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  • 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.

  • CNN’s new political editor championed Jeff Sessions’ war on leaks

    At DOJ, Sarah Isgur defended the seizure of a reporter’s communications

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CNN’s decision to hire former Trump official, longtime Republican operative, and journalism neophyte Sarah Isgur as its new political editor is shaping up as quite a public relations disaster for the network. CNN executives are busily trying to explain to their staff why no one should be concerned that Isgur -- who has no journalism experience but reportedly did personally tell the sitting president that “she was on board with his agenda and would be honored to serve him” -- will occupy an editorial post where she will “play a coordinating role in our daily political coverage.” The network is facing internal criticism from staffers, and it had to mollify the Democratic National Committee by promising that Isgur won’t be involved with the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates that CNN will host.

    Another problematic aspect of Isgur’s move to CNN is the fact that she was the chief spokesperson for the Department of Justice at a time when her boss, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was implementing a harsh crackdown on leakers who fed information to journalists -- a campaign that was launched, at least in part, to shore up Sessions’ standing with President Donald Trump. In her role as a DOJ flack, Isgur defended the seizure of a journalist’s electronic records and cheered the department’s hunt for leakers.

    In June 2018, the Justice Department charged former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe with lying to the FBI as part of an investigation into whether he’d leaked classified information to journalists. As part of the investigation, the Justice Department obtained the phone and email records of New York Times reporter Ali Watkins, who was in a relationship with Wolfe, and informed Watkins that her data had been seized only after the fact. The Times and free press advocates slammed the Justice Department for its tactics. Isgur, who was then a DOJ spokesperson, defended the action, saying: “We fully complied with the department’s regulations.”

    Those regulations state that journalists “shall be given reasonable and timely notice of the Attorney General's determination before the use of the subpoena, court order, or warrant, unless the Attorney General determines that, for compelling reasons, such notice would pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation, risk grave harm to national security, or present an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm.” DOJ sources later told The Washington Post that the department leaders opted not to inform Watkins before the seizure because they worried “she might tip off [Wolfe] … or take other steps that would upend the investigation.”

    In July 2017, short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci stirred a minor controversy after he obliquely accused former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus of leaking his financial disclosure information. In a since-deleted tweet, Scaramucci said he would contact the FBI and the Justice Department to investigate the leak. He then went on Fox News’ Hannity and praised Sessions for “going after the leaks” and accused “senior people” of “doing the leaking.”

    Scaramucci’s remarks drew a response from DOJ -- specifically, from Isgur, who chimed in to give Scaramucci an attaboy. “We agree with Anthony that these staggering number of leaks are undermining the ability of our government to function and to protect this country,” Isgur told Politico. “Like the Attorney General has said, 'whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,' and we will aggressively pursue leak cases wherever they may lead.”

    This same DOJ flack who cheered on the prosecution of leakers and defended the seizure of a reporter’s communications data will soon be “coordinating” the political coverage of a cable news network. The reporters and journalists who work with Isgur and who have confidential sources within the administration will have to reckon with the fact that their incoming political editor played a key public role in the Trump administration’s war on leakers.

  • Here are the lies and partisanship CNN's new political editor has pushed in cable news appearances

    ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    CNN has announced it hired former Department of Justice spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores as a political editor to "coordinate political coverage for the 2020 campaign at the network." This hiring decision is surprising given Isgur’s lack of journalism experience, her conflicts of interest stemming from previous roles in the Trump Justice Department and multiple GOP campaigns, and the fact that she personally pledged loyalty to President Donald Trump. But, additionally, Isgur repeatedly made cable news appearances where she pushed false and highly partisan talking points over the years, raising even more questions about the value of involving her in 2020 campaign coverage.

  • CNN anchors misleadingly portray popular Democratic proposals such as "Medicare-for-all" and taxing the wealthy as far to the left

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    On Wednessday, CNN anchors Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow portrayed Democratic policy proposals that enjoy high public support as extreme, calling “Medicare-for-all” and a tax on high amounts of wealth “far left of center” and “very far left.”

