Bret Baier | Media Matters for America

Bret Baier

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  • How pro-Trump media spun Trump saying he’d accept dirt from foreign governments in the 2020 election

    Conservative media claimed that Trump was just “playing,” drew a false equivalence with the Steele dossier, and attacked Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE & BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After President Donald Trump sparked outrage when he admitted in an interview that he would “listen” to any damaging information on his opponent even if it came from a foreign government, pro-Trump media quickly came to his defense.

    On June 13, ABC News host George Stephanopoulos asked Trump whether his campaign would accept, or hand over to the FBI, damaging information on his opponent if it came from a foreign source. Trump responded that “maybe” he would do both, saying, “You might want to listen. There isn’t anything wrong with listening.” Trump also pushed back on the idea that a foreign government providing information on a political opponent is election interference. He conceded that “if I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI” but also asserted that “the FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of” what he characterized as “oppo research.” Trump also lied that he had never in his "whole life" called the FBI (he approached the FBI in the 1980s in a matter related to Atlantic City casinos).

    The president’s comments came on the same day U.S. senators questioned his son Donald Trump Jr. about his connections with Russia. At the center of the scrutiny surrounding Trump Jr. is a meeting he took in 2016 -- along with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign head Paul Manafort -- with a Kremlin-linked lawyer to discuss “dirt” on former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The details surrounding the meeting are still in question.

    As criticism of Trump’s comments poured in, pro-Trump media rushed to defend the president. Many immediately pointed to Hillary Clinton, a common scapegoat for right-wing media; others drew a false equivalency with the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele on alleged connections between Trump and the Russian government to accuse Democrats and the media of a double standard when it comes to accepting foreign assistance during the election. But in fact, while it is illegal to accept contributions from foreign nationals for political campaigns (as Trump suggested he would do), “paying a foreign national fair market value for opposition research is generally not illegal,” as former chief counsel for the Federal Election Commission Lawrence Noble told The Washington Post. “It is considered a commercial transaction, which is not a contribution.”

    Nevertheless, pro-Trump media figures still defended Trump’s recent comments, deflecting to Hillary Clinton and the Steele dossier and lambasting the media for their supposed double standards:

    • On her prime-time show, Fox host Laura Ingraham said that it “seems like he’s playing.” She then referenced Trump’s 2016 comments during a campaign rally when he asked Russia to find dirt on Clinton, framing the comments as “obviously a Trump joke.” Ingraham and Her guest Victor Davis Hanson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, said that the interview showed “you shouldn’t ever talk to George Stephanopoulos.”

    • On Fox & Friends, Fox host Sean Hannity cheered Trump’s comments as “the greatest set-up that Donald Trump has ever made” because he angered the “media mob.” He then drew a false equivalency, saying that “if you’re outraged in the media” about Trump’s comments, “how could you not be outraged Hillary Clinton literally empowered a foreign agent who produced a dossier for the Russian lies,” referring to the Steele dossier.

    • On his prime-time show the night before, Hannity had defended Trump’s comments, asserting that if offered campaign dirt, “you might want to listen.” He then claimed that “listening is much different than … lying, spying, and paying for Russian lies,” criticizing Clinton and chastising the media for not being more outraged at her.

    • On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed “there is so much oppo research floating around Washington, D.C. Perhaps that’s what the president’s talking about.”

    • Fellow Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt dismissed the notion that Trump should report foreign assistance to the FBI, asking “What’s the FBI going to do?” Earhardt concluded that the FBI’s response would be along the lines of “you’re crazy.”

    • On America’s Newsroom, Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz claimed that “fake outrage from the left and the media is part of a pattern.” He pivoted to criticizing the media for not showing any outrage about former President Bill Clinton’s paid speeches when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

    • On Special Report with Bret Baier, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway responded to Trump’s comments by pointing to Clinton, asserting that she “took information from a foreign government.” She claimed that “if this is a huge problem,” then Stephanopoulos “should be asking” Clinton and the DNC about the Steele dossier. She also said the media should be asking, “Why they created this hoax conspiracy theory.”

    • On Fox Business, The Washington TimesCharles Hurt conceded that Trump’s comments were not good, but he urged people to first “think about what he has been through for the past three years.” Hurt also attacked Clinton over the Steele dossier and concluded that Trump is “in fighting mode” so “of course he’s going to say that.”

