Fox News panelist praises guns as "beautiful, graceful machines" during panel on Florida school shooting
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Evening programming on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all devoted much more time to the allegations against Trump after The New York Times reported on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct
By and large, 2017 was a year of reckoning for men who have sexually harassed and assaulted women. But 2017 was also the year evening programming on cable news forgot about the women who said President Donald Trump sexually assaulted them.
Over the past year, we’ve seen powerful men lose their jobs and reputations after women and men came forward telling their stories of harassment and assault. One man whose reckoning has yet to come, however, is the president of the United States. By October 2016, at least 20 women had said then-candidate Trump engaged in sexual misconduct, including 12 nonconsensual physical encounters. The accusations largely came after a video clip emerged of Trump admitting to sexual assault in 2005.
A Media Matters analysis found that the stories these women told about Trump’s alleged -- and admitted -- sexual misconduct were largely forgotten by evening cable news hosts and guests in 2017, especially on Fox News. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of coverage came only after The New York Times initially reported on Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and assault, which precipitated a wave of coverage about dozens of men who now stand credibly accused of sexual misconduct.
This study found:
Between January 1 and December 15, 2017, evening Fox News programs spent a total of 37 minutes and 21 seconds on the women who said Trump assaulted or harassed them.
In contrast, CNN spent 2 hours, 53 minutes, and 22 seconds on the allegations, while MSNBC spent 2 hours and 16 minutes discussing them.
While many shows ignored and minimized the allegations against Trump, some of his most ardent defenders on Fox faced them head-on to merely dismiss them out of hand.
On the December 13 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham attempted to discredit the allegations against Trump, asking, “If someone accused of you something from 20 years ago and you denied it ... would it be fair for people to say, God, he’s accused?"
And on the November 16 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity alleged that the women who spoke out against Trump said they were “taken out of context purposely by The New York Times.”
The vast majority of the reporting on the accusations made against Trump on evening cable news took place after The New York Times reported on October 5 about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and assault. The so-called “Harvey effect” spurred women to come forward to discuss their experiences of sexual violence. In turn, the reporting on Weinstein also appeared to create an opening for cable news to bring up the allegations made against the president. In the nine months before The New York Times reported on Weinstein, evening cable news spent less than an hour discussing the allegations made against Trump. However, in about 2 1/2 months after the Times reported on Weinstein, evening cable news devoted nearly five hours to reporting on the accusations against Trump.
For many survivors across the country, it’s nearly impossible to forget that 20 women have reported sexual harassment and assault committed by our president, who has admitted to such behavior. Cable news shouldn’t forget about it, either.
Media Matters searched Nexis for mentions of “Trump” within 50 words of all permutations of “assault,” “rape,” “harass,” “grope,” “grab,” “sexual,” or “allege” that took place on evening ( 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.) programs on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News between January 1 and December 15, 2017. For inclusion in this study, segments had to feature a significant discussion of the allegations made against Trump.
We defined a “significant discussion” as one of the following:
a segment where the allegations against Trump were the stated topic of discussion;
a segment in which two or more speakers discussed the allegations; or
a host monologue during which the allegations were the stated topic of discussion.
Qualifying segments were then timed using iQ media. Repeated segments were not counted. Teasers for upcoming segments were also not counted.
* Due to substantial reorganization of Fox News’ programming during the study period, programs that were either added or removed from the network during the study period are marked with an asterisk.
Hannity and now the rest of Fox evening programming are on a mission to discredit the Russia probe. Here’s how they’re doing it.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity, and now the rest of Fox’s evening lineup, are actively working to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. A Media Matters analysis found:
Trump's lawyer and frequent guest on Hannity's shows calls for special counsel to investigate DOJ official connected to Russia probe. After Fox News reported on December 11 that "A senior Justice Department official demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump 'dossier' had even closer ties to Fusion GPS," President Donald Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, told Axios that the Department of Justice and FBI "cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests." Sekulow added, "These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate." [FoxNews.com, 12/11/17; Axios, 12/12/17; Media Matters, 9/13/17; Twitter, 12/12/17]
Sean Hannity and his guests have called for Mueller’s firing, resignation or recusal, or attacked his legitimacy 79 times. Since the investigation began on May 17, Hannity and his guests have questioned Mueller's appointment or called for Mueller to remove himself or for his firing 79 times. Hannity has questioned Mueller's legitimacy or demanded Mueller’s firing, resignation, or recusal 44 times. Guests of his Fox show, Hannity, who have attacked Mueller in a similar fashion include former Secret Service agent and conspiracy theorist Dan Bongino and Fox legal analyst and ardent defender of President Donald Trump Gregg Jarrett.
