Blog | Media Matters for America


  • Moderators should make climate change a big focus at the first primary debate. Here's how.

    Do’s and don’ts for the moderators of the upcoming Democratic presidential debate in Florida

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The leadership of the Democratic National Committee is so far refusing to hold a presidential primary debate focused on climate change, despite calls from 15 candidates and more than 200,000 voters. So at least for the first debate, set to take place over two nights on June 26 and 27, it will be up to the moderators to decide how much of a focus to put on the climate crisis. That could be a problem.

    In defending the decision, DNC chair Tom Perez wrote, "I have the utmost confidence that, based on our conversations with networks, climate change will be discussed early and often during our party’s primary debates." He explained, "I made clear to our media partners that the issue of climate change must be featured prominently in our debates. That didn’t happen in 2016 — and it was wrong."

    Perez is correct that the climate crisis should have gotten more attention the last time around. During the 2016 season presidential primary debates, only 1.5% of questions from moderators were about climate change, and nine out of 20 debates didn't feature any climate questions.

    But is he right that we can count on the networks’ moderators to do better -- much better -- this time?

    Here we offer do’s and don’ts to help moderators give the climate crisis the serious attention it deserves. The first debate, which is being hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo, will have five moderators: José Diaz-Balart, Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Rachel Maddow, and Chuck Todd.

    DO ask multiple questions about climate change and give all candidates a chance to weigh in

    The No. 1 task for moderators is to give the climate crisis much more attention than it’s received in past debates, which means not just asking about the topic one time but addressing it from multiple angles in multiple questions. 

    And as they ask those questions, the moderators need to give all candidates an opportunity to discuss the issue. This may be a challenge, as the two-night debate will include 20 candidates, 10 on stage at a time, but voters need to hear from all of them in order to make informed choices about who deserves their support.  

    DON'T frame climate change as a narrow political issue

    Too often, when generalist journalists ask questions related to climate change, they frame the issue through the narrow lens of horse-race politics. We've seen this happen repeatedly in recent months on the Sunday morning political shows -- including on NBC's Meet the Press, hosted by Chuck Todd, one of the moderators of the upcoming debate. 

    On the May 19 episode of the show, Todd brought up climate change during an interview with Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but his question was more about how to beat Trump than how to tackle the climate crisis:

    Well, let me start with something the vice president, former vice president, said yesterday. And it was a fascinating way -- he was talking about his climate change proposal. And he said, “If you want to know what the first and most important plank in my climate proposal is,” it was, quote, “beat Trump.” You have said, if all the Democrats do is focus on Trump, you lose. Essentially, Biden is saying, no, no, no, no, no, it is all about Trump. Your reaction.

    Rachel Maddow, another moderator at the June 26-27 debate, shifted a climate conversation to electoral politics during a March 4 interview she conducted on her MSNBC show with Democratic presidential candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. After Inslee spoke about his commitment to climate action, Maddow noted that climate change is important to Democratic primary voters, but then asked whether a climate-centric candidate can win over voters in coal-producing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio and thus beat Trump.

    Instead of focusing so heavily on the race against Trump, the moderators should prompt candidates to explain the specifics of how they would tackle the climate crisis.

    DON’T downplay the seriousness of climate change as a topic

    Many mainstream political journalists do not consider the climate crisis to be a top-tier issue, and that dismissive attitude can come through in the questions they ask -- even when those questions involve climate change. 

    The Democratic presidential primary debate in November 2015, for example, featured one climate-related question, but it actually appeared to downplay the problem. After a lengthy discussion about ISIS and terrorism, moderator John Dickerson of CBS asked Sanders, “In the previous debate you said the greatest threat to national security was climate change. Do you still believe that?” Sanders affirmed that he did, but voters didn’t learn much new from that exchange -- except that the moderator seemed to think it surprising that a presidential candidate could consider the climate crisis to be a massive national security threat. 

    DON’T reflexively change the subject away from climate change if a candidate brings it up

    In 2016 debates, candidates regularly raised the issue of climate change even when they weren't asked about it, but moderators then steered the discussions away from climate and back to other topics. This happened during the three presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The moderators asked the candidates no climate questions, but Clinton raised the issue herself in all three debates, and Trump raised it once, saying it wasn't as serious as the problem of nuclear weapons. On all of those occasions, moderators failed to engage and ask follow-up questions related to climate change.

    Todd also has a tendency to do this on Meet the Press. For example, during an April 14 interview with Inslee, Todd's first four questions for the governor were about immigration. Although Inslee twice pointed out that climate change is a factor pushing people to migrate, Todd pivoted the immigration conversation away from climate change. 

    At the debate later this month, moderators should take note when candidates bring up climate change and find good opportunities to ask them subsequent questions about it.

    DO ask specific questions about candidates’ plans and proposed solutions

    Voters need to hear about the solutions and policy approaches that candidates are endorsing to address the climate crisis, so it is important for moderators to ask specific and substantive questions. If moderators are short on ideas, they can look to the many suggestions coming from journalists and activists.

    The Tampa Bay Times offered some good questions in an editorial titled “Democratic presidential debates should highlight climate change”:

    How would the candidates change the nation’s energy mix? What federal support would they make available to states and cities to harden their transportation systems, utilities and other infrastructure? How would Washington expand mass transit nationwide to curtail automobile emissions? Is it finally time to create a national catastrophe fund as insurance against hurricanes and the other forms of extreme weather that have been hammering the Midwest?

