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  • National broadcast TV news mentioned climate change in less than 4 percent of California wildfire coverage

    While ABC, CBS, and NBC again dropped the ball, local TV news programs in California brought up climate change numerous times during wildfire reporting

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Meliss Joskow / Media Matters

    This month’s catastrophic California wildfires garnered significant media coverage, with major national news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC airing more than 100 segments about the unfolding disasters. But Media Matters found that just 3.7 percent of those segments mentioned the link between climate change and worsening wildfires. That's a minuscule improvement over their coverage of Western wildfires this summer, when the networks incorporated climate change into less than 2 percent of their segments.

    On the local level, TV news programs on California stations included discussion of climate change in numerous segments about the ongoing wildfires. News shows on major TV network affiliates in the state’s three largest media markets aired 44 episodes that addressed how climate change exacerbates wildfires.

    Climate change is a critical factor contributing to the growing severity of wildfires in the United States, according to researchers. Scientists have documented an increase in both the number of large fires and the total area burned per year in the U.S. Fifteen of the 20 largest wildfires in California’s history have occurred since 2000, as rising temperatures in the West have lengthened wildfire season by several months. Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist and dean of the University of Michigan’s environmental school, told The Associated Press that the increasing severity of fires is “much less due to bad management and is instead the result of our baking of our forests, woodlands and grasslands with ever-worsening climate change.”

    NBC mentioned climate change in just two segments, while ABC and CBS each made only one mention

    The three national broadcast TV networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- aired 107 segments about the California wildfires on their major morning and evening news programs from November 8 to 13. Only four of these, or 3.7 percent, included discussion of climate change. NBC aired two of the segments that mentioned climate change, while ABC and CBS aired one each.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Both of NBC’s climate change mentions came from weather anchor Al Roker on the November 12 episode of Today. During the show’s 7 a.m. hour, Roker discussed the factors that have made the fires so bad: “July was the hottest month ever recorded in California. That hot weather dries out the vegetation. They’ve had no rain to speak of really in the last three months. Parched conditions. And this is all due to climate change.” He noted that the annual number of large fires in the state has more than tripled since 1970, and that there have been six times as many acres burned per year on average since then. He made many of the same points in a later segment during the same episode. Here's the first segment:

    CBS’ climate change mention came on the November 11 episode of CBS This Morning, during a segment by WCBS New York weather anchor Lonnie Quinn. He said researchers believe that “both forest management and the changing climate play a role” in worsening wildfires. “California’s temperatures have increased 2 to even 3 degrees over the last century," he explained. "Making matters worse, there was a five-year drought from 2011 to 2016. That drought killed more than 129 million trees. That's just fuel for the current fires that are out there."

    ABC's coverage was the weakest, seeming to downplay the effect of climate change on the wildfires. On the November 10 episode of ABC’s Good Morning America, anchor Eva Pilgrim said to ABC senior meteorologist Rob Marciano, “It seems like these fires are getting worse and worse every year. Is this climate change? What’s the deal with all this?” Marciano responded, “This summer we saw excessive heat waves and drought in some cases, you can link a little bit of that to climate change. But this is a Santa Ana season, so this is not unusual to get winds blowing flames like this, and this is a dry season as well.”

    Even this fleeting mention of climate change is a slight improvement for ABC, which rarely brings up climate change at all in its coverage of extreme weather. During this past summer's dramatic wildfire season, ABC's coverage didn't mention climate change a single time, and the network made no mention of climate change earlier this year in its coverage of both a deadly heat wave and Hurricane Florence.

    CBS and NBC also did poorly when it came to incorporating climate change into their reporting on this summer’s wildfires in the Western U.S., even though they didn't completely strike out like ABC. From June 21 to September 21, the main morning and evening news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 471 segments discussing the wildfires, and only nine of them, or 1.9 percent, mentioned climate change -- six on CBS and three on NBC.

    California local news shows mentioned climate change numerous times in their wildfire coverage

    Media Matters also analyzed news coverage of the wildfires on local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox in the three largest California media markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland, and Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto. From November 8 to 13, we found 44 news show episodes that mentioned climate change in relation to the wildfires -- 16 in Los Angeles, and 14 each in the Sacramento and San Francisco areas. Over half of these episodes featured a clip of California Gov. Jerry Brown blaming climate change for the destructiveness of the wildfires during a November 11 press conference.

    One example of such coverage came from Los Angeles’ KTTV Fox 11 noon news program on November 12. The segment was wholly focused on Brown's comments about climate change and wildfires:

    A more muddled example aired on Sacramento’s KXTV ABC 10 Morning Blend show. The segment discussed a tweet from President Donald Trump that blamed the fires on poor forest management. The hosts noted Brown's comments about climate change, then invited viewers to take a poll and vote for either forest management or climate change as the bigger contributor to the fires. Most of the poll takers selected forest management:

    Both of these segments would have been better if they had informed viewers of what scientists and other experts actually say: Climate change is a significant contributor, and, in the case of the current fires, forest management is not.

