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  • Major media outlets dropped the ball last year on connecting climate change to hurricanes. Will they do better this year?

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Major media outlets gave Hurricane Harvey plenty of attention when it hit Houston and surrounding areas just over a year ago, but too little of that coverage mentioned that climate change can make hurricanes more destructive and dangerous.

    A 2017 Media Matters study found that neither ABC nor NBC aired a single segment on their morning, evening, or Sunday news shows from August 23 to September 7 that mentioned the link between climate change and hurricanes like Harvey. An analysis by Public Citizen echoed that point, finding that many major newspapers and TV networks did not give the climate change connection appropriate coverage during their reporting on Harvey. Coverage of Hurricane Irma also fell short on incorporating climate science, and the media did a terrible job of covering Hurricane Maria at all, let alone how climate change might have affected the storm.

    Four months after Harvey hit, two groups of scientists published studies that connected the hurricane's record-breaking rainfall to climate change. Harvey had stalled out over the Houston region and dumped more than 60 inches of rain in some areas. One of the studies estimated that climate change made Harvey’s rainfall 15 percent heavier than it otherwise would have been, while the second offered a best estimate of nearly 38 percent. A third study published in May also connected the hurricane to global warming, concluding that "Harvey could not have produced so much rain without human-induced climate change."

    Scientists are now warning that Hurricane Florence could be affected by climate change in some of the same ways Harvey was, leading to massive amounts of rain over North Carolina and adjacent states.

    Will mainstream media do a better job of explaining the links between climate change and hurricanes this time around?

    There are some encouraging signs. A number of outlets have published or aired good pieces this week that explained the climate science around hurricanes, and some have also taken the Trump administration to task for rolling back climate protections while we are in peak hurricane season.

    NPR's Morning Edition on September 11 included a good segment by science reporter Rebecca Hersher reviewing some of the relevant research:

    Slow-moving storms like Harvey are getting more common. A study published earlier this year by [atmospheric scientist James] Kossin found that tropical cyclones around the world have slowed down 10 percent in the past 70 years.

    ...

    Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., says global warming also affects the size and intensity of storms like Florence.

    Axios science editor Andrew Freedman wrote a strong piece on September 11 that explained, "There are several characteristics of the changing climate that are helping to increase the risks of damage from Hurricane Florence, even though global warming is not directly causing such a storm to spin up." His article included a quote from Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe:

    Hurricanes are absolutely being affected by our changing climate, in many ways. As the world warms, the rainfall associated with hurricanes is becoming more intense; they are getting stronger, on average; they are intensifying faster; they are moving more slowly; and, as sea level rises, the storm surge from these events can be more damaging.

    The Baltimore Sun published a hard-hitting editorial on September 11 that noted the influence of climate change on hurricanes and called out the Trump administration for undoing policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions:

    While one can’t say Hurricane Florence is entirely a product of climate change (severe weather existed long before people started burning fossil fuels), it is safe to say that climate change is a major reason why Florence may be bigger and stronger and why there are likely to be more such monster storms in our future. Meanwhile, it’s also quite safe to say that President Donald Trump and his current set of minions, anonymous or on the record, are exceedingly disinterested in lifting a finger to do something about global warming.

    Already this year, the Trump EPA has rolled back limits on emissions on vehicles and coal-fired power plants, two major sources of greenhouse gases. [Weakening methane rules] completes the administration’s trifecta of climate ignorance. And doing so as the Southeast faces such an ominous threat rises above chutzpah into something Nero-like in its lack of caring for the possible suffering of Americans.

    The Washington Post also published a forceful editorial on September 11 titled "Another hurricane is about to batter our coast. Trump is complicit." It cited scientific research about climate change exacerbating hurricanes, and it criticized the Trump administration for its policies that will make climate change worse:

    With depressingly ironic timing, the Trump administration announced Tuesday a plan to roll back federal rules on methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is the main component in natural gas. Drillers and transporters of the fuel were supposed to be more careful about letting it waft into the atmosphere, which is nothing more than rank resource waste that also harms the environment. The Trump administration has now attacked all three pillars of President Barack Obama’s climate-change plan.

    As we watch how Hurricane Florence develops, we'll be looking for other outlets -- including ABC and NBC -- to put the storm in its proper context, reporting on climate science and the Trump team's efforts to undo climate protections.

  • NPR adopted white supremacist Jason Kessler's false equivalence frame

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    NPR’s Morning Edition gave a gift to white supremacists, in the manner in which the show paired an interview with the white supremacist organizer of the Unite the Right rally alongside an interview with a Black Lives Matter activist.