    Six environmental and energy journalists posed potential debate questions in a recent piece published in the Columbia Journalism Review.

    While making the case for a dedicated climate debate, David Turnbull of the activist group Oil Change International published a list of 60 climate-related questions that moderators could ask.

    DO ask follow-up questions

    When moderators have asked climate questions in past debates, some candidates have tried to skate by with vague answers and platitudes about the importance of a clean environment. We saw this in a number of 2018 senator and governor debates.

    The solution is for moderators to ask follow-up questions and press candidates for more details and specifics. This has proved successful in some CNN town halls with Democratic presidential candidates this year. For example, during a February 18 town hall with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, an audience member asked her about the Green New Deal, and then moderator Don Lemon followed up with questions that elicited more specific answers.

    DO help voters understand the differences between candidates' climate plans and approaches

    Though the Democratic presidential contenders all say climate change is a serious crisis that needs to be addressed, they have diverse views on the best ways to do that. For example, the candidates have widely differing opinions on nuclear power, fracking, and fossil fuel exports, as The Washington Post has documented.

    R.L. Miller of the super PAC Climate Hawks Vote has started a list of questions that moderators could ask to help illuminate those policy differences.

    DO study up on climate science and policy

    Moderators should read up to make sure that they understand the basics of climate science and climate policy well enough to ask informed questions and spot any misinformation that may arise.

    This would be less of a concern if the DNC agreed to have a dedicated climate debate with moderators who are knowledgeable about the subject area. Journalists with a strong background in climate and energy reporting would be best positioned to ask intelligent questions and spotlight important areas of disagreement.

    DON’T let candidates get away with lies or distortions

    Chuck Todd should take this recommendation in particular to heart. During a discussion about climate change on Meet the Press in November of last year, one of Todd’s guests made an absurd claim about global temperatures dropping and Todd let it slide by with no pushback. He caught a lot of flak for that, and he tried to redeem himself a month later by hosting a Meet the Press episode dedicated entirely to informed discussion of climate change, so we can hope he’ll be quicker on the draw if any climate misinformation crops up in the coming debate.

    DO ask climate questions related to Florida

    The first Democratic debate this year will take place in Miami, which is visibly and obviously under extreme threat from climate change. The whole state of Florida is already being dramatically affected.

    Moderators should seize the opportunity to ask questions about climate-related challenges in Miami and in Florida more broadly, many of which would be relevant to other coastal communities in the U.S.

    They could start by considering questions that a bipartisan group of 21 Florida mayors suggested ahead of presidential primary debates in 2016, including one on protecting coastal infrastructure.

    The editorial board of the Miami Herald recently suggested another topic:

    How climate change and the rising sea will impact South Florida more immediately and severely than many other parts of the country. Candidates should be prepared to detail short- and long-term solutions for their Florida audience, they should offer creative ideas that reveal they understand what’s at stake for us.

    The Tampa Bay Times, in its recent editorial calling for debates to focus on climate change, raised more Florida-centric topics worthy of discussion:

    Tidal flooding already pours into Miami even on sunny days. Miami Beach has spent hundreds of millions of dollars for new stormwater management systems to pump seawater from the neighborhoods. Red Tide and algae blooms are costing the fishing, restaurant and tourism industries tens of millions of dollars a year. A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that residential properties in the state valued now at about $26 billion are at risk of chronic flooding by 2045. And the longer we wait for a fix, the more expensive it gets.

    And a final DO, this one for the public: Tell NBC and the moderators what climate questions you want to hear

    NBC is soliciting debate questions from the public via its website. Send in your suggestions.

    Tweet at the moderators with your climate questions: José Diaz-Balart, Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Rachel Maddow, and Chuck Todd. And get more traction for those tweets by using the hashtag #climatedebate.

  • Trump says he will begin mass deportation as early as next week. White nationalists and conservative media have spent years calling for this.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump tweeted on June 17 that “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,” adding, “They will be removed as fast as they come in.”

    According to The Washington Post, “Trump and his senior immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, have been prodding Homeland Security officials to arrest and remove thousands of family members whose deportation orders were expedited by the Justice Department this year as part of a plan known as the ‘rocket docket.’” Supporters of the strategy have argued that this move “will send a message to families that are in defiance of deportation orders.” This plan is not new for Trump; during his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump called for a “deportation force” to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants.  

    White nationalists and some in conservative media have spent years calling for mass deportations -- for example, neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer argued in March 2018 that “plans to deport millions of immigrants” are “the only way to save White countries at this point.” These are just a few of the conservative figures and white nationalists who have called for mass deportations in recent years:


    On his Fox Business show, Lou Dobbs asked, “Why are we not seeing an energetic removal of those under deportation orders?” Fox contributor and former acting ICE Director Tom Homan agreed, arguing that “I know it works because I have done it.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 6/11/19]

    The night before, Dobbs called for the removal of “hundreds of thousands, millions of illegals” in the United States. [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 6/10/19]

    On Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Ed Henry asked acting ICE Director Mark Morgan if the agency is going to “increase deportations.” Morgan responded that “we’re at a point where we have no choice.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 6/9/19]

    On Fox & Friends, Homan called for “over 100,000 family units” to be found and deported “to their homeland.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/31/19]

    On her podcast, Fox host Laura Ingraham agreed with her guest that “Operation Wetback” -- a 1950s mass deportation effort -- should be re-created to deport immigrants. [PodcastOne, The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast, 2/6/19]


