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  • Chuck Todd falsely claims both parties engage in antidemocratic power grabs like the GOP did in Wisconsin. There’s no evidence of that.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After the Republican-dominated legislature in Wisconsin passed a package of bills to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor for nakedly partisan purposes, NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd spuriously claimed that such maneuvers were not unprecedented because Democrats had done the same thing to Republican governors in the past.

    There is no evidence of that -- and Todd offered none.

    On December 9's Meet The Press, after detailing some of the changes that Republicans are making -- in both Wisconsin and Michigan -- and describing them as “a couple of end runs around the November election results,” Todd said: “Now, this has happened before in many a legislature. Democrats, in fact, have done this in the past to Republican governors in lame-duck sessions in other states.”

    But Todd failed to provide a single example of Democrats taking comparable action, simply shifting to start his interview with incoming Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers.

    The obvious precedent for this situation is North Carolina in 2016. Republicans there used a special session for the sole purpose of pushing bills "to undermine [incoming Democratic Gov. Roy] Cooper by stripping him of his ability to make key appointments to state and local boards and mandating, for the first time, legislative approval of his cabinet.” At the time, Todd discussed the matter on Meet The Press, saying that what the Republicans were doing was "perfectly legal ...but it doesn't feel in the spirit of ending an election." In the years since, some of these changes that Todd deemed "perfectly legal" have been rolled back following court challenges.

    So what else could Todd have pointed to? The examples are minimal at best. As Russell Berman wrote in The Atlantic, "It’s not uncommon for a party on the cusp of losing power to use its final days in office to pass significant legislation even after voters have rendered their verdict. ... But until recently, it has been rarer for a party to act so punitively toward its opponents after a defeat."

    A December 4 “weekly politics chat” on FiveThirtyEight’s website featuring several experienced political journalists and election analysts discussing whether lame-duck sessions are undemocratic highlighted a single 19-year-old example of Alabama Senate Democrats taking some of the lieutenant governor’s appointment and legislative powers and giving them to the state’s Senate president pro tem in 1999. However, as the Montgomery Advertiser reported, both Republican- and Democratic-controlled state senates have decided to keep the lieutenant governor’s power the same since the 1999 rule change. In fact, Republicans recently attempted to reduce the powers of Alabama’s lieutenant governor even further.

    Limiting the powers of a state’s lieutenant governor two decades ago in an arrangement that has satisfied both parties is not at all comparable to current Republican efforts to undo election results by limiting powers. Even some Republicans are objecting to the current move in Wisconsin.

    Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum, a Republican who served a short term in the early 2000s, said outgoing Gov. Scott Walker should veto many of the bills passed by Republicans to strip the incoming governor of some of his powers. In comments to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he said: “There are going to be differences over executive control and legislative control, but you don’t play it out in the dark of night. You don’t make the changes after an election without hearings, without having the public involved, without having a vetting process.”

    The Journal Sentinel also reported on comments from Sheldon Lubar, “longtime prominent Wisconsin Republican and former supporter of Gov. Scott Walker,” who was critical of the GOP attempt to limit the incoming Democratic governor’s powers. Lubar called the Republican legislators pushing the effort “a few petty, mean politicians” and said that if Walker signs their bills, Wisconsin voters “can look on him as somebody who ignores the will of the people and creeps into the house at midnight to steal away the result of their vote."

    Additionally, PolitiFact has explained that the actions of Walker and the Wisconsin GOP legislature are at odds with their previous positions. In November 2010, Walker sent a list of requests to the outgoing Democratic governor asking him not to take several permanent actions during his lame-duck period, in contrast with the vastly expanded actions Walker is taking now. In fact, PolitiFact also detailed a move by Republican legislators in 2011 giving the governor power to approve or reject the adoption of administrative rules -- power that they’re now trying to take away from the incoming Democratic governor.

    Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers in Michigan quickly followed in Wisconsin Republicans’ footsteps by pushing a bill to strip campaign finance oversight powers from the incoming Democratic secretary of state after also approving a separate bill to bypass the incoming Democratic attorney general on lawsuits involving the state.

    This is all symptomatic of a larger problem: The mainstream media, and Meet The Press in particular, are ignoring growing GOP contempt for democracy itself. As Eric Levitz noted in the New York magazine, the root cause of what is happening in Wisconsin is not one party passing a law, but rather GOP fearing that the party that received the most votes in an election would actually have a chance to govern. In that sense, Todd declaring this power grab normal is no different than Meet The Press inviting an oil-industry funded guest who pushed climate change denial or a conspiracy theorist who talked about the need for civility.

  • Major neo-Nazi website sees NRA’s recent hard-line messaging as its best hope to kill all Jewish people

    The Daily Stormer: “It’s time to put your money where your mouth is and join up with the country’s single effective pro-white organization intent on fully SMASHING THE JEW”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The Daily Stormer -- a major online hub for racists and anti-Semites that has followers who have committed mass murder -- has been telling its readers to join the National Rifle Association, as the neo-Nazis who run the website see a successful NRA as their best possible hope to see Jewish people subjected to another Holocaust.

