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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Three ways Hispanic media has changed in the Trump era

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s rise in politics has posed new challenges for journalists covering the White House, but for Spanish-language outlets, it has created unique obstacles. As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, here’s a look back at some ways Hispanic media is changing in the Trump era:

    1. Racist attacks on Hispanic journalists have intensified. In an illuminating interview on CNN, Henry Gomez, the senior political writer at Cleveland.com, told host Brooke Baldwin that he has “noticed an uptick” in racist insults while covering Trump as compared to his previous decade-plus of experience. He explained that many of the emails and tweets that he receives are “parroting a lot of Donald Trump’s greatest hits,” referring to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Gomez’s case is not unique. The conservative Media Research Center launched a literal campaign against Univision’s Jorge Ramos for his coverage of Trump, and Fox News has fed the fire and called for Ramos’ resignation. Other journalists have voiced concerns over the intensifying anti-Latino environment in op-eds and on Twitter. The challenge for Hispanic journalists covering Trump is unique because, according to Cal State Northridge journalism professor Jose Luis Benavides, interviewed by KQED, “if you’re from a Spanish-language news organization … some people may assume you have a built-in bias.”

    2. Republicans are giving less access to Spanish-language networks. One of Univision’s top news anchors, Enrique Acevedo, told Politico in March, “It’s harder to get access to Republicans than it is to get access to Democrats and I understand why that is,” noting that it has “happened more since the inauguration.”

    A Media Matters review of appearances by elected Republican officials on Univision and Telemundo in both 2014, before Trump launched his political campaign, and 2017 confirmed Acevedo’s observation. During Hispanic Heritage Month 2014, an equal amount of elected Republican officials and elected Democratic officials appeared as guests on Telemundo and Univision’s Sunday news shows. During that same time period in 2017, only two Republicans appeared on the Sunday shows compared to five Democrats.

    Republicans’ aversion to Spanish-language outlets seems to echo Trump’s attitude toward the networks. As a candidate, Trump denied press credentials to Univision, Telemundo and La Opinion, blacklisted prominent Hispanic journalists, including José Díaz-Balart and Jorge Ramos, and declined an invitation to address the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

    3. Telemundo launched a campaign to empower Latinos to improve their lives. In February, Telemundo launched “El Poder En Ti,” -- which translates into “The Power Within You,” -- a campaign designed to empower Latinos and encourage them to take initiative to improve their lives and the lives of others. Influential news shows such as Enfoque and Al Rojo Vivo presented profiles of Latino immigrants and nonimmigrants who have made positive impacts on their communities.

    The shows’ depictions of Latinos as role models, community activists, politicians, innovators, media executives, and philanthropists contrasted with the way that Trump and his media allies typically depict Latinos. In one segment of “Nuestra Gente Extraordinaria” -- which translates into “Our extraordinary people” -- on Enfoque, which was part of the “El Poder en Ti” campaign, National Hispanic Media Coalition’s Alex Nogales recognized this discrepancy, explaining that immigrants are “judges, police officers, lawyers, dentists,” and more, but “media outlets that broadcasted in English treated our community … as if we were all criminals.” This trend is also borne out in right-wing media. As the president continues to disparage Latino immigrants, he counts on his media allies to vindicate his painting them as criminals.

    Methodology

    Media Matters skimmed Univision’s Al Punto and Telemundo’s Enfoque during Hispanic Heritage Month of 2014 (September 14, 2014 to October 12, 2014) and Hispanic Heritage Month of 2017 (September 10, 2017 to October 8, 2017) and coded for each guest. The party affiliations of guests who were elected officials still in office during the time that the show aired were also coded. Any person who gave unique commentary to the given networks was coded as a guest.

