Stephanie Ruhle | Media Matters for America

Stephanie Ruhle

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  • MSNBC anchor hosts conservative commentators to argue Democratic primary candidates should be “more moderate” and less “weird”

    George Will lies about the Green New Deal with no pushback at all

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle hosted two conservative commentators to claim Democratic presidential candidates and popular progressive policies are extreme and “weird.”

    On the June 5 edition of MSNBC Live, Ruhle hosted columnists George Will and Bret Stephens to discuss 2020 Democratic candidates. Ruhle allowed Will to lie without pushback about key aspects of the Green New Deal, repeating a common but false right-wing talking point that the Green New Deal will “require ending meat and airplanes.” Will also pulled out a list of common progressive policy proposals -- including many that poll popularly among Democratic voters -- and painted them as extreme and fringe. Will claimed that Americans will feel that “these people are weird” and that “they are not talking about things that I care about.” His advice to Democratic candidates: “Shift to the middle.”

    STEPHANIE RUHLE (HOST): Are you seeing any possible candidates that you think would be better for conservativism than President [Donald] Trump?

    GEORGE WILL (AUTHOR): Well, there is a sense in which all 23 Democrats would be better if there is a Republican Senate because the Republican Senate would virtually block legislative change. That is not all the change that we have, but they would block it. And it would take the Republican Party away from its current identification with someone who is, in temperament and in most policies, not conservative. There’s -- I hate to give the kiss of death to someone like former Congressman [John] Delaney (D-MD) or former [Colorado Democratic] Gov. [John] Hickenlooper, but they know where the public's pulse is. I am staggered by the amount of time Democratic candidates for president are spending talking about things they know are not going to happen. “Abolish the Electoral College,” they promise. No, the reason they want to abolish the Electoral College is it’s very good for smaller states, 13 of which are all that’s required to block a constitutional amendment. [Sen.] Kamala Harris (D-CA) says, “Well, we’re going to eliminate private health insurance.” She's walked that back a bit, but who knows. No, they are not. It is a very odd way to begin a presidential campaign by saying we’re going to offend 180 million Americans who have employer-provided health insurance and 20 more million Americans who have other sources of private health insurance and rather like it.

    RUHLE: Well, you could like John Delaney, you can like John Hickenlooper, but if the ultimate goal for the Democratic Party is to defeat Donald Trump, what’s the right move -- to shift to the middle or shift to the left?

    WILL: Shift to the middle. I keep in my pocket -- I'm going to need a bigger card. These are all the things they’ve said that cause the American public to say, “These people are weird, they’re not talking about things that I care about.” Terrorists in prison should be allowed to vote. End private health insurance. Pack the Supreme Court, abolish the electoral college, the Green New Deal -- which will require ending meat and airplanes -- impeach the president, reparations for slavery. The country hears these individually and they say, “I'm not for that.” Collectively, they say, “These are very strange people because they are not talking about things that I want to talk about.”

    RUHLE: OK, but George, you have the very strange things they have said on a tiny little card. The president has told, by The Washington Post’s count, 10,000 lies. And I don't think I'm getting over my skis to say he says very strange things every single day. And he is sitting in the White House. Why does very strange things disqualify someone?

    WILL: Well, if they think that the path to power is to emulate Trump from the left, saying strange things, I think they’re mistaken because people are going to go into the voting booth on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November 2020 and say, “Do I stick with the doofus I've got or pick the doofus I don't know.” I mean, give people a decent choice. I mean, look, what the Democrats did -- an astonishing achievement in 2016 -- was help elect Donald Trump by giving the country an unpalatable choice. Why do it again?

    RUHLE: “Don't be a doofus, please skip on strange.” That’s George Will’s advice to these candidates out there.   

    Ruhle also hosted Stephens, a conservative op-ed writer (and climate denier) at The New York Times, who argued that Democrats pursuing impeachment -- which has high support among liberals -- are “harming themselves politically,” and that “the real heart of the party” is “much more moderate, much more centrist.”

    STEPHANIE RUHLE (HOST): Bret, in your latest piece, you talk about Democrats and the impeachment debate and you compare it to football. You say, “It's a dumb and dangerous game of maximum brutality and minimal movement.” Elaborate.

    BRET STEPHENS (NEW YORK TIMES OPINION COLUMNIST): Yeah. Well, I just think that Democrats are going to be harming themselves politically and not advancing the debate if they take steps to impeach the president.

    RUHLE: So they should just let it roll?

