Among Cable Outlets, Fox Had By The Far The Least Prime-Time Coverage
Nightly broadcast news shows have proven incredibly reluctant to cover the spate of anti-Semitic threats and attacks made since President Donald Trump’s election. Cable outlets provided a bit more coverage during prime-time, with Fox News as the exception, clocking just one segment on the topic. Given the rise of the “alt-right” and white nationalist groups -- and given Trump’s repeated reluctance to discuss the rise of anti-Semitism -- it’s particularly important for news media to provide audiences with information on the threats and attacks which have targeted Jewish institutions across the country.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recorded 100 anti-Semitic incidents in the days following now-President Donald Trump’s election. And as Vox’s Sarah Wildman pointed out, the number “may be enormously underreported because, as with all hate crime statistics, the incidents were largely self-reported by groups that may not feel comfortable talking to law enforcement.” In addition, SPLC’s report did not take into account online harassment, which was rampant during the election.
This wave of anti-Semitic hate has not gone away. Since January, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Association of North America’s members have received 68 bomb threats at 53 facilities in 26 states and one Canadian province. And in February, vandals damaged more than 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis, echoing the vandalism committed by Nazis during World War II.
Despite the fear among many Americans, broadcast news outlets have drastically undercovered these stories. Since the election, ABC’s World News has spent 5 minutes and 45 seconds on the threats, while CBS’ Evening News and NBC’s Nightly News have spent 3 minutes and 1 second and 3 minutes and 6 seconds, respectively on the topic. Out of the eight segments the newscasts aired in the four-month period, four aired on NBC, and two aired on each ABC and CBS. NBC was the only network to report on the trend in January; all the other segments took place in February.
Prime-time shows (between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.) on CNN and MSNBC fared slightly better. In total, CNN aired 10 segments on the trend, devoting a total of 45 minutes and 38 seconds to it, while MSNBC’s five segments clocked in at 20 minutes and 23 seconds. All of the segments, except one that MSNBC aired in November, took place between February 17 and 22.
Fox News’ coverage, on the other hand, was especially abysmal. Since November 9, the network has only aired one segment on the trend, on the February 21 edition of Hannity, and host Sean Hannity used it to segue into a smear campaign against Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).
Especially now, media must devote significant attention to these hate incidents and threats. During the election, the anti-Semitic white nationalist movement known as the “alt-right” rose from the fringe to become one of the most significant factions in conservative media. Trump’s candidacy and subsequent election have also elevated the white nationalist movement.
And media cannot rely on Trump to bring up these incidents himself. It was only after he came under increasing pressure -- and some reporters made failed attempts to broach the subject -- that Trump finally acknowledged and denounced the rising violence aimed at Jews, on February 21. If media continue to wait for Trump to acknowledge these incidents before reporting on them, viewers may never know that they are happening.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for mentions of “Jewish,” “cemetery,” “JCC,” “anti-Semitism,” “anti-Semite,” “anti-Semitic,” “St. Louis,” “University City,” and “Chesed Shel Emeth Society” on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS November 9 through February 22. Mentions on cable news must have taken place between 8 and 11 p.m. on weekdays and mentions on broadcast news must have taken place during the nightly newscasts on a weekday. Segments included in the analysis featured a significant discussion of a specific incident or threat or a significant discussion of the overall trend in anti-Semitic threats and incidents.
Major news outlets have failed to label the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council -- groups praising President Donald Trump’s repeal of nondiscrimination protections for transgender students -- as anti-LGBTQ hate groups. This failure is part of a larger trend of major news outlets failing to properly identify anti-LGBTQ hate groups or acknowledge their extremism.
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After Teen Vogue published an article about gifts to buy for a friend who has had an abortion, right-wing and anti-choice outlets lashed out at the young women’s magazine for “normalizing” the procedure. Although right-wing media have frequently claimed that women pathologically regret their abortions -- and these media have attacked providers and clinics accordingly -- in reality, it is a safe and common medical practice. This wasn’t Teen Vogue’s first attempt at challenging abortion stigma and the myth of abortion regret, and the magazine’s collective efforts provide a useful model for other outlets.
In what were described by National Public Radio’s David Folkenflik as “explosive allegations,” former host Andrea Tantaros claimed Fox News conducted “electronic surveillance” and potentially “violated securities laws by not reporting [lawsuit] settlements to the Securities and Exchange Commission.”
