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  • Multiple news outlets parrot Trump’s dishonest disavowal of “send her back” rally chant

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Following bipartisan criticism of attendees chanting “send her back” after President Donald Trump renewed attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) during his July 17 rally, Trump dishonestly claimed today he “was not happy with it. I disagree with it,” also saying he “started speaking very quickly” once the chant began in an attempt to stop it. Multiple mainstream news organizations tweeted out Trump’s claim of disavowal without sufficient context showing his insincerity.

    As Trump’s remarks were being reported, CNN reporter Daniel Dale explained that Trump wasn’t being truthful, as he had taken a long pause before he began speaking again.

    And some media outlets debunked portions of Trump’s excuses or pointed out that his supporters’ chant reflected his own words:

    But many other news organizations published tweets that repeated Trump’s dishonest disavowal without critique:

  • MSNBC doesn’t tell the full story in segment on rogue sheriffs refusing to enforce local gun safety laws

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    In a lengthy segment, MSNBC highlighted the growing trend of local sheriffs refusing to enforce gun safety laws they claim are unconstitutional. The segment focused on recent efforts in New Mexico to pass extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws, which allow firearms to be temporarily taken from people who are a danger to themselves or others, but it failed to note that the National Rifle Association helps the New Mexico sheriffs behind the scenes and that these laws, which the sheriffs say violate people’s Second Amendment rights, are actually constitutional. 

    The July 9 segment looked at the trend that started off largely as a symbolic gesture after Effingham County, IL declared itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” in reaction to five gun safety bills were proposed in the state legislature. Since then, “more than half of the counties in Illinois have declared themselves gun sanctuaries,” and counties in 12 other states have also passed some form of a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolution. The sheriffs who support these resolutions insist what they’re doing is no different than what some “sanctuary cities” are doing as they refuse to participate in enforcement of federal enforcement of immigration. 

    But despite the similar names, there is a major difference between the immigration-related “sanctuary city” and the gun law-related “sanctuary county.” It is settled law that cities can decline to assist federal authorities in enforcing federal immigration law -- ironically because of an anti-commandeering constitutional principle established by an early 1990s NRA-backed lawsuit. But sheriffs in so-called sanctuary counties are refusing to enforce state laws, such as the ERPO, that have been declared constitutionally valid under the Second Amendment. While counties or individual sheriffs may claim the laws they refuse to enforce are unconstitutional, that claim does not come from any legal adjudication and is merely an opinion. 

    In the segment, MSNBC gave a platform to New Mexico Sheriff Tony Mace who drew a comparison -- without any pushback from the reporter -- between sanctuary cities and “Second Amendment sanctuary” counties, stating that even “bad people” have “constitutional rights that need to be protected”:

    GADI SCHWARTZ (NBC REPORTER): Why choose the word sanctuary?

    TONY MACE (CIBOLA COUNTY SHERIFF): So you have these sanctuary cities that basically say, “hey, you know, we’re going to ignore federal immigration laws,” right? And -- so why not have a Second Amendment sanctuary county that’s going to protect people’s constitutional rights. 

    ...

    MACE: It’s hard to say this, but even if they’re bad people, they still have rights -- constitutional rights that need to be protected. And as a sheriff and a law enforcement officer, that’s my job to protect those rights -- good, bad, or indifferent. 

    The MSNBC segment failed to mention that Mace is the chairperson of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association and has “received extensive and significant behind-the-scenes support from the NRA” in his “crusade” against the new gun violence prevention laws, according to the Brady group. Records obtained by the group show that “the NRA authored and sent Mace and the sheriffs documents such as op-eds to send to their local newspapers (in the sheriffs’ own names) and letters to send to state and local politicians opposing the GVP legislation.” In return, Mace asked New Mexico sheriffs to attend the NRA Institute for Legislative Action workshops. Mace also wrote an email to Democratic state Sen. Clemente Sanchez declaring, “The sheriff is the CEO of all the courts in his/her county and can easily strike down any court ruling or verdict as he sees fit,” echoing the language of the extreme anti-government Posse Comitatus movement. 

    In a live discussion following the packaged MSNBC segment, host Ali Velshi asked reporter Gadi Schwartz about the fear among New Mexico gun owners that any gun safety law will lead to confiscation (25 of the state’s 33 counties have passed gun sanctuary resolutions). The conversation revolved specifically around an ERPO law that passed the New Mexico state House in February but didn’t pass the state Senate. 

    Schwartz said gun owners “cling” to cases where red flag laws have been invoked and said they don’t want law enforcement taking their guns just “because somebody may say that they’re crazy”:

    ALI VELSHI (HOST): The assumption that any red flag law, any kind of control whatsoever leads to a gun registry, which leads to confiscations of guns. How common is that in a place like New Mexico?

    GADI SCHWARTZ (NBC REPORTER): They, you know -- they get a lot of their news from social media, and what they are seeing is those outlier cases where you do have police going in without necessarily a court order from a judge to try and take somebody’s guns in states where it has been decided that if somebody is claimed a threat, that the police can go in and try to remove those guns, and then there’s a shoot out, and somebody dies in their own home without ever going before a judge, without ever having due process. So, those are the types of cases that they see on social media and that they cling to saying that this is where the slippery slope begins. And they don’t want to see law enforcement coming into their homes because somebody may say that they’re crazy, to take their guns. So that’s kind of where their argument begins. But there’s -- those debates just go on and on, and it’s really interesting to hear these conversations because it really shows this divide between rural America and some of the urban areas that we’ve seen.

    Schwartz failed to mention that most states where ERPO laws have already been passed also make it a crime to falsely petition for gun removal to ensure the law isn’t abused. Courts also require actual evidence -- not mere hearsay -- that the person is indeed a threat before ordering a temporary removal of firearm, and a final order of removal is issued only after a hearing is held and typically lasts up to a year.

    While the details depend on the state, due process is built into the ERPO laws and orders require more proof than just someone claiming a person is “crazy.” 

  • Only 10 of 170 questions at the first Democratic primary debates were about the climate crisis, making it obvious we need a climate debate

    Less than 6% of questions focused on climate, and half of candidates weren't asked about it at all

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS & EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The climate crisis got short shrift during both nights of the first Democratic primary debates in Miami on June 26 and 27, showing why activists continue to demand a debate dedicated entirely to the issue of climate change.

    The moderators asked a total of 170 questions over the course of the two nights, but just 10 were focused on climate change, or less than 6% -- five questions each night.

    The percentage of climate questions increased slightly compared to the average number asked during the 2016 election cycle debates. During 20 presidential primary debates in 2015 and 2016, only 1.5% of the questions were about climate change.

    NBC's Chuck Todd and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked the climate questions on both nights of the June 26-27 debates. Their questions on the first night were poor, in some cases ignoring the crushing costs of climate disaster and instead fixating on the potential costs of taking climate action. The questions on the second night were at least more productive, asking candidates to describe their proposals and plans for action.

    Todd’s question to California Sen. Kamala Harris:

    We are moving to climate, guys. Sen. Harris, I’m addressing you first on this. You live in a state that has been hit by drought, wildfires, flooding; climate change is a major concern for voters in your state. It’s pretty obvious, obviously this state as well. Last night, voters heard many of the candidates weigh in on their proposals. Explain specifically what yours is.

    Todd’s question to South Bend, IN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg:

    Mayor Buttigieg, in your climate plan, if you are elected president, in your first term, how is this going to help farmers impacted by climate change in the Midwest?

    Maddow’s question to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper:

    Governor, you have said that oil and gas companies should be a part of the solution on climate change. Lots of your colleagues on stage tonight have talked about moving away from fossil fuels entirely. Can oil and gas companies be real partners in this fight?

    Maddow’s question to former Vice President Joe Biden:

    Vice President Biden, on the issue of how you do this, Democrats are arguing robustly among themselves about what's the best way to tackle climate change, but if we’re honest, many Republicans, including the president, are still not sure if they believe it is even a serious problem. So, are there significant ways you can cut carbon emissions if you have to do it with no support from Congress?

    Maddow also gave Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 30 seconds to offer a response on climate change.

