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  • Sunday News Shows Mostly Silent On March For Science, Perpetuating The Dearth Of Coverage On Climate Change

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Most of the Sunday news shows failed to cover the worldwide March for Science protests, an international demonstration partly meant to draw attention to President Donald Trump’s “disregard for evidence-based knowledge” and climate change denial.

    Protesters across the world demonstrated on April 22 for Earth Day, many of whom demonstrated against Trump’s “proposal to sharply cut federal science and research budgets and his administration's skepticism about climate change and the need to slow global warming,” according to Reuters. Leading up to the protests, a number of scientists voiced their concerns about the Trump administration’s climate-denying appointments, “politically motivated data deletions” of environmental science citations, and general “woeful ignorance” of science and climate change.

    Nonetheless, Sunday news shows generally ignored the events that attracted hundreds of thousands of protesters. ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press failed to mention the March for Science at all, according to a Media Matters review. CNN’s State of the Union only had a brief headline about the demonstrations, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday only dedicated about one and a half minutes to the story.

    Sunday shows’ lack of coverage of the march is representative of media’s dearth of climate change coverage in general. A recent Media Matters study found that in 2016, the evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox News Sunday, collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “March for Science,” “science,” and “march” on the April 23 editions of CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday.

  • TV News Scrutiny Of Ivanka Trump’s Conflicts Of Interest Spurred By New Bombshell

    Trump Apologists Continued To Deflect Concerns Over Conflicts And Corruption In The White House

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Broadcast and cable news programs heaped additional scrutiny on Ivanka Trump in the hours after The Associated Press broke a bombshell report that the lifestyle brand she owns had secured valuable trademarks in China before she met with the Chinese president for dinner at her father’s private Mar-a-Lago resort. News of the glaring conflict of interest between Trump’s role as a White House adviser and her private business empire was carried by the major broadcast networks --ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS -- as well as CNN and MSNBC. Fox News ignored the issue entirely during its evening and prime-time programming, and longtime Trump apologist and former Fox host Greta Van Susteren actually defended Trump during her program.

  • San Bernardino School Shooting Shows Which Crime Victims Matter For TV News

    Television News Ignored The Dangerous Intersections Of Intimate Partner Violence, Access To Firearms, And Black Women’s Lives After San Bernardino School Shooting

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    On the morning of April 10, a man entered a special education classroom at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, CA, and opened fire with a revolver. He shot and killed the teacher -- his estranged wife Karen Smith -- and an 8-year-old student named Jonathan Martinez, and injured another student before killing himself. By April 12, national television news had virtually stopped talking about it.

    News media coverage of intimate partner violence has the power to shape public perception of the issue, and inadequate or dismissive coverage can ultimately normalize or perpetuate this epidemic of violence against women.

    In the United States, a woman is assaulted every nine seconds, and “an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute.” One in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by an intimate partner. And access to firearms, like the revolver used to murder Karen Smith and Jonathan Martinez, only increases the likelihood that intimate partner violence will end with a woman dead.

    According to Everytown for Gun Safety, in more than half of U.S. mass shootings from 2009 through 2016, “the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member.” One study found that among women living in the United States, “about 4.5 million have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun and nearly 1 million have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner.” A 2016 Associated Press analysis of FBI data concluded that “an average of 760 Americans were killed with guns annually by spouses, ex-spouses or dating partners between 2006 and 2014.” The connection between intimate partner violence and firearm deaths can also sometimes carry a larger body count: “Many mass shooters have a history of domestic violence,” like the San Bernardino school shooter did.

    And this dangerous intersection of normalized intimate partner violence and access to firearms hurts black women, like Karen Smith, most. As Teen Vogue’s Morgan Jerkins noted:

    It's also important to note that intimate partner violence disproportionately affects black women, like Smith. In 2014, Time reported that black women are nearly three times as likely to experience death as a result of domestic violence than white women. What’s more, in 2014, black women were murdered by men more than twice the rate of white women. And like the murder in San Bernardino, most homicides against black women are committed by men whom they know.

