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  • Major US newspapers ignored the role of fake news in Italy's high-stakes general election

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A far-right party and an anti-establishment party that controls a fake news network won in major upsets in Italy’s general election on March 4 and are now vying to form a majority government. But major U.S. newspapers, some of which had previously covered the threat of fake news in Italy, entirely ignored the likely role fake news played in the election’s outcome.

    Researchers in Italy noted the increasingly alarming role of fake news after Italy’s 2013 election. But the country began paying closer attention to the problem after BuzzFeed and Italian newspaper La Stampa exposed anti-establishment party 5-Star Movement’s foundational role in a network of blogs and social media accounts spreading fake news, conspiracy theories, and Russian propaganda. In November 2017, a year after its original report, BuzzFeed reported on another network spreading hyperpartisan misinformation on Facebook, this one run by “an entrepreneur in Rome with links to a secretive Italian Catholic association.” That same month, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi asked social media companies, particularly Facebook, to “help us have a clean electoral campaign. The quality of the democracy in Italy today depends on a response to these issues.” In January 2018, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations summarized the threat of fake news and Russian-backed misinformation in Italy (page 137 of the report) and called on the U.S. government to cooperate with Italy on addressing the issue.

    Despite warnings from the U.S. and Italian governments, investigative reporting from media outlets and, in the case of The New York Times and The Washington Post, major newspapers’ own reporting on the role of fake news in Italian elections, these papers failed to acknowledge the possible links between far-right misinformation campaigns and the March 4 election outcome that was aligned with their message.

    According to a Media Matters analysis of coverage on Italy’s election day and the following two days, major U.S. newspapers including the Post, the Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today engaged in zero significant discussions of the threat of fake news in the Italian election. Two passing mentions of “conspiracy theories” in the Times' op-ed section were the closest the outlet came to discussing the role of fake news.

    The failure of these major outlets to connect widely reported, far-right, election-oriented fake news to far-right electoral outcomes raises serious concerns over their ability to inform readers about the threat of fake news for democracies around the world.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters used Nexis to search for mentions of “Italy” and “election” in the print editions of The Washington Post, USA Today, and The New York Times on March 4 through March 6, 2018. We used Factiva for The Wall Street Journal. We searched the resulting 26 articles for mentions of “news,” “media,” “fake,” “misinformation,” “conspiracy,” and “Russia.”

  • Scott Pruitt appeared on Fox more than twice as often as other major TV networks combined in his first year at EPA

    Fox News, meanwhile, largely ignored controversies about Pruitt’s extravagant travel

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In his first year as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt appeared on Fox News more than twice as often as he did on the other major cable and broadcast networks combined. During the same period, Fox News devoted significantly less coverage to controversies about Pruitt’s costly travel than the other major cable news outlets, CNN and MSNBC.

    Pruitt’s preference for appearing on Fox News is part of a wider trend that extends across the Trump administration, with Fox News serving as the go-to network for administration officials. Fox News’ habit of ignoring unflattering news about Pruitt is also in line with the network’s tendency to ignore negative stories about President Donald Trump and his administration.

    In first year as EPA head, Pruitt appeared on Fox News more than twice as often as on the other major networks combined

    Scott Pruitt appeared on Fox News 16 times in his first year at EPA. A previous Media Matters study examining Pruitt’s first six months after taking office on February 17, 2017, found that he appeared on Fox News twice as often as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined. He continued that trend in his second six months in office, making four more appearances on Fox and only one additional appearance on a non-Fox outlet, CBS. In total, during his first year, he appeared 16 times on Fox and only seven times on the other networks combined.

    Pruitt rarely faced tough questioning during his appearances on Fox, with the exception of two interviews by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. During most of Pruitt's Fox appearances, he advocated for and defended the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, though he also went on the network to defend his rollbacks of other Obama-era environmental protections.

    The Fox program he appeared on most often was Fox & Friends, a show that wields agenda-setting influence with the president. Here are all of Pruitt's Fox News appearances from his first year at the EPA:

    *The segment on Your World with Neil Cavuto on October 17 used footage from an interview Pruitt did earlier on the same day on the Fox Business Network program Cavuto: Coast to Coast.

    Pruitt made just seven appearances on the other major cable and broadcast TV networks combined. In his first year leading the EPA, Pruitt made only seven appearances total on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC. In the majority of these, he defended U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, as he did during his Fox appearances. In other cases, he broadly discussed his agenda and priorities and defended rollbacks of environmental regulations.

    Here are Pruitt’s appearances on the major broadcast TV networks, CNN, and MSNBC during his first year:  

    • Two on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos on March 26 and June 4.
    • One on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on February 28.
    • One on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper on June 1.
    • One on NBC’s Meet the Press on June 4.
    • One on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on June 6.
    • One on CBS Evening News on January 17.