    The Daily Stormer has been very pleased with the NRA’s hard-line messaging in the Trump era: As the neo-Nazi website itself notes, the NRA frequently singles out Jews as its political enemies and refuses to condemn anti-Semitic actions taken by members of its leadership. A February 2017 Daily Stormer article explained, “There is basically zero chance that [NRA leader Wayne] LaPierre and others in the top ranks of the NRA aren’t aware of the Jewish issue, especially as it relates to the second amendment. They’ve remained silent on this topic until now, scared of the media power that the Jews possess. But things are changing.”

    The Daily Stormer has frequently promoted NRA membership drives, including repeatedly linking to an NRA recruitment website and claiming,“The number 1 source of new recruits for the NRA has always been the Daily Stormer.”

    In articles posted on the website, Daily Stormer writers implore readers to join the NRA:

    According to The Daily Stormer, “The NRA is the country’s premiere pro-white and anti-Semitic organization. In fact, it is the only right-wing group of any kind in this country to have any success at all in the last 50 years.”

    The Daily Stormer clearly sees the NRA as a tool it can use to instigate wide-scale attacks against Jewish people. Here are a few pro-NRA threatening messages the site has posted:

    The Daily Stormer also posted a meme featuring NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch to threaten, “Our patience has its limits,” writing, “And guess what kikes? Your outrage machine is broken.”

    Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, The Daily Stormer backed the NRA’s calls for arming teachers, writing:

    The Daily Stormer is endorsing a plan to take it a step further, and arm the students as well.

    Say you’re in class, the teacher is writing something on the board, and a Jew pulls out a gun. The teacher has his back to the class and doesn’t see the Jew make his move – but you’re sitting behind him, and you’ve got a clean shot – why shouldn’t you be allowed to take it?

    The Daily Stormer is particularly enamored of five high-profile NRA employees: Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, President Oliver North, national spokesperson Dana Loesch, NRATV host Chuck Holton, and NRA board member Ted Nugent.

    The Daily Stormer has labeled LaPierre “/ourlad/” and “Reichsmarschall,” the highest military rank in Nazi Germany, and favorably called the NRA leader an “anti-Semitic white nationalist.” In particular, the site likes LaPierre because of a speech he gave after the Parkland school shooting in which he called opponents of the NRA “European-style socialists,” which, as The Daily Stormer explained, “everyone acknowledges, means ‘Jews’” or “the gun-grabbing kikes.” The Daily Stormer has favorably mentioned that LaPierre “gave a speech calling out the Jews as gun grabbers,” noted that LaPierre “purposefully pushed for an open war with the Jews,” and written that “he literally put out a Jew list, showing that everyone who disagrees with gun rights is a Jew. And he has to know, too. There is no way you list off a dozen Jews – and not a single goy – without noticing that pattern.” Indeed, LaPierre has frequently targeted Jews during his public remarks.

    In May, The Daily Stormer heaped praise on North after he became president of the NRA. An article on the neo-Nazi website argued, “The NRA just made a great pick for their new head. Great, great pick.” The website described North’s involvement in the Iran-Contra arms trafficking scandal as a positive, writing, “This is one guy who definitely does not give a single fuck about having a license to buy and sell weapons. For those who don’t know – the Iran-Contra ‘scandal’ was a program of selling weapons to Iran and using the money from that to fund communist-killing death squads in Latin America.” The article speculated that as president of the NRA, North could help arm Iran with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that the country could then use against Israel.

    The Daily Stormer also has a lot of praise for NRA national spokesperson Loesch, whom it calls “Princess Dana.” The site praised the gun group for not firing Loesch for her recently resurfaced 2010 tweet that said, “I bet Rick Sanchez was fired by a Jew.” (Sanchez was fired from CNN after he made anti-Semitic remarks about comedian Jon Stewart.) Loesch said that her tweet was meant to be an appeal to poetic justice. The Daily Stormer wrote that instead of firing her, the NRA “doubled-down by giving her a show about how she is going to destroy the Jews,” referencing promotional material for her NRATV show Relentless in which Loesch has threatened members of the media that their “time is running out.”

