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  • I’m a Salvadoran immigrant. This is why watching Fox News was unbearable this week.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    If you share a part of your identity with the families targeted by President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that criminally prosecutes those caught entering the country unauthorized, watching Fox News this week might’ve been a special kind of horror. The network has architected its discussion of the 2,000 children torn from their parents, branded as criminals upon arrival, to help government officials justify the crisis, blame the victims, and criminalize all immigrants. Thankfully, while Fox and other pro-Trump media outlets are working to exonerate the government from any responsibility in creating this humanitarian crisis, CNN’s coverage has offered a far more accurate depiction of reality, and MSNBC’s focus on the real-life consequences of this cruel policy enforcement truly has reflected the pain, fear, and uncertainty that thousands of immigrants fleeing worse conditions are being subjected to under Trump.

    As a Salvadoran, I understand what these families are running from. As an immigrant, I understand how incredibly broken the current immigration system is and the many assumptions -- of criminality, of alienness, of backwardness -- projected onto those identified as immigrants, with no regard for whether they’d fit more neatly into the category of refugee. Many like me understand what it feels like to be the subjects of sentences rendered operative by dehumanizing verbs like “infest.” But Fox decided to essentially ignore those who could voice alternative perspectives. Instead, the network centered and overly relied on the government authorities who’ve had a hand in creating the chaos in the first place. This week, Fox repeatedly provided a platform for Customs and Border Patrol officials and for ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan to blame the victims unchallenged and to justify the horrors of Trump’s policy enforcement. On Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite show, Griff Jenkins sanitized the daily work of the border patrol, while the network at large virtually ignored the heartbreaking audio of terrified immigrant children weeping after being separated from their parents. The exceptional times the network brought on essential voices like a DACA recipient or an immigration attorney, they were drowned out by Fox’s drive to trivialize the crisis and exploit tragedies, all in the service of criminalizing immigrants. In doing so, the network is creating a false dichotomy in which its focus on gangs and crime is at the expense of the victims of those very gangs, threatened into fleeing their countries.

    By contrast, CNN and MSNBC used the substantial resources they deployed to the border to cover the family separation crisis and feature commentary from experts, advocates, and immigrants. CNN’s correspondents on the ground offered a crucial view into what a zero-tolerance policy looks like for those it targets. The network often fell back on its model of a packaged news report followed by commentary from its political punditry, which serves as a reminder of the importance of having a roster of diverse voices to accurately represent the demographics of the issues being discussed. But its reporters opened up a window into the struggles of those seeking asylum and the cruelty they face from Trump’s policy.

    MSNBC, on the other hand, offered audiences a unique window into what these families are experiencing. Its coverage elevated the stories not being told elsewhere; countered pernicious misinformation; and, by featuring a slew of immigrants, immigration attorneys, civil rights activists (like RAICES), members of religious organizations and medical professionals, better illustrated the tapestry of the complicated human consequences of what happens when cruel policies are inhumanely implemented.

    Correspondent Mariana Atencio, in particular, was uniquely positioned by “her ability to connect, report, speak and translate” to bridge the gap between the lived experiences of audiences and those of the protagonists of this humanitarian crisis. By translating immigrants’ words live on camera, Atencio humanized the coverage, giving viewers the opportunity to put faces to the stories and providing immigrants the ability to speak directly to those responsible for the crisis. And when Atencio talked to border patrol, her nuanced framing was informative and clearly distinguished innocent undocumented immigrants from criminals. While the issues were painful, MSNBC’s coverage was consequential and compassionate -- the kind that builds empathy and makes immigrants feel seen and heard.

    Cable networks are in a unique position to offer a transparent view of what’s happening at the border to audiences who can’t witness it. What issues they choose to prioritize in their coverage, how they frame it, and who they decide to interview is a good indicator of the audience they are catering to: the American public or Trump’s administration.

  • Fox News spent more time on a report about the Clinton email investigation than immigrant children being interned at the border 

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER, STEPHEN MORRIS & TYLER MONROE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As outrage continues to grow over the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families, Fox News is more focused on another issue -- the inspector general’s report into how the FBI handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation. While immigration was clearly the main story on CNN and MSNBC throughout the morning and early afternoon today, Fox spent over two and a half hours discussing the inspector general’s report and carrying the second day of congressional hearings live. In comparison, Fox devoted just over an hour and a half to discussing immigration and President Donald Trump’s policy of separating children from their families.