  • National cable news left Spanish-speakers in the dark on emergency hurricane safety information

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    National cable news networks failed to carry the Spanish-language portions of emergency press conferences about storms held in Texas and Florida -- two states with some of the largest Hispanic populations in the country -- on at least two occasions in recent weeks. While English-language outlets cut away from the Spanish-language parts of press conferences on Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, national Spanish-language outlets neglected to air the press events at all, leaving Spanish-speaking viewers in the dark regarding vital emergency preparedness information.

    During a September 7 press conference in which Florida Gov. Rick Scott was addressing the nation in preparation for Hurricane Irma, the two largest national Spanish-language news outlets, Univision and Telemundo, continued their regular programming rather than airing the news. Between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., when the conference was taking place, neither Univision’s Despierta América nor Telemundo’s Un Nuevo Día carried the press conference live. Contrary to the national networks, local Univision and Telemundo affiliates serving Miami and Fort Lauderdale (Univision 23 and Telemundo 51) both aired the press conference in-full and even provided Spanish translation when necessary.

    At about 9:54 a.m., a reporter asked a question in Spanish about whether authorities would be checking immigration documents of individuals forced to evacuate or take refuge from the hurricane, to which one of the press conference speakers responded in Spanish, “They do not have to be thinking about that” because “none of the places that they will be going will be checking [immigration] documents.” After briefly airing part of the Spanish response provided by Florida authorities, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all cut away, continuing to show the conference in the background but with network anchors speaking over it.

    Similarly, Univision’s and Telemundo’s national outlets declined to cut away from regular programming on August 28 to air a news conference about Hurricane Harvey, and in this case, none of the local affiliates available in media recording service iQ media appeared to air the press conference live either. Fox News and MSNBC again spoke over a Spanish-language portion of the press conference soon after a reporter asked a question about whether authorities would be able to accommodate non-English speakers needing rescue. CNN stayed on the Spanish-language portion of the press conference for about a minute and a half before also cutting away.

    In these instances, while Spanish-language affiliates in Florida compensated for holes in coverage from national news outlets, Spanish-speaking viewers in Texas watching either national cable news or local Spanish-language news missed updates as they happened.

  • After immigrants die in Texas, right-wing media push for policies that would exacerbate the problem

    Experts agree that hardline immigration policies correlate with an increase in immigrant deaths

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Ten immigrants were killed and many others hospitalized after human traffickers promising to smuggle them into the United States failed to provide them with adequate ventilation or water for the journey. Conservative media figures have responded to the tragedy with calls for stricter immigration laws -- in particular, stricter border enforcement policies and anti-sanctuary city laws -- that experts have said would serve only to exacerbate the problem by diverting immigrants to more dangerous routes and empowering human traffickers without addressing the root causes of immigration.

  • Minority voices largely excluded from Paris climate agreement discussion

    Research shows that black and Hispanic communities are most impacted by the effects of climate change

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    A Media Matters study found that cable news outlets mostly marginalized people of color from discussions about climate change and the Paris accord following President Donald Trump's June 1 announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. This trend is particularly problematic in discussions of climate change because studies show that climate change disproportionately affects black and Hispanic communities.

    A review of guests discussing climate change on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN between June 1 and June 2 found that out of 286 guests* who cable channels invited on to discuss the issue, only about 17 percent were people of color -- 9 percent were black, 3 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were of Asian descent, and less than 1 percent were of Middle Eastern descent.

    The lack of representation is striking because studies show that climate change disproportionately affects minorities. In a June 2 article for Essence magazine, activist and political commentator Symone Sanders explained that leaving the Paris agreement will exacerbate some of the problems African-American communities face, including natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and environmentally related health problems including respiratory diseases and heart conditions. A 2015 report by the NAACP noted that the tendency of African-Americans to live in cities, in coastal areas, and near polluting facilities like coal-fired power plants poses specific health risks and makes them more vulnerable than others to the effects of climate change. A 2016 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) pointed out that Hispanic communities are disproportionately harmed by climate change in part because a majority of Latinos live in states prone to extreme heat, air pollution, and flooding. Additionally, climate-related health concerns are particularly dire for Latinos given that they are “heavily represented in crop and livestock production and construction,” which contributes to them being “three times more likely to die ... from excessive heat than non-Latinos.” They are also less likely to have health insurance coverage than non-Latinos.