    Still, it's notable that many local news stations made a point of discussing climate change in the context of the fires. Local stations have a greater responsibility than national ones to report on the immediate dangers that wildfires pose to their community members, including evacuation orders and specific details about how fires spread. And yet this month in California, many local programs still found time to report on how climate change worsens wildfires. There's no excuse for national networks not to do the same.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis and iQ Media for broadcast network TV news segments that covered wildfires using the search terms wildfire(s), forest fire(s), or fire(s), and then we searched within those segments for mentions of climate change or global warming. Our analysis covered morning news shows (ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today) and nightly news shows (ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News) from November 8-13. For local California coverage, we searched IQ Media for news shows between 4 a.m. and midnight on affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox in the media markets of Los Angeles, San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland, and Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto.

  • Sinclair stations are airing a dramatic special fearmongering about socialism, and it’s hosted by former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Local TV news stations controlled by the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group recently began airing a “special program” hosted by former Trump aide and current Fox News contributor Sebastian Gorka called Inside Socialism. In the 30-minute show -- which appears to be the first episode in a multipart series -- Gorka tells the audience he will “take an in-depth look at the appeal of a system that promises equality to all and what happens when the initial enthusiasm gives way to a sobering reality.”

    The program kicks off with stylized footage of a hammer and sickle being forged in flames and then clips of speeches by Democratic socialists Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Virginia state Del. Lee Carter, and New York Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, much of it set to ominous music.

    It is not understated.

    Gorka spends the majority of rest of the program discussing the history of various regimes across the globe, framed to show what happens when socialism goes wrong. The final block of the program features a package on Brazil’s political future from Sinclair reporter Jonathan Elias. A version of that package ran earlier in November as part of conspiracy theorist Sharyl Attkisson’s weekly Sinclair program Full Measure.

    Gorka signs off by saying he will “continue to follow the developments on this important issue” and telling viewers to “join us next time for another edition of Inside Socialism.”

    According to the iQ media database, the program aired on at least 18 Sinclair-owned or -operated local news stations between November 10 and November 13. Some clips featured in Inside Socialism -- none with Gorka -- have also been repackaged and posted on various Sinclair station websites under Elias' byline. 

    The special was produced by a company called Cisneros Media, which has helped create similar special programming for Sinclair in the past. A press release from a similar project from 2016 suggests Sinclair provided input on the programming’s content and that the program may air on more than 100 Sinclair stations nationwide.

    A separate special hosted by Gorka, called The Rise of Terrorism: A Clash of Cultures, aired on numerous Sinclair stations in March. In that program, footage labeled as "ISIS propaganda" and shots of terror attacks are followed by Gorka asking viewers, "Can the the teachings of Islam and western values ever be reconciled? Is it possible for the waves of refugees arriving in the west to assimilate and coexist peacefully?" At one point, b-roll footage is shown of a protest sign that says "Rapefugees." 

    A Sinclair-contracted spokesperson did not respond to a question about whether Gorka is an employee, though he has appeared in the company’s programming in the past. Last year, Gorka participated in a gun violence town hall for Sinclair’s Washington, D.C., station, WJLA, and made headlines for saying he believed “Black Africans” were killing each other “by the bushel.” In March, he appeared in a nationally aired news segment produced by Sinclair reporter Kristine Frazao about the so-called “deep state.”

    Gorka is best known for having parlayed his brief tenure in President Donald Trump’s administration into a right-wing pundit career despite his lack of expertise or qualifications -- and for his connections to the Hungarian Nazi-linked group Vitezi Rend. Last January, Gorka wore a Vitezi Rend medal to the Trump inaugural ball; by November, he had become a "national security strategist" for Fox News.

    And Gorka is not the only former Trump aide who can broadcast commentary on local news stations across the country thanks to Sinclair, either. In 2017, the media giant hired former Trump campaign and White House staffer Boris Epshteyn to serve as its chief political analyst. Epshteyn, who may be legally barred from criticizing the president, produces near-daily “must-run” segments for Sinclair stations that often defend Trump’s actions, mimic the president’s lines of attack on members of the press, or provide administration and Republican Party officials with platforms to push their messages.

  • Fox's obsession with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Since New York Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ primary win in June, Fox personalities have spent a remarkable amount of time and energy focusing on her. The network has complained about her platform (Medicare for everyone, green jobs, housing as a human right, women’s rights, etc.), claimed Democrats support her only “because she’s a woman,” and generally devoted breathless coverage to the newly elected congresswoman from Queens and the Bronx. Here’s a sampling:

  • Trump’s Fox propagandists are trying to scuttle the bill to protect Mueller

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox hosts with close ties to President Donald Trump are denouncing Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) legislative effort to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, blasting the senator for insufficient loyalty to the president and claiming his bill is unnecessary because Trump has said he does not plan to curtail the probe.