    • Fox host Mark Levin tweeted: “Uh, remember the dossier?” Levin then criticized the media -- calling them “these clowns” -- for being “appalled by Trump’s answer.”

    • Far-right conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec wrote that his “favorite part of the exchange was when ABC asked Trump about receiving intel from foreigners and he responded: Everyone in Congress does it #BloodMoney”

    • Media Research Center’s NewsBusters: “It's absolutely amazing how many liberals can't recall that Hillary Clinton paid a foreign operative to get foreign dirt on Donald Trump. They think they're the most intelligent ones.”

    • Right-wing blog RedState sarcastically compared Trump’s comments to the Steele dossier: “Democrats are Apoplectic That Trump Would Listen To A Foreigner With Dirt On An Opponent.” The blog post calling media reaction “extraordinary,” “considering that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC paid $12 million to a foreigner to not only dig up dirt on candidate Donald Trump, but to disseminate it among the Washington political community, the Intelligence agencies and then to the media.”

    • Right-wing troll Kurt Schlichter claimed, “I don’t accept that something is a crime only if it applies to my side.” He also wrote that the left decided that foreign election interference “is not a crime, so it is not a crime,” apparently referring to the Steele dossier, and said, “You might call this whataboutism. But my whataboutism is a moral necessity.”

    • Wash. Examiner correspondent Byron York attacked Politico for being “duly shocked, appalled by Trump foreign oppo research comment.” York misleadingly claimed that the same thing is “done by pros! On Nexis! Steele dossier seems to have slipped the mind.”

    • Daily Caller reporter Scott Morefield compared Trump’s affirmative openness to taking “foreign-obtained dirt” to Schiff being pranked by Russian radio hosts.

    • Conservative commentator Harlan Hill accused Democrats of “LYING THROUGH THEIR DAMN TEETH.” Hill’s comment was addressed at “any democrat saying they'd refuse to use oppo dropped on their doorstep regarding an opponent -- simply [because] they didn't like who dropped the oppo on their doorstep.” Hill also tweeted, “Democrats loved foreign interference in American elections when we were talking about the Anti-Trump Steele Dossier, a FAKE produced by a Brit and sourced by the Russians.”

  • ABC, NBC, and MSNBC prime-time shows ignored landmark UN report on biodiversity

    Only three of 26 prime-time news programs on major networks covered the report

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The major broadcast and cable news networks largely neglected to cover a landmark United Nations report on a devastating decline in biodiversity. On the day the report was released, three of the networks -- ABC, NBC, and MSNBC -- aired no prime-time coverage of it, while the other three networks each aired one prime-time segment. Out of 26 total prime-time news programs on the networks, only three reported on the U.N. assessment.  

    Major U.N. report warns of extinction crisis that will have major impacts on humanity

    A summary report released by the U.N. on May 6 finds that about 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction due to expansive human development. The current extinction rate is “at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.” The global assessment, compiled by hundreds of experts with data drawn from thousands of studies, is the most comprehensive look yet at the rapid decline in planetary biodiversity. The report points to a number of human activities that are affecting biodiversity, including overfishing, poaching, farming, mining, logging, and polluting. Climate change is also playing a large role in fueling the biodiversity crisis. And the loss of biodiversity in turn threatens humans by endangering water and food supplies and heightening the risks from floods and hurricanes.

    The full report is set to be published later in 2019. But even with this summary, the authors show that the biodiversity and climate crises are directly intertwined, ultimately painting a grim picture about the state of our natural world.

    Only one of three broadcast nightly news shows covered the U.N. biodiversity assessment

    Media Matters analyzed the major broadcast networks' nightly news programs on May 6, as well as cable news coverage from 4 p.m. to midnight.

    On the broadcast networks, neither ABC's World News Tonight nor NBC Nightly News mentioned the U.N. biodiversity assessment. Significant segments on these networks instead focused on a Russian airplane fire, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen reporting to prison, and the birth of a royal baby in Britain. CBS Evening News was the only broadcast nightly news program to air a segment on the biodiversity report.

    It should come as no surprise that ABC's flagship news program failed to cover the report; the network's news shows consistently lag behind their broadcast competitors in covering climate change. In 2018, ABC aired less than 11 minutes of climate coverage on its nightly and Sunday morning news programs, far less than its counterparts. In fact, ABC has spent less time on climate coverage than CBS and NBC every year since 2013.

