Craig Melvin | Media Matters for America

Craig Melvin

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  • MSNBC hosted Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens. It was a train wreck.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC interviewed Candace Owens, communications director for Turning Point USA, on July 5. The interview focused on the supposed increase in support for President Donald Trump among minorities and on embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, while omitting important context about Owens’ personal background. The interview gave Owens a mainstream platform to push several conservative talking points:

    • Owens pushed an astroturfed hashtag, #WalkAway, saying the phenomenon the hashtag supposedly highlights -- that Black people “are walking away from the Democratic Party” -- is “very real.” The hashtag has been linked to a Russian Twitter campaign. An analysis of the hashtag on Twitter found that it was a “psychological operation” aimed at shaping the conversation in segments just like this one. The hashtag's spread was driven by non-human activity. Accounts that tweeted their support had used pro-Trump hashtags like #magabefore they “walked away” from the Democratic Party.
    • Owens said “we shouldn’t be talking about” the possibility that Trump’s newest Supreme Court nominee could play a part in overturning or severely undercutting a landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that formally recognized the legal right to an abortion. She called the discussion “a typical leftist tactic to … get everybody all upset and up in arms” and said that “we shouldn’t be talking about it whatsoever.” A Fox & Friends guest has already admitted that any Trump appointee would overrule Roe.
    • When asked whether Pruitt should remain in his job, Owens said that she did not care about the EPA administrator’s litany of scandals and that his alleged misconduct is “a sidebar and it’s something that has gotten way too much coverage.”
    • Melvin did not ask Owens about her recent remarks attacking the #MeToo movement. Owens claimed that #MeToo treated women as “stupid, weak & inconsequential.” When even conservatives pushed back on her, Owens doubled down and posted a video in which she claimed she speaks to CEOs who will not hire women; she blamed #MeToo. This isn’t the only sexist remark Owens has made.
    • Melvin also failed to ask Owens about the video she posted in the wake of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, in which she dismissed white supremacy as a narrative pushed by the media (Owens rose to #MAGA fame after she posted that video).

    CRAIG MELVIN (HOST): Explain the tweet, and how can you say that black voters have been politically irrelevant for decades?

    CANDACE OWENS (TURNING POINT USA): Right, so politically irrelevant because if you consistently vote for just one party, then you're not going to see people competing for your votes, and that's what we have seen happen. So, I feel that, on the Republican side, they weren't doing anything because they saw it as a monolith and they weren't trying to win over Black voters. And the Democratic side, they were able to present us a bunch of broken promises, if you will. We are seeing a huge difference, a huge shift, a bunch of Black people popping up on YouTube, and on social media, and the hashtag saying that they are walking away from the Democratic Party. It's something that hasn't gotten much airtime on liberal networks and it should because it's very real, and you can see that just by some of the polls that have been done that show that Black people are starting to support Donald Trump.

    MELVIN: Polls like?

    OWENS: Like the fact that he has the most support, Black support, since I believe Richard Nixon and that's a very big deal.

    MELVIN: Where's that poll from?

    OWENS: That’s a -- I -- I want to get the exact website, I’m going to have to look it up for you. But it’s a poll, that’s an exact poll, so.

    MELVIN: Because there have been a number of these polls -- and I’m using air quotes, because a number of these polls are not actually polls, they're opt-in surveys. But in terms of -- there's always been Black Republicans, this isn’t some new phenomenon. Are you asserting that, all of a sudden, there are millions of new Black Donald Trump supporters that we didn't know anything about before?

    OWENS: They weren’t Trump supporters to begin with, but we’re seeing a shift, a major shift happen, and Black supporters are leaving the left and going over to the right. You need to pay attention to the underground movement. And look, you are correct to say that just because a poll says something, it isn’t right. The polls told us that Hillary Clinton was going to win and she didn’t. But I wasn't fooled by the polls. I thought that Hillary Clinton was going to lose in the same way that I am also saying that I believe that Black voters are going to exit the left completely by 2020.

