Mitch McConnell | Media Matters for America

Mitch McConnell

Tags ››› Mitch McConnell
  • Climate silence was the big problem in 2018. In 2019, we've got new challenges.

    Fox News is distorting the national dialogue about the Green New Deal just as it's getting going

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A version of this post was originally published by Grist.

    Climate change coverage in much of the mainstream media was abysmally low in 2018. It's been tilting upward in the first quarter of 2019, thanks in large part to the Green New Deal. The ascending trend is a positive development overall -- it's about time media started paying more attention to the existential crisis of our time! -- and yet some of the coverage has been weak, and some has been a total mess.

    Climate change was pitifully undercovered in 2018

    Media Matters found that climate coverage on the national broadcast TV networks in 2018 plunged 45 percent from 2017 levels -- and it's not like coverage in 2017 was anything to brag about. In 2018, the major nightly news and Sunday morning political shows on the national broadcast networks spent a combined total of just 142 minutes on climate change, and almost a third of that came from a single climate-focused episode of NBC's Meet the Press on December 30. Without that one show, 2018's coverage would have fallen 64 percent from the previous year -- an astonishing decline when you consider the horrific extreme weather last year, the harrowing climate science reports released by the United Nations and 13 U.S. government agencies, the Trump administration's ongoing assault on climate protections, and the ever-increasing urgency of the climate crisis.

    Analyses of other media trends in 2018 also pinpointed shortcomings. The watchdog group Public Citizen examined coverage of extreme weather events in a number of U.S. newspapers, online sources, and cable and broadcast TV networks last year and found that "the proportion of pieces that mentioned climate change was disappointingly low." Just 7 percent of stories about hurricanes incorporated climate change, while the figures were higher for other kinds of weather disasters, but still not as high as we need them to be.

    Many of the journalists who served as moderators in 2018 midterm election debates neglected climate change too. Only 29 percent of key debates in competitive Senate and gubernatorial races included a question about climate change.

    But the 2018 midterm election ultimately triggered a change in climate coverage and in the broader national conversation about the need for climate action -- because it brought us AOC.

    So far in 2019, climate change is getting a little more media attention

    President Donald Trump drove climate coverage (or the lack of it) in the last couple of years, but so far in 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has taken over the driver's seat.

    When she and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced their Green New Deal resolution on February 7, they kicked off a firestorm of climate coverage. Whether you love the Green New Deal, hate it, or want to quibble over its specifics, you can't deny that it's spurring more discussion of climate policy than the U.S. has ever seen. 

    The Green New Deal inspired The Washington Post to dedicate five consecutive days of editorials to substantive discussion of a comprehensive climate plan (handily compiled into one online piece). It got the major Sunday morning political shows talking about climate change with more fervor than they did during most of last year. It prompted an unusual amount of prime-time cable climate coverage. It sparked MSNBC's Chris Hayes to host a special event with Ocasio-Cortez -- after he said last year that climate coverage was a "palpable ratings killer." And it propelled young Americans to march in the streets and confront their senators, thereby pushing their messages into the press.  

    The Green New Deal has even motivated a handful of Republican members of Congress to cough up some of their own ideas for addressing aspects of the climate crisis, as The Washington Post recently noted, sparking still more media coverage of climate policy. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) went on NPR's All Things Considered to tout his plan for advanced nuclear power, natural gas, carbon capture, and other greener technologies (and he took the opportunity to bash the Green New Deal). Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was interviewed by Vice about his forthcoming proposal to spur "innovation" in some of the same areas as Alexander's plan (Gaetz bashed the Green New Deal too). The GOP proposals are not big or comprehensive, as McClatchy DC pointed out; milquetoast would be a kind way to describe them. Same with some new Democratic climate proposals such as the Climate Action Now Act. Suggestions from industry lobbyists are even weaker. But they're all putting climate solutions in the news.

    Presidential hopeful Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington state, is also helping by making climate change the central issue in his campaign. He emphasized the need to fight climate change on two of the major Sunday morning political shows in March -- ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos and CNN's State of the Nation -- as well as on Fox & Friends, Trump's favorite show. The other Democratic presidential candidates are also talking up the importance of climate change and in many cases endorsing the broad outlines of the Green New Deal, taking cues not just from Ocasio-Cortez but from Democratic voters, who rank climate change among the very top issues that they want candidates to talk about, and from voters across the spectrum, who overwhelmingly say they're worried about global warming. Given all that, we're likely to see debate moderators this year and next ask political candidates more questions about climate change than they did in 2016 or 2018.

