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  • Male Pundits Think The Problem With Men Writing A Health Care Bill Is Just Optics. They're So Wrong.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Male pundits on CNN are criticizing the all-male Republican working group writing the Senate version of the health care bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they’re right in slamming the panel for excluding women. But they’re wrong in saying that “optics” -- by which they mean the political effects of how something looks -- is the reason excluding women from the group is wrong.

    As reported by The New York Times, the Republican working group on health care comprises 13 senators, none of them women. While discussing the working group on the May 9 edition of CNN’s Inside Politics, host John King speculated about whether Republican leadership should, “for optics purposes, have tinkered with the working group.” Appearing as a guest on the same show, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny agreed with King that excluding women was “optically terrible.” CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson was thankfully at the table to add more substance to the shallow optics argument. She challenged King’s focus on optics as a reason for Republican leadership to change the makeup of the working group, suggesting that gender diversity would be a positive for “For real purposes, right?” and mentioning the female senators whom Republicans could have included in their working group.

    Later on CNN, political correspondent Phil Mattingly focused his report on noting that Republicans “are keenly aware” that the all-male panel is “not a good look” and that it wasn’t a “good public scene” to exclude the five “very talented, very well regarded” Republican women in the Senate. While Mattingly was reporting and not providing commentary, he missed an opportunity to point out that excluding women from a panel working on an issue that directly and disproportionately impacts women is wrong for reasons that go beyond optics.

    In contrast, some of the female journalists at the network did a better job of pointing out the substantive issues linked to leaving women out of the working group. During CNN Newsroom, co-host Poppy Harlow noted that the group’s lack of gender inclusion is “out of the 1920s playbook” and asked her guest Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, to explain what it meant “in terms of policy to not have more diversity.” Sweet pointed out that “a lot of preventative medicine provisions” in Obamacare specifically affect women and are “at risk in Trumpcare:”

    During CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, host Brooke Baldwin and chief political correspondent Dana Bash criticized calling the exclusion of women “an optics problem,” with Bash stating, “It’s also a substance problem,” and Baldwin responding, “An optics problem? It’s a little more than that.”

    While it is true that Republicans in the Senate are overwhelmingly white and male -- slimming down the possibility of any real diversity in the group -- the “optics” angle is especially offensive given the female senators with expertise and experiences that would add value to the discussions on the panel. As USA Today’s Jessica Estepa pointed out, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) “has sat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee since  2015.” In the past, Collins has voiced concerns about defunding access to reproductive health care. Estepa also mentions Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) 10-year track record on the Senate health committee, as well as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) who hails from a state that has seen Medicaid expanded and who could provide insight on how cutting expansions would affect people like her constituents.

    This is just the latest example of “optics” punditry getting in the way of substantive policy analysis. At best, cable news’s obsession with discussing “optics” turns commentary uninformative and shallow, and at worst, it becomes an incentive for political actors to overtly focus on the way political processes look as opposed to their real life effects and the constituents they affect.

    After President Donald Trump’s February 28 address to a joint session of Congress, pundits focusing on optics and “tone” earned criticism from other commentators. The criticism was well-deserved, as pundits should use their platforms to give their audiences useful information, like the consequences of a speech turning into policy and the viability of such policy positions, not superficial analysis that those watching could make for themselves. The punditry optics analysis that came after Trumpcare passed the House also got in the way of media assessing the bill’s real impact on the millions of Americans who could lose health insurance. Audiences tuning in deserve actual analysis of the political process. The focus on optics gets in the way of that.

  • Sean Spicer's Holocaust Comparison Echoes Fox News

    ››› ››› NINA MAST & CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    The day after a survivor of a 2013 chemical attack in Syria said in a Fox News interview that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “worse than” Adolf Hitler, White House press secretary Sean Spicer seemed to parrot the claim when he compared Assad to Hitler, falsely adding that Hitler did not use chemical weapons. Spicer’s comments also echo those made by a Fox analyst in 2013 on fringe website World Net Daily (WND). But it is universally accepted that the Nazis under Hitler did in fact use chemical weapons to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and Spicer’s gaffe is yet another example of the Trump administration internalizing talking points heard on Fox News.

