Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was discussed on nightly network news shows for only 84 seconds since July 10
ABC, CBS, NBC nightly news shows devoted less than 10 minutes each to Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh
ABC, CBS, NBC nightly news shows devoted less than 10 minutes each to Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh
Pruitt's silly scandals got more attention than his weighty misdeeds and regulatory rollbacks
A version of this post was originally published on Grist.
Andrew Wheeler, new acting chief of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has gotten a soft reception from the media during his first couple of weeks on the job. The honeymoon phase needs to end now.
Wheeler is benefiting from comparisons to his disgraced predecessor, Scott Pruitt, who was flamboyantly corrupt and unprecedentedly adversarial toward the press. Wheeler keeps a lower profile than Pruitt and has given interviews to mainstream journalists instead of insulting them, so his different style has generated positive pieces and headlines.
But being more sober and civil than Pruitt is a very low bar to jump over. Wheeler doesn't deserve praise for clearing it.
Wheeler received glowing press just for saying he would listen to EPA employees. “When it comes to leadership, you can’t lead unless you listen,” he said during his first address to agency staff on July 11. That quote was featured in the headlines and introductions of stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post by reporters who had done some of the most aggressive coverage of Pruitt's scandals and regulatory rollbacks.
This is a stark example of how journalists have been quick to paint Wheeler as a departure from Pruitt even when he's doing exactly what Pruitt did.
The media need to stop focusing on the minor stylistic differences between Wheeler and Pruitt and start homing in on substance. The new EPA chief has already implemented his first major rollback of an environmental protection. Wheeler, a former lobbyist for a coal company, signed a final rule that will make it easier for power plants to dump toxic coal ash in ways that could pollute groundwater. And Wheeler has pledged to carry forward the rest of Pruitt's agenda.
So how should the media be covering Wheeler? To help answer that question, take a look back at how they covered Pruitt.
Journalists at many outlets did excellent reporting on a wide range of Pruitt's scandals and regulatory moves, particularly the teams covering the EPA at The Washington Post and The New York Times. The problem was that only some of that good original reporting got amplified by other media outlets and ultimately seen by wide audiences, and too often it was the least important stories that got the most attention.
Media Matters analyzed TV news coverage of Pruitt during a period in June in which a number of EPA regulatory rollbacks and Pruitt scandals were revealed.
For each of the following stories, we looked at how much coverage major prime-time TV news programs devoted to it in the week after it was first reported:
The first four stories -- the ones involving policy changes likely to lead to more pollution -- got markedly less attention on TV news than the scandals surrounding Pruitt's bizarre personal misbehavior.
Pruitt getting the boot opens up an opportunity for journalists to do a better job covering the EPA, as Wheeler seems unlikely to suck up all the oxygen by making goofy moves like buying “tactical pants” or using sirens to speed to his favorite restaurant.
Last month, some reporters on the EPA beat expressed frustration that Pruitt’s scandals were serving as distractions:
While we're all talking about EPA Chief Scott Pruitt's sleeping & eating habits, the agency continues to advance significant rulemaking.
Today's entry represents the 1st step in changing the way the EPA calculates the costs & benefits of its regulations. https://t.co/pBNeyrdVjc
— Jennifer A. Dlouhy (@jendlouhyhc) June 7, 2018
I would rather be writing about EPA policy--like how the EPA today moved to roll back the Clean Water protections it considered excessive from the Obama Administration. I really mean it. Thankfully our colleague @CoralMDavenport had a story on that too https://t.co/EEkD33nH6a
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) June 15, 2018
Now they’ll have more time to chase stories about serious ethics questions at EPA and, most importantly, the regulatory rollbacks that could make Americans sick and kill us.
There will be plenty to cover, like:
During Wheeler's reign at the EPA -- which could last years -- reporters will need to stop comparing him to his predecessor and instead bird-dog the agency's deregulatory moves and dig for the ethics and corruption stories that aren't as ridiculous and simple as those Pruitt routinely offered up. We're counting on journalists assigned to the national environment beat to do just that.
But here's the potentially trickier part: After original reporting comes out on Wheeler's actions, other journalists and commentators and TV news producers will need to amplify those stories, writing articles and producing segments that will get the news in the public eye. Will they do it now that the EPA is no longer run by an absurd character with a proclivity for dramatic self-sabotage?
While Pruitt’s silly scandals were a distraction for some media outlets, they were a lure for others, drawing their eyes to an agency they might not cover often or in-depth. For instance, Vanity Fair -- not traditionally a source of EPA news -- published numerous pieces that highlighted Pruitt's scandals and also noted the more important fact that he'd been gutting regulations and suppressing science.
We need Vanity Fair to keep it up during the Wheeler era, and we need NBC Nightly News and CNN's Situation Room and so many others to join in.
Quiet deregulation and allegiance to industry are easy to ignore in the loud, lewd age of Trump, but everyday Americans who eat, drink, and breathe can't afford for the media to miss the most important stories about the EPA.
Methodology: Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts for prime-time (5 p.m. through midnight) programs on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, as well as the broadcast network nightly news programs: ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and PBS NewsHour. We examined a week’s worth of coverage for the seven stories in the first bullet-pointed list above. We identified and reviewed all segments that were captured by searching for the words Pruitt, EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency within 50 words of cost, benefit, calculate, calculation, economic, chemical, health, safety, toxic, water, pollute, pollution, rollback, regulate, regulation, rule, policy, pen, jewelry, mattress, Trump Hotel, lotion, moisturizer, moisturizing, dry cleaning, security, scandal, ethics, or ethical.
Chart by Melissa Joskow. Research assistance by Kevin Kalhoefer.
ABC, CBS, and NBC aired 127 segments on the recent heat wave and only one noted that climate change is a driver of extreme heat
Throughout the recent record-breaking heat wave that affected millions across the United States, major broadcast TV networks overwhelmingly failed to report on the links between climate change and extreme heat. Over a two-week period from late June to early July, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 127 segments or weathercasts that discussed the heat wave, but only one segment, on CBS This Morning, mentioned climate change.
