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  • Major news organizations amplified Trump’s misinformation about Mueller's report

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Twitter accounts of major national newspapers, cable, and broadcast news outlets spread -- without any context -- President Donald Trump's misinformation, outrageous characterizations of, and responses to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his Russia investigation.

    Over the course of more than six days since news broke on March 22 that Mueller had delivered his report to Attorney General William Barr, the Twitter accounts of major national print, digital, wire, cable, and broadcast news outlets sent at least 45 tweets which parroted misinformation from Trump, his administration, or his campaign. Many of these tweets included quotes from the president which contained false information about the Mueller report and/or lacked the necessary context to fully inform any news consumers who get their news only via social media posts. And then there were other tweets that didn't contain misinformation, but instead failed to provide context to Trump’s answer to reporters about the Mueller report. Examples of the most glaring failures of these major news organizations are embedded below:

    As Barr explained in a letter he wrote to Congress summarizing Mueller’s findings, the report “does not exonerate” the president on whether he obstructed justice. Nevertheless, Twitter accounts of The Hill, CNN, The Washington Post, Vox, ABC News, ABC’s World News Tonight, ABC’s This Week, ABC Politics, NBC Politics, and Politico all repeated Trump’s false claim that the Mueller report is a “complete and total exoneration” of him.

    Barr’s letter also explained that Mueller’s report left “unresolved whether the president's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.” Yet The Hill sent the same tweet three times uncritically repeating Trump’s claim that the Mueller report showed “no obstruction.”

    Many news outlets embedded a brief snippet of Trump responding affirmatively to a question about whether Mueller “acted honorably,” but failed to give basic context that Trump spent the last year savaging Mueller’s reputation by criticizing him, his actions, and his team. NBC Nightly News, NBC News, ABC’s World News Tonight, ABC News, ABC Politics, ABC’s This Week, MSNBC, NBC Politics, and NPR Politics all did this. The Hill tweeted Trump’s comment five times.

    Multiple news organizations also tweeted out Trump’s outrageous characterizations of Mueller’s investigation without any pushback. CBS News, The New York Times, and The Hill repeated Trump’s statement that the Mueller investigation was “an illegal takedown that failed.” CNN (twice), CNN's New Day, CNN Politics and MSNBC’s 11th Hour all repeated Trump’s quote that the Mueller investigation was an “attempted takeover of our government.”

    Parroting Trump’s misinformation is an ongoing problem with major news outlets; in the 24 hours after Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address, 13 major news organizations wrote 49 tweets which promoted false or misleading comments from the president. It’s not enough for news organizations to fact-check and explain Trump’s comments in their articles. In this era of unprecedented lies from the president about virtually everything, news organizations must rethink how they draft their headlines and social media posts to make sure they include factual information in them.

    It is possible to report on Trump’s misinformation and also provide context in the limited space of headlines and tweets. Here are some examples of tweets in which outlets did just that, thus providing accurate information to their audiences:

  • Right-Wing Media Criticize Lester Holt For Interrupting Trump, Even Though Trump Interrupted Clinton 51 Times

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Right-wing media figures criticized presidential debate moderator Lester Holt for interrupting Republican nominee Donald Trump more than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Yet Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times -- three times as often as Clinton interrupted Trump -- and repeatedly went over his allotted time and made numerous factually inaccurate statements.

  • Four Reasons Trump’s Parental Leave And Child Care Plan Doesn’t Add Up

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & ALEX MORASH

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has announced that he will unveil a plan for parental leave and child care affordability, which he claims he would pay for by ending unemployment insurance fraud. The plan would include six weeks of maternity leave, tax deductions for child care, and family savings accounts. Journalists reporting on the plan should know that it does not actually include paid family and paternity leave, it favors the wealthy, it does not include sufficient funding, and it contradicts his few previous statements on child care.

  • Media Highlight Trump VP Pick Mike Pence’s “Radical Obstinacy” On Abortion

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Media figures are calling out the “bizarre” and “extreme” anti-abortion record of Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN). They called Pence “the most anti-abortion presidential or VP candidate we’ve had,” and noted that he “became a conservative hero” by virtue of his “longstanding, implacable and dogged” opposition to abortion.

  • "So Fucking Irresponsible": NY Post's Cover About Shooting Of Dallas Police Roundly Condemned

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    In the wake of an attack on police officers in Dallas, TX, during a peaceful demonstration against the recent police shootings of two black men, the New York Post used the cover of its Friday edition to announce a "civil war." Media figures from across the political spectrum condemned the "utterly irresponsible" cover as "morally perverse and factually wrong."

