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  • The president is live-tweeting Fox News again: Amtrak edition

    Donald Trump was apparently “monitoring” the Amtrak derailment via Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump tweeted that a train derailment stood as proof that Congress ought to pass his infrastructure plan just moments after a guest on Fox News made the exact same (and incorrect) point. Trump later claimed to be “monitoring here at the White House,” but it kind of seems like he was just watching TV along with the rest of us.

    On December 18, a southbound Amtrak train derailed while crossing an overpass outside Dupont, WA. The incident resulted in several fatalities and sent dozens of riders to the hospital . While Fox News was covering the rescue and recovery efforts live on Outnumbered: Overtime, guest Oliver McGee (a civil engineering expert and anti-Obama political activist) suggested that the derailment was proof that America needed to upgrade its passenger rail infrastructure, adding, “This is what President Trump is calling for in that infrastructure bill” (emphasis added):

    OLIVER MCGEE: We need positive train control because that ensures train separation and collision avoidance, ensures line speed enforcement, and that the temporary speed restrictions that are necessary for making wide turns and sharp turns. And more importantly our train system has to slow down at some points -- to as small as 30 miles per hour, and that’s required in order to negotiate the infrastructure itself. And this is what President Trump is calling for in that infrastructure bill. To just rehabilitate our crumbling infrastructure.

    McGee’s comment, which he made at roughly 1:39 p.m. EST, was followed almost immediately by a tweet from Trump proclaiming that the derailment “shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly.”

    Another 10 minutes passed before Trump expressed condolences for those killed and injured in the incident, again just moments after Fox returned to mentioning casualties from the incident in its on-screen chyron:

    This is not the first time Trump has seemingly tweeted his thoughts and opinions in direct response to Fox programming. And, as is often the case, Trump’s tweets and retweets based on his consumption of Fox News are often misleading or inaccurate. In this instance, Trump’s budget request submitted earlier this year actually proposed drastically reduced investments in Amtrak and overall transportation infrastructure. Furthermore, according to transportation expert Russell Quimby who responded to Trump’s tweet on MSNBC Live, given that most of the railroad system in the United States is “private infrastructure” and “privately owned,” Trump’s proposed policy solution would probably not have affected this incident in any way:

  • This is how TV news ought to be covering the death of net neutrality

    Don’t give in to the spin, stick to the facts, and provide viewers with some sense of the stakes

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE: As expected, the commissioners of the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to rescind the net neutrality protections instituted by the agency in February 2015. Internet advocacy groups responded to the vote by announcing legal challenges.

    Broadcast and cable news programs have been largely silent on the topic of net neutrality in the weeks since the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission (FCC) indicated its intention to rescind Obama-era consumer protections codifying a free and open internet. With the FCC set to begin deconstructing those regulations today, news coverage must provide viewers with enough context to make clear the stakes of this dramatic policy shift.

    The FCC’s commissioners, a majority of whom are Republican appointees, are expected to vote “along party lines to scrap Obama-era net neutrality rules” during its December 14 meeting, marking “a huge victory for the big internet service providers” who have sought to dismantle the consumer protections governing how customers and content-providers interact online. According to a December 12 report from Reuters, three major net neutrality advocates -- Public Knowledge, Common Cause, and Free Press -- have given up attempting to convince Republican-appointed FCC commissioners to reconsider their decision and, with little reason to expect a legislative solution from an unproductive Republican majority in Congress, are “preparing to turn to litigation as a last resort.” Another major net neutrality advocacy group, the Internet Association -- which represents technology giants and content providers like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft -- is also weighing possible legal challenges to the FCC’s ruling, according to the report.

    The FCC’s Trump-appointed chairman, Ajit Pai, spent the days leading up to the December 14 vote doing a tour of friendly conservative media outlets to promote his anti-neutrality agenda without facing any pushback from consumer advocates and regulatory experts. Chairman Pai argued that his move to install a so-called “light touch” regulatory framework is just a return to the way the internet worked pre-2015, never mentioning that net neutrality was instituted that year in response to worries that the free and open internet Americans had come to rely on might soon disappear. (Pai’s right-wing media blitz neglected to mention his previous work on behalf of Verizon, one of the telecommunications conglomerates pushing to unwind net neutrality.)

    Broadcast and cable news programs, which Media Matters demonstrated have been conspicuously absent from net neutrality discussions, need to emphasize for their audience what is at stake in the ongoing net neutrality fight. Despite the overall inadequate coverage, there have been several examples over the past month demonstrating how news programs can inform viewers, advance the discussion, and give time to expert perspectives.