    Yet Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone pointed out that, though “a shooting at an elementary school might be expected to receive outsize coverage due to the shocking nature of the act,” that didn’t seem to happen with the Monday murders of Karen Smith and Jonathan Martinez:

    On Monday night, the three major broadcast evening newscasts led with the San Bernardino school shooting story, but the anchors remained in New York. By Tuesday, the story was already receding from the headlines. Cable morning shows, like CNN’s “New Day” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” only covered it in passing. And The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Wall Street Journal didn’t run front page stories on it.

    And a search of Nexis and Snapstream transcripts from the major news networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- for the week since the shooting has come up almost completely empty on necessary context.

    In these available transcripts from Monday, April 10, through Monday, April 17, not a single segment or report on the shooting shooting mentioned the prevalence of intimate partner violence in the U.S. or hinted at the role guns play in making instances of intimate partner violence deadlier. There were also no mentions of the disproportionate danger to black women that intimate partner violence poses.

    Mainstream media seem unwilling to devote much coverage to intimate partner violence, even when women die. And there is a particular lack of coverage concerning the violence routinely perpetrated on black women’s bodies. When television media silence helps to perpetuate the normalization of violence -- particularly against black women -- it becomes deafening.

    Methodology

    For the time period between April 10 and April 17, Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for any mentions of the terms “San Bernardino,” “Karen Smith,” or “Karen Elaine Smith.” The search included all available news transcripts for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Nexis transcripts include all-day programming on CNN, evening programming on MSNBC and Fox News, and morning, evening, and Sunday news shows on the broadcast networks. Snapstream transcripts were used to analyze daytime programming on MSNBC and Fox News.

    Do You -- Or Does Someone You Know -- Need Help?

    If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

    For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

    Image at top created by Sarah Wasko.

  • Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang: Networks’ Lack Of Climate Coverage Is “Bad News For Science” And A Disservice To Viewers

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Angela Fritz of The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang questioned why the major TV networks are turning a blind eye to climate change given that a majority of Americans are concerned about the issue, calling the “shockingly small number of minutes” the major networks devoted to climate change in 2016 “bad for science.”

    Fritz was referencing a Media Matters study that found that in 2016, the evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox Broadcast Co.'s Fox News Sunday, collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015.

    In her March 30 column, Fritz wrote that the study’s findings are “shocking because, as a recent Gallup poll shows, a majority of Americans are crossing the divide between those concerned about climate change and those who think it’s baloney.”

    Fritz added that Media Matters’ report “is important right now, when Congress and the White House actively seek to limit the role of science in policymaking.” She noted that, during the week she wrote her column, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing “to (ostensibly) debate the scientific method” that “devolved into finger-pointing, name-calling and one Republican congressman yelling at Democrats and a leading climate researcher” and Congress voted “to limit which scientific studies the Environmental Protection Agency can use to create regulations.”

    She concluded: “The media have a responsibility to report the facts. If scientists agree an extreme weather event was made worse by climate change, viewers need to know that, not just because it is true, but because people do think it’s a problem. I don’t know whom network news and Congress are serving by turning a blind eye to climate change, but according to these poll results, it’s not the voters.”

    From Fritz’s column:

    It’s not that there isn’t enough climate change news to cover. 2015 was the hottest year on record at that point, the Paris agreement was signed by dozens of nations, and California was in its worst drought in perhaps millennia. But if you get your news from the networks, there’s a good chance you didn’t know any of this was going on.

    Stories about climate change on network news — ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox (the network, not Fox News) — dropped 66 percent, according to research by Media Matters.

    If you break it down into actual time spent, network news is devoting a shockingly small number of minutes per year on climate change. It’s shocking because, as a recent Gallup poll shows, a majority of Americans are crossing the divide between those concerned about climate change and those who think it’s baloney.

    [...]

