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  • After Trump’s disastrous press conference with Putin, three news anchors report Republicans won’t appear on their shows

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Republican elected officials are refusing to appear on cable news programs to discuss President Donald Trump’s disastrous July 16 press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the press conference, Trump insulted “obstructionist” Democrats while standing next to a foreign adversary, condemned Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling, blamed “both countries” for deteriorating relations, called the United States “foolish,” and refused to endorse conclusion of the entire intelligence community and the Senate intelligence committee that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump’s performance has drawn wide rebuke, and according to three cable news anchors, many Republicans are refusing to speak about it on the air. MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle and CNN’s Kate Bolduan reported that they had asked Republicans to join them on the air and all had declined. CNN’s Jim Sciutto noted that out of the "dozens of Republican lawmakers" he invited to appear on his show, only one accepted the invitation: Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), who is not running for reelection.

    MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle: “I invited a myriad of elected officials, Republican elected officials, to join me on-air today to discuss the president's summit with Vladimir Putin, and across the board they said no thank you.”

    CNN’s Kate Bolduan: “I should note, we invited on all of the Republicans on the Senate intelligence committee today to talk about all of this. Those Republican members have all declined.”

    CNN’s Jim Sciutto to Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA): “So our viewers know, we reached out to dozens of Republican lawmakers today to speak, to react to the president's comments. And I want to thank you for being the only one who said yes.” Costello is not running for reelection.

  • Media are misleadingly characterizing Brett Kavanaugh as “mainstream”

    Researchers found that Kavanaugh "is an uncommonly partisan judge" who "justified his decisions with conservative doctrines far more than his colleagues," particularly in the run-up to elections

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On July 9, President Donald Trump nominated conservative D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court in a move that would undoubtedly shift the court far to the right and out of step with the American people. Many media figures, though, have casted Kavanaugh as a centrist pick, citing his ties to former President George W. Bush and saying he is less conservative than other potential nominees.

    • MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called Kavanaugh “such a mainstream pick” and praised him for voicing opposition to indicting a sitting president, saying it “speaks to the content of the judge’s character” because it was written under a Democratic president.

    • CNN senior political analyst and occasional host John Avlon praised Trump’s choice as “not as far right” as many of the other options he had considered. After CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin disputed that characterization, fellow commentator David Gregory dug in, saying, “Any Republican would have made this selection.”

    • The New York Times published a July 9 opinion piece on its website written by a liberal friend and former law professor of Kavanaugh’s, which Fox News exploited as evidence of widespread bipartisan support for the nominee.

    • A New York Times article described him as “often a moderating force.”

    • On CBS This Morning, Dan Senor, a Republican strategist and former colleague of Kavanaugh’s in the George W. Bush administration, said he’s “not some fire-brand right-winger” and argued that other Republicans also would have nominated him.

    • MSNBC political commentator Bret Stephens claimed that Kavanaugh is “within the broad mainstream of the American movement.”

    But data shows that Kavanaugh is “an uncommonly partisan judge” who has historically “tended to dissent more often along partisan lines than his peers,” according to research compiled by social scientists Elliott Ash and Daniel L. Chen. They also noted that Kavanaugh “justified his decisions with conservative doctrines far more than his colleagues” and that his right-leaning partisan decisions ramped up in the midst of presidential elections, “suggesting that he feels personally invested in national politics.” Additionally, Kavanaugh’s views on the environment, labor, LGBTQ discrimination, reproductive rights, gun safety, and immigration -- which are often out of step with those of the majority of Americans -- have won him the support of some of the most extreme factions, including extremist anti-LGBTQ groups and nativists like Ann Coulter and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

  • The Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade. Don’t buy these right-wing excuses that it’s not a big deal.

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, media have been speculating about the possibility of a nominee selected by President Donald Trump casting the deciding vote overturning Roe v. Wade.

    While some mainstream outlets have rightly warned about the likelihood and negative impacts of overturning, or even further hollowing out, Roe’s protections, many conservative outlets and figures deployed a variety of excuses either to suggest that Roe is not at risk or to downplay any potential negative effects such a move would have. But make no mistake -- the Trump administration and its anti-abortion allies haven’t been shy about their goal: making abortion inaccessible or even illegal in the United States, no matter what the consequences.