    The Daily Stormer has also praised Chuck Holton, a correspondent for the NRA’s media operation NRATV. During a July 2017 appearance on NRATV, Holton suggested that Black people were poised to commit mass rape and murder against white people while referencing “what’s happening in South Africa.” In response, The Daily Stormer wrote, “Holy shit! The NRA cited the White Genocide in South Africa as a warning to America!” Holton has a lengthy history of promoting white nationalism and making racist comments, and he has repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory that Jewish philanthropist George Soros is behind the migrant caravan traveling through Central America and Mexico -- a remarkably similar theory to the one that inspired a gunman to carry out an anti-Semitic massacre at a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue in October. The site is aware of NRATV and has disturbingly noted, “A NRA tv channel calling out ‘socialist corruption’ 24/7 would be the best thing ever, especially considering that all of these ‘European-style socialists’ are actually Jews.” (Three months after that Daily Stormer article was published and a day after an ISIS terror attack in Manchester, U.K., Holton argued on NRATV that “this wave of violence that we’re seeing across Europe is a symptom of the broader problem of multiculturalism and socialism.”)

    The Daily Stormer also lauded NRA board member Ted Nugent for sharing an anti-Semitic meme on Facebook without repercussions from the NRA, writing, “I’ve gotta give it to Ted. I expected an apology within hours. Instead he is just straight trolling these Jews. It’s fantastic.” In February, a Daily Stormer article defending the NRA as a friendly home for anti-Semites brought up the incident: “Remember another NRA spokesperson, Ted Nugent, posted that one meme a couple years ago… So, the NRA knows and the Jews know the NRA knows, and both sides want to escalate that.”

    The NRA’s recent adoption of more extreme messaging tactics is not lost on The Daily Stormer. As the neo-Nazis who run the website cheered in a March article, “The NRA is done with euphemisms.”

  • Three ways Fox News reacted -- or didn’t -- to news of election fraud in North Carolina

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Over a month after the 2018 midterm election, the North Carolina Board of Elections has still refused to certify Republican Mark Harris' initial apparent victory in the 9th Congressional District after questions were raised over alleged election fraud by members of his campaign. The allegations “suggest some kind of scheme” by “people supporting the GOP campaign” to influence the results of a close race. Sworn statements from voters in Bladen and Robeson counties “described people coming to their doors and urging them to hand over their absentee ballots, sometimes without filling them out.” Two women have come forward reporting that they were paid by Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., a contractor who worked for Harris’ campaign specifically on absentee work, to collect ballots in their district. Both women claim that they didn’t know that what they were doing was illegal, but election law in North Carolina “allows only a family member or legal guardian to drop off absentee ballots for a voter.” Investigators are also looking into “unusually high numbers of absentee ballots cast in Bladen County” and other voters’ statements claim that they received absentee ballots without requesting them.

    As these allegations surfaced, the election board announced that it will “hold a public evidentiary hearing into claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities” in the 9th Congressional District race. Media figures at Fox News, who have spent years fearmongering about the nonexistent threat of “voter fraud,” have largely remained silent or deflected when faced with these actual allegations of election fraud backed-up by substantial evidence. Here are three ways that Fox has chosen to cover election fraud in North Carolina:

    Drawing false parallels  

    Fox News’ Shannon Bream covered the apparent plot to steal a North Carolina congressional seat by comparing it to legitimate collection of ballots in California elections.  Bream claimed that the North Carolina news is “sparking questions about how Democrats swept areas like Orange County, CA,” even though California elections results have not been called into question by any credible source. (While it is legal for California voters who are unable to return their mail-in ballot to designate another person to deliver it for them, it is obviously illegal to collect and then fill out or destroy another person’s ballot.)  

    Ignoring that the alleged election fraud possibly benefited the Republican candidate 

    Fox has also failed to tell its viewers that the benefactor of the alleged election fraud is a Republican candidate, even though at least six sworn affidavits make clear that “the Republican nominee was the one who stood to gain from it.” Fox & Friends First reported on the story for less than 30 seconds, claiming that “ballots may have been illegally collected” without making it clear which party’s candidate is facing allegations. The hosts then pivoted to yet another story on incoming freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

    In another late night segment lasting less than 30 seconds, Shannon Bream focused on the “Democratic candidate trailing in the race … withdrawing his concession,” before quickly moving on to a segment about scandals surrounding potential Democratic candidates for 2020 presidential election.

    Dana Perino, host of The Daily Briefing, hosted a segment which explained the allegations, but again did not say which party likely benefited from the alleged election fraud. Additionally, the segment pointed out that Harris was still technically in the lead by 905 votes, but did not specifically mention that the alleged election fraud very well could have impacted this outcome.

    Ignoring the story altogether

    But for the most part, many shows on Fox News did not report on the story at all, which is unsurprising given the network’s close relationship with the GOP. None of Fox’s prime-time or morning shows this week covered the serious allegations, but they found time to cover stories that could hardly be called newsworthy. Any shows that did cover the story had segments that lasted around 30 seconds or less with little discussion or analysis. It appears Fox sees fraud as an issue only when there are made-up allegations of voter fraud against Democrats with no evidence to back them up.