    Fox News devoted significantly less coverage to Pruitt’s controversial use of taxpayer money than CNN and MSNBC

    On September 27, The Washington Post published an article about Pruitt taking “at least four noncommercial and military flights since mid-February, costing taxpayers more than $58,000.”

    The story received extensive mainstream media coverage, including on other cable news networks. During the week after the story broke, from September 27 to October 3, CNN and MSNBC aired 32 and 31 segments on the controversy, respectively, often mentioning other cabinet members' high travel expenses as well. But Fox News aired just seven segments about Pruitt’s costly charter and military flights. In one Fox segment, on the September 29 episode of Your World with Neil Cavuto, correspondent John Roberts stated, “Scott Pruitt took four, maybe five charter flights. Those were all approved by the EPA Office of Ethics, and he has come up with a full explanation for those. … It's my belief that the other departments, Interior, Treasury, EPA, whatever, are allowed to do those private flights, as long as they have pre-approval for that.”

    On February 11, 2018, The Washington Post again detailed Pruitt’s exorbitant spending in an article headlined “First-class travel distinguishes Scott Pruitt’s EPA tenure.” The Post reported that Pruitt racked up $90,000 in taxpayer-funded travel costs during one stretch in early June, and that figure did not include the additional travel costs for Pruitt’s round-the-clock security detail. CBS News reported two days later that Pruitt broke with a government policy that officials fly on U.S. airlines by traveling on the luxury Emirates airline on a return trip from Milan, Italy. The story gained further traction after the EPA changed its tune about whether Pruitt had a blanket waiver to travel first class and clarified what security threats justified Pruitt’s use of first-class travel.

    Yet in the week following the Post’s article, from February 11 to February 17, Fox News did not mention the renewed controversy over Pruitt's travel costs even once.* CNN and MSNBC, by contrast, aired four and eight segments on his travel, respectively.

    *Fox News did air two segments on the latest Pruitt travel controversy on the February 19 episode of Shepard Smith Reporting and the February 28 episode of Special Report with Bret Baier, but these segments were aired more than a week after the Post story and fell outside the one-year time frame of our study.  

    On business news networks, Pruitt appeared on Fox Business four times as often as on CNBC

    Pruitt’s preference for Fox extended to the Fox Business Network. On the cable business news channels, Pruitt again demonstrated a predilection for Fox, making eight appearances on Fox Business, while appearing only twice on competitor CNBC. Fox Business Network has exhibited strong pro-Trump leanings, as outlets including USA Today and Business Insider have reported.

    Here are Pruitt's appearances on Fox Business shows:

    Fox Business defended Pruitt by attacking a CNN report. After Pruitt gave numerous interviews to Fox Business, the network did Pruitt a favor. In October, it aggressively and baselessly attacked a CNN investigation into moves Pruitt made to help a proposed mine in Alaska right after meeting with the CEO of the mining company pushing the project. The network aired four segments in two days that criticized CNN's story and defended the mine. On all four segments, the hosts and interviewees did not dispute any of the specific facts reported by CNN, but they used highly charged language to try to discredit the story, calling CNN's investigation a "smear," a "hit piece," and "dishonest reporting." (In January, Pruitt reversed his decision and reinstated restrictions on the mine project. Fox News did not report on this reversal.)

    Pruitt gave numerous interviews to right-wing radio programs and a variety of print outlets

    Pruitt frequently appeared on radio shows hosted by climate change deniers like Brian Kilmeade and Michael Savage. Media Matters' previous study on Pruitt's first six months in office found that he made half a dozen appearances on popular right-wing talk radio programs hosted by people who deny climate science. He continued that pattern in his second six months, making appearances on programs including The Rush Limbaugh Show (where he was interviewed by guest host and climate denier Mark Steyn), The Hugh Hewitt Show, The Savage Nation, The Brian Kilmeade Show, The David Webb Show, and Breitbart News Daily.

    Pruitt's print and online interviews included some mainstream outlets. While Pruitt leaned heavily on right-wing outlets when doing TV and radio, he granted interviews to a wider variety of newspapers, magazines, wire services, and online publications. Some of those interviews were with conservative outlets, including National Review, The Daily Caller, and The Daily Signal. Some were with the business press, like The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. And some were with prominent mainstream outlets, including The Washington Post, TIME, USA Today, Reuters, and The New York Times podcast The Daily.  

    Still, overall, Pruitt heavily favors conservative media when trying to push out his talking points. As Mother Jones recently reported in an in-depth profile of Pruitt, the EPA under his direction "has mostly focused on spreading its message through the right-wing media, talking frequently to Fox News and conservative radio hosts while dismissing less favorable coverage as fake."