  • Widespread Agreement That House GOP Benghazi Report Has No “Smoking Gun” Against Clinton

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Following the release of the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s report on the 2012 terror attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, -- which was the culmination of an investigation lasting “two years and [costing] more than $7 million,” -- journalists are pointing out that the report “failed to unearth anything so damning as to change many minds about the events of that tragic night, or who is to blame for them,” and that “there doesn't seem to be a smoking gun when it comes to Hillary Clinton's culpability.”

  • Media Slam Trump’s “Insane” Plan To Default On U.S. Debt

    Analysts Explain That Real Estate Gimmicks Don’t Work For The American Economy

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    During a lengthy phone interview with CNBC, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump outlined a plan to partially default on the United States’ outstanding sovereign debt obligations in hopes of eventually negotiating lower rates of repayment. The tactic is common in the types of commercial real estate dealings Trump is familiar with, but journalists and financial analysts stressed that employing such a strategy with American debt would undermine global financial stability and potentially drive the American economy into a deep recession.

  • Media Slam Paul Ryan's Refusal To Condemn Trump As A "De Facto Endorsement"

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Media outlets and figures from across the political spectrum criticized House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) for refusing to condemn Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump in his March 23 speech where he called for "elevating the national political discourse." According to media figures, Ryan's refusal to condemn Trump amounts to a "tacit acceptance" and "de facto endorsement."

  • Media, Experts, And Civil Rights Groups Condemn Ted Cruz's "Blatantly Unconstitutional" Anti-Muslim Proposal

    Cruz's Call To "Patrol And Secure Muslims Neighborhoods" Met With Widespread Criticism

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media, experts, and civil rights groups are all criticizing Ted Cruz's call to "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods" in the wake of terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium, seemingly inspired by ISIS. The plan has been called "counterproductive and unconstitutional" and "the exact opposite of what we need to do."

  • Vox Study: Female Experts Widely Ignored In The Media

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Vox's Amanda Taub highlighted new studies and Media Matters research showing that women are widely underrepresented as experts in print and TV news coverage.

    In her March 16 article, Taub highlighted research from Media Matters demonstrating the glaring lack of gender parity on prime-time cable news programs and Sunday political talk shows during segments focused on national security and foreign affairs. The research, which was presented at the New America Foundation in recognition of International Women's Day on March 8, found that just 21 percent of guests during such segments last year were women -- echoing prior Media Matters analysis of gender disparity during discussions of foreign policy, and the economy.

    Additionally, Taub points to research noting "80% of the political scientists quoted" in The New York Times' presidential primary coverage were men. Taub also noted that the underrepresentation of women in in the media, "often mirrors their underrepresentation among university faculty, think tank scholars, and business leaders":

    Recently, a group of female scholars analyzed the New York Times's coverage of the presidential primary, looking at every article from March 2015 through January 2016. They found something striking: 80 percent of the political scientists quoted in those articles were men.

    And it's not just the Times: Male experts dominate media coverage. On primetime cable and Sunday news shows, for another example, 75 percent of national security and foreign affairs commentators have been men, according to a Media Matters for America study.

    These sorts of things look bad, but they also are bad: Prioritizing male experts devalues women's work, depriving them of the recognition and public acclaim they might get if they were male. It also reinforces a general impression that men are the experts worth listening to, and women's roles, if anything, are just to assist men in their important work.

    [...]

    The core problem isn't journalists forgetting to quote more women, even though that does happen and should be corrected. Rather, like so many issues of inequality, the underrepresentation of women in media is the result of vast cultural and institutional biases that hold women back every step of the way.

    After all, it's not as if women in academia and other "expert" institutions existed in a state of pure gender equality that was undisturbed until panel organizers or journalists declined to call them. No, as these women will often tell you, they face countless forms of gender bias long before they reach the point in their professional development where they become quotable, panel-ready experts.

    The sad fact is that women's underrepresentation in the media often mirrors their underrepresentation among university faculty, think tank scholars, and business leaders. That's not to say that journalists are blameless -- we're not. But women's underrepresentation in media is just the expression of a much deeper problem.

    *This post has been updated.

  • Right-Wing Media's Sexist Obsession With Clinton's Voice Following Her Primary Victory Speech

    Media Labeled Previous Attacks On Clinton's Voice "Sexist"

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing media personalities reacted to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's Florida primary victory speech by claiming she was "shouting angrily" and "screech speech," with MSNBC's conservative morning show host Joe Scarborough telling Clinton to "smile" during her speech. Media outlets previously blasted similar attacks on Clinton in February as "sexist."

  • Media Claim GOP Debate Was "Substantive," Ignore That "The Substance Was Wrong"

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media are lauding CNN and the Republican presidential candidates for a "surprisingly substantive" March 10 debate that "focused on jobs, the economy, education, Cuba, Israel and even ... climate change." Despite this praise, fact-checkers are pointing to the candidates' "bruised realities" and "wrong" policy claims, saying the "debate was very substantive. Too bad that substance was all wrong."