On The Ingraham Angle, Meg Kilgannon, who is associated with TERF groups, defends anti-trans statement from lesbian tennis player
Video ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY
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Fox covered the plan far more than CNN and MSNBC, and often failed to even mention climate change
From February 7 to February 11, Fox News aired 34 segments on the Green New Deal on its prime-time shows, according to a Media Matters analysis. This was more than triple the combined number of segments aired by its cable news counterparts: MSNBC and CNN aired eight and three segments, respectively. Just 14 of Fox's segments on the Green New Deal mentioned climate change, less than half. By contrast, MSNBC and CNN did a better job of explaining that the Green New Deal is designed to address climate change; MSNBC discussed climate change in five of its eight segments, and CNN discussed it in two of its three segments.
From February 7, when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) released the Green New Deal resolution, through February 11, Fox News aired 34 segments discussing the Green New Deal on its weekday and weekend prime-time shows airing between 5 p.m. and midnight. February 7 and February 8 saw the most Fox coverage -- the network aired 19 prime-time segments on those two days. Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity led the Fox prime-time shows in the number of Green New Deal segments, airing seven and five segments, respectively.
Across this same time period, MSNBC aired eight prime-time segments on the Green New Deal. Five of these aired on February 7, the day the resolution was introduced, including an interview with Ocasio-Cortez on MTP Daily and an interview with Markey on All In with Chris Hayes.
CNN, meanwhile, aired only three Green New Deal segments on its prime-time shows from February 7 to February 11. One segment came on the February 7 episode of Erin Burnett OutFront, which included an interview with Markey. Another segment aired on the February 9 episode of The Van Jones Show, and a third on CNN Newsroom on February 10.
The text of the Green New Deal resolution makes clear that it is intended to fight climate change. Ocasio-Cortez and Markey both emphasized the urgent need to combat the climate crisis at their February 7 press conference unveiling the resolution. And Ocasio-Cortez explained in an interview with NPR earlier that day that the Green New Deal is so ambitious because the climate crisis is such an enormous threat: "Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us.”
But the majority of Fox News segments on the Green New Deal didn't even mention climate change, often ignoring the entire reason that Ocasio-Cortez and Markey had proposed such a sweeping plan in the first place. In contrast, MSNBC and CNN discussed climate change in most of their segments on the Green New Deal.
Fox News mentioned climate change in just 41 percent of its prime-time segments on the Green New Deal. Out of the 34 segments that Fox aired about the Green New Deal, only 14 included the words "climate" or "global warming." Most segments omitted the reasoning behind the resolution and merely discussed it out of context as an onerous, oppressive policy proposal. Two of the Fox segments that failed to mention climate change instead claimed that the Green New Deal was just a pretext for implementing a radical left-wing agenda -- a theme that was popular in right-wing media even before the resolution was released.
Even in cases when Fox figures did bring up climate change during a segment on the Green New Deal, they often downplayed the issue. In six of Fox's 13 segments that mentioned climate change, a host or guest made a dismissive or skeptical remark about the problem. For example, the February 7 episode of The Ingraham Angle featured a well-informed guest who discussed the climate challenge, but host Laura Ingraham followed up her comments by saying, "Well, it's pretty cold right now in Minnesota, but that's just a snapshot. I mean it's been a brutal winter.”
And on the February 7 episode of Hannity, host Sean Hannity simultaneously misstated activists’ claims about climate change and downplayed the climate threat, then made ludicrous claims about how the Green New Deal would bring about the downfall of America: “They claim that the world was going to end in 12 years because of climate change, which is, of course, is not true. Now, green energy, this new deal, will destroy America, our economy as we know it.”
MSNBC mentioned climate change in more than half of its prime-time Green New Deal segments. Five out of MSNBC’s eight segments on the Green New Deal discussed the plan in the context of climate change, and two of these were the segments that featured interviews with the resolution's co-sponsors, Ocasio-Cortez and Markey. During his appearance on All In with Chris Hayes on February 7, Markey was particularly clear about the need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change:
SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): By the year 2100, we're going to have lost tens of trillions of dollars to the damage which is going to be created by climate change to our country. And a stitch in time will save nine. If we invest now, we'll be able to avoid the worst, most catastrophic consequences. Otherwise the price that’s going to be paid is going to be in the tens of trillions in our country, and that will just be a footnote compared to the rest of the world.
