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  • Chuck Todd silent as Sen. John Cornyn repeatedly lies about Republican bill gutting health care

    Cornyn misleads about GOP bill’s effects, Republicans’ record on sabotaging the health insurance market, and Democrats’ willingness to offer improvements

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    On NBC’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd failed to correct or contextualize Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) multiple misleading statements about the GOP Senate’s bill, which would cost millions of Americans their health insurance.

    On July 13, Senate Republicans released a revised version of their bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act after the original version, which would have kicked 22 million Americans off of their health insurance, failed to secure enough votes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the vote for the revised version, planned for this week, after Sen. John McCain recently underwent surgery, and two GOP senators have so far said they will not vote for the revised bill, leaving its future uncertain.

    On July 16, Cornyn appeared on Meet the Press to make the case for the GOP bill and made statements misrepresenting the bill, the current insurance market under the Affordable Care Act, and Democrats’ alternatives to improve the insurance market -- and Todd let him.

    When asked by Todd near the beginning of the interview what it says about the bill that the vote is so close that they need McCain’s vote to move forward, Cornyn decried that the bill has “become a partisan issue,” stating, “our Democratic friends are refusing to lift a finger to help their burdened constituents who are being hurt.” But Cornyn’s protestation rings hollow given the unprecedented secret process Senate Republicans used to draft the bill, which barred any Democratic input. And the process was designed from the start to pass with only Republican votes through the budget reconciliation process, without help from Democrats.

    Later, Cornyn claimed Republicans are “offering a better alternative” to the current health insurance market, bemoaning that “we know millions of people are seeing sky-high premiums, [and] unaffordable deductibles, and fleeing insurance markets.” Yet the CBO predicted that if the BCRA passes, premiums would rise until 2020, and only decline after that because the insurance plans would cover fewer services, and thus would be worth less. And the bill would cause deductibles to climb even higher -- in some cases, up to 24 times higher.

    At the end of the interview, Cornyn claimed Republicans are “willing to do what we can to shore up the system now, to stabilize it to make health care available to people now” and asserted that Democrats don’t want to make any changes. Cornyn’s first claim here is just ludicrous on its face; Republicans have spent years sabotaging the the Affordable Care Act, from ending risk corridor payments to insurance companies, to obstructing efforts by both states and the federal government to create the health insurance exchange marketplaces, and of course to some Republican-controlled states declining to participate in the Medicaid expansion and leaving many of their constituents uninsured. Insurers have even admitted that they are raising premiums and pulling out of exchanges because of the uncertainty in the market created by Republicans.

    Democratic senators offered back in March to work with Republicans to fix problems with the insurance market if they agreed to drop their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And days ago, some House Democrats said they will introduce some fixes to the individual insurance market, which includes a reinsurance program to offset the costs of the sickest patients, removing uncertainty from the Trump administration's threats to end some cost-sharing subsidies, moving the open enrollment season, and offering a Medicare buy-in for some older Americans.

    Todd allowed Cornyn to make these statements without any pushback. Republicans have been repeatedly called out for their lies and deceptions regarding their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- both by media outlets and even other Republicans. With the insurance coverage of millions at stake, interviewers like Chuck Todd must be better prepared to confront Republican lawmakers when they make their case with lies and misrepresentations.

  • Cable and broadcast news still obsess over process, ignore personal stories in health care coverage

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Immediately after Senate Republicans unveiled a new draft of their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), cable and broadcast newscasts framed reports about the bill around the challenges it faces in the legislative process, including vote counts and optics, rather than personal stories from those who would be most affected by the bill. However, the programs did use the opportunity to cover key changes to and consequences of the bill.

    Senate Republicans on July 13 introduced a new draft of their bill to repeal and replace the ACA, which includes key changes surrounding health savings accounts and ways for insurers to offer more bare-bones policies. While the bill has changed a bit, the media coverage has largely stayed the same. Once again, media are continuing to focus on the process surrounding the bill and largely ignoring personal stories from those most affected. Unlike with previous coverage, cable and broadcast news did focus on the new changes in the bill and their potential consequences for Americans. MSNBC in particular provided more context and information about the bill than other networks.

    Broadcast news

    During the July 13 newscasts, just hours after the new draft plan was introduced, broadcast news shows framed their coverage around the legislative process and optics of the bill. NBC’s Lester Holt introduced a report on the bill on NBC Nightly News by noting that “Republicans face a crucial battle for votes in their own party” over the bill. CBS’ Anthony Mason said the bill was “already in critical condition” on CBS Evening News because of the lack of Republican support. And ABC’s Mary Bruce framed her report on the new bill by pointing out that it faces “the same old problem: Can it get the votes to pass?”

    Like previous coverage, broadcast newscasts largely neglected to offer personal anecdotes from people who would be most affected by the bill. One exception was CBS Evening News, which followed its coverage of the bill with a segment on how Kentuckians would be “hard hit” by its Medicaid cuts.

    Network newscasts did do an exemplary job of highlighting the consequences of and new changes in this newest draft of the bill, however, including provisions that would allow “the return of skimpy junk insurance policies and discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions,” according to HuffPost, and expand the use of health savings accounts, which have been found to “primarily benefit the wealthy, the healthy, and the educated.”

    Cable news

    Like broadcast newscasts, the 6 p.m. hour of cable news coverage framed the unveiling of the bill largely around vote counting and optics. Fox News’ Bret Baier introduced a panel discussion of the bill on Special Report by explaining that the GOP “can only afford to lose one more vote” to pass the bill. Earlier in the program, Baier set up a report on the bill by highlighting “the continued internal dissent” surrounding the bill. MSNBC’s Ali Velshi framed his discussion of the bill on MSNBC Live by saying that it “is hanging by a thread” in terms of votes. CNN’s Jim Acosta opened a segment on the bill by stating that Republicans are “increasingly optimistic about its prospects.” Acosta even conducted an interview with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and asked only about the prospects the bill would pass, not the actual policies it contains.

    Like broadcast newscasts, cable coverage was also largely devoid of personal stories from those most affected. However, cable coverage did highlight several changes that are included in this draft of the bill and the consequences of the provisions. MSNBC, especially, excelled in this area, hosting Dr. Kavita Patel, medical director of Sibley Primary Care in Washington, D.C., who noted that this bill “does cause a death spiral … by allowing for insurance plans to sell … catastrophic insurance.”

    MSNBC also hosted Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, who pointed out that the bill negatively impacts state budgets, like in Virginia.

  • News outlets fail to report on what the GOP health care rollback means for LGBTQ Americans

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Sarah Wasko/ Media Matters

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans will face greater hardship if Republicans in Congress succeed in reversing the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) patient protections and expansion of Medicaid -- and this is especially true for people living with HIV -- yet, print and television news have almost completely ignored their stories.

    LGBTQ Americans deal with higher rates of poverty, greater need for Medicaid, and higher rates of HIV infection than the general population. Republican plans to decimate Medicaid and roll back patient protections will create disproportionate impacts for LGBTQ Americans. Yet, according to new research from Media Matters, major print and television news outlets have been virtually silent on how GOP health care proposals may harm members of the LGBTQ community.

