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  • Wash. Post overstates the NRA’s ability to influence legislation and elections

    To explain the Virginia legislature's refusal to take up gun safety initiatives, look to racist GOP gerrymandering, not NRA power

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Washington Post undeservedly credited the National Rifle Association with blocking a package of gun safety proposals in the Virginia General Assembly to set up a contrast with the massive turmoil the gun group is currently experiencing. In doing so, the paper baselessly overstated the NRA’s power to influence the legislative process and elections in Virginia. 

    In fact, the primary reason Virginia's GOP-controlled legislature is in a position to vote down gun safety laws and other progressive proposals is racist and partisan gerrymandering implemented by the state’s Republican lawmakers. 

    On July 12, the General Assembly’s GOP leadership adjourned just 90 minutes into a special session called by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam to vote on several gun safety proposals. Northam had called the session in the wake of a May 31 mass shooting in Virginia Beach in which a man armed with a suppressed handgun and high-capacity magazines killed 12 people in a municipal building. No votes were taken on Northam’s proposals, which included implementing universal background checks, reinstating Virginia’s one-gun-a-month law, and banning silencers like the one used by the Virginia Beach shooter.

    Writing about the NRA’s activities leading up to and during the special session, The Washington Post published an article with the headline “The NRA is in turmoil. But in Virginia gun debate this week, the group flexed its muscles.” The report claimed that the session’s early adjournment “was a display of political muscle for the NRA, a brand that has appeared crippled in recent months” -- a reference to the massive turmoil and infighting occurring in the NRA -- and that “this week’s events in Richmond showed that the organization continues to wield significant influence at the grass-roots level.” The article described routine NRA outreach and lobbying activities -- including briefing lawmakers, holding events prior to the special session, emailing its supporters, and handing out T-shirts and pizza -- in crediting the NRA with blocking Virginia’s gun safety proposals.

    The article included only a single piece of plausible analysis. Contrary to the narrative adopted by the rest of the piece, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Virginia Director Lori Haas told the paper, “I don’t believe that Republicans in the General Assembly are doing this only because of the influence of the gun lobby” because “most of them believe in an extremist version of the Second Amendment.” (I previously worked with Haas at CSGV.)

    Haas is correct that Virginia GOP lawmakers seem to need little outside encouragement from the NRA to push an anti-gun-safety agenda. For example, one of the leading pro-gun figures in the Virginia legislature, Republican state Sen. Dick Black, recently published an opinion piece in the Post attacking the gun safety proposals ahead of the legislature’s special session. Black is closely aligned with the extremist state gun group Virginia Citizens Defense League. VCDL has suggested that if its legislative agenda is not passed in the General Assembly, violence would be an acceptable response. VCDL also publishes a newsletter that has shared racist content in encouraging people to arm themselves. 

    Another GOP lawmaker in Virginia carries a gun on the state Senate floor. 

    The reason GOP legislators are in a position to block the passage of gun safety laws in Virginia is because of gerrymandering, not the influence of the NRA. Virginia has been one of the most gerrymandered states in the country dating back to when the General Assembly redrew districts following the 2010 census. In fact, GOP changes to district lines in 2011 were recently found to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, and there will be new districts for the 2019 elections. During the last election for state offices in 2017, Republicans retained control of the General Assembly’s lower chamber, the House of Delegates, only because of GOP gerrymandering. Gerrymandering also explains the outcome of the 2015 state Senate elections, the last time that chamber was up for reelection. 

    The Post’s analysis of the special session for gun safety legislation missed the impact of gerrymandering on elections in Virginia and instead baselessly postulated that the NRA’s “legions of members — the group does not release figures but said it has ‘hundreds of thousands’ in Virginia — are reliable voters who show up even during off-year elections.” 

    All state office elections in Virginia occur during off years, and the NRA’s recent record is dismal. In 2013, the NRA deployed heavy resources against Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, only for him to win in a race where the Post reported McAuliffe was “talking tough about gun control, as if daring the National Rifle Association to take him on.”

    Like 2013, the 2017 elections -- which were held shortly after the Las Vegas country music festival massacre -- featured significant discussion of gun policy. Pro-gun-safety Democrats won all three of the races for statewide office -- governor, lieutenent governor, and attorney general -- to capture a rare trifecta of power in the commonwealth. Chris Hurst, whose girlfriend Alison Parker was shot to death during a live news broadcast, also ran for office and won.

    The three statewide candidates endorsed by the NRA in 2017 all lost despite heavy NRA spending. Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax both received “F” ratings from the NRA, and the gun group had called Attorney General Mark Herring “one of the most anti-gun lawmakers in Virginia history” after Herring credited his support for gun safety measures for his 2013 attornery general election victory. According to election night exit polls, Northam and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie tied among voters whose primary issue was gun policy -- evidence that the enthusiasm gap described by the Post doesn’t actually exist. 

    This is not the first time the Post has published evidence-free claims about the NRA’s influence in Virginia. Following the 2015 elections, the Post published an analysis that claimed without evidence that the gun policy issue caused Democrats to fail to capture the state Senate. After publication, the Post made several changes to its article to soften its claims.

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Alex Kaplan provided research for this piece.

  • Laura Ingraham dedicated a podcast episode to extreme anti-trans rhetoric and misinformation

    Ingraham said teaching about gender identity "is about lowering the age of consent," and her guests called LGBTQ people "mentally ill" and compared Drag Queen Story Hour to NAMBLA

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Correction (6/14/19): The graphic accompanying this piece originally had an image of Phil Donahue rather than Bill Donohue. Phil Donahue was not featured in this podcast.

    Fox News’ Laura Ingraham dedicated an entire podcast to transgender issues and gender identity, and in it she and several guests used extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric -- including saying advocates are trying to lower the age of consent for children -- and misinformed her audience about trans people.

    Ingraham has pushed anti-trans misinformation and opposed trans folks for years on her podcast, radio show, and her Fox News show The Ingraham Angle. For example, she has suggested people would wear diapers rather than share bathrooms with transgender people and said she wouldn’t let her daughter use trans-inclusive restrooms by herself.

    Here are some of the worst anti-LGBTQ lies and comments that Ingraham and her guests pushed on the June 12 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast:

    Ingraham’s guest Bill Donohue of the Catholic League compared “Drag Queen Story Hour” to NAMBLA and said it’s an attempt to sexualize children. In discussing “Drag Queen Story Hour” events at public libraries, Donohue brought up the North American Man Boy Love Association, claiming that NAMBLA -- which he said “believes ‘if he’s 8, he’s too late’” -- organizes at public libraries, so it’s is “not a great leap” from the Drag Queen Story Hour events. He also referred to trans youth -- and teaching young people about gender identity -- as “an assault on nature and on nature’s God.” Oponents of LGBTQ inclusion have worked for years to smear LGBTQ people by associating them with pedophiles. In fact, right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups have regularly circulated the myth that the LGBTQ community is accepting pedophilia into the community and expanding the acronym to “LGBTP.”

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): There's a piece in National Review by Madeleine Kearns about this little boy, and the title is “‘Desmond Is Amazing’ Needs Saving,” about this little boy and what's happened to our youth, their innocence -- before puberty, even, trying to change kids’ understanding of just -- or, you know, basic concepts, or sexualize them and destroy their innocence. What's happening here?

    BILL DONOHUE (PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE): Well, this is child abuse. Let's call it for what it is, and the people behind this -- I want to make it clear -- the average gay person is probably no more interested in this than the average straight person.

    And you know, I haven't got enough gays in this country, if they lined up single file, to pull this kind of eroticization of our society together. No, you couldn't do it without the help of an awful lot of straight people.

    Almost all of them are straight people. They may be guided by gay activists, and there’s a difference between a gay activist and a person who’s not an activist, obviously, and those are the ones that I'm talking about. But this is an attempt, basically it’s an assault on nature and on nature’s God.