    Far-right site Breitbart pushed a study claiming “mass deportations effectively deter the violent El Salvadoran MS-13 gang from expanding across the United States.” [Breitbart, 12/21/18]

    On Fox News’ Hannity, talk radio host Larry Elder complained that “no one is talking about mass deportations.” “The president campaigned on getting rid of bad hombres,” he added, urging him to follow through. [Fox News, Hannity, 12/20/18]

    On Fox & Friends Weekend, guest Mark Krikorian, executive director of the anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies, claimed that the problem with the government losing 1,500 migrant children is that “we're never going to find them to return them to their own countries.” He said media reports claiming the Trump administration lost migrant children are a “classic propaganda operation.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 5/27/18]

    Neo-Nazi outlet The Daily Stormer argued that deporting “millions of immigrants” is “the only way to save White countries at this point.” The racist website went on to argue: “Anyone who ISN’T for mass deportation is by definition FOR the demographic replacement of Germans in Germany and Whites in most every country hit by mass immigration.” [The Daily Stormer, 3/28/18]

    On Twitter, far-right commentator Ann Coulter argued that “mass deportations” and an “immigration moratorium” would reduce mass shootings in the United States. [Twitter, 2/26/18]  


    One America News Network host Graham Ledger urged Trump to use the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals database to deport DACA recipients’ parents. He called on Trump to “take that list and use it as a road map to go after their parents.” [One America News Network, The Daily Ledger, 9/15/17]

    On CNN, president of the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) praised threats of mass deportation as an effort to “reclaim our schools, our hospitals, and our communities once again for the American people.” He also said that undocumented immigrants “need to be thinking about going out and buying some luggage.” [CNN, New Day, 2/22/17]

    The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft complained that former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said mass deportations are “not happening.” Hoft claimed “you can never trust” Ryan and criticized him for thinking “he is leading the party and country and it was him who won the historic November election — Not Trump.” [The Gateway Pundit, 1/13/17]


    On Hannity, Coulter said that Trump “made a mistake” by walking back campaign promises to conduct mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/25/16]

    On CNN, commentator Kayleigh McEnany justified Trump’s plan to conduct mass deportations by saying that “he never committed to not deporting 11 million people.” She added that Trump “likes immigrants, … but he does believe in the rule of law.” [CNN, Erin Burnett OutFront, 8/25/16]

    The Daily Stormer praised Newt Gingrich for calling for the “mass deportations of hajis.” The article acknowledged that Gingrich specified Muslims who believe in Sharia, but concluded that “believing in Sharia law is a required article of the Islamic faith, so it’s very close to a call to deport every ethnic Arab. It’s one step away.” The neo-Nazi outlet called Gingrich a “gross opportunist,” but asserted: “The fact that this has entered the mainstream discussion is simply glorious. It cannot be overstated how absolutely fantastic this is.” [The Daily Stormer, 7/15/16]

    White nationalist outlet VDare argued that “mass deportation would pay for itself.” [VDare, 5/28/16]

    Fox Business host Charles Payne suggested that Trump’s plan to conduct mass deportations of immigrant families “might be the only solution.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 3/10/16]


    The Daily Stormer on Trump saying he’ll “bypass courts for mass-deportation program”: “That’s what we want to hear.” [The Daily Stormer, 11/23/15]

    Conservative website LifeZette pointed to a racist “Mexican Repatriation” policy during the 1930s as a possible model for Trump’s mass deportation. [LifeZette, 11/19/15]

    Fox host Sean Hannity claimed that people impacted by “Operation Wetback,” the 1950s mass deportation program, “didn’t look like they were all that upset as they were walking back into Mexico” based on “some of the images in the paper today.” In reality, the program has been described as inhumane and ended in multiple deaths due to exposure to extreme conditions. [Fox News, Hannity, 11/12/15; Slate, 11/10/15]

    Former Fox News host Eric Bolling defended Trump’s “deportation force,” calling it “good for Latinos.” Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle agreed that it would “secure the border.” [Fox News, The Five, 11/12/15]

    The Daily Stormer celebrated Trump’s announcement of a “deportation force,” claiming it would “remove invaders.” [The Daily Stormer, 11/12/15]

    Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum applauded Trump’s mass deportation plan and his comparisons to “Operation Wetback” at a GOP primary debate, calling it “one of the most thought-provoking exchanges of the evening.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 11/11/15]

    Coulter: “I'm warming to ‘mass deportation and a wall’!” [Twitter, 10/19/15]

    Hannity defended Trump’s plan for mass deportation, dismissing concerns as an “emotional argument.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/17/15]


    Media Research Center editor Tim Graham: “Love how they always say mass deportation is ‘unrealistic.’ Imposing thousands of kids who don't speak English? The essence of realistic.” [Twitter, 11/20/14]

    Washington Times staff writer Stephen Dinan complained the Obama administration was deporting criminals instead of millions of “rank-and-file illegal immigrants who are living here, working here, holding jobs.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 4/9/14]

    Conservative media websites The Daily Caller, National Review Online, and criticized President Barack Obama for focusing on deporting criminals instead of deporting all undocumented immigrants. [Media Matters, 3/27/14]


    Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked if America should emulate Greece in “rounding up thousands” of undocumented immigrants to deport them in an attempt to improve its economy. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/23/12]

    Bolling suggested deporting millions of undocumented immigrants to create economic demand for jobs. [Fox News, The Five, 6/14/12]


    Bolling said undocumented immigrants should be given “a one-way bus ticket back to where they came from.” [Fox News, The Five, 12/21/11]

    Asked if he would support rounding up undocumented immigrant children in public schools for deportation, Bolling said, “Sure.” [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 12/2/11]

    Bolling endorsed putting undocumented immigrants “on buses and sending them back.” [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 9/21/11]

  • Alliance Defending Freedom turned to Tucker Carlson to announce it's working to prevent trans athletes from competing

    ADF leaders know they can count on Fox as a friendly outlet to misrepresent the group's anti-trans cases

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson hosted extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and its client Selina Soule, a high school athlete in Connecticut, during a segment in which ADF revealed that it has filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education on behalf of Soule and other students who object to competing against trans athletes.

