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With only two substantive climate segments, Sunday shows had their worst month since January
Sunday morning political shows’ coverage of climate change dropped markedly in April, hitting a three-month low. The five major Sunday shows aired a combined total of just two segments in April that included any substantive discussion of climate change, down from seven in February and six in March.
Both of the April segments that discussed climate change came during interviews with Democratic presidential candidates, following a trend first in evidence in March. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who announced his presidential candidacy on April 4, talked about climate action during his appearance on the April 14 episode of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, whose campaign is centered on fighting climate change, brought up the topic numerous times during his interview on the April 14 episode of NBC’s Meet the Press with host Chuck Todd.
The two climate discussions that did air were not particularly informative for viewers. The hosts narrowly framed or downplayed the issue of climate change and did not provide opportunities for the guests to discuss it in depth.
During Ryan's interview on This Week, host Stephanopoulos brought up the Green New Deal only to ask whether it and other proposals might hurt Democrats politically.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You support the Green New Deal. You support “Medicare for All.” We heard the Senate Republican leader this week, Mitch McConnell, say they're going to make the election a referendum on socialism. Are you worried that policies like that will make Democrats vulnerable?
Ryan took the opportunity to note that climate action can create manufacturing jobs, but the exchange on the Green New Deal and climate policy was brief.
Stephanopoulos’ question perfectly encapsulated corporate media’s tendency to ignore whether climate proposals, such as the Green New Deal, contain effective solutions and instead focus on the potential political ramifications for Democrats and Republicans. Media Matters has repeatedly documented the trend of Sunday show hosts presenting climate policy through this type of narrow political lens.
On Meet the Press, before his interview with Inslee began, host Todd noted that the governor had made climate change the focus of his campaign, but Todd started the interview with four questions about immigration. At two points during the immigration discussion, Inslee pointed out that the climate crisis is a contributing factor, explaining that he would “attack climate change because a lot of these people who are coming north are climate refugees.” But Todd pivoted the immigration conversation away from climate change. Eventually, he engaged Inslee in conversation about carbon pricing and nuclear energy, but he then asked the governor whether he was merely "running for president to prove a point" and "force" Democrats to take climate change seriously.
It's alarming that these were the only Sunday show climate discussions during a month when presidential candidates talked about climate and energy plans, voters made climate change a top-tier issue, and climate protests made the news. As climate change becomes a more pressing political issue than ever, we should be seeing coverage increase and improve, not decrease and deteriorate.
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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.
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.
Broadcast TV news coverage of climate change plummeted 45 percent from 2017 to 2018, even as the climate crisis steadily worsened. The major news programs on the broadcast networks aired a combined total of just 142 minutes of climate coverage in 2018, or less than two and a half hours. Almost three-quarters of that coverage aired in just the last three months of the year. The networks did a particularly poor job of explaining how climate change exacerbates extreme weather; none of the networks' news reports on the major hurricanes of 2018 even mentioned climate change. The networks’ coverage was also lacking in diversity: Only 9 percent of the people featured in climate segments were people of color, and only 19 percent were women.
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.
Less than 6 percent of episodes on the major Sunday shows discussed global warming, and some of them included climate deniers
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
The show's recent attention to climate change is welcome -- and it needs to be sustained
NBC's Meet the Press dedicated its last episode of 2018 entirely to climate change -- an unprecedented occurrence on a major Sunday morning political talk show. "We're not going to debate climate change, the existence of it," host Chuck Todd said at the start of the December 30 episode. "We're not going to give time to climate deniers. The science is settled, even if political opinion is not." His guests included NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel and politicians from both sides of the aisle who have advocated climate action, such as outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and outgoing Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).
But it took Meet the Press, which bills itself as “the longest-running show in television history,” an awfully long time to give climate change this much attention. For years before this episode, Meet the Press lagged behind the other Sunday shows in coverage of climate change -- even though the other shows have not been doing such a hot job themselves.
Meet the Press addressed climate change in only one other episode in 2018, and it caught a lot of flak for featuring climate denier Danielle Pletka of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute making the ridiculous claim that global temperatures have been dropping. The fact-checking website PolitiFact determined that Pletka's statement was "false." Media figures and politicians castigated Todd for allowing such drivel on the air, including ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, who tweeted, "Lord have mercy. ... Chuck, next time why don’t you have folks on who argue the world is flat. This is crazy. Balance shouldn’t be the goal, truth should."
Altogether in 2018, Meet the Press discussed climate change in two episodes -- fewer than ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and Fox News Sunday, and tied for last place with CNN's State of the Union.