    Still, only half of the participating candidates, 10 of 20, were even given the opportunity to weigh in on climate, and no one got to go into any depth, address follow-up questions, or debate fellow candidates on the specifics of proposals.

    Now climate activists are pushing with even more persistence for a debate all about combating climate catastrophe. And they have a new ally who's employed by one of the networks that hosted the first Democratic debates: MSNBC's Chris Hayes. He sent this tweet after the second night of the debate wrapped up:

    Methodology: In counting the number of questions asked by debate moderators, Media Matters included invitations to candidates to make 30-second responses. We did not include invitations to make closing statements. We also did not include interjections and clarifications from the moderators unless they were interjections to allow a different candidate to speak. Follow-up questions to the same candidate on the same topic were counted as separate questions.

  • Only 6% of the questions at the first Democratic primary debate were about climate change -- and they weren't great

    Five of 10 candidates on stage were not asked about climate change at all

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS & EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Note: This post is about night one of the first Democratic debate. For analysis of both nights, June 26 and 27, see here

    On the first night of the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami, on June 26, only 6% of the moderators' questions were about the climate crisis. The five moderators posed a total of 82 questions to the participating candidates and just five of the questions centered on climate change. Only five of the 10 candidates were asked about climate change; the other half were not invited to discuss the topic.

    During 20 presidential primary debates in 2015 and 2016, just 1.5% of moderators' questions were about climate change. This first primary debate night was only a mediocre improvement over that cycle -- and an inauspicious beginning to the 2020 campaign season.

    Three of the climate-related questions posed by NBC's Chuck Todd were particularly poor, emphasizing the potential costs or difficulties of taking climate action, without noting the extreme danger of not taking action.

    Todd's question to former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke:

    Congressman O’Rourke, you’ve also put out a big climate change plan from your campaign. You want some big changes in a pretty short period of time, including switching to renewable energy, pushing to replace gas-powered cars in favor of electric ones. What’s your message to a voter who supports the overall goal of what you’re trying to do, but suddenly feels as if government is telling them how to live and ordering them how to live? What is that balance like?

    Todd's question to former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro:

    Secretary Castro, who pays for the mitigation to climate, whether it’s building seawalls for people that are perhaps living in places that they shouldn’t be living? Is this a federal government issue that needs to do that? Do they have to move these people? What do you do about that, where maybe they’re building a house someplace that isn’t safe, who pays to build that house? And how much should the government be bailing them out?

    Todd's question to Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Congressman Ryan, I got a full question for you here, which is simply this: There are a lot of the climate plans that include pricing carbon, taxing carbon in some way. This type of proposal has been tried in a few places, whether it’s Washington state where voters voted it down. You’ve had the yellow vest movement. We had in Australia one party get rejected out of fear of the costs of climate change sort of being put on the backs of the consumer. If pricing carbon is just politically impossible, how do we pay for climate mitigation?

    That Todd's climate questions were weak should not be a surprise. On the relatively rare occasions when Todd brings up climate change while hosting NBC's Meet the Press, he tends to ask questions that frame the issue too narrowly and through an overly political lens.

    MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked one climate question of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. She focused on climate impacts in the host city of Miami and asked Inslee whether his climate action plan could "save" the city:

    You have staked your candidacy on the issue of climate change. It is first, second, and third priority for you. You've said it's all the issues. Let's get specific. We're here in Miami which is already experiencing serious flooding on sunny days as a result of sea level rise. Parts of Miami Beach and the Keys could be underwater in our lifetimes. Does your plan save Miami?

    In the fifth and final climate question of the night, Todd offered former Maryland Rep. John Delaney 30 seconds to discuss carbon pricing.

    Climate activists and Democratic voters who've been calling for a dedicated climate debate were not happy with the low number of questions allotted to the subject and the feeble nature of those questions. Their continued calls for the Democratic National Committee to hold a climate-focused debate have only been bolstered by the moderators’ lackluster performance.

    Methodology: In counting the number of questions asked by debate moderators, Media Matters included invitations to candidates to make 30-second responses. We did not include invitations to make closing statements. We also did not include interjections and clarifications from the moderators unless they were interjections to allow a different candidate to speak. Follow-up questions to the same candidate on the same topic were counted as separate questions. 

  • Here's how debate moderators can avoid perpetuating right-wing media misinformation about abortion

    Right-wing media keep lying about Democratic presidential candidates’ positions on abortion. Here’s what moderators should ask to set the record straight.

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


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On June 26 and 27, Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls will take the debate stage on NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo to answer questions about their positions on a variety of topics, and, to set the standard, moderators should ask specific and nuanced questions about abortion while avoiding right-wing media misinformation.

    In previous election cycles, activists campaigned to ensure candidates were asked debate questions about their positions related to abortion. It will be even more crucial to understand candidates’ positions this year as states continue to restrict abortion access and right-wing media relentlessly spread misinformation and stigma around reproductive health care. Conservatives have already made clear that anti-abortion misinformation will be a core part of their messaging strategy in 2020, from the presidential election down to candidates in state legislative races. Given this, moderators should not only ask specific questions about abortion, but also ensure that they do not repeat harmful right-wing media tropes in the process. This is particularly important as debate moderators (and even mainstream media personalities) have repeated sensationalized and inaccurate language about abortion in the past.

    Indeed, as a recent Planned Parenthood forum with many of the Democratic candidates demonstrated, asking reproductive health questions that are fact-based and span a variety of topics -- without falling for anti-choice misinformation -- is a valuable practice for candidates and viewers alike. The moderators of the first Democratic primary debates should follow this example in framing questions about abortion.

    Ask candidates about the misinformation surrounding proactive state-level abortion protections and whether they would support these laws

    After New York and Virginia proposed proactive legislation to protect or expand abortion access, right-wing media responded with a bevy of misinformation. Contrary to right-wing media allegations that states passing proactive abortion laws supposedly endorsed “extreme” positions such as allowing abortion up to the “moment of birth,” these bills actually codified existing abortion protections in Roe v. Wade or removed harmful barriers to later abortion access. More recently, other states have taken similar steps to protect abortion access in light of the very real threat that the Supreme Court will overturn or further weaken Roe. But the inaccurate allegations have already transitioned from a predictable right-wing media talking point about Democrats’ alleged “extremism” to an oft-repeated attack by conservative politicians -- including the president himself.

    Candidates should not only be asked about their position on these proactive state-level abortion protections, but they must also be given an opportunity to respond to the inaccurate and sensationalized allegations about these measures.

    Ask candidates about the harmful impacts of fake health clinics and whether they would allow these deceptive groups to receive federal funding

    Fake health clinics -- also known as crisis pregnancy centers -- pose as comprehensive reproductive health care providers using deceptive tactics to prevent and dissuade people from having abortions. Despite the very real harm inflicted by these fake health clinics, right-wing media have heralded the supposed benefits of these groups and defended the centers as legitimate alternatives to clinics that actually offer the full range of services, including abortion.

    Under Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services, new rules have allowed anti-abortion groups and fake health clinics to receive federal Title X funding. Typically, Title X funds are meant to subsidize family planning services for low-income patients -- making the extension of such funds to anti-abortion organizations that openly oppose providing contraceptive services very concerning.

    Candidates should be asked how they would ensure patients seeking abortion or contraceptive care receive accurate information and if they would support the continued provision of Title X funds to anti-abortion groups that have no intention to provide full reproductive health services.

    Ask candidates how they would respond to allegations from right-wing media and political opponents that abortion is unsafe and should be restricted or outlawed

    Despite myriad allegations from right-wing and anti-abortion media that abortion is unsafe (and should therefore be restricted or outlawed), abortion care in reality is a common and safe medical experience in the United States. In fact, a 2018 study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that the vast majority of abortions in the U.S. are safe -- noting that “serious complications are rare and occur far less frequently than during childbirth” -- and that attempts to restrict abortion access “create barriers to safe and effective care.”

