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  • Thanks to anti-abortion media, the latest congressional "tech censorship" hearing was particularly absurd

    Senate hearing about alleged censorship of anti-abortion movie Unplanned was another exercise in right-wing outrage-baiting

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During an April 10 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing about the so-called “censorship” of conservative content by social media platforms, senators continually (and inaccurately) claimed Twitter's temporary suspension of an account associated with the anti-abortion movie Unplanned was evidence of wider bias. Although allegations of widespread conservative censorship by social media companies are inaccurate, the accusation itself is familiar among anti-abortion extremists, who have long deployed it as a tactic to rally supporters and raise funds.

    Soon after Unplanned’s release in March, a Twitter account associated with the movie was temporarily suspended and reactivated. The Hollywood Reporter explained that the movie’s account “was not suspended on purpose, but rather was linked to another account that had violated Twitter's rules.” Because of this, the Unplanned account was soon reactivated and its followers restored -- but not before right-wing media expressed outrage and alleged that the film had been “shadow banned” (a common and completely false conservative claim). Although Twitter’s FAQ clearly explains that follower and tweet counts “will be fully restored within 24 hours of reactivation,” right-wing and anti-abortion media continued to treat the incident as yet another example of censorship by tech companies.

    This is far from the first time that anti-abortion groups or outlets have alleged censorship to rile up supporters or solicit funds. Lila Rose, founder of the anti-abortion group Live Action, told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in 2017 that Twitter was censoring her organization’s ads. In reality, the content remained on the platform -- Live Action simply wasn’t allowed to promote the ads as such because they violated several of Twitter’s content policies. In other instances, this tactic has been deployed by anti-abortion groups to lambast Google’s page rankings or allege widespread media bias against right-wing or anti-abortion views.

    Beyond riling up their supporters, this tactic is often deployed by anti-abortion groups to fundraise in the name of fighting back against alleged social media censorship. The anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List has leveraged similar allegations to sway voters and raise funds for specific campaigns. During the 2018 midterm elections, SBA List accused Facebook of removing its ads urging people to “vote pro-life.” Although Facebook actually disallowed the ads because the platform doesn’t “allow ads that depict medical procedures or conditions,” SBA List framed the move as another example of censorship and urged supporters to “RUSH a contribution … to help us fight back and get this ad in front of voters in key swing-states DESPITE the ongoing censorship of pro-life voices by the abortion lobby.”

    This Senate hearing is only the latest example of Republican lawmakers’ willingness to entertain inaccurate talking points claiming censorship of conservative views. In 2017, then-Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) deployed this tactic to generate attention and garner support after announcing her run for retiring Sen. Bob Corker's (R-TN) seat, which she ultimately won. Blackburn referred to this incident during the April 10 hearing as well -- even receiving an apology from Twitter’s representative.

    Early in the hearing, while questioning witnesses from Facebook and Twitter, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) demanded to know why a 2017 tweet from SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser had allegedly been censored. Although the tweet was never actually removed from Twitter (and in fact remains up today), The Washington Post noted that the tweet had originally been rejected from paid promotion for violating that platform’s “health and pharmaceutical products and services policy.” During the hearing, Twitter’s witness affirmed that SBA List was generally “in good standing” for the purposes of advertising on the platform. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) also questioned why several of SBA List’s Facebook ads depicting premature babies in a medical setting were removed. Although the ads were ultimately allowed to run on the platform, Lee implied that they were initially flagged due to rampant liberal bias at Facebook -- an allegation the witness denied.

    During the hearing’s second session, Unplanned and SBA List were both given a platform to repeat talking points about the alleged censorship of anti-abortion content online. In his opening testimony, Unplanned co-director Chuck Konzelman claimed that the temporary suspension of the film’s Twitter account was “suspect” and credited right-wing media personalities such as Fox News host Shannon Bream and National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch for raising awareness of the incident. SBA List’s Vice President of Government Affairs Marilyn Musgrave testified that her organization had “been fighting censorship of our content for more than two years” alongside other anti-abortion organizations that she claimed had experienced similar difficulties.

    When conservatives have previously attempted to hold hearings investigating the so-called bias of tech platforms, the results have featured laughable conspiracy theories about liberals censoring conservative content. As this latest hearing demonstrated, anti-abortion and right-wing media will continue to falsely cry censorship to signal-boost their deceptive content, rile up supporters, and raise funds. Given this track record, perhaps the only thing more predictable than right-wing and anti-abortion media’s invocation of censorship to market Unplanned was Senate Republicans’ willingness to give a platform to such a transparent ploy in the first place.

