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  • Sunday morning political shows missed key opportunities to talk about the climate crisis in June

    Democratic candidates brought up climate change far more than the shows' hosts did

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    The five major Sunday morning political shows aired a combined total of six segments in June that included at least a substantial reference to climate change. This is the highest monthly total since March.

    But half of the substantial climate references occurred because Democratic presidential candidates mentioned the topic, not because hosts asked the candidates about the climate crisis. Democratic candidates also made several additional passing mentions of climate change while answering hosts' questions on other topics.

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who is pushing the Sunday shows to offer more and better coverage of climate change, gave a speech from the Senate floor in May about the lack of climate coverage from major media outlets and the shallowness of the segments they do run. He released a scorecard on the shows' June performance:

    The only Sunday show host who asked a candidate a climate-related question was Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday. During his June 23 interview with Democratic presidential hopeful and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Wallace asked for the governor's views on the Green New Deal.

    None of the Sunday shows covered the growing push for a dedicated climate debate, nor did they talk about how climate change was discussed at the June 26 and 27 debates in Miami. This despite the fact that the campaign for a climate debate became a big story: Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez rejected calls for a dedicated debate even though the idea has support from 15 presidential candidates, more than 200,000 voters, Miami-area Democratic leaders, and many members of the DNC. The Sunday shows also failed to discuss the ongoing, cataclysmic flooding in the Midwest and the record-breaking heat wave that hit Europe and especially France, which recently hosted the Women's World Cup.

    The most notable climate discussion on a Sunday show occurred on the June 23 episode of CNN’s State of the Union, when host Jake Tapper repeatedly pressed Vice President Mike Pence for clear answers about his views on climate change. Tapper noted that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats considers climate change to be a threat, but the Trump administration has weakened emissions rules for coal power plants, then asked, "Do you think human-induced climate emergency is a threat to the United States?" Pence tried to avoid the question, so Tapper pressed him more than half a dozen times for a straight answer. And when Pence falsely asserted that “America has the cleanest air and water in the world,” Tapper fact-checked him and said, "That is not true." This exchange is a commendable, albeit too rare, instance of a host pushing a powerful public official for straight answers and calling out misinformation in real time.

    Sunday morning political shows will have lots of climate news to cover in July, if they are so inclined. The European Union’s satellite agency just announced that last month was the hottest June ever recorded on Earth, and prime season for hurricanes and wildfires is now under way, so extreme weather could make more news. There will undoubtedly be pressure on the moderators to make climate change a significant topic in the CNN presidential primary debates on July 30 and 31, something that the moderators of the last debates failed to do. And activists and citizens will continue with their campaign demanding a dedicated climate debate.

  • Fox News town halls give right-wing media new fuel for inaccurate abortion “extremism” talking points

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During the latest Fox News town hall, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called out the network's oversized role in mainstreaming inaccurate and sensationalized information about abortions that take place later in pregnancy. One of the ways the network and other right-wing media outlets have spread such misinformation is by asking candidates misleading questions about abortion rights and spinning their answers as “extreme." The town hall events have served as yet another chance to deploy this deceptive tactic.

    As at previous Fox News town halls, during the June 2 event, Gillibrand was asked by an attendee about her position on “late-term abortion or last trimester abortions.” In response, she explained that “the debate about whether or not women should have reproductive freedom has turned into a red-herring debate,” thanks in part to highly inaccurate allegations by Fox News and other right-wing media that support for later abortion access amounts to promoting “infanticide.”

    Gillibrand also cited research from Media Matters showing that Fox News “talked about infanticide for 6.5 hours” in the run-up to President Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address and that, in the last week of January, Fox News hosts and guests used the word “infanticide” 35 times when discussing state measures intended to protect abortion access.

    Indeed, Fox News and other right-wing media outlets have seized on these sensationalized talking points about “infanticide” to hound candidates with falsely framed questions or to attack their support for abortions later in pregnancy. This tactic is a crucial part of right-wing media’s playbook for the 2020 elections which relies on the use of anti-abortion misinformation to gin up controversy and support among conservative audiences.

    During Gillibrand's town hall event, moderator Chris Wallace (allegedly representing Fox’s “news” division, although he himself has a history of spreading anti-abortion misinformation) attempted to defend Fox in response to her comments, suggesting she shouldn’t criticize the network that was hosting her. But Fox has been far from friendly to the candidates it has hosted; after previous town halls, network personalities have spent the next day attacking the candidates for their comments.

    In particular, the network, other right-wing media, and anti-choice advocates have used these town halls as a mechanism to falsely characterize Democratic candidates as having “extreme” abortion positions. To begin with, the hosts of these events -- Wallace and another of Fox News’ supposed “straight news” personalities, Martha MacCallum -- have presented abortion-related questions in misleading ways. MacCallum asked both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) during their town halls whether they supported abortion up to “the moment of birth.” Wallace also asked a misleadingly framed question to South Bend, IN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg about whether he believes in “any limit” on when a person could get an abortion.

    After the town halls, Fox News and other right-wing media spun the candidates’ answers to allege that they support abortion up to birth or “infanticide.” For example, after Buttigieg said he trusts “women to draw the line” on when to have an abortion during his town hall event, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume claimed that Buttigieg’s position was “not widely held in this country.” Hume further argued that Buttigieg’s position was extreme because he said “there is no moment before birth when he wouldn't support a woman's right to an abortion.” Other Fox News personalities repeated a similar refrain: treating Buttigieg’s comments as evidence of alleged Democratic “extremism” on abortion, a talking point further echoed by other right-wing media and those in anti-abortion circles.

    Sanders’ answer that abortion in the third-trimester "happens very, very rarely” and “the decision over abortion belongs to a woman and her physician” predictably evoked the ire of right-wing and anti-abortion media, with one headline proclaiming “Bernie Sanders Supports Abortions Up to Birth, Okay to Kill Babies Up to Birth Because ‘It’s Rare.’” During the April 16 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson attacked Sanders, arguing that “Like 10 years ago, that would be considered like an extreme position. Today, it's the moderate position in the Democratic Party. Some are defending ‘infanticide’ just flat-out. Safe, legal, and rare. No. That's not at all the position today. It should be free, frequent, and horrifying.”