    This report is important right now, when Congress and the White House actively seek to limit the role of science in policymaking.

    On Wednesday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing to (ostensibly) debate the scientific method. It devolved into finger-pointing, name-calling and one Republican congressman yelling at Democrats and a leading climate researcher. In one down-to-Earth moment, Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) asked the panel of scientists what Congress could do to advance science, “instead of holding this unproductive hearing.”

    Later that afternoon, Congress voted to limit which scientific studies the Environmental Protection Agency can use to create regulations. If signed, the law would be entirely subjective — the EPA will be able to use only “the best available science.”

    [...]

    Here’s the truth, though: Despite the lack of coverage in 2016, half the country thinks climate change is caused by human activity and believe it’s a problem. Less than a quarter of our population think climate change is either not happening or is no big deal.

    The media have a responsibility to report the facts. If scientists agree an extreme weather event was made worse by climate change, viewers need to know that, not just because it is true, but because people do think it’s a problem. I don’t know whom network news and Congress are serving by turning a blind eye to climate change, but according to these poll results, it’s not the voters.

  • Mass Shootings Still Happen All The Time, So Why Does The Press Look Away?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The argument, first at a gas station and then outside a home, started over missing car keys.

    In the early hours of Monday morning, police stepped in to quell the dispute between Allen Cashe and his girlfriend, Latina Herring, at a Sanford, FL, gas station. Then hours later they responded to a 911 call for an "aggravated battery" and found Cashe arguing with Herring outside on the front yard of her home, WFTV 9 reported.   

    Just after 6 a.m. that day, the police were summoned once again, but this time they found a blood bath. "The scene was one of the worst scenes our investigators have ever walked into," Sanford police spokeswoman Bianca Gillett told reporters. "It was horrific."

    Police say Cashe had shown up that morning armed with an AK-47-style assault weapon, kicked down the door and shot and killed Herring. He then shot her father and her two sons, 7 and 8 years old, who were sleeping on the couch. The 8-year-old subsequently died. Fleeing the scene, Cashe opened fire on two strangers, including an 18-year-old high school student waiting at a nearby bus stop.

    That was Monday. One day before, in Cincinnati, OH, 17 people were shot at the Cameo nightclub when a “mini brawl” sparked gunmen to open fire on a crowd of approximately 200 revelers, according to WCPO Cincinnati. It marked the bloodiest shooting in the nation so far this year, according to Cincinnati.com and the Gun Violence Archive.

    “The hospital was so crowded, all the seats were taken in the emergency room,” one local pastor told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “The emergency room was literally standing room only." The city’s mayor said the gun rampage marked “one of the worst days in the history of Cincinnati.”

    Here’s what was so strange about the media coverage for the mass shootings that unfolded within one day of each other, and which involved 23 shooting victims: There wasn’t very much news coverage at all, outside of the local press attention.  

    For instance, The New York Times did not cover either gun rampage this week, according to search via Nexis. (Two AP articles were aggregated on the Times' website.)

    Broadcast news coverage of the Cincinnati nightclub mass shooting and Sanford shooting was equally light, according to a review of transcripts in Nexis and Snapstream for the terms "Cincinnati" or "nightclub" and "Sanford." The Florida shooting was mentioned on broadcast news just once, on ABC World News Tonight on Monday. CBS mentioned the nightclub tragedy just three times, including during Sunday's evening news broadcast and again Monday morning during CBS This Morning and CBS Morning News. ABC ran two segments on Sunday on the shows Good Morning America and World News Sunday, while NBC mentioned the shooting on its Sunday and Monday editions of Today. The outlets appear to have moved on from 2017's highest victim shooting as of Monday morning.

    The timid coverage of these shootings reminds us the extent to which horrific news, and specifically horrific gun-related news, gets quietly tabled and pushed aside.

    Gun violence in America represents a raging health epidemic, but you’d never know it based on the news coverage.

    That’s important because how can a nation have a debate about gun violence when even mass shootings aren't thoroughly covered as big news?

