Shannon Bream | Media Matters for America

Shannon Bream

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  • In some of Fox’s only coverage of apparent GOP election fraud in North Carolina, host attacks California election laws 

    There are credible reports that a partisan actor in North Carolina was collecting and destroying voters' ballots  

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News' Shannon Bream attempted on Tuesday night to compare a Republican operative’s apparent plot to steal a North Carolina congressional seat with the legitimate collection of ballots in California elections. From the December 4 edition of Fox News at Night with Shannon Bream:

    See transcript below

    In California, it is legal for voters unable to return their mail ballots to designate someone to collect their ballots and deliver them to polling places. It is not legal anywhere, however, to collect and then potentially destroy, or finish filling out and cast, another person's ballot. This is what is being alleged in North Carolina, where reports show that a partisan operative potentially on the payroll of multiple Republican campaigns directed people to collect and possibly destroy or fill out voters’ ballots. Republican Mark Harris won the election by less than 1,000 votes, and it's well within reason that election fraud may have changed the result.

    Fox has been notably close-lipped about election fraud in North Carolina, despite its usual interest in fearmongering about (virtually nonexistent) "voter fraud." When it has covered this possible crime, the network’s approach is apparently to mislead its audience and downplay the seriousness of the allegations.  

    SHANNON BREAM (HOST): OK, check this out. North Carolina state law prohibits anyone other than a voter, close family member, or their legal guardian from taking in and dropping off absentee ballots. But, a California law allows anyone, including political operatives, to collect and return ballots in the Golden State. The practice is called ballot harvesting. Now, it's causing tremors in a North Carolina district where Democrats are accusing Republicans of illegal ballot harvesting. Because it's different there in North Carolina, they're calling it voter fraud. So it's also sparking questions about how Democrats swept areas like Orange County, California. Lot to unpack there. Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt joins us now to help separate some fact from fiction.

    CHRIS STIREWALT (FOX NEWS POLITICS EDITOR): And we should put out the allegations in North Carolina aren't just illegal because of state law -- it's different. We have voters -- so, what California allows is, in this ballot harvesting --

    BREAM: You want to give your ballot to somebody you trust.

    STIREWALT: Or also if I go to, let's say, a community center or a senior center or someplace and I say, OK, I am here. I'm a Democrat. You want to vote this way? I can help you, and then I can take them, and take them in. It's not -- it doesn't feel squeaky clean and super democratic, but that's what that is. What happens here are people say, I didn't request an absentee ballot. Somebody requested one in my name. It came to my address, and either they said fill this out or they just took it. They just took it and filled it out themselves and sent it in. This is real fraud.

    BREAM: Yeah and so the race is so close, within 900 votes. You know, House Democrats are saying we're not going to seat this person, the Republican who is claiming victory, until we iron this out.

    STIREWALT: It is not just House Democrats. It is a bipartisan state election commission in North Carolina.

    BREAM: We need answers.

    STIREWALT: There is some seriously rotten business that's going on here. And what compounds it, this was a hot primary. A longtime Republican incumbent, [Rep. Robert] Pittenger.

    BREAM: Right.

    STIREWALT: This is the 9th District, north of Charlotte, that stretches out to the west. So Pittenger gets knocked off in a primary, narrowly. Now, did the same firm that Mark Harris, the guy who knocked off Pittenger, that he employed in that election, did they do the same thing in that county? And then we start looking back at elections and the same consultant doing the same stuff and we say, what the heck is going on here? They may have to re-vote.

    BREAM: And if they do, people are saying this is going to turn into a totally different race. It's going to be nationalized, all kinds of outside money is going to pour in. And the people who show up for re-votes on something like this, they're not your average midterm voters, I mean, it's going to be a different kind of election.

    STIREWALT: If they find fraud, I would also point out, it'll be a different kind of election because the Republican nominee will have been associated.

    BREAM: He'd have problems, if he knew about it.

    STIREWALT: Even if he didn't know about it, if his campaign did it, it will stink.

  • Fox News marks Transgender Day of Remembrance by airing two anti-trans segments

    Laura Ingraham and Shannon Bream give platforms to transphobia

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    November 20 marks the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, an observation held in memory of trans people who have lost their lives to anti-trans violence over the past year. It’s a solemn occasion, where trans people and allies hold vigil for those lost and hope for a better future -- a stark contrast to events like Pride.

    But Fox News marked the occasion this year by airing two segments sympathetic to anti-trans causes. Fox host Laura Ingraham interviewed Isabella Chow, a student senator at the University of California, Berkeley, about backlash she received after speaking out against a resolution in support of LGBTQ students. Chow is linked to extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council and has appeared on its leader Tony Perkins’ radio program.

    From the November 20 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle:

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Take us through these past few weeks. We first want to establish what happens. This is a student government kind of proclamation stating what exactly?