    On cable, MSNBC failed to mention the biodiversity report in its prime-time coverage

    None of the prime-time news shows on MSNBC on May 6 mentioned the U.N. biodiversity assessment. Much of the news coverage on the network that night focused on the Mueller report.

    The only prime-time cable shows to mention the global assessment were CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier. Coverage on The Lead was straightforward, while Special Report's coverage was riddled with skepticism. Baier, who is billed as one of Fox's “news”-side reporters, began the segment by saying, “Many environmentalists are in a panic tonight over a new report,” but “as in all such cases, some humans say the report and the response are exaggerations.” The segment included commentary from industry-funded climate denier Marc Morano, who has no background in science. Morano downplayed the report and accused the U.N. of being a “self-interested lobbying organization.” (The Morano footage had run previously on another of Fox's “news”-side programs, Shepard Smith Reporting.)

    Overall, out of a total of 26 prime-time news shows aired on the major broadcast and cable networks on May 6, only three included coverage of the global assessment.

    By neglecting a major report about threats to life on Earth, TV networks are failing their viewers

    The extinction of threatened species will have serious human consequences. One takeaway from the U.N. assessment is the need to promote a better understanding of the fact that nature is the foundation for human development and all life on Earth. The media have a responsibility to help build an informed citizenry that understands the world it inhabits. By giving this report far too little attention, top TV networks have failed their audiences.

    Methodology

    Media Matters analyzed coverage on May 6 on the major broadcast networks' nightly news programs (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News) and on shows airing from 4 p.m. to midnight on the major cable news networks (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC). We identified segments on the U.N. biodiversity assessment by searching IQ Media and Nexis for the terms (nature OR biodiversity OR extinction OR extinct OR climate OR species OR planet) AND (report OR study).

  • With the Mueller investigation over, conservative media declare it’s time to investigate the investigators

    Right-wing media, predominantly Fox News figures, use the end of the Mueller investigation to call yet again for investigations into Hillary Clinton, President Obama, the FBI, and more

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Thursday, April 18, the Department of Justice released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference. Since then, several right-wing media figures, including hosts, anchors, and guests of President Donald Trump’s favorite TV channels Fox News and Fox Business, have declared that now is the time to investigate the investigators. (Republican National Committee spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington has also joined the chorus.)

    • New York Post’s Michael Goodwin: “The whole thing about the Russian dossier, the use of it by the FBI, [former FBI Director] James Comey, [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper, [former CIA Director John] Brennan, [former national security adviser] Susan Rice, on and on. All of their actions are subject, we hope, to a true investigation.”

    • The Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman: “How did this begin? How did this use of surveillance tools against the party out of power get started? And that's really what we haven't learned. ... Now I think we'll learn more about how the government came to spy on a political opposition.”

    • Fox Business host Stuart Varney: “I would simply like to know what did President Obama know about an ongoing spying operation into a competitor's political presidential campaign? … Will we find out what Hillary was doing?”

    • Fox contributor John Sununu: “When Lindsey Graham starts his investigation on the Clinton side of the issue, [Democrats] will have a difficult time with dealing that. And the more and more they get into the weeds, the more and more the American public is going to understand how political they are rather than trying to get legislation passed.”

    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk on The Story: “I actually believe you cannot allow the people from the internal, high levels of the FBI to get away with what they did here. ... There’s a lot of information, a lot of questions that still needs to be answered because this should never be allowed to happen to any other president again.”

    • Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier: Baier falsely gave credence to the idea that investigators need to be investigated, saying, “We don't yet know about the origins of the investigation, the [inspector general] may shed some light on this, as other investigations in the early stages.”

    • Fox contributor Katherine Timpf on Outnumbered: “We already have evidence that there were some people who were involved in this investigation who were politically motivated. They wanted to get the president. That's not something we wondering about, it's something we know. So knowing that, why wouldn’t you want to know more?”

    • Outnumbered co-host Lisa Boothe: “I would love to know at what point Mueller knew there was no collusion and why the investigation went past that point. I question the origins of the investigation to begin with. ... I question all of it, and I sincerely think we need to get to the bottom of it.”

    • Fox Business’ David Asman on Fox's Outnumbered: “It’s probably one reason why they are attacking [Attorney General William] Barr now is because they are afraid of what he might dig up as a result of investigating all this.”