From the last week of June into the second week of July, an intense heat wave moved across the U.S., going from the eastern and central parts of the country to the West Coast. A large area of high atmospheric pressure helped to create a massive and powerful heat dome, which migrated from New England to southern California. The heat wave brought record-breaking temperatures -- during its first week, 227 U.S. records were broken for highest temperature for particular days, and during the second week, at least six locations in southern California alone saw record-breaking highs. The heat wave killed at least five people in the U.S. and up to 70 people in Quebec, Canada.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that human-induced climate change is exacerbating both the frequency and intensity of heat waves. Heat domes like the one that caused this recent heat wave are becoming more intense and more common, scientists have found. UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, who has studied extreme weather patterns in California, said recent heat in California was unusual. “The overall trend over decades to more intense and more frequent heat waves is definitely a signal of global warming,” he told The New York Times. And according to Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for Weather Underground, this recent heat wave was “the kind of thing you expect to see on a warming planet,” making it “easier to set a heat record.”
Recent studies also reinforce this point. In March 2018, an analysis of heat wave patterns published in Nature Climate Change concluded that climate change will overtake natural variability as the main cause of heat waves in both the western U.S. and Great Lakes region by the 2030s. Nature Climate Change also published a study last summer that detailed how heat waves will occur more frequently in the future due to climate change. Camilo Mora, associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and lead author of the 2017 study, said, “Many people around the world are already paying the ultimate price of heat waves, and while models suggest that this is likely to continue to be bad, it could be much worse if emissions are not considerably reduced.”
Media Matters analyzed morning and nightly news coverage of the heat wave on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as on PBS NewsHour, over a 14-day period from June 27 through July 10, covering the entire duration of the heat wave.
Neither ABC nor NBC mentioned that climate change influences heat waves. There were 32 segments or weathercasts on ABC and 59 segments or weathercasts on NBC that discussed the heat wave. None of them mentioned the link between climate change and extremely high temperatures.
CBS aired one segment that discussed the connection between climate change and high heat. Out of 36 CBS segments that mentioned the heat wave, just one mentioned climate change. The July 3 episode of CBS This Morning featured a discussion with Lonnie Quinn, chief weathercaster for WCBS-TV in New York City, who stated that there is a “really good, strong understanding that there’s a correlation between climate change and extreme hot and extreme cold” and noted the significant increase since 1970 in the number of days above 100 degrees in Miami, FL, and Austin, TX.
PBS NewsHour aired two segments on the heat waves, one of which discussed climate change. In its July 7 NewsHour program, PBS devoted a segment to the heat wave and incorporated climate change into its reporting, noting, “Global temperatures reached extreme highs this past week, something scientists have been warning of as part of the effects of climate change.” The segment also noted that July is off to a record-breaking start in terms of high temperatures.
In 2017, news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC severely undercovered climate change’s real-life impacts on people and climate change’s effects on extreme weather events, Media Matters found in its latest annual study of broadcast coverage. Over a two-week period during the height of hurricane season in 2017, neither ABC nor NBC aired a single segment on their morning, evening, or Sunday news shows that mentioned the link between climate change and hurricanes.
But there are positive trends in broadcast coverage. PBS continues to set the standard for quality news coverage of climate change, as it has in the past. And local meteorologists are increasingly incorporating discussions of climate change into their segments and forecasts. For example, on July 4 in Kansas City -- where there were two suspected heat-related deaths -- NBC affiliate KSHB discussed that climate change is expected to increase the number of extremely hot days in the future, using a dynamic map from climate science nonprofit Climate Central to make the point.
Media Matters searched Nexis, iQ media, and SnapStream for national news broadcasts that included a segment about the heat wave, using the search terms (heat OR "heat wave" OR "heat waves" OR heatwave OR heatwaves OR temperature OR temperatures OR hot). A second search adding the term AND (“climate change” OR “global warming”) was used to identify any segments on the heat wave that mentioned climate change. We did not count teasers or rebroadcasts. Our analysis covered early morning news shows (ABC's America This Morning, CBS Morning News, and NBC's Early Today), morning news shows (ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today), and nightly news programs (ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and PBS NewsHour) from June 27 through July 10.
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Broadcast TV news neglected many critical climate change stories in 2017 while devoting most of its climate coverage to President Donald Trump. Seventy-nine percent of climate change coverage on the major corporate broadcast TV networks last year focused on statements or actions by the Trump administration, with heavy attention given to the president's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement and to whether he accepts that human-caused climate change is a scientific reality. But the networks undercovered or ignored the ways that climate change had real-life impacts on people, the economy, national security, and the year’s extreme weather events -- a major oversight in a year when weather disasters killed hundreds of Americans, displaced hundreds of thousands more, and cost the economy in excess of $300 billion.
The nation's most prominent news programs found little time to discuss gun policy and solutions to gun violence while covering the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history, and what little discussion they did have disproportionately featured Republicans with ties to the gun industry.
Media Matters analyzed evening news shows and Sunday political talk shows on CBS, NBC, and ABC between October 2 and October 22 that included discussion of the October 1 Las Vegas, NV, massacre and found that conversations about how to solve gun violence -- via policy or other means -- were few in number and quickly tapered off in the days following the shooting. During the limited gun policy discussions, the shows hosted and quoted Republican officials who have received much more money from the gun lobby than their pro-gun-safety Democratic counterparts.
Conservative media and their gun lobby allies often respond to mass shootings by saying that the immediate aftermath of the event is not the time to talk about solutions to gun violence. Overall coverage of the Las Vegas massacre appears to follow that advice, as the vast majority focused on breaking news and updates, with only 19 percent even mentioning gun policy and solutions. The entirety of the coverage -- including breaking news and updates on the incident, gun policy and solutions-oriented discussions, and non-gun-policy discussions related to the shooting -- was largely contained to the immediate aftermath of the shooting, with 83 percent taking place in the first week of the study period. As the drastic drop in coverage during our analysis indicates, there is no period “appropriately” removed from a high-profile incident of gun violence when a gun debate actually takes place. None of the segments analyzed from October 8 through the end of the study period on October 22 included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion.
As the country grapples with yet another horrific mass shooting following the November 5 church massacre in Sutherland Springs, TX, here are several key takeaways from our analysis of broadcast news coverage of the Las Vegas shooting:
CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, ABC’s World News Tonight, and the networks' Sunday political talk shows -- CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and ABC’s This Week -- ran a total of 140 segments on the shooting between October 2 and October 22. Forty-six segments were broadcast on the day after the shooting, October 2, when broadcasts networks extended their normal show hours to run additional segments. The shooting received heavy, but declining, coverage in subsequent days, and then briefly spiked on October 8 when segments on Sunday political talk shows helped to bring the total number for that day to 18.