In 2017, Meet the Press also addressed climate change in just two episodes, and it had the last-place spot all to itself. The other four major Sunday shows each discussed climate change in at least four episodes -- twice as many as NBC's show.
The year 2016 was even worse. Todd brought up the topic of climate change just once that year on Meet the Press, again tying for last place among Sunday shows. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who was then running for the Democratic presidential nomination, mentioned climate change numerous times during his appearances on the show in 2016, but Todd didn't engage on the topic. During one such interview, Sanders began talking about climate change and Todd actually interrupted him to change the subject, saying, "Senator, right. But I want to go back to the other point."
Todd and Meet the Press deserve credit for finally giving serious coverage to this most serious of challenges. The other Sunday shows should follow suit.
But this needs to represent the start of a new trend of substantive climate change coverage that's sustained throughout the year. The climate crisis deserves to be addressed every week in discussions with informed guests who understand the scale of the problem and the solutions that could help keep it in check. If Todd goes back to avoiding the topic and the Meet the Press climate episode ends up being a one-off, aired over the winter holidays when viewership was likely low, then it will look like a cynical ploy to deflect criticism over the Pletka debacle. We're hoping Todd and Meet the Press are turning over a new leaf, and we'll be watching closely in 2019 to find out.
After the Republican-dominated legislature in Wisconsin passed a package of bills to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor for nakedly partisan purposes, NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd spuriously claimed that such maneuvers were not unprecedented because Democrats had done the same thing to Republican governors in the past.
There is no evidence of that -- and Todd offered none.
On December 9's Meet The Press, after detailing some of the changes that Republicans are making -- in both Wisconsin and Michigan -- and describing them as “a couple of end runs around the November election results,” Todd said: “Now, this has happened before in many a legislature. Democrats, in fact, have done this in the past to Republican governors in lame-duck sessions in other states.”
But Todd failed to provide a single example of Democrats taking comparable action, simply shifting to start his interview with incoming Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers.
The obvious precedent for this situation is North Carolina in 2016. Republicans there used a special session for the sole purpose of pushing bills "to undermine [incoming Democratic Gov. Roy] Cooper by stripping him of his ability to make key appointments to state and local boards and mandating, for the first time, legislative approval of his cabinet.” At the time, Todd discussed the matter on Meet The Press, saying that what the Republicans were doing was "perfectly legal ...but it doesn't feel in the spirit of ending an election." In the years since, some of these changes that Todd deemed "perfectly legal" have been rolled back following court challenges.
So what else could Todd have pointed to? The examples are minimal at best. As Russell Berman wrote in The Atlantic, "It’s not uncommon for a party on the cusp of losing power to use its final days in office to pass significant legislation even after voters have rendered their verdict. ... But until recently, it has been rarer for a party to act so punitively toward its opponents after a defeat."
A December 4 “weekly politics chat” on FiveThirtyEight’s website featuring several experienced political journalists and election analysts discussing whether lame-duck sessions are undemocratic highlighted a single 19-year-old example of Alabama Senate Democrats taking some of the lieutenant governor’s appointment and legislative powers and giving them to the state’s Senate president pro tem in 1999. However, as the Montgomery Advertiser reported, both Republican- and Democratic-controlled state senates have decided to keep the lieutenant governor’s power the same since the 1999 rule change. In fact, Republicans recently attempted to reduce the powers of Alabama’s lieutenant governor even further.
Limiting the powers of a state’s lieutenant governor two decades ago in an arrangement that has satisfied both parties is not at all comparable to current Republican efforts to undo election results by limiting powers. Even some Republicans are objecting to the current move in Wisconsin.
Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum, a Republican who served a short term in the early 2000s, said outgoing Gov. Scott Walker should veto many of the bills passed by Republicans to strip the incoming governor of some of his powers. In comments to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he said: “There are going to be differences over executive control and legislative control, but you don’t play it out in the dark of night. You don’t make the changes after an election without hearings, without having the public involved, without having a vetting process.”
The Journal Sentinel also reported on comments from Sheldon Lubar, “longtime prominent Wisconsin Republican and former supporter of Gov. Scott Walker,” who was critical of the GOP attempt to limit the incoming Democratic governor’s powers. Lubar called the Republican legislators pushing the effort “a few petty, mean politicians” and said that if Walker signs their bills, Wisconsin voters “can look on him as somebody who ignores the will of the people and creeps into the house at midnight to steal away the result of their vote."
