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  • Media follow GOP's lead and host mainly white men to discuss Republican health care bill

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

      As Senate Republicans face mounting criticism for including almost exclusively white men in their working group on the upcoming health care bill, media aren’t doing much better when discussing the legislation. Like the GOP, media are relying on mainly white people, particularly men, for their analysis and reporting on the health care bill, even though the bill would reportedly have serious consequences for women and minorities.

      Shortly after the House of Representatives passed its version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Senate Republicans put together a working group to draft their own version of the legislation. The working group was roundly criticized for its lack of diversity. For instance, CNN’s Erin Burnett took issue with the all-male group, asking, “What can they realistically bring to the table when the conversation turns to, let’s just say, childbirth, maternity leave, ovarian cancer or breast cancer?” Likewise, Roll Call’s Patricia Murphy wrote that adding diverse voices to the group would allow people to “bring their own personal experiences to the debate,” noting that African-Americans have “a higher incidence of chronic disease” and are “more likely to require ongoing medical interventions over the course of their lives.”

      Unfortunately, if people are hoping to hear a diverse group of people discussing the health care bill, media are of little help. A Media Matters analysis found that the people hosted on television to discuss the bill were disproportionately white men. Key findings include:

      • Male guest appearances outnumbered female guest appearances 2-to-1 on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows during discussions of the Republican health care bill.
      • Over 87 percent of appearances on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows during discussions of the Republican health care bill were made by white guests.

      Race

      Of the 448 guest appearances* on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows, 392 appearances, or over 87 percent, were made by white guests.

      During Fox News and CNN’s prime-time coverage of the health care bill, white guests made up over 90 percent of total guest appearances:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • Fox News hosted 77 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 75, or over 97 percent, were made by white guests. Only two appearances were made by black guests, and there were no appearances made by Asian or Hispanic guests.
      • CNN hosted 120 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 108, or 90 percent, were made by white guests. Only seven appearances, or 6 percent, were made by black guests, three appearances by Asian guests, and two appearances by Hispanic guests.
      • MSNBC hosted 134 guest during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 108, or over 80 percent, were made by white guests. Eighteen appearances, or about 13 percent, were made by black guests, four, or nearly 3 percent, by Asian guests, and four appearances by Hispanic guests.

      CBS hosted only white guests to discuss the bill during its morning and nightly news shows:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • ABC hosted 12 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 10, or just over 83 percent, were made by white guests. The network hosted no black or Asian guests, but two appearances, or 7 percent, were made by Hispanic guests.
      • CBS hosted 16 guests during discussions of the bill, all of whom were white.
      • NBC hosted 18 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 17, or over 94 percent, were made by white guests. The network hosted no black or Asian guests, and only one appearance, or about 5 percent, was made by a Hispanic guest.

      During Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press’s coverage of the health care bill, over 90 percent of appearances were made by white guests:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • ABC's This Week hosted nine guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, seven, or nearly 78 percent, were made by white guests. Only one appearance each was made by black and Asian guests, but the program did not host any Hispanic guests.
      • CBS' Face the Nation hosted 17 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 13, or over 76 percent, were made by white guests. Two appearances were made by black guests, one by Asian, and one by a Hispanic guest.
      • NBC's Meet the Press hosted 11 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 10, or nearly 91 percent, were made by white guests.One appearance was made by a black guest, but the program did not host any Asian or Hispanic guests.
      • CNN's State of the Union hosted 18 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 13, or over 72 percent, were made by white guests. Four appearances were made by black guests and one by a Hispanic guest, but the program did not host any Asian guests.
      • Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday hosted 16 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 15, or nearly 94 percent, were made by white guests. One appearance was made by a black guest, but the program did not host any Hispanic or Asian guests.

      Gender

      Of the 448 guest appearances* on prime-time cable news, broadcast news’ morning and nightly shows, and Sunday morning political shows, 299 were made by men, meaning two-thirds of the voices viewers heard were male.

      During prime-time cable news, Fox News was the network that fared the worst on gender diversity:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • Fox News hosted 77 guests during discussions of the health care bill throughout prime-time programming. Of those guest appearances, 60, or nearly 78 percent, were made be men. Only 17 of the appearances were made by women, making up about 22 percent of guest appearances on the health care bill.
      • MSNBC hosted 134 guests during discussions of the health care bill throughout prime-time programming. Of those guest appearances, 90, or over 67 percent, were made by men. Only 44 of the appearances were made by women, making up just under 33 percent of guests hosted to discuss the bill.
      • CNN hosted 120 guests during discussions of the health care bill throughout prime-time programming. Of those guest appearances, 78, or 65 percent, were made by men. Only 42 of the appearances were made by women, making up about 35 percent of guests hosted to discuss the bill.