    Media Matters reviewed major broadcast and cable news providers (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) available via Nexis from May 4 through July 13 and found only two significant segments discussing how the Republican health care rollback would affect LGBTQ people and only two other unrelated segments discussing how the rollback would affect Americans living with HIV. A Media Matters review during the same period of time of print newspapers available via Nexis and Factiva (Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal) found only three print articles that discussed how the GOP health care plan may affect the LGBTQ community and/or people living with HIV.

    A July 12 analysis from Media Matters found a similar lack of reporting by major television and print news outlets on how communities of color may be affected by Republican health care proposals. Additional Media Matters research has found that television news missed an opportunity to report on the unprecedented nature of the Senate’s health care secrecy and that television coverage had drowned out reports on how the legislation would impact tens of millions of Americans in favor of airing stories focused on the bill’s political machinations. Previous Media Matters research revealed that newspapers kept reports on health care off the front page during crucial periods of debate and that broadcast and cable news coverage neglected to consider diversity when booking guests to discuss health care-related topics.

    LGBTQ news outlets including The Advocate, NBC Out, and The Washington Blade have all covered how Republicans plans to roll back Medicaid would affect LGBTQ Americans as well as the more than 1 million people living with HIV. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), Medicaid is of significant importance for many LGBTQ Americans who face higher rates of poverty than the general population, and these higher rates of poverty correlate with fewer LGBTQ Americans having health insurance. On July 6, CAP reported that the ACA repeal legislation being considered by the Republican-led Senate -- the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) -- may result in up to 560,000 LGBTQ Americans losing Medicaid coverage while restricting health care access for transgender Americans. From the report:

    The BCRA slashes Medicaid by $772 billion over 10 years and would end Medicaid expansion over time:

    • Medicaid covers at least 1.8 million LGBTQ adults, including 31 percent of LGBTQ adults living with a disability and 40 percent of LGBTQ adults with incomes under 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
    • An estimated 560,000 LGBTQ adults will lose coverage if Medicaid expansion is ended.
    • The BCRA prohibits federal Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood for one year; Planned Parenthood is one of the country’s largest providers of transgender-inclusive health care.

    On February 14, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion has lowered the uninsurance rates for people living with HIV from 22 percent to 15 percent from 2012 to 2014. The California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers found that in California alone, the Medicaid expansion covered an additional 11,500 people living with HIV. Coverage and care for those living with HIV is of significant concern for many in the LGBTQ community, as the Kaiser Foundation points out, because gay and bisexual men make up 56 percent of Americans living with HIV and 55 percent of all HIV-related deaths in the U.S. despite comprising just 2 percent of the American population.

    If congressional Republicans are successful enacting their health care agenda, it could cause real harm to the nearly 69 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid, making it crucially important that news outlets tell their stories.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis and Factiva search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal from May 4 through July 13, 2017. Media Matters also conducted a Nexis search of available transcripts of broadcast and cable news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the same time period.

    We identified and reviewed all broadcast and cable news segments and noneditorial articles that included any of the following keywords: gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual or LGBT or LGBTQ or queer or same-sex within 10 words of health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or Affordable Care Act or CBO or BHCA or Medicaid.

  • Betsy DeVos just perpetuated years of right-wing attacks on rape survivors

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Many have questioned the incomprehensible logic of President Donald Trump’s proposal to collaborate with Russia on cybersecurity policy, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appears to be deploying a similar strategy: collaborating with rape deniers on policy regarding campus sexual assault. This comes after right-wing media spent years questioning the severity of sexual assault and attacking the credibility of survivors.

    First reported by Politico, DeVos planned a July 13 meeting with “advocates for survivors of campus sexual assault, as well as with groups representing students who say they were wrongfully accused.”

    Politico identified several invitees as representatives from the men’s rights groups Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE), and National Coalition for Men -- all of which have dedicated themselves to combating what they believe is rampant false reporting of sexual assault, and the lack of attention paid to the “true victims”: those who are accused.

    As The Daily Beast’s Robert Silverman noted, the Southern Poverty Law Center classified SAVE as an organization that is “promoting misogyny” and "lobbying to roll back services for victims of domestic abuse and penalties for their tormentors.” Jaclyn Friedman, an expert on campus sexual violence, told Silverman that groups like SAVE not only “actively publicize the names of rape survivors in order to intimidate them,” but also “blame women for ‘instigating’ men's violence against them” and believe that “victims' sexual histories should be fair game in rape cases.” According to ThinkProgress and BuzzFeed, organizations like FACE, National Coalition for Men, and the like are no better in their advocacy, nor less extreme in their beliefs.

    Despite posturing from these groups, false rape reports are actually a statistical minority -- representing between 2 and 8 percent of all reported cases. Meanwhile, according to research by the Rape, Abuse, & Incest Network (RAINN), 66 percent of rapes go unreported to law enforcement. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center found that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives,” while the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey revealed that “nearly half” of survey respondents “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.” Survivors already face rampant challenges when reporting sexual assault, and it is unlikely the Department of Education’s invitation to these men’s rights groups will improve these conditions.

    A July 12 press release explained that DeVos would meet with the various groups in a series of “listening sessions” meant to “discuss the impact of the Department’s Title IX sexual assault guidance on students, families and institutions.” In 2011, the Obama administration provided schools with guidance on how to “review and enforce Title IX complaints,” emphasizing the role assault and harassment play in the creation of “a hostile educational environment in violation of Title IX.” Many have speculated that DeVos’ openness to including men’s rights organizations in the meetings is just the latest signal that the department will revoke these protections.

    In April, ProPublica implied that DeVos’ selection of Candice Jackson to head the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) was a sign of bad things to come for Title IX and anti-sexual violence protections, noting that Jackson had previously “arranged for several of Bill Clinton’s accusers to attend a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton” and that she called women who accused Trump of sexual assault “fake victims.” In June, ProPublica published a memo from Jackson that directed OCR staff to make changes to investigative procedures that “advocates fear will mean less consistent findings of systemic discrimination at colleges.” As ThinkProgress previously reported, DeVos herself has “long donated to organizations that frequently side with students accused of rape and sexual abuse.”

    The men’s rights groups DeVos plans to meet with aren’t alone in waging war on sexual violence protections and survivors. Some of Trump’s favorite right-wing media figures and staunchest cable news supporters have put on a masterclass in how to not report on sexual assault. After an uncovered 2005 audio showed Trump bragging about committing sexual assault, many Fox News employees seemingly made it their jobs to either downplay the severity of his comments or attack the many women who came forward with specific allegations against him.

    Even before Trump, right-wing media were especially adamant in their campaign of misrepresenting the severity of sexual assault and harassment. Beyond disputing the veracity of campus sexual assault statistics, right-wing media figures have called reporting on statutory rape “whiny,” claimed sexual assault victims have a “coveted status,” blamed feminism for encouraging sexual assault, and said attempts to curb sexual assault harm men and constitute “a war happening on boys.” Although she has since fled the network in an attempt to rehab her image at NBC, former Fox News star Megyn Kelly was a chief proponent of the “war on boys” talking point -- which was just part of her long history of criticizing sexual assault prevention measures and minimizing the credibility of survivors.