    On its August 10 edition, NPR’s Morning Edition interviewed Jason Kessler, the white supremacist organizer of the upcoming second edition of the Unite the Right rally -- the gathering of racists that, on its first edition last year in Charlottesville, VA, resulted in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer after a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd. While NPR’s Noel King effectively highlighted the bigotry of Kessler’s views and pushed back on his baseless claims of censorship and underrepresentation, the show adopted Kessler’s absurd frame as it immediately followed up his interview by bringing on Hawk Newsome, the president of Black Lives Matter New York, to comment on the rally.

    The bizarre juxtaposition is particularly evident from NPR's segment titles:

    During his appearance on NPR, Kessler -- who has secured permits from the National Park Service for the rally in Washington, D.C., this Sunday -- asserted he was “not a white supremacist” and that he was a “human and civil rights advocate focusing on the underrepresented Caucasian demographic.” For the past year, Kessler and other white supremacists have been entangled in a debate about the best way to present their bigoted views, focusing on whitewashing their racism by asserting themselves as a “positive, mainstream movement” which “primarily focus[es] on whites, who are uniquely denied the right to guard their survival and advocate their interests.” Kessler pushed this narrative on the show, seeking legitimacy by claiming white people aren’t “allowed to organize into political organizations” to push their interests and then drew a false equivalence of Unite the Right to Black Lives Matter or the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, and what he seeks to accomplish by organizing his rally.

    JASON KESSLER: I’m not a white supremacist, I’m not even a white nationalist. I consider myself a civil and human rights advocate focusing on the underrepresented Caucasian demographic.

    NOEL KING (HOST): The underrepresented Caucasian demographic. In what ways are white people in America underrepresented?

    KESSLER: Well, because they’re the only group that is not allowed to organize into political organizations and lobbies and talk explicitly about what interests are important to them as a people. You have Blacks, who are able to organize with Black Lives Matter or the NAACP, you have Jews who have the ADL, Muslims have CAIR.

    Immediately after airing Kessler’s interview, NPR brought on Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter, and asked him why he declined Kessler’s invitation to speak at the racist rally. Newsome condemned Kessler and underscored his refusal to be tokenized by white supremacists.

    NPR played into the white supremacist tactics of false equivalence by featuring Newsome’s interview right after Kessler’s. While it’s crucial to include voices of color, seek the perspectives of those affected directly by white supremacy, and provide coverage to the activists protesting the Unite the Right rally, NPR failed to offer forceful pushback to Kessler’s absurd claim that white supremacists are equivalent to groups legitimately fighting for equality, seemingly delegating that responsibility to Newsome. It’s also debatable whether audiences benefited from listening to Kessler citing Charles Murray’s debunked writings as scientific evidence of some races being superior to others, or whether white supremacists deserve a mainstream platform in the first place.

    What’s undeniable is that NPR committed “journalistic malpractice” by presenting Black Lives Matter as the “other side” of white supremacy.

  • Virginia election results show why candidates are smart to run against the NRA

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Pro-gun-safety candidates swept Virginia’s three statewide offices in the 2017 elections, showing that it is prudent to run against the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) agenda and to make gun safety a centerpiece issue of campaigns. These candidates' victories help debunk a myth propogated by the media that gun violence prevention is a losing issue at the polls.

    Victorious candidates in Virginia elections last night included Ralph Northam, who won the governor’s seat by nearly nine points, Justin Fairfax, who won the lieutenant governor’s race (both of whom have received “F” ratings from the NRA because of their positions on gun policy), and Mark Herring, who was re-elected attorney general. In 2013, Herring made gun safety a prominent issue of his campaign, and his actions as attorney general led the NRA to label him “one of the most anti-gun lawmakers in Virginia history.”

    The NRA’s endorsed candidates for these three offices all lost, despite the gun group spending heavily on political advertisements in Virginia.

    According to election night exit polls, Northam and Republican candidate Ed Gillespie tied among voters whose primary issue was gun policy:

    Another candidate who is often linked to gun violence prevention is Chris Hurst, who won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 2015, Hurst’s girlfriend, television news reporter Alison Parker, was fatally shot during a live broadcast. Hurst, who beat NRA-endorsed Joseph Yost, ran on a platform focused on reducing gun violence specifically for people of color and women who have escaped abusive relationships.

    But the NRA media myth about gun violence prevention being a losing issue at polls still persists.

    During a November 8 segment on NPR’s Morning Edition about the NRA’s influence, commentator Cokie Roberts said of the group, “I have to hand it to the NRA. They participate, they organize, they contribute, they vote. That’s the way you influence legislation. And if the other side wants to get gun control done, they can’t just tell awful stories. They have to organize and contribute in the same degree.” The results in Virginia are yet another example disproving this analysis, with the NRA failing to rally its supporters to deliver any of the three statewide officers to its preferred candidate.

