NBC Today | Media Matters for America

NBC Today

Tags ››› NBC Today
  • National TV news is still failing to properly incorporate climate change into hurricane coverage

    ABC did not mention climate at all during Florence, while CBS, PBS, CNN, and MSNBC did worse than last year during Harvey

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A Media Matters analysis of Hurricane Florence broadcast news coverage from September 7-19 found that ABC failed to air a single segment that mentioned the links between climate change and hurricanes like Florence, while NBC aired one segment and CBS aired two. PBS NewsHour also aired two. A review of weekday, prime-time coverage of Florence on the three major cable news networks found that MSNBC ran four segments that mentioned climate change in the context of hurricanes, and CNN ran two. Fox aired six segments, but these either downplayed or outright dismissed the link between climate change and hurricanes. Overall, coverage was down from a year ago: The majority of the networks mentioned the connections between hurricanes and climate change in fewer segments than they did while covering Hurricane Harvey last year.

    Florence brought historic levels of rainfall and destruction to the Carolinas. Scientists say that climate change worsened these effects.

    After making landfall over North Carolina on September 14, Hurricane Florence dumped record amounts of rainfall over the region. Swansboro, N.C., had over 30 inches of rain, which broke the previous record of 24 inches set by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. South Carolina’s record for most rain in a single spot was also broken, as over 18 inches of rain fell in Marion. Additionally, Florence brought tides to record levels. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the tide gauge at Wrightsville Beach, N.C., surged to more than four feet above normal, breaking the previous record by over a foot.

    At least 44 deaths have been attributed to Florence. The storm unleashed significant flooding that has affected thousands of people, with several river gauges either near or above record levels. Florence has created a massive environmental crisis as well -- hog waste and coal ash have leaked into flood waters, and Duke Energy now fears that coal ash may be leaking into the Cape Fear River, which is the source of drinking water for more than 60,000 people. And as with most hurricanes, lower-income and minority communities are suffering the brunt of its destruction.

    Scientists say that climate change is exacerbating some of the worst effects of hurricanes like Florence. Climate scientist Jennifer Francis of the Rutgers Climate Institute told Bloomberg:

    Warming oceans, a more rapidly warming arctic, melting ice sheets are all contributing in various way to conditions like what we’re observing now. ... It’s favoring slow moving weather patterns, more intense tropical storms and heavier downpours. And they’re all more likely as we continue to warm the Earth.

    Regarding heavier downpours, there is a growing body of work linking wetter storms to climate change. NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory notes, “Tropical cyclone rainfall rates will likely increase in the future due to anthropogenic warming and accompanying increase in atmospheric moisture content.” In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s record-breaking rainfall, two studies concluded that climate change increased the amount of rainfall that Harvey dumped by estimates of 15 percent and 38 percent, respectively. Before Florence made landfall, a first of its kind pre-attribution study estimated that the storm's “rainfall will be significantly increased by over 50% in the heaviest precipitating parts of the storm.”

    Florence’s record storm surge was also likely worsened by climate change. According to atmospheric scientist Marshall Shepard:

    We do have higher sea level because of climate change. So whenever we have these types of storms, you’re probably dealing with a more significant storm surge because of that than you would perhaps 100 years ago.

    Broadcast networks: ABC completely dropped the ball in explaining how climate change affects hurricanes, while CBS and NBC did a little better

    Media Matters analyzed the morning, nightly, and Sunday news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC from September 7-19.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CBS and PBS each aired fewer segments on the links between climate change and hurricanes than they did last year during coverage of Harvey. In 2017, as Hurricane Harvey menaced parts of Texas, Media Matters tracked the number of TV news segments about the hurricane that mentioned climate change. Harvey, like Florence, was the first major hurricane of the year to make landfall in the continental U.S. In comparing last year's Harvey coverage to this year's Florence coverage, we found that networks overall did a worse job of drawing links between climate change and hurricanes this year.