Another segment on All In with Chris Hayes deserves mention. Hayes described the need for a dramatic response to the climate crisis and explained why right-wing criticism of the Green New Deal is so off-base:
CHRIS HAYES (HOST): As you watch the continued right-wing caterwauling about the Green New Deal, here's what to keep in mind, particularly as all kinds of denialists and cranks talk about what is and is not serious. The bar for entry into the conversation for seriousness in said conversation is some framework, some proposal to reduce U.S. carbon emissions from human sources by almost half -- 45 percent -- from 2010 levels by 2030. That's 11 years from now. Half of emissions. That's what the international panel on climate change says has to happen globally to avoid the worst effects of climate change. And those effects of climate change, they are happening, and they are getting more visible and more present every day.
CNN discussed climate change in two of its three prime-time segments about the Green New Deal. While CNN ran fewer segments on the Green New Deal than the other cable news channels, it did a better job of foregrounding climate change in the segments that it did air.
On the February 7 episode of Erin Burnett OutFront, CNN correspondent Miguel Marquez explained the reasoning of the Green New Deal's backers: "Viewing climate change as an existential threat to the entire world, fire, drought, rising sea levels, increasingly violent storms, famine, and mass migrations is what we face, they warn, if radical change isn't embraced now."
And on the February 9 episode of The Van Jones Show, host Van Jones explained how Green New Deal supporters see climate change affecting the economy and inequality:
VAN JONES (HOST): They point out the cost of inaction could mean we don't have a planet to live on. They also point out the program could be paid for by tax hikes on the super wealthy and cutting spending elsewhere. Their goal is not just to reduce carbon emissions but also to stimulate the job market, reduce inequality, and boost the economy in low-income areas that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Fox News spread misinformation about the Green New Deal before the resolution was introduced, and it has continued to do so since it was released. Fox has aired a number of segments that lied about what’s in the Green New Deal resolution, tried to paint the resolution as an instance of alleged Democratic extremism, and downplayed the serious need to tackle climate change. One example of this comes from Sean Hannity on the February 11 episode of Hannity.
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We'll start with New Jersey Sen. Spartacus, Cory Booker, comparing the Green New Deal to going to the moon and defeating the Nazis. And Booker is talking about Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's bizarre, horrific new piece of legislation. Let's see. That would plan the end of consumption of fossil fuels in 10 years. By the way, the planet is going to die in 12 years. What is the point? And, by the way, and seriously, don't write off Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and her grandiose and disastrous plans. She is merely just saying and acting on what Democrats really believe but try and hide from you. Look at all of those Democrats now coming out in support of this, this Green New Deal which calls for no more oil, no more gas, no more fossil fuels of any kind. Not even any nuclear energy. And it doesn't stop there. This bill that would eliminate airplanes, gas-powered automobiles and trucks, gas-powered ovens and stoves. By the way, if you like steak -- no more cows, too much flatulence. They emit CO2 emissions. No more cows. You better load up on the steak and put in a freezer.
The resolution, of course, does not call for the elimination of airplanes, cows, or nuclear energy -- it doesn't mention these things at all. Hannity misrepresented lines from an informal FAQ document that has since been retracted. But Hannity continued to push these bombastic, false talking points even after it was reported that the FAQ did not represent the actual Green New Deal resolution.
Another example comes from President Donald Trump himself on this same episode of Hannity. The show aired live footage of Trump speaking at a rally in El Paso, TX, where he said:
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Last week, they introduced a massive government takeover that would destroy our incredible economic gains. They introduced the so-called Green New Deal. It sounds like a high school term paper that got a low mark. It would shut down American energy, which I don't think the people in Texas are going to be happy with that. It would shut down a little thing called air travel. How do you take a train to Europe? You know, this crazy senator from Hawaii. They said, do you like it? Yes, I like it very much. Oh, really, how are we getting to Hawaii on a train? She didn't think about that one, but she's thinking about it. She will figure it out. They want to take away your car, reduce the value of your home, and put millions of Americans out of work, spend $100 trillion -- which, by the way, there's no such thing as a $100 trillion.
Trump constantly lies, so it is no surprise that he would make false statements about trains to Europe, a $100 trillion price tag, and a Hawaii senator -- and no surprise that Fox would air his comments without correction.
Another ridiculous example came from frequent Fox talking head Dan Bongino on the February 9 episode of Justice with Judge Jeanine:
DAN BONGINO: Are there going to be cow assassination squads now? I mean, you are going to have to give your cow Beano to cure up their gastrointestinal issues? To prevent an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez death squad or something?
