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Racial Justice

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  • In an email to Fox employees, Fox News reporter Doug McKelway defended Trump’s “both sides” comments about neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville 

    McKelway has a history of defending Confederate statues and fearmongering about left-wing violence 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Internal Fox emails reviewed by The Daily Beast show Fox News reporter Doug McKelway working to defend President Donald Trump’s infamous “both sides” comment after former Vice President Joe Biden referenced it in an April 25 campaign video.

    Following the violent August 2017 Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, VA, Trump argued that there were “very fine people on both sides.” According to an April 26 article in The Daily Beast, after Biden’s video mentioned these comments, McKelway immediately sought to defend the president in an email to his colleagues, partially by arguing that there were good people among the marchers:

    McKelway, a nine-year Fox News veteran, sent an email to dozens of network employees, saying he was “Putting this Biden statement out there, next to Trump's original presser, and a live interview I did in C-ville with ‘good people on both sides’” to supposedly fact-check Biden. The emails were first published by FTV Live.

    McKelway began his email with a Winston Churchill quote: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” He then proceeded to echo the pro-Trump claim that the president never said what he said about the neo-Nazis who marched at the deadly event.

    McKelway contrasted portions of Biden’s script against the same quotes that pro-Trump outlets have used to claim the president never defended white nationalists. And then the reporter highlighted a quote from his own interview with Brian Lambert, an armed Unite the Right attendee, who portrayed the neo-Nazi rallygoers as victims: “They’re denying people their right to assemble. They’re denying their right to speak freely, however hateful their views may be,” he bemoaned.

    The article explains that a second Fox employee, Digital Senior Editor Cody Derespina, replied to the email agreeing with McKelway and linked to another interview with a Unite the Right marcher who claimed he was “simply there to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.” A third respondent, Fox News Radio’s White House correspondent Jon Decker, however, noted that this marcher had chanted “Jews will not replace us” during the march. McKelway then realized the man he had interviewed also had clear white nationalist allegiances:

    An hour later, a seemingly humbled McKelway returned to the thread, walking back his previous words. He linked to an article from C-Ville, a Charlottesville alt-weekly, that showed his one-time interviewee Brian Lambert was, in fact, a white nationalist who trespassed in local parks, removed tarps off Confederate statues, placed rebel flag stickers on surfaces, and flashed a white-power symbol to supporters during his sentencing hearing.

    McKelway, who works for Fox News’ so-called “straight news” division, has previously defended Trump’s comments and has a history of engaging in “both sides” rhetoric himself.

    In the aftermath of the Charlottesville protest, during which counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed by a neo-Nazi, McKelway asked then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe if he would “repudiate the violence that we saw Saturday from the left.” McKelway has also defended Confederate statues on-air, once arguing that anti-Confederate protesters want “airbrushing of history, a tactic of totalitarian governments” and suggesting this was a “common practice in the former Soviet Union.”  

  • The Black maternal health crisis deserves more media attention

    Black Maternal Health Week spotlights a dire health disparity in the United States

    Blog ››› ››› CHENAY ARBERRY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During the second annual Black Maternal Health Week, media outlets at the state and national level ought to take notice of the growing racial health disparity in the United States that has gone under-reported for far too long.

    According to an investigation by USA Today, America is the “most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world.” Even worse, as an April 2018 fact sheet from National Partnership for Women & Families noted, “black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death” compared to their white counterparts, regardless of education or wealth. Although media have occasionally highlighted this issue in the context of celebrities’ birth experiences, Black maternal mortality is a serious issue deserving of broader coverage year-round.

    Here's what media needs to know about Black Maternal Health Week and the Black maternal health crisis in the United States:

    What is Black Maternal Health Week and why is it important?

    Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17) was first launched in 2018 and is led by the Black Mamas Matters Alliance to raise awareness of the status of Black maternal health in the United States. The Black Mamas Matter Alliance was established in 2013 as part of “a partnership project between the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.”

