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Archie is seventh in line to the throne but first in headlines
A version of this post was originally published by Grist.
Here's media misconduct in a nutshell: ABC’s World News Tonight spent more than seven minutes reporting on the birth of royal baby Archie in the week after he was born -- more time than the program spent covering climate change during the entire year of 2018.
Other major TV news outlets in the U.S. have also severely under-reported on climate change and yet found plenty of time to note the arrival of Archie, son of Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. Archie is now seventh in line to the British throne, which means he'll be a permanent tabloid fixture but is unlikely to ever be a king.
On May 6, the day Archie was born, the United Nations released a summary of a major new report warning that human destruction of the natural world, including through climate change, now threatens up to a million species with extinction. That's dire news for our species too, as it also threatens our water supplies, food security, and health. The destruction of ecosystems and species “means grave impacts on people around the world are now likely,” the report warned. Robert Watson, head of the group of scientists that produced the report, laid it on the line: “What’s at stake here is a liveable world.”
Yes, this extinction crisis is grim news, and many people like a little light fare mixed in with their headlines -- a report on a royal baby, if you’re into that kind of thing, or a sports recap, or a segment on disgruntled Game of Thrones fans. But when the light fare takes over and the real news is shut out, that’s beyond lopsided. We’ve got a problem.
Media Matters tracked broadcast news coverage on May 6 and found that ABC and NBC's nightly news programs failed to even mention the U.N. biodiversity report. They did, however, air two segments each on Archie. CBS was the only national broadcast network that ran a segment on the biodiversity report that night, and of course it ran one on the baby, too.
The perverse priorities of TV newscasters became even more obvious in the following days. Archie stayed in the news. Biodiversity and climate change stayed out of it.
By May 12, the three national broadcast networks' nightly news shows had spent a total of 17 minutes and 56 seconds on baby Archie. The extinction report and climate change garnered a total of one minute and 21 seconds -- all of it in that single CBS segment on May 6.
ABC's World News Tonight devoted the most time to the royal baby: seven minutes and 14 seconds over the week. Compare that to the six minutes and three seconds the program spent on climate change during the entirety of 2018. ABC typically lags behind its competitors in time spent covering climate change, as Media Matters has previously documented. ABC has devoted less airtime to the climate crisis than CBS and NBC every year since 2013 -- even though CBS and NBC don't have great track records themselves. Lest you think the old broadcast dinosaurs don’t matter anymore, their flagship nightly news programs are still attracting an average of 25 million viewers a night, including more than 5 million between the ages of 25 and 52.
Within hours of Archie's birth, Vice's Derek Mead published a post headlined "Who’s Going to Tell the Royal Baby That Our Planet Is Unequivocally Dying?" It concluded, "Royal baby aside, the most important news of the day, the decade, our lives, is this: We have pushed the planet far past its limits, and we ignore that at our existential peril."
Mead joins a small but growing group of journalists and citizens demanding that our media step it up and cover climate change like the looming existential crisis it is. As Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope wrote last month for the Columbia Journalism Review, “If American journalism doesn’t get the climate story right—and soon—no other story will matter.” The Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, and The Guardian are launching a Covering Climate Now project to spur the media into action. The disproportionate hullabaloo over the royal baby, juxtaposed with the near silence over the extinction crisis, shows exactly why we need it.
Imagine if mainstream media covered climate change with anything near the fervor of a royal wedding or a royal birth. Weeks of high-pitched pieces anticipating the release of new climate action plans. Minute-by-minute coverage dissecting every aspect of new scientific reports. Splashy, in-depth profiles of the people leading new climate movements. Homepages and front pages dominated by the climate crisis and climate solutions, day after day. If we can imagine it, can we make it happen?
Media Matters analyzed coverage from May 6 to May 12 on the major broadcast networks' nightly news programs: ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News. We identified segments mentioning the U.N. biodiversity assessment by searching iQ media and Nexis for the terms (nature OR biodiversity OR extinction OR extinct OR climate OR species OR planet) AND (report OR study). We identified segments mentioning climate change by searching for the terms (climate change OR global warming). We identified segments mentioning the royal baby by searching for the terms (baby OR Archie).
Image and charts by Melissa Joskow.
Update (5/22/19): This piece has been updated with a new chart on ABC's coverage of the royal baby vs. coverage of climate change.
Only three of 26 prime-time news programs on major networks covered the report
The major broadcast and cable news networks largely neglected to cover a landmark United Nations report on a devastating decline in biodiversity. On the day the report was released, three of the networks -- ABC, NBC, and MSNBC -- aired no prime-time coverage of it, while the other three networks each aired one prime-time segment. Out of 26 total prime-time news programs on the networks, only three reported on the U.N. assessment.
A summary report released by the U.N. on May 6 finds that about 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction due to expansive human development. The current extinction rate is “at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.” The global assessment, compiled by hundreds of experts with data drawn from thousands of studies, is the most comprehensive look yet at the rapid decline in planetary biodiversity. The report points to a number of human activities that are affecting biodiversity, including overfishing, poaching, farming, mining, logging, and polluting. Climate change is also playing a large role in fueling the biodiversity crisis. And the loss of biodiversity in turn threatens humans by endangering water and food supplies and heightening the risks from floods and hurricanes.
The full report is set to be published later in 2019. But even with this summary, the authors show that the biodiversity and climate crises are directly intertwined, ultimately painting a grim picture about the state of our natural world.
Media Matters analyzed the major broadcast networks' nightly news programs on May 6, as well as cable news coverage from 4 p.m. to midnight.
