Special Report with Bret Baier | Media Matters for America

Special Report with Bret Baier

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  • The Trump administration is detaining migrants in horrid conditions. Fox News is trying to dismiss concerns by attacking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

    ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE & REBECCA MARTIN

    After visiting border detention centers in El Paso and Clint, TX, last week, a few members of Congress gave similar scathing accounts about the conditions faced by migrants being detained in those facilities. Their observations aligned with separate reporting from major media outlets and the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General about the conditions at the border facilities. But Fox News selectively focused on freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and attacked her for her comments.

  • The absurd ways conservatives are justifying Trump’s lawless efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (7/10/19): This post has been updated with additional examples.

    After President Donald Trump announced that he would defy the Supreme Court to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, conservative media figures rushed to defend the administration.

    On June 27, the Supreme Court effectively blocked the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship status to the upcoming census, finding that it gave “contrived reasons” and demanding “genuine justifications” for the question. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, a memo from a “prominent Republican redistricting strategist” revealed that the Trump administration’s motive for adding the question may be to increase the political power of white Republicans.

    But since Trump tweeted on July 3 that he would make up a new rationale to include a citizenship question in the census -- possibly by an executive order -- and basically admitted that the administration had been lying this whole time, Fox News and others in right-wing media have ignored the administration’s reversal and ginned up a variety of absurd justifications for adding the question.

    Some conservatives misleadingly claimed the Obama administration removed a citizenship question from the 2010 census

    A Fox & Friends guest falsely claimed the Obama administration “simply removed” a citizenship question from the census in 2010. But the decennial census hasn't included a nationwide citizenship question since 1950.​ In 1970, the citizenship question moved to a long-form questionnaire sent to fewer than 20% of American households. In 2010, the long-form questionnaire was replaced by the annual American Community Survey, which also includes a citizenship question.

    Pro-Trump blogger Jim Hoft also pushed the misleading claim in an article headlined “The 2000 US Census Asked Citizenship Question — Obama Deleted it in 2010.”

    Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh: “The real question here is why did it come off of the census. The controversy here should not be putting it back on, the real question is who removed it? And we know the answer to that: Barack Hussein O. and Michelle my belle O.”

    Others claimed the repeated inclusion of the word “citizens” in the 14th Amendment gives Trump justification for asking the question

    A Wall Street Journal op-ed claimed that “the Constitution itself requires the collection of citizenship information” and recommended that Trump cite Section 2 of the 14th Amendment in an executive order.

    Fox & Friends guest co-host Pete Hegseth also cited repeated mentions of the word “citizens” in the 14th Amendment to support Trump’s continued attempts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

    Daily Wire editor-at-large Josh Hammer: “One friend had a brilliant suggestion that struck me as both innovative and textually ironclad: Utilize the infrequently invoked second section of the Fourteenth Amendment, which seems to mandate that the federal government have data pertaining to the state-by-state numbers of (male and aged over 21 years old) citizens for purposes of apportionment and congressional representation.”

    Some Fox News figures and guests openly used partisan political justifications for including a citizenship question on the census

    Fox & Friends First guest George Rodriguez said the Trump administration should add a citizenship question to “punish” congressional districts that have high numbers of undocumented immigrants.

    Fox guest Katrina Pierson defended possible executive action by Trump “to force” a citizenship question on the census as a counter to a “power grab” by Democrats through immigration.

    Fox anchor Bret Baier pushed a Republican proposal to apportion congressional districts based on citizens instead of total number of residents.

    Conservatives dismissed evidence that racist motive was behind including a citizenship question

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed “there is nothing racial about a citizenship question” on the census, despite evidence showing that the question was intentionally crafted to advantage non-Hispanic whites and the Republican Party.

    Fox contributor Bill McGurn said of opposition to the question: “The race argument, that’s what you say when you don’t have an argument.”

    Fox contributor Lawrence Jones: “Calling this racist” is “a tool historically that Democrats have used to shut down the debate of this conversation.”

    American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp said Democrats’ opposition to including a citizenship question “is all part of these socialists Democrats’ attempt to weaken the concept of citizenry, to weaken the concept of being a citizen and the rights that come to you with that privilege, and changing the whole definition of what it means to be an American.”

    Fox contributor Deroy Murdock: “This isn’t some paranoid, right-wing racist thing that [Trump] cooked up in the Oval Office.”

    Fox contributor Marc Thiessen: “It does not disadvantage minorities.” 

