On PBS Newshour, Anti-Violence Project's Beverly Tillery highlights the epidemic of deadly violence against trans women of color
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President Donald Trump said in an unannounced speech at the White House today that “I don’t do cover-ups,” despite ample examples to the contrary. Trump’s comments came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters that House Democrats “believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.” Some national news outlets and political reporters uncritically repeated Trump’s false claim on Twitter as they reported his remarks.
Twitter accounts from major national news outlets, including The Hill, Reuters, CNN, and ABC News, and some political journalists such as CNN’s Manu Raju, The New York Times’ Peter Baker, and PBS’ Judy Woodruff repeated Trump’s claim without informing their audiences that it is false.
JUST IN: Pres. Trump responds to Speaker Pelosi's comment that he's engaged in a "cover-up."
— ABC News (@ABC) May 22, 2019
The outlets and journalists could have easily included the proper context in their tweets as The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker did:
"I don't do cover-ups," Trump says, making no mention of the hush money payments to a porn star and a Playmate to secure their silence about his affairs in the weeks before 2016 election https://t.co/ThzhWtDwKA
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) May 22, 2019
There are numerous examples of Trump covering up actions that might paint him in an unflattering light or put him in legal jeopardy, and the news outlets mentioned above have reported on them in the past. Just two such examples are special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings of multiple cases in which Trump attempted to obstruct his investigation, and Trump’s involvement in the false narrative that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting at the Trump Tower with several Russians was about adopting children, when it was actually about seeking “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The Hill, Reuters, CNN, and ABC News have reported on these issues.
Uncritically repeating Trump’s lies, falsehoods, and outright propaganda on social media is an ongoing problem for major news outlets. News organizations and journalists must include the context of the president’s lies when reporting on social media about what Trump and officials in his administration are saying, because failing to do so is irresponsible.
As right-wing media insist that President Donald Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh won’t threaten abortion rights if he’s confirmed, PBS NewsHour modeled how outlets should report on Kavanaugh and contextualize his anti-abortion stances.
After Kavanaugh met with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) -- regarded as a key vote for his confirmation -- Collins told reporters and released a statement that she was reassured about Kavanaugh’s stance on Roe v. Wade because he told her he agreed with Chief Justice John Roberts’ statement that Roe was “settled law.”
Although some outlets quickly explained why Collins should certainly not be reassured by Kavanaugh’s comments on Roe, PBS NewsHour’s August 23 segment was a particularly good model for how outlets should report on Kavanaugh's "settled law" comments, as well as demonstrate how his confirmation will be a threat to abortion rights.
From the August 23 segment:
During the segment, CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic said that, with his comments about Roe being “settled law,” Kavanaugh is “trying out some lines” used by previous Supreme Court nominees. “When he meets with a senator,” Biskupic said, he “might experiment with what would be said. And we could see how Susan Collins received that quite positively.” Biskupic continued that it was possible Kavanaugh was “rehearsing his answers to try to satisfy senators enough to get the majority vote.” She warned that even if Kavanaugh talks about his “regard for precedent, … once he gets up there in a lifetime position, all bets are off.”
Besides emphasizing that Kavanaugh’s comments were not reflective of his likely jurisprudence, Biskupic further debunked his invocation of Roberts’ position on Roe. As Biskupic explained, although “Chief Justice John Roberts did talk about the importance of precedent and of Roe v. Wade being settled” there are actually “two rulings on abortion from Chief Justice John Roberts, one in 2007, and then more recently, where he did undercut the right.” During the segment, PBS NewsHour correspondent Lisa Desjardins also mentioned that Democratic senators said “Justice Gorsuch used the same standard, saying that he saw Roe as settled law. But Democrats like Chris Coons today point out that Justice Gorsuch recently voted to overturn a 41-year precedent, a court case from the Supreme Court in 1977, about labor law. That in that venue, it seems sort of as a Roe v. Wade of labor, Gorsuch did vote to overturn that. So Democrats are concerned that whether it’s settled law, these justices could be willing to overturn them.”
Kavanaugh is a threat to abortion access -- a fact Biskupic underscored in the PBS NewsHour segment by providing necessary context about his record on abortion rights and previous comments about Roe.
