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  • Fox & Friends ignores Mick Mulvaney’s pay-to-play admission

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News’ morning show, Fox & Friends, completely ignored the bombshell report that Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, admitted that when he was a congressman he wouldn't meet with lobbyists unless they had made financial contributions to his campaign.

    On April 24, The New York Times reported that Mulvaney, while speaking at an American Bankers Association conference, encouraged banking industry executives to make donations to lawmakers to push their agenda. According to the Times, Mulvaney “revealed that, as a congressman, he would meet only with lobbyists if they had contributed to his [congressional] campaign.” The newspaper quoted Mulvaney saying, “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

    The next morning, Fox & Friends did not mention the story at all in its broadcast. The other cable news morning shows, CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, discussed the news in detail throughout the morning. While much of the coverage was critical of Mulvaney’s behavior, some pundits, including CNN’s David Gregory and Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, diminished his ethical pitfalls and blamed the American political system for allowing this type of corruption. Others correctly noted that these type of ethical scandals are particularly prevalent in the Trump administration.

    Fox & Friends has gone to great lengths to cover up other scandals in the Trump administration. The show has downplayed Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s ethics problems, avoided coverage of Trump aide Rob Porter’s reported domestic abuse, and attacked other media outlets for reporting on administration scandals.

  • Cable news outlets are largely ignoring Mike Pompeo’s anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ record

    While briefly mentioning these issues a few times, Fox News has never substantively discussed them

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Since President Donald Trump announced he would nominate current CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state, weekday cable news shows have virtually ignored Pompeo’s anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ history. MSNBC and CNN have made occasional note of his anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ record, but neither outlet has offered much substantive discussion of Pompeo’s bigoted views. Fox hardly mentioned Pompeo’s bigoted views and largely downplayed Democratic criticism of his record as manufactured outrage designed as an excuse to block his confirmation.

    But Pompeo’s record of espousing lies about Islam and denouncing LGBTQ rights has led some lawmakers to question whether he could credibly represent the United States as the country’s top diplomat to other nations.

    Pompeo has a cozy relationship with both renowned Islamophobe Frank Gaffney and the anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America, which awarded Pompeo its highest honor in 2016 for being “a steadfast ally.” Pompeo has also spread a number of lies about Muslims, calling them a “threat to America” and claiming that “they abhor Christians.”

    On LGBTQ rights, Pompeo has called the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage a “shocking abuse of power,” disparaged same-sex parents, attacked workplace protections and inclusion efforts for the LGBTQ community, and in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage, lamented that “we’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.” Pompeo also has ties to the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), having appeared on the group’s radio show at least six times, and has earned support from a number of other anti-LGBTQ hate groups.  

    Experts have explained that Pompeo’s views of Islam could hinder his ability to conduct diplomacy with Muslim-majority countries and even galvanize the followers of terrorist organizations. LGBTQ advocates have emphasized the secretary of state’s “crucial role” in advancing LGBTQ rights globally, noting that Pompeo’s confirmation could “result in the United States overlooking, minimizing, or ignoring even the most blatant examples of human rights abuses abroad.”

    From March 13 to April 23, Pompeo’s anti-Muslim views came up only three times on Fox News: two passing mentions on Shepard Smith Reporting and one on The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino when a guest chalked up the criticism to Democrats nit-picking in an effort to block Trump’s nomination. Comparatively, MSNBC had just eight mentions and CNN had six, the majority of which did not include details about Pompeo’s views. MSNBC aired one segment in which host Ali Velshi outlined how Pompeo has “chummed around with some very deeply anti-Muslim groups,” offering examples of Pompeo’s alarming history.

    As for Pompeo’s anti-LGBTQ record, it came up five times on Fox between March 13 and April 23, with no detailed discussion of the issue. MSNBC mentioned his anti-LGBTQ views briefly six times and discussed it at length just once in a panel. Similarly, CNN mentioned them briefly four times and held just one panel discussion that provided deeper context.