  • Media Outlets Mention Trump's International Women's Day Tweet, Ignore Allegations Of Sexual Assault Against Him

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & KATIE SULLIVAN

    On International Women’s Day, cable hosts on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox Business Network reported on President Donald Trump’s tweet stating that he has “tremendous respect for women” without mentioning that at least 17 women have accused him of sexual assault or harassment.

    On the morning of March 8, Trump tweeted, “I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy.” He followed that up with a second tweet, writing, “On International Women's Day, join me in honoring the critical role of women here in America & around the world.” At least nine cable news shows reported on Trump’s tweet between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m.: CNN’s New Day, At This Hour, Inside Politics, and Wolf; MSNBC’s Morning Joe, MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, the 11 a.m. hour of MSNBC Live hosted by Ali Velshi, and Andrew Mitchell Reports; and Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo. None of the nine shows mentioned that 17 women have come forward alleging Trump sexually assaulted or harassed them. In fact, no news program on any cable or broadcast network mentioned the accusations at all, according to a Media Matters search.

    In addition to the actual accusations, Trump himself was recorded in 2005 bragging to an Access Hollywood host about sexual assault.  

    While no show that reported on Trump’s tweet mentioned the accusations of sexual misconduct against him -- or that he responded to them with personal attacks, calling one a “horrible woman” and insulting another's’ looks -- The Atlantic’s Molly Ball said on CNN, “we should give him credit for not making a provocation and causing a whole controversy.” Ball claimed that, “because this women's movement has been so focused on opposition to Trump, it has, I think, become much more of a politically polarized occasion,” adding that it was “commendable” for “Trump to rise above it.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. on March 8 of Trump’s tweet using the terms "Trump" and "women” as well as "Trump" and "tweet.” Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage of the sexual assault allegations against Trump using the terms “grab" or "assault."

  • This Is What Happens When You Hire A Trump Adviser To Give Economic Analysis

    Great Job With That Stephen Moore Hire, CNN

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Discredited right-wing economic pundit Stephen Moore used his first appearance on CNN since joining the network as its “senior economics analyst” to put a negative spin on the Obama-era economic recovery while squirming out of questions about lies that President Donald Trump, whom he advised during the campaign, turned into routine campaign talking points.

    During the February 3 edition of CNN’s Wolf, host Wolf Blitzer invited Moore to offer his perspective on Trump’s sudden acceptance of job creation and unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which Trump had labeled “one of the biggest hoaxes in modern politics” just six months ago. Blitzer argued that the jobs data released in the morning show Trump “inheriting a strong and healthy U.S. economy,” and he aired a clip of Trump saying the January numbers were something to be “very happy about” that will likely “continue, big league.”

    Blitzer noted that the president has adopted “a very different tone” since taking office with regard to BLS data -- which he regularly blasted as “phony” during the campaign. When Blitzer pushed Moore, who served as Trump’s senior economic adviser, to answer for Trump’s sudden change of perspective, Moore pivoted to recycled complaints about the supposedly lackluster state of the economy under Obama. When Blitzer listed indicators that speak to the overall health of the economy, Moore reverted to his misleading claim that America is suffering through “the weakest recovery since the Great Depression.” Moore also set a seemingly impossible standard of success for job creation, claiming that the economy “should be getting 300-, 400-, or even 500,000 jobs a month to make up for the jobs lost from the recession.” See the full segment from Wolf here:

    In five minutes of back-and-forth, Blitzer never got Moore to own up to Trump’s sudden about-face on the monthly jobs report, but CNN viewers were exposed to the same tired criticism of President Obama that you expect to see at Fox News. This fruitless segment is sure to be a sign of things to come now that Moore -- arguably the world’s worst economist -- is serving as CNN’s “chief economics analyst.”

    CNN was as culpable as any other network in promoting Trump’s rise, but its economic team usually stood up to the Republican candidate’s falsehoods. Last year, global economic analyst Rana Foroohar left a mark on the campaign by blasting Trump’s trade policy agenda as “either a bad idea or impossible,” and ridiculing his proposal to pay off the national debt as “absolute fabulism.” Over the summer, correspondent Cristina Alesci and then-analyst Ali Velshi torched Trump’s economic fairness agenda, agreeing it seemed to be “designed for higher-income, more affluent families” rather than, as Trump had promised, middle-income Americans.