    These factors may help explain why people of color are more likely than white voters to support the Paris agreement and to support regulation designed to combat climate change, and why lawmakers who belong to minority groups have “near-perfect” environmental voting records.

    Yet, despite the intersectionality, TV news outlets often fail to make the connection between climate change and racial justice -- perhaps, in part, because they don't include many minority voices in their coverage.

    Minority groups have condemned the dearth of minority voices in the media. Hispanic groups have called on the media to improve the visibility of Hispanics on air, noting that Hispanic voices are mostly restricted to discussing immigration, which creates the perception that they are a single-issue constituency. Other communities of color and low-income communities are also excluded from media coverage of climate change, as NAACP’s Jacqueline Patterson pointed out in an interview with The Nation in 2014: “The voice of frontline communities, the ones that are most impacted, usually don’t make it to the airwaves.”

    When minority voices do find a foothold in the climate change discussion, the intersectionality of the issues becomes more apparent. African-American journalist April Ryan, one of the few non-white guests invited to discuss the Paris decision on CNN, emphasized the real-life human consequences of climate change, including disasters like Katrina, floods, droughts, and mosquito-borne diseases.

    Additionally, in Spanish-language media’s coverage on Univision and Telemundo, reports on the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris accord explained the impact of climate change on Hispanics and provided a platform for Latinos to voice their opposition to the move. 

    Irissa Cisternino contributed research to this piece.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream and Nexis using the search terms "climate or Paris" on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News from June 1 through June 2 and reviewed the transcripts for segments about Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement that aired between between 5 a.m. EST and 11 p.m. EST. Segments where Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris accord was the stated topic of discussion or segments where there was significant discussion of Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris accord were counted. "Significant discussion" was defined as at least two speakers in the segment engaging on the topic with one another (e.g., the host asking a guest a question on Trump's decision). Segments where a guest mentioned the decision in passing -- where no other guest engaged with the comment -- were excluded. All guests were coded for race/ethnicity. In one case, the race/ethnicity of the guest was unclear, so that person was not counted.

    *For one guest who is both black and Hispanic, both backgrounds were counted. As a result, there are 288 race/ethnicities listed for the 286 guests. Because the study was focused on representation of minorities, guests who are both white and belonging to a minority group were coded only for the latter. 

  • This Is How Right-Wing Myths About Sanctuary Cities Spread

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    On Telemundo’s Sunday news show, José Díaz-Balart demonstrated how the host of a news program can allow misinformation to take root and fester by failing to correct misinformation about immigration detentions.

    On the April 2 edition of Enfoque, Díaz-Balart hosted Jorge Silva of the Latino Victory Project and Alfonso Aguilar of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles to discuss the Trump administration’s recent threat to block federal grants to sanctuary cities. Aguilar -- who supported Trump during the campaign, then briefly withdrew his support following Trump’s hardline immigration speech in September, and then in December declared that he supported Trump “100 percent” -- falsely claimed the Trump administration is focused on detaining only those undocumented immigrants with serious criminal records. He said it “is simply not true” that all undocumented immigrants sentenced for crimes are reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Silva corrected the misinformation, but Díaz-Balart failed to explain the facts, potentially leaving viewers unclear which of the guests was correct. From the April 2 edition of Telemundo’s Enfoque:

    Translated transcript:

    JOSÉ DÍAZ-BALART (HOST): Alfonso, is this a wise policy on the part of President [Donald] Trump’s administration?