      During broadcast morning and nightly news shows, CBS was the only network to host more women than men to discuss the bill:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • CBS hosted 16 guests during discussions of the health care bill. Of those guest appearances, 11, or nearly 69 percent, were made by men. Five, or just over 31 percent, were made by women.
      • NBC hosted 18 guests during discussions of the health care bill. Of those guest appearances, 10, or nearly 56 percent, were made by men. The network featured eight appearances by women in discussions of the bill, making up just over 44 percent of guest appearances.
      • ABC hosted 12 guests during discussions of the health care bill. Of those guest appearances, eight, or nearly 67 percent, were made by men. Four appearances, or about 33 percent, were made by women.

      On the Sunday political shows, men outnumbered women 2-to-1, but some shows fared better than others. NBC’s Meet the Press was the closest to having equal representation, while ABC’s This Week had the highest gender imbalance:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • ABC’s This Week hosted nine guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, seven, or nearly 78 percent, were made by men. Only two appearances were made by women, making up over 22 percent of guest appearances.
      • CBS’ Face the Nation hosted 17 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 12, or nearly 71 percent, were made by men. Only five appearances were made by women, making up over 29 percent of guest appearances.
      • NBC’s Meet the Press hosted 11 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, six, or nearly 55 percent were made by men. Five appearances were made by women, making up over 45 percent of guest appearances.
      • CNN’s State of the Union hosted 16 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 12, or 75 percent, were made by men. Four appearances were made by women, making up 25 percent of guest appearances.
      • Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday hosted 18 guests to discuss the bill. Of those appearances, 11, or over 61 percent, were made by men. Seven appearances were made by, making up nearly 39 percent of guest appearances.

      Sadly, the groups that have been marginalized by Senate Republicans and television news have a lot to lose with the AHCA. As FamiliesUSA noted, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “greatly benefited Black communities, who are likely to disproportionately suffer the consequences of ACA repeal and the elimination of Medicaid as we know it” under the AHCA. And, as The Hill pointed out, “Hispanics benefited more than any other group from the Affordable Care Act,” and under the AHCA, “Many Hispanic leaders are worried their communities could be forced out of coverage and back into emergency rooms for primary care.” Additionally, groups fighting for the rights of Asian Americans have condemned the AHCA for the harm it would cause.

      Women also have much to lose if the AHCA passes the Senate. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, cuts to Medicaid would drastically hurt women who “comprise the majority of Medicaid beneficiaries.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that about 15 percent of low-income people “would lose access to care” under the AHCA due to the defunding of Planned Parenthood. And, as Marie Claire pointed out:

      For women who let their insurance lapse, maternity coverage will no longer be guaranteed, and pregnant women may face surcharges up to $17,000 for care. C-sections could also be considered a pre-existing condition, meaning that a woman could incur costs of roughly $50,000 for simply wanting another child. States could determine that having a heavy period or other menstrual irregularities is a pre-existing condition to be paid for out of pocket.

      The Republican health care bill presents a clear and present danger to millions of Americans, but minorities and women have the most to lose. Unfortunately, they’re nearly shut out of discussions about the bill, in politics and media alike.

      * Repeated guests were counted each time they appeared.

      Methodology

      Media Matters searched Nexis for mentions of health care, the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, the American Health Care Act, or AHCA on prime-time cable news, broadcast news’ morning and evening news shows, and Sunday political shows between May 4 (after the House of Representatives passed the bill) and June 18. Segments were coded if they included a significant discussion of the Republican health care bill. “Significant discussion” was defined as at least two speakers in the segment engaging on the topic with one another.

      Prime-time cable news refers to CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC programming between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays. Broadcast news refers to ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News, and NBC’s Today and NBC Nightly News. Sunday political shows refers to ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, CNN’s State of the Union, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday.

      A chart was updated to include corrected data.

    • Megyn Kelly's Alex Jones segment shows how public pressure works

      It could have gone worse, but a competent report won't undo the damage done

      Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      A well-deserved firestorm of denunciations from the families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting and other critics forced Megyn Kelly to turn a report that was originally billed as a self-promotional head-to-head showdown with Alex Jones into a well-edited investigation of the dangers posed by an unstable megalomaniac with millions of loyal fans, including one in the Oval Office.

      But Kelly deserves little credit -- she acted in response to overwhelming public pressure, and the network’s impotent reaction to Jones’ own grabs for media attention may allow the nation's biggest producer of conspiracy theory media to come out the winner of tonight’s program.

      At no point since Kelly teased her interview with Jones at the end of last week’s show has she or NBC been able to control the narrative spinning out of her own show. It’s a shocking failure for one of the media’s savviest manipulators of her own image, and the network that hired her.

      Immediately after last week’s Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, Sandy Hook family members began speaking out. They said they had suffered years of torment and harassment due to Jones’ claims that the shooting was a “hoax,” and denounced Kelly for granting him a platform. Desperate to salvage the situation as brutal headlines rolled in, NBC all but promised its critics that the segment would be edited to portray Jones as negatively as possible.

      That’s exactly what happened. The segment benefited from devoting very little time to Kelly’s interview with Jones, minimizing his opportunity to appeal to her audience. Instead, through strong voiceover, clips from Jones’ program featuring the host spouting conspiracies, and interviews with a conservative commentator who opposes Jones’ influence and the father of a child who died at Sandy Hook, Kelly explained how Jones operates, the harassment his targets experience, and his close ties to President Donald Trump.

