Fox segment dismisses racial justice protests, guest claims "there is nothing worse than being called a racist"
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The day after Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, said that Trump knew and approved of a meeting between members of his campaign and a Russian lawyer -- a meeting that the president had denied having knowledge of beforehand -- Trump’s favorite morning news show, Fox & Friends, almost entirely ignored the news until the president tweeted about it. At that point, the show opted to smear Cohen in an effort to clear Trump.
CNN first reported that Cohen claimed to have been in the room when Donald Trump Jr. informed his father of his plans to meet with a Russian lawyer who, Trump Jr was told by an intermediary, would provide dirt on then-candidate Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." It has since been reported that the Russian lawyer has close ties to top Russian officials. Cohen also reportedly said he is willing to give his version of the events to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election. Previously, both the president and Trump Jr. denied that the then-candidate knew of the meeting. Trump Jr. testified to Senate investigators that he couldn’t recall whom he had told.
Whether or not Trump knew of the meeting beforehand has been a central question in the investigation. The day after the story broke, Fox & Friends initially mentioned it only once during a headlines segment. Only in the third hour of the show, after Trump denied Cohen’s account via Twitter, did Fox & Friends cover the story in more depth -- but with a characteristically pro-Trump slant. After replaying the same headlines segment from earlier, co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed Fox contributor Geraldo Rivera about the matter. During the interview, Kilmeade questioned Cohen’s credibility and peddled a theory that “it was the Trump team that released the information” in a clear effort to save face for Trump. Rivera joined Kilmeade, commenting on Cohen’s “sleaziness” in an effort to discredit his account.
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Fox News’ flagship morning show, Fox & Friends, breezed past new reports that a shell company used by President Donald Trump’s lawyer and business associate, Michael Cohen, to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels "received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration."
Yesterday, following a tweet from Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenetti, The New York Times reported on financial records that show Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., received “payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch.” Essential Consultants also received payments from various other major companies, including AT&T. CNN noted that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have questioned Vekselberg, who is close to Vladimir Putin, as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The potential scope of the corruption here is staggering.
it's crazy that we're probably living through the single biggest corruption scandal in presidential history
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) May 9, 2018
Fox News has had relatively little coverage of these Cohen developments. It was briefly mentioned on Special Report, but the story was ignored through the network's prime-time lineup, and not again mentioned until Fox News at Night during the 11 p.m. hour, according to a SnapStream search.
Melania Trump’s approval ratings:
And a “controversy” about high school cheerleaders in New Jersey:
Fox & Friends mistakenly reported that “two men dressed up as women” were involved in an incident this morning at the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, MD -- but that detail was actually from a similar incident in March 2015.
Media outlets reported that one person was injured in a shooting that took place at a security vehicle entry gate at the NSA headquarters on February 14. NSA issued a statement, saying that “NSA police and local law enforcement are addressing” the incident” and that “the situation is under control.”
Fox News first mentioned the incident at 8:01 a.m., with Fox & Friends First co-host Jillian Mele reporting: “At least three people have reportedly been shot at NSA headquarters. … There are reports claiming that two men dressed up as women tried to drive through the gate with a stolen SUV. That’s when the shots were fired.”
Fox & Friends appeared to have taken details from a 2015 incident at NSA headquarters and reported it as a fact in today’s incident. A FOX 5 report on today’s incident explains: “In 2015, two men dressed as women tried to ram a stolen car through the gate of the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. One of the two was killed when guards opened fire and the other was injured.”
Later, at 8:39 a.m., Mele correctly stated that “a very similar incident happened at the NSA headquarters back in 2015, when two men dressed as women tried to ram the gate at the main entrance.” But Mele did not mention that she incorrectly attributed that detail from the 2015 incident in her first report about today’s shooting, and Fox & Friends never gave a correction to its initial report.
Far-right website Zero Hedge, which has a history of pushing conspiracy theories, also incorrectly reported this detail several minutes after Mele did, embedding a now-deleted tweet from an account @BreakingNewzman which stated: “DEVELOPING - Two men dressed as women who attempted to enter a gate at the NSA's campus at Fort Meade, MD in a stolen Ford Escape this morning were shot by a security guard, Bloomberg reports.” Conspiracy theory website Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson tweeted the Zero Hedge article, adding: “Male intruders dressed as women shot while trying to ram NSA compound. One dead.”
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During the January 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, a teaser aired for an upcoming report on a Los Angeles police chase that ended with the male perpetrator forcibly kissing his female companion. Co-host Steve Doocy exclaimed, "Wait, that's a kiss? What?" and fellow co-host Ainsley Earhardt pointed out that "she doesn't look like she wants to be kissing him" as the on-screen chyron labeled the apparently nonconsensual act "a passionate arrest":
Nonetheless, Fox's Jillian Mele started her report on the story by calling the police chase a "hot pursuit" and saying, "Police breaking up the passion by tasing the man and tackling the woman":
JILLIAN MELE (HEADLINES ANCHOR): OK, so we're giving the phrase "hot pursuit" a whole new meaning, I tell you. A couple getting in one last kiss after leading police on a two-hour chase. The woman is accused of stealing a U-Haul truck, then leading officers on a pursuit through Los Angeles, but a blown tire ended the whole thing. Police breaking up the passion by tasing the man and tackling the woman. Both were arrested and treated for drugs.
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The state passed a law earlier this year allowing some former felons to register to vote
A week before the special election in Alabama to fill a vacancy in the Senate, Fox & Friends and Breitbart fearmongered about felon voting -- even attempting to portray it as a Democratic conspiracy -- despite the fact that the state’s Republican legislature passed and Republican governor signed the law allowing felons to register.
In a December 3 piece, Breitbart wrote that “An organization partnered with a George Soros-financed group and led by a radical leftist who is the half-brother of the infamous controversial Rev. Al Sharpton has been diligently working over the past few weeks to register convicted felons across Alabama.” It isn’t until 12 paragraphs into the piece that Breitbart noted that earlier this year Alabama's Republican governor signed the law that restored voting rights to thousands of felons.
Similarly, Fox & Friends was criticized after it ran multiple segments and teases on the November 30 edition of the program saying that Democrats are trying to get "felons registered to come out and vote" in the election. Only once did Fox host Jillian Mele acknowledge that “for decades, felons in Alabama were not allowed to vote,” but “the law was changed last year.” As the Washington Post noted, "Never mind that the felons' voting rights were restored by Republican lawmakers or that one of history's best-known conservative Supreme Court justices determined 32 years ago that bigotry had motivated Alabama's sweeping disenfranchisement. On “Fox & Friends,” the right of certain citizens to vote was presented as a nefarious “secret weapon” of Democrats."
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Ditching limits on power plant emissions will lead to an estimated 3,600 more premature deaths each year
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.)
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.
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.