    STEPHENS: No, I mean what I’ve been advocating is that there should be a vote of censure against the president for disgraceful behavior that brings some Republicans along who would be otherside backed into a political corner. I just have to make the point because it’s never made often enough: If you impeach the president, which the House has the votes to do, you will not convict him in the Senate. OK? That's the deal. What you’re going to do is suck up an incredible amount of political oxygen. You’re going to make Republicans feel like the president is being victimized, that Democrats are trying to overturn the results of the election, and you're going to wind up helping to re-elect Trump. And in my book, that's the worst possible thing you can do. I don't know what other people think, it might feel really good, but I don't want to re-elect Trump.

    RUHLE: Democrats think it's the worst possible thing to do but Democrats are not all on the same page. The Washington Post details how the fight going on between the moderate and progressive wings of the party are really divided, and this thing played out at the Democratic Party Convention over the weekend in California. I want to share this.

    Help us understand, what do you think the Democratic Party is doing?

    MATT BENNETT (THIRD WAY, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS): Well, look. Who is the Democratic Party? It isn't the people at the California Democratic state convention. Last year they had a convention in California and they took a vote on who should be the Democratic nominee for Senate. [Sen.] Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) lost that vote 65-7. She then went on to trounce the same opponent, Kevin de Leon, by 35 points in the actual primary. So, the people at that convention do not represent even the Democrats of California, much less Democrats nationally. There is a huge disconnect going on in our discourse right now between the activists, the activists online --

    RUHLE: The Twitter Democrats. The Twitter Republicans.

    BENNETT: Exactly. And people who actually are going to vote next year, starting on February 3, for who our nominee is. And I'm just talking Democrats, leave aside Republicans and Independents -- Democrats in the real world don't sound much at all like the Democrats online.

    STEPHENS: And it's important, at the same convention, you had John Hickenlooper saying socialism is not the answer and being booed. Now, Hickenlooper is not going to be the candidate but guess what? That’s going to be a fantastic ad for the Trump 2020 campaign as to what the Democratic Party is going to be, even if Joe Biden or a moderate candidate is the nominee. And the loud voices on -- well, both sides, but particularly on the Democratic left, are creating a picture of what the party is about, what its values are for. It's completely at odds with, I think, the real heart of the party, which is much more moderate, much more centrist.

    RUHLE: They're creating daily segments for Fox News every single day.

    Conservative commentators have been telling Democrats to shift to the middle since immediately after the recent midterm elections in which Democrats won major gains in the House. Stephens himself used the 2018 midterms to tell Democrats to shift to the right -- even as his column hilariously undercounted Democratic gains in the House. Of course, Stephens has every right to never change his analysis, no matter how much evidence proves him wrong. But there's no need for MSNBC to reward his obstinacy.

  • Cable and network news largely ignore rollback of CFPB protections against payday lenders

    ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News all failed to cover the proposed rule change

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On February 6, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under President Donald Trump announced a proposal to weaken an Obama-era rule designed to protect consumers from predatory payday lenders. Despite this move’s implications for consumers, network and cable news almost entirely ignored the rule change.

    The Obama-era rule, which had set August 19, 2019, as a deadline for the payday lenders to start complying with its provisions, “was the first significant federal effort to regulate payday lenders and took more than five years to develop.” Part of its provisions would require payday lenders to verify potential borrowers' income and debts when deciding whether they could afford a high-interest loan, thus protecting vulnerable consumers from predatory lenders. Advocates of these provisions argue that “ability-to-repay requirements protect borrowers from getting caught in loans with exorbitant interest rates,” which can exceed 300 percent.

    The latest proposal by the CFPB would eliminate the ability-to-repay requirements and delay implementation of the rule until 2020. This change would be a huge win for payday lenders, who lobbied lawmakers to block the rule last year. When those efforts failed, payday lenders “turned their attention to convincing the CFPB, now under the leadership of a Trump appointee, to change course.”

    The proposal is the latest step in the Trump administration’s efforts to remake the CFPB, which was created after the 2008 global financial crisis in an attempt to protect consumers. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, argued, “This proposal essentially sends a message to predatory payday lenders that they may continue to harm vulnerable communities without penalty.” Richard Cordray, the CFPB’s former director who was in charge of finalizing the rule, described the rollback as “a bad move that will hurt the hardest-hit consumers,” adding, “It should be and will be subject to a stiff legal challenge.”

