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  • The New Orleans Times-Picayune did vital environmental reporting for decades

    Strong environmental journalism is key to informing citizens and holding polluters accountable

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (5/31/19): After publication of this article, Media Matters spoke with The New Orleans Advocate and learned that it has made job offers to The Times-Picayune's full three-person team of environmental journalists and those offers have been accepted. The Advocate also plans to bring over a grant-funded journalism fellow as part of a year-long environmental reporting project that was started at The Times-Picayune. These journalists, who are expected to begin their new jobs on July 2, will join the Advocate reporters who have been covering environmental issues as they intersect with other beats.

    "We are extremely excited to be expanding our environmental coverage," said New Orleans Advocate Managing Editor Martha Carr. "The Advocate has a strong record of environmental reporting in New Orleans and Louisiana. These reporters will add to what we can do to keep citizens informed."  


    The Times-Picayune, a 182-year-old newspaper published in New Orleans, has produced some of the most important environmental journalism in the country. But after a surprise purchase by the owners of The New Orleans Advocate and the Baton Rouge Advocate in early May, the entire staff of the Picayune was laid off. The buyers reportedly plan to merge The Times-Picayune with The New Orleans Advocate, but it's unclear how many of the 161 Picayune employees will be rehired to work on the new joint paper, which is expected to relaunch in July. Local environmental advocates are concerned that a degraded and depleted Picayune will have a much harder time informing the public about important environmental issues.

    The Times-Picayune has been a longtime publisher of award-winning environmental journalism

    For decades, The Times-Picayune has produced groundbreaking stories about how humans affect the environment in southern Louisiana and around the world. The paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for its “Oceans of Trouble” series, which examined threats to fish populations around the world.

    In 2006, the Picayune was awarded another Pulitzer, this time “for its heroic, multi-faceted coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, making exceptional use of the newspaper's resources to serve an inundated city even after evacuation of the newspaper plant.” The paper's Katrina reporting was also built on critical work its journalists had done in previous years. In 2002, it published a prescient five-part series that revealed how woefully unprepared the region was for the full brunt of a major storm. The series included an ominous warning: “It's only a matter of time before South Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane. Billions have been spent to protect us, but we grow more vulnerable every day.”

    The Times-Picayune has twice earned the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, presented by the Columbia Journalism School. In 2001, it won for “Unwelcome Neighbors: Race, class and the environment,” a four-part series that examined environmental justice and the legacy of environmental racism in Louisiana. And in 2008, it was honored with an Oakes Award for a special report titled “Last Chance: The fight to save a disappearing coast.”

    The newspaper also received many other accolades over the years. For example, the Picayune's reporting on the BP oil spill earned first place for outstanding beat reporting in a small market from the Society of Environmental Journalists in 2011. In 2018, the paper partnered with The New York Times to produce a three-part series that investigated the ecological catastrophe occurring along Louisiana's disappearing coastline, and further reporting on the topic won the 2018 Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors award for continuing coverage.

    The Times-Picayune continued to produce innovative and informative environmental journalism even after suffering massive staff layoffs in 2012. But as in far too many other newsrooms across the country, good journalism would ultimately not be able to save the paper.

    Great journalism isn’t enough to stem the tide of newspaper dissolution and consolidation

    Notable achievements, high readership, and even profitability have so far proved unable to stem the growing tide of newsroom erosion and extinction all around the country.

    Picayune journalist Haley Correll, who found out that she lost her job while in New York to accept an award, illustrated this point in a tweet.

    The Wall Street Journal recently took a deep dive into the dire state of local newspapers. The article noted, “Nearly 1,800 newspapers closed between 2004 and 2018, leaving 200 counties with no newspaper and roughly half the counties in the country with only one,” according to a 2018 study by the University of North Carolina. The job losses have also been staggering: Between 1990 and 2016, newspaper positions in the U.S. declined by about 60%, falling from 465,000 jobs to 183,000.