    And please note this: Virtually all of the 23 victims in both the Florida and Ohio gun rampages were people of color. Is it possible the national news media would have devoted more time and resources to the Cincinnati gun rampage if it had occurred at a mostly white nightclub on a college campus? I certainly think it’s likely.

    Meanwhile, what else would have triggered wildly different media responses to the Sanford and Cincinnati killings? Answer: any hint of a terrorism angle.

    On that front, news consumers know the drill: When a mass shooting involves the possibility of terrorism, media outlets compete to see who can produce more reports and, usually, who can produce the most heated analysis. For instance, it sure seemed to me like cable news interest in the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale, FL, airport in January dropped when it became clear that the gun massacre was committed by a homegrown shooter unrelated to jihad terror. 

    There’s obviously been a normalization over the years for mass shootings, as the lacking coverage from Sanford and Cincinnati indicates. And who benefits from that normalization? The National Rifle Association and the Republican Party, which supports the gun group’s every radical initiative.

    Of course the NRA and the GOP don’t want the press to treat gun violence as the health crisis that it is. And of course the NRA and the GOP do want to the press to casually look away as mass shootings unfold with random deadliness. The conservative movement is in favor of normalizing gun violence and of the media omitting context about the epidemic.

    Many conservatives don’t want the press to constantly connect the dots between American gun rampages, or to chronically mention that roughly 100,000 people are shot in America each year. Or that each week, approximately 1,565 patients are treated in emergency rooms for firearm-related injuries. Or that among the world's 23 wealthiest countries, 87 percent of all children killed by guns are American children.

    Interestingly, just days before the deadly Florida and Ohio shootings, CNN.com did what more news outlets ought to be doing: It published a comprehensive piece that put American gun violence in perspective by detailing the extraordinary economic cost the country pays each year to treat our gun epidemic.

    Note that the death toll is likely to rise in coming years because “patients are now more likely to die from a gunshot wound than they were even 10 years ago,” presumably thanks to the increasingly powerful and sophisticated guns being manufactured and sold in the U.S. 

    “To be blunt, instead of a 2-centimeter hole, you are seeing a 3-centimeter hole with more damage. And there are more wounds, so the team has to repair more damage," the study’s author told CNN.

    Following the shootout in Cincinnati, where panicked clubgoers were forced to flee rampaging gunmen, the Cincinnati Enquirer stepped forward with a truth-telling editorial (emphasis added):

    We hear a lot from politicians these days about the threat of a foreign enemy, yet terrorism happens every day on city streets around the country. This madness has to stop. Too many lives are lost every year in Cincinnati and nationwide to savage, mindless and inhuman gun violence. Mass shootings in America, tragically, are becoming too commonplace.

    One way to address the madness is for the press to see the country’s gun violence for what it is -- a uniquely American epidemic.

  • After Dropping The Ball During The Election, Major Networks Are Now Covering The Climate Impacts Of A Trump Administration

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    The day after President Donald Trump made good on his campaign promise to roll back former President Barack Obama’s executive orders aimed at fighting climate change and reducing carbon pollution, the nightly newscasts finally covered the impact of Trump’s presidency on climate policy -- providing the type of reporting that was glaringly absent in their pre-election coverage in 2016.

    On Tuesday, Trump took his biggest step yet toward fulfilling his campaign promise to dial back Obama's climate policies and begin “withdrawing and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants, frozen construction of new plants and replaced them with vast new wind and solar farms.” During the signing ceremony, Trump announced, “That is what this is all about: bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams and making America wealthy again.”

    On the same day, the nightly newscasts on ABC, CBS, and NBC all aired segments on Trump’s executive actions, questioning whether he would actually be able to restore coal mining jobs. Some reports noted that increased automation in the industry and competition from natural gas have made the return of coal mining jobs unlikely, and others noted that the renewable energy sector now dwarfs coal mining in employment numbers.