More cow jokes came from right-wing commentator Mark Steyn on the February 7 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight:
MARK STEYN: Well, the AOC plan strikingly pledges to get rid of most forms of transportation and, indeed, cows. So you can give up your Chevy Suburban and take your cow to work. The cow actually is more devastating to the environment than the Chevy Suburban. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's document actually says that she is committed to ridding America of flatulent cows and airplanes. I always take a flatulent cow on an airplane as my emotional support animal. It means that 20 minutes out of LAX, you've got the whole first class compartment all to yourself and nobody is in there. But the Europeans actually tried this and they basically -- the Irish were going to impose a tax of 13 euros per cow and the Danes were going to impose a tax of 80 euros per cow because apparently a Danish Holstein is six times as flatulent as an Irish Hereford. So in theory, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is on to something that you could, as the Europeans considered, actually have a flatulence offset regime. Obviously, you would need a secretary of flatulence in the Cabinet that you would actually -- Vermont, for example, has a lot of Holsteins there, the black and white cows that look like the governor of Virginia with only half his makeup on -- and you can take, you could take those, Vermont would be able to trade its flatulence to Washington, D.C., where it could hang like a giant cloud over Congress.
These examples show that Fox News will go to great lengths to avoid having good-faith discussions about tackling climate change and instead paint any ambitious climate proposal as absurd and a sign of supposed Democratic extremism. That makes it especially unfortunate that Fox is the cable network that's covering the Green New Deal the most on its prime-time shows.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis and IQ Media search for mentions of "green new deal" in programs that aired on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between 5 p.m. and midnight from February 7 to February 11. We then searched within those transcripts for mentions of “climate” or "global warming." We counted any segments that were devoted to the Green New Deal or made substantial mention of it. We did not count teasers, passing mentions, or rebroadcasts.
Image and chart by Melissa Joskow of Media Matters.
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a Green New Deal resolution on Thursday -- a framework for what they intend to include in detailed legislation down the line. Ocasio-Cortez's office also released a less formal summary and answers to frequently asked questions about the plan.
Right-wing media figures and outlets -- who've been freaking out over the Green New Deal and Ocasio-Cortez in general over the last couple of months -- swiftly went on the attack, insulting Ocasio-Cortez's intelligence and employing misinformation, mockery, and straight-up climate denial to argue against the plan.
Many of the attackers appear not to have actually read the 14-page resolution. Instead, they focused on the FAQ document and mischaracterized it, so Ocasio-Cortez's office removed it from her website and said they'll post a better version later, but it's still available in other places online. [Update, 2/11/19: In a February 9 Twitter thread, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff explained that “an early draft of a FAQ that was clearly unfinished and that doesn’t represent the GND resolution got published to the website by mistake.”]
Here's a sampling of comments and arguments from right-wing media.
MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt waxed melodramatic while discussing the Green New Deal on his radio program on February 8: "It is not socialism; it is communism, it is fascism, it is despotism."
Sean Hannity went on an extended rant on his Fox show Hannity on February 7:
History is riddled with the roadkill and the misery and of many versions of socialism, almost always ending the same way: false promises, broken promises, failure, poverty, misery among the people. This is a real, serious threat to our way of life.
Ocasio-Cortez and others put forth one of the most dangerous, impractical, misguided, economically guaranteed-to-be-devastating plans ever championed by any American politician.
All aboard, the poverty express is coming.
Fox's Laura Ingraham said the Green New Deal would result in a "hellscape." Fox's Tucker Carlson said, "It's literally insane and anti-American." Watch these and other lowlights:
Ocasio-Cortez introduced the legislation jointly with longtime lawmaker Markey, who has served in Congress since 1976 and co-authored major climate legislation that passed the House in 2009. But in attacking the measure, conservative commentators focused almost exclusively on Ocasio-Cortez, calling her "immature" and an "idiot."
Ben Stein, an actor, political commentator, and climate denier who frequently appears on Fox programs, offered sexist insults about Ocasio-Cortez during Fox Business Network's Cavuto Coast to Coast on February 7:
The fact that we listen to her is just amazing. The fact that we pay attention to anything she says is just amazing. I mean, she doesn't know her ass from her elbow about investments and the return on investments. Why do we even listen to her? I mean, she’s charming and she’s very good-looking, but why do we even listen to her?
BRIAN KILMEADE: Why would you stand behind a deal like this when it is -- looks like something that was put out by a 10th-grader?
MARC MORANO: Actually, 10th is being very, very generous.
KILMEADE: Let's go seventh.
MORANO: I would go as low as third grade.
Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the right-wing Daily Wire, attacked Ocasio-Cortez in a tweet:
Whoever wrote AOC's Green New Deal document is a full-scale idiot. There is no way to read that document as a rational person and think otherwise.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 7, 2019
Shapiro elaborated on this theme in a blog post at The Daily Wire titled "AOC's Green New Deal Proposal Is One Of The Stupidest Documents Ever Written":
Whoever wrote the proposal is, to put it kindly, dense. Idiotic. Moronic.