    According to a review by Media Matters, MSNBC spent 4 hours and 35 minutes covering immigration and family separation today from 6 a.m. through 1 p.m. while discussing the inspector general report for just over two minutes. CNN spent nearly three hours on immigration and mentioned the inspector general report for just under six minutes. Fox News spent 1 hour and 33 minutes discussing immigration and 2 hours and 37 minutes covering the inspector general’s report and the hearing on Capitol Hill. Fox carried the congressional hearing about the report live for nearly an hour and a half.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    CNN’s and MSNBC’s dedication to covering family separation can also be seen by the personnel they have dispatched to Texas. MSNBC anchors Stephanie Ruhle, Craig Melvin, Chris Hayes, and Lawrence O’Donnell are all in Texas along with several correspondents. Similarly, CNN has seven crews in the region, according to CNN reporter Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter. Fox’s coverage, however, has left much to be desired. Fox News hosts have been attempting to put a positive spin on the practice of separating children from their parents, lying about what’s happening, and mocking people who are outraged by a policy that the United Nations human rights office has criticized as an “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life” and “a serious violation of the rights of the child.”  Another difference in the coverage has been Fox’s decision to not play audio obtained by ProPublica of immigrant children in American detention facilities crying for their parents. CNN and MSNBC have played the audio repeatedly throughout their reporting.

    One thing is clear: While thousands of children are being interned at the U.S. border and separated from their families, Fox News thinks it’s more important to focus on a closed investigation into the Clinton email probe.

  • Fox News virtually ignores audio of crying immigrant children separated from their parents by the Trump administration

    CNN and MSNBC have both repeatedly played the recording. Fox News has repeatedly glossed over and lied about the administration’s policy.

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News is keeping its audience in the dark regarding recently released audio of immigrant children in American detention facilities crying for their parents. As Fox hosts continue to gloss over and lie about the Trump administration’s policy decision to separate families at the border, in contrast, MSNBC and CNN have all played the heart-wrenching audio almost every hour since ProPublica released it to the public.

    On June 18, investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica published an audio recording of the “desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children [who had been] separated from their parents” by U.S. authorities:

    According to a Media Matters review, since ProPublica’s publication of the audio at 3:51 p.m., Fox News has all but ignored it, airing only a total of five seconds of the audio during the 11 p.m. hour on June 18. Later in the hour, host Shannon Bream highlighted apparent “criticism” of New York magazine White House correspondent Olivia Nuzzi for playing the audio during the June 18 White House press briefing. Hours earlier on The Five, co-host Dana Perino acknowledged the audio and admitted it would “pull at heartstrings,” but never actually played the recording for viewers.

    According to a Media Matters review, MSNBC has played the recording at least once during every hour since its 4 p.m. hour yesterday. CNN has played the recording at least once every hour since its 5 p.m. hour.

    Rather than informing its viewers about the real human effects of the Trump administration’s policy decision, Fox News hosts are attempting to put a positive spin on the practice of separating children from their parents, lying through their teeth about what’s happening, and mocking people who are outraged by a policy that the United Nations human rights office has deemed “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life” and “a serious violation of the rights of the child.” And, like with almost every other damning report regarding the Trump administration, Fox News has chosen to bury its head in the sand when it comes to audio evidence of what’s happening on the border. The combination leaves the network’s viewers in the dark about a reprehensible policy that a previous Homeland Security secretary referred to as not just “ineffective” but “immoral and un-American.”

  • Media help GOP brand their bill that would drastically cut legal immigration as “moderate,” “a compromise”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Tomorrow, President Donald Trump will meet with House Republicans to discuss two immigration bills; both would drastically cut legal immigration and fail to address the humanitarian crisis at the border, but media outlets have borrowed language from conservatives to brand one of them a “compromise” or “moderate” option.

