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Almost all cable and broadcast news morning shows reported on President Donald Trump inviting the abusive authoritarian president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, to visit the White House, mentioning Duterte’s record of human rights abuses. The only morning show of a major network to not cover the story was Fox & Friends, which made no mention of Trump’s invitation or Duterte’s human rights abuses.
Media seized on President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress as an opportunity for him to “pivot” or “reset” his administration. This canard that he would at some point change course was repeated throughout the presidential campaign, yet any shifts that occurred were always short-lived.
Right-Wing Media Adopt Trump’s Absurd Claim That His Executive Order Is Not A Muslim Ban
After Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, his administration and right-wing media allies defended the action as “perfectly legal” and “not a Muslim ban.” Yet mainstream media figures and experts explained that the executive order’s exception for religious minorities renders it a de facto religious test. Trump and his advisers explicitly called for a Muslim ban during the last year of his campaign, and the administration’s claim that the order’s religious exception is necessitated by disproportionate persecution of Christians in the Middle East has been debunked.
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Mainstream Outlets Tout Support Of Gates, Rice, And Baker, But Ignore Their Stakes In Exxon
After President-elect Donald Trump announced ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his pick for secretary of state, morning news shows and newspapers noted that prominent figures including James Baker III, Robert M. Gates, and Condoleezza Rice have expressed support for Tillerson, with some mentioning that such support adds credibility to the pick. But those outlets failed to disclose that all three figures have considerable financial ties through their businesses to Tillerson, ExxonMobil, and the oil company’s Russian business ventures.
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:
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”:
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.”
Raddatz Briefly Mentions Michael Flynn’s Anti-Islam Views At The Beginning Of This Week, But By The End Ignores Them Entirely
ABC chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz demonstrated how easily journalists can normalize bigotry while hosting ABC’s This Week. Raddatz noted the anti-Muslim views of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn at the beginning of This Week, but in subsequent discussions of Flynn she refrained from mentioning them at all.
President-elect Donald Trump has named Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, as his pick for national security adviser on Friday. In addition to holding international conflicts of interest, Flynn is also explicitly anti-Muslim. Flynn has said that “fear of Muslims is rational,” is a board member of the anti-Muslim hate group ACT! For America, defended Trump’s proposed Muslim ban during the presidential campaign, compared Islam to cancer, and denied that Islam is a religion.
During her guest hosting of the November 20 edition of This Week, Raddatz briefly referenced some of Flynn’s anti-Islam comments while reviewing who Trump has selected to serve in his administration so far. When highlighting at the top of her show the criticism that some of Trump’s picks have drawn, Raddatz noted that Flynn “is under fire for calling Islam a cancer and his tweet that ‘fear of Muslims is rational.’”
Next, when interviewing Trump’s incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus, Raddatz said Flynn “has a history of controversial views about Islam,” noting that Flynn has said that “Islam is not a real religion, but a political ideology masked behind a religion.” When asked if Trump shares that view, Priebus answered, “I think so,” but “phrasing can always be done differently.”
Later, when leading into an interview with former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, Raddatz merely said Flynn is known “for his controversial views on Islam.”
During her interview with Hayden, Raddatz said Flynn was “praised for his intelligence gathering” and asked about his qualifications as national security adviser -- but made no mention of Flynn’s anti-Muslim bigotry.
And during a panel discussion near the end of the show, Raddatz lumped Flynn in with other retired military personnel, framing him as just someone with military experience, and made no mention of his anti-Muslim bigotry.
The media’s coverage of Trump -- including his policies, rhetoric, and hires -- will set the tone for the national political dialogue about his presidency. 60 Minutes showed what not to do in Trump’s first sit-down interview after the election, allowing him to reintroduce his most criticized positions as reasonable while glossing over the most dangerous features and promises of his campaign. There has also been a concerted effort in conservative media to rehabilitate Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief adviser who until recently ran Breitbart News, the “platform of the alt-right.”