    • Fox Business host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery: “If there is a possibility that the deep state exists and it is so politicized, and at the president's disposal, shouldn't all of the people running for president as Democrats want an investigation to make sure what happened in 2016 doesn't happen in 2020?”

    • Breitbart’s Alana Mastrangelo responded to a Trump tweet about the Mueller report with “Now let’s investigate the investigators.”

    • Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce on Varney & Co.: “We aren't fatigued with justice. We want it, and I think that especially in this case we know this investigation was based on something that didn't occur.”

    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “Will we ever see these underlying documents? We've got transparency from the Trump team, … and we still don't really know, do we, what happened with Comey and the edits and why he came out into a press conference?”

    • Ingraham: “Every effort should be made to investigate the origins and motivations of this Mueller investigation.”

    • Fox News contributor Trey Gowdy on Fox's The Story: “I would think everybody would want to know was there sufficient factual predicate for the launching -- the initiating of this investigation? … What you will see is Republicans going to investigate the origins.”

    • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs: “Everyone involved, the Dems who funded it, the Christopher Steeles and the law firms, that aided and abetted in this farcical attempt to overthrow a president … should be in orange jumpsuits.”

    • Dobbs: Barr is “the first attorney general I've seen in decades who, I believe, has the capacity and the talent and the integrity to … clean up this mess that is the leadership of the FBI and the Department of Justice.”

    • Lou Dobbs Tonight guest Harmeet Dhillon: “We are going to see more leadership changes [at DOJ] I hope, and that Bill Barr is able to be given all the rope and the ammunition that he needs to go forward.”

    • Fox regular Joe diGenova: “It is now abundantly clear that in order to restore the integrity of DOJ and FBI, there has to be a full-scale federal grand jury of the Obama DOJ and FBI, CIA, and director of national intelligence."

    • The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway on Fox's Special Report: “The country was basically held hostage by a collusion theory -- a theory that the president of the United States was a foreign agent. … It was a very negative thing. There needs to be accountability; we are being given indications that there will be accountability for this.”

    • Hemingway on Fox & Friends: “We should continue to investigate, but what we should investigate is how [the media and Democrats] were able to get away with saying [that there was collusion] for so many years without evidence, and how it was that our own law enforcement and intelligence agencies were taken over by this.”

    • Fox host Jesse Watters: “They used false information to spy on the Trump campaign, so that needs to be investigated. … Why aren't reporters at Chappaqua [NY] right now, waiting for Hillary?”

    • Fox Nation personalities Diamond & Silk: “The government officials that participated, that masterminded, that orchestrated all of this here collusion mess -- they need to be brought to justice. It’s time to investigate the investigators.”

    • Fox guest Francey Hakes: “How did this entire investigation get started, and did the US government actually run an asset at George Papadopoulos to plant information that was then later used as the basis of the entire investigation? … Public corruption must be examined.”

    • A Hannity panel comprising Fox’s Gregg Jarrett, right-wing journalist Sara Carter, and former independent counsel Ken Starr agreed that the investigators need to be investigated. Jarrett: “If I were James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Brennan Clapper, I wouldn't be sleeping very well tonight or many nights to come.”

    • Fox host Sean Hannity: “If any of this started before July 31, the alleged beginning of the FBI's collusion investigation, we need to know when it started. And finally, we need to know this big question: What did he know? What did President Obama know? And when did he know it?”

    • Hannity on his radio show: “Is Robert Mueller going to be reappointed and maybe he’ll hire only Republican donors? … Maybe they'll hire Sean Hannity. ... This is now the beginning of the real investigation into the investigators.”

    • Trump attorney Jay Sekulow on Hannity: “For the country’s sake, we don’t let this happen again -- ever again. When a situation like this -- that’s why you got to find out how you started. I think the attorney general is going to do the right thing.”

  • Questioner at Fox town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders has unstated ties to Turning Point USA

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    At Fox's town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the first question went to Joe Basrawi, who asked a question about Sanders' becoming a millionaire as a result of his best-selling book.

    On Twitter, Jordan Uhl noted that Basrawi is listed on LinkedIn as a a campus coordinator with far-right campus group Turning Point USA. Uhl also noted that Basrawi's twitter is full of far right rhetoric.