    Pruitt's preference for right-wing media is continuing into his second year at the EPA. In the 16 days since his one-year anniversary, he has given interviews to the Christian Broadcasting Network, The Daily Signal, and Fox News.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the following terms in Nexis and iQ Media to find Scott Pruitt's on-air TV appearances from the date of his swearing in as EPA administrator on February 17, 2017, to February 17, 2018: “Pruitt,” “Pruett,” "EPA administrator," "E.P.A. administrator," "EPA chief," "E.P.A. chief," "EPA head," "E.P.A. head," "head of the EPA," "head of the E.P.A.," "head of the Environmental Protection Agency," "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator," or "Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency." We did not count instances of networks airing Pruitt’s appearance at the White House’s June 2 press briefing.

    We also used the same terms to search cable news networks’ coverage of Pruitt’s travel controversies from September 27 to October 3 and from February 11, 2018, to February 17, 2018. We did not count instances of networks airing White House briefings that discussed these controversies.

  • Right-wing media use Parkland school shooting to rail against abortion

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update: This piece has been updated to include additional examples.

    On February 14, after a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, left 17 dead, right-wing and anti-abortion media made outlandish comparisons between gun regulation and abortion restrictions, as well as comparing the National Rifle Association (NRA) to Planned Parenthood.

    • Peggy Noonan, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, compared the debate around gun violence prevention policies following the Parkland shooting to calls from the anti-abortion movement to restrict access to abortions after 20 weeks. Noonan claimed, “On gun law, Republicans oppose banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, the one the Parkland shooter used, because of the numbers, power and contributions of gun owners and the NRA. Democrats oppose banning late-term abortion because of the numbers, power and contributions of the rising left, feminists and Planned Parenthood.” Noonan argued that lawmakers should “trade banning assault weapons for banning late-term abortion. Make illegal a killing machine and a killing procedure. In both cases the lives of children would be saved.”
    • After Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said that gun regulation is needed because Americans cannot stand by while “our babies are being slaughtered,” The Western Journal -- which is known to peddle fake news -- highlighted conservatives on Twitter who “were quick to point out the glaring hypocrisy in her statements, suggesting that one cannot decry the deaths of babies while being such a strong advocate for the practice of abortion,” including actor James Woods’ tweet:

    • The Daily Caller’s Benny Johnson similarly attacked Harris with an article titled “Pro-Abortion Senator Horrified About ‘Slaughter of Babies.’”

    • RedState’s Josh Kimbrell wrote, “It is a contradiction in political philosophy to promote Planned Parenthood while accusing gun rights advocates of being against life.” Kimbrell claimed that while Planned Parenthood “is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every single year,” the NRA “does not advocate gun violence or promote a culture of death.” Instead, Kimbrell argued, the NRA “provides excellent gun safety training resources to all ages.”
    • During a February 22 appearance on Fox News @ Night, Townhall's Guy Benson talked about the supposed media bias of outlets reporting on the NRA’s political donations but not covering donations from Planned Parenthood’s political arm. He was referring to a Senate vote against a ban on abortions at 20 weeks:

    GUY BENSON: CNN, one of our rival networks, tweeted out a list of the Republicans who had voted no, with a list of their ratings from the NRA, and people were highlighting how much money they had taken from the NRA. And that type of coverage simply did not exist with the Democrats and Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby when they voted for a life-and-death issue against the strong wishes of the American people. And, to me, that dichotomy is striking and unavoidable.

    • On the February 21 edition of One America News Network’s Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, host Liz Wheeler also compared donations from the NRA and Planned Parenthood. Wheeler said that not only was it a “hideous lie” that the “NRA buys off politicians in an effort to push a pro-gun agenda that costs the lives of millions of children,” but also that it was “ironic because liberals have no problem with another organization that also donates to politicians and actually does kill millions of children -- Planned Parenthood.”
    • Writing for Townhall, conservative blogger Erick Erickson also compared Planned Parenthood to the NRA, saying that “elite opinion makers in America champion Planned Parenthood, which actually does kill thousands of children each year, while savaging the National Rifle Association, which has never killed a child and whose members have actually saved others' lives.”
    • Christian Schneider, an opinion columnist at USA Today, wrote that the “double standard” of media coverage could be summed up as: “When Democrats work on behalf of a special interest that aborts millions of children, they are doing so from a place of conscience and ideological purity. When Republicans argue in favor of Second Amendment rights, it is because they have been bought off by a disfavored lobbying group looking to profit from carnage.” Schneider explained that this “double standard” is a “cynical ploy that only devalues Congress in the voters’ eyes. And it is especially destructive when applied only to one party.”
    • Fox News’ Laura Ingraham used the high schools students who survived the Parkland shooting and have been calling for gun safety policies to make a comparison to media coverage of the anti-abortion March for Life. On the February 20 edition of her Fox News show, The Ingraham Angle, Ingraham said that “the media has a little double standard problem here” because of what she deemed under-coverage of the March for Life. She claimed that “18- to 34-year-olds were the second most likely age group to oppose” abortions after 20 weeks -- a statistic the media should think more critically about before reporting -- and said the media should “give those kids some mention as well and maybe a little empathy, or at least a little fair coverage. That would be nice. The kids count? Well, that means all of their views.”
    • Tucker Carlson made a similar comparison to the March for Life on the February 21 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. Carlson said that “thousands of other children come to Washington for the March [for] Life,” and that “like the kids from Parkland, they’re against killing.” Carlson also questioned the media response to the March for Life in comparison to coverage of the Parkland shooting, asking, “Do the media hold these kids up as the last word on the subject? Do they attack anyone who questions them? Please. A lot of news outlets don't even bother to cover that march at all.”