For example, in a 2017 case, the Trump administration stopped an unaccompanied pregnant immigrant teen (referred to as Jane Doe) in federal custody from having an abortion. The D.C. Court of Appeals eventually ruled that the government could not stop Doe from having an abortion. But Kavanaugh dissented in the case, arguing that the government should be able to block her decision to obtain abortion care while she’s in custody. In the segment, Biskupic explained that Kavanaugh’s dissent argued that “the government has an interest in fetal life here. … He said Roe is settled law. But he stressed that it wouldn’t have been a burden on this woman to have waited and gotten a sponsor, the government was right to try to make her wait and consider it.”
Similarly, Biskupic noted that we can tell a lot about Kavanaugh’s opinion on abortion rights from the way he has “talked about his judicial heroes. The first one when he was a young law student was former Chief Justice William Rehnquist. And he cited Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe v. Wade back in 1973. … And he’s done the same with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was also an opponent of abortion rights.”
The PBS NewsHour segment shows the kind of coverage needed about Kavanaugh, especially considering Collins has voted for every Supreme Court nominee since she’s been a senator, including Roberts, Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito.
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CBS and PBS are the latest news outlets to cover reported incidents of sexual harassment and misconduct by one of their own employees -- and so far both networks are taking measures to send the right messages to staff and viewers.
On November 20, Irin Carmon and Amy Brittain detailed in a lengthy Washington Post investigation stories from eight women who say TV news host Charlie Rose “made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.” Yvette Vega, Rose’s executive producer for his PBS show, told the Post, “I should have stood up for [young women on the show]. I failed. It is crushing. I deeply regret not helping them.” Additional women shared stories of misconduct by Rose with Business Insider and The New York Times following the initial report.
Until today, Rose was the co-host of CBS This Morning and host of PBS’ Charlie Rose. He’s now been fired from both positions. Both outlets aired segments grappling with the reports against Rose within a few hours of the Post piece being published on Monday night.
CBS Evening News’ initial segment detailed the reports of Rose’s harassment and assault and shared a statement from CBS saying Rose was suspended.
For its part, PBS Newshour interviewed Carmon that evening about her piece, and she explained the hurdles she encountered in attempting to report the story in 2010, when she worked for Jezebel:
JUDY WOODRUFF (HOST): And how did you go about -- as we said, the story says this took place over a period of years. How did you go about confirming any of these allegations?
IRIN CARMON: Judy, I first became aware of this story in 2010, when I was a reporter at the website Jezebel. And I attempted to report on them, but unfortunately I hit walls. I was not able to confirm the story. People were not ready to talk, frankly. It occurred to me now, in the last few weeks, because of the amazing reporting that’s been done on sexual misconduct and abuse, that perhaps the women who were worried about retaliation, who were afraid of Mr. Rose’s power in the industry, of his wealthy friends, of his famous sit-down interviews with world leaders, that perhaps they were ready to talk.
On Tuesday morning, CBS This Morning began its broadcast with a more detailed report on the allegations of misconduct, this one featuring Post reporter Amy Brittain:
Co-hosts Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell reflected on the reported actions of their missing co-host, and each woman addressed viewers with remarkable candor:
NORAH O’DONNELL (CO-HOST): This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and, more generally, the safety of women. Let me be very clear: There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive. And I’ve been doing a lot of listening, and I’m going to continue to do that. This I know is true: Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or in society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility. ...This has to end. This behavior is wrong. Period.
GAYLE KING (CO-HOST): I am not OK after reading that article in the Post. It was deeply disturbing, troubling, and painful for me to read. That said, I think we have to make this matter to women, the women who have spoken up, the women who have not spoken up because they’re afraid. I’m hoping that now they will take the step to speak out too, that this becomes a moment of truth. I’ve enjoyed a friendship and a partnership with Charlie for the past five years. I’ve held him in such high regard, and I’m really struggling because how do you -- what do you say when someone that you deeply care about has done something that is so horrible? How do you wrap your brain around that? I’m really grappling with that. That said, Charlie does not get a pass here. He doesn’t get a pass from anyone in this room.
The morning show also aired a third segment featuring nearly 10 minutes of conversation among highly accomplished women who had experienced workplace sexual harassment, including Rent The Runway’s Jennifer Hyman, Ellevest’s Sallie Krawcheck, Tribeca Enterprises’ Jane Rosenthal, Teen Vogue’s Elaine Welteroth, and gymnast Jessica Howard.