    During its Harvey coverage, CBS aired three segments discussing the ways that climate change influences hurricanes, but it aired just two such segments during Hurricane Florence coverage. NBC was the only network that improved its coverage: Last year, it aired zero segments mentioning the climate-hurricane connection in the context of Harvey while this year it aired one during its Florence coverage. ABC failed to air any segments mentioning climate change during coverage of either Harvey or Florence. We also analyzed weekday episodes of PBS NewsHour and found that its coverage had declined: Last year, the show aired three segments about Harvey that discussed climate change. This year, it aired only two such segments about Florence. 

    ABC was the only network that did not mention climate change in its coverage of Florence at all. ABC's failure on this score was not surprising, as the network has a history of neglecting climate change. Earlier this year, it was the only major broadcast network to make no mention of climate change in relation to the deadly heat wave that affected much of the U.S., and it spent less time last year reporting on climate change on its nightly and Sunday shows than did CBS and NBC.

    CBS aired just two segments that addressed the effects of climate change on hurricanes. Both of the segments, which ran during the September 15 episode of CBS This Morning, included strong analysis. The first mentioned Hurricane Florence in the broader context of the Global Climate Action Summit, which took place in San Francisco from September 12-14. CBS correspondent John Blackstone noted, “For activists here, Hurricane Florence provided an example of the kind of extreme weather scientists have predicted would come more often in a warming world.” The second segment immediately followed the first, and featured meteorologist Jeff Berardelli discussing how climate change can influence hurricanes:

    NBC aired just one segment that reported on the links between climate change and hurricanes. In a good segment on the September 15 episode of Today, NBC correspondent Harry Smith spoke with Adam Sobel, an atmospheric science professor at Columbia University, and Rob Freudenberg, an environmental planning expert, about how climate change affects hurricanes. Sobel said, “What we know certainly about climate change and hurricanes is that because of higher sea-level rise, the risk from storm-surge flooding is going up. And we know with a high degree of confidence that rainfall from these storms is also increasing.”

    PBS NewsHour aired only two segments that connected climate change to hurricanes. Both segments featured strong analysis from climate scientists. On the September 14 episode of PBS NewsHour, Columbia University climate scientist Radley Horton discussed how there is a “very clear link” between climate change and hurricanes. On the September 19 episode of PBS NewsHour, science correspondent Miles O’Brien looked at the science behind hurricanes, and featured several climate scientists. One of them was the University of Wisconsin’s James Kossin, who recently published a study about how tropical cyclones are slowing down due to anthropogenic warming.

    Prime-time cable: CNN and MSNBC mentioned climate change less often during Florence coverage than they did last year during Harvey

    We also analyzed prime-time, weekday shows on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News from September 7-19. CNN and MSNBC both aired fewer segments that discussed climate change in the context of hurricanes than they did during Hurricane Harvey. Fox aired the same number as last year, but its coverage was even more dismissive of climate science now than it was in 2017.

    CNN aired two segments that discussed the links between climate change and hurricanes, down from five such segments that ran during Harvey coverage. Both of the climate mentions occured on September 11, when CNN commentators only briefly raised the topic during broader discussions. CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein mentioned on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer that hurricanes are influenced by the changing climate, while CNN Political Commentator Van Jones made a similar point on Cuomo Prime Time.

    MSNBC aired four segments that discussed the links between climate change and hurricanes, down from five that ran during Harvey coverage. The September 13 episode of All In With Chris Hayes featured a substantive and informative segment with meteorologist Eric Holthaus -- the best of the prime-time cable segments we analyzed. Holthaus began the discussion by stating, “Florence is a huge hurricane. I mean, this is one of the largest hurricanes that we've ever seen in the Atlantic. And you can't really talk about this without talking about climate change.” He explained that intense rain and storm surge fueled by climate change were major components of the storm. The other MSNBC mentions of climate change occurred in the context of broader discussions: one more on the September 13 All In episode; one on the September 13 episode of Hardball with Chris Matthews; and one on the September 11 episode of The Beat with Ari Melber.

    Fox News aired six segments that mentioned climate change in its Florence coverage, but all of them were dismissive of the issue. That's slightly worse than last year during Harvey, when Fox also aired six such segments, only five of which were dismissive of the links between climate change and hurricanes.

