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  • How broadcast TV networks covered climate change in 2018

    ››› ››› TED MACDONALD & LISA HYMAS

    Broadcast TV news coverage of climate change plummeted 45 percent from 2017 to 2018, even as the climate crisis steadily worsened. The major news programs on the broadcast networks aired a combined total of just 142 minutes of climate coverage in 2018, or less than two and a half hours. Almost three-quarters of that coverage aired in just the last three months of the year. The networks did a particularly poor job of explaining how climate change exacerbates extreme weather; none of the networks' news reports on the major hurricanes of 2018 even mentioned climate change. The networks’ coverage was also lacking in diversity: Only 9 percent of the people featured in climate segments were people of color, and only 19 percent were women.

  • Sunday show coverage of climate change was up in February, thanks to the Green New Deal

    Unfortunately, much of the discussion was superficial, and some of it included climate deniers

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Sunday morning political shows discussed climate change much more in February than they did in January. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who is calling on the programs to give climate change more attention, released a scorecard on the shows' February performance:

    It indicates a notable increase in climate coverage compared with the first month of the year, when none of the shows aired substantive segments on climate change and altogether they made just four passing mentions of the topic. 

    Most of the coverage in February focused on the Green New Deal resolution that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced on February 7. While it was encouraging to see more media attention on climate policy ideas, the discussions tended to be narrowly focused on the potential political ramifications for Democrats and Republicans instead of whether the Green New Deal contains worthy ideas for addressing climate change.

    On a more discouraging note, some of the Sunday show discussions about the Green New Deal included climate deniers -- most notably right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, who appeared on Fox News Sunday on February 17. During a wide-ranging conversation, Limbaugh called climate change a "hoax" after host Chris Wallace brought up the Green New Deal. Limbaugh went on, "There's no evidence for it. Climate change is nothing but a bunch of computer models that attempt to tell us what's going to happen in 50 years or 30." Wallace did not push back against Limbaugh's outright climate denial. This was the lowlight of February's climate coverage.

    Other people who have denied or downplayed the climate threat were also asked about the Green New Deal on the Sunday shows. On the February 10 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace raised the topic with National Review Editor Rich Lowry and with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. And on February 10 on ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos brought up the Green New Deal with former New Jersey governor and ABC contributor Chris Christie. None of them expressed climate denial in these conversations, but Lowry used the opportunity to criticize the Green New Deal as "socialist" and "radical" and Mulvaney expressed delight that the plan is dividing Democrats.

    More insightful climate coverage included a segment on the February 24 episode of CBS’ Face the Nation during which Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democratic presidential hopeful, called for action to fight the climate emergency. Additionally, a panel discussion on the February 10 episode of NBC’s Meet the Press included MSNBC host Katy Tur offering a vivid reminder that climate change could kill millions of people and cause billions of dollars in economic damages. (Actually, it could cause trillions in damages.)

    But the highlight of the month's climate coverage came from a panel discussion on NBC’s Meet the Press on February 24, when Heather McGhee, former president and current senior fellow at the liberal policy group Demos, injected a passionate call for climate action into what was otherwise shaping up to be a typical, insubstantial conversation about Green New Deal politics. The panel was discussing the tactics behind a viral video that showed Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) condescending to young activists from the Sunrise Movement who were pressing her to support the Green New Deal. McGhee reminded the others of the big picture and the urgent need for action:

    Dianne Feinstein has been great. And she has been in office and not had the urgency that is required. This is an emergency in this country. It's an emergency on this planet. There's no higher responsibility of anyone who has any kind of political power right now than to try to stop a global catastrophe that's not happening in three generations, it's happening now.

    McGhee came close to tears during her comments, as she noted afterward on Twitter:

    She then followed up by writing a piece invoking her infant son and explaining that “we need more emotion and more urgency in the fight for the future.”

    In 2018, the Sunday shows hardly covered climate change at all, and when they did, those discussions too often featured climate deniers. Now -- after the release late last year of landmark climate reports from the United Nations and the U.S. government and the introduction this year of the Green New Deal resolution -- the programs are addressing climate change more often, and at least some of the coverage is constructive. We hope to be seeing a lot more.

  • Sunday shows mostly ignored the arrest of a white nationalist domestic terrorist within the Coast Guard’s ranks

    Meet the Press was the only major Sunday political news show to mention the arrest

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    After the arrest of a white nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant who, according to charging documents, was allegedly planning “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country," NBC’s Meet the Press was the only one of the five major Sunday political news shows to mention the news. The failure of the other shows to cover the story follows a trend of many mainstream outlets largely ignoring the creeping and real threat of right-wing extremism and domestic terrorism in the United States.

    On February 15, federal authorities arrested Christopher Hasson, a Coast Guard lieutenant and “a self-described white nationalist” who sought “to establish a ‘white homeland’" and wrote that he was “dreaming of a way to kill every last person on earth.” According to court documents, officials allege Hasson is a “domestic terrorist bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect government conduct." Authorities also discovered a stockpile of weapons and “a hit list of possible targets” including “high-ranking current and former Democratic politicians, activists, political organizations and media personalities.”

    According to a Media Matters review of the major political Sunday shows -- CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday -- Meet the Press was the only one to discuss the arrest.

    As right-wing extremism and violence in the United States have surged over the last decade, mainstream media outlets have failed to properly frame and report on the growing threat. From print outlets to network and cable news, the normalization of white nationalist rhetoric and the overall growth of a violent ideology have been, for the most part, treated as backburner issues among mainstream outlets. And while mainstream media play catch-up to what is a real and serious threat -- as the arrest of a self-described white nationalist within the ranks of the U.S. Coast Guard reminds us -- Fox News, the most-watched cable news outlet in the country, continues to unabashedly and irresponsibly pander to such extremists.

  • Here are two big things that were wrong with climate change coverage in 2018  

    Major outlets reported too little on climate change driving extreme weather and too much on Trump, two analyses find

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Mainstream media are continuing two troubling trends in their coverage of climate change, a pair of new reports finds. In 2018, media outlets too often failed to connect extreme weather to climate change, according to an analysis from Public Citizen, a progressive consumer advocacy organization. And researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder found that when major outlets did cover climate change, their reporting was too focused on President Donald Trump.

    Public Citizen reviewed coverage of extreme weather events in 50 top U.S. newspapers, 32 online news sources, and major broadcast and cable television networks, analyzing how often that coverage made mention of climate change. Climate scientists have found that global warming is tied to more intense heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods, as well as aberrant weather events like polar vortexes. But Public Citizen found that many news stories neglected to explain this connection:

    On the whole, the proportion of [extreme weather] pieces that mentioned climate change was disappointingly low. There was no climate-related form of extreme weather that the media connected to climate change in more than 35 percent of pieces. That high-water mark comes from articles discussing record drought. Extreme heat fared similarly, with 34 percent of pieces mentioning climate change. For hurricanes, the rate was just 7 percent.

    Public Citizen’s report notes that coverage of climate change's role in extreme weather was better in 2018 than in 2017, but many outlets continued to miss the mark. 