    In a region highly vulnerable to climate threats, activists stress the need for strong environmental journalism

    Local environmental activists have expressed apprehension about what the Picayune’s sale portends for the future of journalism in a region that is highly vulnerable to climate change and plagued by environmental injustices like “Cancer Alley.” Dustin Renaud, a spokesperson for New Orleans-based conservation nonprofit Healthy Gulf, told Media Matters, "Environmental protection starts with informed citizens, and The Times-Picayune has been an invaluable source of information on issues like sea-level rise, land loss, increased severity of storms, and oil and gas development, which are all very real threats to Louisianians.”

    His unease is shared by Andy Kowalczyk of climate action group 350 New Orleans, who told Media Matters, “Unbiased reporting is increasingly important in Louisiana because there is an all-too-common and casual lack of transparency from regulators of polluting industries, and, of course, the industries themselves.” 

    They're right to be concerned. Research suggests that the loss of local newspapers can result in citizens who are less civically engaged and institutions that are less accountable, leading to more government and industry waste, fraud, and abuse. A recent study also found that newspaper coverage of polluting plants was correlated with lowered emissions from those plants.

    Without knowledgeable journalists who can tell compelling stories, a local paper will sometimes morph into a digital version plagued by junk advertisements and rife with stories that have little relevance to the community it serves.

    Renaud emphasized the importance of tenacious reporters: “We need dedicated environmental journalists to tell the stories that Healthy Gulf advocates for or else we risk important environmental news falling through the cracks.” Having experienced journalists on the job is particularly important for beats like environmental reporting that require a grasp of science, regulatory systems, politics, and local arcana.

    There is at least one bit of good news on this front: Poynter reported that the leaders of The New Orleans Advocate intend to hire some Picayune journalists on contract, and “the hires will draw on the strength of the Times-Picayune’s environmental reporting,” among other areas of expertise.

    Potential new models for local news

    The outlook for local news outlets around the country is bleak, but there are new models being pioneered that have the potential to help newspapers survive and even thrive in some cases.

    One example is Report for America, a project aimed at recruiting, training, and placing 1,000 reporters in local newsrooms by 2023. The organization splits the cost of a reporter’s salary with the local newsroom and an individual donor, university, family trust, or foundation. This year, Report for America placed 61 reporters in 50 local news organizations.

    Another project is focused specifically on the environmental beat. InsideClimate News’ National Environment Reporting Network is "hiring experienced reporters based in key regions of the nation to write stories, train local reporters, and collaborate with newsrooms to produce more in-depth environment reporting.” The network recently teamed up with 14 news outlets in the Midwest to produce a series of stories on local climate solutions.

    Public funding of news outlets is another model that is beginning to be tested in the U.S., as the Nieman Lab reports. In New Jersey last year, grassroots activists successfully pushed through the Civic Info Bill, which created a public fund to support journalism projects and other potential ways to inform state residents.

    In Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune recently announced that it is seeking to become a nonprofit. If successful, the paper would become the first “legacy U.S. daily to switch to nonprofit status,” according to a Tribune article. The effort will be a complicated process; to kick it off, the Tribune’s owner has petitioned the IRS to change the paper’s status “from a privately owned business to a community asset.”

    These are promising steps, but the ability of these models to support quality journalism is still in doubt -- as are the fates of many talented and experienced journalists who are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living. But no matter which models ascend to fill the role historically played by local newspapers, one thing is certain: They should be guided by the consistently rigorous, revealing, and relevant reporting produced by local papers like The Times-Picayune.

  • Are conservative media egging on potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz just to help Trump? Possibly.

    It says a lot that Schultz’s biggest fans this early on are people on the right.

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Over the past week or so, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has become nearly as ubiquitous as the coffee chain itself. As part of the press blitz for his new book, “From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America,” the 65-year-old billionaire and self-described “lifelong Democrat” has been toying with the idea of running for president in 2020 as a “centrist independent.” Many progressives -- and even a number of anti-Trump moderates and conservatives -- worry that Schultz would play the role of spoiler by peeling off enough Democratic votes to re-elect Trump. He’s also been using these press stops to bash proposals like “Medicare-for-all” and free public college, earning him a reception as ice-cold as a Frappuccino from the political left.