    Trump forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions last Wednesday, replacing him with Matthew Whitaker, a Trump loyalist who had frequently criticized the Mueller investigation before joining the Justice Department. In response, a bipartisan group of senators tried to pass legislation to protect the probe yesterday, but they were blocked by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who argued that the bill was unnecessary because Trump has said he does not intend to fire Mueller.

    Flake, a co-sponsor of the bill, has said that he will not vote to advance judicial nominations in the closely divided Judiciary Committee or support them on the floor until the legislation receives a floor vote.

    The president’s Fox propagandists responded with fury last night.

    Trump confidant and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs argued that the “great president deserves the support of all Republican officeholders” and those pushing the Mueller bill are “separating themselves from his agenda and making, really, some rather silly and preposterous noises rather than standing tall and shoulder-to-shoulder with the president.”

    Sean Hannity, a close adviser to the president who appeared at a Trump election rally last week, smeared “Sen. Jeff Snowflake” for having “again today exposed himself, well, not as a conservative.” The Fox News host condemned Flake for “threatening the president” in support of a bill that “supposedly protects Mueller from being fired by the president, which isn't happening,” and said that the senator “should be ashamed” for “blocking conservative judges, breaking a promise to the people you represent in Arizona.”

    And Laura Ingraham, who was once considered for the post of White House press secretary, told her Fox News audience Flake was “trying to further harm his party before he leaves.” She asked Fox News contributor Andrew McCarthy about whether the bill is unconstitutional and discussed with former independent counsel Ken Starr the “young lawyers” whose confirmations will be put on hold due to Flake’s move. All three agreed that there is no real threat to the Mueller probe.

    Since Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, Fox hosts including Dobbs, Hannity, and Ingraham have told their audiences night after night that his work is illegitimate and intended to damage the president and that it should be halted as soon as possible. Now that the president is taking steps to curtail the probe, they are doing everything they can to prevent any action to stop him.

  • 40+ times the Trump administration specifically targeted Jim Acosta and CNN

    In response to First Amendment lawsuit, White House insists Acosta's recent ban has nothing to do with the content or viewpoint of CNN's reporting

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CNN and its chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta have sued President Donald Trump and various administration officials for violating the First Amendment when Acosta was banned from the White House. The lawsuit specifically notes that the president and White House officials have shown animus toward the media in general, and CNN and Acosta in particular. In response, the president’s lawyers have claimed the White House has not demonstrated the type of content and viewpoint discrimination that is impermissible under the First Amendment. The evidence indicates otherwise. 

    Throughout the first year of his presidency, Trump and his administration attacked various media outlets and journalists more than 400 times, specifically targeting CNN verbally and on Twitter dozens of times. The attacks on the media didn’t let up in 2018. These facts and the 42 examples of the Trump administration’s attacks on Acosta and CNN gathered below support the network's complaint that the Trump administration took action against Acosta and CNN for the “contents of their reporting”:

    Trump: “Jim Acosta is a very unprofessional man. … I don’t think he’s a smart person.” [Faceba.se, 11/9/18]

    Trump: “So funny to see the CNN Fake Suppression Polls and false rhetoric.” [Twitter, 11/5/18]

    Trump: “CNN and others in the Fake News Business keep purposely and inaccurately reporting that I said the ‘Media is the Enemy of the People.’ Wrong!” [Twitter, 10/29/18]

    Trump: “Facebook has just stated that they are setting up a system to ‘purge’ themselves of Fake News. Does that mean CNN will finally be put out of business?” [Twitter, 10/21/18]

    Press secretary Sarah Sanders: “Can’t imagine why @CNN has such low ratings when during the day they break from live coverage to show reruns.” [Twitter, 9/4/18]

    Trump: “CNN is working frantically to find their ‘source.’ Look hard because it doesn’t exist. Whatever was left of CNN’s credibility is now gone!” [Twitter, 8/30/18]

    Trump: “The hatred and extreme bias of me by @CNN has clouded their thinking and made them unable to function. But actually, as I have always said, this has been going on for a long time. Little Jeff Z has done a terrible job, his ratings suck, & AT&T should fire him to save credibility!” [Twitter, 8/30/18]

    Trump: “CNN is being torn apart from within based on their being caught in a major lie and refusing to admit the mistake.” [Twitter, 8/29/18]

    Trump: “Look at the lie that Fake CNN is now in. They got caught red handed! Enemy of the People!” [Twitter, 8/29/18]

    Trump: “If you are weeding out Fake News, there is nothing so Fake as CNN & MSNBC, & yet I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed.” [Twitter, 8/18/18]

    Sanders on the White House canceling national security advisor John Bolton’s interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper: “Actually a @CNN reporter disrespected @POTUS & PM May during their press conf. Instead of rewarding bad behavior, we decided to reprioritize the TV appearances for administration officials.” [Twitter, 7/14/18]