    None of this was mentioned by Fox's on screen graphics or the anchors of the town hall, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

  • Fox News will leverage Sen. Bernie Sanders’ town hall to sanitize its brand

    Fox News is a pro-Trump propaganda outlet, and the network’s “news” anchors are not honest brokers

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Tonight, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will appear on a Fox News town hall hosted by Fox News' Bret Baier, of Special Report, and Martha MacCallum, of The Story. According to Fox News, it will be the Vermont senator's first appearance on Fox News Channel since he agreed to be a guest on Baier's show in December 2018.

    Ahead of the town hall, Media Matters president Angelo Carusone issued the following statement, warning that Sen. Sanders’ appearance on Fox News will be used by the network to sanitize its brand:

    Since it is well-established that Fox News is disreputable and extreme, expectations for the network’s conduct are low. Basically, as long as the hosts manage to refrain from making a full-scale attack on Sen. Sanders, some will laud them for their performance.

    Don’t be fooled and don’t fall for this low-expectations trap.

    Every day, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum promote the same sensationalized misinformation as Fox’s prime time shows do. For example, both Baier and MacCallum are frequent misinformers about reproductive health on Fox News. According to a Media Matters study, between March 2017 and 2018, neither Baier nor MacCallum made a single accurate claim about common abortion and reproductive rights topics. Even Tucker Carlson -- who is perhaps the network's most frequent source of anti-choice misinformation -- managed to stumble into a couple accurate claims in the past year.

    Further, Bill Sammon, senior vice president at Fox News and managing editor of the D.C. unit, who negotiated the terms of the town hall and sits on Fox’s “news” side, was revealed in leaked memos to have instructed “news” staff to lie about climate science.

    The separation of Fox News’ supposed “news” and “opinion” sides is a fiction. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    Hosting these town halls and exploiting low regard for Fox News is a calculated effort by the network. But make no mistake: Fox News is a pro-Trump propaganda outlet, and the entire channel (not just parts of it) is steeped in bigotry, misogyny, conspiracy theories, and rank misinformation.

    Advertisers recognize that this a network-wide problem, which is why Fox News is currently experiencing an advertiser crisis. Fox is struggling to meet its sales requirements for upfronts, where the channel needs to sell approximately 70% of all of its ad inventory for next year.

    Fox News’ editorial decisions have driven major advertisers to flee its programming. As Fox News scrambles to avoid disaster during this key time period in which the network hopes to sell up to 70% of its ads for the year ahead, it is not the time to partner with Fox News on town halls or other events which require negotiation. Doing so will throw a critical lifeline to the network and prevent real accountability, allowing Fox News to sanitize its brand for important advertisers.

  • Candidates who care about climate change should be wary of partnering with Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Media Matters / Melissa Joskow

    Fox News is trying to entice Democratic presidential candidates to participate in town halls on the network, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) is scheduled to do on April 15. Though Sanders has explained his reasoning for wanting to do a town hall on Fox, there are plenty of good reasons why other candidates should think carefully about whether they want to partner with the network. 

    Fox is a pernicious propaganda machine for the Trump White House, and it has a long history of both denying and downplaying climate change and helping to block climate action. Fox is currently at the peak of its political influence, but it's also at a precarious point both financially and in the court of public opinion. Many advertisers have fled and others are considering following suit, not wanting to be associated with the network's bigoted and toxic commentary. Fox is now desperately courting advertisers by trying to paint itself as a legitimate news outlet ahead of May 13, when it will host an "upfront" event at which it aims to sell about 60 to 70 percent of its advertising space for 2020. Democratic candidates might want to keep their distance and not enable Fox's attempt at whitewashing its toxicity.

    Fox consistently spreads right-wing misinformation, lies, and climate denial

    The New Yorker recently exposed how Fox News has developed a symbiotic relationship with the Trump administration and has become a nexus of the right-wing disinformation network. And earlier in April, The New York Times Magazine detailed how Fox founder Rupert Murdoch’s media empire “helped elevate marginal demagogues, mainstream ethnonationalism and politicize the very notion of truth” in the U.S. and beyond, “destabiliz[ing] democracies around the world.”

    After the New Yorker published its piece in March, the Democratic National Committee barred Fox News from hosting any of its upcoming presidential primary debates.