    Klobuchar received less right-wing media attention after her Fox News town hall and very little of that attention focused on her abortion-related comments. Instead, outlets focused on attacking her claim about Planned Parenthood offering mammograms as a lie -- although the provider does facilitate this care through referrals. For her part, Gillibrand has drawn criticism (including on Fox News) that she was incorrect to attack Fox News because, critics claimed, Democrats do indeed support “infanticide.”

    No matter the focus of right-wing media’s outrage, it is undeniable that Fox News’ abortion-related coverage, including the network’s town halls, has served as the jumping-off point for inaccurate and dangerous rhetoric about abortion access. And whether or not Democrats continue to appear on the network, personalities on both the “news” and opinion sides will undoubtedly continue to deploy this tactic throughout the 2020 election cycle.

  • Sunday morning political shows cover climate change in March thanks to Democratic presidential hopefuls

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    Sunday morning political shows’ coverage of climate change in March was driven by Democratic presidential candidates, a number of whom are making climate change a key campaign issue. The five major Sunday shows aired a combined six segments in March that included substantive discussion of climate change, and all of them were interviews with 2020 hopefuls.

    The two most in-depth climate conversations came during interviews with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is focusing his presidential campaign around the need for climate action. Inslee appeared on the March 3 episode of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos and the March 10 episode of CNN’s State of the Union. On State of the Union, Inslee gave a detailed response to host Jake Tapper's question about the seriousness of his climate-focused candidacy, discussing the severity of the climate threat, how high climate change ranks among issues voters care about, and how climate issues intersect with other issues such as the economy, health care, and national security.

    JAKE TAPPER: So let's talk about climate change. First of all, what do you say to a Democratic voter who hears that your campaign is about climate change, and they think, “Oh, well, then he's not really serious about running for president, he's just trying to get an issue on the agenda”?

    JAY INSLEE: I would say several things. Number one, I would say that we are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it. And we have got one shot. And that's the next administration. We have to have this be the primary, first, foremost, and paramount duty of the next administration, because the world's on fire. And we’ve got to act. And we got a climate denier in the White House. The second thing I would say is: If you care about climate change, you're not alone. A poll just came out in Iowa saying it's the top, number one priority, tied with health care. And the third is, this is not a single issue. It is all the issues. Look, if you care about the economy, the economy is now being ravaged by climate change. And the economic growth that we can have -- I’ve been on a tour looking at all the job creation going on, solar power in Iowa, batteries in Nevada, wind power in Washington. So, I have been on this tour, nationally, looking at what a tremendous job-creating opportunity this is. It's a health issue. It's asthma and infectious diseases. It's a national security issue. I met with Adm. [William] Fallon in Seattle, who talked about the Pentagon telling us what a national security threat it is and how we have Trump trying to tear up the intelligence report.

    Other Democratic presidential candidates who discussed climate change on Sunday shows last month included Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, IN. On the March 17 episode of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked him about the Green New Deal and Buttigieg responded by emphasizing the need to "act aggressively and immediately on climate."

    Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who is considering a run for president, appeared on the March 31 episode of State of the Union, where Tapper asked him about the Green New Deal's job guarantee. Moulton said the U.S. could fight climate change and strengthen the economy at the same time by putting people to work doing things like making buildings more energy-efficient.

    Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper both discussed climate change during appearances on NBC’s Meet the Press, even though host Chuck Todd didn’t ask them about the subject. During her March 17 interview, Klobuchar talked about the economic consequences of climate change and extreme weather, noting the role climate change played in the recent devastating flooding across the Midwest as well as in hurricanes and wildfires. On the March 31 episode of Meet the Press, Todd asked Hickenlooper how he would respond to critics of his fossil fuel ties, and Hickenlooper used the opportunity to talk about methane regulations he helped put in place in Colorado and the need for global action to tackle climate change.

    CBS' Face the Nation is the one major Sunday show that failed to air a single substantive discussion of climate change in March. It was the fourth month in a row that the show neglected to cover climate change.

    Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who is calling on the Sunday shows to give climate change more attention, released a scorecard on the shows' March performance:

    The number of segments that included substantive discussion of climate change was down a little in March compared to February, when many of the shows included conversations about the Green New Deal; there were six substantive segments in March versus seven in February. In January, the Sunday shows featured no substantive discussions of climate change.

    Altogether, the first quarter of 2019 featured much more climate coverage than the first quarter of 2018, in which the Sunday shows aired just a single episode that included notable discussion of climate change.

    But climate coverage in the first quarter of 2019 was actually down compared to the last quarter of 2018, when the Sunday shows discussed climate change in the wake of two major reports on climate science from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. government.

    In March, the shows missed opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations about climate change beyond interviews with Democratic presidential contenders. None of the shows' hosts asked questions about the historic and calamitous Midwest flooding that took place last month; Klobuchar is the only person who brought it up. The Sunday shows even failed to address the political maneuvering around the recent Senate vote on the Green New Deal, which is an odd omission for programs that are normally so focused on political fights and one-upmanship. The shows still have work to do to increase the quality and quantity of their climate coverage.

  • There’s no difference between Fox’s so-called “news” and “opinion” sides on anti-abortion misinformation

    Fox’s “straight news” anchors repeat the same anti-choice talking points as the network's opinion hosts

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    There are many reasons that Fox News’ false dichotomy between the network’s so-called “news” and “opinion” divisions is laughable, but there is perhaps no clearer indication than the sheer amount of anti-abortion misinformation spread by both "opinion" and “straight news” personalities alike.

    After the Democratic National Committee announced that Fox News would not be hosting any of this year’s Democratic presidential primary debates, backlash from Fox’s senior leadership was swift, with officials imploring the DNC to “reconsider its decision” on account of the “ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism” reportedly shown by some of the network’s hosts. As Variety previously reported, the network had already rolled out a messaging campaign to reassure wary advertisers about the outlet’s legitimacy, extolling the virtues of the network’s news hosts. This messaging campaign is merely a repackaging of the same inaccurate story Fox has been telling for years: Viewers and critics shouldn’t hold the blatant xenophobia, sexism, racism, and lies of the opinion side against the allegedly objective news team. But this recycled talking point further falls apart when it comes to anti-abortion misinformation spread by the network’s hosts.