    On the December 13 edition of MSNBC Live, host Stephanie Ruhle brought on guest Jeff Jarvis who said that  rescinding net neutrality would “enable the oligopoly of cable and telephone” to control content on the internet while showcasing Pai's inconsistent approach to regulating the service providers he is aligned with and content producers who might not share his political perspective. Two weeks earlier, during the November 23 edition of MSNBC Live, host Ali Velshi and tech entrepreneur Michael Fertik engaged in a similarly fruitful discussion that provided viewers with specific examples of how telecommunications companies might take advantage of consumers in a world without mandatory net neutrality:

    During the November 26 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter and New York Times reporter David Gelles also delved into the net neutrality debate, and again stressed the ideological inconsistency of the Trump administration’s position. Gelles pointed out that Trump’s threat to block a proposed media merger by citing concerns about competition and consumer choice was directly at odds with his FCC chairman’s decision to entrust the same media titans as caretakers of the free and open internet:

    Consumer advocates have long been concerned that an internet unprotected by net neutrality could devolve into a maze of predatory and expensive consumer traps similar to what we see in countries without net neutrality, which do not provide consumers with the same protections Americans benefit from today. The Republican-led FCC has already demonstrated that it plans to use its time during the Trump era empowering corporate interests, fighting for right-wing pet priorities, and ignoring American consumers. Mainstream news outlets need to start making that story clear.

  • Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle unleash a torrential debunking of a GOP congressman's tax policy lies

    This is exactly how journalists need to treat the Republicans’ messaging nonsense on their giveaway to the rich

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    MSNBC hosts Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle thoroughly debunked conservative talking points about the Republican Party’s pro-corporate tax policy during an interview with an ill-prepared member of Congress, who was attempting to build support for his party’s proposed tax changes that overwhelmingly favor the wealthy.

    During the December 4 edition of MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle, Velshi presented a detailed outline of the many ways in which Republican tax bills in the House and Senate will fall short of GOP promises and commitments. Velshi noted that numerous independent analyses have shown the GOP plans will add upwards of $1 trillion to the national debt, and pointed out that despite “huge changes made to our tax code … we’ve seen no observable shift to long-term growth rates in the last 150 years.” Velshi also pointed to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which found that none of the 42 leading economists surveyed believe the plans will be able to boost economic growth rates by enough to make up for lost revenue. He concluded the segment by pointing to a recently-released Goldman Sachs analysis of the Senate tax bill, which concluded that economic growth stemming from the tax bill will be lower than Republicans have claimed, and, as Velshi stated, “possibly even … negative” after a few years:

    Immediately after outlining all the problems in the GOP tax plans, MSNBC invited Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) on the program and gave him an opportunity to defend his party’s policy priorities. Stewart’s performance did not go as he might have anticipated, with co-hosts Velshi and Ruhle taking turns debunking GOP talking points and pillorying Stewart’s excuses for the tax plan.

    The co-hosts rebuffed Stewart’s repeated assertions that tax cuts for profitable corporations and wealthy individuals will boost economic growth (a 2012 Congressional Research Service study found no correlation between income tax rates and economic growth, and a 2014 study from the Brookings Institution argued the relationship between tax cuts and growth was “theoretically uncertain”), they corrected his false claim that the United States has the world’s highest corporate taxes (effective corporate rates are the same as other developed countries), and they called out his false claim that “the American people want us to do this” (the GOP tax plans are actually extremely unpopular). When Stewart claimed the GOP plans are effective in simplifying the tax code, Ruhle challenged him over and over to name a single corporate loophole that is being removed (he couldn’t), and both co-hosts stung Stewart over how Republican plans fail to address the so-called “carried interest” loophole, which helps extremely high-income individuals avoid paying taxes on some of their income.

    By the end of his nearly 11-minute grilling, Stewart was actually defending the discredited theory of “trickle-down economics” by name, which Velshi correctly noted was such a disaster in Kansas that the state’s Republican-dominated legislature had to abandon their conservative tax agenda.

    This takedown from Velshi and Ruhle is not the first time the MSNBC duo has discredited the GOP’s hollow economic message. Both Velshi and Ruhle have spent considerable time over the past several months pointing out that the Republican agenda favors wealthy individuals, profitable corporations, and the Trump family at the expense of lower- and middle-income Americans. This important work in correcting purposeful misinformation about the GOP's right-wing agenda is all the more important as Republican lawmakers prepare to enact tax policy changes that could affect millions of Americans for years to come.