    Other outlets promoted similar talking points comparing abortion restrictions and gun regulation

    • On the February 20 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Time magazine’s Michael Duffy and MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell praised Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column in which she called for a “trade” between banning assault weapons and restricting abortion after 20 weeks:

    MICHAEL DUFFY: Science is chasing politics in both those cases. And Peggy Noonan wrote a really interesting column on Saturday, I think, where she said --

    ANDREA MITCHELL: It’s a wonderful column.

    DUFFY: -- where she said -- she had a proposal at the end that was shocking at first when you read it that basically said the right should give on late-term abortion -- I'm sorry, the left --

    MITCHELL: The left, exactly.

    DUFFY: -- should give on late-term abortion and the right should give on some of these gun restrictions, particularly with respect to assault weapons. And that that’s a vote, she said, for life in general. And she cited young people as a changed political factor.

    MITCHELL: I'm glad you mentioned that, Mike. Because she is ahead of the curve in all of these cultural issues, I think, Peggy has a unique sensibility. And --

    DUFFY: It was an interesting trade up.

    • In a column for the Chicago Tribune, John Kass made an argument similar to Noonan’s. He argued that Republicans can call for “gun-violence restraining orders” and Democrats can agree to support a ban on abortion after 20-weeks as both "common sense" compromises.

    The comparison also spread to social media and message boards

    • On Reddit, the “r/The_Donald” forum featured several threads touting right-wing media’s comparisons between Planned Parenthood and NRA or abortion with guns. The titles of these threads included “If You Want To Take My Guns, I Want To Take Your Abortions That Kill 300,000 Children A Year” and “2017 killing statistics. Planned Parenthood: 328,348. NRA members: 0." Some of these threads drew significant engagement from users:

    UPDATE: Right-wing media continued using the Parkland shooting to attack Planned Parenthood and abortion rights

    • Radio host Michael Graham wrote for The Federalist that politicians who claim to be personally opposed to abortion, but vote for pro-choice policies are “too timid to vote” for abortion restrictions “because Planned Parenthood is the NRA of the Democratic Party. Only worse.” Planned Parenthood is worse, Graham said, because although some Republicans support gun regulation, no Democrat supports abortion restrictions “because Planned Parenthood and its allies wouldn’t let it happen.” Graham further argued that “Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby are proof that you don’t need a gun to be a bully.”
    • National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis compared outrage over politicians taking donations from the NRA to what she perceived as a media silence about politicians taking donations from Planned Parenthood, noting that “mainstream outlets” never “point to the campaign contributions that Democratic politicians accept from Planned Parenthood and its close cousin NARAL.” DeSanctis stated, “If the Left and its friends in the media truly cared about the influence of ‘dark money,’ they would bother to report this information about Planned Parenthood.”
    • On the March 1 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson asked Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), “What would drive a 19-year-old to want to murder strangers?” In response, Duffy partly blamed abortion, saying, “We dehumanize life in those video games, in those movies, and with abortion.”
    • Duffy returned to Fox News during the March 2 edition of The Ingraham Angle, where Duffy and host Laura Ingraham repeatedly claimed that calling out Planned Parenthood instead of the NRA made more sense to them. Ingraham stated, “If we're going to judge people based on an organization’s blood spilled, well, I hope Planned Parenthood is going to lose all of its partnerships or affiliations, given the fact that we have about 57 million babies who never got to see the light of day.” Duffy agreed, saying, “If you want to save kids' lives, I would look to the Democrat (sic) Party and Planned Parenthood and the left-wing media. And Planned Parenthood killed 300 of the most defenseless, voiceless, little babies last year alone.” After Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) wondered how the conversation moved to abortion and attempted to bring it back to gun regulation, Ingraham stated, “I thought it was pretty clear, but I'll explain it again if you’re confused. We're talking about the blood of children, innocent children who were gunned down in that school, and we're talking about the blood of the most innocent who are defenseless in the womb.”
    • On March 2, NRA TV contributor Dan Bongino claimed on Tucker Carlson Tonight that it is “so beyond stupid” to debate with liberals on gun regulations because, he said, liberals don’t support putting “any abortion laws on the books” as “they’ll all be ignored” anyway, but believe “gun laws, those will really work.” Host Tucker Carlson agreed with Bongino’s argument, saying that for liberals, “abortion, which is not mentioned in the Constitution is the beating heart of our constitutional rights.”
    • Fox contributor David Bossie argued on the March 2 edition of Fox News’ The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino that “it's interesting that people want to protect Planned Parenthood by killing babies on one hand and, on the other hand, they want to take guns away.”
    • During the March 4 edition of Fox and Friends Weekend, conservative radio host Kathy Barnette said, “Tragically Nikolas Cruz killed 17 little souls on that day, but Planned Parenthood kills over 800 babies on a daily basis, and where is the moral outrage on that?” Host Rachel Campos-Duffy replied, “Absolutely.”
  • Trump's "shithole" comments are racist. Everyone needs to just say that.