    In 2016, then-candidate Trump said in response to a debate question about whether he would overturn Roe: “Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justice on, that’s really what’s going to be — that will happen. And that’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.” Previously, in July 2016, then-vice presidential nominee Mike Pence said that he believed that electing Trump would lead to the overturning of Roe and that he wanted to see the decision “consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” In return, anti-abortion groups have also supported the administration -- a fact underscored by Trump’s keynote address at the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s (SBA List) gala in May.

    Despite the administration’s promise, conservative media and figures are deploying a number of inaccurate excuses to either deny or downplay the severity of the threat to abortion rights with another Trump-appointed justice on the court:

    1. Claiming that abortion rights are safe because Roe is precedent, and none of the current justices will vote to overturn it.

    In the aftermath of Kennedy’s announcement, some conservative media argued that abortion rights are not threatened because the sitting justices -- including Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump’s previous nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch -- would be reticent to overturn precedent.

    For example, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal argued that because “the Court has upheld [Roe’s] core right so many times, ... the Chief Justice and perhaps even the other conservatives aren’t likely to overrule stare decisis on a 5-4 vote.” Similarly, during a June 27 appearance on Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, conservative lawyer Alan Dershowitz claimed that Roe is safe because “true conservatives also follow precedent,” and therefore any conservative appointee would not vote to overturn it. Short-serving former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said it is unlikely that Roe would be overturned because “the court recognizes that there are certain fundamental principles that are in place and certain presidential precedent-setting principles in place." He concluded, “I know there are conservatives out there that want it to be overturned but I just don't see it happening."

    It appears highly unlikely that the new Supreme Court would keep Roe intact. Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote that Kennedy’s retirement “ensured” that Roe will be overturned -- even if it ultimately will “die with a whimper” as the Supreme Court would allow anti-choice lawmakers to foist “extreme regulations on clinics, outlawing abortion after a certain number of weeks, or barring a woman from terminating a pregnancy on the basis of the fetus’ disability or identity.” As Stern concluded, “the constitutional right to abortion access in America is living on borrowed time.” This argument was also echoed by The Daily Beast’s Erin Gloria Ryan who contended that one more Supreme Court vote against abortion would mean that “the conservative minority in this country will have the power to uphold laws designed to force pregnant women into motherhood.” During the June 27 edition of MSNBC’s Deadline: White House, host Nicole Wallace explained that the impact of Kennedy’s retirement means “actually talking about a future generation growing up with abortion being illegal again” and “young women and men taking the kinds of risks that a generation now hasn't had to consider.”

    2. Arguing that Roe is “bad” law, and therefore a Trump nominee would only be correcting judicial overreach.

    In other instances, conservative media have argued that Roe is "bad" law because the constitution doesn't include a right to abortion. By this logic, they contend, a reversal of precedent is inconsequential because the new nominee would merely be helping correct previous judicial overreach.

    In an opinion piece for The Sacramento Bee, The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro argued that Roe v. Wade is a decision that was rendered “without even the most peremptory respect for the text and history of the Constitution,” but that “pleased the Left.” An improved Supreme Court, according to Shapiro, “would leave room for legislatures – Democrats or Republicans – to make laws that don’t conflict with the Constitution.”

    In National Review, Rich Lowry similarly said that Roe “is, in short, a travesty that a constitutionalist Supreme Court should excise from its body of work with all due haste.” Lowry concluded that Roe “has no sound constitutional basis” and implied that it should be overturned because it is an embarrassment for the court.

    The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway claimed on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier, “Even people who are pro-choice recognize that it was a poorly argued judicial decision.” She also said that Trump does not need to ask the judicial candidates about Roe v. Wade as “so many people regard it as such a poorly reasoned decision.” Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress also said on Fox News’ Hannity that Trump doesn’t need to ask about Roe because “there is no right to abortion.” Jeffress continued that though abortion is “nowhere in the Constitution” there is, however, a constitutionally protected “right to life that has been erased for 50 million children butchered in the womb since 1973.”

