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  • Guide to right-wing media myths and facts about the Senate health care bill

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media figures are trying to curry favor for the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) by attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA), pushing lies about the BCRA, disparaging the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) or distorting its analysis of the legislation, and muddying the truth about the health care system in general. Here is a guide to the myths right-wing media are employing to sell the Senate Republican health care bill.

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Whither the Times?

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

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

  • NPR series exposes the numerous problems with Trump and DeVos’ push for private school vouchers
     

    ››› ››› BRETT ROBERTSON

    President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 education budget calls for the creation of a new federal private school voucher program. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a longtime proponent of vouchers. A recent series of NPR articles raises a number of questions about existing voucher programs and suggests that expanding vouchers is not likely to improve educational outcomes

  • This is the reporting piecing together Trump and Russia

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    March 20. CNN: Then-FBI Director James Comey confirms that the agency is investigating ties between Trump campaign and Russia. In a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the agency had an open investigation into whether there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference with the U.S. election.

    April 11. The Washington Post: FBI monitored communications of Trump’s campaign adviser Carter Page. Law enforcement and other U.S. officials told the Post that the FBI and the Department of Justice requested and received authorization to surveil Page’s communications because “there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia.”

    April 27. The Washington Post: The Pentagon opened an investigation to determine whether former national security adviser Michael Flynn broke the law by receiving money from foreign groups without being authorized to. The Post published a letter Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) released showing Flynn had been warned by a Defense Department lawyer about being “forbidden from receiving payments from foreign sources” without government permission. Since he failed to acquire that permission, the Pentagon informed Flynn that he was being investigated.

    May 9. The New York Times: Trump fired Comey. The administration said Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had recommended Comey’s firing based on his handling of the investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

    May 10. The New York Times: Trump received the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office. The meeting between Trump and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was closed off to the American press corps; only Russian media was allowed.

    May 11. The New York Times: Trump asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him. Sources told the Times that Comey shared with some associates that during a dinner in January, Trump demanded Comey pledge his loyalty to him, and Comey refused by saying all he could pledge was honesty. The White House denied it and Trump told NBC that he never asked that of Comey.

    May 11. NBC News: Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt he had planned to fire Comey before he received a recommendation to do so. In the televised interview, Trump also referred to Comey as a “showboat” and admitted that he had asked the former FBI director whether he was also under investigation.

    May 15. The Washington Post: Trump revealed classified information to the Russians during their Oval Office meeting. “Current and former U.S.officials” told the Post that Trump revealed “highly classified information” to Lavrov and Kislyak that had been given to the U.S. by an ally. The White House denied the report through national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who said that nothing was disclosed that wasn’t “already known publicly.”

    May 16. The Washington Post: Trump tweeted an acknowledgement of having shared classified information with Russia. In his tweets the next day, Trump undercut the White House’s narrative that the sharing had not occurred, by writing that he had “the absolute right to do so.” After Trump contradicted McMaster’s version from the day before, the national security adviser briefed the press, saying Trump’s decision to share the information was spur-of-the-moment and that Trump “wasn’t even aware of where this information came from.”

    May 16. The New York Times: Israel was the ally who provided the U.S. with the information Trump shared with the Russian officials. Current and former officials told the Times that Israel had provided the information Trump disclosed. According to the Times, the disclosure “could damage the relationship between the two countries.”

    May 16. The New York Times: Comey memo indicated Trump asked him to stop Flynn investigation. The Times reported that Comey wrote a memo after meeting Trump in February, in which he documented the president requesting him to shut down the investigation into Flynn’s ties with Russia by asking him to “let this go.” According to the Times, it’s “the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence” federal investigations into his associates and Russia.

    May 17. NPR: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller appointed special counsel of Russia investigation. The Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller, who preceded Comey as FBI director, as special counsel to lead the probe into Russia’s intervention into the 2016 elections and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

    May 17. The New York Times: Trump knew Flynn was being investigated when he appointed him. Two sources told the Times that Flynn told Trump’s transition team “weeks before the inauguration” that he was being investigated for “secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey,” but Trump made him national security adviser nevertheless.

    May 19. The Washington Post: A current White House official is being investigated as part of the Russia probe. Sources told the Post that a current White House official is “a significant person of interest” in the federal investigation looking into the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    May 19. The New York Times: During the meeting with Russian officials, Trump said firing Comey eased “great pressure” from the Russia investigation. A document summarizing the May 10 meeting between Trump and Russian officials showed that Trump told Lavrov and Kislyak that firing “nut job” Comey had “taken off” the “great pressure because of Russia.”

    May 19. CNN: Russian officials bragged that their Flynn connections would allow them to influence Trump. Sources told CNN that Russian officials had bragged about their connections to Flynn as a strategic advantage that they could use to “influence Donald Trump and his team.”