    Given these facts, candidates should be asked how they would respond to persistent conservative misinformation that abortion is unsafe and should be disproportionately regulated compared to similar health care procedures. In particular, candidates should be asked what they would do to protect safe and legal abortion care in the face of widespread attacks on abortion access at the state level.

    Ask candidates what they would do to fight anti-choice misinformation and ensure that abortion isn’t criminalized for either patients or providers

    As part of the recent wave of state abortion restrictions, Republican legislators have introduced measures that would criminalize both patients seeking abortion care as well as abortion providers. Research shows that these types of restrictions are harmful and do not actually reduce the rate of abortion, yet some right-wing media figures have expressed their support for these measures. Others in right-wing media have downplayed the likelihood that abortion care would be criminalized or that such measures would ever be enforced. In reality, people in the United States have already “been prosecuted and jailed on suspicion of self-managing their abortions” -- a trend that will likely increase as abortion care becomes increasingly difficult to access.

    Candidates need to be asked how they will stop state efforts to criminalize abortion access and how they plan to stem prosecutions of people who self-manage abortion care due to the inaccessibility of what should be a standard medical procedure.

    Ask candidates what they would do about the Trump judiciary -- an active threat to abortion rights despite right-wing media’s assurances otherwise

    After Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement last year, right-wing media celebrated Trump’s opportunity to appoint a second conservative justice to the bench during his first two years in office. In order to generate support for Trump pick Brett Kavanaugh, some right-wing media and anti-abortion advocates argued that confirming Kavanaugh would not threaten Roe v. Wade or abortion rights in general -- either by downplaying his record on abortion-related cases or by claiming that it was unlikely the Supreme Court would support overturning or weakening the Roe decision. Additionally, Trump has also appointed anti-abortion judges at all levels of the federal judiciary “at a record pace,” and these appointments are a very real threat to abortion rights that will continue to affect federal policy for generations.

    Candidates should be asked about their plans for addressing the monumental challenge posed by Trump-appointed judges and justices whose rulings could make abortion illegal or even more inaccessible.

    Ask candidates if they support repealing the Hyde Amendment and if there is anything else they would do to increase access to abortion care in the face of right-wing media lies

    The Hyde Amendment -- a budgetary restriction on federal funding for abortion services, including through Medicaid -- gained broader media attention after Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden announced he would no longer support it. Notably, this move put Biden in agreement with most other Democratic primary candidates. Right-wing media’s coverage of the Hyde Amendment has focused on the claim that Democrats’ position is unpopular with American voters and will hurt their electoral chances. However, a recent HuffPost/YouGov survey shows that the Democratic Party’s base is also largely opposed to the Hyde Amendment. This shift may be due in part to the discriminatory nature of the Hyde Amendment, which creates significant barriers for marginalized communities to be able to access abortion care.

    Candidates need to not only be asked whether they support repealing the Hyde Amendment, but also about what other steps they would take to increase abortion access for communities of color, immigrants, and low-income, rural, indigenous, or incarcerated populations -- all of whom are disproportionately impacted by the Hyde Amendment.

    Ask candidates how they would respond to the persistent allegation from conservative figures and right-wing media that supporting abortion rights is “extreme” or “out of step” with voters

    As part of the 2020 presidential election, right-wing media continue to push the idea that Democratic candidates hold “extreme” positions on abortion. Candidates who appeared at Fox News town halls have faced inaccurately framed questions about whether they support abortion up to “the moment of birth” or if they would support “any limit” on the procedure. Right-wing media will continue to follow this playbook by badgering Democratic candidates with inaccurate questions throughout the 2020 election cycle, as will Trump and the Republican Party. Right-wing media and anti-choice misinformation needs to be addressed, particularly given the proven dangers of allowing extreme rhetoric about abortion to continue unchecked.

    Candidates should be asked fact-based questions about abortion in order to combat persistent right-wing spin about Democrats’ positions that is sure to continue as media discuss the 2020 election.

    In several debates during the 2016 presidential election, moderators failed to ask a single question about abortion. Given the already perilous nature of abortion access, it is difficult to believe that moderators would make that same mistake again. These seven questions can serve as a guide for how moderators can ask specific and nuanced questions about abortion -- helping audiences to understand candidates’ abortion-related positions without repeating right-wing media misinformation.

  • After ignoring report of sexual assault by Trump, Chuck Todd asks why the media is ignoring it

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    After the latest allegation of sexual assault against President Donald Trump became public, the story has been largely ignored by the media. 

    On June 21, journalist and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll wrote in New York magazine’s The Cut that 23 years ago, Trump assaulted her in a department store dressing room. According to Carroll, Trump “lunge[d] at me, pushe[d] me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and [put] his mouth against my lips.” She wrote that he then pulled down her tights and assaulted her. Carroll told two close friends at the time, both of whom “still remember the incident clearly and confirmed their accounts to New York.”

    During the June 25 episode of MSNBC’s MTP Daily, host Chuck Todd said that it was “amazing” how “it feels as if it’s getting treated with a shrugged shoulder, just collectively, the coverage -- the totality of coverage.” Todd himself failed to mention the allegation during the June 23 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press -- which featured a pre-recorded interview with Trump -- and Steve Kornacki guest hosted MTP Daily on Monday, June 24, making this reference the first mention of the allegation by Todd.

  • It’s time for a reckoning for journalists who boosted false narratives about Donald Trump’s LGBTQ policy positions

    Audiences were repeatedly told that he was pro-LGBTQ. He’s been nothing but a nightmare.

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    It’s an understatement to say that LGBTQ rights in the U.S. haven’t exactly flourished under President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

    Upon taking office, Trump and his team ordered the removal of references to LGBTQ issues from a number of federal websites. By the second month, the departments of Education and Justice had officially rescinded Obama-era guidance protecting transgender students from discrimination. Six months in, Trump shocked the country by casually tweeting his intention to reinstitute a ban on trans people in the military and having the DOJ issue an updated interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 saying it is legal to fire someone for being gay or trans.

    Those are just a few examples of the many, many anti-LGBTQ actions that Trump has carried out since taking office. According to GLAAD, an LGBTQ media watchdog group, the Trump administration has launched 114 attacks on LGBTQ people thus far. Some actions are petty but not actively harmful, such as not officially proclaiming June to be LGBTQ Pride Month while still extending that recognition to Great Outdoors Month, National Homeownership Month, and National Ocean Month. However, other actions could put lives at risk, such as the appointment of anti-LGBTQ lawyers to lifetime federal judgeships and issuing rules allowing discrimination against trans people in public housing and health care.

    Some media outlets seemed caught off guard by the barrage of anti-LGBTQ actions. They shouldn’t have been.

    Last month, The Washington Post reported that the candidate “who cast himself as pro-LGBT” had become the community’s “worst enemy” in the eyes of activists and allies. And the Post was far from alone in reporting that Trump’s recent actions are a departure from his pro-LGBTQ campaign -- a campaign that never actually existed. These reports place blame on Trump for failing to make good on promises he never made. The truth is that too much of the press ignored what he said he would actually do.

    To understand where the narrative suggesting that Trump would be a pro-LGBTQ president originated, look back to his April 21, 2016, appearance on NBC’s Today.

    Co-host Willie Geist asked the candidate a viewer question from Twitter about specific ways he would be LGBTQ-inclusive as president and about a recently enacted North Carolina law that legalized discrimination against trans people and banned them from many public restrooms. Trump responded by saying that the law wasn’t worth the “economic punishment” brought on by backlash. Then co-host Matt Lauer followed up, asking Trump a question about whether he’d “be fine” with trans TV personality Caitlyn Jenner using the women’s restroom in Trump Tower.

    “That is correct,” answered Trump.

    Nothing in Trump’s answers actually addressed how he would be “inclusive” of LGBTQ people as president. In talking about the North Carolina law, he said that he opposed it because it was hurting businesses, not because it was hurting the people actually being discriminated against. This position in itself is a sort of middle ground between government-mandated anti-LGBTQ discrimination and the position of the Obama administration, which was that anti-LGBTQ discrimination should be illegal. And it would still be a step backward for LGBTQ rights. On the topic of Caitlyn Jenner, it was already New York City law that she had to be allowed to use the women’s restroom; Trump being “fine” with that was as unspectacular as if he’d said he was “fine” with cars stopping at red lights.