    Of Fox’s six segments that mentioned climate change this year, two featured well-known climate deniers who disputed any connections between climate change and hurricanes: The September 13 episode of Hannity included commentary from meteorologist Joe Bastardi, and the September 14 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight featured meteorologist Roy Spencer. In the other four Fox segments, hosts took aim at a Washington Post editorial that called President Trump complicit in extreme weather because his administration has been rolling back climate protections. Three of these attacks came from Sean Hannity -- on September 12, 13, and 14 -- and the fourth from Greg Gutfeld on September 12.

    Methodology

    Media Matters ran the search terms "(Hurricane! OR Florence) AND (climate OR warming OR emission! OR carbon OR CO2 OR greenhouse gas!)" in Nexis to identify segments between September 7 and September 19 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 weekday episodes of PBS NewsHour. For CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, we examined the networks’ prime-time shows that air on weekdays from 5-11 p.m.

  • Major broadcast TV networks mentioned climate change just once during two weeks of heat-wave coverage

    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

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    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.

    The recent heat wave was record-breaking and deadly

    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.

    Climate change is exacerbating both the frequency and intensity of heat waves

    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.”

    Broadcast networks almost completely ignored the links between climate change and heat waves

    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.

    Broadcast TV news has a track record of neglecting climate change in its reporting on extreme weather

    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.

    Methodology

    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.

  • Media failed on climate and extreme weather coverage last year. Will they do better in 2018?

    Al Roker gives us reason to be a bit optimistic

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS

    A version of this post was originally published on Grist.

    Everyone knows that the U.S. got gobsmacked by hurricanes last year. But if you rely on mainstream media for your news, you might not know that climate change had anything to do with it.

    In 2017, the major broadcast TV news programs mentioned climate change only two times total during their coverage of the record-breaking hurricanes that made landfall in the U.S. The climate-hurricane link came up once on CBS, once on NBC, and not at all during ABC's coverage of the storms, Media Matters found. All in all, major TV news programs, radio news programs, and newspapers mentioned climate change in just 4 percent of their stories about last year’s big hurricanes, according to research by Public Citizen. Many major media outlets also neglected to weave climate change into their reporting on 2017's heat waves and wildfires

    Will coverage in 2018 be any better?

    Al Roker has given us reason to feel slightly optimistic. Last week, Roker, the weather forecaster on NBC's Today show, demonstrated one good way to put an extreme weather event into proper context. While discussing the devastating flooding that recently hit Ellicott City, MD, he explained that heavy downpours have become more common in recent decades thanks to climate change, using a map and data from the research group Climate Central:

    As we roll into summer -- the start of the season for hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and heat waves -- that's just the kind of connect-the-dots reporting we need.

    The New York Times helped set the scene with its recent map-heavy feature on places in the U.S. that have been hit repeatedly by extreme weather. "Climate change is making some kinds of disasters more frequent," the piece explained, and "scientists also contend that climate change is expected to lead to stronger, wetter hurricanes."

    But it's one thing to report on how climate change worsens weather disasters in general, as the Times did in that piece. It's another thing to report on climate change while covering a specific storm or wildfire, as Roker did -- and many journalists still seem to be squeamish about it. They shouldn't be; science has their back. In addition to what we know about the general links between climate change and extreme weather, there's a growing area of climate research, called attribution science, that measures the extent to which climate change has made individual weather events more intense or destructive.

    Consider the research that's been done on Hurricane Harvey, which dumped more than 60 inches of rain on the Houston area this past August. Just four months after the storm, two groups of scientists published attribution studies about it: One study estimated that climate change made Harvey's rainfall 15 percent heavier than it would have been otherwise, while another offered a best estimate of 38 percent.

    Broadcast TV news programs did not report on this research when it came out, but they should have. And the next time a major hurricane looms or makes landfall, media outlets should make note of these and other studies that attribute hurricane intensity to climate change. Scientists can't make these types of attribution analyses in real time (at least not yet), but their research on past storms can help put current and future storms in context.

