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  • As Trump separates migrant families and 1,500 kids are missing, three Sunday shows ignored immigration entirely

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ

    Sunday shows largely ignored America’s treatment of migrant children, even as new reports and outrage on social media show a growing humanitarian crisis.

    In April, a top official with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told Congress that HHS had lost track of 1,475 unaccompanied minors who were detained at the US-Mexico border. This news has raised concerns that HHS has not taken the proper precautions to protect these migrant children in government custody from abuse and human trafficking. An ACLU report this week revealed that immigrant children suffer “pervasive abuse” while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Following the ACLU report, these missing migrant children got new attention from  a social media campaign #WhereAreTheChildren.

    One target of this social media campaign is the Trump administration’s new policy of separating children from parents when migrant families and asylum seekers attempt to pass through the southern border -- a policy which Trump recently called "horrible" and blamed Democrats for. Earlier in May, Attorney Jeff Sessions announced “zero tolerance” separation policies which are believed to cause detrimental effects on migrant children. Families separated at the border face significant challenges in contacting each other. The Arizona Daily Star told the story of a mother who “covered her eyes with her hands as tears streamed down her cheeks” as she wondered if she would ever see her children again.”  

    Despite all of this, only three of the five Sunday shows, ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Fox News' Sunday With Chris Wallace, and NBC’s Meet the Press failed to discuss immigration whatsoever. CBS's Face the Nation did discuss the Trump administration’s separation policies with Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mark Meadows, and briefly mentioned them again during a panel discussion.

    The only Sunday show to mention the missing children was CNN’s State of the Union during a roundtable discussion. During the show, CNN contributor Rick Santorum called news of the missing children “hyperbole to try to create an issue."

  • 10 people were killed in the Santa Fe shooting. Cable news moved on almost immediately.

    Six days after 10 people were murdered in a school, cable news devoted less than 5 minutes of coverage to the attack

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER & GABBY MILLER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On May 18, a 17-year-old student opened fire at Santa Fe High School in Texas, leaving 10 people dead and 13 people injured. It took less than a week for CNN, Fox, and MSNBC to drop mentions of the school shooting and its aftermath almost entirely from their news cycles. What started as wall-to-wall coverage on cable news on the day of the shooting dropped to less than five minutes of coverage a week later on all three channels combined.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Wall-to-wall coverage: The day of the shooting, May 18

    News of the shooting first emerged across cable networks at around 9:20 a.m. on May 18, and the networks gave frequent updates on the emerging details throughout the next hour and a half. By 11 a.m. all networks were covering the shooting continuously. Fox News quickly blamed the seemingly never-ending cycle of school shootings on violent video games and mental health and called for installing armed guards at schools and giving guns to teachers. MSNBC’s initial coverage tapped into local news outlets periodically and mostly focused on the unfolding facts of the shooting. CNN’s coverage was similarly focused on the emerging facts, with some speculation about the mental health of the shooter.

    The networks continued their wall-to-wall coverage throughout most of the day, and it dominated CNN’s prime-time and evening shows as well. MSNBC’s coverage started to wane during the 4 p.m. hour: The shooting was still dominating the discussion, but it wasn’t the sole story covered. Similarly, Fox News started to cover other stories during its 5 p.m. show. Fox News and MSNBC devoted significantly less time to the shooting during their evening programming than CNN did.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A drastic drop: Weekend coverage, May 19-20


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    By the next day, coverage of the shooting had drastically declined. CNN went from over nine hours of coverage of the massacre on Friday to just under one hour of coverage on Saturday -- in large part due to the network’s coverage of the wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle. Fox News, which covered the shooting for over seven hours on Friday, dedicated just over two and a half hours to the story on Saturday. And while MSNBC spent nearly seven hours on the shooting on Friday, the channel dedicated a little less than three hours to it on Saturday. On Sunday, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC covered the shooting for 1 hour and 33 minutes, 2 hours and 15 minutes, and 1 hour and 20 minutes, respectively.

    The royal wedding seemed to suck the oxygen from the coverage of the shooting, and the focus on Santa Fe never quite recovered. CNN’s coverage on Saturday consisted solely of hourly segments between noon and 7 p.m. And while Fox and MSNBC devoted more attention to the shooting and its aftermath than CNN did on Saturday, there was still a significant drop in coverage.

    Fading from the news cycle: The next week, May 21-24

    The following Monday, just three days after the Santa Fe shooting, each cable news network devoted just a little over an hour to the shooting, totaling 3 hours and 50 minutes. By Tuesday, the networks spent just under 37 minutes combined on the shooting. On Wednesday, the coverage was down to under nine minutes combined. And by Thursday, less than a week after the shooting took place, Fox, MSNBC, and CNN devoted less than five minutes combined to the shooting and its aftermath.