    The first bill, spearheaded by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), would cut legal immigration by 40 percent according to some calculations, by ending the diversity visa lottery and ending the family-based immigration system. The bill would also make it easier to deport noncriminal undocumented immigrants by making their presence in the country itself a criminal offense, fund the border wall, crack down on so-called sanctuary cities, and abandon plans for a previously discussed pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

    The second bill, which was brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and agreed upon by a group of conservatives and Republican moderates, is being promoted as a “compromise.” While it would not go as far as the Goodlatte bill, the Ryan bill would also reduce legal immigration by ending the diversity visa lottery and some forms of family-based immigration, allow for broader immigration enforcement, and fund the border wall. Unlike the other bill, this proposal would offer Dreamers a long pathway to citizenship. Contrary to what Republicans have claimed, it would not address the dire situation at the border, where immigrant children are being separated from their parents.

    It is misleading to label such a proposal a “compromise” without making note of the fact that only hard-line conservatives and Republican moderates had arrived at a consensus; the extreme terms of the bill only serve to isolate progressives and immigrant rights activists. During a call with immigrant advocacy groups, Patrice Lawrence, the national policy and advocacy director for UndocuBlack Network, explained, “The recent White House 2.0 or Ryan Bill is the furthest thing from compromise and will not benefit Dreamers in any way.” Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice, noted that the so-called “compromise” bill “is worse than the White House proposal that was soundly defeated on the Senate floor. This bill is incredibly stingy to Dreamers, it turbocharges deportations, it eviscerates asylum, and it calls for the construction of [a] stupid and unnecessary border wall.”

    Nonetheless, many media outlets have been downplaying the bill’s anti-immigrant provisions. Throughout the day, CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip has called the Ryan bill “a compromise” and a “moderate” bill. Speaking to two Democratic congressmen yesterday, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt referred to the proposal as “a compromise bill on immigration [that] would deal with Dreamers” and incorrectly reported that part of the legislation would deal with “prohibiting the separation of children from their parents.” Fox has called the legislation a “consensus bill” and “a moderate one,” and at one point the network hosted an anti-immigration advocate, Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, who complained that the bill would not go far enough. Meanwhile, many other outlets ran with the Republican lie that the Ryan bill would stop the practice of separating families.

  • Trump's tariffs could hurt millions of Americans, but media focus instead on presidential drama

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On May 31, CBS News reported on retaliatory tariffs from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, targeting numerous products including American steel and aluminum, playing cards, motorcycles, and tobacco. European Commission president Jean-Paul Juncker said that Trump’s move “leaves us with no choice but to proceed … with the imposition of additional duties on a number of imports from the U.S.”

    News reports and experts say the tariffs will hurt Americans in a number of ways. Though the steel and aluminum industries stand to benefit, “almost every US industry” that uses these metals will be faced with higher manufacturing costs, which “will likely get passed on to consumers.” These higher costs could “kill hundreds of thousands of jobs” as companies scramble to offset artificially high prices. Retaliatory tariffs levied by other nations are threatening a wide range of businesses, from agriculture to commercial production. According to The New York Times, even Trump’s own Council of Economic Advisers concluded that the tariffs would hamper economic growth.  

    But media coverage of U.S. allies’ responses to Trump’s economic attack centered on  the sensationalism and drama of the moment. Though CNN interviewed or cited economists in a few segments on the tariffs’ effects for American workers and business, the majority of the punditry  focused on the shock value of levying tariffs against U.S. allies. CNN also interviewed Stephen Moore, a Trump campaign economic advisor whom CNN hired as its in-house defender of the president who dodged policy questions to muddy the facts and obsequiously push the Trump agenda (which is how interviews with former or current Trump officials usually go); the network did not interview any workers who could potentially be hurt by the retaliatory tariffs.

