Racial Justice | Media Matters for America

Racial Justice

Tags ››› Racial Justice
  • The March for Black Women: They stand up, they fight, and they vote, and it's time media took notice

    Blog ››› ››› SARAH WASKO & MILES LE

    During the 2018 March for Black Women, Black womxn and allies marched in Washington, D.C., to protest the systemic injustices they face and to disavow systemic over-policing, gender-based violence, sexual assault, wealth inequity, and lack of political response to securing Black womxn’s basic rights. Protesters also spoke about the media’s failure to adequately cover their causes.

    Black womxn have long been the leading forces in social justice movements. They stand up, they fight, and they vote. It’s about time media start highlighting their invaluable leadership and elevate their voices as they fight for social change.

  • Oil industry enlists minority groups to publish pro-drilling op-eds

    Most Black and Hispanic Americans oppose offshore drilling, so these op-eds paint a distorted picture

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As part of a partnership with the American Petroleum Institute (API), the largest oil and gas lobbying organization in the U.S., Black and Hispanic business groups have been placing op-eds in local newspapers touting the benefits of offshore drilling, as Reuters recently reported. Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be opposed to offshore drilling than white Americans, according to a Pew poll conducted in January. The op-ed campaign is part of an industry-driven effort to make offshore drilling look more broadly supported and to shift minority opinion by enlisting groups that purport to represent communities of color.

    Op-eds push oil industry statistics but fail to disclose oil industry connections

    Media Matters identified six newspapers in the Southeast that have published op-eds by minority business leaders or political leaders who argue in favor of increased offshore oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic Coast. Most of these minority authors are affiliated with the Explore Offshore alliance, which they mention in their pieces -- but they neglect to disclose that Explore Offshore is a project of API and that many of the talking points and statistics they cite in their op-eds come straight from API materials.

    API announced the Explore Offshore alliance on June 6, billing it as a “bipartisan coalition representing a diverse group of community organizations, businesses, and local associations across the Southeast that support safe and responsible expanded U.S. access to oil and natural gas through advanced technologies.” The minority business groups in the coalition are highlighted on the Explore Offshore homepage, while most other coalition members are listed in less prominent places on the website -- an indication that API wants to highlight Black and Hispanic participation. The minority groups in the coalition include the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce, the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the North Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, plus one minority religious organization, the Hispanic Pastors Association.

    Florida:

    In Florida, The Palm Beach Post and the Tallahassee Democrat published a pro-drilling op-ed written by Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Tampa Bay Times published a like-minded op-ed co-authored by Miriam Ramirez, a former member of Puerto Rico’s Senate and a co-chair of Explore Offshore Florida, a state affiliate of API's national Explore Offshore coalition.

    Fuentes and Ramirez and her co-authors took figures from API’s one-pager about the benefits of drilling in Florida’s waters. Fuentes wrote (emphasis added):

    Continued offshore development would put more than 56,000 Floridians to work and add $4.5 billion per year to our economy.

    API's one-pager says (emphasis added):

    Employment in Florida due to spending by the Eastern Gulf offshore oil and natural gas industry is projected to reach over 56,000 jobs.

    Contributions to Florida’s state economy due to spending on Eastern Gulf [Outer Continental Shelf] oil and natural gas exploration and development activities could be nearly $4.5 billion per year by the end of the forecast period.

    Ramirez and her co-authors wrote (emphasis added):

    Economic studies show that the industry’s spending would bring Florida $1.3 billion per year in government revenue within 20 years of opening up the area for oil and natural gas development.

    API's one-pager says (emphasis added):

    Florida could see a 37.5% share of the Eastern Coast bonuses, rents and royalties generated which are projected to reach $1.3 billion per year within 20 years.

    The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which Fuentes runs, receives support from Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light, two large utilities that are building natural gas-fired plants in Florida. The chamber and the two utilities have backed anti-environment campaigns in the past. In 2016, the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce joined Duke, Florida Power & Light, and other power companies in supporting Amendment 1, a deceptive, utility-backed ballot measure designed to restrict consumer access to rooftop solar power in Florida. The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also receives support from Florida-based, third-party energy supplier Liberty Power, a company that recently paid a settlement to New York state for engaging in deceptive practices and is the subject of a cease-and-desist complaint filed by Connecticut’s Office of Consumer Counsel for allegedly deceiving consumers.

    The other Florida minority group that's part of API's Explore Offshore alliance, the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce, has fossil fuel ties as well. It is closely affiliated with the National Black Chamber of Commerce, which has received extensive funding from fossil fuel interests including ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. The National Black Chamber notoriously led minority opposition to the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which would limit pollution from power plants. Eugene Franklin, president of the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce, served on the board of directors of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Both the Florida chamber and the national chamber supported the pro-utility Amendment 1 in 2016.