    As unremarkable as they were, both answers earned Trump some quick praise from mainstream journalists.

    An April 22, 2016, article in The New York Times headlined “Donald Trump’s More Accepting Views on Gay Issues Set Him Apart in G.O.P.” picked up where the Today interview left off. It cited a Trump blog post from a decade earlier congratulating Elton John and David Furnish on their civil partnership, his support for HIV/AIDS charities in the ’80s and ’90s, and his appearance alongside former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in a video in which Giuliani dressed in drag as evidence that Trump “is far more accepting of sexual minorities than his party’s leaders have been.” In contrast, Trump’s opposition to marriage equality and his “recent alliances with social conservatives such as Jerry Falwell Jr. and Pat Robertson” were treated as minor footnotes.

    That night on NBC Nightly News, correspondent Hallie Jackson said that “Trump is considered one of the more LGBT-friendly Republican candidates” and highlighted his Today Show comments. The April 24 edition of Meet The Press featured a segment on Trump’s Today Show comments and the reactions they provoked both from his primary challenger (Texas Sen. Ted Cruz released an ad saying that Trump wasn’t anti-trans enough) as well as his likely general election opponent (the Hillary Clinton campaign pointed to the Today Show comments as an example of Trump’s inconsistency). During that segment, a banner appeared on screen reading: “Trump Campaign: More Accepting On ‘Bathroom Laws.’”

    Trump got additional positive coverage on the topic after the Pulse shooting, his speech at the Republican National Convention, and a moment at a rally when he held a gay pride flag.

    On June 14, 2016, Trump tweeted, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.” The tweet was one of several empty platitudes Trump offered to LGBTQ Americans following the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, and at first glance, it might look like a sign of support. Upon closer reading, it’s clear that when he said “fight for you,” he wasn’t referring to fighting for LGBTQ civil rights at home. Instead, Trump’s statement used the community as yet another justification for his anti-Muslim immigration proposals. In his first speech following the Pulse attack, Trump claimed that he was a “friend of women and the LGBT community” because unlike Clinton, he would not “allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country,” saying “they enslave women, and murder gays.”

    In response, ABC’s Jonathan Karl called Trump “the most pro-gay rights Republican presidential candidate that we have ever seen.” Politico’s Kyle Cheney framed the bizarre, uncomfortable speech following the Pulse nightclub massacre as evidence of a pro-LGBTQ position, writing that Trump brought a “welcoming tone toward LGBT Americans” and that “in Trump, pro-gay rights Republicans see a new hope.”

    Trump won kudos again the following month during his speech at the Republican National Convention, when he said, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” Again, this wasn’t a promise to support LGBTQ rights, but a promise to physically “protect” LGBTQ people from what he considered a “hateful foreign ideology” -- Islam.

    Following Trump’s convention speech, many mainstream journalists fell into the Trump-as-LGBTQ-ally trap, reinforcing the myth that he’d be good for LGBTQ people as a whole. Sometimes, as was the case in an Associated Press write-up headlined “Making GOP history, Trump vows to protect LGBTQ community,” important context (in this case, what he was suggesting when he said “protect”) was left out:

    With five letters, Donald Trump brushed off decades of Republican reluctance to voice full-throated support for gay rights — at least for a night.

    Trump’s call in his speech to the Republican National Convention for protecting the “LGBTQ community” was a watershed moment for the Republican Party — the first time the issue has been elevated in a GOP nomination address. Four years ago, Mitt Romney never uttered the word “gay,” much less the full acronym — standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning.

    But Trump, as if to drive the point home, said it not once, but twice.

    Nowhere in Trump’s convention speech -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- did he so much as mention “gay rights,” let alone “voice full-throated support” for them. You wouldn’t have gotten that impression from many journalists, though.

    Fox News’ John Roberts said Trump had “become a champion for the cause” of LGBTQ people. CBS News’ John Dickerson said, “It’s extraordinary the distance the Republican Party has traveled” on LGBTQ issues. On MSNBC, Mark Halperin said, “In the history of the Republican Party and gay rights, last night was one of the biggest days ever.”

    In October 2016, Trump stood on stage at a Colorado campaign stop and briefly held a Pride flag with the words “LGBTs for Trump” scrawled across the front, handed to him from the audience. While few would cite photos of Trump holding signs that say “Women for Trump” or “Blacks for Trump” as evidence that he would be good for women or people of color, the moment with the flag has been occasionally referenced as an example of his supposed support for LGBTQ people.

    All of this praise was based on a falsehood, and LGBTQ people are going to pay the price.

    One of the earliest signs that Trump would be an LGBTQ adversary came in December 2015, when the then-candidate went on record in support of the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that would have codified a federal right to discriminate against LGBTQ people into law so long as it was done on the basis of one’s religious beliefs. The deceptively named bill was introduced that summer in response to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision as the best chance for anti-gay politicians to undermine the ruling’s effects at the federal level. If it had become law, it would have had devastating effects and wreaked havoc on state and local nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

    “If Congress considers the First Amendment Defense Act a priority, then I will do all I can to make sure it comes to my desk for signature and enactment,” Trump wrote in a response to the American Principles Project request that he make enacting FADA a priority within his hypothetical administration’s first 100 days. Though he stopped short of committing to it as his own priority, anti-LGBTQ activist Maggie Gallagher called his reply “big news and good news.”

    During the January 31, 2016, edition of Fox News’ Fox News Sunday, Trump reaffirmed that he still opposed marriage equality and would “strongly consider” appointing Supreme Court justices to reverse the court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, a decision establishing the right for same-sex couples to marry. The following month, during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, Trump was asked whether evangelicals could trust him on “traditional marriage,” to which he immediately responded, “I think they can trust me. They can trust me on traditional marriage.” On Twitter, Trump called Ted Cruz a “liar” for suggesting that he and Marco Rubio secretly supported marriage equality.

    In April 2016, on the same day as his Today appearance, he walked back his mild opposition to North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law during an interview on Hannity. Stunningly, the walk-back wasn’t included in the New York Times article or NBC News segments that followed, which lauded him for his more moderate position. By July, he had come out in full support of the law.

    Even his supposedly pro-LGBTQ convention speech was a sham. As Sean Spicer would later reveal in his post-White House memoir, the inclusion of any mention of LGBTQ people at all in Trump’s convention speech was a concession made to convince one Republican National Committee delegate to remove his name from a “Never Trump” petition. The truth is that the 2016 Republican Party platform released during the convention was called the “most overtly anti-LGBTQ platform in history” by the Human Rights Campaign. Even Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo echoed that message, adding, “Opposition to marriage equality, nonsense about bathrooms, an endorsement of the debunked psychological practice of ‘pray the gay away’ -- it's all in there.”

    Even if journalists didn’t see through the use of LGBTQ people as props in his speech to advance anti-immigration policies, it’s hard to understand how the narrative of Trump as an LGBTQ-inclusive candidate continued after he selected Mike Pence as his running mate and stood with the extremist policies outlined in the platform.

    Contrary to what the Times reported that April, there wasn’t any reason to believe anything “set him apart” in the Republican field. Sure, candidates like Cruz, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry were more overtly anti-LGBTQ, but practically speaking, they held nearly identical policy views. Even if there was space to argue that the other candidates were more clearly anti-LGBTQ than Trump, reporting that is misleading if it lacks the context that he’s still far from an ally.

    During an October 3, 2016, event with a veterans group, Trump was asked what he would do “about the social engineering and political correctness that’s been imposed upon our military,” a reference to Obama-era decisions around trans inclusion and women participating in combat.

    “We’re gonna get away from political correctness,” Trump responded. A Nexis search for TV news transcripts including the words “transgender” and “military” in the week following Trump’s statement turned up zero references to the comments.

    On July 26, 2017, he announced a ban on trans people serving “in any capacity in the U.S. military.” The decision appeared to come out of absolutely nowhere, but in fact, he was making good on a campaign promise.