      The segment reportedly went through drastic changes following the spate of condemnation, with NBC adding an interview with a Sandy Hook family member and slicing and dicing the footage of Kelly’s sit-down with Jones to make it more damaging to him. It’s not unusual for networks to edit stories right up until airtime. But last week’s public relations nightmare clearly played a role in the segment NBC ended up running.

      NBC deserved that nightmare. Kelly was hired to be a new face of the network and given a program aimed to challenge CBS’ 60 Minutes for newsmagazine primacy. But after the first episodes of her newsmagazine show suffered from poor ratings and reviews criticizing her interviewing skill, NBC took a chance with a Jones sit-down, which offered Kelly the opportunity to reset the show’s reputation with a viral moment.

      That the network’s executives apparently didn’t realize that news of the segment would trigger a backlash from Jones’ victims shows a tremendous lack of foresight and ignorance of the subject matter. NBC paid for that failure with a series of awful news cycles pitting their new star against traumatized families who had lost their children who castigated Kelly for giving Jones a platform.

      I believe Jones is a newsworthy subject for national news outlets. It is important for the American people to learn how the nation's most prominent conspiracy theorist has garnered a large audience and gained the ear of Trump (the circumstances were different earlier in the decade, when Media Matters criticized several networks for giving him a platform). But as I argued last week, interviewing Jones’ victims would be more likely to shed light on his character than Kelly’s initial approach of focusing on a head-to-head showdown. The week of controversy drastically changed NBC’s calculus, producing a significantly better segment than suggested by last Sunday’s preview.

      It’s too early to tell whether the Sandy Hook families who criticized the decision to interview Jones will be satisfied with the result, or if they will deal another blow to Kelly’s stature. But while Jones isn't having a meltdown, he can't feel good about the segment's clear implication that he is a dangerous extremist. And given how badly the radio host beat the network’s PR team this week, they may have something to fear from him as well.

      Kelly and her network were caught flat-footed, unable to either anticipate or successfully react as Jones repeatedly outmaneuvered them, taking control of the narrative and successfully framing the story for the national media through the propagandistic manipulations that make him such a dangerous force.

      Jones “has learned how to program the mainstream news by inciting outrage online that is then discussed and covered by mainstream media,” BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel reported after Jones released embarrassing audio of phone calls in which Kelly tries to talk him into doing the interview. “But Kelly and NBC were ill-equipped to deal with the pro-Trump media apparatus. Instead, they adhered to the traditional rules of a big television interview that assume a good-faith relationship between interviewer and interviewee.”

      Jones escalated his public relations offensive as the interview approached, releasing a Father’s Day video in which he offered “sincere condolences” to the Sandy Hook families, lied about his previous comments about the attack, and lashed out at NBC. Jones was live on the air before Kelly’s show aired, spreading rumors about Kelly and threatening to release his own recording of their interview if he was displeased with the result. After it aired, seeking to bolster the image that he won the night, he and his cronies drank a champagne toast on camera. As Jones again tried to take over the story online, the NBC News and Megyn Kelly twitter feeds went dark, ceding him the social space.

      The radio host wanted more attention, and he got it, seeking to build his audience by portraying himself as the mainstream media’s victim. Thanks to Kelly’s failure to control her own narrative, he may well succeed.

      Kelly’s segment demonstrates that, with enough pressure, broadcast outlets can produce adequate reports on the pro-Trump fringe. But the last week shows they still haven’t learned enough to effectively defend their work against an alternative media assault. And it remains to be seen whether NBC’s failure to control the narrative around Jones’ interview helped him more than an otherwise competent segment hurt him.

    • What Megyn Kelly says in leaked audio from Alex Jones

      Kelly soothes Jones’ fragile ego, assures him the interview will not be contentious, tells him that her show is about “fun,” and even promises to let Jones review any clips they use.

      Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


      Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

      Just days ahead of Megyn Kelly’s June 18 interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the Infowars founder leaked purported audio of him and the NBC anchor. Jones was seeking to defend himself because he believed that Kelly, whom he called a “modern-day Medusa,” would edit her report to make it a hit piece on Jones.

      There is no doubt that the audio was edited by Infowars. Jones released it to portray himself in a favorable light and “set the record straight” after he didn’t like NBC’s promo of his interview. Though Jones admits at points that he has done things that he is not proud of, the phone call includes several telling moments about Kelly and NBC:

      Kelly wooed Jones by downplaying his lying, conspiracy theories, and connections to harassment

      • “The reason you are interesting to me is because I followed your custody case, and I think you had a very good point about the way the media was covering it and for some reason treated you and your family and what was going on as fair game when they never would have done that, if you will, of a mainstream media figure. And I saw a different side of you in that whole thing. You just became very fascinating to me.”
      • “I just sort of thought you were this maybe, you know, one-dimensional guy. Like this is your thing. And the comments I heard from you during the course of that trial, and your plea to the media to be respectful of you and your kids just reminded me that you’re just like anybody. You know, you’re a dad.

