas circuit judge temporarily blocked the state from using one of its drugs, vecuronium bromide, a paralytic used in prisons for lethal injections (and for other purposes elsewhere).This ruling came after McKesson, a distributor of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, filed a complaint alleging that the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) “intentionally sought to circumvent McKesson’s policies by claiming that the drug would only be used for medical reasons in a health facility.” The ADC has to date declined to answer questions about how it obtained the restricted drugs or whether it planned to return them.

    An hour before Scott’s show aired, correspondent Casey Stegall noted on Fox’s America’s Newsroom that “states have had a difficult time getting new supplies of this drug [midazolam] because many critics say it should not be used to kill people.” He was referring to another drug that Arkansas has in its possession but which will expire on April 30. Stegall, however, failed to mention that these “critics” include the drug makers themselves. West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes midazolam, and Fresenius Kabi USA, manufacturer of potassium chloride, another drug used in executions, have also expressed opposition to the use of their drugs for lethal injection. In an amicus brief they filed with the district court, the companies wrote that using their medicines in executions “runs counter to the manufacturers’ mission to save and enhance patients’ lives.” Spokespersons for Fresenius Kabi and West-Ward told The Washington Post that they had “recently learned” that their medicines “might be used in Arkansas lethal injections.” The reporting on these drugs shows that all three drugs used in Arkansas’ lethal injection cocktail are implicated in legal battles. Thus for Fox to imply that the planned executions are opposed merely by “critics” is a gross understatement of the legal challenges ADC is facing.

    During his reporting, Stegall also failed to provide context for the shortage of the drugs in the first place. Since 2011, many European drug companies, in an alignment with the European Union’s objection to death penalty, have decided to cease shipment of their drugs to U.S. prisons that carry out executions via lethal injections. This has created a shortage that has led U.S. prisons to turn to dangerous experimentation, as was in the case in 2014, when Dennis McGuire, an Ohio inmate on death row, was injected with a never-before-used drug cocktail. McGuire’s execution lasted 25 minutes, the longest in Ohio’s history, and witnesses said he “gasped several times throughout” before dying.

    After criminal defense attorney Yodit Tewolde explained that “for Arkansas to try to rush executions for the sake of a drug expiring at the end of the month is disrespectful to the intent of justice in this case,” Scott ignored her point and flippantly remarked that it “seems odd” to characterize the response to a crime that happened in 1992 as a “rush to judgment.” His comment and Casey Stegall’s claim that the “expedited timeline” was initiated because “the state is up against this deadline” of expiring drugs ignores the legal implications of their expiration. Arkansas’ “rush” to use drugs before their expiration for purposes which are opposed by the companies that sell them is a potentially illegal contract violation, and given the state’s reported admission that it violated contracts with drug makers in an earlier case, this context is especially important.

    Arkansas hasn’t carried out any executions since 2005. The state’s aggressive and potentially unconstitutional plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days is unprecedented, hugely consequential, and has drawn national scrutiny at a time when Americans’ support for the death penalty is on the decline. Leaving out important details when reporting on such a high profile case is an inexcusable journalistic failure, especially given the American public’s lack of knowledge about capital punishment in the nation’s prisons.

    Image by Sarah Wasko.

  • MOAB Bombing Shows CNN Is Actually More Obsessed Than Fox News With Bomb Videos

    Over A Six-Hour Span, CNN Played Test Footage Of The MOAB For 54 Minutes

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    After the U.S. military dropped the most powerful conventional weapon in its arsenal, nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” on an Islamic State complex in eastern Afghanistan, cable news networks responded with almost continuous coverage of the event, but the visuals in the networks’ coverage varied widely. Fox News spent about 21 minutes airing video footage from a 2003 test of the bomb, MSNBC barely used video footage at all, and CNN played and replayed the bomb test footage for a staggering almost 54 minutes in just six hours. In their coverage, Fox News and MSNBC both mentioned the potential for civilian casualties as a result of the bombing eight times, while CNN mentioned civilians 15 times.

