The Presidency & White House

Issues ››› The Presidency & White House
  • By The Numbers: 100 Days In, A Look At The Trump Administration's Conflicted Relationship With The Media

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    As President Donald Trump reaches his 100th day in office, his administration’s relations with the press have not improved. Here’s a look at some numbers that exemplify the conflicts, 100 days into his tenure:

    • At least 130: number of times Trump or his administration have attacked the press, per Media Matters’ running tally. [Media Matters, 4/27/17]
    • 30: number of times Trump has used the phrase “fake news” on Twitter since his inauguration. [ProPublica, accessed 4/27/17]
    • Eight: number of times Trump has referred to the “dishonest media” since his inauguration. [ProPublica, accessed 4/27/17]
    • 11: number of national TV interviews the president has done between his inauguration and his hundredth day, according to a Media Matters count.
    • Eight out of 11: number of Trump’s national televised interviews that will have aired on Fox News or Fox Business in his first 100 days, according to a Media Matters count.
    • 16: number of press briefings the State Department has held during the first 100 days of the administration. Under President Barack Obama, the State Department had 63 press briefings within the first 100 days. [The State Department Bureau of Public Affairs, accessed 4/24/17, 4/24/17]
    • At least 14: number of times White House press secretary Sean Spicer has lied to the press during his daily press briefings. [Media Matters, 1/25/17]
    • 27: number of times Spicer has called on the conservative news outlet One America News Network during his press briefings in the first 100 days of the administration according to a Media Matters count. During that same time period, Spicer called on Breitbart 12 times.
    • 50: number of “years of practice” from which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departed in his decision to travel on an official foreign trip without a press pool, according to The Associated Press. [The Associated Press, 3/14/17]
    • Approximately six: hours of cable news Trump watches per weekday, according to a report compiled by The Washington Post and Axios. [The Washington Post, 1/24/17]
    • 12: number of times Trump has either tweeted at the program Fox & Friends or retweeted the show’s tweets in his first 100 days in office. [ProPublica, accessed 4/24/17]
    • At least four: number of former Fox News personalities Trump has appointed to serve in his administration (Heather Nauert, Ben Carson, Monica Crowley, and KT McFarland). [Fox News, October 2013; NBC, 11/25/16; CNN, 12/15/16; USA Today, 4/25/17]

    Methodology

    To determine how many times Trump has tweeted the words “fake news” since his inauguration, Media Matters searched ProPublica’s database for Trump’s tweets containing the phrase.

    To determine how many national televised interviews Trump has conducted, Media Matters kept track of all TV appearances and compared the results to a search on Nexis.

    To determine how many times Spicer called on One America News Network and Breitbart during press briefings, Media Matters tracked questions Spicer has answered during the press briefings, coding for the name of the journalist and the outlet the journalist is reporting for.

    To find out how many tweets Trump has sent about Fox & Friends, Media Matters searched the ProPublica database for mentions of “fox” in Trump’s tweets.

  • In 100 Days, Trump Has Attacked The Press Over 100 Times. Here’s How Fox News Cheered Him On.

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have been defined, in part, by his administration’s hostility to the press. As Media Matters has documented, Trump has attacked the press well over 100 times to date. As Trump vilifies the press, Fox News hosts, contributors, and guests help cheer him on by supporting, enabling, and condoning his attempts to discredit mainstream media outlets.

  • New Study Debunks Right-Wing Media Myth That Trump's Deregulation Will Restore Coal Communities

    Columbia University Report Outlines Market Forces Killing The Coal Industry

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    A new Columbia University report adds to a wealth of research disproving the right-wing media myth that President Donald Trump can bring back coal jobs and revitalize coal communities by simply rolling back environmental protections enacted by previous administrations.

    Conservative media outlets, political commentators, and Trump himself have repeatedly argued that undoing Obama-era environmental protections would reverse the decades-long decline in coal mining employment. But a new in-depth analysis published by researchers at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy throws cold water on this notion, concluding, “President Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations will not materially improve economic conditions in America’s coal communities.”