    Out of the three cable channels, MSNBC has been the worst in giving continuing coverage to the shooting and its aftermath. The network’s coverage from Tuesday to Thursday totaled just 1 minute and 36 seconds. On Thursday, MSNBC didn’t mention Santa Fe at all.

    One would think that with questions about how to stop the epidemic of school shootings still unanswered, coverage of the massacre would last more than several days. One would be wrong.

    Just one week has passed since the attack -- which was the 22nd school shooting this year -- but the sense of urgency and alarm about this ongoing crisis has already faded. Networks have moved on to covering fake “spy” scandals, other happenings in the Trump/Russia investigation, and other stories de jour. It says a lot about our society when a mass school shooting fades from our national dialogue in less than a week. In part, it reflects and contributes to the normalization of and desensitization to mass shootings in America. In January, when 16 students were shot in a school shooting in Kentucky, cable news devoted just 16 minutes to covering the rampage the day it happened. There was speculation in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, FL, in February that news coverage would take mass shootings at schools more seriously. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. 

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream transcripts of CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC for mentions of the word “school” within 10 words of any variation of “shoot,” “Santa Fe,” or “Texas” between 4 a.m. and midnight starting on May 18, the day of the shooting, and ending on Thursday, May 24.

  • Don’t believe anything NRATV says

    The National Rifle Association's media outlet sent a pro-censorship message on social media and then went ballistic when people called it pro-censorship

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    NRATV, the National Rifle Association’s media operation, caused a stir on Twitter Thursday afternoon after sending a tweet that read, “It's time to put an end to this glorification of carnage in pursuit of ratings because it's killing our kids. It's time for Congress to step up and pass legislation putting common sense limitations on #MSM's ability to report on these school shootings."

    The tweet immediately generated outrage, which is understandable given that it appeared NRATV was promoting the notion that Congress ought to limit how the press can report on gun violence. NRATV, however, had taken itself out of context. The tweet was promoting a video narrated by NRATV host Colion Noir that ultimately concluded that such action by Congress would be wrong.

    Viewers could be forgiven for not sitting through the four-minute video given its painfully bad logic. It essentially equated Congress passing a law to limit how the press could cover shootings to Congress passing a law that regulates gun ownership. This is of course nonsensical given that rights protected by the Constitution are regulated in different ways, something that Noir, a law school graduate, should know.

    Prohibiting the press from reporting on shootings would constitute prior restraint, which would violate the First Amendment. Regulations on firearms, however, are typically permissible under the Second Amendment.

    The 2008 landmark Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller found that the Second Amendment protects the right of law-abiding individuals to have a handgun in the home for the purpose of self-defense. The ruling means that total gun bans are unconstitutional. However, many other regulations are permissible. As Heller’s majority opinion, written by conservative Antonin Scalia, stated, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”

    Federal courts have repeatedly upheld laws banning assault weapons, for example. According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “courts across the country have rejected the overwhelming majority of Second Amendment challenges initiated since Heller,” finding that myriad regulations comport with the Second Amendment right.

    This is all unimportant to NRATV, which crowed about the controversy and was clearly pleased with the result of its dishonest ploy. Noir wrote on Twitter, “I hate to humble brag but My recent  video just exposed how our mainstream media refuses to watch a 4min video in its entirety before reporting on it and pushing their agenda.” Apparently without irony -- given that NRATV took itself out of context -- NRATV’s Twitter account promoted a tweet from The Washington Times that read, “NRATV host Colion Noir enraged critics on Thursday who were eager to use an out-of-context tweet on de facto media control as a serious argument.” During the May 25 broadcast of NRATV, host Grant Stinchfield said of the media, “We here at NRATV set a trap, and they got caught,” adding that it "borderlines on criminality when it comes to the way they abuse the First Amendment."

    Promoting obviously false information is a tactic at NRATV, which has fabricated congressional testimony during its broadcasts to attack its political opponents and even once quoted a satire article published by the NRA’s magazine that was clearly labeled “fiction” as if it were serious in order to encourage people to vote for Donald Trump on Election Day.

    Chillingly, NRATV has actually supported anti-First Amendment measures as part of its pro-Trump efforts, particularly when it comes to the freedom of the press and the right to assemble. While branding itself as a news source, NRATV clearly does not act in good faith and should be thought of less as a legitimate journalism operation than as a propaganda outlet.

  • Jews News, a site that pushes fake news, is run by a man who defended the KKK following the Charlottesville protest 

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    An American-born man who has defended the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, VA, runs a website that has repeatedly spread fake news and linked to fake news websites.

    The site, called Jews News, was founded and is run by a man named Eliyokim Cohen, who grew up in Boston, MA, before moving to Israel. In a 2017 interview, he claimed that his site is “an aggregator” of “conservative news” that takes “snippets of articles from all over the world” to “inundate people’s [Facebook] walls with the truth” and to give those linked sites “free traffic,” adding that the media are “about as unreliable as you can get now.” The site has a large following on Facebook, with nearly 1.5 million followers, and calls itself “the world’s largest and most active Jewish Facebook page.”