    ALFONSO AGUILAR: Look, I think so. What has happened is that this debate has become highly politicized. There is no standard definition for what is a sanctuary city. It is not a technical term. There are different cities that treat undocumented immigrants in a different way. There are cities that give some local benefits to undocumented immigrants. This is not what the Trump administration is focused on. What the Trump administration wants -- and it’s something basic, I don’t understand why someone could be opposed to this -- is that the local authorities, if they arrest an undocumented immigrant who has a criminal record or is involved in serious criminal activity, they refer them to federal authorities to be removed.

    DÍAZ-BALART: Jorge?

    JORGE SILVA: Let’s remind the viewers that, in this moment, an undocumented immigrant who has been sentenced for a crime is immediately referred to the deportation agencies, to the federal immigration agencies.

    AGUILAR: That is simply not true. You are alarming the community unnecessarily. This is not what is happening. What they want to address are situations like that of Kate Steinle in San Francisco, a woman who was murdered by an undocumented immigrant who had a serious criminal record. Here there is not a mass deportation, here they are not seeking to deport people who are do not have criminal records. Please stop scaring our community.

    SILVA: In this moment, we have seen that ICE is arresting people without criminal records. And you can’t lie to me, Alfonso, please. You have seen it.

    AGUILAR: I am not lying.

    SILVA: They are arresting and deporting people without criminal records.

    AGUILAR: But it’s not the vast majority. It is a minority and this also happened under the Obama administration.

    SILVA: In the Obama administration, there was a prioritization for people who had violent criminal records.

    Aguilar’s assertion that ICE is not notified when an undocumented immigrant is arrested is false. According to The Washington Post, when a person is arrested, local authorities send his or her fingerprints “to the FBI, which sends the inmates’ information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” ICE may then issue a detainer request for local authorities to hold the person in custody for 48 hours. In many “sanctuary” jurisdictions, local authorities do not honor the 48-hour detainer request due to Fourth Amendment concerns. Sanctuary cities typically honor detainer requests for violent criminals but neglect to hold people past their sentences if they do not pose a threat to public safety.

    Aguilar’s false equivalency between Trump’s and Obama’s immigration policies also is not consistent with facts. Border patrol and ICE agents are “newly emboldened” to detain all undocumented immigrants under Trump, whereas they were required to “concentrate on deporting gang members and other violent and serious criminals” under Obama.

    Lies about sanctuary cities and immigration in general run rampant in the right-wing media echo chamber, but they can easily spread to mainstream media when hosts fail to push back on right-wing myths.

  • Cable News Reports On DACA Ignored Its Economic Benefits

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    After President-elect Donald Trump pledged during his presidential run to rescind an executive action on immigration that protects from deportation thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors, cable news outlets routinely discussed the program as a political tool without explaining how it benefits Americans and the American economy.

    The 2012 executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, allows almost 800,000 people to study, work, and live their lives in the United States without fear of deportation. As a result of not being forced to live in the shadows, DACA recipients have generated more government revenue in the form of sales and property taxes, and created new jobs through increased consumer spending and boosted wages. The program has benefited the entire economy, but cable news coverage of DACA depicts the program as if it impacts only those who it protects from deportation.

    Media Matters reviewed how evening news programs on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC covered DACA from August 31 -- when Trump announced he would put an end to the program -- to December 15. Of the 20 qualifying segments on DACA during that time period, its economic impact was mentioned only once. Even then, the discussion failed to provide many facts on the scope of the program’s benefits.

    Meanwhile, new reports investigating the effect of rescinding DACA conclude that doing so would do more harm than good for all Americans, not just the thousands of undocumented immigrants protected by the program. On December 13, Univision reported on a study from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which found that ending DACA would reduce contributions to Social Security and Medicare by $19.9 billion and $4.6 billion, respectively, over 10 years. On December 15, Telemundo reported that if approximately 3.4 million undocumented immigrant homeowners, many of whom are protected under DACA, lost protections from deportation, the resulting mass deportation “could hit the housing market, causing losses of up to $9.3 billion.” Additionally, a November 18 report by the Center for American Progress estimated that “ending DACA would wipe away at least $433.4 billion from the U.S. gross domestic product” over the next 10 years.