On the broadcast networks, neither ABC's World News Tonight nor NBC Nightly News mentioned the U.N. biodiversity assessment. Significant segments on these networks instead focused on a Russian airplane fire, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen reporting to prison, and the birth of a royal baby in Britain. CBS Evening News was the only broadcast nightly news program to air a segment on the biodiversity report.
It should come as no surprise that ABC's flagship news program failed to cover the report; the network's news shows consistently lag behind their broadcast competitors in covering climate change. In 2018, ABC aired less than 11 minutes of climate coverage on its nightly and Sunday morning news programs, far less than its counterparts. In fact, ABC has spent less time on climate coverage than CBS and NBC every year since 2013.
None of the prime-time news shows on MSNBC on May 6 mentioned the U.N. biodiversity assessment. Much of the news coverage on the network that night focused on the Mueller report.
The only prime-time cable shows to mention the global assessment were CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier. Coverage on The Lead was straightforward, while Special Report's coverage was riddled with skepticism. Baier, who is billed as one of Fox's “news”-side reporters, began the segment by saying, “Many environmentalists are in a panic tonight over a new report,” but “as in all such cases, some humans say the report and the response are exaggerations.” The segment included commentary from industry-funded climate denier Marc Morano, who has no background in science. Morano downplayed the report and accused the U.N. of being a “self-interested lobbying organization.” (The Morano footage had run previously on another of Fox's “news”-side programs, Shepard Smith Reporting.)
Overall, out of a total of 26 prime-time news shows aired on the major broadcast and cable networks on May 6, only three included coverage of the global assessment.
The extinction of threatened species will have serious human consequences. One takeaway from the U.N. assessment is the need to promote a better understanding of the fact that nature is the foundation for human development and all life on Earth. The media have a responsibility to help build an informed citizenry that understands the world it inhabits. By giving this report far too little attention, top TV networks have failed their audiences.
Media Matters analyzed coverage on May 6 on the major broadcast networks' nightly news programs (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News) and on shows airing from 4 p.m. to midnight on the major cable news networks (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC). We identified segments on the U.N. biodiversity assessment by searching IQ Media and Nexis for the terms (nature OR biodiversity OR extinction OR extinct OR climate OR species OR planet) AND (report OR study).
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With only two substantive climate segments, Sunday shows had their worst month since January
Sunday morning political shows’ coverage of climate change dropped markedly in April, hitting a three-month low. The five major Sunday shows aired a combined total of just two segments in April that included any substantive discussion of climate change, down from seven in February and six in March.
Both of the April segments that discussed climate change came during interviews with Democratic presidential candidates, following a trend first in evidence in March. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who announced his presidential candidacy on April 4, talked about climate action during his appearance on the April 14 episode of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, whose campaign is centered on fighting climate change, brought up the topic numerous times during his interview on the April 14 episode of NBC’s Meet the Press with host Chuck Todd.
The two climate discussions that did air were not particularly informative for viewers. The hosts narrowly framed or downplayed the issue of climate change and did not provide opportunities for the guests to discuss it in depth.
During Ryan's interview on This Week, host Stephanopoulos brought up the Green New Deal only to ask whether it and other proposals might hurt Democrats politically.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You support the Green New Deal. You support “Medicare for All.” We heard the Senate Republican leader this week, Mitch McConnell, say they're going to make the election a referendum on socialism. Are you worried that policies like that will make Democrats vulnerable?
Ryan took the opportunity to note that climate action can create manufacturing jobs, but the exchange on the Green New Deal and climate policy was brief.
Stephanopoulos’ question perfectly encapsulated corporate media’s tendency to ignore whether climate proposals, such as the Green New Deal, contain effective solutions and instead focus on the potential political ramifications for Democrats and Republicans. Media Matters has repeatedly documented the trend of Sunday show hosts presenting climate policy through this type of narrow political lens.
On Meet the Press, before his interview with Inslee began, host Todd noted that the governor had made climate change the focus of his campaign, but Todd started the interview with four questions about immigration. At two points during the immigration discussion, Inslee pointed out that the climate crisis is a contributing factor, explaining that he would “attack climate change because a lot of these people who are coming north are climate refugees.” But Todd pivoted the immigration conversation away from climate change. Eventually, he engaged Inslee in conversation about carbon pricing and nuclear energy, but he then asked the governor whether he was merely "running for president to prove a point" and "force" Democrats to take climate change seriously.
It's alarming that these were the only Sunday show climate discussions during a month when presidential candidates talked about climate and energy plans, voters made climate change a top-tier issue, and climate protests made the news. As climate change becomes a more pressing political issue than ever, we should be seeing coverage increase and improve, not decrease and deteriorate.
In the 2016 primary debates, only 1.5% of questions addressed climate change. In 2020, we need to do better.
Climate activists and some presidential candidates are calling on the Democratic National Committee to make climate change the sole focus of at least one of its 12 planned presidential primary debates. They argue that a climate-centric debate would help voters learn where the candidates stand on potential solutions, motivate candidates to articulate clear climate action plans, and ensure that debate moderators don't give climate short shrift as they have done in years past.
Environmental and progressive groups including CREDO Action, 350 Action, Greenpeace USA, Sunrise, the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, and Daily Kos are circulating three petitions demanding a climate-focused debate. Together they have garnered more than 155,000 signatures so far.
At least three Democratic presidential candidates have also called for a debate dedicated to climate change. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was the first, and he launched his own petition. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro have also come out in support of the idea.