    ...

    INGRAHAM: Well, I think when you look at this new, you know, again -- contrived controversy, and it started as a group of activists in San Francisco in 2015, who decided “How do we sell this gender fluidity concept, and get publicity, and grow this movement?” They grow it by starting this Drag Queen Story Hour organization in San Francisco in 2015, happens to coincide with the rise of Donald Trump.

    They start this organization, and then they export it across the United States, and get all these liberal reporters to write pieces about these intolerant Christian conservatives and Catholic groups who are expressing outrage that even the public libraries are turning into these little political and social transformation instruments.

    DONOHUE: Well, a number of years ago, I wrote about the public libraries hosting NAMBLA -- that's right, the North American Man Boy Love Association, which believes “If he's 8, he's too late.”

    And they're organized with one purpose, to sexually molest little boys and girls, mostly boys. And they are -- they organize and meet for the purpose of molesting kids in public libraries, at public expense, and defended by the American Civil Liberties Union. So, it's not -- it's not a great leap.

    Ingraham echoed Donohue and claimed that teaching kids about gender identity “is about lowering the age of consent” and preventing people from saying that “children can’t have sexual intercourse.”

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): They need the kids, though, don’t they? They need the kids. Without indoctrinating children on a whole variety of issues, whether it’s abortion, or any of these other issues. Without that, the movement kind of dies out. So, they need the kids. They need to turn the kids into their own little community organizers, activists, across the board on a whole host of issues, and this is just one of the more, I think, potentially destructive issues, which is trying to get little children sexualized. So, they become sexual beings, and I think a lot of this is geared toward lowering the age of consent for children, too.

    In other words, if you can change your gender and say, I’m changing my gender at age 7, why couldn’t you say -- well, who are you to say children can’t have sexual intercourse? You see what I’m saying? Like, if you can as a child make a decision that would lead to perhaps permanently altering your existence as, you know, as someone who can reproduce or your body, or -- if that’s the case, then why can’t you do what you want with your body? Including have sex.

    Ingraham and Donohue said that being gay and being transgender are no longer classified as mental illnesses because of “pressure politics.” Donohue also claimed being transgender is a mental illness and called trans issues a “perverse understanding of sexuality.” Ingraham has previously said that "the Hollywood deal" is why "transgenderism" is no longer "called a mental condition." Major medical organizations such as the World Health Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychological Association do not consider being gay or trans a mental illness and support full equality for LGBTQ people.

    BILL DONOHUE (PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE): They’re trying to teach these kids that a boy can become a girl. And so Sally can become Sam, and Sam can become Sally. As Dr. [Paul] McHugh’s pointed out, as you mentioned him before, these people are mentally ill. That is his considered judgement after dealing with this for decades. And we ought to treat these people, treat them as human beings for the maladies that they suffer from and not try to proselytize on this. And then when people rightly object as parents -- that I don’t want my kid subjected to this indoctrination, this kind of perverse understanding of sexuality -- then we’re called intolerant. Yet they’re the ones trying to shove their radical secular agenda down the throats of people.

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Yeah, I’m looking at the American Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual -- the DSM, it’s called -- and they have the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria and transexualism, gender identity disorder, and so forth. There’s been a lot of political pressure put on the psychiatric community to destigmatize these, you know, these what they called maladies. And to say this is not -- no, this is not a condition. This is not a psychiatric condition. This is just a state of being. So they’re under pressure and have been.

    ...

    DONOHUE: This actually began around 1970. It was 1973, the American Psychological Association decided that homosexuality was not a mental illness. And that's fine if they want to come to that conclusion based on scientific evidence. But starting three years before that around 1970, gay activists showed up at the convention, the American Psychological Association, every year to indimidate, and call them Nazis, and got the home phone numbers and addresses. This was all pressure politics coming from the left. There was no scientific evidence to suggest that they should change the diagnostic statistical manual whatsoever. And they did so. They caved in out of intimidation. This has pretty well been recounted. And now of course you’ve got the psychiatric community on board as well.

    Another of Ingraham's guests, Walt Heyer, lied that “between three and 15 years after they transition, sometimes 20 years,” transgender people “regret it deeply.” In fact, while a small number of trans folks detransition, widespread “transition regret” is an exaggeration, and the vast majority of trans people remain trans. Additionally, the steps that trans or gender-nonconforming youth take to transition are largely reversable in the rare event that the child determines they are not trans, and the mental health benefits of gender-affirming interventions “usually outweigh the risks.” Narratives about detransitioning are often pushed by right-wing and evangelical media to undermine the affirmation and inclusion of trans folks. Right-wing media and extreme anti-LGBTQ groups have also pushed the myth that trans identity is a social contagion, influenced by peer groups and media.

    Heyer identifies as “a former transgender” and holds extreme, discredited views about LGBTQ people. He is frequently featured in right-wing media to undermine the existence of trans people and oppose affirming care for them. Furthermore, extreme anti-LGBTQ groups often highlight Heyer as part of their anti-trans advocacy, using his existence to suggest that transgender people can simply quit being trans.

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): There really seems to be a building consensus solidified in the popular culture and the mainstream media that these types of quote “reassignment surgeries and gender blockers” for children, that they’re fine, no problem, and it’s just a logical choice for kids who are, who, you know, feel like they’re not in the right bodies. What is your experience, and how can you inform us with it?

    WALT HEYER (GUEST): Yeah. Working with the people, Laura -- thanks for having me on. Working with the people who have been through this of all ages, what we find is that somewhere between three and 15 years after they transition, sometimes 20 years, they find that it’s not what they thought it was going to be. They regret it deeply. They found that their body has been transformed beyond repair. They become even more deeply depressed after than they were before.

    And, so what we’re really dealing with, Laura, is what we call a social contagion. This is exploding, as you pointed out, only because other people are doing it.

    Ingraham invoked right-wing psychiatrist Paul McHugh and cited his quote calling trans people “counterfeits or impersonators.” McHugh, a Johns Hopkins University professor, has peddled anti-trans myths and junk science for years after derailing a pioneering gender identity program at his university due to extreme views about LGBTQ people. Additionally, his fellow colleagues at Hopkins have disavowed one of his reports, saying that it “mischaracterizes the current state of the science on sexuality and gender.”

    Nevertheless, evangelical and right-wing media and extreme anti-LGBTQ groups rely heavily on McHugh as a “leading researcher.”

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Paul McHugh, who is the leading researcher at Johns Hopkins on, and has been for decades, on this gender fluidity movement, the medical research behind it. Sex reassignment, this idea of sex reassignment, it doesn’t work. It’s impossible to reassign someone’s sex physically, and attempting to do so doesn’t produce good outcomes psychosocially.

    But McHugh is the distinguished service professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, and he said, “Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All, including people like Bruce Jenner, become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits, or impersonators of the sex with which they quote, ‘idenitify.’ In that lies their problematic future.” And that’s where you get the psychological problems.

    DONOHUE: You know, I have a chapter called “Sex Equality” in the new book called Common Sense Catholicism, and I address this issue.

    INGRAHAM: Oh, great.

    DONOHUE: And in fact, I mention Jenner, and I said, “He can’t menstruate.” OK, can people get that through their head? He can’t menstruate. He will never be a woman. He will always be a male. You can’t change your chromosomal makeup. I mean, this is madness on stilts.

    Additional research by Kayla Gogarty

  • 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:

  • Here's what you need to know about the climate denier who could head a new Trump climate panel

    William Happer argues that CO2 is good for us and climate scientists are like Nazis

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Media Matters / Melissa Joskow

    President Donald Trump may put climate-denying physicist William Happer at the head of a new Presidential Committee on Climate Security, according to a recent Washington Post article. The proposed panel would evaluate whether climate change poses a national security threat. (It does.) Happer, an emeritus professor at Princeton University and veteran of the George H.W. Bush administration, currently serves as Trump's deputy assistant for emerging technologies on the National Security Council.