    Nearly every mention of Pompeo’s anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ views on Fox came with the suggestion that Democrats were raising the issue only to obstruct the confirmation of Trump’s nominee, a talking point that occasionally shined through on CNN as well. But Fox’s silence on Pompeo’s record was particularly jarring, with some Fox contributors using airtime to lobby senators to confirm him.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream between March 13 and April 23 for “Pompeo,” “Muslim,” “Islam,” “Frank Gaffney,” “ACT for America,” “Brigitte Gabriel,” “gay,” “LGBT,” “LGBTQ,” “homophobic,” and “same-sex” and counted all mentions of Pompeo’s anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ views on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC from 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays. 

    Brianna January contributed research to this report.

    April 24, 5:35 pm -- This post has been updated with two additional mentions.

  • How Sean Hannity has talked about Michael Cohen since the FBI raid

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    For four days last week, Sean Hannity attacked the April 9 FBI raid of Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s office and hotel room, all without disclosing that he is also a legal client of Cohen, as Cohen’s lawyers disclosed in federal court today.

    The New York Times reported that FBI agents were looking for records of payments to two women who say they had affairs with President Donald Trump years ago, Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford (also known as Stormy Daniels). They were also reportedly looking for communications between Trump and Cohen about a leaked Access Hollywood tape and records about Cohen’s taxi medallion business. Days later, CNN broke the news that the FBI seized recordings Cohen made of conversations with a lawyer who once represented both women. The Washington Post reported that Cohen is being investigated “for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.”

    The disclosure that the Fox News host is a client of Cohen was made by one of Cohen’s attorneys in court today, after Cohen’s lawyers said they contacted Hannity and he had not authorized the release of his name. Nonetheless, the court ordered Hannity’s name disclosed. As Politico explained, Hannity (and his guests) repeatedly criticized the raids without disclosing his own connection to Cohen until after it was made public in court.

    Hannity dedicated multiple segments of his Fox primetime show to criticizing the raid on Cohen each night from April 9 through April 12 (he spent the entire April 13 edition of his show covering Trump’s airstrikes on Syria.) Here's exactly what he said:

    April 9

    Hannity opened his show by saying the Michael Cohen raid is a declaration of “a legal war on the president.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): And this is a Fox News alert. President Trump's long-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, just had his office, his home, and his hotel that he was staying in raided by the FBI today in an early morning raid. Now, what that means is Mueller's witch-hunt investigation is now a run away (sic) train that is clearly careening off the tracks.

    [...]

    HANNITY: All right. Tonight, we have explosive new chapter in Mueller's partisan witch-hunt. Now, we have now entered a dangerous phase and there is no turning back from this.

    [...]

    Now, keep in mind. Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is now officially an all hands on deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the president of the United States. Now, Mueller and Rosenstein have declared what is a legal war on the president.

    Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said to Hannity that the Cohen raid “abused the law.”

    GREGG JARRETT( FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST): I think the president was right to be frustrated and angry. Americans should be outraged. This is an abuse of the system.

    You know, here you have an attorney general who should never have recused himself and seems to be rather incompetent on the matter. You've got corrupt acts by top officials at the FBI and you've got Rosenstein and Mueller who have abused the law and today was a perfect example of this.

    April 10

    Hannity said the Cohen raid was a declaration of “all-out political war against this president” and advised Trump to continue attacking Mueller and cease any negotiations with him.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): The so-called investigation to Russia collusion, it is now officially moved beyond its mandate into a political takedown of the president you elected, and it seems by any means necessary. Now, just a minute, we will uncover the shocking unfair two-tiered justice system in this country and we'll show you just how abusively biased and corrupt Mueller and his team of investigators are and that they have now declared an all-out political war against this president.

    [...]

    Frankly, the president needs to immediately start advancing the truth about who Robert Mueller is, what his mandate was, how far beyond his mandate is and about his entire team of Democratic donors. And, frankly, any negotiations that were going on with the president talking to Robert Mueller, that should probably likely end if it hasn't already, and the president and his legal team should be preparing to take this all the way to the United States Supreme Court. That's where we are tonight.