Recent polling data bolsters these entreaties for a climate-focused debate. A CNN poll in late April found that Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters ranked climate change as their top issue: 96% said it was very or somewhat important for a president to support "aggressive action to slow the effects of climate change." A March Des Moines Register/CNN poll found that 80% of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa would like candidates to spend a lot of time talking about climate change, ranking it alongside health care at the top of issues they want to hear about. And a February poll sponsored by CAP Action Fund, Environmental Defense Action Fund, and the League of Conservation Voters also found that climate change is a top-tier concern for Democratic primary voters and caucus-goers in early voting states, with 84% wanting Democratic presidential candidates to act on the climate crisis and move the country completely to clean energy.
Activists contend that voters' concerns about climate change won't be adequately addressed in the traditional debate format. A debate dedicated to climate change would drive candidates to clarify their climate platforms as well as explain how they will approach specific issues like environmental justice and a Just Transition.
The CREDO petition argues that without a climate-focused debate, "news networks and other debate host organizations won't ask more than one or two token debate questions on climate change." The U.S. Youth Climate Strike petition makes a similar point: "With the magnitude of the oncoming climate crisis it's no longer sufficient to have a single token environmental question that 2020 candidates get to brush off with a soundbite. We need an entire debate on environmental policies."
Activists' concerns about debate moderators neglecting climate change are borne out by Media Matters’ research.
Moderators and panelists at past presidential debates have largely ignored climate change. Media Matters analyzed 20 presidential primary debates held during the 2016 election cycle and found that only 1.5% of the questions were about climate change -- a mere 22 questions out of 1,477. And during the three general election debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, moderators didn't pose a single climate question.
The few questions that moderators and panelists did ask about climate change during primary debates tended to be shallow ones with no follow-up, resulting in uninformative exchanges. An example of this dynamic came during the November 2015 Democratic primary debate. After extensive discussion of ISIS and terrorism, CBS' John Dickerson asked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), "In the previous debate you said the greatest threat to national security was climate change. Do you still believe that?" Sanders responded, "Absolutely," and explained that climate change can exacerbate terrorism. But voters learned nothing new about Sanders' positions or proposals, and the whole setup of the question suggested a false choice between addressing terrorism or the climate crisis. Dickerson and his co-moderators didn't ask any other climate questions at that debate.
The recent slate of CNN town halls with 2020 presidential contenders has shown the public’s desire for the candidates to discuss climate change and given a glimpse of what viewers could gain from a substantive debate focused on the topic. In 18 of the 20 candidate town halls CNN has held this year, an audience member asked a question about climate change. The moderators asked a follow-up question in only six of these instances.
On the occasions when moderators did push for more specifics, it demonstrated the clarifying role that they can play in helping viewers better understand a candidate's position. For example, after fielding an audience question about the Green New Deal during her CNN town hall on February 18, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) responded, “We may not have agreements on exactly how it will work and when we can get it done,” before discussing climate policies she supports such as reentering the Paris accord and restoring Obama-era vehicle mileage standards. Moderator Don Lemon then asked Klobuchar a series of follow-up questions that pushed her to explain why she believes the goals of the Green New Deal are "aspirations" and why "compromises" will be needed.
Former Rep. John Delaney’s (D-MD) March 10 CNN town hall offered another example of how moderators can help voters get a clearer sense of a candidate’s climate stances. An audience member asked Delaney what he and his family have done to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Delaney talked about his family’s use of renewables and energy-efficient systems and then discussed his support for a carbon tax and negative-emissions technologies. In a follow-up question, moderator Jake Tapper noted that Delaney had previously disparaged the Green New Deal and asked him to address people who support the resolution, which prompted Delaney to explain that he would instead pursue "realistic" and "bipartisan" solutions and not tie climate action to other policies like universal health care.
Instances like this -- in which a moderator asks specific, substantive follow-up questions about climate change policy -- have been extremely rare in past years. This year, voters need to hear much more in-depth discussion of climate solutions.
The science of climate change was clear during the 2016 election season, but now the threat is even more immediate and urgent, especially as the last year has brought us record extreme weather events, alarming climate reports from both the United Nations and the U.S. government, continued rollbacks of climate protections from the Trump administration, and a burgeoning youth movement demanding action. Moderators should ask about climate policy at every debate and follow up to make sure candidates don't skate by with superficial answers. On top of that, hosting a climate-focused debate would give voters the best opportunity to hear a substantive discussion of how candidates plan to lead on the existential crisis of our time.
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Experts have documented numerous problems with the analysis, but conservative media and climate deniers are still promoting it
The Wall Street Journal published an editorial on April 23 that derided electric vehicles in Germany as "dirty," based on a recent study that has been called into question by a number of experts and mainstream German news outlets. The Journal's editorial board, which has a history of climate denial, has attacked both German energy policy and electric vehicles (EVs) before.
The dubious study has also been hyped by climate deniers and right-wing outlets in the U.S., including Infowars and The Daily Caller.
The study was conducted by the Ifo Institute, a Munich-based think tank, and argued that a Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle driven in Germany is responsible for more carbon dioxide pollution than a Mercedes C220d diesel vehicle. The study, which was released in German on April 17 and has not yet been translated into English, finds that the Tesla emits between 156 and 181 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, compared to 141 grams of CO2 from the diesel Mercedes. The study attributes roughly half of the Tesla's emissions to the vehicle’s production process, including its battery, which the authors assume will only last 10 years or 150,000 kilometers. The other half of the Tesla’s estimated emissions in Germany come from electricity used to charge the car, some of which is generated by burning coal.