The allegations of surveillance and securities fraud originate from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in 2016 by Tantaros naming Fox News, Ailes, and on-air personalities Scott Brown and Bill O’Reilly, “alleging retaliation by Ailes after she tried to complain about harassment.” Tantaros has spoken out about the “pervasive … culture of misogyny and sexism” at Fox News, and claimed that she was sexually harassed by Ailes “numerous times.” Moreover, the allegations of “electronic surveillance” come on the heels of Fox News’ parent company News Corp’s 2011 phone hacking scandal, and reports that Fox News even “hired a private investigator in late 2010 to obtain the personal home- and cell-phone records of” Media Matters’ own Joe Strupp.
Now, according to The Washington Post, Tantaros’ lawyer is accusing Fox of electronic surveillance and sought “to amend the suit by adding racketeering and electronic surveillance charges,” although, “The judge told Burstein that he could not so amend the complaint.” Fox News dismissed the latest claims as “histrionics.” From the February 15 article:
A lawyer for former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros told a New York State Supreme Court judge that he had received a subpoena from federal prosecutors in relation to the sexual harassment scandal that forced the ouster of longtime Fox News chief Roger Ailes last July. “Once I saw it, I knew what was happening,” attorney Judd Burstein said in the proceedings, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “They were investigating whether Fox News violated securities laws by not reporting settlements to the Securities and Exchange Commission.” The subpoena did not concern Tantaros, but rather another client Burstein is representing.
The occasion for Burstein’s statements was a hearing for Tantaros’s lawsuit filed last August against Fox News, Ailes and top network executives. In that civil action, Tantaros claimed that Ailes made offensive comments about her and otherwise mistreated her, all with the complicity of his lieutenants. Though he was not named as a defendant, top host Bill O’Reilly comes under fire in the filing for pursuing a romantic relationship with Tantaros, who had worked on the daytime programs “The Five” and “Outnumbered.”
In the hearing, Burstein expressed his wish to amend the Tantaros suit by adding racketeering and electronic surveillance charges — a reference to the intelligence unit once operated by Ailes to spy on Fox News talent and critics. The judge told Burstein that he could not so amend the complaint.
As far as the network’s settlements go, there may be some material for inspection. Just last month, news broke that Fox News months ago had reached a pricey, hush-hush settlement with former on-air personality Juliet Huddy over sexual harassment claims against O’Reilly. At that time, veteran New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman noted that the network had inked settlements with at least four women since the departure of Ailes.
For his second straight press conference, President Donald Trump called on only conservative reporters, this time during a joint presser with the Canadian prime minister. By responding solely to friendly press, Trump avoided answering any questions about reports that national security adviser Michael Flynn may have violated federal law.
Reporters have been questioning whether Flynn can retain his job after multiple current and former American officials told The New York Times that he discussed lifting Russian sanctions with the country’s ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration -- a potential violation of the Logan Act, “which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in disputes involving the American government.” Vice President Mike Pence previously denied that Flynn had discussed this topic, but his assurance relied solely on Flynn’s recollection of the conversation.
During Trump’s February 13 press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, reporters had a chance to ask the president about this pressing issue, but Trump skirted that possibility by calling on only reporters for conservative outlets friendly to Trump -- Scott Thuman of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s WJLA, the Washington, D.C., affiliate of ABC, and Kaitlan Collins of The Daily Caller, a pro-Trump outlet founded by Trump shill Tucker Carlson.
During the election, Sinclair reportedly struck a deal with the Trump campaign to “secure better media coverage” in exchange for “more access to Trump and the campaign.” Thuman, who is also a political correspondent for conspiracy theorist Sharyl Attkisson’s Full Measure, asked Trump about how his philosophical differences with Trudeau would affect cooperation on trade and terrorism:
The next question came from Collins, who also failed to ask about Flynn but did question Canada’s security measures surrounding refugees. Her previous work on refugees includes an article about Syrian refugees who she dubbed “Syria-sly hot,” suggesting governors opposed to allowing refugees into the country would change their minds if they saw these women:
No questions about Flynn's status even though it is leading every newscast?? Are these planted questions on the Washington side?
— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) February 13, 2017
On CNN, Wolf Blitzer immediately followed the end of the presser by highlighting the lack of questions about Flynn’s future, explaining, “Presumably that’s what the White House wanted.” CNN’s Gloria Borger also questioned whether “they arranged that in advance.”