    ISABELLA CHOW (BERKELEY STUDENT): Yes, so, the main bill that I abstained from opposed Trump’s proposed reform to Title IX and specifically one clause where a person's gender is defined as a person's biological sex. Now the bill that I abstained from, not only did it say, you know, we support freedom from discrimination and harassment for all individuals and especially LGBTQ individuals, but at the end there clauses that asked me to promote and LGBTQ identity and lifestyle and to promote organizations whose primary purpose is to promote the LGBTQ identity and lifestyle. And I said because of my Christian views and because I represent the Christian community on campus, I cannot fully support this bill.

    INGRAHAM: OK, so and for that, being a Christian and being unapologetic, you were labeled some pretty terrible things. The Daily Californian said the following: “Isabella Chow made transphobic and homophobic statements during an ASUC meeting, publicly dismissing the identities of individuals on campus. Chow’s language erased and dehumanized individuals,” et cetera, et cetera. How do you respond to that? Did you dehumanize people because of your faith?

    CHOW: Yes, I’d like to go back to my original statement on the senate floor on October 31. And what I said was, one, I think that discrimination and harassment is never ever OK. But where I cross a line between, you know, where I can protect you as an individual and where I can promote your identity is a very fine line for me to walk, right?. And so my response is, I don't see a conflict between being able to accept, love and validate you as an individual and yet not fully agreeing with how you choose to identify yourself sexually.

    While Chow framed the issue as simply about her decision not to vote on the measure, The Daily Californian’s editorial board wrote:

    She chose to abstain from voting on the resolution — and then went beyond simply removing herself from the conversation. Chow, a former member of the Student Action party, also chose to voice her personal — and highly problematic — interpretation of Christian scripture, stating that any “lifestyle” outside of male and female and heterosexual identities was not “right or safe.”

    The rest of the segment involved Ingraham lamenting the fact that people will call you a “hater” for saying that you disagree with who they are.

    “I think where they are coming from,” Chow told Ingraham, trying to reflect on what her critics think, “is because we can't understand how you can love us and not accept our sexual identity, therefore, we’re going to say your words about love and acceptance are completely worthless. And we are just to take your words about not accepting us and twist that to mean you are a hater and a bigot.”

    It’s odd that the most watched news station in the country devotes time and energy to things like student government, as there’s certainly no shortage of newsworthy stuff happening in the world. It’s moments like these when Fox shows itself for what it really is: a conservative advocacy organization.

    Later that evening, Fox host Shannon Bream interviewed Robert Oppedisano, a Florida gym teacher who claims that he’s being mistreated for opposing his school’s policy to allow a trans boy to use the boys’ locker room, and his lawyer, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver. Liberty Counsel is another extreme anti-LGBTQ group, and Staver regularly traffics in extreme rhetoric such as comparing LGBTQ people to pedophiles and saying that trans youth experience higher rates of suicide because they are defying God.

    From the November 20 edition of Fox News’ Fox News @ Night:

    SHANNON BREAM (HOST): We are talking about Pasco County, FL, and they actually had a school board meeting today where this came up. A lot of people, Robert, showed up on your behalf to speak out. So let’s clarify a little bit about what happened. There is a student who was born biologically female, now identifying as male, wants to use the boys locker rooms and restrooms in the school. What were you told about having to watch or supervise or be involved with this process in the locker room?

    ROBERT OPPEDISANO (PASCO COUNTY PE TEACHER): I was told that this student was going to have full access to the locker room, that it was my job to supervise, and that it was her right to be able to use any part of the locker room, whether it be the locker room, the open showers, or the bathroom.

    ...

    BREAM: The school departments are saying, “We don't know exactly what to do. We are trying to do our best. We have to think of the rights of these trans students.” But others have said, “What about the parents, what about the other students, the boys in this locker room, what about their privacy rights?” What position are you in now with regard to this case?

    OPPEDISANO: I was told that the parents and the students had no rights, just this -- the female student. She was the only one to have rights in there. I had mentioned something that they could get sued, and they said, “We are the largest employer in Pasco county. If we get sued, it's no big deal.”

    BREAM: OK. Mat, I want to give you a chance to respond to something, that is in Pascocounty’s  best practices guide for working with LGBTQ individuals. This one has to do with questions about whether students come to a teacher or someone to say, “I'm uncomfortable, I don't feel safe because a transgender student is in my bathroom or locker room area.” They are told this, quote: “A student's discomfort does not trump a transgender students right to use the school facility that is consistent with their identified gender identity. If it’s a comfort issue, you may offer an alternative facility to the students experiencing discomfort.” So, here they are saying if a student doesn't want the trans individual in their locker room area, they are the ones who need to leave. Is that a solution that works?

    MAT STAVER (CHAIRMAN LIBERTY COUNSEL AND OPPEDISANO’S ATTORNEY): That is not a solution that works and in fact in this particular case, you’d have to have all the boys  go to some other place because this girl undressed in front of these boys and the boys came running out. They were disturbed that a girl was in their locker room undressing. So apparently, only that girl can use the boys facility and now all of these boys that ran out have to go someplace else. That’s not workable. That same guideline that they have also says that you should not, in fact you are not authorized to let the parents know what’s happening with their son or daughter in these situations.