    ADF’s decision to file a Title IX complaint is particularly troubling given that the organization has allies throughout the federal government, including within the Department of Education. The group’s former director of litigation projects, Thomas W. Stack, worked for ADF for two years before becoming a senior attorney at the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the office that “evaluates, investigates, and resolves complaints alleging sex discrimination.” Records indicate that Stack has previously been assigned to investigate complaints filed with OCR.

    Soule has been interviewed on both Fox & Friends and The Ingraham Angle last February, and she was highlighted on right-wing sites including The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal. Soule’s mother, Bianca Stanescu, also recently participated in a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation advocating against transgender athletes. Heritage has hosted several panels advocating against transgender rights this year.

    ADF has repeatedly used Fox News to promote its cases and policy positions; the Carlson interview was at least the sixth ADF appearance on Fox this year. The reality is that Fox is the perfect place for groups like ADF to introduce their anti-LGBTQ work, because its standards for LGBTQ coverage are out of step with standard journalistic practices. The network frequently hosts anti-LGBTQ guests who work for or are associated with extreme groups, including Heritage Foundation, MassResistance, and Liberty Counsel. Fox hosts allow these guests to push extreme rhetoric and sometimes mirror their language. “Straight news” host Shannon Bream has repeatedly misgendered trans people in coverage, recently calling a trans women a “biological male who now identifies as a woman,” and Fox reporter Greg Palkot misgendered Chelsea Manning. Additionally, reporter Carley Shimkus incorrectly identified Olympic champion Caster Semenya as trans, feeding into the network’s fearmonger tactics about trans athletes.

    Opinion hosts Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson also consistently demonize the LGBTQ community. In just the past week, Ingraham made headlines when her guest promoted an extreme book called The Health Hazards of Homosexuality, and Carlson lied that trans women detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have it “much better” than “ many American citizens.” In attempting to stoke resentment against trans detainees among his white nationalist base, Carlson ignored the deaths of two trans women in ICE custody as well as countless reports of abuse in those facilities.

    During the June 17 segment, Carlson and ADF lawyer Christiana Holcomb repeatedly misgendered transgender girls as “males” and “biological males.” From Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    CHRISTIANA HOLCOMB (ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM): So girls like Selina should never be forced to be spectators in their own sports. But unfortunately, that is exactly what’s taking place when you allow biological males to compete in sports that have been set aside and specifically designed for women like Selina. Title IX was designed to ensure that girls have a fair shake at athletics and are not denied the opportunity to participate at the highest levels of competition. So Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of Selina and a couple of other brave female athletes, has filed or is in the process of filing a Title IX complaint asking the Department of Education to step in, to investigate, and to restore a level playing field for Selina.

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): I mean, Selina, do other girls on your team feel the way that you do, that opportunities are being taken from you by biological males?

    SELINA SOULE (STUDENT ATHLETE): Yes. No one in the state of Connecticut is happy about this. But no one is -- no one has enough courage to speak up. And I haven't been the only one affected by this. There have been countless other female athletes in the state of Connecticut as well as my entire indoor track team. We missed out on winning the state open championship because of the team that the transgender athlete was [INAUDIBLE].

    HOLCOMB: And Tucker, to underscore inequity here, I want to highlight the fact one of these male athletes now holds 10 records inside the state of Connecticut that were once held by 10 individual girls and were established over the course of about a 20-year period. So it's fundamentally unfair to allow biological males to step into women sports and, frankly, dominate them and take away opportunities, not just to medal, but to be at the podium, to advance to the next level of competition, and even compete for scholarships for young women like Selina.

    TUCKER: Well, it’s grotesque and insane, and it hurts women and girls. And the very people who claim to be defending the women and girls are abetting this or making it possible.

  • After two trans migrant women died in ICE detention, Tucker Carlson says trans detainees are treated better than American citizens

    Carlson promoted ICE propaganda and said detention facilities for trans migrants are “worth it for the amenities alone” even though LGBTQ people are being abused and dying in ICE custody

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX PATERSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson lied to his viewers about the conditions facing transgender migrants detained at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, asserting: “Life for transgender illegal aliens is actually much better than it is for many American citizens.” In fact, LGBTQ migrants, including asylum seekers, face alarming rates of abuse, solitary confinement, and sexual assault in ICE facilities, and two trans migrants -- Johana Medina Leon and Roxana Hernandez -- have died while in ICE custody in just over a year.

    During the June 14 segment, Carlson discussed living conditions in ICE’s single dedicated housing unit for trans women at Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico. The agency recently touted the facility on social media, but many advocates have called ICE’s posts “propaganda” and noted dismal conditions for LGBTQ migrants detained by the agency. A May 2018 analysis by the Center for American Progress found that LGBTQ immigrants are “97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees,” and “1 in 8 transgender people detained in FY 2017 were placed in solitary confinement,” which “is considered a form of torture by the United Nations.”

