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  • STUDY: EPA chief Scott Pruitt has given more interviews to Fox than to all other major TV networks combined

    Pruitt shares the Trump administration’s preference for Fox News and right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has appeared on Fox News twice as often as on other cable and broadcast networks combined, and he has frequently granted interviews to right-wing talk radio shows and other climate-denying outlets, Media Matters has found.

    Pruitt’s media strategy is right in line with that of his boss. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump eschewed mainstream media outlets; it's a pattern his administration has continued since the election, favoring conservative and right-wing media outlets that are friendly to President Trump's agenda. By following the same approach, Pruitt has been able to push misinformation, avoid tough questioning, and appeal to the president’s political base.

    Pruitt appeared on Fox News twice as often as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined

    Scott Pruitt has been a guest on Fox News a total of 12 times since his confirmation. From February 17, when he was sworn in, to August 14, Pruitt made twice as many appearances on Fox News (12) as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined (6).* With the exception of two appearances on Fox News Sunday, Pruitt rarely faced tough questions on Fox News and was able to use the network as a platform for pushing misleading talking points without rebuttal. Pruitt appeared most frequently on Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite show, which some journalists have criticized as “state TV” and “a daily infomercial for the Trump presidency” for its sycophantic coverage of the president and his administration. Pruitt made the following appearances on Fox News:

    By comparison, Pruitt made only six appearances on the other major cable and broadcast television networks combined. From the time Pruitt took the helm at the EPA through August 14, he was a guest just six times total on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and NBC, and he made no appearances at all on CBS. On each of these non-Fox programs, Pruitt faced questions either about whether Trump still believes climate change is a hoax or about Pruitt's own views on climate change. In response, Pruitt either avoided answering the question or repeated his “lukewarmer” stance that climate change is happening but we don’t know how much is human-caused. In all but one of these appearances, Pruitt repeated false or misleading talking points about the Paris climate agreement. Here are Pruitt's guest appearances on cable news and broadcast networks other than Fox:

    • One appearance on CNN’s The Situation Room on February 28.
    • One appearance on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper on June 1.
    • One appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on June 6.
    • Two appearances on ABC’s This Week on March 26 and June 4.
    • One appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press on June 4.

    *Pruitt’s appearance on Meet the Press aired on both NBC and MSNBC, but for the purposes of this study, we only counted it as an NBC appearance.

    Pruitt has been a frequent guest on national right-wing talk radio shows

    Pruitt has also been a frequent guest on nationally broadcast right-wing talk radio shows since his confirmation, Media Matters found. We examined the top 10 shows listed on Talkers.com's Top Talk Audiences list, as well as numerous shows broadcast on the SiriusXM Patriot channel, and found the following:

    • Three appearances on Salem Radio Network’s The Hugh Hewitt Show on March 29, May 11, and June 2.
    • Two appearances on Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade Show on April 27 and May 19.
    • One appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s David Webb Show on April 26.
    • One appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s Breitbart News Daily on June 5.
    • One appearance on Westwood One’s The Savage Nation on June 1.

    All of these hosts or outlets have denied climate change:

    • Hugh Hewitt has a years-long record of climate denial: He wrote in a 2011 blog post that “we don’t know” how much humans contribute to global warming or “if it will be harmful or if there's anything we can do about it.” Hewitt also downplayed the threat of climate change in a September 2016 episode of his show in which he said that warming might be "a real problem over 500 years."
    • Brian Kilmeade has denied climate change, both as a host on his radio show and as a co-host on Fox & Friends. On a 2013 episode of his radio show (then called Kilmeade & Friends), Kilmeade suggested that only “corrupt” climatologists accept human-caused climate change. On the same day, Kilmeade disputed on Fox & Friends that it is “settled scientific collective thought” that human activity causes climate change. 
    • On the January 12, 2017, episode of the David Webb Show, Webb cast doubt on the scientific consensus around climate change, arguing that it's not significant that the vast majority of climate scientists publishing peer-reviewed research agree on the human causes of warming: "You can have 99 percent of peer-reviewed, but it doesn’t mean that the one percent like that guy named Copernicus won’t be correct about the fact that the Earth was not flat and we were not the center of the universe.”
    • Breitbart.com has a long track record of pushing blatant climate science misinformation and attacking climate scientists and climate science, calling researchers “talentless low-lives” and “abject liars” and climate change a “hoax.” Breitbart is also a go-to outlet for fossil fuel industry-funded academics who want to get publicity for their work.
    • Michael Savage has echoed Trump’s position on climate change, calling it a “scam” and a “hoax,” and has urged the president to continue denying that humans are the cause of global warming. During his June 1 interview with Scott Pruitt, Savage repeated the denier argument that human-made climate change is disproven by samples from the Vostok ice core in Antarctica and criticized Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for promoting “fake science.” In response, Pruitt appeared to endorse Savage’s views and floated the idea of having a "red team" of skeptical scientists debate a "blue team" of mainstream climate scientists, a proposal Pruitt pushed again a few days later on Breitbart’s radio program:
    MICHAEL SAVAGE (HOST): Please explain to me how come ancient core samples from the Antarctic show that there was climate change going on hundreds of thousands of years before man industrialized. [Whitehouse] would not have an answer for us, Mr. Pruitt. The science is fake science that they’ve been foisting upon a gullible public.
    SCOTT PRUITT: You know what’s interesting, Michael? There was a great article in The Wall Street Journal to your point, by Steven Koonin, a scientist at NYU, called “red team/blue team.” I don’t know if you saw it or not. But he proposed that we should have a red team/blue team approach with respect to CO2. We should have red team scientists and blue team scientists, in an open setting, debate, discuss, and have an open discussion about what do we know, what don’t we know, and the American people deserve truth.
    SAVAGE: Amen to that, because we’ve had no debate whatsoever. All Obama told us was 98 percent of scientists agree. So what? There was a time when 100 percent of scientists said the Earth is flat. Did that make them right?
    PRUITT: No, look, I mean the reason there’s not consensus, through policy in Washington, D.C., is because, truly, the American people don’t trust what has happened in the past several years with respect to regulatory policy and this issue.

    Pruitt’s right-wing radio appearances have extended beyond nationally broadcast shows. E&E News reported in May that Pruitt appeared on “the local morning talk radio show of a North Dakota blogger who described the Obama administration's EPA as an enemy to the well-being of his state.” ThinkProgress noted that during a “state listening tour” in North Dakota earlier this month, “Pruitt stopped by the conservative talk radio show What’s On Your Mind to share his thoughts on a number of EPA-related issues.” During that conversation, Pruitt referred to the “so-called settled science” of climate change.

    And on August 10, Pruitt appeared on a Texas radio show, Politico reported, where he said his staff will assess the "accuracy" of a major federal climate report that's been drafted by scientists from 13 agencies. “Frankly this report ought to be subjected to peer-reviewed, objective-reviewed methodology and evaluation,” he said, ignoring the fact that the report has already undergone extensive peer review. Pruitt also used his appearance on the show to cast doubt on climate science in general.

    Pruitt has given interviews to other climate-denying outlets, including online publications and cable business shows

    In addition to his June interview on Breitbart’s radio show, Pruitt granted the Breitbart website an interview in March.

    Pruitt also sat for a lengthy video interview in July with the fossil fuel-funded Daily Caller, another denialist online outlet. And he gave an interview in May to The Daily Signal, an online news outlet run by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that casts doubt on climate change.

    Besides his appearances on cable news shows, Pruitt also went on cable business shows and networks that serve as platforms for climate denial -- most notably CNBC’s Squawk Box, where he told climate-denying host Joe Kernen that he did not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. Pruitt has also frequently given interviews on Fox Business Network, which mirrors Fox News’ denialist stance on global warming. Pruitt made the following appearances on the Fox Business Network:

    Pruitt’s courting of conservative media is “on an entirely different level” from predecessors

    Scott Waldman of E&E News reported that after “weeks of blowback” from Pruitt’s appearance on Squawk Box, the EPA chief “shifted his media appearances to friendlier venues,” a move that “allowed him to tee off on a favorite series of talking points: Obama's energy policy was ‘America second,’ energy industry innovations have reduced the U.S. carbon footprint, the so-called war on coal is now over, EPA's job is to encourage business growth in concert with the environment, and the era of punitive action against energy companies is over.” Waldman also noted that Pruitt’s “courting of conservative media is on an entirely different level” from previous EPA administrators. From Waldman’s article:

    To be sure, all administrations seek out friendly press. President Obama talked about health care on the "Between Two Ferns" comedy program with Zach Galifianakis, which Republicans criticized as undignified. And former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy granted exclusive interviews to left-leaning outlets like Mother Jones and Grist.