Soon after the study's release, German-language outlets started pushing back on its findings and methodology, including Der Spiegel, the highest-circulation news magazine in Europe, and WirtschaftsWoche, a weekly business news magazine. Articles in both publications highlighted miscalculations and faulty assumptions, and pointed to a number of other studies on EVs that had come to opposite conclusions.
One English-language debunk of the study came in a Twitter thread from Netherlands-based energy researcher Auke Hoekstra. Hoekstra noted that the study's claims about the diesel Mercedes' emissions are wrong -- the Mercedes emits closer to 220 grams of CO2 per kilometer, rather than 141, he argued. He also highlighted how the authors used an extremely low number for how long an electric vehicle battery lasts. He stated, “even Tesla's from the olden days can drive 600 000 km before the battery reaches 80% capacity.” He summed up his criticisms:
To summarize: EVs only emit more CO2 if you make unrealistically negative assumptions for battery production, battery life and electricity mix while making unrealistically positive assumption about diesel consumption.
Correct ANY of these and the tables are turned. Bigly.
— AukeHoekstra (@AukeHoekstra) April 22, 2019
Hoekstra also argued that the analysis should not be presented as an academic study. Instead, he characterized it as “the opinion of three people, … none of whom have any background” in EVs or batteries. One of the authors, Hans-Werner Sinn, has been criticized for using dubious assumptions in energy studies before: Sinn received strong pushback on a 2018 paper he wrote claiming that energy storage requirements ultimately limit the expansion of renewable energy. Sinn has also argued that criticism of Volkswagen over its role in the Dieselgate scandal has been exaggerated, and placed much of the blame for the scandal on U.S. efforts to regulate diesel engines.
Another debunk of the Ifo study came from Fred Lambert, chief editor of the electric transportation news site Electrek. He noted:
One of the biggest mistakes they are making is that they are comparing the full production and lifecycle of an electric vehicle, including the emission from the electricity uses, against the production and lifecycle of a diesel car without accounting for all the energy used to produce the diesel and supply it to the cars.
Lambert also called out the study’s authors for falsely assuming a battery life of 150,000 kilometers and for failing to note that Germany is planning to rapidly decarbonize its electricity system, which would greatly improve the carbon footprint of EVs in the near future.
Another criticism of the study has been its focus solely on Germany's energy grid and the authors' failure to take into account the overall mix of the larger European energy market that Germany is a part of. German carmaker Volkswagen, which manufactures both EVs and diesel vehicles, responded to the study by defending EVs. In an English-language article by Deutsche Welle, a German international broadcaster, Volkswagen noted that with Germany's current electricity mix, its Golf EV would have a similar CO2 output as a diesel car of the same type -- 142 grams per kilogram compared to 140. However, “using the European energy mix for calculations, which includes large amounts of nuclear energy from France and water power from Norway, the e-Golf's carbon footprint would be down to 119 g/km” -- far below the CO2 output of a diesel car.
Other analyses have disproved the claim that EVs are not environmentally friendly. In 2018, the Union of Concerned Scientists found that a U.S.-based EV is equivalent to a conventional gasoline car that gets 80 miles per gallon. Unlike the German study, it looked at all of the emissions from fueling and driving both vehicles. It also found that EVs will get cleaner over time as electric grids get cleaner, noting that its 2018 estimate was an improvement of 7 mpg from 2017. And a 2017 report from the Transport & Environment group, a Brussels-based transportation policy group, found that EVs emit fewer greenhouse gases than diesel cars even when EVs are powered by the most carbon-intensive electricity.
Although the Ifo study is specific to Germany’s electric grid and has been widely criticized, climate deniers and right-wing outlets in the U.S. have picked up on it and are using it to disparage EVs generally. Steve Milloy, a notorious denier and frequent Wall Street Journal contributor, tweeted about the study on April 19. On April 22, extreme right-wing outlet Infowars wrote about the study, and far-right conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson tweeted about the Infowars piece. The right-wing website Zero Hedge wrote about the study too, and a tweet pointing to that post was retweeted by Mandy Gunasekara, a former Trump EPA official and current Fox News contributor.
After The Wall Street Journal wrote about the study, still more right-wing outlets covered it, including The Daily Caller, which has a long record of inaccurate reporting on climate and energy issues, and The Western Journal, a conservative news outlet with a history of deceptive climate claims.
The Wall Street Journal's opinion pages have spread misinformation about climate change for decades. A Media Matters study found that from January 2015 to August 2016, one-third of the paper’s climate-related opinion pieces contained climate denial or other inaccurate statements about climate change. We’ve also found that the paper's opinion section is ExxonMobil’s chief apologist for its climate change lies, and it has defended the fracking industry against accusations that it contaminates drinking water. According to a recent article in Current Affairs, the Journal has shifted in recent years from denying climate change to downplaying it, but still remains an impediment to clean energy and climate action. The Wall Street Journal has always been a pro-polluter, pro-industry paper, so it’s no surprise that it would overlook flaws and publicize questionable research that disparages a direct threat to the fossil-fuel industry.
Moore: Ivanka Trump “grew up in Manhattan … Think about who all of Ivanka’s friends are: They’re Manhattan liberals”
Stephen Moore, President Donald Trump’s pick for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, hates support for climate change science so much that he previously attacked Ivanka Trump as an elitist who’s friends with “Manhattan liberals” for her supposed (but ineffectual) support for action on climate change.
Moore is a right-wing commentator who has come under fire for his views on women and the economy. He previously worked as a contributor to CNN and Fox News; Moore repeatedly told audiences that Fox News’ motto is “fair, balanced, and blonde” and that he enjoyed working there because he “met a lot of beautiful women.”
