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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.
During last week’s health care “vote-a-rama,” prime-time cable news coverage largely neglected the voices of activists, despite their crucial role in helping to block Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Media Matters reviewed four nights of cable news coverage -- from 5 to 11 p.m. -- between when the “motion to proceed” was passed (which opened debate on possible plans to overturn the ACA) and the GOP “skinny repeal” bill was defeated in the Senate. During those four nights of coverage, cable news programs largely failed to include the perspectives of activists, and both CNN and Fox News disregarded these voices altogether:
CNN and Fox News did not host a single activist over four nights of health care coverage
MSNBC hosted five activists during the same time period, but they accounted for less than 10 percent of its prime-time guests included in discussions about health care.
Throughout Republican efforts to overturn the ACA, cable news repeatedly failed to offer diverse voices. Guests in conversations about health care were predominately white male pundits, while African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and women -- all of whom stand to lose disproportionately if the ACA is overturned -- received far less screen time.
Additionally, cable news programs often ignored the personal stories of those that would be most affected by Republican health care policies, choosing to focus on the legislative process, at the expense of the human cost of the GOP’s repeated actions to undo the ACA. As Senate Republicans searched for a way to overturn former President Barack Obama’s signature health care act last week, cable coverage continued to erase the voices of those most intimately involved in the health care debate. CNN and Fox News failed to include a single activist amongst the combined 97 guest appearances on the channels during discussions of health care, and while MSNBC did host five activists, they made up less than 10 percent of the network's total guests hosted during prime-time to discuss health care.
While this isn't the first time cable news failed to seek out the voices of activists, their disregard for activists' voices is shocking considering the influential role they have played throughout the health care battle. Employees and volunteers for organizations like MoveOn, ADAPT, and Planned Parenthood organized health care rallies across the country, and helped organize tens of thousands of calls to House and Senate offices on behalf of the ACA. Activists also kept constant pressure on elected officials, staging all-night protests in lawmakers' offices, and showing up to elected officials’ town hall meetings and other public appearances. Activists played a crucial role in pressuring Senators to vote no on repeal and replace bills, and in keeping public attention on health care in midst of numerous distractions, like the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Activists deserve credit for their role in the health care battle, and comprehensive news coverage needs to include their voices.
Media Matters searched Nexis for mentions of “health care,” “the Affordable Care Act,” “Obamacare,” “Republican health,” “GOP health,” “the Better Care Reconciliation Act,” or “BRCA” on prime-time cable news between July 25 (after the Senate passed the motion to proceed to debate) and July 28 (after the failure of “skinny repeal”). Segments were coded if they included a significant discussion of the Republican health care bill. “Significant discussion” was defined as at least two speakers in the segment engaging on the topic with one another. Guests that partook in discussions that included a “significant discussion” about health care were included in this study. Guests were considered “activists” if they were affiliated with a group actively working against GOP efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
Prime-time cable news refers to CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC weekday programming between 5 and 11 p.m.
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Hosts and guests routinely use Suffolk County’s MS-13 problem as a justification for Trump’s anti-immigration policies
In the months leading up to President Donald Trump’s July 28 remarks in Suffolk County, New York, where he spoke about “America’s weak border and immigration enforcement,” Fox News repeatedly reported on Long Island’s MS-13 problem, falsely attributing the gang’s growth to immigration policies and an influx of unaccompanied minors to the area. But law enforcement officials and experts agree that the key to fighting MS-13 and impeding its recruitment efforts is integrating newly arrived immigrants into the community, something that Suffolk County has historically failed to do.
Following the arrest of former Democratic information technology staffer Imran Awan, far-right media and Fox News pushed multiple conspiracy theories about him, suggesting he was behind WikiLeaks getting hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, that he had damaging information on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and that the Clintons were somehow involved in the situation.
Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions will appear on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight as President Donald Trump continues to criticize Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election. Given host Tucker Carlson’s frequent fanboying and staunch defenses of Sessions in the past, the beleaguered attorney general will most likely enjoy a fawning, sophomoric interview during his appearance on the show.
Sessions’ planned appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight is not the first time he has used the friendly platform to address controversies surrounding his role in the administration. During Sessions’ confirmation process for his current job, Roll Call’s Jonathan Allen highlighted the former Alabama senator’s racist past, writing in a November 15 column that Sessions was “unfit for the Cabinet” and a “partially reconstructed baiter of minorities.” In response, Carlson went to bat for Sessions; he invited Allen on to his November 18 broadcast and lambasted his article as “one of the most unfair things I’ve ever read.” Carlson also accused Allen of “smearing” Sessions by "download[ing] some talking points from the DNC” and said Allen had impugned Sessions with “slur[s]” and “pure talking points.”