    On the jobs front, just this morning chief business correspondent Christine Romans -- who makes her living calling out Trump’s lies about the economy -- mocked Trump for accepting the jobs data, saying, “There’s no conspiracy in the numbers when they belong to him.” In fact, less than an hour before Moore took Blitzer to the spin room, CNN viewers were treated to White House correspondent Jim Acosta calling out the Trump administration for “embracing” data that it “repeatedly raised doubts about” during the campaign. Contributor Nia-Malika Henderson added that Trump should “send President Obama some flowers” to thank him for leaving behind such a healthy economy.

    Moore doesn't do anything to bolster CNN’s economic reporting; in fact, his “troubled relationship with the facts” diminishes the network. All he brings to CNN is his deft capacity to recycle right-wing media talking points that portray Obama in the harshest possible light.

  • CNN Said A Decade-Old Video Was “Brand New” From Yemen Raid, Before Clarifying That It Was Years Old

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    BuzzFeed reported on February 3  that the Pentagon has taken down a video that it originally said was seized from a raid in Yemen last week after realizing that the video is actually a decade old:

    The US military on Friday took down the link to a video that it said it secured from a raid in Yemen last week just hours after posting it, having realized that far from showing off the intelligence gained from the raid, the videos were a decade old.

    The video, titled “Courses for Destroying The Cross,” was first released in 2007 and had been online for years, as it turns out. In the less than two-minute long video, which was widely circulated after it was pushed out on Friday morning, there are several clips showing a man in a white robe and black mask explaining how to make a bomb using chemicals.

    ....

    It was an embarrassing admission about the Jan. 29 raid, the first approved by President Donald Trump since his term began, which has been swirling in controversy since its existence was first revealed. There are reports that children were killed and that female fighters pinned down Seal Team 6 during an hour-long fire fight.

    Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was killed during the raid. The father of three was reportedly on his 12th deployment.

    CNN discussed this video in a segment Friday afternoon at approximately 1:23 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Wolf Blitzer called the video “slick propaganda” and asked if it was old or new. CNN’s Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne, responded that “we believe” that the video was “brand new.” 

    WOLF BLITZER: In the initial statement that the Pentagon put out, Ryan, about this operation, they said the U.S. collected a lot of very importance intelligence about terror operations. How will these videos specifically help the U.S. military deal with this down the road?

    RYAN BROWNE: This video, in particular, not necessarily that advantageous. It does provide a little insight into what this terror group’s strategy is, that is trying to inspire these lone wolf attackers in the West. But I think this is one thing that the military has released, but we are told that there's volumes and volumes of additional information, intelligence on hard drives, that the military will not be releasing in hopes of exploiting that information to conduct additional strikes or additional raids against the terror group down the road.

    BLITZER: It looks like these videos were pretty slick propaganda. Were they intended to be posted on social media sites to promote this kind of homegrown terror, if you will? Have some of them already been posted or are these all brand new?

    BROWNE: That’s right, Wolf. We believe this one is brand new, but this is something that they have done in the past. In fact they produced an English language magazine called “Inspire” that was distributed digitally and has actually been traced to several terrorist attacks, including the Boston marathon bombings. This is something very much in the M.O. of this terror group, not necessarily bringing foreign fighters in like ISIS does, but actually reaching out to these lone wolves, to these disgruntled people in western countries and trying to kind of show them the knowhow on how to conduct terrorists attacks on their own.

    BLITZER: Pretty sophisticated propaganda.

    Later on in the segment, CNN’s military analyst, Cedric Leighton, told Blitzer that while the tactics in the video were not new,  “What’s new is the detail, … very slick graphics and the fact that they spent a lot of time discussing TATP, which is the exact explosive that was used in Paris, in Brussels -- by the shoe bomber -- and it is probably the most dangerous, the most volatile explosive that the AQAP group has used.”