Moore has also frequently made incendiary and inaccurate comments about climate science, including claiming that:
On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would leave the Paris climate accord, which aims to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to the decision, media outlets reported that Ivanka Trump preferred that the country stay in the agreement. (Regardless of her reported views, she works for the White House as an adviser and the administration has heavily rolled back environmental protections; and she defends the administration and its anti-science policies, including retweeting the White House’s claim that “the Trump Administration has been an active and meaningful driver for science and technology policy in America.”)
In a June 1, 2017, radio segment shortly before the announcement, radio host Rose Tennent brought up Ivanka Trump’s reported attempt to influence the president’s Paris accord decision and told Moore that while she loves the Trumps, she “didn’t vote for” her and her husband Jared Kushner. Moore responded by stating that he has “nothing but respect for them” and believes they’re “brilliant,” “hard-working,” and “impressive,” but then trashed Ivanka as out-of-touch.
“Where did they grow up? They grew up in Manhattan,” Moore said. “You know? I mean, they have a different view of the world. Right? I mean, think about who all of Ivanka’s friends are: They’re Manhattan liberals.”
He added: “They don’t know steel workers, they don’t know coal miners, they don’t know people who are welders and pipefitters.”
ROSE TENNENT (HOST): One of the things though I was reading yesterday, when some of the people around him -- for example, his daughter who is very influential, she doesn’t want him to leave.
STEPHEN MOORE: No, she doesn’t.
TENNENT: And, yeah, and see, this is this one of my concerns. Steve, I’m going to be honest with you, and I love the Trumps. I mean I’ve interviewed every one of them. My favorite is Eric, I think he’s just amazing. You know I love them. But I don’t necessarily -- I didn’t necessarily vote to have Ivanka and her husband in the White House and having that great of an influence over Donald Trump. I love that they can -- that he has somebody to lean on and trust and count on. But I just didn’t want that input because I didn’t vote for them. I would never vote for Kushner. You know what I mean?
MOORE: Well, I got to know Jared and Ivanka as well on the campaign trail. And, by the way, I have nothing but respect for them.
MOORE: They’re brilliant people and they are so hard-working --
MOORE: -- and so impressive in every way. But look. Where did they grow up? They grew up in Manhattan. You know? I mean, they have a different view of the world. Right? I mean, think about who all of Ivanka’s friends are: They’re Manhattan liberals. And, you know, so, I think her attitude about this has been colored by the fact that she’s hanging out with people. They don’t -- the people that, you know, grew up in Manhattan, they don’t know steel workers, they don’t know coal miners, they don’t know people who are welders and pipefitters. And those -- again, I go back to the point that it’s working-class Americans who are going to pay the price for this if we go forward.
While Moore suggested he’s a champion of “working-class” non-Manhattanites, in 2014, he called Cincinnati and Cleveland some of the "armpits of America."
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Fox News is trying to entice Democratic presidential candidates to participate in town halls on the network, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) is scheduled to do on April 15. Though Sanders has explained his reasoning for wanting to do a town hall on Fox, there are plenty of good reasons why other candidates should think carefully about whether they want to partner with the network.
Fox is a pernicious propaganda machine for the Trump White House, and it has a long history of both denying and downplaying climate change and helping to block climate action. Fox is currently at the peak of its political influence, but it's also at a precarious point both financially and in the court of public opinion. Many advertisers have fled and others are considering following suit, not wanting to be associated with the network's bigoted and toxic commentary. Fox is now desperately courting advertisers by trying to paint itself as a legitimate news outlet ahead of May 13, when it will host an "upfront" event at which it aims to sell about 60 to 70 percent of its advertising space for 2020. Democratic candidates might want to keep their distance and not enable Fox's attempt at whitewashing its toxicity.
The New Yorker recently exposed how Fox News has developed a symbiotic relationship with the Trump administration and has become a nexus of the right-wing disinformation network. And earlier in April, The New York Times Magazine detailed how Fox founder Rupert Murdoch’s media empire “helped elevate marginal demagogues, mainstream ethnonationalism and politicize the very notion of truth” in the U.S. and beyond, “destabiliz[ing] democracies around the world.”
After the New Yorker published its piece in March, the Democratic National Committee barred Fox News from hosting any of its upcoming presidential primary debates.
Fox News has been especially destructive on the climate change narrative, serving as an echo and amplification chamber for climate denial and environmental deregulation efforts. For years, Fox has played a critical role in undermining the public consensus around climate change by eroding trust in climate scientists and scientific institutions, according to a 2013 study. A separate study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that 72 percent of Fox News segments about climate science in 2013 "contained misleading statements." In the years since, the network has continued to parade a coterie of network personalities, fringe cranks, and conspiracy theorists to push misinformation about climate change and attack those working to confront the climate crisis.
During the Trump administration, Fox News has also provided a safe haven for disgraced officials like former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Not only did Pruitt and Zinke prefer Fox News over other news networks, they both used their appearances on Fox to question climate science and to advocate for harmful environmental rollbacks, often with little to no pushback from fawning hosts.
Fox News claims that Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier, the Fox hosts who will anchor the town hall with Sanders, are straightforward newscasters. But a closer look at their past comments and reporting reveals that they cannot be trusted to foster good-faith discussions about key issues, including climate change.
MacCallum has denied basic climate science and made ridiculous claims about global warming. In 2014, on Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, she said:
MARTHA MACCALLUM: I mean the climate has changed over the course of the thousands and thousands of years that the Earth has been in existence. It has changed, you know, by several degrees up and down over the course of it. I just don't think that there is convincing evidence that the presence of man has altered that more dramatically than say the earth being covered with volcanoes emitting, you know, naturally noxious gases.