    The report goes into great detail about the factors behind coal’s decline. It finds that the vast majority of the decrease in coal consumption was due to market factors unrelated to federal regulations and that it is “highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.” From the April 2017 report (emphasis added):

    We found that 49 percent of the decline in domestic US coal consumption was due to the drop in natural gas prices, 26 percent was due to lower than expected electricity demand, and 18 percent was due to growth in renewable energy. Environmental regulations contributed to the decline by accelerating coal power plant retirement, but these were a less significant factor. We also found that changes in the global coal market have played a far greater role in the decline of US production and employment than is generally understood. The recent collapse of Chinese coal demand, especially for metallurgical coal, depressed coal prices around the world and reduced the market for US exports. The decline in global coal prices was a particularly important factor in the recent wave of coal company bankruptcies and resulting threats to the healthcare and pension security of retired US coal miners and their dependents.

    Second, the paper examines the prospects for a recovery of US coal production and employment by modeling the impact of President Trump’s executive order and assessing the global coal market outlook. We found that successfully removing President Obama’s environmental regulations has the potential to mitigate the recent decline in US coal consumption, but that will only occur if natural gas prices start to rise. If they remain at current levels, domestic consumption will continue to decline, particularly if renewable energy costs fall faster than expected. We similarly see little prospect of a sustainable recovery in global coal demand growth and seaborne coal prices. Combining our domestic and international market outlook, we believe it is highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.

    The report’s conclusion that undoing environmental protections will have little impact on coal mining employment aligns with what numerous experts and nonideological media analysts have reported. The researchers also found that the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which regulates emissions from coal-fired power plants and which Trump singled out with a March 28 executive order that rolled back environmental regulations, “played no direct role in the reduction of US coal consumption and production experienced over the past few years.” (The Obama administration announced the final version of the CPP in August 2015 but the rules were never actually implemented.)

    The report does note that the decline in coal consumption could be mitigated “if natural gas prices increase going forward,” but the impact on jobs would not be as direct. As Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming, explained to The New York Times, even if coal mines stay open, they are “using more mechanization” and “not hiring people. … So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs.”

    Notably, the Columbia report offers policy recommendations “for how the federal government can support economic diversification in coal communities through infrastructure investment, abandoned mine land reclamation, tax credits, small business incubation, workforce training, and support for locally driven economic development initiatives.”

    But perhaps just as importantly, the researchers offer the following recommendation for lawmakers: “Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going on in the US coal sector—including the causes of coal’s decline and unlikeliness of its resurgence—rather than offer false hope that the glory days can be revived.”

  • MSNBC's Ali Velshi Outlines The "Built-In Unfairness" Of Trump's Tax Plan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC outlined the major problems in President Donald Trump's proposed tax cut plan, which drastically reduces the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent while lowering personal tax rates for high-income individuals at expense of almost all tax deductions that benefit the middle class.

    On the April 27 edition of MSNBC's MSNBC Live, host Katy Tur discussed Trump's tax outline with correspondent Ali Velshi and conservative economist Peter Morici, outlining how the plan could greatly reduce the president's personal and business tax burden while saving the Trump family billions of dollars in future estate taxes. Velshi argued the proposed reductions in corporate tax rates and creation of a new income loophole for some contractors and business owners created "built-in unfairness" in the tax system. Morici added that Trump's plan would not assist the middle class and complained that the administration had only produced a one-page memo "with a lot of white space" despite having five months to craft substantial tax reform proposals:

    During the next hour of MSNBC Live, Velshi introduced another segment on the proposed tax cuts by noting that Trump is making "a frantic last push for what has eluded him in his first 100 days: a major legislative accomplishment." Joined by MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, Velshi noted that "we don't actually know" what Trump's tax agenda is to which Sykes responded, "this is not a bill, it's basically a press release ... there is no meat to the substance." Sykes added that, while he leans toward conservative tax policy, he does not think "there is any rational way" to claim Trump's plan helps the middle class or can avoid "blow[ing] an enormous hole in the federal deficit." After Velshi detailed a laundry list of middle-class tax credits that "could go away" under the plan, McMahon highlighted that Trump's plan "is going to be an absolutely huge windfall for very wealthy people":

  • The Vindication Of Rachel Maddow

    Journalists Panned Her Report On Trump’s Tax Returns, But It Produced The Best Evidence Trump’s Tax Proposal Boosts His Own Bottom Line

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Under pressure to show some sign -- any sign -- that President Donald Trump’s administration hasn’t squandered its first 100 days in office, the White House yesterday released a one-page collection of bullet points billed as a tax plan.

    There are many unanswered questions relevant to the 200-word proposal -- among them whether the massive tax cuts it proposes, channeled mostly to corporations and the wealthy, would be temporary or permanent; whether the tax cuts would be paid for, and how; and how much the proposal would cost. Top administration officials making the rounds on the morning news shows say they don’t know how the plan would affect the budget deficit and can’t guarantee that it wouldn’t raise the taxes of the middle class.

    One thing seems clear, however: If this proposal becomes law, the Trump family will be the big winners.

    As The New York Times’ Neil Irwin noted after detailing the proposal:

    It is striking how many of the categories listed above affect the president and his family. He is a high-income earner. He receives income from 564 business entities, according to his financial disclosure form, and could take advantage of the low rate on ''pass-through'' companies. According to his leaked 2005 tax return, he paid an extra $31 million because of the alternative minimum tax that he seeks to eliminate. And his heirs could eventually enjoy his enormous assets tax-free.

    We don’t know precisely how much Trump will benefit from the policies he supports because he refuses to release his tax returns, breaking decades of precedent and taking a hammer to an important political norm that curbs political corruption. And so as Irwin demonstrates, Trump’s “leaked 2005 tax return” provides the best available evidence of the impact Trump’s proposal will have on his own wallet.

    For that, we have MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and The Daily Beast’s David Cay Johnston to thank. It is a vindication for Maddow in particular, who was widely criticized by political reporters for the way in which she revealed documents that none of them had been able to obtain.

    Six weeks ago, Maddow set the political world on fire with a single tweet issued fewer than 90 minutes before her show began:

    After journalists and political commentators spent nearly an hour burning up Twitter with theories about what precisely Maddow had uncovered, she revealed that her show was going to feature the president’s 1040 form from 2005, which Johnston had obtained.  

    When her show began, Maddow did not open with the contents of the document. Instead, she used her first segment to provide context, detailing the long saga of Trump’s unwillingness to reveal his tax returns and the evidence about his income that had been made public thus far. Only after returning from a commercial did she and Johnston reveal what they had learned: Trump had paid a mere $5.3 million in income taxes -- a rate of less than 4 percent on an income of more than $150 million -- but had to pay $31 million more under the alternative minimum tax, which he had proposed eliminating during the campaign.

    And the political press went wild. Not because they had learned new information about the president’s taxes that he had kept from the public in unprecedented fashion. Not because the tantalizing scraps that Maddow and Johnston had unveiled suggest that Trump’s interest in keeping his returns secret is at least in part because they reveal how much he would benefit from policies he supports.

    No, the press freaked out because reporters had to wait for 20 minutes on a weeknight and watch a cable news program to hear a scoop none of them had been able to get over the previous 20 months, and because the actual content of that scoop didn’t match whatever they were expecting.

    In real time, political media Twitter exploded with criticism for the MSNBC host. Afterward, the critique from journalists seemed to overwhelm the actual news the show had produced.