    So the quantity of coverage is up, but how about the quality?

    Some of the climate coverage we've seen so far this year been informative and constructive. See: The Washington Post's editorial series and Chris Hayes' special with Ocasio-Cortez. Some of it has been superficial. See: Beltway pundits. And some of it has been a mess of lies, mockery, and fearmongering. See: Almost everything on Fox News.

    When the major networks' Sunday morning political shows discussed the Green New Deal the weekend after the resolution was unveiled, "most of the discussion was superficial and narrowly focused on whether the Green New Deal will cause intra-party fighting among Democrats or end up benefiting Republicans, not on whether its policy ideas are good approaches for fighting climate change," as Media Matters' Evlondo Cooper pointed out.

    Carlos Maza at Vox looked at a broader selection of TV coverage and found the same thing, as he described in a video:

    I have watched hours of segments about the Green New Deal and none of them actually explained how it might work. Instead, they focus on the politics. Is it gonna pass? Does Pelosi like it? What did Trump tweet about it? Everything except: Is it a good idea?

    This kind of narrow, horse race-style coverage of policy proposals is one of the climate-coverage pitfalls we need to be on the watch for in 2019.

    Another problem is that some coverage of the Green New Deal doesn't even mention climate change. More than half of Fox News' segments on the plan in the days after it was released didn't include any discussion of climate change. Fox personalities and guests often talked about the proposal as though it were a pointless scheme to oppress the masses, not a plan to address a major looming threat. CNN and MSNBC weren't nearly that bad, of course, but they also ran segments that failed to bring up climate change and discussed the Green New Deal as a political football. When the Green New Deal was voted on in the Senate in March, we again saw Fox News talking heads discuss it without mentioning climate change.

    One of the biggest problems with coverage of the Green New Deal is that there's a lot more of it on Fox and other right-wing outlets than on mainstream and left-leaning outlets -- and in many cases, Fox and its ilk are straight-up lying. From February 7 to 11, Fox aired more than three times as many segments about the Green New Deal as CNN and MSNBC combined. With their heavy coverage and repetition of misinformation -- like completely bogus claims about sky-high costs -- right-wing media are distorting the national dialogue just as it's getting going.

    Sean McElwee of the progressive think tank Data for Progress explained how this is playing out in a recent New York Times op-ed:

    According to data shared with The Times from Navigator, a progressive polling project, 37 percent of Republican viewers of Fox News had heard “a lot” about the Green New Deal, compared with 14 percent of all registered voters.

    When asked simply, “Based on what you know, do you support or oppose the Green New Deal?,” 22 percent of respondents are in support, 29 percent are opposed and 49 percent are not sure. But 74 percent of Fox-viewing Republicans oppose the Green New Deal (65 percent strongly), and only 21 percent have not formed an opinion. 

    He concludes that "the Republican propaganda machine has already reshaped the narrative."

    We don't expect Fox to improve (some news outlets are beyond redemption), but mainstream and left-leaning news organizations can do better. They need to cover the Green New Deal and climate change more often to provide a counterweight to the bunk coming from the right. And they should cover it not as a political story (who "won" the day when Mitch McConnell held a stunt vote on the Green New Deal?), but with substantive reporting and discussion about how to implement climate policies that are fair, effective, and commensurate with the enormous size of the problem.

  • Media should stop treating Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as inevitable

    Activists and concerned citizens are fired up and engaged in the fight against Kavanaugh

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN & MILES LE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Ever since President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill retiring Anthony Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat, media outlets have continually downplayed the energy and activism of those working to oppose this far-right nominee’s confirmation, treating it as a fait accompli.

    Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination on July 9, 2018, a week and a half after Justice Anthony Kennedy disclosed that he would be retiring from the Supreme Court (he officially retired July 31). Despite Kavanaugh’s record as “an uncommonly partisan judge” with troubling views on the environment, labor, LGBTQ discrimination, abortion rights, gun safety, immigration, and more, many media figures portrayed him as a centrist pick who is “within the broad mainstream” and “not as far right” as other options Trump considered.

    In addition, many outlets have treated his confirmation as inevitable. For example, The Washington Post and The New York Times argued that activists weren’t engaged in the fight to stop Kavanaugh. As the Post wrote, “Democrats have all but acknowledged that they are unable to stop the Senate from confirming Trump nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court this fall,” while the Times blamed everything from upcoming midterm elections to activists’ inability to compete with “an almost daily barrage of other Trump administration actions” for the perceived lack of energy. New York magazine similarly argued that “the resistance to Kavanaugh has remained on a low flame, failing to boil over into the righteous fury that characterized the battle over Obamacare repeal last summer.”