    May 20. CNN: A source close to Comey said the former FBI director believes Trump tried “to influence his judgment about the Russia probe.”

    May 22. The Washington Post: Trump asked two intelligence officials to “publicly deny” collusion between his campaign and Russia. Former and current officials told the Post that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and Director of the National Security Agency Michael Rogers to push back against the Russia investigation and deny the “existence of any evidence of collusion.” Both officials refused and deemed the requests inappropriate.

    May 23. The New York Times: Former CIA Director Brennan “had unresolved questions” about Trump and Russia ties. During testimony to the House intel committee, Former CIA Director John Brennan said “he was concerned” by, as the Times reported, “suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and Mr. Trump’s associates.” Brennan testified that he “had unresolved questions” about “whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”

    May 24. The New York Times: In the summer of 2016 senior Russian officials were intercepted discussing how they would influence Trump. As reported by the New York Times, American intelligence "collected information" last year that showed senior Russian "intelligence and political" officials were focused on using Flynn and Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, "to exert influence over Donald J. Trump."

    May 25. The Washington Post: The FBI is now looking at Jared Kushner in conjunction with its investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Post reported May 19 that the FBI’s investigation included a focus on a senior White House official but didn’t name the individual. A week later, the Post reported that, while he is not a central focus, the FBI is looking at meetings between Kushner and Russians given “the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians.”

    May 26. The Washington Post: Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin. In a May 26 article, the Post reported that according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports, Kushner "discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities." The conversation took place during a meeting between Kushner, Flynn, and Kislyak, and according to the Post, it was "an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring." 

    May 30. The New York Times: Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen was asked to testify before Senate and House intel committees investigating Russia ties. Cohen declined to cooperate saying the requests were “poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered.”

    May 30. The Washington Post: Michael Flynn expected to hand over documents and records to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sources told the Post that Flynn is expected to “hand over documents and records to the Senate Intelligence Committee.” The documents were subpoenaed by the committee to aid in its investigation of Russia’s intervention in the U.S. presidential election. Flynn’s attorneys indicated Flynn would “start turning over” the requested information.

    May 30. ABC News: Trump associate Boris Ephsteyn has received “a request for information” from the House Intelligence Committee. Former White House press officer Boris Epshteyn confirmed that “he has received a request for information and testimony from the House Intelligence Committee.” His lawyer said in a statement that Epshteyn hasn’t been subpoenaed and is asking the committee to specify the kind of information it is seeking to decide whether Ephsteyn will be “able to reasonably provide it.”

    May 31. CNN: Comey expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sources told CNN that Comey will testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee to reportedly shed light on the accusation that Trump asked Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into Flynn’s interactions with Russia.

    June 1. The New York Times: Putin suggests that “patriotic hackers” from Russia could have meddled in the U.S. presidential election. During an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “patriotically minded” hackers in Russia may have interfered with the American presidential election. Putin also insisted that none of the meddling was supported by Russian officials.

    June 4. Reuters: Putin denied Russia meddled in the U.S. election, downplayed his relationship with Flynn. In an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, Putin denied that the Russian government had meddled in the U.S. election, saying intelligence agencies “have been misled.” Putin added, “They aren’t analyzing the information in its entirety. I haven’t seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the presidential election.” Putin called Kelly’s questions on the topic a “load of nonsense.” Putin also denied having classified information implicating Trump and downplayed his relationship with Flynn.

    June 6. The Washington PostTrump asked top intelligence official to ask Comey to halt investigation into Flynn. Coats told associates that Trump had complained to him and CIA Director Mike Pompeo about Comey and the FBI investigation into Russia. Besides requesting that intelligence officials publicly deny that there was any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Trump attempted to have top intelligence officials stop Comey from continuing the FBI’s investigation.

    June 14. The Washington Post: Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice. Officials told the Post that Mueller is widening the scope of the probe into Russian intervention in the 2016 election to investigate  whether Trump “attempted to obstruct justice.” Officials are examining Trump’s firing of former FBI Director Comey and “any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates.”

  • How The Media Covered Hate Groups Last Week, 5/1/17- 5/7/17

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    In reporting on President Donald Trump's "religious liberty" executive order last week, some outlets highlighted important anti-LGBTQ details while others failed to acknowledge activists' extremism. The Washington Post fact-checked a Trump speech, exposing that it included a lie peddled by the hate group Family Research Council. Local papers The Orange County Register and Portland Business Journal exposed anti-LGBTQ hate groups Alliance Defending Freedom and Traditional Values Coalition in their coverage. National outlets -- including CNN, CBS, and USA Today -- spoke with anti-LGBTQ hate groups about the order but failed to identify the groups’ extremism, merely describing them as “conservative,” “evangelical,” and “faith” groups. Separately, NPR continued its streak of hosting hate group leaders without context.