  • Trump's tweets directly repeated Hannity's talking points

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Since taking office, President Donald Trump’s relationship with chief Fox News propagandist Sean Hannity has been extensively documented, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the president is receiving inspiration for his daily rage tweets about the special counsel’s ongoing investigation from Hannity’s programming. Hannity, who has taken on the role as the face of the crusade against the special counsel, has desperately and almost comically spearheaded the public relations campaign to undermine the public’s trust in the investigation. And now, as the indictments of Trump associates and details of their crimes and possible cooperation agreements with the government begin to pile up and attract media coverage, the president is lashing out on Twitter, oftentimes employing language that can be traced back, nearly verbatim, to one person:

  • Fox News host Pete Hegseth received money for event with GOP candidate then repeatedly interviewed him for the network

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host Pete Hegseth was paid roughly $10,000 by Republicans in Michigan to speak at a fundraising event with then-Senate candidate John James. Fox News then allowed Hegseth to repeatedly interview James and promote his candidacy on its network.

    Hegseth, a Republican who has said that he doesn’t consider himself a journalist, co-hosts Fox & Friends Weekend. ​The Washington Post reported in March that “Hegseth has been a confidant of Trump’s, who watches his Fox News show and frequently calls him to discuss veterans’ policy.” On Fox & Friends, Hegseth interviewed Trump during a rally to support Republican candidates ahead of the midterm elections.

    Fox News recently claimed that it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events,” which is a blatant lie. In reality, Fox News personalities regularly appear at events for candidates and political parties and sometimes get paid to do them. Media Matters reported last month that Fox News host Jeanine Pirro received more than $200,000 in speaking fees from 13 Republican organizations in the past two years. Other Fox News personalities who have headlined GOP events since President Donald Trump took office include hosts Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, and Greg Gutfeld, and contributors Sebastian Gorka and Karl Rove

    Hegseth has also cashed in on the Republican speaker circuit: The Livingston County Republican Committee in Michigan paid him to keynote its May 24 Lincoln Day Dinner.

    James was the event’s master of ceremonies and introduced Hegseth to the crowd. In his introduction, James noted his own appearances on Fox & Friends and praised Hegseth as “one of the best in the business.” While on stage at the event, Hegseth called James “the real deal” and told the audience to “do whatever you can” to support him.

    According to records from the Michigan Department of State, the Livingston County GOP paid a total of $10,239.55 in fees and costs to Premiere Speakers Bureau, which represents Hegseth, between February 7 and July 18 of this year.

    Despite that clear conflict of interest, Hegseth repeatedly interviewed James on Fox & Friends Weekend. In the runup to Election Day, Hegseth interviewed James on July 28, September 9, October 14, and October 28. Hegseth did not state during those interviews that he had received money from the Livingston County Republican Party.

    Hegseth used those interviews to repeatedly promote James’ unsuccessful campaign and tout his purported strength as a candidate. For instance:

    • On September 9, Hegseth told James that his race is “one to watch, for sure, largely because of a strong candidacy you’re running.”
    • On October 14, Hegseth told James that “whatever you’re doing is working, according to the polls, and I don’t always believe [polling].” Echoing the candidate’s own talking point, Hegseth later asked James: “What is the most important fresh perspective that is resonating with people in your state?”
    • On October 28, Hegseth suggested that James was “closing the gap against his Democratic opponent,” telling him that his message “seems to be resonating in your race” based on “recent poll numbers in the Michigan Senate race” which showed James “trailing by, you know, seven points, which is a lot less than where you were, and if you consider the margin of error, it could even be closer than that.” 

    A request for comment to Fox News was not returned.

  • A white supremacist YouTuber praised Fox's Tucker Carlson for mentioning "white genocide"

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & JASON CAMPBELL

    White supremacist YouTuber Mark Collett commended Fox’s Tucker Carlson for discussing the white supremacist talking point of “white genocide” on his prime-time show. The shoutout came during the December 5 edition of Collett’s weekly YouTube livestream called This Week on the Alt-Right. During the episode, Collett also took credit for his own role in mainstreaming the term.

    Collet is a British neo-Nazi whose racist content thrives on YouTube and whose extremism has been amplified by American far-right figures, including Fox’s Laura Ingraham and white supremacist darling Rep. Steve King (R-IA). YouTube allows Collett to monetize his extremist content and profit from spreading white supremacist propaganda, and his December 5 livestream was no exception. The Super Chat feature allowed viewers to pay for their messages to be featured more prominently in the live chat.

    White supremacists often push the false narrative of “white genocide” to propagandize about what they claim are fatal threats against white people, like immigration or demographic change. On his prime-time Fox show, Carlson often echoes white supremacist talking points and has become increasingly explicit in championing white grievances, earning accolades among white supremacists along the way.  

    On the October 1 edition of his Fox show Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson specifically fearmongered to his audience about the threat of white genocide by pushing a literal interpretation of an angry tweet written by a Georgetown University professor protesting the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

  • Fox is going to love Trump attorney general pick William Barr

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Update (12/7/18): Trump has announced that he will nominate Barr to be attorney general. 