    But, as legal analyst Bridgette Dunlap wrote for Rewire.News, these claims that Roe is bad law are part of a conservative tactic to invalidate abortion rights more broadly. She explained: “In order to portray abortion rights as illegitimate, conservatives like to argue—inaccurately—that the Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade by inventing a right to privacy that is not grounded in the Constitution’s actual text.” Instead, she noted, Roe is based on the idea that “using the force of law to compel a person to use her body against her will to bring a pregnancy to term is a violation of her physical autonomy and decisional freedom—which the Constitution does not allow.”

    In addition, Roe is not just an important acknowledgement of the right to legally access abortion care -- even if states have already chipped away at the accessibility of that care. As Lourdes Rivera of the Center for Reproductive Rights explained in the National Law Journal, overturning Roe would impact the right to privacy and mean “uprooting a half-century of judicial decision-making, with profound consequences for our most cherished rights and essential freedoms.” Lawyer Jill Filipovic similarly wrote for Time magazine that “if Roe is done away with under the theory that privacy rights don’t exist, this could mean that there is no constitutional right to birth control, either.” In addition, she said, “cases that came after Roe, including Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated a Texas law that criminalized sex between two men, were decided on similar premises — and could be similarly imperiled.”

    3. Claiming that abortion would not be completely outlawed because regulatory power would merely be “returned to the states.”

    A common argument by conservative media -- and in some cases, Trump himself -- is that an overturning of Roe would merely return abortion regulations to the states and not completely outlaw the practice.

    For instance, according to Fox News guest and constitutional attorney Mark W. Smith, even if Roe were overturned, it wouldn’t “outlaw abortion” in the United States, it would just allow “states and voters [to] decide what to do about abortion.” Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano also made this claim, saying the “worst case scenario” is that if Roe “were to be repealed or reversed, the effect would be the 50 states would decide” their own abortion regulations. This inaccurate claim was also made during segments on CNN and MSNBC. During a June 27 appearance on CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, CNN legal commentator and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli argued that “all overturning Roe v. Wade does is” give the regulation power “to the states.” The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol made a similar claim on MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle, when he argued that overturning Roe would merely “kick [abortion regulation] back to the states.”

    In reality, sending abortion regulation “back to the states” would functionally outlaw abortion access across large parts of the country. As Reva Siegel, a professor at Yale Law School wrote for The New York Times, returning the issue to the states would be disastrous because already, “27 major cities are 100 miles or more from the nearest abortion provider, and we can expect these ‘abortion deserts’ in the South and the Midwest to spread rapidly” if states are given free reign. New York magazine’s Lisa Ryan similarly reported that currently “there are only 19 states in which the right to abortion would be secure” if Roe is overturned.

    This landscape could easily worsen with anti-abortion groups turning their attention more directly to legislation on the state level rather than the federal level. As HuffPost’s Laura Bassett noted, a number of “abortion cases are already worming their way through the lower courts” that could further entrench abortion restrictions in a number of states. In 2016, ThinkProgress explained what a world before Roe looked like: “Wealthy women were able to access safe, though illegal, abortions, but everyone else had to risk their safety and sometimes their lives, and doctors had to risk going to jail.”

    4. Casting blame on abortion rights supporters for “overreacting” or trying to “attack” any Trump nominee on principle.

    Another common reaction among conservative media has been to cast blame back on abortion rights supporters. In this case, right-wing media have attacked supporters of Roe for “overreacting” to the potential loss of abortion rights, and accused others of opposing Trump’s nominee not on facts, but on principle.

    For example, during the June 27 edition of Fox Business’ Making Money with Charles Payne, guest and attorney Gayle Trotter argued that abortion rights supporters were just “trying to scare people” in order to “defeat the president’s nominee.” Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo also echoed this argument during a June 27 appearance on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier. According to Leo, “The left has been using the Roe v. Wade scare tactic since 1982, when Sandra O’Connor was nominated. And over 30 years later, nothing has happened to Roe v. Wade.”