    Network and cable news almost entirely ignored the CFPB’s proposed rollback, which will be open to public comment for 90 days, despite its potential to affect millions of borrowers. The only significant coverage occurred on MSNBC’s MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle in a segment that lasted over seven minutes and emphasized the detrimental impact the rollback will likely have on consumers.

    MSNBC and NBC also featured two brief headline segments covering the topic on their early morning shows that each lasted less than 30 seconds. There has been no other coverage on MSNBC or NBC. CNN, Fox News, ABC, and CBS have not covered the story at all.

    UPDATE (2/8): After noon on February 7, MSNBC ran two more segments covering the CFPB proposal. On MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle, host Stephanie Ruhle again presented the facts in a segment that lasted over six minutes and featured New York University business professor Scott Galloway. The following hour, on MSNBC Live with Katy Tur, Katy Tur hosted former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich to discuss the damaging impact this rule will have on consumers in a segment that lasted a little over one minute.   

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of "CFPB," "consumer protections," "consumer financial," "roll back," "payday," "community financial services," "CFSA," and "Kraninger" on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, and CBS from February 6 to noon on February 7.

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

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

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

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

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

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

  • Trump's tariffs could hurt millions of Americans, but media focus instead on presidential drama

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On May 31, CBS News reported on retaliatory tariffs from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, targeting numerous products including American steel and aluminum, playing cards, motorcycles, and tobacco. European Commission president Jean-Paul Juncker said that Trump’s move “leaves us with no choice but to proceed … with the imposition of additional duties on a number of imports from the U.S.”

    News reports and experts say the tariffs will hurt Americans in a number of ways. Though the steel and aluminum industries stand to benefit, “almost every US industry” that uses these metals will be faced with higher manufacturing costs, which “will likely get passed on to consumers.” These higher costs could “kill hundreds of thousands of jobs” as companies scramble to offset artificially high prices. Retaliatory tariffs levied by other nations are threatening a wide range of businesses, from agriculture to commercial production. According to The New York Times, even Trump’s own Council of Economic Advisers concluded that the tariffs would hamper economic growth.  

    But media coverage of U.S. allies’ responses to Trump’s economic attack centered on  the sensationalism and drama of the moment. Though CNN interviewed or cited economists in a few segments on the tariffs’ effects for American workers and business, the majority of the punditry  focused on the shock value of levying tariffs against U.S. allies. CNN also interviewed Stephen Moore, a Trump campaign economic advisor whom CNN hired as its in-house defender of the president who dodged policy questions to muddy the facts and obsequiously push the Trump agenda (which is how interviews with former or current Trump officials usually go); the network did not interview any workers who could potentially be hurt by the retaliatory tariffs.

    Fox News, meanwhile, played up the personal drama Trump incited with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Fox personalities said that “the public spat between these world leaders [Trump and Trudeau] is something to watch,” argued that Trudeau should “maybe … realize it’s not personal,” and generally attacked Trudeau for, among other things, “trying to out-alpha President Trump.” Lou Dobbs hailed Trump’s defeat of our allies’ “globalist conspiracy,” and on Dobbs’ show, sworn Nazi sympathizer Sebastian Gorka denounced Canada’s response to Trump because Canada “started it.”  When Fox figures tried to analyze the tariffs, they usually didn’t get beyond spouting worn-out taglines such as the electorate wanted the “disrupter-in-chief” to provide “a complete change in direction.” Jesse Watters got creative, however, when he positively compared Trump’s tariffs to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, a 1930 tariff commonly understood to have “exacerbated the Great Depression.” (Fox & Friends did feature one dairy farmer who, predictably, supported Trump’s agenda.)

    Much of the coverage on MSNBC also focused on the spectacle and/or provided a superficial analysis of Trump’s actions. But anchors Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Velshi, along with correspondent Vaughn Hillyard, did do substantial reporting on how the tariffs might impact American laborers, coverage which often included the workers themselves, during their combined three hours of hosting time., Velshi and Ruhle dedicated segments to explaining the far-reaching nature of the tariffs from U.S. allies (as well as an earlier round of tariffs from China) and how they might affect laborers and consumers alike.

    On-site reporting focused on affected farmers, and several reports focused even further on specific industries -- pork products, potatoes, and bourbon among them -- targeted by the tariffs.

    Ruhle, Velshi, and Hillyard notwithstanding, a common facet of tariff coverage was, as Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth said, the “unpredictability” of the situation, because it “makes for good TV.” With Friday’s White House announcement of another $50 billion in tariffs against Chinese products, media need to move beyond the drama and focus on the substance and the potential devastation to some Americans.