    Trump has been a disaster for LGBTQ people in the U.S. As we approach the 2020 election, it is imperative that journalists shine an honest light on this issue.

    In May, the departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development announced new anti-trans policies and Axios reported on HHS’ intent to release a formal policy rolling back nondiscrimination rules in adoption, allowing federally funded adoption and foster agencies to refuse same-sex couples if they choose. Media Matters analyzed TV news coverage of these administration moves and found that during a 10-day period while these policies were being reported on, broadcast TV news networks ABC, CBS, NBC, and cable news network MSNBC made no mention of these changes. CNN and Fox News devoted minimal coverage to the topic. These are major policies that will affect the lives of millions of Americans, but they barely made a blip on the TV news radar. If you weren’t specifically looking for news on the state of LGBTQ rights, you may not be aware of just how many ways those protections have changed for the worse during Trump’s administration.

    An alarming number of headlines still get the issue completely wrong -- and that doesn’t bode well for 2020 coverage. A recent article in The New York Times about a May 31 Trump tweet was headlined “Trump’s Celebration of L.G.B.T. Rights Is Met With Criticism.” In fact, he did not offer any “celebration of LGBT rights” in his tweet. That tweet lauded “the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great nation,” but it said nothing of legal rights or protections. Headlines overstating what was said or inferring messages not actually stated reflect a continuing naiveté in the press. Not only that, but the article itself advances one of the administration’s favorite falsehoods, quoting Kellyanne Conway as saying, “He’s the first president to start as president for approving of gay marriage.”

    In fact, a 60 Minutes interview people often point to when defending that comment simply features Trump saying marriage equality is settled law and that he’s “fine with that.” When specifically asked if he supported marriage equality, he responded that it was “irrelevant” what he thought. Those are not the words of someone who is “approving of gay marriage.”

    Based on sheer quantity of anti-LGBTQ policies and political appointments, Trump is, arguably, one of the worst presidents on LGBTQ rights in the country’s history. He may have no personal problem with gay people. He may say he’s “fine” with a gay person being married. He may sell “Pride”-themed merchandise on his website. He may collaborate with Peter Thiel or appoint Richard Grenell to an ambassadorship. He may even sputter out the letters “LGBTQ” from time to time. None of this has anything to do with LGBTQ civil rights or legal protections at home.

    After the Pulse attack in 2016, Trump said reporters should “ask the gays” about LGBTQ rights in majority-Muslim countries and whether his anti-Muslim policy proposals made him a friend of the community. As 2020 coverage gets going, news organizations should do exactly that: talk to the broader LGBTQ community.

    Yes, there will always be some gay and bisexual Trump supporters, some hard-core conservative trans people, and a handful of lesbian libertarians. Whenever the Trump administration takes action against the community, a common impulse is for journalists to seek these supporters out for comment. Rarely, however, are these the people hurt most by these individual policies, and giving them a disproportionately large platform only obscures the actual damage any given policy can cause. Their continued support for Trump and the Republican Party doesn’t cancel out what harm the party and its leader will do. Rather, their support is often just a sign that there are other issues they care about more than legal protections or civil rights. In other words, the existence of LGBTQ Trump supporters does not tell us anything about the administration’s hostility when it comes to policies specific to this community. Journalists must remember this.

    What Trump said in a 2000 interview or what charities he supported in the 1980s aren’t relevant to the lives of LGBTQ Americans. What matter are the policies being implemented, the judges appointed, and laws championed -- right now. A July 2016 Pew Research survey found that 40% of voters said LGBTQ issues were “very important” in determining who to vote for. By not informing the public about what Trump said he would do, the press failed. It’s time for journalists to accept that Trump was not nearly as pro-LGBTQ as he was made out to be in the press and to contemplate what role they played in building the myth that he ever was.

  • Legacy media ignored Proud Boys presence at Trump’s rally

    In covering Trump's rally, CNN, Fox News, Wash. Post, and NY Times all ignored the extremism present within the Trump coalition

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Cable news and legacy media outlets flocked to Orlando, FL, on June 18 to cover yet another rally for President Donald Trump but ignored the presence of the far-right, extremist group Proud Boys among Trump’s supporters. By not reporting on the group, media failed to contextualize the violent extremism within Trump’s coalition and the campaign’s silent embrace of it.

    While the Orlando rally was no different from the 59 other Trump has held since he became president, media at large fell for his gimmick of rebranding the event as the official launch of his 2020 reelection campaign, showering the president with coverage. And while the presence of Proud Boys got the attention of a few reporters tweeting from the event (some of whom uncritically amplified claims from members of the extremist group), cable news networks CNN and Fox News failed to mention them.

    The welcome exception was MSNBC, which had a more in-depth segment that discussed the Proud Boys and Trump’s “appeal to white supremacists” during the June 19 edition of Deadline: White House, and continued to cover the presence of the extremist group at the rally during The Beat and All In with Chris Hayes.

    The most prominent national newspapers didn’t fare much better. The Washington Post only gave the group a passing mention in its three pieces about the event, using the same lines in every piece:

    The Proud Boys, a self-proclaimed Western chauvinist group, coalesced outside the arena. Police blocked their path forward.

    This phrasing left out the context in which the group members were stopped by police: They were prevented from reaching a gathering of anti-Trump protesters. The group has a record of premeditated violent behavior against anti-Trump protesters and anti-fascist activists.

    The New York Times did not mention the presence of Proud Boys at Trump’s rally in any of its six pieces written about the event, nor during the June 19 edition of its podcast The Daily. It’s a puzzling omission considering it was one of the Times’ own correspondents covering 2020 elections who reported on Twitter about the Trump campaign’s silent embrace of the extremist group.

    It is not hyperbolic to call the Proud Boys an extremist gang. There is ample evidence that the group is prone to violence, as its founder Gavin McInnes once explained:

    McInnes claimed in late 2018 that he was quitting the group, but his graphic misogyny and violent views are also his group’s core ideology. Proud Boys has claimed that women’s primary role in society is to “stay home and make more babies” and its members have been recorded “brutally beating and kicking several individuals.” Violence is, in fact, a requirement to become part of Proud Boys, and McInnes himself has said he “cannot recommend violence enough. It is a really effective way to solve problems.” Even at the Trump rally, the group was heard chanting in defense of Chile’s late far-right murderous dictator Augusto Pinochet, known for throwing political dissidents from helicopters:

    The day of the rally, a HuffPost journalist was doxxed in a Telegram app channel associated with Proud Boys, and there was a veiled call to harass her for her coverage of Gab, a social media site where extremism and white supremacy run rampant.

    But most legacy media and cable news seemingly didn’t consider Proud Boys’ presence at the president’s rally newsworthy, nor deemed its past and present extremism worth contextualizing -- even as Trump and his Party have embraced it.

    Alex Kaplan provided research for this piece.

  • Cable news fell for Trump’s campaign launch gimmick

    Trump’s 60th presidential rally received 2 1/2 hours of cable news coverage before it even began

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER


    Melisaa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump held his 60th rally since becoming president last night in Orlando, FL, and while the event was virtually identical to his past 59 rallies, the media was still fooled into giving Trump and his rally significant coverage -- before it even began.

    Trump filed for reelection the day of his inauguration, just hours after he was sworn in and much earlier than any previous candidate. Since then, he’s held 60 rallies -- with six of them happening already in 2019. The only unique aspect of Trump’s rally last night was his claim that it marked the official launch of his reelection campaign. His messaging, however, made it seem like the event was still in 2016, with many media figures noting there was “almost nothing new” and that it was “just another rally.”

    Even though some outlets acknowledged that Trump has actually been running for reelection since the day he was inaugurated, media still flocked to cover last night’s event, giving it significant attention throughout the day. In the lead-up to the rally, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News all had extensive pre-rally coverage featuring multiple correspondents reporting live from the rally site. In total, the cable news networks devoted nearly 2 1/2 hours of coverage to Trump’s rally before the president even set foot on stage. Fox News had nearly an hour and a half of pre-rally coverage, while CNN and MSNBC devoted 28 minutes and 35 minutes, respectively.