  • NPR Continues To Uncritically Host Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Alliance Defending Freedom

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    NPR’s Morning Edition hosted an attorney from the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to discuss the executive order that President Donald Trump signed today weakening the tax code restrictions on religious organizations’ political activity and promoting “religious liberty.” NPR failed, yet again, to note ADF’s anti-LGBTQ extremism and that Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has recently designated it as a hate group.

    On the May 4 edition of NPR’s Morning Edition, host Steve Inskeep interviewed NPR’s Tom Gjelten and ADF senior counsel Greg Baylor about the executive order that Trump signed later that day. The executive order, according to a senior White House Official, aims to weaken the tax code restrictions on religious organizations’ political activity. These restrictions -- known as the “Johnson Amendment” -- were intended to “prevent donors from deducting political contributions from their federal income tax” and have been a long-standing target of far-right religious extremists and anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Since 2008, ADF has led an annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” as part of its efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment and has been the driving force behind many of the “religious freedom” bills proposed in state legislatures.

    Inskeep described ADF as an organization that “advocates for religious freedom on religious freedom issues” -- failing to note ADF’s long-standing history of extremism and misinformation. Inskeep also failed to mention that ADF was designated as a hate group by SPLC for working to criminalize LGBTQ people, both in the U.S. and abroad. NPR has repeatedly hosted anti-LGBTQ extremists without providing much-needed context for its listeners; after hosting a hate group leader in 2015, NPR’s Diane Rehm even acknowledged that the network needs to “do a better job of being more careful about identification.” NPR has faced routine criticism for its coverage of LGBTQ issues.

    During the segment, Baylor mischaracterized regulations in the Affordable Care Act as an “abortion pill mandate” and failed to note that existing religious freedom protection allow organizations to opt out of providing coverage if they notify the government. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits mentioned by Baylor argue that the even process of opting out of providing insurance coverage for forms of contraception that they falsely deem "abortifacients" poses a "substantial burden" to their religious beliefs. Baylor also lamented that the executive order didn’t go far enough to protect people who object "on religious or moral grounds from violating their convictions through the content of their health care plan.” Inskeep did not clarify that this type of order would codify broad-based discrimination in health care for any number of reasons, including sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or even interracial relationships.

    STEVE INSKEEP (HOST): Let's bring another voice into the conversation because Greg Baylor is with us also. He's a senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which advocates for religious freedom on religious freedom issues. Thanks for coming by. Good morning.

    GREGORY BAYLOR: It's great to be here.

    INSKEEP: And for wearing a tie early in the morning, really appreciate that, really great. Was this executive order what you wanted?

    BAYLOR: I would say that, you know, the two words that come to mind in seeing the outline of this upcoming executive order are disappointment and hope. There's disappointment because it's not all that we hoped that it would be. But we do have hope that this perhaps is just the first step in the Trump administration's effort to fulfill its campaign promise that he made on the campaign trail that he would fully protect religious freedom, that he would protect people like the Little Sisters, that he would stop his administration being something that really interferes significantly with the religious freedom of people.

    INSKEEP: Let’s ask you about both parts of that. First, you said disappointed. It doesn’t do very much. What is limiting about this executive order so far as we know, granted, we don’t have the text yet?

    BAYLOR: Yeah, we don’t have the text yet, but with regards to the HHS abortion pill mandate, all that it says is that it's going to provide regulatory relief. That is disappointingly vague especially given how long we’ve had to discuss this issue. These lawsuits were filed, some of them back in 2012, many of them in 2013 and ‘14. And the answer to this problem has been quite obvious all along. What this administration needs to do is to craft an exemption that prohibits everyone who objects on religious and moral grounds from violating their convictions through the content of their health plan. This is the obvious answer and it’s not done in this executive order.

    INSKEEP: Let’s just remember what this debate is about. We’re talking about women’s contraception here. We’re talking about private employers who are providing insurance. They’re required to have essential benefits as part of the insurance, and some people objected to providing contraception, and they want this exemption. That’s what you’re discussing here, right?

    BAYLOR: Although there’s one important distinction to point out. Many of the objectors did not object to contraceptives. Generally, they objected only to the ones that cause abortion. All of my Protestant clients object only to abortion. This is something that had never been mandated. It wasn’t required to be mandated in the Affordable Care Act and when the Obama administration implemented this, they tipped their hat to religious freedom by crafting an extraordinarily narrow religious exemption that only protected a few. And essentially the case that we’ve been making all along is don’t differentiate in the field of religious liberty. You should protect the normal class of religious organizations that are protected in other contexts.

    Inskeep concluded the interview with a chuckle, while saying, “And I imagine we can expect plenty of people on the other side of the debate from Mr. Baylor to weigh in as the day goes on.”