    But critics say Pruitt's courting of conservative media is on an entirely different level.

    […]

    Liz Purchia, a former EPA spokeswoman under the Obama administration, said it's extremely unusual to place an administrator only on partisan outlets. She noted that McCarthy regularly interacted with reporters from outlets that produced coverage EPA officials did not appreciate.

    […]

    "Only talking to far right-wing media outlets, they are only talking to a small group of Americans that regularly follow them, and they are intentionally going to reporters who will only ask them questions they want to hear and aren't speaking to the broader American people about their actions," Purchia said.

    In Mother Jones, Rebecca Leber also reported that “since taking office, Pruitt has almost exclusively relied on a small number of conservative media outlets to tell an upbeat version of his leadership at the EPA, with occasional detours into the Sunday news shows,” creating “an echo chamber cheerleading the EPA’s regulatory rollbacks, Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, and its newfound anti-science denial.”

    Leber also quoted Purchia remarking on how Pruitt’s approach to media interviews “isolates him from most Americans and instead plays to Trump’s base”:

    Liz Purchia, an Obama-era EPA communications staffer, says the EPA’s attention to right-wing audiences resembles Trump’s tactics at the White House. “They’re tightly controlling [Pruitt’s] public events and interviews, which isolates him from most Americans and instead plays to Trump’s base,” Purchia said in an email. “They’re not trying to use communications tactics to reach a broad audience.”

    Charts by Sarah Wasko

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the following terms in Nexis, iQ Media, and TVEyes to find Scott Pruitt's on-air TV appearances from the date of his swearing in as EPA Administrator on February 17 to August 14: “Pruitt,” "EPA administrator," "E.P.A. administrator," "EPA chief," "E.P.A. chief," "EPA head," "E.P.A. head," "head of the EPA," "head of the E.P.A.," "head of the Environmental Protection Agency," "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator," or "Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency." We did not count instances of networks airing Pruitt’s appearance at the White House’s June 2 press briefing.

    For radio appearances, Matters Matters searched the same terms in Veritone for the top 10 programs in Talkers.com's Top Talk Audiences list and the following programs that air on SiriusXM Patriot: Breitbart News Daily, David Webb Show, Brian Kilmeade Show, and The Wilkow Majority.

  • Trump champion Hugh Hewitt gets his own show on MSNBC

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Conservative talk radio host and Trump supporter Hugh Hewitt will host his own show on MSNBC. Hewitt, who has called himself a “‘reluctant Trump’ voter," has a history of flip-flopping on Trump and his policies. He's been critical of Trump, even calling on him to be removed as the nominee twice during the presidential campaign, but has also defended him during his campaign, transition, and presidency. Hewitt's record suggests he will simply serve as a Republican shill on MSNBC and will continue spreading his right-wing punditry and misinformation.

  • Trump Just Proved Why Reporters Shouldn’t Try To Clarify What He “Meant”

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    By tripling down on his comments that President Obama was the “founder of ISIS,” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump proved futile reporters’ repeated attempts to clarify that he “meant” something different.

    Trump told supporters during an August 10 campaign stop, “‘In many respects, you know, [ISIS] honor[s] President Obama ... He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.” On August 11, Trump repeated the line on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

    Some media figures, including conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, attempted to clean up Trump’s comments and explain what he really “meant,” claiming that Trump’s comments were “not literal,” but just a poorly worded criticism of President Obama’s terror policies.

    Hewitt hosted Trump on August 11 and tried desperately to help Trump walk back his comments, guiding him by saying, “I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum [for ISIS], he lost the peace.”

    But Trump immediately refuted Hewitt’s assertion, responding, “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do.”

    Hewitt tried again, saying, “[B]y using the term founder, they’re hitting with you on this again. Mistake?”

    Trump again denied that he meant something different than what he said: “No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it.”

    This exchange perfectly exemplifies why the media figures who repeatedly try to rehab Trump’s statements consistently miss the mark. Some in the media have explained why attempts at Trump cleanups are unwarranted altogether. As Business Insider’s Josh Barro wrote:

    It doesn't really matter what Trump meant. It matters what he said — a reckless comment that might or might not be outrageous, depending on your interpretation. This has happened over and over during the campaign, and it would happen, with much higher stakes, during his presidency.

