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Broadcast TV news neglected many critical climate change stories in 2017 while devoting most of its climate coverage to President Donald Trump. Seventy-nine percent of climate change coverage on the major corporate broadcast TV networks last year focused on statements or actions by the Trump administration, with heavy attention given to the president's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement and to whether he accepts that human-caused climate change is a scientific reality. But the networks undercovered or ignored the ways that climate change had real-life impacts on people, the economy, national security, and the year’s extreme weather events -- a major oversight in a year when weather disasters killed hundreds of Americans, displaced hundreds of thousands more, and cost the economy in excess of $300 billion.
While discussing Trump’s immigration proposal, only ABC’s This Week spoke with those directly impacted by it
In discussions about President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration framework, ABC’s This Week was the only Sunday show that spoke to immigrants directly impacted by it. CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press only invited elected officials, members of the administration, and political pundits to discuss the issue.
Trump’s proposal to lawmakers involves granting a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants including those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, undocumented immigrants who would’ve qualified for the protections but didn’t sign up for the program, and others newly eligible. In addition, the plan calls for $25 billion for a border wall and other border security, eliminates the diversity visa lottery, enables the administration to increase its deportation capacities, and radically rolls back family-based immigration, which would sharply cut legal immigration. The proposal has been criticized for its ties to white nationalist ideology.
Only ABC’s This Week spoke to immigrants and DACA recipients who would be directly impacted by the plan:
When it comes to immigration coverage, media have a history of ignoring the voices of those affected the most by immigration policies. In September, only a day after Trump rescinded DACA, less than 10 percent of guests invited to discuss the policy on cable news networks were DACA recipients. Networks have often helped mainstream anti-immigrant extremism by inviting on members of nativist groups and normalizing pejorative nativist buzzwords.
As Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on the January 28 edition of Reliable Sources, the way audiences learn about “people outside of our own communities is through the media.” As a matter of good journalism, networks should make an effort to elevate voices less heard, especially in a conversation as important as immigration policy.
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The nation's most prominent news programs found little time to discuss gun policy and solutions to gun violence while covering the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history, and what little discussion they did have disproportionately featured Republicans with ties to the gun industry.
Media Matters analyzed evening news shows and Sunday political talk shows on CBS, NBC, and ABC between October 2 and October 22 that included discussion of the October 1 Las Vegas, NV, massacre and found that conversations about how to solve gun violence -- via policy or other means -- were few in number and quickly tapered off in the days following the shooting. During the limited gun policy discussions, the shows hosted and quoted Republican officials who have received much more money from the gun lobby than their pro-gun-safety Democratic counterparts.
Conservative media and their gun lobby allies often respond to mass shootings by saying that the immediate aftermath of the event is not the time to talk about solutions to gun violence. Overall coverage of the Las Vegas massacre appears to follow that advice, as the vast majority focused on breaking news and updates, with only 19 percent even mentioning gun policy and solutions. The entirety of the coverage -- including breaking news and updates on the incident, gun policy and solutions-oriented discussions, and non-gun-policy discussions related to the shooting -- was largely contained to the immediate aftermath of the shooting, with 83 percent taking place in the first week of the study period. As the drastic drop in coverage during our analysis indicates, there is no period “appropriately” removed from a high-profile incident of gun violence when a gun debate actually takes place. None of the segments analyzed from October 8 through the end of the study period on October 22 included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion.
As the country grapples with yet another horrific mass shooting following the November 5 church massacre in Sutherland Springs, TX, here are several key takeaways from our analysis of broadcast news coverage of the Las Vegas shooting:
CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, ABC’s World News Tonight, and the networks' Sunday political talk shows -- CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and ABC’s This Week -- ran a total of 140 segments on the shooting between October 2 and October 22. Forty-six segments were broadcast on the day after the shooting, October 2, when broadcasts networks extended their normal show hours to run additional segments. The shooting received heavy, but declining, coverage in subsequent days, and then briefly spiked on October 8 when segments on Sunday political talk shows helped to bring the total number for that day to 18.
After October 8, coverage fell off. Political talk shows on October 15 and October 22 included no segments on the shooting, and coverage on evening news programs tapered off.
Broken down by week, 83 percent of segments occurred during the initial week following the shooting (October 2-8), 12 percent came the following week (October 9-15), and 4 percent of segments occurred in the final week of the study (October 16-22).