    In January, abortion rights measures in New York and Virginia sent Fox News and broader conservative media into a frenzy. Although both measures were attempts to protect abortion access should the Supreme Court overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade, Fox News hosts across the network’s news and opinion programs seized on the opportunity to spread sensationalized misinformation and attack Democrats for allegedly supporting “infanticide” or so-called abortions “up until birth.” Despite these inaccurate characterizations, Fox News devoted over six and half hours of coverage before the 2019 State of the Union address to falsely claiming that these state measures allowed “infanticide” -- a talking point that ultimately appeared in President Donald Trump’s remarks. In fact, Trump and Republican lawmakers are reportedly banking on using anti-abortion extremism to rally voters for the 2020 elections -- a strategy that was on full display during the most recent Conservative Political Action Conference.

    It’s no secret that Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity -- each a part of Fox’s volatile and increasingly bad-for-business prime-time lineup -- are all frequent anti-abortion misinformers. Although Fox has attempted to distinguish the work of Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Shannon Bream, and Chris Wallace from their colleagues, these "news"-side hosts have all pushed their share of lies, distortions, and misinformation about abortion and reproductive rights.

    Bret Baier

    Although Fox clearly has a profit motive in portraying Baier as a straight news host, there is little to distinguish him from his colleagues on the opinion side when it comes to his abortion-related reporting. In Media Matters’ annual study of abortion-related coverage on evening prime-time cable news programs, Baier and his program Special Report have consistently been dominated by anti-choice talking points and inaccurate statements about abortion and reproductive rights.

    Notably, Baier hosted a 2016 town hall with Democratic presidential candidates and used the platform to recycle misleading right-wing anti-abortion talking points. On his program, in the same year, Baier inaccurately described a common abortion procedure as “dismemberment abortion” and misled viewers that a Supreme Court case involving access to contraceptives was actually about abortion rights. Baier previously invoked a longstanding right-wing media talking point comparing legally operating abortion providers to convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. In 2009, Baier even went so far as to falsely assert that the Obama administration would allow doctors to be jailed for refusing to perform abortions. 

    Martha MacCallum

    Beyond frequently hosting anti-choice guests such as Live Action founder Lila Rose and Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins, MacCallum seemingly makes little secret of her personal views on abortion and will often use sensationalized rhetoric when discussing the topic.

    Even before MacCallum became a staple of Fox’s evening lineup, she was already a serial anti-abortion misinformer. In 2015, MacCallum attacked Planned Parenthood for allegedly using taxpayer money to support abortion care (the organization does not, as the Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds for abortion services). Like Baier, MacCallum also used a 2016 presidential primary forum as an opportunity to spread anti-abortion misinformation sourced from the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) deceptive videos attacking Planned Parenthood. Since MacCallum began hosting her own program, she has consistently promoted anti-abortion talking points about later abortion and Planned Parenthood. In 2017, MacCallum pushed several myths about the existence of so-called “sex-selective” abortion practices, even demanding a guest on her program explain whether it was acceptable “for someone to decide because they don’t like the sex of their baby to abort it at eight months.”

    Shannon Bream

    Whether appearing as a correspondent on Special Report or hosting her own program, Fox News @ Night, Bream has been a frequent source of anti-abortion misinformation on Fox. Despite representing the network’s so-called “straight news” contingent, Bream’s promotion to host her own program was celebrated by anti-abortion leaders.

    Bream was a frequent promoter of CMP’s deceptive videos, even hosting the Fox News “special” promoting the group’s claims in 2015. In 2016, Bream touted “exclusively obtained” copies of letters from a House investigation based on CMP’s allegations -- letters received a full day before they were publicly released or shared with Democratic members of the investigative panel, in direct violation of congressional rules. Since then, Bream has repeatedly signal-boosted anti-abortion talking points and myths by spreading misinformation about abortion safety, letting guests make inaccurate allegations about Planned Parenthood without pushback, and citing polls commissioned by anti-abortion groups without necessary context to suggest a lack of public support for abortion. If there’s a talking point circulating around anti-abortion media and personalities online, it’s more likely than not that it will eventually surface on Bream’s program.

    Chris Wallace

    Although Chris Wallace does not discuss abortion as frequently as some of his Fox colleagues, his invocation of so-called “partial-birth” abortion during the final debate of the 2016 presidential election is more than enough to disqualify the anchor from consideration as a fair and balanced voice on abortion-related issues. Wallace’s inaccurate and sensationalized question was then picked up by other right-wing media outlets and has since re-emerged in Trump’s current talking points about abortion. Wallace has also shown a propensity for repeating right-wing smears against Planned Parenthood, citing anti-choice videos attacking the organization well before CMP’s campaign of deception began.

    It doesn’t matter whether viewers watch so-called "news" or "opinion" programming: Both are likely to contain sensationalism, outright lies, and harmful characterizations about abortion patients, providers, and procedures -- seemingly no matter the potential consequences.

  • Fox's "news" team is an essential cog in a corrupt propaganda machine

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    There will be no Fox News debate for this year’s Democratic presidential primary contest. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez closed the door to the right-wing network on Wednesday, telling The Washington Post that the party had rejected the network’s bid in light of the “inappropriate relationship” between Fox News and President Donald Trump that The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer documented in her damning new story. Perez’s statement brought a quick response from Bill Sammon, Fox News’ senior vice president and Washington managing editor, who urged the DNC to “reconsider its decision to bar Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism,” from moderating a debate.

    Sammon’s comment is a well-worn talking point familiar to anyone who has followed the network’s public relations campaigns over the years. Fox executives and flaks are constantly telling reporters and advertisers alike that the network simply has separate “news” and “opinion” sides like any other news outlet. In their telling, it is unfair to hold the conspiracy theories and naked bigotry of Fox’s right-wing prime-time hosts against Wallace, Baier, MacCallum, Shep Smith, and the rest of the purportedly objective news team.

    But Mayer’s piece is more than a dissection of Fox’s merger with the Trump White House and emergence as a propaganda tool for his administration. It also helps underscore the farcical nature of the narrative that Sammon and his fellow Fox executives use in pushing back against the network’s detractors.

    “Fox’s defenders view such criticism as unfounded and politically biased,” Mayer writes, noting that in response to her inquiries, “Fox’s public-relations department offers numerous examples of its reporters and talk-show hosts challenging the Administration.”

    This argument was never credible, but the network’s reinvention as state TV has rendered it utterly appalling. Everyone at Fox is complicit in what the network has become.