How bad is the Green New Deal paper? Putting aside the fact that, as written, it would receive a C+ in any high school English class, it essentially articulates a magical world in which the skies rain chocolate, the world is powered by unicorn farts, and AOC dances through the gumdrop meadows to Lisztomania.
My two-year-old son could come up with a better, more realistic proposal than this one.
David Harsanyi, a climate denier and senior editor at the conservative online magazine The Federalist, played on similar themes during an appearance on Fox's The Ingraham Angle:
A Federalist editor just called the Green New Deal "immature," said it's something "a high-schooler would write," and would "cost $25 bazillion dollars." pic.twitter.com/oHfnHfljGA
— jordan (@JordanUhl) February 8, 2019
Conservative media figures propagated a number of falsehoods about the Green New Deal. Here are a few:
They say the plan would ban cars. It wouldn't: Madison Gesiotto, a columnist for The Hill and a member of the Trump campaign's advisory board, suggested in a tweet that the Green New Deal would require Americans to give up their cars. In fact, the resolution calls for "investment in … zero-emissions vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing," not the banning of vehicles.
— Madison Gesiotto (@madisongesiotto) February 8, 2019
They say the plan would ban airplanes. It wouldn't: Longtime climate denier Rush Limbaugh claimed on his radio show on February 7, "They want to phase out air travel in 10 years." Fox & Friends hosts made the same claim on February 8, including Ainsley Earhardt, who said, "No more airplanes. Airplanes are -- exactly, you have to take a train now." In fact, the resolution makes no mention of airplanes or air travel. The FAQ acknowledges that it's likely not feasible to phase out traditional airplanes within a decade, so it calls for "build[ing] out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary." The Green New Deal aims to give people a cleaner option than flying, but it doesn't call for the elimination of flying.
They say the plan would ban meat. It wouldn't: Morano said during his February 8 appearance on Fox & Friends that the plan calls for "banning meat." In fact, the resolution makes no mention whatsoever of meat. In contrast, it calls for "working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including ... by supporting family farming [and] by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health." The FAQ mentions just one potential meat source, "farting cows," but says it doesn't appear feasible to get rid of them within 10 years.
Many of the conservative critiques were short on substance, long on silliness and scorn.
Fox personality Laura Ingraham suggested the Green New Deal would send the country back to the time of the Flintstones and the Stone Age:
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) February 7, 2019
Climate-denying blogger Steve Milloy called the plan "bedwetting":
— Steve Milloy (@JunkScience) February 7, 2019
Breitbart's Joel Pollak disingenuously accuses the plan of being "homophobic and transphobic."
Note: the legislation fails to mention — even once — the historic oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities. This is a homophobic and transphobic document.
In many cases, right-wing media figures failed to acknowledge that the Green New Deal is so ambitious because it's trying to address an incredibly serious and deadly threat: climate change. The hosts of Fox & Friends, for example, neglected to mention climate change at all during an extended rant on February 8.
But in some cases, the conservative commentators put their climate denial on full display, making clear that part of the reason they disdain the Green New Deal is because they don't believe climate change is even happening.
Limbaugh launched into a climate-denying diatribe during his Green New Deal segment on February 7:
It is a crime what has been done to these kids. It is literally a crime the way they have been propagandized from the moment they started watching television, from early childhood. They literally believe this planet is under destruction as we sit here today and that human beings in the United States of America are responsible for it, primarily Republicans, and they’re calling for drastic action.
Breitbart's Pollak explicitly contradicted climate science in his Green New Deal blog post:
The “Green New Deal” begins by asserting “human activity is the dominant cause of observed climate change over the past century” — far beyond the “consensus” that humans have some significant impact on global temperature.
It goes on to declare that “a changing climate is causing sea levels to rise and an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events that threaten human life” — all speculative claims that even scientists who endorse anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are hesitant to endorse.
In fact, climate scientists have been very clear that climate change is human-caused, it is exacerbating extreme weather, and we have a small window in which to dramatically overhaul our energy, transportation, and agriculture systems if we want to avoid the worst impacts. But if you deny that climate change is a problem, then of course an ambitious plan to address it is going to be anathema.
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As President Donald Trump continues to cite an immigration “crisis” and demand funding from Congress to build a wall along the U.S. southern border, Fox News figures are admitting that the wall is especially crucial because it impacts Trump’s political standing and re-election chances.