    The major networks’ unanimous coverage of Trump’s executive order, while commendable, puts into stark relief their failure to inform viewers before the election about what to expect on climate change and climate-related policies under a Trump administration.

    On the campaign trail, Trump had repeatedly promised to eliminate climate regulations enacted by Obama. But as Media Matters’ annual study examining the major networks’ climate coverage in 2016 found, the nightly news and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC failed to discuss climate-related ramifications of a Trump presidency until after the election. In fact, the Tyndall Report, which tracks the broadcast networks' weeknight newscasts, found that ABC, CBS, and NBC had all but given up covering issues and presidential policies during campaign season.

    PBS NewsHour, by contrast, aired two segments before the election examining what impact a Trump or a Clinton presidency would have on climate-related issues and policies. As it happens, the Trump administration is now proposing significant budget cuts that could severely hamper PBS’ ability to operate.

    Segments on ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News on Trump’s executive order both featured Trump calling climate change a “hoax” without noting that his comment contradicts the scientific consensus that climate change is real and human-caused -- something we found many networks also did last year.

    But there were a few bright spots on CBS Evening News, which has been one of the better nightly shows when it comes to coverage of climate change and science. In CBS’ segment on the executive order, White House correspondent Major Garrett noted that both Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt deny human-caused climate change. But, in contrast to other news shows, anchor Scott Pelley noted earlier in the segment that “methane and coal are the leading contributors to climate warming.”

    And following the segment on Trump’s executive action, CBS Evening News aired an interview with climate scientist Ben Santer, who discussed Trump’s anti-science views and policies, a letter he wrote to Trump urging him not to listen to “ignorant voices” denying climate change, and the “new climate of intimidation” the Trump administration has created for scientists.

  • Following Dramatic Drop In Coverage, U.S. Senators Condemn Irresponsible Lack Of Climate Change Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    U.S. senators are calling on broadcast networks to fulfill their duty and bolster their news coverage of climate change, after a Media Matters study found that the networks dramatically decreased their coverage of climate change in 2016, during a campaign in which the U.S. elected a climate denier as president.

    Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) issued statements this week calling on the major broadcast networks to fulfill their responsibility and provide audiences with essential reporting on the impacts of and science surrounding climate change, as well as related policies. The senators’ statements were made in response to a study by Media Matters finding that in 2016, evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox Broadcast Co.'s Fox News Sunday, collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015.

    Sen. Whitehouse stated: 

    The Trump presidency has brought into sharp focus the critical responsibility of an independent news media to cover the science and policy of climate change. … Donald Trump ran a campaign blissfully unconcerned about climate change, even referring to it as a "hoax." Now President Trump has an ardent climate change denier who received millions from big polluters running the EPA, the former CEO of ExxonMobil heading up the State Department, and other industry operatives making decisions that affect the health and safety of American families. More than ever, Americans will need the free press to deliver the real facts on climate change. We don’t have time to waste on alternative ones.

    Sen. Schatz echoed Whitehouse’s sentiment, stating: 

    In a year when the American people were deciding who our next leader should be, you would think there would have been more discussions about climate change in our news programs, not less. This isn’t just shameful, it’s irresponsible. The climate is changing, and it’s affecting everything from the weather to our national security and our economy. Its impacts are already being felt and the American people deserve to know more about it.

    Indeed, as Media Matters found, during the campaign, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox did not air a single segment about the ramifications and impacts of a Trump or Hillary Clinton administration as they relate to climate change. 

  • Trump’s Proposed Budget Would Cut Support For The Network Leading The Way In Climate Reporting

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    In 2016, PBS NewsHour once again surpassed its nightly news competitors in climate coverage, devoted significant airtime to a range of climate-related issues, and hosted a number of scientists. But President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would take aim at the network that has long been the nightly news leader in terms of climate coverage by cutting vital government support for PBS.

    Trump’s budget blueprint released last week included a proposal to completely defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), an independent agency that partially funds PBS and NPR. CPB CEO Patricia Harrison said the proposed cuts could start "the collapse of the public media system itself and the end of this essential national service.” 