    Fox News' leading propagandists have been begging for President Donald Trump to install an attorney general who will turn their conspiracy theories into federal investigations. With William P. Barr, the reported front-runner to fill the position, they may finally get their wish.

    In a November 2017 meeting with Trump, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro reportedly savaged then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his failure to conduct a federal investigation into a deal approved while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state that gave Russia control over some U.S. uranium mines. Conservatives latched on to that deal during the 2016 presidential election, pushing a bogus conspiracy theory that Clinton approved Russia’s effort to buy Uranium One, a Canadian firm with licenses to extract uranium in the U.S., because she had benefited from Russian government bribes. Fox tried to divert attention from reporting about Trump’s Russia ties by devoting hours of airtime to the pseudoscandal in the weeks before Pirro’s White House meeting. Now, the Fox host was using direct access to the president to undermine the attorney general, calling for him to appoint a special counsel to scrutinize Clinton and trying to make a federal case out of right-wing bullshit.

    Pirro’s rant reportedly agitated Trump, who became angry that Sessions was failing to act in his interests -- as if the attorney general were his personal lawyer. But Sessions largely weathered the harsh public criticism from the president and his Fox propagandists over the Uranium One case. He pointedly refused to appoint a special counsel, instead directing prosecutors to examine the issue to little effect.

    But now Sessions is gone, canned by Trump after a drumbeat of attacks from Fox for that very unwillingness to use the Justice Department to punish the president’s enemies and his refusal to interfere in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. And his reported likely replacement is already on the record supporting a Uranium One investigation.

    Barr, who served as attorney general to President George H.W. Bush, is Trump’s “leading candidate” to return to that office, The Washington Post reported Thursday. In public statements made since Trump’s election, Barr has repeatedly suggested that he is much more willing than Sessions was to use law enforcement as a tool to enforce the president's will. That includes moving forward with a federal probe into the Uranium One deal.

    In November 2017, after Sessions publicly declined to appoint a Uranium One special counsel, The New York Times reported that Barr “sees more basis for investigating the uranium deal than any supposed collusion between Mr. Trump and Russia.” He also defended Trump’s public calls for investigating his former political rival, complaining, “To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility.”

    In a separate November interview with The Washington Post, Barr said, “I don't think all this stuff about throwing [Clinton] in jail or jumping to the conclusion that she should be prosecuted is appropriate, but I do think that there are things that should be investigated that haven't been investigated."

    Barr has also echoed the effort by Trump and his Fox allies to delegitimize Mueller’s probe because some of his team members had Democratic ties. “In my view, prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party,” he told the Post in July 2017. “I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group.”

    And in a May 12, 2017, op-ed for the Post, he defended Trump’s decision to terminate James Comey as FBI director. Barr agreed with the White House’s initial explanation for Comey’s removal -- that the firing was justified because Comey had usurped the authority of the attorney general by unilaterally announcing that Clinton should not be charged over her use of a private email server. He did not address Trump’s statement, offered on NBC the night before, that he actually fired Comey over his handling of the Russia probe.

    If nominated and confirmed, Barr would replace acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who had publicly mused about curtailing the Mueller probe.

    Trump and his Fox supporters want an attorney general who shares their authoritarian view of the law as a constraint on the president’s enemies but not his allies. It seems unlikely that the president’s eventual pick won’t fit that bill -- and Barr's recent comments suggest he would.

  • Cable and broadcast news have virtually failed to discuss the ACA open-enrollment period

    Embarrassingly, Fox News devoted the most coverage to the topic, with just under 14 minutes total in two months

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO

    The open-enrollment period to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the 39 states that use HealthCare.gov will end in less than two weeks on December 15, but if you rely on TV news you may not even know that the enrollment period began November 1. The three major cable news networks and the three broadcast news networks together have given the open-enrollment period embarrassingly scant coverage in the last two months -- a meager 16 1/2 minutes in total from October 3 to December 3, according to a Media Matters review.

    Key findings:

    • In a roughly two-month period, cable and broadcast news networks provided just 16 1/2 minutes of coverage of the ACA enrollment period.
    • CNN and MSNBC mentioned the open-enrollment period for less than two minutes combined.
    • ABC and NBC failed to cover the enrollment period, and CBS devoted just about one minute.
    Perhaps the most notable aspect of this very limited reporting is where it did show up: Fox News covered the open-enrollment period the most, with almost 14 minutes total. It was also the only network to host discussion-based segments framed around the enrollment. (A November 1 discussion on Fox’s Outnumbered Overtime with Fox News medical correspondent Marc Siegel and Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) touched on various aspects of the ACA, and another discussion on November 30’s Fox & Friends First with Nan Hayworth of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum focused on lower enrollment numbers for 2019.)