Fox contributor Dan Bongino explicitly said that Trump’s insistence on building a wall is about giving him a "political victory,” stating, "This is not about immigration. I think everybody at this table knows this.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed Trump needs a wall "because he needs to start running for re-election." Fox’s Tomi Lahren argued, “When President Trump listens to his instincts on this, he is right, which is why he won the election in 2016. He will win on it again in 2020. But he has to hold firm on this. The American people want a wall.”
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On February 5, President Donald Trump gave his 2019 State of the Union address. It was filled with misinformation and anti-immigrant bigotry, often sounding similar to Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. While mainstream news outlets fact-checked the many lies and misleading claims in the speech, Fox News figures heaped enthusiastic praise on Trump’s address, calling it “one of the best speeches I've ever heard in terms of reaching across the aisle,” gushing that "the president delivered, I think, a message of unity,” claiming "Trump is going to be recognized as one of the greatest presidents of our generation, if not the greatest,” and more:
Right-wing media figures predictably launched sexist attacks against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during the 2019 State of the Union address. The new round of attacks is just the latest manifestation of conservative media’s problem with women.
For over a decade, conservative media haven’t hesitated to lob sexist attacks at Pelosi as part of a persistent attempt to build the narrative that she is a shrill, uptight “witch.” Conservative talk show host Dennis Miller once called Pelosi a “shrieking harridan magpie,” and conservative radio host Mike Gallagher has repeatedly said on-air that someone should “throw a bucket of water” on her and “see what happens.” Conservative radio host Mark Levin, who has regularly lobbed sexist attacks at Pelosi and other Democratic women on his show, once claimed that “our friends in San Francisco” will keep re-electing “shrill” Pelosi “as long as her makeup holds up.”
Other conservatives have responded to Pelosi’s leadership with crude, tasteless vulgarity. On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh suggested that if Pelosi “wants fewer births,” she should put pictures of herself “in every cheap motel room,” adding, “That will keep birthrates down because that picture will keep a lot of things down.” Fox’s Laura Ingraham once claimed that “Nancy Pelosi basically did everything except sell her own body” to pass health care reform legislation.
Conservative media personalities have also spent years attacking Pelosi over her appearance, including by claiming she has had face-lifts and Botox. Radio host Michael Savage offensively described Pelosi as “Mussolini if he came back and wore ugly clothing and put on bad makeup and had too much Botox.” Limbaugh once asked if “[Sen.] Lisa Murkowski and Pelosi go to the same Botox guy,” suggesting that “maybe they share needles.” On Fox host Sean Hannity’s radio show, Levin once declared, “You could bounce a dime off [Pelosi’s] cheeks.” Talk show host G. Gordon Liddy claimed, “If they stretch Nancy Pelosi's face anymore she can be used as a drum in the Marine Core (sic) Band.”
Given conservative media’s history of sexist remarks against Pelosi, it is unsurprising that the pattern of attacks continued before and during the State of the Union:
With Nancy Pelosi sitting directly behind President Trump, you can expect Democratic histrionics to be out of control at tonight's State of the Union.
— Daily Caller Opinion (@TheDC_Opinion) February 5, 2019
President Trump arrives. Pelosi's facial muscles don't know what to do. #SOTU
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) February 6, 2019
I’m worried about Nancy! Her drooping lip no longer looks like a permasmirk.
— Kennedy (@KennedyNation) February 6, 2019
If Pelosi’s facial muscles worked she’d look so mad right now. #SOTU2019
— Ben (@BenHowe) February 6, 2019
Too much plastic surgery for Pelosi to stand. She would ruin the botox in her butcher's#TeamKJ
— Kevin Jackson (@KevinJacksonTBS) February 6, 2019
If Pelosi stands the botox in her buttcheeks is ruined#TeamKJ
— Kevin Jackson (@KevinJacksonTBS) February 6, 2019
— Wayne Dupree 🎧 (@WayneDupreeShow) February 6, 2019
Sean Hannity alone mentioned Ocasio-Cortez more than all prime-time shows combined referenced McConnell
Since the beginning of this year, Fox News’ prime-time cable lineup -- Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle -- has obsessed over freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) while virtually ignoring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as he presided over the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
Media Matters reviewed every mention of Ocasio-Cortez and McConnell in January and found that these three shows together mentioned Ocasio-Cortez 120 times and aired 27 segments focused on the congresswoman. By contrast, the shows mentioned McConnell only a combined 27 times and aired zero segments focused on the majority leader.
Right-wing media are obsessed with Ocasio-Cortez. Vice reviewed conservative attacks on the congresswoman, concluding that “Ocasio-Cortez is a young woman of color from New York City who proudly identifies as a socialist -- perfect grist for the right-wing media mill.” Vanity Fair made a similar point about the conservative fixation with Ocasio-Cortez, and The Atlantic noted that “conservatives seem particularly intent on proving that her working-class background is fraudulent.”