  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups Family Research Council and American College of Pediatricians were on Capitol Hill fighting the Equality Act

    The meetings follow a history of FRC and right-wing media inaccurately presenting ACPeds as a legitimate source and giving the group a platform to discredit trans-affirming science

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ group the Family Research Council (FRC) brought American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) Executive Director Michelle Cretella and ex-trans activist Walt Heyer to meet with members of Congress to advocate against the Equality Act within a day of the bill’s introduction on March 13. The bill would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to existing civil rights nondiscrimination protections.

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media have regularly and inaccurately portrayed ACPeds as a legitimate medical organization to add a veneer of credibility to the broader anti-trans agenda, even though the group is a small, right-wing organization that traffics in extreme anti-LGBTQ animus.

    While there is limited information available on the substance of these congressional meetings, FRC’s public discussions with Cretella and Heyer around the time of the meetings pushed the debunked myth that trans-inclusive policies threaten the safety of women and girls and promoted an unvalidated hypothesis that transgender youth are coming out as a fad.

    In appearances around the lawmaker meetings, FRC and ACPeds pushed anti-trans myths

    In the day after the introduction of the Equality Act, Cretella participated in two interviews with FRC to discuss their shared opposition to the bill and to promote anti-trans policies. During those interviews, Cretella and FRC leaders acknowledged that they met with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss the bill.

    Outside of those appearances, FRC has not published materials about the meetings, so there is little information on which lawmakers the groups met with or what they discussed. On March 13, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted a picture with FRC President Tony Perkins, writing that the two discussed the work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (for which Perkins is a commissioner).

    During the March 14 edition of Perkins’ podcast, he revealed that ACPeds joined FRC in meetings with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss anti-trans policies:

    TONY PERKINS (FRC PRESIDENT): So here’s the question: Is this transgenderism or gender dysphoria -- is it an issue of the mind, or is it an issue of the body?

    MICHELLE CRETELLA (ACPEDS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR): You know, Tony, that is the foundational question, and the answer is gender dysphoria, transgender belief is in the mind. And what we are facing in medicine, and psychology -- and as you said, from pre-K to the halls of Congress -- is a top-down tyranny of -- It’s basically a cult. It’s a cult that is telling us that children are born with the belief that they are trapped in the wrong body, and it’s simply not true.

    PERKINS: Now you joined us the other day on Capitol Hill for some briefings with lawmakers, and I -- you know, I deal with this stuff almost every day. But we can always learn, and I learned a lot from listening to you more about this where -- and you made some illustrations which I think are very important. When someone has anorexia or another type of situation that is really psychological, physiological, we treat it a certain way.

    Perkins’ comments comparing transgender identities to having an eating disorder mirror talking points from the flawed concept of so-called rapid-onset gender dysphoria, an unvalidated hypothesis that suggests teenagers are coming out as trans due to “social contagion.” However, the original study that promoted the concept was re-evaluated following complaints about its research and methodology, and on March 19, the academic journal which published it issued a correction to note that the study only “serves to develop hypotheses” and that the concept has not been validated.

    In addition to Perkins’ interview, FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg also interviewed Cretella and Heyer in a Facebook video on March 14. During the interview, Sprigg acknowledged the Capitol Hill meetings, and Cretella falsely claimed that being trans is comparable to having anorexia. She also falsely claimed that trans-inclusive policies threaten the safety of women, a myth that has been repeatedly debunked. From the March 14 video:

    PETER SPRIGG (FRC SENIOR FELLOW): I want to move on to now to some of the policy issues, public policy issues, and you’ve been gracious enough to share on Capitol Hill today with members of Congress and their staffs who are considering a number of pieces of legislation that would make gender identity into a protected category under civil rights laws, notably one called the Equality Act, which would include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

    Dr. Cretella, I wanted to ask you about one of the issues that has come up with respect to gender identity protections in public accommodation laws, which is: What does this do for the privacy and safety of women and girls?