  • Ahead Of Marches This Month, Scientists Are Speaking Up Against Trump And GOP’s Attacks On Science

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    President Donald Trump and the Republican Party have demonstrated an alarming disregard for science and evidence-based policy and decision-making, prompting scientists to voice their concerns.

    Since the election, multiple media outlets have accused the Trump administration and the Republican Party of waging a “war on science.” And with good reason: The Trump administration has appointed a climate denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), proposed budget cuts that would eliminate billions of dollars for scientific research programs, called climate-related government programs “a waste of money,” and banned the use of the term “climate change” at the Department of Energy. As for the rest of the GOP, House Republicans have passed bills that would “stifle science at the EPA,” and the Republican-led House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has endorsed climate science denial and bogus accusations of data manipulation promulgated by propaganda outlet Breitbart.com. The committee has also held a hearing aimed at disputing the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.

    These alarming trends have prompted scientists, educators, and other citizens to organize and participate in the March for Science and the People’s Climate March at end of April. But in the months leading up to the marches, scientists have been voicing their concerns in the media. Here are a few recent examples of scientists speaking out against the Trump administration and GOP’s anti-science policies, science denial, and ignorance.

    Ben Santer Rebutted Trump’s “Ignorance” On Climate Science

    On the February 23 edition of Late Night with Seth Meyers, climate scientist Ben Santer appeared on the show as a private citizen, explaining, “It seems kind of important to talk about the science that we do, but I'm not sure how the folks who fund my research will feel about that. So it just seems kind of safer to do it this way.” When Meyers mentioned that Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” Santer answered that it “feels tough” to have his life’s work dismissed as a conspiracy and a hoax, but added, “You have a choice. What do you do with that? You can either retreat to your office, close the door, and be silent. Or you can choose to push back against ignorance and say, ‘Hey, this is not our understanding. We know something about the causes of climate change.’” Santer concluded by stating, “I want to tell people, this is our understanding. These are the likely outcomes if we do nothing about the problem of human-caused climate change. And let's have a respectful, honest debate on what to do about it. But let's not dismiss this incorrectly as a hoax or a conspiracy. We all lose if we embrace ignorance with open arms.”

    Santer also appeared on CBS Evening News the day after Trump took his biggest step yet toward fulfilling his campaign promise to dial back former President Barack Obama's climate policies. In an interview with correspondent John Blackstone, Santer discussed Trump’s anti-science views and policies, a letter he wrote to Trump urging him not to listen to “ignorant voices” denying climate change, and the “new climate of intimidation” that the Trump administration has created for scientists.

    Michael Mann Called Out Lamar Smith And Scott Pruitt For Their Climate Denial

    On the April 7 edition of NPR’s Science Friday, Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann discussed his appearance as the sole witness voicing the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change in a House science committee hearing that The Washington Post described as “an act of gamesmanship from a body intent on manufacturing doubt on scientific issues which have long been settled.” Mann described House science committee Chairman Lamar Smith as a “climate change denier” who has “spent much of his time as the chair of the House science committee going on the attack against climate scientists” and “taken on an adversarial position when it comes to the science of climate change.” Mann added that he thought the hearing was “intended to try to convey [Smith’s] doubts and his critiques of the science.”

    When asked by host Ira Flatow why Mann decided to appear before the committee knowing that he would face opposition, Mann replied:

    My good friend Bill Nye the Science Guy has really demonstrated, I think, that you do sometimes have to take the science straight to the critics. You really do have to take on science denial because if it goes unopposed then some of it becomes sort of accepted. The doubts, the confusion becomes part of the discourse and it clouds the public understanding of science. And so we do need to do our best to inject science into those fora, and so that’s what I saw my role as being, to really communicate why it is that there is such a widespread consensus about human-caused climate change.

    And during the committee hearing in question, after Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) brought up the roles of climate deniers Myron Ebell and Scott Pruitt in Trump’s EPA, Mann lamented that the EPA is now headed by a climate denier for the first time ever, stating that “to have an EPA administrator who has a position that’s so at odds with the scientific evidence -- there is no precedent, even in past Republican administrations, under Nixon, under Reagan, under George H.W. Bush. They each had EPA administrators that embraced science.”

    Gavin Schmidt: House Science Committee Hearing Aimed To “Obfuscate Well Characterized, Oft Reproduced, Inconvenient Science”

    On the day of the House science committee hearing, NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt criticized Republicans’ attacks on climate science, tweeting that the committee’s hearing was “being held to obfuscate well characterized, oft reproduced, inconvenient science”:

    Katharine Hayhoe: Appointing Pruitt Head Of EPA Is “Like Putting One Of The World’s Leading Atheists In Charge Of The Church Of England”

    On the April 3 episode of Crooked Media’s Pod Save America podcast, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe told hosts Tommy Vietor and Jon Lovett that the selection of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator was “like putting one of the world’s leading atheists in charge of the Church of England. It just doesn’t make sense. Why would you do that?” When asked what worried Hayhoe the most about Trump’s executive order rolling back Obama’s climate legacy, she answered, “The most concerning thing to me is that these regulations are going to be rolling the United States back from an international perspective, from a technological perspective -- back into even possibly a second-world country.”