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump did something racist again. At what point will some media outlets just say that? 

    On January 11, The Washington Post first reported that in a meeting with lawmakers about immigration, when discussing "protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal," Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump reportedly added that he’d rather have more immigrants from countries like Norway.

    That is a racist statement, and Trump said that because he is racist.

    It’s far from the first overtly racist comment Trump has made in his life or even in his presidency.

    In fact, an undeniable shadow of racial animus hangs over Trump's every action, whether it’s playing footsie with white nationalists or denying black people housing access, picking public fights with black athletes and pundits and public figures or questioning President Barack Obama’s place of birth, calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists or calling for the death penalty for a group of innocent black and Latino teenagers.

    News outlets may hesitate to ascribe racist motivations to an individual, even if so many of their readers can see it clearly. That’s a bit understandable -- but describing concrete, individual actions and statements doesn’t require the same sort of divination.

    Yet some print outlets seem, still, to only feel comfortable calling Trump’s actions racist in the opinion section, or including words or sentiments from third parties that are more comfortable calling racist things racist (like many of their colleagues on mainstream cable news, finally) .

    At this point, major national papers are left to perform bizarre word acrobatics to avoid just saying it themselves. The reporting on Trump’s “shithole” remarks is the latest example.

    • In its report about the "shithole" remark itself, the Post wrote that Trump used “racially incendiary language” and described him as having a “long-standing tendency to make racially charged remarks.”
    • The New York Times wrote that Trump used “disparaging words” and “vulgar language” about the countries in “the latest example of his penchant for racially tinged remarks denigrating immigrants.”
    • USA Today said Trump used “a crude description” because he “reportedly grew frustrated.”
    • The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump made “vulgar comments” during a “back-and-forth” on immigration.

    What more horrifying things does Trump need to do or say that would actually be labeled racist in a report? Judging from what’s been sugar-coated so far, I hope we never know the answer.

  • Stop blaming "the media" for Roy Moore

    Right-wing pundits sidestep their own movement’s toxic pathologies to blame the press for Moore’s potential win

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A recurring feature of conservative punditry in the age of Trump is the idea that Republican voters generally -- and the conservative movement specifically -- cannot be held to account for their excesses, moral failings, and political disasters. Each time Republicans and their voters act in ways that right-wing pundits acknowledge are deleterious to civic health and deeply immoral, there’s a mad rush to recast those behaviors as the fault of liberal failures. We’re seeing this dynamic play out as Alabama voters seem poised to elect Republican Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate and right-wing pundits attempt to deflect blame for this potential outcome onto “the media.”

    Former George W. Bush speechwriter William McGurn wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal arguing that if Moore does win despite reports of child molestation and sexual assault, a large chunk of the blame will belong to “the liberals who are enabling him,” a group that includes “the national press corps.” Matt Latimer, another former Bush speechwriter, wrote a Politico op-ed arguing that “the real reason” Moore remains politically viable is “that the media has totally lost its connection with a large portion of the nation, almost all of them conservatives.” Over at The Federalist, Bethany Mandel argues that “it’s media’s fault” that a large majority of Alabama Republican voters don’t believe the Washington Post’s stories on Moore’s reported misconduct.

    This argument isn’t especially surprising given that one of the pillars of modern conservatism is reflexive animosity toward “the liberal media.” The popularity of outlets like Fox News and Breitbart.com stems directly from a concerted, decades-long effort across the entire conservative movement to render “mainstream” sources of news suspicious and inherently untrustworthy. But claiming that “the media” are to blame for Republicans backing Moore is a deflection that accomplishes little beyond confirming the biases of the writers while backhandedly affirming Moore’s claims that he’s under persecution by the press.  