    These organizations produced and submitted a collaborative report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that focused primarily on Southern Black women’s experiences attempting to access quality maternal health care -- experiences which often resulted in poor maternal health outcomes and persistent racial health disparities. For example, the report noted that between 1990 and 2013, the rate of maternal mortality in the United States more than doubled, and it highlighted that in some parts of the country, “the rate of maternal death for women of color exceeds that of Sub-Saharan Africa.”

    Approximately 4 million women in the U.S. give birth each year, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2017 that the rate of "severe maternal morbidity ... has been steadily increasing in recent years and affected more than 50,000 women in the United States in 2014.” Severe maternal morbidity impacts include enduring dangerous, traumatic, life-threatening complications that can leave people wounded, financially devastated, and for some, without the ability to bear more children. The CDC has estimated that roughly 700 women die each year as a result of pregnancy or childbirth complications, with Black women bearing the brunt of those maternal deaths. To illustrate the impact of this vast racial health disparity, a 2017 ProPublica investigation found that a Black woman “is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, ... but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes.”

    How do media typically cover Black maternal health?

    Although the severity of America’s Black maternal health crisis is deserving of far broader coverage, the topic often only breaks through in the context of celebrity birth experiences. For example, in 2018 two high-profile stories involving Serena Williams and Beyoncé exemplified the dire circumstances of the Black maternal health crisis, underscoring that even prominent and traditionally successful Black women are not immune from its impacts.

    Speaking to CNN, Williams brought attention to the racial health disparity by sharing her birth experience, stating that she nearly died in childbirth. Williams highlighted the disparities in access to care for Black women and stressed that, “every mother, everywhere, regardless of race or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth.” In Vogue's September 2018 issue Beyoncé candidly shared the story of her own dangerous birthing experience. As she explained, “I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth to Rumi and Sir. I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month. My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section.”

    Williams’ and Beyoncé’s experiences further demonstrated that when it comes to America’s worsening Black maternal mortality crisis, no amount of wealth or status can protect a Black woman from experiencing dangerous and potentially fatal childbirth conditions.

    Why is it important to center Black mothers’ experiences when reporting on Black maternal mortality and health disparities?

    Although celebrity experiences more consistently generate media coverage, there have been instances in which stories about Black women’s birthing experiences or stories surrounding the status of Black maternal health break through. In March 2019, USA Today published an investigation of maternal deaths at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans -- a facility which was branded as one of the most dangerous hospitals for Black women in the area to experience labor. According to USA Today, Touro Infirmary was one of 120 hospitals across the country where mothers suffered severe childbirth complications or death at far higher rates than other U.S. hospitals. In response to the piece, the hospital blamed its area’s “medically vulnerable” population, citing, “Lifestyle diseases, the high cost of healthcare, delaying or non-compliance with medical treatment, limited care coordination, poor health, high rates of poverty and high rates of morbidity are all realities of our State and community.” As USA Today noted, this was a particularly troubling response given that “a majority of women who deliver at Touro are black.” Beyond highlighting dire health conditions -- which are unfortunately representative of many Black women’s childbirth experiences -- USA Today’s report also exemplifies the importance of listening to Black women and allowing them the space to share their personal maternal health experiences.

    In 2018, USA Today highlighted the experience of YoLanda Mention, who tragically died following childbirth as a result of hospital and emergency room staff ignoring numerous “warning signs." After giving birth, she was discharged despite having dangerously high blood pressure that only increased once she returned home. When a severe headache landed Mention in the emergency room 15 hours after she was initially discharged, she was forced to wait for hours and ultimately left unattended until suffering a stroke. As USA Today concluded, this negligence is all too common:

    YoLanda didn’t die from some unforeseen childbirth complication. What killed her didn’t take any expensive, high-tech equipment to detect and treat. Just a blood pressure cuff, IV medication that costs less than $60 a dose and a hospital adhering to best safety practices.