    When it came to airing the rally itself, MSNBC avoided airing the event, similar to the way it has treated Trump’s previous rallies in 2019. Fox News aired the rally in its entirety, and CNN -- which had only aired a cumulative minute and a half of the president’s first five 2019 rallies -- aired eight minutes of it. CNN’s Brian Stelter noted in his newsletter that while CNN and Fox News both aired the beginning of Trump’s speech live, “after five minutes it was clear that Trump didn't have anything new to say.”

    But demonstrating that the media have learned nothing from 2016, cable news networks subjected their audiences to endless images of Air Force One, the stadium attendees, and the empty podium along with repetitive chyrons reading “Trump departs,” “crowds filling arena,” and “Trump lands in Orlando”:

    Alex Walker and Tyler Monroe contributed to this piece.

  • Moderators should make climate change a big focus at the first primary debate. Here's how.

    Do’s and don’ts for the moderators of the upcoming Democratic presidential debate in Florida

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The leadership of the Democratic National Committee is so far refusing to hold a presidential primary debate focused on climate change, despite calls from 15 candidates and more than 200,000 voters. So at least for the first debate, set to take place over two nights on June 26 and 27, it will be up to the moderators to decide how much of a focus to put on the climate crisis. That could be a problem.

    In defending the decision, DNC chair Tom Perez wrote, "I have the utmost confidence that, based on our conversations with networks, climate change will be discussed early and often during our party’s primary debates." He explained, "I made clear to our media partners that the issue of climate change must be featured prominently in our debates. That didn’t happen in 2016 — and it was wrong."

    Perez is correct that the climate crisis should have gotten more attention the last time around. During the 2016 season presidential primary debates, only 1.5% of questions from moderators were about climate change, and nine out of 20 debates didn't feature any climate questions.

    But is he right that we can count on the networks’ moderators to do better -- much better -- this time?

    Here we offer do’s and don’ts to help moderators give the climate crisis the serious attention it deserves. The first debate, which is being hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo, will have five moderators: José Diaz-Balart, Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Rachel Maddow, and Chuck Todd.

    DO ask multiple questions about climate change and give all candidates a chance to weigh in

    The No. 1 task for moderators is to give the climate crisis much more attention than it’s received in past debates, which means not just asking about the topic one time but addressing it from multiple angles in multiple questions. 

    And as they ask those questions, the moderators need to give all candidates an opportunity to discuss the issue. This may be a challenge, as the two-night debate will include 20 candidates, 10 on stage at a time, but voters need to hear from all of them in order to make informed choices about who deserves their support.  

    DON'T frame climate change as a narrow political issue

    Too often, when generalist journalists ask questions related to climate change, they frame the issue through the narrow lens of horse-race politics. We've seen this happen repeatedly in recent months on the Sunday morning political shows -- including on NBC's Meet the Press, hosted by Chuck Todd, one of the moderators of the upcoming debate. 

    On the May 19 episode of the show, Todd brought up climate change during an interview with Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but his question was more about how to beat Trump than how to tackle the climate crisis:

    Well, let me start with something the vice president, former vice president, said yesterday. And it was a fascinating way -- he was talking about his climate change proposal. And he said, “If you want to know what the first and most important plank in my climate proposal is,” it was, quote, “beat Trump.” You have said, if all the Democrats do is focus on Trump, you lose. Essentially, Biden is saying, no, no, no, no, no, it is all about Trump. Your reaction.

    Rachel Maddow, another moderator at the June 26-27 debate, shifted a climate conversation to electoral politics during a March 4 interview she conducted on her MSNBC show with Democratic presidential candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. After Inslee spoke about his commitment to climate action, Maddow noted that climate change is important to Democratic primary voters, but then asked whether a climate-centric candidate can win over voters in coal-producing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio and thus beat Trump.

    Instead of focusing so heavily on the race against Trump, the moderators should prompt candidates to explain the specifics of how they would tackle the climate crisis.

    DON’T downplay the seriousness of climate change as a topic

    Many mainstream political journalists do not consider the climate crisis to be a top-tier issue, and that dismissive attitude can come through in the questions they ask -- even when those questions involve climate change. 

    The Democratic presidential primary debate in November 2015, for example, featured one climate-related question, but it actually appeared to downplay the problem. After a lengthy discussion about ISIS and terrorism, moderator John Dickerson of CBS asked Sanders, “In the previous debate you said the greatest threat to national security was climate change. Do you still believe that?” Sanders affirmed that he did, but voters didn’t learn much new from that exchange -- except that the moderator seemed to think it surprising that a presidential candidate could consider the climate crisis to be a massive national security threat. 

    DON’T reflexively change the subject away from climate change if a candidate brings it up

    In 2016 debates, candidates regularly raised the issue of climate change even when they weren't asked about it, but moderators then steered the discussions away from climate and back to other topics. This happened during the three presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The moderators asked the candidates no climate questions, but Clinton raised the issue herself in all three debates, and Trump raised it once, saying it wasn't as serious as the problem of nuclear weapons. On all of those occasions, moderators failed to engage and ask follow-up questions related to climate change.

    Todd also has a tendency to do this on Meet the Press. For example, during an April 14 interview with Inslee, Todd's first four questions for the governor were about immigration. Although Inslee twice pointed out that climate change is a factor pushing people to migrate, Todd pivoted the immigration conversation away from climate change. 

    At the debate later this month, moderators should take note when candidates bring up climate change and find good opportunities to ask them subsequent questions about it.

    DO ask specific questions about candidates’ plans and proposed solutions

    Voters need to hear about the solutions and policy approaches that candidates are endorsing to address the climate crisis, so it is important for moderators to ask specific and substantive questions. If moderators are short on ideas, they can look to the many suggestions coming from journalists and activists.

    The Tampa Bay Times offered some good questions in an editorial titled “Democratic presidential debates should highlight climate change”:

    How would the candidates change the nation’s energy mix? What federal support would they make available to states and cities to harden their transportation systems, utilities and other infrastructure? How would Washington expand mass transit nationwide to curtail automobile emissions? Is it finally time to create a national catastrophe fund as insurance against hurricanes and the other forms of extreme weather that have been hammering the Midwest?

    Six environmental and energy journalists posed potential debate questions in a recent piece published in the Columbia Journalism Review.

    While making the case for a dedicated climate debate, David Turnbull of the activist group Oil Change International published a list of 60 climate-related questions that moderators could ask.

    DO ask follow-up questions

    When moderators have asked climate questions in past debates, some candidates have tried to skate by with vague answers and platitudes about the importance of a clean environment. We saw this in a number of 2018 senator and governor debates.

    The solution is for moderators to ask follow-up questions and press candidates for more details and specifics. This has proved successful in some CNN town halls with Democratic presidential candidates this year. For example, during a February 18 town hall with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, an audience member asked her about the Green New Deal, and then moderator Don Lemon followed up with questions that elicited more specific answers.

    DO help voters understand the differences between candidates' climate plans and approaches

    Though the Democratic presidential contenders all say climate change is a serious crisis that needs to be addressed, they have diverse views on the best ways to do that. For example, the candidates have widely differing opinions on nuclear power, fracking, and fossil fuel exports, as The Washington Post has documented.

    R.L. Miller of the super PAC Climate Hawks Vote has started a list of questions that moderators could ask to help illuminate those policy differences.

    DO study up on climate science and policy

    Moderators should read up to make sure that they understand the basics of climate science and climate policy well enough to ask informed questions and spot any misinformation that may arise.

    This would be less of a concern if the DNC agreed to have a dedicated climate debate with moderators who are knowledgeable about the subject area. Journalists with a strong background in climate and energy reporting would be best positioned to ask intelligent questions and spotlight important areas of disagreement.

    DON’T let candidates get away with lies or distortions

    Chuck Todd should take this recommendation in particular to heart. During a discussion about climate change on Meet the Press in November of last year, one of Todd’s guests made an absurd claim about global temperatures dropping and Todd let it slide by with no pushback. He caught a lot of flak for that, and he tried to redeem himself a month later by hosting a Meet the Press episode dedicated entirely to informed discussion of climate change, so we can hope he’ll be quicker on the draw if any climate misinformation crops up in the coming debate.