    When it came to reporting on heat waves, newspapers and TV networks both showed improvement -- they mentioned climate change more often in their heat-wave stories in 2018 than in 2017 -- but not nearly enough. Thirty-three percent of newspaper articles about record or extreme heat connected it to climate change, up from 28 percent in 2017. Television news programs made the connection in 22 percent of their segments, compared to 10 percent in 2017. (A Media Matters analysis of broadcast coverage of a record-breaking heat wave in North America last summer found even worse performance.)

    Coverage of wildfires also improved slightly in 2018, according to Public Citizen’s report. Top newspapers mentioned climate change in 29 percent of wildfire stories last year, compared to 19 percent in 2017. The online news outlets mentioned climate change in 28 percent of wildfire stories in 2018, up from 22 in 2017. And television networks connected wildfires to climate change in 21 percent of their segments last year, compared to 8 percent in 2017. Again, Media Matters documented even worse performance from broadcast TV news in connecting climate change to wildfires that happened last summer and in early November.

    Similar patterns emerged in reporting on other extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall, flooding, and hurricanes: There was slight improvement, but as Public Citizen sums it up, "major news outlets fell short." 

    Researchers at CU-Boulder's International Collective on Environment, Culture & Politics documented a different problem with climate coverage in the U.S.: an obsessive focus on Trump. The collective's Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO), which tracks media coverage in dozens of countries, produced a report summarizing its findings from 2018. In the U.S., MeCCO monitored five major newspapers and six major TV networks.

    According to the research group, “Throughout the year (as in 2017) there has been continued prominence of news from US outlets on climate change or global warming associated with Donald J. Trump.” It found that the word “Trump” was used an average of nearly 4.5 times in each story about climate change, just slightly less than 2017’s average of 4.7 times. In fact, Trump was mentioned more than twice as often as the words "science," "scientific," or "scientist(s)." The result of this Trump-centric reporting was that “media attention that would have focused on other climate-related events and issues instead was placed on Trump-related actions, leaving many other stories untold,” according to MeCCO’s analysis. (Media Matters reached similar conclusions about climate journalism’s overemphasis on Trump in 2017 and 2018.)

    There were some bright spots in climate coverage in 2018. Public Citizen highlighted an editorial collaboration in Florida called The Invading Sea -- involving the Miami Herald, The Palm Beach Post, the Sun-Sentinel, and public radio station WLRN -- that aims to increase awareness of sea-level rise and galvanize action to address it. The Public Citizen report also recognized great reporting by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press.

    Despite these positive developments, the two reports show that news outlets need to improve their climate journalism in 2019. They should stop chasing Trump's every tweet and instead provide sustained, substantive reporting that explains the nature of the climate challenge, connects extreme weather events to climate research, and amplifies solutions to climate-related problems.

  • Major Sunday shows discuss climate change and Green New Deal, but through narrow lens of political horse race

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    All five major Sunday morning political shows touched on the Green New Deal on February 10 -- the first time in 2019 that any of the programs have addressed climate change with more than a passing mention. But most of the discussion was superficial and narrowly focused on whether the Green New Deal will cause intra-party fighting among Democrats or end up benefiting Republicans, not on whether its policy ideas are good approaches for fighting climate change.

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a Green New Deal resolution on Thursday, outlining an aggressive plan for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. within a decade.

    NBC's Meet the Press featured a conversation about the Green New Deal with a panel of guests. Host Chuck Todd kicked it off by briefly outlining the plan's big goals and then asking Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, “Is this a healthy debate [for the Democratic Party] that's happening right now?" In a follow-up comment to David Brody, chief political analyst for the Christian Broadcasting Network, Todd said, “Obviously the president's team sees a reelection opening." The panel discussion on the show largely focused on which party could benefit from consideration of the Green New Deal. Only MSNBC host Katy Tur talked about the dire climate impacts the Green New Deal is designed to mitigate:

    The U.N. said we have 12 years before complete disaster. You talk to the representative of the Marshall Islands, and he's calling it what could amount to genocide if we allow things to go as they are. The reports aren't just, "Hey, it's going to get bad." The reports are, "People will die. Millions and million, and millions of people will die." And I think that there is an appetite among voters out there, especially Democratic voters and potentially swing voters, to say, "Hey, let's do something about this now because it's, it’s going to affect our future." And there's real economic damage that can happen as well. Billions of dollars in economic damage from crops to deaths, to losing oceanfront homes and businesses in, over the next century.

    On CNN's State of the Union, host Jake Tapper brought up the Green New Deal twice. His interview with Peter Buttigieg, Democratic presidential hopeful and mayor of South Bend, IN, included a substantive exchange on the plan and on climate impacts. Tapper briefly mentioned the Green New Deal’s broad aims, questioned Buttigieg about how it could affect his constituents and industry in the Midwest, and asked if he endorsed it. Buttigieg affirmed his support for the general framework of the Green New Deal, specifically “the idea that we need to race toward that goal and that we should do it in a way that enhances the economic justice and the level of economic opportunity in our country.” Buttigieg also noted that action is needed because extreme weather is already hurting Americans. Later in the show, during an interview with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tapper noted that Murphy was a Green New Deal co-sponsor before saying, “Independent senator Angus King of Maine as well as Obama's former energy secretary Ernest Moniz say they don't think that this plan is realistic.” Murphy responded, “It's absolutely realistic and I frankly think we need to set our sights high.” Murphy emphasized the reason why bold steps are required: "Global warming is an existential threat to the planet."

    Fox News Sunday included two segments that discussed the Green New Deal, but host Chris Wallace seemed less interested in how it would address climate change and more interested in whether it could be labeled “socialist.” During a discussion with a panel of guests, Wallace listed some of the plan’s policy goals before asking former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), “Couldn't you call it socialist?” In a follow-up question to Edwards, Wallace lumped the Green New Deal in with other progressive policy proposals such as free college tuition and a guaranteed jobs plan, asking her again, “Couldn't you argue that's pretty radical and possibly socialist?” During a separate interview with Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Wallace asked if President Donald Trump views the Green New Deal as “the view of a wing of the [Democratic] party or does he think that's the prevailing opinion of Democratic leaders?”

    Both ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos and CBS' Face the Nation just made passing mentions of the Green New Deal. This Week host Stephanopoulos directed a comment about Trump’s sarcastic tweet about the Green New Deal to ABC News contributor Chris Christie, but Christie didn't address the topic. Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan didn’t bring up the Green New Deal herself, but one of her guests, National Review Senior Editor Jonah Goldberg, referenced it in passing to claim that it could harm the Democrats politically.

    Sunday’s Green New Deal coverage did not include any guests who voiced climate denial, which is an improvement over the last time all of the major shows covered climate change, on November 25, after release of the National Climate Assessment. But this time around, none of the shows hosted guests with particular expertise in climate change to discuss the plan, like climate scientists or environmental journalists. This is an unfortunate, long-running trend: The Sunday shows rarely feature climate experts.