    Winning despite the NRA’s campaign efforts is not a new trend for Virginia’s pro-gun-safety politicians. In 2013, the NRA spent $500,000 to beat Mark Herring in his bid for attorney general. After he won, his campaign manager said that Herring pulled off the victory by running on a strong record of supporting sensible gun legislation. Similarly, the NRA efforts against Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s statewide races have also repeatedly come up short. Like Northam, McAuliffe bragged about his “F” rating from the NRA during the 2013 gubernatorial race.

    The myth that gun safety is a losing issue dates back to the 1994 congressional midterm elections and the 2000 presidential election in which pundits blamed losses on candidates’ support for gun safety measures. Evidence-based research into those elections has long disproved those theories, which the NRA has nevertheless promoted in order to bolster its image.

  • Four ways the NY Times has undermined its own climate coverage

    The paper gave ammunition to the Trump administration to deny climate science and defend dropping out of the Paris agreement

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS

    The New York Times has done some stellar reporting on climate change, and it’s poised to do more thanks to its recent creation of a dedicated climate team. See, for instance, its impressive ongoing series on how climate change is affecting major cities, and another recent multimedia series on the melting of Antarctica.

    But the paper has made serious missteps in recent days and weeks, some of which have bolstered the White House’s case for climate denial and for dropping out of the Paris climate agreement. Here are four problems that deserve to be called out:

    1. Letting Bret Stephens spread climate denial, which was seized on by Scott Pruitt

    The New York Times hired conservative climate denier Bret Stephens as an op-ed columnist in April, and his first column was a factually compromised and misleading attack on climate science. Its publication provoked widespread condemnation of the Times and Stephens in late April.

    Then the column got a new round of attention late last week, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement. On June 2, the day after Trump’s announcement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt defended the move from the podium in the White House briefing room, and cited Stephens' column to make the case that climate science is unsettled:

    I don’t know if you saw this article or not, but the “Climate of Complete Certainty” by Bret Stephens that was in The New York Times talked about -- and I’ll just read a quote, because I thought it was a very important quote from this article. “Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the IPCC knows that, while the modest 0.85 degrees Celsius warming of the earth that has occurred since 1880, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities. That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future. To say this isn’t to deny science. Isn’t (sic) to acknowledge it honestly.”

    Pruitt actually misquoted the column, omitting Stephens’ acknowledgement that there has been “indisputable ... human influence” on the warming of the earth since 1880. But nonetheless, Pruitt left the impression that The New York Times supported his fringe views.

    As Media Matters senior fellow Matt Gertz put it, “It’s a disaster for a paper that sold itself to readers as a bulwark against the new president, then turned around and hired a prominent climate change skeptic.”

    2. Ignoring the fact that Pruitt seized on Stephens’ climate denial

    In an article about Trump’s views on climate change, New York Times reporter Peter Baker noted that Pruitt had questioned climate science during his remarks at the White House, but Baker neglected to mention that the EPA chief had used a New York Times column as a main piece of supporting evidence for his claims.

    3. Publishing a misleading story on small-business owners’ views on Paris, which was seized on by Pruitt

    On June 2, The New York Times published an article by Landon Thomas Jr. titled “Small Businesses Cheer ‘New Sheriff in Town’ After Climate Pact Exit.” Thomas claimed, “While multinational corporations such as Disney, Goldman Sachs and IBM have opposed the president’s decision to walk away from the international climate agreement, many small companies around the country were cheering him on, embracing the choice as a tough-minded business move that made good on Mr. Trump’s commitment to put America’s commercial interests first.”

    The article ignored the fact that hundreds of small businesses had publicly called for remaining in the Paris agreement, and it quoted no small-business owners who supported the deal. Small-business supporters weren’t that hard to find, even in red states. NPR's Morning Edition featured one, Fhebe Lane, who runs a store in a conservative Texas coal town. A Trump voter, Lane said she was concerned about the climate getting hotter and thought limiting emissions was a good idea.

    Thomas’ article also drew criticism for quoting some of the same pro-Trump voices he had cited in a previous piece, as Media Matters has noted. Boston Globe writer Michael Cohen pointed out that the article was “remarkably similar” to a piece Thomas wrote three months earlier; Cohen and others noted that the same two people “are quoted in both articles extolling Mr. Trump’s virtues” and “their positive words about Trump are used as evidence that small business owners are behind the president.”

    But Pruitt, for one, liked the article. He quoted it during an appearance on ABC’s This Week on June 4:

    Even The New York Times had an article, I think, within the last couple of days that talked about small business celebrating, euphoria, with respect to the president’s decision.

