Racial Justice | Media Matters for America

Racial Justice

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  • Video: Coverage of gun violence must include police violence against black people

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, MILES LE & SARAH WASKO

    Police in America shoot and kill more people than police in other highly developed countries do, and a disproportionately high number of those killed are black Americans. In 2012, black people accounted for 31 percent of police killings, even though they made up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. Research shows that black Americans are more likely to be shot and killed by police than other races.

    This is the grim reality. But right-wing media, conservative personalities, and some mainstream media figures criminalize black victims of police violence. Here are some examples:

    • Former CNN “law enforcement analyst” Harry Houck said the officers who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice acted “properly” when they shot him while he played in a park.

    • After a police officer shot and killed Walter Scott, who was unarmed and merely ran, Fox’s Geraldo Rivera said: “This civilian has dared to have a physical altercation with the officer.” (Rivera has also repeatedly victim-blamed black teenagers.)

    • After Stephon Clark was shot eight times, mostly in the back, Fox News’ William La Jeunesse remarked: “Now, Clark does have a criminal record.”

    • Fox host Sean Hannity called Freddie Gray, who died “days after suffering a severe spinal injury while riding in the back of a police van,” the “lowest scum parasite in the world” and said: “Look at this guy's record, look at his arrest record. … I'm saying that he's obviously not a pillar of the community.”

    • Hannity also said that Terrence Crutcher, who was shot even after following orders by a police officer, “has a long criminal history and appeared to be under the influence.” (More of Hannity's race-baiting remarks can be found here.)

    • CBS’ David Begnaud claimed that Alton Sterling, who was pinned to the ground, tased, and shot, “has a lengthy criminal history.”

    • Fox’s Mark Fuhrman said of Sterling: “Now, this man has to take responsibility that he did have a gun, and he conducted himself in some manner to draw attention to a citizen who called the police.” (Fuhrman has a long history of making racist remarks.)

    • In another instance, Fox News blatantly ignored dashcam footage in its coverage of the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by police officer Jeronimo Yanez. The footage revealed that Castile had alerted the officer that he was armed and had a valid permit for his firearm.

    Following the school shooting in Parkland, FL, and the resulting March for Our Lives movement for gun regulation, Parkland students have tried to shift media focus to the widespread gun violence against people of color, which they note has not drawn as much media attention as they have.

    The disparity shows a failure by national media to highlight black and brown voices and to recognize the systemic failures and historical context that have led to the unfair targeting of black Americans by law enforcement. State violence against people of color has been part of the fabric of the U.S. since its formation. But you wouldn't know that from some media coverage.

    Black Americans are dying at the hands of police officers. Media should hold law enforcement accountable and treat victims of police brutality the same way they treat victims of gun violence.

    (Charts and Images via CBS News, Family of Stephon Clark, Fibonacci Blue on Flickr, MSNBC, NBC News, Sun Sentinel, Tiffany Dena Loftin, Vox, Wikimedia Commons, and WLRN. Footage via CBS News, CNN, The Crisis Magazine, Fox News Channel, Tiffany Dena Loftin, and WJLA.)

  • Right-wing media lash out at "social justice warriors" after backlash over racist incident in a Philadelphia Starbucks

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks led to protests, and the corporation announced a day of “racial bias training” for its U.S. employees, multiple right-wing media figures reacted to the news by attacking “the cult of social justice warrior” and “the racism industry” for giving “national attention” to the incident. Some right-wing message boards promoted hoaxes designed to bring more controversy to the coffee chain. Several media figures gave an anti-Semite with white nationalist sympathies a platform simply because he trolled a Starbucks employee into giving him free coffee as “reparations.”

  • A guide to NRATV: NRA's news outlet is a hybrid of Breitbart and Infowars

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Launched in late 2016, NRATV serves as the news outlet for the National Rifle Association, regularly defending President Donald Trump, slamming mainstream media outlets as “dishonest rags,” and viciously criticizing any politician or activist who speaks out against the president and his policies. While some of the outlet’s coverage focuses on gun policy, the newest developments in firearms technology, and tactical shooting, the programming has largely become a platform for far-right conservative talking points that are often unrelated to gun policy. As NRATV strayed away from gun coverage, it sparked a number of controversies and drew widespread criticism during its inaugural year. After the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, FL, there were numerous calls for companies to end their business relationship with NRATV. 

  • Video: Mainstream media ignored the Women's March. Here's what Women's March participants said about the media.

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    On January 20 and 21, over a million protesters marched all over the United States and the world for the 2018 Women’s March. Some estimates include: 200,000 marchers in New York City, 300,000 in Chicago, and 600,000 in Los Angeles. But despite the high turnout especially one year after the first Women’s March -- which not only broke records for attendance, but has since grown into a movement -- news outlets largely ignored these historic protests let alone actually interview anyone who organized or participated in them.