    Maddow had used “a windup that some fellow journalists, eager for any bombshells, found exceedingly lengthy,” according to the Times. She had “disappoint[ed] many in the political-media establishment with a report that was widely characterized as overhyped,” CNN reported. Her program was a “cynical, self-defeating spectacle.” She “bur[ied] the lede,” having “talked . . . and talked . . . and talked” for what “felt like an eternity.” She had made a “big-time blunder” and her “bombshell” had “fizzled.”

    Poynter.org chief media writer James Warren was one of Maddow’s few defenders on style, excoriating the press for its “mix of impatience and internet-fueled craving for instant gratification” in the face of a garden-variety effort by a media outlet to ensure the largest possible audience for its scoop. As to the revelation’s content, as The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple noted, “The president wants to abolish the part of the tax code that stings him the hardest. In what news world is that not a bombshell?”

    With the White House’s release of a tax proposal that eliminates that part of the tax code, Maddow’s bombshell is more important than ever. But don’t expect to see apologies any time soon -- even news reports that detail how the 2005 1040 shows how Trump would benefit from the proposal don’t give Maddow any credit for unveiling it.

    This post has been updated for clarity.

    Images by Sarah Wasko.

  • Right-Wing Media Figures Want Trump To Shut Down The Government So They Can Blame Democrats

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Right-wing media figures are displeased after the likelihood of a government shutdown seemed to fade following a breakthrough after days of failed negotiations and speculation. Specifically, right-wing media figures cheered the idea of a shutdown because they wanted to make sure that “Democrats get blamed” and to exact revenge after, as they claimed, Democrats made previous shutdowns “as painful as possible.”

  • The White House’s Favorite Misogynistic Rape Denier Is Coming To Friday’s Press Briefing

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Internet troll Mike Cernovich, who has previously been promoted by persons within and close to President Donald Trump’s administration, announced on Twitter on April 24 that he had been approved for a “press pass” to visit the White House on April 28.

    In a since-deleted tweet, self-proclaimed “new right” leader Cernovich sent a message to President Donald Trump telling him that “some very dishonest people” at the White House “pulled my press pass,” warning that the action “will not go over well.” Hours later, during a live broadcast on YouTube (which has subsequently been removed) in which he ranted against the administration for denying him access, he told his audience that he just discovered his press pass has been approved. Cernovich followed up with a tweet:

    Cernovich’s presence at the White House comes as no surprise given the praise and access to information given to fringe and far-right outlets by White House officials. For example, Cernovich seemingly received special access to information involving the widely debunked smear that Susan Rice improperly unmasked Trump campaign staff under investigation and advance information that Trump would strike Syria. In addition, Cernovich has received praise from those close to Trump including Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway and the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., who both amplified Cernovich.

    In this case, while it appears that Cernovich received a day pass, not a permanent press pass like the ones given to credentialed journalists, Cernovich’s appearance at the White House, and most likely at the press briefing, reflects a larger pattern of outspoken Trump supporters and defenders getting increased access.  A similar pass was given to The Rebel Media’s Lauren Southern, who grew to fame as an “alt-right” media personality who denied rape and demonized minorities. The Trump White House briefing room has also become a hotbed for fringe pro-Trump media writers such as The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft and Lucian Wintrich, who flashed an “alt-right” hand signal inside the briefing.

  • The Worst Economist In The World Says Trump's Tax Cuts Will Do The Impossible

    Why Does CNN Even Give Stephen Moore A Platform?

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    In response to reports that President Donald Trump would unveil a plan to reduce the corporate income tax rate from 35 to 15 percent, discredited economic pundit Stephen Moore rushed to praise the budget busting corporate giveaway while misleadingly claiming that the tax cuts will help pay for themselves by boosting economic activity.

    On April 24, The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump would release a tax plan on Wednesday focused on cutting the maximum statutory corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent -- a 20 percent cut the White House is demanding regardless of the implications it would have for the federal budget deficit. The Journal also reported that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made the unfounded claim that the tax cut will “pay for itself with economic growth.”