    Fox News, meanwhile, played up the personal drama Trump incited with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Fox personalities said that “the public spat between these world leaders [Trump and Trudeau] is something to watch,” argued that Trudeau should “maybe … realize it’s not personal,” and generally attacked Trudeau for, among other things, “trying to out-alpha President Trump.” Lou Dobbs hailed Trump’s defeat of our allies’ “globalist conspiracy,” and on Dobbs’ show, sworn Nazi sympathizer Sebastian Gorka denounced Canada’s response to Trump because Canada “started it.”  When Fox figures tried to analyze the tariffs, they usually didn’t get beyond spouting worn-out taglines such as the electorate wanted the “disrupter-in-chief” to provide “a complete change in direction.” Jesse Watters got creative, however, when he positively compared Trump’s tariffs to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, a 1930 tariff commonly understood to have “exacerbated the Great Depression.” (Fox & Friends did feature one dairy farmer who, predictably, supported Trump’s agenda.)

    Much of the coverage on MSNBC also focused on the spectacle and/or provided a superficial analysis of Trump’s actions. But anchors Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Velshi, along with correspondent Vaughn Hillyard, did do substantial reporting on how the tariffs might impact American laborers, coverage which often included the workers themselves, during their combined three hours of hosting time., Velshi and Ruhle dedicated segments to explaining the far-reaching nature of the tariffs from U.S. allies (as well as an earlier round of tariffs from China) and how they might affect laborers and consumers alike.

    On-site reporting focused on affected farmers, and several reports focused even further on specific industries -- pork products, potatoes, and bourbon among them -- targeted by the tariffs.

    Ruhle, Velshi, and Hillyard notwithstanding, a common facet of tariff coverage was, as Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth said, the “unpredictability” of the situation, because it “makes for good TV.” With Friday’s White House announcement of another $50 billion in tariffs against Chinese products, media need to move beyond the drama and focus on the substance and the potential devastation to some Americans.

  • Trump’s favorite Fox News propagandists are avoiding reports about Paul Manafort’s legal troubles

    Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have steered clear of reporting on Paul Manafort’s legal exposure, but they spent significant time on a judge’s strong words for the special counsel's team

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update:

    On June 14, a federal judge revoked Manafort's bail for allegedly tampering with witnesses, landing him in federal prison until his trial.


    President Donald Trump’s favorite Fox News shows are all but ignoring the cascade of damning reports regarding former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his legal troubles. Since May 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller has been scrutinizing various relationships between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals closely tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, appearing to focus closely on Manafort’s business history and associates. As the legal pressure ramps up against Manafort, the president’s propagandists at Fox News have sought to distance Manafort from Trump and, through selective reporting on Manafort’s legal troubles, discredit the probe against Trump’s former campaign manager.

    Since the beginning of 2018, Manafort’s legal exposure has grabbed mainstream media attention, but the topic has not managed to break through on Trump’s favorite Fox News programs. Media Matters reviewed transcripts and video of the first editions of Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine after significant reports surfaced about new developments regarding the investigations into Manafort this year. We found little to no coverage of notable turns in the multiple high-profile legal cases against Trump’s former campaign manager. But we did find extensive coverage of the strong words a judge had for the special counsel’s team.

    Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all but ignored major turns in legal cases against Manafort

    Manafort sues Department of Justice, alleging special counsel exceeded mandate

    On January 3, NPR reported that Manafort was suing the Department of Justice, alleging that “Mueller's team has ‘diverged’ from its stated focus on potential collusion with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election and instead zeroed in on Manafort for ‘unrelated, decade-old business dealings’ in Ukraine.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the development.

    Company tied to former Manafort business associate and Russian oligarch sues Manafort and business partner

    On January 10, according to NBC News, “a company controlled and funded by” Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a crony of Russian President Vladimir Putin and one-time business associate of Manafort’s, sued Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates for allegedly “bilk[ing] his company by taking $1.1 million in capital and paying it to themselves.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the lawsuit.

    Special counsel tells judge investigation has revealed “additional criminal conduct” by Manafort

    On February 16, according to Politico, the special counsel’s office submitted a court filing informing a federal judge of “additional criminal conduct that [the office has] learned since the Court’s initial bail determination” on Manafort’s federal case that “includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the court filing specifically. Though a guest on Fox & Friends, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, briefly mentioned general “charges” against Paul Manafort, he downplayed them as “unrelated to the campaign.”