    Polls have consistently shown high levels of support for these ideas: An August Reuters/Ipsos poll found 70 percent of respondents support “Medicare-for-all,” a January Politico/Harvard poll found 68 percent support a national health care plan like “Medicare-for-all,” and a January Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 56 percent of respondents support “Medicare-for-all.” Additionally, a February Morning Consult poll found 61 percent support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) proposal for a wealth tax on very wealthy households, while a January The Hill-HarrisX survey found 59 percent of registered voters support raising marginal tax rates to 70 percent on income above $10 million.

    From the February 20 edition of CNN’s CNN Newsroom:

    JIM SCIUTTO (CO-ANCHOR): Karen, the focus of the Democratic Party, many of the candidates will say, is on beating Donald Trump. Is this a good look, in effect, for the Democratic Party? Is this the right approach to 2020 to go so far left of center, when polls consistently show that most Americans have more center -- and some polls even show center-right views on some of these key issues?

    KAREN FINNEY (CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR): Well, look, I think we have to take a step back actually, because having just worked on a campaign in the South on Stacey Abrams’ campaign in 2018, and looked at a number of other campaigns, the issue landscape in this country is a little bit different. And so when we talk about things like expanding Medicaid, or we talk about things -- which, you know, some states have not done yet even under Obamacare -- when we talk about, you know, commonsense gun safety measures, those issues poll pretty well in a lot of states where a lot of Americans see that as a more mainstream issue. They don’t see that as a far-left issue. So there’s a lot of things -- like child care, which Sen. [Elizabeth] Warren has been talking about -- that actually appeal to people, working people in particular who struggle with these issues.

    SCIUTTO: True, but that’s different than like 70 percent tax rates. And I’m not saying that’s the whole party, but you have [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)] going down that path.

    FINNEY: Well, she’s not running for president, though.

    SCIUTTO: You know, universal health care, universal health care. You’re talking about background checks. That’s one kind of issue. But I’m talking about issues further to the left of the political spectrum.

    FINNEY: Right, but just because someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House is talking about something that is, you know, that some may perceive as being to the left, that’s not necessarily going to influence what the presidential candidates are talking about. Because I think what they all recognize is, yes, they’re still in Congress, so they’re going to have to, at the right time, comment on some of these things because they may have to vote on them. But they also have to put forward their own visions. So I thought [Sen.] Amy Klobuchar, for example the other night, did a great job when she was talking about college affordability and what she would do. I know that student looked like he was a bit disappointed. So I think what you’re going to see -- and this is why the primary is so important and I think the debates are going to be so important -- you’re going to hear all of these ideas really teased out with similar goals and values at their core but different ideas about how we get there. And I think that’s going to be a really exciting thing for this country is to actually have conversations about ideas and not just tweets attacking people.

    POPPY HARLOW (CO-ANCHOR): And also let’s remember Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, also, you know, proposing that wealth tax on people with any assets over $50 million -- also very far left.

  • CNN’s new political editor has a history of spreading anti-abortion misinformation

    Trump will reportedly spotlight anti-abortion extremism in 2020, and now CNN can get its anti-choice lies from in-house

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    It’s no secret that CNN employs and repeatedly hosts political commentators with ties to President Donald Trump’s administration. But with the announced hire of Sarah Isgur as a political editor, the network seems set on making its intended “facts first” approach a sisyphean labor -- particularly when it comes to abortion-related coverage.

    Already, conservative media dominate cable news conversations about abortion with inaccurate information. And as a career Republican strategist, Isgur not only lacks formal journalism experience -- a seeming necessity for anyone in an editorial role -- but has also spent years promoting anti-abortion misinformation.