    Yet contrary to Cohen’s claim about sharing “the truth,” the site has repeatedly posted and linked to fake stories from fake news sites, including the notorious YourNewsWire and Neon Nettle, and some sites based in foreign countries. In fact, fact-checker PolitiFact has called Jews News itself a fake news site. Cohen has also spammed his aggregated stories into a Facebook group to increase their spread. Some of the fake stories and fake news sites the site has pushed include:

    Cohen also used the site to defend the Ku Klux Klan following the far-right gathering in Charlottesville, writing that he was “actually standing with the KKK on Charlottesville” because “left-wing Antifa thugs” targeted them. He also claimed that liberals were causing America to follow “the same path as Nazi Germany in the 1930’s.” On Facebook, Cohen has also criticized “B C and D list Hollywood 'celebs' jumping on the bandwagon and claming (sic) sexual assaults from 10 years ago” and “black dipsh*ts in the NFL” for not focusing on “black on black crime.”

    Cohen’s site has also run numerous anti-Muslim fake stories. He wrote on Facebook that “suicide by Islam” is now a “Swedish pastime” (and called the country “Swedistan”), posted that the United Kingdom “deserves to be conquered by Islam,” and questioned, “Does anyone think opening borders to deadbeat Muslims is a good idea?” Cohen’s anti-Muslim aggregated fake stories and stories from fake news sites include:

    • a fake story, which he helped revive, that British Muslims had demanded people not walk their dogs in public, which was also shared by a Toronto Sun columnist;

    • a now-longstanding fake story that the Supreme Court had banned Islam in public schools, which the site’s Facebook page called a “common sense” action;

    • a fake story from fake news site Conservative Daily Post that Georgia had banned “Muslim culture”;

    • a false story that “civil war” had begun in Sweden after people burned down Muslim refugee centers;

    • a post from a fake ABC News site that Muslims said they would leave the United States due to Trump’s election, which the site’s Facebook page posted, writing, “Aight, GTFO,” short for “get the fuck out”;

    • a fake story from a fake news site based in Macedonia that thousands of Muslims left the United States after Trump’s election, which the site’s Facebook page posted, writing that Trump was “already doing his job”;

    • a fake story from Conservative Daily Post that Muslim refugees declined to work because they said it was against their religion to “perform labor” for Americans;

    • a false story that a Syrian man with four wives and 22 kids received nearly $400,000 in welfare in Germany;

    • a false story that German Chancellor Angela Merkel “bow[ed]” to Sharia law and allowed child marriages for Muslims, which the site’s Facebook page posted, writing, “Germany will not exist in 10 years”; and

    • a false story that Muslim refugees took over a Tennessee town, which the site’s Facebook page also posted, writing, “America is going Muslim.”

    Additionally, the site has posted multiple articles pushing birtherism and has pushed baseless claims that former first lady Michelle Obama is a man, that Barack Obama is gay, and that their children are adopted.

    Nearly every single page on the site carries Google AdSense (whose ads include the tag “AdChoices” at the top right), meaning that the site is monetizing its fake and false stories, even though AdSense’s content policy bars its ads from being placed on pages promoting hate speech and from pages “enticing users to engage with content under false or unclear pretenses.”

  • Pro-Trump pundit Steve Cortes says he went “to CNN partly at the suggestion of the White House itself and the president himself"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    CNN political commentator Steve Cortes, who regularly appears on the network to praise President Donald Trump, recently said that he “went over to CNN partly at the suggestion of the White House itself and the president himself.”

    CNN hired Cortes in January as one of its pro-Trump political commentators. He previously did stints at Fox News and CNBC and worked as a surrogate for Trump’s 2016 campaign. Fox News reported in March that Cortes interviewed for the still-vacant White House communications director position “but is considered a dark horse.”

    Cortes joined CNN despite previously criticizing the network as “fake news” and attacking both on- and off-air CNN employees for alleged bias against Trump. His commentary for CNN is unsurprisingly a parade of misinformation and over-the-top support for Trump.

    Cortes explained his reasons for working at CNN during a May 17 appearance on the New Orleans-based WGSO-AM radio program Ringside Politics. The Republican commentator said that he “went over to CNN partly at the suggestion of the White House” and Trump. From the program:

    JEFF CROUERE (HOST): Steve, my condolences for having to work at CNN and my real, just -- my heart goes out to you and I just want to know how in the world, Steve, can you do that?

    STEVE CORTES: Right. Well, it’s a very different job. I used to be at Fox News, which was a whole different world. I went over to CNN partly at the suggestion of the White House itself and the president himself because -- and I wanted to do it also because I saw a narrative there that I thought was unfair to the president, and I want to try to be a counter voice. I want to be an alternative voice on CNN and I hope a voice of reason. So I hope that I am over there, to put it in sort of religious terms, I hope I am winning over some pagans. And some of the unchurch folks.