    DO ask climate questions related to Florida

    The first Democratic debate this year will take place in Miami, which is visibly and obviously under extreme threat from climate change. The whole state of Florida is already being dramatically affected.

    Moderators should seize the opportunity to ask questions about climate-related challenges in Miami and in Florida more broadly, many of which would be relevant to other coastal communities in the U.S.

    They could start by considering questions that a bipartisan group of 21 Florida mayors suggested ahead of presidential primary debates in 2016, including one on protecting coastal infrastructure.

    The editorial board of the Miami Herald recently suggested another topic:

    How climate change and the rising sea will impact South Florida more immediately and severely than many other parts of the country. Candidates should be prepared to detail short- and long-term solutions for their Florida audience, they should offer creative ideas that reveal they understand what’s at stake for us.

    The Tampa Bay Times, in its recent editorial calling for debates to focus on climate change, raised more Florida-centric topics worthy of discussion:

    Tidal flooding already pours into Miami even on sunny days. Miami Beach has spent hundreds of millions of dollars for new stormwater management systems to pump seawater from the neighborhoods. Red Tide and algae blooms are costing the fishing, restaurant and tourism industries tens of millions of dollars a year. A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that residential properties in the state valued now at about $26 billion are at risk of chronic flooding by 2045. And the longer we wait for a fix, the more expensive it gets.

    And a final DO, this one for the public: Tell NBC and the moderators what climate questions you want to hear

    NBC is soliciting debate questions from the public via its website. Send in your suggestions.

    Tweet at the moderators with your climate questions: José Diaz-Balart, Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Rachel Maddow, and Chuck Todd. And get more traction for those tweets by using the hashtag #climatedebate.

  • MSNBC anchor hosts conservative commentators to argue Democratic primary candidates should be “more moderate” and less “weird”

    George Will lies about the Green New Deal with no pushback at all

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle hosted two conservative commentators to claim Democratic presidential candidates and popular progressive policies are extreme and “weird.”

    On the June 5 edition of MSNBC Live, Ruhle hosted columnists George Will and Bret Stephens to discuss 2020 Democratic candidates. Ruhle allowed Will to lie without pushback about key aspects of the Green New Deal, repeating a common but false right-wing talking point that the Green New Deal will “require ending meat and airplanes.” Will also pulled out a list of common progressive policy proposals -- including many that poll popularly among Democratic voters -- and painted them as extreme and fringe. Will claimed that Americans will feel that “these people are weird” and that “they are not talking about things that I care about.” His advice to Democratic candidates: “Shift to the middle.”

    STEPHANIE RUHLE (HOST): Are you seeing any possible candidates that you think would be better for conservativism than President [Donald] Trump?

    GEORGE WILL (AUTHOR): Well, there is a sense in which all 23 Democrats would be better if there is a Republican Senate because the Republican Senate would virtually block legislative change. That is not all the change that we have, but they would block it. And it would take the Republican Party away from its current identification with someone who is, in temperament and in most policies, not conservative. There’s -- I hate to give the kiss of death to someone like former Congressman [John] Delaney (D-MD) or former [Colorado Democratic] Gov. [John] Hickenlooper, but they know where the public's pulse is. I am staggered by the amount of time Democratic candidates for president are spending talking about things they know are not going to happen. “Abolish the Electoral College,” they promise. No, the reason they want to abolish the Electoral College is it’s very good for smaller states, 13 of which are all that’s required to block a constitutional amendment. [Sen.] Kamala Harris (D-CA) says, “Well, we’re going to eliminate private health insurance.” She's walked that back a bit, but who knows. No, they are not. It is a very odd way to begin a presidential campaign by saying we’re going to offend 180 million Americans who have employer-provided health insurance and 20 more million Americans who have other sources of private health insurance and rather like it.

    RUHLE: Well, you could like John Delaney, you can like John Hickenlooper, but if the ultimate goal for the Democratic Party is to defeat Donald Trump, what’s the right move -- to shift to the middle or shift to the left?

    WILL: Shift to the middle. I keep in my pocket -- I'm going to need a bigger card. These are all the things they’ve said that cause the American public to say, “These people are weird, they’re not talking about things that I care about.” Terrorists in prison should be allowed to vote. End private health insurance. Pack the Supreme Court, abolish the electoral college, the Green New Deal -- which will require ending meat and airplanes -- impeach the president, reparations for slavery. The country hears these individually and they say, “I'm not for that.” Collectively, they say, “These are very strange people because they are not talking about things that I want to talk about.”

    RUHLE: OK, but George, you have the very strange things they have said on a tiny little card. The president has told, by The Washington Post’s count, 10,000 lies. And I don't think I'm getting over my skis to say he says very strange things every single day. And he is sitting in the White House. Why does very strange things disqualify someone?

    WILL: Well, if they think that the path to power is to emulate Trump from the left, saying strange things, I think they’re mistaken because people are going to go into the voting booth on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November 2020 and say, “Do I stick with the doofus I've got or pick the doofus I don't know.” I mean, give people a decent choice. I mean, look, what the Democrats did -- an astonishing achievement in 2016 -- was help elect Donald Trump by giving the country an unpalatable choice. Why do it again?

    RUHLE: “Don't be a doofus, please skip on strange.” That’s George Will’s advice to these candidates out there.   

    Ruhle also hosted Stephens, a conservative op-ed writer (and climate denier) at The New York Times, who argued that Democrats pursuing impeachment -- which has high support among liberals -- are “harming themselves politically,” and that “the real heart of the party” is “much more moderate, much more centrist.”

    STEPHANIE RUHLE (HOST): Bret, in your latest piece, you talk about Democrats and the impeachment debate and you compare it to football. You say, “It's a dumb and dangerous game of maximum brutality and minimal movement.” Elaborate.

    BRET STEPHENS (NEW YORK TIMES OPINION COLUMNIST): Yeah. Well, I just think that Democrats are going to be harming themselves politically and not advancing the debate if they take steps to impeach the president.

    RUHLE: So they should just let it roll?

    STEPHENS: No, I mean what I’ve been advocating is that there should be a vote of censure against the president for disgraceful behavior that brings some Republicans along who would be otherside backed into a political corner. I just have to make the point because it’s never made often enough: If you impeach the president, which the House has the votes to do, you will not convict him in the Senate. OK? That's the deal. What you’re going to do is suck up an incredible amount of political oxygen. You’re going to make Republicans feel like the president is being victimized, that Democrats are trying to overturn the results of the election, and you're going to wind up helping to re-elect Trump. And in my book, that's the worst possible thing you can do. I don't know what other people think, it might feel really good, but I don't want to re-elect Trump.

    RUHLE: Democrats think it's the worst possible thing to do but Democrats are not all on the same page. The Washington Post details how the fight going on between the moderate and progressive wings of the party are really divided, and this thing played out at the Democratic Party Convention over the weekend in California. I want to share this.

    Help us understand, what do you think the Democratic Party is doing?

    MATT BENNETT (THIRD WAY, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS): Well, look. Who is the Democratic Party? It isn't the people at the California Democratic state convention. Last year they had a convention in California and they took a vote on who should be the Democratic nominee for Senate. [Sen.] Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) lost that vote 65-7. She then went on to trounce the same opponent, Kevin de Leon, by 35 points in the actual primary. So, the people at that convention do not represent even the Democrats of California, much less Democrats nationally. There is a huge disconnect going on in our discourse right now between the activists, the activists online --

    RUHLE: The Twitter Democrats. The Twitter Republicans.

    BENNETT: Exactly. And people who actually are going to vote next year, starting on February 3, for who our nominee is. And I'm just talking Democrats, leave aside Republicans and Independents -- Democrats in the real world don't sound much at all like the Democrats online.