The press conference with Trudeau followed a similar one from February 10 featuring Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where Trump also took questions from only two reporters representing a couple of conservative media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets, the New York Post and Fox Business Network. Those reporters likewise avoided asking about Flynn, even though the reporting on his possible violation of the Logan Act had come out the previous day.
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On the February 3 edition of Fox News' The First 100 Days, host Martha MacCallum asked an audience member if it was "true" that Iraqis who helped US soldiers in the Iraq War "feel slighted" by the Muslim ban. The audience member, American former Navy SEAL and Trump supporter Carl Higbie, had previously defended the prospect of a Muslim registry by referencing World War II Japanese internment camps in America as "precedent," a defense he later blamed on Megyn Kelly.
MARTHA MACCALLUM (HOST): Carl, you also served, Carl Higbie, in Iraq. you lost friends there. You worked with interpreters, no doubt. You worked with people in Iraq who were there to help. The feeling is that they feel slighted by this. That they’re not sort of embraced in this, is that true? Or not?
CARL HIGBIE: No. And the thing is, there are many interpreters who do feel that way and there's many that don't, such as Johnny Walker, who's been out on this program with you. To the issue of the fact that we are finally beating back ISIS, we’re not. Geographically they are shrinking in Iraq and Syria places like that, but the problem is they’ve metastasized now down to 20 or 30 different countries and that’s the fundamental misunderstanding of people who worked with the Obama administration that think they're winning the war against ISIS. We are fundamentally not. Anyone who says that we are should obviously take a look at the global prospects of this thing. The Syrian refugee thing that we stopped along with six other countries, we have to acknowledge the fact that Iran and places like that, some of these attackers didn’t come from Iran, they are the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. This is a start, much like Obamacare, nothing was perfect when they rolled it out, it’s not perfect now anyway, they made changes as they go along. Same with this. This is a 120 day moratorium. Things will be changed down the line and they'll be added and taken off and improved. This is a start to protect the United States of America.
Fox News has deleted its tweet labeling a suspect in the shooting as being "of Moroccan origin." Earlier today, Kate Purchase, Director of Communications for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, called on the network to "either retract or update" its false claim.
Twenty-four hours later, Fox News still has not corrected its erroneous tweet that a suspect in the mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City is “of Moroccan origin.” The suspect is actually a French Canadian man named Alexandre Bissonnette who is described in one news report “as an online troll who was inspired by extreme right-wing French nationalists, stood up for U.S. President Donald Trump and was against immigration to Quebec -- especially by Muslims.”
During the evening of January 29, a gunman entered the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center and opened fire, killing six people and wounding eight others. Police initially arrested two suspects in the attack: Bissonnette and Mohamed Belkhadir, who is of Moroccan descent.
What happened next exemplifies Fox News’ tendency to try to pin the blame for high-profile acts of violence on entire communities -- but only when doing so suits the outlet’s conservative world view. Here’s a brief timeline:
At 12:05 and 12:06 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on January 30, Quebec police released two tweets indicating that only one of the arrested individuals was a suspect, and that the other is considered a witness to the attack:
— Sûreté du Québec (@sureteduquebec) January 30, 2017
— Sûreté du Québec (@sureteduquebec) January 30, 2017
At 12:31 p.m., Fox News issued its erroneous tweet, claiming, “Suspect in Quebec mosque terror attack was of Moroccan origin, reports show.” It is noteworthy that at the time the tweet was sent, Bissonnette’s identity had also been leaked to the press, but Fox News made no reference on Twitter to the French Canadian, who was a bona fide suspect:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 30, 2017
This mistake would have been easy to correct. Given developments in the story that clearly identified Bissonnette as a suspect and Belkhadir as a witness, Fox News could have issued a new tweet with accurate information along with a note saying that it would delete the inaccurate earlier report.
Instead, hours later, Fox News responded to its initial tweet with two identical tweets that failed to clarify the earlier mistake. At 6:12 and 6:14 p.m., Fox wrote on Twitter, “@FoxNews Mosque attack suspect formally charged w/ six counts of murder; Second man cleared, identified as a witness”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 30, 2017
At best, this update fails to clarify that the Moroccan individual is no longer a suspect in the shooting: It indicates that a “second man” was “cleared” without saying who that man is.