    Cable news networks’ failure to connect the dots on how anti-immigration policies would negatively affect the economy is a disservice to voters whose decisions at the polls were guided by a desire for a strong economy.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts from Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC using the search terms "allcap(DACA) or dreamer or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" for programs airing between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. from August 31 through December 15. We reviewed the transcripts for segments discussing the economic impact of DACA. This included reports from correspondents and guest panels and excluded brief mentions of DACA that did not generate meaningful discussion between hosts or guests.

  • What Spanish-Language Media Can Teach CNN About Immigration Coverage

    Cut Out The Punditry, Bring In The Experts

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    CNN’s immigration coverage could really use an upgrade if it is serious about informing audiences, especially those whose futures depend on the immigration policies President-elect Donald Trump’s administration ends up implementing. CNN could learn from Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo, whose segments on Trump’s immigration policies have featured experts on the issue and immigrants who are intimately knowledgeable about the topic, as opposed to panels featuring political pundits.

    One of the issues that came out of Trump’s softball interview with CBS’s 60 minutes, was media speculation of a “softer” tone on immigration, since on CBS Trump seemed to diverge from his campaign promise of deporting all undocumented immigrants. To report on this apparent “softening” and its implications, the November 14 editions of Telemundo’s and Univision’s news shows featured immigration experts, like Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) executive director Angélica Salas and immigration attorney Ezequiel Hernández, as well as Lucia A Quiej, an undocumented immigrant who explained her fears regarding Trump’s uncertain plans. Univision also responsibly underlined that all discussions at the moment are only preliminary and that more will certainly be known after Trump’s inauguration takes place in January.

    With the exception of an immigration attorney who wasn’t identified but appeared briefly on Early Start to talk to Brynn Gingras about anti-Trump protests, CNN’s coverage of the same topic on November 14 featured pundits and the network’s own political commentators, such as CNN’s Eugene Scott, Dana Bash, Errol Louis, Michael Smerconish, Maria Cardona, and Jeffrey Toobin. Other guests talking about the topic included The Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy, Boston Globe’s Matt Viser, Trump supporter André Bauer, and The New York Times’ Alex Burns, none of whom provided a specialized opinion.

    Trump ran a campaign based on extreme anti-immigrant promises. For a significant segment of this country’s population, information about this issue goes beyond political entertainment; it is a tool they need to plan out their futures. They’re waiting for information and listening to every news report on the issue that might determine their destinies. They’re better served by news networks giving their platform to experts who can add some value and produce informed discussions as opposed to well-meaning opinions.

    Images by Sarah Wasko.

  • What You Hear About Trump's Immigration Plan Depends On The Language You Speak

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Latinos whose lives will be affected by what President-elect Donald Trump’s administration decides to do on the issue of immigration are getting two different messages depending on the language they speak and the news they watch. Conservatives addressing the issue are giving conflicting messages to different audiences, adding to the crippling uncertainty many immigrants are already experiencing. In the span of 12 hours, Telemundo’s Spanish-speaking viewers received a different narrative regarding Trump’s immigration plans than Fox News’ audience did.

    On November 15, Trump’s transition team member Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is one of the major architects of Donald Trump’s extreme immigration proposals and has been described as an anti-immigrant zealot, appeared on Fox News’ Fox & Friends and declared regarding the future of undocumented immigrants that, “No person living here illegally gets a free pass.” This means any undocumented immigrant is vulnerable to deportation and contradicts reporting that Trump’s tone on immigration might be getting softer.