    Fox itself has spent the better part of the past year -- when not providing the ultimate safe space for Trump and his administration -- embroiled in a series of sexual assault allegations after years of harassment at the network. Such allegations ultimately led to the ouster of both the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and longtime host (now aspiring podcast provocateur) Bill O’Reilly, as well as the recent suspension of Fox Business host Charles Payne.

    Although right-wing media have engaged in some of the most overt attacks on survivors, many other outlets are far from magnanimous in their coverage of sexual assault. As coverage around former Stanford student Brock Turner showed, media have a bad habit of sympathetically highlighting the past accomplishments of the accused, or bemoaning the costs to their lives and careers.

    The New York Times fell into this very trap in a July 12 article about the meetings. The Times began its report by highlighting the “heartfelt missives from college students, mostly men, who had been accused of rape or sexual assault” before going on to describe the consequences they faced, ranging from “lost scholarships” to expulsion. In one case, as the Times noted, a man had tried to “take his own life” but “maintained he was innocent” and “had hoped to become a doctor.” In another example, the Times highlighted the comments of the father of an accused student who complained that his son’s “entire world [was] turned upside down” and that, as the paper put it, he had been “forced to abandon his dream of becoming a college wrestling coach.” Reporting like this -- although seemingly benign -- not only perpetuates victim blaming, but also downplays the severity of allegations by treating offenders as the real victims.

    Slate’s Christina Cauterucci described DeVos’ planned meetings as “a classic case of false balance, because the two sides here do not have equal merit.” She noted that one side includes “advocates for sexual-assault victims” while the other is made up of “trolls who have made it their lives’ work to defend domestic violence.” She concluded that however unfortunate the decision to invite these men’s rights groups to meet, it was unsurprising. After all: “As a representative of an administration run by a man with an interest in protecting sexual harrassers, DeVos has every reason to side with the latter.”

    Undeterred, survivors aren’t letting DeVos off the hook that easily. While she meets with men's rights groups that have systematically tried to silence and shame survivors, organizations that advocate for them will be outside the Department of Education making their voices heard.

  • Media coverage almost entirely whitewashed GOP health care rollback

    People of color have been ignored during the health care debate

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Republican Party’s plan to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will disproportionately hurt people of color -- a fact television and print news outlets have almost completely ignored in their coverage of ongoing health care debates.

    On May 4, President Donald Trump held a White House celebration with a predominantly white group of Republican members of Congress after the House of Representatives voted to fund tax cuts for high-income earners by cutting health care subsidies and loosening patient protections benefitting low- and middle-income Americans. On May 8, The New York Times reported that 13 white Republican men would draft the Senate’s version of a health care reform bill, which remained shrouded in secrecy until it was released on June 22. Almost as if taking their que from the GOP, broadcast and cable news outlets made little effort over the same time period to invite diverse guests to discuss the health care bill despite dedicating significant coverage to the issue.

    In fact, according to new research from Media Matters, news outlets have almost completely ignored how GOP health care plans would disproportionately impact people of color. A Media Matters review of the major broadcast and cable news providers available via Nexis (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) found only three significant stories from May 4 through July 9 on the health care bill’s disproportionate impact on communities of color. All three stories appeared on MSNBC's weekend program Politics Nation. Media Matters conducted the same analysis of five major print newspapers via Nexis and Factiva (Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal) and found only four print articles -- three in the Times and one in the Post -- highlighting that the GOP plans to repeal and replace the ACA would harm these already disadvantaged communities.

    One of the few pieces discussing communities of color was an in-depth June 6 report (published in-print on June 11) in The New York Times on an overlooked HIV epidemic in African-American communities in southern states. Phill Wilson, president of the Black AIDS Institute, told the Times that ACA repeal would halt momentum for treating HIV and that he feared people would die if coverage was taken away. From the article:

    “The key to ending the AIDS epidemic requires people to have either therapeutic or preventive treatments, so repealing the A.C.A. means that any momentum we have is dead on arrival,” said Phill Wilson, chief executive and president of the Black AIDS Institute, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit. “For the most vulnerable, do we end up back in a time when people had only emergency care or no care and were literally dying on the streets? We don’t know yet, but we have to think about it.”

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected the Senate’s health care overhaul would result in 22 million fewer people with health insurance by 2026, including 15 million fewer low-income Americans being enrolled in the Medicaid program. Communities of color are disproportionately likely to receive Medicaid and restrictions could leave millions of people in disadvantaged communities at a loss. The Commonwealth Fund reported in August 2016 that communities of color benefitted greatly from the ACA’s provisions aimed at reducing health care inequality, and those communities could be hammered by GOP proposals to roll back successful reforms:

    According to HuffPost contributor Richard Eskow, a senior fellow with the progressive group Campaign for America’s Future, Republican plans to gut the ACA “will disproportionately harm people of color” while the 400 wealthiest families in the United States would receive an average tax cut of $7 million. It is because GOP plans so directly harm people of color that journalist Vann Newkirk wrote in The Atlantic that health care is a civil rights issue for millions of Americans. On the July 10 edition of MSNBC’s Politics Nation, Newkirk discussed the importance for expanding access to health care as a means of reducing economic and health disparities that have existed along racial lines for generations:

    Republican plans to repeal the ACA will exact an extraordinary toll on millions of Americans, and will have a disproportionate impact on people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. That is why it is more important than ever for news outlets to contextualize this human cost.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis and Factiva search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal from May 4 through July 9, 2017. Media Matters also conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of broadcast and cable news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the same time period.

    We identified and reviewed all broadcast and cable news segments and non-editorial articles that included any of the following keywords: black or African-American or African American or hispanic or latina or latino or Asian or racism or racial or native american or people of color or indian or pacific islander within 10 words of health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or Affordable Care Act or CBO or BHCA or Medicaid.

  • Republicans’ media strategy for health care: Hide, attack, and lie

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    On Sunday morning political talk shows, Republicans have deployed a three-pronged approach surrounding the Senate bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republicans who openly support the bill have mostly been hiding. In three weeks of major Sunday talk shows that have aired since the bill was released, only two Republican senators who openly support the bill have appeared on the shows to defend it. Meanwhile, the Republicans willing to defend the bill in public have been attacking the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and lying to make their case for the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which is reportedly the most unpopular bill in three decades.

    1. Hiding

    Since the Senate bill was unveiled on June 22, there have been 15 appearances by Republican senators on the major Sunday morning political talk shows -- ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press. Of those appearances, only two senators expressed support for the bill: Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Other appearances by Republican senators included Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ron Johnson (R-WI), all of whom have publicly stated that they do not support the bill. Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) also appeared on Sunday shows to discuss the bill, but gave no indication of whether they’d support it in its current form.

    For context, there are 52 Republican senators and, according to The New York Times, 17 of them have publicly said they would support the bill -- yet only two have gone on the Sunday political talk shows to defend it. It’s understandable why they would want to stay away from the shows; after all, the bill is incredibly unpopular.

