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CNN has suspended political commentator Paris Dennard after a Washington Post report detailed allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior during his tenure as the events director for Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership. During Dennard’s time as a political commentator at CNN, he staunchly defended President Donald Trump against reports that Trump sexually harassed and assaulted several women, attacking the reporting and complaining that such stories “destroy[s] people’s credibility” and “tear people down” using “unsubstantiated facts.”
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Fox News is dominating the conversation about abortion on evening cable news -- and the network is doing it all wrong
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.
CNN contributor and right-wing radio host Ben Ferguson gave up the game on one of right-wing media’s favorite inaccurate talking points about Planned Parenthood, admitting that the organization does not use taxpayer funding to cover abortion services.
The comment came during a discussion on the March 27 edition of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon about the National Rifle Association (NRA) saying that it accepts foreign donations. Ferguson was attempting to defend the NRA’s assertion that its foreign donations are separate from election contributions. He stated that the NRA is “separating the funds” in “the same way that Planned Parenthood, for example, is not allowed to use funds that come from the American taxpayers for abortions. They separate it.” Later in the segment, Ferguson again said that there are “certain guidelines” about where Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding goes and “that money cannot be used directly for abortion services.”
After host Don Lemon called out Ferguson’s double standard, saying that “the criticism from those on the right” is that Planned Parenthood doesn’t separate taxpayer funding from its abortion funding, Ferguson claimed conservatives were actually mad that Planned Parenthood receives taxpayer funding at all. However, the myth that Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding supports its abortion services is a frequent right-wing talking point, often framed around the idea that “money is fungible.” In reality, as Ferguson alluded to, the Hyde Amendment prohibits any federal funding from going to abortions. Planned Parenthood merely receives reimbursement for services covered under Medicaid. From the March 27 edition of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon:
DON LEMON (HOST): Do you think that that practice will invite the misuse of funds, Ben? I mean, if they don't take foreign money, they don't have to worry about the funds being used illegally.
BEN FERGUSON: I don't. And I think the NRA is pretty smart about this, separating the funds. The same way that Planned Parenthood, for example, is not allowed to use funds that come from the American taxpayers for abortions. They separate it, so that there is a very clear separation line here when you know you're going to be under scrutiny from people that don't like you. It's not illegal for the NRA to take foreign funds. Many nonprofits and many groups that have activism or ideas like this and others on the conservative/liberal side for decades have been taking foreign funds from people that support what they're about and what they're backing. I don't think there is going to be an issue here. I think certainly people want to play politics with this. But I think the NRA knows that they're under a microscope and have been for years. And they've never had problems with this in the past.
LEMON: So, but the critics on the right say the money always can't be separate when it comes to Planned Parenthood and abortions. That's really the criticism from those on the right. But you're saying now --
FERGUSON: Well, the criticism --
LEMON: -- that the NRA can separate.
FERGUSON: Not really. It’s not -- it's not the criticism.
ANGELA RYE: Yeah, it is.
FERGUSON: The criticism is that you're taking my taxpayer's dollars and you're giving them to an organization that is the number one abortion provider in the U.S. They give more abortions than anybody else with my tax dollars.
LEMON: Ben, you're saying the money can be separated.
FERGUSON: No one is giving money --
LEMON: You just said in one breath, though --
FERGUSON: Right, here’s the point --
LEMON: -- that the money can be separated when it comes to the NRA, no matter where it comes from, foreign entities or whatever.
FERGUSON: Again --
LEMON: So, if people are paying tax money, and they’re saying your tax dollars will not go towards abortions, so --
FERGUSON: There is a fundamental difference between Planned Parenthood and the NRA. The NRA does not receive taxpayers’ dollars. If they did, many people like Angela would be very upset with that. That is why I'm upset --
RYE: First of all --
FERGUSON: -- with Planned Parenthood receiving funds. My point was again this: There are certain guidelines that go in that make it very clear that you cannot have taxpayers’ dollars when it goes -- and hundreds of millions of dollars a year go to Planned Parenthood. That money cannot be used directly for abortion services.
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During his December 13 radio show, CNN pro-Trump contributor Ed Martin attacked his fellow CNN employees calling them "rabid feminists" and "black racists" while calling the network "the swamp" and "the beast."
During coverage of the December 12 Alabama special election, Martin shilled for Trump and for defeated Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore while aggressively confronting fellow contributor and panel member Ana Navarro. Others on the panel included Symone Sanders and journalist April Ryan. The following day, while hosting his radio show The Ed Martin Movement, Martin attacked his co-panelists, calling them "rabid feminists" and "black racists." Martin, who has previously called CNN "fake news," also went after the network, referring to it as "the swamp."