On March 2, when numerous Democratic lawmakers were calling for Sessions’ resignation in response to reports that he had met with the Russian ambassador and lied about it under oath, Sessions retreated to his safe space on Carlson’s show in an effort to defuse the firestorm. Carlson’s softball interview with Sessions included questions such as, “Do you see this as a witch hunt?”
Carlson is once again coming to Sessions’ defense, but this time around, the people aiming for Sessions are doing so from inside the White House. In a July 19 interview with The New York Times, Trump went after his own attorney general, saying, “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.” The attacks haven’t ceased, with the president repeatedly tweeting out criticism of Sessions.
Carlson, in a somewhat surprising split from agreeing with everything Trump does, leapt to Sessions’ defense and devoted a segment of his July 20 show to vouch for Sessions’ perceived value to the Trump administration. Carlson maintained that Sessions “has been the rare person in the entire executive branch making actual progress implementing the agenda his boss ran on, because he's the rare person who believes in it,” and warned that Trump should “lay off Jeff Sessions.”
TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Sessions was worried about what an unsecured border and mass immigration would do to America, even though the biggest effects from those wouldn't be seen until decades after he was long gone from this earth. So, he jumped in and accepted Trump’s offer to become attorney general. He didn't do it to get rich, and certainly not to become more popular. He instantly became less. You’ll remember that many of his former colleagues in the Senate slandered him as a bigot during his confirmation hearings. As attorney general, Sessions has been the rare person in the entire executive branch making actual progress implementing the agenda his boss ran on, because he's the rare person who believes in it. In an administration brimming with opportunists and ideological saboteurs, people who literally couldn’t be less interested in what voters think, Sessions has never lost sight of the lessons of the last election. He’s gone after sanctuary cities, he’s enforced immigration laws, he’s ended the Obama administration's attacks on local police departments, and a lot more. He’s likely the most effective member of the Trump cabinet.
In return, the president attacked him in the failing New York Times. That’s not just criticism. It's an insult. It's also a worrisome sign that the president may be forgetting who is on his side. Goldman Sachs did not elect Donald Trump. America’s long-ignored middle class did. Trump voters may find his tweets about the media amusing, and well-deserved because, obviously, they are, but they’re not the point of this exercise. The point is to shine some light on the broad middle of this country, on the millions of normal people who are hurting and who could badly use an ally in power for the first time in a long time. Now the hope is that what happened yesterday was just a stress-related aberration, the political equivalent of yelling at your kids when you had a bad day at the office. If so, it will be not be hard to fix this. Going forward, just pay a little less attention to The New York Times, pay a little more to Matt Drudge. And for God’s sake, lay off Jeff Sessions. He is your friend. One of the very few you have in Washington.
There are many similarities between Carlson and Sessions. They both regularly villainize immigrants, and like Sessions, Carlson is beloved by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Tonight’s interview will most likely be nothing more than a public relations stunt for Sessions.
The July 26 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight featured a pre-taped interview with Vice President Mike Pence. Notably absent from the interview was any reference to Pence’s opposition to trans military service, service President Donald Trump has just banned.
Pence has been reportedly working behind the scenes to ensure the reversal of the Obama administration’s repeal of the transgender ban, but it failed to pass muster in Congress. Carlson skirted the issue, focusing on the GOP’s struggling health care bill during the interview rather than asking Pence about the new policy implementation and its potential impact. Outside of his interview with Pence, Carlson did mention the policy, erroneously stating that the ban was due to prohibitive costs and a negative impact on military readiness, ignoring years of research and policy analysis conducted prior to the Department of Defense’s decision to repeal the ban in 2016.
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As Senate Republicans began holding votes to take away health care from tens of millions of Americans, Fox News’ Sean Hannity still chose to focus primarily on phony Clinton pseudo-scandals. Similarly, Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight focused on irrelevant and often offensive stories while largely ignoring health care. Even The Five, which did discuss health care at length, made time for a segment hyping Democratic frustrations with Hillary Clinton.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on July 24 that the Senate would be holding a vote on whether to proceed to debate on the various Republican proposals to repeal and, in some cases, replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which have been projected to take away health care from upward of 22 million people ("straight repeal" would strip away insurance from 32 million). On July 25, the Senate narrowly approved a motion to proceed to debate and then rejected the first plan McConnell put up to a vote.