    While Cortes said that “CNN has been great to me,” he agreed with host Jeff Crouere’s criticism that CNN’s guest lineup is unfair to Trump.

    STEVE CORTES: And honestly, I will say this. Look, CNN has been great to me, has certainly given me a platform. I like a lot of the people there even though I clearly don’t agree with what they say on air. But, for instance, today I’m going to be on three times and, believe me, I’m going to be advocating strenuously for the president’s position and for the renewal of this country, which I think is already happening and is going to accelerate going forward.

    JEFF CROUERE: Well, let me congratulate you on working in that environment and being able to put up with all of that. Whenever I see a CNN panel it’s like one token conservative surrounded by four or five liberals.

    CORTES: Right.

    CROUERE: Or they’ll have some Never Trump Republicans on there who hate the president even more than the Democrats do.

    CORTES: Right. And that often happens. Right.

    CROUERE: And it just seems like it’s totally skewed and unbalanced.

    CORTES: If it’s a four-person panel they’ll say it’s two Republicans and two Democrats but the problem is at least one of the Republicans despises President Trump.

    Cortes’ path to a CNN job has some similarities to that of former commentator Jeffrey Lord, who, as CNN reporter Brian Stelter noted, was “the first explicitly pro-Donald Trump commentator to join the network, back in August 2015.”

    The New York Times Magazine's Jonathan Mahler reported last year that after Trump appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 in 2015, the Republican "complained to CNN that his interviews on the network were always followed by conversations among panelists who all seemed to hate him. The network asked Trump to suggest the names of some people who would defend him. One of those whom he mentioned was Jeffrey Lord. … Lord made his CNN debut in July 2015. Two weeks later, CNN offered him a job as the network’s first pro-Trump contributor. (CNN said it was already considering Lord and that Trump’s suggestion had no effect on their decision to hire him.)” CNN fired Lord in August 2017 after he tweeted a Nazi salute at Media Matters President Angelo Carusone.

    Numerous observers have criticized CNN for hiring pro-Trump commentators. Carlos Maza, a former Media Matters staffer who now produces Vox’s Strikethrough video series, wrote in April 2017: “CNN’s Trump supporters derail segments critical of the president, misrepresent Trump’s positions to avoid tough questions, and peddle false and misleading information on national TV while being paid by the network. In many cases, CNN’s Trump supporters repeat the same lies and talking points that CNN’s serious journalists spend all day trying to debunk. That might explain why Trump has quietly pushed his surrogates to appear on CNN, even while publicly feuding with the network.”

    As Maza noted, BuzzFeed reported in March 2017 that “Trump has harsh words for CNN publicly, but he also is telling key surrogates to get airtime on the network.” According to the article, “Trump had advice for [one] surrogate, who now works at a rival network. ‘Looking to 2018 it would be better for us if you dive back into that fire at CNN,’ the source recalled the president saying. Trump offered to help get the surrogate on CNN.”

    Media Matters asked CNN for comment on Cortes’ remarks about his hiring but did not receive a reply.

  • Black man's work, white man's credit: Fox’s Stuart Varney credits Trump for an Obama-era economic trend

    Varney claims April 2018’s record median household income is a stark contrast compared to “a dead flat line” under Obama, except the upward trend began in 2014 thanks to Obama.

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the May 24 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney trumpeted a report showing last month had the highest median U.S. household income since January 2000, which Varney called a “direct result of President Trump’s policies.” However, the growth seen under Trump is a continuation of a trend begun during the Barack Obama administration -- even though Varney falsely claimed there was no household income growth under Obama.

    STUART VARNEY (HOST, VARNEY & CO.): President Trump's growth policy, his growth program, is working. We are gradually returning to prosperity. And it is the direct result of President Trump's policies. He has gone for tax cuts, he has gone for deregulation, and he has turned the economy around. And with it, he has turned around that feeling of prosperity that households have. That graphic you just showed: January 2017, $59,400 median household income. Half the population more, half the population less. OK. Fast-forward to April 2018, you’re up $2,000 per household. Three percent higher in, what, 15 months. That compares to a dead flat line throughout the eight Obama years. We are returning to prosperity because of President Trump's policies.

    Varney’s bizarre claim that median household income was “a dead flat line throughout the eight Obama years” is a fabrication. Household income fell because of the George W. Bush-era Great Recession, which Obama’s policies began to reverse. The median household income Varney congratulated Trump for is the latest data point in a consistently upward trend that began during the Obama administration, in late summer 2014. More broadly, data shows that median household income has generally been trending upward since summer 2011. 


    Image via TalkMarkets

    As The Washington Post’s Nicole Lewis explained in December 2017, members of the Trump administration, including Trump, like to brag about the economy and assign him outsize credit for it. However, due in part to the complexities of the economy and the pace of rolling out presidential policy, Trump’s economic policy has yet to fully impact the nation, whereas “we are probably still feeling the effects of policies laid out by the previous administration.” 