      Kelly pledged that she wouldn’t ask Jones tough questions, that her show was “fun,” and that the interview would not be a “gotcha hit piece”

      • After Jones asked if Kelly would bring up his controversies, including his comments about Sandy Hook and Pizzagate: “No, I can ask you about that. This is not going to be a contentious, sort of, gotcha exchange. Right? That’s not what this show is and that’s really not what I want to do. I want to do in-depth profiles on people. Just interesting people. So I can ask you that, this is what the critics say. But this isn’t going to be ah-ha, let’s play a clip.
      • “I’m trying to create a different kind of program. And it’s fun. I’ll ask you about some of the controversies, of course. And you’ll say whatever you want to say. But, it’s not going to be some gotcha hit piece. I promise you that."
      • I’m not looking to portray you as some boogeyman, or, you know, do any sort of a gotcha moment. I just want to talk about you. I want people to get to know you. And the craziest thing of all would be if some of the people who have this insane version of you in their heads walk away saying, ‘You know what? I see, like, the dad in him. I see the guy who loves those kids, and who is more complex than I’ve been led to believe.’”

      Kelly told Jones he would have oversight of portions of the interview

      • “I will promise you to personally look at any clips we want to use of you. And have a producer run by you whether we are taking it in context and what you are saying about it.
      • “If I ask you about any controversy, you’ll have the chance to address it fully. And I’m not going to cut you in a way that’s going to take out the heart of your explanation or the real substance of it. I won’t do that.”
      • “We’ll do like a walk-and-talk and we’ll set up something nice. Or we can -- one of my producers will weigh in on that because they know how to make it look beautiful. And they’ll work with you and do something that’s acceptable to you.”

      Kelly referred to her audience on NBC as “the left”

      • “My goal is for your listeners, and the left who will be watching, some, on NBC, to say, ‘Wow, that was really interesting.’ All I can do is give you my word and tell you if there’s one thing about me, I do what I say I’m going to do, and I don’t double-cross. So I promise you, when it’s over you’ll say, ‘Absolutely, she did what she said she was going to do.’ And you’ll be fine with it.”

      Kelly highlighted the lack of editorial standards in cable news, such as her previous employer Fox​

      • “Truly, it’s like a whole new world over there [at NBC]. They deeply care about this kind of thing. And, it’s not that we didn’t care on cable. It’s just a different game on cable. You know, you move faster and it’s more real time. And it’s just the fact that more mistakes get made."

      Ever since Kelly floated the idea of this interview to Jones, he has been manipulating her and NBC with near impunity. As BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel wrote, “Jones has been in control of Kelly’s interview and delighting his audience every step of the way. He broke the news of the interview on his show in late May; he was the first to post teaser photos of Kelly in the Infowars studio online; he got out in front of the interview last week with a misogynistic tirade about how he wasn’t attracted to Kelly and called her and the interview ‘fake news.’”

      This trolling comes at a cost. Search traffic for Jones is at a multiyear high:

      Julie Alderman and John Whitehouse contributed to this piece. Language has been updated for clarity.

    • Days before Megyn Kelly interview airs, Alex Jones pushes more Sandy Hook conspiracy theories

      Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

      Just days before NBC is set to air an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Megyn Kelly’s new show, Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, Jones once again pushed several conspiracy theories about the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

      Kelly and NBC’s decision to interview Jones has created a firestorm of controversy, with some family members of Sandy Hook victims calling for NBC to shelve the recorded interview given that Jones has pushed toxic conspiracy theories about the shooting that spurred some of his followers to harass the families. Page Six reported that following harsh criticism of the decision to give Jones a platform, Kelly invited Sandy Hook families to be interviewed for the episode as well.

      During the June 15 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones promoted several conspiracy theories that he and others have previously used to deny that the tragedy ever happened.

      Citing the U.S. government’s use of misinformation to justify wars in the Middle East, Jones said, “If they’ll do that, then am I supposed to question Sandy Hook when it happens and they’ve got the kids going in circles in and out of the building, and they don’t call the rescue helicopters, and then instead an hour later there’s port-a-potties and food being delivered and PR firms are there and Anderson Cooper says he’s on location but he’s clearly faking the location.”

      It should go without saying that Jones’ claims about the shooting that took 26 lives are false.

      On his show, Jones continued to lie about what he has said about the Sandy Hook tragedy in the past, saying he has “looked at every angle of” the shooting and claiming that he has said previously, “It could have been totally true, could have been totally fake.” (In recent months, Jones has repeatedly claimed he was merely playing “devil’s advocate” when commenting on the shooting.)

      As Media Matters documented, in the years following the tragedy, Jones definitively stated on several occasions that the shooting did not happen. In 2014, for example, Jones said, “It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.”

