Brooke Baldwin

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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.

  • STUDY: Fox News Ignored Transgender Voices While Discussing Rollback Of Protections For Transgender Students

    MSNBC Hosted Four Transgender Guests, And CNN Brought On One

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    From the time it happened through the day that followed President Donald Trump’s rollback of federal trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections, Fox News failed to include transgender guests who could provide insights about the policy. Of the major cable news networks (MSNBC, Fox, and CNN), MSNBC led the count by hosting four transgender guests, while CNN hosted only one.

    On February 22, the Trump administration revoked the federal protections for trans students implemented by President Barack Obama, which outlined the right of trans students to use the public facilities that match their gender identity. Conservative commentators reacted by pushing the long-debunked myth that sexual predators exploit these types of nondiscrimination protections to sneak into women’s facilities by pretending to be transgender.

    Media Matters analyzed the guests invited on cable news networks to discuss the rollback of the federal trans-inclusive nondiscrimination guidelines from 8 p.m. February 22 until midnight on February 23. We found that Fox News failed to bring on a single transgender guest, perpetuating the network’s long history of trans exclusion. In comparison, MSNBC set the standard by including four transgender guests: Cub Scout Joe Maldonado, actress and activist Laverne Cox, transgender rights advocate Mara Keisling, and Gavin Grimm, whose case against his school over restroom access will go before the Supreme Court. CNN hosted only one trans person, teenager Juliet Evancho, who appeared during the February 23 edition of CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, but on February 22, New Day featured Katharine Prescott, the mother of a trans student who committed suicide. Prescott’s subsequent activism was influential in the implementation of protections during the Obama administration. It is worth noting that CNN also hosted Grimm on the February 24 edition of New Day, but the morning shows of February 24 fell outside of the time frame analyzed by Media Matters.

    While CNN’s and MSNBC’s inclusion of trans voices provided a welcome respite from a trend of underrepresentation, news networks must still work for progress in terms of improving trans visibility. That’s because stories of violence against the transgender community are often ignored, and when news shows do discuss issues that directly affect transgender people, they often fail to include any trans people as guests.

    Because Trump is an avid TV consumer, cable news shows have an increased in influence as platforms for policy discussion, giving the guests included a unique opportunity to send impactful messages. This platform could also be used to boost the voices of those usually underrepresented in the media. And transgender people -- who are often mocked, misgendered, and negatively portrayed on TV news -- deserve a space to directly address misperceptions audiences might have about their lives. Their lived experiences not only add value to segments about legislation that directly affects their lives, it also can enrich the political discussion more broadly. Networks owe it to the transgender community to talk to them, instead of just about them.

    Jared Holt contributed research to this report.

  • 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.