After October 8, coverage fell off. Political talk shows on October 15 and October 22 included no segments on the shooting, and coverage on evening news programs tapered off.
Broken down by week, 83 percent of segments occurred during the initial week following the shooting (October 2-8), 12 percent came the following week (October 9-15), and 4 percent of segments occurred in the final week of the study (October 16-22).
Our analysis also sought to determine the substance of segments run on the shooting. While broadcast news programs’ stature gives them the authority to set an agenda for what topics will be covered long term, they do have limited time and must move forward with reporting on new topics. Given those constraints, we wanted to analyze how the programs used the time they had; to do so, we coded three common occurrences in segments: breaking news and updates on the Las Vegas shooting, gun policy discussions, and non-gun policy discussions.
The first category included reports on the facts of the shooting -- the who, what, when, where, and why -- and often included updates about the perpetrator, the victims, the timeline, and the weaponry that was used. Gun policy and solutions-oriented discussions typically included segments about the prospect of legislative action to address the massacre, but non-policy discussion of solutions to gun violence were also included. Finally, non-gun policy discussions included segments that discussed policy changes in the wake of the shooting that were unrelated to the regulation of firearms -- for example, segments that covered mental health policies or non-gun-related security screening measures to prevent mass shootings.
During the period when the shooting was receiving the most coverage, gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion was largely drowned out by other types of coverage. In the first five days of coverage following the shooting -- Monday, October 2, through Friday, October 6 -- segments were far more likely to focus on breaking news and updates than gun policy or solutions-oriented discussion. Given the later overall drop in coverage of all types on the shooting, this would have been the time to have a rigorous debate over policy and solutions. But that didn’t happen. During this week, 15 segments included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion, while 85 contained breaking news or updates.
Of the 140 segments in the entire study period, 115 (82 percent) included breaking news or updates, 27 (19 percent) included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion, and 16 (11 percent) included non-gun policy discussion. Some segments fell into more than one category, i.e. a segment that provided updates on the timeline of the shooting that also included discussion of legislative proposals to prevent further massacres.
Gun policy and solutions-oriented discussions spiked on the Sunday following the shooting, when all three Sunday shows included in the study ran multiple segments that met our criteria. That day featured 12 segments on gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion, representing 44 percent of total segments meeting that criteria.
But then the discussion of what should change following the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history was over: Between October 9 and October 22, zero segments included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion, a time period when the programming missed an opportunity to continue the conversation.
Of the 27 segments that included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion, nearly half occurred on CBS. NBC and ABC accounted for the other 14 segments.
Media Matters also analyzed the people news programs hosted and quoted in discussing the shooting. Among gun policy and solutions-oriented discussions featuring members of Congress, 63 percent of individuals quoted or hosted were Republicans:
These segments typically focused on questions about banning or otherwise regulating bump fire stocks -- a firearm device the Las Vegas gunman used to rapidly accelerate his gunfire. Based on a review of transcripts, it is likely that the overrepresentation of Republican lawmakers was due to reports that Republicans were open to regulating the devices, a concession rarely seen from Republicans on gun policy.
But since those initial reports on Republicans’ supposed willingness to take action, the waters have become significantly muddied. Republicans have the numbers in Congress to quickly move legislation banning the devices, but they have chosen not to do so. (A hearing that will include testimony on bump fire stocks will take place this week, but that is no guarantee legislation will pass or even be advanced.) House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) made statements on October 11 that further cast doubt on the idea that Republicans are serious about passing bump fire legislation. During a press conference that day, Ryan advanced the position of the National Rifle Association, which is that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) should regulate bump fire stocks. (Ryan received $171,977 from the gun lobby during the 2016 election cycle, more than double any other U.S. representative.) The ATF, however, does not have the authority to regulate the devices because it hasn’t been granted the agency by Congress. Ryan and the NRA’s position is really just a gambit that allows them to appear conciliatory in the face of public outcry while actually preserving the status quo.
Ryan’s claims were just a portion of several developments that could have warranted further segments on gun policy, but as previously noted, segments that included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion were nonexistent after October 8.
Beyond Ryan, every Republican who came up in the study had received money from the gun lobby for the 2016 and/or 2018 election cycles, with the exception of Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who has backed some gun safety laws. Those members were: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (LA) ($24,550), Sen. John Thune (SD) ($32,460), Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) ($4,500), Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA) ($4,700), Sen. Tom Cotton (AR) ($8,085), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (IL) ($7,900), and Rep. Scott Taylor (VA) ($2,000). In total, Republicans who appeared, or were quoted, on shows in the study received nearly $300,000 from the gun lobby over the last two election cycles. Among Democrats who appeared on the shows monitored in the study, just one, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT), received money ($18,165) from gun safety groups in 2016 or 2018
Beyond not adequately discussing gun policy, the shows also failed to invite guests with expertise on the issue during the period of our analysis. The shows examined hosted just one gun violence researcher -- Dr. Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research -- during the study period.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press, World News Tonight, This Week between the dates of October 2 and October 22 for the terms “gun” or “firearm” or “shooting” or “domestic violence” or “suicide” or the word “accident” within five words of the word “gun” or “hate crime” or “officer involved” or “police shooting” or “shot” or “massacre” or “Las Vegas.” We counted segments that fit our criteria, omitting teasers and headlines.
We downloaded transcripts for these search results and analyzed them. To determine what the substance of segments on gun violence was, we split segments into three categories. The first category is segments that reported on the facts of the shooting -- the who, what, when, where details, including but not limited to reports on victims, perpetrators, how the shooting was carried out, the location of the shooting, and what firearms were used in the shooting. Second, we coded for segments that included policy or solutions-based discussion. The final substance category we coded for was non-gun-related policy discussions during segments that we coded as coverage of the Las Vegas shooting, such as when mental health policy was discussed.
For segments that included policy or solutions-based discussion, we coded members of Congress by their party affiliation when they were hosted as guests or quoted on the topic. Segments that quoted members of Congress discussing only news updates about the shooting were not included in this count. We also coded for guests' professional affiliations during policy segments.