    The Green New Deal is sparking Sunday show discussion of climate policy, which we've seen very little of in recent years. (And it’s freaking out conservatives and right-wing media figures.) But the coverage needs to get better. Media outlets have a responsibility to move discussions of climate-related issues like the Green New Deal beyond superficial horse-race coverage and into real substance. That means acknowledging that the Green New Deal is not merely a political ploy; it is an effort backed by a broad array of environmental groups, environmental justice organizations, and unions, as well as high-profile Democratic politicians, to comprehensively address the climate crisis. Sunday shows should be fostering discussion of whether the Green New Deal is the right approach to deal with climate change, not whether it will help one side or another score quick political points.

  • Cable and network news largely ignore rollback of CFPB protections against payday lenders

    ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News all failed to cover the proposed rule change

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On February 6, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under President Donald Trump announced a proposal to weaken an Obama-era rule designed to protect consumers from predatory payday lenders. Despite this move’s implications for consumers, network and cable news almost entirely ignored the rule change.

    The Obama-era rule, which had set August 19, 2019, as a deadline for the payday lenders to start complying with its provisions, “was the first significant federal effort to regulate payday lenders and took more than five years to develop.” Part of its provisions would require payday lenders to verify potential borrowers' income and debts when deciding whether they could afford a high-interest loan, thus protecting vulnerable consumers from predatory lenders. Advocates of these provisions argue that “ability-to-repay requirements protect borrowers from getting caught in loans with exorbitant interest rates,” which can exceed 300 percent.

    The latest proposal by the CFPB would eliminate the ability-to-repay requirements and delay implementation of the rule until 2020. This change would be a huge win for payday lenders, who lobbied lawmakers to block the rule last year. When those efforts failed, payday lenders “turned their attention to convincing the CFPB, now under the leadership of a Trump appointee, to change course.”

    The proposal is the latest step in the Trump administration’s efforts to remake the CFPB, which was created after the 2008 global financial crisis in an attempt to protect consumers. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, argued, “This proposal essentially sends a message to predatory payday lenders that they may continue to harm vulnerable communities without penalty.” Richard Cordray, the CFPB’s former director who was in charge of finalizing the rule, described the rollback as “a bad move that will hurt the hardest-hit consumers,” adding, “It should be and will be subject to a stiff legal challenge.”

    Network and cable news almost entirely ignored the CFPB’s proposed rollback, which will be open to public comment for 90 days, despite its potential to affect millions of borrowers. The only significant coverage occurred on MSNBC’s MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle in a segment that lasted over seven minutes and emphasized the detrimental impact the rollback will likely have on consumers.

    MSNBC and NBC also featured two brief headline segments covering the topic on their early morning shows that each lasted less than 30 seconds. There has been no other coverage on MSNBC or NBC. CNN, Fox News, ABC, and CBS have not covered the story at all.

    UPDATE (2/8): After noon on February 7, MSNBC ran two more segments covering the CFPB proposal. On MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle, host Stephanie Ruhle again presented the facts in a segment that lasted over six minutes and featured New York University business professor Scott Galloway. The following hour, on MSNBC Live with Katy Tur, Katy Tur hosted former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich to discuss the damaging impact this rule will have on consumers in a segment that lasted a little over one minute.   

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of "CFPB," "consumer protections," "consumer financial," "roll back," "payday," "community financial services," "CFSA," and "Kraninger" on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, and CBS from February 6 to noon on February 7.

  • Media outlets uncritically push Trump’s anti-abortion lies while reporting on the State of the Union

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Donald Trump’s presidency has created a requirement for outlets to hold themselves accountable for managing his often false and inflammatory rhetoric, by including context and accurate information about his statements directly in headlines and tweets, as well as supplying details in reports. Trump’s inaccurate claims about abortion during the 2019 State of the Union were a prime opportunity for media to provide important context -- an opportunity that some outlets missed, instead promoting Trump’s lies uncritically though headlines and social media.

    During his address, Trump repeated talking points from a scandal manufactured by right-wing media alleging that Democrats support state bills supposedly legalizing “infanticide” or abortions “up to moment of birth.” In his speech, Trump said that a law in New York "would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth," claimed a Virginia bill would allow providers to "execute a baby after birth,"and called on Congress "to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children." In reality, Democratic legislators in New York recently passed legislation to codify Roe v. Wade's abortion protections at the state level, and Virginia Democrats introduced a bill to remove unnecessary barriers to abortion access, which has since been tabled.

    Right-wing media have responded with an avalanche of inaccurate coverage and extreme rhetoric, including saying that abortions later in pregnancy are “murders” and that Democrats were endorsing “infanticide.” To be clear, neither of these claims has any basis in reality. Abortions that take place later in pregnancy are extremely rare and often performed for medical necessity or due to access barriers created by anti-choice politicians. Right-wing media’s characterization of these abortion procedures as happening “at birth” -- or in some cases, allegedly after -- is simply wrong; according to medical professionals, such a scenario “does not occur.” Indeed, as patients who have had abortions later in pregnancy wrote in an open letter: “The stories we hear being told about later abortion in this national discussion are not our stories. They do not reflect our choices or experiences.”

    Here are the some of the outlets that reported Trump’s comments on abortion without providing this necessary context:

    • ABC’s World News Tonight [Twitter, 2/5/19]

    • NBC News [Twitter, 2/5/19]
    • The New York Times [Twitter, 2/5/19]

    • PBS NewsHour [Twitter, 2/5/19]

  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse launches a scorecard to track Sunday news shows’ climate coverage

    Whitehouse: “Our broadcasters hold a special responsibility to inform the public on the most pressing challenges facing the American people”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is calling on the Sunday morning news shows to significantly improve their coverage of climate change. On February 1, he announced the launch of a monthly scorecard to monitor the shows' climate coverage, with the goal of prodding them to do better. 

    The inaugural scorecard his office put out, based on data from Media Matters, illustrates the problem: None of the five major Sunday shows aired substantive segments on climate change in January of this year. In total, there were just four passing mentions of the topic on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press.

    Whitehouse's office issued a press release highlighting findings from a recent Media Matters analysis of major Sunday shows' climate coverage in 2018, which found that less than 6 percent of their episodes last year featured significant discussion of climate change. The analysis also found a decline from 2017 to 2018 in the number of segments on the Sunday shows that discussed climate change. 

    The press release included a quote from Whitehouse:

    Our broadcasters hold a special responsibility to inform the public on the most pressing challenges facing the American people. With each passing day, the climate crisis grows more dire and our government’s response to that crisis more urgent. That is why this report is so troubling. It shows some of our most important voices in the national media falling silent on climate change at precisely the wrong moment.

    The press release called attention to one bright spot last year: an entire episode of Meet the Press in December that was dedicated to discussion of climate change and pointedly excluded climate deniers. But the release noted that “climate change coverage made up a tiny fraction of Sunday shows’ programming in 2018”; very few episodes featured any significant discussion of the issue. 