    That Fox provided the most coverage of the enrollment period is troubling on its own; the network has a history of providing misleading and outright false coverage of the ACA as a part of a larger effort by right-wing media to discredit the health care law. Recently, the network allowed Republican politicians to lie about their positions on insurance coverage protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, misled in its coverage of President Donald Trump’s administration ending subsidies that make health care plans on the exchanges affordable, and aired misleading charts about enrollment numbers. Not to mention the network’s record of airing misleading human interest stories, false narratives, and unending refrains that the ACA is “failing.”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In addition to the two segments featuring longer discussions of the ACA, Fox also ran three news briefs on November 1 announcing the open-enrollment period. CBS ran two news briefs announcing the enrollment period that same day, which amounted to roughly one minute of airtime.

    No other network aired a segment about the enrollment period. CNN and MSNBC only mentioned the enrollment period in passing for less than one minute each, while ABC and NBC did not mention it at all. No cable news or broadcast news network aired an advance announcement of the enrollment period; all coverage in the 29 days before the November 1 enrollment start date was mere passing mentions amounting to about one and a half minutes.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the latest Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking poll, only 24 percent of non-group enrollees ages 18-64 (those who are uninsured or who purchase their own individual insurance) knew about the December 15 deadline for open enrollment. The percentage of non-group enrollees who did not know about the deadline at all increased from 53 percent in October 2017 to 61 percent last month.

    Since taking office, the Trump administration has shortened the open-enrollment period by half, from 12 weeks to six. Previously, enrollment was open from November 1 to January 31, but bowing to pressure from health insurers, Trump set a cutoff of December 15.

    This smaller sign-up window is not the only assault on enrollment numbers. The Trump administration has also scheduled 60 hours of downtime for the HealthCare.gov website for scheduled maintenance every Sunday from midnight to noon during the enrolment period (except for the last Sunday), has reduced funding for enrollment groups that work to sign up Americans in states that don’t run their own exchanges by as much as 92 percent, and has slashed funding for its advertising by 90 percent.

    As a result of these Trump administration policies, advocates predicted a decline in enrollment in the health care exchanges. Sign-ups for 2018 were down to 11.8 million from 12.2 million the year before, and sign-ups for this enrollment period are on track to be even lower.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for mentions of “enrollment” within close proximity of “Affordable Care Act,” “ACA,” “health care,” “healthcare,” “Obama care,” or “Obamacare” from October 3 (the earliest transcripts were still available) to December 3, 2018, on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from 4 a.m. through midnight and on ABC’s, CBS’, and NBC’s early morning shows, morning shows, evening shows, and Sunday morning political talk shows.

    We timed and coded any passing mention, teaser, news brief, or news segment mentioning or discussing the open-enrollment period. For passing mentions, we only timed the relevant speech. For teasers and segments, we timed them in their entirety.

  • Tucker Carlson Tonight is the local news broadcast from hell

    Fox News peppers its lineup with a “greatest hits” of local news stories designed to reinforce its audience’s existing beliefs

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Here’s what was in the news on February 28, 2018: Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart announced that they would be ending sales of “assault-style” rifles, President Donald Trump (briefly) came out in favor of raising the minimum purchase age on some guns, and an explosive report from the United Nations linked North Korea to Syria’s chemical weapons program.

    Viewers of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, however, would not be hearing about any of those stories. Instead, they got front-row seats to an exclusive interview with Ryan Wolfe, a Wake Forest student upset that the university had not pursued a “school judicial case” against other students after one photoshopped his face onto a picture of a saltine cracker 16 months earlier.

    “I assume that’s a slur against your ethnicity, correct?” Carlson asked Wolfe, referring to the photo. It was a patently ridiculous moment in television history, and it went on for four surreal minutes.  It was something you might expect to find in a school newspaper, or maybe hear a quick mention about on a local TV segment -- but almost certainly not something one might expect to see broadcasted to Carlson’s more than 2.5 million nightly viewers. Except it actually is, if you’ve kept up with the show at all.

    One way of thinking about Tucker Carlson Tonight is as less of a nationally broadcast news show, and more … local news from hell.

    Here’s what I mean by that. Local news broadcasts are known for including a few cutesy local interest stories or lighthearted takes on things that happened around town. Tucker Carlson Tonight functions as a sort of “greatest hits” round-up for local stories and minor controversies that feel custom-made for the Fox News audience. Now, I should be clear: This is pretty standard for Fox shows, but Carlson’s is truly the pièce de résistance of the whole lineup, the broadcast your local news outlet would tease with scary cliffhangers like, “This one common household item might kill you. Tune in at 9 to learn more!”

    A lot of the time, Carlson does this with the help of Cathy Areu during a regular segment called “The Liberal Sherpa.” Areu is introduced as the founder of Catalina magazine and, as Carlson said during his July 4 show, as someone “willing to defend pretty much any new fad on the left, whether it's hiding in cry closets or getting consent before you change your baby's diaper.”