Media Matters has cataloged these right-wing media attacks again and again. We have reported on conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh comparing Ocasio-Cortez to Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot; Fox News host Bill Hemmer mocking Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal; The Ingraham Angle host Laura Ingraham deriding Ocasio-Cortez for having “minority privilege” on Ingraham’s podcast; and NRATV host Grant Stinchfield stating that Ocasio-Cortez “doesn’t have any mental capacity to actually reason.”
In Fox News’ prime-time coverage of Ocasio-Cortez, host Sean Hannity was by far the most fixated: In January, he mentioned her by name 46 times -- that’s more than twice per show. No other person during Fox News’ prime time even came close. Behind Hannity was host Tucker Carlson with 16 mentions, then Ingraham with 12 mentions.
In total, the three shows spent about one hour and 28 minutes in segments focused on Ocasio-Cortez. The Ingraham Angle devoted the most time, with just over 34 minutes of discussion. Hannity followed with approximately 33 minutes, and Tucker Carlson Tonight spent nearly 20 minutes on the congresswoman.
But McConnell was hardly mentioned at all, and when he was, the mention was always in passing. Fox’s prime-time shows held no lengthy discussions about McConnell hiding on the sidelines during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Likewise, they had no discussions about the Senate majority leader’s derision at attempts to make voting easier or his remarks that making Election Day a holiday was an attempted Democratic “power grab.” Throughout the month, Ingraham mentioned McConnell by name just five times, Hannity mentioned him only three times, and Carlson made no mentions at all.
Of the 27 total mentions of McConnell, six of them occurred when Fox aired a clip in which Ocasio-Cortez said McConnell’s name repeatedly. In the video, the congresswoman was asking, “Where’s Mitch?” which is more than can be said of Fox’s hosts.
Ocasio-Cortez was commonly mentioned in segments about the “radical left,” “socialism on the rise,” and “progressives gone wild.” Hosts and guests on Fox’s prime-time shows pejoratively referred to her as a socialist, a radical, or both. Hannity once called her “O-scare-io-Cortez,” as if that was some kind of witty pun on her name.
These segments criticized her support of a Green New Deal, derided her Medicare-for-all policy position, and mischaracterized her call for raising marginal tax rates -- even though majorities of Americans support all three. But they also spent time talking about her dance moves; one Ingraham Angle segment about the congresswoman was called, “The Days and Nights of AOC.”
All the while, McConnell oversaw the longest government shutdown in U.S. history -- 35 days total -- which the Congressional Budget Office estimated cost the U.S. economy $11 billion.
Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for any mentions of “Ocasio-Cortez,” “Ocasio,” “Cortez,” “AOC,” or “McConnell” (including spelling variations) from January 2 to January 31, 2019, on Fox News Channel’s weeknight prime-time lineup: Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle. The network did not air new episodes of its prime-time shows on January 1 due to the holiday.
We counted segments, which we defined as instances where Ocasio-Cortez or McConnell was the stated topic of discussion. We also coded "significant discussion" as a segment, which we defined as two speakers discussing Ocasio-Cortez or McConnell with one another. This definition includes host monologues, guest panels, or interviews that discussed or focused on either person. Only the relevant speech within each segment was timed.
We also counted mentions, which we defined as each time Ocasio-Cortez or McConnell was specifically mentioned by name.
After Democratic lawmakers moved to protect abortion rights in New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island, right-wing media responded with a flurry of inaccurate allegations that their efforts promoted “infanticide.”
On January 22, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act that protects abortion in case the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and expands access to this essential form of health care. Despite the clear harm that New York’s previous law imposed on patients, right-wing and anti-abortion media have expressed outrage -- with Fox News leading the charge.
The Reproductive Health Act comprises several provisions, including the removal of abortion from the state’s criminal code. The part of the law that has irked Fox News (and broader right-wing media) the most involves a provision decriminalizing abortions after 24 weeks “when the fetus is not viable or a woman’s health is at risk.” Permitting abortions after this point was necessary because previously, “the law made self-induced abortions a misdemeanor crime, and made providing one a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.” Although right-wing media frequently scaremonger about later abortions, these procedures in reality are extremely rare and performed due to complicated personal and medical reasons. Before the Reproductive Health Act, New York patients needing medically necessary abortions after 24 weeks were forced to travel out of state, thus suffering both logistical and psychological burdens.