    It’s not hard to understand why Trump would pick Happer to head his panel: He's a credentialed scientist who denies that carbon dioxide emissions are causing extensive global warming and has testified before Congress about the need for a government-mandated panel to review climate science, which he said is “far from 'settled.'” Though he's a physicist, Happer has never published any peer-reviewed research on climate change.

    Happer has multiple connections to the Koch brothers and fossil fuel companies. He served as adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, which was founded by Charles Koch, and has been affiliated with The Heartland Institute, a climate-denial group that has received funding from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. Happer was on the board of directors at the ExxonMobil-funded George Marshall Institute, and he co-founded its successor, the CO2 Coalition. He has also disclosed that Peabody Coal paid him to testify at a hearing of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

    A 2015 Greenpeace investigation exposed Happer’s willingness to work even more directly for fossil fuel companies. Corresponding over email with a Greenpeace staffer who was posing as an oil company consultant, Happer agreed to write about the alleged benefits of increased carbon emissions at the behest of a fictional Middle Eastern oil company and to not disclose the company's payment to his group, the CO2 Coalition.

    But Happer is no ordinary climate-denying, pay-for-play academic. His outrageous, false claims about climate science often include bizarre and inflammatory analogies. Here are a few of his most egregious comments.

    Happer compared climate scientists and activists to Nazis, fascists, and Salem witch trial judges

    Happer equated climate science with Nazi propaganda. In a 2009 interview with The Daily Princetonian, Happer asserted that climate scientists were spreading dehumanizing propaganda. He told the campus newspaper:

    This is George Orwell. This is the "Germans are the master race. The Jews are the scum of the earth." It’s that kind of propaganda.

    Happer compared the “demonization of carbon dioxide” to the demonization of Jews during the Holocaust. During a 2014 appearance on CNBC, Happer doubled down when he was asked about his 2009 comments to The Daily Princetonian:

    The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.

    He continued to make Nazi analogies, including one as recently as 2017. In an email cited in a Jezebel story, Happer wrote: 

    Demonization of CO2 and people like me who come to its defense is nothing to be proud of. It really differs little from the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Soviet extermination of class enemies or ISIL slaughter of infidels.

    Happer said climate activism is like mass hysterias that have driven fascism, communism, and Prohibition. During a 2015 interview with Conversations That Matter, a webcast news show, Happer suggested that people concerned about climate change are in the grip of mass hysteria like those who drove the temperance movement in America and fascist and communist movements in Europe:

    It’s another one of these sort of mass hysterias that have gripped humanity since it began. In our country, in America, we had a sort of similar case of mass hysteria with Prohibition. There were a few cautious people who said, “Maybe, you know, Prohibition isn’t a good idea. You might increase organized crime, for example." Everything they said was right, and yet, you know, when the amendment for Prohibition was put to the vote, every state except one, Rhode Island, voted for Prohibition and not one of them intended to honor it. It was just what everybody else did. “How could you be in favor of demon rum?” You know, demon CO2. So these things happen. More sinister are these movements in Europe: the fascists, the communists. They were mass hysteria too.

    ...

    Any movement can be captured by thugs, and that’s what’s happened.

    Happer compared climate scientists to the judges who presided over the Salem witch trials. During a 2017 seminar given to chemistry students at UCLA, Happer referenced the Salem witch trials after a student asked him why he held views on climate change that are contrary to majority of the scientific community. According to the Daily Bruin, he said:

    At the Salem witch trials, every one of those judges had a Harvard degree. Scientific consensus is often wrong.

    Happer accused people of hyping climate change to "make a buck"

    Despite Happer's own well-documented financial ties to fossil fuel companies and interests, he has questioned the financial motives of people who are concerned about climate change. During a 2014 interview on Carolina Journal Radio, Happer explained that he thinks carbon began to be demonized as a pollutant because some people thought they could make money by doing so:

    I think it began to get legs in the '70s and '80s. There was an Academy of Science report in the '70s by [Jule] Charney, and then it got latched on by green politicians, Al Gore comes to mind, but there are many others. So people saw a way to make a buck in demonizing CO2, and that’s what’s happened.

    Happer argues that CO2 is not a pollutant, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary

    Happer’s long-espoused belief that increased CO2 in the atmosphere benefits humanity rather than harms it was neatly summarized in a 2012 opinion piece he published in The Wall Street Journal. He wrote:

    CO2 is not a pollutant. Life on earth flourished for hundreds of millions of years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today. Increasing CO2 levels will be a net benefit because cultivated plants grow better and are more resistant to drought at higher CO2 levels, and because warming and other supposedly harmful effects of CO2 have been greatly exaggerated.

    In a 2017 interview with journalist Andrew Revkin, Happer insisted that there's no reason for "climate hysteria." Revkin asked him if he sees CO2 emissions as "a non-problem" and Happer replied:

    Absolutely. Not only a non-problem. I see the CO2 as good, you know. Let me be clear. I don’t think it’s a problem at all, I think it’s a good thing.

    In a 2018 video for Prager University, a right-wing propaganda outlet, Happer attacked climate science models as unpredictable while minimizing the role CO2 plays in global warming.

    Happer has no business leading a climate change panel

    Despite what Happer says, the science is clear: Human-caused CO2 emissions are the primary driver of climate change, climate change is already having negative effects in the U.S. and around the world, and its catastrophic impacts will intensify in coming years. This has been confirmed by recent major reports from teams of respected scientists at the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and in the U.S. government.

    Happer’s eccentric and incorrect views on climate science should disqualify him from serving on the National Security Council, not to mention a White House panel on climate change. But as long as he provides Trump with cover to engage in climate denial and justify rollbacks of environmental protections, Happer will likely continue to have a loud voice in the Trump administration -- no matter how many ludicrous statements he utters.

  • 8 must-read fact checks debunking Trump’s abortion lies from his State of the Union address

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    President Donald Trump used his 2019 State of the Union address to promote right-wing media lies about state measures protecting abortion access. While media outlets struggled at times to properly contextualize and refute Trump’s misinformation, some outlets held Trump accountable by debunking his false, anti-choice statements and providing their audiences with accurate information about abortion.

  • Here's what you need to know about the National Black Chamber of Commerce

    EPA chief Andrew Wheeler to announce major environmental rollback alongside fossil-fuel-funded front group

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    On Thursday, the Trump administration is expected to announce a regulatory rollback that will make it easier to build new coal-fired plants by eliminating Obama-era rules requiring such plants to include carbon-capture technology. Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is scheduled to make the announcement alongside Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), a minority business front group that has received funding from fossil fuel interests and other corporate sources, including ExxonMobil and Koch Industries.

    Alford and the organization he runs have long teamed up with conservatives and business interests to fight regulations that would protect and clean up the environment. A 2017 Bloomberg investigation described the NBCC as “a shoestring operation, run by a husband-and-wife team." But despite its small size, the group provides outsized value to corporations and industry groups. The NBCC has been criticized by a number of prominent environmental justice leaders and organizations, including Green For All, GreenLatinos, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

    Here's a quick overview of NBCC activity on behalf of polluters.

    NBCC campaigned against the Clean Power Plan

    The Clean Power Plan, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, aimed to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants, part of a larger effort to fight climate change. According to Obama's EPA, it also would have improved public health by cutting air pollution. Civil rights leaders, environmental justice groups, and environmental activists successfully pushed the agency to make sure the rule addressed many of the environmental and economic concerns of minority and low-income communities.