Despite the new actions on health care, Fox News’ prime-time shows focused nearly as much on bogus Clinton scandals and political intrigue as they did on health care on July 24 and July 25. A Media Matters analysis found that Fox’s prime-time line-up of Hannity, The Five, and Tucker Carlson Tonight spent 35 minutes and 49 seconds discussing health care while devoting 34 minutes and 56 seconds to discussions of the Clintons.
Of the three programs, Hannity’s coverage, unsurprisingly, was the most skewed. Over the two-day period, Hannity spent 13 minutes and 4 seconds on health care while devoting 30 minutes and 42 seconds to the Clintons. Even as senators were taking votes on health care, Hannity ran two full segments on the Clintons and spoke about health care in brief spurts of less than two minutes throughout the show.
Meanwhile, while the Senate was voting on health care, Tucker Carlson avoided discussing it at all. On the July 25 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host went live to President Donald Trump’s rally in Ohio for 10 minutes and 57 seconds. Carlson did manage to spend 17 seconds on health care during his July 24 broadcast, which was mainly a video of Trump lamenting Obamacare.
Unlike the other prime-time shows, Fox News’ The Five spent a significant amount of time discussing the health care bills. But the hosts also made time for a segment on Democrats criticizing Hillary Clinton.
Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of health care, healthcare, Better Care Reconciliation Act, BCRA, Senate health, GOP health, or Republican health, Affordable Care Act, ACA, Obama care, and Obamacare, as well as Bill, Hillary, and Clinton on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Five, and Hannity on July 24 and 25.
Conversations were included in this study if health care or the Clintons was the stated topic or discussion or if two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed health care or the Clintons with one another. If a speaker mentioned health care or the Clintons in a multitopic segment and no other speaker in that segment engaged with the comment, then it was excluded from the analysis as a passing mention. All teasers of upcoming segments about health care or the Clintons were excluded from the analysis.
The amount of time spent on Trump’s rally was calculated by monitoring it from beginning to end on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
American College of Pediatricians is a small and deceptively named anti-LGBTQ hate group meant to be confused with American Academy of Pediatrics
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson hosted Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), on his show to attack transgender children, their parents, and their doctors. During the appearance, Cretella spread anti-transgender junk science and said transgender children are “engag[ing] in magical thinking” and that treating them is “child abuse.”
ACPeds is a small, deceptively named hate group, with only a few hundred members, meant to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- a 60,000-member group comprising “leaders in the professional field.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), ACPeds hides “under the veneer of its professional-sounding name and claims” in order to “defame and discredit LGBT people, often by distorting legitimate research.” ACPeds began when a “small group of anti-LGBT physicians and other healthcare professionals broke away” from AAP after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt and foster-parent children. ACPeds has been relentless in its claim that it’s dangerous for children to identify as LGBTQ; its blog has suggested that “P for pedophile” should be a part of the LGBT acronym, and the ACPeds president sent a letter to more than 14,000 school district superintendents advocating for conversion therapy and outlining the so-called “health risks” of “claim[ing] a ‘gay’ identity.” Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that has been “rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades.”
On the July 25 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Cretella spread a series of anti-transgender myths and junk science, including the claim that “transgender ideology is not” “rooted in reality.” Major medical organizations, including the AAP, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association, have affirmed transgender identities. Cretella also made misleading and false claims about hormone treatment for transgender kids, calling it “child abuse” and falsely claiming that “as many as 95 percent” of transgender children will “embrace” their “biological sex” if they are forced to reject their transgender identity. ThinkProgress’ Zack Ford noted that this claim is a debunked myth based on faulty research that “conflated kids who just exhibited gender nonconforming behaviors with those who actually insisted they were a different gender.”
Cretella went on to spread the myth that puberty-blocking treatment for transgender youth is dangerous and akin to “sterilizing children.” But, as Ford wrote, there is no risk of sterilization stemming from taking puberty-suppressing treatments. This treatment delays the onset of puberty, giving transgender people the option of “the lifelong advantage of a body that matches their gender identities without the irreversible body changes of a low voice or beard growth or breasts.” Rob Garofalo, director of the Lurie Children’s Hospital’s Gender and Sex Development Program in Chicago, described the treatment as giving families “the opportunity to hit a pause button, to prevent natal puberty … until we know that that’s either the right or the wrong direction for their particular child” and puberty blockers as “generally a very safe medication.” In 2013, the Endocrine Society, the largest global organization of professionals who research and treat “conditions and diseases related to the human body’s complex system of glands and hormones,” declared that “medical intervention in transgender adolescents appears to be safe and effective.”