    We went to a sister march in Washington D.C. on Saturday, January 20 and spoke to a few of the estimated 10,000 protesters and activists who were there.

    Here’s what they had to say:

  • Fox & Friends gave almost no airtime to Trump’s anti-Muslim retweets

    Blog ››› ››› SANAM MALIK

    President Donald Trump’s series of anti-Muslim retweets from the leader of a far-right ultranationalist British organization got no dedicated airtime on Fox & Friends the day after his Twitter tirade.

    Trump on November 29 retweeted multiple anti-Muslim videos posted by the leader of Britain First, a far-right, ultranationalist, anti-Islam political organization that has been compared by a British lawmaker to the Ku Klux Klan. Fact checkers determined that the videos were highly misleading and that the description of one -- "Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!" -- was completely fabricated.

    Many senators in the U.S. and high-profile officials in Britain rebuked Trump’s tweets, including Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, whom Trump subsequently targeted in one of his tweets. Additionally, civil rights groups pointed out that Trump’s tweets “further inflame” violence and hate aimed at Muslims in a climate when “hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim bias are at an all-time high.” Nonetheless, pro-Trump punditsfar-right trolls, and white nationalists like former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke defended Trump’s retweets.

    While the retweets were one of the top stories on other cable and broadcast morning shows on November 30, Fox & Friends never covered them in the entire three-hour program for its viewers, which evidently included Trump himself. Co-host Brian Kilmeade just once made a passing mention of the posts, asking Fox contributor and former GOP Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) if those tweets “get in the way” of Republicans’ chances to pass the tax bill.

    Of course, Fox & Friends did cover some of Trump’s tweets --  the ones about the Senate’s tax bill proposal and North Korea:

    Here are some of the other things Fox & Friends chose to cover:

    A study that found Christmas music can be damaging for employees:

    Oreo-flavored candy canes:

    A football team wearing custom cleats for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick:

    The New York Times’ editorial board’s social media use:

    The Los Angeles Auto Show:

    Fox & Friends has served as a safe space for Trump, often giving him fodder for his early morning tweets. The program also allows Trump to escape challenging interviews and serves as his first line of defense.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “muslim,” "Islamic," "Islamist," and “tweet” on the November 30 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends.

  • Echoing Fox & Friends, Trump blasts NFL player for sitting during national anthem

    Trump also tweeted directly at Fox & Friends quoting their chyron, "Analysts predict economic boom for 2018"

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & NINA MAST

    President Donald Trump once again tweeted along to Fox News' morning show, Fox & Friends, this time complaining about an NFL player they criticized and quoting their cyron during a segment about the economy.

    Trump tweeted about NFL player Marshawn Lynch sitting during the U.S. national anthem about 15 minutes after Fox & Friends ran a segment on Lynch’s decision to sit during the anthem. At 6:07 a.m., Fox & Friends discussed Lynch’s decision to sit during the U.S. national anthem and stand during the Mexican national anthem at a November 19 game played in Mexico City. Co-host Brian Kilmeade called Lynch’s decision “an international embarrassment,” urged the NFL players’ union to “crack down” on those who refuse to stand during the national anthem, and claimed that, because of NFL player protests, NFL “attendance is down. Ratings are down.”

    At 6:25 a.m., Trump tweeted this:

    In a later segment, Fox & Friends guest Stuart Varney, host of the Fox Business show Varney & Co., claimed Trump “has succeeded on the economy. And if that’s the main point of getting re-elected, well, he’s doing well” because the “unemployment rate [is] 4.1 percent, and Goldman Sachs says it’s going down.” During the segment, a cyron (the text in the lower third of the screen) read "Analysts predict economic boom for 2018," which Trump later repeated in a tweet:

    Trump has a symbiotic relationship with Fox News and a special affinity for Fox & Friends. Many of Trump’s morning Twitter tirades echo things that appeared on Fox & Friends that same day.

    From the November 20 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Before the first kick, there was international news. It was the first story in Drudge most of the day. Marshawn Lynch, famed for saying, “I'm just here so I won't get fined,” takes a seat and will not get fined in Mexico. Sits during the American national anthem, stands for the Mexican national anthem.

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Why would were they playing in Mexico City?

    KILMEADE: Well, they always do. They look to spread -- yeah, they spread the NFL out to London on a regular basis and Mexico City on a regular basis.

    EARHARDT: All right, well that's a question a lot of people who don't follow the NFL, like you do, they’re asking out there.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Yeah, but here’s the thing. He has -- ever since he returned from requirement to the [Oakland] Raiders, he has sat down through every time they’ve done the national anthem. And -- so he sat through the Star-Spangled Banner yesterday in Mexico. But as soon as they started playing the Mexican national anthem, he stood up. And a lot of people are just not too happy.