    Isgur’s installation at CNN comes at a tenuous time for abortion rights. The Supreme Court appears increasingly likely to overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade, and Trump -- after weeks of sensationalized and inaccurate Fox News coverage -- is reportedly committed to spotlighting abortion misinformation in his 2020 campaign. Anti-abortion groups and the Republican Party have similarly seized on allegations of Democratic extremism on abortion rights to rally a perceived base of support ahead of next year’s elections. Already in 2019, right-wing media have inundated audiences with a plethora of inaccurate and stigmatizing coverage about abortions and the people who have them. And some outlets outside of this echo chamber have also demonstrated an alarming proclivity for uncritically repeating Trump’s anti-abortion misinformation. If anything, Isgur’s hiring means that CNN doesn’t need to parrot Trump to spread anti-abortion misinformation anymore -- the lies can come from in-house.   

    Here’s a sample of the anti-abortion talking points Sarah Isgur has promoted.

    Isgur attacked Democrats as “extreme” for supporting abortion rights

    Right-wing media have frequently alleged that the Democratic Party holds “extreme” views on abortion rights. Although there is little truth to this claim, Isgur has repeated the allegation on a number of occasions:

    Isgur promoted deceptive videos from an anti-abortion group

    In 2015, the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released a series of deceptive videos alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. Notably, then-Republican presidential candidate (and Isgur’s former boss) Carly Fiorina was among those sharing the videos and claiming they showed wrongdoing -- a position Isgur promoted:

    Isgur unfairly maligned Planned Parenthood

    Isgur equated deaths from gun violence with abortion and attacked liberals for their alleged “hypocrisy” on the two issues

    In a 2016 piece for Townhall, Isgur equated advocacy for gun regulation with efforts to ban abortions after 20 weeks. She concluded by attacking “the Left” for allegedly “demonizing conservatives who want to preserve their Second Amendment rights while refusing to even consider restrictions on killing tens of thousands of babies that could live outside the womb”:

    As it happens, I’m also pro-life. And I’ll admit that I’m simply stunned that people on the Left can argue with a straight face that a mother has a right to kill a baby that can live outside the womb. But, this week in particular, I’m even more stunned at the Left’s hypocrisy on gun control—demonizing conservatives who want to preserve their Second Amendment rights while refusing to even consider restrictions on killing tens of thousands of babies that could live outside the womb. This is why it continues to be hard for conservatives to take liberal’s arguments at face value when it comes to guns. Their ideology trumps logic and facts too often.

    Isgur lambasted CNN’s abortion-related coverage as biased

     

  • CNN’s baffling, self-sabotaging hire of Sarah Isgur

    The network’s new political editor is a former Trump official who has never worked in journalism

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Early on in the Trump administration, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions ran into a staffing problem as he took over the Department of Justice. According to The Washington Post, Sessions very much wanted to hire longtime Republican political operative Sarah Isgur as his chief spokeswoman, but she had “criticized [President Donald] Trump, repeatedly, during the 2016 Republican primaries,” and thus her “prospects for a Justice Department job stalled.” To break the logjam, the Post reported, Isgur paid Trump “a cordial visit during which she told the president she was on board with his agenda and would be honored to serve him.”

    The incident was noteworthy when the Post reported it last April because it demonstrated both the president’s overriding need for loyalty and the willingness of Republican operatives to kiss Trump’s ring as a means of career advancement. The story has taken on new relevance now that the same Sarah Isgur who personally expressed her loyalty to the sitting president has reportedly been hired as a political editor at CNN.

    In certain respects, this is a baffling move by CNN. According to Politico, which first broke the news, Isgur will assume her editorial role at the network in March and “will coordinate political coverage for the 2020 campaign.” Isgur is a career political operative -- she’s worked for Sessions, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Republican National Committee, and Carly Fiorina’s failed 2016 presidential campaign -- but there is no indication that she has ever worked in any capacity as a journalist (unless you count appearing as a pundit on cable news, which you should not). CNN has hired a person with zero experience producing news to oversee the production of news.