    Conservatives dismissed concern that including a citizenship question would make the census count less accurate

    Fox host Jesse Watters asked why “Democrats don’t want the federal government to have an accurate read on who is in the country” by opposing the inclusion of a citizenship question. In reality, experts have said including the question would lead to a less accurate census as many non-citizens would not respond to the census.

    Fox anchor Harris Faulkner dismissed Democratic concerns that noncitizens might “feel targeted,” saying, “They just won’t answer.”

    Some Fox figures and guests mixed up a citizenship question with immigration status

    Hegseth supported adding a citizenship question by saying it’s important “to know whether a human being here is legal or not illegal.” The census does not ask about immigration status.

    Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz: “The idea that we would ask whether or not somebody’s here legally or not is a very reasonable question.”

    Fox guest Brad Blakeman: “We have every right to ask that question. It’s beyond a right, it’s an obligation to find out how many Americans are legally here.”

    Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren: “‘Are you a citizen?’ should be the first question on the damn census! We deserve to know how many illegals are in this country and who we are paying for! Also, illegals should never determine funding or representation!!”

    Some conservatives disparaged a federal judge restricting the Trump administration’s moves in census case

    Hoft: “Obama-Appointed Activist Judge Blocks DOJ Motion to WIthdraw Legal Team on Census Case.”

    Fox Business host Lou Dobbs: “Yet Another Obama-Appointed Judge About to Get His Nose Rubbed in It.”

    And some Fox figures didn’t even try to find a real legal argument for adding a citizenship question

    Fox prime-time host Laura Ingraham simply pointed to Canada’s inclusion of a citizenship question on its census to justify Trump’s attempted reversal.

    Fox host Steve Hilton: “So what” if the Trump administration lied about why it wanted to include a citizenship question?

  • ABC, NBC, and MSNBC prime-time shows ignored landmark UN report on biodiversity

    Only three of 26 prime-time news programs on major networks covered the report

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The major broadcast and cable news networks largely neglected to cover a landmark United Nations report on a devastating decline in biodiversity. On the day the report was released, three of the networks -- ABC, NBC, and MSNBC -- aired no prime-time coverage of it, while the other three networks each aired one prime-time segment. Out of 26 total prime-time news programs on the networks, only three reported on the U.N. assessment.  

    Major U.N. report warns of extinction crisis that will have major impacts on humanity

    A summary report released by the U.N. on May 6 finds that about 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction due to expansive human development. The current extinction rate is “at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.” The global assessment, compiled by hundreds of experts with data drawn from thousands of studies, is the most comprehensive look yet at the rapid decline in planetary biodiversity. The report points to a number of human activities that are affecting biodiversity, including overfishing, poaching, farming, mining, logging, and polluting. Climate change is also playing a large role in fueling the biodiversity crisis. And the loss of biodiversity in turn threatens humans by endangering water and food supplies and heightening the risks from floods and hurricanes.

    The full report is set to be published later in 2019. But even with this summary, the authors show that the biodiversity and climate crises are directly intertwined, ultimately painting a grim picture about the state of our natural world.

    Only one of three broadcast nightly news shows covered the U.N. biodiversity assessment

    Media Matters analyzed the major broadcast networks' nightly news programs on May 6, as well as cable news coverage from 4 p.m. to midnight.

    On the broadcast networks, neither ABC's World News Tonight nor NBC Nightly News mentioned the U.N. biodiversity assessment. Significant segments on these networks instead focused on a Russian airplane fire, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen reporting to prison, and the birth of a royal baby in Britain. CBS Evening News was the only broadcast nightly news program to air a segment on the biodiversity report.

    It should come as no surprise that ABC's flagship news program failed to cover the report; the network's news shows consistently lag behind their broadcast competitors in covering climate change. In 2018, ABC aired less than 11 minutes of climate coverage on its nightly and Sunday morning news programs, far less than its counterparts. In fact, ABC has spent less time on climate coverage than CBS and NBC every year since 2013.

    On cable, MSNBC failed to mention the biodiversity report in its prime-time coverage

    None of the prime-time news shows on MSNBC on May 6 mentioned the U.N. biodiversity assessment. Much of the news coverage on the network that night focused on the Mueller report.

    The only prime-time cable shows to mention the global assessment were CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier. Coverage on The Lead was straightforward, while Special Report's coverage was riddled with skepticism. Baier, who is billed as one of Fox's “news”-side reporters, began the segment by saying, “Many environmentalists are in a panic tonight over a new report,” but “as in all such cases, some humans say the report and the response are exaggerations.” The segment included commentary from industry-funded climate denier Marc Morano, who has no background in science. Morano downplayed the report and accused the U.N. of being a “self-interested lobbying organization.” (The Morano footage had run previously on another of Fox's “news”-side programs, Shepard Smith Reporting.)