    But the NBCC opposed the Clean Power Plan while claiming to be speaking on behalf of African-Americans. The group commissioned and promoted a flawed study that falsely claimed the plan would disproportionately harm minorities. The study was swiftly debunked. And yet Alford became a central figure in a disinformation campaign backed by fossil-fuel interests. He placed anti-Clean Power Plan op-eds in at least seven newspapers and saw right-wing outlets echo and amplify his discredited assertions.

    NBCC's debunked study found new life in the Trump administration. When the EPA, under Wheeler's leadership, proposed to replace the Clean Power Plan with a weaker substitute, the White House cited the NBCC study in its talking points. 

    NBCC took part in a deceptive campaign against solar energy

    In 2016, the NBCC was part of Consumers for Smart Solar, a utility-backed and Koch-backed astroturf group that campaigned on behalf of a deceptive ballot initiative in Florida. The initiative was designed to appear pro-solar, but it actually would have slowed the growth of rooftop solar while protecting the utilities from competition. Voters ended up rejecting the measure. 

    Alford fought EPA’s rule to limit smog pollution

    After the EPA moved in 2015 to impose limits on ozone, a component of smog, Alford went on a speaking tour to convince minority audiences that the EPA’s rules would harm them economically, echoing a message broadcast by the NBCC’s corporate donors. When confronted with evidence that smog disproportionately hurts minority and low-income communities, Alford said it was a “farce.”

    NBCC backed a climate denier's effort to discredit carbon pricing

    Earlier this year, NBCC joined right-wing organizations supporting an anti-carbon tax resolution proposed by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), a climate denier. Alford signed a letter supporting the resolution, listing his name alongside far-right figures like Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

    Alford: "Coal is essential to our way of living"

    Alford is on the board of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy, also known as Energy Fairness, a self-described “coalition of working people, business owners, environmentalists, and trade organizations who are fighting for fair, responsible energy policies.” In actuality, the group and a partner organization, Working People for Fair Energy, have been closely aligned with utility companies fighting coal-ash regulation, according to a 2010 investigation by the Institute for Southern Studies.

    In October 2016, Alford went on a tour of coal mines in Alabama that was sponsored by the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy. In a blog post about the tour that he published on PACE’s website, Alford wrote, “Coal is essential to our way of living. If some politicians and activists think they can ‘kill coal’ they are terribly mistaken.”

    Alford and Wheeler are two of a kind

    Alford and the NBCC have consistently worked against the interests of minority communities and working families to advance a pro-fossil fuel agenda. Like Wheeler did when he was a lobbyist, Alford has cashed oil, gas, and coal company checks for years. So it is fitting that they will be standing together to announce the Trump administration's latest assault on our environment and climate.

  • STUDY: NY Times, Wash. Post coverage of caravan plummets after midterms

    News stories referencing the caravan drop by more than half post-elections, front-page ones by more than two-thirds

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    In the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, The New York Times and The Washington Post filled their news pages with reporting about a caravan of migrants moving through Central America and Mexico toward the United States. The caravan was more than 1,000 miles from the U.S. border -- a journey of several weeks on foot -- and shrinking. But President Donald Trump, in a series of demagogic statements aimed at bolstering GOP chances in the elections, warned that the caravan constituted an “invasion” and a national emergency, and the Times and Post allowed him to set their news agendas.

    After the election, Trump largely stopped talking about the caravan, and the coverage of the subject in those papers plunged.

    In the eight days before the election, the Times and Post ran a total of 84 news stories in their print editions mentioning the caravan, putting 25 on the front page. In the eight days since, they ran 39 such stories, only eight of which ran on A1. That’s a decline of roughly 54 percent in news stories and 68 percent in front-page news stories.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    I wrote about this coverage the Friday before Election Day, noting that many of the articles were laudable on their merits -- they told the migrants' stories, debunked presidential lies and conspiracy theories, and highlighted facts that undermined Trump’s demagoguery. But taken together, their sheer volume couldn’t help but to fuel his fearmongering and make it impossible for other important pre-midterm stories to break through.

    The papers are still producing valuable reporting on the topic -- about the migrants’ journey, the administration’s response of deploying U.S. soldiers on the border and taking executive action to limit asylum, and Trump’s own slackening interest in the caravan, among other angles. But with the elections over and in the absence of regular comments from the president, they are publishing much less of it, and they’re giving the stories they do publish less prominent placement.

    Newspaper resources, column inches, and front-page real estate are all limited -- the amount of each that a paper devotes to particular stories reveals its editors’ priorities and signals to the public which issues are important. The Times and Post appear to have given the caravan outsized coverage when Trump was fixated on it, and now that he isn’t, the papers are providing the issue with substantially less attention.

    The Post has published a total of 109 articles in its print A section mentioning the caravan since it formed, putting 24 of those articles on the front page. The paper ran 48 such articles, during the eight days before the election, 13 of them on the front page; those numbers dropped to 20 and three in the eight days after the election, a decline of 58 percent and 77 percent, respectively. Before the election, the paper published five or more articles referencing the caravan on 10 different days. Since the election, it has done so twice.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Times has published a total of 88 articles mentioning the caravan in its print A section, putting 24 of those articles on the front page. During the eight days before the election, the paper ran 36 such articles, putting 12 on the front page; those numbers dropped to 19 and five in the eight days after the election, a decline of 47 percent and 58 percent, respectively. Before the election, the paper published five or more articles referencing the caravan on six different days. Since the election, it has done so once.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The massive print coverage of the caravan story leading up to the election echoed the story’s dominance on cable news.

    Fox led the way, providing more than 33 hours of coverage through Election Day, with the network’s hosts spurring and echoing the president with apocalyptic, conspiracy theory-minded rants about the coming “invasion.” But the day after the election featured no discussions whatsoever focused on the caravan, while the network spent four minutes and 57 seconds covering the story the day after that.

    After Trump took Fox's advice and tried to turn the caravan into an election issue, CNN and MSNBC also devoted hours and hours of programming to the story. As with the papers, these cable networks produced far more critical coverage of the story, but they nonetheless focused their attention on the subject Trump wanted to discuss. And in the same manner as the Post and the Times, the volume of their reporting has dropped substantially since the election.

    As I wrote before the election, the facts about the caravan neither matched Trump’s crisis narrative nor justified the saturated coverage the story received. Since then, the “first wave” of the caravan has reached the U.S. border (most of the migrants are still 1,000 miles away), while the administration has imposed radical new asylum restrictions in response. But while those factors suggest that the caravan has become increasingly newsworthy on its merits, the Post and Times have produced fewer articles mentioning it and put fewer on their front pages.

    These results strongly suggest that for these newspapers and cable networks, the newsworthiness of particular issues is strongly tethered to whether Trump is publicly commenting on them. Whatever he’s talking about quickly becomes the most important story in U.S. political journalism. And once he stops commenting on it, the story falls out of the headlines.

    Reporters might respond to this criticism by saying that the president’s comments are always newsworthy. But that sentiment is not reflected in actual news coverage -- the closing days of the 2014 and 2016 election cycles were both dominated by Republican attacks on Democrats, not by President Barack Obama’s commentary.

    Moreover, under the current president, that argument cedes substantial power over the public debate to a notorious liar and conspiracy theorist. Journalists should carefully consider what that means. By allowing Trump to serve as their assignment editor, decision-makers at newspapers and cable news channels are ignoring critical issues in favor of covering what the president wants to talk about.

    This is an ongoing crisis in political journalism, and it won’t end unless journalists heed the lessons of the last few years and learn how to respond when conservative leaders try to manipulate them in bad faith in order to focus the public’s attention where they want it. That will require them to make independent calls on what deserves coverage and how much, rather than following the whims of Trump and his ilk.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the Nexis database for New York Times and Washington Post articles mentioning the caravan between October 12 and November 14. We included articles from only the print editions of each paper, and we limited the results to articles from the news (A) sections; articles from editorial, opinion, op-ed, business, sports, and other sections were excluded. For the November 7 edition of the Post, which was not available in the Nexis database as of publication, two Media Matters researchers independently reviewed a hard copy of the paper’s A section.