    Carlson's use of ICE propaganda to complain that some trans detainees have access to their basic needs was a blatant attempt to whitewash ICE’s violation of human and civil rights. Carlson painted a false picture of life for queer and trans migrants detaineed in ICE facilities to stoke resentment against them, continuing his efforts to scapegoat immigrants for supposed national crises.

    From the June 14 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): In real life, there’s nothing right wing about this administration's social policy -- maybe unfortunately. For example, did you know that ICE, right now, maintains a special housing unit for transgender illegal aliens? Hard to believe, but it's true. We know it's true because ICE has been bragging about it recently. The agency even sponsors classes to help transgender migrants appear more feminine. 

    Giving fashion tips to men who dress like women who snuck into our country illegally is a priority for the federal bureaucracy. They are happy to spend your money -- a lot of your money -- doing it. Meanwhile, for American citizens, things get steadily worse: Life expectancy declines, half a million people sleep on the streets every night, heroin addicts line the sidewalks of our once-great cities. But at least the federal government can pay for a specialized detention center for transgender migrants in New Mexico. And that's not all. Thirty million Americans don't have health insurance, and millions more pay way more than they can afford for health insurance. But transgender migrants don't have to worry about that at all. According to ICE’s latest press release, they get all the free health care they want. That includes mental health services and dental. Can you afford dental insurance? If not, you might want to seek asylum. It could be worth it for the amenities alone. Transgender migrants in New Mexico have televisions and microwaves. There’s an indoor basketball court and a library. In their free time, they sing opera. For real.

    Life for transgender illegal aliens is actually much better than it is for many American citizens. It’s not really surprising. You can you tell who our government really cares about, and it's not you.

    Carlson failed to note any of the potentially lethal abuse, harassment, and denial of health care that LGBTQ migrants -- particularly trans women -- face while detained in ICE facilities, or the deaths of two trans women in ICE custody.

    Roxana Hernandez died in May 2018 after reportedly spending five days of detention in an “ice box” -- “facilities notorious for their freezing temperatures,” according to The Guardian. Other detainees said that Hernandez received “no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill” despite having a preexisting medical condition. The Transgender Law Center has filed a wrongful death claim against the Cibola County Correctional center -- the same facility which Carlson decried -- maintaining that she “did not receive necessary medical care and medication” while being held there.

    On June 1, after falling ill at New Mexico’s Otero County Processing Center, Johana Medina Leon also died in ICE custody. According to The Washington Post, another trans woman at the same facility reported being sick and not receiving “adequate medical attention,” and an advocate “said he learned that Leon was not feeling well and that others had requested that she be given intravenous fluids but that staff said they couldn’t administer that kind of treatment.” Medina Leon was one of three migrants to die while in ICE detention in the span of three days. In March, the ACLU called for an investigation into Otero County Processing Center’s detention conditions after 12 gay and transgender detainees reported “sexual harassment, withheld medications and dehumanizing treatment by guards.”

    Moreover, the alarming rates of abuse and death LGBTQ migrants face while in ICE custody reflect the anti-LGBTQ agenda of newly appointed acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli has campaigned for the criminalization of sodomy and said that the “homosexual agenda … brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.”

  • The Trump-Fox feedback loop could cause a war with Iran

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump tweeted about a Fox News segment Monday morning that urged a U.S. military strike against Iran, a worrisome development as experts warn that rising tensions between the two nations could quickly spiral out of control.

    Fox both serves as Trump’s personal propaganda outlet and shapes his worldview. The president regularly watches hours of Fox coverage and often tweets about segments that catch his eye. He has stocked his administration with former Fox personalities, the network’s most prominent figures serve as his outside advisers, and guests openly appeal to him during their on-air appearances. Fox segments have an immense influence over this White House, with the president acting based on what he sees on the network on everything from political strategy to pardons.

    On Monday morning at 11:49 a.m. ET, Trump tweeted, “Iran to defy Uranium Stockpile Limits.”

    That text matched the chyron of a Fox segment that aired just a few minutes earlier. The segment focused on Iran’s warning that it will soon exceed the limit on its stockpiling of uranium -- set by the 2015 nuclear deal the Trump administration withdrew from last year -- if it doesn’t receive additional aid from Europe to counteract the effect of U.S. sanctions.

    Trump’s tweet comes during a period of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, during which “an escalating tit-for-tat has pushed the two sides closer to a military confrontation,” as Politico put it on Friday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that “a full range of options” -- including a military strike -- are currently under discussion. If undertaken, a military response might prove disastrous; experts have warned that even a limited U.S. military strike could trigger an Iranian escalation, leading to a wider conflagration.

    “You could see the administration going down a path of limited military action against Iranian targets, … but the risk of miscalculation is much higher,” Ilan Goldenberg, who served in the Pentagon and the State Department during the Obama administration and is now at the Center for a New American Security, told Politico. “If President Trump is able to be convinced that he can do that without Iranian retaliation, he would be playing with fire.”

    The Fox segment Trump tweeted about hammered home that very message Goldenberg warned Trump might be influenced by, encouraging U.S. military action against Iran while arguing that such action would not lead to a broader war.

    “History will tell you Iran only responds to strength,” anchor Julie Banderas said during the segment, which Trump apparently watched. “Strength in numbers, strength in military action, is needed, according to Mike Pompeo, who says that the president would back that.”