Hannity and his guests brought up alleged “conflicts of interest” 364 times. Since May 17, Hannity and his guests have made 364 statements alleging that Mueller and/or his team have a “conflict of interest” that would prevent him from fairly conducting the probe. Of those statements, Hannity himself made 294.
Two of Hannity’s most frequently cited “conflicts of interest” are not really conflicts. Of the 294 statements that Hannity made about the alleged “conflicts of interest,” two of the most popular so-called conflicts, cited a combined 173 times, are not actually conflicts at all:
On 115 occasions, Hannity claimed that Mueller’s team was compromised or had conflicts of interest because it included several investigators who had previously donated to Democrats. As a group of political science professors wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, “According to the Justice Department’s own rules, campaign donations do not create a conflict of interest.”
On 58 occasions, Hannity suggested that Mueller has a conflict of interest because of his relationship with former FBI Director James Comey. But, as The Associated Press (AP) pointed out, Mueller and Comey are “not known to be especially close friends.” Additionally, “legal experts say whatever connection they do have doesn't come close to meriting Mueller's removal as special counsel.”
Hannity and his guests used a variety of other talking points and canards to discredit the investigation and Mueller:
On 43 occasions, Hannity and his guests referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt.” Of those statements, Hannity made 41. Trump has been reportedly obsessed with this characterization since June.
On 32 occasions, Hannity and his guests suggested that the investigation was a political attack on Trump, his administration, and potentially even the Trump family. Hannity himself claimed that Mueller’s investigation was an attack on Trump 17 times.
Just since November 4, Hannity and his guests claimed on 51 occasions that Mueller and his investigators harbored anti-Trump sentiments. Hannity himself made 35 of these statements. (This variable was only coded for between December 4 and December 8).
In the first week of December, hosts and guests on other Fox evening programs followed Hannity and attacked Mueller's legitimacy, or called on Mueller to remove himself or be fired 27 times. From December 4 to December 8, Fox News hosts and guests on evening shows joined Hannity and commented that Mueller should never have been appointed, should now resign, recuse himself, or be fired 27 times. Most of these statements occurred on Hannity, but also appeared on other shows as well:
In that same time frame, Mueller and/or his team’s alleged “conflicts of interest” were brought up 151 times. Fox hosts and guests made 151 statements during the first week of December asserting that Mueller and/or his team have “conflicts of interest.” On 63 occasions, Fox guests and hosts claimed the “conflicts of interest” existed because of campaign donations. On nine occasions, Fox guests and hosts claimed “conflicts of interest” because of Mueller's relationship with Comey. Other instances vaguely charged Mueller of having conflicts without specifics or evidence.
On 158 occasions, Mueller and/or his team was accused of being “anti-Trump.” Hosts and guests on Fox evening programs accused Mueller and/or members of his team of being “anti-Trump” 158 times.
On 22 occasions, Fox evening hosts and guests called the investigation an attack on Trump, his presidency, and his family. Hosts and guests claimed 22 times that Mueller’s investigative team was out to get Trump, at one point referring to the investigation as a “scam.”
On 23 occasions, Mueller’s investigation was called a “witch hunt.” Fox hosts and guests referred to Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” 23 times throughout the first week of December. While most occurred on Hannity, two statements also occurred on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
In the first week of December, Hannity far outpaced other Fox evening shows in attempting to discredit Mueller and the investigation. While other evening programs on Fox worked to discredit the Mueller investigation and the special counsel himself, Hannity was far and away the most aggressive about it during the week-long time period.
Media Matters searched Nexis for transcripts of Fox News’ Hannity between May 17 and December 8 mentioning the words “Mueller” or “special counsel.” Transcripts were then coded for statements -- which in this study we defined as a sentence -- which included the following:
calls for Mueller to resign or recuse himself or calls that he be fired, or suggestions that he never should have been appointed as special counsel;
suggestions that Mueller and/or his team have a conflict of interest with the investigation;
mentions of Mueller’s investigators who had previously donated to Democratic lawmakers;
mentions of Mueller’s alleged friendship and relationship with Comey;
claims that the investigation is a political attack on Trump, his administration, or his family;
suggestions that the investigation is a “witch hunt”;
attempts to link Mueller to Uranium One deal; and
Media Matters also searched Nexis for mentions of “Mueller” or “special counsel” from December 4 to 8 on Fox News between 5 and 11 p.m., including the following programs: The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, The Story with Martha MacCallum, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and The Ingraham Angle. Transcripts were coded for the same variables.
Transcripts were reviewed by two independent coders and differences were then reconciled.
This study includes data from a previous study published on November 21.
CORRECTION: This study previously referred to the official referenced by Sekulow as an FBI official. In fact, he was a senior DOJ official and part of the Criminal Division.