    Thankfully for Schultz, there’s one group in media shamelessly encouraging him to take the presidential plunge: the far right.

    It’s hard to say what Schultz supports, as he hasn’t actually come out in favor of a single detailed policy. That hasn’t stopped conservative media from giving him a whole bunch of attention.

    Fox News, in particular, has been a major hub for Schultz fans. He’s been described as “realistic,” as the type of candidate who can get Wall Street’s backing, as someone who is “very cognizant” of what Americans want in terms of health care reform, and as a champion for “people who don’t want to play fantastical economics anymore.” The network has also repeatedly stood up against criticism of his background and billionaire status.

    On his new podcast, former Trump administration communications director Anthony Scaramucci said Schultz and fellow billionaire businessman-turned-politico Michael Bloomberg would both make “phenomenal presidents,” listing them as “the two people who could possibly beat Trump.” Steve Schmidt, a former adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid, took a job with Schultz last year. And in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, Tiana Lowe brushed off Democratic criticism that a third-party challenge would aid Trump’s re-election, writing, “If Democrats want to kneecap Schultz's run, they need to offer better than whatever dregs of desperation they're currently putting on the table.”

    Schultz himself has directly boosted right-wing media figures who are encouraging him to run against Democrats. On January 30, Schultz tweeted (and later deleted) a link to a PJ Media editorial by Roger L. Simon. Schultz thanked Simon for what he called “a thoughtful analysis of what's possible.” A quick glance at the article, however, reveals a number of cringeworthy lines attacking Democratic candidates, including referring to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as a “shrill … quasi-socialist promising pie in the sky” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Fauxcahontas.”

    Schultz later tweeted a link from the notoriously conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board, which described Democrats’ response to a possible Schultz candidacy as “shrieking like teenagers at a horror movie.” The editorial went on to play up the virtues of having a serious adult in the room to encourage a policy debate, contrasting the 65-year-old billionaire with young progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), “whose claim to fame is winning one election, looking cool on Instagram, and proposing ways to spend other people’s money.”

    It’s extremely unlikely that any of these outspoken conservatives actually want Schultz to win -- and if we’re all being completely honest with ourselves, few likely think he can win.

    You may be asking yourself why people on the far right would promote Schultz’s candidacy if what they really want is Trump’s re-election. Maybe I’m being overly cynical, but I’m pretty sure the answer is already right there in the question: because they want Trump to win re-election. Right-wing commentators are trying to downplay this possibility in their effusive praise of Schultz.

    To get one thing out of the way: There’s virtually no chance of Howard Schultz actually winning in 2020 -- though it would be interesting to see if critics would give him a pass on a “latte salute” or two. National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar bemoaned the “failure of imagination” of pundits saying that Schultz doesn’t have a viable path to 270 electoral votes. The truth is that the Electoral College makes it extraordinarily hard for a candidate outside of the two main parties to win any electoral votes, let alone a majority of them. In 1992, Ross Perot received 19.7 million votes (18.9 percent of the total), but ended up with zero electoral votes as he didn’t carry a single state. In fact, the last time a third-party candidate won any electoral votes was in 1968, when George Wallace took 46.

    It’s not a “lack of imagination” that says Schultz has an espresso bean’s chance in a grinder to win; it’s just reality. Come January 20, 2021, it will almost certainly be Donald Trump being sworn into a second term in office or whomever the Democrats nominate taking over. Sorry, Schultz superfans of the world -- if you exist.

    Democratic megadonor Haim Saban thinks a Schultz campaign “guarantees Trump a second term.” Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at centrist think tank Third Way -- the exact type of person a Schultz campaign would appeal to, if anyone at all -- told NPR that a centrist independent entry into the race could “splinter” opposition to Trump, leading to his re-election. Even Trump thinks Schultz running would help his own chances, per one report.