    EARHARDT: Reminds me of what happened in the U.K. Remember, they didn’t stand, some of them didn't stand for the national anthem? They stood for --

    DOOCY: Exactly the same thing.

    KILMEADE: Well yeah, this is an international embarrassment. When you go overseas and pull this stuff after the league has been urging you not to. A lot of people are blaming the commissioner, but I blame the players union. The players union has got to crack down, because it's hurting the league. Nine percent, the attendance is down. Ratings are down. They’re making themselves vulnerable while they’re also having a civil war between owners and commissioner.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): But, Stuart, I also saw a statistic where they were talking about, even with approval polls where, if the general public doesn't care for the president, they really like his economic policies so far. 

    STUART VARNEY: And so they should, because he has succeeded on the economy. And if that's the main point of getting reelected, well, he is doing well. On unemployment, 4.1 percent, and Goldman Sachs says it's going down. The economy is expanding at a 3 percent growth rate. We'll get 3.5 percent next year, maybe more if we get the tax cut package. 

    DOOCY: Is all of this stuff because of President Trump?

    VARNEY: Well, no. The world economy is growing. That's helping us. That's not what President Trump has done for us. But the growth in the domestic economy, the improvement in jobs, and the lack of -- the getting rid of regulation, that is President Trump. This is the Trump rally on the stock market, make no mistake about it.

    This post has been updated.

  • Fox & Friends uses made-up Confederate memorial controversy to amplify Virginia gubernatorial candidate’s talking points

    Ed Gillespie: “My opponent is in favor of removing all historical Civil War monuments in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I think they should stay up.”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    For days, Fox & Friends has been promoting a debunked story about a church in Alexandria, VA, supposedly removing a memorial plaque honoring George Washington, a parishioner of the church, because some find it “offensive.”

    The October 29 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend and the October 30 and October 31 editions of Fox & Friends, which seem to have gotten the story from The Washington Times, featured deeply misleading segments questioning the decision of church leaders at Christ Church to remove a memorial plaque dedicated to the nation’s first president. Each segment largely glossed over the fact that Washington’s plaque is simply being moved because of its twin plaque commemorating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who also attended the church and who has become the subject of intense debate regarding public commemorations to those who rebelled against the United States government in the cause of secession and white supremacy. According to a statement from the church, the plaques are being moved together because they represent a single installation that is out of place in “the worship space” of the building and will be “relocated to a place of respectful prominence” where they can be viewed in the full context of the church’s “long and many-faceted history.”

    Fox’s knee-jerk attempt to politicize the church’s decision, and the network’s attempt to obfuscate the removal of a plaque commemorating Lee by hyping the removal of a twin plaque commemorating Washington, marks another step backward in the network’s increasingly outlandish defenses of monuments to the Confederacy. Fox & Friends’ attempts to capitalize on the network’s ginned-up controversy culminated in a softball October 31 interview with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, who used the issue to accuse Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam of seeking to erase Virginia's history. Gillespie has made defending Confederate monuments a core issue of his platform and has benefited from favorable coverage at Fox News and elsewhere in right-wing media. From the October 31 edition of Fox & Friends:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Ed, where you're sitting right now, in Alexandria, that's the same city that we were talking about earlier today where at Christ Church, which is a church that George Washington himself attended, there is a plaque inside the vestibule that commemorates the fact that he was there. But they're taking it down because apparently it makes some people feel uncomfortable. What do you make of this? Because I know statues in Virginia -- another big topic this election cycle.

    ED GILLESPIE: Well, obviously, I was disappointed by that, removing the plaque of George Washington at the church where he worshiped because people find it offensive. And that is another debate in this campaign. My opponent [Ralph Northam] is in favor of removing all historical Civil War monuments in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I think they should stay up. We should add historical context to them. And the fact is Virginia was front and center, obviously. Of course, we've been at the forefront of American history from the very founding here of Virginia and Virginians. Now, it doesn't mean we've always been on the right side. And in the Civil War, we were on the wrong side of history. But these statues around the commonwealth that commemorate those who served in the Civil War, I believe we should educate about them and teach about them. He wants to take them all down, and he made that an issue when he called for taking down and removing all of the statues. And when I disagree with that position, which, by the way, two-thirds of Virginians agree with me, you get attacked.

  • It’s time to pay attention to Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters 

    Myanmar government forces, under Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, are committing genocide against the country’s ethnic Rohingya minority group, the majority of whom are Muslim. The government of Myanmar claims these are “clearance operations” in retaliation for attacks by an insurgent terrorist military group that attacked police outposts, even though experts have found that the insurgents are few in number and poorly equipped.