    Similarly, on June 29, Trump supporters and YouTube personalities Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, popularly known as Diamond and Silk, appeared on Fox News’ Fox and Friends to discuss potential replacements for Kennedy. During the segment, Diamond asked why Democrats were “fearmongering” and “going into a frenzy” before knowing the nominee or their position on abortion. After interviewing Trump on Fox Business about his thought process for nominating Kennedy’s replacement, Maria Bartiromo said on the Saturday edition of Fox & Friends Weekend she believed that “all of this hysteria” about a potential overturn of Roe was being "a little overdone” by the left.

    Pro-choice advocates are not “overreacting” to potential attacks on the protections afforded by Roe. As journalist Irin Carmon explained on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, Kennedy’s retirement “is the point that the conservative movement, that the anti-abortion movement, has been preparing for for 40 years” by “taking over state legislatures and passing laws that are engineered to chip away at the abortion right.” Carmon said that even with Kennedy on the bench, “access to abortion, and in many cases contraception, was a reality [only] on paper already.” Now, “it is disportionately Black and brown women who are going to suffer with the regime that is going to come forward.” Attorney Maya Wiley similarly argued on MSNBC’s The Beat that overturning of Roe would mean “essentially barring a huge percentage of women from huge swaths of the country from access” to abortion.

    5. Claiming that there’s no public support for Roe or abortion access.

    Polling shows a large majority of Americans support the outcome of Roe. But some right-wing media personalities have said that such findings ignore other polling about Americans’ supposed support for restrictions on later abortion.

    For example, The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack argued on Fox News’ Outnumbered Overtime that the claims of support for abortion access are inaccurate because there is a “great misunderstanding about Roe v. Wade” and the impact it has on abortion restrictions and that “there is actually pretty popular support for second trimester regulations.” This talking point has been used elsewhere, such as by the Washington Examiner and anti-abortion outlet Life News, in an attempt to discredit perceived support for Roe.

    The argument deployed by McCormack has also frequently been used by right-wing outlets in the past -- despite the disregard such an argument shows for the complexities involved in abortion polling. As Tresa Undem, co-founder and partner at the public-opinion research firm PerryUndem, wrote for Vox, most “standard measures” that are used “to report the public’s views on abortion ... don’t capture how people really think” about the issue. In contrast to right-wing media and anti-abortion claims, polling done by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Hart Research Associates shows that support for later abortions goes up when people realize that abortions in later stages of pregnancy are often undertaken out of medical necessity or for particular personal circumstances.

    As Trump prepares to announce his selection for the Supreme Court on Monday, July 7, right-wing and conservative media will only offer more of these excuses to downplay that Roe v. Wade is firmly in the crosshairs.

  • MSNBC hosted Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens. It was a train wreck.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC interviewed Candace Owens, communications director for Turning Point USA, on July 5. The interview focused on the supposed increase in support for President Donald Trump among minorities and on embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, while omitting important context about Owens’ personal background. The interview gave Owens a mainstream platform to push several conservative talking points:

    • Owens pushed an astroturfed hashtag, #WalkAway, saying the phenomenon the hashtag supposedly highlights -- that Black people “are walking away from the Democratic Party” -- is “very real.” The hashtag has been linked to a Russian Twitter campaign. An analysis of the hashtag on Twitter found that it was a “psychological operation” aimed at shaping the conversation in segments just like this one. The hashtag's spread was driven by non-human activity. Accounts that tweeted their support had used pro-Trump hashtags like #magabefore they “walked away” from the Democratic Party.
    • Owens said “we shouldn’t be talking about” the possibility that Trump’s newest Supreme Court nominee could play a part in overturning or severely undercutting a landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that formally recognized the legal right to an abortion. She called the discussion “a typical leftist tactic to … get everybody all upset and up in arms” and said that “we shouldn’t be talking about it whatsoever.” A Fox & Friends guest has already admitted that any Trump appointee would overrule Roe.
    • When asked whether Pruitt should remain in his job, Owens said that she did not care about the EPA administrator’s litany of scandals and that his alleged misconduct is “a sidebar and it’s something that has gotten way too much coverage.”
    • Melvin did not ask Owens about her recent remarks attacking the #MeToo movement. Owens claimed that #MeToo treated women as “stupid, weak & inconsequential.” When even conservatives pushed back on her, Owens doubled down and posted a video in which she claimed she speaks to CEOs who will not hire women; she blamed #MeToo. This isn’t the only sexist remark Owens has made.
    • Melvin also failed to ask Owens about the video she posted in the wake of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, in which she dismissed white supremacy as a narrative pushed by the media (Owens rose to #MAGA fame after she posted that video).