    The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake recently dissected a Washington Post-ABC poll showing that 56 percent of registered voters will “definitely” not vote for Trump in 2020, lending some credence to the idea that Trump’s re-election odds might hinge on a wild card:

    Trump may not need those 56 percent of voters. He won the presidency, after all, with just 46 percent of the popular vote — about two points higher than the 44 percent who are at least open to supporting his reelection. He could win with even less of the vote if a third-party/independent candidate, like former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz, splits the vote three ways.

    There’s also the possibility that Schultz himself doesn’t even think he can win, but just wants to incentivize the Democrats to avoid nominating the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or some other candidates with tax hikes for the rich in exchange for an expanded social safety net.

    In an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin, Schultz explained, “I respect the Democratic Party. I no longer feel affiliated because I don’t know their views represent the majority of Americans. I don’t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America.” (He was referencing Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal for a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent on income more than $10 million per year.)

    He later added, “If I decide to run for president as an independent, I will believe and have the conviction and the courage to believe I can win. I can’t answer that question today. But I certainly am not going to do anything to put Donald Trump back in the Oval Office.”

    If conservative journalists truly believe that a Schultz campaign will throw the 2020 election to Trump, it’s in their best interests to convince him to run. By his own words, the only way to do that is to tell him that he has a legitimate shot. Schultz has been citing the stat that “about 42 percent of the electorate affiliate themselves as an independent.” That figure has been key in Schultz’s argument that he has a real chance at winning. Unfortunately, this confidence seems to be based on a misreading of what that data actually says.

    In an article for FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley breaks down just how misleading that figure is:

    Gallup shows that roughly 39 percent of Americans say they’re independents — it also signals a fundamental misunderstanding of how the electorate really feels. And that’s because once you subtract independents who lean more toward one party, the number of true independents shrinks to around 10 percent. Using this metric, Gallup finds that roughly 88 percent of Americans identify with one of the two major parties, and Pew Research puts that figure even higher, at 92 percent.

    It’s also worth noting that “independent” is not synonymous with “centrist” or “moderate.” Some self-described independents may be further to the left than the Democratic Party, or further to the right than the Republican Party. It would seem that Schultz’s calculation in all of this is totally wrong, or maybe, as my cynicism-poisoned mind might suggest to me: This is all just a game of chicken between him and the Democratic Party to try to shift its economic priorities to the right.

    Whether or not Schultz runs for president, and no matter what his intentions actually are in making that run, it’s good to take partisan media figures contemplating his potential candidacy with a grain of salt.

  • Majority of top U.S. newspapers fail to mention landmark climate change report on their homepages

    After new U.N. IPCC climate report comes out, only 22 of the top 50 U.S. newspapers' homepages made note of it

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A United Nations scientific panel released a major new climate change report on the night of October 7, warning of dire consequences if world governments don’t take unprecedented and dramatic steps in the next decade to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. The next morning, the majority of top U.S. newspapers failed to mention the report on their homepages.

    IPCC report warns that fast, sweeping action is necessary to fight climate change

    At 9 p.m. EDT on October 7, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its long-awaited special report about what will happen if the average global temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and what would be required to prevent such a rise. The average temperature has already risen 1 degree C worldwide, and we will see dramatic and deadly impacts if it rises 2 degrees or more, which is now considered extremely likely. The IPCC report was requested by world leaders as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The report emphasizes the need for unprecedented action in the coming years to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and warns of the dire impacts if humanity fails to take that action.

    The majority of top U.S. newspapers neglected to cover the IPCC report on their homepages

    Between 9 a.m. and noon EDT on October 8, Media Matters analyzed the homepages of the top 50 U.S. newspapers as ranked by average Sunday circulation. Twenty-eight of the papers did not mention the report on their homepages at all:

    Of the above newspapers, 10 serve cities that are listed among the "25 U.S. Cities Most Affected by Climate Change" in a 2015 weather.com report: Baltimore, Buffalo, Columbus, Denver, Louisville, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, and St. Paul.