    Overall, out of a total of 26 prime-time news shows aired on the major broadcast and cable networks on May 6, only three included coverage of the global assessment.

    By neglecting a major report about threats to life on Earth, TV networks are failing their viewers

    The extinction of threatened species will have serious human consequences. One takeaway from the U.N. assessment is the need to promote a better understanding of the fact that nature is the foundation for human development and all life on Earth. The media have a responsibility to help build an informed citizenry that understands the world it inhabits. By giving this report far too little attention, top TV networks have failed their audiences.

    Methodology

    Media Matters analyzed coverage on May 6 on the major broadcast networks' nightly news programs (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News) and on shows airing from 4 p.m. to midnight on the major cable news networks (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC). We identified segments on the U.N. biodiversity assessment by searching IQ Media and Nexis for the terms (nature OR biodiversity OR extinction OR extinct OR climate OR species OR planet) AND (report OR study).

  • Candidates who care about climate change should be wary of partnering with Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Media Matters / Melissa Joskow

    Fox News is trying to entice Democratic presidential candidates to participate in town halls on the network, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) is scheduled to do on April 15. Though Sanders has explained his reasoning for wanting to do a town hall on Fox, there are plenty of good reasons why other candidates should think carefully about whether they want to partner with the network. 

    Fox is a pernicious propaganda machine for the Trump White House, and it has a long history of both denying and downplaying climate change and helping to block climate action. Fox is currently at the peak of its political influence, but it's also at a precarious point both financially and in the court of public opinion. Many advertisers have fled and others are considering following suit, not wanting to be associated with the network's bigoted and toxic commentary. Fox is now desperately courting advertisers by trying to paint itself as a legitimate news outlet ahead of May 13, when it will host an "upfront" event at which it aims to sell about 60 to 70 percent of its advertising space for 2020. Democratic candidates might want to keep their distance and not enable Fox's attempt at whitewashing its toxicity.

    Fox consistently spreads right-wing misinformation, lies, and climate denial

    The New Yorker recently exposed how Fox News has developed a symbiotic relationship with the Trump administration and has become a nexus of the right-wing disinformation network. And earlier in April, The New York Times Magazine detailed how Fox founder Rupert Murdoch’s media empire “helped elevate marginal demagogues, mainstream ethnonationalism and politicize the very notion of truth” in the U.S. and beyond, “destabiliz[ing] democracies around the world.”

    After the New Yorker published its piece in March, the Democratic National Committee barred Fox News from hosting any of its upcoming presidential primary debates.

    Fox News has been especially destructive on the climate change narrative, serving as an echo and amplification chamber for climate denial and environmental deregulation efforts. For years, Fox has played a critical role in undermining the public consensus around climate change by eroding trust in climate scientists and scientific institutions, according to a 2013 study. A separate study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that 72 percent of Fox News segments about climate science in 2013 "contained misleading statements." In the years since, the network has continued to parade a coterie of network personalities, fringe cranks, and conspiracy theorists to push misinformation about climate change and attack those working to confront the climate crisis.

    During the Trump administration, Fox News has also provided a safe haven for disgraced officials like former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Not only did Pruitt and Zinke prefer Fox News over other news networks, they both used their appearances on Fox to question climate science and to advocate for harmful environmental rollbacks, often with little to no pushback from fawning hosts.

    Fox's "straight news" anchors are not honest brokers on climate change and other critical issues

    Fox News claims that Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier, the Fox hosts who will anchor the town hall with Sanders, are straightforward newscasters. But a closer look at their past comments and reporting reveals that they cannot be trusted to foster good-faith discussions about key issues, including climate change.

    MacCallum has denied basic climate science and made ridiculous claims about global warming. In 2014, on Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, she said:

    MARTHA MACCALLUM: I mean the climate has changed over the course of the thousands and thousands of years that the Earth has been in existence. It has changed, you know, by several degrees up and down over the course of it. I just don't think that there is convincing evidence that the presence of man has altered that more dramatically than say the earth being covered with volcanoes emitting, you know, naturally noxious gases.

    That same year, MacCallum downplayed the importance of climate change and argued that Democrats in Congress should be concentrating on other issues instead. And in March 2015, after the Obama administration announced a voluntary emission-reduction pledge ahead of the U.N. climate talks in Paris, MacCallum was critical of the move and falsely said that the U.S. was going to the "upper end of the range" with its commitment and "nobody else has to do it." In fact, dozens of other countries had by that point announced targets to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions, including the European Union, whose target was more ambitious than the one the U.S. put forth.