    Shelby Jamerson contributed research

  • STUDY: Trump’s phony caravan “crisis” consumed Wash. Post, NY Times

    Leading papers produced 115 news stories referencing the caravan, put 25 on A1

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump has taken Fox News’ advice and successfully turned the network’s fearmongering about an “invasion” by a caravan of migrants moving through Central America and Mexico with the intent to seek asylum in the United States into a major issue for the upcoming midterm elections. While the caravan is shrinking and remains more than 1,000 miles away from the U.S. border -- a journey of weeks on foot -- Trump has been able to use his bully pulpit to move it to the top of the media agenda.

    Notably, The New York Times and The Washington Post have run a total of 115 news stories in their print editions mentioning the caravan over the last three weeks. Each paper has run at least one such story on its front page on nine of the last 10 days.

    The caravan formed in Honduras on October 12, but neither paper mentioned it in print until October 17. The previous day, Trump had tweeted a threat to cut aid to Honduras after watching a Fox & Friends segment about the caravan. Each paper covered that threat, the Times on A8 (with a story headlined “Trump Warns Honduras Over Migrant Caravan”) and the Post on A10 (“Migrant caravan moves north, drawing outrage from Trump”).

    Since then, both papers have regularly featured the story in their news pages, including on A1. Many of these articles are, on their own merits, laudable. They provide the compelling stories of the migrants themselves, debunk the president’s lies and conspiracy theories, and point to the facts that undermine his demagoguery.

    But the sheer volume of the coverage can’t help but fuel Trump’s claims that the caravan’s approach represents a crisis and suck oxygen away from other stories in the lead-up to the midterm elections. This plays into the GOP’s deliberate strategy, developed by Fox commentators and adopted by the White House, of focusing attention on the caravan in order to drive conservative voters to the polls.

    The Post has run 65 total news articles mentioning the story in its A section, running at least one on each subsequent day. On nine different days the paper ran four or more pieces, topping out at seven articles on October 30. Thirteen of the articles ran on the paper’s front page, the first one coming October 20.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Times has run 50 total news articles mentioning the story in its A section, skipping it on only two days since its initial piece ran. The paper ran four or more pieces on eight different days, publishing a maximum of seven articles on October 24 and 30. Twelve of the articles ran on the front page; the story first hit A1 with two October 23 articles.

     

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The increasing print coverage of the caravan mimics the way the story came to dominate cable news. Fox has been flooding the zone with coverage, creating a feedback loop with Trump in which the president and his favorite network are regularly pushing alarmist conspiracy theories about the migrant “invasion.” Meanwhile, CNN and MSNBC responded to the president’s Fox-fueled obsession with the caravan with their own coverage. As with the Times and Post, these cable networks often sought to fact-check the president’s lies and put the story in context, but their coverage nonetheless pulled attention away from other pressing issues and put it squarely on the subject Trump wanted to discuss.

     

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Cable news coverage of the migrants dropped substantially on all three networks last week after a Trump superfan allegedly sent bombs to more than a dozen Democratic politicians and leaders as well as to CNN. But Fox’s coverage rebounded almost immediately, and coverage on the other networks has also ticked upwards over the past few days as Trump has continued to rant against the migrants, ordered U.S. military forces to the border in response, and called for the end of birthright citizenship.

    As I wrote earlier this week for HuffPost, the facts simply don’t match the crisis narrative Trump is promoting -- or the level of coverage journalists have given the caravan in response to his demagoguery:

    Trump’s Fox-fueled commentary turned the caravan story into a major national news story as reporters sought to explain and contextualize what he was talking about. But the situation does not, on its face, justify the coverage the caravan has received. The migrants are currently in southern Mexico, their numbers are dwindling and, depending on which route the caravan chooses, they face a journey of 1,000 to 2,000 miles to the U.S. border that will take weeks or months. Those who make it to the border have the right to seek asylum, and those whose claims are rejected will be turned away. That’s what happened when a similar caravan ― which also drew vitriol from Fox News and then from Trump ― reached the U.S. border in May. The caravans have been going on for roughly a decade without issue.

    But with the caravan dominating the media conversation, immigration has taken on increasing salience among Republican and independent voters, perhaps in a way that could make a difference in key races next week.

    Seeking to explain to readers why the Times had devoted so much attention to the caravan, Times deputy editor for International, Greg Winter, wrote on October 26, “It’s not our job to pretend that the caravan and the president’s response are not happening. To the contrary, it’s our mission to explain, with clarity and fairness, what is real, what is not and why it matters.”

    But the paper’s resources are limited, and A1 space is precious, so it’s also the Times’ role -- and the Post’s -- to determine how much coverage one story gets and another doesn’t. Those decisions display the papers’ priorities and tell the public which issues are most worthy of debate.

    Column inches devoted to the caravan can’t be used to cover other critical issues, like health care policy, or Trump administration corruption, or Republican plans to dismantle the social safety net. And in the weeks leading up to the midterms, time and again, the story that got the most attention was the one the president wanted to get attention.

    This is not a new problem for the press. Ironically, one of the Times pieces on the caravan cites data we published in 2014 about the outsized television coverage the Ebola outbreak received in 2014, when Republican leaders were similarly determined to engineer a crisis in order to benefit in upcoming elections. A similar press fixation on then-FBI Director James Comey’s late-October letter about Hillary Clinton’s emails may have played a critical role in the 2016 presidential election.

    The only caravan crisis is the one Fox and Trump wanted to create in order to help Republicans triumph in the midterms. But the crisis in political journalism is real and ongoing. It doesn’t seem like editors and producers have learned much from their failures in recent years. They remain stymied by how to respond when political leaders seek to manipulate them in order to focus the public’s attention on the issues of their choice.

    Correction: We've replaced earlier charts due to a labeling error on the Y axis. The data has not changed.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the Nexis database for The New York Times and The Washington Post for articles mentioning the caravan between October 12 and November 2. We included articles from only the print editions of each paper, and we limited the results to articles from the news (A) sections; articles from editorial, opinion, op-ed, business, sports, and other sections were excluded.

    Shelby Jamerson contributed research

  • The party of personal responsibility is now the party of “the libs made me do it”

    More than just a hit song by Taylor Swift, Look what you made me do has become the go-to excuse for unsavory actions among conservatives.

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    You’d be surprised how many conservatives were this close to casting a ballot for Democrats next month only to be thrust back into their Republican ways by how liberal protesters and Democratic senators handled themselves during Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. No, I don’t have data to back this up. What I do have, however, are anecdotes -- lots and lots of anecdotes from conservative media figures who are sharing them, ever so kindly and not at all suspiciously, because they just want to help Democrats win some elections.

    “From a conservative who has been disgusted by the Trumpified GOP: ‘I didn’t think I could drag myself to the polls. But after the Left’s performance in the Kavanaugh affair, I would crawl across broken glass.’ I believe this sentiment is common,” wrote National Review’s Jay Nordlinger on Twitter.

    In his most recent Washington Post column, Hugh Hewitt stressed the importance of not rewarding the “outburst of the new McCarthyism” that was the opposition to Kavanaugh’s spot on the court. This lesson, of course, is for the Democratic Party’s own good -- and it’s one that can be taught only by increasing Republican majorities in the House and Senate. For Republicans who find themselves disapproving of President Donald Trump’s “hyperbole and occasional cruelty,” voting a straight-GOP ballot is a courageous sacrifice worthy of applause. Democrats can rest easy knowing that Hugh Hewitt, longtime friend of the left, has their best interests at heart. Or … something like that.