Fox News is no stranger to inaccurate and stigmatizing coverage of abortion and reproductive rights. As Media Matters has previously documented, Fox News not only covers abortion-related issues more frequently than other cable networks but also covers it in a highly inaccurate way. Coverage of the Reproductive Health Act has been no exception. Between January 22 and 29, Fox News’ coverage has used discussions of the law to revive allegations about abortion providers engaging in misconduct, promote anti-choice junk science about abortion procedures, attack Democrats as “extreme,” and employ sensationalized and stigmatizing language to vilify those who have abortions.
Fox News guests attacked the New York law as allowing misconduct by abortion providers, invoking and misleading about the case of former Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell. For example, during the January 25 edition of Fox News’ morning program Fox & Friends, guest and actor Dean Cain not only spread misinformation about Gosnell but also promoted a movie (starring himself) sensationalizing the Gosnell case. Later the same day, Cain appeared on Fox News' The Story with Martha MacCallum, where host MacCallum asked Cain about his movie that she claimed “highlighted the horror of the reality of late-term abortion, and the doctor who carried out so many of them.” Cain responded by not only promoting his movie, but also connecting Gosnell’s actions to the New York law, arguing that his crimes “may very well be legal under this new New York law.”
Gosnell is currently serving “three life terms in jail” for “first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies born alive at his rogue clinic, then stabbed with scissors.” There is no ambiguity about the illegality of Gosnell’s actions. But unlike right-wing and anti-abortion media’s allegations, Gosnell’s practices are in no way representative of abortion providers or abortion procedures in the United States. As MSNBC’s Irin Carmon wrote in 2013, Gosnell’s actions were not evidence of widespread malfeasance by abortion providers because it was his "willingness to break the law" that made many patients seek him out, believing “they had no alternative,” despite warnings from other reputable providers. Similarly, as Robin Marty explained in 2018, while there are a myriad distinctions between Gosnell and a “legitimate, trained abortion provider,” the restrictions imposed in the wake of his actions have very little to do with abortion safety. She wrote:
His clinic was unsanitary and dangerous for patients generally, and he was further known to provide better care and cleaner rooms for his white and higher-income clients than those who were poor, immigrant, or brown or black. He did so apparently under the assumption that his more privileged clients would report him to the health department, whereas those from marginalized communities would either be afraid to do so or — even worse — think that what they were receiving was exactly what they deserved. (Even so, he was reported to authorities, and the governmental agencies that failed to act on the complaints from his patients that would have exposed his crimes far earlier should be held to account for their negligence.)
Even with abortion legal in his state, Gosnell didn’t bother to operate by the rules; there’s little reason or history to believe that women would have been safer had abortion been illegal. Gosnell’s clinic was where patients went primarily when they thought they had no better options, or couldn’t afford a better clinic. They went there because he didn’t enforce the 24 hour wait mandated by the state. They went there because the anti-abortion protesters surrounding the reputable clinics in the city were so aggressive that they were afraid to enter.
As Marty summarized, “unsafe and unsanitary conditions in an exam room in which abortions are performed are not normal, but anti-abortion activists are invested in making the public believe they are.” This was exactly the issue at play during oral arguments in the 2016 Supreme Court case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which Texas’ Solicitor General Scott Keller defended an anti-choice law that imposed medically unnecessary and harmful restrictions under the guise of increasing patient safety, referencing the Gosnell case. Although the Supreme Court ultimately ruled against Texas, determining that there must be evidentiary support that a restriction is necessary to protect patient’s health, right-wing media -- and Fox News in particular -- were in lockstep with the state’s inaccurate talking points about Gosnell from the start. And if Fox News’ coverage of the New York law is any indication, little has changed since.
Right-wing media frequently spread misinformation and junk science about alleged abortion procedures -- and Fox News’ coverage of New York’s abortion law was no exception. Fox News and broader right-wing and anti-abortion media outlets have spent years misleading about abortion procedures, in particular focusing on invented procedures like so-called “partial-birth” abortion or invoking the inaccurate idea of “abortion on demand.” In reality, so-called “partial-birth” abortions and Fox News’ various iterations of “abortion on demand” are inaccurate -- but both concepts are strategically deployed to spread misinformation about medically necessary later abortions. In particular, the phrase “partial-birth” abortion was invented by anti-choice advocates as a mechanism to vilify and shame individuals who have later abortions.