    2. Attacking the CBO

    Republicans who have been willing to go on the Sunday shows to discuss the bill have borrowed a play right out of right-wing media’s playbook: attack the CBO. Days after the bill was released, the nonpartisan CBO published its report which stated that the bill “would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.” Amid the bad news, some Republicans took to the Sunday shows to lash out at the office.

    On the July 2 edition of CNN’s State of the Union, Sasse attempted to discredit the CBO’s findings, claiming that while the CBO is “good at certain kinds of analysis,” when “analyzing macro, long-term, highly complex dynamic social programs, they’ve almost never been right.”

    Additionally, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who helped pick the man who is now in charge of the CBO, suggested that the CBO did not “look at the entire plan” and left out additional reforms the Republican Party intends to offer (which the GOP have not articulated yet):

    This tactic of attacking the CBO has been employed several times by others in the Trump administration and its right-wing media cronies to drum up support for the bill.

    3. Spreading flat-out lies

    With their backs against the wall, Republican lawmakers have resorted to flat-out lying in an attempt to garner support for the bill. During his appearance on Fox News Sunday, Barrasso invoked the conservative media canard that “Obamacare is collapsing every day,” despite the fact that this talking point has been repeatedly debunked.

    Toomey also lied about the bill on Face the Nation, saying “The Senate bill will codify and make permanent the Medicaid expansion.” As Politico’s Dan Diamond pointed out, “The GOP bill ends funding for Medicaid expansion in 2024, and bill’s additional cuts projected to reduce coverage for millions”:

    Republicans are utilizing these strategies of hiding, attacking, and lying because they cannot defend it by telling the truth and arguing on policy merits; the bill is set to kick millions off insurance plans while giving a tax cut to the most wealthy. And other Republicans who are uncomfortable using these strategies have stopped appearing on TV. Journalists, especially on the Sunday shows, need to ask why Republicans can’t stand behind the bill they are trying to jam through the Senate, before it’s too late.

  • During record heat wave, major TV stations in Phoenix and Las Vegas completely ignored the impact of climate change

    The stations did not mention a new study connecting global warming to extreme heat, but found time to discuss climate change’s impact on coffee

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Major television network affiliates in metropolitan areas most affected by a record-breaking heat wave in June failed to discuss how climate change exacerbates such heat waves or mention that it will make them more frequent in the future, and major national TV networks neglected to report on the connection too. Over eight days in late June, major TV affiliates in Phoenix and Las Vegas aired a combined 433 broadcasts that included a segment or weathercast about the heat wave, but only one of those mentioned climate change -- and that one downplayed its impact. The local affiliates also ignored a new study that found one-third of the global population already faces deadly heat waves for at least 20 days a year due to climate change, yet they aired segments focused on how climate change could affect the flavor of coffee.

    Phoenix and Las Vegas affiliates ignored alarming study about climate change’s impact on extreme heat, despite experiencing a record heat wave

    For more than a week in late June, much of the Southwest was hit by a brutal heat wave. In Phoenix, temperatures were 10 to 15 degrees above average and new temperature records were set for three days in a row from June 19 to 21, reaching as high as 119 degrees. Dozens of flights had to be canceled after higher temperatures made it harder for certain types of small planes to take off. Las Vegas saw similar record-breaking daily temperatures and tied its all-time high temperature record of 117 degrees on June 20.

    The heat wave overlapped with the publication of an alarming new study on June 19 in the journal Nature Climate Change that found that, because of climate change, almost a third of the world’s population faces deadly heat waves at least 20 days a year -- and that more than twice that percentage could experience the same by 2100. In his article on the study’s findings, Seth Borenstein of The Associated Press connected the study to the heat wave in the Southwest:

    Deadly heat waves like the one now broiling the American West are bigger killers than previously thought and they are going to grow more frequent, according to a new comprehensive study of fatal heat conditions. Still, those stretches may be less lethal in the future, as people become accustomed to them.

    A team of researchers examined 1,949 deadly heat waves from around the world since 1980 to look for trends, define when heat is so severe it kills and forecast the future. They found that nearly one in three people now experience 20 days a year when the heat reaches deadly levels. But the study predicts that up to three in four people worldwide will endure that kind of heat by the end of the century, if global warming continues unabated.

    Yet despite having ample reason to take note, regional media ignored this dramatic study during the heat wave. Media Matters examined news coverage on the Phoenix and Las Vegas network affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX over an eight-day period that spanned the hottest days of the heat wave for those cities, from June 17 to June 24.

    We found that the network affiliates did not air a single mention of the study -- but many of them found time to air segments on a different study published on the same day that found that climate change could lower the quality of Ethiopian coffee. In Phoenix, ABC affiliate KNXV and CBS affiliate KPHO both aired a segment about the coffee study, and in Las Vegas, NBC affiliate KSNV and FOX affiliate KVVU both aired a segment on the coffee study, while ABC affiliate KTNV aired three segments devoted to it. This focus reinforced the mistaken idea that climate change directly affects faraway developing countries, like Ethiopia, but not the U.S.  

    In a June 27 post, Ron Meador of MinnPost’s Earth Journal expressed surprise that regional media coverage of the heat wave neglected to mention the Nature Climate Change study, writing (italics original):

    But it is questionable whether [the heat wave of 2017] will really be one for the history books, driven as it was by climate factors that continue to progress in ways that will likely make many a future hot spell considerably worse.

    This was not an aspect that came in for much discussion in regional media last week so far as I could tell. I was surprised, for example, to see no mention at all of last week’s marquee findings about the likely surge in deadly heat days over the rest of this century.

    Who knows why? Maybe it’s too controversial, still. Maybe it’s considered bad taste to mention this before the instant suffering subsides. Or maybe most people understand and accept this hard truth already, which would seem to be reasonable, wise and unlikely.

    Phoenix and Las Vegas affiliate stations also failed to mention global warming’s impact on heat waves generally -- and in one instance downplayed the connection 

    The heat wave afflicting the Southwest was the sort of previously rare extreme phenomenon that global warming is making more common. As Pacific Standard magazine explained:

    The atmospheric culprit for the heat is a very intense high pressure, which is itself setting records. Though the statistical databases show this high of high pressure to be an approximately one-in-200-year event, these events have been occurring more often lately—with the last one happening just last year. In short, the background signal of global warming makes the entire atmosphere thinner and less dense, supporting stronger high-pressure centers like the one camped out over Arizona this week, which then tend to get stuck in place—cranking up the thermostat over a multi-state region.

    And Arizona State University professor David Sailor explained in an interview with The New York Times that climate change amplifies and exacerbates heat waves and can create a vicious “feedback loop” between climate change and local heat thanks to increased energy consumption:

    A spike in temperature across the Southwest has left many in Arizona gasping for breath.

    [...]

    David Sailor, a professor at Arizona State University and the director of its Urban Climate Research Center, said that such heat waves were to be expected in the summer, but that climate change amplified such spikes in temperature.