    “I’ve heard from several of my center-right friends today who are turned off by the Left’s attacks on Kavanaugh & Cruz. As a result, they have started solidly supporting them both,” wrote Daily Beast columnist and CNN commentator Matt Lewis on Twitter, sharing an “admittedly anecdotal” bit of info with his followers.

    Each of these stories could be thusly summed up: I didn’t want to vote for Trump or his congressional enablers … but look what you made me do. In other words, it’s your fault that we’re here.

    It’s a convenient defense to sidestep responsibility for actions or positions one knows to be ethically murky. For many conservatives, that includes supporting Trump and his oft-cruel agenda.

    One variation on this trope is the rejoinder, “This is how you got Trump.” Again on Twitter, Lewis reminds readers that though he’s spent years “lamenting the rise of what came to be called ‘Trumpism’ on the Right,” we should remember at least two of the real causes behind the phenomenon: “liberal media bias” and “the radicalization of the Left.”

    The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro has blamed the rise of Trump on a litany of factors: former President Barack Obama’s lectures; Hillary Clinton’s decision to participate in a sketch during the 2018 Grammy Awards (14 months after Trump’s election); a joke about salads; a tweet from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about the cancellation of Roseanne; an admittedly bizarre HuffPost article titled “Why I Put A Dragonfruit Up My Butt…”; the response to a CNN segment in which Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis said the only two things he believed in were “the First Amendment and boobs”; and, in the most meta example possible, the phrase “this is why Trump won.”

    Surely some of those were meant as jokes, but they illustrate something important within modern politics: No one can ever be to blame for their own actions. “How you got Trump” is that Republicans voted for him during the party’s 2016 primary and then went on to cast their ballots for him in the general election. Yes, of course there were other factors, such as Obama voters who crossed over to Trump, Democrats and independents who sat the election out, voter suppression and disenfranchisement efforts, and so on. None of them, however, were tweets, salads, or sketches during awards shows. Voters -- Trump voters -- gave us Trump. At least that would seem apparent.

    Sometimes, this tactic is deployed as a response, as it was during the Kavanaugh confirmation. Other times, it’s a warning against future action.

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s win during the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District left some on the right flustered. A young, affable, progressive candidate who rose from obscurity to defeat a powerful incumbent could pose a threat to the conservative monopoly on power -- if more candidates like her were to emerge and succeed. Right-leaning commentators have since deployed a series of editorials urging Democrats, for their own sake, not to venture too far to the left.

    “Democrats need to choose: Are they the party of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the party of Michael Bloomberg?” asked a June Business Insider article by Daniella Greenbaum. At The Atlantic, Reihan Salam wrote about Ocasio-Cortez as a sign that the Democratic Party may be in for an unwise shift to the left. Former George H.W. Bush staffer Lloyd Green warned at The Hill that “wealthy swing voters will not buy what Ocasio-Cortez is selling.”

    The promise, though sometimes unspoken, is that if the Democrats were to simply be a little more conservative, they would be able to cash in on the many disillusioned Trump voters. At The New York Times, David Brooks urged Democrats to make less of a fuss about right-wing attacks on abortion rights. Doing this, he surmises, would help them defeat the threat that Trumpism poses to the country and the world. Often, these articles are a request for just one little concession here or there -- maybe it’s to ease up on abortion; or maybe it’s to sit out the conservative battle against LGBTQ rights; or maybe it’s to adopt a more market-driven approach to health insurance. The message bombarding readers is that people on the left are forcing those on the right to march toward authoritarianism simply by being on the left. The underlying argument is that to be successful at the polls, Democrats need to abandon many of the things that differentiate them from Republicans -- which, in Greenbaum’s argument, involves becoming “the party of” a former Republican mayor -- or else conservatives will have no choice but to continue their rightward march.

    But if Trump is the type of existential threat to conservatism and country that National Review made him out to be in its “Against Trump” issue or that Shapiro sugested in a piece for The Daily Wire, then the “party of personal responsibility” needs to take it upon itself to reshape from within. Instead, right-wing media figures are rattling off reasons that it’s actually the fault of Democrats that Republicans became the party of Trump -- not because of their own choices, actions, and divisions.

    Trump himself uses this tactic in his own political battles. Take his immigration policy, for example.

    “It is now time for Congress to act!” Trump said in a 2017 statement announcing the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

    The meticulously crafted statement suggested that his hands were tied. As much as he wanted to keep the program in place, he had little choice but to send the issue back to Congress with hope that it would pass legislation to protect the undocumented immigrants here under the 2012 program. This, of course, was a farce. Trump had every right to leave the program in place while encouraging Congress to make it permanent. Instead, he turned the lives of nearly 700,000 people into a political bargaining chip attached to a ticking time bomb.

    “We want to see something happen with DACA,” Trump said in January. “It’s been spoken of for years, and children are now adults in many cases.” But did he actually want to have a DACA bill on his desk to sign? A number of Democrats (including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein) called on Republican leaders in Congress to vote on a clean bill to completely resolve the issue. In fact, at the same time Trump announced the plan to wind down DACA, the DREAM Act of 2017 had been languishing in the Senate for more than a month. He chose not to put pressure on Republican members of Congress (the bill did have Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) as co-sponsors) to pass the existing bill. Instead, he railed against inaction, making repeated claims that Democrats were the ones choosing not to protect DACA recipients, tweeting that Democrats were “nowhere to be found” on the issue, didn’t care, and were ultimately responsible for the fact that “DACA is dead” (DACA is actually still active as it faces challenges in courts).

    Not only were Democrats willing to act, but many crossed the aisle to provide a bipartisan solution which included an offer to fund his border wall. In response, Trump threatened to veto the bill were it to pass Congress. He went on to repeat this exact same strategy to defend his administration’s family separation policy, falsely blaming it on a “horrible law” that simply did not and does not exist.

    Just as some conservatives in the media can justify their support of Trump’s cruelest policies by blaming just about anything apart from their own decision-making (did you know that Saturday Night Live can lead the most disillusioned former Republican back into the party’s warm embrace?), Trump justifies his own policies by blaming his political opponents. Everyone is happy to take credit for making the right call when something is good -- there’s no shortage of positive coverage among conservatives when it comes to the “Trump economy” -- but blame gets spread far and fast when something has a negative outcome.

    One of the latest examples of this trend involves Trump’s own op-ed in USA Today. While there are a number of outright lies in the piece, there’s one that’s especially galling.

    “As a candidate, I promised that we would protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions and create new health care insurance options that would lower premiums,” reads the editorial. “I have kept that promise, and we are now seeing health insurance premiums coming down.”

    Trump has not kept his promise to people with pre-existing conditions, of course, instead painting Democrats as the party that wants to take away people’s access to health care. In fact, the administration is actively trying to gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions in court. On Wednesday, the Republican Senate voted down a measure to prevent a new rule put forward by the administration that would allow insurance companies to offer plans that exclude these crucial and popular protections.

    If and when those defenses erode, there’s little doubt that he will look to Democrats as he did during the DACA debate and shrug as if to say, “I really wanted to help. Really, I did. But look what you made me do.” His defenders are sure to join in. It’s the job of a responsible media to hold him to account.

  • Trump admin claims replacing Clean Power Plan will help minorities. That’s not true.

    White House talking points promote debunked study from National Black Chamber of Commerce, an industry front group

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    The Trump administration has proposed a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and it's defending its proposal by citing a thoroughly debunked and discredited 2015 study from an industry-funded front group, the National Black Chamber of Commerce. 

    The Clean Power Plan (CPP), finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Barack Obama in 2015, called for reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants while increasing the use of renewable energy. The Trump administration intends to revoke that plan and replace it with the Affordable Clean Energy rule, would allow much more pollution from coal plants.  