    TOMMY VIETOR (CO-HOST): It’s hard to overstate what a radical pick Scott Pruitt was to run the EPA. He’s sued the agency 14 times, he doesn’t believe that CO2 is a primary driver of climate change, which is stunning. Even ExxonMobil has said that. Can you talk about his selection -- what it means for U.S. climate policy. Is there anything states, cities, or citizens can do to weigh in and push back?

    KATHARINE HAYHOE: Yeah, I agree, I mean putting somebody who doesn’t believe in something in charge of that very institution is like putting one of the world’s leading atheists in charge of the Church of England. It just doesn’t make sense. Why would you do that?

    [...]

    JON LOVETT (CO-HOST): So, one thing that Trump did, speaking of these standards, is an executive order called the Energy Independence Order, or something like that? But really it’s about rolling back the clean climate plan -- uh, the Clean Power Plan. It was sort of a catch-all, there was a lot in there. What is the most worrisome to you?

    HAYHOE: Yeah. [Laughs] Well, where should I start? So first of all, though, let’s be clear. The Clean Power Plan was what the president could do with the abilities that he had at the time, but it would not take us all the way to the Paris agreement. So the Paris agreement, signed about a year and half ago almost, says that we should limit warming to at least 2 degrees and possibly 1.5 if we can to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. And the Clean Power Plan was only part of the way there. We needed more. Now of course we’re looking at not even that, we’re looking at a lot less. But we’re also looking at things that just lack common sense, like investing in the coal economy when there’s already twice as many jobs in the solar industry, and coal jobs have been dropping like a rock, not because of the Clean Power Plan, but just because it’s not as economically viable a form of energy anymore. It’s like investing in shoring up horse farms when Henry Ford is already rolling out the Model T on his assembly line.

    Honestly, the most concerning thing to me is that these regulations are going to be rolling the United States back from an international perspective, from a technological perspective -- back into possibly even a second-world country. China is already poised to take the leadership, not just in the clean energy economy -- they’re already taken leadership there -- but with the climate plan as well. So the U.S. is losing leadership, and how long will it take to regain, if ever?

    Kevin Trenberth and Reto Knutti: Comments By Trump, Pruitt, And Smith Show A“Woeful Ignorance” Of Science And Climate Change

    Climate scientists Kevin Trenberth and Reto Knutti co-authored an April 5 op-ed published in The Conversation decrying the Trump administration’s climate science denial: “The kinds of statements made by Smith, the president and Pruitt are misguided. They show a woeful ignorance about science and how it works, and in particular about climate science. Consequently, they ignore sound advice on how to best plan for the future.” They added, “The failure of Lamar Smith and his ilk to recognize that climate scientists ask legitimate scientific questions, and moreover, that they that they provide very useful information for decision-makers, is a major loss for the public.”

    From the April 5 op-ed:

    Chairman Smith accused climate scientists of straying “outside the principles of the scientific method.” Smith repeated his oft-stated assertion that scientific method hinges on “reproducibility,” which he defined as “a repeated validation of the results.” He also asserted that the demands of scientific verification altogether preclude long-range prediction, saying, “Alarmist predictions amount to nothing more than wild guesses. The ability to predict far into the future is impossible. Anyone stating what the climate will be in 500 years or even at the end of the century is not credible.”

    At the same time, President Trump has been dismissive of climate change and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in March that “measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do…so, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

    The kinds of statements made by Smith, the president and Pruitt are misguided. They show a woeful ignorance about science and how it works, and in particular about climate science. Consequently, they ignore sound advice on how to best plan for the future.

    […]

    Accordingly, we have many facts and physical understanding of the Earth’s climate. The role of scientists is to lay out the facts, their interpretation, and the prospects and consequences as best we can. But the decision about what is done with this information is the responsibility of everyone, including and often led by politicians. The failure of Lamar Smith and his ilk to recognize that climate scientists ask legitimate scientific questions, and moreover, that they that they provide very useful information for decision-makers, is a major loss for the public.

    Brenda Ekwurzel’s Message To Scott Pruitt: “Listen To The Scientists”

    During a March 9 report about Pruitt’s comment that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming, CBS Evening News correspondent Chip Reid asked senior climate scientist and director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists Brenda Ekwurzel, “If you were talking to Mr. Pruitt right now, what would you tell him?” Ekwurzel replied, “Listen to the scientists. Ninety-seven percent of scientists who have studied climate change agree that carbon dioxide is the primary cause of human-driven climate change.”