    Fox News has been especially destructive on the climate change narrative, serving as an echo and amplification chamber for climate denial and environmental deregulation efforts. For years, Fox has played a critical role in undermining the public consensus around climate change by eroding trust in climate scientists and scientific institutions, according to a 2013 study. A separate study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that 72 percent of Fox News segments about climate science in 2013 "contained misleading statements." In the years since, the network has continued to parade a coterie of network personalities, fringe cranks, and conspiracy theorists to push misinformation about climate change and attack those working to confront the climate crisis.

    During the Trump administration, Fox News has also provided a safe haven for disgraced officials like former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Not only did Pruitt and Zinke prefer Fox News over other news networks, they both used their appearances on Fox to question climate science and to advocate for harmful environmental rollbacks, often with little to no pushback from fawning hosts.

    Fox's "straight news" anchors are not honest brokers on climate change and other critical issues

    Fox News claims that Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier, the Fox hosts who will anchor the town hall with Sanders, are straightforward newscasters. But a closer look at their past comments and reporting reveals that they cannot be trusted to foster good-faith discussions about key issues, including climate change.

    MacCallum has denied basic climate science and made ridiculous claims about global warming. In 2014, on Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, she said:

    MARTHA MACCALLUM: I mean the climate has changed over the course of the thousands and thousands of years that the Earth has been in existence. It has changed, you know, by several degrees up and down over the course of it. I just don't think that there is convincing evidence that the presence of man has altered that more dramatically than say the earth being covered with volcanoes emitting, you know, naturally noxious gases.

    That same year, MacCallum downplayed the importance of climate change and argued that Democrats in Congress should be concentrating on other issues instead. And in March 2015, after the Obama administration announced a voluntary emission-reduction pledge ahead of the U.N. climate talks in Paris, MacCallum was critical of the move and falsely said that the U.S. was going to the "upper end of the range" with its commitment and "nobody else has to do it." In fact, dozens of other countries had by that point announced targets to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions, including the European Union, whose target was more ambitious than the one the U.S. put forth.

    Baier has a reputation for not being as bad as some of the more explicit climate deniers on his network, but according to a 2014 analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, he has still aired "a number of segments containing inaccurate statements about climate science." He has given climate skeptics a platform to attack climate science and climate action, often with very little pushback.

    Fox is now desperately trying to convince advertisers that it's not toxic

    In March, Fox News executives held an unprecedented meeting with its advertisers to persuade them not to abandon the network after more than 30 companies had dropped their ads since the initial push began in December of last year. Recent calls for companies to pull their ads from Tucker Carlson Tonight and Justice with Judge Jeanine came in response to Media Matters releasing audio of Fox host Tucker Carlson's racist and misogynistic rants on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show from 2006 to 2011, and to Fox personality Jeanine Pirro’s anti-Muslim tirade against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

    For years, Fox News has let its prime-time hosts spew bigotry, propaganda, and dangerous conspiracy theories on a nightly basis, while using its so-called "news" programming to give the network a veneer of respectability. But the "news" side and the "opinion" side of Fox News are two sides of the same coin. Fox is dangerous and corrupt from top to bottom.

    The Fox executive wooing Democratic candidates has actively hampered honest reporting on climate change

    Bill Sammon, Fox's senior vice president and Washington managing editor, is courting Democratic candidates for town halls and trying to get the DNC to reconsider its decision not to let Fox host a debate.

    Sammon has a notoriously terrible record on climate change. In 2009, he sent a memo to Fox journalists ordering them to curtail honest reporting on climate change:

    We should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.

    He sent the memo out less than 15 minutes after a Fox correspondent accurately reported that U.N. scientists said the 2000-2009 period was "expected to turn out to be the warmest decade on record." When the correspondent returned to the air a few hours later, he added views from climate "skeptics" into his reporting. Sammon has also tilted Fox's coverage of other issues further to the right.

    Four years ago, Sammon played a key role in crafting questions for a Republican presidential primary debate. Do Democratic candidates want to invite Sammon to craft questions for them now?

    With Fox on the ropes with advertisers, Democratic candidates should consider if they want to throw Fox News a lifeline this spring.

  • Maddow's bombshell that the Trump administration tracked immigrant pregnancies also reveals how bad Fox's coverage was

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After numerous controversies and advertiser losses, Fox News has been scrambling to erect an imaginary firewall between the network's so-called "news" and "opinion" sides. But recent reporting from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about a 2017 case involving the treatment of pregnant detained teenagers underscores the reality about the two sides: Fox's "news" hosts are in lockstep with their so-called “opinion” colleagues and seemingly have been for some time.