    Trump administration cites figures from debunked 2015 study

    The Trump administration's draft talking points in support of the EPA's replacement plan, obtained by E&E News, cite a debunked study commissioned by the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), a fossil-fuel-funded group that purports to represent black businesses. The talking points claim that the Clean Power Plan "would have hurt minorities and senior citizens disproportionally," and goes on to list statistics that came directly from the NBCC report:

    According to Harry Alford, President of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, CPP would increase Black poverty by 23 percent and Hispanic poverty by 26 percent. It would result in cumulative job losses of 7 million for Blacks and nearly 12 million for Hispanics in 2035.

    But the NBCC report was thoroughly debunked after it was released in 2015.

    Fact-checkers exposed serious problems with the NBCC study

    The nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists outlined many of the NBCC study’s flaws in a blog post in 2015. It explained that the study, which was conducted by Management Information Services Inc. (MISI), was itself based on other studies that had a variety of problems (emphasis in original):

    [H]ere’s the first of the study’s fatal flaws: it depends, as it explicitly says (p. 21), on the findings of seven other studies, which it lists. But those seven include:

    • Three studies that came out before the EPA published the draft CPP, meaning they don’t actually study the CPP as proposed—even though that’s the supposed focus of the NBCC/MISI analysis
    • One that was just (self-described) “preliminary analysis” from the United Mine Workers of America, a group you’d be hard-pressed to characterize as an unbiased voice in this debate
    • Three other studies funded by other fossil fuel interests who oppose the Clean Power Plan

    Two of those studies were the focus of a recent UCS webinar showing how such studies use bad assumptions and get used to sow confusion and spread disinformation about the CPP.

    One of those, done by IHS on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is the report most cited in this new work, even though it was one of those that came out before the draft CPP, and even though there was, as the Chamber itself admitted, “a big difference” between what they’d modeled and what EPA put forth (which the new study doesn’t acknowledge).

    The flaws in the study by Energy Ventures Analysis (EVA) for Peabody Energy (the largest U.S. coal company) are also clear. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has pointed out that, unlike other studies, EVA’s didn’t even show a business-as-usual case, meaning that any CPP results were floating in a vacuum, without reference to a base case of shifting energy costs and other economic factors.

    Fact-checkers at PolitiFact and The Washington Post had both highlighted severe problems with the 2014 U.S. Chamber of Commerce study that was a main source for NBCC's study. From a 2014 PolitiFact analysis:

    [The U.S. Chamber] study wrongly assumed the administration would set a benchmark of reducing carbon emissions by 42 percent before 2030. The regulations released June 2 actually put forward a 30 percent reduction within that timeframe. The chamber itself told PolitiFact its estimates are not based on the goals as announced.

    For that same reason, The Washington Post's fact-checking team gave Republican politicians who cited the Chamber of Commerce study in 2014 a "Four Pinocchio" rating, its lowest.

    Separate fact-checks cast doubt on another study that the NBCC report relied on, this one conducted by NERA Economic Consulting in 2014. The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote that the NERA study "falsely inflates the cost of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan by denying energy efficiency’s proven ability to save consumers money," and went on to explain that the study used "a 2012 study that has been repeatedly discredited" to justify its inflated cost estimates. The Washington Post's fact-checking team also raised serious questions about the NERA study.

    The NERA study was funded by industries that had much to gain from stymieing the Clean Power Plan, including fossil fuel interests. Among the commissioning groups were the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the National Mining Association.

    Clean Power Plan would have benefited Black, Latinx, and other minority communities

    Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, became a central figure in a disinformation campaign backed by fossil-fuel interests because he was willing to assert that the Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan would harm communities of color. He placed anti-Clean Power Plan op-eds in at least seven newspapers and saw right-wing outlets echo and amplify his discredited assertions.

    In fact, the EPA under Obama took steps to ensure that the Clean Power Plan addressed many of the environmental and economic concerns of minority and low-income communities, after pressure was applied by civil rights leaders, environmental justice groups, and environmental activists.

    When the NBCC report came out in 2015, a coalition of environmental justice groups, including Green For All and Voces Verdes, challenged its claims that the Clean Power Plan would hurt minority communities. The groups argued instead that the plan would in fact help marginalized and low-income Americans:

    The report alleges that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan will harm African American and Hispanic families, when in fact findings from numerous independent organizations show the plan will actually benefit communities.

    In reality, the Clean Power Plan will prevent asthma and other pollution-related illnesses, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and save families money on their utility bills. Low income and minority Americans, who are most often the hardest hit when it comes to the effects of climate change, will benefit substantially.

    Recently the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) produced a report reaffirming and further outlining these benefits. The report also refutes many of the myths asserted by the NBCC, known to [be] funded by special interests groups seeking to preserve the bottom line for dirty energy companies.

    Trump administration's Affordable Clean Energy rule will harm minority communities

    Environmental justice activists point out that the Trump administration's new plan is the one that poses a real threat to communities of color. The advocacy group GreenLatinos issued this statement from its president and CEO, Mark Magaña:

    The Trump Administration continues to put the health of the Latino community and all Americans at risk by gutting the Clean Power Plan, the first and only federal limit on carbon pollution from power plants — a major source of the pollution that exacerbates climate change — which protects public health and promotes climate change solutions.

    The Latino community is hit first and worst by climate change and we suffer disproportionate public health effects with 40% of Latinos living within 30 miles of a power plant. The stakes are too high, with Latinx children being 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino white children.

    Today, as we continue to witness these severe weather patterns and devastating impacts of carbon pollution on public health, the Trump Administration is moving to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, endangering the health of our communities and undermine the transition to cleaner and safer renewable energy sources.

    GreenLatinos rejects the efforts by the Trump Administration and Acting Administrator Wheeler as they disregard the overwhelming support for increasing efforts to protect our air quality.

    Other environmental justice advocates also spoke out against the Trump EPA's Affordable Clean Energy rule. “They’re really putting people’s lives in danger,” Mustafa Santiago Ali, a senior vice president at the Hip Hop Caucus and former EPA advisor on environmental justice, told Earther.

  • Study: NY Times, Wash. Post quote more than twice as many Republicans as Democrats in political coverage

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Throughout May and June, two of the nation’s leading newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, quoted Republicans at more than twice the rate of Democrats in their political news coverage.

    In an analysis of the papers’ news and political coverage during May and June, Media Matters found that the Times quoted 1,466 Republicans and 611 Democrats, a ratio of approximately 2.4 Republicans for every Democrat. The Post quoted 1,403 Republicans and 615 Democrats, for a ratio of approximately 2.3 Republicans for every Democrat.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched the Nexis newspaper database for articles in the print editions of The New York Times’ and The Washington Post's news and politics sections between May 1 and June 30, 2018, that mentioned any elected official, administration official, or other government official in the headline or lead paragraph. In approximately 2,200 articles from the two newspapers during May and June that fit that criteria, we coded for political strategists; candidates; elected officials; administration officials; and close political advisers, family members, or personal lawyers of President Donald Trump who were quoted. Additionally, we coded anyone quoted whom the paper identified as partisan. We coded each individual once per article as either Democratic or Republican. Members of New York’s Working Families Party were coded as Democratic.

    Rob Savillo and Shelby Jamerson contributed research to this report.

  • Trump’s favorite Fox News propagandists are avoiding reports about Paul Manafort’s legal troubles

    Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have steered clear of reporting on Paul Manafort’s legal exposure, but they spent significant time on a judge’s strong words for the special counsel's team

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update:

    On June 14, a federal judge revoked Manafort's bail for allegedly tampering with witnesses, landing him in federal prison until his trial.


    President Donald Trump’s favorite Fox News shows are all but ignoring the cascade of damning reports regarding former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his legal troubles. Since May 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller has been scrutinizing various relationships between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals closely tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, appearing to focus closely on Manafort’s business history and associates. As the legal pressure ramps up against Manafort, the president’s propagandists at Fox News have sought to distance Manafort from Trump and, through selective reporting on Manafort’s legal troubles, discredit the probe against Trump’s former campaign manager.