    In recent days, far-right websites like Lifesite News, The Daily Caller, and The Federalist have been pushing this issue hard, citing information almost exclusively from Liberty Counsel’s complaint, which claimed that the teacher was being persecuted for his refusal to monitor the locker room. Their headlines, which include language like “School Punishes Male Teacher For Refusing To Watch A Naked Girl In The Boys’ Locker Room” and “Male Gym Teacher Allegedly Punished by School for Refusing to Watch Girl Shower,” are more than just misleading: They’re lies and outright propaganda.

    As with so many of the too-shocking-to-be-true stories about trans people you’ll find in far-right media, local reporting rebuts the motivated smearing by conservative groups. In Oppedisano’s case, the Tampa Bay Times tells a different story, quoting the district’s superintendent:

    Superintendent Kurt Browning told the board Tuesday that the internet is "burning up" with misinformation.

    "I want the board and the public to be clear. The teacher coach has not been disciplined at all, in any way shape or form," Browning said, noting the Chasco Middle administrators have monitored the locker room for Oppedisano, whom he called an excellent teacher.

    Students "do not undress in the locker room," Browning continued. "There are showers but no one takes showers. … There have not been any issues on this at Chasco Middle."

    He said the district provides services to all students who need them, as do districts throughout the nation. He called upon School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso to explain the legal framework for the district's procedures and rules relating to transgender students.

    These conservative groups fought hard against the Obama administration’s attempt to clarify what Title IX meant when it came to the treatment of transgender students. The Obama guidance would have put an end to many drawn-out lawsuits brought against schools or students. The argument against it has been that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is almost never the right way to dissuade discrimination (ignoring that the country has “one-size-fits-all” rules when it comes to discrimination on the basis of religion, race, disability, and so on).

    A February 2017 piece at The Federalist argued the case for schools to make their own policies when it comes to trans students. And in the letter announcing that the administration had rescinded the Obama-era guidance, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (née Prince) wrote, “This is an issue best solved at the state and local level.” Yet, when states and districts do try to provide solutions to accommodate trans students, groups like Liberty Counsel and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) swoop in to mount a public pressure campaign and file lawsuits against districts that won’t change their rules to be anti-trans. The heavily funded groups bank on the fact that most school districts won’t want the bad press or have the funds to spend defending their policies. Both the DeVos and Prince families have donated substantial amounts of money to ADF, in particular.

    It’s reasonable to be sick of hearing about bathrooms. I am a transgender person. Believe me when I say that I am sick of hearing about bathrooms and locker rooms. But the reason these stories are still in the news, that this continues to be talked about at all, is because the groups that claimed they wanted these issues to be handled at a local level don’t seem to actually believe the argument themselves.

    But for Fox News to air both of those segments on the one day in a year set aside to mourn people killed by those who believe the negative stereotypes about trans people they hear on networks like this, that’s just shameful.

  • Only MSNBC hosted LGBTQ opponents of the Trump-Pence administration's plan to define away trans identities

    While MSNBC aired segments featuring six LGBTQ people, Fox News hosted anti-LGBTQ group leader Tony Perkins and two anti-trans gay women

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Melisa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Trump-Pence administration is “considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” which would be “the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people,” according to an October 21 New York Times report. When TV news reported on the proposal, only MSNBC hosted LGBTQ guests to condemn it, while Fox hosted primarily anti-trans voices, including two gay women and major anti-LGBTQ group leader Tony Perkins.

    The Times reported that the definition would be established under Title IX, which bars “gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.” Title IX is enforced in part by the “Big Four” federal agencies -- the departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor -- most of which currently employ anti-LGBTQ group alumni who would potentially implement the policy. According to the Williams Institute, there are roughly 1.4 million American adults who identify as transgender, all of whom would be impacted by the proposed change. CNN reported that “if adopted, such a definition could exclude transgender people from existing federal civil rights protections in education, employment and access to health care.” The move is part of a greater trend of the Trump-Pence administration going after transgender people, and transgender advocates and their allies have sounded the alarm about the proposal and are fighting back.

    How TV news covered the proposal

    Following the Times’ reporting on the Trump-Pence administration’s proposal, broadcast and cable TV news spent a moderate amount of time covering the issue. MSNBC turned to transgender and queer guests to discuss the impacts of the proposal, while Fox News hosted primarily anti-transgender guests, including Perkins. Though generally critical of the proposal, CNN’s segments relied entirely on CNN hosts, commentators, and reporters, none of whom openly identify as LGBTQ.

    In discussing the proposal, MSNBC hosted six LGBTQ people, four of whom identify as trans, who were able to explain the personal impact the Trump administration’s proposal would have on the trans community.

    On October 23, MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson hosted Laverne Cox, a transgender actress and activist, who outlined the Trump-Pence administration’s history of anti-trans policies, as well as those proposed around the country in state legislatures. Cox said that state legislatures “are continually trying to introduce legislation banning transgender people from public life” but noted that “we have fought those battles, and we have won.” She explained that “over and over again the courts have held that transgender people are covered by Title IX and Title VII.” Cox said, “They want to make us afraid, but we need not be afraid.”

    MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson aired an October 22 segment featuring National Center for Transgender Equality's (NCTE) Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who was the first out transgender person to be appointed to a White House job. Freedman-Gurspan called the proposal “an abomination” and highlighted that the new definition does not align with medical consensus or the lived experiences of trans people. She also noted the many anti-trans actions and rhetoric of the Trump-Pence administration and highlighted activism by the trans community and their allies who are ready to fight the proposal. Freedman-Gurspan ended the segment by saying, “We won’t be erased. We are standing up. … We are going to get through this.”

    During other segments, MSNBC also hosted Mara Keisling, a trans woman and president of NCTE; Hannah Simpson, a trans woman and activist; Masha Gessen, an LGBTQ journalist; and Sarah Kate Ellis, a lesbian and president of GLAAD. Additionally, Rachel Maddow, an out lesbian, did a monologue on her October 22 show about the proposal in which she contextualized the history of Republican administrations rolling back LGBTQ rights.

    While MSNBC turned to LGBTQ people who were either transgender or trans allies for their insights on the potential impact of the Trump-Pence administration’s proposal, Fox News hosted primarily anti-transgender guests, including two gay women and extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council’s (FRC) President Tony Perkins.

    In Fox News’ first substantial segment about the proposal, Fox News at Night with Shannon Bream aired a debate between liberal radio host Ethan Bearman and FRC’s Perkins, who was also appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in May. During the segment, Perkins praised the proposal and resorted to fearmongering when presented with historical facts about gender identity. Perkins also pushed the the thoroughly debunked myth that trans-inclusive policies pose a threat to the safety of women and girls. From the segment:

    What we’re doing by this policy that was put in place without an act of Congress -- this was the Obama administration -- we’re putting people at risk. We're actually denying people equal protection under the law, because under this, we would force women that are going to battered shelters for abused women, we would force them under government policy to be housed with men, biological men. This makes no sense.

    On October 23, Tucker Carlson, who has an anti-transgender track record himself, hosted Tammy Bruce, an anti-trans lesbian and president of the conservative group Independent Women’s Voice. In the past, Bruce has criticized trans-inclusive restrooms and compared being transgender to “a child” thinking they are “a cocker spaniel. She has also defended Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple and who was represented by extreme anti-LGBTQ powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom at the Supreme Court. During the segment, Carlson claimed that the government recognizing the trans community would hurt women, and Bruce leveraged her identity as a lesbian to dismiss the impact of the proposal on trans people.

    Additionally, Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum hosted Camille Paglia, also an LGBTQ-identified person who is critical of trans identities. During the segment, Paglia pushed anti-trans narratives about biology and said that trans-inclusive policies are “unfair” in areas like athletics. She also described herself as transgender while criticizing the trans community. Paglia has made similar comments in the past, saying, "Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave." In other reporting, it appears that she identifies as gay and uses female pronouns.

    CNN had at least eight separate significant discussions, news reads, or reports covering the proposal but failed to host a single LGBTQ person in its reporting. Though the network’s coverage was generally critical of the proposal, CNN’s shows only used staff commentators and reporters to discuss it.

    Broadcast TV news outlets ABC and CBS barely covered the story at all, only airing news reads with no comprehensive segments or reporting, and both networks failed to feature any LGBTQ voices. NBC, however, aired a package on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt that included a clip from NCTE’s Freedman-Gurspan’s appearance on MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson. It also aired a report on Today.

    Additionally, PBS aired a segment featuring LGBTQ legal group Lambda Legal’s Sharon McGowan and was the only TV outlet so far to contextualize the anti-LGBTQ track record of Roger Severino, head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, the department spearheading the proposal.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for cable TV coverage appearing between October 21 and 23 on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- as well as transcripts of broadcast TV coverage on ABC, NBC, and CBS -- for mentions of the words “transgender” or “health and human services” as well as mentions of the words or variations of the words “trans,” “sex,” or “gender” occurring within 10 words of the words or variations of the words “memo,” “policy,” “definition” or “Trump.” Additionally, Media Matters conducted searches on Snapstream for the same time frame for the same terms. “Significant discussion” is defined as two or more speakers in the same segment discussing the proposal with one another.

  • Fake news sites are pushing voter fraud conspiracy theories on Facebook about the Ohio election

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As the vote count for the special election in Ohio 12th Congressional District still rolls in, fake news sites have taken to Facebook to spread conspiracy theories about Democrats rigging the election results. Some of these sites are using this fake narrative to advocate for voter ID laws, a voter suppression tactic that disproportionately affects minorities. This push comes as the Supreme Court recently upheld Ohio’s voter-purge law which Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted particularly impacts neighborhoods with low-income and minority populations.