    Economist Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and who served as economic adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, called the assertion that Trump’s tax cut would pay for itself “empirically phony” and argued that there is no correlation between cutting taxes and boosting economic growth. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman derisively referred to Trump’s trickle-down economic agenda as “voodoo economics” and laid out examples of tax cuts failing to generate growth under previous administrations. Krugman also noted that former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both raised taxes in order to generate sustainable new tax revenues without undermining the growing economy. He concluded by saying that the extreme cuts Trump would propose is the same “voodoo” Republicans have promoted for decades “with extra bad math.”

    On April 25, the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation posted an analysis of the Trump administration’s claims that the tax cut would pay for itself, concluding that the economy could not grow enough to offset the losses in revenue. According to the Tax Foundation’s charitable analysis, cutting corporate tax rates to just 15 percent would stoke economic growth by less than half as much as would be needed to make up for lost revenue and result in long-term deficit increase of at least hundreds of billions of dollars. Those conclusions follow an earlier analysis of Trump’s corporate tax proposal by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which on October 18 found that Trump’s corporate tax agenda alone would reduce federal revenue by $207.6 billion in 2018 and by roughly $2.4 trillion over ten years.

    The idea that tax cuts pay for themselves has been thoroughly debunked by years of research. Yet Moore heaped praise on Trump’s plan while parroting unfounded claims that it would grow the economy and benefit all Americans. On the April 25 edition of CNN’s New Day, Moore pushed Trump’s tax plan claiming it would create a “feedback effect” leading to growth. Moore also published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that day promoting the plan while claiming Trump’s tax agenda would help the American economy reach the arbitrary and unrealistic 3 percent annual growth target so-cherished by conservative pundits. On the April 26 edition of New Day, Moore continued his push for the tax cuts only to be debunked by economist and former Obama economic adviser Jason Furman, who reminded Moore that “this plan would actually hurt our economic growth” by adding trillions of dollars to the federal debt reducing long-term economic growth:

    Ever since CNN hired Moore, he has harmed the network’s credibility by spewing lies about the economy while peddling whatever policies are being pushed by the Trump administration. He routinely peddles partisan economic misinformation while being debunked by more reliable experts and his only purpose at the network seems to be recycling right-wing media talking points.

  • Networks Covering March For Science Provided Platform For Climate Deniers

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators participated in the March for Science in Washington, D.C., and sister marches around the globe. Many participants were protesting the Trump administration and Republican Party’s climate denial and their attacks on science. But some television networks covering the marches also devoted airtime to climate deniers, who misled their viewers about the impacts and extent of global warming.

    The April 22 edition of CNN’s New Day Saturday featured a guest panel discussing the marches that included Bill Nye the Science Guy and physicist William Happer, a climate change denier. In the segment, Happer perpetuated the myth that carbon dioxide is not a harmful pollutant and that it benefits the planet, and he claimed incorrectly that temperatures are not rising as fast as climate models predicted. He also called for the cancellation of the Paris climate agreement because it “doesn’t make any scientific sense. It’s just a silly thing,” and then compared it to the Munich Agreement and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

    Nye rebutted Happer in each instance and expressed his disappointment with CNN’s decision to host the climate change denier, stating, “I will say, much as I love the CNN, you’re doing a disservice by having one climate change skeptic and not 97 or 98 scientists or engineers concerned about climate change.” Indeed, the segment was in line with CNN’s typical approach of elevating conflict among panelists over truth telling.

    On the same day, CBS Weekend News aired a segment on the marches, as well as a report on rapidly melting Arctic ice and the future impacts of climate change. But later in the program, a segment titled “Climate Realists” featured an interview with Joseph Bast, the president of the climate-denying Heartland Institute. Bast, who is not a scientist, falsely argued that the warning signs of climate change are just the natural order of things and that climate change is beneficial because of decreased deaths from cold (it’s not).