That same year, MacCallum downplayed the importance of climate change and argued that Democrats in Congress should be concentrating on other issues instead. And in March 2015, after the Obama administration announced a voluntary emission-reduction pledge ahead of the U.N. climate talks in Paris, MacCallum was critical of the move and falsely said that the U.S. was going to the "upper end of the range" with its commitment and "nobody else has to do it." In fact, dozens of other countries had by that point announced targets to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions, including the European Union, whose target was more ambitious than the one the U.S. put forth.
Baier has a reputation for not being as bad as some of the more explicit climate deniers on his network, but according to a 2014 analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, he has still aired "a number of segments containing inaccurate statements about climate science." He has given climate skeptics a platform to attack climate science and climate action, often with very little pushback.
In March, Fox News executives held an unprecedented meeting with its advertisers to persuade them not to abandon the network after more than 30 companies had dropped their ads since the initial push began in December of last year. Recent calls for companies to pull their ads from Tucker Carlson Tonight and Justice with Judge Jeanine came in response to Media Matters releasing audio of Fox host Tucker Carlson's racist and misogynistic rants on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show from 2006 to 2011, and to Fox personality Jeanine Pirro’s anti-Muslim tirade against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
For years, Fox News has let its prime-time hosts spew bigotry, propaganda, and dangerous conspiracy theories on a nightly basis, while using its so-called "news" programming to give the network a veneer of respectability. But the "news" side and the "opinion" side of Fox News are two sides of the same coin. Fox is dangerous and corrupt from top to bottom.
Bill Sammon, Fox's senior vice president and Washington managing editor, is courting Democratic candidates for town halls and trying to get the DNC to reconsider its decision not to let Fox host a debate.
Sammon has a notoriously terrible record on climate change. In 2009, he sent a memo to Fox journalists ordering them to curtail honest reporting on climate change:
We should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.
He sent the memo out less than 15 minutes after a Fox correspondent accurately reported that U.N. scientists said the 2000-2009 period was "expected to turn out to be the warmest decade on record." When the correspondent returned to the air a few hours later, he added views from climate "skeptics" into his reporting. Sammon has also tilted Fox's coverage of other issues further to the right.
Four years ago, Sammon played a key role in crafting questions for a Republican presidential primary debate. Do Democratic candidates want to invite Sammon to craft questions for them now?
With Fox on the ropes with advertisers, Democratic candidates should consider if they want to throw Fox News a lifeline this spring.
And Fox's coverage of the plan was riddled with misinformation, mockery, and climate change skepticism
In the last week of March, Fox News aired more than twice as many prime-time segments discussing the Green New Deal as MSNBC and CNN combined, Media Matters found. Fox ran 22 segments on the Green New Deal, and only half of them even mentioned climate change. MSNBC and CNN aired 14 and five segments, respectively, but all of those discussed climate change.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed. Markey (D-MA) introduced the Green New Deal on February 7, thrusting the issue of climate change into the national political conversation. On March 26, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called a procedural vote on the resolution, attempting to embarrass Democrats by forcing them to take a stance on it before senators had a chance to hold hearings and debate the measure. Almost all Senate Democrats banded together to call McConnell's bluff by voting "present" instead of yes or no.
Media Matters analyzed prime-time cable news coverage of the Green New Deal during the week of the Senate vote. From March 25 to 31, Fox News ran 22 segments discussing the Green New Deal on its weekday and weekend prime-time shows airing between 5 p.m. and midnight. Across this same period, MSNBC aired 14 prime-time segments discussing the Green New Deal, and CNN aired five.
Only half of Fox's Green New Deal segments mentioned climate change, 11 out of 22, despite the fact that the plan is designed specifically to address the climate crisis. In contrast, all segments about the Green New Deal on MSNBC and CNN discussed climate change.
Media Matters did a similar analysis in February in the days after the Green New Deal was introduced. It found that Fox covered the Green New Deal more than three times as often as MSNBC and CNN combined from February 7 to 11; Fox aired 34 segments that mentioned the proposal, MSNBC aired eight, and CNN aired three. And during that period, Fox mentioned climate change in 41% of its Green New Deal segments, MSNBC mentioned climate change in 62%, and CNN mentioned it in 67%.
Comparing those earlier findings to our new ones, Fox ran fewer segments on the Green New Deal in the last week of March than it had during that stretch in early February, and a similar proportion of the segments mentioned climate change. MSNBC and CNN, in contrast, both improved their performance, airing more segments on the Green New Deal and discussing climate change in all of them. And in the case of MSNBC in particular, many of the segments were longer and more substantive and informative.
But the overall trend of Fox covering the Green New Deal more than its cable competitors continued, and that's a significant problem because Fox's coverage is so bad.
In the last week of March, many of Fox’s 22 segments mentioning the Green New Deal contained misinformation. A number of them falsely suggested or stated that the plan would ban airplanes or cars, which it would not. Others claimed that the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion or $100 trillion, though both figures have been debunked. In four cases, the misinformation came directly from President Donald Trump; he maligned the Green New Deal during a speech in Michigan, and Fox aired footage of that speech without rebutting Trump's false statements. Donald Trump Jr. spread false information too. On the March 25 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight, he mocked the plan and said, "we don't exactly have $93 trillion to spend to say you're going to take a bus to Hawaii."
Another classic example of a Fox discussion about the Green New Deal came on the March 30 episode of Watters' World, in which Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was interviewed:
JESSE WATTERS (HOST): Good, now, what is the data telling you about socialism? The Green New Deal, are people responding to that? Or is this a killer at the ballot box?