    MICHELLE CRETELLA: Sure. You can’t -- if we protect gender identity as if it were a trait like sex, you eliminate girl and women rights. There are no women’s rights. Why? Because any man, any boy can simply proclaim, “I’m a girl.” All you have to do is say it. Being transgender -- OK, transgender people are real in the same sex that anorexic people are real. An anorexic person is a man or a woman who has anorexia, which is an emotional or mental disorder. Transgender people are a man or a woman, men or women, who have a disorder. So in public accomodations, if we protect gender identity, any man can walk into a woman’s restroom. Any man can walk into a women’s locker room, a women’s domestic shelter, homeless shelter, a -- women’s prisons, they can be housed with the women.

    Women and girls’ safety goes out the window, and this is not a bigoted statement. It is reality. Women have fallen prey to male violence for eons. It’s just a fact. It’s a biological fact that men are bigger, taller, stronger, faster. That’s biology, and that is why we’ve always protected women’s spaces and women’s sports.

    Anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media have elevated ACPeds’ bad science as an alternative to the legitimate American Association of Pediatrics

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups such as FRC regularly tout ACPeds as an expert source on scientific and medical issues related to LGBTQ people despite the fact that it is a discredited, partisan organization.

    ACPeds is a small and extreme anti-LGBTQ group of physicians that broke off from the legitimate American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt children and provide foster care. While AAP is a professional organization of 67,000 pediatricians, ACPeds reportedly has only a few hundred members. Cretella and ACPeds have worked for years to discredit trans-affirming science, and right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups have elevated ACPeds’ bad science by presenting the group as a medical authority.

    Right-wing media add to the false perception of ACPeds’ credibility by citing the group as an alternative to trans-affirming AAP guidelines and by using Cretella as a source to dispute trans-affirming care and other trans-inclusive policies. For example, in response to an Associated Press interview with the lead author of AAP’s transgender policy about the differences between sex and gender, the American Family Association’s outlet OneNewsNow quoted Cretella disputing AAP’s points and calling the author a “transgender activist.”

    FRC in particular has given ACPeds a national platform to push anti-trans narratives for years, including hosting Cretella on a panel at its 2018 Values Voter Summit to compare affirming trans identities to “child abuse” with FRC’s Sprigg. In the last six months, Cretella has been on Perkins’ radio show at least three times to discuss the Equality Act, so-called rapid-onset gender dysphoria, and the Trump administration's anti-trans policies.

    FRC and other anti-LGBTQ groups have increasing influence over the Trump administration’s policies and enjoy regular access to members of Congress. For instance, Perkins played a leading role in crafting the Trump administration’s ban on trans service members in the military, and he was appointed as a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

  • Only 29 percent of key debates in 2018 included a question about climate change

    But the percentage rose notably after release of a dramatic climate report from the U.N. IPCC

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS & EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Climate change should have been a topic in every election debate this year. The U.S. was pummeled by extreme weather in 2018, and climate scientists are telling us that climate change is the big reason why. Voters deserved to know what, if anything, candidates propose to do about the problem.

    But climate change got short shrift in most key Senate and gubernatorial debates this election season. Out of 78 debates Media Matters analyzed in tightly contested races, only 23 included a moderator or panelist asking a question about climate change -- just 29 percent. (For details, see our scorecard.)


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    That percentage is up a little from 2016 -- when only 22 percent of debates in key competitive races included a question about climate change -- but it's still far too low.

    Yet we did spot a few encouraging trends.

    After October 7, when the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a major report about the urgent need to address the climate crisis, many more moderators and panelists asked about climate change. Only 7 percent of debates (2 of 27) included a climate question before the release of the IPCC report. After the report came out, 43 percent (21 of 49) included a climate question -- a marked improvement. Nearly half of those questions directly referenced the report.

    The journalists serving as moderators and panelists clearly recognized the importance of the IPCC's warning and became more attuned to the urgency of the climate crisis. We hope this attention to climate change will carry forward and inform their reporting in the future.

    We also found that many voters pushed for climate questions to be included in debates, in red and purple states as well as blue ones. At the first Indiana Senate debate on October 10, moderator Anne Ryder, a senior lecturer at Indiana University's Media School, brought up the topic of climate change and said, "I’ll tell you, we’ve received more questions on this than any other topic." In the next debate in the race, a few weeks later, moderator Amna Nawaz of PBS NewsHour told the candidates that several voters had not been satisfied with the answers they gave previously and asked them to detail specifically what they would do to combat climate change.