Additionally, PolitiFact has explained that the actions of Walker and the Wisconsin GOP legislature are at odds with their previous positions. In November 2010, Walker sent a list of requests to the outgoing Democratic governor asking him not to take several permanent actions during his lame-duck period, in contrast with the vastly expanded actions Walker is taking now. In fact, PolitiFact also detailed a move by Republican legislators in 2011 giving the governor power to approve or reject the adoption of administrative rules -- power that they’re now trying to take away from the incoming Democratic governor.
Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers in Michigan quickly followed in Wisconsin Republicans’ footsteps by pushing a bill to strip campaign finance oversight powers from the incoming Democratic secretary of state after also approving a separate bill to bypass the incoming Democratic attorney general on lawsuits involving the state.
This is all symptomatic of a larger problem: The mainstream media, and Meet The Press in particular, are ignoring growing GOP contempt for democracy itself. As Eric Levitz noted in the New York magazine, the root cause of what is happening in Wisconsin is not one party passing a law, but rather GOP fearing that the party that received the most votes in an election would actually have a chance to govern. In that sense, Todd declaring this power grab normal is no different than Meet The Press inviting an oil-industry funded guest who pushed climate change denial or a conspiracy theorist who talked about the need for civility.
A version of this post was originally published on Grist.
Right-wingers' efforts to derail media coverage of the National Climate Assessment backfired not once but twice.
First, the Trump administration tried to bury the National Climate Assessment by releasing it on Black Friday, but that tactic bombed. It turns out that "Trump tries to bury a new climate report" is a much sexier headline than "Scientists release a new climate report."
Then, climate deniers fanned out on TV networks to spread lies and deceptive talking about the report, but they got far more criticism than they expected, and that criticism kept climate change in the news.
Overall the report got loads of media coverage in the days after it was released. The quality was decidedly mixed -- some of it was good, some of it was awful -- but the good coverage appears to have outweighed the bad.
At least 140 newspapers around the country featured the National Climate Assessment on their front pages the morning after it was released, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. That included not just The New York Times and The Washington Post, which have strong teams of climate reporters, but also smaller papers all around the U.S., including 20 of them in California. A number of the papers highlighted the ways that climate change is hitting their regions, like the Portland Press Herald in Maine:
If the release of the climate change report really was timed to bury the news, it backfired badly. It’s on the front page everywhere today. We stripped it across A1 with a second story about Northeast/Gulf of Maine impact. Because this is the most important issue of our time. pic.twitter.com/hZELULzawR
— Steve Greenlee (@SteveGreenlee) November 24, 2018
MSNBC aired some strong segments. In one, host Ali Velshi mocked President Donald Trump's claim that his “gut” told him the report is wrong. He then interviewed climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a co-author of the assessment, who explained the report's findings and how scientists arrived at them.
CNN served up some highly problematic coverage -- more on that below -- but it also did some good interviews with climate scientists about the report, as well as three senators who are serious about addressing the climate crisis. And CNN took a novel approach to real-time fact-checking when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied about the report during a press briefing. The network showed live video of Sanders, but paired it alongside a text bar labeled "Facts First" that corrected some of her false claims:
CNN is airing the briefing -- but this "facts first" side panel seems like a new idea pic.twitter.com/xzZOIbFTFQ
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) November 27, 2018
All of the Sunday morning political talk shows discussed the report on the weekend after it was released. It was the first time in 2018 that every one of them addressed climate change on the same day. They rarely cover climate change at all.
Unfortunately, we would have been better off without some of that Sunday show coverage -- particularly the segments that gave airtime to rabid climate deniers. One of the worst ran on NBC's Meet the Press and featured Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank supported by the Koch brothers. She trotted out a favorite climate denier line -- "I'm not a scientist" -- and then proceeded to spout pure nonsense about how the globe is getting cooler.
Right-wing panelist on Meet the Press on climate change: "I'm not a scientist ... We need to also recognize we had two of the coldest years, biggest drop in global temperatures that we have had since the 1980s, the biggest in the last 100 years. We don't talk about that." pic.twitter.com/OLPUZOpoKR
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) November 25, 2018
Egregious drivel about climate change also cropped up on CNN's State of the Union, which asked not one but two climate deniers to weigh in on the report. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) offered bland, lukewarm climate denial: "Our climate always changes and we see those ebb-and-flows through time." Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) one-upped Ernst by going all in for scalding-hot climate denial, praising the Trump team’s attempt to bury the report and claiming that the scientists who wrote it were “driven by the money":
CNN's Rick Santorum praises Trump administration trying to bury report on climate change: "A lot of these scientists are driven by the money" pic.twitter.com/ndwpkQHUxH
— Media Matters (@mmfa) November 25, 2018
Santorum was roundly mocked on Twitter for making such a completely bogus claim. You might have thought that this would discourage other climate deniers from following suit, or at least discourage CNN from giving them a platform. You would have been wrong.