    Writers like McGurn, Latimer, and Mandel are in a difficult spot because while they clearly believe the Post’s reporting and think it stands up (none make any attempt to rebut it or suggest that the case against Moore isn’t a solid one) their party’s voters are flatly disregarding those reports and are poised to elect Moore to the Senate (71 percent of likely Republicans voters in Alabama say the claims about him are false). They try to square that uncomfortable circle by cherry-picking other unrelated media failures -- like ABC News reporter Brian Ross’ botched story on former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s plea deal with federal prosecutors -- to exculpate conservative voters who refuse to believe the Post.

    “In their quest to tarnish the reputation of President Trump and try to remove him from office, the media has become particularly adept at getting more than a few things wrong,” Mandel writes. “They [Alabama Republican voters] may well be wrong about Mr. Moore and his accusers,” McGurn observes, “but is their skepticism really that difficult to understand?”

    Well, no, actually, but not for the reasons Mandel and McGurn offer. They’re attacking the media for not being credible enough to people who’ve been told for decades on end that the media aren’t credible. So it’s not surprising that Alabama voters distrust the media. But the fact that they refuse to see the truth that’s staring them in the face is less an indictment of the media than the toxicity of a conservative political culture that teaches voters to disbelieve all news they don’t want to hear and seek information only from outlets that reaffirm their existing viewpoints.

    Conservative media outlets Republican voters prefer over the “mainstream media” have embarked on a dishonest campaign of distraction and obfuscation to discredit the Post’s reporting and bolster Moore. Breitbart.com sent reporters down to Birmingham to (unsuccessfully) undermine the Post, but their failed efforts still resulted in splash-page “EXCLUSIVE” articles suggesting that Roy Moore had been the victim of a smear. Some Fox News figures lined up behind Moore and against the Post as they dutifully parroted the Moore campaign’s absurd attempts at discrediting the candidate’s accusers. Just hours after the Post's first Moore article was published, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett told Hannity viewers, "I am suspicious of this because of the source, The Washington Post, which has a dog in this fight having endorsed his opponent."

    This isn’t merely a question of conservative voters thinking “the media” in general are untrustworthy -- they’re being specifically told by right-wing media that the Post’s story is false and that Moore is being unjustly attacked. So even in a situation where a media outlet meets the standard of accuracy and trustworthiness conservative pundits claim has been irretrievably lost, it still comes under assault from the right-wing press in a flagrantly dishonest attempt to discredit it.

    That feels like a significant part of the explanation for why Alabama Republicans are gearing up to make Roy Moore their next senator, and why they’re apparently more comfortable electing a reported sex criminal than a Democrat. But conservative pundits glide right past it so they can disingenuously argue, as McGurn does, that Moore’s election “may be as much the fault of those who opposed him as those who supported him.”

  • With Bannon gone, the far-right media trolls are ready to break up with the White House

    The anti-establishment trolls have lost their biggest White House ally and are starting to go after Pence. Prepare for the right-wing media food fight.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Stephen Bannon is no longer the White House chief strategist. His departure, in addition to furthering the narrative of a Trump administration in constant chaos, is likely to become a source of acrimony between right-wing anti-establishment outlets and online trolls and those who remain in the Trump administration.

    Bannon’s departure has prompted a shift in amongst pro-Trump outlets and far-right trolls -- like The Gateway Pundit and Mike Cernovich -- who are now reporting that the White House is being taken over by a “deep state” coup led by Vice President Mike Pence. Cernovich is a right-wing opportunistic troll who rode to prominence by supporting President Donald Trump but has recently announced “a big pivot” away from the president. In response to the news about Bannon getting fired, Cernovich took to Periscope to claim that “there’s a full-on coup” organized by Pence but that Trump doesn’t deserve any sympathy because he’s “a 71-year old man” who chose to listen to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner instead of Bannon. Pro-Trump troll Jack Posobiec (who has also recently tried to move away from the “alt-right” movement) pushed the coup narrative as well, suggesting that the “RNC is counting impeachment votes from Congress against Trump,” adding, “They want rid of him.” Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing troll who was formerly employed by Breitbart.com, celebrated Bannon’s departure by launching Bannon 2020 merchandise on his online store and saying he looks forward to “having Steve back in the trenches again.” Yiannopoulos also said he wants to see “Bannon the Barbarian crush his enemies.”

    Bannon’s departure has other possible impacts for the far-right media universe. According to reports, Bannon might be returning to Breitbart, the Mercer-funded outlet he once claimed was “platform for the ‘alt-right,’” a term its current editors (much like former proud supporters of the movement) are trying to move away from. With Bannon in the White House, Breitbart behaved like any other pro-Trump outlet, showing little editorial independence and supporting Trump’s agenda (including his war on the press). But this support lasted as long as Trump’s agenda aligned with Bannon’s: Breitbart did not shy away from attacking Kushner, who is a White House senior adviser, to defend Bannon. With Bannon out, it seems like Breitbart will hold no punches in a war against a White House it now perceives as controlled by globalists.