    “Do you believe that military action is needed?” Banderas asked former CIA officer and Fox contributor Daniel Hoffman. “I agree with the secretary,” Hoffman replied.

    Banderas went on to air a clip of Jack Keane, a retired general and Fox senior strategic analyst, pushing back against claims from critics by arguing that military action would not result in a war and that the U.S. has “got to have enough resolve to stand up to” Iran “much as Ronald Reagan did in the late 1980s” when the U.S. attacked Iranian navy ships and oil platforms.

    Keane regularly advises Trump and has twice turned him down when asked to serve as secretary of defense, making his voice particularly important.

    Fox pushed the same message over the weekend, repeatedly informing the president that a military strike is necessary and will come without costs.

    On Sunday morning, for instance, Trump tweeted about two segments from roughly the first half hour of Fox & Friends Weekend.

    In between those segments, Fox hosted notorious anti-Muslim hawk Jim Hanson to respond to statements from the U.S. that Iran was responsible for attacks on two Japanese oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. Hanson argued that the U.S. should retaliate against Iran, saying, “It's time to go ahead and turn some of the fast boats they are using to do this into oil slicks in the Gulf.”

    Hanson was also quick to push back against critics who argue that such a response could have dire repercussions, saying, “No serious person is calling for war with Iran, which is what the Iran apologists are [saying].”

    “So you’re suggesting, perhaps, not a full-scale war, perhaps an attack that gets Iran’s attention, retribution down the road, and gets them to the table and we deal from a position of strength,” co-host Ed Henry replied.

    If Trump tuned in on Saturday night to Fox’s Justice with Jeanine Pirro, as he typically does, he heard several of his hawkish political allies praise his actions, denounce Iran, and urge him to keep the pressure on.

    “Thank God for President Trump,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said when Pirro asked him about the situation with Iran. “They are feeling the pressure and pushing back. We got them in a corner. They are a wounded cage animal.” He went on to direct the following advice to Trump: “Do not let them take over the Strait of Hormuz, keep the pressure on, and if they continue to do this, sink their navy like Ronald Reagan did back in the 80s.”

    Iranians “only understand strength,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) similarly argued. “Iran is the individuals that fund the terrorism around the world, the attacks going into Israel, the attacks going into Saudi Arabia, the problems anywhere else around the world, nine times out of ten it's Iran that’s using it and a part of it.”

    And Anthony Scaramucci, the hedge funder who very briefly served as White House communications director, argued that Iran’s leaders “are expecting the president like other presidents to back down. They don't really know the guy, OK. So, the signal to those guys should be ‘OK, we are not backing down, you don’t understand this president, he’s very different from these other presidents.’” He added, “Ultimately, the theocracy of Iran will die and there will be a systemic change there for the better.”

    It remains unclear how the conflict between the U.S. and Iran will play out. But with the stakes this high, it’s unnerving that the president is wallowing in Fox’s spin.

  • Sarah Sanders’ successor

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ imminent departure, announced via tweet last week by President Donald Trump, will inspire few laments from the nation’s journalists. Inhabitants of Sanders’ office are supposed to balance their political service defending the president with their public service keeping the nation informed through the press. But Sanders has rejected the latter role, shamelessly spreading misinformation and lies while accusing journalists of doing the same, viciously belittling members of the press and stripping them of access as she effectively eliminated White House press briefings.

    There’s no official word yet on who Sanders’ successor will be. The lists of possible picks circulating in the press include current administration officials, current Fox News personalities, and current and former administration officials who were previously Fox News personalities, underscoring the propaganda network’s unique role under the Trump presidency.

    What seems likely is that Sanders’ replacement will either be as bad as she was or will have a remarkably short tenure in the position. Her dishonesty and antagonism toward the press may be personal character flaws. But under the Trump administration, they are also all-but-official job requirements for the post.

    No politician’s record of honesty is entirely unmarred, putting their spokespersons in the difficult position of trying to spin their words to skeptical journalists. But Trump lies constantly, at a rate and scale far beyond that of a typical politician, and demands his aides show fidelity to him when he tells untruths. These shameless and brazen lies are a core function of the Trump presidency, a way for him to bind together his coalition by regularly spreading disinformation. Any press secretary will face constant questions about the president’s relentless falsehoods, and it is difficult to imagine them lasting in the job if they fail to provide Trump with a vigorous defense.

    Anti-media invective has long been a staple of conservative commentary. But because Trump has sought to assert himself as the final arbiter of reality, he has needed to make delegitimizing the press a central plank of his political platform. His use of authoritarian language about the press has continued even as his supporters have threatened and enacted plots to murder journalists. This Saturday, for example, he accused The New York Times of committing a “virtual act of Treason” for publishing a story Trump claimed was “bad for our Country”; the next day, he claimed that both the Times and The Washington Post are “a disgrace to our Country, the Enemy of the People.” The next press secretary will be asked to reckon with Trump’s rhetoric and will likely not have the option of simply saying that he or she disagrees with the president.

    Sanders’ replacement may offer some stylistic differences and could lack some of the sheer glee she seems to take in the worst aspects of her work. But her successor will be a liar and an antagonist of journalists. The position requires it.

  • A Fox News anchor lied about immigrants during the town hall with Julian Castro

    Martha MacCallum echoed the false claim made by Trump 'border czar' pick and Fox contributor Tom Homan

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During Fox News’ town hall with 2020 Democratic candidate Julian Castro, co-moderator Martha MacCallum falsely claimed that 90% of immigrants who are detained and then released “do not ever show up for their court date.” MacCallum’s comment echoed a stat also used by Fox opinion contributor Tom Homan, whom President Donald Trump recently named as his border czar.