    MELVIN: But you didn’t vote for Donald Trump, to be clear.

    OWENS: I did not because I was sick. I was in bed for six months and I was unable to vote.

    MELVIN: NBC News has learned that the president has narrowed his Supreme Court search down to three contenders. What are you looking for in the next Supreme Court justice?

    OWENS: Look, I'm not looking for anything in particular, somebody that will uphold the Constitution, of course, I think that’s super important. I don't think that we should stress out until he makes a pick and then we talk about the different qualifications. But I think that, right now, there's mass hysteria over the fact he gets to pick somebody in the same way that Obama got to pick two people. I don’t understand what everybody’s so --

    MELVIN: Well, I think a lot of folks are annoyed by the third person that the president did not get to pick, Merrick Garland, who didn't get a hearing. But going back --

    OWENS: He did get two picks.

    MELVIN: Well, yes. That’s correct. Litmus test, Roe v. Wade, we were just talking about that a few minutes ago. Do you think there should be a litmus test with regards to Roe v. Wade.

    OWENS: No, I think that even the fact that we are discussing Roe v. Wade is a typical leftist tactic to get people -- it’s fearmongering to get everybody all upset and up in arms and think that something’s going to be overturned so that they boycott. We shouldn’t be talking about it whatsoever, we should be talking about the qualifications of the person that is going in --

    MELVIN: We shouldn’t be having a conversation about Roe v. Wade?

    OWENS: No. No. I think that the fact that --

    MELVIN: Because it’s settled law? Or --

    OWENS: No. No. We should not be having a conversation about Roe v. Wade before the president makes the pick for SCOTUS. It’s a way for the left to fearmonger, which is what they always do. They want people to be scared, as if somehow all of their rights are going to be violated because Donald Trump gets a Supreme Court pick, and that’s just not true.

    MELVIN: But it’s not just people on the left who are doing this “fearmongering.” There are people who --

    OWENS: It is.

    MELVIN: No, no, no.

    OWENS: It definitely is.

    MELVIN: I have friends and talk to lots of people who aren’t on the left, and there are people who are legitimately concerned about the next Supreme Court justice being able to upend some 45 years of settled law in this country --

    OWENS: Name your friends, please --

    MELVIN: I don’t think, I mean --

    OWENS: CNN?

    MELVIN: No. No -- well, I think you and I both know that wouldn’t necessarily be my friend, but to say that the entire left, or that the entire right is doing something, I just -- I don't know -- first of all, it can't be accurate. You know that's not accurate. That’s hyperbole.

    OWENS: It’s 100 percent accurate. It’s not hyperbole, it’s what’s going on right now. Hyperbole is this idea that every time Donald Trump does something, there's going to be an armageddon. It's the reason why so many people on the left have grown apathetic towards the Democrats, because you guys -- I don't mean to say you guys, I shouldn’t insinuate that you're a part of that.

    MELVIN: Thank you for the correction.

    OWENS: But because of what we see in the leftist media so much is, every single week, you’re outraged over something else. He gets a Supreme Court pick. You have to move on from that, let him pick somebody, and then we start to talk about things. But this fearmongering has to stop completely. This has to be more rational dialogue and thought here.

    MELVIN: So there’s been no fearmongering on other sides of the political spectrum?

    OWENS: If you have a point you’d like to make I can answer it.

    MELVIN: No, I’m just saying the president, from time to time, some of his tweets --

    OWENS: No, I don’t think -- I do not remember or recall, while Obama was in office for two terms, every single day waking up thinking that the world was going to end, to answer your question.

    MELVIN: I vividly recall being at a number of town hall meetings after Obamacare had been launched, and people showing up with automatic weapons. People claiming that they wanted to take their country back. So that all of a sudden the left is up in arms, I mean, the right was up in arms for a while as well.