The following Monday, CNN hosted two more right-wingers who made the same ridiculous claim that climate scientists were in it for the money: Tom DeLay, who resigned as Republican House majority leader in 2005 after being convicted of money laundering and conspiracy, and Stephen Moore, a Trump-loving “economist” who's worked for Koch-funded groups.
The next day, on Tuesday morning, CNN seemed like it might be trying to redeem itself. It ran one segment in which CNN political analyst John Avlon fact-checked and thoroughly debunked the claim that scientists are getting rich by studying climate change, and another in which climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe explained that she and the other co-authors of the National Climate Assessment were paid "zero dollars" for their efforts.
But a few hours later, the bonkers claims were back. CNN yet again invited both Santorum and Moore to repeat the warmed-over lie that scientists are driven by a multi-billion-dollar climate change industry that has manufactured a false crisis. Santorum presented this ludicrous falsehood and many others in a panel discussion on Anderson Cooper 360°. Cooper had interviewed Hayhoe for that same episode, but her interview got bumped and was only posted online, while the segment with Santorum’s false claims aired during prime time.
Oh, and CNN also failed to note that Santorum, Moore, and DeLay have all received copious amounts of cash themselves from the fossil fuel industry.
Other media outlets bashed CNN and NBC for featuring climate deniers, and that led to still more coverage of climate change and the National Climate Assessment, most of which was good.
The New York Times published a fact-checking piece titled, "The Baseless Claim That Climate Scientists Are ‘Driven’ by Money," which cited and debunked statements made by Santorum and DeLay. PunditFact, a project of the fact-checking site PolitiFact, looked into Pletka's claims and labeled them "false."
New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg published a story titled "News Networks Fall Short on Climate Story as Dolphins Die on the Beach," which highlighted the false claims made by Pletka and Santorum and put them in the context of climate change impacts in Florida. The Washington Post's media columnist Margaret Sullivan tweeted out Rutenberg's story.
Climate scientist Hayhoe published an op-ed in The Washington Post that debunked the myths propagated on CNN by Santorum and DeLay, among others.
WNYC's On the Media hosted yours truly in a discussion about coverage of the National Climate Assessment, including the problem of featuring climate deniers on air.
Politico's Morning Media daily newsletter, written by media reporter Michael Calderone, highlighted problems with press coverage of the National Climate Assessment on four different occasions after the report came out.
ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd was just one of many influential media figures who tweeted their disapproval of segments that featured climate deniers:
— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) November 25, 2018
The fact that some members of the media screwed up their coverage so royally meant that other members of the media kept reporting on the story longer than they might have otherwise.
Meanwhile, the folks over at Trump's favorite network were living in their own universe, as usual. Fox News gave the National Climate Assessment very little airtime. A few straight-news segments covered it, but the most popular Fox shows didn't. CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter pointed out that on the day of the report's release, Fox spent more time discussing the shoes of Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) than it did discussing climate change.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 25, 2018
Considering what Fox's top personalities would have been likely to say about the report had they bothered to cover it, it's probably just as well that they stayed mum.
Lisa Hymas, director of Media Matters' climate and energy program, went on On the Media to discuss coverage of the National Climate Assessment -- the good coverage as well as the problems that cropped up on the Sunday morning political talk shows and CNN.
From the November 30 edition of WNYC's On the Media:
BROOKE GLADSTONE (HOST): So the National Climate Assessment dropped on Black Friday.
LISA HYMAS: It looked like a pathetically blatant attempt by the Trump administration to keep it out of the public eye. But it didn't work.
A lot of the print media did better than TV. The New York Times and The Washington Post, they have really strong climate teams; they did great coverage. But you saw it in smaller papers all around the country. The Columbia Journalism Review found that at least 140 newspapers around the country put it on their front pages. That includes places like The Chicago Tribune and the Miami Herald, 20 different papers in California. And many of those papers also looked at the local impacts. The Portland Press Herald in Maine, they had a big story about the national implications, but they also, on their print front page, had a big story about the impacts in New England, specifically.