    The right-wing media landscape is about to shift once more, putting the Bannon-loyalists, nationalist ideologues, and opportunistic trolls in a war against an establishment Republican Party faction they think is being led by Pence and, likely, Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News and owner of the Wall Street Journal. It remains to be seen whether Trump and his White House will be caught in the middle.

  • 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.

  • Fox & Friends ignores WSJ report suggesting possible Russia collusion

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s favorite morning news show, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, completely ignored a Wall Street Journal report about a Republican Party operative who sought former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers and who may have been working with then-Trump senior adviser Michael Flynn.

    On June 29, the Journal (which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News) reported that before the 2016 presidential election, GOP operative Peter Smith “mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers.” Smith “implied that he was working” with Flynn during his “conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him,” according to the report. The FBI has previously said that it could not find definitive proof that Clinton’s server had been hacked.

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for “wall,” “street,” and “Flynn” on morning shows of Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN that aired on June 30 and found that Fox & Friends did not mention the story even once. By contrast, CNN’s New Day covered the story in multiple segments, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosted the Journal reporter who broke the story to discuss it.

    Fox & Friends has repeatedly dismissed the investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and tried to delegitimize the FBI Russia probe, claiming there's "no evidence" of collusion. Their failure to report the story is yet another effort by the hosts to cover for Trump, who regularly watches and praises the show and has drawn upon it as a source for numerous policy and other ideas.

  • Newspapers buried reports on health care, while TV news missed the Senate’s back room dealmaking

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Television news largely missed reporting on Republican Senate leaders’ secretive drafting of its version of American Health Care Act (AHCA) that could radically alter health care for millions of Americans. New research from Media Matters has found that the five major newspapers almost completely ignored the GOP Senate leadership’s back room dealmaking on their front pages -- having a combined total of only two front page stories during a two-week period.

    On June 16, Vox asked eight Republican senators to explain their party’s prospective bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But the senators couldn’t “answer simple and critical questions” on their own bill. Vox Senior Editor Sarah Kliff pointed out on June 15 that “the Senate is running a remarkably closed process” to hide the bill; it has not released a draft to the public, has held no committee hearings, and has had no speeches “defending the policy provisions of the bill” on the Senate floor. The New York Times reported, also on June 15, that the “remarkable” secrecy around the bill has raised alarm with senators in both parties:

    “They’re ashamed of the bill,” the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said. “If they liked the bill, they’d have brass bands marching down the middle of small-town America saying what a great bill it is. But they know it isn’t.”

    [...]

    Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, offered a hint of the same frustration felt by Democrats seeking more information about the bill.

    “I come from a manufacturing background,” Mr. Johnson said. “I’ve solved a lot of problems. It starts with information. Seems like around here, the last step is getting information, which doesn’t seem to be necessarily the most effective process.”

    The day Vox and the Times reported on the GOP senators’ unprecedented secrecy surrounding the bill, Media Matters released a report documenting the insufficient amount of weekday coverage on broadcast and cable news dedicated to the Senate health care bill from June 1 to June 14. Media Matters reported that the big three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) dedicated a fraction of their airtime -- roughly three minutes across all three networks -- to the Senate deliberations out of 15 total hours of scheduled weekday programming. The performance of cable news channels was not much better, as MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News provided just under two combined hours of coverage to the Senate bill out of 150 hours of scheduled weekday programming.

    Television news’ lack of coverage would help the Republican Party move the legislative process forward on this bill without a public debate that would highlight the real human cost of such legislation. Media Matters research also found that in addition to television channels falling flat, print media did not fair much better either on covering the the Senate health care bill.

    An analysis of five major newspapers -- Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post -- showed that though newspapers did provide more in-depth coverage than television news, those papers almost completely ignored the issue on the front page. In fact, Media Matters did not identify a single front page story on the Republican Senate’s health care bill in the Times, USA Today, or the LA Times from June 1-14 and only identified one front page story each in the Post and the Journal. On June 19, ThinkProgess reported on this lack of front page coverage (which had continued beyond June 14) and noted that it was also a problem with local papers in areas that supported President Donald Trump -- areas which ThinkProgress noted would be “hit hardest by Trumpcare.”

    In total, Media Matters identified 29 print edition news articles in these five major national newspapers that discussed the Senate health care bill from June 1 through June 14. Of these five outlets, the Post and the Times provided the most total coverage -- the Post published 11 articles on eight different days, and the Times published nine articles on seven different days. The Journal was third with six pieces published on five separate days. The Los Angeles Times published just two articles on two separate days, and Media Matters only identified one article in USA Today.