    CRAIG MELVIN (HOST): Explain the tweet, and how can you say that black voters have been politically irrelevant for decades?

    CANDACE OWENS (TURNING POINT USA): Right, so politically irrelevant because if you consistently vote for just one party, then you're not going to see people competing for your votes, and that's what we have seen happen. So, I feel that, on the Republican side, they weren't doing anything because they saw it as a monolith and they weren't trying to win over Black voters. And the Democratic side, they were able to present us a bunch of broken promises, if you will. We are seeing a huge difference, a huge shift, a bunch of Black people popping up on YouTube, and on social media, and the hashtag saying that they are walking away from the Democratic Party. It's something that hasn't gotten much airtime on liberal networks and it should because it's very real, and you can see that just by some of the polls that have been done that show that Black people are starting to support Donald Trump.

    MELVIN: Polls like?

    OWENS: Like the fact that he has the most support, Black support, since I believe Richard Nixon and that's a very big deal.

    MELVIN: Where's that poll from?

    OWENS: That’s a -- I -- I want to get the exact website, I’m going to have to look it up for you. But it’s a poll, that’s an exact poll, so.

    MELVIN: Because there have been a number of these polls -- and I’m using air quotes, because a number of these polls are not actually polls, they're opt-in surveys. But in terms of -- there's always been Black Republicans, this isn’t some new phenomenon. Are you asserting that, all of a sudden, there are millions of new Black Donald Trump supporters that we didn't know anything about before?

    OWENS: They weren’t Trump supporters to begin with, but we’re seeing a shift, a major shift happen, and Black supporters are leaving the left and going over to the right. You need to pay attention to the underground movement. And look, you are correct to say that just because a poll says something, it isn’t right. The polls told us that Hillary Clinton was going to win and she didn’t. But I wasn't fooled by the polls. I thought that Hillary Clinton was going to lose in the same way that I am also saying that I believe that Black voters are going to exit the left completely by 2020.

    MELVIN: But you didn’t vote for Donald Trump, to be clear.

    OWENS: I did not because I was sick. I was in bed for six months and I was unable to vote.

    MELVIN: NBC News has learned that the president has narrowed his Supreme Court search down to three contenders. What are you looking for in the next Supreme Court justice?

    OWENS: Look, I'm not looking for anything in particular, somebody that will uphold the Constitution, of course, I think that’s super important. I don't think that we should stress out until he makes a pick and then we talk about the different qualifications. But I think that, right now, there's mass hysteria over the fact he gets to pick somebody in the same way that Obama got to pick two people. I don’t understand what everybody’s so --

    MELVIN: Well, I think a lot of folks are annoyed by the third person that the president did not get to pick, Merrick Garland, who didn't get a hearing. But going back --

    OWENS: He did get two picks.

    MELVIN: Well, yes. That’s correct. Litmus test, Roe v. Wade, we were just talking about that a few minutes ago. Do you think there should be a litmus test with regards to Roe v. Wade.

    OWENS: No, I think that even the fact that we are discussing Roe v. Wade is a typical leftist tactic to get people -- it’s fearmongering to get everybody all upset and up in arms and think that something’s going to be overturned so that they boycott. We shouldn’t be talking about it whatsoever, we should be talking about the qualifications of the person that is going in --

    MELVIN: We shouldn’t be having a conversation about Roe v. Wade?