    “The science is showing that the likelihood and the magnitude of these heat waves is likely to be exacerbated by climate change,” he said.

    He also emphasized the connection between what he called “global drivers of local weather” and the weather itself.

    “When you have these heat waves, the residents in the area of course are using more air-conditioning than they would otherwise,” he said. “So there’s a lot more waste heat being dumped into the environment from their attempts to keep their buildings cool. That creates a kind of positive feedback loop between local heat and global climate change.”

    Yet over the eight-day time period Media Matters examined, none of the network affiliates based in Phoenix or Las Vegas explained that climate change exacerbates heat waves.

    Las Vegas affiliates did not connect heat waves to climate change in any of their 241 broadcasts on the heat wave. KTNV (ABC), KLAS (CBS), KSNV (NBC), and KVVU (FOX) aired 65, 54, 65, and 57 broadcasts, respectively, that included a segment or weathercast about the heat wave. None of them discussed the relationship between climate change and worsening heat waves.

    Coverage on Arizona affiliates featured a single instance of a journalist connecting the heat waves to climate -- and that was to downplay climate change’s influence. KNXV (ABC), KPHO (CBS), KPNX (NBC), and KSAZ (FOX) aired 45, 53, 36, and 58 broadcasts, respectively, that included a segment or weathercast about the heat wave. Yet in all those broadcasts, climate change was brought up only once, in a June 21 broadcast on KPNX in which chief weather forecaster James Quiñones reported on record temperatures and then downplayed the impact of climate change and misled viewers by stating, “In June of 2017, we got 119 [degrees] and June of 2013 we also had 119 degrees, too, so we’re slowly warming up. And if anybody wonders, ‘Oh, is it global warming, climate change?’ Here’s the bottom line is: Ever since the last Ice Age ended about 40,000 years ago, we’ve been warming. Ever since then. So we’re continuing-- and the Earth goes through these cycles where we cool and we warm, and that’s what we are right now. We’re on a warming trend.”

    Among national nightly news shows, PBS NewsHour was the sole program to discuss the relationship between climate change and heat waves

    The major national networks’ nightly news programs also failed to provide context about climate change when they reported on the Southwest heat wave. There were a combined 13 segments or weather reports about the heat wave on ABC (6), CBS (5), and NBC (2), yet none made a reference to climate change.

    PBS NewsHour, in contrast, aired a June 21 segment about the heat wave that directly connected it to climate change, referenced the Nature Climate Change study, and featured an interview with climate scientist Radley Horton, who explained, “If we look at the last decade or two, we are seeing twice as many record-breaking extreme heat events.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched iQ media and SnapStream for local news broadcasts in Phoenix and Las Vegas -- the two largest television markets in the region affected by the Southwest heat wave -- that included a segment about the Southwest heat wave, as well as national news segments about the heat wave, using the search terms (heat OR "heat wave" OR "heat waves" OR heatwave OR heatwaves OR temperature OR temperatures OR hot). A second search adding the term AND (“climate change” OR “global warming”) was used to identify any segments on the heat wave that mentioned climate change. We did not count teasers or rebroadcasts. Our analysis covered the time period from June 17 to June 24.

    Gabby Miller contributed research to this report.

  • Sunday shows omit key consequences of GOP Senate health care bill

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    During discussions of the health care bill released by Senate Republicans this week, several of the Sunday morning political talk shows failed to cover some of the detrimental consequences the bill could impose on millions of Americans, including premium increases for the elderly, cuts to essential health benefits, and the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

    After drafting the bill with an “almost-unprecedented opacity,” Senate Republicans finally publicly introduced their health care proposal on June 22. The Senate draft comes over a month after the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on May 4. While the June 25 editions of the Sunday shows devoted a significant amount of time to covering the bill, and all mentioned the severe cuts to Medicaid and the spike in premiums that would be a result of the legislation, several left out a few key provisions of the bill that are incredibly consequential to vulnerable Americans:

    Disproportionate impact on the elderly

    As HuffPost noted, the Senate bill “is worse for seniors than what the House passed,” pointing out that cuts to Medicaid, the “age tax” that allows for insurance companies to charge older people more, and smaller subsidies “puts vulnerable seniors smack in its crosshairs.”

    The disproportionate impact the Senate bill would have on the elderly went unmentioned on Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, CNN’s State of the Union, and CBS’ Face the Nation. But this fact was mentioned on other programs. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pointed out on NBC’s Meet the Press that the Senate bill will “raise premiums for older workers.” Additionally, on ABC’s This Week, panelist Neera Tanden noted that under the law, “a 60-year-old person in Maine will have $9,200 increase in their premiums.”

    Cuts to essential health benefits and impact on people with pre-existing conditions

    The Atlantic explained that the Senate bill “created a backdoor way” to allow insurers “to discriminate against a pre-existing condition” by allowing states to “easily waive the requirement to cover Essential Health Benefits,” which exists under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). By waiving these essential health benefits, many people with pre-existing conditions might not be able to afford the health insurance necessary to be covered as premiums could skyrocket. As Vox’s Sarah Kliff also explained, although pre-existing condition coverage is still required, “Building a health insurance system without an individual mandate or any replacement policy runs a significant risk of falling into a death spiral, where only the sickest people buy coverage and premiums keep ticking upward.”

    These points went unmentioned on State of the Union and This Week. Face the Nation host John Dickerson and Meet the Press host Chuck Todd both noted that under the Senate bill, Republicans could use this maneuver to cut coverage for things like mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and maternity care. Fox News Sunday host Brit Hume and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price mentioned pre-existing conditions only to incorrectly state that patients with pre-existing conditions would not be affected by the bill.

    Cuts to Planned Parenthood

    The Senate bill also includes a one-year freeze on federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Several states have defunded Planned Parenthood, which has led to an “exploding HIV outbreak” and problems for low-income women who were suddenly unable to find a health care provider.

    Cuts to Planned Parenthood went unmentioned on Fox News Sunday and State of the Union. It was, however, mentioned in passing but with no real substantive conversation around the impacts by guests on Face the Nation and Meet the Press, while Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told This Week that cuts to Planned Parenthood may be one of the factors preventing her from voting for the bill.

    Methodology

    Media Matters used SnapStream to search for the following on the June 25 editions of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, and CBS’ Face the Nation:

    • Media Matters searched for mentions of “old” or “elderly” to code for mentions of premium increases the elderly would face under the Senate bill.

    • Media Matters searched for mentions of “condition” or “benefit” to code for mentions of cuts to essential health benefits in the Senate bill and impact on those with pre-existing conditions.

    • Media Matters searched for mentions of “Planned Parenthood” to code for mentions of cuts to Planned Parenthood in the Senate bill.

  • Media follow GOP's lead and host mainly white men to discuss Republican health care bill

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

      As Senate Republicans face mounting criticism for including almost exclusively white men in their working group on the upcoming health care bill, media aren’t doing much better when discussing the legislation. Like the GOP, media are relying on mainly white people, particularly men, for their analysis and reporting on the health care bill, even though the bill would reportedly have serious consequences for women and minorities.