    In a Colorado gubernatorial debate on October 23, moderator Nic Garcia, a political reporter for The Denver Post, introduced a question about climate change by saying, "When we asked readers and viewers for questions, overwhelmingly this was the No. 1 topic on their mind." And at an Arizona Senate debate and a Wisconsin gubernatorial debate, moderators asked climate questions that had been submitted by members of the public.

    Ahead of an October 21 Florida gubernatorial debate, citizen activists announced that they were going to press moderator Jake Tapper of CNN to ask a question about climate change. But Tapper caught wind of their plans and tweeted that there was no need; he already knew that climate change was a notable topic. He then made it the subject of his first question at the debate.

    Rep. Jared Polis, Democratic candidate for governor in Colorado, said that voters asked him about climate change more than reporters did. "Climate change and environment are a lot more on the minds of people that I meet, and I've had over 300 meet-and-greets in all parts of the state," he said during an interview on November 1.

    When moderators did ask climate questions during debates, the candidates often revealed dramatically different views on the issue -- important information for voters to know.

    During the October 16 Texas Senate debate, for example moderator Jason Whitely, a reporter at WFAA-TV in Dallas, asked Republican Sen. Ted Cruz about his history of climate change denial. Cruz responded by saying, “The climate has been changing from the dawn of time. The climate will change as long as we have a planet Earth.” Whitely pushed Cruz to clarify his views on climate change, but Cruz again dodged the question. When his turn came, the Democrat in the race, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, said, “Look, the climate is changing, and man-made climate change is a fact. Three hundred years after the Enlightenment, we should be able to listen to the scientists and follow their advice and guidance. And they tell us that we still have time, but the window is closing to get this right."

    At the Arizona Senate debate on October 15, moderator Maria Polletta, a reporter for The Arizona Republic, asked Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Rep. Martha McSally about climate change. Sinema responded by explaining that she wants to work on water issues and said, "I firmly believe that as Arizonans, as Americans, we have the resources, we have the tools, we have the skills, and we have the knowledge. We can address issues of climate change together, and do so without harming our business prospects and without harming what makes Arizona so amazing." McSally, in contrast, was scornful of the topic. "I can’t believe this is the last question," she said before changing the subject.

    With the 2018 election season coming to a close, we need journalists to further ramp up the focus on climate change. As new governors and members of Congress take their seats, they will have to make critical decisions about a rapidly changing electricity system, transportation networks, agriculture and land-use practices, and ways to make our communities more resilient in the face of disasters. Reporters should ask elected officials how climate change will factor into those decisions. And when the 2020 campaign season gets rolling, journalists and media outlets will have a crucial role to play in making sure that climate change is discussed in races from the local level all the way up to the presidency. As the recent IPCC report warned us, there's no more time to waste.

  • The Cruz-O'Rourke debate featured no questions on climate change. Will other debates be better?

    Moderators need to be asking questions about climate change

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A version of this post was originally published on Grist.

    Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke faced off on September 21 in the most high-profile Senate debate yet of the 2018 election season -- and it did not include a single mention of climate change.

    Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, and O'Rourke, the Democratic congressman who's challenging him, have starkly different views on the issue, but voters are not hearing enough about those views. Climate change poses huge threats in Texas, including extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and coastal flooding. The Houston area is still recovering from last year's record-breaking Hurricane Harvey, which multiple scientific studies found was made worse by climate change. Long known as an oil and gas powerhouse, Texas now has a big stake in the clean energy economy, leading the nation in wind power and coming in fifth in solar power.

    But the debate’s moderators -- NBC 5 political reporter Julie Fine and Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers -- didn't ask any questions about climate change or related energy issues. That was a squandered opportunity.

    "I’m disappointed,” Texas resident Sarah Beasley told ThinkProgress, explaining that she had wanted to hear from the candidates on global warming. Nearly 4 in 10 registered voters surveyed earlier this year said a candidate's position on global warming would be very important when they decide who to vote for in 2018 congressional elections.

    Unfortunately, the Cruz-O'Rourke debate was not an outlier. Of 12 debates in competitive Senate and gubernatorial races that Media Matters has analyzed so far this election season, only one included a question about climate change. That's actually worse than what we saw in the 2016 election season, when Media Matters found that less than a quarter of the debates we analyzed in competitive Senate and governor races featured a climate question.