The crisis has been mentioned merely three times in the past seven weeks
The Myanmar government’s military forces are conducting ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya Muslim population -- an ethnic and religious minority in Myanmar -- through systematic violence and expulsion. Facing murder, rape, and now famine, hundreds of thousands have fled the country in recent months. Prime-time cable news and broadcast evening newscasts, however, have been reluctant to cover what the U.N. is calling a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
National newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post as well as Time magazine and NPR have reported extensively on the state-sponsored “clearance operations” with in-depth analyses and multimedia features devoted to the state-sponsored violence, but broadcast evening newscasts and prime-time cable news shows have been nearly silent on the issue. In a period of nearly two months following a government crackdown and subsequent mass flight of Rohingya from Myanmar into Bangladesh, evening news referenced the crisis a mere three times: in two reports by Fox News and one from ABC’s World News Tonight.
Of the two reports by Fox News, one, which appeared on the September 21 edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, exploited the ethnic cleansing to scandalize Hillary Clinton’s past support for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi -- Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader who has drawn criticism for her failure to denounce the recent violence -- and to praise the response from President Donald Trump’s administration. The other Fox News report, which appeared on the October 10 edition of Special Report, was a 20-second segment in which host Bret Baier garbled the word “Rohingya” and focused on Pope Francis’ response to the violence.
CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and evening prime-time programming on MSNBC and CNN completely ignored the humanitarian disaster taking place in Myanmar. While CNN International devoted almost 50 segments to the expulsion of Rohingya, none of these reports were re-aired during CNN’s evening programming. Moreover, most reports of Rohingya erasure on CNN International occurred on CNN Newsroom, a program that airs between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.
While the Trump administration has called for the Myanmar military to cease its campaign against the Rohingya, U.S. officials have stopped short of encouraging a formal resolution condemning the violence or imposing targeted sanctions against the military’s leaders. Additionally, the United States still funds military cooperation with Myanmar. And the Trump administration has placed a ban on refugees from around the world and plans to cap refugee admissions over the next year at 45,000 -- the lowest limit ever. Last year, refugees to the United States from Myanmar, including Rohingya, outpaced arrivals from Syria, a nation that has been embroiled in a civil war for over six years that has displaced millions
Activists say they are being censored, and local journalists say they are putting their lives on the line in order to expose Myanmar’s crimes against humanity. Cable and broadcast news networks have an opportunity and responsibility to lift up voices of the Rohingya, whose plight is only becoming more desperate amid the news cycle’s continued silence.
Dayanita Ramesh and Miles Le / Media Matters
Media Matters used Nexis to search transcripts from ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News and weekday programming between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from August 24 to October 16, 2017, for mentions of one or more of the following terms: Rohingya, Burma, Myanmar, or Bangladesh. Reports of flooding across South Asia were not included.
Ditching limits on power plant emissions will lead to an estimated 3,600 more premature deaths each year
A number of TV news outlets failed to cover the negative health impacts of the Trump administration's decision to repeal limits on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants. Of the major broadcast networks' morning and evening news shows, only ABC's World News Tonight mentioned how Americans' health could be affected by the move. On the major cable news networks, CNN overlooked the health angle and MSNBC addressed it in some segments, while most Fox News commentators discussed the repeal in approving or celebratory tones.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced on Monday that he would formally move to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and on Tuesday he signed a proposed rule to get the process rolling. The Clean Power Plan was put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, imposing the first-ever federal limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Pruitt's move will have serious, real-world impacts on Americans' health. According to Obama's EPA, not only would the Clean Power Plan have helped to fight climate change, but it would also have curbed a number of health problems and premature deaths. That's because when utilities reduce their emissions of climate-warming CO2 pollution, they also reduce other pollutants that cause soot and smog and directly harm human health. An EPA fact sheet from 2015 says the agency determined that the rule would prevent thousands of deaths and health-related problems each year:
Under Pruitt, however, those health improvements will be denied to Americans. Pruitt's EPA not only disputes the scientific agreement that humans are driving climate change; it also disputes the scientific agreement that particulate matter and other smog-forming pollutants are unsafe for humans at any level. The EPA's new proposed rule contends that there would be no health benefits to reducing air pollutants below levels currently required by Clean Air Act regulations.
Pruitt's repeal will be particularly harmful to people of color and low-income Americans, as they suffer more than whiter, wealthier communities do from coal plant pollution. The Clean Power Plan included a number of environmental-justice provisions intended to help redress that inequity.
Media Matters analyzed morning and nighttime news shows on October 9 and 10 on ABC, CBS, and NBC, plus PBS NewsHour. ABC was the sole corporate broadcast network to note the health benefits of the Clean Power Plan in coverage of the plan’s repeal, and it did so in only a brief mention. During a headline rundown on the October 9 episode of World News Tonight with David Muir, Muir reported, “The 2015 Clean Power Plan aimed to cut power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent and save 3,600 lives a year.”
In contrast, neither CBS nor NBC made any reference to what the repeal would mean for public health. NBC covered the repeal once, on the October 10 episode of NBC Nightly News, while CBS covered it twice, on the October 9 episode of CBS Evening News and the October 10 episode of CBS This Morning.
PBS NewsHour briefly mentioned the health angle during a lengthy segment on the plan's repeal on October 10 that featured interviews with Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA under President Obama, and coal company CEO Robert Murray. PBS correspondent John Yang did not bring up the health implications of the repeal, but McCarthy mentioned them when she said that Pruitt's move “will limit the kind of protections you will get for public health and take a significant bite out of our ability to address climate change and keep our kids’ future safe.”
Of the major cable networks, MSNBC provided the best TV news coverage of the health implications of the Clean Power Plan repeal. Media Matters analyzed cable news from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on October 9 and October 10 and found that MSNBC aired eight segments on the repeal, three of which mentioned human health. On the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson, NBC correspondent Anne Thompson explained that “doctors are very concerned, because if you increase the amount of coal-fired power, that means you’re putting more particulates in the air, and if that happens, that means you’re going to see more asthma attacks, more days missed in school and work from various illnesses, and more premature deaths.” Another October 10 edition of MSNBC Live featured an interview with Laura Kellogg, an American Lung Association volunteer and mother of children with asthma, who discussed how the plan’s repeal would harm children living close to coal plants. And the same day on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, Melvin asked guest Mustafa Ali, former head of EPA's environmental justice program, about the health impacts of the repeal and gave Ali a chance to discuss the premature deaths and asthma attacks that are expected to result.