    STEPHENS: And it's important, at the same convention, you had John Hickenlooper saying socialism is not the answer and being booed. Now, Hickenlooper is not going to be the candidate but guess what? That’s going to be a fantastic ad for the Trump 2020 campaign as to what the Democratic Party is going to be, even if Joe Biden or a moderate candidate is the nominee. And the loud voices on -- well, both sides, but particularly on the Democratic left, are creating a picture of what the party is about, what its values are for. It's completely at odds with, I think, the real heart of the party, which is much more moderate, much more centrist.

    RUHLE: They're creating daily segments for Fox News every single day.

    Conservative commentators have been telling Democrats to shift to the middle since immediately after the recent midterm elections in which Democrats won major gains in the House. Stephens himself used the 2018 midterms to tell Democrats to shift to the right -- even as his column hilariously undercounted Democratic gains in the House. Of course, Stephens has every right to never change his analysis, no matter how much evidence proves him wrong. But there's no need for MSNBC to reward his obstinacy.

  • Nearly all TV news networks failed to cover the Trump-Pence administration’s recent attacks on the LGBTQ community

    Recently proposed and finalized rules would codify discrimination against LGBTQ people in health care, housing, and adoption and foster care

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX PATERSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In the span of three days, new reports revealed several proposed or potential rules coming from the Trump-Pence administration that would allow discrimination against LGBTQ people -- particularly trans folks -- in housing, health care, and adoption and foster care. But in the week that followed, from May 22 to May 31, nearly all cable and broadcast TV news channels failed to cover these attacks on the LGBTQ community. Broadcast networks ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, as well as cable network MSNBC, did not mention the discriminatory rules at all, while CNN and Fox News covered them for a total of less than 11 minutes across 8 segments.

    The Trump-Pence administration is releasing discriminatory anti-LGBTQ proposals in housing, health care, and adoption and foster care

    Between May 22 and 24, news outlets reported on several rules coming out of the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) that would harm LGBTQ people, with a disproportionate impact on the trans community:

    • On May 22, HUD proposed a new rule that would allow “federally funded [homeless] shelters to deny people admission on religious grounds or force transgender women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with men,” according to The Washington Post.
    • On May 24, HHS proposed a rule that would allow health care workers citing religious beliefs to discriminate against and deny care to LGBTQ patients.
    • Later on May 24, Axios reported that the Trump-Pence administration’s HHS plans to propose a new rule that would make it easier for federally funded adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to work with LGBTQ prospective parents, among others, fulfilling a promise President Donald Trump made during this year’s National Prayer Breakfast.

    Broadcast and cable news discussed the proposed rules for less than 11 minutes across 8 segments

    Between May 22 and May 31, broadcast TV news networks ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX and cable news network MSNBC did not mention the proposed anti-LGBTQ rules at all. CNN spent 7.5 minutes covering the topics, and Fox News reported on them for roughly 3.5 minutes.

    CNN discussed the topics over the span of six segments, including during an interview with trans actor D’Lo about an advertisement featuring a father showing his transgender son how to shave. That segment was the only relevant coverage during the time period to feature an LGBTQ guest. Fox News covered the topics over two segments. One was an interview with HUD Secretary Ben Carson, in which he misleadingly framed the discriminatory rule as “being fair to everybody.”

    Print and digital media reported on all the three rules and contextualized the administration’s anti-LGBTQ agenda

    The failure of several broadcast and cable TV networks to report on the discriminatory rules was not reflected in print and digital media.

    Trans writer Katelyn Burns wrote two op-eds contextualizing the recent anti-LGBTQ attacks as part of Trump’s all-out assault on the transgender community. In Teen Vogue, she outlined how these policies could trigger suicidal ideation in trans youth, encourage unsupportive parents, and prevent young people from accessing medically necessary care. In The Washington Post, Burns called HHS’ proposed rule “the cruelest thing the Trump administration has done to trans people,” writing:

    For me, as a transgender person, this administration’s constant targeting of us is terrifying. It seems that there’s little they won’t do to making transitioning and living a dignified life as a transgender person impossible. Trump and his administration are clearly prioritizing the desires of religious conservatives who would like to see my existence rubbed out of society, and they’ve come this far so quickly with barely a blip of resistance.

    Digital outlets such as BuzzFeed, The Daily Beast, and HuffPost also covered the rules, citing LGBTQ advocates and contextualizing the administration’s moves as part of a wider strategy to undermine LGBTQ equality across the country.

    These attacks have been championed by extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and will further marginalize already vulnerable people

    The Trump-Pence administration’s anti-LGBTQ policies have been fueled by influential right-wing organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), both of which have allies and alumni serving in positions across the federal government. For example, the right-wing HHS Office for Civil Rights, which is led by Roger Severino, is responsible for both the anti-LGBTQ health care rule and the reported upcoming adoption and foster care rule. Severino formerly served as the director of Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society. Heritage has a long history of anti-LGBTQ advocacy and has increasingly targeted transgender people. Severino has made a career out of advocating against LGBTQ rights and was behind several other anti-LGBTQ actions from HHS. Severino’s newly announced principal advisor, Matt Bowman, is an anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ advocate who has worked in HHS positions since 2017. He formerly worked with ADF for more than a decade.

    Ultimately, these latest attacks affect transgender people in areas in which they are already more likely to experience discrimination and hardships. HUD’s proposed rule to give federally funded homeless shelters a license to discriminate against transgender people will only further marginalize an already vulnerable community that faces alarming rates of homelessness. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), “one in five transgender individuals have experienced homelessness,” and up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

    The reported HHS rule to allow agencies to deny children adoption and foster care placements with same-sex couples will only limit opportunities for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care. Despite the planned HHS rule, there is a robust body of evidence that shows children of same-sex couples fare no worse than other children.

    Further, the HHS rule to gut nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is one of the administration’s most damaging attacks on the transgender community. Transgender patients already face denial of health care and discrimination in health care settings, and National Geographic has reported that transgender “people have disproportionately high rates of illness and death—in part due to widespread reluctance to seek out emergency treatment and even routine checkups over concerns about the quality of care.” Additionally, NCTE’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey reported that among respondents, “one-third (33%) of those who saw a health care provider had at least one negative experience related to being transgender” in the previous year.

    Media has a responsibility to report on these devastating attacks against the LGBTQ community

    The insufficient reporting on cable and broadcast TV news about the recent attacks on the LGBTQ community plays into the Trump-Pence administration’s strategy of minimizing press coverage of extreme policies coming from federal agencies. The administration released one of the rules ahead of a holiday weekend, which decreased public awareness of the issues -- an approach it has also taken to bury climate change research.

    Moreover, media’s obsession with Trump’s tweets allow extreme anti-LGBTQ figures to push discriminatory policies with little notice. Reporting on the new HHS rule, Reuters’ Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joseph Tanfani wrote:

    One of the benefits of Trump’s Twitter approach is it creates headlines, and that’s what it’s intended to do, and underneath those headlines, everyone else in the administration can go about peacefully doing their job,” said David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth and a longtime Pence friend. HHS has “released several very important, significant regulations that changed the nature of Obamacare, of healthcare, with very little coverage in the press.

    Though cable and broadcast TV news spent little time covering the administration’s latest anti-LGBTQ rules, there is no mistaking that these decisions will have sweeping impacts on queer and trans people. Media outlets have a responsibility to properly cover the administration’s attacks on LGBTQ rights and to educate their audiences on the detrimental impacts these proposed rules will have on an already vulnerable community. Unfortunately, TV news failed both the queer community and their audience by barely reporting on the Trump-Pence administration’s latest anti-LGBTQ attacks.

    Methodology

    From May 24 to May 31, the week following the announcement of the proposed anti-LGBTQ rules, Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of broadcast and cable TV newscasts on ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and NBC News -- as well as the 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. programming on Fox News and MSNBC -- for mentions of the words or variations of the words “LGBT,” “gay,” “transgender,” “gender identity,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “sexual orientation.” We also searched SnapStream for the same words appearing with the terms "child welfare," “reassignment,” “abortion,” “housing,” “shelter,” “adoption,” “foster care,” “Health and Human Services,” “Housing and Urban Development,” “HHS,” or “HUD” appearing on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC for the same timeframe, as daytime coverage for MSNBC and Fox News is not available on Nexis.

    Additional research by Brianna January.