    The Minnesota governor's race provided the sole debate we've analyzed thus far this year that did address climate change. The moderator, Minnesota Public Radio political editor Mike Mulcahy, asked both candidates -- Republican Jeff Johnson and Democrat Tim Walz -- for their views on climate change, asked a follow-up question, and let the candidates respond to each other's answers.

    The resulting exchange, which went on for more than five minutes, was both substantive and informative. Johnson said that "there is quite a disparate opinion on how much" humans contribute to climate change. (If he was talking about the opinion of climate scientists, that's not true.) He also argued that policies to fight climate change could "cost people a lot of money and hurt people" and might not "make any difference."

    In contrast, Walz said, "We can make a difference. We have to make a difference." He pointed out that shifting to clean energy can lead to a stronger economy and job growth. The debate made the candidates' differing views on climate change crystal clear.

    Attention, debate moderators: We need more exchanges like that. Ask candidates to make clear whether they consider climate change to be a serious problem, and what they propose to do about it. Better yet: Ask how they will respond to climate change's local, state, and regional impacts, which differ around the country.

    Dozens more debates will happen over the next six weeks in the lead-up to Election Day, giving the journalists and others who will act as moderators plenty of opportunities to ask candidates about climate change -- arguably the most pressing issue of our time. Media Matters will be updating a scorecard with details about upcoming debates and contact info for moderators, and after debates happen, we'll report on whether moderators brought up climate change.

    Voters deserve to hear candidates publicly state their views, and the rest of the electorate does too. If there's a debate coming up in your state, let the moderators know that you expect climate change to be on the agenda. In Texas, there are two more chances to get it right: Cruz and O'Rourke will meet again at debates on September 30 and October 16. Houston's ABC13 is asking citizens to submit questions for the next debate. Have any suggestions?

  • On TV networks across the nation, meteorologists made a colorful statement about the impacts of climate change

    Weather forecasters used ties, necklaces, and mugs to educate viewers about global warming

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    If you happened to watch your local weather forecast last week, you might have noticed a striking pattern being featured. On June 21, the first day of summer, meteorologists across the country and around the world took part in the #MetsUnite campaign to raise awareness of climate change by featuring a distinctive “warming stripes” pattern in their broadcasts.

    On air and on social media, meteorologists donned ties and necklaces and showed off coffee mugs featuring the red, white, and blue stripes. The pattern, created by climate scientist Ed Hawkins, uses a color scale to illustrate rising global temperatures driven by climate change from 1850 to 2017. From left to right, each stripe represents a year with blue stripes indicating cooler average temperatures and red stripes indicating warmer ones, making for a clear visual representation of our recent record warming.

    Ed Hawkins

    The #MetsUnite campaign was started by meteorologist Jeff Berardelli of CBS affiliate WPEC in West Palm Beach, FL, who was inspired after seeing Hawkins’ image. “It struck me as an opportunity to communicate climate change in the simplest way possible,” Berardelli told The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang. “In the past few years, it seems the impacts of climate change have accelerated. … And most climate scientists agree we have literally no time to spare to turn the ship around. When we look back, we will view 2015 to 2017 as the turning point years; the years when climate change ‘got real.’”

    Berardelli discussed the campaign during his broadcast on June 21 and connected global warming to West Palm Beach, saying, “Here locally, our temperatures have been shooting upwards. In fact, days above normal, back in 1970 we were at about 30; now our days above normal are over 60, so more than double.”

    Altogether, more than 100 meteorologists around the world took part in the campaign, with many of them making impassioned calls for accepting and addressing the reality of global warming.

    On Minnesota CBS affiliate WCCO, meteorologist Mike Augustyniak emphasized humans’ centrality to global warming, stating, “[Today is] a day where meteorologists across the U.S. are uniting as real scientists to say that climate change is real, it’s happening now, it’s us, we’re causing it, and if we act now, we can actually do something to reverse this.”

    One of the strongest segments came from another South Florida station, which is not surprising given that rising sea levels in the region have driven home the reality of climate change for residents and politicians. On NBC affiliate WTVJ, meteorologist John Morales interviewed Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) about the need for Republicans to embrace the science behind climate change and take action to address it. Morales then concluded the segment by stating, “We will continue to enhance the message that we need to act on climate. Climate change is real, it’s us, and it’s serious.”