(The remaining five MSNBC segments on the plan's repeal, which didn't mention its public health consequences, aired on the October 9 edition of MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, the October 10 edition of MTP Daily, the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live, and the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, which featured two segments on the repeal.)
CNN, on the other hand, did not discuss the health effects during any of its four segments that mentioned the Clean Power Plan repeal on October 9 and 10. Two of those segments aired on New Day on October 10, while one ran on Inside Politics on October 10 and one on At This Hour on October 9.
Fox News aired seven segments covering the repeal of the Clean Power Plan and made four additional mentions while reading headlines. Much of the tone of Fox’s coverage was celebratory. Twice on the October 9 edition of Fox & Friends and once on the October 10 edition of the show, Jillian Mele presented the repeal as President Donald Trump delivering on a campaign promise to his base. On October 10, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade introduced an interview with a former coal worker by saying, “Yesterday the Trump administration kept another campaign promise because Hillary Clinton didn't win, even though no one told her yet, to end the war on coal and help American families.” Sandra Smith also covered the repeal as Trump keeping a campaign promise on the October 9 edition of America’s Newsroom, and the next day she asked Fox contributor Karl Rove whether it can “be seen as a big win for this administration.” Rove responded, "Well, it’s a big win,” adding that Trump needed legislative victories as well.
Special Report was the outlier on Fox News, citing information on health effects of the repeal in two segments. During the show’s October 9 report, correspondent Griff Jenkins read a quote from the Sierra Club noting that the Clean Power Plan would “prevent thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of childhood asthma attacks every year.” And on October 10, during an interview with Pruitt, host Bret Baier read a statement from former EPA Administrator Carol Browner that noted the health impacts of the move and asked Pruitt to respond to the statement.
(The additional Fox News segments and mentions on the repeal were on the October 9 edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum and the October 9 edition of America’s Newsroom during the 9 a.m. hour and the 10 a.m. hour.)
When the Obama administration finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015, many mainstream media outlets neglected to cover the public health implications, as Media Matters noted at the time.
Coverage of the Clean Power Plan was even more lacking last year. Then-candidate Trump promised to repeal the Clean Power Plan during his campaign, but broadcast news programs gave little attention to that pledge or to the plan itself last year, Media Matters found in an analysis of 2016 coverage. Ultimately, broadcast news failed to adequately inform viewers and voters before the election about what a Trump presidency would mean for environmental policy. Now we're seeing the Trump administration working to roll back more than 50 environmental protections.
TV news outlets’ shortcomings this week in covering the repeal of the Clean Power Plan are just part of a longer pattern of insufficient coverage.
Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of "Pruitt,” “Clean Power Plan," "EPA," "Environmental Protection Agency," "carbon," "emissions," "regulation,” and "rule.” We examined coverage on October 9, the day Pruitt announced his intention to repeal the rule, and October 10, the day he formally proposed the repeal. For broadcast networks, we examined the morning and evening news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as PBS NewsHour. For cable news, we examined coverage from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Zachary Pleat contributed to this report.
NBC finally addressed connection in Irma coverage, after failing during Harvey, while ABC made only a cursory mention
After failing to note the impact of climate change on hurricanes in their coverage of Hurricane Harvey, ABC and NBC both discussed the link while covering Irma, Media Matters has found in a new analysis of coverage of the more recent storm. But NBC did a better job: It ran a segment that featured a scientist explaining the climate-hurricane connection, while ABC’s sole mention of climate change was cursory and failed to provide viewers with much information.
Media Matters also analyzed weekday prime-time cable news coverage of Irma and found that Fox News continued its pattern of dismissing climate change, while MSNBC provided extensive coverage of the link between climate change and hurricanes.
This new analysis of Irma coverage builds on a recent Media Matters study that looked at broadcast and cable news coverage of Hurricane Harvey.
Climate scientists have explained how climate change exacerbates some of the worst impacts of hurricanes like Harvey and Irma: Rising sea levels lead to worse storm surges; warmer temperatures increase the amount of moisture in the atmosphere and lead to more rainfall; and warmer ocean waters make the storms more intense.
Media Matters found that during Hurricane Harvey coverage from August 23 to September 7, ABC and NBC completely failed to discuss the link between climate change and hurricanes on any of their morning, nightly, or Sunday news shows. NBC did notably better during its coverage of Hurricane Irma, while ABC made only slight improvement, according to a new analysis of coverage from September 4 -- two days before Irma reached Puerto Rico -- to September 13.
On September 9, an NBC Nightly News segment featured an interview with Oscar Schofield, chair of the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, who explained, “The ocean is going to continue to warm, and the predictions from a lot of the climate scientists are that we're going to get more and more of these extreme events.” On that same day's episode of NBC's Today, correspondent Kerry Sanders introduced a segment about sea level rise by saying, “Whether you accept or don't what scientists say that global warming is raising our world's oceans, there's an undeniable fact here on Miami Beach: They’ve had to raise the sidewalks and roads … [because] much of Miami Beach goes under water.”
On the other hand, ABC’s sole mention of climate change during Irma coverage was brief and uninformative. After ABC meteorologist Ginger Zee answered viewer questions about Irma on the September 11 episode of Good Morning America, host George Stephanopoulos said, “I want to throw out one more question, because a lot of people look at these two back-to-back hurricanes -- two powerful hurricanes back-to-back -- and think there must be some connection to climate change.” Zee responded, “And I think it’s irresponsible not to talk about the warmth of the earth, and you have to get that," but then she went on to another subject and said nothing about how climate change influences storms.
In Irma coverage on the other broadcast networks, CBS aired two segments discussing the impact of climate change on hurricanes on CBS This Morning, while PBS aired none (though it did discuss how climate change worsens storm surges in a September 4 segment on flooding in Bangladesh on PBS NewsHour). During their coverage of Hurricane Harvey, CBS and PBS each aired three segments highlighting climate change’s impact on hurricanes.