    4. Blaming the Democrats alongside the Koch brothers for GOP climate denial

    New York Times reporters Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton published a mostly well-reported article on widespread Republican refusal to accept climate science. But the story contained a ridiculous claim that “Democratic hubris” was partly to blame:

    The Republican Party’s fast journey from debating how to combat human-caused climate change to arguing that it does not exist is a story of big political money, Democratic hubris in the Obama years and a partisan chasm that grew over nine years like a crack in the Antarctic shelf, favoring extreme positions and uncompromising rhetoric over cooperation and conciliation.

    While the article laid out plenty of evidence that the Koch brothers had affected elected Republicans’ views, it did not make any kind of convincing case that Democrats had.

    Talking Points Memo Editor Josh Marshall characterized the “Democratic hubris” line as “half of what is imbecilic in contemporary political journalism”:

    As New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, who wrote a book on the Koch brothers, noted in a post on June 5, Republican climate denial and the rejection of the Paris agreement are clear and direct consequences of the Kochs and other rich fossil fuel barons pouring money into the political scene. “It is, perhaps, the most astounding example of influence-buying in modern American political history,” she wrote.

    Democrats, hubristic or not, can’t claim credit for that.

    Whither the Times?

    “The paper has lost its way,” Think Progress’ Joe Romm wrote in a post criticizing the Davenport/Lipton article and other pieces published by the Times. “A shocking number of recent articles reveal a paper that’s begun to embrace false balance, giving equal time to both climate misinformers and actual climate experts, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus.”

    Still, many journalists at The New York Times are pulling in the right direction. Columnist David Leonhardt gently disputed the “Democratic hubris” argument in a piece on June 5. A number of Times journalists expressed their displeasure with Stephens’ first column. And the climate team keeps doing great work. Let’s hope their side wins the tug-of-war.

  • NPR Continues To Uncritically Host Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Alliance Defending Freedom

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    NPR’s Morning Edition hosted an attorney from the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to discuss the executive order that President Donald Trump signed today weakening the tax code restrictions on religious organizations’ political activity and promoting “religious liberty.” NPR failed, yet again, to note ADF’s anti-LGBTQ extremism and that Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has recently designated it as a hate group.

    On the May 4 edition of NPR’s Morning Edition, host Steve Inskeep interviewed NPR’s Tom Gjelten and ADF senior counsel Greg Baylor about the executive order that Trump signed later that day. The executive order, according to a senior White House Official, aims to weaken the tax code restrictions on religious organizations’ political activity. These restrictions -- known as the “Johnson Amendment” -- were intended to “prevent donors from deducting political contributions from their federal income tax” and have been a long-standing target of far-right religious extremists and anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Since 2008, ADF has led an annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” as part of its efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment and has been the driving force behind many of the “religious freedom” bills proposed in state legislatures.

    Inskeep described ADF as an organization that “advocates for religious freedom on religious freedom issues” -- failing to note ADF’s long-standing history of extremism and misinformation. Inskeep also failed to mention that ADF was designated as a hate group by SPLC for working to criminalize LGBTQ people, both in the U.S. and abroad. NPR has repeatedly hosted anti-LGBTQ extremists without providing much-needed context for its listeners; after hosting a hate group leader in 2015, NPR’s Diane Rehm even acknowledged that the network needs to “do a better job of being more careful about identification.” NPR has faced routine criticism for its coverage of LGBTQ issues.

    During the segment, Baylor mischaracterized regulations in the Affordable Care Act as an “abortion pill mandate” and failed to note that existing religious freedom protection allow organizations to opt out of providing coverage if they notify the government. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits mentioned by Baylor argue that the even process of opting out of providing insurance coverage for forms of contraception that they falsely deem "abortifacients" poses a "substantial burden" to their religious beliefs. Baylor also lamented that the executive order didn’t go far enough to protect people who object "on religious or moral grounds from violating their convictions through the content of their health care plan.” Inskeep did not clarify that this type of order would codify broad-based discrimination in health care for any number of reasons, including sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or even interracial relationships.

    STEVE INSKEEP (HOST): Let's bring another voice into the conversation because Greg Baylor is with us also. He's a senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which advocates for religious freedom on religious freedom issues. Thanks for coming by. Good morning.

    GREGORY BAYLOR: It's great to be here.

    INSKEEP: And for wearing a tie early in the morning, really appreciate that, really great. Was this executive order what you wanted?

    BAYLOR: I would say that, you know, the two words that come to mind in seeing the outline of this upcoming executive order are disappointment and hope. There's disappointment because it's not all that we hoped that it would be. But we do have hope that this perhaps is just the first step in the Trump administration's effort to fulfill its campaign promise that he made on the campaign trail that he would fully protect religious freedom, that he would protect people like the Little Sisters, that he would stop his administration being something that really interferes significantly with the religious freedom of people.