      Shortly after the House of Representatives passed its version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Senate Republicans put together a working group to draft their own version of the legislation. The working group was roundly criticized for its lack of diversity. For instance, CNN’s Erin Burnett took issue with the all-male group, asking, “What can they realistically bring to the table when the conversation turns to, let’s just say, childbirth, maternity leave, ovarian cancer or breast cancer?” Likewise, Roll Call’s Patricia Murphy wrote that adding diverse voices to the group would allow people to “bring their own personal experiences to the debate,” noting that African-Americans have “a higher incidence of chronic disease” and are “more likely to require ongoing medical interventions over the course of their lives.”

      Unfortunately, if people are hoping to hear a diverse group of people discussing the health care bill, media are of little help. A Media Matters analysis found that the people hosted on television to discuss the bill were disproportionately white men. Key findings include:

      • Male guest appearances outnumbered female guest appearances 2-to-1 on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows during discussions of the Republican health care bill.
      • Over 87 percent of appearances on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows during discussions of the Republican health care bill were made by white guests.

      Race

      Of the 448 guest appearances* on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows, 392 appearances, or over 87 percent, were made by white guests.

      During Fox News and CNN’s prime-time coverage of the health care bill, white guests made up over 90 percent of total guest appearances:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • Fox News hosted 77 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 75, or over 97 percent, were made by white guests. Only two appearances were made by black guests, and there were no appearances made by Asian or Hispanic guests.
      • CNN hosted 120 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 108, or 90 percent, were made by white guests. Only seven appearances, or 6 percent, were made by black guests, three appearances by Asian guests, and two appearances by Hispanic guests.
      • MSNBC hosted 134 guest during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 108, or over 80 percent, were made by white guests. Eighteen appearances, or about 13 percent, were made by black guests, four, or nearly 3 percent, by Asian guests, and four appearances by Hispanic guests.

      CBS hosted only white guests to discuss the bill during its morning and nightly news shows:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • ABC hosted 12 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 10, or just over 83 percent, were made by white guests. The network hosted no black or Asian guests, but two appearances, or 7 percent, were made by Hispanic guests.
      • CBS hosted 16 guests during discussions of the bill, all of whom were white.
      • NBC hosted 18 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 17, or over 94 percent, were made by white guests. The network hosted no black or Asian guests, and only one appearance, or about 5 percent, was made by a Hispanic guest.

      During Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press’s coverage of the health care bill, over 90 percent of appearances were made by white guests:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • ABC's This Week hosted nine guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, seven, or nearly 78 percent, were made by white guests. Only one appearance each was made by black and Asian guests, but the program did not host any Hispanic guests.
      • CBS' Face the Nation hosted 17 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 13, or over 76 percent, were made by white guests. Two appearances were made by black guests, one by Asian, and one by a Hispanic guest.
      • NBC's Meet the Press hosted 11 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 10, or nearly 91 percent, were made by white guests.One appearance was made by a black guest, but the program did not host any Asian or Hispanic guests.
      • CNN's State of the Union hosted 18 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 13, or over 72 percent, were made by white guests. Four appearances were made by black guests and one by a Hispanic guest, but the program did not host any Asian guests.
      • Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday hosted 16 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 15, or nearly 94 percent, were made by white guests. One appearance was made by a black guest, but the program did not host any Hispanic or Asian guests.

      Gender

      Of the 448 guest appearances* on prime-time cable news, broadcast news’ morning and nightly shows, and Sunday morning political shows, 299 were made by men, meaning two-thirds of the voices viewers heard were male.

      During prime-time cable news, Fox News was the network that fared the worst on gender diversity:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • Fox News hosted 77 guests during discussions of the health care bill throughout prime-time programming. Of those guest appearances, 60, or nearly 78 percent, were made be men. Only 17 of the appearances were made by women, making up about 22 percent of guest appearances on the health care bill.
      • MSNBC hosted 134 guests during discussions of the health care bill throughout prime-time programming. Of those guest appearances, 90, or over 67 percent, were made by men. Only 44 of the appearances were made by women, making up just under 33 percent of guests hosted to discuss the bill.
      • CNN hosted 120 guests during discussions of the health care bill throughout prime-time programming. Of those guest appearances, 78, or 65 percent, were made by men. Only 42 of the appearances were made by women, making up about 35 percent of guests hosted to discuss the bill.

      During broadcast morning and nightly news shows, CBS was the only network to host more women than men to discuss the bill:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • CBS hosted 16 guests during discussions of the health care bill. Of those guest appearances, 11, or nearly 69 percent, were made by men. Five, or just over 31 percent, were made by women.
      • NBC hosted 18 guests during discussions of the health care bill. Of those guest appearances, 10, or nearly 56 percent, were made by men. The network featured eight appearances by women in discussions of the bill, making up just over 44 percent of guest appearances.
      • ABC hosted 12 guests during discussions of the health care bill. Of those guest appearances, eight, or nearly 67 percent, were made by men. Four appearances, or about 33 percent, were made by women.

      On the Sunday political shows, men outnumbered women 2-to-1, but some shows fared better than others. NBC’s Meet the Press was the closest to having equal representation, while ABC’s This Week had the highest gender imbalance:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • ABC’s This Week hosted nine guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, seven, or nearly 78 percent, were made by men. Only two appearances were made by women, making up over 22 percent of guest appearances.
      • CBS’ Face the Nation hosted 17 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 12, or nearly 71 percent, were made by men. Only five appearances were made by women, making up over 29 percent of guest appearances.
      • NBC’s Meet the Press hosted 11 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, six, or nearly 55 percent were made by men. Five appearances were made by women, making up over 45 percent of guest appearances.
      • CNN’s State of the Union hosted 16 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 12, or 75 percent, were made by men. Four appearances were made by women, making up 25 percent of guest appearances.
      • Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday hosted 18 guests to discuss the bill. Of those appearances, 11, or over 61 percent, were made by men. Seven appearances were made by, making up nearly 39 percent of guest appearances.

      Sadly, the groups that have been marginalized by Senate Republicans and television news have a lot to lose with the AHCA. As FamiliesUSA noted, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “greatly benefited Black communities, who are likely to disproportionately suffer the consequences of ACA repeal and the elimination of Medicaid as we know it” under the AHCA. And, as The Hill pointed out, “Hispanics benefited more than any other group from the Affordable Care Act,” and under the AHCA, “Many Hispanic leaders are worried their communities could be forced out of coverage and back into emergency rooms for primary care.” Additionally, groups fighting for the rights of Asian Americans have condemned the AHCA for the harm it would cause.

      Women also have much to lose if the AHCA passes the Senate. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, cuts to Medicaid would drastically hurt women who “comprise the majority of Medicaid beneficiaries.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that about 15 percent of low-income people “would lose access to care” under the AHCA due to the defunding of Planned Parenthood. And, as Marie Claire pointed out:

      For women who let their insurance lapse, maternity coverage will no longer be guaranteed, and pregnant women may face surcharges up to $17,000 for care. C-sections could also be considered a pre-existing condition, meaning that a woman could incur costs of roughly $50,000 for simply wanting another child. States could determine that having a heavy period or other menstrual irregularities is a pre-existing condition to be paid for out of pocket.