    In addition to funding a portion of PBS’ revenue source directly, about half of CPB’s $445 million budget goes to PBS member stations that broadcast PBS NewsHour -- with stations in rural areas being especially reliant on CPB funding. In a statement to Media Matters, CPB stated, “The loss of this seed money would have a devastating effect [on stations in rural America]. These stations would have to raise approximately 200 percent more in private donations to replace the federal investment.” And Variety reported, “WCTE-TV in Cookeville, Tennessee, is a prime example. ... Station manager Becky Magura told [PBS president Paula] Kerger that the station would shut down if it loses CPB funding, which amounts to about half of its operating budget. WCTE is the only TV station that directly serves the town and surrounding areas in Putnam County, population 73,245 as of 2013.”

    This loss for viewers would be a shame because, as Media Matters has documented over the years, PBS NewsHour has consistently stood apart from its nightly news counterparts in the scale and scope of its climate coverage, dating back to at least 2012, when Media Matters first identified this trend. Once again, Media Mattersannual report on broadcast networks’ climate coverage found that in 2016, PBS NewsHour far surpassed its competitors, airing more climate-related segments (46) than ABC, CBS, and NBC did combined (36) in the same year.

    PBS NewsHour also stands apart from the major networks for the content of its coverage. In 2016, it was the only show to air a segment that discussed the ramifications of a Trump or Hillary Clinton presidency on climate change before the election. The other nightly news shows, however, failed to provide any issues coverage of climate change during the campaign. PBS NewsHour also led the networks in coverage of the impacts of climate change -- on extreme weather, plants and wildlife, and the economy -- and important climate-related policies and issues, such as the Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate agreement and UN climate summits. 

    And at a time when researchers studying climate change are under immense pressure from Trump’s anti-science administration, PBS NewsHour also interviewed the largest number of scientists among the nightly news shows and featured the most segments about climate-related scientific research.

    To cite just a few examples, PBS NewsHour invited scientists to discuss the news that 2015 was the hottest year on record and the consequences of continued global warming; the significance of the Paris climate accord; and climate change’s role in the record-breaking rainfall and flooding in Louisiana last year.

    With the nightly newscasts having significantly decreased their climate coverage in 2016, It's alarming to see the network that provides such essential coverage being threatened with funding cuts. Thankfully, there are promising signs of improvement on the broadcast evening news programs. In early 2017, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News are both on their way to far surpass their climate coverage of 2016; in February, CBS Evening News even featured a week of climate segments from Antarctica for its “Climate Diaries” series. 

    In the meantime, PBS NewsHour still remains the gold standard when it comes to climate change coverage on the nightly news shows. 

    Sign Media Matters’ petition urging Congress to oppose cuts to PBS and other sources of public broadcasting.

  • TV News Coverage Of Trump’s Policies Overwhelmed By His Wiretapping Lie

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Broadcast and cable news coverage of ruinous economic policies rolled out by the White House last week was overwhelmed by the president’s false accusation that his predecessor illegally wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

    On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that up to 24 million Americans would lose access to health insurance over the next 10 years if the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare goes into effect. On that same day, the Trump administration unveiled an overlooked executive order that encourages cabinet secretaries and agency directors to create a plan to completely reshape a federal bureaucracy of over 2.8 million employees. And on March 16, the Trump administration unveiled its budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year, featuring proposed “massive cuts” to nondefense spending. The proposed cuts, which would offset an increase in spending on military programs and a border wall, would hit almost every facet of the federal government, but they would come down particularly hard on funding for small programs including Meals on Wheels, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS.

    Yet according to Media Matters research, from March 13 to 17, President Donald Trump’s false wiretap claim dominated TV news coverage, overshadowing discussion of these important policy moves. While Trump’s lie certainly merits extensive media coverage, it’s also crucial to share details of his policymaking with the public.