      Jones has been lying about his past comments on Sandy Hook since his statements started drawing heightened scrutiny following his claim after the 2016 election that President Donald Trump would soon appear on his show. (Trump appeared on Jones show in 2015 and praised the conspiracy theorist’s “amazing” reputation.)

      Kelly’s interview is set to air June 18 at 7 p.m. EST.

      Jones’ June 15 comments on Sandy Hook:

      ALEX JONES (HOST): It is a fact that on the eve of the Gulf War in 1990 a PR firm was hired, and the daughter of the owner of the PR firm, who’d never been to Kuwait and who spoke fluent English and had been brought up in the U.S., went and testified to seeing Iraqi soldiers ripping babies out of incubators and bashing their brains out by the hundreds. This was used as the pretext to launch that war that was meant to legitimize the U.N. as a global government body and bring in a new world order as George Herbert Walker Bush said, or Bush 41. Now, if criminal elements of our government will do something like that to launch now three wars in the Middle East, back radical jihadists to take over Iraq, Syria, Libya, other areas, overthrow our allies in Egypt, kill millions of people, starve millions more, and have Madeline Albright, Clinton’s secretary of state, say a half-million kids is an OK price to pay -- in fact, let’s cue that up. If they’ll do that, then am I supposed to question Sandy Hook when it happens and they’ve got the kids going in circles in and out of the building, and they don’t call the rescue helicopters, and then instead an hour later there’s port-a-potties and food being delivered and PR firms are there and Anderson Cooper says he’s on location but he’s clearly faking the location. We looked at every angle of that. And so they’ve now misrepresented what we’ve said, that I said it could have been totally true, could have been totally fake. I didn’t progenerate. I didn’t create. I wasn't the fount of that. The things that I am the fountain of, I’ll tell you. 1776 worldwide. Rebooting America. Nationalism.

    • TV news missed an opportunity to report on unprecedented Senate health care legislation

      ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

      Evening broadcast and cable news coverage since June 1 has largely neglected ongoing Republican deliberations in the Senate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with major news networks devoting a fraction of their airtime to the prospective legislation. The sparse coverage also frequently overlooked the Republican Party’s unprecedented secrecy about its draft legislation, which Senate leaders plan to vote on before the end of the month without any input from outside experts, their Democratic colleagues, or the public.

    • Media Matters Angelo Carusone explains to USA Today why the bar is set so high for interviewing Alex Jones

      Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

      In a USA Today report, Media Matters President Angelo Carusone explained how Megyn Kelly’s upcoming NBC interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, while “not necessarily inappropriate” because of Jones’ newsworthy connections to President Donald Trump, appears to be in danger of falling short by failing to provide sufficient context and criticism of Jones.

      Kelly, desperate for “a viral moment” after her debut episode on NBC lost the ratings war to a CBS 60 Minutes re-run, traveled to Austin, Texas, to interview Jones about his rise to fame as a prominent conspiracy theorist. In previewed clips from the upcoming interview, Kelly asks Jones softball questions such as, “They call you the most paranoid man in America. Is that true?”

      While the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims have spoken out on giving a platform to Sandy Hook truther Jones, Kelly has defended the interview by claiming she wants to “shine a light” about the “considerable falsehoods” he spews. As a result of the interview, J.P. Morgan announced they would be removing ads from NBC News and Sandy Hook Promise, “a leading gun violence prevention organization,” disinvited Kelly from hosting the organization’s Promise Champions Gala.

      In the interview with USA Today, Carusone agreed there “is a really compelling case to be made that you should shine a light on Alex Jones” but also warned that the apparent purpose of Jones’ feature on Kelly’s show “was not to really draw a meaningful critique of the way that the current president gets his information and who he gets it from.” From the June 12 article:

      Megyn Kelly and NBC are facing blowback for an upcoming TV interview with the controversial radio host Alex Jones.

      Opposition quickly surfaced soon after promotional videos of the interview with the InfoWars founder, scheduled for the June 18 episode of Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, were first shown during the June 11 episode and appeared online.

      A #ShameonNBC hashtag began trending on Twitter with an outcry of concern about giving a platform to Jones, who in the past has supported conspiracy theories about the government blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 and the 9/11 terror attacks. "9/11 was an inside job," he says in the promo video.

      [...]

      NBC and Kelly's booking of Jones is not necessarily inappropriate, says Angelo Carusone, president of liberal media activist group Media Matters. "There actually is a really compelling case to be made that you should shine a light on Alex Jones because of his relationship with the current president," he said.

      However, Carusone expects, based on the preview and Kelly's past performances -- including last week's interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin -- "it appears that the reason of having Alex Jones on was not to really draw a meaningful critique of the way that the current president gets his information and who he gets it from."