    Hannity and Jarrett agreed that the Cohen raid was a “trap” to provoke Trump into doing something rash.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Gregg, I'll start with you. You have referred to the seizing of Michael Cohen's attorneys as an affront to our legal system and our justice system.

    GREGG JARRETT (FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST): And it shows just how unprincipled Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein are. You know, they knew it was outside the scope of the authority of the special counsel, so they gave it to somebody else to do their dirty work. I suspect this was an effort to provoke the president into doing something [rash] that would hurt himself. But he's too smart for that, he's not going to do that.

    But -- think about what's it at risk here.

    HANNITY: Well, it's a trap. Don't you think it's a trap in a lot of ways?

    JARRETT: It's surely a trap, as is a trap of sitting down with Robert Mueller to answer questions.

    April 11

    Wannabe Trump lawyer Joe diGenova told Hannity the Cohen raid shows Rod Rosenstein and Mueller are “using a grand jury to terrorize people” and it’s “an abuse of power” that Rosenstein should be fired for.

    JOE DIGENOVA: Look, I must tell you, I find this raid of Mr. Cohen's office so appalling in every sense -- legal, ethical professional responsibility. What Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller have done is weaponized in an unconstitutional way the criminal investigation process which should be sacrosanct.

    And what they have done is they have conducted and are conducting now something that is called an in terrorem grand jury. They are using a grand jury to terrorize people. That is an abuse of power. Mr. Rosenstein is responsible for it.

    And while I agree with Alan wholeheartedly that Mr. Rosenstein cannot possibly ethically participate in this, it will make no difference to him because he now has an animus toward the president of the United States, which disqualifies him from the performance of his duties and Jeff Sessions should fire him tomorrow morning.

    Hannity said that the Cohen raid is “what we expect in Venezuela.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): All right as we continue with Joe diGenova and professor Alan Dershowitz, these tactics are not American. That's the point. This is -- this is what we expect in Venezuela. This is not the United States or anything.

    April 12

    Hannity cited the Cohen raid to smear Mueller’s investigation as an “overreaching witch hunt” and complained that liberals weren’t standing up for Cohen’s rights.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Now, we turn to some other developments, including those surrounding Robert Mueller's overreaching witch hunt. Former Federal Election Commission chairman, his name is Bradley Smith, he's a Republican appointed by President Clinton, is throwing cold water on the notion that Michael Cohen could or should be charged with a crime in connection to this whole Stormy Daniels payment.

    [...]

    So, now, it's actually moved into Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and the "Access Hollywood" tape and worse. And raiding the home of the president's personal attorney to find those issues, not about Russia -- at some point, I am wondering where is the left in this country? Where are the civil libertarians in this country?

    All transcripts are from the Nexis database.

  • Key Fox shows are ignoring the network’s damning interview with Scott Pruitt

    Ed Henry’s interview received more coverage on MSNBC prime time than Fox News prime time

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Seeking to recover from a storm of ethical scandals with a tour of conservative news outlets, embattled Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt sat down with Fox News’ Ed Henry for an interview yesterday afternoon. Pruitt was surely hoping for the same softballs he has regularly received on the right-wing network. But to his credit, Henry grilled the EPA director, pushing back on Pruitt’s defenses of his conduct. Journalists from other outlets have rightfully praised the interview, with MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle commenting, “Ed Henry, good on you,” after airing a portion of it this morning.

    Observers have largely been struck by the dog-bites-man quality of a Fox reporter savaging one of President Donald Trump’s top appointees. But a review of Fox’s coverage of the interview demonstrates that the story is a bit more complicated. A network that pulls off a widely praised, newsy interview generally trumpets it in every hour of its coverage. The Henry-Pruitt sit-down, however, has been either completely ignored or significantly downplayed on several of Fox’s most-watched broadcasts.