    South Carolina:

    In South Carolina, The Post and Courier and The Greenville News published a pro-drilling op-ed by Stephen Gilchrist, chair of the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce and chair of Explore Offshore SC, the South Carolina branch of API's Explore Offshore coalition. Gilchrist also apparently relied on API statistics in his op-ed, writing (emphasis added):

    Offshore development could … add $3.8 billion to our state budget per year. This could create 34,000 much needed jobs in the state

    But Gilchrist appears to have gotten one of those API talking points wrong by a factor of 20. He claimed that offshore drilling could add $3.8 billion to South Carolina's budget each year, but API’s South Carolina one-pager claims the $3.8 billion would come in over a 20-year period (emphasis added):

    Employment due to offshore oil and gas development activities on the Atlantic Coast in South Carolina could reach over 34,000 jobs within 20 years

    The cumulative effect on the state budget from 2020-2040 is projected to be over $3.8 billion.

    Gilchrist has cultivated questionable alliances that many African-Americans in South Carolina would not be comfortable with. In 2015, Gilchrist invited Donald Trump to an event for Black entrepreneurs that was co-hosted by the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce. The crowd at the event was "predominantly white," according to The Post and Courier. In late 2017, Gilchrist invited his friend Steve Bannon, former Trump advisor and white nationalist sympathizer, to a minority business roundtable sponsored by his group.

    Virginia:

    In Virginia, the Daily Press published an op-ed co-authored by former state Del. Winsome Earle Sears, an African-American, who now serves as co-chair of Virginia Explore Offshore, API's Virginia coalition. Like her cohorts in other states, she drew talking points right from API materials. From her op-ed (emphasis added):

    With the exploration and potential for development of offshore energy resources, Virginia could gain 25,000 jobs, many with an average salary of $116,000 — more than double the commonwealth’s average. We’re also projected to attract $1.5 billion per year in private investment

    From API’s announcement of its Explore Offshore coalition in Virginia (emphasis added):

    • By 2035, the oil and natural gas industry could create over 25,000 new high-paying jobs in Virginia
    • Offshore development could result in $1.5 billion in private investment into Virginia ...
    • The average salary for oil and natural gas exploration and development jobs is $116,000.

    The Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which is part of API's Explore Offshore coalition, joined a number of oil and gas trade associations in signing a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management urging the agency to allow more offshore drilling. The Virginia Hispanic chamber has also partnered with Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest and most powerful utility.

    Conservative groups with anti-environment agendas and fossil-fuel ties have a history of trying to co-opt minorities

    API is mimicking a well-worn strategy in which polluters target minority and low-income communities with industry-funded research and disinformation about energy. For example, in recent years, Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Heartland Institute, among many others, have waged a campaign to hinder the growth of solar energy at the state level. That effort has included the false claim, often advanced via minority politicians and front groups, that net-metering policies designed to make rooftop solar power more accessible would harm minority and low-income people.

    Fossil fuel industries and their allies, including the National Black Chamber of Commerce, also targeted minority groups with misinformation about the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which, if fully implemented, would have prevented thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of asthma attacks each year.

    These tactics are especially insidious because research consistently shows that minority and low-income communities suffer disproportionately from the burning of fossil fuels and the impacts of climate change. The third U.S. National Climate Assessment, released in 2014, found:

    Climate change will, absent other changes, amplify some of the existing health threats the nation now faces. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color.

    In early 2018, EPA scientists published a study in the American Journal of Public Health that found people of color in the U.S. are exposed to more air pollution than white people are, with African-Americans exposed to the most. A number of other studies have documented the negative health effects of air pollution on minority and low-income communities. A joint report released in 2017 by the NAACP and the Clean Air Task Force found that natural gas facilities in particular are harmful to Black Americans:

    • [M]any African American communities face an elevated risk of cancer due to air toxics emissions from natural gas development: Over 1 million African Americans live in counties that face a cancer risk above EPA’s level of concern from toxics emitted by natural gas facilities.
    • The air in many African American communities violates air quality standards for ozone smog. Rates of asthma are relatively high in African American communities. And, as a result of ozone increases due to natural gas emissions during the summer ozone season, African American children are burdened by 138,000 asthma attacks and 101,000 lost school days each year.

    Blacks and Hispanics also suffer disproportionately from climate change impacts such as extreme weather. Just last year, Hurricanes Harvey and Maria devastated African-American and Latino communities in Houston and Puerto Rico.

    Polls have shown that nonwhite people in the U.S. are more concerned about climate change than white people are. A 2015 poll of African-Americans found that 60 percent of respondents ranked global warming as a serious issue, while a 2017 survey of Latinos found that 78 percent of respondents were worried about global warming.

