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Steve Morris

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  • Former Trump campaign staffer Alva Johnson says the president forcibly kissed her during his 2016 campaign. Cable news barely covered it.

    Fox News devoted less than a minute of coverage to the story while CNN completely ignored it

    Blog ››› ››› STEVE MORRIS

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Monday, The Washington Post reported on a former Trump campaign staffer who says President Donald Trump forcibly kissed her during his 2016 campaign. Such a report would be a major story if made against any other president, but it garnered scant coverage by cable news outlets despite a long list of public reports of sexual misconduct by Trump. While MSNBC discussed the story for 25 minutes on Monday, Fox News devoted less than one minute of coverage to the allegations, and CNN ignored the story altogether.

    Alva Johnson, who worked as a Trump campaign staffer in Alabama and Florida, said in interviews with the Post and alleges in a lawsuit that Trump forcibly kissed her during a campaign stop in Florida. According to the Post, Johnson’s boyfriend, mother, and stepfather confirmed she told them the day it occurred. The paper also reported that an attorney Johnson consulted two months after the incident “gave The Post text messages showing that he considered her ‘credible’ but did not take her case for business reasons.” According to the Post, Johnson’s lawsuit also alleges that the Trump campaign “discriminated against Johnson, who is black, by paying her less than her white male counterparts.”

    MSNBC provided the most coverage of the cable networks, devoting over 25 minutes of to the story yesterday -- nearly half of which came on All In with Chris Hayes. Fox News’ and CNN’s coverage paled in comparison: Fox devoted less than one minute to the allegations, all of which was centered around the White House’s denial, while CNN failed to even mention the story at all.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Johnson joins at least 16 other women who have reported sexual misconduct by Trump spanning decades -- including several reports that directly mirror Johnson’s allegation. Trump and his spokespeople have repeatedly attacked these women as liars and political pawns seeking fame and financial advancement.

    As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes noted, the report would be “enormous, world-stopping news” if made against former President Barack Obama, but accounts of sexual misconduct are “priced in” when covering Trump. Cable networks’ decision to ignore a new, credible report of sexual misconduct by the president -- the first alleged to have taken place during his presidential campaign -- is yet another example of media’s normalization of Trump’s conduct in office.


    Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for any mentions of “Johnson,” “kiss,” “Washington Post,” or “staffer” and timed all conversation related to the story on February 25.

  • Media falsely blame "both sides" for government shutdown Trump said he is "proud" to own


    On December 11, President Donald Trump told congressional Democrats and the media that he would be “proud to shut down the government” over border wall funding, and the federal government subsequently shut down on December 22. With the shutdown now entering its fifth week, some in media seem to have forgotten Trump’s unambiguous claim of responsibility and are instead blaming “both sides.”

    Falsely blaming “both sides” for the aberrant behavior of only one side has been a favorite media trope for years. It poisons policy conversations, endangers vulnerable groups, and dumbs down the entire political discourse.

  • Rep. Rashida Tlaib cursing got 5 times more coverage on cable news than Rep. Steve King embracing white supremacy


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    When it comes to a congresswoman cursing versus a congressman embracing white supremacy, cable news apparently believes the cursing deserves more coverage -- five times more coverage, to be exact.

    On January 4, the day after Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) referred to President Donald Trump by saying “Impeach the motherfucker” during a reception with supporters, cable news outlets (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) spent over two and a half hours discussing the topic. In comparison, in the roughly 24 hours following the publication of Rep. Steve King's (R-IA) comments in The New York Times that showed him embracing white supremacy, cable news devoted just under 30 minutes of coverage to the congressman’s racism.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The discrepancy was the most glaring on Fox News, which devoted 52 minutes of coverage to Tlaib’s cursing and just 42 seconds to King’s comments about white supremacy. That’s over 74 times more coverage of Tlaib. Fox’s sole segment about King was framed as “Republican Congressman Steve King is fighting back against a New York Times article.”