    The segment briefly noted that “most climate scientists, the United Nations, as well as NASA dismiss these arguments as propaganda for fossil fuels.” But given that 97 percent of climate scientists fall into this category, featuring Bast in the first place perpetuates a false balance by giving viewers a skewed picture of the issue. The report also neglected to mention that the Heartland Institute is funded by fossil fuel interests, including the Koch Brothers and Exxon. Heartland later celebrated Bast’s appearance on the program in a press release that states, “On Saturday, April 22, millions of viewers watching CBS News got a rare glimpse of what many scientists have been saying for years: Global warming is not a crisis, and the war on affordable and reliable energy should be ended.”

    Lastly, immediately following its coverage of the march, C-SPAN aired a “Science & Public Policy” panel discussion (which did not include any scientists) hosted by the climate denial groups the Heritage Foundation and the Discovery Institute about “what some consider the suppression of their dissenting views on climate change, evolution, and other issues.” During the discussion, Marlo Lewis of the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute wrongly declared that “consensus” climatology is “not supported by observations.” Lewis’ claim runs directly in contrast to the facts released by NASA, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the United Kingdom’s national weather service.

    The March for Science is an important story that highlights concerns over the GOP and Trump administration’s opposition to scientific evidence and facts. It’s a shame, then, that these networks chose to juxtapose their coverage of the marches with the very sort of climate science denial and misinformation that so many took to the streets to protest.

  • Right Side Broadcasting, The “Unofficial Version Of Trump TV,” Forced To Apologize For Contributor’s Call To “Kill The Globalists” At CNN

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN) host Nick Fuentes went on a violent, on-air tirade, suggesting that it was “time to kill the globalists” who run CNN, adding, “I don’t want CNN to go out of business … I want the people that run CNN to be arrested and deported or hanged.”

    RSBN was deemed “the unofficial version of Trump TV” by The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers after the network, Borchers reported, “teamed up” with the Donald Trump’s presidential campaign  “to produce pre- and post-debate analysis shows that streamed on Trump’s Facebook Page.” The network’s CEO, Joe Seales, hosted an “ask me anything” session on a pro-Trump Reddit page and wrote that ”Trump built RSBN.” In December, the network announced that it received  White House press credentials to cover the Trump administration. Among the network’s staff is date rape promoter Mike Cernovich, racist YouTube prankster "Joey Salads,” and islamophobe Nick Fuentes.

    In an April 19 on-air tirade, Fuentes claimed that Muslims and immigrants are not protected under the First Amendment and called for the people who run CNN to be “arrested and deported or hanged.” From the April 19 edition of RSBN’s America First with Nick Fuentes:

    NICK FUENTES (HOST): The First Amendment was not written for Muslims, by the way. It wasn't written for a barbaric ideology that wanted to come over and kill us. It was written for Calvinists. It was written for Lutherans and Catholics, not for Salafists, not for Wahabists, not for the Saudi royal family. Don't think the founders had that one in mind. And it also was intended for citizens, not for immigrants. If the First Amendment protected everyone's right to have their religion and express it in every country, we'd have our police in the Congo or in Uganda fighting against the Lord's Resistance Army. And you never hear that side of the story on the mainstream media, and why not? Why don't we hear about it? Why do none of our elected officials talk about this or like this? They know it's true. Why don't we hear about in the mainstream media? We don't hear about it on Fox News, by the way, either. And why not?

    Who runs the media? Globalists. Time to kill the globalists. I don't want to not watch CNN. I don't want CNN to go out of business. I don't want CNN to be more honest. I want people that run CNN to be arrested and deported or hanged because this is deliberate. This is not an accident. It's not, “Oh, you know journalists have a liberal bias because they're educated, and educated people tend to be” -- none of that. It is malicious intent. There is a design, there is an agenda here. And the people behind CNN that are pushing outright lies, and you see the people who try and expose the truth are cut off so obviously. They get their mics cut off, and they say, “Oh whoops, we've lost the signal. Technical difficulties.”