Our analysis also sought to determine the substance of segments run on the shooting. While broadcast news programs’ stature gives them the authority to set an agenda for what topics will be covered long term, they do have limited time and must move forward with reporting on new topics. Given those constraints, we wanted to analyze how the programs used the time they had; to do so, we coded three common occurrences in segments: breaking news and updates on the Las Vegas shooting, gun policy discussions, and non-gun policy discussions.
The first category included reports on the facts of the shooting -- the who, what, when, where, and why -- and often included updates about the perpetrator, the victims, the timeline, and the weaponry that was used. Gun policy and solutions-oriented discussions typically included segments about the prospect of legislative action to address the massacre, but non-policy discussion of solutions to gun violence were also included. Finally, non-gun policy discussions included segments that discussed policy changes in the wake of the shooting that were unrelated to the regulation of firearms -- for example, segments that covered mental health policies or non-gun-related security screening measures to prevent mass shootings.
During the period when the shooting was receiving the most coverage, gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion was largely drowned out by other types of coverage. In the first five days of coverage following the shooting -- Monday, October 2, through Friday, October 6 -- segments were far more likely to focus on breaking news and updates than gun policy or solutions-oriented discussion. Given the later overall drop in coverage of all types on the shooting, this would have been the time to have a rigorous debate over policy and solutions. But that didn’t happen. During this week, 15 segments included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion, while 85 contained breaking news or updates.
Of the 140 segments in the entire study period, 115 (82 percent) included breaking news or updates, 27 (19 percent) included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion, and 16 (11 percent) included non-gun policy discussion. Some segments fell into more than one category, i.e. a segment that provided updates on the timeline of the shooting that also included discussion of legislative proposals to prevent further massacres.
Gun policy and solutions-oriented discussions spiked on the Sunday following the shooting, when all three Sunday shows included in the study ran multiple segments that met our criteria. That day featured 12 segments on gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion, representing 44 percent of total segments meeting that criteria.
But then the discussion of what should change following the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history was over: Between October 9 and October 22, zero segments included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion, a time period when the programming missed an opportunity to continue the conversation.
Of the 27 segments that included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion, nearly half occurred on CBS. NBC and ABC accounted for the other 14 segments.
Media Matters also analyzed the people news programs hosted and quoted in discussing the shooting. Among gun policy and solutions-oriented discussions featuring members of Congress, 63 percent of individuals quoted or hosted were Republicans:
These segments typically focused on questions about banning or otherwise regulating bump fire stocks -- a firearm device the Las Vegas gunman used to rapidly accelerate his gunfire. Based on a review of transcripts, it is likely that the overrepresentation of Republican lawmakers was due to reports that Republicans were open to regulating the devices, a concession rarely seen from Republicans on gun policy.
But since those initial reports on Republicans’ supposed willingness to take action, the waters have become significantly muddied. Republicans have the numbers in Congress to quickly move legislation banning the devices, but they have chosen not to do so. (A hearing that will include testimony on bump fire stocks will take place this week, but that is no guarantee legislation will pass or even be advanced.) House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) made statements on October 11 that further cast doubt on the idea that Republicans are serious about passing bump fire legislation. During a press conference that day, Ryan advanced the position of the National Rifle Association, which is that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) should regulate bump fire stocks. (Ryan received $171,977 from the gun lobby during the 2016 election cycle, more than double any other U.S. representative.) The ATF, however, does not have the authority to regulate the devices because it hasn’t been granted the agency by Congress. Ryan and the NRA’s position is really just a gambit that allows them to appear conciliatory in the face of public outcry while actually preserving the status quo.
Ryan’s claims were just a portion of several developments that could have warranted further segments on gun policy, but as previously noted, segments that included gun policy and solutions-oriented discussion were nonexistent after October 8.