    Of course, in order to incorporate climate change into hurricane reporting, journalists have to be reporting on hurricanes in the first place. They failed miserably at this basic task when it came to Hurricane Maria and its devastation of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maria got markedly less media coverage than hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to analyses by FiveThirtyEight and researchers from the MIT Media Lab. The weekend after Maria made landfall, the five major Sunday morning political talk shows cumulatively spent less than a minute on the storm. And just last week, when a major new study estimated that Maria led to approximately 5,000 deaths in Puerto Rico, as opposed to the government's official death count of 64, cable news gave 16 times more coverage to Roseanne Barr's racist tweet and her canceled TV show than to the study.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Hurricane Maria overwhelmingly harmed people of color -- Puerto Rico's population is 99 percent Latino and the U.S. Virgin Islands' population is 98 percent Black or African-American -- so it's hard not to see race as a factor in the undercoverage of the storm. The authors of the MIT Media analysis attributed the lack of coverage to a “cultural gap” and suggested that more minorities working in media might have alleviated the problem. Not only are minorities less likely to be employed in newsrooms; they're also less likely to be included in media discussions of climate change.

    The lack of reporting on Maria sets a scary precedent, as climate disasters are expected to hurt minority and low-income communities more than whiter, wealthier ones. Unless mainstream media step up their game, the people hurt the most by climate change will be covered the least.

    Ultimately, we need the media to help all people understand that climate change is not some distant phenomenon that might affect their grandkids or people in faraway parts of the world. Only 45 percent of Americans believe climate change will pose a serious threat to them during their lifetimes, according to a recent Gallup poll. That means the majority of Americans still don't get it.

    When journalists report on the science that connects climate change to harsher storms and more extreme weather events, they help people understand climate change at a more visceral level. It's happening here, now, today, to all of us. That's the story that needs to be told.

  • The morning after Florida shooting, elected GOP officials appeared on only one show: Fox & Friends

    No elected GOP officials appeared on morning shows on CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, or CBS. Chris Cuomo: Republicans "wouldn’t even come on the damn show.”

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    The morning after yet another deadly school shooting in the United States, Republican elected officials avoided all but one morning news show: Fox & Friends.

    Yesterday, a shooting at a Florida school left at least 17 students and adults dead. It was the 18th shooting at a school in the U.S. just this year. Today, Republican elected officials avoided ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC’s morning shows, opting to exclusively appear on Fox & Friends. Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) all appeared on Fox to discuss the shooting. Cruz attempted to explain the shooting by saying, “Evil is, sadly, always present” and complained that “the reaction of Democrats to any tragedy to is try to politicize it.” Rubio referred to the shooting as “an isolated instance” that resulted from “a perfect storm of circumstances.” And Scott told the Fox & Friends hosts that he was “mad” and asked, “How can this be going on in our society?” Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson also appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss the shooting.

    Meanwhile, no Republican elected officials appeared on any other broadcast and major cable news channel. CNN host Chris Cuomo noted that it was not for lack of trying, saying that Republicans “wouldn’t even come on the damn show” to talk about the shooting in Florida:

    In the aftermath of past mass shootings, Fox News has provided a platform for Second Amendment advocates to push misinformation about firearms while repeatedly asserting that the aftermath of a mass shooting is “not the time” to talk about policy solutions to address gun violence.

  • 17 disturbing warning signs NBC ignored from Matt Lauer

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    NBC News announced on November 29 that it fired Today host Matt Lauer after “a detailed complaint” was filed about "inappropriate sexual behavior that took place during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.” The complaint also noted that Lauer’s “alleged behavior continued in the workplace after the games.” Lauer has a well-documented history of disturbing and sexist behavior that should have served as a warning sign to management long before this recent investigation took place. Here are just a few examples:

    1. According to The New York Times Magazine, Lauer was part of “the boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes” at Today, which Curry said “undermined her from the start” and was partially responsible for pushing her out in 2013.

    2. In 2012, former Today host Katie Couric told Andy Cohen that Lauer’s most “annoying” trait was that he “pinch[ed] me on the ass a lot.”