    These voter fraud conspiracy theories are largely based on two narratives. The first is a recent report that 588 votes in Franklin County were misplaced but later found. Fake news sites and social media accounts pushed baseless allegations that the recovered votes are part of an attempt by Democrats to rig the election. I Love My Freedom’s Facebook page posted an article on the discovery with the status: “The Democrats are trying to pull a fast one on us!!!” The Political Insider posted a video from its regular contributor and radio personality Wayne Dupree in which he speculated over the timing of the votes’ recovery, wondering, “Why didn’t they find the box of ballots the same night? Why is it now?” Dupree also said that the person who “found the ballots need (sic) to go to jail.” Conservative Tribune claimed that Democrats have a “history of fixing elections and opposing accountability for election integrity” in a Facebook post that linked to an article titled “Officials Magically Find Hundreds of New Votes That Boost Dem in Toss-up Ohio Election.” And an article from BizPac Review floated the idea that voter fraud was at play with the “newly-discovered votes that are favoring the Democratic candidate.” Young Conservatives, which is part of a Republican clickbait farm, posted an article about the recovered votes that c also specifically mentioned the voting rights of felons and made baseless accusations of illegal voting by undocumented immigrants. (These two groups are frequently featured in voter suppression narratives.)

    The second source for these voter fraud conspiracy theories came from an unverified claim, originating from the far-right Mercer-funded group the Government Accountability Institute, that 170 registered voters in Ohio’s 12th district are 116-years-old. When the fake news sites picked up the claim, they added allegations of voter fraud and election rigging by Democrats to the mix. Constitution.com wrote that Democrats “tend to benefit from voter fraud at a rate that far surpasses the assistance given to conservatives through the use of the same tactics.” Truthfeed claimed, “The Left hasn’t given up trying to create conditions favorable for voter fraud in Ohio.” And a Young Conservatives article which stated that “Democrats have been known to steal close elections” was shared by former Sarah Palin’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and by conservative commentators CJ Pearson and Stacey Dash on Facebook.

    The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune posted an article that claimed this news was part of an attempt from the Democratic Party to “get their ‘blue wave’ to happen.” The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune also advocated for voter ID laws, writing, “If voter ID laws are passed and implemented … those 170 impossibly old voters would no longer be able to cast ballots — and that is something the fraudulent Democrats of the state desperately want to avoid.” The article has earned over 81,000 interactions on Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter, and was shared by Fox News host Shannon Bream and frequent Fox News guest Larry Elder. Western Journal and Conservative Tribune’s Facebook network also pushed the claim with most of the pages posting the exact same status alleging that Democrats attempted to rig the election.

  • Fox News virtually ignores audio of crying immigrant children separated from their parents by the Trump administration

    CNN and MSNBC have both repeatedly played the recording. Fox News has repeatedly glossed over and lied about the administration’s policy.

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News is keeping its audience in the dark regarding recently released audio of immigrant children in American detention facilities crying for their parents. As Fox hosts continue to gloss over and lie about the Trump administration’s policy decision to separate families at the border, in contrast, MSNBC and CNN have all played the heart-wrenching audio almost every hour since ProPublica released it to the public.

    On June 18, investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica published an audio recording of the “desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children [who had been] separated from their parents” by U.S. authorities:

    According to a Media Matters review, since ProPublica’s publication of the audio at 3:51 p.m., Fox News has all but ignored it, airing only a total of five seconds of the audio during the 11 p.m. hour on June 18. Later in the hour, host Shannon Bream highlighted apparent “criticism” of New York magazine White House correspondent Olivia Nuzzi for playing the audio during the June 18 White House press briefing. Hours earlier on The Five, co-host Dana Perino acknowledged the audio and admitted it would “pull at heartstrings,” but never actually played the recording for viewers.

    According to a Media Matters review, MSNBC has played the recording at least once during every hour since its 4 p.m. hour yesterday. CNN has played the recording at least once every hour since its 5 p.m. hour.

    Rather than informing its viewers about the real human effects of the Trump administration’s policy decision, Fox News hosts are attempting to put a positive spin on the practice of separating children from their parents, lying through their teeth about what’s happening, and mocking people who are outraged by a policy that the United Nations human rights office has deemed “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life” and “a serious violation of the rights of the child.” And, like with almost every other damning report regarding the Trump administration, Fox News has chosen to bury its head in the sand when it comes to audio evidence of what’s happening on the border. The combination leaves the network’s viewers in the dark about a reprehensible policy that a previous Homeland Security secretary referred to as not just “ineffective” but “immoral and un-American.”

  • Fox News used images of Eagles players praying to suggest they kneeled during the national anthem

    Fox News has since issued an apology

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Update: Fox News issued an apology.

    After President Donald Trump falsely implied that players of the Philadelphia Eagles protested during the national anthem, Fox News aired a segment that furthered Trump’s lie.

    At 10:55 p.m. on June 4, Trump tweeted that a planned White House event with the Eagles was canceled, writing, “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling.” Shortly after, Fox News tweeted out a video clip from Fox News at Night with Shannon Bream that misleadingly showed Eagles players kneeling.

    Eagles tight end Zach Ertz called out the network for using images of players praying to push propaganda:

    NJ.com and other reporters have pointed out that “no player on the Eagles took a knee during the national anthem during the 2017 regular season, post season or Super Bowl last season” and that the images of players kneeling aired in the clip “are players kneeling to pray prior to the game and not during the national anthem”:

    Fact: No player on the Eagles took a knee during the national anthem during the 2017 regular season, post season or Super Bowl last season.