    Trump: “So funny! I just checked out Fake News CNN, for the first time in a long time (they are dying in the ratings), to see if they covered my takedown yesterday of Jim Acosta (actually a nice guy). They didn’t! But they did say I already lost in my meeting with Putin. Fake News.” [Twitter, 7/14/18]

    Trump: “Real @FoxNews is doing great, Fake News CNN is dead!” [Twitter, 6/2/18]

    Trump: “The Washington Post and CNN have typically written false stories about our trade negotiations with China.” [Twitter, 5/16/18]

    Trump: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “is a lying machine who now works for Fake News CNN.” [Twitter, 4/28/18]

    Trump: “Check out the fact that you can’t get a job at ratings challenged @CNN unless you state that you are totally anti-Trump? Little Jeff Zuker, whose job is in jeopardy, is not having much fun lately. They should clean up and strengthen CNN and get back to honest reporting!” [Twitter, 4/3/18]

    Trump: “The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The Fakers’ at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!” [Twitter, 4/3/18]

    Trump: “Bad ratings @CNN & @MSNBC got scammed when they covered the anti-Trump Russia rally wall-to-wall. They probably knew it was Fake News but, because it was a rally against me, they pushed it hard anyway. Two really dishonest newscasters, but the public is wise!” [Twitter, 2/20/18]

    Trump: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!” [Twitter, 1/17/18]

    Acosta: Sanders “issued a warning to me. She said if I asked a question of Trump at the bill signing ‘I can't promise you will be allowed into a pool spray again.’ Sorry Sarah.. we won't be intimidated.” [Twitter, 12/12/17]

    Trump: “I seldom, if ever, watch CNN or MSNBC, both of which I consider Fake News.I never watch [CNN’s] Don Lemon, who I once called the ‘dumbest man on television!’ Bad Reporting.” [Twitter, 12/11/17]

    Trump: “CNN’S slogan is CNN, THE MOST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS. Everyone knows this is not true, that this could, in fact, be a fraud on the American Public.” [Twitter, 12/9/17]

    Sanders on news that CNN will boycott a White House Christmas function: “Christmas comes early! Finally, good news from @CNN.” Trump quote-tweeted her, adding: “We should boycott Fake News CNN. Dealing with them is a total waste of time!” [Twitter, 11/28/17, 11/29/17]

    Trump: “We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!” [Twitter, 11/27/17]

    Trump: “CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!” [Twitter, 11/25/17]

    Trump: “While in the Philippines I was forced to watch @CNN, which I have not done in months, and again realized how bad, and FAKE, it is. Loser!” [Twitter, 11/15/17]

    Trump: “People are just now starting to find out how dishonest and disgusting (FakeNews) @NBCNews is. Viewers beware. May be worse than even @CNN!” [Twitter, 10/12/17]

    Trump: “NBC news is #FakeNews and more dishonest than even CNN. They are a disgrace to good reporting. No wonder their news ratings are way down!” [Twitter, 10/4/17]

    Trump: “Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!” [Twitter, 10/11/17]

    White House staffer Dan Scavino: Acosta “loves to seek attention & make the news all about himself.” [Twitter, 9/15/17]

    Trump to Acosta: “I like real news, not fake news. You’re fake news.” [Fox News, Shepard Smith Reporting, 8/14/17]

    Then-Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka: Acosta is a “grandstanding” reporter. [The Daily Caller, 8/3/17]

    Trump adviser Stephen Miller during a press briefing: “Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you've ever said. … It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree.” [Media Matters, 8/2/17; Politico, 8/2/17]

    Trump tweeted a video of him knocking over a person with CNN logo imposed on his face: “#FraudNewsCNN #FNN.” [Twitter, 7/2/17]

    Trump: “I am thinking about changing the name #FakeNews CNN to #FraudNewsCNN!” [Twitter, 7/1/17]

    Trump: “I am extremely pleased to see that @CNN has finally been exposed as #FakeNews and garbage journalism. It's about time!” [Twitter, 7/1/17]

    Then-press secretary Sean Spicer about Acosta: “I think some of these reporters are more interested in their YouTube clips than they are in getting factual news.” [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 6/25/17]

    Trump: “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn't tell the truth. A great danger to our country. The failing @nytimes has become a joke. Likewise @CNN. Sad!” [Twitter, 2/24/17]

    Trump: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” [Twitter, 2/17/17]

    Trump to Acosta: “Your ratings aren’t as good as some of the other people that are waiting.” [WhiteHouse.gov, 2/16/17]

    Trump to Acosta: "I sort of understand there's a certain bias" at CNN. [WhiteHouse.gov, 2/16/17]

    Trump: “I watch CNN — it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.” [WhiteHouse.gov, 2/16/17]

  • White supremacists directly linked to pro-Trump media figure Jack Posobiec. Here’s what you need to know about him.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Jack Posobiec, a conspiracy theorist and consummate pro-Trump media figure who often boasts of his access to the White House and other MAGA celebrities, worked as recently as 2017 with white supremacists who advocate for violence. Posobiec has a long record of extremism and ratfucking: He was an outspoken advocate of the “alt-right,” published a book with the help of an “alt-right” figure, and pushed all kinds of smears and misinformation for political gain.