    Recent “Liberal Sherpa” segments included discussion about Cleveland radio station WDOK’s decision to leave the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” off of its holiday playlists, a British university’s internal memo asking professors to avoid writing in all capital letters in correspondence with students, and a California school district’s new dress code.

    Others included debate over a college diversity network’s recommendation to curtail use of the phrase “as you know,” a pair of Massachusetts parents who’ve decided to raise their children gender neutral (Carlson called this “steep civilizational decline”),  a New Jersey high school that let all interested students join the cheerleading team without tryouts, a white Utah teen wearing a traditional Chinese dress to prom, as well as the aforementioned cry closet and diaper consent stories.

    Sometimes, as was the case in a February 23 segment about Purdue University urging students not to use words with “man” in them, Carlson & Company straddle the line somewhere between exaggerating and being willfully misleading.

    Areu is the Washington Generals to Carlson’s Harlem Globetrotters, reinforcing the audience’s perception of liberals as a whole.

    Areu’s role really does seem to be to defend anything Carlson puts forward as being a trend on “the left.” Watching these segments, you get the clear impression that the mainstream “left” would back every single one of these views, even taken to the absolute extreme. For instance, Carlson asked Areu during the “dress code” segment whether girls should just be allowed to come to school topless if they want; instead of telling him that’s ridiculous, she actually agreed that they should.

    These clips seem to exist primarily as a way to get Carlson’s audience worked up into a lather about how ridiculous or out of touch progressives are, and based on the responses they elicit when they’re posted on social media, it seems to work. It’s genuinely unclear whether Areu is being completely earnest in her Tucker Carlson Tonight appearances; in fact, there’s at least one thread on the pro-Trump r/The_Donald reddit forum asking whether she’s just playing a character.

    Is the average Democratic voter a gender-neutral, clothing-optional, lowercase-letter-using, cry-closet-dwelling, language-policing, prom-dress-hating, Christmas-song-averse parent who asks their babies for permission to change their diapers? No. On the local news broadcast from hell, however, that’s the party’s core constituency.

    These segments fuel the identity politics-driven culture war that conservative media blame on progressives.

    One way Carlson achieves this is by covering hot-button social issues, such as the ongoing debates over transgender rights, plucking examples of minor controversies around the country and overwhelming his audience with sheer quantity. For instance, as of this writing, someone has mentioned the word “transgender” on 35 episodes of Tucker Carlson Tonight in 2018. Sometimes, it comes in reference to a policy that has a legitimate place in national news, such as the Trump administration’s efforts to ban trans people from the military.

    Many of the others times, however, it’s just more local news stories blown up for effect. For example, in March, Carlson interviewed a college student who was reportedly “kicked out of class” for saying there were “only two genders.” Carlson has also used his show to discuss the results of a Connecticut track meet, the Boston Marathon’s entry rules, and a bizarre story involving the winner of the women’s 35-to-44 division cycling meet in Los Angeles -- all because the stories involved trans people.

    Very few, if any, of these stories were likely deserving of national airtime, and yet, Tucker Carlson Tonight was there to give them a boost. What makes the conservative media obsession with trans issues a bit maddening is that these outlets appear unwilling to admit that such a preoccupation exists at all. Carlson took time out of his July 24 episode to chide former Bernie Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver for the Democratic Party’s supposed “fixation” on “esoteric sexual politics like transgender bathrooms.”

    Meanwhile, The Rachel Maddow Show, Carlson’s MSNBC counterpart, mentioned the word “transgender” during just six episodes over the course of the same period. Four shows were discussing Trump’s military ban, one was about Vermont’s Democratic nominee for governor, Christine Hallquist, and another addressed The New York Times’ bombshell October 21 report that the Trump administration was considering sweeping changes to the federal definitions of “sex” and “gender.”

    Whether it’s by design or not, the stories highlighted on Carlson’s show help build upon a conservative media alternate reality in which the deck is stacked against Republicans, where they’re the primary victims of discrimination, where the world is out to get them, and where every success they have comes in spite of all of this -- a topic I recently covered. The stories themselves surface from a number of places: other Fox News shows, other conservative outlets, or even 4chan. Once Fox covers a story, whether on Tucker Carlson Tonight or any of its other programming, it signals a sort of legitimacy to the rest of the world that this actually is worthy of national coverage. This has played out in the past with trumped-up “War on Christmas” narratives, and we’re seeing it happen now with overblown stories about free speech on college campuses.

    I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Neither conservatives nor liberals benefit from portraying the most extreme elements of the opposing side as mainstream. This isn’t to say that one should adopt a Pollyanna approach to media coverage and pretend that “unity” is all we need to solve the very serious differences we have with one another. Let’s be real: We live in a particularly fraught moment in political history. The local news broadcast from hell serves only to convince us that things are somehow even worse and more divided than reality would show.