    In a 2018 congressional hearing on maternal mortality, Charles Johnson testified about his wife Kira -- who he said, “just wasn’t in good health, she was in exceptional health” -- and her death due to complications that were ignored after childbirth. Kira Johnson gave birth to their son Langston at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a hospital well-known for its superior medical care. But her reports of pain in her abdomen post-cesarean delivery were ignored, as were her husband’s repeated requests for a CT scan to assess the problem. Hospital staff reportedly told Johnson that his “wife just isn’t a priority right now” and instead waited “more than 10 hours” after delivery before they finally examined her and found “three and a half liters of blood in her abdomen.” She was ultimately unable to recover from so much internal bleeding. Although tragic, Kira Johnson’s story received local and national attention, highlighting the importance of giving narratives like Johnson’s a platform to bring visibility to those impacted by the Black maternal mortality crisis.

    According to reporting from Austin, TX, television station KXAN, “Black women in Texas are at the greatest risk” of dying as a result of childbirth or related complications, “an alarming rate … on par with developing countries.” The station shared the experience of Cheryl Perkins, who watched as her daughter Cassaundra Perkins became progressively more sick after giving birth to twins via emergency caesarean. As KXAN explained, “An autopsy revealed that doctors left behind pieces of placenta after surgery, causing a deadly infection.” Both state and national news outlets covered Perkins’ case to demonstrate Texas’ Black maternal mortality crisis. After becoming aware of Perkins’ death, Democratic Texas state Rep. Shawn Thierry announced that she would introduce legislation to direct attention to the state’s disparate rates of Black maternal mortality.

    Each of these examples from media outlets amplifies the experiences of Black women who suffer as a result of disparate maternal health care in the United States. Black maternal mortality should be a story year-round, but during Black Maternal Health Week, it is especially important for media to center and highlight the lived experiences of Black women when discussing maternal mortality. With the founding of a new Black Maternal Health Caucus in the House, media have yet another opportunity to cover this topic. Black women are at the forefront of this specific health crisis, and it would be a disservice for the media not to center their voices during Black Maternal Health Week.

  • Fox and MSNBC give murder of EJ Bradford scant coverage compared to CNN

    CNN has aired 27 segments that discussed the police shooting of Bradford, while Fox has aired 15 and MSNBC has aired 7

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Thanksgiving Day, a police officer shot and killed Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., known as EJ, during a mall shooting in Alabama. The police initially claimed that Bradford was the gunman, but later admitted the officer had likely shot the wrong man. In the days after the revelation, CNN offered significant coverage of the murder and conducted multiple interviews with Bradford’s family. Fox News offered markedly less coverage, and most of it occurred before the police admitted Bradford was not the shooter. MSNBC has covered the shooting the least, but has spoken to Bradford’s family and has largely discussed it in the wake of the police’s admission.

    On Thursday, November 22, police responded to a shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, AL, and fatally shot Bradford, a 21-year-old Black man, later pronouncing him the gunman. The next day, the Hoover Police Department admitted in a now-deleted tweet that “our initial media release was not totally accurate” and conceded that Bradford was likely not the gunman. Police maintain that Bradford was shot after he “brandished a gun,” but the department has not provided any evidence to the public to back up this claim; AL.com reported that the family’s lawyer, prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, "asserts that, according to witnesses, Bradford was trying to guide people away from the area where the initial shooting occurred, that his gun was tucked in his waistband, and that as Bradford lay dying on the Galleria mall floor, police did not allow a nurse who was nearby to attend to him.” Bradford was an "Army veteran with a permit to carry a weapon." His family is demanding that police release videos of the mall shooting.

    Bradford’s murder is the latest tragedy in an epidemic of police violence against people of color in America. The Washington Post’s database on police violence shows that 191 Black people have been shot and killed by police so far in 2018, and a recent Vox study found that Black people comprised 31 percent of those killed by police in 2012, despite being only 13 percent of the U.S. population.