    Just hours earlier, RNC Hispanic Media Communications Director Helen Aguirre Ferré reassured Telemundo’s Spanish-speaking audience that, “if you are undocumented, and you haven’t committed a penal crime, you have nothing to worry about” with regards to being deported. From the November 14 edition of Telemundo’s Noticiero Telemundo:

    It is likely that Fox’s audience received the more accurate depiction of Trump’s immigration plan given Kobach’s prominent role in crafting Trump’s hardline immigration proposals and Aguirre Ferré’s record of attempting to sanitize the Trump campaign to Hispanic audiences. This media manipulation allows Trump to curry favor among the right-wing audience on Fox News while spreading a different message to the immigrant population who relies on Spanish-language media and whose uncertain future depends on Trump’s immigration policy.

  • The White House Press Briefing Room Might Become A Hostile Place For Hispanic Journalists

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    President-elect Donald Trump is considering Laura Ingraham, a Fox News contributor and conservative radio talk show host, as a possible choice for White House press secretary. If he picks her, it would be Ingraham’s job to brief the White House press corps on behalf of the Trump administration, and the attacks she’s launched against Hispanic journalists and Spanish-language media would make the White House briefing room a very hostile place for Hispanic journalists.

    On November 13, The Hill reported that Ingraham was “under serious consideration” to be the press secretary of Trump’s White House, an indication that the contempt Trump showed for the press during his campaign will percolate into his administration, since Ingraham has her own history of railing against journalists whose reporting she doesn’t agree with.

    During her crusade against “biased,” “post-American” journalism, Ingraham has singled out Hispanic media specifically, taking offense that Telemundo and Univision are “Hispanic-centric” networks which “revile the American experience” and have a “toxic” impact. The networks are extremely valuable for many Spanish-speakers who rely on them to better “navigate America,” but Ingraham has accused them of “teaching illegals how to avoid deportation” and of preventing people from learning English.

    Ingraham has also taken issue with Hispanic journalists merely for speaking Spanish, once criticizing Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart for translating for a Spanish-speaking guest and mocking his accent by saying it was “so herky-jerky.” Ingraham has been critical of multilingualism in the United States, extending her mockery on Twitter to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) for his command of Spanish and criticizing retail workers who speak English with an accent, saying, “You can’t understand them. Sometimes you think you’re in a foreign country.” Any member of the press corp who sounds similar could be subjected to the same level of mockery and disdain from a press secretary Ingraham.

    Covering the Trump campaign was especially challenging for Hispanic media, since the president-elect showed particular animosity toward the main Spanish-language networks and consistently ignored requests from Spanish-language print outlets seeking access -- an approach in line with his “English-only” strategy of seeking electoral victory by courting primarily white voters. Picking Ingraham as press secretary would demonstrate that Trump has little interest in diverging from this campaign strategy while governing.

  • Spanish-Language News Shows Ignore Latina Equal Pay Day

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    News shows on the biggest Spanish-language networks, Univision and Telemundo, failed to mention that November 1 marked Latina Equal Pay Day -- which is the day that Latinas reach an average annual income that matches the average annual income white men earned in 2015 -- meaning it took Latinas nearly two years to earn as much as white men earned on average in 2015.

    Media Matters analyzed coverage of the November 1 editions of Telemundo’s Noticiero Telemundo and Univision’s Noticiero Univisión and Edición Nocturna and found no mentions of Latina Equal Pay Day. In contrast, National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) and more than a hundred women’s rights groups and Latino empowerment organizations observed the day by raising awareness and highlighting  research that shows the impact of this wage gap. One study, from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, found that “if trends over the last 30 years continue, Hispanic women will not see equal pay with White men until 2248, 232 years from now.” The study also found that for Latinas, median annual earnings have in fact declined in most states.

    To many Spanish-speaking Latinos, the top-rated networks Univision and Telemundo are the tools that help them “navigate America.” Research from Pew has found that close to 1.85 million viewers tune in to watch Univision’s daily news cast Noticiero Univisión, while Noticiero Telemundo’s viewership continues to increase. By failing to shine a light on how wage inequality affects Latinas, Spanish-language networks missed an opportunity to empower the community they serve.