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  • Four ways the NY Times has undermined its own climate coverage

    The paper gave ammunition to the Trump administration to deny climate science and defend dropping out of the Paris agreement

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS

    The New York Times has done some stellar reporting on climate change, and it’s poised to do more thanks to its recent creation of a dedicated climate team. See, for instance, its impressive ongoing series on how climate change is affecting major cities, and another recent multimedia series on the melting of Antarctica.

    But the paper has made serious missteps in recent days and weeks, some of which have bolstered the White House’s case for climate denial and for dropping out of the Paris climate agreement. Here are four problems that deserve to be called out:

    1. Letting Bret Stephens spread climate denial, which was seized on by Scott Pruitt

    The New York Times hired conservative climate denier Bret Stephens as an op-ed columnist in April, and his first column was a factually compromised and misleading attack on climate science. Its publication provoked widespread condemnation of the Times and Stephens in late April.

    Then the column got a new round of attention late last week, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement. On June 2, the day after Trump’s announcement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt defended the move from the podium in the White House briefing room, and cited Stephens' column to make the case that climate science is unsettled:

    I don’t know if you saw this article or not, but the “Climate of Complete Certainty” by Bret Stephens that was in The New York Times talked about -- and I’ll just read a quote, because I thought it was a very important quote from this article. “Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the IPCC knows that, while the modest 0.85 degrees Celsius warming of the earth that has occurred since 1880, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities. That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future. To say this isn’t to deny science. Isn’t (sic) to acknowledge it honestly.”

    Pruitt actually misquoted the column, omitting Stephens’ acknowledgement that there has been “indisputable ... human influence” on the warming of the earth since 1880. But nonetheless, Pruitt left the impression that The New York Times supported his fringe views.

    As Media Matters senior fellow Matt Gertz put it, “It’s a disaster for a paper that sold itself to readers as a bulwark against the new president, then turned around and hired a prominent climate change skeptic.”

    2. Ignoring the fact that Pruitt seized on Stephens’ climate denial

    In an article about Trump’s views on climate change, New York Times reporter Peter Baker noted that Pruitt had questioned climate science during his remarks at the White House, but Baker neglected to mention that the EPA chief had used a New York Times column as a main piece of supporting evidence for his claims.

    3. Publishing a misleading story on small-business owners’ views on Paris, which was seized on by Pruitt

    On June 2, The New York Times published an article by Landon Thomas Jr. titled “Small Businesses Cheer ‘New Sheriff in Town’ After Climate Pact Exit.” Thomas claimed, “While multinational corporations such as Disney, Goldman Sachs and IBM have opposed the president’s decision to walk away from the international climate agreement, many small companies around the country were cheering him on, embracing the choice as a tough-minded business move that made good on Mr. Trump’s commitment to put America’s commercial interests first.”

    The article ignored the fact that hundreds of small businesses had publicly called for remaining in the Paris agreement, and it quoted no small-business owners who supported the deal. Small-business supporters weren’t that hard to find, even in red states. NPR's Morning Edition featured one, Fhebe Lane, who runs a store in a conservative Texas coal town. A Trump voter, Lane said she was concerned about the climate getting hotter and thought limiting emissions was a good idea.

    Thomas’ article also drew criticism for quoting some of the same pro-Trump voices he had cited in a previous piece, as Media Matters has noted. Boston Globe writer Michael Cohen pointed out that the article was “remarkably similar” to a piece Thomas wrote three months earlier; Cohen and others noted that the same two people “are quoted in both articles extolling Mr. Trump’s virtues” and “their positive words about Trump are used as evidence that small business owners are behind the president.”

    But Pruitt, for one, liked the article. He quoted it during an appearance on ABC’s This Week on June 4:

    Even The New York Times had an article, I think, within the last couple of days that talked about small business celebrating, euphoria, with respect to the president’s decision.

    4. Blaming the Democrats alongside the Koch brothers for GOP climate denial

    New York Times reporters Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton published a mostly well-reported article on widespread Republican refusal to accept climate science. But the story contained a ridiculous claim that “Democratic hubris” was partly to blame:

    The Republican Party’s fast journey from debating how to combat human-caused climate change to arguing that it does not exist is a story of big political money, Democratic hubris in the Obama years and a partisan chasm that grew over nine years like a crack in the Antarctic shelf, favoring extreme positions and uncompromising rhetoric over cooperation and conciliation.

    While the article laid out plenty of evidence that the Koch brothers had affected elected Republicans’ views, it did not make any kind of convincing case that Democrats had.

    Talking Points Memo Editor Josh Marshall characterized the “Democratic hubris” line as “half of what is imbecilic in contemporary political journalism”:

    As New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, who wrote a book on the Koch brothers, noted in a post on June 5, Republican climate denial and the rejection of the Paris agreement are clear and direct consequences of the Kochs and other rich fossil fuel barons pouring money into the political scene. “It is, perhaps, the most astounding example of influence-buying in modern American political history,” she wrote.

    Democrats, hubristic or not, can’t claim credit for that.

    Whither the Times?