    Former Trump aide Richard Gates will “plead guilty” and has agreed to “testify against Manafort”

    On February 18, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gates, who is also a former Trump campaign aide, would “plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days” and that he “made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul Manafort.” While the Times report was unverified by other media outlets at the time, according to a Media Matters review, Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report. Fox & Friends briefly mentioned it but added that Catherine Herridge, Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent, “says, as of now, no deal, and Gates is not cooperating.” Five days later, The New York Times confirmed that Gates would plead guilty “to financial fraud and lying to investigators” and “has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel inquiry.” According to a Media Matters review, Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the development. Fox & Friends all but ignored the report other than airing a 15-second teaser from co-host Brian Kilmeade (who did not identify how Gates is tied to the Trump campaign) and a softball question from co-host Steve Doocy during an interview with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Priebus also attempted to downplay the significance of the report, claiming Gates’ and Manafort’s conduct was “independent of the Trump campaign.”

    Dutch lawyer tied to Manafort business partner sentenced to 30 days in federal prison for pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators

    On April 3, according to CNN, Alex van der Zwaan, a “Dutch lawyer tied to former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates,” was “sentenced … to spend 30 days in prison and pay a $20,000 fine after he admitted to lying to” the special counsel regarding his “communications with Gates and a person with Russian intelligence ties.” According to a Media Matters review, Hannity briefly mentioned the sentencing, downplaying it as having “nothing to do with Russia collusion,” and saying, “In reality, it looks like a giant waste of your money.” Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the sentencing, which was the first in the special counsel’s investigation. Fox & Friends twice mentioned the development in passing while attempting to downplay its significance, once saying the sentencing is “unrelated” to Trump and Russia.

    Special counsel obtains seven new search warrants against Manafort

    On April 5, CBS News reported that prosecutors on the special counsel’s team “revealed in court filings ... that they had obtained on March 9 seven new search warrants against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort” for “various properties” including “a storage unit, bank accounts, email addresses and devices.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report.

    Federal judge rejects attempt to get Manafort case dismissed

    On May 15, according to Politico, a federal judge “rejected an attempt by Paul Manafort … to get an indictment against him dismissed by claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment was flawed.” The judge wrote that “given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest” for U.S. law enforcement. According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the judge’s decision.

    Manafort’s former son-in-law cuts plea deal, will testify against Manafort

    On May 17, Reuters reported that Manafort’s former son-in-law and “business partner” Jeffrey Yohai “cut a plea deal with the Justice Department” requiring him “to cooperate” with the special counsel’s prosecutors. According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report.

    Special counsel accuses Manafort of attempting to tamper with witnesses

    On June 4, according to The New York Times, “federal prosecutors ... accused President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his federal tax and money laundering case,” with one witness telling the FBI “that Mr. Manafort was trying to ‘suborn perjury.’” Yet again, according to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the court filing, even though the charges leveled against Trump’s former campaign manager can mean up to 20 years in federal prison if he is found guilty.

    Special counsel unseals additional charges against Manafort, Russian business associate

    On June 8, according to NPR, the special counsel’s office “unsealed more charges” against Manafort, alleging “that a Russian partner of Manafort's, Konstantin Kilimnik, helped him try to persuade witnesses to lie to the jury when Manafort's case comes to trial in Washington, D.C., this autumn.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the additional round of charges against the president’s former campaign manager.

    But Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all covered a judge’s sharp questioning of the special counsel’s motivations extensively

    On May 4, according to The Washington Post, “a federal judge in Virginia ... sharply questioned the motivations of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s fraud prosecution of President Trump’s former campaign manager.” According to the report, Judge T.S. Ellis III told prosecutors on Mueller’s team, “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. … You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all covered the judge’s rebuke of the Mueller team extensively.

    On the May 4 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity spent a total of 14 minutes and 46 seconds discussing Judge Ellis’ comments, calling his remarks the “single biggest beatdown I have ever seen in my life by a judge.” The nearly 15 minutes Hannity devoted to Ellis’ comments were significantly more than the time he spent covering any development in the various cases against Manafort in 2018 combined, which totaled about 1 minute and 57 seconds.

    On the May 5 edition of Justice with Judge Jeanine, host Jeanine Pirro spent a total of 15 minutes and 27 seconds discussing Judge Ellis’ remarks. In contrast, Pirro did not mention any of the other stories regarding Manafort's legal troubles in 2018.