    That is not what you might believe, however, reading the tweets of President Donald Trump or watching FOX News on Tuesday morning.

    ...

    The majority of the pictures are players kneeling to pray prior to the game and not during the national anthem.

    ...

    One picture that has been circulating online since the news broke is of cornerback Ron Brooks kneeling during the national anthem during a 2017 preseason game. During the regular season, however, no Eagles player took a knee during the national anthem.

    ...

    The Eagles have been one of the most outspoken teams in the league regarding protests during anthem, especially safety Malcolm Jenkins, who was not planning on attending the ceremony on Tuesday.

    "There is so much that has been swirling around that administration," safety Malcolm Jenkins said, "I don't see it as beneficial at this moment in time to visit in a celebratory fashion."

    This post has been updated for clarity.

  • Fox News added more female hosts but still had the same abortion misinformation problem

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT & SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    When Media Matters last crunched the numbers on Fox News programming responsible for the most abortion misinformation, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Tucker Carlson were unsurprisingly the worst culprits. However, as allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against O’Reilly (and other network figures including Eric Bolling) and he was eventually fired, Fox News transitioned to an evening lineup with more female hosts -- Shannon Bream, Martha MacCallum, and Laura Ingraham. But this change has not come close to fixing the network’s abortion misinformation problem.

    Media Matters analyzed evening prime-time news programs on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN from March 1, 2017, through March 1, 2018, and identified segments featuring a substantial discussion of abortion and reproductive rights. The resulting 211 segments were then coded for the number of accurate or inaccurate statements made about four abortion-related topics: the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), abortion funding rules, Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and so-called extreme abortion procedures. We found that Fox News dominated the conversation about abortion -- airing 114 of the 211 total segments across all cable news networks (54 percent) -- and that its coverage of the four abortion-related topics was inaccurate 77 percent of the time. And 44 percent of its 114 segments were aired on programs Bream, MacCallum, and Ingraham anchored.

    The shows Bream, MacCallum, and Ingraham hosted had 107 statements about the four abortion-related topics, out of which the hosts either personally spread -- or gave a platform to those spreading -- anti-abortion misinformation 76 times (71 percent). Here’s a sample of what each host has offered her viewers in the last year:

    Shannon Bream

    Overall, Bream made 30 appearances on Fox News where a substantial discussion of abortion occurred. Although Bream entered the prime-time lineup when she started hosting her own show, Fox News @ Night, on October 30, 2017, she had previously regularly appeared as a guest or a correspondent during The First 100 Days and Special Report. Bream individually made 35 total statements about CMP, abortion funding rules, Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and so-called extreme abortion procedures. Of these 35 statements, 23 contained misinformation (66 percent).

    As Media Matters documented after Fox News @ Night debuted, Bream appears well-attuned to the talking points and interests of the anti-abortion movement; an anti-abortion leader even celebrated her promotion, tweeting that Bream “covers Life issues with fearlessness and fairness.” Since then, Bream has promoted anti-abortion talking points and myths -- suggesting they were simply concerns she “heard from a lot of pro-life groups” -- including by asking a misleading question about taxpayers paying for the abortions of undocumented minors who come to the United States.

    As a host, Bream has been consistent in repeating misinformation about anti-abortion group CMP, which engaged in a smear campaign against Planned Parenthood by releasing deceptively edited videos. Just as she had done repeatedly in the past, Bream promoted CMP and said its actions caused Planned Parenthood to become “mired in scandal” and that CMP’s videos showed “Planned Parenthood officials discussing pricing for fetal body parts and tissue left over after abortions.”

    Martha MacCallum

    MacCallum made 14 appearances in Fox News segments that had a substantial discussion of abortion. All these segments were on the two Fox News programs she hosted during the study period -- The First 100 Days and The Story. During those appearances, MacCallum made nine statements in total about CMP and so-called extreme abortion procedures, all of which were inaccurate (100 percent). MacCallum also frequently relied on extreme and stigmatizing rhetoric about abortion.

    When discussing CMP, MacCallum often treated the discredited organization and its deceptive smear videos as credible sources of information. For example, during a March 2017 segment of The First 100 Days, MacCallum not only played a long excerpt from one of the videos, she also said that it was “still hard to watch,” implying that it accurately depicted that Planned Parenthood was engaged in the sale of fetal body parts. In an interview with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), MacCallum focused on Blackburn’s phrasing in one of her campaign ads, which Twitter briefly blocked her campaign from promoting. In the ad, Blackburn referred to her time on the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, saying, “I fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts.” Instead of questioning Blackburn on her inaccurate phrasing or talking about the smear campaign that Blackburn and the panel had engaged in against Planned Parenthood, Bream accepted her narrative, saying, “You fought hard, as you say, to ban the sale of baby body parts. I mean, it’s such a difficult phrase even to say and I think you’ve fought very hard for it.”