    Percentage of Shows' Episodes Including Climate Change

    ABC’s This Week: 3.8% (2 out of 52 episodes)
    CBS’ Face the Nation: 9.8% (5 out of 51 episodes)
    CNN’s State of the Union: 3.8% (2 out of 52 episodes)
    Fox News Sunday: 7.7% (4 out of 52 episodes)
    NBC’s Meet the Press: 4.1% (2 out of 49 episodes)

    Whitehouse, a leading advocate for climate action and a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has a long record of calling on media to improve reporting on climate change. 

  • Here are some of the extreme right-wing reactions to a New York law expanding abortion rights

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on January 22 that will protect abortion access even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade -- a very salient threat with Justice Brett Kavanaugh now on the court. Anti-abortion advocates and right-wing media immediately responded by framing the law as a “barbaric” action by Cuomo and the New York legislature.

    The new law, called the Reproductive Health Act, changed a pre-Roe state law criminalizing abortions that was still on the books in New York. As Mother Jones’ Rosa Furneaux explained, abortions after 24 weeks were formerly criminalized because “the law made self-induced abortions a misdemeanor crime, and made providing one a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.” According to Furneaux, “The threat of a more conservative Supreme Court has brought new energy to repealing archaic pre-Roe laws nationwide (just as it has given pro-lifers more hope for overturning Roe).”

    If Roe is overturned, the new law will mitigate the impact in New York and also expand abortion rights in a few other ways. For example, it:

    • Permits abortions after 24 weeks when the fetus is not viable or a woman’s health is at risk” and empowers doctors to make the decision about “when a woman's health is at risk.”
    • Removes abortion from the state’s criminal code” in order to “protect doctors or medical professionals who perform abortions from criminal prosecution.”
    • Allows medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions in New York.”

    Right-wing media and anti-abortion activists have focused much of their outrage on the portion of the law allowing abortions after 24 weeks for nonviable pregnancies or if the pregnant person’s health is at risk. The reality is that abortions that happen later in a pregnancy are extremely rare (slightly more than 1 percent take place past the 21-week mark), and are performed in response to complicated personal and medical reasons. As The Cut’s Sarah Jones explained, prior to the New York law’s passage, people “who needed later-term abortions to end nonviable pregnancies were forced to travel far outside the state — a financial and psychological burden.” The impact of these barriers cannot be understated. Writing for Jezebel, Jia Tolentino interviewed one New York woman about the excruciating experience of having to travel out of state for a medically necessary later abortion because of New York’s previous law. In The New Yorker, Tolentino recounted the woman’s ordeal: “Her baseline experience of pregnancy had been punishing to begin with, and New York law had made it much worse.”

    Despite the personal nature of these decisions, right-wing media often portray later abortions as part of a supposedly extreme Democratic agenda which allegedly encourages abortions up to the day of birth. Right-wing media and anti-abortion advocates have continued to use this extreme and inaccurate language to stir outrage over New York’s law.

    Right-wing and anti-abortion media pushed the narrative that the law allowed abortions up to birth alongside other bizarre and extreme claims

    • The Daily Wire reported on the law with the headline:

    • On Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham asked her guest to explain how the law wasn’t “Hitlerian” when, in her opinion, it would allow a baby to “be killed” when it “could be born.” She also repeated this talking point on her podcast.
    • On One America News Network’s (OANN) Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, host Liz Wheeler said that, with this law, “a baby that is fully formed … can be brutally murdered inside the womb for any reason that the woman chooses just days before birth.”
    • The Washington Times posted an article with the headline:

    • The Washington Examiner published an article with the headline:

    • After Cuomo signed the bill into law, One World Trade Center’s spire was lit up pink in celebration. In response, LifeSiteNews circulated a petition calling for Cuomo to apologize for “celebrating abortion by lighting up One World Trade Center,” and urging him to revoke his signature from the bill.

    • Janet Morano, executive director of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life, wrote for LifeSiteNews:

    In New York City, thousands more babies of African-American mothers are aborted than born, and the abortion rate among these moms is three times higher than it is for white mothers. Seeing an African-American woman smiling behind Andrew Cuomo as he signed the bill into law was so incongruous. How could she smile, knowing that even more black children will die?

    • Live Action News lamented, “The new law also allows non-physicians to commit non-surgical abortions and moves the abortion law from the state’s penal code to its health code – which removes any threat of the prosecution of abortionists.”

    • LifeNews.com alleged that the law will not allow restrictions on abortion “even for common-sense reasons such as parental consent for minors, informed consent or limits on taxpayer-funded abortions.” The website also circulated a petition calling for Cuomo’s excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church:

    • In an interview with anti-abortion activist Lila Rose on Breitbart News Tonight, host Rebecca Mansour commented that some anti-choice advocates felt “that the law itself could basically make being pro-life illegal because this law has -- calls abortion ‘a fundamental right.’” Mansour likely confused the Reproductive Health Act with a separate call from Cuomo for a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights, although neither would “make being pro-life illegal.” Later in the segment, Rose inaccurately alleged that, with the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, “doing harm is a part of being a doctor in New York,” and called the law “a cash cow for willing abortionists” because of the cost of later abortions.
    • On January 25, Fox & Friends aired a bizarre segment in which Jenna Ellis, the director of public policy at the James Dobson Family Institute, attempted to make a connection between Democratic support for undocumented immigrants and the expansion of abortion rights. Ellis told co-host Steve Doocy that “the progressive left is all about wanting to take down American values and the family,” and claimed that Democrats “want to buy votes” in the form of giving governmental assistance to undocumented immigrants so that they “can continue the abortion agenda.” Fox News ran this chyron during the segment:

    On social media, anti-abortion advocates and right-wing media figures used extreme language to describe the law, and attacked the decision to light up One World Trade Center’s spire after its passage

    • On Matt Walsh’s Daily Wire show, he called the law “an act of unspeakable, unconscionable barbarism” and inaccurately claimed that the law allows you to “kill your child … even a minute before delivery.” He expressed similar sentiments on Twitter:

    • Ohio Republican state Rep.Christina Hagan, who sponsored the state’s version of a so-called “heartbeat bill” that would ban abortions at six weeks, tweeted:

    • Anti-abortion group Human Coalition’s public relations manager Lauren Enriquez:

    • Anti-abortion group Radiance Foundation’s co-founder Ryan Bomberger:

    CBS News also briefly adopted right-wing media rhetoric in a since-changed headline about the law

    • CBS News ran a story about this law with the headline incorrectly characterizing it as “allowing abortions up until baby’s due date if mother’s health is at risk.”

    • Although the headline has since been changed, the resulting framing still invokes similar right-wing media misinformation and stigmatizes medically necessary later abortions. CBS News’ tweet with the original headline remained unchanged.
  • Solutions to climate change get short shrift on broadcast TV news

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Broadcast TV news typically does a poor job of covering climate change, but it does an even worse job of covering potential solutions to climate change and actions being taken to combat or prepare for the crisis. In 2017 and 2018, the major broadcast networks' nightly news and Sunday morning programs mentioned solutions and actions to address climate change in less than 19 percent of their climate coverage. This is a serious shortcoming, as research indicates that media coverage of solutions to climate change leads citizens to become more engaged and inclined to push for action.