Beyond Ryan, every Republican who came up in the study had received money from the gun lobby for the 2016 and/or 2018 election cycles, with the exception of Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who has backed some gun safety laws. Those members were: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (LA) ($24,550), Sen. John Thune (SD) ($32,460), Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) ($4,500), Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA) ($4,700), Sen. Tom Cotton (AR) ($8,085), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (IL) ($7,900), and Rep. Scott Taylor (VA) ($2,000). In total, Republicans who appeared, or were quoted, on shows in the study received nearly $300,000 from the gun lobby over the last two election cycles. Among Democrats who appeared on the shows monitored in the study, just one, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT), received money ($18,165) from gun safety groups in 2016 or 2018
Beyond not adequately discussing gun policy, the shows also failed to invite guests with expertise on the issue during the period of our analysis. The shows examined hosted just one gun violence researcher -- Dr. Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research -- during the study period.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press, World News Tonight, This Week between the dates of October 2 and October 22 for the terms “gun” or “firearm” or “shooting” or “domestic violence” or “suicide” or the word “accident” within five words of the word “gun” or “hate crime” or “officer involved” or “police shooting” or “shot” or “massacre” or “Las Vegas.” We counted segments that fit our criteria, omitting teasers and headlines.
We downloaded transcripts for these search results and analyzed them. To determine what the substance of segments on gun violence was, we split segments into three categories. The first category is segments that reported on the facts of the shooting -- the who, what, when, where details, including but not limited to reports on victims, perpetrators, how the shooting was carried out, the location of the shooting, and what firearms were used in the shooting. Second, we coded for segments that included policy or solutions-based discussion. The final substance category we coded for was non-gun-related policy discussions during segments that we coded as coverage of the Las Vegas shooting, such as when mental health policy was discussed.
For segments that included policy or solutions-based discussion, we coded members of Congress by their party affiliation when they were hosted as guests or quoted on the topic. Segments that quoted members of Congress discussing only news updates about the shooting were not included in this count. We also coded for guests' professional affiliations during policy segments.
Whitefish, the inexperienced, Montana-based firm that was contracted without a competitive bidding process to restore power in Puerto Rico, was charging “eye-popping” rates. Meanwhile, a month after Maria, 70 percent of Puerto Rico remains without power.
The Sunday news shows on broadcast networks and CNN all completely ignored the growing scandal over the small Montana-based firm Whitefish Energy Holdings that had recieved a $300 million contract from Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to restore power to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The contract, which was facing increasing scrutiny, was canceled late Sunday afternoon.
E&E News first reported on Whitefish’s contract with PREPA in stories on October 6 and October 9, revealing that PREPA decided not to take advantage of a mutual aid program among 1,100 electric companies that could have helped to quickly restore power on the island, where about 70 percent of residents still have no electricity. Instead, PREPA awarded a contract to the Montana-based firm, which at the time had only two full-time staffers.
On October 23, The Washington Post reported that Whitefish is based in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, that Zinke and Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski know one another, and that Zinke’s son worked for the company during one summer. Zinke’s office said he had no role in Whitefish securing the contract. BuzzFeed further reported on October 24 that a major donor to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Republican National Committee, Joe Colonnetta, is the head of one of Whitefish’s major funding sources, private equity firm HBC Investments. However, the report noted, “It’s unclear whether Colonnetta, who did not respond to a request for comment, has specific connections to Whitefish, or whether his stake in Whitefish Energy is simply a business investment.”
The most recent version of the leaked contract stated that “FEMA had ‘reviewed and approved it for compliance with its disaster recovery regulations.” But, according to The Washington Post, FEMA denied that it gave “any preliminary approval for the deal, which was reached without competitive bidding. The contract prevented PREPA from making “any claim against Contractor related to delayed completion of work” and barred government agencies from auditing or reviewing “cost and profit elements” of the deal. But the deal came under fire for the “eye-popping” hourly rates Whitefish was charging:
Much of the controversy that has surrounded the contract has focused on the high rates Whitefish is charging for labor. The contract shows those labor rates are pricey indeed: $240 an hour for a general foreman and $227 for a lineman. The per diems are also expensive: almost $80 a day for meals, and $332 a day for lodging. Employee flights are billed at $1,000 each way.
For subcontractors, the bulk of Whitefish's workforce, the prices go even higher. A general foreman costs $336 an hour and a lineman, $319.
FEMA now says it has “significant concerns” with the deal, which was canceled this afternoon hours after Puerto Rico’s governor urged the utility to cancel the contract. CNN and MSNBC gave the Whitefish story significant attention this week amid the rise of serious questions and discrepancies that have been flagged. But the Sunday political shows, which are influential in Washington and which can help hold government agencies and lawmakers to account, barely discussed Puerto Rico at all, and they ignored the deal completely.