    However, as Rewire.News’ Katelyn Burns reported, “Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the U.S. Supreme Court is not inevitable.” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund told Burns, “A veneer of inevitability has been the actual strategy that the people backing Kavanaugh have used,” but activists are “countering that and saying, ‘No way.'” HuffPost guest writer Robert Creamer similarly argued that treating Kavanaugh’s nomination as inevitable “plays right into the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who hopes to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Creamer pointed to Kavanaugh’s extremely narrow path to confirmation -- with Republicans having “a tiny effective majority of 50 to 49 in the Senate” -- as well as his incredibly low approval numbers, and the “unprecedented nationwide campaign to resist” his confirmation, as evidence that the fight against Kavanaugh is far from over. As Teen Vogue columnist Lauren Duca wrote: “When you subscribe to the myth of inevitability, you confirm it as reality, and for anyone who gives a sh*t about equality and/or democracy, that is simply not an option.”

    Outlets may not be reporting on the vast amount of activist energy against Kavanaugh, but people are fired up and making their feelings known:

    Kavanaugh's confirmation isn't inevitable -- he's got the lowest approval ratings of any Supreme Court nominee in decades, in addition to an extreme record on a number of consequential topics. The hearings to confirm Kavanaugh start soon. And media shouldn’t erase or ignore the very real opposition to his confirmation that’s on display across the country.

  • Family Research Council is terrible, and its president Tony Perkins just got appointed to an international commission 

    FRC and its president Tony Perkins have long fought LGBTQ equality abroad, including supporting Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill

    ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE

    Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), was appointed commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal government commission dedicated to the “right to freedom of religion or belief abroad” that “makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.” Over the years, FRC has worked to push its anti-LGBTQ extremism in other countries, including Perkins personally defending an anti-gay bill in Uganda that could have punished sodomy by death. FRC has also spoken out against the LGBTQ-inclusive actions by the State Department under the Obama administration and has a long-established relationship with newly-confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who similarly has a record of anti-LGBTQ advocacy. 

  • Here are the excuses (so far) right-wing media figures are using for Roy Moore’s loss

    Blog ››› ››› SANAM MALIK

    On Tuesday, Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s special Senate election, becoming the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in the state in 25 years. Moore -- whose campaign was likely damaged by a litany of sexual misconduct allegations from multiple women, including a then-14-year-old girl -- had extensive support during the campaign from pro-Trump right-wing media. Following Moore’s defeat, some of these right-wing media figures reacted by giving an array of excuses for the loss, such as saying Fox News had a “vested interest” in the outcome, claiming supposed voter fraud, and attacking a GOP operative for allegedly leaking Moore’s sexual misconduct accusations to The Washington Post. Here’s a list of some of the excuses:

    1. Infowars host Alex Jones blamed Democratic voters "bused in those Democrat areas" to steal the election. And dead people.

    2. On his radio show, Sean Hannity blamed "the establishment pushing all this money into" Alabama, which made voters "sick and tired." Hannity was also critical of the "terrible campaign" the alleged child molester Roy Moore ran. 

    3. Fox political analyst Brit Hume blamed Breitbart.com chairman Steve Bannon, who extensively campaigned for Moore, for the Republican’s loss, stating Bannon was “a man we’ve been given to believe was a master political strategist. ... Maybe not.”

    4. Big League Politics, a far-right media blog that is connected to far-right media, claimed that there was “evidence of voter fraud” in Alabama election.

    5. Fox News co-host Ainsley Earhardt said Moore’s loss was “a referendum on Harvey Weinstein, not on President Trump.”

    6. Fox host Sean Hannity in a tweet blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Moore’s loss, writing, “McConnell deserves a lot of the blame for Alabama."

    7. On Breitbart News Daily, co-host Alex Marlow blamed Fox News, alleging they had a “vested interest” in Moore losing.

    8. Bannon implied a GOP operative, who he claimed leaked Moore’s sexual misconduct accusations to The Washington Post, was a reason Moore lost.

    9. Alex Jones also claimed that there was “massive evidence of election fraud” in Alabama while also falsely claiming that Moore lost by only half a percentage point.

    10. TruthFeed, a fake news website connected to white supremacists, pushed Fox contributor Sebastian Gorka’s tweet which highlighted a report claiming that former independent conservative presidential candidate Evan McMullin took money from an “anti-American Persian billionaire” to fund to ads attacking Moore. TruthFeed claimed it showed an “anti-American Arab bankrolled the Democrat win in Alabama.”