    INSKEEP: Let’s ask you about both parts of that. First, you said disappointed. It doesn’t do very much. What is limiting about this executive order so far as we know, granted, we don’t have the text yet?

    BAYLOR: Yeah, we don’t have the text yet, but with regards to the HHS abortion pill mandate, all that it says is that it's going to provide regulatory relief. That is disappointingly vague especially given how long we’ve had to discuss this issue. These lawsuits were filed, some of them back in 2012, many of them in 2013 and ‘14. And the answer to this problem has been quite obvious all along. What this administration needs to do is to craft an exemption that prohibits everyone who objects on religious and moral grounds from violating their convictions through the content of their health plan. This is the obvious answer and it’s not done in this executive order.

    INSKEEP: Let’s just remember what this debate is about. We’re talking about women’s contraception here. We’re talking about private employers who are providing insurance. They’re required to have essential benefits as part of the insurance, and some people objected to providing contraception, and they want this exemption. That’s what you’re discussing here, right?

    BAYLOR: Although there’s one important distinction to point out. Many of the objectors did not object to contraceptives. Generally, they objected only to the ones that cause abortion. All of my Protestant clients object only to abortion. This is something that had never been mandated. It wasn’t required to be mandated in the Affordable Care Act and when the Obama administration implemented this, they tipped their hat to religious freedom by crafting an extraordinarily narrow religious exemption that only protected a few. And essentially the case that we’ve been making all along is don’t differentiate in the field of religious liberty. You should protect the normal class of religious organizations that are protected in other contexts.

    Inskeep concluded the interview with a chuckle, while saying, “And I imagine we can expect plenty of people on the other side of the debate from Mr. Baylor to weigh in as the day goes on.”

  • NPR Lets Breitbart Editor Downplay His Site's White Nationalist, Anti-LGBTQ Extremism

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    NPR’s Morning Edition interviewed senior editor-at-large Joel Pollak of Breitbart News about Stephen Bannon, the former executive chairman of the outlet -- which he bragged was the platform for the white nationalist “alt-right” -- who was also recently appointed as White House chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Donald Trump. The NPR interview failed to tell the full story of Bannon's role in promoting racist and anti-LGBTQ ideologies, adding to the worrisome trend of mainstream media outlets normalizing Bannon and Breitbart's extremism. 

    The announcement of Bannon’s appointment as a senior Trump White House advisor has been met with considerable concern and criticism due to his past history of championing white nationalism and anti-Semitism. NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep hosted Joel Pollak to defend Bannon from this criticism. Inskeep asked about Bannon’s prejudice by pointing to Breitbart’s legacy of publishing inflammatory content under his tenure. The site posted headlines such as “Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage” after a white nationalist who fetishized such confederate imagery massacred nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C. Inskeep also allowed Pollak to defend Bannon’s use of the slur “dykes” by claiming that people in the LGBTQ community use that word.

    But the interview failed to contextualize the true extent of Breitbart’s extremism under Bannon’s leadership, evidenced by the site's consistent role in peddling hate speech, promoting white nationalism, and furthering anti-LGBTQ extremism. Inskeep allowed Pollak to brush off Breitbart’s bigotry as “individual articles” and claim that Bannon’s hiring of openly gay, misogynistic, anti-Muslim, alt-right mouthpiece Milo Yiannopolous was evidence that Bannon couldn’t possibly be anti-gay, with no mention that Yiannopolous has regularly used Breitbart as a platform to attack transgender people.

    Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News heavily promoted white nationalist “alt-right” views. Since 2015, the site has been “publishing more overtly racist diatribes about Muslims and immigrants,” according to an April report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC report also noted that Breitbart has promulgated the “popular racist conspiracy theory” that “African-Americans are committing crimes against whites at alarming rates.” In addition to racist and nationalist themes, Breitbart regularly uses anti-LGBTQ slurs in headlines, features articles by anti-LGBTQ hate group leaders, and has published multiple articles pushing conspiracy theories about the hate-crime murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard.

    As conservative pundits rush to sanitize Bannon’s ties to white nationalism, it’s imperative that other media outlets not become complicit in the whitewashing of Bannon and Breitbart’s extremism, which is far from just a few instances of inflammatory rhetoric. Instead, journalists need to tell the full story of Bannon’s role in promoting Breitbart as a platform for hate-filled rhetoric and alt-right ideologies.

    From the November 16 edition of NPR’s Morning Edition:

    STEVE INSKEEP (HOST): Now, people have heard a lot the last couple of days about Bannon's statements or statements on Breitbart. But before we get into that, I want you to round out the picture of this guy you know, and what are people missing?