    Since the beginning of 2018, Manafort’s legal exposure has grabbed mainstream media attention, but the topic has not managed to break through on Trump’s favorite Fox News programs. Media Matters reviewed transcripts and video of the first editions of Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine after significant reports surfaced about new developments regarding the investigations into Manafort this year. We found little to no coverage of notable turns in the multiple high-profile legal cases against Trump’s former campaign manager. But we did find extensive coverage of the strong words a judge had for the special counsel’s team.

    Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all but ignored major turns in legal cases against Manafort

    Manafort sues Department of Justice, alleging special counsel exceeded mandate

    On January 3, NPR reported that Manafort was suing the Department of Justice, alleging that “Mueller's team has ‘diverged’ from its stated focus on potential collusion with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election and instead zeroed in on Manafort for ‘unrelated, decade-old business dealings’ in Ukraine.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the development.

    Company tied to former Manafort business associate and Russian oligarch sues Manafort and business partner

    On January 10, according to NBC News, “a company controlled and funded by” Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a crony of Russian President Vladimir Putin and one-time business associate of Manafort’s, sued Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates for allegedly “bilk[ing] his company by taking $1.1 million in capital and paying it to themselves.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the lawsuit.

    Special counsel tells judge investigation has revealed “additional criminal conduct” by Manafort

    On February 16, according to Politico, the special counsel’s office submitted a court filing informing a federal judge of “additional criminal conduct that [the office has] learned since the Court’s initial bail determination” on Manafort’s federal case that “includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the court filing specifically. Though a guest on Fox & Friends, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, briefly mentioned general “charges” against Paul Manafort, he downplayed them as “unrelated to the campaign.”

    Former Trump aide Richard Gates will “plead guilty” and has agreed to “testify against Manafort”

    On February 18, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gates, who is also a former Trump campaign aide, would “plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days” and that he “made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul Manafort.” While the Times report was unverified by other media outlets at the time, according to a Media Matters review, Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report. Fox & Friends briefly mentioned it but added that Catherine Herridge, Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent, “says, as of now, no deal, and Gates is not cooperating.” Five days later, The New York Times confirmed that Gates would plead guilty “to financial fraud and lying to investigators” and “has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel inquiry.” According to a Media Matters review, Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the development. Fox & Friends all but ignored the report other than airing a 15-second teaser from co-host Brian Kilmeade (who did not identify how Gates is tied to the Trump campaign) and a softball question from co-host Steve Doocy during an interview with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Priebus also attempted to downplay the significance of the report, claiming Gates’ and Manafort’s conduct was “independent of the Trump campaign.”

    Dutch lawyer tied to Manafort business partner sentenced to 30 days in federal prison for pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators

    On April 3, according to CNN, Alex van der Zwaan, a “Dutch lawyer tied to former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates,” was “sentenced … to spend 30 days in prison and pay a $20,000 fine after he admitted to lying to” the special counsel regarding his “communications with Gates and a person with Russian intelligence ties.” According to a Media Matters review, Hannity briefly mentioned the sentencing, downplaying it as having “nothing to do with Russia collusion,” and saying, “In reality, it looks like a giant waste of your money.” Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the sentencing, which was the first in the special counsel’s investigation. Fox & Friends twice mentioned the development in passing while attempting to downplay its significance, once saying the sentencing is “unrelated” to Trump and Russia.

    Special counsel obtains seven new search warrants against Manafort

    On April 5, CBS News reported that prosecutors on the special counsel’s team “revealed in court filings ... that they had obtained on March 9 seven new search warrants against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort” for “various properties” including “a storage unit, bank accounts, email addresses and devices.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report.

    Federal judge rejects attempt to get Manafort case dismissed

    On May 15, according to Politico, a federal judge “rejected an attempt by Paul Manafort … to get an indictment against him dismissed by claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment was flawed.” The judge wrote that “given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest” for U.S. law enforcement. According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the judge’s decision.

    Manafort’s former son-in-law cuts plea deal, will testify against Manafort

    On May 17, Reuters reported that Manafort’s former son-in-law and “business partner” Jeffrey Yohai “cut a plea deal with the Justice Department” requiring him “to cooperate” with the special counsel’s prosecutors. According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report.

    Special counsel accuses Manafort of attempting to tamper with witnesses

    On June 4, according to The New York Times, “federal prosecutors ... accused President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his federal tax and money laundering case,” with one witness telling the FBI “that Mr. Manafort was trying to ‘suborn perjury.’” Yet again, according to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the court filing, even though the charges leveled against Trump’s former campaign manager can mean up to 20 years in federal prison if he is found guilty.

    Special counsel unseals additional charges against Manafort, Russian business associate

    On June 8, according to NPR, the special counsel’s office “unsealed more charges” against Manafort, alleging “that a Russian partner of Manafort's, Konstantin Kilimnik, helped him try to persuade witnesses to lie to the jury when Manafort's case comes to trial in Washington, D.C., this autumn.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the additional round of charges against the president’s former campaign manager.

    But Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all covered a judge’s sharp questioning of the special counsel’s motivations extensively

    On May 4, according to The Washington Post, “a federal judge in Virginia ... sharply questioned the motivations of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s fraud prosecution of President Trump’s former campaign manager.” According to the report, Judge T.S. Ellis III told prosecutors on Mueller’s team, “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. … You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all covered the judge’s rebuke of the Mueller team extensively.

    On the May 4 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity spent a total of 14 minutes and 46 seconds discussing Judge Ellis’ comments, calling his remarks the “single biggest beatdown I have ever seen in my life by a judge.” The nearly 15 minutes Hannity devoted to Ellis’ comments were significantly more than the time he spent covering any development in the various cases against Manafort in 2018 combined, which totaled about 1 minute and 57 seconds.

    On the May 5 edition of Justice with Judge Jeanine, host Jeanine Pirro spent a total of 15 minutes and 27 seconds discussing Judge Ellis’ remarks. In contrast, Pirro did not mention any of the other stories regarding Manafort's legal troubles in 2018.

    On the May 7 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts devoted 11 minutes and 5 seconds to Judge Ellis’ comments over three hours of airtime. Fox & Friends spent a total of 2 minutes and 43 seconds on the other turns in the various cases against Manafort, and during those reports the hosts usually downplayed the events as “unrelated” to Russia or “independent from the Trump campaign.”

    As Fox buries reports on Manafort, majority of Americans are unaware of numerous special counsel indictments

    Given Manafort’s past and the people he has been willing to associate with professionally, it is no wonder Fox News’ chief Trump propagandists have attempted to distance the president from him. According to The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer, Manafort’s career was built on lobbying on behalf of “dictatorial governments in Nigeria, Kenya, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, among others.” Manafort’s experience representing repressive regimes eventually landed him a job in Ukraine, assisting the “former gangsters,” as Foer wrote, in the Party of Regions in improving their image domestically, eventually guiding pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych to presidential victory in 2010.

    Fox News’ efforts to bury Manafort’s legal exposure seem to be having an impact. According to a recent survey conducted by Navigator Research, 59 percent of Americans are not aware that the special counsel’s investigation has uncovered any crimes, even though Mueller has amassed five guilty pleas and numerous indictments. Should the special counsel’s investigation turn up evidence that supports allegations of a criminal conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and foreign actors, Manafort would surely be implicated as a key player.

    Suppressing reports regarding (arguably) the most corrupt member of Trump’s campaign team -- and following Fox’s usual playbook of downplaying and ignoring other consequential reporting on the special counsel’s investigation -- appears to be part of the network’s larger strategy to pre-emptively downplay any possible findings that could implicate the president and his campaign.