    The United Nations has called the government of Myanmar’s actions “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” International investigators and reporters have gathered evidence and heard stories of entire villages being burned to the ground, women being gang-raped, and soldiers shooting at Rohingya as they attempt to flee violence. Over half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar to escape state violence since August 25.

    Right-wing media outlets are portraying this expulsion of the Rohingya as a “refugee crisis,” accusing the Rohingya of posing “a serious security threat” and even trying to justify the government violence as a response to what they refer to as “Islamic terrorism.” But in trying to justify the government’s violent and horrific actions by claiming it’s just a response to terrorism, thI thinkey are ignoring decades of oppression inflicted by the Myanmar state.

    The Rohingya are a stateless minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state; they are not a nationally recognized ethnic group and are not considered citizens of the majority-Buddhist Myanmar. As a result, the Rohingya are systematically barred from jobs, education, medical care, free worship, and open travel, in part due to reactionary ethnic nationalism laws put in place by the military regime that followed British colonialist rule. State laws restrict Rohingya families to two children, with those who break the law imprisoned and their children put on a blacklist. They’re not recognized as citizens, but rather seen as outsiders or intruders, even though many have lived in Myanmar their entire lives.

    Nobel Peace Prize winner and de facto civilian Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to denounce her government’s role in, and denied allegations of, ethnic cleansing, despite considerable evidence. She has been long been criticized for her anti-Muslim remarks and outright erasure of the plight of the Rohingya. Her fellow Nobel laureates are condemning her silence, and the Oxford City Council has withdrawn its “Freedom of Oxford” awards.

    The state-sponsored violence targeting the Rohingya has only gotten worse. It’s time to pay attention or the world will continue to miss the telltale signs of genocide.

    Resources for how to help the Rohingya (list via The New York Times):

    BRAC, a group founded in Bangladesh, was ranked the No. 1 nongovernmental organization in the world by NGO Advisor, which cited its adaptive approaches and strong community presence. Of the 350 staff members directly serving the refugee population in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, many are locals who speak a dialect similar to that of the Rohingya in Rakhine State. BRAC has built thousands of latrines, hundreds of tube wells and more than 50 child-friendly spaces and emergency health clinics that see thousands of children and patients every day, according to Emily Coppel and Matt Kertman, spokespersons for the group.

    Action Against Hunger is responding to the Rohingya crisis with hundreds of full-time staff members on the ground in Bangladesh, delivering hot meals and water, according to Elizabeth Wright, a spokeswoman for the group. Health workers are treating malnourished children, while mental health counselors are providing support to refugees suffering from acute stress and trauma. Having been in Bangladesh since 2007, Action Against Hunger is partnering with many local organizations and international groups in distributing food and water.

    Unicef is prioritizing shelter, food and water in its efforts to protect children and women, according to Jean-Jacques Simon, Unicef’s communications chief in Bangladesh. In addition to distributing water daily, the group has plans to install water pumps and deep tube wells in the camps. Malnourished children are receiving therapeutic food and supplements. In a news release on Sept. 17, the group also announced plans to vaccinate 150,000 children against measles, rubella and polio.

    Save the Children has been working in Bangladesh since 1970. In addition to distributing essentials like tents, cooking kits and hygiene kits to the displaced Rohingya, Save the Children is paying special attention to helping children, particularly those who are not accompanied by family members. It says 45 staff members are currently dedicated to the Rohingya response. The number of staff and local partners could be increased to 780 by the end of the year to support long-term aid for these refugees, according to Evan Schuurman, a spokesman for the group.

    Doctors Without Borders (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières) has worked in Bangladesh since 1985. At least 300 staff members are in Cox’s Bazar, treating ailments including severe dehydration, diarrheal diseases, violence-related injuries and cases of sexual violence, according to the group.

    The International Rescue Committee is helping the Rohingya remaining in Rakhine, with 400 staff members and volunteers providing medical care and emergency relief. Sanna Johnson, the group’s regional director for Asia, says its operations are complicated by restrictions from Myanmar’s government, which has banned international nongovernmental organizations from some areas of the state.

    UNHCR, the refugee agency for the United Nations has been working with Rohingya migrants since 1978. Of the UNHCR staff members responding to the most recent crisis, about 150 are in Bangladesh and nearly 30 are in Myanmar, according to Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, an emergency response coordinator. In addition to distributing emergency aid and shelter materials, the group gives protection and support to unaccompanied children, the elderly and survivors of rape and trauma.

    World Food Program is a United Nations agency that has been distributing high-energy biscuits to migrants as they have arrived in Bangladesh. It will continue to address food scarcity through subsidies in rice and nutritional powder. As of the end of September, 26 staff members were working with NGO partners and support staff in Cox’s Bazar, according to a spokeswoman, Silke Buhr.