ED MARTIN: What happens when you're trying to drain the swamp, is the swamp fights back. And so when I was in Washington, D.C., last night, and you might have seen it if you saw it, it was a hot night, a hot topic. It was a wild panel, we had two or three people on there that were just rabid feminists, actually racial -- racists, two of the women were racists, they were just racists, black racists. Everything that you say is going to be called racist. I mean, it was outrageous, but anyway.
Roy Moore's problem was not only the accusations that were, I think, unfairly leveled against him -- and they were you know, attacks on whether 40 years ago he had abused someone, or misused someone or mistreated someone. But then they were down the stretch they were he had said things about various positions including slavery and homosexuality and things, and they were all characterized in a way. None of that matters when I tell you the following fact, as I sat on the stage, on the set in the CNN studios. I mean, I go into the swamp, I enter the beast so you don't have to, so I can report back on what I found and here's what I found. What you need to know, what you need to know, what you must know, what you hear after I tell you, what you will now know, and what you can't forget, it has to inform what you do. As I sat on the stage next to this woman that's just racist, who went crazy, and everything is about race, she confessed -- that's the word I'd use -- but she confessed that her groups had 'mobilized,' that's the term they used, 'mobilized' voters in Alabama spending up to $3 million dollars to mobilize black voters in the cities.
While Martin has only been a CNN contributor for a few months, he has already raised eyebrows. Earlier this week, Martin defended Moore's dismissive comments about slavery by stating, "when the Jews were in bondage for years, they still loved each other." Previously, he attacked a woman who reported that Roy Moore molested her as a child, asking, "what is this woman? She's got multiple bankruptcies." He also defended President Donald Trump's ethnically-based insults against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) calling them "fun and effective," and "100 percent" appropriate.
(h/t Right Wing Watch's Miranda Blue)
President Donald Trump’s latest anti-Muslim retweet spree was racist, misleading, and, above all, indefensible.
Somehow CNN didn’t get the memo.
Trump on November 29 retweeted three anti-Muslim videos that were posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the far-right, ultranationalist Britain First political organization, who has previously been "charged with causing religiously aggravated harassment.”
Beyond being incredibly racist, these tweets were also highly misleading. Several media outlets fact-checked the claims in these videos, determining one of them to be “false” and all three “overlaid with a message meant to be a blunt hammer blow for a cause.” Additionally, civil rights groups pointed out that Trump’s tweets “further inflame” violence and hate aimed at Muslims in a climate when “hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim bias are at an all-time high.”
Trump's retweets were widely condemned by American and British officials, including Prime Minister Theresa May. However, CNN covered these tweets, as it covers many other issues, through a series of panel discussions comprising talking heads who move the conversation absolutely nowhere. Many of these panels were stacked with a Trump supporter who attempted to defend the president’s atrocious social media posts.
On CNN Newsroom with John Berman and Poppy Harlow, CNN contributor Ben Ferguson stated, “If I would have seen these videos … I would have probably tweeted that out and said to myself, ‘This is something the world needs to see.’”
On CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, CNN political commentator Andre Bauer claimed the U.S. has gotten “numb to the continual victimization of American people by people that come over to this country to cause us harm” and praised Trump for “continu[ing] to remind us about it.”
On The Lead with Jake Tapper, CNN political commentator and former Trump campaign strategist David Urban dismissed “the notion that somehow we’re radicalizing folks in the rest of the world” through the spread of anti-Muslim propaganda.
On Anderson Cooper 360, panelist James Schultz, who served as White House ethics lawyer under Trump, attempted to defend the president by asserting that “radical Islamic terrorists do bad things.” Schultz claimed, “It’s not the best choice of videos. Without a doubt, they are fake videos. But for you to say [Trump’s] characterizing all Muslims that way, it’s just flat out wrong.”
And on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, CNN political commentator Ed Martin said the series of tweets was “not a very good move,” but that critics of the tweets were “missing the forest for the trees. No one that looks with a serious eye at Europe doesn’t recognize that there is a problem with Muslim and Islamic fanatics.” Martin contended that Trump’s tweets were helping the problem by “starting a conversation.”
CNN’s “both sides” panel structure assumes that every issue has two valid sides, and that often those sides are best defined along partisan lines. In the case of Trump’s tweets, that is patently false. These tweets are bigoted and misleading, and anyone who says otherwise is not being intellectually or morally honest.
By introducing two sides to this debate, CNN is muddying the truth about these videos. Given that we now live in an age where the president often takes his cues from what he sees on cable news, CNN’s “both sides” strategy is irresponsible and potentially dangerous.