    3. In 2006, according to video footage on TMZ, Lauer told Meredith Vieira to "Keep bending over like that. It's a nice view," during a commerical break.

    4. According to HuffPost, Lauer acted incredibly skeezy during a 2014 interview with then-18-year-old skier Mikaela Shiffrin.

    5. In a 2012 interview with actress Anne Hathaway, Lauer started off by discussing a wardrobe malfunction of hers, telling Hathaway he had “seen a lot of you lately.”

    6. Lauer, then in his late 40s, told singer Kelly Clarkson that she had a “hot new look.” When Clarkson, who was in her early 20s at the time, responded by asking “I have a hot new look?” Lauer replied, “Well, I'm back from vacation and you got my attention, I'll tell you that.”

    7. During an interview with Pippa Middleton, Lauer focused on the “very flattering” dress she wore to her sister’s wedding and the way it fit her, saying, “I thought it was the best of British pomp and circumstance.”

    8. During an interview with Lauer earlier this year, actor Corey Feldman discussed child molestation in Hollywood, including his own experience of abuse. In response, Lauer questioned Feldman’s culpability in the matter, asking why he didn’t come forward sooner: “Why are you sitting down talking to me? Why aren’t you sitting down with the police right now?” Feldman replied, “I’m the victim here. I’m the one who’s been abused. I’m the one who’s trying to come forward and do something about it.”

    9. During a 2008 “roast” of Lauer, he misogynistically joked about sleeping with his former co-hosts Katie Couric and Ann Curry, asking, “What’s with all the small-dick jokes? It was fun to look over and see Ann Curry laughing … like she doesn’t know how big my dick really is.”  

    10. In 2012, Lauer was part of an incredibly distasteful mockumentary on sexual harassment at Today, where he said he was the “real victim” after co-host Willie Geist jokingly touched him inappropriately.

    11. In a 2014 sketch, Lauer pretended to flash his colleagues, urging his female colleagues to “drink it in, ladies.”

    12. In September, Lauer, who reportedly had notable influence over which stories appeared on Today, interviewed serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly, giving him a platform to attack a woman who had reported him for harassment and deny knowledge about the multiple settlements he’d reached for misconduct.

    13. During an interview with GM chief executive Mary Barra in 2014, Lauer asked her if she thought she could do a good job at being both a high-powered executive and a mother.

    14. During a 2015 interview with musician Adele, Lauer questioned whether she was “concerned at all that now, with the explosion of this album, that you're going to have to get back on that career treadmill and have less time to dedicate” to her young son.

    15. During a national security forum during the 2016 presidential campaign, Lauer “behaved toward the presidential candidates in a way that was consistent with much of the research about gender stereotypes and discrimination,” according to the Harvard Business Review. Specifically, Lauer “interrupted Clinton more often than Trump, asked her more challenging questions, and questioned her statements more often.”

    16. During the same forum, Lauer failed to push back on then-candidate Donald Trump’s assertion that is was “correct” to claim that rape should be “expected” when men and women both serve in the military.  

    17. While reporting on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Lauer referred to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen as one of Brazil’s “most recognizable exports.”

    A TMZ report initially identified the woman in the third bullet as Katie Couric. TMZ now reports it was Meredith Vieria. This piece has been updated accordingly.

  • Matt Lauer is the fourth NBCUniversal employee to be publicly named for sexual misconduct in recent weeks

    Matt Lauer's misogyny was no secret

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Early this morning, a now-familiar pattern of events unfolded: A prominent media figure was named as a reported perpetrator of sexual misconduct and reporters from other outlets quickly confirmed they’d been working on stories about it. This time it was NBC’s Matt Lauer, and no one seemed surprised -- particularly because the network has been very publicly struggling to adequately address sexual harassment and misogyny for over a year now.

    On November 29, Today co-host Savannah Guthrie, seated next to colleague Hoda Kotb, announced that NBC had terminated Lauer after receiving a “detailed complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” The statement from NBC News chairman Andy Lack, from which Guthrie read on-air, also stated that the network had reason to believe the report was not an isolated incident.