But I think TV was a mixed bag: Sometimes the coverage was good, and sometimes it was not. And in cases where the coverage is poor, we probably would have been better off without it.
GLADSTONE: You said that Sunday was the first time this year that the five major Sunday shows discussed climate change on the same day. We're talking about ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, CNN's State of the Union, Fox News Sunday, and NBC's Meet the Press -- they all had segments. The most talked-about one on Sunday was probably on Meet the Press.
HYMAS: Yes. NBC's Meet the Press featured Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that's supported by the Koch brothers. She used a favorite climate denier line ...
[BEGIN AUDIO CLIP]
DANIELLE PLETKA (SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE): I'm not a scientist. I look at this as a citizen, and I see it, so I understand it. On the other hand, we need to also recognize that we just had two of the coldest years, biggest drop in global temperatures, that we've had since the 1980s, the biggest in the last 100 years. We don't talk about that because it's not part of the agenda.
[END AUDIO CLIP]
HYMAS: No. Climate scientists have been very clear that the global climate has consistently been warming, and the hottest years have been the most recent ones.
GLADSTONE: Yeah. NOAA said that 2015, ’16, and ’17 were the warmest on record, but 2017 was only the third-warmest.
HYMAS: I don't really find that comforting. You know, if you're not a scientist, you ought to listen to scientists. To say, "I'm not a scientist, but I don't believe this," that's nonsense.
I mean, one thing that was frustrating about this last episode of Meet the Press: Host Chuck Todd later in the same show interviewed Tom Steyer, who got his start as an activist by focusing on climate change, and Todd didn't ask him anything about the report. The focus was just on the 2020 presidential race.
GLADSTONE: Let's look at how Fox News handled the report on the day it was released. Here's CNN's Brian Stelter with a recap.
[BEGIN AUDIO CLIP]
BRIAN STELTER (CNN MEDIA CORRESPONDENT): The network actually spent more time talking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's shoes on Friday. Now to be fair, the networks' newscasts did air several segments about climate change, about the crisis, on Saturday. But on the president's favorite talk shows, nada, not a word.
[END AUDIO CLIP]
GLADSTONE: Meanwhile, Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace also did not invite a climate scientist on to discuss the report. He spoke with Republican Senator of Nebraska Ben Sasse, who dodged the topic of climate action and spoke vaguely about the need for innovation.
[BEGIN AUDIO CLIP]
SASSE: Because you can't legislate or regulate your way into the past. We have to innovate our way into the future. And right now you don't hear a lot of the people who put climate as their No. 1 issue, you don't hear a lot of them offering constructive, innovative solutions for the future. It's usually just a lot of alarmism.
[END AUDIO CLIP]
HYMAS: You know, notably, Fox's big-name personalities didn't dig in on the report at all. They just stayed focused on their pet issues. So you had Sean Hannity, this past week, ranting about Hillary Clinton's supposed scandals and crimes. I mean, he's still doing that more than two years after she lost the presidential election. And you had Lou Dobbs scaremongering about the migrant caravan. And the Russia investigation is a witch hunt -- that got a lot of coverage this past week, but the climate report didn't.
GLADSTONE: Margaret Brennan of CBS' Face the Nation did speak to a scientist about the report, NASA's Steven Clarke, but that exchange was very brief, and it was buried in a segment that was almost entirely about NASA's Mars probe.
HYMAS: Yes. So, on the one hand, I was glad to see that Face the Nation actually asked a scientist about the climate report. We track how often the Sunday shows incorporate or talk to scientists when they're discussing climate change, and it's been almost three years since any Sunday show has asked a scientist about climate change.
GLADSTONE: What? Seriously?
HYMAS: Yes, the last time was in December of 2015. It was also on Face the Nation.
GLADSTONE: So many opportunities. So many national conferences, so many elections, so many extreme weather incidents, and nothing?
HYMAS: There are climate scientists who are really good public speakers and who do a really great job of explaining the science in terms that normal people can understand, but they don't get the airtime.
GLADSTONE: I think the winner of the week's booby prize, though, would probably be CNN.
HYMAS: I think that's true. Rick Santorum was on CNN claiming that scientists are in it for the money.
RICK SANTORUM (FORMER SENATOR): If there was no climate change, we'd have a lot of scientists looking for work. The reality is that a lot of these scientists are driven by the money that they receive ...
[END AUDIO CLIP]
HYMAS: The next day, we saw Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader.
TOM DELAY (FORMER REPRESENTATIVE): The report is nothing more than a rehash of age-old, 10- to 20-year assumptions made by scientists that get paid to further the politics of global warming.