    Broadcast networks covered solutions and responses to climate change in less than 19 percent of climate-related segments

    In 2017 and 2018, corporate broadcast networks' major news programs mentioned solutions or climate action in less than a fifth of their total climate coverage. From January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2018, nightly news programs and Sunday morning shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 187 segments that covered climate change. Only 35 of those segments, or just under 19 percent, discussed potential solutions or efforts to address climate change.

    Media Matters analyzed segments on the three big networks' half-hour-long nightly news programs -- ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News -- and their hour-long Sunday morning news programs -- ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and NBC's Meet the Press.

    The majority of broadcast networks’ coverage of climate solutions came in response to Trump administration actions. On the three major networks' news programs, President Donald Trump drove more than half of the solutions-related climate coverage. Twenty out of the 35 segments that mentioned solutions to climate change did so in response to statements or actions from Trump or his administration, including his announcement about withdrawing from the Paris climate accord and his rollbacks of climate regulations.

    This finding is in line with previous research by Media Matters and others that found much media coverage of climate change in the last two years has been centered around Trump.

    Most solutions segments mentioned clean technology and/or climate action taken by cities, states, and other countries. Sixty-three percent of the segments on ABC, CBS, and NBC that addressed solutions made mention of the fact that cities, states, businesses, or countries other than the U.S. are continuing efforts to meet the goals of the Paris agreement or otherwise fighting climate change. Sixty percent mentioned the growth or promise of clean technology such as renewable energy. Many segments mentioned both types of solutions, as well as noting the Trump administration's actions.

    For example, CBS Evening News on November 12, 2017, covered the Trump administration’s efforts to promote fossil fuels at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. The segment also reported that many U.S. states and other entities are taking action on their own to uphold the Paris accord goals despite Trump's intention to pull the U.S. out of the agreement, and noted that wind and solar are spreading quickly and becoming cheaper than fossil fuels.

    A number of the three networks' segments touched on similar themes but in much less depth, giving only glancing mention to city or state action or to clean tech.

    One of the rare solutions segments that gave concentrated attention to a particular clean technology aired on NBC Nightly News on June 18, 2017, and chronicled a visit to a commercial facility in Switzerland that captures carbon dioxide.

    NBC’s Meet the Press aired the longest, most in-depth segment on climate solutions. The most amount of time devoted to discussing climate solutions in a single segment came on the December 30, 2018, episode of NBC’s Meet the Press -- the first-ever episode of a Sunday show entirely focused on climate change. It included an eight-minute roundtable discussion about different ways to address climate change, including carbon taxes and lawsuits against fossil fuel companies. Host Chuck Todd led the discussion with NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel, then-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and three other experts.

    That same episode of Meet the Press also addressed solutions and climate action during Todd's opening segment and during interviews with outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I). Overall, this Meet the Press episode included four solutions segments -- 11 percent of the total number of solutions segments for 2017 and 2018. Without this one episode, coverage of climate action and solutions would have been even more dismal.

    All three major nightly news shows covered coral restoration as a way to combat damage done by climate change. ABC, CBS, and NBC ran few solutions segments that did not mention Trump, but all three networks' nightly news shows covered one particularly telegenic solution that had nothing to do with the president: scientists' efforts to restore coral reefs that have been severely damaged by warming of the oceans. In fact, CBS covered it twice. ABC's World News Tonight was the first with a segment that aired on June 1, 2017, about the cultivation in Hawaii of supercoral that can withstand global warming. CBS Evening News then ran segments on two consecutive nights, July 2 and 3, 2017, about coral restoration efforts off the coast of Florida. And on October 6, 2018, NBC Nightly News aired its own segment on marine biologists in Florida who are "growing corals resistant to climate change."

    PBS demonstrates how to do good coverage of climate action and solutions

    PBS has long outperformed the corporate broadcast networks on climate change coverage in general, and the same trend holds with coverage of climate solutions. In 2017 and 2018, PBS NewsHour, an hour-long program that airs on weeknights, discussed actions and responses to climate change in 33 segments. In contrast to the corporate networks whose solutions-related coverage focused largely on responses to the Trump administration, PBS’ solutions coverage was far more varied and in-depth, including segments on local climate action and adapting to climate-fueled extreme weather events.

    One good example of climate solutions coverage came on the May 30, 2018, edition of PBS NewsHour. The segment discussed a Virginia environmental organization’s efforts to educate children about rising sea levels caused by climate change and how to deal with them.

    Another strong solutions-focused segment aired during the December 17, 2018, episode of PBS NewsHour. It featured climate expert Nat Keohane of the Environmental Defense Fund discussing the recent U.N. climate talks in Poland, what steps countries are taking to implement the Paris climate agreement, and positive developments in the renewable energy sector.

    PBS also has a special series that regularly reports on climate solutions: Its Peril and Promise segments focus on "stories of exciting new frontiers of scientific innovation in resilience, mitigation, and clean energy.

    Major newspapers also fail to adequately cover climate solutions

    A report by the nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen found that the top newspapers in the U.S. also fall short on covering climate solutions. The group analyzed coverage of climate change in general in nine major papers in 2017 and then determined how many of the stories mentioning climate change also included variations of the words “solve,” "solution," or "mitigation." Using this more narrow definition of solutions coverage, it found that just 7 percent of climate articles in the major papers met the bar.

    Research suggests that media coverage of climate solutions can lead to more engagement from the public and less apathy

    A 2015 study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that media coverage of climate change can either lead citizens to “climate cynicism” or "help build more positive public engagement." When the media focus on political failures to address climate change, those stories can lead to public apathy and frustration. However, when media focus on “everyday heroes” who "take initiative or leadership to advance political action," those stories can have a more positive effect. Focus group participants who read solutions-focused stories demonstrated "much greater enthusiasm and optimism for political engagement." Study co-author Shane Gunster, a professor at Simon Fraser University, told Media Matters in 2015, "There is a strong desire for a different kind of news about climate change, which provides people with inspiring and compelling stories about how others just like them are becoming active and engaged in climate politics."

    Elizabeth Arnold, an environmental journalist and journalism professor at the University of Alaska, studied the role of the media in creating public disengagement on climate change and wrote a paper in 2018 for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center that makes the case for more coverage of solutions to climate-related problems. The premise of her paper was that “repetition of a narrow narrative that focuses exclusively on the impacts of climate change leaves the public with an overall sense of powerlessness.” She argued:

    If the role of the journalist is to seek the truth and report it, so that citizens will be informed and effective, reporting just the doom and gloom about climate change is insufficient. Calling attention to the impacts of climate change is essential if you are a journalist covering climate change. But if how people are responding, individually and collectively, is framed out, the whole story is not being told.

    Arnold quoted David Bornstein, co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network:

    When too many people are aware of a problem but they don’t have a sense of what can be done, it leads them to opt out, tune out, and that’s bad for democracy. By showing that something is working in one place, it takes away the excuses for failure elsewhere, and increases the pressure on public officials.