    Shelby Jamerson contributed research to this post. 

  • NY Times somehow outdoes itself in its awful coverage of the Wisconsin GOP’s antidemocratic power grab

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Wisconsin Republican legislators perverted representative democracy by passing sweeping legislation that strips powers from incoming Gov. Tony Evers solely because he is a Democrat. Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signaled he will sign the bills into law. The New York Times reported on this development with an article that ran with the title “Wisconsin Republicans Defiantly ‘Stand Like Bedrock’ in Face of Democratic Wins,” after first being published under the much more accurate headline “Wisconsin Republicans Approve Bills Stripping Power From Incoming Democratic Governor.”

    Defiance, at least to me, is speaking truth to power and not giving up no matter the odds against you. It doesn’t mean advancing anti-democratic laws and getting away with it because you know voters have a slim chance of holding you accountable since you rigged the system through gerrymandering. A better descriptor for that might be “cowardice.” (Even though Democratic candidates received 54 percent of votes in the 2018 midterm elections, they will hold just 36 percent of the state’s legislative seats, meaning they can’t simply reverse the power grab.)

    I live in Madison, WI, and I was at the capitol on Monday when the legislative package was first considered. I saw defiance there, but not the type the Times reported on. Defiance was the 1,426 Wisconsinites who spoke out against the bills -- compared to one person speaking in their favor -- as Republicans attempted to limit public comments. Defiance was the people who could not make it into the hearing room chanting so loud outside that it echoed throughout the capitol. Defiance was the crowds causing legislative staff to delay the hearing as staff members scrambled to open up multiple overflow rooms for the citizens who wanted to see how the power grab would play out. Defiance was also a local pizza shop giving out free food to sustain the protesters as they waited long hours to speak their minds. Defiance was the hundreds of people who showed up outside the capitol later that evening -- in the bitter cold -- to protest the bills.

    A natural question to ask regarding the New York Times headline (which has since been slightly modified to “Wisconsin Republicans Defiantly Move to Limit the Power of Incoming Democrats”) is where the “stand like bedrock” quote came from. It was Wisconsin Republican Speaker Robin Vos -- the racist, power-hungry architect of the package -- who laughably said after Wisconsin Republicans were trounced in the midterm elections, “We are going to stand like bedrock to guarantee that Wisconsin does not go back.” While Vos’ comment is petulant and antidemocratic to the point that it is newsworthy, the partial quote cited in the Times headline made it seem as if Republicans in Wisconsin were taking some sort of noble stand. As The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer noted:

    Instead of getting his words splashed credulously in a Times headline, Vos should be the subject of extreme media scrutiny and righteous outrage. Shortly before Republicans passed the power-grab bills, Vos attempted to justify the move on Twitter by saying, “We have allowed far too much authority to move to the executive branch.” The state legislature -- presumably the “we” in Vos’ statement -- has been controlled by Republicans for the past eight years, coinciding with Walker’s governorship. But it is only now that Vos suddenly realized that the governorship is too powerful and the separation of powers in the Wisconsin government need to be radically changed.

    Other tweets by Vos in defense of the legislation have sparked an angry backlash; for example, he attempted to explain the power grab by arguing on Twitter, “The basic fundamental part of our democracy is compromise and negotiation.” (There was, of course, no compromise, as the Republicans control the legislature and can pass whatever law they want regardless of the views of their Democratic colleagues.) While “the ratio” of negative to positive responses to this tweet currently stands at around 100-to-1 on Twitter, it pales in comparison to the 1,462-1 ratio of Wisconsinites speaking against versus in favor of the power grab.

    Beyond the headline, the text of the Times article also fell short, characterizing moves by Republican legislators as merely “hardball” politics and describing Vos’ comment that incoming Gov. Evers’s agenda is not “evil” as “conciliatory.”

    The most recent Times coverage of Wisconsin follows another misstep from the newspaper, which in a previous article framed the power grab as a typical partisan dispute between Republicans and Democrats.

    The Times also covered the the Wisconsin GOP power grab in its podcast The Daily. While the podcast did provide fairly detailed background on what is happening, it fell far short in its framing of the issues. One part of the podcast focused on people protesting Walker as he lit the Christmas tree that stands in the capitol rotunda during the holiday season. Times reporter Mitch Smith said, “All these protesters -- people who did not come for the Christmas tree lighting -- start booing. And these poor kids, this high school choir -- they start singing these Christmas carols and this group of singing protesters drowns them out from the floor above, bellowing these kind of anti-Walker tunes of their own.” Obviously, no one was booing the kids. I’m sorry if the kids in the choir did actually feel bad, but the subversion of democracy that’s going on warrants some noise. I hope the ruckus made their visit more interesting and served as a lesson on how people can peacefully dissent against their elected officials.