    Regular readers of The Fact Checker know we automatically award Two Pinocchios to anyone (editorials included) who gives sole credit to a president for economic improvements. That’s because the U.S. economy is complex, and the decisions of companies and consumers often loom larger than the acts of government.

    Moreover, it usually takes time and effort for presidential policies to work their way through the country. One year into the presidency, we are probably still feeling the effects of policies laid out by the previous administration.

  • On Rising Up with Sonali, Media Matters’ Sharon Kann talks about study on cable news abortion coverage

    Kann: “Fox News is seizing on the opportunity to flood out other” prime-time coverage on abortion

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    During the May 22 edition of Rising Up with Sonali, Media Matters’ Sharon Kann talked to host Sonali Kolhatkar about Media Matters’ annual study examining abortion coverage on prime-time evening cable news.

    Media Matters analyzed evening prime-time news programs on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN from March 1, 2017, through March 1, 2018, and identified segments featuring a substantial discussion of abortion and reproductive rights. The resulting 211 segments were then coded for the number of accurate or inaccurate statements made about four abortion-related topics: the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), abortion funding rules, Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and so-called “extreme” abortion procedures. Media Matters found that Fox News dominated the conversation about abortion -- airing 114 of the 211 total segments across all cable news networks (54 percent) -- and that its coverage of the four abortion-related topics was inaccurate 77 percent of the time.

    Kann spoke about how “Fox News is seizing on the opportunity to flood out other” prime-time coverage on abortion with rampant misinformation, explaining that such coverage is “stigmatizing”:

    SONALI KOLHATKAR (HOST): Now, Fox News is spending a lot of time on abortion. Conversely, do you find that other news outlets, other cable news outlets, even so-called liberal ones, are just not spending enough time on abortion?

    SHARON KANN: Yeah. I actually think that was one of the most interesting findings from the study this year, which is that, like you said, it's not just that Fox News is talking about abortion the most, it’s that their sort of volume of coverage is being met by a lack of coverage by other organizations. And so, it’s not just a matter of Fox News is talking about abortion the most and also the least accurately, it’s that other organizations aren’t seizing on opportunities to talk about abortion in frank, fair, and factual ways. And that results in a combination of lots of stigmatizing coverage and lots of inaccurate coverage, but then also instances where, when they do talk about it, it’s only spoken about in terms of it is like a political football issue rather than as a necessary form of health care.

    KOLHATKAR: Right, and I’m wondering if that stems from our taking for granted that there is widespread support for access to abortion in the public, and so liberal news outlets feel like they don’t need to talk about it, they don’t need to clarify medical terms or expose how the right talks about it. That it’s just taken for granted that there is this support for abortion, but then with Fox News filling in that gap you see a very vocal minority having an outsized impact on politics and the discourse in general.

    KANN: Definitely. I think, like you said, we have polling, and we understand that Americans are more largely in support of abortion access and, in particular, when people understand the circumstances that someone will access abortion care under, they are more likely to support access to that care. On the flip side, we have Fox News and other right-wing members of this echo chamber who are seeking out these conversations, not to invite the voices of people who have had abortions or might have abortions, but instead to sort of forward coverage that isn’t factual. And so I think something that other outlets can be doing a better job of, in that I think Fox News is seizing on the opportunity to flood out other coverage on, is centering people who’ve actually had abortions and making sure that we’re not just talking about abortion as something to be considered in the context of midterm elections or as a matter of a private decision, but we’re also talking about it as centering the people who’ve actually had abortions.

    KOLHATKAR: So, there were four common abortion-related topics that you alluded to earlier. What are some of the other issues, you said “partial-birth abortion” was one of them. I remember this becoming an issue even during the [2016] presidential debates some. So, one would hope that the more liberal news outlets would take this on and clarify it that, as you said, this isn’t really a medical recognized term. But Fox News talks about it like it’s a real thing -- that we’re aborting essentially fully-formed babies.

    KANN: Right, Fox News does, not just with “partial-birth” abortion, but with lots of allegations of allegedly “extreme” abortion procedures is how we referred to them, and that captures any number of inaccurate representations, but I think it’s also important not to let off the hook other outlets who are maybe not doing enough to debunk these claims. So, I think the example you alluded to with the presidential debate, we saw that during that time even when other networks were discussing the things that had been said in the debate, they weren’t going the extra step to say, “This was said in the debate. Here’s where the term comes from. It was actually invented by anti-abortion activists to shame and vilify people having medically necessary later abortions,” but they instead took it for granted that that was an actually thing. And so, even when people maybe are trying to provide further context to something that was said, making sure to provide necessary debunk and citing the opinions of experts as well.