BRAD PARSCALE: I mean, look, I think it’s a great issue for the president. I think it's just, as he said last -- as he's been trying to say all week, I think it’s incredible how much they just want $100 trillion, destroy the economy, turn us into Venezuela.
WATTERS: He wants to run against the Green New Deal.
PARSCALE: Oh yes. Oh yeah.
WATTERS: He is licking his chops.
PARSCALE: Yeah, it's like a juicy steak. I mean, getting rid cows, airplanes, no more Hawaiian senators --
WATTERS: Right, yes, it's like the Big Mac president running against the vegans. It's not going to fly.
Two of Fox's prime-time Green New Deal segments cast doubt on the scientific consensus around climate change. One came from Tucker Carlson on the March 27 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight, during which he said, “The climate seems like it is changing. Climate changes a lot, always has, maybe human activity is causing it.” In the same episode, he also made the false claim that “nobody is dying from global warming in this country.” The next night on Hannity, guest Rush Limbaugh was more explicit in his climate denial, claiming, “We don't even have the power to impact the climate. We can't change it for better or worse. But it is constantly changing. All we can do is adapt to it. We're the best in the world at that.”
But both Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity, Fox's flagship evening opinion shows, spent less time on the Green New deal in the last week of March than they had in early February, when they both aired rants about its allegedly oppressive nature.
In contrast, Fox News @ Night with host Shannon Bream, which Fox bills as a straight "news" program, aired more segments on the plan in the last week of March than it had in early February. The Fox News @ Night segments also spread misinformation, like the false claim that the plan would cost $100 trillion. Fox News @ Night also gave a platform to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) on March 27 to continue the ridiculous attack he had made on the Green New Deal on the Senate floor earlier that day; on the show, Lee mocked the plan further, saying, "The Green New Deal is its own punch line."
MSNBC aired 14 segments on the Green New Deal in the last week of March, and nine of them ran on All In With Chris Hayes. All of MSNBC's segments discussed the plan within the context of climate change.
Hayes produced standout coverage of the Green New Deal, including substantive discussion of what it aims to do and why climate action is critical. After the Senate vote on March 26, Markey appeared on All In With Chris Hayes to explain the reasoning behind the Democrats’ strategy to vote “present”:
SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): I voted “present” because Mitch McConnell and the Republicans, who are making a mockery of the legislative process, they gave us no hearings. We could have no expert witnesses. We could have no scientists. We could have no people from the states which have been affected by the massive climate-related damage, which has occurred from forest fires in California to the storms across the Midwest, the hurricanes sweeping through Texas and Florida. None of that was allowed to be presented as part of a hearing process.
CHRIS HAYES (HOST): Today illustrated to me the enormous gap -- I mean, I think the Republicans by and large, your fellow colleagues, they see it all as a joke, as a stunt. I mean, the gap between what the actual physics are -- what the science says, what the scale of the challenge is -- and where the Republicans are, it almost seems un-overcomeable to me. Does it to you?
MARKEY: It is pretty big. I mean, the United Nations and their scientists at the end of 2018 said that climate is warming so rapidly that it now poses an existential threat to the planet. The 13 federal agencies with jurisdiction over climate issued their own report at the end of 2018. They came to a conclusion that said this is very serious and we had to do something about it.
On March 29, All In With Chris Hayes aired a special episode in which Hayes interviewed Ocasio-Cortez and a host of others about climate change and the Green New Deal. This episode accounted for four of MSNBC's segments about the Green New Deal in the last week of March. Hayes also aired segments about how Republicans are failing to substantively engage on climate change and how climate change is already affecting residents of the Bronx, among others.
According to a recent Public Citizen analysis, Hayes discussed climate change more than his MSNBC peers over the past 24 months -- even though he called climate change a “palpable ratings killer” last July. He was criticized for that comment, and since then he's aired climate coverage more often. Public Citizen is now calling on Hayes to commit to cover climate change at least once a week.
Other discussions of the Green New Deal on MSNBC came during interviews with politicians, including Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) on MTP Daily, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on Politics Nation, and Markey again on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.
One MSNBC segment included a guest who argued against taking dramatic steps to combat climate change. On the March 26 episode of MTP Daily, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens warned that we could "bankrupt ourselves in the process of ensuring ourselves against the potential risk." Host Katy Tur and NBC analyst Heather McGhee both pushed back against Stephens' claim that climate change isn't serious enough to warrant bold action.
CNN aired only five prime-time segments that discussed the Green New Deal in the last week of March. Climate change was brought up in all of them.
Three of these discussions occurred during interviews with Democratic presidential candidates. On the March 26 episode of Erin Burnett Tonight, Julián Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said he was a "fan of the Green New Deal." Though he did not say the words "climate change" or "global warming," he spoke about the climate crisis, noting the need to "protect our planet" and the promise of renewable energy. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper appeared on CNN Tonight on March 26 and said he does not support the Green New Deal, but he thinks climate change is "one of the defining issues of our times." And during a CNN town hall on March 27, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) restated his support for the Green New Deal and emphasized the importance of fighting climate change.
It is good news that MSNBC and CNN have been discussing the Green New Deal in the context of climate change, and in some cases examining its policy ideas in-depth.
Unfortunately, Fox News is still talking about the Green New Deal more than its cable competitors, and often in dishonest and destructive ways. By spreading misinformation about the proposal, Fox is distorting the national dialogue about it. Sean McElwee -- co-founder of Data for Progress, a progressive think tank that helped to shape the Green New Deal -- made this point in a March 27 op-ed in The New York Times:
The core challenge the Green New Deal faces is not so much on the merits of the concept or even its political feasibility; it is that many of its Democratic supporters have met an aggressive and one-sided onslaught from the right with very little by way of response.