At worst, the update makes it seem as if the Moroccan man had subsequently been charged with murder. Imagine relying on Fox’s Twitter account as a sole source of information on who police believe perpetrated the shooting. First, there is a “suspect” who is “of Moroccan origin.” Second, the “suspect” has been charged with murder, while another man has been “cleared” and identified as a witness.
And as a practical matter, Fox News’ response likely did little to stop the spread of misinformation. The update was sent more than six hours later. While the initial erroneous report was retweeted more than 900 times, the two identical follow-up tweets were retweeted fewer than 140 times.
But there is a larger, more troubling context to Fox News’ mistake and the outlet’s subsequent failure to set the record straight.
The shooting took place just days after President Donald Trump created a national firestorm by signing an executive order temporarily barring individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. While many condemned the order as discriminatory, contrary to American values, and unconstitutional, others, including people within the Trump administration, view the order as a first step, saying it should or will be expanded to other Muslim-majority countries. In this context, it would be especially important for Fox News to correct an erroneous report that labels a person from Morocco, a majority-Muslim country, as the suspect in an act of apparent terrorism.
Fox’s actions also have implications in terms of the network's tendency to use high-profile shootings to play a collective blame game. When high-profile tragedies occur, Fox News is quick to scapegoat entire communities if doing so aligns with a conservative agenda. When Islamic extremism is the motivation for terrorist acts or African-Americans are accused of killing police officers, those communities are condemned as a whole on Fox News. When white suspects are accused of killing police officers or terrorism is motivated by right-wing extremism, Fox News goes silent.
In the case of the Quebec mosque shooting, Fox News was clearly getting ready to play the collective blame game. At the time of Fox’s erroneous tweet, both Belkhadir and Bissonnette’s names had leaked, but Fox News focused on only the Moroccan “suspect.” Now that there is no Moroccan suspect -- only a white, right-wing, Trump-supporting French Canadian suspect -- we can expect to stop hearing from Fox about this tragedy and what broader implications it might portend.
Trump’s Executive Order Reinstated The Gag Rule And Quietly Expanded Its Scope -- CNN And Fox News Didn’t Report The Consequences
On January 23, President Donald Trump issued an executive order reinstating and secretly expanding the scope of the global gag rule, an anti-choice restriction banning the U.S. from providing foreign aid to nongovernmental organizations that privately fund or promote abortion care. A Media Matters study found that in a week of evening coverage on the three major cable news networks, only MSNBC reported on the disastrous consequences of Trump’s reinstatement and unprecedented expansion of the global gag rule.
Days after President Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring immigration from seven majority Muslim countries, NRATV host Grant Stinchfield said the ban “is about religion” because “all radicalized terrorists are Muslim.”
During the January 30 broadcast of National Rifle Association’s live news program, Stinchfield repeatedly praised Trump’s executive order and called for the ban to be expanded to more Muslim majority countries.
During one update, Stinchfield said he refuses to call the executive order a “Muslim ban,” because it doesn’t include every majority Muslim country, but conceded that it “is about religion,” before falsely claiming that “all radicalized terrorists are Muslims”:
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): It is not a Muslim ban at all, there are 40 other countries, majority Muslim countries that people can still emigrate here from. Now I will tell you what this is about, it is about religion. It’s about radical Islamic terrorists. Not all Muslims are radicalized, but all radicalized terrorists are Muslims. And that is an important distinction that the left does not want to think about. The left does not want to even acknowledge the fact that radical jihadists want to come to the United States and blow us up. They would like nothing more than to march us out onto the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, or the Pacific, kneel us down and lopp our heads off. But they want to coddle the people coming here, hoping that they’re not terrorists. We cannot hope that they are not terrorists. We must ensure that they are not terrorists.
All “radicalized terrorists” are not Muslim. One would only have to look at one of the worst terror attacks in U.S. history, the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. That attack, which killed 168 people and wounded hundreds more, was carried out by right-wing gun extremist Timothy McVeigh.
As explained by a September 2016 Vox article, because “not one domestic terrorist attack since 9/11 has been committed by a foreign terrorist organization,” recent terror attacks have been exclusively carried out by domestic terrorists.
The article highlighted how 10 of the 28 deadly homegrown terrorist attacks since 9/11 were related to Islamic extremism, with the rest being carried out by right-wing extremists. With his claim that “all” terrorists are Muslims, Stinchfield ignored 18 other attacks committed by right-wing extremists, including the recent mass shootings in an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, and at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, CO.
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