    On the May 10 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Homan referenced congressional testimony that acting Executive Associate ICE Director Nathalie Asher gave two days earlier to comment that “almost nine out of 10” undocumented or asylum-seeking families “aren’t making it to court” for their hearings. However, the figure was only related to a Trump administration pilot program launched in late 2018 to expedite asylum cases; in contrast, per Asher’s testimony, the traditional program for these families “is effective in ensuring that its vetted participants show up to specified hearings” -- with just 27.4% of families failing to appear for their court dates. Multiple studies have also shown that over 90% of asylum-seekers in several categories actually do appear for their court hearings.

    Until Homan rejoins the Trump administration -- as the president announced during a June 14 Fox & Friends interview -- he is a Fox News contributor, a part of the “opinion” division that executives claim is separate from the “news” division. However, MacCallum, a Fox “news”-side anchor, repeated the same false claim during the town hall, noting that 90% of the people detained at the border “do not ever show up for their court date once they’ve been apprehended and released.” Castro said he wanted to “dispute” the figure and mentioned the Obama-era Family Case Management Program, which he said saw a “more than a 98% return rate” for immigrants going to court. MacCallum’s responded, “It doesn’t sound like there’s anyone that you wouldn’t let in. I mean, is there anyone you wouldn’t let in?”

    As with earlier Fox News Democratic town halls, Fox & Friends quickly used Castro’s appearance to attack him as a radical leftist, this time on immigration. Co-host Brian Kilmeade denounced Castro’s plan for what he called “wide-open borders” and mocked him for “going back in time to 1929” for mentioning that the U.S. traditionally didn’t criminalize people for crossing the border illegally but treated such acts as civil violations. And the clip reel the show assembled consistently cut Castro off mid-sentence, denying the audience his policy explanations and allowing the hosts to tear down a leftist caricature.

    Fox has been using its Democratic town halls to both attack liberals and keep the network financially sound amid controversy about its prime-time lineup pushing dangerous conspiracy theories and unabashed white supremacy. A Democratic town hall featuring a false anti-immigrant talking point from Fox News’ go-to immigration misinformer -- who is also a former and possibly returning Trump border official -- should be a red flag for any non-conservative considering appearing on the network.

  • Family Research Council celebrates Pride Month by spreading vile misinformation and hate about the LGBTQ community

    FRC’s Peter Sprigg suggested that mental illness among some LGBTQ people is evidence that they are not “natural,” said HIV is "a direct result" of gay sex, and promoted the debunked practice of conversion therapy

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX PATERSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LBGTQ group Family Research Council regularly traffics in extreme language, but it recently published a post by Peter Sprigg about LGBTQ Pride Month, which was particularly vile even by its own standards. In the blog, Sprigg said gay men should not be proud because HIV is "a direct result of that sexual behavior" and that mental illness in the LGBTQ community is evidence its members are not "natural."

    Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, has called for homosexuality to be criminalized and has said, “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society.” Sprigg has pushed his anti-LGBTQ views internationally at the global summit of World Congress of Families (WCF), where he “argued that transgender identity is unscientific,” according to Right Wing Watch. The WCF is an international coalition of anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ groups led by former National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown, and it promotes extreme right-wing policies around the world under the guise of protecting the “natural family.”

    Domestically, Sprigg has given public comment at a committee meeting urging the Food and Drug Administration’s to uphold its policy banning men who have sex with men from donating blood, advocated to the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee against nondiscrimination protections for transgender people, and testified before state legislatures in Vermont, Hawaii, and New Hampshire against protections for LBGTQ youth from conversion therapy. Moreover, Sprigg’s boss, FRC President Tony Perkins, was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to be a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

    Sprigg also writes articles spreading anti-LGBTQ misinformation across several right-wing platforms, including The Daily Signal, Washington Examiner, and The Christian Post. Right-wing and evangelical media, in turn, quote Sprigg as an expert on conversion therapy and the health needs of transgender people even though he is not a medical professional.

    In an article posted on June 11, Sprigg railed against the LGBTQ community under the deceitfully reasoned headline “Should Christians Recognize ‘LGBT Pride?’” Anti-LGBTQ organizations often try to pit religious rights against LGBTQ equality in a fallacious “God vs. Gay” dichotomy, though the majority of religious groups think homosexuality “should be accepted,” according to Pew Research. Here are some of the worst anti-LGBTQ comments that Sprigg pushed in the FRC blog post:

    • "The high rates of mental illness that accompany such feelings is strong evidence against the idea that homosexual and transgender feelings are ‘natural.’”

    • "Men who have sex with men, in particular, have high rates of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases as a direct result of that sexual behavior—so is it something to be ‘proud’ of?”

    • "To accept ‘LGBT Pride’ is to accept the assertion that these feelings are a normal and natural variant of human sexuality.”

    • "Some individuals who identify as transgender ask surgeons to mutilate or remove otherwise healthy body parts—often with serious long-term consequences—in order to make their bodies resemble more closely their desired sex. Is this something to be proud of?”

    • "To endorse ‘LGBT Pride’ is to endorse all three—to affirm that LGBT feelings are normal and natural (which is untrue), that LGBT behaviors are harmless or even admirable (also untrue), and that their LGBT ‘identity’ is innate (untrue as well).”