    Baier has a reputation for not being as bad as some of the more explicit climate deniers on his network, but according to a 2014 analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, he has still aired "a number of segments containing inaccurate statements about climate science." He has given climate skeptics a platform to attack climate science and climate action, often with very little pushback.

    Fox is now desperately trying to convince advertisers that it's not toxic

    In March, Fox News executives held an unprecedented meeting with its advertisers to persuade them not to abandon the network after more than 30 companies had dropped their ads since the initial push began in December of last year. Recent calls for companies to pull their ads from Tucker Carlson Tonight and Justice with Judge Jeanine came in response to Media Matters releasing audio of Fox host Tucker Carlson's racist and misogynistic rants on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show from 2006 to 2011, and to Fox personality Jeanine Pirro’s anti-Muslim tirade against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

    For years, Fox News has let its prime-time hosts spew bigotry, propaganda, and dangerous conspiracy theories on a nightly basis, while using its so-called "news" programming to give the network a veneer of respectability. But the "news" side and the "opinion" side of Fox News are two sides of the same coin. Fox is dangerous and corrupt from top to bottom.

    The Fox executive wooing Democratic candidates has actively hampered honest reporting on climate change

    Bill Sammon, Fox's senior vice president and Washington managing editor, is courting Democratic candidates for town halls and trying to get the DNC to reconsider its decision not to let Fox host a debate.

    Sammon has a notoriously terrible record on climate change. In 2009, he sent a memo to Fox journalists ordering them to curtail honest reporting on climate change:

    We should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.

    He sent the memo out less than 15 minutes after a Fox correspondent accurately reported that U.N. scientists said the 2000-2009 period was "expected to turn out to be the warmest decade on record." When the correspondent returned to the air a few hours later, he added views from climate "skeptics" into his reporting. Sammon has also tilted Fox's coverage of other issues further to the right.

    Four years ago, Sammon played a key role in crafting questions for a Republican presidential primary debate. Do Democratic candidates want to invite Sammon to craft questions for them now?

    With Fox on the ropes with advertisers, Democratic candidates should consider if they want to throw Fox News a lifeline this spring.

  • Fox mostly ignores report Jared Kushner used private email, messaging app for government business

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News has virtually ignored reporting that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner used private email and a messaging app to conduct government business and even communicate with foreign leaders and that other current and former administration officials have also used private email. The conservative network has a years-long history of ignoring, whitewashing, or delaying reporting on stories that could make President Donald Trump look bad.

    CNN reported that on March 21, House oversight committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to the White House requesting more information in an investigation into the use of personal email and private messaging apps by Trump administration officials. In the letter, Cummings “alleged that Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House adviser, had been using WhatsApp, a popular messaging application, to ‘communicate with foreign leaders’ -- something he said that Kushner's attorney had confirmed in a private meeting. He also contended that Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, also a senior adviser, may be in violation of the Presidential Records Act by her use of private emails.”

    A search of the SnapStream video database revealed that since the existence of Cummings’ letter was first reported on March 21, only Shepard Smith Reporting and America’s Newsroom have covered the allegation against Kushner on Fox News, for a total of 2 minutes and 26 seconds. The rest of Fox’s supposed news shows did not report on it -- neither Special Report with Bret Baier nor The Story with Martha MacCallum had a segment on the story, despite both of the shows airing hours after Shepard Smith Reporting. Fox’s prime-time lineup completely ignored the story.

    According to Cummings’ letter, this allegation stemmed from a December meeting with Kushner’s personal attorney Abbe Lowell. Cummings also alleged in the letter that Lowell could not answer whether Kushner transmitted classified information through the private messaging app WhatsApp, which Cummings reportedly would consider a “major security breach.” Lowell denied that he had told Cummings that Kushner messaged foreign officials on WhatsApp, saying, “I did not specify who” Kushner was contacting through the private messaging app. CNN reported that the other Trump administration officials accused of using personal email for government business include former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland.

    Despite Fox News’ minimal coverage of the Kushner email story, Fox & Friends found time this morning to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails yet again.

  • Maddow's bombshell that the Trump administration tracked immigrant pregnancies also reveals how bad Fox's coverage was

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After numerous controversies and advertiser losses, Fox News has been scrambling to erect an imaginary firewall between the network's so-called "news" and "opinion" sides. But recent reporting from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about a 2017 case involving the treatment of pregnant detained teenagers underscores the reality about the two sides: Fox's "news" hosts are in lockstep with their so-called “opinion” colleagues and seemingly have been for some time.