    Similarly, during a July 2017 segment on The Story, MacCallum pushed several myths about the existence and widespread practice of so-called sex-selective, late-term, and full-term abortions. In reality, these are inaccurate descriptions of abortion, created by anti-abortion groups to vilify those accessing legal health care. In one example, MacCallum said that an Oregon bill (now law) that ensured protection of reproductive rights for all -- including undocumented immigrants -- would allow for “sex-selective” and “late-term, even full-term, abortions for an illegal immigrant.” MacCallum continued to push the misinformation, asking her guest, political commentator Danielle McLaughlin, whether she thought it was “OK for someone to decide because they don’t like the sex of their baby to abort it at eight months” and demanding to know, “Why would any state want to pass a law that would allow that?”

    Laura Ingraham

    During the study period, Ingraham made 10 appearances in Fox News segments where there was a substantial discussion of abortion. Like Bream, Ingraham started hosting her own show, The Ingraham Angle, on October 30, 2017, and before that, she had also occasionally appeared as a guest on Special Report and Hannity. Although Ingraham made only three statements total about the four abortion-related topics, two of these statements were inaccurate (67 percent).

    Despite only making 10 appearances during the period of study, Ingraham made a splash with her frequent use of alarmist and stigmatizing rhetoric. In one appearance, Ingraham called Planned Parenthood a “monstrosity of killing.” A December 2017 segment of The Ingraham Angle may be the most bewildering segment of the year about abortion. It started as a fairly regular Fox News segment about abortion, with Ingraham fearmongering that because of a court decision to allow undocumented minors abortion access, the United States would become “an abortion magnet.” Then, Ingraham insisted that a picture of a baby be put up on screen and demanded that her guest, attorney Rachel Self, “look at the screen.” Self calmly explained that she was unable to see the image because she was not in studio. Undeterred, Ingraham escalated the situation and eventually cut Self’s mic off, saying, “I can’t hear her talking over me.”

    Fox News added more female hosts to its prime-time lineup, but having greater gender representation didn't translate to accurate and nuanced coverage of abortion. Bream, MacCallum, and Ingraham show that a push for gender parity in the cable news world cannot happen in a vacuum and must go hand-in-hand -- particularly for abortion-related issues -- with a commitment to frank, fair, and accurate coverage.

  • Right-wing media are filling a void of abortion-related coverage with misinformation

    Fox News is dominating the conversation about abortion on evening cable news -- and the network is doing it all wrong

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    A 12-month-long Media Matters study of evening cable news programs found that Fox News dominated discussions of abortion and reproductive rights and that the network was wrong about four common abortion-related topics 77 percent of the time.

  • Fox keeps promoting Joel Rosenberg as a "Russia expert" based on his book. It's a novel.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News has repeatedly aired the Russia commentary of the author Joel C. Rosenberg over the past few weeks, credentialing him as a “Russia expert” and pointing to his recent bestseller, The Kremlin Conspiracy. In an appearance on the network and in packaged reports, hosts and contributors of the network’s putative hard news programs have described Rosenberg as “the author of a very important book,” a “New York Times bestselling author and author of the brand new book,” and “the author of the bestselling book The Kremlin Conspiracy."

    There’s just one problem: The Kremlin Conspiracy isn’t, as the title might imply to those hearing of it from Fox personalities, a work of history, or political analysis, or journalism. It’s a political thriller.

    Rosenberg is a former Republican political operative who used the right-wing connections he established working for radio host Rush Limbaugh, among others, to carve out a niche writing conservative fiction that his website describes as “ripped from tomorrow’s headlines.” The Twelfth Imam series, for example, is about a CIA operative’s quest to “disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapons program” as an “obscure religious cleric is suddenly hailed throughout the region as the Islamic messiah known as the Mahdi or the Twelfth Imam.”

    Rosenberg, who believes that we are currently in the biblical End Times and that the rapture and second coming of Jesus Christ are quickly approaching, is also the author of “nonfiction” books that apply biblical prophecy to current events. An evangelical Christian of Jewish ancestry who celebrates that “Jews are turning to Jesus in record numbers” and “getting excited about His Second Coming,” Rosenberg is also the founder of The Joshua Fund, a nonprofit group that seeks to “mobilize Christians to ‘bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus.’”

    Publisher’s materials describe The Kremlin Conspiracy as follows:

    With an American president distracted by growing tensions in North Korea and Iran, an ominous new threat is emerging in Moscow. A czar is rising in the Kremlin, a Russian president feverishly consolidating power, silencing his opposition, and plotting a brazen and lightning-fast military strike that could rupture the NATO alliance and bring Washington and Moscow to the brink of nuclear war. But in his blind spot is the former U.S. Secret Service agent, Marcus Ryker, trained to protect but ready to kill to save his country.

    The fact that The Kremlin Conspiracy is a novel is rarely addressed when Fox features Rosenberg’s Russia commentary.

    In packaged reports that aired Monday night on Special Report and Fox News @ Night, Fox White House Correspondent Kevin Corke referenced Rosenberg’s book and aired an image of its cover. In both cases, he then aired a clip of Rosenberg -- described in the caption as a “Russia expert” -- commenting on the U.S. decision to expel Russian diplomats in response to that country’s alleged involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom earlier this month by calling for an even harsher response.