[END AUDIO CLIP]
HYMAS: He's the disgraced former House majority leader who had to resign after he was convicted of money laundering and conspiracy. Why is this guy qualified to discuss a scientific report about climate change? We saw Stephen Moore, a Trump-loving economist, making the same ridiculous claim on CNN.
[BEGIN AUDIO CLIP]
STEPHEN MOORE: Billions and billions and billions of dollars at stake. A lot of people are getting really, really, really rich off the climate change issue.
[END AUDIO CLIP]
HYMAS: Then on Tuesday morning, John Avlon did a good segment on CNN where he completely debunked this notion that there's a big climate-industrial complex and that scientists are just doing it to get rich.
[BEGIN AUDIO CLIP]
JOHN AVLON (CNN POLITICAL ANALYST): Now, that talking point you're hearing is a classic bit of distraction and deflection. In fact, one of the scientists who worked on the climate change report, Katharine Hayhoe, confirms that she and her colleagues were paid, quote, “zero dollars” for their work and could easily make 10 times their salaries by working for something like Big Oil.
[END AUDIO CLIP]
HYMAS: But, later that same day on Tuesday, just hours after Avlon's fact-checking segment ran, CNN again had on Stephen Moore to make that same claim. And what was so frustrating about CNN having these climate deniers on to make ridiculous claims is they didn't disclose the fact that Rick Santorum and Tom Delay, when they were in Congress, they got more than $700,000 each from the oil and gas industry in campaign contributions. Stephen Moore works for a number of groups that are funded by the Koch brothers. Last month, Stephen Moore gave a speech to the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association. These things were not disclosed, but those men were allowed to accuse scientists of being in it for the money.
GLADSTONE: Why does CNN pay people like Rick Santorum to lie to the public it's supposed to be serving?
HYMAS: I will never understand why CNN pays Rick Santorum.
Cable TV likes to have conflict, and they like to have sparks fly. But there’s much better ways you can do it, even if you do want the conflict. I mean, it's absurd, in 2018, for a discussion about climate change to include someone who contends that we're actually in a period of global cooling. Get people who all recognize the challenge of climate change but propose different responses and solutions to it. There are plenty of conservatives who propose carbon taxes. Let's see them discuss and debate people who are proposing a highly progressive Green New Deal, or a carbon-fee-and-dividend approach. There's a lot to debate. It just doesn't have to be a denier against someone who accepts the reality of climate change.
After bombshell climate report, Sunday political talk shows bring on climate deniers
The Trump administration tried to bury a major government report on climate change by releasing it on the day after Thanksgiving, but the bombshell report still received substantial media attention, including coverage on all five of the major Sunday morning political talk shows.
The latest National Climate Assessment report -- a 1,600-page, congressionally mandated document produced by some 300 scientists from 13 federal agencies -- paints a dire picture of how climate change is already affecting the U.S. and how its catastrophic impacts will intensify in coming years. The report was expected to be released in early December, but three knowledgeable sources told The New York Times' Coral Davenport that "administration officials hoped to minimize the impact by making the assessment public on the afternoon of Black Friday, the big shopping day after the Thanksgiving holiday, thinking that Americans might be unlikely to be paying attention."
But by publishing the report during a slow news period, the Trump team might have inadvertently caused it to get more media attention than it otherwise would have.
Yesterday was the first time this year that the five major Sunday shows discussed climate change on the same day. ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, CNN's State of the Union, Fox News Sunday, and NBC's Meet the Press all included segments on the new report.
That's more than the number of Sunday shows that covered another major climate report released in early October by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Only three of the Sunday shows -- This Week, Face the Nation, and State of the Union -- covered that IPCC report.
Even though the five big Sunday shows covered the new National Climate Assessment, the quality of the coverage in many cases was downright poor. Some of the hosts invited climate deniers to discuss the report, failed to question them about their denial, and allowed guests to spout denialist talking points with little to no pushback, while other hosts spent only a little time on the report.
The panel that NBC's Chuck Todd invited to discuss the climate report on NBC's Meet the Press included Danielle Pletka of the Koch-backed American Enterprise Institute, who asserted easily debunked nonsense about the last two years being the coldest in recent history. Todd also asked Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) about the report during an interview, without noting that Lee has questioned basic climate science.