But Fox News’ coverage of the Reproductive Health Act frequently used both of these terms to spread misinformation and shame about the law. For example, during the January 24 edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, Fox News contributor Guy Benson argued that the New York law “permits abortion on demand, up to the seventh month of pregnancy, and really all the way up to the moment of birth, for virtually any reason whatsoever.” During the January 25 Fox & Friends interview with Dean Cain, guest co-host Ed Henry invoked the words of a conservative lawmaker about how “late-term abortion” is “partial-birth abortion” and akin to “infanticide,” implying that New York’s law could be characterized as such. In the same segment, co-host Ainsley Earhardt also claimed the law would legalize “abortion up until birth” -- a claim she repeated on January 28. On January 29, she claimed that the New York law allows her to be “nine months pregnant and [walk] into the hospital” and say, “I don’t want the child anymore.” In a similar segment on January 26, Fox & Friends Weekend guest co-host Katie Pavlich said that the “extreme” law would allow “abortions up until the due date.” Some, like Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy went even further, arguing inaccurately that “the baby can be born alive” under the New York law and a doctor could still “terminate it.”
Given how often Fox News and its various contributors spread misinformation and vitriol about abortion, these segments are unsurprising in both their frequency and content. And as more states propose bills that are similar to New York’s law, Fox News viewers will only see more of the same.
Unsurprisingly, Fox News has also used discussion of the New York law to attack Democrats for being too “extreme” in their positions on abortion. Some Fox News programs went even further by connecting the law to the machinations of a larger Democratic agenda. During the January 28 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity claimed the New York law was evidence that “every Democrat who wants to run for president is about to take that hard turn to appease what is now the radical, extreme, socialist Democratic party base.” He continued: “Viable lives can now be destroyed with the seal of New York -- and Andrew Cuomo and the New York legislature putting their seal of approval.”
This isn’t the first time that media have attempted to paint support for basic reproductive rights as “extreme.” In early 2017, The New York Times published an op-ed titled “To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Being the Abortion Party,” advocating for the dubious idea that Democrats must sacrifice protecting abortion and reproductive rights in order to win voters. During the December 2017 special election of Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, right-wing media frequently alleged that he supported so-called “partial-birth” abortions or abortions up to the moment of birth, in order to prove that he was too “extreme” for Alabama voters. Fox News was particularly active in spreading this inaccurate narrative, with hosts and contributors alike alleging that Jones’ stance on abortion included promoting “abortion on demand,” claiming that he was “a person who supports abortion at every level” and parroting the idea that he wanted abortions to be performed “through all nine months of pregnancy.” This inaccurate framing also influenced coverage outside of the right-wing media sphere -- a trend that has been repeated with coverage of other political fights.
In 2018, media kept rehashing the allegation that support for abortion rights was harmful to the Democratic Party. Polling on abortion-related issues is notoriously complicated, requiring clear questions and language that accurately reflects the realities of abortion access and procedures. However, polling that takes such realities into account has demonstrated a wide degree of support for abortion rights and Roe v. Wade. Already in 2019, with candidates announcing their candidacy for president in 2020, this talking point is gaining steam -- with Fox News sure to be leading the charge.
During numerous Fox News segments about the Reproductive Health Act, the only thing more plentiful than the misinformation about the law was the stigmatizing language various hosts and guests used to describe abortion and those who have one.
Abortion stigma refers to an idea that abortion is inherently wrong or socially unacceptable, and it is reinforced (both intentionally and unintentionally) through media coverage, popular culture, and by a lack of accurate information about the procedure itself. In particular, right-wing media have capitalized on a lack of accurate public knowledge about abortion to demonize abortion providers and patients, as well as spread misinformation about abortion more broadly.
Fox News often uses stigmatizing language about abortions or about those who have them, but the network’s repeated commentary in the wake of the New York law demonstrated the rhetorical impact of this strategy. For example, Fox News host Sean Hannity on multiple occasions described the law as allowing “infanticide.” Other Fox News figures focused their indignation on the people who may need a later abortion, claiming that people are having “recreational” later abortions, or even inaccurately alleging that abortion is never “necessary for reproductive health.” Fox News host Laura Ingraham even went so far as to ask a guest on her program to explain how the law isn’t “Hitlerian” when, in her opinion, it would allow a baby to “be killed” when it “could be born.” In almost every segment about the New York law, a Fox News host or guest oscillated between outrage and disgust -- expressing disbelief and variations of the sentiment that they couldn’t “even believe that this is happening.”
Later abortion procedures are an important part of comprehensive reproductive health care. And if any of these Fox News figures had bothered to talk to, or even read an account from someone who has had a medically necessary later abortion, they might understand the reality of these decisions: Later abortions are usually of wanted pregnancies and are either not viable or pose a direct risk to the life or health of the pregnant person. Rather than spreading rampant misinformation about later abortions, and those who need them, Fox News might want to do some actual reporting and figure out the facts before devoting so much time to sensationalized and stigmatizing coverage.
Grace Bennett and Julie Tulbert contributed research for this piece.
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