    Posobiec reportedly had links to Jeffrey and Edward Clark, two white supremacist brothers. Jeffrey Clark was arrested by federal authorities in Washington, D.C., for gun charges after relatives contacted authorities about his support for last month’s mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. As reported by HuffPost, Posobiec teamed up with the brothers in 2017 to film documentary footage; a source provided an image of Posobiec alongside the brothers. HuffPost also reported that anti-fascist researcher Laura Sennett said Jeffrey Clark had told her Posobiec both knew of his Nazi beliefs and was sympathetic to them.

    Posobiec is currently a host for One America News Network, a right-wing news outlet that specializes in sycophantic coverage of President Donald Trump and conspiracy theories. He previously worked for far-right Canadian outlet Rebel Media. Posobiec achieved his standing in the MAGA media universe by embracing the “alt-right”​ and its public figures during the 2016 presidential election and, like many other grifters, eventually rebranding as a member of the “New Right” after the extremism of the “alt-right” made associating with it too toxic.

    Despite his continued efforts to sanitize his role in spreading the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, Posobiec repeatedly broadcast to his social media followers and to Infowars audiences the baseless claim that a D.C. pizza restaurant served as a front for a child trafficking ring, showed up at the pizza parlor himself to “investigate,” and then claimed that the arrest of a gunman who also showed up at the pizzeria was a “false flag.”

    Posobiec’s ratfucking record includes spreading forged documents tied to Russia purporting to be then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s emails; planting a “Rape Melania” sign at an anti-Trump protest to smear activists; and doxxing one of the women who reported that she was sexually assaulted as a minor by defeated Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Posobiec was an administrator in a racist Facebook group that promoted Republican candidates and pushed far-right conspiracy theories.

    He has built his brand by promoting attention-grabbing stunts that masquerade as activism, such as disrupting a theater presentation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that he deemed to promote political violence, filing a civil rights lawsuit over all-female screenings of Wonder Woman, and trolling a congressional press conference on net neutrality to demand that Democratic senators disavow “satanic” internet pornography. He also gleefully participated in an online harassment campaign that resulted in CNN journalist Andrew Kaczynski receiving death threats.

    Posobiec has ridden every controversy and subsequent media coverage to increase his visibility and online followers. He’s used that branding for political access and promotion of his personal business endeavors, which include his self-congratulatory book about the movement that took Trump to victory, and his most recent book, published with the help of with “alt-right” figure Theodore Beale, who writes under the pseudonym Vox Day. Posobiec promoted this book by linking to Vox Day’s website, a depository of white supremacist grievances.

    Posobiec’s clout in the MAGA social universe has risen high enough to earn him a retweet from Trump himself (when Posobiec wrote an accusatory tweet aimed at the media for focusing too much on the 2017 white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA) and allow him access to the White House. He used temporary White House press credentials in May 2017 to push the debunked conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered for leaking DNC emails.

    In his role as OANN correspondent, Posobiec regularly showcases his access to pro-Trump celebrities (including Donald Trump Jr.) and his presence at White House and Trump Hotel social functions. Meanwhile, he’s used his OANN platform to hype smears from the defendant in the Seth Rich lawsuit, as well amplify the wild conspiracy theory known as QAnon, giving virulent far-right troll Microchip a platform and taking his word at face value that he is the anonymous poster known as Q. Microchip is an anonymous and prolific user of Gab -- the social media site known for being “haven for white supremacists” -- where he constantly posts white supremacist grievances and anti-Semitic and racial slurs and invites followers to “fuck shit up” legally by pushing and spreading the misinformation campaign QAnon.

    It is clear that Posobiec’s history of extremism, peddling of conspiracy theories, and ties to white supremacists are not a problem for the network that employs him, nor for the pro-Trump universe that has enabled his professional career. In that universe, misinformation and extremism are not deal breakers. They’re assets.

  • The fatal police shooting of Jemel Roberson disproves the NRA’s favorite myth

    NRATV struggled to not admit the obvious

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The fatal police shooting of an armed and trained security guard outside a bar, after he stopped a gunman from opening fire, provides further proof that the “good guy with a gun” myth peddled by NRATV is just that: a myth.

    On November 11, 26-year-old security guard Jemel Roberson “apprehended an alleged gunman” outside an Illinois bar, holding him on the ground at gunpoint until police arrived. According to witnesses, bar patrons were yelling to officers that Roberson was security, while officers demanded he drop his firearm before fatally shooting him. An investigation is underway.