    Victoria Herrmann: “I Am An Arctic Researcher. Donald Trump Is Deleting My Citations”

    Victoria Herrmann, managing director of the Arctic Institute, wrote a March 28 op-ed in The Guardian about “politically motivated data deletions” of her work by the Trump administration. Though Herrmann was able to find archived materials to replace defunct links to her work, she wrote that having to do so evoked “a bit of anger at the state of the country.” She continued, “The consequences of vanishing citations, however, pose a far more serious consequence than website updates. Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence.” Herrmann concluded, “While working in one of the most physically demanding environments on the planet, we don’t have time to fill new data gaps created by political malice. So please, President Trump, stop deleting my citations.”

    From the op-ed:

    At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The US National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.

    [...]

    All in all, emails about defunct links of sites that weren’t saved are annoying, but harmless. Finding archived materials to replace them add maybe 20 minutes of internet searches to my day – and a bit of anger at the state of the country.

    The consequences of vanishing citations, however, pose a far more serious consequence than website updates. Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence.

    […]

    These back-to-back data deletions come at a time when the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. Just this week, it was reported that the Arctic’s winter sea ice dropped to its lowest level in recorded history. The impacts of a warming, ice-free Arctic are already clear: a decline in habitat for polar bears and other Arctic animals; increases in coastal erosion that force Alaskans to abandon their homes; and the opening up of shipping routes with unpredictable conditions and hazardous icebergs.

    In a remote region where data is already scarce, we need publicly available government guidance and records now more than ever before. It is hard enough for modern Arctic researchers to perform experiments and collect data to fill the gaps left by historic scientific expeditions. While working in one of the most physically demanding environments on the planet, we don’t have time to fill new data gaps created by political malice.

    So please, President Trump, stop deleting my citations.

    Ploy Achakulwisut and Geoffrey Supran: “We Became Scientists To Help The World. Now We Need To Take To The Streets.”

    Scientists Ploy Achakulwisut and Geoffrey Supran co-authored an April 11 op-ed published in Mashable explaining that “the Trump administration's unrelenting attacks on climate science and our generation's future” had motivated them to participate in the People’s Climate March on April 29. They urged readers to do the same, adding, “Their attacks on climate science are an affront to all the scientists working to understand and solve this singular crisis of our time. … Now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate that the majority of the public understands the realities of climate science and demands clean air, clean water, and clean energy.”

    From the op-ed:

    As scientists and as a couple in our twenties, it's been excruciating to watch the Trump administration's unrelenting attacks on climate science and our generation's future. Knowing that policy decisions made over the next four years could impact the lives of hundreds of generations to come, we're more determined than ever to do not only our best work as scientists, but our best activism as citizens.

    On April 29, we'll stand up for climate science, justice, and democracy in the People's Climate March. If you're appalled at the Trump administration's anti-climate agenda, we hope you'll join us.

    [...]

    Then Donald Trump was elected, and our battles to stand up for science became a war. President Trump, EPA head Scott Pruitt, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Chairman of the House Science Committee Lamar Smith are just some of the many politicians abusing their positions of power to advance their ideological agendas. Their attacks on climate science are an affront to all the scientists working to understand and solve this singular crisis of our time. What's more, people's lives are at stake. "The War on Science is more than a skirmish over funding, censorship, and 'alternative facts,'" says scientist Jon Foley. "It's a battle for the future, basic decency, and the people we love."

    Now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate that the majority of the public understands the realities of climate science and demands clean air, clean water, and clean energy. That we won’t allow our democracy to be hijacked by Big Oil and billionaire ideologues. We've already seen how concerted opposition by activists, lawyers, and journalists can stop the Trump administration in its tracks on immigration and health care. We are not powerless to change the course of history.

  • How Cable TV Inadvertently Shined A Light On The Obstacles Women Of Color Face In The Workplace

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The intersectional discrimination women of color often face while doing their jobs was put on full display this past week when Fox host Bill O’Reilly and White House press secretary Sean Spicer attacked Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and veteran journalist April Ryan on their appearance and body language, respectively. The incidences, which both occurred in unusually public settings, inadvertently shined a light on the discrimination women of color too often face in their workplaces, while the subsequent reactions from right-wing media underscored the problems that hold women of color back.

    This week, cable TV viewers watched as O’Reilly mocked Waters’ hair, saying, “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.” That same day, Spicer lashed out at Ryan -- who had previously been at the receiving end of President Donald Trump’s overtly racist remarks -- interrupting their back-and-forth to comment, “Please stop shaking your head again.” The same week, The New York Times reported that two female African-American Fox News employees were suing the network over “top-down racial harassment” that was “reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.”