  • Three lies about the Senate Republican tax plan that journalists need to correct

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As Republicans prepare to vote on a bill to drastically alter the tax code by slashing corporate rates and creating carve-outs for the wealthy at the expense of some of the most vulnerable, some Republican senators took to cable news to hype the proposal. The lawmakers relied on debunked myths to encourage voters and their colleagues to support the historically unpopular legislation. In some cases, journalists pushed back on these talking points. But in the future, reporters must be quick to immediately debunk this onslaught of misinformation and deception.

    Republicans claim everyone will get a tax cut

    Several Republican lawmakers pitched the plan by claiming that every income group would receive a tax cut. On the November 30 edition of Fox News’ The Daily Briefing, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) stated that “everybody does get a tax cut” from this plan in response to questioning from host Sandra Smith.

    In an interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer on the November 29 edition of America’s Newsroom, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) claimed that “every income group is going to get a tax cut,” to which Hemmer offered no push back.

    Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) went a step further on the November 29 edition of CNN’s New Day, asserting that “every income bracket will benefit and the lower income brackets … will benefit the most.” Cornyn’s comments came after CNN’s Chris Cuomo pointed out that “this was billed as a middle-class” plan, but “there is no analysis that shows them being helped disproportionately to the top tier.”

    These claims are not true. According to The Washington Post, Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that the bill would “give large tax cuts to the rich while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade.” Additionally, The New York Times found that “two-thirds of middle-class households would get a tax increase in 2027, and none — zero percent — would get a tax cut.”

    Republicans assert Medicare will be unaffected by the bill

    In a November 29 interview on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed that Republicans are “not touching Medicare at all in this bill” with no pushback from host Laura Ingraham.

    This claim was also made by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who, according to The Wall Street Journal, asserted that the bill includes “no cuts to Medicare.” But the Journal correctly noted, “Medicare would be cut by $25 billion in fiscal 2018 as a result of the bill because it would trigger automatic spending cuts under a pay-as-you-go budgeting law.”

    Additionally, according to Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) essentially admitted that the tax bill “is the prelude to a larger attack on Social Security and Medicare.” During a November 29 interview forum hosted by Politico, Rubio said tax cuts would help with “instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.” Rubio’s claim is also backed up by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which found that to offset deficit increases, automatic cuts would be made to Medicare of up to $25 billion next year.

    McConnell insists the bill will not increase the deficit

    Also in his interview with Laura Ingraham, McConnell claimed that the tax bill “is not going to be a deficit producing effort.” Once again, Ingraham did not give any pushback to McConnell on his claim.

    This, of course, is false. According to The New York Times, the JCT found that “the legislation would add $1 trillion to federal budget deficits over a decade, even after accounting for economic growth."

  • Of all the Sunday shows, only Dana Bash on CNN asked a GOP senator about changes to 401(k) contributions

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN’s Dana Bash was the only host of a Sunday morning political show to ask a Republican lawmaker or official about a potential tax reform provision that is reportedly being considered that would limit pre-tax 401(k) contributions. Such a move would limit how much money millions of middle class Americans would be able to set aside for retirement.

    The New York Times reported that Republicans are considering a proposal to put limits on how much American workers can contribute to their 401(k) accounts before taxes, potentially decreasing caps from $18,000 a year (or $24,000 for workers over 50) to “as low as $2,400.” The Times noted that this move would likely cause “a vocal backlash from middle-class workers who save heavily in such retirement accounts.” As CNBC reported in 2015, over 13 million people have 401(k) retirement plans.

    While several Republican lawmakers and officials made the rounds on the Sunday morning political shows to discuss tax reform, Bash was the only host to ask one of them about the 401(k) proposal. In an interview with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on State of the Union, Bash asked what he plans to do if Republicans were to take this path, which, she pointed out, “could mean higher taxes on the middle class.”

    From the October 22 Edition of CNN’s State of the Union:

    DANA BASH (HOST): Let me just drill down on one other aspect of taxes, and that is The New York Times reported this week that House Republicans are considering a plan to sharply reduce the amount of income that Americans can save in tax-deferred 401(k) accounts. If a Republican -- if your fellow Republicans in the House were to push to go down this path, it could mean higher taxes on the middle class. What do you want to do? Is this a nonstarter in the Senate?