    Arnold's paper also quoted Lauren Feldman of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, who suggested that climate journalism take some lessons from public health journalism:

    I think there is a model in public health. You tell a story about a crisis or a disease and you tell people what they can do to avert that crisis. A very similar approach can and should be taken with climate change. Here is a threat and here are some steps that you as an individual can take, and here is what the government is doing or and here is what industry is doing.

    In 2019 and beyond, broadcast TV networks need to do a better job of reporting on climate change solutions

    As New York Times columnist David Leonhardt wrote in a year-end piece, "The story of 2018 was climate change." He argued that people should stop being "distracted by lesser matters" because "nothing else measures up to the rising toll and enormous dangers of climate change." Last year's devastating extreme weather and dire climate change reports brought that fact home. Yet mainstream media in 2018 failed to cover climate change with the increasing attention that it needs, and as this research shows, its coverage of climate solutions was even worse.

    In 2019 and beyond, broadcast TV news and the rest of the media must do a better job of telling the complete story of perhaps the greatest existential crisis of our time -- not just reporting on the doom and gloom of climate change, but also including the stories of hope and action that can galvanize the public to address climate change. The Washington Post kicked off the year the right way with a package explaining 11 policy solutions to combat climate change. We'd like to see a lot more stories like that.

    Kevin Kalhoefer contributed research to this report. Chart by Melissa Joskow.  

    Methodology

    Media Matters analyzed coverage from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2018, on nightly news shows -- ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and PBS NewsHour -- and Sunday morning news shows -- ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation, and NBC's Meet the Press. To identify segments that discussed climate change, we searched the Nexis database for transcripts that included the following terms: climate change, global warming, changing climate, climate warms, climate warming, warming climate, warmer climate, warming planet, warmer planet, warming globe, warmer globe, global temperatures, rising temperatures, hotter temperatures, climate science, climate scientist, Paris climate, climate accord, Paris accord, climate agreement, Paris agreement, and climate deal. Within the segments that discussed climate change, we identified ones that discussed solutions and responses to climate change by coding for segments that covered adaptation, mitigation, awareness-raising campaigns, renewable energy, clean technology, and climate action being taken by entities other than the U.S. government. Our analysis included any segment devoted to climate change, as well as any substantial mention or definitive statement on climate change by a media figure, which we defined as a show's host, anchor, correspondent, or recurring guest panelist. Our analysis did not include instances in interviews during which a non-media figure brought up climate change without being prompted to do so by a media figure unless the media figure subsequently engaged in discussion of climate change.

  • Media falsely blame "both sides" for government shutdown Trump said he is "proud" to own

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS, STEVE MORRIS & MILES LE

    On December 11, President Donald Trump told congressional Democrats and the media that he would be “proud to shut down the government” over border wall funding, and the federal government subsequently shut down on December 22. With the shutdown now entering its fifth week, some in media seem to have forgotten Trump’s unambiguous claim of responsibility and are instead blaming “both sides.”

    Falsely blaming “both sides” for the aberrant behavior of only one side has been a favorite media trope for years. It poisons policy conversations, endangers vulnerable groups, and dumbs down the entire political discourse.

  • Sunday show coverage of climate change in 2018 was a disaster

    Less than 6 percent of episodes on the major Sunday shows discussed global warming, and some of them included climate deniers

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Less than 6 percent of episodes of the five major Sunday morning news shows in 2018 featured any substantial mentions or discussions of climate change, according to a Media Matters analysis. And the number of times the shows addressed climate change was down from the previous year: They ran 13 percent fewer climate-focused segments in 2018 than they did in 2017, continuing the shows’ multi-year trend of neglecting climate change.

    The Sunday shows also continued their trend of failing to adequately represent minorities, women, scientists, and environmental journalists in discussions about climate change.

    Media Matters analyzed climate change coverage and guest appearances on the five major Sunday morning shows: ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press.

    The Sunday shows help set the media and political agenda for the week, but it's not only politicians, pundits, and other media figures who take their cues from them -- members of the public do too. The four broadcast Sunday shows attracted a combined audience of nearly 11 million viewers in the last quarter of 2018. Because of their wide viewership and political prestige, Sunday news shows play a crucial role in determining which issues and voices are included in the national dialogue.

    Key findings:

    • Less than 6 percent of episodes of the major Sunday shows in 2018 featured significant discussion of climate change.
    • Sunday shows ran fewer segments that included substantial mentions of climate change in 2018 (27 segments) than they did in 2017 (31 segments) -- a 13 percent decrease.
    • Only 17 percent of guests featured during climate-focused segments in 2018 were people of color -- six out of 35 guests total.
    • Only 37 percent of guests featured in climate-focused discussions in 2018 were women.
    • Two scientists were included in climate-related segments in 2018, after scientists had been excluded from all of the Sunday shows' climate discussions for almost three years.

    Major Sunday shows ignored climate change during most of 2018

    In 2018, the five major Sunday shows aired a combined total of 256 episodes, and only 14 of them made significant mention of climate change -- less than 6 percent.

    During the course of the year, there were only nine Sundays when at least one show aired a segment that focused on climate change. On the other 43 Sundays, or 83 percent of them, climate change was not substantively addressed.

    The shows also neglected to cover climate change during six months of the year, including June, when a heat wave broke records across much of the U.S.; August, when the Mendocino Complex became the largest fire in California’s history; and September, when Hurricane Florence devastated parts of North Carolina.

    The total number of segments addressing climate change was down from 2017: The shows aired 27 segments in 2018 compared to 31 segments the year prior, a decline of 13 percent. Face the Nation and Meet the Press aired eight climate-related segments each in 2018, followed by Fox News Sunday with five, and This Week and State of the Union with three each. (Not all of the segments were good; some featured climate deniers making false statements. More on that below.)

    When the Sunday shows did air climate-focused segments, the discussions were dominated by white men and unrepresentative of America's population.

    People of color made up only 17 percent of Sunday show guests discussing climate change in 2018

    Of the 35 guests featured during climate-focused segments in 2018, just six were people of color, or 17 percent. This is a slight improvement from 2017, when only four out of 35 guests on climate segments were people of color, or 11 percent.

    The guests of color who participated in climate change discussions in 2018 were:

    • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Face the Nation;
    • CNN political commentator Symone Sanders on State of the Union;
    • U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Democratic strategist Mo Elleithee on Fox News Sunday; and
    • New York Times journalist Helene Cooper and then-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) on Meet the Press.

    ABC’s This Week was the only Sunday show that did not host a guest of color during one of its climate-focused segments.

    The underrepresentation of communities of color in the Sunday shows' climate discussions becomes apparent when you consider that non-white and/or Hispanic/Latino people constitute 39 percent of the U.S. population according to census data. People of color should also have more of a voice on the shows because they tend to bring different perspectives: They are more concerned about climate change than whites and more likely to say they feel its impacts, according to a 2015 survey and other polls. A 2015 poll of African Americans found that 60 percent ranked global warming as a serious issue, and 67 percent said that actions should be taken to reduce the threat of global warming. And a 2017 survey found that 78 percent of Latinos were worried about global warming, compared to 56 percent of non-Latinos.