One pitfall media has run into is describing the bigoted rhetoric and draconian positions of Trump -- and the people he surrounds himself with -- as “controversial.” Media use neutral-sounding words like controversial to avoid making what they consider editorial judgments about Trump’s rhetoric and policies, but doing so ultimately treats bigotry as a valid political belief.
Over the course of one show, Raddatz described Flynn as “controversial” and painted him as highly respected, while essentially disappearing his anti-Muslim bigotry. In doing so, Raddatz helped normalize Trump and the bigots he is choosing to staff his incoming administration with.
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Presidential debate season is officially over, and critical policy questions that directly impact millions of Americans remain unasked just 19 days before the election.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump met last night in Las Vegas, Nevada for the final presidential debate, which was likely the last chance for the candidates to discuss specific policy issues face-to-face before November 8. Just as in the previous two presidential debates this year, moderator Chris Wallace chose to focus questions on a handful of familiar topics. Even within the context of six pre-announced debate topics, Wallace could have asked questions on major policy issues that deserve thoughtful and substantive prime-time discussion from the presidential candidates, like affordable health care, climate change, or tax plans.
But that didn’t happen. When debate discussions did manage to turn to policy specifics on critical topics like reproductive rights or gun violence prevention, Wallace didn’t ask necessary follow-up questions or offer clarifications on the facts. (Prior to the debate, Wallace announced his intention to be a debate timekeeper rather than fact-checker.)
All in all, last night’s debate largely covered the same ground as the previous two debates, both in topics discussed and in tone. If any of the three debates had focused more aggressively on what’s truly at stake -- what voters have said they wanted asked, what people actually believe is most important for their own families and communities -- the questions in this debate cycle would have looked very different. And the answers could speak for themselves.
Let’s explore just how hard the moderators dropped the ball.
This year, the United States began the process of resettling its first climate refugees. A bipartisan group of top military experts warned that climate change presents a “strategically-significant risk to U.S. national security and international security.” While Clinton wants to build on President Obama’s climate change accomplishments, Trump wants to “cancel” the historic Paris climate agreement, “rescind” the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency -- and he’s even called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
Several tragic mass shootings -- including the single deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, at the LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando, FL, in June -- have shaken the nation since the beginning of the election season. Gun deaths in the United States, both in instances of mass shootings and in more common day-to-day violence, vastly outnumber gun deaths in other Western democracies -- so much so that the American Medical Association has declared gun violence a public health crisis. And Americans are overwhelmingly ready for lawmakers to take action. Seventy-two percent of voters say gun policy is “very important” in determining their vote this year, and an astonishing 90 percent of voters -- representing both Democrats and Republicans -- think that strengthening background check requirements for firearm purchases is a good place to start, as does Clinton. Trump recently told the National Rifle Association -- which has endorsed him -- that he opposes expanding background checks.
Moderators failed to ask a single question about specific policies for gun violence prevention in the first two presidential debates, and they failed to ask a question about background check policies specifically in any debate. In the final debate, Wallace asked about gun policies in the context of the Supreme Court’s 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision about the scope of the Second Amendment, but he failed to follow up when Trump skirted questions about the case and about his specific positions on several gun policies like his opposition to an assault weapons ban and his oft-repeated false claim that "gun-free" zones are responsible for public mass shootings. The entire exchange lasted just under five minutes.
Though seven in 10 Americans support legal abortion and one in three American women report having had an abortion procedure, states have enacted 288 anti-choice laws since 2010. These laws are creating a crisis by preventing women from low-income families -- many already parents who are struggling to keep families afloat -- from receiving the health care services they need. Some evidence even suggests greater numbers of women are contemplating dangerous self-induced abortions due to a lack of access to care. Trump has espoused support for these types of restrictive laws, and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), wants to “send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history.”
But moderators did not ask a question about the candidates’ stances on reproductive rights until the final debate -- when Chris Wallace asked about Roe v. Wade. Again, Trump repeatedly lied about abortion policy, and the misinformation was left hanging as Wallace pivoted to a new topic after about five minutes of discussion.