    JOEL POLLAK: Steve Bannon is a fantastic manager. He helped Breitbart grow fantastically to the point where we have 250 million page views per month. He is a leader with vision. He's very disciplined. He insists on excellence from those around him. He's also very open to debate and challenge as long as you bring facts and data to the table. And he has no prejudices, he treats people equally, and, in fact, during my time working closely with him at Breitbart for five years, he sought out people from diverse backgrounds and gave them a voice at Breitbart, so I think he's a fantastic choice.

    [...]

    INSKEEP: I want to mention, you know, actually putting controversial opinions out there is a perfectly fine idea. We've had David Duke on this program, but we fact-check, we try to question, we put in context. This particular article goes on to make a string of statements — there's a reference about President Obama and Kenya. There's also a statement, "The Confederacy was not a callous conspiracy to enforce slavery, but a patriotic and idealistic cause." A little bit of research would show that Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, declared the cause was slavery. I mean, why put these things out there

    POLLAK: I think that we can talk about individual articles out of the tens of thousands at Breitbart, but, you know, NPR is taxpayer-funded and has an entire section of its programming, a regular feature called "Code Switch," which, from my perspective, is a racist program. I'm looking here at the latest article, which aired on NPR, calling the election results "Nostalgia For A Whiter America." So NPR has racial and racist programming that I am required to, I'm required to pay for as a taxpayer.

    [...]

    INSKEEP: And let me ask another thing, and this is another Bannon quote, and we can pull out quotes, but it's a quote that he made in a 2011 radio interview that gets to maybe what he wants to do inside the country. He criticized feminists, he said, "women that would lead this country would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children." And I'm just reading the quote here, "They wouldn't be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools." What's he driving at there?

    POLLAK: I don't know. But there is a political correctness in this country that would say that if you said that once on a radio show that you should be drummed out of public life. I would defy you to find a person in the LGBTQ community who has not used that term, either in an endearing sense or in a flippant, jovial, colloquial sense. I don't think you can judge Steve Bannon's views. What you can judge him is how he's conducted himself at Breitbart, and he brought a gay, conservative journalist like Milo Yiannopoulos on board, and Milo has brought gay conservatives into the media, into the debate. At the Republican National Convention, Breitbart co-hosted a party for gay conservatives. So, that's not something you do if you're anti-gay, and Andrew Breitbart was the same.

    UPDATE: In a post responding to critics of the segment, NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen acknowledged that the “framing of the Morning Edition interview was problematic, starting as it did with ‘Let's hear a defense of Steve Bannon.’” Moving forward, Jensen recommended that interviews of white nationalists like Bannon “should not be done live.” Even in pre-recorded future interviews, Jensen stressed the need for NPR to “pay absolute attention that the questions asked are rigorous, the headlines and framing well thought through and the language very clear and precise from the beginning.”

  • Journalists Call On Debate Moderators To Fact-Check Candidates

    Journalists: Debate Moderators Should “Be Well-Prepared Enough To Assert The Truth In Real Time”

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Prior to the first presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, journalists are advising the debate moderators to “Be well-prepared enough to assert the truth in real time,” and arguing that a moderator should not “abdicate” their “role as a truth-seeker and a journalist” because moderators “play a constructive and vital role” in presidential debates.

  • NPR Allows Extreme Anti-LGBT Group To Peddle Dishonest Attacks On Transgender Student Equality

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    NPR hosted a spokesperson from an extremist anti-LGBT legal group to react to the Obama administration’s recent guidance related to transgender students in public schools. NPR failed to identify the group, Alliance Defending Freedom, as anything other than a “faith-based legal group,” and allowed the spokesperson to spread anti-LGBT misinformation.

    On May 12, The New York Times reported that the Obama administration planned to announce guidance directing all public schools to provide transgender students with access to sex-segregated facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms, that are consistent with a student’s gender identity. On May 13, NPR’s national Morning Edition hosted attorney Matt Sharp from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to provide “reaction” to the guidance.

    NPR described ADF as a “faith-based legal group” and as the legal powerhouse leading the national fight against transgender student rights. But host David Greene did not mention ADF’s well-documented history of anti-LGBT extremism.

    ADF is a nonprofit with a $43-million-a-year budget that bills itself as working for the "right of people to freely live out their faith.” Much of ADF's "religious freedom" work, however, has consisted of anti-LGBT activism, including labeling the hate crime that led to the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard a hoax aimed at advancing the "homosexual agenda"; working internationally to criminalize gay sex; and creating its own “Day of Truth” to combat the “Day of Silence” -- a day meant to honor LGBT victims of bullying, harassment, and violence.