    Women made up 37 percent of Sunday show guests in climate-related segments in 2018

    Just 13 of 35 guests who joined in the Sunday news shows' climate discussions in 2018 were women, or 37 percent. Meet the Press led the way this year with seven women, State of the Union followed with three, Fox News Sunday had two, and This Week had one. Face the Nation failed to feature a woman during any of its climate-related segments.

    This represents a slight increase from 2017 when women were nine of the 35 guests, or 26 percent. 

    Despite the fact that women constitute roughly 51 percent of the population, the trend of males dominating Sunday show guest slots continues, whether they're discussing climate change or any other topic. Again, this leads to a loss of valuable perspective: Polls indicate that American women are more worried about climate change than men. According to a 2015 survey, 69 percent of women in the U.S. are concerned that climate change will affect them personally, compared to only 48 percent of men. And a December 2018 poll found that 71 percent of American women say there's enough evidence of climate change to warrant action, compared to just 61 percent of men.

    Sunday shows featured two scientists in climate-related segments in 2018, after excluding scientists for almost three years

    When Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan asked NASA Deputy Associate Administrator Steven Clarke about the National Climate Assessment on November 25, it was the first time in almost three years that a scientist had been included in a discussion about climate change on a Sunday show. The last time it had happened was December 2015, also on Face the Nation. But the discussion between Brennan and Clarke on climate change was brief; most of Clarke's time on the show was spent talking about NASA’s latest mission to Mars.

    The next month, during a Meet the Press episode dedicated to climate change on December 30, NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel joined a wide-ranging panel discussion about climate challenges and potential solutions.

    That episode of Meet the Press also featured NBC News' Chief Environmental Affairs Correspondent Anne Thompson on its panel -- the first time a Sunday show has included an environmental journalist in a climate-focused discussion since Media Matters began tracking the guest lineups 2013.

    Overall, the vast majority of Sunday show guests invited to discuss climate change were politicians, political operatives, or political journalists. 

    When Sunday shows discussed climate change, the coverage was too often superficial or poor

    On the few occasions when the Sunday shows did address climate change in 2018, the discussions were often superficial and sometimes featured climate denial or other inaccurate statements, failing to give viewers the substantive, fact-based coverage they deserve.

    For example, after the Trump administration tried to bury a major government report, the National Climate Assessment, by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving, all five major Sunday shows covered climate change on the same day for the first and only time all year, on November 25. But the quality of much of that coverage was bad. Some of the hosts, including Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd and State of the Union’s Dana Bash, invited climate deniers to discuss the report, allowed them to make false statements, and failed to offer any meaningful pushback. Others, such as This Week’s George Stephanopoulos, spent only a little time on the report.

    When the shows did include people of color or women in their climate change discussions, that didn't necessarily mean the discussions were good. For example, when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a Cuban-American, answered questions about climate change on Face the Nation, he suggested that policy solutions would destroy the economy or not be effective. And when Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute joined in a panel discussion about climate change on Meet the Press, she falsely claimed that the previous two years had been among the coldest on record -- comments so blatantly wrong that the fact-checking website PolitiFact dedicated a post to declaring them "false."

    (In some cases, guests on Sunday shows brought up climate change unprompted, but hosts failed to engage or changed the subject. This happened during interviews on This Week with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). We excluded these instances from our analysis; instead, we only gave shows credit for airing climate segments when hosts brought up climate change themselves or engaged in discussions on the topic.)

    Without Meet the Press’ climate-focused episode, the Sunday show statistics for 2018 would have been much worse

    Meet the Press took the unprecedented step of dedicating an entire episode to climate change on December 30, its last episode of 2018. It aired about a month after host Todd was widely criticized for allowing Pletka to make false claims on the air and then failing to push back against them.

    Seemingly chastened, Todd opened the episode by saying, "We're not going to give time to climate deniers. The science is settled, even if political opinion is not." The show featured five segments and seven guests, including outgoing Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who had introduced legislation to price carbon earlier in the year, as well as outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), both of whom have made fighting climate change a signature issue.

    This episode was the high point of an otherwise dreary year for climate coverage. Without it, Sunday shows would have only aired 22 climate-focused segments featuring 28 guests in 2018, down from 31 segments featuring 35 guests in 2017 -- and Meet the Press would have tied for the lowest number of segments in 2018.

    Major Sunday shows need to increase their substantive climate coverage and include a wider range of voices

    In 2018, which was one of the warmest years on record and saw numerous climate-related disasters, the amount of climate change coverage and the quality of that coverage should have gone up, not down.

    A pair of major reports released in the latter part of the year put our current situation in stark relief. In October, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a study that found if global average temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, hundreds of millions of people would be at increased risk of climate change impacts such as flooding and extreme heat. In late November, the U.S. government put out the latest installment of the National Climate Assessment -- a 1,500-page, congressionally mandated document produced by some 300 scientists from 13 federal agencies -- that painted a dire picture of how climate change is already affecting the U.S. and how its catastrophic impacts will intensify in coming years.

    Meet the Press’ climate-focused episode demonstrated that Sunday shows can give the topic the serious attention it deserves, with guests who are well-informed about the problem and potential solutions. But this kind of substantive coverage needs to be sustained and incorporated into all of the Sunday shows week after week. And the coverage must include a broader array of guests -- scientists and environmental journalists who can explain the nature of the challenge, and people of color and women who are on the frontlines of climate change and are pioneering solutions to the crisis.

    Ted MacDonald contributed research to this report. Charts by Melissa Joskow.  

    Methodology

    This report analyzes coverage of climate change in 2018 on five Sunday morning news shows: ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, and NBC's Meet the Press. To identify segments that discussed climate change, we searched for the following terms in Nexis: climate change, global warming, changing climate, climate warms, climate warming, warming climate, warmer climate, warming planet, warmer planet, warming globe, warmer globe, global temperatures, rising temperatures, hotter temperatures, climate science, climate scientist, paris climate, climate accord, paris accord, climate agreement, paris agreement, and climate deal. Our analysis included any segment devoted to climate change, as well as any substantial mention of climate change (more than one paragraph of a news transcript or a definitive statement by a media figure). The study did not include instances in which a non-media figure brought up climate change without being prompted to do so by a media figure unless the media figure subsequently addressed climate change. We defined media figures as hosts, anchors, correspondents, and recurring guest panelists.

    Correction (3/5/19): This piece originally omitted one white woman who appeared as a guest on the November 25 episode of Meet the Press. The text and charts have been updated to reflect her appearance.

  • Republican Rep. Steve King embraced white supremacy, and the media had no idea how to cover it

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In an interview with The New York Times published Thursday morning, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” TV news coverage of his remark that day was incredibly muted and often shied away from explicitly calling the comment racist; one show’s tweet merely called it “controversial.”