According to Ford, it is “technically true that if a young person goes directly from taking puberty-suppressants to cross-sex hormones, they could risk never being able to produce children of their own, but infertility is not guaranteed.” Ford added that ACPeds fails to note that “the only way trans kids could develop fertility is to go through the puberty that they’re specifically trying to avoid” when it pushes this myth. A 2014 study showed that treatment delaying puberty for transgender adolescents “seems to boost psychological well-being for those who ultimately pursue sex reassignment” and gives them the “opportunity to develop into well-functioning young adults.” Though suppressing puberty is a “fully reversible medical intervention,” one study of adolescents being treated with puberty blockers found that all of its participants went on to begin gender reassignment.
Carlson’s segment gave a small anti-LGBTQ hate group masquerading as a legitimate medical association a platform to spread dangerous junk science. And it wasn’t the first time Carlson has legitimized ACPeds’ extremism. On the July 14 edition of his show, Carlson used ACPeds’ hate group designation to attempt to discredit the hate group label, saying that the group was “hardly the Klan.” By failing to differentiate ACPeds from AAP, Carlson manipulated his viewers into believing that these fringe beliefs are part of mainstream medical thought.
From the July 24 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:
TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Michelle Cretella is the president of the American College of Pediatricians. She just wrote a piece in which she says, we're quoting now, "Transgender ideology has infiltrated my field and produced large scale child abuse." Cretella says doctors are encouraging parents to have their kids change genders when there is no evidence these changes are safe or even helpful. Dr. Cretella joins us now. Doctor, thanks a lot for weighing in on this. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is this is a field -- I'm not sure what it is -- of social science or medicine that is changing so fast that it's hard to sort of know where we are exactly. And you're in the practice of providing medicine to kids, so I wanted to get your perspective on it. What are you seeing?
MICHELLE CRETELLA: Thank you very much, Tucker. I'm glad to be here. I think it's important to say that everyone on both sides of this issue is concerned about finding loving and helpful solutions for all children.
CARLSON: Yes. I think that's right.
CRETELLA: It -- honestly. We at the American College of Pediatricians, and also I have many colleagues on the left, also insist that those solutions be rooted in reality, and transgender ideology is not. Sex is hard-wired from before birth, and it cannot change. And that's why we had actually called this child abuse, because by feeding children and families these lies, children are having their normal psychological development interrupted. They're even -- they're being put on the puberty blockers, which essentially castrates them chemically, followed by surgical mutilation later on. This is -- this is child abuse. It's not health care.
CARLSON: So, as you know, you will be, if you haven't already, be accused of committing child abuse yourself and of being cruel and unloving and not caring for these kids, of imposing a medieval theology on modern children. How do you respond?
CRETELLA: Right, but as you said at the beginning, this is about science. We -- what is going on now with the puberty blockers, followed by cross-sex hormones, followed by surgeries, has absolutely no track record whatsoever. The loving solution for children who are -- children who are ages 3 to 10, they engage in magical thinking. They don't know the difference so easily between fantasy and reality. We need to nurture them through adolescence, through natural puberty. Our job as parents and physicians is to help children embrace their healthy bodies. And when this is done, once they get past puberty into late adolescence, as many as 95 percent will come to embrace their bodies and identify with their biological sex.
CARLSON: So what happens -- I mean, since this is not just something we're debating as college students, but there are physicians involved who are prescribing drugs -- what do we know about the effects of heavy-duty hormones, synthetic hormones given to little kids, like long-term?
CRETELLA: Right. Well, we don't have long-term studies, which is a major problem. Which is why physicians should not be telling parents that this is settled science and that it is safe. We do know that when puberty blockers are used appropriately in other settings, that we have observed in adults -- for example, they can be used to treat prostate cancer and some gynecologic issues in women -- that there's evidence that you can impact memory and cognitive ability in a negative way. And as far as the cross-sex hormones, if you have a young child on puberty blockers who goes directly to cross-sex or sex change hormones, they become sterile. You are sterilizing children. They can't possibly -- little children cannot possibly understand the risks of having a medication and then never being able to have children in the future.
CARLSON: So what's the young -- I didn't know that, and there's a lot I don't know about this. Again, this is all happening so fast I don't think most people really know what's going on. But what's the youngest age at which kids are getting these kind of drugs?
CRETELLA: The guidelines suggest that puberty blockers be given at ages 11 to 12, but I've had reports from colleagues across the country, and you can also find them in various news reports, that children as young as 9 have been put on these puberty blockers. And what it does, it arrests normal development. Puberty is not a disease. You're stopping them. It's not just a matter of sex characteristics. You're arresting brain development.
CARLSON: No, it's not. There's a lot there.