    In fact, during prime-time hours from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, MSNBC’s liberal hosts devoted more time to discussing Fox’s interview (roughly 14 minutes) than did Fox’s conservative ones (about nine minutes), according to a Media Matters review. Pruitt’s corruption just doesn’t fit the narrative of many of the network’s hosts, even when their own colleague is the one advancing that story.

    Ethical misdeeds have trailed Pruitt throughout his tenure at the EPA. The major recent allegations revolve around him racking up substantial costs to the taxpayer on first-class flights, paying below-market rent for a condo that is co-owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist, and exploiting a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act to raise the salaries of two top aides by tens of thousands of dollars against the wishes of the White House. Conservatives who appreciate that Pruitt has shredded important environmental regulations at EPA have rallied around him, even as Democrats and Republican members of Congress have called for his resignation.

    Pruitt defended his actions with regard to all the allegations under often-withering questioning from Henry.

    Portions of the interview first aired yesterday afternoon on Fox’s The Daily Briefing, and it also garnered substantial coverage that day on Special Report with Bret Baier, The Story with Martha MacCallum, and Shannon Bream’s Fox News @ Night.

    But the network’s two highest-rated programs, Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight, completely ignored the Pruitt interview, with the hosts instead devoting their programs to their usual paeans to President Donald Trump and attacks on “Big Tech,” Hillary Clinton, and the “fake news” media. Other Fox programs like Your World with Neil Cavuto and the panel show The Five also did not make time to talk about Pruitt.

    Meanwhile, over on MSNBC, Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow extensively discussed the Pruitt story, with each airing substantial portions of the Henry interview that his own colleagues had not mentioned.

    The third Fox prime-time show, The Ingraham Angle, did give Pruitt substantial airtime, with guest host Brian Kilmeade airing a chunk of Henry’s interview, discussing it with Henry, and leading a debate between conservative commentator Mollie Hemingway and Democratic operative Richard Goodstein about the story’s ramifications.

    But Kilmeade’s handling of the story nonetheless demonstrates the way the network’s right-wing hosts twist coverage to benefit conservatives. He introduced the story by claiming that the EPA director was “fighting back big time” after becoming “the latest Trump administration member targeted by the left and the mainstream media” and disparaging the “bizarre” criticism against him.

    The next day, on Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite morning cable news show, Pruitt coverage was limited to two airings of a 40-odd-second news brief* featuring a portion of the Henry interview. The program, which the president regularly watches, and which provides a hagiographic look at his presidency, often relegates damaging stories about the Trump administration to the news briefs segments.

    There’s no ideological reason for conservatives to support government bureaucrats using loopholes to funnel raises to their aides, or living large on the taxpayer’s dime, or getting cut-rate housing arrangements -- indeed, it’s easy to imagine the same Fox personalities savaging the same behavior under a Democratic administration.

    But with Trump in the White House, many of Fox’s hosts are willing to provide cover, even when their own network has the scoop driving the story.

    Shelby Jamerson provided additional research.

    CORRECTION: This piece originally stated that the Fox & Friends news brief aired only once. Media Matters regrets the error.​

  • Media outlets are citing a hate group in reports about Trump's planned census change for 2020

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Media outlets are citing the anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) in reports about the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which experts say will jeopardize its accuracy.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has called CIS founder John Tanton “the father of the modern nativist movement” and designated his organization a hate group because it “churns out a constant stream of fear-mongering misinformation about Latino immigrants.” Also contributing to the decision to designate was CIS' “repeated circulation of white nationalist and anti-Semitic writers in its weekly newsletter and the commissioning of a policy analyst who had previously been pushed out of the conservative Heritage Foundation for his embrace of racist pseudoscience.” CIS personnel have a record of making racist commentary and portraying immigrants as dangerous criminals. Yet, all too often, media outlets treat CIS as a credible voice in immigration debates, and they frequently fail to identify either its anti-immigrant views or its white nationalist ties.