    In the four days following the incident, between November 23-26, CNN ran at least 27 segments, with more than 20 focused on Bradford’s murder after it was revealed he was not the shooter. Bradford’s father and Crump appeared on air twice, and his mother was also present for one interview. By comparison, Fox aired more segments on the initial mall shooting, in which two people were also injured, than it did on Bradford’s murder, and did not once speak to his family or their lawyer. On November 23, the day after the incident, the network dedicated nine segments to coverage of the shooting in which it reported that police had killed the gunman responsible for the violence; Fox aired six segments on November 24 after the police admitted the gunman was not the victim, and has ceased covering the story since. While MSNBC has aired just seven segments discussing the shooting, all but one occurred after the police clarification; Politics Nation spent nearly 10 minutes on the shooting, including one of MSNBC's two interviews with Crump and Bradford’s mother. CNN and MSNBC's coverage appears to be ongoing.

    Fox’s unimpressive coverage should come as no surprise given the network’s history of apathy toward victims of police violence. Fox figures and guests often blame victims of police violence, or else rely on racist portrayals of minority communities to excuse officers’ actions. The network routinely demonizes Black Lives Matter, a group protesting police violence against people of color, and constantly fearmongers about awar on cops” to avoid discussing the impact and frequency of police violence.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched Snapstream for mentions of “Bradford,” “Alabama,” “Birmingham,” “police,” “mall,” and any iteration of the word “shoot” on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC on November 22 through the time of publication.

  • NRATV ignored the Kroger shooting in Kentucky after backing the store’s open-carry policy

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    NRATV, the National Rifle Association’s broadcast outlet, completely ignored news of an apparently racially motivated shooting at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky that debunked the already discredited “good guy with a gun” myth and left two dead.

    On October 24, 51-year-old Gregory Bush attempted to enter a predominantly Black church in Jeffersontown, KY, before heading to a Kroger grocery store where he shot two Black victims, the first in the store and the second in the parking lot. An armed bystander fired at Bush after he shot his second victim but missed him. Another witness said Bush told him he spared the witness’s life because “Whites don’t shoot whites.” The incident is currently being investigated as a hate crime. 

    The attempted action by an armed bystander further discredits the “good guy with a gun” myth,” a favorite of the NRA’s that has been debunked by both researchers and law enforcement. The “good guy” almost never stops an active shooter situation and actually can create further confusion for police officers arriving on scene.

    On October 25 and 26, none of NRATV’s supposed news shows covered the shooting or developments in the days that followed, instead choosing to spread conspiracy theories about the migrant caravan making its way toward the United States, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the recent pipe bomb spree, and promote athletic clothes with a holster in them.

    The shooting followed a 2014 campaign by the gun safety group Moms Demand Action, encouraging Kroger to “prohibit the open carry of guns in its stores.” NRATV aired multiple segments pushing back against the effort and claiming the campaign was “not about actually reducing violence; it’s about winning that press release victory.”

    UPDATE: Following the publication of this post, host and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch mentioned the shooting during the October 29 edition of NRATV’s Relentless, noting it “raised a lot of questions as to whether or not this killer’s motivations were racial.” A chyron on Loesch’s show also falsely hailed it as an example of a shooting “stopped by good guy with a gun.” While the gunman did exchange fire in the Kroger parking lot with a person with a concealed carry permit, no one was hit in the exchange. According to another witness, who was also armed, the gunman “nonchalantly” left the scene after reportedly telling the witness, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites,” a fact Loesch herself noted during the segment.

  • The March for Black Women: They stand up, they fight, and they vote, and it's time media took notice

    Blog ››› ››› SARAH WASKO & MILES LE

    During the 2018 March for Black Women, Black womxn and allies marched in Washington, D.C., to protest the systemic injustices they face and to disavow systemic over-policing, gender-based violence, sexual assault, wealth inequity, and lack of political response to securing Black womxn’s basic rights. Protesters also spoke about the media’s failure to adequately cover their causes.

    Black womxn have long been the leading forces in social justice movements. They stand up, they fight, and they vote. It’s about time media start highlighting their invaluable leadership and elevate their voices as they fight for social change.