How about tax policies? Tax rates are a critical issue that directly affect all Americans, and the candidates’ respective tax policy proposals could not differ more. Clinton’s plan would benefit low- and middle-income families most and hike tax rates only for the wealthiest earners and for corporations. Trump’s plan has been called “a multitrillion-dollar gift to the rich” that “screws the middle class,” and has been panned even by conservative economists and The Wall Street Journal. One analysis concluded that Clinton’s plan “trims deficits,” while Trump’s plan could add $6.2 trillion to the national debt. These numbers directly impact the short-term and long-term financial health of families and communities, and 84 percent of voters say the economy is “very important” in deciding their vote in 2016.
Substantive questions about the candidates’ specific tax plans were missing from the debates, though Trump still managed to lie about his tax proposals on several occasions. When the candidates mentioned their tax plans briefly in the final debate when asked about the economy, Wallace again lived up to his promise not to fact-check.
A record number of anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year, and LGBT students face significantly more violence than their peers, but the debates did not include a single question about policy positions related to LGBT equality.
About 70 percent of today’s college graduates leave school with student loans, and more than 43 million Americans currently have student debt. This economic squeeze is changing how Americans plan their families, buy homes, and spend their money. Clinton has responded by making college affordability a signature issue of her campaign, while Trump’s newly described plan could “explode the student debt crisis.” Neither candidate was asked to address this issue either.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world -- we account for 5 percent of the world’s population but a whopping 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Inmate organizers recently launched what could be the nation’s largest prison strike to draw attention to deplorable prison conditions. The majority of Americans want to see changes to a federal prison system they believe is “too large, too expensive, and too often incarcerating the wrong people.” Moderators didn’t ask about criminal justice reform policies at all.
The presidential debates instead largely focused on statements made on the campaign trail, whichever offensive comments Trump had made most recently, and -- again, always -- Hillary Clinton’s email use as secretary of state. Viewers might now know a lot about these topics -- or at least what each candidate has to say about them -- while still having very little information on the candidates’ starkly contrasting policy positions on issues with direct and immediate consequences to citizens’ daily lives.
Americans relied on moderators to raise the questions they think about every day, to help them understand how the next president can help ensure that their families are safe, secure, and set up to thrive. It’s a shame the debates did not deliver.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.
Journalists across the spectrum marveled at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump throwing running mate Gov. Mike Pence “under the bus” by asserting that they haven’t spoken about Syria and that they “disagree” on the issue during the October 9 presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.
From CNN’s coverage of the October 9 presidential debate:
MARTHA RADDATZ (MODERATOR): Let me repeat the question. If you were president, what would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo? And I want to remind you what your running mate said. He said “provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength” and that “if Russia continues to be involved in airstrikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime.”
DONALD TRUMP: He and I haven't spoken and I disagree.
RADDATZ: You disagree with your running mate?
TRUMP: I think you have to knock out ISIS. Right now, Syria is fighting ISIS. We have people that want to fight both at the same time. But Syria is no longer Syria. Syria is Russia and it’s Iran, which [Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton] made strong and scary and Obama made into a powerful nation and a very rich nation, very, very quickly. I believe we have to get ISIS. We have to worry about ISIS before we can get too much more involved. She had a chance to do something with Syria , they had a chance. And that was the line.
Reporters characterized Trump’s remarks as “unprecedented[ly]” throwing Pence “under the bus”:
Pence, under the bus https://t.co/eFOjSMieFm
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) October 10, 2016
"He and I haven't spoken" is more damaging than "we disagree."
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) October 10, 2016
BIG MOMENT: "He and I haven't spoken, and I disagree" -- Trump on his running mate Mike Pence's Syria stance.
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) October 10, 2016
Whoa. Martha Raddatz notes what Pence has said about dealing with Syria. Trump's response: "He and I haven’t spoken and I disagree."