    And on NBC affiliate KRNV in Reno, NV, meteorologist Cassie Wilson talked about how the city has been experiencing an increasing number of hotter-than-normal days in recent years, and can expect still more thanks to "the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere":

    Even as a large number of meteorologists are making strong statements on climate change, members of Congress are attempting to stymie a program that helps meteorologists communicate about climate science during their broadcasts. On the same day that the #MetsUnite campaign took place, four GOP senators attacked the Climate Matters program, which has received some funding from the National Science Foundation. The senators, including Ted Cruz (R-TX) and James Inhofe (R-OK), sent a letter to the National Science Foundation’s inspector general calling for an investigation into the agency's grant-making process. 

    TV meteorologists are well-positioned to help Americans understand how climate change affects their local communities, climate communications experts say, and the Climate Matters program, which was launched in 2012, is helping them do so. In 2010, only about half of broadcast meteorologists in the U.S. accepted that climate change is happening, according to polling by George Mason University. By 2017, the percentage had risen to 95. And there was a 15-fold increase in TV weather forecasters' segments discussing climate change between 2012 and 2017. In 2018, thanks in part to the #MetsUnite campaign, we're likely to see the number of climate segments keep increasing.

  • Ted Cruz said he always opposed government shutdowns. He told Hannity something else in 2013.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)  told reporters he has “consistently opposed shut downs,” a statement that contradicts his position in 2013.

    In 2013 Politico reported that Cruz’s colleagues were “angry” with him “for helping prompt a government shutdown crisis without a strategy to end it.” And earlier in the year on Hannity, Cruz endorsed the idea of a “partial government shutdown,” while also agreeing with Sean Hannity that the 1995 shutdown was positive because “We got to a balanced budget for the first time.” From the Janury 8, 2013 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): You said something the other day I was really glad you said. I think the Republicans were weak when it came to the fiscal cliff. I think they have a lot more leverage now over the debt ceiling.

    TED CRUZ:  Yep.

    HANNITY: So my question to you, you said they should be willing to shut the government down, not all functions of the government.

    CRUZ:  Right, right.

    HANNITY: What would you shut down and do you think your fellow Republicans will do that?

    CRUZ: Well, I hope we stand strong. The reason we got a lousy deal with the fiscal cliff, is that President Obama had the leverage. Because when you've got divided government, whoever owns the default, whoever wins if nothing is done is in the strongest position, and Obama was in a strong position there because if nothing was done taxes were raised on every American taxpayer. With respect to the debt ceiling, we have the default. If fiscal conservatives stand together we can forcesome substantive reforms, some pro-growth reforms, and if not the effect is not a default and Obama is going to say that over and over and over again, and we’ve got to be very clear, it's not a default we should always, always, always pay our debts. But what the effect would be is a partial government shutdown. And we’ve seen that before, we saw it in 1995 with Republicans in congress.

    HANNITY: It worked. We got to a balanced budget for the first time.

    CRUZ: Year after year after year.

  • Five guidelines for reporting on Trump's sabotage of health care subsidies

    News media face a challenge as Trump rescinds subsidies for millions of working-class Americans

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump announced on October 12 that he would be ending cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers, which have been a crucial part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that have helped ensure low-income Americans can afford health insurance. During the fight over the ACA this summer, media outlets made a litany of mistakes in their health care coverage. Given the dire consequences of this latest move to dismantle the ACA, it’s increasingly important that coverage avoids a few key pitfalls.

    Do: Call this what it is -- part of a long-term effort to sabotage the health care system

    Ending cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments is the latest move in the Republican-led effort to sabotage the ACA, and media must say so. Republican efforts to take down the ACA are nothing new, but they have been regalvanized under Trump’s presidency. A lot of the destruction Trump and his cronies have caused has been in the shadows, and that strategy has fooled the media into neglecting to mention the role of sabotage whenever anything goes wrong in the health care market.

    The ACA was doing fine before Trump got his hands on it. Despite the near constant complaints from right-wing media figures of a “death spiral,” analyses found that the Obamacare markets were “stabilizing.” Even the Trump administration’s own Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a report finding stable markets in 2016.

    This sabotage really shouldn’t be surprising. Trump said he would “let ObamaCare implode,” if congressional efforts to repeal and replace the ACA failed. As Topher Spiro of the Center for American Progress wrote, “It’s now impossible for Republicans to blame Obamacare for any premium increases or insurer exits” given all the attempts to ruin the law.