Media Matters’ analysis of Hurricane Harvey coverage on the major cable networks’ prime-time weekday shows found that MSNBC and CNN each aired five segments noting climate change’s impact on hurricanes. A follow-up analysis of the prime-time cable news networks’ Hurricane Irma coverage found that MSNBC aired more segments discussing the climate-hurricane link and CNN aired fewer.
From September 4 to September 13, MSNBC aired 13 prime-time segments that discussed climate change’s impact on hurricanes, in some cases including multiple discussions of climate change in a one-hour block. For instance, on September 8, the 8 p.m. broadcast of MSNBC Live on featured three segments in which host Chris Hayes brought up climate change with guests, and the 10 p.m. broadcast featured two instances of host Ali Velshi raising the topic of climate change. MSNBC hosts also brought up the climate-hurricane link on the September 6 and September 11 episodes of All In with Chris Hayes; the September 7, September 8, and September 13 episodes of Hardball with Chris Matthews; the September 13 episode of The Beat with Ari Melber; and the September 8 and September 12 episodes of MTP Daily.
CNN's prime-time weekday Irma coverage featured two segments about the relationship between climate change and hurricanes from September 4 to September 13. Erin Burnett discussed the Trump administration’s refusal to talk about climate change in the wake of the hurricanes on the September 13 episode of Erin Burnett OutFront. The same topic came up on the September 12 episode of CNN Tonight during Don Lemon’s interview with Bob Inglis of RepublicEN and climate denier Myron Ebell, who dismissed the link between climate change and hurricanes by citing an overblown statistic about the lack of major hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. since 2005.
Fox News' prime-time Irma coverage included four mentions of climate change, but they were not informative. The network's hosts discussed the climate-hurricane link the same way they did during Harvey coverage: by criticizing those who raised the issue. The September 11 and September 13 episodes of Fox's The Five both featured lengthy discussions in which hosts accused people who brought up climate change’s impact on Hurricane Irma of behaving inappropriately, saying that they were making claims based on “anecdotal evidence,” acting out of liberal “guilt,” and attempting to shame people. The five-minute group rant on the September 11 episode ended with co-host Dana Perino claiming that actress Jennifer Lawrence had blamed Donald Trump for the hurricanes -- a mischaracterization of her actual statement. Fox ran another misleading segment about Lawrence’s comments on the September 8 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight. According to The Daily Beast, Lawrence’s comments also came up on four other occasions during Fox's weekend coverage of Irma.
Fox's final prime-time mention of the link between climate change and Hurricane Irma came during the September 13 episode of The Story with Martha MacCullum, in which MacCullum said “things got political” during a celebrity telethon for hurricane relief when Stevie Wonder brought up climate change.
Media Matters ran the search terms “Irma AND (climate OR warming OR emission! OR carbon OR CO2 OR greenhouse gas!)” in Nexis and searched for “climate change” and “global warming” in SnapStream to identify segments between September 4 and September 13 that mentioned both the hurricane and climate change.
On the broadcast networks, we examined the morning, evening, and Sunday news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as PBS NewsHour, the only PBS program archived in Nexis. For CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, we examined the networks’ prime-time shows that air on weekdays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
We counted instances of network hosts, anchors, correspondents, and recurring guest panelists mentioning climate change but excluded instances when other guests brought up climate change unprompted.
A Media Matters study found that cable and broadcast evening news mentioned the imprisonment and execution of gay men by Chechen authorities only three times in four months
Major LGBTQ advocacy groups and international human rights organizations have called on evening newscasts to cover the Chechen authorities’ imprisonment and execution of queer men following a Media Matters study, which found that cable and broadcast evening news have virtually ignored the human rights crisis.
An August 1 Media Matters study of evening cable and broadcast news found only three significant mentions of anti-LGBTQ abuses by Chechen authorities across the six cable and broadcast networks’ evening programming over a four-month period. The New York Times broke the story domestically on April 1, citing independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. From then through July 31, only two outlets -- NBC Nightly News and a special evening edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper -- aired full reports on the crisis. CNN touched on the issue during an episode of Anderson Cooper 360 in a brief exchange between host Anderson Cooper and guest Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
In repsonse to the study, major LGBTQ and international human rights advocacy organizations have called on news networks to cover the story, stressing the importance of media coverage and U.S. influence in compelling authorities in Chechnya and Russia to stop the abuses.
Amnesty International has played a key advocacy role in urging the Chechen and Russian authorities to investigate the human rights abuses against gay men in Chechnya. Eric Ferrero, deputy executive director at Amnesty International USA, explained that the dearth of evening news coverage bolstered Chechen authorities’ erroneous “insistence that gay people don’t even exist in the country”:
“One of the most insidious aspects of Chechen authorities’ abuse of gay men is the insistence that gay people don’t even exist in the country. The lack of broadcast media coverage of this crisis only serves their goal of erasing the existence of the LGBT community entirely. We cannot stay silent in the face of the systemic kidnapping, torture, and murder of gay men in Chechnya. The media spotlight is critical to ensuring that these men are not forgotten.” -- Eric Ferrero, deputy executive director, Amnesty International USA
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in the country, has also actively worked to combat Chechnya’s human rights abuses with its #EyesOnChechnya campaign and has urged its supporters to take action. HRC has also helped promote a key Russian LGBT Network report detailing the persecution of LGBTQ Chechens. Jeremy Kadden, HRC senior international policy advocate, said that “the Media Matters report showing the lack of media attention to Chechnya’s horrific human rights abuses is truly disturbing,” adding, “Without sufficient focus on this, the victims will continue to languish and suffer in secret prisons”:
“The Media Matters report showing the lack of media attention to Chechnya's horrific human rights abuses is truly disturbing. With over 100 LGBTQ people rounded up, detained without trial, tortured, and some of them killed, the world needs to be paying attention. Cable news is watched closely at the highest levels of the U.S. government, and without sufficient focus on this, the victims will continue to languish and suffer in secret prisons — without support from the White House or access to lawyers, human rights advocates, or anyone who can help them.” -- Jeremy Kadden, senior international policy advocate, Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights First (HRF) has called on President Donald Trump and his administration to take action and has also helped highlight the Russian LGBT Network report. Shawn Gaylord, advocacy counsel and head of HRF’s international initiative to combat violence against LGBTQ people, told Media Matters that “significant international attention” is necessary to get Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to respect the human rights of the LGBTQ community. Gaylord stressed the importance of the media in public education, saying, “The American public must stand up and demand action from the administration. First, they have to know what's happening. It falls on the media to draw these horrific abuses into the light.” Gaylord praised MTV for its role in the #EyesOnChechnya campaign in support of LGBTQ Chechens but added, “It isn’t an exaggeration to say coverage of this crisis is vital to ending it. For many, the very fact that this is occurring in Chechnya makes it abstract. Media is instrumental in making it concrete”:
“Chechen leader Kadyrov and Russian President Putin will never act to solve this crisis on their own volition. They have proven time and time again that their respect for human rights doesn't extend to all of their citizens, specifically to members of the LGBT community. The only way to get them to respect those rights is from significant international attention to these abuses and public pressure from the United States and its partners to hold the perpetrators accountable. The American public must stand up and demand action from the administration. First, they have to know what's happening. It falls on the media to draw these horrific abuses into the light.