    Not only that, but the network has turned over its 2020 political coverage to a person who is more or less a walking conflict of interest. Politico notes that Isgur, because of her employment history, “will not play a role in covering the Department of Justice.” How on earth can a cable news channel have a political editor who can’t cover DOJ? The workings of the Justice Department are at the heart of some of the most critically important political stories of the Trump era. The Russia investigation and the special counsel’s office are going to be hugely important topics for the 2020 campaign, and Democratic candidates are likely going to spend considerable energy attacking DOJ policies that Isgur defended, such as Sessions’ legal assault on sanctuary laws for undocumented immigrants.

    It doesn’t make much sense to have a political editor who has never worked in journalism, and it doesn’t make any sense to have a political editor who is walled off from important stories that will be central to the very coverage she is supposed to be coordinating. And those problems rest uneasily atop issues that arise from Isgur’s partisan leanings and her loyalties to current and former high-ranking Trump officials. Isgur’s presence will lead to persistent, difficult-to-answer questions about how her politics and conflicts of interest are shaping the network’s 2020 coverage.

    CNN’s choice of a Trump administration veteran does, however, fit in with the network’s fantastically self-defeating strategy of hiring pro-Trump mercenaries who shill on behalf of a president and administration that delight in demonizing CNN. The journalism industry does not lack for talented, experienced professionals who are desperate for work, but CNN opted to give this important job to a Jeff Sessions acolyte who has never worked as a journalist. That sure feels like the network sabotaging its own interests in order to send a conciliatory message to a political movement that will always view it as an “enemy of the people.”

  • 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.

  • Fox News dominated prime-time cable coverage of the Green New Deal

    Fox covered the plan far more than CNN and MSNBC, and often failed to even mention climate change

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD

    From February 7 to February 11, Fox News aired 34 segments on the Green New Deal on its prime-time shows, according to a Media Matters analysis. This was more than triple the combined number of segments aired by its cable news counterparts: MSNBC and CNN aired eight and three segments, respectively. Just 14 of Fox's segments on the Green New Deal mentioned climate change, less than half. By contrast, MSNBC and CNN did a better job of explaining that the Green New Deal is designed to address climate change; MSNBC discussed climate change in five of its eight segments, and CNN discussed it in two of its three segments.

    Fox aired far more prime-time Green New Deal segments than MSNBC or CNN

    From February 7, when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) released the Green New Deal resolution, through February 11, Fox News aired 34 segments discussing the Green New Deal on its weekday and weekend prime-time shows airing between 5 p.m. and midnight. February 7 and February 8 saw the most Fox coverage -- the network aired 19 prime-time segments on those two days. Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity led the Fox prime-time shows in the number of Green New Deal segments, airing seven and five segments, respectively.

    Across this same time period, MSNBC aired eight prime-time segments on the Green New Deal. Five of these aired on February 7, the day the resolution was introduced, including an interview with Ocasio-Cortez on MTP Daily and an interview with Markey on All In with Chris Hayes.  

    CNN, meanwhile, aired only three Green New Deal segments on its prime-time shows from February 7 to February 11. One segment came on the February 7 episode of Erin Burnett OutFront, which included an interview with Markey. Another segment aired on the February 9 episode of The Van Jones Show, and a third on CNN Newsroom on February 10.

    Most of Fox’s segments on the Green New Deal either ignored climate change or mocked it

    The text of the Green New Deal resolution makes clear that it is intended to fight climate change. Ocasio-Cortez and Markey both emphasized the urgent need to combat the climate crisis at their February 7 press conference unveiling the resolution. And Ocasio-Cortez explained in an interview with NPR earlier that day that the Green New Deal is so ambitious because the climate crisis is such an enormous threat: "Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us.”

    But the majority of Fox News segments on the Green New Deal didn't even mention climate change, often ignoring the entire reason that Ocasio-Cortez and Markey had proposed such a sweeping plan in the first place. In contrast, MSNBC and CNN discussed climate change in most of their segments on the Green New Deal.

    Fox News mentioned climate change in just 41 percent of its prime-time segments on the Green New Deal. Out of the 34 segments that Fox aired about the Green New Deal, only 14 included the words "climate" or "global warming." Most segments omitted the reasoning behind the resolution and merely discussed it out of context as an onerous, oppressive policy proposal. Two of the Fox segments that failed to mention climate change instead claimed that the Green New Deal was just a pretext for implementing a radical left-wing agenda -- a theme that was popular in right-wing media even before the resolution was released.