    • Fox News devoted a total of 42 seconds to the story the day King’s comments were published. The sole segment, which was on Special Report with Bret Baier, was framed as “Republican Congressman Steve King is fighting back against a New York Times article,” referring to a statement King released after the piece came out.
    • NBC News interviewed King about his comments and devoted a full segment to him during NBC Nightly News. But one of the show’s tweets about the interview simply labeled the comment “controversial,” adding that “some people are calling [it] racist.”
    • CBS Evening News and ABC World News Tonight did not mention King.
    • CNN ultimately covered King’s comment the most out of all the cable news networks on January 10 (nearly 11 ½ minutes). But the network didn’t mention King until after 9:30 p.m.
    • MSNBC, which was the first cable network to report on King’s comment, discussed the congressman for just over seven and a half minutes on January 10. During MTP Daily, which was the first cable news show to mention King, the conversation was largely framed around horse race politics and what this would mean for King’s re-election chances rather than the substance of what he said. The show didn’t even mention what King had said until nearly the end of the segment.

    Update (1/13/19): The Sunday following King’s comments, only three of the five major Sunday political shows addressed the remarks: ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press. The anchors of those three shows each asked one congressional Republican guest about the comments in interviews, and CBS’ Margaret Brennan also discussed the comments with her panel later in the show. CNN’s State of the Union and Fox Broadcasting’s Fox News Sunday did not mention King’s comments at all.

  • Network news channels have given Rep. Steve King a pass on his open white nationalism

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The most prominent broadcast news programs have mentioned openly white nationalist Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) racism only a handful of times over the past two years.

    King’s ugly white nationalism reared its head again in a January 10 New York Times interview in which he said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” (In a statement, King later denied being a proponent of white supremacy, despite his comments to the paper.)

    According to a Nexis search of NBC’s Nightly News, Meet the Press, and Today, CBS’s CBS Evening News, Face The Nation, and CBS This Morning, and ABC’s World News Tonight, This Week, and Good Morning America, there have been just six references to King and race dating back to January 1, 2017, in some cases in segments that fell short by obfuscating or devoting scant time to the clear and open nature of the Iowa congressman’s bigotry.  

    In two segments, ABC mentioned a March 2017 tweet in which King showed his support for white nationalist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, writing, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.” The March 14 broadcast of ABC’s World News Tonight covered the tweet but fell short, summing up the incident as “racially charged” while noting that King’s comments were “labeled racist and bigoted.” Coverage was better the following day on Good Morning America, with co-host George Stephanopoulos plainly stating that King was “under some fire now for that tweet he had the other day where he was really appealing to white nationalists.”

    During the December 10, 2017, broadcast of NBC’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) whether King’s position that “diversity is not our strength” could be a problem for the Republican Party. King was mentioned in passing on the July 1, 2018, broadcast of CBS’s Face the Nation, when guest and former John McCain speechwriter Mark Salter said, “Steve King, for instance, who keeps writing, you know, about -- as if it's, you know, American citizenship is some kind of racial purity test.” On October 30, 2018, NBC’s Lester Holt described King as “controversial” on NBC Nightly News, noting that “the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee [is] condemning Steve King for comments about race and associations with white nationalism.” And on the November 11, 2018, edition of Face The Nation, Politico’s Rachael Bade noted that King’s “rhetoric” had “sort of divided the Republican leadership about whether or not to back him or just not say anything.”

    None of these mentions seriously reckoned with King’s apparently consequence-free promotion of white nationalism, although Stephanopoulos’ brief mention of King did succinctly summarize the issue.

    Following the publication of the Times’ latest article about King, soon-to-be Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie noted on Twitter:

    Indeed, Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) comments calling Trump a “motherfucker” on January 3 produced half as many mentions on broadcast news programs over several days as King’s white nationalism has over the last two years. During the January 6 broadcast of NBC’s Meet the Press, Tlaib’s comment was included in the show’s introduction and host Chuck Todd later referenced her comment again, saying, “Democrats have to worry about their own grassroots. This week, freshman Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan revived the debate over impeachment after these comments were caught on tape.” Tlaib’s use of profanity was also covered on the January 4 editions of CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News, with NBC correspondent Kristen Welker saying Tlaib “is sparking a firestorm, caught on camera telling a crowd last night what she told her son about the president” and “prompting a barrage of Republican backlash.”

    Methodology: Media Matters used Nexis to search for “Steve King” on NBC’s Nightly News, Meet the Press, and Today, CBS’s CBS Evening News, Face The Nation, and CBS This Morning, and ABC’s World News Tonight, This Week, and Good Morning America from January 1, 2017, through January 10, 2019. We also searched for “Rashida Tlaib” on those same programs between January 1, 2019, and January 10, 2019.

  • CBS and NBC embrace both sides-ism in coverage of Trump’s dishonest address 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CBS This Morning and NBC’s Today Show embraced “both sides-ism” in their reporting on President Donald Trump’s misleading Oval Office address and the Democratic rebuttal. The networks attempted to paint Trump and Democratic leaders as equally responsible for the prolonged government shutdown and implied that both sides were lying to the American people.

    On January 9, CBS This Morning host Norah O’Donnell lamented that while Trump “did not offer any new proposals last night, … neither did the Democratic leaders.” She also complained to her co-hosts that “all that time that was spent preparing for these speeches, if they had actually spent time talking to each other and working out a deal, that would have served the people that put them in office a lot better.”

    This framing suggests that Democrats and Republicans are equally at fault for the shutdown and that both sides should be condemned for failing to reach a compromise. In reality, however, the shutdown is a direct result of Trump’s insistence that Democrats offer up billions of dollars to build a structure that even some Republicans say would be useless. Democrats have repeatedly demonstrated their desire to reopen the government and discuss funding for border security, and they even agreed to a deal that would have kept the government open until February 8 and provided more than $1 billion for border security -- a compromise the president walked away from. Trump, not Democratic leaders, is responsible for holding the government hostage over a border wall -- a role he embraced happily just last month when he said, "I am proud to shut down the government for border security.”

    NBC’s Today Show began its coverage of Trump’s speech and the Democratic response by promising to “fact-check the claims on both sides” suggesting the possibility of similar dishonesty by Trump, a famous and prolific liar, and Democratic leaders. But while NBC’s Peter Alexander listed several specific lies in Trump’s address, NBC’s Kristen Welker mentioned only two points: that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats voted for a bill in 2006 that authorized fencing at the border, and that Democrats “were well aware”  that the recent spending bill passed by the Democratic House had no chance in the Senate without border wall funding. Directly and repeatedly lying to the country is clearly not the same thing as voting for a bill more than a decade ago -- nor is it comparable to pushing legislation without wall funds -- yet NBC’s framing suggested that both sides’ claims were similarly dishonest.

    Welker also commented that, “like the president, [Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] offered no new ideas, instead making it clear they’re still deeply dug in.” This suggested, like CBS’ report did, that Democrats are at fault for a lack of compromise -- even as Trump continues to stonewall negotiations over his unpopular and unrealistic proposal.

    While CBS and NBC dropped the ball, ABC’s Good Morning America did a better job covering Trump’s address without giving in to the temptation to present both sides “equally.”

    Both sides-ism has been a plague on political news and analysis for years, and it played an especially sinister role in the 2016 election. News outlets pretending that both sides have equally legitimate points and faults in every disagreement is both intellectually and morally dishonest -- and that dishonesty is bad for journalism and the country.