Though many components of the Green New Deal are popular, the Republican propaganda machine has already reshaped the narrative, and it has done so with virtually no coordinated pushback from progressives, or certainly nowhere near enough, a worrying pattern.
Progressive pushback has emerged more often in recent weeks, especially on MSNBC. But Fox, by covering the Green New Deal so aggressively and negatively, is already prejudicing many voters against it before they have a chance to learn what it actually calls for and why. McElwee cited polling by the progressive project Navigator that found Republican Fox viewers were more likely than other voters both to have heard a lot about the Green New Deal and to have seen negative coverage, and a recent poll by Navigator found that Fox News viewers were more inclined than others to deny that human-made climate change is happening.
Fox is unlikely to change its approach, so other media outlets need to step up with more frequent, honest, and probing coverage of the Green New Deal and other proposals for addressing the climate crisis. Failure to do so will distort the overall discourse around climate change and hinder the process of finding solutions.
Media Matters conducted Nexis and IQ Media searches for mentions of "green new deal" in programs that aired on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between 5 p.m. and midnight from March 25 to 31. We then searched within those transcripts for mentions of “climate” or "global warming." We counted any segments that were devoted to the Green New Deal or made substantial mention of it. We did not count teasers, passing mentions, or rebroadcasts.
Sunday morning political shows’ coverage of climate change in March was driven by Democratic presidential candidates, a number of whom are making climate change a key campaign issue. The five major Sunday shows aired a combined six segments in March that included substantive discussion of climate change, and all of them were interviews with 2020 hopefuls.
The two most in-depth climate conversations came during interviews with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is focusing his presidential campaign around the need for climate action. Inslee appeared on the March 3 episode of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos and the March 10 episode of CNN’s State of the Union. On State of the Union, Inslee gave a detailed response to host Jake Tapper's question about the seriousness of his climate-focused candidacy, discussing the severity of the climate threat, how high climate change ranks among issues voters care about, and how climate issues intersect with other issues such as the economy, health care, and national security.
JAKE TAPPER: So let's talk about climate change. First of all, what do you say to a Democratic voter who hears that your campaign is about climate change, and they think, “Oh, well, then he's not really serious about running for president, he's just trying to get an issue on the agenda”?
JAY INSLEE: I would say several things. Number one, I would say that we are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it. And we have got one shot. And that's the next administration. We have to have this be the primary, first, foremost, and paramount duty of the next administration, because the world's on fire. And we’ve got to act. And we got a climate denier in the White House. The second thing I would say is: If you care about climate change, you're not alone. A poll just came out in Iowa saying it's the top, number one priority, tied with health care. And the third is, this is not a single issue. It is all the issues. Look, if you care about the economy, the economy is now being ravaged by climate change. And the economic growth that we can have -- I’ve been on a tour looking at all the job creation going on, solar power in Iowa, batteries in Nevada, wind power in Washington. So, I have been on this tour, nationally, looking at what a tremendous job-creating opportunity this is. It's a health issue. It's asthma and infectious diseases. It's a national security issue. I met with Adm. [William] Fallon in Seattle, who talked about the Pentagon telling us what a national security threat it is and how we have Trump trying to tear up the intelligence report.
Other Democratic presidential candidates who discussed climate change on Sunday shows last month included Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, IN. On the March 17 episode of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked him about the Green New Deal and Buttigieg responded by emphasizing the need to "act aggressively and immediately on climate."
Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who is considering a run for president, appeared on the March 31 episode of State of the Union, where Tapper asked him about the Green New Deal's job guarantee. Moulton said the U.S. could fight climate change and strengthen the economy at the same time by putting people to work doing things like making buildings more energy-efficient.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper both discussed climate change during appearances on NBC’s Meet the Press, even though host Chuck Todd didn’t ask them about the subject. During her March 17 interview, Klobuchar talked about the economic consequences of climate change and extreme weather, noting the role climate change played in the recent devastating flooding across the Midwest as well as in hurricanes and wildfires. On the March 31 episode of Meet the Press, Todd asked Hickenlooper how he would respond to critics of his fossil fuel ties, and Hickenlooper used the opportunity to talk about methane regulations he helped put in place in Colorado and the need for global action to tackle climate change.
CBS' Face the Nation is the one major Sunday show that failed to air a single substantive discussion of climate change in March. It was the fourth month in a row that the show neglected to cover climate change.
The number of segments that included substantive discussion of climate change was down a little in March compared to February, when many of the shows included conversations about the Green New Deal; there were six substantive segments in March versus seven in February. In January, the Sunday shows featured no substantive discussions of climate change.
Altogether, the first quarter of 2019 featured much more climate coverage than the first quarter of 2018, in which the Sunday shows aired just a single episode that included notable discussion of climate change.
But climate coverage in the first quarter of 2019 was actually down compared to the last quarter of 2018, when the Sunday shows discussed climate change in the wake of two major reports on climate science from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. government.
In March, the shows missed opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations about climate change beyond interviews with Democratic presidential contenders. None of the shows' hosts asked questions about the historic and calamitous Midwest flooding that took place last month; Klobuchar is the only person who brought it up. The Sunday shows even failed to address the political maneuvering around the recent Senate vote on the Green New Deal, which is an odd omission for programs that are normally so focused on political fights and one-upmanship. The shows still have work to do to increase the quality and quantity of their climate coverage.
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