    The Fox-Trump fusion that Mayer reveals -- the total breakdown of basic journalistic standards, the endless propagation of paranoid conspiracy theories bolstering Trump, the revolving door between network and White House, the Fox hosts advising the president by day and shilling for him on air by night -- came about while Wallace and company were collecting paychecks from the network. To the extent they may have wished to halt that slide, they were obviously unable to do so.

    That's because Fox is -- by design, and to its core -- a right-wing propaganda apparatus that relies on misinformation, disinformation, and outright bigotry to promote the conservative movement and Republican Party. That is its business model and its political project. It also employs some reporters, who have little influence over the bulk of the network’s operations. The reporters may at times criticize the unwillingness of other Fox employees to follow basic media ethics, but to no avail; as Mayer points out, “many Fox News reporters were angry, and provided critical anonymous quotes to the media” after Sean Hannity appeared on stage at a Trump political rally, but Fox supported Hannity nonetheless. The network’s pro-Trump talkers provide Fox with an audience, ratings, and political heft, and so its executives will choose the Hannitys over the Wallaces every time.

    The Wallaces nonetheless play important roles -- ones that are unique in the media.

    At a normal outlet, journalists report out stories and try to break news. At Fox, on-air talent who roughly adhere to journalistic standards serve a very different purpose: They provide Fox’s PR team a fig leaf to point to when critics decry the network’s vile programming. When Hannity, Tucker Carlson, or Laura Ingraham get in trouble, Fox corporate can point to the likes of Wallace or Smith “challenging the Administration” as evidence that the network is more than a right-wing fever swamp.

    Mayer highlights two examples of this phenomenon: Smith giving a monologue in which he “contradicted Trump’s scaremongering about immigrants,” and Wallace debunking one of the White House’s “wildly inaccurate” talking points during an interview with press secretary Sarah Sanders. Both instances garnered media attention precisely because they cut against the right-wing lies and smears typically seen on Fox programs with much bigger audiences.

    That attention benefits Fox’s PR offensive: When clips like these go viral, they become examples the network’s team can highlight when they want to argue that Fox is not a monolithic pro-Trump apparatus. Fox keeps people like Wallace and Smith on the payroll not in spite of these types of segments, but because these segments burnish the Fox brand for journalists, advertisers, politicians, and other elites who don’t watch the network’s programming on a regular basis, more than making up for the hosts’ hefty salaries.

    But these deviations from Fox’s norms are ultimately hollow. In effect, they are the new versions of former Fox host Megyn Kelly’s “Megyn moments,” bolstering the credibility of the hosts and their network, but without any broader impact on the trajectory of Fox’s programming. Smith may tell his audience that there is no immigrant “invasion,” but that doesn’t stop the network’s prime-time lineup from assuring its much larger audiences that there is one. Wallace can give Trump aides a hard time in his interviews, but those exchanges end up going viral everywhere except at Fox itself, which apparently prefers not to inform too many viewers about the administration’s false talking points.

    As The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple put it: “Nothing that Smith says during his Fox News program -- no matter how sick his burns on Trump might be -- neutralizes the impact of Dobbs or Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson or dozens of other Fox talking heads. Nothing. Episodic truth-telling about Trump doesn’t excuse fulsome conspiracy-theorizing about Trump.”

    Baier and, of late, MacCallum, are often included in these discussions, but they largely went unmentioned by Mayer. I find their typical inclusion in these discussions suspect. Both tend to avoid publicly criticizing their colleagues, unlike Smith and Wallace, and produce far fewer of these viral moments. Baier’s biggest story in recent years was his quickly debunked and largely retracted report, days before the 2016 election, that the FBI was conducting a “very high priority” investigation of “possible pay-for-play interaction” between Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation that would “likely” result in an indictment; more recently, he’s breached ethical norms by golfing with Trump. Meanwhile, MacCallum is every bit as pure an ideologue as anyone else on the network, using her show to claim that a border wall is “needed” to stop the immigrant “invasion” and declare that “both sides” were at fault during the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA, among other misdeeds.

    It’s also telling that the network’s PR effort consistently focuses on these sorts of moments from Fox’s journalistically inclined anchors rather than major news stories that its reporters break. That’s because the dirty secret of Fox News’ “news” team is that the “news” team doesn’t break much news.

    The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and a host of other news outlets have spent the last few years producing scoops at a furious, exhausting rate. What Fox scoops can you remember? Despite unparalleled access to the Trump administration and other Republican officials, the network has little to show for itself.

    Instead, the Fox “news” team provides daily fodder for the network’s right-wing stars to opine about. Their role is to fill the network’s “news” hours with reports on whatever stories conservatives are panicking over that day -- Uranium One, Benghazi, migrant caravans, and the purported Justice Department conspiracy against Trump among them. They provide incremental stories, often sourced to Republican legislators, that advance the narratives with fresh details for the “opinion”-side hosts to freak out about.

    Sammon himself is a key party to this dynamic. In 2010 and 2011, this top “news”-side figure became the subject of widespread criticism after Media Matters produced a series of reports showing how he had used his position to slant the network’s news coverage to the right -- including by claiming on air during the 2008 election that Barack Obama was advocating socialism, a charge he admitted he did not believe. Rather than firing Sammon for lying to its audience, Fox curtailed his on-air appearances but let him keep his senior job overseeing the network’s news coverage. Most recently, he was the point man in Fox’s effort to get the Democratic National Committee to let the network host a presidential primary debate, an attempt that ended Wednesday when the DNC announced that it would not partner with Fox in light of Mayer’s story.

    Mayer points to two cases in which Fox considered taking a big swing at a major scoop. It’s instructive to consider them as a pair. First, during the 2016 presidential campaign, a FoxNews.com reporter put together the story that Trump had had a sexual relationship with the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels and that a payoff and nondisclosure agreement had been arranged to prevent her from detailing the affair. Second, in 2017, a second FoxNews.com reporter developed a story suggesting that the murdered Democratic staffer Seth Rich, rather than Russian intelligence operatives, had stolen the DNC emails that were leaked during the campaign.

    The former story, which would have been damaging to Trump, never ran. The latter, which benefited his claims that he had not been helped by Russia, did. The Rich story quickly unraveled, eventually forcing Fox to issue a retraction. The network also claimed it was conducting an internal investigation, but to this date no results have materialized and no employee held accountable.

    That’s how things work at Fox. It’s long been a propaganda outlet, and now it’s merged with the White House. It is toxic, and no number of tough Wallace interviews or Smith viral monologues can redeem it.