      The Republican health care bill presents a clear and present danger to millions of Americans, but minorities and women have the most to lose. Unfortunately, they’re nearly shut out of discussions about the bill, in politics and media alike.

      * Repeated guests were counted each time they appeared.

      Methodology

      Media Matters searched Nexis for mentions of health care, the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, the American Health Care Act, or AHCA on prime-time cable news, broadcast news’ morning and evening news shows, and Sunday political shows between May 4 (after the House of Representatives passed the bill) and June 18. Segments were coded if they included a significant discussion of the Republican health care bill. “Significant discussion” was defined as at least two speakers in the segment engaging on the topic with one another.

      Prime-time cable news refers to CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC programming between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays. Broadcast news refers to ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News, and NBC’s Today and NBC Nightly News. Sunday political shows refers to ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, CNN’s State of the Union, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday.

      A chart was updated to include corrected data.

    • Megyn Kelly's Alex Jones segment shows how public pressure works

      It could have gone worse, but a competent report won't undo the damage done

      Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      A well-deserved firestorm of denunciations from the families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting and other critics forced Megyn Kelly to turn a report that was originally billed as a self-promotional head-to-head showdown with Alex Jones into a well-edited investigation of the dangers posed by an unstable megalomaniac with millions of loyal fans, including one in the Oval Office.

      But Kelly deserves little credit -- she acted in response to overwhelming public pressure, and the network’s impotent reaction to Jones’ own grabs for media attention may allow the nation's biggest producer of conspiracy theory media to come out the winner of tonight’s program.

      At no point since Kelly teased her interview with Jones at the end of last week’s show has she or NBC been able to control the narrative spinning out of her own show. It’s a shocking failure for one of the media’s savviest manipulators of her own image, and the network that hired her.

      Immediately after last week’s Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, Sandy Hook family members began speaking out. They said they had suffered years of torment and harassment due to Jones’ claims that the shooting was a “hoax,” and denounced Kelly for granting him a platform. Desperate to salvage the situation as brutal headlines rolled in, NBC all but promised its critics that the segment would be edited to portray Jones as negatively as possible.

      That’s exactly what happened. The segment benefited from devoting very little time to Kelly’s interview with Jones, minimizing his opportunity to appeal to her audience. Instead, through strong voiceover, clips from Jones’ program featuring the host spouting conspiracies, and interviews with a conservative commentator who opposes Jones’ influence and the father of a child who died at Sandy Hook, Kelly explained how Jones operates, the harassment his targets experience, and his close ties to President Donald Trump.

      The segment reportedly went through drastic changes following the spate of condemnation, with NBC adding an interview with a Sandy Hook family member and slicing and dicing the footage of Kelly’s sit-down with Jones to make it more damaging to him. It’s not unusual for networks to edit stories right up until airtime. But last week’s public relations nightmare clearly played a role in the segment NBC ended up running.

      NBC deserved that nightmare. Kelly was hired to be a new face of the network and given a program aimed to challenge CBS’ 60 Minutes for newsmagazine primacy. But after the first episodes of her newsmagazine show suffered from poor ratings and reviews criticizing her interviewing skill, NBC took a chance with a Jones sit-down, which offered Kelly the opportunity to reset the show’s reputation with a viral moment.

      That the network’s executives apparently didn’t realize that news of the segment would trigger a backlash from Jones’ victims shows a tremendous lack of foresight and ignorance of the subject matter. NBC paid for that failure with a series of awful news cycles pitting their new star against traumatized families who had lost their children who castigated Kelly for giving Jones a platform.

      I believe Jones is a newsworthy subject for national news outlets. It is important for the American people to learn how the nation's most prominent conspiracy theorist has garnered a large audience and gained the ear of Trump (the circumstances were different earlier in the decade, when Media Matters criticized several networks for giving him a platform). But as I argued last week, interviewing Jones’ victims would be more likely to shed light on his character than Kelly’s initial approach of focusing on a head-to-head showdown. The week of controversy drastically changed NBC’s calculus, producing a significantly better segment than suggested by last Sunday’s preview.

      It’s too early to tell whether the Sandy Hook families who criticized the decision to interview Jones will be satisfied with the result, or if they will deal another blow to Kelly’s stature. But while Jones isn't having a meltdown, he can't feel good about the segment's clear implication that he is a dangerous extremist. And given how badly the radio host beat the network’s PR team this week, they may have something to fear from him as well.

      Kelly and her network were caught flat-footed, unable to either anticipate or successfully react as Jones repeatedly outmaneuvered them, taking control of the narrative and successfully framing the story for the national media through the propagandistic manipulations that make him such a dangerous force.

      Jones “has learned how to program the mainstream news by inciting outrage online that is then discussed and covered by mainstream media,” BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel reported after Jones released embarrassing audio of phone calls in which Kelly tries to talk him into doing the interview. “But Kelly and NBC were ill-equipped to deal with the pro-Trump media apparatus. Instead, they adhered to the traditional rules of a big television interview that assume a good-faith relationship between interviewer and interviewee.”

      Jones escalated his public relations offensive as the interview approached, releasing a Father’s Day video in which he offered “sincere condolences” to the Sandy Hook families, lied about his previous comments about the attack, and lashed out at NBC. Jones was live on the air before Kelly’s show aired, spreading rumors about Kelly and threatening to release his own recording of their interview if he was displeased with the result. After it aired, seeking to bolster the image that he won the night, he and his cronies drank a champagne toast on camera. As Jones again tried to take over the story online, the NBC News and Megyn Kelly twitter feeds went dark, ceding him the social space.

      The radio host wanted more attention, and he got it, seeking to build his audience by portraying himself as the mainstream media’s victim. Thanks to Kelly’s failure to control her own narrative, he may well succeed.

      Kelly’s segment demonstrates that, with enough pressure, broadcast outlets can produce adequate reports on the pro-Trump fringe. But the last week shows they still haven’t learned enough to effectively defend their work against an alternative media assault. And it remains to be seen whether NBC’s failure to control the narrative around Jones’ interview helped him more than an otherwise competent segment hurt him.

    • What Megyn Kelly says in leaked audio from Alex Jones

      Kelly soothes Jones’ fragile ego, assures him the interview will not be contentious, tells him that her show is about “fun,” and even promises to let Jones review any clips they use.

      Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


      Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

      Just days ahead of Megyn Kelly’s June 18 interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the Infowars founder leaked purported audio of him and the NBC anchor. Jones was seeking to defend himself because he believed that Kelly, whom he called a “modern-day Medusa,” would edit her report to make it a hit piece on Jones.