    On Morning Edition, NPR allowed ADF attorney Sharp to spread misinformation about transgender people typical of anti-LGBT extremists. During the segment, Sharp repeatedly misgendered transgender girls, saying the directive allows “boys” into girls’ restrooms. Letting Sharp misgender transgender people isn’t just wrong -- it also helps spread the harmful anti-LGBT “bathroom predator” myth that legal protections for transgender people will cause men to sneak into women’s bathrooms and commit sexual assault. When media outlets have previously failed to debunk the rallying cry of “no men in women’s bathrooms,” anti-LGBT extremists were successful in defeating nondiscrimination ordinances.

    NPR also allowed ADF to spread misinformation about the legal basis of the Obama administration’s directive, letting Sharp say that Title IX has “never been interpreted to include gender identity.” In fact, the Fourth Circuit, Sixth Circuit, and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission have all ruled that Title IX’s protections on the basis of sex include gender identity.

    NPR’s ombudsman has previously acknowledged that the media organization needs to “do a better job” of identifying anti-LGBT extremists. The NPR segment did feature Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, but only in a pre-recorded 15-second clip. ADF spokesperson Matt Sharp spoke largely uninterrupted for over 4 minutes. From NPR:

    DAVID GREENE (Host): A letter is going out later today from the Obama administration to every school district in the country. It says schools must allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. This move was quickly welcomed by Mara Keisling -- she’s the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. She says she hopes that parents can set their biases aside as the new rules are implemented.

    MARA KEISLING: There’s all sorts of kinds of kids that other people’s parents don’t feel comfortable with. And that’s not how we decide who gets to learn safely in schools. All children get to learn safely in schools.

    GREENE: And let’s hear another voice now. It’s Matt Sharp, he’s an attorney with the faith-based legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has opposed similar policies in public schools across the country. Mr. Sharp, good morning.

    MATT SHARP: Thank you for having me.

    GREENE: Well thanks for coming on the program, we appreciate it. Let me just ask you, I mean, the administration, this letter going out this morning, the real foundation of it is this federal law called Title IX that prohibits sex discrimination in schools. And the administration is saying this protects transgender people based on their gender identity. Tell me your reaction to that reading of the law.

    SHARP: Well, it’s completely wrong. For over 40 years now, Congress and courts that have looked at Title IX have all consistently said Title IX was meant to combat sex discrimination. It’s never been interpreted to include gender identity, and so the idea was always to ensure equal opportunities for men and women. Importantly, Title IX was specifically written to protect student privacy. It allows schools to have separate restrooms and locker rooms and dormitories on the basis of sex. So what the Obama administration is doing here is essentially rewriting the law, ignoring Congress, ignoring the normal process they’re supposed to go through to force their agenda on schools across the country.

    GREENE: Well what would you tell a family with a transgender child who identifies as a girl or a boy and believes that their girl or boy is going to school and deserves those protections under Title IX and believes very much in what the Obama administration is doing and wants their child to be protected and not discriminated against?

    SHARP: Well their child should absolutely be protected against bullying, harassment or anything else. And we’ve seen schools across the country do a great job of protecting every student under their care. But part of protection is also protecting the right of privacy. And so we’re hearing from lots of students across the country and parents saying this violates our right to privacy when we’re forced to share locker rooms, showers, and restrooms with someone of the opposite sex. And so that’s actually what motivated I think over 130 parents and students in Chicago to actually sue the federal government because they came in and forced the school to open up their restrooms and locker rooms to the opposite sex.

    GREENE: Can you understand though, that the families and parents of a transgender child who believes this is a delicate situation but that the rights of their child might be more important than sort of another child to sort of get used to a situation that he or she might find a little sensitive in a bathroom.

    SHARP: Well, but it’s not about one student’s rights being more important than another. It’s about protecting every student’s rights to privacy. And so what we’ve seen schools do is offer accommodations to any student, including transgender students, that are not comfortable with communal restrooms, allowing them to use single-stall restrooms or what’s ever available, so that they’ve got a choice. But they also have a duty to protect every other student’s constitutional right to privacy, when the courts across the country have recognized is implicated when you have got restrooms and locker rooms, and why Title IX was drafted the way it is. So schools have to protect that. And what they’re trying to do is make sure that every student has a place where they can use the restroom, change and shower, and feel comfortable, without having to break down our traditions of having separate restrooms on the basis of biological sex.

    GREENE: Let me just ask you, you’re representing 51 families in a school district in Illinois, which allows students to use bathrooms according to gender identity. And these families are fighting that policy. Can you tell me the story of just maybe one family and exactly, on a personal level, what they’re objecting to?