    Even in cases when Fox figures did bring up climate change during a segment on the Green New Deal, they often downplayed the issue. In six of Fox's 13 segments that mentioned climate change, a host or guest made a dismissive or skeptical remark about the problem. For example, the February 7 episode of The Ingraham Angle featured a well-informed guest who discussed the climate challenge, but host Laura Ingraham followed up her comments by saying, "Well, it's pretty cold right now in Minnesota, but that's just a snapshot. I mean it's been a brutal winter.”

    And on the February 7 episode of Hannity, host Sean Hannity simultaneously misstated activists’ claims about climate change and downplayed the climate threat, then made ludicrous claims about how the Green New Deal would bring about the downfall of America: “They claim that the world was going to end in 12 years because of climate change, which is, of course, is not true. Now, green energy, this new deal, will destroy America, our economy as we know it.”

    MSNBC mentioned climate change in more than half of its prime-time Green New Deal segments. Five out of MSNBC’s eight segments on the Green New Deal discussed the plan in the context of climate change, and two of these were the segments that featured interviews with the resolution's co-sponsors, Ocasio-Cortez and Markey. During his appearance on All In with Chris Hayes on February 7, Markey was particularly clear about the need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change:

    SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): By the year 2100, we're going to have lost tens of trillions of dollars to the damage which is going to be created by climate change to our country. And a stitch in time will save nine. If we invest now, we'll be able to avoid the worst, most catastrophic consequences. Otherwise the price that’s going to be paid is going to be in the tens of trillions in our country, and that will just be a footnote compared to the rest of the world.

    Another segment on All In with Chris Hayes deserves mention. Hayes described the need for a dramatic response to the climate crisis and explained why right-wing criticism of the Green New Deal is so off-base:

    CHRIS HAYES (HOST): As you watch the continued right-wing caterwauling about the Green New Deal, here's what to keep in mind, particularly as all kinds of denialists and cranks talk about what is and is not serious. The bar for entry into the conversation for seriousness in said conversation is some framework, some proposal to reduce U.S. carbon emissions from human sources by almost half -- 45 percent -- from 2010 levels by 2030. That's 11 years from now. Half of emissions. That's what the international panel on climate change says has to happen globally to avoid the worst effects of climate change. And those effects of climate change, they are happening, and they are getting more visible and more present every day.

    CNN discussed climate change in two of its three prime-time segments about the Green New Deal. While CNN ran fewer segments on the Green New Deal than the other cable news channels, it did a better job of foregrounding climate change in the segments that it did air.

    On the February 7 episode of Erin Burnett OutFront, CNN correspondent Miguel Marquez explained the reasoning of the Green New Deal's backers: "Viewing climate change as an existential threat to the entire world, fire, drought, rising sea levels, increasingly violent storms, famine, and mass migrations is what we face, they warn, if radical change isn't embraced now."

    And on the February 9 episode of The Van Jones Show, host Van Jones explained how Green New Deal supporters see climate change affecting the economy and inequality:

    VAN JONES (HOST): They point out the cost of inaction could mean we don't have a planet to live on. They also point out the program could be paid for by tax hikes on the super wealthy and cutting spending elsewhere. Their goal is not just to reduce carbon emissions but also to stimulate the job market, reduce inequality, and boost the economy in low-income areas that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