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, look, we're just beginning the process of actually crafting the bills that will be crafted in the Ways and Means Committee in the House, the Finance Committee in the Senate. It's way too early to predict the various details. But I can tell you, the goal here, the goal here is to get middle class taxes down, to prevent job exportation, -- which our current business taxes really encourage people to go offshore -- and to produce more jobs and opportunity for the American people. That's the goal. The details will be hashed out in these two committees in the coming weeks.

    Juan Williams also appeared to allude to the proposal on Fox News Sunday.

    DANA PERINO (HOST): If the Republicans add a millionaires tax, what would [Sens. Chuck] Schumer [D-NY] and Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] complain about?

    JUAN WILLIAMS: Still, I think Congressman [Jason] Chaffetz is onto something here, it’s still -- we don’t have a revenue source screen that would really offset the cost of the tax cuts. Let me just say, overall this was supposed to be about tax reform. Apparently, that’s not the issue now, we’re just on to tax cuts. So the argument coming from the Democrats is this really is disportionately beneficial to the very rich. You add the fourth bracket, but it still does nothing in terms of offsetting things like doing away with state and local deductions.

    PERINO: That’s a big issue.

    WILLIAMS: That’s a huge -- how about home mortgage. Imagine, no home mortgage deduction? Well, I’m sure K Street --

    PERINO: Well, they're not saying that.

    WILLIAMS: Well, they are making the case. And then, also less in terms of your retirement contribution. So these are things that would squeeze the middle class.

    The proposal, however, was not mentioned at all on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS’ Face the Nation, or NBC’s Meet the Press.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for “401” as well as the words “four,” “oh, “one,” and all iterations of the word “retire” on the October 22 editions of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS’ Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, NBC’s Meet the Press, and CNN’s State of the Union.

  • Right-wing media figures and online bots are going after “weak, spineless” Mitch McConnell

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media condemnation reached a fever pitch on August 9 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) commented that President Donald Trump had “excessive expectations” for health care reform, which many Trump loyalists in the conservative mediasphere interpreted as an attack on the president. In response, Trump sycophants along with online bots and trolls used their platforms to besmirch McConnell’s character, call for him to retire, and popularize the hashtag #DitchMitch on Twitter.

  • Media can't take their eyes off the ball on health care

    Trump and Secretary Price can (and probably will) work to destabilize the current health care system behind the scenes. Media must hold them accountable.

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Dayanita Ramesh/Media Matters

    After Senate Republicans failed in their latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is imperative that media stay focused on covering health care. President Donald Trump and Tom Price, his secretary of health and human services, are likely to make unilateral changes that will undermine the ACA and affect those currently covered under it. Media outlets cannot let these policy decisions happen in the dark, as they have in the past.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on July 17 that the latest “effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” after four Republican senators said they would not vote for the bill. McConnell currently intends to vote on a bill to repeal the ACA with no replacement plan in place -- a move Trump supports -- which, The New York Times wrote, “has almost no chance to pass.”

    Media largely failed to cover the debate leading up to this failed legislative attempt, which played out behind closed doors in “almost-unprecedented opacity,” leaving audiences in the dark about the consequences and stakes of the proposed bill. For the time being, it appears as if decisions about health care will continue to be made in the dark.

    Without Congress, Trump and Price can still deal a potentially fatal blow to the health insurance market. On July 18, Trump reacted to the Senate’s failure to pass an ACA replacement, saying, “Let Obamacare fail. ... I’m not going to own it.” And, as Vox explained, “Especially in states with shakier exchanges, the president certainly does have some fairly broad discretionary authority that he and his health and human services secretary can use to deliberately sabotage the program if they want to.” In March, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told New York magazine that Trump and Price would have to decide “whether or not HHS will continue to reimburse insurance companies for cost-sharing expenses.” Sebelius explained that not making those payments, which Trump has threatened to do, “could cause a number of companies now offering plans in the marketplace to not sign up again for 2018.”

    Given the likelihood that Trump and Price will work to destabilize the health care system however they can, media have an obligation to prioritize the issue, especially as Trump is likely to blame Democrats for any negative impacts to health care coverage or to the insurance market in general. The current health care system will undoubtedly continue to inspire debate and attempted sabotage throughout Trump’s time in office. Media better pay attention.

  • Republicans float vote on right-wing media’s disastrous plan to repeal the ACA with no replacement

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & ALEX MORASH

    Senate Republicans are floating a possible vote on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement plan in place, a proposal that has been pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), President Donald Trump, and right-wing media. But this plan would leave tens of millions uninsured, cause a spike in premiums, and cause insurers to flee the market.