    What the president says matters. Presidents' comments can move markets, create policy, inflame foreign tensions, and even start wars. It is therefore important that presidents be careful.

    Yet media figures’ attempts to clarify what Trump really means also surfaced on August 9, when several conservative commentators tried to interpret Trump’s remark that “Second Amendment people” could do something to prevent Hillary Clinton picking Supreme Court nominees.

    Those attempting to rewrite Trump’s intent -- be it for his comments about ISIS, the Second Amendment, or for the inevitable next round of outrageous comments -- are coming dangerously close to mirroring the role of a Trump surrogate.

  • Trump Campaign Adopts Right-Wing Media’s Clinton Server Canard To Deflect From Trump’s Alleged Russian Ties

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Right-wing media pushed the idea that the supposed Russian hack and release of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails also means that Russians hacked Hillary Clinton’s server and stole information. Eventually, Paul Manafort, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign chair, repeated the claim to deflect attention from Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. 

  • These Conservative Media Figures Are Holding Out Hope That Delegates Will Dump Trump At The GOP Convention
     

    ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    Prominent voices in conservative media are holding on to the hope that delegates will block Donald Trump as the GOP’s presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Some have made the case that a close reading of the RNC rules shows delegates are not officially bound to vote for Trump, while others are openly calling for him to be set aside in favor of an alternative conservative nominee.

  • How Conservative Media Enabled Trump’s Outrageous Lies

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS & JARED HOLT

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and conservative media figures repeatedly enabled each other to spread baseless smears and outright lies throughout the Republican presidential primary election cycle. Voices in conservative media repeatedly legitimized Trump’s debunked conspiracies, policy proposals, and statistics, some of which echoed longtime narratives from prominent right-wing media figures.

  • In Wake Of Attack On Planned Parenthood, Conservative Media Hide History Of Violent Rhetoric By Anti-Choice Advocates

    ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    Following the November 27 attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood that killed three people and injured several more, right-wing media pundits immediately denied that violent anti-choice rhetoric may have motivated the shooter. However, anti-choice groups have a history of promoting violence to support their cause. After it was reported that the alleged shooter made comments about "no more baby parts" during questioning, right-wing media echoed the repeatedly debunked anti-choice claim that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue, arguing that Planned Parenthood "deserves much of the harsh criticism directed toward it."

  • "It Was My Fault": Hugh Hewitt Caves To Criticism From Right-Wing Media, Drops Defense Of Questions He Now Says Trump "Misunderstood"

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    After withering criticism from right-wing media figures, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt now says that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump "legitimately misunderstood" the foreign policy questions Hewitt asked him during a recent interview, which he initially defended as "fair." Hewitt's backtracking comes just before the second Republican presidential debate, at which Hewitt will join a question-and-answer session that he insists will not be affected by the blowback from his interview with Trump.

  • Hugh Hewitt Joins Jeb Bush In Pushing Myths On Indiana's Anti-LGBT Law

    Hewitt Allows Potential 2016 Candidate To Push Debunked Claims About State's "Religious Freedom Law"

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt allowed former Florida Governor and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush to make false claims on his radio program about Indiana's recently passed "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) without challenging Bush's statements, and was wrong about the law himself. 

    Hewitt, who will be  asking questions on the panel* for a Republican presidential debate, has been described as a more serious right-wing radio host than other conservative figures, and someone who is more likely to hold his guests accountable for their comments. But in this case, not only did Hewitt fail to do that, he also made the same false claims about Indiana's law. 

    The law, signed by Governor Mike Pence (R), allows individuals and businesses to cite their religious beliefs as a legal defense against discrimination claims of those denied services due to sexual orientation or gender identity. The law is facing extensive criticism, with calls to boycott the state increasing.

    On March 30, Hewitt hosted Jeb Bush on his radio show. During the interview, Hewitt asked for Bush's opinion of the law, pointing out that not many Republicans had defended Pence for signing it. Bush said he agreed with the law, claiming it was similar to laws in other states, such as Florida, and at the federal level.  Hewitt misleadingly conflated the federal 1993 RFRA currently in effect in the District of Columbia with the newer -- and broader -- state versions of which Indiana is the latest example (emphasis added):

    BUSH: I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to be able to be people of conscience. I think once the facts are established, people aren't going to see this as discriminatory at all.

    HEWITTYeah, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed in 1993. It's been the law in the District of Columbia for 22 years. I do not know of a single incident of the sort that Tim Cook was warning about occurring in the District in the last 22 years.