    Trump ignited a media firestorm in early March when he repeatedly accused former President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping him in the midst of last year's election. Right-wing media, led by Fox News, sprang to his defense even though the president offered no evidence to support his claim. Meanwhile, legitimate reporters exposed the bizarre accusation’s source as “the right-wing fever swamps” of fringe media and reported that it was pushed by a Russian state-sponsored news network. During March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey put Trump’s wiretapping lie to rest, telling the committee, “I have no information that supports those tweets.”

    Yet nearly two weeks after Trump initially made the claim, his smear of Obama still had such an influence on television news coverage that it overshadowed every other discussion about Trump’s policy agenda last week. Media Matters identified 226 segments from March 13 through 17 that focused on Trump during evening programming on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC and major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. Of those segments, 64 focused on Trump’s wiretapping allegations -- a figure that dwarfed every other major issue Media Matters identified. Coverage of Trump’s health care plan came in a distant second place, with 37 segments, and stories related to the portion of Trump’s 2005 tax returns obtained by Rachel Maddow ranked third (26 segments). Trump’s proposed budget outline was discussed in just 14 segments, and his executive order to reshape the federal workforce registered just four mentions.

    With television news forced to dissect and debunk Trump’s outrageous claims, coverage of pressing economic issues was eclipsed. Coverage of the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- which health care experts have said would be particularly harmful to low-income Americans, seniors, and people dealing with illnesses -- could not overtake that of Trump’s wiretapping tweet, even with the Trump administration attempting to smear the CBO numbers in the press. The executive order, which was described by CNN reporter Stephen Collinson as part of Trump’s larger goal to “dismember government one dollar at a time,” barely registered in news coverage at all. And Trump’s budget cuts, which would decimate social safety net programs, were discussed 14 times during evening news coverage on March 16 and 17, while Trump’s lie about wiretapping was discussed 35 times on those two days.

    Trump’s promotion of a discredited lie accusing his predecessor of illegal conduct while in office merits extensive media coverage, but the policies he has enacted or plans to enact can be just as destructive as the misinformation he spreads. Media cannot afford to let Trump's misleading claims dominate the news cycle, drowning out crucial coverage of the pain his policies may cause the United States.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening news programming (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, as well as the major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, from March 13, 2017, through March 17, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Trump or executive order or federal government or federal employ! or federal worker or federal workers or civil service or government workers or government worker or federal government or budget.

    The following programs were included in the data: ABC's World News Tonight, CBS' Evening News, NBC's Nightly News, and PBS' NewsHour, as well as CNN's The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight, Fox News' Special Report, The First 100 Days, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity, and MSNBC's For The Record, Hardball, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval. This survey includes CNN’s second live hour of Anderson Cooper 360 during the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot.

    For this study, Media Matters included only those segments that contained substantial discussions of Donald Trump. We defined a "substantial discussion" as any segment where a host dedicates a monologue, or portion of a monologue, to Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States, or any segment where two or more guests discuss Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States. We did not include teasers or clips of news events, or rebroadcasts of news packages that were already counted when they first aired in the 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. survey window.

  • STUDY: How TV News Ignores The Prescription Drug Price Problem

    Evening News Programs On Cable And Broadcast News Rarely Cover Escalating Drug Prices

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    A Media Matters review of weekday evening news coverage on cable and broadcast networks since December reveals that the evening programs largely ignored the problem of escalating prescription drug prices in the United States, even though lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed to address the issue. 

  • STUDY: Women’s Voices Marginalized In 2016 News Coverage Of Foreign Affairs And National Security

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Women accounted for just one-quarter of total guests discussing foreign affairs and national security in 2016 during prime-time programming on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and on the five major Sunday political talk shows. This stark disparity between women and men is actually a slight improvement over previously established trends for 2015 and 2014, but more work remains to be done to better include perspectives from women. Over the last 3 years, Media Matters has partnered with Foreign Policy Interrupted to expose and address gender disparities in news coverage of foreign affairs and national security.