    Surveys have also documented strong support among minority groups for clean energy solutions. A 2015 poll found that 66 percent of African-Americans believed that using more renewable energy would create new jobs, and 57 percent believed that shifting to clean energy would decrease their energy costs. A separate poll conducted in 2015 found that 84 percent of Latinos believed that the U.S. should mandate greater use of clean energy sources like solar and wind power.

    Clearly, minority communities understand the risks of climate change and want clean energy solutions to mitigate those risks.

    But API has chosen to partner with minority business groups to erode support for clean energy solutions and promote pro-fossil fuel arguments that would harm the very communities these organizations purport to represent. And, in a decision that demonstrates just how out of touch Explore Offshore is with minority communities, API recruited former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), a confederate apologist, to be a national co-chair.

    Newspapers in the Southeast and around the country should not be letting oil industry allies spread propaganda and claim to represent minority interests. Op-eds that more accurately represent Black and Latino aspirations would point out that these communities have the most to lose from expanded offshore drilling and the most to gain from a shift to clean energy.

  • Fox & Friends gave almost no airtime to Trump’s anti-Muslim retweets

    Blog ››› ››› SANAM MALIK

    President Donald Trump’s series of anti-Muslim retweets from the leader of a far-right ultranationalist British organization got no dedicated airtime on Fox & Friends the day after his Twitter tirade.

    Trump on November 29 retweeted multiple anti-Muslim videos posted by the leader of Britain First, a far-right, ultranationalist, anti-Islam political organization that has been compared by a British lawmaker to the Ku Klux Klan. Fact checkers determined that the videos were highly misleading and that the description of one -- "Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!" -- was completely fabricated.

    Many senators in the U.S. and high-profile officials in Britain rebuked Trump’s tweets, including Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, whom Trump subsequently targeted in one of his tweets. Additionally, civil rights groups pointed out that Trump’s tweets “further inflame” violence and hate aimed at Muslims in a climate when “hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim bias are at an all-time high.” Nonetheless, pro-Trump punditsfar-right trolls, and white nationalists like former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke defended Trump’s retweets.

    While the retweets were one of the top stories on other cable and broadcast morning shows on November 30, Fox & Friends never covered them in the entire three-hour program for its viewers, which evidently included Trump himself. Co-host Brian Kilmeade just once made a passing mention of the posts, asking Fox contributor and former GOP Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) if those tweets “get in the way” of Republicans’ chances to pass the tax bill.

    Of course, Fox & Friends did cover some of Trump’s tweets --  the ones about the Senate’s tax bill proposal and North Korea:

    Here are some of the other things Fox & Friends chose to cover:

    A study that found Christmas music can be damaging for employees:

    Oreo-flavored candy canes:

    A football team wearing custom cleats for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick:

    The New York Times’ editorial board’s social media use:

    The Los Angeles Auto Show:

    Fox & Friends has served as a safe space for Trump, often giving him fodder for his early morning tweets. The program also allows Trump to escape challenging interviews and serves as his first line of defense.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “muslim,” "Islamic," "Islamist," and “tweet” on the November 30 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends.

  • As Trump attacks civil rights protesters, Attorney General Sessions takes his own anti-civil rights campaign to radio

    Sessions pushes policing policies that would inflame minority-police relations

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As President Donald Trump’s attacks on football players protesting police brutality continue to grip the news cycle, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken to conservative talk radio to advocate for policing tactics that would exacerbate the very problem the protesters are seeking to resolve.

    During a September 22 rally for then-candidate Luther Strange’s Senate campaign, Trump attacked NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice -- specifically police brutality -- saying, “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, he’s fired?’” Trump continued his crusade against the predominantly African-American protesters with a number of tweets throughout the weekend defending his comments.

    The president’s diatribe against the peaceful protesters consumed the news cycle for the days following, during which time Sessions appeared on at least two nationally syndicated conservative talk radio shows to tout new statistics showing an increase in violent crime for the second consecutive year. Sessions used the data and the platform to push for policies that could undermine further relations between minority communities and law enforcement.

    Appearing on the September 27 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, Sessions claimed that “we’ve gotten away from principles of law enforcement that work,” alluding to the shift away from law enforcement policies spearheaded in the 1980s and early 1990s, when, according to U.S. News & World Report, “blacks were five times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites were.” Sessions continued, “You've got to effectively stop and have sufficient punishment to deter people from committing crime,” presumably referencing his May 10 memo outlining a plan to increase mandatory minimums and beef up drug sentencing.

    On the September 26 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Sessions proposed police departments reinstitute the law enforcement strategy of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican who became notorious for proliferating stop-and-frisk policies that unconstitutionally targeted minorities. In 2013, a New York judge’s review of the city’s stop-and-frisk policies concluded that “the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.”