    CNN’s and MSNBC’s coverage was also skewed, though not nearly as much. CNN covered Tlaib’s comments for nearly an hour and five minutes while covering King’s comments for just about 15 minutes. MSNBC covered Tlaib cursing for the least amount of time, nearly 38 minutes, and covered King’s embrace of white supremacy for just over 14 minutes.

    It isn't just the amount of coverage that shows a clear difference in how these stories were covered. The day after Tlaib cursed, congressional Democrats appearing on cable news were consistently asked for their response to her comment. While some Republicans have issued condemnations of King, cable news doesn’t have the same urgency in asking elected Republicans to respond to King’s comments.  

    The imbalance in coverage between these stories raises serious questions about just what stories cable news considers newsworthy and whether there’s a double standard in coverage of Democrats versus Republicans.   


    Media Matters reviewed transcripts in the video-streaming service SnapStream for mentions of “Steve King” from 8 a.m. January 10 to 9 a.m. January 11, 2019, (publication of the Times article seems to have occurred during the 8 a.m. hour, and researchers searched for comments about King through 9 a.m. the following day to cover the entirety of the morning shows) and for mentions of “Rashida” or “impeach” or spelling variations of “Tlaib” (including the common misspelling “Talib”) for all-day coverage on January 4, 2019, on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Only speech specifically about Steve King’s comments questioning why white nationalism and white supremacy are “offensive” and speech specifically about Rashida Tlaib’s impeach-Trump comment at a event were timed.

  • Fox News spent more time on a report about the Clinton email investigation than immigrant children being interned at the border 


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As outrage continues to grow over the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families, Fox News is more focused on another issue -- the inspector general’s report into how the FBI handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation. While immigration was clearly the main story on CNN and MSNBC throughout the morning and early afternoon today, Fox spent over two and a half hours discussing the inspector general’s report and carrying the second day of congressional hearings live. In comparison, Fox devoted just over an hour and a half to discussing immigration and President Donald Trump’s policy of separating children from their families.

    According to a review by Media Matters, MSNBC spent 4 hours and 35 minutes covering immigration and family separation today from 6 a.m. through 1 p.m. while discussing the inspector general report for just over two minutes. CNN spent nearly three hours on immigration and mentioned the inspector general report for just under six minutes. Fox News spent 1 hour and 33 minutes discussing immigration and 2 hours and 37 minutes covering the inspector general’s report and the hearing on Capitol Hill. Fox carried the congressional hearing about the report live for nearly an hour and a half.

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    CNN’s and MSNBC’s dedication to covering family separation can also be seen by the personnel they have dispatched to Texas. MSNBC anchors Stephanie Ruhle, Craig Melvin, Chris Hayes, and Lawrence O’Donnell are all in Texas along with several correspondents. Similarly, CNN has seven crews in the region, according to CNN reporter Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter. Fox’s coverage, however, has left much to be desired. Fox News hosts have been attempting to put a positive spin on the practice of separating children from their parents, lying about what’s happening, and mocking people who are outraged by a policy that the United Nations human rights office has criticized as an “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life” and “a serious violation of the rights of the child.”  Another difference in the coverage has been Fox’s decision to not play audio obtained by ProPublica of immigrant children in American detention facilities crying for their parents. CNN and MSNBC have played the audio repeatedly throughout their reporting.

    One thing is clear: While thousands of children are being interned at the U.S. border and separated from their families, Fox News thinks it’s more important to focus on a closed investigation into the Clinton email probe.

  • An MSNBC political analyst is advising a GOP candidate with ties to white supremacists

    ››› ››› STEVE MORRIS

    MSNBC political analyst Rick Tyler, formerly a presidential campaign spokesperson for Ted Cruz who was fired for promoting a fake story, is currently “helping” Chris McDaniel, a Mississippi Republican waging his second attempted primary challenge for a Senate seat. McDaniel has a record of associating with extremists, neo-Confederates, and radio hosts with anti-Semitic views.