  • Sunday show coverage of climate change was up in February, thanks to the Green New Deal

    Unfortunately, much of the discussion was superficial, and some of it included climate deniers

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Sunday morning political shows discussed climate change much more in February than they did in January. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who is calling on the programs to give climate change more attention, released a scorecard on the shows' February performance:

    It indicates a notable increase in climate coverage compared with the first month of the year, when none of the shows aired substantive segments on climate change and altogether they made just four passing mentions of the topic. 

    Most of the coverage in February focused on the Green New Deal resolution that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced on February 7. While it was encouraging to see more media attention on climate policy ideas, the discussions tended to be narrowly focused on the potential political ramifications for Democrats and Republicans instead of whether the Green New Deal contains worthy ideas for addressing climate change.

    On a more discouraging note, some of the Sunday show discussions about the Green New Deal included climate deniers -- most notably right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, who appeared on Fox News Sunday on February 17. During a wide-ranging conversation, Limbaugh called climate change a "hoax" after host Chris Wallace brought up the Green New Deal. Limbaugh went on, "There's no evidence for it. Climate change is nothing but a bunch of computer models that attempt to tell us what's going to happen in 50 years or 30." Wallace did not push back against Limbaugh's outright climate denial. This was the lowlight of February's climate coverage.

    Other people who have denied or downplayed the climate threat were also asked about the Green New Deal on the Sunday shows. On the February 10 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace raised the topic with National Review Editor Rich Lowry and with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. And on February 10 on ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos brought up the Green New Deal with former New Jersey governor and ABC contributor Chris Christie. None of them expressed climate denial in these conversations, but Lowry used the opportunity to criticize the Green New Deal as "socialist" and "radical" and Mulvaney expressed delight that the plan is dividing Democrats.

    More insightful climate coverage included a segment on the February 24 episode of CBS’ Face the Nation during which Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democratic presidential hopeful, called for action to fight the climate emergency. Additionally, a panel discussion on the February 10 episode of NBC’s Meet the Press included MSNBC host Katy Tur offering a vivid reminder that climate change could kill millions of people and cause billions of dollars in economic damages. (Actually, it could cause trillions in damages.)

    But the highlight of the month's climate coverage came from a panel discussion on NBC’s Meet the Press on February 24, when Heather McGhee, former president and current senior fellow at the liberal policy group Demos, injected a passionate call for climate action into what was otherwise shaping up to be a typical, insubstantial conversation about Green New Deal politics. The panel was discussing the tactics behind a viral video that showed Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) condescending to young activists from the Sunrise Movement who were pressing her to support the Green New Deal. McGhee reminded the others of the big picture and the urgent need for action:

    Dianne Feinstein has been great. And she has been in office and not had the urgency that is required. This is an emergency in this country. It's an emergency on this planet. There's no higher responsibility of anyone who has any kind of political power right now than to try to stop a global catastrophe that's not happening in three generations, it's happening now.

    McGhee came close to tears during her comments, as she noted afterward on Twitter:

    She then followed up by writing a piece invoking her infant son and explaining that “we need more emotion and more urgency in the fight for the future.”

    In 2018, the Sunday shows hardly covered climate change at all, and when they did, those discussions too often featured climate deniers. Now -- after the release late last year of landmark climate reports from the United Nations and the U.S. government and the introduction this year of the Green New Deal resolution -- the programs are addressing climate change more often, and at least some of the coverage is constructive. We hope to be seeing a lot more.

  • Major Sunday shows discuss climate change and Green New Deal, but through narrow lens of political horse race

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    All five major Sunday morning political shows touched on the Green New Deal on February 10 -- the first time in 2019 that any of the programs have addressed climate change with more than a passing mention. But most of the discussion was superficial and narrowly focused on whether the Green New Deal will cause intra-party fighting among Democrats or end up benefiting Republicans, not on whether its policy ideas are good approaches for fighting climate change.

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a Green New Deal resolution on Thursday, outlining an aggressive plan for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. within a decade.

    NBC's Meet the Press featured a conversation about the Green New Deal with a panel of guests. Host Chuck Todd kicked it off by briefly outlining the plan's big goals and then asking Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, “Is this a healthy debate [for the Democratic Party] that's happening right now?" In a follow-up comment to David Brody, chief political analyst for the Christian Broadcasting Network, Todd said, “Obviously the president's team sees a reelection opening." The panel discussion on the show largely focused on which party could benefit from consideration of the Green New Deal. Only MSNBC host Katy Tur talked about the dire climate impacts the Green New Deal is designed to mitigate:

    The U.N. said we have 12 years before complete disaster. You talk to the representative of the Marshall Islands, and he's calling it what could amount to genocide if we allow things to go as they are. The reports aren't just, "Hey, it's going to get bad." The reports are, "People will die. Millions and million, and millions of people will die." And I think that there is an appetite among voters out there, especially Democratic voters and potentially swing voters, to say, "Hey, let's do something about this now because it's, it’s going to affect our future." And there's real economic damage that can happen as well. Billions of dollars in economic damage from crops to deaths, to losing oceanfront homes and businesses in, over the next century.

    On CNN's State of the Union, host Jake Tapper brought up the Green New Deal twice. His interview with Peter Buttigieg, Democratic presidential hopeful and mayor of South Bend, IN, included a substantive exchange on the plan and on climate impacts. Tapper briefly mentioned the Green New Deal’s broad aims, questioned Buttigieg about how it could affect his constituents and industry in the Midwest, and asked if he endorsed it. Buttigieg affirmed his support for the general framework of the Green New Deal, specifically “the idea that we need to race toward that goal and that we should do it in a way that enhances the economic justice and the level of economic opportunity in our country.” Buttigieg also noted that action is needed because extreme weather is already hurting Americans. Later in the show, during an interview with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tapper noted that Murphy was a Green New Deal co-sponsor before saying, “Independent senator Angus King of Maine as well as Obama's former energy secretary Ernest Moniz say they don't think that this plan is realistic.” Murphy responded, “It's absolutely realistic and I frankly think we need to set our sights high.” Murphy emphasized the reason why bold steps are required: "Global warming is an existential threat to the planet."