    Other major newspapers in cities heavily affected by climate change also failed to highlight the IPCC report. The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in Nevada, did not note the report on its homepage. Las Vegas is ranked third in the weather.com list. The Miami Herald also did not mention the IPCC report on its homepage, though it did link to an article about how the risk of sea-level rise threatens real estate prices. Miami will be particularly affected by sea-level rise; a study published last year in the journal Nature concluded that rising seas as a result of climate change could cause more than 2.5 million Miami residents to flee the city.

    Only 22 of the top 50 U.S. newspapers mentioned the IPCC report on their homepages

    These are the papers that linked from their homepages to articles about the IPCC report:

    A few of the newspapers featured the IPCC report prominently on their homepages, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but most of homepage mentions of the report were just headlines. Here's how the Star Tribune featured the report: 

    Methodology: Media Matters searched for the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” “IPCC,” “report,” and “scientist” on the homepages of the top 50 highest-circulation U.S. newspapers between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. EST on October 8. The list of newspapers was taken from the recent Pew Research Center report State of the News Media.

  • Trump mirrors right-wing media plea to scuttle ACA's individual mandate in GOP tax plan

    Ending the policy would cause premiums to increase and millions to lose insurance

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A tweet from President Donald Trump urged lawmakers to include a provision in the latest so-called "tax reform" proposal to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, a policy that stipulates that all citizens must have health insurance or pay a small tax penalty. This proposal has been floating around right-wing media recently, despite the disastrous consequences it would have.

    In an apparent reference to the ACA’s individual mandate, Trump tweeted a message on November 13 urging lawmakers to consider “ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further” as part of the impending Republican plan to rewrite the tax code.

    Some in right-wing media have made the same suggestion in recent weeks. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board wrote in a November 12 piece that “the best move for tax and health-care reform is to include the mandate repeal.” Earlier, on November 6, Washington Post columnist Hugh Hewitt called on Republicans to “kill off the mandate and advance tax reform at the same time.” Fox contributor Marc Siegel wrote in a November 9 op-ed, “It is time to kick the mandate leg off the stool and let it collapse under the weight of its over-bloated, one-size-fits-all insurance policies.” And Jay Caruso of the Dallas Morning News tweeted shortly before Trump this morning, “Call your Senators and urge them to repeal the Obamacare mandate tax.”

    These calls to dismantle the individual mandate would have disastrous consequences. In a November 8 analysis, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that repealing the individual mandate in 2019 would decrease the number of people with health insurance “by 4 million in 2019 and 13 million in 2027.” Additionally, the report also estimated that for those not covered through their employers, “average premiums … would increase by about 10 percent in most years of the decade … relative to CBO’s baseline projections.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities also found that the resulting premium increases “could affect about 7 million mostly middle-income people who purchase ACA-compliant individual market coverage but have incomes too high to qualify for subsidies.”

    In his tweet, Trump suggested that dismantling the individual mandate -- and thereby throwing a wrench into the insurance market while simultaneously freeing up funds to use for tax cuts -- would lower taxes for the top tax bracket and benefit the middle class, though it’s unclear how it would do the latter. The plans Trump and Republican lawmakers have proposed are filled to brim with goodies for the wealthiest at the expense of middle-class workers. Repealing the individual mandate would only make the consequences even more dire for middle-class families.

    As Talking Points Memo’s Alice Ollstein wrote, calls to get rid of the individual mandate are “going over like a lead balloon on Capitol Hill” and including a provision to repeal it “could put the entire bill in jeopardy.” That’s because politicians -- even Republicans -- realize that it would be a disaster for the health insurance markets and their political careers.

  • Before he joined Trump, Bannon bragged he made Breitbart the home of the "alt-right." Now he's back.

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Stephen Bannon, former White House chief strategist and restored executive chairman of Breitbart.com, orchestrated and supported many of the worst elements of the campaign and presidency of Donald Trump. Before, during, and after his direct involvement with Trump’s political ambitions, Bannon used his experience -- and his extensive and complicated financial connections to the far-right billionaire Mercer family -- to stoke the flames of nativist anger, encourage Trump’s most racist and misogynistic rhetoric, support far-right political candidates across the globe, and attack all perceived enemies of Trumpism, potentially including Trump himself.

