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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, adding “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.

  • Some journalists can see through Trump's economic ruse. Time for everyone else to catch up.

    Trump wants credit for economic progress, but the continued recovery has little to do with him

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    President Donald Trump has been promoting record high valuations on the Dow Jones industrial average as proof of his supposed economic accomplishments and has attacked news outlets for not covering the stock market gains and steady job creation during the first six months of his presidency. In response to both his boasts and his frequent criticism, journalists have been quick to point out that Trump deserves little credit for positive economic trends that predate his administration given his lack of substantive policy accomplishments while in office.

  • Morning Joe hosts: Trump team blackmailed us with a National Enquirer story

    Trump has a close relationship with the Enquirer, which has smeared his opponents and killed negative stories about him

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough described President Donald Trump’s “unmoored behavior” in a Washington Post column where they alleged that “this year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked.” Brzezinski and Scarborough wrote they ignored the “desperate pleas” from the White House.

    The Enquirer, which endorsed Trump during the presidential election, frequently smeared his opponents during the presidential campaign with anonymously sourced stories and disreputable claims from Trump confidant Roger Stone.  

    The Washington Post column came in response to personal attacks made against the duo by Trump, who wrote yesterday on Twitter: “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..” “...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”

    Scarborough discussed the Enquirer incident on the June 30 broadcast of Morning Joe, describing a bizarre blackmail scheme orchestrated by Trump and senior White House officials: “They said if you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike this story. I had, I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me, and the response was like, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Brzezinski said the calls occurred during the same time period when the Enquirer was harassing her teenage children.

    Trump reacted to the Enquirer allegation on Twitter, calling it “FAKE NEWS” and claiming Scarborough called him in an attempt to stop a story from running. Scarborough responded by writing, “Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven't spoken with you in many months.”

    In March 2016, the Post reported that Trump has a “very cozy relationship” with the Enquirer and quoted the New York Daily News’ comment that he is “very close” to the tabloid’s chief executive, David Pecker. A business associate of Pecker’s told The New Yorker that Pecker told him “very bluntly that he had killed all sorts of stories for Trump,” and Pecker himself acknowledged that he views potential stories "bashing Trump" as "bashing American Media" -- the Enquirer's parent company -- because Trump is "a personal friend." The profile also reported that Trump has personally provided Pecker with stories.   

    Scarborough referenced the friendship between Trump and Pecker on Morning Joe, saying, “What makes it even worse for them is Donald Trump called me during the campaign and bragged about his friend who ran the National Enquirer. He would always say, ‘Have you seen the Ben Carson story? Have you seen the Ben Carson story? Have you seen that story in the Enquirer?’ And then he would talk about it.”

    Scarborough added, “There were all these stories that were planted in the National Enquirer for people that Donald Trump wanted to attack and then he would talk about on the campaign trail.”

    In one infamous case, the Enquirer published a baseless cover story alleging that the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Trump subsequently promoted the bogus story about his then-primary opponent during a Fox News appearance where he said, “I mean, what was he doing -- what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting?” He also complained that not enough people were reporting on the conspiracy theory.

    Under fire for advancing the baseless claim, Trump responded by defending the Enquirer’s reputation, saying, “This was a magazine that frankly, in many respects, should be very respected.”

    Pecker is reportedly considering a bid to take over Time Inc., which owns Time magazine, Fortune, and other media properties. The move would surely please Trump, who in 2013 repeatedly used social media to boost the idea that Pecker should run the company.

    Update:

    New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reports that according to "three sources familiar with the private conversations," Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner was in contact with Scarborough about a then-upcoming Enquirer story about Scarborough's not-yet-public relationship with Brzezinski. Kushner reportedly "told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story":

    According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.

    In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

  • Right-wing media lash out at Sen. Kamala Harris after she was repeatedly interrupted by GOP men while questioning Jeff Sessions

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & DINA RADTKE

    Conservative media figures lashed out at Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) after she was interrupted and chastised by her Republican male colleagues during her questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, claiming she was interrupting Sessions and calling her “hysterical,” “a total fraud,” and rude. Women in mainstream media responded, pointing out the clear sexism in both the attacks on Harris and the double standard she was held to.

  • Mika Brzezinski calls out the sexist double standard in the Senate: It's "pathetic" Sen. Kamala Harris was shut down by "a lot of rude, white, older men"  

    Morning Shows on CNN and MSNBC call out the sexism Sen. Harris faced "on the national stage" during Russia hearings

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the June 14 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

    JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Mika, another interesting thing that happened, and I have a feeling that you may want to talk about this because you talked about it before, but the junior senator from California, Senator [Kamala] Harris (D-CA), once again called out by men on the committee because they thought that she was too assertive. Last night on a network she was called hysterical when, of course, [Sen.] Ron Wyden (D-OR) was very aggressive. Nobody called him hysterical or condemned him.

    MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): Jeff Sessions was quite colorful.

    SCARBOROUGH: Yeah. Jeff Sessions was colorful and indignant. And, "How dare you, sir? Beauregard does not answer questions like that." And nobody called him hysterical? But they called Kamala Harris hysterical for the second week in a row. 

    BRZEZINSKI: This is a secondary story given the seriousness of the nature of the questions being asked, but it's an important story. The differences between what is expected and what is allowed between men and women, even on the national stage when the cameras are on them and there should be at least an attempt at equality, is pathetic. And Kamala Harris will be our guest this morning, and I can't wait to talk to her about that, and also about the questions that she's trying to ask in the middle of being told that she's rude by a lot of rude, white older men.