CNN's State of the Union hosted two climate deniers to discuss the National Climate Assessment: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and former senator and CNN contributor Rick Santorum. In response to host Dana Bash’s question about how climate change could harm agriculture in Iowa, Ernst engaged in lukewarm climate denial, stating, "We know that our climate is changing. Our climate always changes, and we see those ebb and flows through time." Meanwhile, Santorum praised the Trump administration’s attempt to bury the report and claimed that the scientists who produced it were “driven by money,” an assertion that was widely derided on social media.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) to discuss the climate report’s findings. Sasse decried climate "alarmism," easily dodged Wallace's questions, and pivoted to arguing for further environmental deregulation.
George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week addressed the report during an interview with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), but only spent about two minutes on it.
Margaret Brennan of CBS' Face the Nation questioned NASA's Steven Clarke about the report, but the exchange about climate change was brief and came in the midst of a discussion about NASA's Mars probe. Still, it marked the first time in nearly three years that any of the broadcast Sunday shows included a scientist in a discussion about climate change; the last time a scientist appeared in a broadcast Sunday show climate segment was the December 13, 2015, episode of Face the Nation. Brennan also discussed the climate report with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
The fact that most Sunday show hosts only briefly discussed the National Climate Assessment’s urgent findings -- rather than giving them more in-depth coverage with a panel of experts -- is right in line with trends Media Matters has documented in recent years. In the rare instances when Sunday shows address climate change, it is usually within a narrow political framework and includes a similarly narrow range of politicians and political pundits.
The attempt by the Trump team to bury the report and keep information about climate change out of the public eye is also in line with observed trends. The White House has systematically removed climate change information from federal government websites, especially the site of the Environmental Protection Agency, and EPA officials last year told members of a scientific advisory committee that climate change would be de-emphasized by the administration.
Meet the Press hosted radio host Erick Erickson to talk about civility and the need for conservatives to believe in facts. This is like asking an exhaust pipe about the virtues of clean air, or a wolf about how to keep sheep alive.
Erickson has repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories:
Erickson pushed a conspiracy theory about the timing of the so-called "caravan," the migrants in southern Mexico fleeing violence in central America.
Erickson pushed a conspiracy theory that Parkland survivor David Hogg was not actually at his school when the shooting happened.
Erickson pushed a slew of conspiracy theories about Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who came forward to report that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had assaulted her.
Erickson pushed conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama taking away guns.
Erickson defended then-ESPN analyst Curt Schilling when he tweeted a conspiracy theory and smear of Muslims.
Erickson hilariously argued that mass shootings in America are "so rare."
Erickson also goes to absurd lengths to protect conservatives in the face of reported facts. He endorsed reported pedophile Roy Moore for a Senate seat until the very end, on the basis that Moore was "the only one standing" against "the left." He dismissed concerns about one of President Donald Trump’s cabinet members flying in private jets because he "needs to be protected." When Erickson is on Fox or on the radio, he's more than happy to defend Trump's behavior toward the mainstream press.
And then there's just the ugly. He wrote a book warning of a "leftist-homosexual mafia" and argued in 2017 that gay men in bars who wear certain clothing are asking to be assaulted. Erickson has also endorsed the horrific practice of anti-LGBTQ "conversion therapy," a practice more akin to torture than therapy. He also compared members of the LGBTQ community to terrorists.
Erickson is an unrepentant sexist. He said of the Women’s March, "I feel sorry for all the ham and cheese that won't get made into sandwiches while all those women are marching." He's argued that "the male typically is the dominant role" and that women should stay home while men bring "home the bacon."
He called Trump's Muslim ban "brilliant politics." Erickson shot up a copy of The New York Times when the paper published an editorial on gun violence, and he blamed Obama for mass shootings. When Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was briefly jailed for contempt of court for not issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Erickson warned of a civil war. In 2009, Erickson asked at what point people in Washington state might "beat [their state representative] to a bloody pulp for being an idiot."
Needless to say, none of this came up on Meet The Press, with host Chuck Todd only offering a brief nod to “some people” who say Erickson pushes conspiracy theories. Instead, Erickson was portrayed as a reasonable conservative interested in the facts.
WATCH: Erick Erickson speaks to conservatives who spread conspiracy theories, now that we have facts about the bomb suspect #MTP@EWErickson: “If you’re a conservative who’s at war with the truth, you’re not really a conservative.” pic.twitter.com/yJOAbu16E4
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) October 28, 2018
There's a real danger here: Presenting an extremist as a moderate only pushes people more toward that extremism. My colleague Parker Molloy explained that phenomenon regarding Erickson just a few weeks ago, writing about a piece in which The New York Times’ Margaret Sullivan wrote that he is seen as moderate.