    On the May 7 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts devoted 11 minutes and 5 seconds to Judge Ellis’ comments over three hours of airtime. Fox & Friends spent a total of 2 minutes and 43 seconds on the other turns in the various cases against Manafort, and during those reports the hosts usually downplayed the events as “unrelated” to Russia or “independent from the Trump campaign.”

    As Fox buries reports on Manafort, majority of Americans are unaware of numerous special counsel indictments

    Given Manafort’s past and the people he has been willing to associate with professionally, it is no wonder Fox News’ chief Trump propagandists have attempted to distance the president from him. According to The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer, Manafort’s career was built on lobbying on behalf of “dictatorial governments in Nigeria, Kenya, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, among others.” Manafort’s experience representing repressive regimes eventually landed him a job in Ukraine, assisting the “former gangsters,” as Foer wrote, in the Party of Regions in improving their image domestically, eventually guiding pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych to presidential victory in 2010.

    Fox News’ efforts to bury Manafort’s legal exposure seem to be having an impact. According to a recent survey conducted by Navigator Research, 59 percent of Americans are not aware that the special counsel’s investigation has uncovered any crimes, even though Mueller has amassed five guilty pleas and numerous indictments. Should the special counsel’s investigation turn up evidence that supports allegations of a criminal conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and foreign actors, Manafort would surely be implicated as a key player.

    Suppressing reports regarding (arguably) the most corrupt member of Trump’s campaign team -- and following Fox’s usual playbook of downplaying and ignoring other consequential reporting on the special counsel’s investigation -- appears to be part of the network’s larger strategy to pre-emptively downplay any possible findings that could implicate the president and his campaign.

  • Trump administration threatens health care for 130 million people with pre-existing conditions; cable news barely noticed

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Last week, in a move that could further gut the Affordable Care Act and threaten the health insurance of 130 million people, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it would not defend the provisions of the law that protect consumers with pre-existing conditions. Cable news barely took notice.

    On June 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the DOJ would stop defending in court a key provision of Obamacare that protects consumers with pre-existing conditions. This could be a life-or-death decision for such individuals, as it could allow insurers to once again deny them coverage because of their medical condition or history.

    A recent poll found that health care was a top issue for voters, and the pre-existing condition provision is the most popular provision of the law. Despite these facts, as well as the severity of the potential consequences, the unprecedented nature of the DOJ’s decision not to defend a federal law, and the fact that this is a reversal from past Trump statements, cable news spent hardly any time discussing the decision and the implications it could have for nearly 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. From the time of Sessions’ June 7 announcement through June 11, CNN spent just 10 minutes discussing the decision. MSNBC fared slightly better, spending 19 minutes on the decision, and Fox News discussed it the most, devoting 25 minutes to the news that the Department of Justice wouldn’t defend coverage of pre-existing conditions protections. Additionally, not a single Sunday political news show mentioned the DOJ's decision or the consequences that would result from it. 

    The quality of the coverage oftentimes varied. Most often, the coverage failed to offer substance, focusing more on the political ramifications than the effects on vulnerable people. But occasionally segments touched on the consequences this would have on millions of Americans. On MSNBC’s All in with Chris Hayes panelist Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor, noted, “There are about 130 million people in this country who have pre-existing conditions. And if they don't get insurance through their jobs, and they don't get insurance through Medicare or Medicaid, if the Affordable Care Act goes away, they're going to be out of luck. This is a very high-stakes debate.”

    On MTP Daily, Katy Tur noted that it was off-putting to be discussing something that affects so many people through a political lens: “These are people and it is their lives. And I think it is just so weird, and kind of sad, that we talk about it as, ‘Well, here’s where the politics are, and this is them trying to want to put the stake in Obamacare.’ These are people’s lives!”

    Tur is on point with her dismay over the way health care is discussed in the media, but what’s even sadder is that cable news just doesn’t seem to care enough to cover the issue in depth at all, let alone in a manner that matters.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC on SnapStream for mentions of “Affordable Care Act,” “Obamacare,” “Obama care,” “healthcare,” “health care,” and “pre-existing” from June 7 through June 11 between 4 a.m. and midnight. Reruns were excluded.

