Jim Sciutto | Media Matters for America

Jim Sciutto

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  • CNN anchors misleadingly portray popular Democratic proposals such as "Medicare-for-all" and taxing the wealthy as far to the left

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    On Wednessday, CNN anchors Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow portrayed Democratic policy proposals that enjoy high public support as extreme, calling “Medicare-for-all” and a tax on high amounts of wealth “far left of center” and “very far left.”

    Polls have consistently shown high levels of support for these ideas: An August Reuters/Ipsos poll found 70 percent of respondents support “Medicare-for-all,” a January Politico/Harvard poll found 68 percent support a national health care plan like “Medicare-for-all,” and a January Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 56 percent of respondents support “Medicare-for-all.” Additionally, a February Morning Consult poll found 61 percent support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) proposal for a wealth tax on very wealthy households, while a January The Hill-HarrisX survey found 59 percent of registered voters support raising marginal tax rates to 70 percent on income above $10 million.

    From the February 20 edition of CNN’s CNN Newsroom:

    JIM SCIUTTO (CO-ANCHOR): Karen, the focus of the Democratic Party, many of the candidates will say, is on beating Donald Trump. Is this a good look, in effect, for the Democratic Party? Is this the right approach to 2020 to go so far left of center, when polls consistently show that most Americans have more center -- and some polls even show center-right views on some of these key issues?

    KAREN FINNEY (CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR): Well, look, I think we have to take a step back actually, because having just worked on a campaign in the South on Stacey Abrams’ campaign in 2018, and looked at a number of other campaigns, the issue landscape in this country is a little bit different. And so when we talk about things like expanding Medicaid, or we talk about things -- which, you know, some states have not done yet even under Obamacare -- when we talk about, you know, commonsense gun safety measures, those issues poll pretty well in a lot of states where a lot of Americans see that as a more mainstream issue. They don’t see that as a far-left issue. So there’s a lot of things -- like child care, which Sen. [Elizabeth] Warren has been talking about -- that actually appeal to people, working people in particular who struggle with these issues.

    SCIUTTO: True, but that’s different than like 70 percent tax rates. And I’m not saying that’s the whole party, but you have [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)] going down that path.

    FINNEY: Well, she’s not running for president, though.

    SCIUTTO: You know, universal health care, universal health care. You’re talking about background checks. That’s one kind of issue. But I’m talking about issues further to the left of the political spectrum.

    FINNEY: Right, but just because someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House is talking about something that is, you know, that some may perceive as being to the left, that’s not necessarily going to influence what the presidential candidates are talking about. Because I think what they all recognize is, yes, they’re still in Congress, so they’re going to have to, at the right time, comment on some of these things because they may have to vote on them. But they also have to put forward their own visions. So I thought [Sen.] Amy Klobuchar, for example the other night, did a great job when she was talking about college affordability and what she would do. I know that student looked like he was a bit disappointed. So I think what you’re going to see -- and this is why the primary is so important and I think the debates are going to be so important -- you’re going to hear all of these ideas really teased out with similar goals and values at their core but different ideas about how we get there. And I think that’s going to be a really exciting thing for this country is to actually have conversations about ideas and not just tweets attacking people.

    POPPY HARLOW (CO-ANCHOR): And also let’s remember Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, also, you know, proposing that wealth tax on people with any assets over $50 million -- also very far left.

  • Mainstream media are trying to spin Nikki Haley as a moderate

    During her tenure at the UN, she advocated and defended extremist policies 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following the October 9 announcement of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s resignation, mainstream media figures and organizations were quick to sing her praises and label her a “moderating voice” within the administration. In reality, Haley’s tenure at the U.N. was marked by the U.S. adopting extreme policies, which Haley advocated and defended.

    The day Haley resigned, The New York Times tweeted that her departure left “the administration with one less moderate Republican voice.” Meanwhile, on CNN, political commentator Chris Cillizza and anchor Jim Sciutto both said she was -- or was seen as -- a “moderating influence,” and the network’s global affairs analyst, David Rohde, also called her “sort of a moderating voice.” Network host Brooke Baldwin said, “I’m wondering who then becomes that strong -- that push-back voice in this administration once she leaves?”

    It was a similar story on MSNBC, where political contributor Ben Rhodes, a former Obama official, argued that Haley “comes from a more conventional Republican approach to foreign policy that stands up to Vladimir Putin, that wants to be tough on Russia, that wants to promote democracy and human rights around the world.” MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell called Haley “moderate” multiple times, claiming that she was “one of the administration’s last moderate Republican voices.” Similarly, NBC political reporter Josh Lederman commended Haley as someone who could  “talk about ... issues in a way that sort of softened them” and claimed she could make Trump’s policies more “palatable” to “more moderate people.” Others went further in their praise. MSNBC’s Charlie Sykes called Haley “one of the stars of this administration,” and Chris Matthews compared her to President John Kennedy, saying “we spot leaders” by their “courage to get ahead of the crowd” and “act in a way that leads the way.”

    Despite mainstream figures’ efforts to frame Haley as a moderate, her record is filled with instances of her embracing extreme policies:

    • During her tenure as U.N. ambassador, Haley defended the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement now signed by every other county in the world.

    • She led the country’s withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council, an organization The New York Times calls “the world’s most important human rights body.” Haley called the organization “so corrupt.” Every country in the world participates in UNHRC meetings and deliberations with the exceptions of Iran, North Korea, Eritrea, and now the United States.

    • Haley defended the administration’s decision to gut funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the U.N.’s pivotal assistance program for Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Millions of Palestinians rely on UNWRA for health care, education, and basic resources, like food.

    • She applauded the Trump administration’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal as the  “absolutely … right decision.” The exit rankled American allies, many of whom chose to remain in the deal.