    KOLHATKAR: Let’s talk about Planned Parenthood, and this real lack of information about the government’s role in taxpayer or tax funds for abortion. I think if you talk to Fox News viewers or people who exclusively watch Fox News, they might be under the impression that their tax dollars go towards funding abortions in states around the country. Is that true, and how does Fox News sort of cover that?

    KANN: That is not true. The Hyde amendment exists, and it is a federal rule that prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars or any federal funds to support abortion services with a couple of exceptions … . Fox News, however, does not recognize this. You’ll hear Fox News, other right-wing outlets, and even anti-abortion organizations frequently saying that we need to create further protections against so-called taxpayer funded abortion. And something that they’ll often say to support this is that, even if money isn't being given to Planned Parenthood to fund abortions, that because Planned Parenthood and other providers may provide abortion services, that money is fungible, which is inaccurate and doesn’t account for the number of safeguards that people have to show where they are actually spending the money.

    Watch the full interview HERE for further information about Media Matters’ study and media coverage of abortion and reproductive rights issues.

  • ICE director again retreats to Fox & Friends to garner sympathy for his agency's demonization of immigrants

    Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan has led an agency that wrongfully classifies people as gang members to justify detaining and deporting non-criminals

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    On May 24, Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), appeared on Fox News’ Fox & Friends where he faced no scrutiny over his agency’s practice of wrongfully categorizing undocumented immigrants as gang members as an impetus to detain or deport them. The interview came just days after a U.S. district judge ruled that ICE had falsely accused Daniel Ramirez Medina, an undocumented immigrant who was protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, of being “gang-affiliated” in order to strip him of his protective status. The hosts did not mention the case and instead, showed Homan sympathy and support:

    Fox has repeatedly gone to bat for Homan, offering him a safe space to avoid tough questions and spreading his agenda-motivated lies in its immigration coverage. Homan’s appearance today was just the latest example of the network’s effort to shift undeserved sympathy to federal immigration agents and obscure the ICE’s heinous abuse of power.

  • Fox News added more female hosts but still had the same abortion misinformation problem

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT & SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    When Media Matters last crunched the numbers on Fox News programming responsible for the most abortion misinformation, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Tucker Carlson were unsurprisingly the worst culprits. However, as allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against O’Reilly (and other network figures including Eric Bolling) and he was eventually fired, Fox News transitioned to an evening lineup with more female hosts -- Shannon Bream, Martha MacCallum, and Laura Ingraham. But this change has not come close to fixing the network’s abortion misinformation problem.

    Media Matters analyzed evening prime-time news programs on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN from March 1, 2017, through March 1, 2018, and identified segments featuring a substantial discussion of abortion and reproductive rights. The resulting 211 segments were then coded for the number of accurate or inaccurate statements made about four abortion-related topics: the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), abortion funding rules, Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and so-called extreme abortion procedures. We found that Fox News dominated the conversation about abortion -- airing 114 of the 211 total segments across all cable news networks (54 percent) -- and that its coverage of the four abortion-related topics was inaccurate 77 percent of the time. And 44 percent of its 114 segments were aired on programs Bream, MacCallum, and Ingraham anchored.

    The shows Bream, MacCallum, and Ingraham hosted had 107 statements about the four abortion-related topics, out of which the hosts either personally spread -- or gave a platform to those spreading -- anti-abortion misinformation 76 times (71 percent). Here’s a sample of what each host has offered her viewers in the last year:

    Shannon Bream

    Overall, Bream made 30 appearances on Fox News where a substantial discussion of abortion occurred. Although Bream entered the prime-time lineup when she started hosting her own show, Fox News @ Night, on October 30, 2017, she had previously regularly appeared as a guest or a correspondent during The First 100 Days and Special Report. Bream individually made 35 total statements about CMP, abortion funding rules, Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and so-called extreme abortion procedures. Of these 35 statements, 23 contained misinformation (66 percent).

    As Media Matters documented after Fox News @ Night debuted, Bream appears well-attuned to the talking points and interests of the anti-abortion movement; an anti-abortion leader even celebrated her promotion, tweeting that Bream “covers Life issues with fearlessness and fairness.” Since then, Bream has promoted anti-abortion talking points and myths -- suggesting they were simply concerns she “heard from a lot of pro-life groups” -- including by asking a misleading question about taxpayers paying for the abortions of undocumented minors who come to the United States.

    As a host, Bream has been consistent in repeating misinformation about anti-abortion group CMP, which engaged in a smear campaign against Planned Parenthood by releasing deceptively edited videos. Just as she had done repeatedly in the past, Bream promoted CMP and said its actions caused Planned Parenthood to become “mired in scandal” and that CMP’s videos showed “Planned Parenthood officials discussing pricing for fetal body parts and tissue left over after abortions.”

    Martha MacCallum

    MacCallum made 14 appearances in Fox News segments that had a substantial discussion of abortion. All these segments were on the two Fox News programs she hosted during the study period -- The First 100 Days and The Story. During those appearances, MacCallum made nine statements in total about CMP and so-called extreme abortion procedures, all of which were inaccurate (100 percent). MacCallum also frequently relied on extreme and stigmatizing rhetoric about abortion.