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Martin: “What is this woman? She’s got multiple bankruptcies"
CNN aired a segment featuring political commentator Ed Martin in which he attacked the woman who reported that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore molested her as a child, saying, “What is this woman? She’s got multiple bankruptcies, it’s reported.”
The Washington Post reported that Leigh Corfman said Moore molested her when she was 14 and he was 32. Three other women told the Post that “Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s.”
Martin, who endorsed Moore in September, did not respond to a request for comment from Media Matters this week about whether he still supports Moore in light of the Post investigation. But during an appearance on the November 10 edition of CNN Tonight, he made clear that he does. Martin told CNN viewers that the story is a “political hit” and said that he believes Moore in part because the woman has had “multiple bankruptcies.”
DON LEMON (HOST): Do you believe Roy Moore, or do you believe the women?
ED MARTIN (CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR): I believe Roy Moore because why? Because after 40 years and 40 days before the election, you get a political hit? Don, if you’re remotely serious, you have to first say: What is this woman? She’s got multiple bankruptcies, it’s reported. She’s got multiple false accusations, it’s reported. Is any of that being covered? When [Sen. Mitch] McConnell comes out and says with a straight face before any of those facts are got, he says, “Oh boy if it’s true, he has to get out of the race.” That’s called a political hit. And Don, we the people, the American people, we’re sick of both parties, Democrats and Republicans.
LEMON: I’ve got to get Evan [McMullin] in but I have to say, I don’t know, I don't -- it is not CNN’s reporting about any false allegations, we will certainly check into that.
MARTIN: OK, good.
LEMON: But she admitted in The Washington Post article that she has a past and that she was afraid that people would use it against her.
Martin joined CNN in September despite having previously called the network “fake news” and “state-run media.” He joins a stable of at least a dozen other pro-Trump CNN commentators who often provide theatrics instead of informative segments on the cable network.
He previously co-authored a book suggesting that only immigrants from European countries could have American “values” and arguing that accepting immigrants “from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East” helps tear “apart our nation’s heritage and social fabric.”
Martin is not the only CNN talking head who has been trying to help get Moore elected. Network contributor Ken Cuccinelli and his Senate Conservatives Fund group endorsed the Alabama Republican in September. A message sent to that group by Media Matters about the endorsement was not returned.
Even when the NFL story was old and the fire story was new, Fox still gave more coverage to the Trump-triggered NFL narrative
Prime-time cable news shows devoted more than three and a half times as much coverage to the NFL controversy that President Donald Trump stirred up as they did to historic wildfires in California, Media Matters found in an analysis of coverage the week after each incident began. Even when the NFL controversy was weeks old and the wildfires were at their peak, Fox News still devoted more than twice as much coverage to the Trump-sparked NFL story as to the fires.
On September 22, Trump kicked off a national controversy when he criticized NFL players who kneeled during pre-game national anthems to protest racism and police brutality. During a campaign rally in Alabama, Trump mused, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” NFL players, coaches, and owners responded by staging more protests, and in subsequent days and weeks, Trump added fuel to the controversy by doubling down on his initial criticism and threatening to revoke the NFL’s non-profit status over the protests (even though the NFL had given up that non-profit status in 2015).
Just over two weeks after Trump's initial comments about the protests, California experienced the deadliest wildfires in the state’s history. Beginning on October 8, wildfires spread across Northern California in what the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) dubbed the October Fire Siege. According to CAL FIRE, "there were 21 major wildfires that ... burned over 245,000 acres, ... forced 100,000 to evacuate, destroyed an estimated 6,900 structures," and killed 42 people. Estimates of the fires’ damage are as high as $6 billion, making them likely to rank among the most expensive natural disasters in California history.
Though the fires were both deadly and economically devastating, the major cable news networks devoted three and a half times as much coverage to the Trump-triggered NFL controversy as they did to the wildfires on their prime-time, weekday shows during the week after each incident began. Media Matters analyzed the first full week of coverage after the NFL controversy kicked off and the first full week of coverage after the California wildfires began burning.
From September 25 to September 29, prime-time cable news shows aired a combined 136 segments about the NFL controversy, with CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News airing 62, 28, and 46 segments, respectively.
By comparison, prime-time cable news shows devoted significantly less coverage to the California wildfires during the first week of coverage of the October Fire Siege. From October 9 to October 13, the prime-time cable shows aired a combined 38 segments on the fires, with CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News airing 19, nine, and 10 segments, respectively. The NFL controversy got 358 percent more coverage -- more than three and a half times as much.