    Mainstream media figures have ignored this evidence that Haley allowed and encouraged American extremism and bullying, instead casting her as a maverick within the administration. Their interest in finding someone within the administration to label “moderate” is another example of the mainstream media’s fetish for normalizing Trump-ism.

    Tyler Monroe and Gabby Miller contributed research to this piece.

  • After Trump’s disastrous press conference with Putin, three news anchors report Republicans won’t appear on their shows

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Republican elected officials are refusing to appear on cable news programs to discuss President Donald Trump’s disastrous July 16 press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the press conference, Trump insulted “obstructionist” Democrats while standing next to a foreign adversary, condemned Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling, blamed “both countries” for deteriorating relations, called the United States “foolish,” and refused to endorse conclusion of the entire intelligence community and the Senate intelligence committee that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump’s performance has drawn wide rebuke, and according to three cable news anchors, many Republicans are refusing to speak about it on the air. MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle and CNN’s Kate Bolduan reported that they had asked Republicans to join them on the air and all had declined. CNN’s Jim Sciutto noted that out of the "dozens of Republican lawmakers" he invited to appear on his show, only one accepted the invitation: Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), who is not running for reelection.

    MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle: “I invited a myriad of elected officials, Republican elected officials, to join me on-air today to discuss the president's summit with Vladimir Putin, and across the board they said no thank you.”

    CNN’s Kate Bolduan: “I should note, we invited on all of the Republicans on the Senate intelligence committee today to talk about all of this. Those Republican members have all declined.”

    CNN’s Jim Sciutto to Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA): “So our viewers know, we reached out to dozens of Republican lawmakers today to speak, to react to the president's comments. And I want to thank you for being the only one who said yes.” Costello is not running for reelection.

  • CNN is paying Stephen Moore to lie to its viewers about health care

    If you're going to give Moore air time, at least fact-check him

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Discredited economic pundit and former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore continues embarrassing CNN during news segments with his supposed policy expertise. Media Matters compared two of Moore’s recent appearances -- one in which he appeared alongside a credentialed policy expert, and one in which he faced only an ill-prepared network host -- and found distinct differences in the tone of each discussion. These differences demonstrate the dangers of news outlets continuing to rely on unscrupulous hangers-on from the Trump administration to comment on policy issues.

    Over the years, Media Matters has chronicled Moore’s shoddy predictions, intentional misinformation, and misleading claims. Despite ample evidence of Moore’s gross incompetence as an economic analyst, CNN still hired him in January under the guise of “senior economics analyst” to serve as a sort of in-house surrogate for the Trump administration. Moore has spent his time at CNN undermining his colleagues and embarrassing his network while ceaselessly parroting the Republican Party’s agenda. His shameless defense of the president’s unfounded reasoning for withdrawing from the Paris climate accord even led Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs to blast CNN on its own program for maintaining a relationship with the pundit.

    Moore’s two appearances late last week underscore how problematic he is as an employee of a news network and reveal how CNN ought to handle his future appearances.

    During the July 13 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Moore was interviewed alongside University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee about the Republican-led Senate’s floundering proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Moore opened the segment by endorsing an amendment authored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), which experts believe would restrict coverage options and increase costs for Americans living with pre-existing conditions. He misleadingly blamed the ACA for increasing health care costs -- prices are actually "rising at historically low levels" since the law went into effect -- and encouraged the use of so-called “catastrophic” insurance policies, which provide limited packages to young individuals at low cost and are considered inadequate by health care experts. Luckily for CNN viewers, Goolsbee -- a former chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisers and college debate champion -- was there to provide pushback to these false and misleading claims:

    Compare Goolsbee’s repeated fact-check of Moore’s misstatements to another Moore appearance in which CNN did not host an economic policy expert to counter the conservative pundit.

    On the July 14 edition of CNN’s Wolf, Moore sat for an interview with guest host Jim Sciutto, the network’s chief national security correspondent, to discuss the same topics and was allowed to promote his right-wing agenda virtually unchallenged. Moore falsely claimed that catastrophic health insurance plans could save middle-class families thousands of dollars and got away with an unsubstantiated guess that politically, the GOP bill’s reduction of insurance premiums outweighs the fact that it would strip coverage from 22 million people. When Sciutto questioned him about the fact that repealing ACA would harm millions of Americans who receive Medicaid, Moore promoted the right-wing lie that “Medicaid is one of the worst insurance systems” and low-income Americans would be better off without it. Sciutto did not challenge Moore when he falsely claimed that the ACA repeal process in 2017 is “déjà vu all over again” compared to how the law was passed in 2010 when, according to Moore, then-President Barack Obama “had to buy those last couple of votes in Senate to get there.” In reality, the ACA passed 60-39 with the support of every Democrat in the chamber, whereas the current Senate bill has yet to get 50 supporters among 52 Republican senators:

    Moore’s partisan talking points can be easily unraveled by competent analysts and experts; his attempt to promote the same right-wing fallacies about health care was rebutted by health care expert Andy Slavitt during the July 10 edition of New Day. In fact, his dissembling can be easily countered if the interviewer is adequately prepared. But since Moore is a professional misinformer who has spent years honing his craft, if an interviewer is ill-prepared, the segment can quickly devolve into Moore amplifying his routine talking points, which serve only his conservative political agenda.

  • Contra right-wing media, US officials have verified core aspects of the Trump dossier

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media have waged a months-long attempt to discredit the 35-page dossier produced by a former British intelligence officer that contains allegations of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Various right-wing commentators have described its contents as “unreliable,” “discredited,” “largely debunked,” and "evidence of ... collusion between Democrats and Russian disinformation," including a Washington Times story that Trump promoted this week. But, according to numerous reports, American intelligence officials have “verified” various “core” aspects of the dossier.