    During the March 15 edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow reported on spreadsheets kept by President Donald Trump's administration containing details about unaccompanied immigrant girls’ pregnancies in an attempt to delay or prevent wanted abortions. In 2017, the Trump administration made a policy change that shelters could not facilitate abortion access for detained minors without “direction and approval” from Scott Lloyd, the then-director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. An undocumented teen (referred to as Jane Doe) who was being held in federal custody and was blocked from obtaining a wanted abortion brought suit, and a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to allow her to access abortion care.

    Although it had been previously reported that Lloyd tracked pregnant teens in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) custody using a spreadsheet, the March 15 edition of The Rachel Maddow Show showcased the exclusively obtained spreadsheet and shared previously unseen details. As Maddow said of the 28-page document:

    This is the federal government, with your tax dollars, keeping an individualized record of pregnant teenage girls’ menstrual cycles, whether they've had a positive pregnancy test, what the government knows about how they believe the girls got pregnant, how they believe this individual girl got pregnant, and whether this girl has requested an abortion.

    As Maddow explained, “This was essentially a spreadsheet designed to facilitate federal government action to block these girls from getting any abortion they might want.” In addition, Maddow noted, Lloyd kept tracking the girls’ pregnancies and cycles even after the court ordered ORR to stop blocking teens from obtaining abortions.

    Back in 2017, The Rachel Maddow Show had reported that Lloyd, an anti-choice extremist, used his position to push an anti-abortion agenda on the undocumented minors in his care. He allegedly visited at least one of the pregnant teens to try to talk her out of an abortion and made others go to anti-abortion fake health clinics for the same purpose. He had also reportedly inquired about whether a teenager in ORR custody could have her abortion “reversed,” an anti-abortion scam that is not based in science. Lloyd left ORR to join the Health and Human Services Department (HHS)’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives in November 2018.

    The updated story about Lloyd keeping tabs on teenage girl's menstrual cycles shines a light on the slanted lens through which both Fox's opinion and "news" sides present stories. Those who get their news from Fox are unlikely to hear about this invasive spreadsheet -- just as they were unlikely to hear about Lloyd’s actions in 2017. Instead, the network’s stories about the Jane Doe case that year focused on anti-abortion misinformation and fearmongering about immigrants.

    For example, during a 2017 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed the Jane Doe case was about “liberals … arguing that U.S. taxpayers somehow have an obligation to fund abortions for illegal aliens,” though Jane Doe had obtained private funding for the abortion. On The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham claimed that, because of a related court decision to allow undocumented minors to access abortion, the United States would become “an abortion magnet.” Notably, Ingraham opened the segment by downplaying the experiences of the pregnant detained minors impacted by the decision, mockingly saying: “Underage and need an abortion? Well, just come to America. … No visa needed.”

    Fox News’ so-called “straight news” hosts covered the 2017 case similarly. Bret Baier and Shannon Bream also pushed abortion misinformation about the Jane Doe case -- as they’ve frequently done for other abortion-related stories. During a 2017 edition of Special Report, host Baier opened a segment about Jane Doe’s case by posing the misleading question of whether viewers and their “fellow taxpayers [would] be required to pay for an abortion for an illegal immigrant.” In that same segment, Bream appeared as a correspondent and alleged that some people “think this could open the door to the U.S. providing abortions for minors who would seek to cross the border illegally solely for that purpose.” On her own program, Fox News @ Night, Bream continued promoting anti-choice groups’ talking points, pointing to comments from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, worrying that his state would become “a sanctuary state for abortions” due to the Jane Doe case.

    MSNBC’s new reporting further highlights the failures of Fox News’ work on this story -- on both the “news” and “opinion” sides. Fox News has a vested interest in proving (no matter how inaccurate) that the network's news hosts are somehow different from the network's opinion hosts. But hosts on both sides of Fox's artificial divide have prioritized anti-abortion misinformation and xenophobia over accurate reporting on Scott Lloyd's tenure at HHS. Given the amount of energy the network has spent fearmongering about abortion this year, it seems unlikely that viewers will hear anything accurate about the spreadsheets -- or, perhaps, anything at all.