    The pile-on of attacks revealed a unique obstacle women of color confront in their daily lives: the compounding effects of gender and racial discrimination. Researchers acknowledge that there is a dearth of research examining the intersection between sexist and racist attacks in the workplace. A number of studies, however, have revealed concerning statistics about barriers to success that women of color face. CNN reported on a University of California Hastings College of the Law study, writing, “While 66% of the women scientists [professor Joan] Williams studied (including white women) reported having to provide more evidence of competence than men, 77% of black women said they experienced that.” There have been multiple studies that highlight “unconscious bias” against women, and others that reveal more overt discrimination -- both of which have serious consequences in the long run.

    Additionally, research shows that sexual harassment is more prevalent for women of color than it is for white women. Researchers at Fordham University School of Law attributed this phenomenon to “racialized sex stereotypes that pervade sexual harassment.”

    Studies and anecdotes continue to reaffirm the double hurdle women of color must clear in order to get hired, get promoted, and earn equal pay.

    The problems surrounding equal pay exemplify the issues unique to women of color. Recent research on the gender pay gap by the American Association of University Women found that “progress” to close income disparities between genders “has stalled in recent years” and that the pay gaps between genders and between racial/ethnic groups “cannot be explained by factors known to affect earnings and is likely due, at least in part, to discrimination.” The Center for American Progress recently found that while women overall earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, that gap widens by 19 cents for black women compared to white men. This “translates into an average lifetime earnings gap of $877,480 for each African-American woman versus her white male counterparts.” Latina women appear to fare even worse than other minorities; Pew Research Center estimated that in 2015, Latinas earned 58 cents for every dollar a man earned compared to the 82 cents per dollar that white women earn.

    Furthermore, conservative media outlets often obfuscate the issue of gender and racial discrimination in the workplace, which creates an obstacle in addressing the root of the problem. Right-wing media have repeatedly justified -- or denied the existence of -- the gender pay gap and have attempted to undermine progress in closing the gap.

    And while many people rallied in support of Waters and Ryan, many conservative figures ignored, defended, or even cheered on the assailants. USA Today pointed out that “Breitbart, the news site with ties to Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, didn't appear to mention O'Reilly's comment, but published a post called ‘Maxine Waters: Something is “wrong” with Trump “He doesn't deserve to be president.”'” One conservative pundit covered up for O’Reilly’s sexist and racist commentary, falsely equating his attack on Waters to liberals calling Trump “orange.” Spicer received a similar wave of support from conservative outlets for his attacks on Ryan.

    Experts say that the discrimination that women of color face while doing their jobs is difficult to prove. But this past week, cable TV viewers witnessed them firsthand. Impunity for O'Reilly and Spicer after their attacks on Waters and Ryan could make it even more difficult for women of color to eliminate barriers to their success.

    Illustration by Dayanita Ramesh.

  • Public Media Executives: Trump's "Foolish" Public Broadcasting Cuts Will Hurt “Small-Town America”

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    President Donald Trump’s proposal to gut funding for public broadcasting in his new budget released Thursday would mostly harm residents of small rural towns, many of who are Republican voters, according to public TV and radio executives.

    The 2018 budget plan from the White House would eliminate all federal subsidies for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which was allotted $445 million to fund local National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations and productions in the 2017 federal budget. Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services -- which totaled more than $500 million in the 2017 budget -- would also be eliminated. 

    While some of the larger stations would see a smaller reduction in their budgets -- between 2 percent and 7 percent -- some smaller stations in rural areas depend on the funding for up to 30 percent of their operating costs, station managers say. And many of those stations are often one of the few sources for news and information in their locations.

    “At smaller radio stations, there is no question the cuts would be more significant, for stations in rural areas particularly where there are strong constituents for Donald Trump, one of the ironies,” said Bill Davis, president of Southern California Public Radio, which operates several stations led by KPCC in Pasadena. “It would be a significant hit at every level of decentralized public media we have here. You are going to have different impacts, but they are all pretty significant.”

    For his stations, it would mean a $1.2 million to $1.4 million annual reduction. “That would be a cut of about 12 employees,” he said. “It’s a real hit. Even at the largest station level, this will have potential significant consequences.”

    William J. Marrazzo, CEO of Philadelphia's WHYY-TV and WHYY-FM, agreed.

    “The lion’s share of the money does find its way into local station hands and the term is Community Service Grants,” he said. “The CPB makes definite grants to local public television and local public radio stations.”

    He said about 7 percent of his budget comes from the federal government, around $2.5 million per year. But smaller stations need it even more.

    “It puts more of the money into communities that don’t have that local infrastructure to build out that universal access model,” Marrazzo said. “It hurts. It’s a very tiny percentage of the federal appropriation and any cut of any size is coming at a time when there is growing evidence that the American public wants more and more from its local public media companies. It is clear by all the research that we conduct that public media has the most trusted form of news and information, that public media has the easiest portal to giving people access to creative expression.”