    Fox continues to lie, fearmonger, and relentlessly mock the Green New Deal

    Fox News spread misinformation about the Green New Deal before the resolution was introduced, and it has continued to do so since it was released. Fox has aired a number of segments that lied about what’s in the Green New Deal resolution, tried to paint the resolution as an instance of alleged Democratic extremism, and downplayed the serious need to tackle climate change. One example of this comes from Sean Hannity on the February 11 episode of Hannity.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We'll start with New Jersey Sen. Spartacus, Cory Booker, comparing the Green New Deal to going to the moon and defeating the Nazis. And Booker is talking about Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's bizarre, horrific new piece of legislation. Let's see. That would plan the end of consumption of fossil fuels in 10 years. By the way, the planet is going to die in 12 years. What is the point? And, by the way, and seriously, don't write off Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and her grandiose and disastrous plans. She is merely just saying and acting on what Democrats really believe but try and hide from you. Look at all of those Democrats now coming out in support of this, this Green New Deal which calls for no more oil, no more gas, no more fossil fuels of any kind. Not even any nuclear energy. And it doesn't stop there. This bill that would eliminate airplanes, gas-powered automobiles and trucks, gas-powered ovens and stoves. By the way, if you like steak -- no more cows, too much flatulence. They emit CO2 emissions. No more cows. You better load up on the steak and put in a freezer.

    The resolution, of course, does not call for the elimination of airplanes, cows, or nuclear energy -- it doesn't mention these things at all. Hannity misrepresented lines from an informal FAQ document that has since been retracted. But Hannity continued to push these bombastic, false talking points even after it was reported that the FAQ did not represent the actual Green New Deal resolution.

    Another example comes from President Donald Trump himself on this same episode of Hannity. The show aired live footage of Trump speaking at a rally in El Paso, TX, where he said:

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Last week, they introduced a massive government takeover that would destroy our incredible economic gains. They introduced the so-called Green New Deal. It sounds like a high school term paper that got a low mark. It would shut down American energy, which I don't think the people in Texas are going to be happy with that. It would shut down a little thing called air travel. How do you take a train to Europe? You know, this crazy senator from Hawaii. They said, do you like it? Yes, I like it very much. Oh, really, how are we getting to Hawaii on a train? She didn't think about that one, but she's thinking about it. She will figure it out. They want to take away your car, reduce the value of your home, and put millions of Americans out of work, spend $100 trillion -- which, by the way, there's no such thing as a $100 trillion.

    Trump constantly lies, so it is no surprise that he would make false statements about trains to Europe, a $100 trillion price tag, and a Hawaii senator -- and no surprise that Fox would air his comments without correction.

    Another ridiculous example came from frequent Fox talking head Dan Bongino on the February 9 episode of Justice with Judge Jeanine:

    DAN BONGINO: Are there going to be cow assassination squads now? I mean, you are going to have to give your cow Beano to cure up their gastrointestinal issues? To prevent an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez death squad or something?

    More cow jokes came from right-wing commentator Mark Steyn on the February 7 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    MARK STEYN: Well, the AOC plan strikingly pledges to get rid of most forms of transportation and, indeed, cows. So you can give up your Chevy Suburban and take your cow to work. The cow actually is more devastating to the environment than the Chevy Suburban. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's document actually says that she is committed to ridding America of flatulent cows and airplanes. I always take a flatulent cow on an airplane as my emotional support animal. It means that 20 minutes out of LAX, you've got the whole first class compartment all to yourself and nobody is in there. But the Europeans actually tried this and they basically -- the Irish were going to impose a tax of 13 euros per cow and the Danes were going to impose a tax of 80 euros per cow because apparently a Danish Holstein is six times as flatulent as an Irish Hereford. So in theory, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is on to something that you could, as the Europeans considered, actually have a flatulence offset regime. Obviously, you would need a secretary of flatulence in the Cabinet that you would actually -- Vermont, for example, has a lot of Holsteins there, the black and white cows that look like the governor of Virginia with only half his makeup on -- and you can take, you could take those, Vermont would be able to trade its flatulence to Washington, D.C., where it could hang like a giant cloud over Congress.

    These examples show that Fox News will go to great lengths to avoid having good-faith discussions about tackling climate change and instead paint any ambitious climate proposal as absurd and a sign of supposed Democratic extremism. That makes it especially unfortunate that Fox is the cable network that's covering the Green New Deal the most on its prime-time shows.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis and IQ Media search for mentions of "green new deal" in programs that aired on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between 5 p.m. and midnight from February 7 to February 11. We then searched within those transcripts for mentions of “climate” or "global warming." We counted any segments that were devoted to the Green New Deal or made substantial mention of it. We did not count teasers, passing mentions, or rebroadcasts.