    Almost immediately, several reporters confirmed that they’d been working on investigations of Lauer or were aware of investigations and that NBC knew about the coming stories as well. At least one reporter, Yashar Ali, said he’d spoken with women privately about Lauer even before The New York Times published its first story on reports of harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein in early October.

    Lauer’s misogyny was certainly no secret, either -- he had publicly berated women, victim-blamed, and reinforced sexist stereotypes in interviews before. In 2012, when former co-host Ann Curry was reportedly pushed out of the network, Lauer and the “boys’ club atmosphere” at Today were implicated.

    And in September, Lauer interviewed serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly, giving him space to attack a woman who had reported him for harassment and deny knowledge about the multiple settlements he’d reached for misconduct. NBC’s decision to give Lauer and O’Reilly an 8 a.m. slot to broadcast such an insulting conversation to more than 4 million people -- predominantly women, who are likely to have themselves experienced workplace sexual harassment -- was still far from the first time NBC has struggled to send the right message on sexual misconduct.

    Lauer is the fourth NBCUniversal employee to be publicly named for sexual misconduct -- in the case of Lauer, reported assault -- since the Weinstein reports. Earlier in November, Variety wrote that Matt Zimmerman, the senior vice president of booking for NBC News who oversaw the department that likely invited O’Reilly to appear on Today, had been fired following reports he’d “engaged in inappropriate conduct with more than one woman at NBCU.”

    On October 26, two different NBCUniversal employees were publicly reported for workplace sexual harassment: Mark Halperin and Ken Baker. Baker, a correspondent for the NBC-owned E! News, is currently off the air pending an internal investigation into multiple reports of inappropriate text messages and an unwanted kiss. Halperin, who was an MSNBC contributor and NBC News analyst, was fired following a flood of reports detailing serial sexual harassment and assault while he worked at ABC News.  

    NBC has also notoriously maintained silence on several reports related to harassment and assault by powerful men outside of its offices. Freelance NBC News correspondent Ronan Farrow publicly called out his employer for passing on his months-long investigation into multiple reports of harassment and assault by Weinstein; the piece eventually ran in The New Yorker.

    Last fall, the network sat on the Access Hollywood footage depicting President Donald Trump bragging about committing sexual assault and was eventually scooped by another outlet. It subsequently waffled on firing its own employee, Billy Bush, for his participation in the damning exchange.

    NBC is now among the list of media outlets that must grapple with reporting on sexual misconduct by its own employees. Addressing the reports against Lauer -- which seem likely to grow in number -- and the behavior he exhibited behind-the-scenes at NBC for decades gives the network an opportunity to change its course. It remains to be seen if NBC will take this chance to begin sending better messages to its employees and viewers about who and what it will value and protect.

  • Morning news shows ignored report that Trump’s FCC plans to roll back net neutrality

    Only CBS This Morning reported on the FCC commissioner's plan to overturn Obama-era net neutrality protections

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Cable and broadcast morning shows virtually ignored reports that the Republican-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, is expected to reveal his plan to gut net neutrality regulations this week.

    According to the internet advocacy organization Free Press, net neutrality is "the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use." In 2015, the FCC enacted regulations protecting net neutrality, "reclassif[ying] high-speed Internet as a telecommunications service rather than an information one, subjecting providers to regulation under Title II of the Communications Act."

    But as Politico reported on November 20, FCC Chairman Pai, an appointee of President Donald Trump, plans to share a scheme with his fellow commissioners today to dismantle the regulations. The commission is expected to vote in December on the plan, which reportedly "would jettison rules that prohibit internet service providers from blocking or slowing web traffic or creating so-called paid internet fast lanes."

    On November 21, morning news shows failed to inform their audiences about the threat to a free and open internet. CBS This Morning was the only show to feature a report on the development. One guest on MSNBC's Morning Joe briefly mentioned the expected rule change, but the hosts didn't engage with the comment and never brought up the story themselves. There was no mention at all of net neutrality from CNN's New Day, Fox News' Fox & Friends, ABC's Good Morning America, or NBC's Today.