— Dan Merica (@danmericaCNN) October 10, 2016
"He and I haven't spoken," Trump says of Pence. "I disagree with my running mate," he adds re: his Syria position. #debates2016
— Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) October 10, 2016
"He and I haven't spoken and I disagree" Trump says re: Pence's position on humanitarian situation Syria. Audible gasps in press file
— Noah Gray (@NoahGrayCNN) October 10, 2016
"He and I haven't spoken and I disagree" Trump says of Mike Pence's Syria policy.
— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) October 10, 2016
WHOA!!! Trump is asked about Pence’s comments about confronting Russia.
Trump: “He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree.”#debate
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 10, 2016
Maybe the most striking foreign issue statement of the debate from Trump and almost entirely false. https://t.co/UzyWKgxDqI
— Julian Borger (@julianborger) October 10, 2016
By any reasonable measure, climate change is a serious issue that is worthy of significant attention during the presidential debates. Yet as our debate scorecard documented, the topic was ignored by the moderators of the first presidential debate and the vice-presidential debate, further heightening the need for ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper to lead a substantial climate discussion when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump square off on October 9.
Global warming is having profound and wide-ranging impacts in the United States, and a climate question would be just as relevant to a discussion about national security, the economy, or public health as it would be to a discussion about environmental protection. And as climate scientist Michael Mann recently pointed out, climate change meets all the key criteria for a debate question:
Indeed, the stakes for climate action are high this election year, and the gulf between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the issue is massive.
The Obama administration has taken many important steps to combat climate change, including the Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, and the historic international agreement to cut global emissions reached in Paris, which was recently ratified by enough countries to formally take effect. But the next president could either help these climate policies come to fruition or try to undercut them.
Clinton has said she will “[d]efend, implement, and extend” key climate policies, including the Clean Power Plan, and “deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference.” Trump, meanwhile, has said he will “cancel” the Paris climate agreement, “rescind” the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, initiate a “targeted review” of the Clean Power Plan, and dismantle the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Americans deserve to hear more detailed explanations of these proposals, and the upcoming debates provide the best and most high-profile opportunities before Election Day for that conversation to occur. But it can’t be taken for granted. In 2012, the presidential candidates were not asked about climate change in any of the general election debates. And this cycle, Trump has yet to field a single climate change question through one general election debate and 11 GOP primary debates (he skipped one).
The story is much the same throughout the country, as our scorecard shows. Through the first 21 debates in the presidential election and closely-contested Senate and governors’ races, only two debates -- in New Hampshire and Vermont -- have included questions about climate change. Like the presidential election, these races could also have climate consequences. Newly-elected senators could propose new climate legislation, or they could seek to block the EPA from limiting carbon pollution. And newly-elected governors could either work constructively with the EPA, or fight tooth and nail against implementing the Clean Power Plan.
Thankfully, it’s not too late for citizens to make their voices heard and convince moderators to ask about climate change in upcoming debates. The nonprofit and nonpartisan Open Debate Coalition notes that the ABC and CNN moderators of the next presidential debate have “agreed to consider the Top 30 questions voted up” on the coalition’s website. The following climate-related questions are currently among the top 30 vote-getters:
Citizens can also request climate change questions in several Senate and governors’ debates. In Arizona, Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS, has an online form for submitting questions ahead of the October 10 Senate debate. In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association told Media Matters that citizens can suggest questions on Twitter during the October 14 Senate debate, using the hashtag #wbadebate. In Ohio, WBNS-10TV is accepting video questions that may appear during its October 17 Senate debate. In Vermont, roundtable organizers will be crowdsourcing questions on Twitter in advance of the October 17 governors’ debate using the hashtag #innov802. And in Indiana, the Indiana Debate Commission has an online form for submitting questions for all of the state’s Senate and gubernatorial debates.
We’ll be continuing to update the scorecard with additional information about upcoming debates right up until Election Day -- including an update soon on whether climate change comes up at the October 9 presidential debate.