      A softball interview, "allows him to promote himself," he said. "The idea he is on NBC, in and of itself, is a really big deal. What that says for his audience is that he is so important and powerful that even the people that Alex Jones speaks the worst of can’t ignore him anymore." [USA Today, 6/12/17]

    • Lost in the Trump chaos: House Republicans vote to gut financial protections

      Dangerous moves to unravel post-crisis financial protections cannot break through the Trump scandal bubble

      Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      On the same day former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate intelligence committee, the House voted to rip financial protections from millions of American consumers. The scant attention major news programs on the largest cable and broadcast outlets gave this crucial piece of legislation in the lead up to its passage highlights how little time major media outlets have dedicated to covering the Republican Party’s radical policy agenda amid the scandals emanating from the White House.

      On June 8, the Republican-led House passed the Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs (CHOICE) Act -- or simply, the “Choice Act” -- which would gut many of the consumer protections enshrined in the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. The Choice Act targets a series of reforms designed to prevent taxpayers from being forced to bail out “too big to fail” institutions in the midst of another financial crisis similar to what happened in 2008. It also weakens the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a watchdog institution set up by former President Barack Obama’s administration to protect American consumers.

      According to a synopsis published by Vox, the Choice Act would “eviscerate” reforms designed to “make a repeat of the 2008 [financial crisis] scenario less likely.” The reforms established new processes for the orderly liquidation of large financial institutions and implemented extra supervision and scrutiny for firms that pose systemic risk to the financial system. The legislation also sharply curtails the CFPB, which, as Mic explained, would make it easier for consumers to be abused by financial institutions. The CFPB and its director are seen as one of the few checks on Wall Street left in the federal government, and have been subjected to constant attack from right-wing media outlets and conservative politicians.

      Print and online news outlets such as the Associated Press, Business Insider, CNNMoney, The Hill, and ThinkProgress have covered the Choice Act fairly comprehensively, but the sweeping legislative changes it would implement barely broke through on TV. According to a Media Matters analysis, in the five weeks since the Choice Act advanced from the Financial Services Committee to a final floor vote in the House, the legislation has been mentioned just seven times during weekday prime-time cable news programs. It drew just one mention during weekday broadcast evening news programs:

      The Choice Act got in under the radar even though a coalition of 20 state attorneys general, numerous independent advocacy groups, and a wide array of experts opposed it. In a blogpost for Economic Policy Institute, economists Josh Bivens and Heidi Shierholz explained that the problems with the Choice Act go far beyond its unnecessary repeal of consumer protections enshrined in Dodd-Frank, and Ed Mierzwinski of the Public Interest Research Group criticized aspects of the law that would rescind protections available to military veterans and servicemembers. Financial regulatory expert Aaron Klein of The Brookings Institution wrote a column for Fortune slamming the Choice Act for limiting consumer access to information. The Southern Poverty Law Center also hit the legislation, decrying it for weakening oversight on predatory lenders who exploit low-income communities around the country.

      Rather than covering the Republican agenda to roll back consumer financial protections -- which Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has labeled his party’s “crown jewel” -- major national media outlets have been almost entirely consumed by the hastening pace of developments in investigations of possible collusion between Trump’s political team and the Russian government. The investigation coincided almost perfectly with Choice Act deliberations: Comey’s May 3 testimony before the Senate dominated news coverage for days, his shocking May 9 firing dominated the news for weeks, and his June 8 testimony -- on the same day the Choice Act was passed -- generated so much attention it was compared to major sporting events. Indeed, the truly damning characterizations Comey made of Trump under oath may influence the public’s perceptions of the White House for the remainder of the Trump administration.

      This is not the first time discussions about the GOP’s policy agenda have been overwhelmed by media coverage of the Trump administration’s scandals. In March, when the White House was rolling out potentially ruinous economic policy proposals, media attention was fixated instead on Trump’s false accusation that Obama had illegally wiretapped him. Though extensive media coverage is warranted for the Trump-Russia saga and other scandals surrounding the administration, the actions of Congress should not be allowed to proceed virtually unnoticed when so much is at stake.

      Chart by Sarah Wasko

      Methodology

      Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of broadcast evening news and cable prime-time (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from May 4, 2017, through June 9, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Dodd Frank or Dodd-Frank or Choice Act or CFPB or (financial w/10 regulation!).

    • Megyn Kelly turned to Alex Jones because her struggling show needs a viral moment

      Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      Just a week after mocking the breakdown in civility on cable news shows and in the White House during the premiere episode of her new NBC newsmagazine program, last night Megyn Kelly teased an upcoming interview with Infowars’ Alex Jones, the megalomaniacal radio host known for his wide range of conspiracy theories.

      The first episode of Kelly’s Sunday Night was panned by critics and lost in the ratings war against a rerun of its direct competitor, CBS’ 60 Minutes. Her Jones interview, scheduled to air June 18, is an attempt to overcome this poor start by manufacturing a “Megyn moment” -- one of those unexpected instances where Kelly calls out her right-wing guest’s nonsense. These often-viral interview segments do little to inform Kelly’s audience. But they helped her gain an undeserved reputation in the mainstream press as an impartial truth-teller -- in part by distracting observers from the extreme, race-inflected rhetoric that made her a creature of the cable news culture that she now claims to deplore.