    From CBS This Morning:

    GAYLE KING (HOST): The New York Times says the FCC is planning a repeal of net neutrality rules created during the Obama era. The proposal is expected to be unveiled later today. Internet service providers would no longer be required to give equal access to all content. It would permit them to slow web traffic or charge more to view certain content. FCC commissioners are expected to back the proposal in December. The FCC declined to comment on this.

    The move from the FCC was not unforeseeable; in April, Pai announced plans to undo open-internet rules. And, as Wired detailed, "Pai has narrowed the scope of the rules since taking over as chair in January":

    In February, for example, he ended an investigation into whether AT&T and Verizon used data limits for anticompetitive purposes, effectively ruling that the two companies could exempt their own video services from customers' data caps but still charge for data used by their competitors’ services.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “neutrality” on the November 21 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, NBC’s Today, CNN’s New Day, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

  • Morning shows virtually ignored the truck bombing in Somalia

    Mogadishu bombing is one of the world’s most deadly terror attacks in recent years

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On Saturday, at least 300 people were killed and several hundreds more were injured after a truck bombing occurred in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. The attack, which the Somali government believes was carried out by the Al Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab, has been called “one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world for many years.” Al-Shabab has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Somali capital has been a frequent target for the group for a decade.

    Despite the magnitude and death toll of the attack, Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, Fox Broadcasting, CNN, and NBC failed to cover the attack entirely, and the Monday morning cable and broadcast shows spent a total of just over two minutes reporting on the attack in brief news updates, with the longest single report, just 28 seconds, airing on NBC’s Today. The Monday morning broadcast shows spent a combined one minute and 15 seconds on the attack, and the cable news shows spent a combined 52 seconds on the attack. MSNBC’s Morning Joe did not cover the bombing in Somalia at all.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “bomb,” “truck,” and “Somalia” on the October 15 editions of CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday and the October 16 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, NBC’s Today, CNN’s New Day, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

  • Today show set to welcome reported serial sexual predator Bill O'Reilly

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko  / Media Matters

    NBC’s Today Show, broadcast to 4.5 million viewers across the country as they get ready for the day ahead, apparently cannot think of a better use of its platform than to help a reported sexual harasser promote his weird vanity project and attempt to rehab his image.

    Bill O’Reilly was fired from Fox News in April following a New York Times report that detailed $13 million in settlements he and Fox’s parent company had paid to five women who reported O’Reilly for sexual harassment, a subsequent advertiser boycott spurred by activists, and later harassment reports from more women working at Fox. He was too dangerous for Fox News -- something grotesquely difficult to be -- and was subsequently (and justly) relegated to broadcasting his thoughts via a podcast from his office for months afterward.

    But now he’s promoting his newest book, part of an ongoing vanity project O’Reilly began years ago while still at Fox. And for some reason -- and I really, truly don’t know what that reason could be -- some major news networks are set to give him airtime to tout his book and attempt to whitewash his image along the way. If O’Reilly’s appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show this afternoon provides a clue, he’ll also be using this book tour to publicly attack the credibility of women who’ve reported him for harassment.

    NBC’s Today appears to be the latest program to decide that allowing a reported serial sexual harasser to engage in an illogical and insulting PR tour is in the best interest of its viewers. O’Reilly tweeted that he will be appearing on Today during the 8 a.m. hour of its broadcast on September 19.

    An O’Reilly Today show appearance is completely unforgivable in a number of ways: His misconduct was reportedly one of the reasons Today’s Megyn Kelly left Fox News last year, and Today’s audience is primarily women, who are likely to have themselves experienced workplace sexual harassment.

    Unless O’Reilly’s Today appearance is a deeply researched and responsible interview focused solely on the reports that he sexually harassed at least five women, it will only damage NBC, hurt its viewers, and insult its employees.

    The network sat on the Access Hollywood footage depicting President Donald Trump bragging about committing sexual assault and was eventually scooped by another outlet. It subsequently waffled on firing its own employee, Billy Bush, for his participation in the incriminating exchange. So if NBC’s past priorities are any indication of its regard for the safety of women, the O’Reilly appearance won’t be anything but a cruel joke.