Within 24 hours, CBS had fired Rose; CBS News President David Rhodes said in an internal memo leaked to the press that Rose’s immediate termination was in part because CBS News was committed to a “safe, professional workplace.” The message about CBS News’ priorities for its staff and audience was clear:
Despite Charlie’s important journalistic contribution to our news division, there is absolutely nothing more important, in this or any organization, than ensuring a safe, professional workplace -- a supportive environment where people they can do this work. We need to be such a place.
I’ve often heard that things used to be different. And no one may be able to correct the past. But what may once have been accepted should not ever have been acceptable.
CBS News has reported on extraordinary revelations at other media companies this year and last. Our credibility in that reporting requires credibility managing basic standards of behavior. That is why we take these actions.
Though CBS’ public response to the piece has been noteworthy, it should be mentioned that the network reportedly knew about the Post's ongoing investigation into Rose's behavior for some time. The company's decision to wait until now to publicly address the issue suggests that its response has been triggered more by public exposure than anything else. And last month, another CBS employee was more quietly forced to resign amid sexual harassment reports detailing incidents said to have occurred as far back as 2009.
CBS is not the first outlet to grapple with workplace sexual harassment or misconduct happening in its own newsroom. Since the first New York Times investigation of Harvey Weinstein was published on October 5, investigative pieces and first-hand accounts published on social media have reported employees for sexual harassment at Vox Media, The Atlantic, NBC Universal and MSNBC, The New Republic, NPR, Mother Jones, Fox News, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, HuffPost, Vice, and now, The New York Times.
Some of these outlets, like NPR, have chosen to cover the reports extensively and consistently in a public moment of reckoning; others appear to have taken action but not publicly written about the harassment complaints.
Candidates in 2013 were asked about abortion. Moderators in 2017 must do the same.
In the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie have faced off in two debates -- neither of which has included a question about their positions on abortion. On October 9, Northman and Gillespie will participate in a third debate, moderated by NBC affiliate WCYB anchor Paul Johnson and featuring reporter Carmen Forman as a panelist. Given Gillespie’s known extremism on abortion and reproductive rights, Johnson and Forman have a responsibility to ask both candidates about their views on the issue.
Republican nominee Ed Gillespie previously said he "would like to see abortion be banned"
On September 19, Virginia gubernatorial candidates Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie will meet for their second of three debates ahead of the November 7 election. As the race between these two candidates becomes tighter, debate moderators have a responsibility to ask Gillespie about his extreme position on abortion.
New polls show that the race between Gillespie and Northam has narrowed: One poll shows the candidates tied while another has Northam with a 5-point lead, but within the margin of error. Debates often serve as the first real encounters voters have with candidates, making the platform an essential opportunity for moderators to highlight the contrast between the candidates’ positions. Thus, moderators for the two remaining debates must ask questions that highlight the differences between Gillespie and Northam’s positions -- particularly Gillespie’s dangerous stance on abortion access.
Earlier this year, while at a forum for potential Republican gubernatorial nominees, Gillespie told the crowd, “I would like to see abortion be banned because I think it is a taking of an innocent human life.” Gillespie also expressed support for defunding Planned Parenthood and banning all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, despite the lack of a constitutional basis for such a policy. The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List also supports Gillespie and plans to run digital ads for him before the election. In contrast, Northam has argued that abortion should remain a medical decision for the person seeking an abortion, earning him the support of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
As the 2016 presidential debates showed, asking candidates about their positions on key issues such as abortion rights is essential. Last year, moderators failed to ask the presidential candidates about their stances on abortion until the final debate, at which point then-Republican nominee Donald Trump falsely claimed that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supported letting abortion providers “take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.”
At the Republican gubernatorial candidates forum, the moderator explicitly asked Gillespie about whether the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade -- exposing his extreme position that abortion should be banned. During the first gubernatorial debate, however, debate moderator Judy Woodruff, anchor of PBS NewsHour, did not ask the candidates a single question about abortion or reproductive rights.
Given Woodruff’s omission, NBC’s Chuck Todd, who will serve as the moderator for the second debate, must press Gillespie about his comments on abortion. Restrictions on abortion access largely happen at the state level, taking the form of unnecessary laws that delay and stop access to abortion. In Virginia, people seeking an abortion already must undergo mandatory counseling and then wait 24 hours to have the procedure. Gillespie’s desire "to see abortion be banned" is extreme, and it's up to moderators to hold him accountable while voters are watching.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn finally unveiled President Donald Trump’s plan for a major overhaul of individual and corporate income taxes in the United States during an April 26 press briefing. The plan, which seemed to many observers like a less detailed version of the budget-busting agenda Trump campaigned on, was assailed by reporters and economic analysts on the major broadcast evening news programs for its sparse details and profligate giveaways to the wealthy, including a likely tax break for the president himself.
