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  • Network news ignores report that Trump wants reduced aid to Puerto Rico amid food-stamp crisis

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On March 25, The Washington Post reported that almost 1.3 million people in Puerto Rico are facing a new crisis after Congress failed to reauthorize additional food stamps that they had been receiving since the devastating Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in September 2017. The Post also reported that President Donald Trump has privately complained about continuing government aid to Puerto Rico, asking top advisers how he can limit federal support. After the Post's report, CBS, ABC, and NBC nightly and morning news programs failed to report on Puerto Rico’s continued struggles -- as well as Trump’s callous disregard for the plight of struggling Puerto Ricans.

    According to the Post, “Congress missed the deadline for reauthorization” of additional food-stamp aid to Puerto Rico in March, meaning “about 43 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents are grappling with a sudden cut to a benefit they rely on for groceries and other essentials.” The island will again need the federal government’s help to “stave off drastic cuts to Medicaid … as well as for the disbursement of billions in hurricane relief aid that has not yet been turned over to the island.” The problems in Puerto Rico are compounded by its lack of statehood; as the article notes, “The island would not need Congress to step in to fund its food-stamp and Medicaid programs if it were a state. For states, the federal government has committed to funding those programs’ needs, whatever the cost and without needing to take a vote.”

    Despite Puerto Rico’s struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria, Trump last month “asked top advisers for ways to limit federal support from going to Puerto Rico, believing it is taking money that should be going to the mainland.” According to the article, “Trump sees the island as fundamentally broken and has told advisers that no amount of money will ever fix its systemic problems.” He has complained that “large swaths of the island never had power to begin with” and has “occasionally groused about how ungrateful political officials in Puerto Rico were for the administration’s help.” But as Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asserted, “the problems of Puerto Rico have a root-cause problem attached to it: We don’t have political power and are not treated as equal citizens.”

    Withholding federal aid from Puerto Rico out of contempt for the island has dire implications, yet CBS, ABC, and NBC have all failed to report on the distressing situation Puerto Ricans currently face -- as well as the disdain the president has consistently shown toward the island.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched the Nexis transcript database for mentions of “Puerto Rico” or “Hurricane Maria” from 7 a.m. EST on March 25 to 9 a.m. EST March 27 for CBS, NBC, and ABC. We found no mentions on any network.

  • Trump’s lie-filled Medicare for All op-ed

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    For some misguided reason, USA Today published an op-ed -- supposedly written by President Donald Trump -- attacking a proposed “Medicare for All” plan cosponsored by a number of Senate Democrats. The piece is a collection of baldfaced lies and distorted facts which do not hold up to even the slightest scrutiny.

  • Three lies about the Senate Republican tax plan that journalists need to correct

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As Republicans prepare to vote on a bill to drastically alter the tax code by slashing corporate rates and creating carve-outs for the wealthy at the expense of some of the most vulnerable, some Republican senators took to cable news to hype the proposal. The lawmakers relied on debunked myths to encourage voters and their colleagues to support the historically unpopular legislation. In some cases, journalists pushed back on these talking points. But in the future, reporters must be quick to immediately debunk this onslaught of misinformation and deception.

    Republicans claim everyone will get a tax cut

    Several Republican lawmakers pitched the plan by claiming that every income group would receive a tax cut. On the November 30 edition of Fox News’ The Daily Briefing, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) stated that “everybody does get a tax cut” from this plan in response to questioning from host Sandra Smith.

    In an interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer on the November 29 edition of America’s Newsroom, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) claimed that “every income group is going to get a tax cut,” to which Hemmer offered no push back.

    Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) went a step further on the November 29 edition of CNN’s New Day, asserting that “every income bracket will benefit and the lower income brackets … will benefit the most.” Cornyn’s comments came after CNN’s Chris Cuomo pointed out that “this was billed as a middle-class” plan, but “there is no analysis that shows them being helped disproportionately to the top tier.”

    These claims are not true. According to The Washington Post, Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that the bill would “give large tax cuts to the rich while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade.” Additionally, The New York Times found that “two-thirds of middle-class households would get a tax increase in 2027, and none — zero percent — would get a tax cut.”

    Republicans assert Medicare will be unaffected by the bill

    In a November 29 interview on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed that Republicans are “not touching Medicare at all in this bill” with no pushback from host Laura Ingraham.

    This claim was also made by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who, according to The Wall Street Journal, asserted that the bill includes “no cuts to Medicare.” But the Journal correctly noted, “Medicare would be cut by $25 billion in fiscal 2018 as a result of the bill because it would trigger automatic spending cuts under a pay-as-you-go budgeting law.”

    Additionally, according to Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) essentially admitted that the tax bill “is the prelude to a larger attack on Social Security and Medicare.” During a November 29 interview forum hosted by Politico, Rubio said tax cuts would help with “instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.” Rubio’s claim is also backed up by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which found that to offset deficit increases, automatic cuts would be made to Medicare of up to $25 billion next year.