    • "Homosexual activists and their allies in the states have even been invading the privacy of the relationship between mental health providers and their clients, by passing laws to prohibit sexual orientation change efforts, or SOCE (which critics refer to as ‘conversion therapy’) with minors.”

    • "The former tennis star and self-identified lesbian Martina Navratilova said, ‘Catholic clergy has been a lot more dangerous to kids than LGBT’ (apparently without irony, since there is reason to believe that most of the Catholic priests who have molested children are themselves homosexual).”

  • Numerous TV affiliates across the country are promoting a campaign gimmick for Trump’s reelection campaign

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign recently launched a digital birthday card for the president’s June 14 birthday, a common gimmick that’s actually aimed at harvesting the contact information of potential voters. Numerous local television stations across the country helped Trump’s reelection effort by uncritically promoting the effort on their newscasts.

    The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay reported on June 14 that “ABC’s digital news operation posted a number of stories that effectively assisted the Trump re-election campaign in building its email list. Some of the network’s largest affiliates posted an identical piece of content on their websites promoting a ‘birthday card’ for President Donald Trump. The card is actually a petition website created by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee to harvest email addresses that can be used during the 2020 campaign.” ABC has since taken down the stories. 

    Markay wrote that those stories “amounted to explicit promotions of a political candidate’s list-building efforts, just as the 2020 campaign kicks into high gear.” He added that “at least one non-ABC local news network also promoted the Trump campaign’s birthday card list-building page. The Gray Television owned Cleveland 19 News, a CBS affiliate, put the link to the Trump campaign page directly in a tweet.”

    Following the publication of The Daily Beast’s story, Media Matters searched and found that numerous television stations across the country uncritically promoted the Trump campaign’s list-building birthday card efforts with similar copy. Those stations included ABC affiliates and also affiliates for CBS, NBC, and Fox. Here are seven examples:

    Late night host Conan O’Brien has done comedy segments about local news anchors reading identical copy during newscasts. As The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi wrote, the reason for the news practice is that many stations get “one-size-fits-all copy” from syndication services. He added: “The canned TV packages are somewhat like the news service stories that many newspapers and Web sites publish, but with a key difference: Unlike news service material, which usually is labeled as such, TV stations typically run affiliate material without identifying its source.” 

    Update (6/17/19): According to a search of, the following stations also promoted the Trump birthday card:

    KXII, a CBS, Fox, and MyNetworkTV affiliate in Sherman, TX. Gray Television owns the station.

    WJXT, an independent station in Jacksonville, FL. Graham Media Group owns the station.

    WTVT, a Fox-owned and operated station in Tampa, FL.

    WOGX, a Fox-owned and operated station in Ocala, FL.

  • Laura Ingraham hosts extreme anti-LGBTQ guest who promotes book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality

    MassResistance's Arthur Schaper also compared "Drag Queen Story Hour" to "porn actor story hour"

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham hosted a panel on her show featuring Arthur Schaper of extreme anti-LGBTQ group MassResistance in which he promoted his group’s book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality. Schaper also called drag queens “adult illicit entertainment” and compared events where drag queens read to children to “pole dancer story hour” and “porn actor story hour.”

    MassResistance’s leadership has compared LGBTQ people fighting for their rights to the Nazi propaganda machine, has said pro-LGBTQ policies are similar to Jim Crow laws, and has called homosexuality “repulsive.” The group’s book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality -- which has been “promoted and sold” at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit -- claims homosexuality is “a mental health disorder,” is “really about sodomy,” and is “rooted in perverted practices which defy nature and bring ill health.” The group made news in 2017 when it kicked off its "Countering the LGBT Agenda" conference with an interpretive rainbow flag dance.

    The Fox segment comes only a day after Ingraham dedicated an entire podcast episode to extreme anti-trans rhetoric. In it, the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue said “Drag Queen Story Hour” is an attempt to sexualize children, and Ingraham claimed that teaching kids about gender identity “is about lowering the age of consent.” Ingraham has a history of hosting anti-LGBTQ guests and allowing them to push anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and misinformation.

    During the June 13 episode, Schaper called being LGBTQ “deviance” and “perverse and destructive lifestyles,” and flashed his group’s book at the end of the segment. From The Ingraham Angle:

    ARTHUR SCHAPER (MASSRESISTANCE): My name is Arthur Schaper. I’m the organization director for MassResistance. We are the international pro-family group that makes the difference. We have had parents contacting us all over the country about these perverse programs. I mean the bottom line is this: You have adult homosexual men, adult entertainers, going into a public library reading to children. I mean, that alone should not only be setting off alarms, but people should be, you know, demanding this to be canceled even before it starts. OK, we're talking -- we’re not talking about diversity here. We’re talking about deviance. We’re talking about perverse and destructive lifestyles being animated or advertised to children as if it's normal. I mean, you can just look at the website itself --

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Wait, wait. Hold on, Arthur. Are you saying that gay people can't read to kids ever? I mean, we're talking about a very specific issue with drag queens --

    SCHAPER: OK. We’re talking about --

    INGRAHAM: Right, that's what we're talking about here. So, try to keep it focused on that issue.

    SCHAPER:  We're talking about drag entertainment here, drag entertainment. This is adult illicit entertainment to put it mildly. And we’re having these entertainers reading to children? Why don’t we -- why stop there? Why not have pole dancer story hour? How about having porn actor story hour? And this is just nonsensical. This is what you want children being -- experiencing?