    Fox News Sunday included two segments that discussed the Green New Deal, but host Chris Wallace seemed less interested in how it would address climate change and more interested in whether it could be labeled “socialist.” During a discussion with a panel of guests, Wallace listed some of the plan’s policy goals before asking former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), “Couldn't you call it socialist?” In a follow-up question to Edwards, Wallace lumped the Green New Deal in with other progressive policy proposals such as free college tuition and a guaranteed jobs plan, asking her again, “Couldn't you argue that's pretty radical and possibly socialist?” During a separate interview with Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Wallace asked if President Donald Trump views the Green New Deal as “the view of a wing of the [Democratic] party or does he think that's the prevailing opinion of Democratic leaders?”

    Both ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos and CBS' Face the Nation just made passing mentions of the Green New Deal. This Week host Stephanopoulos directed a comment about Trump’s sarcastic tweet about the Green New Deal to ABC News contributor Chris Christie, but Christie didn't address the topic. Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan didn’t bring up the Green New Deal herself, but one of her guests, National Review Senior Editor Jonah Goldberg, referenced it in passing to claim that it could harm the Democrats politically.

    Sunday’s Green New Deal coverage did not include any guests who voiced climate denial, which is an improvement over the last time all of the major shows covered climate change, on November 25, after release of the National Climate Assessment. But this time around, none of the shows hosted guests with particular expertise in climate change to discuss the plan, like climate scientists or environmental journalists. This is an unfortunate, long-running trend: The Sunday shows rarely feature climate experts.

    The Green New Deal is sparking Sunday show discussion of climate policy, which we've seen very little of in recent years. (And it’s freaking out conservatives and right-wing media figures.) But the coverage needs to get better. Media outlets have a responsibility to move discussions of climate-related issues like the Green New Deal beyond superficial horse-race coverage and into real substance. That means acknowledging that the Green New Deal is not merely a political ploy; it is an effort backed by a broad array of environmental groups, environmental justice organizations, and unions, as well as high-profile Democratic politicians, to comprehensively address the climate crisis. Sunday shows should be fostering discussion of whether the Green New Deal is the right approach to deal with climate change, not whether it will help one side or another score quick political points.

  • Sunday show coverage of climate change in 2018 was a disaster

    Less than 6 percent of episodes on the major Sunday shows discussed global warming, and some of them included climate deniers

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Less than 6 percent of episodes of the five major Sunday morning news shows in 2018 featured any substantial mentions or discussions of climate change, according to a Media Matters analysis. And the number of times the shows addressed climate change was down from the previous year: They ran 13 percent fewer climate-focused segments in 2018 than they did in 2017, continuing the shows’ multi-year trend of neglecting climate change.

    The Sunday shows also continued their trend of failing to adequately represent minorities, women, scientists, and environmental journalists in discussions about climate change.

    Media Matters analyzed climate change coverage and guest appearances on the five major Sunday morning shows: ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press.

    The Sunday shows help set the media and political agenda for the week, but it's not only politicians, pundits, and other media figures who take their cues from them -- members of the public do too. The four broadcast Sunday shows attracted a combined audience of nearly 11 million viewers in the last quarter of 2018. Because of their wide viewership and political prestige, Sunday news shows play a crucial role in determining which issues and voices are included in the national dialogue.

    Key findings:

    • Less than 6 percent of episodes of the major Sunday shows in 2018 featured significant discussion of climate change.
    • Sunday shows ran fewer segments that included substantial mentions of climate change in 2018 (27 segments) than they did in 2017 (31 segments) -- a 13 percent decrease.
    • Only 17 percent of guests featured during climate-focused segments in 2018 were people of color -- six out of 35 guests total.
    • Only 37 percent of guests featured in climate-focused discussions in 2018 were women.
    • Two scientists were included in climate-related segments in 2018, after scientists had been excluded from all of the Sunday shows' climate discussions for almost three years.

    Major Sunday shows ignored climate change during most of 2018

    In 2018, the five major Sunday shows aired a combined total of 256 episodes, and only 14 of them made significant mention of climate change -- less than 6 percent.

    During the course of the year, there were only nine Sundays when at least one show aired a segment that focused on climate change. On the other 43 Sundays, or 83 percent of them, climate change was not substantively addressed.

    The shows also neglected to cover climate change during six months of the year, including June, when a heat wave broke records across much of the U.S.; August, when the Mendocino Complex became the largest fire in California’s history; and September, when Hurricane Florence devastated parts of North Carolina.

    The total number of segments addressing climate change was down from 2017: The shows aired 27 segments in 2018 compared to 31 segments the year prior, a decline of 13 percent. Face the Nation and Meet the Press aired eight climate-related segments each in 2018, followed by Fox News Sunday with five, and This Week and State of the Union with three each. (Not all of the segments were good; some featured climate deniers making false statements. More on that below.)

    When the Sunday shows did air climate-focused segments, the discussions were dominated by white men and unrepresentative of America's population.

    People of color made up only 17 percent of Sunday show guests discussing climate change in 2018

    Of the 35 guests featured during climate-focused segments in 2018, just six were people of color, or 17 percent. This is a slight improvement from 2017, when only four out of 35 guests on climate segments were people of color, or 11 percent.

    The guests of color who participated in climate change discussions in 2018 were:

    • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Face the Nation;
    • CNN political commentator Symone Sanders on State of the Union;
    • U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Democratic strategist Mo Elleithee on Fox News Sunday; and
    • New York Times journalist Helene Cooper and then-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) on Meet the Press.

    ABC’s This Week was the only Sunday show that did not host a guest of color during one of its climate-focused segments.

    The underrepresentation of communities of color in the Sunday shows' climate discussions becomes apparent when you consider that non-white and/or Hispanic/Latino people constitute 39 percent of the U.S. population according to census data. People of color should also have more of a voice on the shows because they tend to bring different perspectives: They are more concerned about climate change than whites and more likely to say they feel its impacts, according to a 2015 survey and other polls. A 2015 poll of African Americans found that 60 percent ranked global warming as a serious issue, and 67 percent said that actions should be taken to reduce the threat of global warming. And a 2017 survey found that 78 percent of Latinos were worried about global warming, compared to 56 percent of non-Latinos.

    Women made up 37 percent of Sunday show guests in climate-related segments in 2018

    Just 13 of 35 guests who joined in the Sunday news shows' climate discussions in 2018 were women, or 37 percent. Meet the Press led the way this year with seven women, State of the Union followed with three, Fox News Sunday had two, and This Week had one. Face the Nation failed to feature a woman during any of its climate-related segments.

    This represents a slight increase from 2017 when women were nine of the 35 guests, or 26 percent. 