  • Far-right figures spew toxic and dangerous bullshit after Anthony Bourdain's death

    Members of the far-right fever swamp spread conspiracy theories, blamed “political correctness” for spikes in suicide rates, personally attacked Bourdain, and blamed women 

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Anthony Bourdain stood for everything that far-right figures and online message boards hate. Following the tragic news of the CNN host and legendary chef’s death by suicide, these fever swamps went into overdrive with absurd conspiracy theories and toxic hot takes that personally attacked Bourdain and women with whom he had relationships. Instead of discussing the importance of mental health and guiding audiences to anti-suicide resources, these figures tried to use suicide to win a news cycle for some amorphous culture war benefit.

    Alex Jones, a host for conspiracy theory site Infowars, dismissed the reports of suicide to claim without evidence that Bourdain was murdered. Jones, who has never missed a chance to irresponsibly insert absurd conspiracy theories into the news, said Bourdain was “planning to go public against the deep state" and someone wanted to stop him from doing “a Kanye West”:

    Jones also implied Bourdain’s death was a result of his criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over her response to the numerous reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment committed by movie mogul and former Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein. Jones’ claim echoed posts found on 4chan, which also attempted to connect the tragedy of Bourdain’s death to the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory. That theory holds that powerful celebrities and Democratic politicians are linked to a pedophilia ring housed in the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor; it spurred one believer, who was trying to self-investigate the claim, to open fire inside the restaurant.

    The conspiracy theory linking Bourdain’s death to Clinton also spread through several YouTube channels and appeared on Twitter accounts and fake news-peddling websites like True Pundit, Liberty One News, and YourNewsWire.

    Others in the far-right fever swamp displayed, at best, tone deafness and staggering ignorance about suicide as a public health issue, and at worst callous and dangerous disregard for the harm their words could do. Jacob Wohl, self-appointed editor-in-chief of the pro-Trump Washington Reporter, called Bourdain “soft.” Wohl’s tweets echo sentiments that can also be found in the “politically incorrect” board on 4chan, and they reach more than 150,000 followers.

    During the June 8 edition of his show CRTV Tonight, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes used Bourdain’s suicide to make disrespectful word plays around the word “hanged” and baselessly speculated that cocaine had played a part in both Bourdain’s and fashion designer Kate Spade’s recent death, also by suicide. McInnes followed with a rant about the spike in the suicide rate, blaming “political correctness:”

    The women-hating site Return of Kings, founded by a misogynist who has blamed the pattern of violence by incels (short for “involuntary celibates”) on the women who don’t sleep with them, used the news of the tragedy to blame women, mirroring sentiments also found on 4chan.

    This is only the most recent episode of far-right figures injecting a tragic news cycle with toxic, poisonous bullshit. In pushing lies about the deceased, they cowardly exploit the fact that their subjects can no longer set the record straight while cynically profiting by gaining attention or clicks. Like clockwork, they do it after reports of mass shootings or news of celebrities dying by suicide.

    This news cycle should be centered around celebrating Bourdain’s legacy, life, and contributions, and reporting on suicide as a public health issue. But far-right figures and users of toxic message boards like 4chan have no qualms about co-opting the story to attack him and insert their own agendas.

    Notably, Bourdain had a history of using his platform to advocate for issues like protesting violence against women, standing with the population of the Gaza strip, calling out the crimes of Henry Kissinger, documenting the repression of dictators like Vladimir Putin, and advocating for Hispanic restaurant workers.

    Bourdain was the opposite of these far-right figures because the issues were never about him. It is particularly despicable for these people to attack Bourdain after his death because he stood tall for everything they hate -- and he did so by listening to the voices of others.

    To get help for suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

    Natalie Martinez contributed research to this piece.

  • Sunday shows ignore Puerto Rico amid new study that nearly 5,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Following a new study estimating that almost 5,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria, Sunday news shows completely ignored the devastation and death toll that is 72 times higher than the government’s official number of 64.