      Kelly certainly isn’t the first television host for whom high-minded rhetoric about creating a different type of program quickly yields to the raw desire to build on the show’s audience by any possible means. But the bar is high for Kelly’s Sunday Night, a program which aspires to compete with the storied 60 Minutes brand as a source of agenda-setting interviews and investigations. To do so, the show needs to not only entertain viewers -- or build Kelly’s brand -- but actually inform them about crucial events happening in the world around them.

      As such, the clips of Kelly’s interview with Jones that were previewed last night do not inspire confidence. Kelly asked Jones questions that could not possibly yield honest or accurate responses (“They call you the most paranoid man in America. Is that true?”) and sparred with him over his claims that the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks and faked the Sandy Hook mass shooting.

      It is extremely difficult to successfully interview a conspiracy theorist who is willing to lie about what he has previously alleged. The subject can often run circles around the interviewer both because he is inevitably more familiar with the nuances of the theory and because he is willing to engage in rhetorical strategies for which the interviewer just isn’t ready. After the interview is over, the conspiracy theorist can retreat to his own media platforms to provide his own spin on what happened to an audience predisposed to believe him, not the mainstream press.

      This phenomenon was on display in March, when 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley interviewed the pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich. As BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel explained, “Pelley, like other legacy journalists who are unfamiliar or only lightly acquainted with the meme-wielding arm of the right, confronted the pro-Trump Upside Down media without an understanding of its cardinal rule: The New Right media isn’t just an opposition force to the mainstream media — it’s a parallel institution armed with its own set of facts that insists on its own reality.”

      At worst, if Kelly is similarly unprepared, she will have given a platform and the NBC imprimatur of credibility to one of the more despicable figures in that parallel press, helping him gain access to a new audience. That’s what happened back in 2011, when MSNBC, NBC, and ABC all hosted Jones to discuss actor Charlie Sheen’s bizarre interview on his show. At the time, Jones acknowledged what should have been obvious -- that he was using those opportunities to “inject Infowars.com into the discussion” in the hope that “people will come here and find the larger picture." Jones is hoping history will repeat itself, having been counseled by Infowars cohort Roger Stone to do the interview in order to “break through to the mainstream.”

      At best, Kelly will joust with Jones over his past conspiracy theories, perhaps trapping him once or twice in a way that creates a “Megyn moment,” bolstering her brand and allowing her show to recover from a rough opening. (After sitting for the interview last week, Jones linked Kelly with the “new world order” and announced to viewers that he wasn't even attracted to her, suggesting that he is not happy with the result.) But the NBC audience probably won’t learn much from an interview segment in which two people operate from contrary views of reality. And Jones will still have had the opportunity to pitch his show to her viewers, and he will be able to manipulate the result in order to build his credibility with his own audience.

      That opportunity is angering the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. On Facebook and Twitter, they have called out Kelly, describing how Jones’ conspiracy theories have spurred years of emotionally brutal harassment from his fans and warning that giving him a platform can only encourage that campaign of abuse.

      Jones is a newsworthy subject, and it’s important for the American people to know about his relationship with the president. But given the difficulty in pinning down Jones on the facts, the best way to inform a radio or television audience about Jones isn’t to build a segment around a high-profile interview with him -- it’s to interview his victims.

      Don’t ask Jones how he feels about the people who “get very angry” about him saying that the Sandy Hook parents faked their children’s death. Sit down with those family members and ask them how their lives have been changed by Jones making those claims to an audience of millions, as the BBC’s Mike Wendling did earlier this year.

      Without giving Jones the opportunity to spread his lies to a new audience, you can lay out his conspiracy theories, why they are wrong, their impact, and what it means that he has fans in the White House.

      A segment like that will educate your audience about one of the worst people in public life. It might even be riveting television. It just won’t give you a “Megyn moment.”

    • Fake news purveyors boost Putin’s claims to dismiss allegations of Russian interference in 2016 election

      Fake news purveyors have regularly functioned as pro-Trump propaganda outlets

      Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

      Fake news purveyors are citing Russian President Vladimir Putin to claim that, contrary to the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions, Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election.

      On June 4, NBC aired Putin’s interview with new host Megyn Kelly, in which he claimed he hadn’t seen “any direct proof of Russian interference in the presidential election.” He also suggested that American intelligence agencies could have fabricated evidence of hacking, saying, “There’s a theory that [President John F.] Kennedy’s assassination was arranged by the United States intelligence services.” Putin made similar remarks two days earlier during a panel discussion, which Kelly moderated, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, saying, “There is no specific evidence, no facts, just assumptions, allegations and conclusions based on those allegations nothing more.” However, U.S. intelligence agencies have all concluded “with high confidence” that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election to help President Donald Trump win, in part by hacking Democratic groups and individuals and by using bots to spread fake news and pro-Trump stories on social media.