    Do: Elevate experts who know what they’re talking about

    Health care is complex. There’s no need for media to muddle that complexity with falsehoods from talking heads spouting partisan lies or useless punditry. Fox News, predictably, often relies on its “Medical A-Team” to make dubious claims and lie about health care. CNN similarly has problematicexperts” whom the network often leans on for health care analysis, including Stephen Moore, who has somehow built a career on pushing shoddy predictions, misinformation, and misleading claims. Cable news also too often gives valuable time to pundits who focus on "optics" or politics, rather than policy.

    When real experts have appeared on cable news, however, these doctors, health care beat reporters, and current and former health care officials have effectively debunked misinformation and accurately explained the debate at hand. These are the kind of people media should be hosting. Tell Stephen Moore to take the day off.

    Do: Let people know how Trump’s sabotage will impact them

    Ending CSR payments is going to rattle the markets and increase costs for both the country and millions of Americans. Here are just a few reasons why:

    • HealthAffairs.org’s Timothy Jost noted that without CSR payments, “some insurers might well decide that the government is an unreliable partner and give up on the exchanges for 2018.”

    • The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that premiums for some plans “would, on average, rise by about 20 percent in 2018 relative to the amount in CBO’s March 2016 baseline and rise slightly more in later years.”

    • And the Kaiser Family Foundation found that ending these payments “would result in a net increase in federal costs of $2.3 billion” next year compared to current projections.

    These facts should be front and center in every report and interview about Trump’s newest move. In the past, local newspapers, cable morning shows, Sunday political shows, prime-time cable news, broadcast news, and national newspapers have omitted key consequences of health care proposals from their reporting. Media should learn from past mistakes and bring attention to these consequences.

    Don’t: Fall for the conservative “bailout” spin

    Conservatives have repeatedly tried to frame CSRs as “bailouts” to the insurance industry. The problem with that is they’re wrong.

    Trump used the “bailout” spin in July:

    Fox & Friends did this morning:

    And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did the same thing on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom today:

    As The Washington Post Fact Checker explained, “A bailout means a company is being propped up with government money after making bad decisions. That’s not the case here.” Additionally, according to the Commonwealth Fund, the payments are reimbursements the federal government gives to insurers for providing subsidies that include “lower copayments and deductibles for people in households earning between 100 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty level.”

    Republicans want people to think these payments are bailouts, because that sounds a lot more scandalous than helping low-income people buy insurance. Media shouldn’t adopt that frame.

    Don’t: Let Republicans off the hook for their hypocrisy

    Many of the ways Trump has acted to sabotage the ACA have been through executive order or unilateral action from the executive branch. Predictably, under former President Barack Obama, Republicans routinely freaked out over any executive order or unilateral action het put into place. If they come out supporting Trump’s use of unilateral action to end these payments, they should be called out as hypocrites.

    Two Republicans vocal in their opposition to Obama’s use of executive orders were Cruz and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). When Cruz appeared on the October 13 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom to cheer Trump’s decision to end these payments, he was not asked about this hypocrisy:

    Jordan, however, was challenged on this point during his appearance on the October 13 edition of CNN’s New Day, with co-host Chris Cuomo pressing him on his previous criticism of unilateral action by the executive branch:

    All journalists should follow Cuomo’s line of questioning when speaking to any lawmaker in the coming days who was critical of Obama’s use of executive power, especially on health care.

  • “Mind control,” “shadow government,” and Seth Rich: Sean Hannity’s history of pushing conspiracy theories

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News host Sean Hannity attracted widespread condemnation for pushing conspiracy theories about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, but it wasn’t his first time promoting or entertaining such wild claims on air. From claiming that the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem because he “may have converted to Islam” to implying that former President Barack Obama is a terrorist sympathizer, here are some examples of Hannity embracing conspiracy theories.

  • How Fox News’ Male Hosts Are Endangering Women All Across America 

    Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson, And Sean Hannity Are Almost Always Wrong About Abortion, And They’re Giving Other Men A Platform To Push Further Misinformation

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    If you’re searching for the most misinformation-filled block of television during evening cable, look no further than the Fox News lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity. In a finding that will shock almost nobody with even cursory knowledge about abortion and reproductive rights, this all-male lineup has spent the past 12 months promoting rampant misinformation on these topics.