    Image and chart by Melissa Joskow of Media Matters.

  • 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.

  • 8 must-read fact checks debunking Trump’s abortion lies from his State of the Union address

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    President Donald Trump used his 2019 State of the Union address to promote right-wing media lies about state measures protecting abortion access. While media outlets struggled at times to properly contextualize and refute Trump’s misinformation, some outlets held Trump accountable by debunking his false, anti-choice statements and providing their audiences with accurate information about abortion.

  • Fox News almost single-handedly manufactured anti-abortion outrage before Trump’s State of the Union

    Before the State of the Union, Fox News devoted over 6 and a half hours to inaccurately saying state abortion measures allow “infanticide”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN & ROB SAVILLO


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News has responded to the recent state measures protecting abortion access in the only way the network knows how: with a barrage of inaccurate, bizarre, and sensationalized coverage. The network's coverage has driven misinformation about the realities of legal and medically necessary abortions later in pregnancy straight into President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, and Fox has continued this harmful narrative about abortion care beyond the speech.

    On January 22, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the Reproductive Health Act, changing a pre-Roe v. Wade state law criminalizing abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy to now allow abortions with the consent of a doctor “when the fetus is not viable or a woman’s health is at risk.” This law sparked a meltdown at Fox News, with hosts and guests decrying its allegedly “Hitlerian” nature. When a Virginia lawmaker’s comment about a pro-choice bill went viral, the Fox News spin machine went into overdrive, manufacturing a scandal about Democratic lawmakers pushing legislation that supposedly allows “infanticide.”

    Between January 22 and February 5 (before Trump's State of the Union speech):

    • Fox News discussed abortion in the context of the New York and Virginia measures for over six and a half hours.
    • CNN, in comparison, covered these topics for only about eight and a half minutes, while MSNBC’s coverage clocked in around four minutes.

    Between February 5 (after Trump's State of the Union speech) and February 6:

    • Fox News still led coverage on these issues, discussing abortion for around 13 minutes.
    • CNN and MSNBC covered it for approximately five and a half minutes and nine minutes, respectively.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Given Trump’s reliance on Fox News for his talking points and policy proposals, it’s unsurprising that he would soon take cues from the network’s breathless coverage. Indeed, both before and during the State of the Union address, Trump repeated several inaccurate right-wing media talking points.

    The consequences of allowing Fox News to rile up viewers -- including the president -- into adopting inaccurate and extreme rhetoric about abortion cannot be overstated. Trump is already calling for legislation based on right-wing lies about abortion and reportedly planning to center abortion-related fearmongering in his 2020 election messaging. Beyond this, incidents of anti-abortion violence and harassment have been on the rise, driven in part by right-wing hyperbole about abortion providers and patients.

    Media have a responsibility to correct Trump’s -- and by extension, Fox News’ -- inaccurate and sensationalized arguments about abortion. If the current response to this manufactured Fox News misinformation cycle is any indication, other outlets have some work to do.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for any mentions of “abortion” in close proximity of “New York” or “Virginia” on Fox News Channel, CNN, and MSNBC between 4 a.m. and midnight starting January 22 and ending February 6. (We included special post-State of the Union address coverage on February 5 and 6 that fell outside of this time range.)

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances in which either the New York or Virginia legislation or Trump’s comments about either legislation initiated a discussion about abortion. These included instances when abortion was the stated topic of discussion. We also timed as segments “substantive discussion,” which we defined as instances where two speakers discussed abortion with one another. For substantive discussion, we only timed the relevant speech. Segments included host monologues, news reports or packages, interviews, and guest panels. We did not include teasers for upcoming segments or passing mentions of abortion in segments about other topics. We did not include rebroadcasts.

  • 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]