While some media companies like MTV have mounted campaigns to spur action in response to the attacks on gay and bisexual Chechens, there is no doubt that more could be done to raise awareness of these abuses. It isn't an exaggeration to say coverage of this crisis is vital to ending it. For many, the very fact that this is occurring in Chechnya makes it abstract. Media is instrumental in making it concrete. We're urging the media to raise the voices of survivors and to highlight the work of groups like the Russia LGBT network that are working to bring LGBT Chechens to safety. The more these heartbreaking stories are told, the harder it will be for Kadyrov to deny that these abuses are taking place.” -- Shawn Gaylord, Advocacy Counsel, Human Rights First
LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD has also repeatedly called on Trump and the Trump administration to condemn the human rights abuses in Chechnya. Drew Anderson, GLAAD’s director of news and rapid response, told Media Matters that “more must be done” in the media to “push back against this crisis.” Anderson noted that nontraditional media outlets, such as CBS’ streaming coverage, have been highlighting the human rights violation more so than their traditional counterparts, but added that more mainstream media coverage “would put pressure on the Trump administration to speak out against the disgusting attacks”:
“Though some networks like CBS have dedicated significant streaming coverage to the LGBTQ attacks in Chechnya, it’s simply not good enough and more must be done. President Trump, who is no friend to LGBTQ people, has failed to condemn these attacks – leaving all the pressure on the media to push back against this crisis. If the mainstream media dedicated more coverage to Chechnya, it would put pressure on the Trump Administration to speak out against the disgusting attacks.” -- Drew Anderson, director of news and rapid response, GLAAD
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is another major international human rights organization calling on Western governments to “press Russian authorities at the highest level to resolutely condemn what effectively stands for a mop-up operation against gay men in Chechnya.” In May, HRW released a detailed report on the subject that gives firsthand accounts of victims of the crisis, as well as a list of recommendations for combatting it. Graeme Reid, director of HRW’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, responded to Media Matters’ study, saying that “the world needs to pay attention to the egregious human rights abuses” in Chechnya and stressing the media’s “responsibility to shine a spotlight on these shocking abuses”:
“The purge against gay men in Chechnya, undertaken on orders from top government, has taken place under a cloak of secrecy and denial by authorities there. The detention and torture of gay men is but the latest example of the Chechen government’s disregard for the most basic human rights. The world needs to pay attention to the egregious human rights abuses that continue to take place in Chechnya. The media has a responsibility to shine a spotlight on these shocking abuses.” -- Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, Human Rights Watch
A 12-month-long Media Matters study of evening cable news programs and broadcast morning shows and nightly newscasts found that discussions of voting rights and issues related to voting featured misinformation pushed by Republican lawmakers and were dominated by President Donald Trump’s false claims about voter fraud and noncitizen voting. Additionally, coverage also lacked discussions of gerrymandering, the impact of voter suppression on the 2016 election, and laws on the state level to curb voting rights.
In the four months since The New York Times first reported that authorities in Chechnya “were arresting and killing gay men,” evening cable and evening broadcast news programming has virtually ignored the story. Between April 1 and July 31, there were only three significant mentions in total across six networks -- two news packages and one brief exchange -- about the ongoing human rights abuses.
On April 1, The New York Times reported that “Chechen authorities were arresting and killing gay men.” Citing independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the Times’ Andrew Kramer wrote that “men were detained ‘in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,’” and that “more than 100 gay men had been detained” so far. The report added that Novaya Gazeta “had the names of three murder victims, and suspected many others had died in extrajudicial killings,” and it noted that authorities posed “as men looking for dates” on social networking sites to lure in victims. Many gay men have fled the region as a result. The Times report quoted a spokesperson for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who denied the existence of gay people in Chechnya, calling the reports “absolute lies and disinformation.” “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” he said. Kadyrov has since been interviewed for HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel by reporter David Scott, and according to The Washington Post, during the conversation, he “laugh[ed] dismissively at questions about the allegations” and said that gay men “are not people”:
In his interview with Scott, Kadyrov initially laughs dismissively at questions about the allegations. “Why did he come here?” he says to someone off camera. “What's the point of these questions?” But as Scott presses him, Kadyrov talks angrily about the reporters and activists who write about LGBT rights in Chechnya.
“They are devils. They are for sale. They are not people,” he says. “God damn them for what they are accusing us of. They will have to answer to the almighty for this.”
A Media Matters analysis of CNN's, MSNBC's, and Fox News’ weekday evening programming from 5-11 p.m. and ABC's, CBS', and NBC’s flagship evening news programs -- both weekend and weekday -- found virtual silence across the networks regarding the abuse of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. There were only three significant mentions of the story across all six networks between April 1 and July 31 and one short exchange in a broader discussion about the United States’ position on human rights around the world.
Over the last four months, CNN was the only cable network to air a full segment dedicated to the subject, as well as one brief exchange during a separate interview. A special April 24 evening edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper aired a package in which reporter Matthew Chance covered the subject. During the May 4 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, there was also a brief exchange between host Anderson Cooper and guest Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in which Cooper mentioned German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s request to Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene and help protect gay people in the country. McCain did not comment on the atrocities in Chechnya specifically during the exchange.