Media Matters also compared coverage of the two different stories during the same week, October 9-13, starting one day after the wildfires began and 17 days after Trump’s first NFL comments. Even during this period, when the wildfires were most destructive and the NFL controversy was more than two weeks old, Fox News’ prime-time shows still devoted more than twice as many segments to the NFL controversy as they did to the fires -- 22 versus 10. CNN and MSNBC, however, both aired more segments about the wildfires during this week.
Cable news’ tendency to focus on Trump's controversial comments and tweets rather than other news that directly affects viewers' lives is unfortunately nothing new (The NFL players’ protests raise important concerns about racism and police brutality, but Trump’s outbursts did not help address those issues.). Cable news networks have been more than willing to sacrifice substantive news stories for anything Trump-related because coverage of the president and his contentious statements has brought them record profits and viewership numbers. But the fact that coverage of a Trump-triggered controversy going into its third week can still compete with and even exceed coverage of historically devastating wildfires puts a fine point on just how bad the problem is.
Zachary Pleat, Alex Morash, and Rebecca Damante contributed research to this report. Charts by Sarah Wasko.
Media Matters searched Nexis for transcripts of segments about the controversy around NFL protests and the October Fire Siege in California. To identify segments about the NFL controversy, we used the search term (NFL OR anthem OR kneel! OR pledge OR kaepernick OR stand! OR allegiance). To identify segments about the California wildfires, we used the search term (wildfire OR fire) AND (sonoma OR napa OR mendicino OR north bay OR california OR yuba OR solano OR butte OR lake county).
We analyzed the prime-time, weekday news shows on the three major cable news networks, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. For CNN, we reviewed shows that air from 5 p.m. to midnight. For MSNBC and and Fox News, we reviewed shows that air from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. (MSNBC’s 11 p.m. show, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, is not indexed in Nexis and so was excluded; Fox News airs a re-run of Tucker Carlson Tonight at 11 p.m., and our study did not count repeat airings of the show). Our time frame for analyzing coverage of the NFL controversy was September 25, three days after Trump’s initial comments, to September 29. Our time frame for analyzing coverage of the California wildfires was October 9, one day after the fires started, to October 13.
We defined “segments” as instances where more than one individual discussed either topic during a panel discussion, or when a host or correspondent mentioned either topic as part of a news brief or headline rundown. Our analysis excluded teasers and passing mentions where a speaker mentioned either the NFL controversy or the California wildfires without any other speaker in the segment engaging.
NBC finally addressed connection in Irma coverage, after failing during Harvey, while ABC made only a cursory mention
After failing to note the impact of climate change on hurricanes in their coverage of Hurricane Harvey, ABC and NBC both discussed the link while covering Irma, Media Matters has found in a new analysis of coverage of the more recent storm. But NBC did a better job: It ran a segment that featured a scientist explaining the climate-hurricane connection, while ABC’s sole mention of climate change was cursory and failed to provide viewers with much information.
Media Matters also analyzed weekday prime-time cable news coverage of Irma and found that Fox News continued its pattern of dismissing climate change, while MSNBC provided extensive coverage of the link between climate change and hurricanes.
This new analysis of Irma coverage builds on a recent Media Matters study that looked at broadcast and cable news coverage of Hurricane Harvey.
Climate scientists have explained how climate change exacerbates some of the worst impacts of hurricanes like Harvey and Irma: Rising sea levels lead to worse storm surges; warmer temperatures increase the amount of moisture in the atmosphere and lead to more rainfall; and warmer ocean waters make the storms more intense.
Media Matters found that during Hurricane Harvey coverage from August 23 to September 7, ABC and NBC completely failed to discuss the link between climate change and hurricanes on any of their morning, nightly, or Sunday news shows. NBC did notably better during its coverage of Hurricane Irma, while ABC made only slight improvement, according to a new analysis of coverage from September 4 -- two days before Irma reached Puerto Rico -- to September 13.
On September 9, an NBC Nightly News segment featured an interview with Oscar Schofield, chair of the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, who explained, “The ocean is going to continue to warm, and the predictions from a lot of the climate scientists are that we're going to get more and more of these extreme events.” On that same day's episode of NBC's Today, correspondent Kerry Sanders introduced a segment about sea level rise by saying, “Whether you accept or don't what scientists say that global warming is raising our world's oceans, there's an undeniable fact here on Miami Beach: They’ve had to raise the sidewalks and roads … [because] much of Miami Beach goes under water.”