    The GOP is counting on media’s silence and right-wing media myths to push a train wreck of a health care bill that would strip health care from tens of millions to slash taxes for the wealthiest Americans. Right-wing media have repeatedly assisted the GOP with claims that ACA is in a “death spiral” and have attempted to discredit the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office after its report found that up to 24 million people would lose health insurance under the AHCA. Right-wing media have even tried to pacify millions of Americans that would lose access to insurance by absurdly telling them to just go to the emergency room. As Talk Poverty’s Jeremy Slevin pointed out, “It is the responsibility of the press to draw out the contents of the Senate’s health care bill—before it is too late.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, and The Washington Post from June 1, 2017, through June 14, 2017. We identified and reviewed all non-editorial print content that included any of the following keywords: 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 within 20 words of the word Senate.

    Media Matters conducted a Factiva search of print editions of The Wall Street Journal from June 1, 2017, through June 14, 2017. 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 within 10 words of the word Senate (the maximum distance allowed by Factiva).

  • Here's how right-wing media have reacted to months of setbacks for Trump's Muslim bans

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    As President Trump's executive orders banning immigration from first seven, then six, majority-Muslim nations have moved through the U.S. court system, they've been met with a series of legal setbacks and direct action and have drawn extensive media coverage. What follows is a timeline of events surrounding the ban, with a focus on right-wing media hypocrisy, denial, and defense of the president's increasingly indefensible policy. This post will be updated.

  • Report: Fox News Chief Spied On Women Who Spoke Out About Sexual Harassment At Fox, Including Gretchen Carlson

    Bo Dietl Reportedly Admits Digging Up Dirt On Gretchen Carlson And Andrea Mackris

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal about the ongoing federal investigation into Fox News, Roger Ailes, who engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment against female Fox News employees and was forced to resign as president and CEO in July 2016, hired private investigator and former Fox contributor Bo Dietl to discredit the sexual harassment allegations made against himself and Bill O’Reilly. Dietl confirmed his involvement in an interview with the Journal.

    This revelation comes in the wake of significant ongoing turmoil at the network. Bill Shine, who was promoted to co-president of Fox News after Ailes’ departure, resigned after multiple reports named him as being complicit in burying sexual harassment complaints by helping to coordinate smear campaigns against women who came forward with reports. Shine has been replaced with Suzanne Scott, who was referenced in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the network, and has reportedly participated in Fox’s sexist culture and retaliation efforts against employees who reported sexual harassment. From The Wall Street Journal:

    Investigators are also looking at Mr. Ailes’s use of prominent private investigator Bo Dietl to probe the backgrounds of people perceived to be a threat to either Mr. Ailes or the channel, according to people familiar with the situation.

    Mr. Dietl said in an interview with the Journal that he was used by Fox News to look into the pasts of Ms. Carlson and Andrea Mackris, a former producer who sued Mr. O’Reilly for harassment in 2004 and received a $9 million settlement from Mr. O’Reilly. Mr. Dietl said he was hired to find information that could discredit the women’s claims.

    He said he had an investigator eavesdrop on Ms. Mackris’s conversations at an establishment, in an effort to show she wasn’t under duress from alleged harassment. A lawyer for Ms. Mackris didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.

  • Day After Flynn Bombshell, Trump Calls On Only Murdoch Outlets At Press Conference

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Following a bombshell report that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may have violated the Logan Act, President Donald Trump called on reporters only from outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch at a February 10 U.S.-Japan joint press conference, favoring news sources that have been major supporters and receiving no questions about the Flynn report.

    Speaking at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump took questions from the New York Post’s Daniel Halper and Fox Business’ Blake Burman, both of whom asked about an appeals court decision upholding the suspension of his Muslim ban executive order. Neither reporter asked Trump about reports that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had spoken with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. about Russian sanctions prior to Trump’s inauguration, which Trump aides had previously denied. If it’s true, Flynn could be in violation of the Logan Act, which, as The New York Times explains, “prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in disputes involving the American government.”

    Murdoch has staunchly supported Trump since he began his presidential campaign. The media mogul recently sat in on an interview Trump had with one of his British newspapers and, according to the Financial Times, Trump’s daughter Ivanka was until recently “a trustee for a large bloc of shares in 21st Century Fox and News Corp that belongs to Rupert Murdoch’s two youngest daughters.” Trump has also been helpful to Murdoch in return, asking for his input on Federal Communications Commission chairman nominees.

    Murdoch’s support of Trump has directly impacted the former’s outlets. The New York Post was one of the only papers in the country to endorse Trump during either the primary or general election campaign. And according to New York magazine, Fox News under Murdoch’s direction has been pushed to go “in a more pro-Trump direction.” Fox's pro-Trump direction can also be seen on Fox Business, where hosts have spun polls to push "Trumponomics." Reporters at another Murdoch-owned outlet, The Wall Street Journal, have expressed concerns that they have been pressured “to reflect pro-Trump viewpoints.”

    Trump’s decision to take questions from only these conservative-leaning outlets also fits into a broader administration approach of seemingly focusing on right-wing outlets in order to avoid challenging queries.