      Fake news purveyors jumped on the interviews, praising Putin and calling the idea that Russia interfered in the election “a nonsensical theory” and “allegations that are continuously being spewed out of the mouths of the Left.” Others cited Putin to call the intelligence community’s conclusions, noted by Kelly in the interview, “absurd Russian hacking claims,” “stupid talking points,” a “clearly bogus narrative,” “Hillary Clinton campaign talking points,” and “a line of questioning that sounded as though it came straight out of the Democrat-media complex conspiracy handbook.”

      This praise for Putin’s remarks follows the repeated denial by these outlets -- which regularly function as pro-Trump propaganda outlets -- that there could be any connection between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Their framing of the issue is similar to reporting from Russian outlets RT and Sputnik, which simply parroted Putin’s highly dubious claims.

    • Ahead of Megyn Kelly’s NBC Sunday Night debut, here’s the Fox News commentary she wants you to forget

      ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

      Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly debuts a new Sunday newsmagazine show on NBC on June 4. Kelly has promoted the show as an opportunity to show viewers “a range of emotion and personality” in a way that “wasn’t possible when I was in prime-time cable news." Media Matters has spent years chronicling what we did see from Kelly at Fox; here are the worst moments.

    • What Megyn Kelly didn't tell Today show viewers about the "Russian broadcaster" she interviewed

      Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      In her first segment for NBC News, Megyn Kelly interviewed Sergey Brilev, described only as a “Russian broadcaster,” who criticized claims that the Russian government influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election. While Kelly’s viewers might have come away from the segment thinking that Brilev is an independent journalist, he’s actually a top executive at a state news agency who played a key role in one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda efforts.

      Kelly’s segment was shot in St. Petersburg and previews her upcoming interview with Putin that will air on the premiere of her new NBC newsmagazine show, Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly. Kelly presents the question of whether the Russians influenced our election as a he said, she said debate between the U.S. intelligence community, which declared that Putin “ordered a hack of Democratic officials and of Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” and Putin, Brilev, and Russians on the street who deny that happened.

      “They sincerely hope that the Americans, with your marvelous, magnificent history of democracy, will come to terms with yourselves,” Brilev tells Kelly of the notion of Russian hacking efforts as they walk through a square. After Kelly responds by saying that it would be a “pretty big deal” if Russia acted to interfere with our election, he replies, “It's humiliating -- self-humiliating for such a great country as the United States of America to think that your election was decided in Moscow.”  

      Asked by Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie what surprised her about the interviews she conducted with “people on the Russian streets,” Kelly responded in part, “Almost none believes that Russia interfered with our election.”

      Kelly seems surprised that Brilev and the Russians she spoke to don’t believe their government played a role in our election -- and her viewers may be as well. Missing from her segment is any acknowledgment that the Russian media those average Russians consume are state-run propaganda outlets that have been parroting Putin’s line -- and that Brilev is among the nation’s leading propagandists.

      Brilev is deputy director of Rossiya, a Russian state-owned television network, where he anchors a weekly news program. He is also affiliated with the Kremlin-founded Russian International Affairs Council. State-run news outlets like Rossiya serve as propaganda outlets that are allowed to exist in order to promote Putin’s worldview. “Brilev is a Putin man,” Helena Goscilo, a professor at The Ohio State University who specializes in Russian culture, confirmed to Media Matters in an email.

      Brilev is perhaps best known for his role in Direct Line with the President, the annual live broadcast in which Putin takes phone calls from Russians. The program “was presented to the public as a spontaneous exchange, [but] evidence point to the fact that it was thoroughly prepared and scripted,” writes Michael Gorham, a professor at the University of Florida who focuses on Russian communication, journalism and culture, in an essay for the 2012 book Putin as Celebrity and Cultural Icon.

      According to Gorham, Brilev was a “trusted newsreader” who anchored the first seven broadcasts of the program and subsequently “received the state Friendship medal… for [his] service.”

      In his book After Newspeak: Language Culture and Politics in Russia from Gorbachev to Putin, Gorham writes that the broadcasts were designed to create a “multi-layered image of a country that was as vast as it was united in its ethnic, demographic, and geographical diversity -- a country that shared the patriotic sentiments of its President, revered that leader, and looked to him as a ‘final authority’ when all other venues for grievances had been exhausted.”

      It beggars belief to suggest that Brilev could without reprisal dispute Putin’s statements on whether Russia interceded during the 2016 election. “Like most of Putin's supporters who are entrusted with commentary, he's quite well trained,” Goscilo commented. “The idea that he would concede that Russia attempted to interfere with the elective process is laughable.”

      Outlets that fail to push the Russian president’s views as fact are punished harshly; in 2013, Putin eliminated a “state-run news agency widely viewed as offering professional and semi-independent coverage.” News agencies that are not owned by the state face even greater challenges, including legal restrictions and violence against their reporters allegedly directed by the government.

      Interviewing Brilev without providing this context, as Kelly does, represents a failure of judgment that does not bode well for her upcoming sit-down with Putin.

      UPDATE: After the publication of this post, in a subsequent segment on tonight's NBC's Nightly News, Kelly identified Brilev as "one of the country's top broadcasters, who works at a state-run channel."