The long-term effect of the constant recalibration of what constitutes a moderate position can change perception not only in media, but in politics itself. Sure, what’s moderate in 2018 -- for instance, support for marriage equality -- would have likely be considered extreme in the 1950s. Recalibrations happen over time, but usually as the result of more organic forces, not ratings. This is the Overton window in action, being shifted not by a changing landscape of political views, but by the editorial decisions involved in boosting them. That should worry us.
All of this raises the question: What role do CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post play in establishing and upholding the Erickson-as-moderate mythology? I asked Sullivan.
In an email, she writes, “Although Erickson may be seen by some as moderate or may actually be relatively moderate compared to someone like Alex Jones, he’s not moderate in any real sense. And whenever we refer to him, we should be a lot clearer about that than I was in my column. We owe it to our readers not to reinforce a false idea.”
Molloy and Sullivan are correct: Erickson is an extremist, and Meet The Press just gave him cover.
Erickson takes zero responsibility for pushing this shit, Todd doesn’t really mention it. Erickson gets to make vague condemnations of “conspiracies” w/o addressing his own wink & nod to the Alex Jones set. He’s back to being the go-to Safe NeverTrump Republican. Rinse & Repeat. pic.twitter.com/6K8kLIYnW2
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) October 28, 2018
Media Matters emailed Chuck Todd for comment on Friday asking why the program was hosting Erickson. Todd has not responded.
Todd has said he wants to stop conservative media from taking over and discrediting the news. He should start with his own show.
Host Chuck Todd discusses “angry people left and right” ahead of midterms, doesn’t mention that one party has a violent extremist group on its side
On October 17, protesters organized by the Republican Party of Miami-Dade, FL, gathered outside the campaign headquarters of Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala ahead of scheduled appearances by Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA). The chair of the local Republican party was recorded aggressively knocking on the door of the venue as members of the violent extremist group Proud Boys yelled expletives at Pelosi.
As The Miami Herald reported:
[Miami-Dade Republican Party chair Nelson] Diaz, who is Cuban-American, was videotaped during the protest repeatedly banging on a locked door used moments earlier by Pelosi to enter Shalala’s campaign offices. He stood by as a member of the so-called Proud Boys, a national organization characterized as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, heckled and hurled expletives at Pelosi as she walked inside.
“You don’t belong here you f**king communist,” the Proud Boy, Enrique Tarrio, is heard yelling. “Open up, it’s the Proud Boys in here.”
Diaz later told the Herald that he apologized for his own behavior. He also denied knowing about the group prior to the protest and said he did not invite them.
In a panel discussion on the October 21 edition of NBC’s Meet The Press, host Chuck Todd addressed “anger on the left and right” ahead of the midterms, and showed part of the video of the protesters and Proud Boys members heckling Pelosi and later banging on the door as it closed. He then noted vaguely, “Dade County Republican Party chairman actually apologized for the treatment of that.”
Based on this sanitizing statement, viewers might believe that the local GOP chair was admonishing a protest that got out of hand -- not that he himself was knocking angrily on the door alongside members of the Proud Boys. In fact, Todd didn’t mention the group “Proud Boys” at all in the discussion, let alone give any hint of its well-documented white supremacist ties or violent history, including when its members violently beat protesters on the streets of New York City days earlier as they yelled anti-LGBTQ slurs.
Below is the full panel segment with some selected transcript.
CHUCK TODD (HOST): We’ve had a couple of mob scenes where leaders of the Democrats and of the Republicans were both publicly harassed. Here’s a scene with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi down in Miami earlier this week.
TODD: Dade County Republican Party chairman actually apologized for the treatment of that. Meanwhile Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader -- TMZ posted this video from Friday night in a restaurant in Louisville where he is getting harassed. Take a listen.
TODD: You know, [panelist] Peggy Noonan, each party -- and I’ve watched them and it really disgusts me -- they try to weaponize these incidents on the other side, saying “look at what an angry mob” you know saying on the left or, “These angry people on the right.” We have angry people left and right. This isn’t made-up. It’s ugly. It’s bad. And I think leaders of both parties need to accept that.
To bolster its “both sides” framing, Meet the Press’ evidence of “anger on the left” comprised a clip of protesters interrupting Sen. Mitch McConnell’s dinner at a Kentucky restaurant. And later in the segment, panelist David Brody revived a nonsensical right-wing media smear suggesting former Attorney General Eric Holder wants people to literally kick conservatives.
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