    Less than two hours later, at 3:15 p.m., CNN revealed that the video was, in fact, a decade old. Browne called it a “mix up” and said that the video had been online for “years.”

    Browne concluded that while it was an “embarrassing moment” for the military, the military still believes that there was actionable intelligence obtained.

    Browne gave no reason why this assertion should be trusted and no reason for his earlier statement that the video was “brand new.” Host Brooke Baldwin immediately moved on.

  • TV News Takes The Bait On Trump’s Climate Remarks, Ignoring Ample Warning Signs

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    When President-elect Donald Trump made seemingly open-minded remarks about climate change during a November 22 meeting with staff of The New York Times, it set off a wave of television coverage about how Trump had supposedly “reversed course” on climate change. But few of these reports addressed any of the substantive reasons that is highly unlikely, such as his transition team’s plan to abandon the Obama administration’s landmark climate policy, indications that he will dismantle NASA’s climate research program, and his appointment of fossil fuel industry allies as transition team advisers -- not to mention the full context of Trump’s remarks to the Times.

    In his interview with reporters, editors and opinion columnists from the Times, Trump contradicted his long-held stance that climate change is a “hoax” by stating that he thinks “there is some connectivity” between human activities and climate change (although even that statement doesn’t fully reflect the consensus view of climate scientists that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming). Trump also declined to reaffirm his earlier statements that he would “renegotiate” or “cancel” the international climate agreement reached in Paris last year, instead saying that he has an “open mind” about how he will approach the Paris agreement.

    But there are many reasons to take these comments with a grain of salt. For one, Trump has given no indication that he will preserve the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is the linchpin of the United States’ emissions reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement. To the contrary, The Associated Press reported that internal documents from Trump’s transition team “show the new administration plans to stop defending the Clean Power Plan and other recent Obama-era environmental regulations that have been the subject of long-running legal challenges filed by Republican-led states and the fossil fuel industry.” Moreover, a senior Trump space policy adviser recently indicated that the Trump administration plans to eliminate NASA’s climate change research program, a move that would likely be accompanied by significant funding cuts to climate research.

    Additionally, Trump has appointed Myron Ebell, a climate science denier from the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, to lead his EPA transition team, and two other close allies of the fossil fuel industry, Kathleen Hartnett White and Scott Pruitt, are reportedly Trump’s leading contenders to run the EPA. Trump also named Thomas Pyle, president of the fossil fuel-funded American Energy Alliance, to head his Energy Department transition team. According to The Washington Post, “Hartnett-White, Pyle and Ebell have all expressed doubt about climate change and have criticized the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

    Then there are Trump’s Times comments themselves, which have been “wildly misinterpreted” in the media, as Grist’s Rebecca Leber has explained. In addition to saying there is “some connectivity” between human activities and climate change, Trump said during the Times interview that there are “a lot of smart people” on the “other side” of the issue, and added: “You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views.” Trump also appeared to reference the thoroughly debunked “Climategate” scandal about emails among climate scientists at a U.K. university, stating, “They say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists.”

    Nonetheless, Trump’s two seemingly climate-friendly remarks to the Times -- that he has an “open mind” about the Paris climate agreement and that humans play some role in climate change -- generated a tremendous amount of uncritical television coverage:

    • ABC: On the November 23 edition of ABC’s morning show, Good Morning America, correspondent David Wright stated that Trump “hit hard” on climate change during the campaign but is “now more noncommittal” about it. Later that day, on the network’s evening news program, World News Tonight, congressional correspondent Mary Bruce reported that Trump was “softening on a host of campaign promises,” including his pledge to “pull out of the Paris climate change deal.” And in an interview with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on the November 27 edition of ABC’s Sunday news show, This Week, chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz said that Trump had “changed his tune” on climate change.
    • CBS: On the November 22 edition of CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley stated that Trump “revised” his position on climate change, and national correspondent Chip Reid reported that Trump “changed his tune on the issue of climate change, and whether it`s caused by human activity.” The following morning, on CBS Morning News, correspondent Hena Daniels said that Trump “reversed course on the issue of climate change,” and on that day’s episode of CBS This Morning, co-host Gayle King similarly said that Trump is “reversing” his campaign position on climate change.
    • NBC: On the November 27 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked: “From the border wall to global warming, is there a change in the air?” Todd also listed climate change as one of the issues on which Trump “has either backed away from some of the rhetoric or just stayed silent.”