    OWENS: About Obamacare, yes, that’s something that --

    MELVIN: Well, about the president in general, about the fact that he wasn’t born in this country, that he was a secret Muslim. There are fringes.

    OWENS: Are you suggesting that there has been this much outrage, the outrage that we’re seeing towards every single thing that Donald Trump does, that his daughter does, that his family does, was the same thing we experienced when Obama was in office?

    MELVIN: I can’t speak for everyone.

    OWENS: That’s a question -- I’m asking you to objectively say, right? That you think that there was this much outrage when Obama was in office for two terms?

    MELVIN: The beauty about doing what I do for a living is that I get to ask the questions --

    OWENS: Right.

    MELVIN: I don’t necessarily have to answer the questions.

    OWENS: I’ll take that as an answer.

    MELVIN: No, that’s not an answer.

    OWENS: I think that is one.

    MELVIN: One of the things that a lot of folks have been up in arms about specifically here, Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator. You are quite familiar, I'm sure, with a number of his scandals, some alleged, some confirmed, 15 current investigations as it relates to Scott Pruitt. Spending and management practices, I think we've got a partial list we can put up on the screen here -- a partial list of his scandals. This is Scott Pruitt, of course, former attorney general there in Oklahoma, and we've tried to condense it to one screen here. And there is this -- there continues to be this bizarre story about trying to secure a used mattress, as well, from a Trump tower hotel. Do you think that Scott Pruitt should remain EPA chief?

    OWENS: I think that I should remain focused on things that matter. This is not going to impact midterms. It's not going to impact Trump for support. It's a sidebar and it’s something that has gotten way too much coverage with all of the things that are going on right now in this nation.

    MELVIN: Now, wait a minute. But you can appreciate how a president who vowed to drain the swamp might receive some legitimate criticism from journalists and just the citizenry at large, because the guy who’s charged with --

    OWENS: Absolutely, absolutely I can appreciate that, but I don’t have to add to the dialogue. I don't have to pretend this is something that is a pressing issue that we need to discuss 24 hours wall-to-wall coverage on any network. And I choose not to. I choose to pay attention to the crack that is happening in the Democratic Party and the major shift that is happening, and I choose to be at the forefront of it.

    MELVIN: Candace Owens, there are lots of voices in this country, and we like to give all voices an opportunity to be heard here, so I thank you for coming on.

    OWENS: I like you, Craig. Thanks for having me.

    MELVIN: Thank you, Candace. You’re welcome to come back.

  • Cable news covered the Baltimore school walkout for less than a minute

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    On March 6, Baltimore high school students staged a walkout for gun safety weeks after the Parkland, FL, school shooting left 17 dead. Cable media outlets all but ignored the walkout, spending less than a minute in total on the story on March 6.

    Hundreds of students from both public and private schools across Baltimore came together on March 6 and marched to City Hall to protest gun violence. (There have been 18 shootings at schools this year alone.) The students had a list of gun safety demands, including “more frequent active shooter drills and comprehensive follow-up investigations into allegations of school police misconduct.” They also demanded social work and counseling services in schools “to prevent the culture of gun violence.” The walkout is the latest in several calls for more gun safety regulations.

    On the day of the walkout, CNN and Fox News ignored the story completely, while MSNBC gave it less than a minute of coverage during its 1 p.m. hour:

    CRAIG MELVIN (ANCHOR): Right now in Baltimore, Maryland, I believe we have a live look there in Baltimore, there it is. Students marching to City Hall in a walkout. They're bringing attention to school safety there in Baltimore. They're calling it the “guns down, grades up” walkout. They are demanding better school security measures. The mayor of Baltimore joined the students as they marched. We’re keeping a very close eye on the situation there in Baltimore We’ll keep you updated throughout the hour.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “student" and "Baltimore" within the same 20-second clip that also mentioned “school,” “gun,” “shooting,” “violence,” “safety,” “walk out,” “protest,” or “march,” on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News on March 6 between 6 a.m. and midnight.