    Media Matters analyzed evening prime-time news programs on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC from March 7, 2016 through March 1, 2017, for segments featuring a substantial discussion of abortion and reproductive rights. The 354 total segments were then coded for the number of accurate or inaccurate statements they contained about three topics: the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and late-term abortion.

    Out of 116 total statements made during The O’Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity (out of 120 total statements on the network), 103 were inaccurate. If the sheer amount of misinformation isn't enough, the vast majority of them were made by men. Of the 110 total appearances by hosts, guests, or network correspondents on these programs in 12 months, 81 were made by men (74 percent).

    When seeking information about abortion -- particularly accurate information -- most women presumably wouldn’t turn first to a man. Fox News, however, has ensured its prime-time block is dominated by male voices.

    With the exception of The Kelly File, which ceased airing after then-Fox news host Megyn Kelly left the channel, and The First 100 Days, which didn’t begin airing until after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Fox’s prime-time evening lineup is dominated by male-hosted programs. And these programs also promote mainly male voices when it comes to the topics of abortion and reproductive rights.

    From March 7, 2016, through March 1, 2017, The O’Reilly Factor featured 47 appearances from men (71 percent) and only 19 from women (29 percent) during segments about abortion. During the same 12-month period, there were 26 appearances by men (76 percent) and only eight by women (24 percent) to discuss reproductive rights on Hannity. Tucker Carlson Tonight did not begin airing until after the 2016 election, making the sample size smaller than either The O’Reilly Factor or Hannity. However, of the five months of Tucker Carlson Tonight considered in Media Matters’ analysis, the program featured 80 percent male appearances in discussions about the reproductive rights of women.

    Overall, during the 12-month study period, 74 percent of appearances among all three programs featured men talking about abortion and reproductive rights. Excluding guests who were employed by Fox News (as professional commentators, analysts, or contributors), all three programs also largely hosted male guests, many of whom have a history of anti-choice policy making.

    For example, The O’Reilly Factor served as a platform for guests including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Mike Pence -- all of whom have openly supported anti-choice policies. The male guests on Hannity unsurprisingly included Reince Priebus, who would become Trump’s chief of staff, and then-Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci.

    Hannity was also the only person on evening cable news to host discredited anti-choice activist David Daleiden, founder of CMP. Every other program -- even, surprisingly, other Fox News programs -- deemed the anti-abortion activist who deceptively edited smear videos and has since been charged with 15 felonies in California an unpalatable guest.

    Luckily for Daleiden, there’s always Sean Hannity. With their powers combined, Daleiden and Hannity managed to conduct a full segment featuring 100 percent inaccurate information in terms of CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential services, and late-term abortion. During his April 2016 appearance on Hannity, Daleiden made five inaccurate statements about the veracity of CMP’s work -- even though multiple state and federal investigations found that the organization's claims about abortion providers were baseless. Hannity himself contributed three inaccurate statements about CMP during the segment and zero accurate ones. This pattern was not limited to just his segment with Daleiden, however. Hannity managed to make only inaccurate statements on these topics throughout the entire study period.

    Although Tucker Carlson appears to share Daleiden’s affinity for employing deceptive editing and even using actors to represent highly curated versions of opposing viewpoints, he managed -- without Daleiden's help -- to be wrong 100 percent of the time about CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential services, and late-term abortion.

    O’Reilly, Hannity, and Carlson also featured primarily guests who openly represent anti-abortion organizations, including Marjorie Dannenfelser (president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List), conservative commentator Crystal Wright, Alveda King (anti-abortion activist for Priests for Life and Civil Rights for the Unborn), and Abby Johnson (founder of CEO of And Then There Were None).

    Overall, Media Matters’ analysis found that 80 percent of statements about CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential servies, and late-term abortion made during Fox News’ evening prime-time programming were inaccurate. It should come as no surprise that The O’Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity were responsible for 67 percent of the network’s inaccurate statements.

    Then again, if your ace prime-time lineup is composed of a man accused of being a serial sexual predator who can’t stop advertisers from fleeing his program (and is likely about to lose it), a hero of white nationalists who is known for bullying his guests, and Sean Hannity, you’re probably not that worried about ensuring accuracy or giving women’s voices an equal platform.

    *Graphics by Sarah Wasko