    The network did issue a statement apologizing for the comments, calling them “unacceptable” and “inappropriate.” The apology, however, was promptly contradicted when the show’s producer thanked the Twitter users who heaped praise on Fuentes’ call for violence and praised him as “a smart young man.”

    Fuentes’ extremist view of mainstream media reflects the network’s unofficial mission, which Seales said is to discredit traditional news outlets and replace them with other far-right outlets.

    A reader tip contributed to this story. Thank you for your support and keep them coming.

  • Right-Wing Media Push Absurd Pizza Lobby Claim That Franchises Are Burdened By Basic Food Labeling

    Pizza Franchises Are Lobbying Trump To Kill Another Public Protection Enshrined In ACA

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    A pizza industry lobbying campaign against food labeling requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has gained momentum in recent weeks as right-wing media promote exaggerated complaints that it would be “costly and burdensome” to require chain restaurants to display calorie information on menu items. Conservative outlets are urging President Donald Trump to rescind the long-delayed implementation of certain food labeling requirements, while completely ignoring that the long-term benefits of such public protections vastly outweigh the short-term costs.

    On the April 19 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Domino's franchisee owner Chris Reisch asked Trump -- who is an obsessive Fox & Friends viewer -- to stop a rule that was passed as part of the ACA and goes into effect on May 5, requiring chain restaurants to display the calorie counts of items on their menus. Reisch preposterously claimed the food labeling requirement would force him to “have a book at the counter” to display the calorie count of the 34 million topping combinations of Domino’s pizza and promoted the openly ridiculous claim that kitchen staff might face jail time for putting too many toppings on a pizza:

    During his interview, however, Reisch did not disclose that he was recently on Capitol Hill lobbying against food labeling, overtime pay, and labor rights on behalf of the American Pizza Community (APC) -- the lobbying arm of the pizza industry.

    According to The Washington Post, the APC is leading “a desperate push” to curb food labeling standards before they go into effect, “more than seven years after [the ACA] was signed into law” and years after most other chain restaurants already complied with the new standards. Having already gone to Congress with its complaints, the pizza industry may have hoped to reach the president directly via Fox & Friends, which culminated a month-long chorus of right-wing outlets slamming the rule on the industry’s behalf.

    In the past few weeks, right-wing outlets and fringe conservative sites have assailed the ruling, citing its supposedly onerous costs and bemoaning the confusion it could cause for customers. Since March 22, The Washington Free Beacon, PJMedia (twice), the National Review, NewsBusters, Investor’s Business Daily, CNS News, and FoxNews.com have promoted varying arguments that the rule would be “costly and burdensome,” that it “lacked common sense,” and that it amounted to little more than “pizza shaming.” CNS News hyped a report from the food services industry that incorrectly estimated the cost of compliance at $1 billion in its first year and NewsBusters questioned if the government should have any role in mandating that companies disclose nutritional information to the public.

    In reality, the actual ACA rule requires restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to display the calorie counts of all standard menu items, and has exceptions for temporary items. When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published its food labeling standards in November 2014, it estimated that the industry-wide costs would be roughly $1 billion over a 20 year period -- a sum that pales in comparison to the $767 million profit Domino’s earned in 2016 alone. Overall, the FDA estimated that the benefits of Americans eating healthier because of the additional nutritional information would exceed the total cost of implementation by over $8 billion:

    Reisch’s claim that the rule would be too costly loses steam in light of the FDA’s findings but it is even more bizarre considering he admitted that Domino’s already has this information and posts the calorie counts of its pizzas and toppings online. On April 17, MarketWatch reported that pizza companies are opposed to displaying calorie counts on menus even though “Americans are paying more attention to food ingredients” and polling showed up to 68 percent want chain restaurants to post calorie information. On her Food Politics blog, nutrition and public health professor Marion Nestle pointed out that the fierce pushback against posting calories on menus, regardless of the low cost and outsize health benefits, shows that these companies “would rather you did not have this information.” This attitude makes it that much more important for government to protect consumers access to this knowledge.