    The National Rifle Association and its media outlet have long peddled the narrative that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun and they have frequently suggested that the victims of mass shootings could have saved themselves had they been armed. During the November 13 edition of NRATV’s Relentless, NRA spokesperson and host Dana Loesch referred to Roberson as “a good guy with a gun, one of those individuals that anti-gun advocates love to pretend do not exist.”

    Loesch admitted the incident made her “worry a little bit” as a concealed carrier, and she questioned what good guys should do when they’re “that close” to the gunman “and law enforcement shows up.” NRA-certified instructor and frequent NRATV guest Guy Relford responded that there is “no perfect choice” between exposing “yourself to the risk of the known bad guy who is underneath you that you’re holding, or exposing yourself to the risk of being shot by police officers”:

    DANA LOESCH (HOST): I worry about this as, you know, a concealed carrier, I worry about this as someone who -- you know, I’ve done a lot of training, and I always make sure that I have my skills up to speed if heaven forbid, you know, I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it in that situation. But I’ll be frank with you, stories like this make me worry a little bit. And not just for -- you know, for all Americans, Black Americans, white Americans, men and women, because this is one of the -- I think, one of the concerns that concealed carry holders have. So, how should concealed carriers look at this particular story and -- because, again, it makes me worried and if I’m feeling a little nervous about this, I would imagine other people are too.

    GUY RELFORD: If you can possibly avoid it, you do not want to have a gun in your hand when responding police officers show up, even if you’re the good guy. Now, here, he’s holding someone, you know, against their will. Did he have the ability to put that gun away or not have that gun in his hand or get that gun back in the holster before police officers arrived? And again, I don’t want to second-guess anyone without having more facts, but if there was any opportunity to get that gun out of his hand, not in the sight of police officers when they show up, we always want to try to do that because unfortunately this isn’t the first time that someone survived a potentially deadly attack and was completely lawful in what they did, but lost their life because of confusion by responding police officers.

    LOESCH: I am so glad that you brought that up, Guy, because in all of these -- and I’m sure that you can talk a little bit about this, last question for you, in some of the cases that you’ve handled, because normally in everything that I’ve read, whenever there’s been a defensive gun usage and someone is holding someone, there’s some distance there. You know, there’s at least five to three feet between the individuals. This -- I mean Roberson was on this guy, he had his knee on his back, and that makes it a little bit harder for him if this -- and who knows if this guy still -- we don’t even know if this guy still -- the criminal still had his gun in his hand. We don’t know that either. And then police show up -- you don’t really have a lot of time to make sure you’re in a safe position. If that criminal can access that firearm immediately, you kind of -- so, I don’t want to speculate, but at the same time, it’s such a rare instance, it’s a very difficult spot for anybody to be in when they’re doing the right thing. I mean, he was a security guard, he wanted to be on the police force, he had some training, so he knew what he was doing up until a certain extent. That gets into a real kind of gray area, what do you do when you’re that close and law enforcement shows up and maybe the perp still has his hand on the gun?

    RELFORD: Yes, and sometimes there may just be no good decision. I mean, there is no perfect choice between choosing whether you’re going to expose yourself to the risk of the known bad guy who is underneath you that you’re holding, or exposing yourself to the risk of being shot by police officers.

    Even though NRATV continually pushes the “good guy” narrative, statistics and anecdotal commentary from law enforcement repeatedly prove armed citizens rarely stop mass shootings or violent crime incidents. In 2016, the Dallas police chief anecdotally stated that this type of civilian action creates more confusion for responding officers. And a 2000-2013 FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents -- in which “individuals [were] actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in populated areas” -- found that only four incidents were stopped by armed security guards and one was stopped by a licensed and armed citizen, whereas 21 incidents were stopped by unarmed citizens. A 2015 analysis by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that the likelihood of people sustaining an injury during a robbery didn’t change based on whether or not they were armed.

  • STUDY: NY Times, Wash. Post coverage of caravan plummets after midterms

    News stories referencing the caravan drop by more than half post-elections, front-page ones by more than two-thirds

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    In the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, The New York Times and The Washington Post filled their news pages with reporting about a caravan of migrants moving through Central America and Mexico toward the United States. The caravan was more than 1,000 miles from the U.S. border -- a journey of several weeks on foot -- and shrinking. But President Donald Trump, in a series of demagogic statements aimed at bolstering GOP chances in the elections, warned that the caravan constituted an “invasion” and a national emergency, and the Times and Post allowed him to set their news agendas.

    After the election, Trump largely stopped talking about the caravan, and the coverage of the subject in those papers plunged.

    In the eight days before the election, the Times and Post ran a total of 84 news stories in their print editions mentioning the caravan, putting 25 on the front page. In the eight days since, they ran 39 such stories, only eight of which ran on A1. That’s a decline of roughly 54 percent in news stories and 68 percent in front-page news stories.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    I wrote about this coverage the Friday before Election Day, noting that many of the articles were laudable on their merits -- they told the migrants' stories, debunked presidential lies and conspiracy theories, and highlighted facts that undermined Trump’s demagoguery. But taken together, their sheer volume couldn’t help but to fuel his fearmongering and make it impossible for other important pre-midterm stories to break through.