    McConnell insists the bill will not increase the deficit

    Also in his interview with Laura Ingraham, McConnell claimed that the tax bill “is not going to be a deficit producing effort.” Once again, Ingraham did not give any pushback to McConnell on his claim.

    This, of course, is false. According to The New York Times, the JCT found that “the legislation would add $1 trillion to federal budget deficits over a decade, even after accounting for economic growth."

  • Guide to right-wing media myths and facts about the Senate health care bill

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media figures are trying to curry favor for the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) by attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA), pushing lies about the BCRA, disparaging the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) or distorting its analysis of the legislation, and muddying the truth about the health care system in general. Here is a guide to the myths right-wing media are employing to sell the Senate Republican health care bill.

  • Trump’s budget revolves around a glaring broken campaign promise -- the press needs to say so

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    President Donald Trump’s administration is proposing massive, unprecedented spending cuts on social aid programs while trying to balance the budget, pay for big tax cuts for the rich, and increase Pentagon spending. 

    At the center stands a gargantuan $800 billion reduction to Medicaid, which currently helps insure more than 70 million people, pays for millions of births each year, covers approximately 40 percent of all nursing home costs in America, and provides treatment for patients addicted to opioids.

    The cuts were detailed in President Trump’s first federal budget, which was delivered to Congress on Tuesday. The proposal represents a truly radical scheme.

    It also revolves around a stunning Trump flip-flop. Because while eyeing the White House, Trump had a much different plan as he promised to protect Medicaid, not take a chainsaw to it. (Trump in 2015: "I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.")

    Trump's promise means that some form of this headline should be appearing on news sites all across the country this week: “Trump breaks campaign promise by proposing massive cuts to Medicaid.”

    That’s just Beltway Journalism 101: If a politician promises one thing while running for office and then immediately does the complete opposite after being elected, that’s considered news. Especially if it’s the president of the United Sates. 

    But we’re not seeing many of those headlines with Trump and Medicaid. Yes, news organizations are stressing that Trump’s budget would result in unprecedented cuts to anti-poverty programs. But the second key part about Trump’s attack on America’s long-standing social safety net representing an abdication of a major campaign promise? That is getting very short shrift.

    That’s distressing because it evidences a larger problem where journalists no longer consider Trump’s rhetoric and promises to be serious enough to bother holding the president accountable.

    In other words, if the press is willing to normalize Trump’s duplicitous behavior to the point where it doesn’t even report that the cornerstone of his proposed budget represents a stunning case of political hypocrisy, then journalists are slowly becoming part of the problem.

    If we are at the point where journalists tend to shrug at the sight and sounds of a Trump lie or blatant flip-flop, that means Trump has successfully worn the press down to the point where journalists don't care about detailing the prevarications and deceits.

    For context, here’s how enormous the Medicaid cuts are that Trump is now proposing:

    And yet many in the press have glossed over the fact that the historic cuts clearly contradict Trump’s previous promises. In fact, some news outlets actually gave Trump credit this week for keeping some campaign promises with his budget.

    Here's how Axios originally reported on Trump's budget (emphasis added):

    President Trump's 2018 budget proposal on Tuesday won't reform Social Security or Medicare — in line with his campaign promise — but it will make serious cuts to other entitlement programs.

    Axios wrote Trump kept “his campaign promise” by not touching Social Security or Medicare. But Axios was silent about the fact that Trump had obviously broken his promise not to cut Medicaid, let alone not to make “serious cuts.” (Furthermore, Axios was wrong that the budget doesn't cut Social Security and later deleted the "campaign promise" language and made other changes to its article.)

    NPR did the same thing. It noted that Trump kept his pledge regarding Medicare and completely ignored his broken budget promise for Medicaid. 

    More of the same from Reuters:

    Trump upheld his promise - for the most part - that he would not cut Medicare and Social Security, two expensive safety-net programs that deficit hawks have long targeted for reforms.

    (Note that both NPR and Reuters made the same mistake as Axios on Social Security -- seemingly not understanding cuts to Social Security disability payments in the budget)

    So Trump promises that are kept constitute news, but Trump promises that are broken get ignored?

    And more from CNN:

    Donald Trump's budget that is expected to be unveiled on Tuesday will include $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid -- a move that underscores the President's resolve to significantly downsize the federal program even as Republican lawmakers are clashing over the issue in Congress.

    Missing? Any context regarding candidate Trump and Medicaid. (Only later did CNN publish a story noting the broken promise.)

    ABC News reported that the Trump budget includes "deep cuts" to Medicaid and then noted that “Democrats are criticizing the White House proposal, accusing Trump of going back on his promise to his campaign supporters.”  

    But it’s a fact that Trump went back on his promise, not merely a Democratic accusation.

    For the record, there were major news organizations that did include references to Trump’s blatant Medicaid flip-flop in their coverage. But they did so much too timidly.

    The Wall Street JournalLos Angeles TimesCBSUSA Today, and NBC all noted Trump’s Medicaid flip-flop. The problem was that the salient fact was mentioned only in passing -- often via a single sentence -- and was often buried deep into the news accounts.

    Trump advertises his hypocrisy every day. The press shouldn’t ignore his boasts.