    When discussing CMP, MacCallum often treated the discredited organization and its deceptive smear videos as credible sources of information. For example, during a March 2017 segment of The First 100 Days, MacCallum not only played a long excerpt from one of the videos, she also said that it was “still hard to watch,” implying that it accurately depicted that Planned Parenthood was engaged in the sale of fetal body parts. In an interview with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), MacCallum focused on Blackburn’s phrasing in one of her campaign ads, which Twitter briefly blocked her campaign from promoting. In the ad, Blackburn referred to her time on the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, saying, “I fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts.” Instead of questioning Blackburn on her inaccurate phrasing or talking about the smear campaign that Blackburn and the panel had engaged in against Planned Parenthood, Bream accepted her narrative, saying, “You fought hard, as you say, to ban the sale of baby body parts. I mean, it’s such a difficult phrase even to say and I think you’ve fought very hard for it.”

    Similarly, during a July 2017 segment on The Story, MacCallum pushed several myths about the existence and widespread practice of so-called sex-selective, late-term, and full-term abortions. In reality, these are inaccurate descriptions of abortion, created by anti-abortion groups to vilify those accessing legal health care. In one example, MacCallum said that an Oregon bill (now law) that ensured protection of reproductive rights for all -- including undocumented immigrants -- would allow for “sex-selective” and “late-term, even full-term, abortions for an illegal immigrant.” MacCallum continued to push the misinformation, asking her guest, political commentator Danielle McLaughlin, whether she thought it was “OK for someone to decide because they don’t like the sex of their baby to abort it at eight months” and demanding to know, “Why would any state want to pass a law that would allow that?”

    Laura Ingraham

    During the study period, Ingraham made 10 appearances in Fox News segments where there was a substantial discussion of abortion. Like Bream, Ingraham started hosting her own show, The Ingraham Angle, on October 30, 2017, and before that, she had also occasionally appeared as a guest on Special Report and Hannity. Although Ingraham made only three statements total about the four abortion-related topics, two of these statements were inaccurate (67 percent).

    Despite only making 10 appearances during the period of study, Ingraham made a splash with her frequent use of alarmist and stigmatizing rhetoric. In one appearance, Ingraham called Planned Parenthood a “monstrosity of killing.” A December 2017 segment of The Ingraham Angle may be the most bewildering segment of the year about abortion. It started as a fairly regular Fox News segment about abortion, with Ingraham fearmongering that because of a court decision to allow undocumented minors abortion access, the United States would become “an abortion magnet.” Then, Ingraham insisted that a picture of a baby be put up on screen and demanded that her guest, attorney Rachel Self, “look at the screen.” Self calmly explained that she was unable to see the image because she was not in studio. Undeterred, Ingraham escalated the situation and eventually cut Self’s mic off, saying, “I can’t hear her talking over me.”

    Fox News added more female hosts to its prime-time lineup, but having greater gender representation didn't translate to accurate and nuanced coverage of abortion. Bream, MacCallum, and Ingraham show that a push for gender parity in the cable news world cannot happen in a vacuum and must go hand-in-hand -- particularly for abortion-related issues -- with a commitment to frank, fair, and accurate coverage.

  • A short history of phony anti-Trump conspiracy theories

    Right-wing media help Trump spin lies about the Russia investigation, and it’ll only get worse

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump has moved beyond Twitter griping and is using the powers of his office to try to discredit the Russia investigation. This past weekend, Trump demanded that the Department of Justice “look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration.” He met with top DOJ officials on Monday to pressure them to start an investigation into their own department’s investigation of Trump’s campaign.

    To observers outside the conservative media bubble, Trump’s directive was a critical moment of this presidency. “The president has now crossed one of the brightest red lines in the American rule of law: demanding the Department of Justice open a politically motivated investigation designed to sabotage the criminal and counterintelligence probe into the president’s own campaign,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said on his show Monday. Charlie Savage of The New York Times wrote that Trump “inched further toward breaching an established constraint on executive power: The White House does not make decisions about individual law enforcement investigations.”

    The significance of Trump’s action is compounded by the fact that even the president and his subordinates acknowledge that this notion that the Obama administration acted inappropriately is just speculation. But it would be extremely convenient for Trump and his defenders if it were true -- or perceived to be true -- which is why he’s ordered this investigation.

    It's crucial to view this attempt by the White House to assert the existence of an anti-Trump cabal within the government in context: It's the latest in a series of fraudulent and debunked attemps to push such a claim. Trump’s demand that his investigators be investigated rests on a foundation of lies that was built with the critical assistance of a credulous and complicit right-wing media.

    Let’s run through all the major conspiracy theories that brought us to this point.