    Despite the fact that women constitute roughly 51 percent of the population, the trend of males dominating Sunday show guest slots continues, whether they're discussing climate change or any other topic. Again, this leads to a loss of valuable perspective: Polls indicate that American women are more worried about climate change than men. According to a 2015 survey, 69 percent of women in the U.S. are concerned that climate change will affect them personally, compared to only 48 percent of men. And a December 2018 poll found that 71 percent of American women say there's enough evidence of climate change to warrant action, compared to just 61 percent of men.

    Sunday shows featured two scientists in climate-related segments in 2018, after excluding scientists for almost three years

    When Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan asked NASA Deputy Associate Administrator Steven Clarke about the National Climate Assessment on November 25, it was the first time in almost three years that a scientist had been included in a discussion about climate change on a Sunday show. The last time it had happened was December 2015, also on Face the Nation. But the discussion between Brennan and Clarke on climate change was brief; most of Clarke's time on the show was spent talking about NASA’s latest mission to Mars.

    The next month, during a Meet the Press episode dedicated to climate change on December 30, NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel joined a wide-ranging panel discussion about climate challenges and potential solutions.

    That episode of Meet the Press also featured NBC News' Chief Environmental Affairs Correspondent Anne Thompson on its panel -- the first time a Sunday show has included an environmental journalist in a climate-focused discussion since Media Matters began tracking the guest lineups 2013.

    Overall, the vast majority of Sunday show guests invited to discuss climate change were politicians, political operatives, or political journalists. 

    When Sunday shows discussed climate change, the coverage was too often superficial or poor

    On the few occasions when the Sunday shows did address climate change in 2018, the discussions were often superficial and sometimes featured climate denial or other inaccurate statements, failing to give viewers the substantive, fact-based coverage they deserve.

    For example, after the Trump administration tried to bury a major government report, the National Climate Assessment, by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving, all five major Sunday shows covered climate change on the same day for the first and only time all year, on November 25. But the quality of much of that coverage was bad. Some of the hosts, including Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd and State of the Union’s Dana Bash, invited climate deniers to discuss the report, allowed them to make false statements, and failed to offer any meaningful pushback. Others, such as This Week’s George Stephanopoulos, spent only a little time on the report.

    When the shows did include people of color or women in their climate change discussions, that didn't necessarily mean the discussions were good. For example, when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a Cuban-American, answered questions about climate change on Face the Nation, he suggested that policy solutions would destroy the economy or not be effective. And when Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute joined in a panel discussion about climate change on Meet the Press, she falsely claimed that the previous two years had been among the coldest on record -- comments so blatantly wrong that the fact-checking website PolitiFact dedicated a post to declaring them "false."

    (In some cases, guests on Sunday shows brought up climate change unprompted, but hosts failed to engage or changed the subject. This happened during interviews on This Week with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). We excluded these instances from our analysis; instead, we only gave shows credit for airing climate segments when hosts brought up climate change themselves or engaged in discussions on the topic.)

    Without Meet the Press’ climate-focused episode, the Sunday show statistics for 2018 would have been much worse

    Meet the Press took the unprecedented step of dedicating an entire episode to climate change on December 30, its last episode of 2018. It aired about a month after host Todd was widely criticized for allowing Pletka to make false claims on the air and then failing to push back against them.

    Seemingly chastened, Todd opened the episode by saying, "We're not going to give time to climate deniers. The science is settled, even if political opinion is not." The show featured five segments and seven guests, including outgoing Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who had introduced legislation to price carbon earlier in the year, as well as outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), both of whom have made fighting climate change a signature issue.

    This episode was the high point of an otherwise dreary year for climate coverage. Without it, Sunday shows would have only aired 22 climate-focused segments featuring 28 guests in 2018, down from 31 segments featuring 35 guests in 2017 -- and Meet the Press would have tied for the lowest number of segments in 2018.

    Major Sunday shows need to increase their substantive climate coverage and include a wider range of voices

    In 2018, which was one of the warmest years on record and saw numerous climate-related disasters, the amount of climate change coverage and the quality of that coverage should have gone up, not down.

    A pair of major reports released in the latter part of the year put our current situation in stark relief. In October, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a study that found if global average temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, hundreds of millions of people would be at increased risk of climate change impacts such as flooding and extreme heat. In late November, the U.S. government put out the latest installment of the National Climate Assessment -- a 1,500-page, congressionally mandated document produced by some 300 scientists from 13 federal agencies -- that painted a dire picture of how climate change is already affecting the U.S. and how its catastrophic impacts will intensify in coming years.

    Meet the Press’ climate-focused episode demonstrated that Sunday shows can give the topic the serious attention it deserves, with guests who are well-informed about the problem and potential solutions. But this kind of substantive coverage needs to be sustained and incorporated into all of the Sunday shows week after week. And the coverage must include a broader array of guests -- scientists and environmental journalists who can explain the nature of the challenge, and people of color and women who are on the frontlines of climate change and are pioneering solutions to the crisis.

    Ted MacDonald contributed research to this report. Charts by Melissa Joskow.  

    Methodology

    This report analyzes coverage of climate change in 2018 on five Sunday morning news shows: ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, and NBC's Meet the Press. To identify segments that discussed climate change, we searched for the following terms in Nexis: climate change, global warming, changing climate, climate warms, climate warming, warming climate, warmer climate, warming planet, warmer planet, warming globe, warmer globe, global temperatures, rising temperatures, hotter temperatures, climate science, climate scientist, paris climate, climate accord, paris accord, climate agreement, paris agreement, and climate deal. Our analysis included any segment devoted to climate change, as well as any substantial mention of climate change (more than one paragraph of a news transcript or a definitive statement by a media figure). The study did not include instances in which a non-media figure brought up climate change without being prompted to do so by a media figure unless the media figure subsequently addressed climate change. We defined media figures as hosts, anchors, correspondents, and recurring guest panelists.

    Correction (3/5/19): This piece originally omitted one white woman who appeared as a guest on the November 25 episode of Meet the Press. The text and charts have been updated to reflect her appearance.

  • Fox & Friends stands by the White House’s lie about terrorists apprehended at the southern border -- even after Chris Wallace debunked it

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox & Friends is still trying to spin the White House’s false statistic about thousands of alleged terrorists being apprehended at the southern border -- even after colleague Chris Wallace demolished that claim over the weekend. According to co-host Brian Kilmeade, there is “a sense” the administration has secret information that supports its figure but “can’t share” it, and in any case, even one such apprehended suspected terrorist is “too many.”