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Even when the NFL story was old and the fire story was new, Fox still gave more coverage to the Trump-triggered NFL narrative
Prime-time cable news shows devoted more than three and a half times as much coverage to the NFL controversy that President Donald Trump stirred up as they did to historic wildfires in California, Media Matters found in an analysis of coverage the week after each incident began. Even when the NFL controversy was weeks old and the wildfires were at their peak, Fox News still devoted more than twice as much coverage to the Trump-sparked NFL story as to the fires.
On September 22, Trump kicked off a national controversy when he criticized NFL players who kneeled during pre-game national anthems to protest racism and police brutality. During a campaign rally in Alabama, Trump mused, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” NFL players, coaches, and owners responded by staging more protests, and in subsequent days and weeks, Trump added fuel to the controversy by doubling down on his initial criticism and threatening to revoke the NFL’s non-profit status over the protests (even though the NFL had given up that non-profit status in 2015).
Just over two weeks after Trump's initial comments about the protests, California experienced the deadliest wildfires in the state’s history. Beginning on October 8, wildfires spread across Northern California in what the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) dubbed the October Fire Siege. According to CAL FIRE, "there were 21 major wildfires that ... burned over 245,000 acres, ... forced 100,000 to evacuate, destroyed an estimated 6,900 structures," and killed 42 people. Estimates of the fires’ damage are as high as $6 billion, making them likely to rank among the most expensive natural disasters in California history.
Though the fires were both deadly and economically devastating, the major cable news networks devoted three and a half times as much coverage to the Trump-triggered NFL controversy as they did to the wildfires on their prime-time, weekday shows during the week after each incident began. Media Matters analyzed the first full week of coverage after the NFL controversy kicked off and the first full week of coverage after the California wildfires began burning.
From September 25 to September 29, prime-time cable news shows aired a combined 136 segments about the NFL controversy, with CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News airing 62, 28, and 46 segments, respectively.
By comparison, prime-time cable news shows devoted significantly less coverage to the California wildfires during the first week of coverage of the October Fire Siege. From October 9 to October 13, the prime-time cable shows aired a combined 38 segments on the fires, with CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News airing 19, nine, and 10 segments, respectively. The NFL controversy got 358 percent more coverage -- more than three and a half times as much.
Media Matters also compared coverage of the two different stories during the same week, October 9-13, starting one day after the wildfires began and 17 days after Trump’s first NFL comments. Even during this period, when the wildfires were most destructive and the NFL controversy was more than two weeks old, Fox News’ prime-time shows still devoted more than twice as many segments to the NFL controversy as they did to the fires -- 22 versus 10. CNN and MSNBC, however, both aired more segments about the wildfires during this week.
Cable news’ tendency to focus on Trump's controversial comments and tweets rather than other news that directly affects viewers' lives is unfortunately nothing new (The NFL players’ protests raise important concerns about racism and police brutality, but Trump’s outbursts did not help address those issues.). Cable news networks have been more than willing to sacrifice substantive news stories for anything Trump-related because coverage of the president and his contentious statements has brought them record profits and viewership numbers. But the fact that coverage of a Trump-triggered controversy going into its third week can still compete with and even exceed coverage of historically devastating wildfires puts a fine point on just how bad the problem is.
Zachary Pleat, Alex Morash, and Rebecca Damante contributed research to this report. Charts by Sarah Wasko.
Media Matters searched Nexis for transcripts of segments about the controversy around NFL protests and the October Fire Siege in California. To identify segments about the NFL controversy, we used the search term (NFL OR anthem OR kneel! OR pledge OR kaepernick OR stand! OR allegiance). To identify segments about the California wildfires, we used the search term (wildfire OR fire) AND (sonoma OR napa OR mendicino OR north bay OR california OR yuba OR solano OR butte OR lake county).
We analyzed the prime-time, weekday news shows on the three major cable news networks, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. For CNN, we reviewed shows that air from 5 p.m. to midnight. For MSNBC and and Fox News, we reviewed shows that air from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. (MSNBC’s 11 p.m. show, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, is not indexed in Nexis and so was excluded; Fox News airs a re-run of Tucker Carlson Tonight at 11 p.m., and our study did not count repeat airings of the show). Our time frame for analyzing coverage of the NFL controversy was September 25, three days after Trump’s initial comments, to September 29. Our time frame for analyzing coverage of the California wildfires was October 9, one day after the fires started, to October 13.
We defined “segments” as instances where more than one individual discussed either topic during a panel discussion, or when a host or correspondent mentioned either topic as part of a news brief or headline rundown. Our analysis excluded teasers and passing mentions where a speaker mentioned either the NFL controversy or the California wildfires without any other speaker in the segment engaging.