    Wiretapping 

    The effort by Trump and his defenders to deflect attention from the Russia investigation onto the previous administration started with this early-morning tweet from March 2017:

    It was a deathly serious allegation for the president to make, and it was completely false. Top Justice Department officials denied the allegation, a DOJ court filing affirmed that there are “no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets,” and the president has not produced any evidence to back up his accusation.

    Nonetheless, Trump’s defenders in the conservative media contorted themselves to try to prove Trump was right, especially following House intelligence committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes’ March 22, 2017, press conference (which Nunes secretly coordinated with the White House) announcing that “surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

    Unmasking 

    Speaking of Nunes, he became the driving force behind the allegation that Obama administration officials had improperly unmasked the identities of Trump associates whose conversations were incidentally captured by intelligence agencies. Once again acting on information provided by the Trump White House, Nunes accused former national security adviser Susan Rice and other Obama officials of abusing the unmasking process. Rice acknowledged that she had requested certain identities, but congressional investigators from both parties said she’d done nothing wrong.

    The “unmasking” nonsense permeated conservative media and was presented as evidence of an Obama-led conspiracy to undermine Trump as president-elect. Trump himself told The New York Times that he believed Rice had committed a crime.

    “Secret society”

    This was an especially stupid fiasco kicked up by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX). The pair went on Fox News to reveal the existence of a text message exchange between two FBI agents sent the day after the 2016 election that referenced a “secret society” supposedly populated by anti-Trump law enforcement officials. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Senate homeland security committee, seized on the message to allege “corruption at the highest levels of the FBI.” Conservative media went absolutely crazy with the “secret society” allegation, holding it up as proof of a “deep state” conspiracy against Trump.

    The “secret society” turned out to be nothing more than an inside joke between the two agents.

    Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing”

    The White House’s deflection strategy rests on the idea that Barack Obama corrupted law enforcement agencies by directing them to investigate Donald Trump’s campaign as a way of undermining his candidacy. To that end, Republicans and conservatives are invested in demonstrating that Obama actively meddled in politically sensitive law enforcement business, such as the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    In February, Johnson’s committee released a report alleging that a text message from an FBI agent stating that Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing” raised “questions about the type and extent of President Obama’s personal involvement in the Clinton email scandal and the FBI investigation of it.”

    Once again, conservative media was driven to a frenzy, fueled partially by Trump’s tweet that the “NEW FBI TEXTS ARE BOMBSHELLS!” And, once again, it all turned out to be false -- the text in question referred to presidential briefing materials regarding the investigation into Russian election interference, not Clinton.

    FBI hid info from the FISA court 

    In February, Nunes’ committee released a memo that, according to the frantic hype that preceded its release, would reveal rampant surveillance abuses committed by intelligence agencies against the Trump campaign. Chief among the alleged abuses was the accusation that the FBI had illicitly obtained a warrant to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page by concealing from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court the political origin of some of the evidence it cited in its application.

    Right-wing media figures like Sean Hannity called this “Watergate times a thousand” and said the FBI “lie[d] to a foreign intelligence surveillance court.” Trump tweeted that the memo “totally vindicates” him and showed the Russia investigation to be “an American disgrace.”

    It was a lie -- the political origin of the evidence was indeed disclosed in the FBI application -- and Nunes and his Republican colleagues admitted as much in the days following the memo’s release.

    What emerges from all this is a damning picture of a Republican political operation -- involving the White House and key members of Congress -- to concoct blatant falsehoods and conspiracy theories, and a conservative media apparatus that readily absorbs and rebroadcasts that propaganda. At a certain level, behavior like this is to be expected -- these same characters spent all eight years of the Obama administration cobbling together ridiculous conspiracy theories about Benghazi, the former president’s birthplace, and a secret military invasion of Texas.

    There is a key difference, however, in all the lying about the Russia investigation. These conspiracy theories are defensive. Most conservative pundits will describe the Russia investigation as a threat to the very fabric of American government; they recognize the extreme danger it poses to Trump’s presidency. Trump himself has no discernible legal strategy. Instead, he’s fighting a public relations campaign and casting himself as the victim of a “witch hunt.”

    These attacks on the legitimacy of the investigation are the only weapon they have against it. And as the investigation exposes Trump to more and more legal and political peril, the conspiratorial attacks on the Justice Department and the Obama administration become more strident. Trump used to be content to vent on Twitter about the Russia investigation, but now he’s using the weight of his office to give life to an evidence-free accusation of political persecution.  

    Trump relies on the conservative media’s unthinking support as he wages this increasingly unhinged campaign. He needs to hear the hosts of Fox & Friends chirp every morning about how each new phony “bombshell” about the Russia investigation vindicates him. He needs to chat with Sean Hannity every night before bedtime about how Robert Mueller is out to get him. But Trump is only going to get more frustrated as each increasingly elaborate falsehood fails to produce the desired outcome, and that means the coordinated lying and conspiracy-mongering are only going to get worse as the investigation moves forward.