  • Front Page Headlines Fall For Trump’s Press Conference Trap

    ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Following a press conference featuring many questions about ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign was in frequent communication with Russia, front page newspaper headlines the next day hyped “ringmaster Don” and his assertion that he “inherited a mess” while de-emphasizing unanswered questions and new reporting about the Flynn and Russia controversies.

  • Here Is How Trump's Media Allies Reacted To CIA Report That Russian Government Intervened In Election To Help Trump

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After an anonymous source within the Central Intelligence Agency told The Washington Post the agency has “high confidence” that the Russian government intervened in the 2016 election to assist President-elect Donald Trump, right-wing media outlets quickly sought to delegitimize the allegations by claiming the CIA is too partisan to be trusted, or that the hacking was in reality a “false flag” attack by another actor. 

  • WSJ Op-Ed Rehashes Discredited Evidence To Fearmonger About Noncitizen Voting

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    The Wall Street Journal opinion page provided a platform for serial misinformers -- citing discredited research -- to falsely suggest that a large number of noncitizens voted in the 2016 election. The evidence used by the authors, who have made careers out of pushing misleading claims to advocate for laws that would result in voter suppression, has been criticized by academics and flies in the face of data showing no evidence that noncitizens have voted in recent U.S. elections in any significant numbers.

    In a November 30 op-ed, Hans von Spakovsky, a National Review contributor and a current senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and John Fund, a columnist for National Review, asserted that “there is a real chance that significant numbers of noncitizens and others are indeed voting illegally, perhaps enough to make up the margin in some elections.” The authors declare that “the honor system doesn’t work” and that “there are people—like those caught voting illegally—who are willing to exploit these weaknesses that damage election integrity.”

    The evidence von Spakovsky and Fund cite to back up their claim is seriously misleading, is methodologically flawed, and has been debunked by experts. Von Spakovsky and Fund point to one “2012 study from the Pew Center on the States estimating that one out of every eight voter registrations is inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicate.” But as USA Today pointed out in a write-up of the study, “experts say there's no evidence that the [registration] errors lead to fraud on Election Day.” The article quoted David Becker, the director of Pew’s election initiatives, warning that “‘the perception of the possibility of fraud drives hyper-partisan policymaking.’”

    The authors also cited a 2014 study that “used extensive survey data to estimate that 6.4% of the nation’s noncitizens voted in 2008 and that 2.2% voted in 2010.” That study was endlessly hyped by right-wing media, but Brian Schaffner, a political scientist who was “a member of the team that produces the datasets upon which that study was based,” wrote, “I can say unequivocally that this research is not only wrong, it is irresponsible social science and should never have been published in the first place. There is no evidence that non-citizens have voted in recent U.S. elections.” Another expert, Michael Tesler, pointed out that the study had “methodological challenges” that rendered its conclusions "tenuous at best.”

    The authors additionally cited a Heritage Foundation report that they call “a list of more than 700 recent convictions for voter fraud” to dispute “academics who claim that voter fraud is vanishingly rare.” However, as FactCheck.org noted, the report found "less than a dozen individual cases of noncitizens convicted of registering or actually voting since 2000," and USA Today found that the report, which is “based largely on news clippings and news releases,” contains “only a handful of allegations of voter impersonation that voter ID could have prevented.”

    In fact, a 2014 study conducted by Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt found only 31 credible allegations of in-person voter fraud among the more than 1 billion votes cast in "general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014."

    Von Spakovsky and Fund’s reliance on discredited research is no surprise, given their history of pushing misinformation about voting. Von Spakovsky, who has been featured on Fox News and on National Review for years, has demonstrated an unending willingness to distort the truth in the service of restrictive and discriminatory voter ID laws. Von Spakovsky, in particular, has repeatedly overstated the prevalence of in-person voter fraud and continues to push for voter ID laws that disproportionately affect minority communities and suppress legal voters. At National Review, he also characterized the modern civil rights movement as "indistinguishable" from "segregationists." Even former President Ronald Reagan’s attorney general Dick Thornburgh accused von Spakovsky of being “wrong on both the facts and the law.”