    His comments provide yet more evidence that the program, and Fox News more broadly, acts as a propaganda outlet for President Donald Trump -- even at the expense of the network’s own journalists.

    On Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied to the Fox & Friends hosts and their audience, falsely claiming that “last year alone, there were nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists” arrested along the U.S.-Mexico border. Wallace shredded her talking point in a combative interview two days later, noting that the State Department says there is “no credible evidence” that terrorists have crossed the southern border and that the statistic in question actually includes all apprehensions, which had almost entirely been made at airports (the “nearly 4,000” figure also appears to have been dramatically inflated).

    While other media outlets -- including Fox’s cable news competitors -- highlighted Wallace’s debunk on Monday, Fox & Friends stood by the Trump administration and ignored it. That afternoon, the White House’s claim took yet another hit when NBC reported that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered only six immigrants at ports of entry on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists.”

    That report triggered a new firestorm of coverage about the administration’s malfeasance, and so on Tuesday, Fox & Friends rushed to the Trump White House’s defense.

    During one segment, Kilmeade said that there are “a couple of things that have come out of Homeland Security and maybe the White House communications that maybe need to be further defined,” pointing to the NBC News report that he said “followed up on bigger statistics that were put out by Homeland [Security].” He then asked Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council and a favorite of both Fox and President Donald Trump, “What's the truth?”

    Judd responded by claiming that it is “absolutely ridiculous to say that we have only detained six people that were on the terrorist watch list” because “we are not going to make that information known. We have to keep that close to our -- to the chest.”

    This is nonsense. Administration officials have been making public claims about the purported number of suspected terrorists apprehended at the southern border for months -- the numbers have simply been dramatically higher than reality because those officials have been lying about the statistics, as Wallace pointed out on Sunday.

    Kilmeade criticized journalists for highlighting NBC’s report during another segment, bringing it up before he mentioned the possibility of secret information. “The media seeming to downplay the number, saying, ‘Only six?” he said. “But isn't one too many? And a serious threat to our country, especially when you think about 9/11 and the number of hijackers they had?” He then argued that “there is a sense that there is a higher number than that, but they really can't share a lot of that information.” Again, the argument that the administration could have produced a higher factual number and simply accidentally put one out based on lies doesn’t make much sense.

    Kilmeade concluded by addressing and dismissing his colleague’s refutation of the White House’s statistic. “I remember on Sunday Chris Wallace pushed back about the 4,000 number,” he said. “We ended up with the six number. But that doesn’t say that there’s [not] other numbers out there that have not been unveiled.”

    Given the choice between reality (and his own colleague’s reporting) and the White House, Fox & Friends chose the White House.

  • Guess which cable news network isn't talking about Chris Wallace's interview with Sarah Huckabee Sanders?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    When Fox News executives face criticism of the network’s destructive, unethical, and propagandistic right-wing hosts, they often respond by pointing to the network staffers who do respect normal journalistic conventions. But on Sunday, when one of those much-touted news staffers practiced exemplary journalism at the expense of the White House, the network promptly buried it.

    Fox News host Chris Wallace’s much-touted grilling of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders over the administration’s false talking point that thousands of terrorists are stopped at the southern border each year was big news everywhere but at his own network.

    Wallace challenged Sanders during a combative interview on Fox News Sunday, pointing out that the administration’s claim is contradicted by State Department reports that found, as Wallace said, “no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico.” Sanders responded, “We know that roughly nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border,” Wallace debunked her claim, saying, “I studied up on this. Do you know where those 4,000 people come or where they’re captured? Airports.”

    Wallace’s fact-check drew cheers on Twitter and was subsequently written up by, among others, CBSNews.com, The Hill, HuffPost, The Week, Splinter News, The New York Post, The Daily Beast, TownHall.com, Mediaite, Newsweek, ThinkProgress, and The Washington Post. Many pointed to the incongruity of a White House aide having her talking points shredded by a host from the network that has done so much to support President Donald Trump.

    Even Fox’s direct competitors have been giving the exchange lots of airtime. MSNBC discussed the interview on Sunday’s AM Joy and Kasie DC and on the Monday editions of First Look, Morning Joe, and MSNBC Live. CNN discussed the interview on Sunday’s Reliable Sources and CNN Newsroom and Monday’s Early Start (during the 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. hours), New Day (during the 6 a.m., 7 a.m., and 8 a.m. hours), and CNN Newsroom. “All I want to say is, thank you, Chris Wallace,” CNN host Brian Stelter said during one such segment.

    By contrast, as of 1 p.m. EST on Monday, outside of its regular re-airings of the program, Fox News had mentioned Wallace’s debunking of Sanders’ claim only once: on Fox & Friends First, during the 4 a.m. hour. Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite morning show, aired a clip from a different part of the interview, in which Sanders said that Trump is refusing to reopen the government without funding for a wall on the southern border to protect Americans from violent undocumented criminals.

    Fox’s website has also been downplaying the exchange. On Sunday, it promoted the interview with the headline, “Sanders: Trump willing to ‘do what it takes,’ including bypassing Congress, to build border wall.” That FoxNews.com headline linked to a write-up that mentioned, in its eighth paragraph, that Wallace had responded to the Sanders talking point by “noting that the overwhelming majority of those individuals are captured at airports -- not at the border.”

    By Monday morning, even that story had disappeared from the website’s front-page. But the website did continue promoting an interview with Sarah Huckabee Sanders: The one she gave to Fox & Friends on Friday morning, in which the hosts allowed her to push the same false talking point.

    This case is instructive. Wallace’s interview is being widely and rightfully praised, and journalists across the political spectrum -- including at Fox’s competitors -- are treating his debunking of the administration’s talking point as a news story. A normal news network would take a curtain call and use its airwaves to highlight Wallace’s performance. But that would require Fox informing its audience about a false talking point that administration figures, Republican members of Congress, and the network’s own hosts have used on the channel. Put to that test, the network is effectively choosing to back the White House over its own staffer’s laudable work.

    This is why people like Chris Wallace “can’t redeem Fox News,” as The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple put it. They may produce compelling journalism, but the network’s overall devotion to misleading its audience in support of the Trump administration will always win out.