    Sessions also told Hannity’s audience that the Department of Justice should focus on “respecting,” “working with,” and “supporting ... not undermining” local police departments. To Sessions, that involves rolling back consent decrees, reform agreements between the Department of Justice and local police departments that are meant to address pervasive problems, such as use of excessive of force, at the local level. Sessions spoke out against the agreements in the spring and ordered a review of them, and experts criticized him for it. A federal judge in Baltimore, MD, even rejected Sessions’ attempt to torpedo the consent decree with the city’s police force.

    From sentencing to police oversight, criminal justice experts have lambasted nearly every policy Sessions has implemented as attorney general, highlighting the detrimental effects they could have on minorities and urging Sessions to take an evidence-based approach to law enforcement policy. Comprehensive studies have shown that “incarceration has little or no effect on crime.” Improper stop and frisk also has not been shown to reduce crime; instead, it tends to create animosity between minority communities and law enforcement, and can be unconstitutional racial discrimination.

    Consent decrees offer solutions for police departments struggling with civil rights concerns. And while tough policing policies may have played a role in the lowering crime rates in the 1980s and 1990s, the yield was limited, and any benefits came with a significant civil rights cost.

    Sessions watched as journalists outside of the conservative media sphere grilled Trump surrogates over the president’s racially charged attacks on civil rights protesters. Perhaps it’s for that reason he is relying on friendly talk radio hosts to help him push policies that will further inflame tensions between minorities and police.

  • Fox News’ Fox & Friends Was The Only Cable News Morning Show To Ignore The Dylann Roof Verdict

    Blog ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    While every other major cable news morning show acknowledged the guilty verdict of Charleston, SC, gunman Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black parishioners in a racially motivated shooting, Fox News’ Fox & Friends made no mention of it during the December 16 broadcast.

    On June 17, 2015, Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and murdered nine black parishioners, having been influenced by white supremacists and white nationalists. On December 15, Roof was found guilty on all 33 charges brought against him, including “hate crimes that resulted in death,” after only two hours of deliberation by the jury.

    While cable morning shows on CNN and MSNBC both reported on the verdict and discussed the implications for race relations, Fox & Friends failed to mention it, even in a brief headlines segment. Instead, the show found time to host a Fox News doctor to attack the Affordable Care Act, give a Fox News contributor who is under consideration for a position in the incoming administration an opportunity to pitch himself, and test out “As Seen on TV” products.

    The omission is not the first time Fox News has played down the issues surrounding the Charleston murders. When the shooting was first reported, Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy claimed it was “extraordinary” that it was considered a hate crime, Fox guest Rudy Giuliani claimed that Roof potentially “hat[ed] Christian churches” -- a point that was echoed by Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade on his radio show -- and one Fox guest blamed the shooting on “the left wing” and “their education system.”

  • O’Reilly Segment Erroneously Claims Bias In Police Shooting Against Whites, Not African Americans

    Their Own Data Shows Lethal Police Force Against Nonviolent Black Offenders Is More Than 3 Times Higher Than Whites

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP & NINA MAST

    Bill O'Reilly invited the Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald to argue that police use force against blacks at a greater rate than whites for violent felonies. Mac Donald and O’Reilly ignored that police use lethal force against blacks at a much higher rate for nonviolent arrests.

    On the October 25 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly hosted Mac Donald who claimed that “actually, if there's a bias in police shootings it works in favor of blacks. White felons are more likely to be shot by the police following the arrest for violent felony than blacks are,” citing data from the Center for Police Equity (CPE) showing that police used lethal force more against whites in violent felonies:

    Mac Donald cherry-picked data from the CPE used in her Wall Street Journal column which actually found that lethal force was used more often on white individuals than black individuals only in the context of violent crime. But the study found that overall “the mean use of force rate for black citizens was higher than that for white citizens in all categories” and “When controlling for resident arrests for violent Part I offenses, racial disparities that disadvantaged blacks persisted in weapon use and the use of OC spray,” according to the July, 2016, report.

    The report’s analysis revealed “a robust racial disparity benchmarked to population such that blacks receive a mean use of force score—a combination of counts and severity—that is roughly 3.8 times higher than whites:

    Note: NH=Non-Hispanic

    Mac Donald has a history of citing biased data and making inflammatory remarks about black violence. Not only has she said that there is no evidence "that the overrepresentation of blacks in prison or arrest statistics is a result of criminal justice racism,” she also claimed that young black males have a "lack of self-discipline", which accounts for their higher school suspension rates.

    Bill O’Reilly, has also defended mass incarceration of African Americans, claimed black Americans are “ill-educated,” and claimed that Black Lives Matters is “killing Americans.”

    O'Reilly gave Mac Donald an open platform to criticize Black Lives Matter protests against excessive use of force by police, while ignoring the very reason why the protests have erupted in the first place -- the killing of unarmed citizens at the hands of police for seemingly low level offenses.