    The papers are still producing valuable reporting on the topic -- about the migrants’ journey, the administration’s response of deploying U.S. soldiers on the border and taking executive action to limit asylum, and Trump’s own slackening interest in the caravan, among other angles. But with the elections over and in the absence of regular comments from the president, they are publishing much less of it, and they’re giving the stories they do publish less prominent placement.

    Newspaper resources, column inches, and front-page real estate are all limited -- the amount of each that a paper devotes to particular stories reveals its editors’ priorities and signals to the public which issues are important. The Times and Post appear to have given the caravan outsized coverage when Trump was fixated on it, and now that he isn’t, the papers are providing the issue with substantially less attention.

    The Post has published a total of 109 articles in its print A section mentioning the caravan since it formed, putting 24 of those articles on the front page. The paper ran 48 such articles, during the eight days before the election, 13 of them on the front page; those numbers dropped to 20 and three in the eight days after the election, a decline of 58 percent and 77 percent, respectively. Before the election, the paper published five or more articles referencing the caravan on 10 different days. Since the election, it has done so twice.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Times has published a total of 88 articles mentioning the caravan in its print A section, putting 24 of those articles on the front page. During the eight days before the election, the paper ran 36 such articles, putting 12 on the front page; those numbers dropped to 19 and five in the eight days after the election, a decline of 47 percent and 58 percent, respectively. Before the election, the paper published five or more articles referencing the caravan on six different days. Since the election, it has done so once.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The massive print coverage of the caravan story leading up to the election echoed the story’s dominance on cable news.

    Fox led the way, providing more than 33 hours of coverage through Election Day, with the network’s hosts spurring and echoing the president with apocalyptic, conspiracy theory-minded rants about the coming “invasion.” But the day after the election featured no discussions whatsoever focused on the caravan, while the network spent four minutes and 57 seconds covering the story the day after that.

    After Trump took Fox's advice and tried to turn the caravan into an election issue, CNN and MSNBC also devoted hours and hours of programming to the story. As with the papers, these cable networks produced far more critical coverage of the story, but they nonetheless focused their attention on the subject Trump wanted to discuss. And in the same manner as the Post and the Times, the volume of their reporting has dropped substantially since the election.

    As I wrote before the election, the facts about the caravan neither matched Trump’s crisis narrative nor justified the saturated coverage the story received. Since then, the “first wave” of the caravan has reached the U.S. border (most of the migrants are still 1,000 miles away), while the administration has imposed radical new asylum restrictions in response. But while those factors suggest that the caravan has become increasingly newsworthy on its merits, the Post and Times have produced fewer articles mentioning it and put fewer on their front pages.

    These results strongly suggest that for these newspapers and cable networks, the newsworthiness of particular issues is strongly tethered to whether Trump is publicly commenting on them. Whatever he’s talking about quickly becomes the most important story in U.S. political journalism. And once he stops commenting on it, the story falls out of the headlines.

    Reporters might respond to this criticism by saying that the president’s comments are always newsworthy. But that sentiment is not reflected in actual news coverage -- the closing days of the 2014 and 2016 election cycles were both dominated by Republican attacks on Democrats, not by President Barack Obama’s commentary.

    Moreover, under the current president, that argument cedes substantial power over the public debate to a notorious liar and conspiracy theorist. Journalists should carefully consider what that means. By allowing Trump to serve as their assignment editor, decision-makers at newspapers and cable news channels are ignoring critical issues in favor of covering what the president wants to talk about.

    This is an ongoing crisis in political journalism, and it won’t end unless journalists heed the lessons of the last few years and learn how to respond when conservative leaders try to manipulate them in bad faith in order to focus the public’s attention where they want it. That will require them to make independent calls on what deserves coverage and how much, rather than following the whims of Trump and his ilk.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the Nexis database for New York Times and Washington Post articles mentioning the caravan between October 12 and November 14. We included articles from only the print editions of each paper, and we limited the results to articles from the news (A) sections; articles from editorial, opinion, op-ed, business, sports, and other sections were excluded. For the November 7 edition of the Post, which was not available in the Nexis database as of publication, two Media Matters researchers independently reviewed a hard copy of the paper’s A section.

    Shelby Jamerson contributed research

  • Anti-LGBTQ forces warn that Colorado's first openly gay governor is a threat to Christians

    As Colorado Gov.-elect Jared Polis makes history, an anti-LGBTQ group and right-wing media outlet have dubiously attempted to pit religion against the LGBTQ community

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media outlet The Daily Wire have used the successful campaign of Colorado Gov.-elect Jared Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor, to push a false narrative pitting religion against the LGBTQ community. Specifically, they have leveraged the story of anti-gay Colorado baker Jack Phillips -- who went all the way to the Supreme Court in a case involving his refusal to bake a cake for a gay couple -- to say that the state is persecuting Christians and that Polis’ election would result in religious people losing their rights.