    “The paper has lost its way,” Think Progress’ Joe Romm wrote in a post criticizing the Davenport/Lipton article and other pieces published by the Times. “A shocking number of recent articles reveal a paper that’s begun to embrace false balance, giving equal time to both climate misinformers and actual climate experts, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus.”

    Still, many journalists at The New York Times are pulling in the right direction. Columnist David Leonhardt gently disputed the “Democratic hubris” argument in a piece on June 5. A number of Times journalists expressed their displeasure with Stephens’ first column. And the climate team keeps doing great work. Let’s hope their side wins the tug-of-war.

  • Cable Networks Were "Played Like A Fiddle" By Donald Trump’s “20-Second” Birther Statement

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    A slew of media critics and commentators shamed cable news networks for being “played” into providing free live coverage of a campaign event for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. After Trump teased a “major announcement,” cable news networks provided wall-to-wall coverage in anticipation that Trump would address criticism over his role in pushing conspiracy theories that President Obama was not born in the U.S. Trump’s mere seconds-long statement “came only after a lengthy campaign event featuring military officers and award winners who have endorsed him,” turning it into “a de facto commercial for the GOP candidate.”

  • Here Are All The Reasons Media Think Trump Is Not Releasing His Tax Returns

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reiterated his plan not to release his tax returns prior to the election due to an IRS audit -- despite the IRS saying he is not precluded from doing so -- media figures questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s excuse, arguing instead that it could be due to his possible business dealings with Russia, paying little to no taxes, and not giving to charity, among other reasons.

  • Trump Draws Media Criticism For His Connections To Russia After His “Downright Frightening” Statements On NATO

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Media figures have raised questions about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's connections, financial and otherwise, to Russia after he told The New York Times that he would honor NATO obligations to defend a member nation from a potential attack by Russia only if the member nation had “fulfilled their obligations to us.” Media figures have called the remarks “downright frightening,” possible evidence of a “non-tacit alliance” between Putin and Trump, and a possible cause for “an urgent investigation into whether Putin is interfering in the current American election.”

  • Right-Wing Media Suggest Obama’s Clinton Endorsement Will Interfere With FBI Email Inquiry

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are claiming that President Obama’s endorsement of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is “a terrible conflict of interest," suggesting the FBI could otherwise indict Clinton but will not do so because of the endorsement. Mainstream media and legal experts have reported for months that the “chatter” that Clinton will be indicted “is just plain ridiculous,” noting that “there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate basis for any sort of criminal charge against” Clinton.

  • TPM's Josh Marshall: Media Must Pressure Trump Over His "Openly Racist" Remarks About Judge In Trump U. Lawsuits

    Marshall: Any Reporter Who Does Not Ask Trump About His”Dangerous” Attacks Is “Not Doing His Or Her Job”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Following presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s latest remarks attacking the federal judge presiding over two lawsuits pending against his now-defunct Trump University real estate seminar business, Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall highlighted the “unprecedented” personal attacks and “openly racist argument” Trump has launched against Judge Gonzalo Curiel over the last several months.

    Trump has identified Curiel as a “Mexican” and “Hispanic” while criticizing his actions in the case, suggesting that Curiel is treating Trump unfairly and with hostility because of Curiel’s heritage and Trump’s position on immigration.

    Marshall implored media to hold Trump accountable for the repeated, “dangerous” racialized remarks the candidate has made about Curiel, arguing that, “any reporter who gets a chance to ask Trump to justify his actions and doesn’t is not doing his or her job.”

    From Marshall’s May 31 blog post:

    It is unprecedented for a presidential candidate to personally attack and even threaten a federal judge. (To be fair, I'm not sure there's been a nominee being sued for fraud during the presidential campaign.) But here we have Trump making an openly racist argument against a federal judge, arguing that Curiel is pursuing a vendetta against him because Trump is, he says, "I'm very, very strong on the border."

    [...]

    The press routinely goes into paroxysms - often rightly so - about innuendos or phrasings that might in some way be racist or suggest racial animus. Here we have it in the open, repeated and showing itself as basically Trump's first line of attack when he is in anyway threatened. That's infinitely more dangerous than most things that routinely focus all the media's attention. Any reporter who gets a chance to ask Trump to justify his actions and doesn't is not doing his or her job. Few cases show more vividly how dangerous a person Trump is.

  • Conservatives Are Already Preparing To Cry "Cover-Up" If Hillary Clinton Isn't Indicted

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Right-wing media figures have been laying the foundation to allege a "scandal" and "cover-up" if the FBI's investigation into Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's email server does not result in Clinton's indictment, thus setting her up for a lose-lose situation. Yet multiple law experts have explained that an indictment is highly unlikely.

  • Media Hype LA Times Report On Clinton Emails Even Though It Says Prosecution Unlikely

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox's Andrew Napolitano and Andrea Tantaros and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough cited a March 27 report from the Los Angeles Times to push the possibility that Hillary Clinton used a private email server unlawfully, claiming she "might be a criminal defendant in a felony prosecution." But the Times article quotes legal experts who say there is "no reason to think Clinton committed any crimes with respect to the use of her email server," and the piece says the chances of a finding of criminal liability are "low."