  • Trump Just Finished Speaking At A Hate Group Conference; Why Didn’t Top Papers Take Heed?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    On September 9, Donald Trump addressed the 11th Values Voter Summit hosted by the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Trump’s appearance marks the first time that a Republican presidential nominee has addressed the summit since it began in 2006. In the lead up to the event, the top five highest circulated newspapers in the U.S. failed to cover the fact that a major party presidential candidate was addressing a crowd at a conference hosted by a hate group.

    The Values Voter Summit (VVS) is an annual event hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated as an anti-LGBT “hate group” due to its known propagation of extreme falsehoods about LGBT people. FRC’s leader, Tony Perkins, has his own history of making inflammatory comments, such as calling pedophilia a "homosexual problem," equating being gay with drug use and adultery, accusing gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and comparing gay rights advocates to terrorists.

    Over the last year, Perkins and Trump have developed a cozy relationship, which ultimately led to Perkins’ official endorsement of Trump in June. Previously, Perkins had backed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the GOP primaries until his withdrawal from the race in early May. In August, Perkins announced that Trump would speak at the 2016 Values Voters Summit. Perkins has been outspoken about his belief that he can shape and mold Trump’s ideologies to become more in line with FRC’s extremism. 

    Newspapers Ignore Anti-LGBT Hate Group’s Role In Supporting Trump’s Candidacy

    Prior to September 9, in the lead up to VVS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today -- the top five highest circulated U.S. newspapers -- failed to cover that a presidential candidate was preparing to speak at a conference hosted by a hate group, alongside many anti-LGBT extremist leaders. In articles published on the morning of Trump’s address, The New York Times and The Washington Post finally reported that Trump was scheduled to speak at VVS later in the day, but omitted FRC’s anti-LGBT hate group designation. Both outlets previously connected Trump’s campaign to white supremacist hate groups and the alt-right, but they have downplayed the influence of anti-LGBT extremism in this election.

     From a September 9 New York Times article:

    Donald J. Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, will address the Values Voter Summit in Washington, which starts on Friday, putting the Republican presidential ticket in front of one of the largest audiences of social conservatives in the 2016 campaign.

    Mr. Pence, who will speak on Saturday, is a social conservative who was photographed leading Mr. Trump in prayer aboard the real-estate mogul’s plane soon after he joined the ticket. But while Mr. Trump performed relatively well with evangelical voters in the Republican primaries, he has only fleetingly addressed churchgoers since then. He has previously supported abortion rights and has spoken favorably of same-sex civil unions, two issues that are of concern to evangelical voters.

    From an article featured in The Washington Post on September 9:

    Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), one of the Republican congressional caucus's most unfiltered members, told a morning crowd at the annual Values Voter Summit that Hillary Clinton was "mentally impaired" thanks to a 2012 concussion and that the news media was not doing all it could to reveal this.

    […]

    At the Values Voter Summit, Gohmert didn't need to explain any of this. As the audience laughed along, Gohmert recounted a recent appearance on "Fox and Friends," where he tweaked the lyrics of a country song to "I can't remember/Hillary's brain's in a blender."

    This omission is part of a larger trend when covering anti-LGBT extremism. Previously, a Media Matters analysis found that The New York Times has repeatedly and consistently failed to appropriately label anti-LGBT hate groups as such or provide context on their history of extremism. However, the Times frequently used SPLC’s “hate group” designation when reporting on other extremist groups and ideologies, such as white supremacists. The Washington Post also mostly failed to identify anti-LGBT hate groups -- though, out of the total number of hate groups that it labeled as such, anti-LGBT groups were represented proportionally.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times in Nexis for coverage between July 1, 2016, through September 9, 2016, using the the search terms “Trump” AND “Values Voter Summit” OR “Family Research Council.” The same search was repeated for The Wall Street Journal in Factiva.