      There is no doubt that the audio was edited by Infowars. Jones released it to portray himself in a favorable light and “set the record straight” after he didn’t like NBC’s promo of his interview. Though Jones admits at points that he has done things that he is not proud of, the phone call includes several telling moments about Kelly and NBC:

      Kelly wooed Jones by downplaying his lying, conspiracy theories, and connections to harassment

      • “The reason you are interesting to me is because I followed your custody case, and I think you had a very good point about the way the media was covering it and for some reason treated you and your family and what was going on as fair game when they never would have done that, if you will, of a mainstream media figure. And I saw a different side of you in that whole thing. You just became very fascinating to me.”
      • “I just sort of thought you were this maybe, you know, one-dimensional guy. Like this is your thing. And the comments I heard from you during the course of that trial, and your plea to the media to be respectful of you and your kids just reminded me that you’re just like anybody. You know, you’re a dad.

      Kelly pledged that she wouldn’t ask Jones tough questions, that her show was “fun,” and that the interview would not be a “gotcha hit piece”

      • After Jones asked if Kelly would bring up his controversies, including his comments about Sandy Hook and Pizzagate: “No, I can ask you about that. This is not going to be a contentious, sort of, gotcha exchange. Right? That’s not what this show is and that’s really not what I want to do. I want to do in-depth profiles on people. Just interesting people. So I can ask you that, this is what the critics say. But this isn’t going to be ah-ha, let’s play a clip.
      • “I’m trying to create a different kind of program. And it’s fun. I’ll ask you about some of the controversies, of course. And you’ll say whatever you want to say. But, it’s not going to be some gotcha hit piece. I promise you that."
      • I’m not looking to portray you as some boogeyman, or, you know, do any sort of a gotcha moment. I just want to talk about you. I want people to get to know you. And the craziest thing of all would be if some of the people who have this insane version of you in their heads walk away saying, ‘You know what? I see, like, the dad in him. I see the guy who loves those kids, and who is more complex than I’ve been led to believe.’”

      Kelly told Jones he would have oversight of portions of the interview

      • “I will promise you to personally look at any clips we want to use of you. And have a producer run by you whether we are taking it in context and what you are saying about it.
      • “If I ask you about any controversy, you’ll have the chance to address it fully. And I’m not going to cut you in a way that’s going to take out the heart of your explanation or the real substance of it. I won’t do that.”
      • “We’ll do like a walk-and-talk and we’ll set up something nice. Or we can -- one of my producers will weigh in on that because they know how to make it look beautiful. And they’ll work with you and do something that’s acceptable to you.”

      Kelly referred to her audience on NBC as “the left”

      • “My goal is for your listeners, and the left who will be watching, some, on NBC, to say, ‘Wow, that was really interesting.’ All I can do is give you my word and tell you if there’s one thing about me, I do what I say I’m going to do, and I don’t double-cross. So I promise you, when it’s over you’ll say, ‘Absolutely, she did what she said she was going to do.’ And you’ll be fine with it.”

      Kelly highlighted the lack of editorial standards in cable news, such as her previous employer Fox​

      • “Truly, it’s like a whole new world over there [at NBC]. They deeply care about this kind of thing. And, it’s not that we didn’t care on cable. It’s just a different game on cable. You know, you move faster and it’s more real time. And it’s just the fact that more mistakes get made."

      Ever since Kelly floated the idea of this interview to Jones, he has been manipulating her and NBC with near impunity. As BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel wrote, “Jones has been in control of Kelly’s interview and delighting his audience every step of the way. He broke the news of the interview on his show in late May; he was the first to post teaser photos of Kelly in the Infowars studio online; he got out in front of the interview last week with a misogynistic tirade about how he wasn’t attracted to Kelly and called her and the interview ‘fake news.’”

      This trolling comes at a cost. Search traffic for Jones is at a multiyear high:

      Julie Alderman and John Whitehouse contributed to this piece. Language has been updated for clarity.

    • Days before Megyn Kelly interview airs, Alex Jones pushes more Sandy Hook conspiracy theories

      Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

      Just days before NBC is set to air an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Megyn Kelly’s new show, Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, Jones once again pushed several conspiracy theories about the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

      Kelly and NBC’s decision to interview Jones has created a firestorm of controversy, with some family members of Sandy Hook victims calling for NBC to shelve the recorded interview given that Jones has pushed toxic conspiracy theories about the shooting that spurred some of his followers to harass the families. Page Six reported that following harsh criticism of the decision to give Jones a platform, Kelly invited Sandy Hook families to be interviewed for the episode as well.

      During the June 15 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones promoted several conspiracy theories that he and others have previously used to deny that the tragedy ever happened.

      Citing the U.S. government’s use of misinformation to justify wars in the Middle East, Jones said, “If they’ll do that, then am I supposed to question Sandy Hook when it happens and they’ve got the kids going in circles in and out of the building, and they don’t call the rescue helicopters, and then instead an hour later there’s port-a-potties and food being delivered and PR firms are there and Anderson Cooper says he’s on location but he’s clearly faking the location.”

      It should go without saying that Jones’ claims about the shooting that took 26 lives are false.

      On his show, Jones continued to lie about what he has said about the Sandy Hook tragedy in the past, saying he has “looked at every angle of” the shooting and claiming that he has said previously, “It could have been totally true, could have been totally fake.” (In recent months, Jones has repeatedly claimed he was merely playing “devil’s advocate” when commenting on the shooting.)

      As Media Matters documented, in the years following the tragedy, Jones definitively stated on several occasions that the shooting did not happen. In 2014, for example, Jones said, “It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.”

      Jones has been lying about his past comments on Sandy Hook since his statements started drawing heightened scrutiny following his claim after the 2016 election that President Donald Trump would soon appear on his show. (Trump appeared on Jones show in 2015 and praised the conspiracy theorist’s “amazing” reputation.)

      Kelly’s interview is set to air June 18 at 7 p.m. EST.

      Jones’ June 15 comments on Sandy Hook:

      ALEX JONES (HOST): It is a fact that on the eve of the Gulf War in 1990 a PR firm was hired, and the daughter of the owner of the PR firm, who’d never been to Kuwait and who spoke fluent English and had been brought up in the U.S., went and testified to seeing Iraqi soldiers ripping babies out of incubators and bashing their brains out by the hundreds. This was used as the pretext to launch that war that was meant to legitimize the U.N. as a global government body and bring in a new world order as George Herbert Walker Bush said, or Bush 41. Now, if criminal elements of our government will do something like that to launch now three wars in the Middle East, back radical jihadists to take over Iraq, Syria, Libya, other areas, overthrow our allies in Egypt, kill millions of people, starve millions more, and have Madeline Albright, Clinton’s secretary of state, say a half-million kids is an OK price to pay -- in fact, let’s cue that up. If they’ll do that, then am I supposed to question Sandy Hook when it happens and they’ve got the kids going in circles in and out of the building, and they don’t call the rescue helicopters, and then instead an hour later there’s port-a-potties and food being delivered and PR firms are there and Anderson Cooper says he’s on location but he’s clearly faking the location. We looked at every angle of that. And so they’ve now misrepresented what we’ve said, that I said it could have been totally true, could have been totally fake. I didn’t progenerate. I didn’t create. I wasn't the fount of that. The things that I am the fountain of, I’ll tell you. 1776 worldwide. Rebooting America. Nationalism.