Methodology: Media Matters searched TVEyes for mentions of “whitefish,” “white fish,” “San Juan,” and “Puerto Rico” on CNN and the Washington, D.C. affiliate stations of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co. during their scheduled air times, and found zero relevant results.
CNN’s Dana Bash was the only host of a Sunday morning political show to ask a Republican lawmaker or official about a potential tax reform provision that is reportedly being considered that would limit pre-tax 401(k) contributions. Such a move would limit how much money millions of middle class Americans would be able to set aside for retirement.
The New York Times reported that Republicans are considering a proposal to put limits on how much American workers can contribute to their 401(k) accounts before taxes, potentially decreasing caps from $18,000 a year (or $24,000 for workers over 50) to “as low as $2,400.” The Times noted that this move would likely cause “a vocal backlash from middle-class workers who save heavily in such retirement accounts.” As CNBC reported in 2015, over 13 million people have 401(k) retirement plans.
While several Republican lawmakers and officials made the rounds on the Sunday morning political shows to discuss tax reform, Bash was the only host to ask one of them about the 401(k) proposal. In an interview with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on State of the Union, Bash asked what he plans to do if Republicans were to take this path, which, she pointed out, “could mean higher taxes on the middle class.”
From the October 22 Edition of CNN’s State of the Union:
DANA BASH (HOST): Let me just drill down on one other aspect of taxes, and that is The New York Times reported this week that House Republicans are considering a plan to sharply reduce the amount of income that Americans can save in tax-deferred 401(k) accounts. If a Republican -- if your fellow Republicans in the House were to push to go down this path, it could mean higher taxes on the middle class. What do you want to do? Is this a nonstarter in the Senate?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, look, we're just beginning the process of actually crafting the bills that will be crafted in the Ways and Means Committee in the House, the Finance Committee in the Senate. It's way too early to predict the various details. But I can tell you, the goal here, the goal here is to get middle class taxes down, to prevent job exportation, -- which our current business taxes really encourage people to go offshore -- and to produce more jobs and opportunity for the American people. That's the goal. The details will be hashed out in these two committees in the coming weeks.
Juan Williams also appeared to allude to the proposal on Fox News Sunday.
DANA PERINO (HOST): If the Republicans add a millionaires tax, what would [Sens. Chuck] Schumer [D-NY] and Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] complain about?
JUAN WILLIAMS: Still, I think Congressman [Jason] Chaffetz is onto something here, it’s still -- we don’t have a revenue source screen that would really offset the cost of the tax cuts. Let me just say, overall this was supposed to be about tax reform. Apparently, that’s not the issue now, we’re just on to tax cuts. So the argument coming from the Democrats is this really is disportionately beneficial to the very rich. You add the fourth bracket, but it still does nothing in terms of offsetting things like doing away with state and local deductions.
PERINO: That’s a big issue.
WILLIAMS: That’s a huge -- how about home mortgage. Imagine, no home mortgage deduction? Well, I’m sure K Street --
PERINO: Well, they're not saying that.
WILLIAMS: Well, they are making the case. And then, also less in terms of your retirement contribution. So these are things that would squeeze the middle class.
The proposal, however, was not mentioned at all on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS’ Face the Nation, or NBC’s Meet the Press.
Media Matters searched SnapStream for “401” as well as the words “four,” “oh, “one,” and all iterations of the word “retire” on the October 22 editions of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS’ Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, NBC’s Meet the Press, and CNN’s State of the Union.
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Mogadishu bombing is one of the world’s most deadly terror attacks in recent years
On Saturday, at least 300 people were killed and several hundreds more were injured after a truck bombing occurred in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. The attack, which the Somali government believes was carried out by the Al Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab, has been called “one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world for many years.” Al-Shabab has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Somali capital has been a frequent target for the group for a decade.
Despite the magnitude and death toll of the attack, Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, Fox Broadcasting, CNN, and NBC failed to cover the attack entirely, and the Monday morning cable and broadcast shows spent a total of just over two minutes reporting on the attack in brief news updates, with the longest single report, just 28 seconds, airing on NBC’s Today. The Monday morning broadcast shows spent a combined one minute and 15 seconds on the attack, and the cable news shows spent a combined 52 seconds on the attack. MSNBC’s Morning Joe did not cover the bombing in Somalia at all.
Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “bomb,” “truck,” and “Somalia” on the October 15 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 and the October 16 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, NBC’s Today, CNN’s New Day, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press all failed to mention Jared Kushner and other Trump officials used private email accounts
The October 1 editions of all the Sunday political talk shows failed to discuss the news that several White House officials in the Trump administration used private email accounts to conduct official government business, making themselves vulnerable to espionage from foreign entities.
On September 25, The New York Times reported that at least six White House advisors, including Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, had used personal email accounts to conduct official government business. The Times’ story followed a Politico report that Jared Kushner, a senior advisor and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, had used a private email account to conduct correspondence related to White House matters. Even though the story that White House advisors used personal email accounts for official business was reported several days ago, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press all failed to discuss it during their Sunday morning broadcasts.
As the Times notes, “Officials are supposed to use government emails for their official duties so their conversations are available to the public and those conducting oversight.” According to Politico, the National Security Agency (NSA) had “warned senior White House officials in classified briefings” against the “improper use of personal cellphones and email,” as it “could make them vulnerable to espionage” by foreign entities. By failing to discuss the news of the officials’ use of private accounts, Sunday political talk shows ignored a significant story and failed to inform their audiences of yet another example of the lack of transparency that has been an endemic in the Trump administration. The Sunday shows’ failure to report on officials’ use of personal email accounts is particularly shocking given the media’s obsessive focus on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State throughout the 2016 election.
Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “emails,” “private email server,” “personal email,” and “private server” on the October 1 editions of ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press.
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The entire island is without power, a dam is in danger of bursting, and Sunday political talk shows talked about it for less than a minute
On September 20, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, and knocked out power to the entire island of 3.5 million people. Puerto Rican officials have described “apocalyptic” destruction, and a dam is in danger of bursting, threatening to flood already devastated areas. Officials fear power could be out for months. Despite the extensive destruction, on their first editions since the storm hit, the five major Sunday political talk shows dedicated less than one minute in total to covering the growing humanitarian emergency.
Even though Maria first made landfall in Puerto Rico several days ago, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday all failed to mention the extensive destruction and the millions of American citizens without power or shelter. CNN and NBC’s Sunday political talk shows both mentioned the story but spent minimal time covering the devastation. On CNN’s State of the Union, Our Revolution President Nina Turner implored President Donald Trump to “use his energy to fight for our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico who have no power,” and on NBC’s Meet the Press, moderator Chuck Todd closed the program by telling its viewers how they could “help your fellow Americans in Puerto Rico” and displaying contact information for four highly-rated charities assisting recovery efforts.
Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and contributing writer for Grist, demonstrated the importance of reporting on the devastation in Puerto Rico in a September 22 article, which noted that Hurricane Maria’s “rains fell at a rate exceeding that of Hurricane Harvey in Texas with wind speeds exceeding that of Hurricane Irma in Florida.” Holthaus also reported that “90 percent of homes and businesses have suffered ‘complete’ damage,” comparing the “$30 billion” in estimated destruction in Puerto Rico to “a $500-billion disaster in New York City or a $700-billion disaster in California.” Holthaus warned that “if the aid response is not swift, the situation in Puerto Rico has all the makings of a major humanitarian crisis”:
The rain and winds may be over, but Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico is only just beginning.
The storm’s rains fell at a rate exceeding that of Hurricane Harvey in Texas with wind speeds exceeding that of Hurricane Irma in Florida. In the span of 24 hours, Maria knocked out Puerto Rico’s entire power grid, 95 percent of cellphone towers, the bulk of the island’s water infrastructure, as well as roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, and seaports.
Officials warn it may take up to six months to fully restore power. In some communities, 90 percent of homes and businesses have suffered “complete” damage. To make matters worse, more than 40 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents live below the poverty line, making the uphill climb to recovery even more steep.
All indications are that Hurricane Maria has inflicted one of the most extreme and catastrophic weather events in American history. If the aid response is not swift, the situation in Puerto Rico has all the makings of a major humanitarian crisis.
Initial estimates of damage to the island exceed $30 billion. That’s roughly one-third of Puerto Rico’s annual economic output — making Maria the rough equivalent of a $500-billion disaster in New York City or a $700-billion disaster in California. With the Puerto Rican government already saddled with more than $70 billion in debt, help is going to have to come from outside the island.
Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “Puerto Rico,” “Hurricane,” and “Maria” on the September 24 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.
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