    Extreme and influential anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom represented Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. The Supreme Court narrowly ruled in Phillips’ favor based on the particulars of the case, citing “inappropriate and dismissive comments” from one of the Colorado civil rights commissioners as “hostility” toward Phillips’ religion. Polis called the Supreme Court’s decision “disappointing, but thankfully narrow in scope,” adding that Congress should pass the Equality Act, a bipartisan federal bill that would amend civil rights protections in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, and other areas of life to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

    After Polis’ historic win, The Daily Wire’s Paul Bois published an article headlined “Colorado Elects First Openly Gay Governor In U.S. History As The State Persecutes Christians.” Bois highlighted Polis’ “commitment to LGBTQ principles” and wrote, “The ascension of Polis in Colorado comes at a time when the state has increasingly positioned itself as an enemy of religious liberty, most notably in its persecution of baker Jack Phillips.”

    Before Election Day, anti-LGBTQ group Family Policy Alliance also featured Phillips in a campaign ad against Polis. According to LGBTQ news outlet INTO, the ad said, “Assaults on Jack’s faith – and yours – could get even worse if Boulder’s own Jared Polis becomes governor,” and a statement released alongside the ad asserted that “the decision Colorado voters make will impact Jack Phillips and other people of faith in Colorado—and beyond—for years to come.” Family Policy Alliance sent an email promoting the ad on October 24, which claimed that Polis’ election “means that things could get even worse for Jack and other people of faith in Colorado.”

    The group deleted the ad within days and scrubbed references to the video from its website. A Family Policy Alliance spokesperson told Baptist Press on November 2 that the group “was no longer featuring Phillips in its ad online but was ‘pivoting to the next phase in our strategy with an ad that focuses on candidate Jared Polis and the threat to religious freedom he poses for people of faith in our state.’" That second ad, titled “Jared Polis vs. Freedom,” asserted that if elected, Polis would threaten “the freedom of people of faith throughout Colorado.” (During the 2018 election, Family Policy Alliance and its member group Massachusetts Family Institute worked extensively to undo a trans-inclusive nondiscrimination law in Massachusetts. The repeal effort failed.)

    The Family Policy Alliance ads and The Daily Wire’s story rest on the false premise that the LGBTQ community and people of faith are at odds, or that equal rights for LGBTQ people somehow result in the loss of rights for people of faith. Anti-LGBTQ figures often set up this “God vs. Gay” dichotomy to gin up sympathy for individuals and groups who wish to discriminate against LGBTQ people by citing their faith. But these figures, often right-wing evangelical Christians, do not represent all people of faith or even speak for all of Christians. The majority of Americans believe that homosexuality should be accepted -- including majorities of most religious groups. Almost 1,300 faith leaders filed an amicus brief defending the gay couple at the center of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and condemning the use of “religious freedom” arguments to discriminate against LGBTQ people. According to the brief’s press release, the faith leaders represented 500,000 congregants “from approximately 50 unique faith traditions across the U.S.” And though the Supreme Court ruled against the couple, the decision did not indicate how similar court cases should play out. But Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the baker in the case, is litigating several other cases that may determine whether businesses serving the public have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious exemptions.”

    Additional research by Brianna January.

  • Fox News president says his network "supports CNN," but Fox News personalities have been attacking CNN and Jim Acosta on air

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In the wake of the White House’s decision to pull CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass after a verbal spat with President Donald Trump during a press conference, and CNN’s subsequent lawsuit against the Trump administration to restore Acosta’s credentials, Fox News President Jay Wallace issued a statement saying his network “supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter's press credential.” But Wallace’s own on-air talent doesn’t seem to agree.

    In fact, several Fox News personalities praised the White House on air for revoking Acosta's hard pass and have been attacking Acosta personally. Sean Hannity said that Acosta's pass had been "rightfully revoked"; Laura Ingraham hosted Matt Schlapp, a frequent Fox guest and the husband of White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp, who called revoking the pass "the right decision"; and Fox contributor and former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie said that he was “so happy that the White House has revoked [Acosta’s] press credential.”

    Immediately following the November 7 incident, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace blasted Acosta’s “shameful” behavior. Fox Business hosts Stuart Varney and Trish Regan also went on to trash Acosta; Varney called him “a disgrace to the White House press corps” and Regan suggested that a background in sexual assault was useful for analyzing Acosta's interaction with the White House intern who attempted to wrestle the microphone from his hand during the contentious briefing. Laura Ingraham characterized Acosta’s attempt to ask a question of the president a “disgraceful performance,” and frequent Fox guests Diamond and Silk referred to Acosta as “the enemy of the people” and “the enemy of the truth.”