    This is happening again in reports regarding the Trump administration’s announcement that it will add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. At least a dozen states oppose the move and have indicated they will sue the administration to prevent the question from being added, and census and civil rights experts have said adding such a question will reduce response rates from immigrants, jeopardizing the census’ accuracy. Yet CIS has defended the addition of a citizenship question, and news reports from both conservative and mainstream outlets are discussing the organization’s support of the Trump administration move.

    A Minnesota Star Tribune article quoted CIS, as did a column from the Boston Herald’s Adriana Cohen. D.C.’s ABC affiliate station WJLA (owned by the pro-Trump Sinclair Broadcasting Group) also cited CIS research, and ABC Radio’s D.C. affiliate WTOP briefly cited CIS’ defense of adding the citizenship question. Four different Fox News shows also cited CIS in their March 27 coverage of the census change: Happening Now, Outnumbered Overtime, The Daily Briefing, and Special Report. A March 28 FoxNews.com column defending the administration’s move linked to a CIS study. Fox host Laura Ingraham’s radio show hosted CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian on March 27 to criticize Democrats’ response to the move, and Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard extensively quoted CIS to justify adding a citizenship question to the census.

    Only WTOP and the Star Tribune mentioned CIS’ agenda, saying simply that the group “pushes for decreased immigration” and has “advocated for tougher immigration regulations.” But those descriptors hardly inform voters about CIS’ problematic origins or its continuing associations with white nationalists and other bigots. Legitimate media outlets should not cite anti-immigrant groups as sources of unbiased information at all -- and if they do, they should clearly label them as such.

  • Steve Doocy suggests adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census will help its accuracy. Experts say the opposite.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    On Fox News’ morning show Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed that the Trump administration’s decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census will help with getting an “accurate headcount.” In fact, census and civil rights experts have explained that the move will lower confidence in the census and lead to some immigrants not filling it out, decreasing its accuracy.

    The citizenship question already exists on the smaller American Community Survey that goes out to a small portion of households every year, but this will be the first time it will be included on the full decennial census survey since 1950. According to The Wall Street Journal, it will ask “whether a person is a citizen by birth or by naturalization or isn’t a citizen. It won’t ask about the legality of an immigrant’s presence.” The census is used for, among other things, apportioning seats in the House of Representatives and distributing federal funding among the states.

    Census and civil rights experts have said that the addition of this question will decrease response rates from immigrants, thus making the census less accurate:

    • A bipartisan group of former Census Bureau directors in a letter sent to the commerce secretary: “We strongly believe that adding an untested question on citizenship status at this late point in the decennial planning process would put the accuracy of the enumeration and success of the census in all communities at grave risk.”
    • Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President and CEO Vanita Gupta: “This untimely, unnecessary, and untested citizenship question will disrupt planning at a critical point, undermine years of painstaking preparation, and increase costs significantly, putting a successful, accurate count at risk.”
    • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke: "This is an arbitrary and untested decision that all but guarantees that the Census will not produce a full and accurate count of the population as the constitution requires."
    • Brennan Center Democracy Program Director Wendy Weiser: “This question is a dangerous move that could lead to a serious skewing of the final census results, which would have a deleterious effect on our system of representative democracy."
    • Census expert Terri Ann Lowenthal: “Between evidence that the administration is manipulating the census for political gain, and fear that the administration will use the census to harm immigrants, confidence in the integrity of the count could plummet. And the census is only as good as the public’s willingness to participate.”

    But none of this mattered to Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy. According to him, the addition of a citizenship question will ensure an “accurate headcount” of people:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): The Democrats say, look, you're just trying to intimidate the people who are in this country, maybe not legally, but in California they are.

    STEVE HILTON: Yes, but there's a real thing. Being a citizen is a real thing with real issues attached to it that should affect your rights and your responsibilities in this country. So, establishing who is and isn't a citizen is a perfectly reasonable thing for government to do.

    DOOCY: Maybe the Democrats out there are worried that if they have an accurate depiction of who is living out there, accurate headcount, it's not as many people as they think, they might lose federal money, they might lose congressional districts, who knows.