  • Trump's repeal of the Clean Power Plan will cost lives, but TV news outlets are covering it as a political football

    Ditching limits on power plant emissions will lead to an estimated 3,600 more premature deaths each year

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A number of TV news outlets failed to cover the negative health impacts of the Trump administration's decision to repeal limits on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants. Of the major broadcast networks' morning and evening news shows, only ABC's World News Tonight mentioned how Americans' health could be affected by the move. On the major cable news networks, CNN overlooked the health angle and MSNBC addressed it in some segments, while most Fox News commentators discussed the repeal in approving or celebratory tones.

    Trump's repeal of the Clean Power Plan will have major health impacts

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced on Monday that he would formally move to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and on Tuesday he signed a proposed rule to get the process rolling. The Clean Power Plan was put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, imposing the first-ever federal limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

    Pruitt's move will have serious, real-world impacts on Americans' health. According to Obama's EPA, not only would the Clean Power Plan have helped to fight climate change, but it would also have curbed a number of health problems and premature deaths. That's because when utilities reduce their emissions of climate-warming CO2 pollution, they also reduce other pollutants that cause soot and smog and directly harm human health. An EPA fact sheet from 2015 says the agency determined that the rule would prevent thousands of deaths and health-related problems each year:

    • 3,600 premature deaths
    • 1,700 heart attacks
    • 90,000 asthma attacks
    • 300,000 missed work days and school days

    Under Pruitt, however, those health improvements will be denied to Americans. Pruitt's EPA not only disputes the scientific agreement that humans are driving climate change; it also disputes the scientific agreement that particulate matter and other smog-forming pollutants are unsafe for humans at any level. The EPA's new proposed rule contends that there would be no health benefits to reducing air pollutants below levels currently required by Clean Air Act regulations.

    Pruitt's repeal will be particularly harmful to people of color and low-income Americans, as they suffer more than whiter, wealthier communities do from coal plant pollution. The Clean Power Plan included a number of environmental-justice provisions intended to help redress that inequity.

    Among major broadcast networks, only ABC mentioned the health benefits of the Clean Power Plan, while CBS and NBC ignored them

    Media Matters analyzed morning and nighttime news shows on October 9 and 10 on ABC, CBS, and NBC, plus PBS NewsHour. ABC was the sole corporate broadcast network to note the health benefits of the Clean Power Plan in coverage of the plan’s repeal, and it did so in only a brief mention. During a headline rundown on the October 9 episode of World News Tonight with David Muir, Muir reported, “The 2015 Clean Power Plan aimed to cut power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent and save 3,600 lives a year.”

    In contrast, neither CBS nor NBC made any reference to what the repeal would mean for public health. NBC covered the repeal once, on the October 10 episode of NBC Nightly News, while CBS covered it twice, on the October 9 episode of CBS Evening News and the October 10 episode of CBS This Morning.

    PBS NewsHour briefly mentioned the health angle during a lengthy segment on the plan's repeal on October 10 that featured interviews with Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA under President Obama, and coal company CEO Robert Murray. PBS correspondent John Yang did not bring up the health implications of the repeal, but McCarthy mentioned them when she said that Pruitt's move “will limit the kind of protections you will get for public health and take a significant bite out of our ability to address climate change and keep our kids’ future safe.”

    MSNBC reported on the health impacts of the Clean Power Plan repeal three times, while CNN did not mention them at all

    Of the major cable networks, MSNBC provided the best TV news coverage of the health implications of the Clean Power Plan repeal. Media Matters analyzed cable news from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on October 9 and October 10 and found that MSNBC aired eight segments on the repeal, three of which mentioned human health. On the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson, NBC correspondent Anne Thompson explained that “doctors are very concerned, because if you increase the amount of coal-fired power, that means you’re putting more particulates in the air, and if that happens, that means you’re going to see more asthma attacks, more days missed in school and work from various illnesses, and more premature deaths.” Another October 10 edition of MSNBC Live featured an interview with Laura Kellogg, an American Lung Association volunteer and mother of children with asthma, who discussed how the plan’s repeal would harm children living close to coal plants. And the same day on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, Melvin asked guest Mustafa Ali, former head of EPA's environmental justice program, about the health impacts of the repeal and gave Ali a chance to discuss the premature deaths and asthma attacks that are expected to result.