    OWENS: No. No. I think that the fact that --

    MELVIN: Because it’s settled law? Or --

    OWENS: No. No. We should not be having a conversation about Roe v. Wade before the president makes the pick for SCOTUS. It’s a way for the left to fearmonger, which is what they always do. They want people to be scared, as if somehow all of their rights are going to be violated because Donald Trump gets a Supreme Court pick, and that’s just not true.

    MELVIN: But it’s not just people on the left who are doing this “fearmongering.” There are people who --

    OWENS: It is.

    MELVIN: No, no, no.

    OWENS: It definitely is.

    MELVIN: I have friends and talk to lots of people who aren’t on the left, and there are people who are legitimately concerned about the next Supreme Court justice being able to upend some 45 years of settled law in this country --

    OWENS: Name your friends, please --

    MELVIN: I don’t think, I mean --

    OWENS: CNN?

    MELVIN: No. No -- well, I think you and I both know that wouldn’t necessarily be my friend, but to say that the entire left, or that the entire right is doing something, I just -- I don't know -- first of all, it can't be accurate. You know that's not accurate. That’s hyperbole.

    OWENS: It’s 100 percent accurate. It’s not hyperbole, it’s what’s going on right now. Hyperbole is this idea that every time Donald Trump does something, there's going to be an armageddon. It's the reason why so many people on the left have grown apathetic towards the Democrats, because you guys -- I don't mean to say you guys, I shouldn’t insinuate that you're a part of that.

    MELVIN: Thank you for the correction.

    OWENS: But because of what we see in the leftist media so much is, every single week, you’re outraged over something else. He gets a Supreme Court pick. You have to move on from that, let him pick somebody, and then we start to talk about things. But this fearmongering has to stop completely. This has to be more rational dialogue and thought here.

    MELVIN: So there’s been no fearmongering on other sides of the political spectrum?

    OWENS: If you have a point you’d like to make I can answer it.

    MELVIN: No, I’m just saying the president, from time to time, some of his tweets --

    OWENS: No, I don’t think -- I do not remember or recall, while Obama was in office for two terms, every single day waking up thinking that the world was going to end, to answer your question.

    MELVIN: I vividly recall being at a number of town hall meetings after Obamacare had been launched, and people showing up with automatic weapons. People claiming that they wanted to take their country back. So that all of a sudden the left is up in arms, I mean, the right was up in arms for a while as well.

    OWENS: About Obamacare, yes, that’s something that --

    MELVIN: Well, about the president in general, about the fact that he wasn’t born in this country, that he was a secret Muslim. There are fringes.

    OWENS: Are you suggesting that there has been this much outrage, the outrage that we’re seeing towards every single thing that Donald Trump does, that his daughter does, that his family does, was the same thing we experienced when Obama was in office?

    MELVIN: I can’t speak for everyone.

    OWENS: That’s a question -- I’m asking you to objectively say, right? That you think that there was this much outrage when Obama was in office for two terms?

    MELVIN: The beauty about doing what I do for a living is that I get to ask the questions --

    OWENS: Right.

    MELVIN: I don’t necessarily have to answer the questions.

    OWENS: I’ll take that as an answer.

    MELVIN: No, that’s not an answer.

    OWENS: I think that is one.

    MELVIN: One of the things that a lot of folks have been up in arms about specifically here, Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator. You are quite familiar, I'm sure, with a number of his scandals, some alleged, some confirmed, 15 current investigations as it relates to Scott Pruitt. Spending and management practices, I think we've got a partial list we can put up on the screen here -- a partial list of his scandals. This is Scott Pruitt, of course, former attorney general there in Oklahoma, and we've tried to condense it to one screen here. And there is this -- there continues to be this bizarre story about trying to secure a used mattress, as well, from a Trump tower hotel. Do you think that Scott Pruitt should remain EPA chief?

    OWENS: I think that I should remain focused on things that matter. This is not going to impact midterms. It's not going to impact Trump for support. It's a sidebar and it’s something that has gotten way too much coverage with all of the things that are going on right now in this nation.