    BUSH: But there are incidents of people who, for example, the florist in Washington State who had a business that, based on her conscience, she couldn't be participating in a gay wedding, organizing it, even though the person, one of the people, was a friend of hers, and she was taken to court and still in court. Or the photographer in New Mexico. There are many cases where people, acting on their conscience, have been castigated by the government. And this law simply says the government has to have a level of burden to be able to establish that there's been some kind of discrimination. We're going to need this. This is really an important value for our country to, in a diverse country, where you can respect and be tolerant of people's lifestyles but allow for people of faith to be able to exercise theirs.

    Contrary to Hewitt's and Bush's claims, neither other state RFRAs nor the federal RFRA have the same reach as Indiana's law, which explicitly includes corporations as opposed to only people, and allows religious beliefs to be used as a legal defense against an anti-discrimination claim in civil cases even when the government is not involved. 

  • How Right-Wing Media Championed A Ted Cruz Presidential Campaign Long Before Actual Launch

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL, EMILY ARROWOOD & OLIVIA KITTEL

    Right-wing media has a long history of serving as Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) biggest cheerleaders, dating back to Cruz's 2012 Senate victory which he credited to Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck, showcasing the influence of conservative media in shaping election outcomes.

    Following Cruz's announced bid for the 2016 GOP nomination for president, Media Matters looks back at some of right-wing media's most effusive praise of Cruz.

    Sean Hannity

    After Cruz announced his candidacy, Hannity featured the senator in an hour-long special on the March 23 of edition his Fox News show. Hannity highlighted Cruz's campaign announcement speech, and allowed Cruz to promote his platform.

    Hannity has fantasized about a Cruz campaign for years before the official campaign launch. During Cruz's February 26 speech at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Hannity jumped on the main stage to proclaim that with Cruz, "we can fundamentally transform America" in 2016.

    Rush Limbaugh

    After Cruz announced the launch of his campaign, Rush Limbaugh praised Cruz, suggesting that he "might be the smartest man in Congress."

    In July 2014, Rush predicted that if Ted Cruz continued his rise in "dominant influence," he would lead a nascent Republican "revival" that is "just awaiting leadership."

    In September 2013, Limbaugh lashed out at Fox News' Brit Hume for alleging that Cruz was influenced by Limbaugh and other conservative media in his repeated efforts to defund Obama's health care law. Limbaugh defended Cruz, asserting that "Ted Cruz isn't afraid of anybody," and went on to praise the Republican senator, saying "Ted Cruz is fighting for freedom in the greatest tradition of American freedom fighters." Limbaugh added that in his efforts to defund the health care law, "Ted Cruz is attempting to [] marshal the support of the American people ... in the greatest traditions of the American founding and the existence of the country."  

    Glenn Beck

    Beck praised Ted Cruz after the launch of his campaign, championing Cruz's "long, long, impressive resume," saying "you can't pigeonhole him as stupid," adding "I can't wait to see him in a debate."

    On his radio show in December 2013, Beck likened Cruz to Ronald Reagan saying, he "may be our Ronald Reagan because that guy does not take prisoners. That guy is a thousand times smarter than 99 percent of the politicians I have ever met."

    Laura Ingraham

    After Cruz announced his candidacy, Laura Ingraham applauded him for "stand[ing] firm for the constitution," and claimed Cruz will be tough competition for Republicans because he represents "more of a traditionalist point of view" and a more "Reagan-esque" form of conservatism.

    Mark Levin

    Levin railed against Fox News for "trashing" Ted Cruz after the senator launched his campaign, likening Cruz to Reagan, and asserting that like Cruz, Reagan would have been "trashed all over" Fox News.

    In August 2013, Levin declared Cruz "one of the bright lights of the Republican Party" for "exciting the base" after he "demonstrated that he can beat the establishment as he did" during his 2012 Senate campaign. Levin defended Cruz from a "vicious, vile, poisonous attack by the establishment including Bush staffers." 

    Hugh Hewitt

    In June 2014, Hugh Hewitt proclaimed that Cruz "may be the smartest senator," telling Joe Scarborough on his radio program, "he's just not gonna back down and we need some of that in our party." Hewitt went on to compare Cruz to Reagan, saying he has "the same demeanor" as Reagan, "the same kind of charisma, easy affability and smart, smart, smart."