    During the March 15 edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow reported on spreadsheets kept by President Donald Trump's administration containing details about unaccompanied immigrant girls’ pregnancies in an attempt to delay or prevent wanted abortions. In 2017, the Trump administration made a policy change that shelters could not facilitate abortion access for detained minors without “direction and approval” from Scott Lloyd, the then-director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. An undocumented teen (referred to as Jane Doe) who was being held in federal custody and was blocked from obtaining a wanted abortion brought suit, and a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to allow her to access abortion care.

    Although it had been previously reported that Lloyd tracked pregnant teens in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) custody using a spreadsheet, the March 15 edition of The Rachel Maddow Show showcased the exclusively obtained spreadsheet and shared previously unseen details. As Maddow said of the 28-page document:

    This is the federal government, with your tax dollars, keeping an individualized record of pregnant teenage girls’ menstrual cycles, whether they've had a positive pregnancy test, what the government knows about how they believe the girls got pregnant, how they believe this individual girl got pregnant, and whether this girl has requested an abortion.

    As Maddow explained, “This was essentially a spreadsheet designed to facilitate federal government action to block these girls from getting any abortion they might want.” In addition, Maddow noted, Lloyd kept tracking the girls’ pregnancies and cycles even after the court ordered ORR to stop blocking teens from obtaining abortions.

    Back in 2017, The Rachel Maddow Show had reported that Lloyd, an anti-choice extremist, used his position to push an anti-abortion agenda on the undocumented minors in his care. He allegedly visited at least one of the pregnant teens to try to talk her out of an abortion and made others go to anti-abortion fake health clinics for the same purpose. He had also reportedly inquired about whether a teenager in ORR custody could have her abortion “reversed,” an anti-abortion scam that is not based in science. Lloyd left ORR to join the Health and Human Services Department (HHS)’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives in November 2018.

    The updated story about Lloyd keeping tabs on teenage girl's menstrual cycles shines a light on the slanted lens through which both Fox's opinion and "news" sides present stories. Those who get their news from Fox are unlikely to hear about this invasive spreadsheet -- just as they were unlikely to hear about Lloyd’s actions in 2017. Instead, the network’s stories about the Jane Doe case that year focused on anti-abortion misinformation and fearmongering about immigrants.

    For example, during a 2017 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed the Jane Doe case was about “liberals … arguing that U.S. taxpayers somehow have an obligation to fund abortions for illegal aliens,” though Jane Doe had obtained private funding for the abortion. On The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham claimed that, because of a related court decision to allow undocumented minors to access abortion, the United States would become “an abortion magnet.” Notably, Ingraham opened the segment by downplaying the experiences of the pregnant detained minors impacted by the decision, mockingly saying: “Underage and need an abortion? Well, just come to America. … No visa needed.”

    Fox News’ so-called “straight news” hosts covered the 2017 case similarly. Bret Baier and Shannon Bream also pushed abortion misinformation about the Jane Doe case -- as they’ve frequently done for other abortion-related stories. During a 2017 edition of Special Report, host Baier opened a segment about Jane Doe’s case by posing the misleading question of whether viewers and their “fellow taxpayers [would] be required to pay for an abortion for an illegal immigrant.” In that same segment, Bream appeared as a correspondent and alleged that some people “think this could open the door to the U.S. providing abortions for minors who would seek to cross the border illegally solely for that purpose.” On her own program, Fox News @ Night, Bream continued promoting anti-choice groups’ talking points, pointing to comments from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, worrying that his state would become “a sanctuary state for abortions” due to the Jane Doe case.

    MSNBC’s new reporting further highlights the failures of Fox News’ work on this story -- on both the “news” and “opinion” sides. Fox News has a vested interest in proving (no matter how inaccurate) that the network's news hosts are somehow different from the network's opinion hosts. But hosts on both sides of Fox's artificial divide have prioritized anti-abortion misinformation and xenophobia over accurate reporting on Scott Lloyd's tenure at HHS. Given the amount of energy the network has spent fearmongering about abortion this year, it seems unlikely that viewers will hear anything accurate about the spreadsheets -- or, perhaps, anything at all.

  • Fox Corp. board member Paul Ryan has been the subject of fawning praise from Fox News

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News, announced on March 19 that former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) will serve on its board of directors. Ryan had been the recipient of fawning praise from Fox News personalities in the past for his right-wing budget proposals and his selection by Mitt Romney as his vice presidential pick for the 2012 presidential election.