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A new report should end the conservative fixation on the "IRS scandal." It probably won't.
The “IRS scandal” -- the right-wing delusion that the Internal Revenue Service was disproportionately targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status and slow-walking their approvals -- began as a political hit job by a partisan Republican congressman. It matured into a full-fledged scandal, with President Barack Obama apologizing and the IRS commissioner resigning in disgrace. And it should die after last night, when reports circulated that a federal watchdog had found that progressives groups had also been targeted for scrutiny in the same way over the same period.
It should, but it likely won’t. Bolstered by a closed loop of conservative thought that is fiercely resistant to new facts that overturn existing narratives, right-wing pundits have turned the “IRS scandal” into a catchphrase for the perfidy of the Obama administration. Like the endless efforts to turn the 2012 Benghazi attacks into a scandal, such efforts are not repelled by reams of reporting or fruitless congressional probes. They build their own momentum and coast onward.
In May 2013, the Department of the Treasury's inspector general for tax administration issued a report finding that the IRS had inappropriately provided additional scrutiny to groups with “Tea Party,” “9/12” (a reference to Glenn Beck’s “9/12 Project”), and “Patriots” in their names that were seeking nonprofit status. It’s the IRS’ job to review such groups and determine whether their efforts are too partisan to receive that status. But the implication of the Treasury report, rammed home by the right-wing press, was that the IRS was creating additional hurdles for the president’s political enemies: The scandal was not that conservative groups were receiving scrutiny, but that they were receiving more scrutiny than progressive ones. And with that premise in mind, conservative pundits were off to the races, weaving conspiracy theories that the president directed the government to target his political foes and demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor.
But within weeks, other news accounts provided a fuller picture, pointing to IRS documents that showed that groups with “Progressive” and “Occupy” in their names were also targeted for additional scrutiny. The inspector general’s new findings reportedly further that point, reinforcing that groups affiliated with the now-defunct conservative bugaboo the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), as well as groups with names referencing “Green Energy” and “Medical Marijuana,” were also selected for additional review. The problem that the inspector general had uncovered was thus that groups were being selected for additional scrutiny based on their names rather than actual evidence of improper political activity. But that was a problem in the reviews of both conservative and progressive groups.
Why, then, did the 2013 report mention only additional scrutiny for the conservative groups? That was a feature, not a bug. As the inspector general’s spokesperson revealed in June 2013, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), then the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and a notorious partisan, had called for the review, asking for the inspector general to “narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.” It was a set-up. And it worked.
Again, all of this was clear by the summer of 2013. But once the right-wing scandal machine swings into gear, it is virtually impossible to bring to a halt. As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait points out, the scandal “has lived on and on in the conservative mind,” with congressional Republicans and conservative pundits from all wings of the party united in their fervent assurance that tea party groups received disproportionate scrutiny from Obama’s IRS.
On Fox, the IRS “scandal” remains part of the litany of horribles conservative pundits invoke to highlight the evils of the former president, along with Benghazi and Operation Fast and Furious and the rest. Democrats “did use the IRS as a weapon to persecute Republicans in order to win re-election,” Fox News’ Jesse Watters explained in July. Damning if true! But it isn’t. Meanwhile, in the more rarefied air of Special Report, Bret Baier was championing his program’s reporting on how the IRS “did indeed single out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny” as recently as last month.
The inspector general just removed the last shred of doubt that the scandal was a scam. Don’t expect many on the right to notice.
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Right-wing media figures have helped promote a series of myths about transgender service members in the U.S. military in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would ban them from serving. These debunked myths include the claim that the cost of medically necessary health care for transgender service members would be in the billions, that allowing transgender members to serve would interfere with military readiness and cohesion, that a majority of transgender people are unable to be deployed due to their health care needs, and that being transgender is a mental illness that makes people unfit to be in the military.
A Media Matters analysis of Hurricane Harvey broadcast coverage from August 23 to September 7 found that 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 like Harvey, while CBS and PBS NewsHour each aired three. A review of prime-time coverage of Harvey on the three major cable news networks found that Fox aired six segments that mentioned climate change, but most of them dismissed the link between climate change and hurricanes, while CNN and MSNBC each aired five segments that legitimately discussed the link.
Several media outlets are suggesting that President Donald Trump’s August 30 speech calling for tax reform was a “populist pitch,” and dozens of media figures and outlets have been calling the president a “populist” since his inauguration. A closer examination of Trump’s policies, however, show a pattern of decisions that will create devastating impacts on Americans, particularly low-income residents, while providing handouts to corporations and the wealthiest citizens.
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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.