    MELVIN: Now, wait a minute. But you can appreciate how a president who vowed to drain the swamp might receive some legitimate criticism from journalists and just the citizenry at large, because the guy who’s charged with --

    OWENS: Absolutely, absolutely I can appreciate that, but I don’t have to add to the dialogue. I don't have to pretend this is something that is a pressing issue that we need to discuss 24 hours wall-to-wall coverage on any network. And I choose not to. I choose to pay attention to the crack that is happening in the Democratic Party and the major shift that is happening, and I choose to be at the forefront of it.

    MELVIN: Candace Owens, there are lots of voices in this country, and we like to give all voices an opportunity to be heard here, so I thank you for coming on.

    OWENS: I like you, Craig. Thanks for having me.

    MELVIN: Thank you, Candace. You’re welcome to come back.

  • The big problem with the term “catch and release”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Over the past few months, as President Donald Trump’s administration works to dismantle protections for asylum-seeking immigrants, the use of the term “catch and release” -- a dehumanizing phrase that describes U.S. policies meant to provide certain rights to vulnerable immigrants -- has skyrocketed on cable news networks.

    “Catch and release” is generally used to refer to any policy that allows immigrants to be released from detention while their cases are being processed. These so-called “catch and release” policies recognize the basic humanitarian rights of unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers, and families with children. One such policy prohibits the detention of families for more than 20 days and enforces other standards for detention; another bars the U.S. government from deporting people back to places where they could be harmed or killed; and a third awards “more cautious asylum hearing proceedings for [unaccompanied children], because it is thought that they are more likely to be victims of human trafficking.” Experts have noted that rolling back these protections would lead to severe trauma for immigrants (and benefits for the private prison industry.)

    Many observers have pointed out that the term “catch and release” evokes imagery of a fish or other animal being hunted and then released. The book Governing Immigration Through Crime: A Reader explains the disparaging effect of the term:

    Although the term catch and release appears benign, it actually serves to dehumanize immigrants. The term comes from sport fishing, where it refers to the practice of catching fish and then throwing them back into the water. Using such a term in the context of immigration policing essentially reduces the apprehension and incarceration of human beings to a sport.

    But as the Trump administration continues to pick away at these protections, cable news outlets have ramped up their use of the phrase, with Fox News leading the way. An analysis of use of the term “catch and release” on cable news by the GDELT Project using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive demonstrates a huge spike in the term’s prevalence throughout 2018 compared to previous years. Notably, on June 25, use of the term “catch and release” was the highest it has been since at least 2009 across MSNBC, Fox, and CNN:

    Fox and other right-wing outlets have weaponized the phrase to fearmonger about a foreign invasion at the southern border, spreading misinformation about the policy and its effects.

    The Trump administration’s policies to curtail immigrant protections have not deterred immigrants from making the journey to the southern border, as the administration had claimed. In fact, the number of apprehensions of unaccompanied minors at the border jumped 50 percent in May, shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared an end to so-called catch and release policies. Even so, Fox has argued that the policies encourage unbridled immigration to the U.S.

    Alleged smugglers reportedly make up only .61 percent of the total number of family units apprehended at the border. Nevertheless, Breitbart.com and Fox have pushed the administration’s misleading claim that protections for immigrants enable human smuggling.

    Asylum seekers face a rigorous vetting process to prove their claims and, all too often, those with genuine fear of return are denied asylum. Yet Laura Ingraham argues that immigrants are taking advantage of the policies to falsely claim asylum with the expectation that they will be released and be able to disappear into the system.

    In 2017, 60,000 immigrants attended their court hearings after they were released from custody at the border, compared to 40,000 who did not, and only 25 percent of cases were decided without a defendant in 2016. Yet, right-wing media have perpetuated the myth that the majority of immigrants do not show up for their court dates.

    Like the terms “illegal immigrant” and “chain migration,” “catch and release” is just another tool that nativists use to dehumanize immigrants. And at a time when the president of the United States has painted immigrants as “animals” and immigration as an infestation, mainstream media should avoid using language that might serve to legitimize this deceptive narrative.

  • 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.