    Written up by the Washington Post, a May 29 Harvard University study “estimates that at least 4,645 deaths can be linked to the hurricane and its immediate aftermath,” and noted that “health-care disruption for the elderly and the loss of basic utility services for the chronically ill had significant impact.”

    If the Harvard study is accurate, Maria will be the second deadliest hurricane in U.S. history. Thousands are still waiting for power. It is already estimated to and have caused $90 billion in damages in Puerto Rico alone. The devastation in the U.S. Virgin Islands from Hurricanes Irma and Maria has caused billions more in damage. And 2018 Hurricane season is officially underway as of June 1.  

    Despite this less than a week old study, the major Sunday political talk shows -- which include 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 -- were all silent on the subject.

    MSNBC’s AM Joy and CNN’s Reliable Sources both noted the discrepancy between coverage of Hurricane Maria’s devastation, and Roseanne Barr’s racist and anti-Semitic tweets that resulted in her eponymous show being canceled.

    CNN’s New Day Sunday highlighted the Harvard study’s reported death toll and noted Puerto Rico is “still recovering” and that “11,000 residents still do not have power” as the country enters the official 2018 hurricane season.

    The media has routinely ignored the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria, dating back to just one week after the storm made landfall when these Sunday shows covered the devastation for less than a minute. Cable news quickly turned away from Puerto Rico following the hurricane as well. The day the Harvard study was released, cable news gave it 30 minutes of coverage that was drowned out by ten hours spent on Roseanne.

  • Study finds 5,000 people may have died from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Cable news focused on Roseanne instead.

    Cable news covered Roseanne for over 10 hours. They covered Hurricane Maria's death toll in Puerto Rico for just over 30 minutes.

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN & LIS POWER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On Tuesday, Harvard researchers published a study estimating that approximately 5,000 deaths can be linked to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The same day, ABC canceled Roseanne Barr’s eponymous show Roseanne after Barr sent a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama. Cable news covered Barr’s tweet and her show’s cancellation 16 times as much as the deaths of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.

    While the official death toll remains at just 64, the Harvard study, written up in The Washington Post, “indicated that the mortality rate was 14.3 deaths per 1,000 residents from Sept. 20 through Dec. 31, 2017, a 62 percent increase in the mortality rate compared with 2016, or 4,645 ‘excess deaths.’” BuzzFeed News, which also reported on the study, further explained that the researchers adjusted their estimate up to 5,740 hurricane-related deaths to account for “people who lived alone and died as a result of the storm” and were thus not reported in the study’s survey.

    Cable news barely covered the report. The May 29 broadcasts of MSNBC combined with the network's flagship morning show the next day spent 21 minutes discussing the findings. CNN followed with just under 10 minutes of coverage, and Fox covered the report for just 48 seconds. 

    By contrast, cable news spent over 8 and a half hours discussing a tweet from Barr describing Jarrett, a Black woman, as the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes and the subsequent cancellation of her show.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Media coverage of the crisis in Puerto Rico has been dismal since the hurricane hit; even when outlets reported on major scandals about the mismanaged recovery, the coverage was negligible and faded quickly.

    Many in the media have been quick to label Barr’s obviously racist tweet as racist. But they've failed in their coverage of the mismanaged recovery in Puerto Rico, which is also explained -- at least in part -- by racism. The Root explained why “Puerto Rico’s crisis is not generally seen as a racial matter. But it should be.” Vox explained “the ways the island and its people have been othered through racial and ethnic bias” and noted that “both online and broadcast media gave Puerto Rico much less coverage, at least initially, than the hurricanes that recently hit Texas and Florida.” A Politico investigation found that “the Trump administration — and the president himself — responded far more aggressively to Texas than to Puerto Rico” in the wake of the hurricanes that devastated both. Trump tweeted just days after Hurricane Maria hit that Puerto Ricans “want everything to be done for them.” Only half of Americans are aware that Puerto Ricans are in fact U.S. citizens. And MSNBC contributor Eddie Glaude, chair of the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton University, pointed out, “When you think about 4,600 people dying -- of color -- dying in Puerto Rico, it reflects how their lives were valued, or less valued.”

    Dina Radtke contributed research to this piece.