On the other hand, ABC’s sole mention of climate change during Irma coverage was brief and uninformative. After ABC meteorologist Ginger Zee answered viewer questions about Irma on the September 11 episode of Good Morning America, host George Stephanopoulos said, “I want to throw out one more question, because a lot of people look at these two back-to-back hurricanes -- two powerful hurricanes back-to-back -- and think there must be some connection to climate change.” Zee responded, “And I think it’s irresponsible not to talk about the warmth of the earth, and you have to get that," but then she went on to another subject and said nothing about how climate change influences storms.
In Irma coverage on the other broadcast networks, CBS aired two segments discussing the impact of climate change on hurricanes on CBS This Morning, while PBS aired none (though it did discuss how climate change worsens storm surges in a September 4 segment on flooding in Bangladesh on PBS NewsHour). During their coverage of Hurricane Harvey, CBS and PBS each aired three segments highlighting climate change’s impact on hurricanes.
Media Matters’ analysis of Hurricane Harvey coverage on the major cable networks’ prime-time weekday shows found that MSNBC and CNN each aired five segments noting climate change’s impact on hurricanes. A follow-up analysis of the prime-time cable news networks’ Hurricane Irma coverage found that MSNBC aired more segments discussing the climate-hurricane link and CNN aired fewer.
From September 4 to September 13, MSNBC aired 13 prime-time segments that discussed climate change’s impact on hurricanes, in some cases including multiple discussions of climate change in a one-hour block. For instance, on September 8, the 8 p.m. broadcast of MSNBC Live on featured three segments in which host Chris Hayes brought up climate change with guests, and the 10 p.m. broadcast featured two instances of host Ali Velshi raising the topic of climate change. MSNBC hosts also brought up the climate-hurricane link on the September 6 and September 11 episodes of All In with Chris Hayes; the September 7, September 8, and September 13 episodes of Hardball with Chris Matthews; the September 13 episode of The Beat with Ari Melber; and the September 8 and September 12 episodes of MTP Daily.
CNN's prime-time weekday Irma coverage featured two segments about the relationship between climate change and hurricanes from September 4 to September 13. Erin Burnett discussed the Trump administration’s refusal to talk about climate change in the wake of the hurricanes on the September 13 episode of Erin Burnett OutFront. The same topic came up on the September 12 episode of CNN Tonight during Don Lemon’s interview with Bob Inglis of RepublicEN and climate denier Myron Ebell, who dismissed the link between climate change and hurricanes by citing an overblown statistic about the lack of major hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. since 2005.
Fox News' prime-time Irma coverage included four mentions of climate change, but they were not informative. The network's hosts discussed the climate-hurricane link the same way they did during Harvey coverage: by criticizing those who raised the issue. The September 11 and September 13 episodes of Fox's The Five both featured lengthy discussions in which hosts accused people who brought up climate change’s impact on Hurricane Irma of behaving inappropriately, saying that they were making claims based on “anecdotal evidence,” acting out of liberal “guilt,” and attempting to shame people. The five-minute group rant on the September 11 episode ended with co-host Dana Perino claiming that actress Jennifer Lawrence had blamed Donald Trump for the hurricanes -- a mischaracterization of her actual statement. Fox ran another misleading segment about Lawrence’s comments on the September 8 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight. According to The Daily Beast, Lawrence’s comments also came up on four other occasions during Fox's weekend coverage of Irma.
Fox's final prime-time mention of the link between climate change and Hurricane Irma came during the September 13 episode of The Story with Martha MacCullum, in which MacCullum said “things got political” during a celebrity telethon for hurricane relief when Stevie Wonder brought up climate change.
Media Matters ran the search terms “Irma AND (climate OR warming OR emission! OR carbon OR CO2 OR greenhouse gas!)” in Nexis and searched for “climate change” and “global warming” in SnapStream to identify segments between September 4 and September 13 that mentioned both the hurricane and climate change.
On the broadcast networks, we examined the morning, evening, and Sunday news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as PBS NewsHour, the only PBS program archived in Nexis. For CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, we examined the networks’ prime-time shows that air on weekdays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
We counted instances of network hosts, anchors, correspondents, and recurring guest panelists mentioning climate change but excluded instances when other guests brought up climate change unprompted.
A Media Matters analysis of Hurricane Harvey broadcast coverage from August 23 to September 7 found that neither ABC nor NBC aired a single segment on their morning, evening, or Sunday news shows that mentioned the link between climate change and hurricanes like Harvey, while CBS and PBS NewsHour each aired three. A review of prime-time coverage of Harvey on the three major cable news networks found that Fox aired six segments that mentioned climate change, but most of them dismissed the link between climate change and hurricanes, while CNN and MSNBC each aired five segments that legitimately discussed the link.
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