    Trump’s climate remarks also received wall-to-wall coverage on cable news, although unlike the broadcast networks’ reports, several of the cable segments did feature pushback on the notion that Trump had actually changed his position on the issue.

    Trump’s climate comments were uncritically covered on several CNN programs, including New Day, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon. And on the November 27 edition of Inside Politics, host John King and senior political reporter Manu Raju agreed that Trump’s climate remarks were a “big deal.” Some of these programs included speculation about whether Trump truly meant what he said to the Times or whether it was a negotiating ploy, but none mentioned any specific steps Trump has taken since the election that undermine claims that he has reversed course on climate change.

    By contrast, several other CNN programs included pushback on the notion that Trump had “softened” or “reversed” his position on climate change. For instance, on the November 23 edition of Erin Burnett Outfront, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein cited Trump’s plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan as evidence that although Trump is “signaling a different tone” on climate change, “when you get into the guts of the policy, he is going in the same direction”:

    Brownstein made the same point during appearances on the November 22 edition of CNN’s The Situation Room and the November 27 edition of CNN Newsroom.

    Similarly, in an interview with NextGen Climate founder Tom Steyer on the November 27 edition of Fareed Zakaria GPS, host Zakaria noted that despite his comments to the Times, Trump “still has a leading climate change denier [Myron Ebell] as the head of his EPA transition, [and] his actions and contradictory words have climate change activists concerned.” Zakaria added that Trump “does say he's going to reverse a lot of these executive actions that Obama has taken, whether it's on coal-fired plants or vehicle emissions.”

    A couple of CNN guests also challenged the premise that Trump had shifted his stance on climate change. On the November 22 edition of CNN’s Wolf, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) said of Trump’s climate remarks to the Times, “The real test is who is he appointing and what will his policies be.” And on the November 23 edition of CNN’s At This Hour, Michael Needham of Heritage Action for America (the sister organization of the fossil fuel industry-funded Heritage Foundation), pointed to other remarks Trump made to the Times in order to dispute the idea that Trump had accepted that climate change is “settled science.” Needham stated:

    I read the actual transcript of this thing. If you look at what [Trump] says on climate change, it's pretty much what we would have said at Heritage. He said there are questions that need to be looked at, there's research on both sides of the issue, this is not settled science the way some people on the left want to say.

    Finally, all of the prime-time MSNBC shows that featured substantial discussions of Trump’s climate remarks included proper context. For instance, on the December 2 edition of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Hayes explained that incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had “clarif[ied]” that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is “that most of it is a bunch of bunk.” Hayes also explained that a senior Trump adviser had indicated that “NASA would be limited to exploring other planets rather than providing satellite information and data about what’s happening on the only planet we currently inhabit”:

    Similarly, on the November 30 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews, Matthews aired a clip of Priebus confirming that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is that “most of it is a bunch of bunk.” And on the November 22 edition of MTP Daily, guest host Andrea Mitchell pointed out that Trump “appointed somebody from a very conservative, climate-denying, Koch-sponsored organization, policy institute, to lead the transition on energy and climate issues,” although Mitchell nonetheless maintained that Trump’s statement that he is now open to the Paris climate agreement was “a very big signal internationally.”

  • Hyping Trump’s Latest “Discipline,” Pundits Whitewash His Recent Unhinged Days

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures are once again hyping a “disciplined” Donald Trump in the final days of the presidential campaign, ignoring the Republican presidential nominee’s racist fearmongering, outlandish claims, and “new record” total of lies told in one day. The media has unremittingly sought a Trump “pivot,” which never actually materialized.

  • Journalists Blast The FBI For Meddling In 2016 Election

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Media outlets and journalists sharply criticized the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for interfering in the presidential election after Director James Comey violated precedent and policy by sending a letter to Congress saying the agency is reviewing newly discovered emails surrounding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state. That announcement was followed by a series of additional leaks from the FBI.