    In neither case did Corke note that The Kremlin Conspiracy is a work of fiction (though small text on the cover he aired does describe it as “a novel”).

    Likewise, when Fox News @ Night host Shannon Bream hosted Rosenberg to discuss Russia earlier this month, she introduced him as “New York Times bestselling author and author of the brand new book The Kremlin Conspiracy.” It was Rosenberg himself who mentioned in passing that the work was a novel, as he drew comparisons between its fictional antagonist and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    “And you know, my fictional dictator takes us as weakness,” he commented. “There was a quote by Vladimir Lenin, years ago. And he said, ‘Probe with bayonets -- if you find mush, push. If you find steel, stop.’ Putin is probing us for weaknesses, in cyber, in invading countries, in taking out dissidence. And under Obama, mush. Will he find steel in President Trump? That's what we need.” Bream responded by praising Rosenberg’s book, saying, “Once you pick it up, you can’t put it down.”

    Rosenberg has also written and spoken extensively about the various "signs" indicating the second coming of Jesus Christ may be imminent (including the "supersign" that was the "rebirth of Israel in 1948").

    Fox has repeatedly hosted Rosenberg, either credentialing him as a national security expert or bringing him on to discuss whether particular events -- such as the civil war in Syria -- indicate the approach of the biblical End of Days. He was a particular favorite of former Fox host Glenn Beck, not only appearing on his TV and radio shows but also featuring prominently in Beck’s documentary Understanding the Holy Land, which gives a history of Israel through the lens of its role in End Times prophecies.

    In one 2011 appearance, Bream introduced Rosenberg by saying of an alleged plot by an Iranian-American man to assassinate a Saudi diplomat: “The Iranian plot FBI director Mueller has talked about this week also reads like the pages of a soon-to-be-released novel by an author that some are calling a ‘modern-day Nostradamus.’ Joel Rosenberg's new book, The Tehran Initiative, bears an eerie, uncanny resemblance to current events. And it isn't the first time he's written fiction that's foreshadowed the future -- it's a special gift I think he has.”

  • New report confirms abortion is safe. Fox News immediately claimed the opposite. 

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    The inaccurate notion that abortion is an unsafe or “risky” medical procedure was put to rest this month, with the release of a new report from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States. But as usual, Fox News didn’t let facts stand in the way of a sensationalist segment attacking abortion as unsafe.

    Following Supreme Court oral arguments in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra -- a case involving a California law attempting to regulate the deceptive practices of anti-abortion fake health clinics -- Fox News’ Shannon Bream hosted commentator and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. During the March 20 segment on Bream’s show Fox News @ Night, Bream and Huckabee took a rapid detour from the specifics of the California case to mislead audiences about the overall safety of abortion. According to Huckabee, abortion “has a detrimental effect on health of women, both physically and emotionally.” He continued:

    And I try to say if, so many times, if there's two victims in every abortion, one is the baby and the other is that -- a birth mother who may have been talked into this by some provider because it's good business for them. Maybe by a boyfriend, a husband, a mother, a grandmother, or a good friend. But they're not telling them the full picture, either what this is doing to them physically or emotionally for the short as well as for the long term.

    In reality, Huckabee’s assertions about the safety (and the alleged negative effects) of abortion could not be further from the truth. In the March 16 report, NASEM “assessed the quality of abortion care with respect to the six attributes of health care quality: safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, timeliness, efficiency, and equity” and found that “legal abortions—whether by medication, aspiration, D&E, or induction—are safe. Serious complications are rare and occur far less frequently than during childbirth.” According to an analysis of the report from Women’s Health magazine, researchers found:

    • Ninety percent of all abortions take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
    • The safety and quality of abortions is highest when they are performed as early in the pregnancy as possible.
    • Complications from abortions are rare.
    • There’s no reason why nurse practitioners and physicians assistants can’t perform abortions, given that they can do them as safely as doctors.
    • Abortions have no long-term effects on a woman’s physical and mental health.
    • Having an abortion does not increase a woman's risk for infertility or breast cancer.

    Notably, NASEM also concluded that the restrictions passed by anti-choice lawmakers “create barriers to safe and effective care.” As the press release for the report stated, “These regulations may prohibit qualified providers from performing abortions, misinform women of the risks of the procedures they are considering, or require medically unnecessary services and delay care.”

    Even without these harmful regulations, the economics of abortion access greatly disadvantage already marginalized communities. Salon’s Christina Cauterucci wrote in 2016, “Studies show that poor women take up to three weeks longer than other women to secure an abortion” partly because of the time necessary to gather the money for the procedure. She continued that “the further along the fetus, the more expensive her abortion will be and the more likely she is to experience health complications.” Financial and other barriers, such as the restriction on federal funding support for abortion care (thanks to the Hyde Amendment), ineffective mandatory waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, and more, put early access to abortion care out of reach for many. 

    Despite an ongoing effort by right-wing media and anti-abortion lawmakers alike to attack abortion as unsafe, NASEM’s comprehensive assessment underscores the realities that it is a safe medical procedure, and that attempts to regulate abortion in accordance with ideology has an undeniably harmful effect on patients.