    US Drops Massive Bomb Developed In 2003 For First Time Ever

    CNN: U.S. Drops Most Powerful Non-Nuclear Bomb On ISIS Target In Afghanistan. CNN reported that the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, also known as the “mother of all bombs,” was dropped on an “ISIS cave and tunnel complex and personnel” in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. The weapon was developed during the Iraq War and was “mainly conceived as a weapon employed for ‘psychological operations.’” President Donald Trump, who “declined to say whether he personally signed off on the strike,” called it “‘another successful job.’” [CNN, 4/13/17]

    In Six Hours Of Coverage, CNN Aired Almost An Hour Of Bomb Test Footage And MSNBC Aired Almost None

    CNN Spent Nearly An Hour Airing Bomb Test Footage From 2003. In six hours of coverage of the April 13 U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, CNN repeatedly aired footage of the 2003 bomb test that was conducted by the U.S. Air Force, for a total of nearly 54 minutes.

    Fox News Spent 21 Minutes Airing The Bomb Test Footage. During Fox News’ coverage of the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, the network spent approximately 21 minutes airing video footage of the 2003 bomb test.

    MSNBC Relied Mostly On Still Images, Airing Only Five Seconds Of Bomb Test Footage. During MSNBC’s coverage of the bombing, the network aired only five seconds of video footage of the 2003 bomb test.

    CNN Made 15 Mentions Of Potential Civilian Casualties, While Fox News And MSNBC Both Made Eight Mentions. Despite airing the bomb test footage for nearly 54 minutes in six hours, CNN mentioned possible civilian casualties only 15 times in the six-hour period. Fox News mentioned the topic eight times, and MSNBC, despite airing only five seconds of bomb test footage, also mentioned possible civilian casualties eight times.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched Snapstream for MOAB bomb testing footage aired by CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News between noon. and 6 p.m. on April 13, 2017. Time count began when bomb test footage appeared on the screen and ended when the footage ended or cut to still images of the test. To identify discussions of the bombing’s impact on civilians or the potential for collateral damage, Media Matters searched for mentions of “civilian OR collateral” in Snapstream transcripts for CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News shows from noon. to 6 p.m. on April 13, 2017.

    Additional research provided by Nick Fernandez, Jared Holt, and Madeline Peltz

  • Sean Spicer's Holocaust Comparison Echoes Fox News

    ››› ››› NINA MAST & CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    The day after a survivor of a 2013 chemical attack in Syria said in a Fox News interview that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “worse than” Adolf Hitler, White House press secretary Sean Spicer seemed to parrot the claim when he compared Assad to Hitler, falsely adding that Hitler did not use chemical weapons. Spicer’s comments also echo those made by a Fox analyst in 2013 on fringe website World Net Daily (WND). But it is universally accepted that the Nazis under Hitler did in fact use chemical weapons to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and Spicer’s gaffe is yet another example of the Trump administration internalizing talking points heard on Fox News.

  • STUDY: Fox News Barely Covered Bill O'Reilly's Harassment Settlements

    CNN’s Brian Stelter Provides Exemplary Coverage Of The Accusations

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS & NINA MAST

    Fox News gave minimal coverage to a New York Times report detailing $13 million in settlements host Bill O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox paid to five women who accused him of harassment. When Fox did cover the report, the coverage was merely a host reading statements from O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox denying the allegations, echoing the network’s coverage of Fox founder Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment allegations. Meanwhile, CNN’s Brian Stelter provided exemplary coverage of the report, contextualizing it and speaking to people close to the accusers.

  • Right-Wing Media Misinterpret Weeks-Old Interview To Justify Trump’s Wiretap Lie

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Right-wing media figures and fringe outlets are taking a weeks-old interview with Evelyn Farkas, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia under President Barack Obama, out of context to claim she “admitted” that the Obama administration surveilled President Donald Trump’s campaign and that it proves Trump was right when he claimed Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. But Farkas did not mention surveillance in the interview; instead, she discussed a New York Times article about preserving intelligence related to Trump and Russia. The claims are yet another attempt by right-wing and fringe media to bolster Trump’s allegation that Obama wiretapped him, which the intelligence community and government officials have repeatedly debunked.