    (The remaining five MSNBC segments on the plan's repeal, which didn't mention its public health consequences, aired on the October 9 edition of MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, the October 10 edition of MTP Daily, the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live, and the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, which featured two segments on the repeal.)

    CNN, on the other hand, did not discuss the health effects during any of its four segments that mentioned the Clean Power Plan repeal on October 9 and 10. Two of those segments aired on New Day on October 10, while one ran on Inside Politics on October 10 and one on At This Hour on October 9.

    Much of Fox News' coverage praised the repeal, but two segments did mention health effects

    Fox News aired seven segments covering the repeal of the Clean Power Plan and made four additional mentions while reading headlines. Much of the tone of Fox’s coverage was celebratory. Twice on the October 9 edition of Fox & Friends and once on the October 10 edition of the show, Jillian Mele presented the repeal as President Donald Trump delivering on a campaign promise to his base. On October 10, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade introduced an interview with a former coal worker by saying, “Yesterday the Trump administration kept another campaign promise because Hillary Clinton didn't win, even though no one told her yet, to end the war on coal and help American families.” Sandra Smith also covered the repeal as Trump keeping a campaign promise on the October 9 edition of America’s Newsroom, and the next day she asked Fox contributor Karl Rove whether it can “be seen as a big win for this administration.” Rove responded, "Well, it’s a big win,” adding that Trump needed legislative victories as well.

    Special Report was the outlier on Fox News, citing information on health effects of the repeal in two segments. During the show’s October 9 report, correspondent Griff Jenkins read a quote from the Sierra Club noting that the Clean Power Plan would “prevent thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of childhood asthma attacks every year.” And on October 10, during an interview with Pruitt, host Bret Baier read a statement from former EPA Administrator Carol Browner that noted the health impacts of the move and asked Pruitt to respond to the statement.

    (The additional Fox News segments and mentions on the repeal were on the October 9 edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum and the October 9 edition of America’s Newsroom during the 9 a.m. hour and the 10 a.m. hour.)

    The media failed to adequately report on the Clean Power Plan in past years too

    When the Obama administration finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015, many mainstream media outlets neglected to cover the public health implications, as Media Matters noted at the time.

    Coverage of the Clean Power Plan was even more lacking last year. Then-candidate Trump promised to repeal the Clean Power Plan during his campaign, but broadcast news programs gave little attention to that pledge or to the plan itself last year, Media Matters found in an analysis of 2016 coverage. Ultimately, broadcast news failed to adequately inform viewers and voters before the election about what a Trump presidency would mean for environmental policy. Now we're seeing the Trump administration working to roll back more than 50 environmental protections.

    TV news outlets’ shortcomings this week in covering the repeal of the Clean Power Plan are just part of a longer pattern of insufficient coverage.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of "Pruitt,” “Clean Power Plan," "EPA," "Environmental Protection Agency," "carbon," "emissions," "regulation,” and "rule.” We examined coverage on October 9, the day Pruitt announced his intention to repeal the rule, and October 10, the day he formally proposed the repeal. For broadcast networks, we examined the morning and evening news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as PBS NewsHour. For cable news, we examined coverage from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

    Zachary Pleat contributed to this report.

  • Experts Explain How GOP Repeal Of The ACA Will Hurt Americans

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Cable networks have hosted a variety of health care experts to discuss the negative impact that the Republican health care bill and repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have on different aspects of the American health care system, including coverage, health care costs, Medicaid, and women’s health care.

  • Media Discover Due Caution When It Comes To Reporting About Trump

    But Where Was That Prudence On Clinton Email Reporting? 