    SHARP: Absolutely. And so we’ve got several families there that the Obama administration came in and forced the district 211 to allow a biological boy to the female’s restrooms. So these girls are telling stories about how when they’re in the locker room changing for PE, they’re now uncomfortable knowing that a boy can walk in at any time under the school’s new policy. They talk about how one girl in particular does not change out of her gym clothes but rather wears them all day long, wears them after going to gym after getting them dirty and nasty through PE class, and then just puts her clothes on top of it, because she’s so nervous about the possibility of having to change and shower and whatnot in front of this boy. And we hear stories like that across the country of these girls speaking out and saying, “Look, we don’t want this student to be bullied or harassed or anything. But we also just want our privacy protected. And we just want to know that when we go into these lockers and shower rooms, that we’re not going to be forced to share it with someone of the opposite biological sex.” That’s all these girls are asking for.

    GREENE: Matt Sharp is an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, a faith-based legal advocacy group.

  • George Will's Bad Obamacare/Segregation Argument

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Newly christened Fox News contributor George Will sat down with NPR's Steve Inskeep on the October 9 Morning Edition to educate us all on the subtle governmental intricacies behind the week-old government shutdown and the week-or-so-away debt limit fracture. Leaning on the Founding Fathers, Will gave his stamp of approval to the Republican-led effort to repeal Obamacare and argued against the inviolability of the Affordable Care Act as "the law," observing that "the Fugitive Slave Act was the law, separate but equal was the law, lots of things are the law and then we change them."

    Will is right: laws are not sacrosanct and can be altered or thrown out at any time. Obamacare is real-time proof of that -- the Supreme Court upheld the law but ruled that states could not be forced to participate in its expansion of Medicaid. But that's a pedestrian observation made provocative by the out-of-line invocation of segregation and slavery. "Separate but equal" and the Fugitive Slave Act were moral travesties; the ACA helps people buy health insurance. The similarities begin and end with their status as laws. Other laws have been scuttled too -- Prohibition, for example -- but Will chose those two particular laws and in doing so invited a comparison that he can't justify because it's unjustifiable.

    And then there's Will's assertion that what we're seeing with the government shutdown and the attendant gridlock over Obamacare is the "Madisonian scheme," the idea that government is "hard to move, it's supposed to be. People look at Washington and say 'oh, this is so difficult.' It's supposed to be difficult."

    Again, Will is right that governing and passing legislation is hard work. It was hard work for the Democrats to win majorities in both houses of Congress, and it was hard work for Barack Obama to win the presidency in 2008. Even with those majorities, it was really quite difficult for the president and the Democrats to craft a health care bill and get it through Congress, and they paid a difficult price for it at the ballot box in 2010. Defending the law in front of the Supreme Court was a monumentally difficult task, and even though it emerged, it did not do so unscathed. And then Obama and the Democrats had to go before the electorate again, in 2012, to defend the law, and not only did they succeed, they actually improved their standing in both the House and the Senate.

  • NPR Lends Credibility To Anti-Immigrant Who Accuses Immigrants Of Carrying Diseases

    Blog ››› ››› SOLANGE UWIMANA

    An NPR report today about the Obama administration's deferred action program for young undocumented immigrants quoted Americans For Legal Immigration PAC president William Gheen, who yesterday claimed that the program "will allow illegal aliens who are willing to lie about coming to the US as children to be given 'deferred status' and work permits starting immediately."

    On June 15, the Obama administration announced a plan that will give eligible undocumented youth a chance to avoid deportation and work in the country legally. That program went into effect today; and thousands have reportedly started the application process.

    Gheen -- who went on to write that President Obama's action "will rapidly increase the number of illegal aliens feloniously voting in US elections, stealing your jobs and expecting future benefits" -- posted his screed on the website of ALIPAC, an anti-immigrant organization supported by the Federation for American Immigration Reform and allied with former Minutemen groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FAIR a hate group.

    In light of this, it's hard to understand NPR's decision to lend Gheen credibility on the issue of deferred action for immigrants. And not only did NPR quote Gheen, it also failed to inform viewers of Gheen's extreme views of immigrants.

    Indeed, ALIPAC is not known to hide its extremist views or what it thinks of policies that seek to help the undocumented population. In fact, the front page of the organization's website contains a hoard of inflammatory rhetoric that NPR should have been aware of.

    Headlines that include "amnesty" or "illegals" or such phrases as "Obama releases violent illegal aliens upon American citizenry in mass dream amnesty" don't induce honest debate, let alone encourage meaningful discussion. They're red herrings meant to attract similar xenophobic rhetoric. 

  • Wave Of Inaccurate Reporting Follows GOP's Latest Solyndra Release

    ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Reporting on emails selectively released by House Republicans, numerous media outlets falsely claimed the documents show Obama donor George Kaiser -- whose family foundation invested in Solyndra -- discussing Solyndra's federal loan with the White House, with Fox going even further to claim "quid pro quo." In fact, the emails occurred after Solyndra had already received the loan guarantee and do not indicate that Kaiser discussed the loan with the White House.