In 2016, evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox Broadcast Co.'s Fox News Sunday, collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015, even though there were a host of important climate-related stories, including the announcement of 2015 as the hottest year on record, the signing of the Paris climate agreement, and numerous climate-related extreme weather events. There were also two presidential candidates to cover, and they held diametrically opposed positions on the Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate agreement, and even on whether climate change is a real, human-caused phenomenon. Apart from PBS, the networks also failed to devote significant coverage to climate-related policies, but they still found the time to uncritically air climate denial -- the majority of which came from now-President Donald Trump and his team.
NARAL: Failure To Ask About Abortion Is "Shameful And A Real Disservice To Voters"
Despite a vigorous social media campaign imploring debate moderators to ask presidential candidates about their positions on reproductive rights, Thursday's Democratic debate passed without a single question on the topic. Moderators Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff emphasized a variety of issues in the February 11 debate, yet they failed to ask "how the candidates plan to empower women to make decisions for their lives and families," as NARAL Pro-Choice America put it.
The omission of a reproductive rights question was particularly disappointing given NARAL's attempts to reach out to moderators prior to the debate through both social media and direct communications. Starting a Twitter campaign to #askaboutabortion, NARAL encouraged moderators to address the topic and urged candidates to more fully explain their respective positions on protecting women's access to abortion care.
Similarly, on February 9, NARAL sent an open letter to Ifill and Woodruff making clear the consequences of excluding discussions of reproductive rights from the February 11 debate. Crediting the rising threat of anti-choice violence against abortion providers, as well as the efforts of "anti-reproductive freedom legislators and governors" to enact "dangerous restrictions on women's health care at near record numbers," NARAL warned that it was past time for voters to "hear from the Democratic candidates what they plan to do to protect women's reproductive-health care in this country." They wrote: "we find the lack of questions on this subject to be shameful and a real disservice to voters."
NARAL was not alone in its criticism of prior debates, nor in its desire for journalists and moderators alike to exert more pressure on candidates about their reproductive rights positions. In a February 10 article, RH Reality Check's editor-in-chief, Jodi Jacobson, explained that moderators and journalists are "becoming complicit in the lies and stigma surrounding abortion care" by failing to ask candidates about abortion.
Unfortunately, the silence on reproductive rights issues during debates has become entirely one-sided. Following the February 6 Republican debate, conservative media hyped candidate Marco Rubio's extreme abortion positions. As Daniel Marans reported for The Huffington Post, however, the failure to raise similar questions during Democratic debates means that "Republicans are setting the terms of the abortion debate," leaving Democrats with "themselves to thank for having to field abortion questions that play to their weakness rather than their strengths."
The hesitance to openly discuss abortion during Democratic debates does not seem limited to just moderators. In an article for Jezebel, Anna Merlan noted that when the issue finally came up in the February 11 debate -- spurred by a question about the possibility of electing the first female president -- both candidates shied away from "using the word 'abortion'" at all. Instead, Sen. Bernie Sanders talked about "women having to make a very personal choice," and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hyped her endorsement from NARAL and said the GOP is trying to "set back women's rights." According to Merlan, this omission was puzzling given that a "Democratic president would" have to find ways to "work with the large chunk of the GOP who get up each day with the intent of rolling back Roe v. Wade."
As NARAL explained in its letter, given the fact that women confront "near daily threats to their right to reproductive freedom in this country," the failure of debate moderators to ask about abortion is "shameful and a real disservice to voters." As the Supreme Court prepares to hear "the most important abortion case in decades," about a Texas law imposing restrictive rules on abortion clinics, it is crucial now more than ever that moderators ask candidates about abortion and encourage them to explain the effects their policies will have on women's access to safe, legal, and affordable care.
Media coverage of the debt ceiling frequently claims that raising the limit without simultaneous spending cuts would give President Obama a "blank check," repeating a pattern of promoting this false narrative -- or failing to correct it -- that occurred during the unprecedented brinkmanship of 2011. The phrase implies that the debt ceiling governs additional spending desired by the White House, when in fact it is a restriction on the executive branch's ability to borrow money to pay for spending measures already enacted by Congress.