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The media’s four-alarm fire drill over FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the bureau would further investigate more emails related to its Hillary Clinton server investigation stands in stark contrast to the cautious, measured approach the press took when reporting on several stories about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russian entities. The divergent approaches to the so-called “October surprises” underscore the media’s double standard when reporting on Clinton and Trump.

    After Comey released a letter on October 28 to congressional leaders stating that “the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the [Clinton email] investigation” and that the bureau was going to “review these emails” (which may or may not be “significant”), the chorus of pundits hyping the DEFCON 1 “bombshell” was unrestrained, despite the dearth of information about the FBI’s decision or next moves.

    With scarcely any details about the new developments, cable news talking heads -- relying solely on Comey’s vague letter and Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) misleading spin that the investigation was “reopened” -- hyped the news as “damaging” and called it “a dramatic new twist” and “an exclamation point on the end of a horrible week for Clinton and the Democrats.” Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin crowed that the “presidential race has been rocked by another head-scratching, rally-bending, M. Knight Shyamalan-worthy plot twist.”

    CNN’s Brooke Baldwin even conceded that “there is so much we do not know,” yet nevertheless declared that “it’s a significant story … [with] 11 days to go.” Indeed, the media’s immediate email coverage relied solely on speculation, but it sounded as if the damage and implications were definitive: So much was made of so little. 

    Contrast the Clinton email reaction with that to the litany of stories that were published on October 31 about Trump: that Trump allegedly has a secret server that communicates with a shady Russian bank; that the Russian government has allegedly “for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump”; that the FBI is reportedly “conducting a preliminary inquiry” into the “foreign business connections” of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort; and that Comey was reluctant “to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election” because “it was too close to Election Day.” The double standard becomes pretty clear.

    CNN’s Erin Burnett, referring to the CNBC and Huffington Post stories about Comey’s objection to naming Russia as an “election meddler,” said that “CNN has not been able to corroborate” the reporting. Likewise, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota asserted that “reports about [the Trump] campaign’s links to Russia” were “uncorroborated.” On MSNBC, Bloomberg’s Megan Murphy called the series of Trump stories “Russian conspiracy theories,” and MSNBC host Craig Melvin calmly asked about the “new information” regarding “possible Russian business ties in the Trump campaign” (emphasis added).

    The media’s treatment of the Trump stories with a cautious eye is not unwelcomed -- in fact, it embodies the best possible way to report on new developments with limited information and uncorroborated claims. As it turns out, the veracity of some of the allegations about Trump’s Russian ties seemingly came into question hours after the initial reports, with The New York Times reporting that no FBI “investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.” The media’s measured approach to the initial spate of stories was thus a proper safeguard for reporting on stories that may or may not be true.

    But the overhyped media freakout, the rush to judgment, the presumption of guilt, and the reliance on GOP spin after the FBI letter was publicized couldn’t have been further from the media’s approach to the Trump stories, and the disparity falls in line with what James Carville calls the “Clinton Rule”: “There shall be one standard for covering everyone else in public life, and another standard for the Clintons.”

    Media figures qualified the Trump-Russia stories by noting that they were unproven allegations with little supporting information, yet they didn’t give that same benefit to the FBI email story (for which, to be sure, there is even less information). The cautious reporting isn’t the problem; the double standard is. 

  • Right-Wing Media Ignore Role Of Subsidies, Claim Insurance Premium Increases Are A “Death Spiral” For Obamacare 

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Reports that benchmark health insurance premiums will increase by an average of 25 percent from 2016 to 2017 for plans purchased on Healthcare.gov marketplace exchanges have prompted right-wing media outlets to claim the price hike is proof of “the collapse” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and evidence of a so-called Obamacare “death spiral.” In reality, the majority of individual insurance customers will be insulated from cost increases due to proportional increases in the health care subsidies, and these premium increases are still in line with anticipated health care costs initially predicted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).