Of the three broadcast flagship programs, there was no significant mention of Chechnya’s abuses on weekdays. On April 23, however, the Sunday edition of NBC Nightly News devoted a segment to the topic featuring reporter Lucy Kafanov.
During the segment on The Lead, host Jake Tapper noted that the story was not “getting enough attention,” and Matthew Chance reported that the journalist who broke the story was “fleeing the country” after she received threats for her reporting. He also said that at least five other reporters at her newspaper have been killed since 2000 “in mafia-style hits.” The package also featured video of a victim speaking out about what Chance described as “horrifying abuse,” detailing the torture by authorities:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tied wires to my hand and put metal clippers on my ears to electrocute me. When they shock you, you jump high above the ground. [via Nexis]
NBC’s report also featured interviews with a victim of the abuse in Chechnya, as well as another journalist from Novaya Gazeta. The victim, who used a pseudonym, detailed being “dragged … out of a car,” beaten, and told that “gays shouldn’t exist in Chechnya.” NBC's Kafanov added that in addition to the reporting by Novaya Gazeta, the abuses had been corroborated by human rights groups.
Prominent world leaders have spoken out against the human rights abuses in Chechnya, including Merkel and newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron. Major human rights groups such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Amnesty International, and Outright International have also launched campaigns in support of LGBTQ Chechens. Despite this international condemnation -- and human rights groups’ calls for President Donald Trump to comment -- the president has not spoken publicly about the allegations or condemned Chechnya’s actions. It should be noted that newly appointed United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert have issued statements on the reports.
Chechnya’s brutal attacks against and murders of queer men in the region have become an international human rights issue, but the American public would not know that by watching the evening news. Though NBC's and CNN’s pieces provided solid reporting, one package on each network's evening programming over a four-month span is not enough, and the utter silence of ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and Fox News does a disservice to their viewers.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of CNN's, MSNBC's, and Fox News’ weekday 5-11 p.m. programming between April 1 and July 26 for mentions of the words “Chechnya” or “Chechen” or “Kadyrov” or “Russia” within 20 words of the terms “gay” or “LGBT” or “homosexual” or “lesbian” or “bisexual.” Media Matters also searched Nexis transcripts for those terms appearing on ABC's, CBS', and NBC’s nightly news programs ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News, including the Saturday and Sunday editions of those shows. Media Matters also searched iQ media for those terms appearing on MSNBC’s 6 p.m. programming and the weekend broadcast news shows.
Mentions of those terms were included in the analysis if the human rights abuses of gay, bisexual, and queer men in Chechnya were mentioned as the stated topic of conversation or if there was significant discussion of the topic. “Significant discussion” is defined as a back-and-forth exchange between two or more people; passing mentions were not included in the analysis.
President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on July 26 that the United States will not “accept or allow” transgender people to serve in the military. Media outlets have praised Trump in the past for being “pro-gay rights” and “LGBT-friendly.”
Immediately after Senate Republicans unveiled a new draft of their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), cable and broadcast newscasts framed reports about the bill around the challenges it faces in the legislative process, including vote counts and optics, rather than personal stories from those who would be most affected by the bill. However, the programs did use the opportunity to cover key changes to and consequences of the bill.
Senate Republicans on July 13 introduced a new draft of their bill to repeal and replace the ACA, which includes key changes surrounding health savings accounts and ways for insurers to offer more bare-bones policies. While the bill has changed a bit, the media coverage has largely stayed the same. Once again, media are continuing to focus on the process surrounding the bill and largely ignoring personal stories from those most affected. Unlike with previous coverage, cable and broadcast news did focus on the new changes in the bill and their potential consequences for Americans. MSNBC in particular provided more context and information about the bill than other networks.
During the July 13 newscasts, just hours after the new draft plan was introduced, broadcast news shows framed their coverage around the legislative process and optics of the bill. NBC’s Lester Holt introduced a report on the bill on NBC Nightly News by noting that “Republicans face a crucial battle for votes in their own party” over the bill. CBS’ Anthony Mason said the bill was “already in critical condition” on CBS Evening News because of the lack of Republican support. And ABC’s Mary Bruce framed her report on the new bill by pointing out that it faces “the same old problem: Can it get the votes to pass?”
Like previous coverage, broadcast newscasts largely neglected to offer personal anecdotes from people who would be most affected by the bill. One exception was CBS Evening News, which followed its coverage of the bill with a segment on how Kentuckians would be “hard hit” by its Medicaid cuts.
Network newscasts did do an exemplary job of highlighting the consequences of and new changes in this newest draft of the bill, however, including provisions that would allow “the return of skimpy junk insurance policies and discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions,” according to HuffPost, and expand the use of health savings accounts, which have been found to “primarily benefit the wealthy, the healthy, and the educated.”
Like broadcast newscasts, the 6 p.m. hour of cable news coverage framed the unveiling of the bill largely around vote counting and optics. Fox News’ Bret Baier introduced a panel discussion of the bill on Special Report by explaining that the GOP “can only afford to lose one more vote” to pass the bill. Earlier in the program, Baier set up a report on the bill by highlighting “the continued internal dissent” surrounding the bill. MSNBC’s Ali Velshi framed his discussion of the bill on MSNBC Live by saying that it “is hanging by a thread” in terms of votes. CNN’s Jim Acosta opened a segment on the bill by stating that Republicans are “increasingly optimistic about its prospects.” Acosta even conducted an interview with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and asked only about the prospects the bill would pass, not the actual policies it contains.
Like broadcast newscasts, cable coverage was also largely devoid of personal stories from those most affected. However, cable coverage did highlight several changes that are included in this draft of the bill and the consequences of the provisions. MSNBC, especially, excelled in this area, hosting Dr. Kavita Patel, medical director of Sibley Primary Care in Washington, D.C., who noted that this bill “does cause a death spiral … by allowing for insurance plans to sell … catastrophic insurance.”
MSNBC also hosted Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, who pointed out that the bill negatively impacts state budgets, like in Virginia.
Evening broadcast and cable news coverage since June 1 has largely neglected ongoing Republican deliberations in the Senate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with major news networks devoting a fraction of their airtime to the prospective legislation. The sparse coverage also frequently overlooked the Republican Party’s unprecedented secrecy about its draft legislation, which Senate leaders plan to vote on before the end of the month without any input from outside experts, their Democratic colleagues, or the public.