    Public broadcasting veterans and local executives stressed that the biggest impact of such cuts will be on the most needy citizens, those with few free broadcasting options.

    “Public stations provide truthful journalism, cultural, educational content throughout the country and today, 170 million people from urban and rural areas alike enjoy and learn from their local public stations that provide content that commercial broadcasting cannot produce,” Anthony Brandon, president and general manager of WYPR Public Radio in Baltimore, said via email. “De-funding public media is foolish and hurts local stations in red and blue states. We hope Congress will think of the origins of the CPB while the funding debate goes on.”

    Jeffrey Dvorkin, a former vice president of news and information at NPR and former NPR ombudsman, called the cuts “very disturbing.”

    “In the past, public broadcasting has had very strong support in Republican districts. They are listening and it is reasonably balanced,” he said. “In my time at NPR I heard from a lot of conservatives who did not always agree, but they liked the programming. In some important ways public broadcasting is infrastructure, it is important.”

    He said CPB pays for up to 30 percent of operational budgets for many stations in smaller areas with smaller populations.

    “Small-town America in the middle of the country, in Alaska, where there’s a large population of people who depend on broadcasters for an informational lifeline,” Dvorkin said. “The whole concept of what is in the public interest has been hijacked by conservative think tanks and thinking.”

    Asked what will happen if the funding is cut so dramatically, Dvorkin said, “It will be a monopoly situation for talk radio because as some of these stations are finding out now they cannot exist. As these stations are driven close to bankruptcy, their license will be picked up by talk radio and commercial TV.”

    Alicia Shepard, a former NPR ombudsman, called this funding threat among “the most serious” in NPR and PBS history.

    "This is not the first time, they are threatened. But it is the most serious,” she said via email. “It would be a big mistake to eliminate funding for NPR and PBS.  The amount that goes to fair, balanced and thoughtful reporting is minuscule in comparison to the defense budget.” She also noted, “let's not forget that PBS and NPR act as the government's emergency broadcasting network. And in rural areas, PBS and NPR might be all people have access to."

    Leaders of the CPB and PBS each issued strong criticisms of the budget plan today.

    "PBS and our nearly 350 member stations, along with our viewers, continue to remind Congress of our strong support among Republican and Democratic voters, in rural and urban areas across every region of the country,” PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger said in her statement. “We have always had support from both parties in Congress, and will again make clear what the public receives in return for federal funding for public broadcasting. The cost of public broadcasting is small, only $1.35 per citizen per year, and the benefits are tangible: increasing school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, lifelong learning, public safety communications and civil discourse."
     
    She also cited two new national surveys -- by conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports and from collaboration of Republican polling firm American Viewpoint and Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates -- that revealed voters “across the political spectrum overwhelmingly oppose eliminating federal funding for public television. Rasmussen shows that just 21% of Americans – and only 32% of Republicans –favor ending public broadcasting support. In the PBS Hart Research-American Viewpoint poll, 83% of voters – including 70% of those who voted for President Trump – say they want Congress to find savings elsewhere.”

    Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the CPB, stated:

    There is no viable substitute for federal funding that ensures Americans have universal access to public media’s educational and informational programming and services. The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions for Americans in rural and urban communities alike.

    Public media is one of America’s best investments. At approximately $1.35 per citizen per year, it pays huge dividends to every American. From expanding opportunity, beginning with proven children’s educational content to providing essential news and information as well as ensuring public safety and homeland security through emergency alerts, this vital investment strengthens our communities. It is especially critical for those living in small towns and in rural and underserved areas.

    Viewers and listeners appreciate that public media is non-commercial and available for free to all Americans. We will work with the new Administration and Congress in raising awareness that elimination of federal funding to CPB begins the collapse of the public media system itself and the end of this essential national service.

    Bill Moyers, the award-winning PBS host and news legend, also spoke out against the proposed cuts. He told Media Matters that a decades-long crusade by some conservatives to eliminate public broadcasting may succeed "now that they control the White House, the House, and the Senate," while also offering a measure of hope, predicting that "it won’t be the end of us. There’s strong support across the country for public television –- especially children’s and cultural programming –- and even stronger appreciation for NPR’s news and public affairs programming." 

    Moyers added that the proposed cuts would mean "many of the smallest stations around the country will struggle and likely perish and the people who supported Trump outside the large metropolitan areas will lose a cultural presence in their lives that they value." He concluded, "Still, I can’t believe the public at large wants to see public television or public radio disappear and will rally to support both public television and radio in new ways."

  • Media Can't Stop Pining For Another Trump Pivot

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    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.

  • How Right-Wing Media Are Lying To Protect Trump's Muslim Ban

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Since President Donald Trump signed a controversial executive order banning visitors and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, conservative media figures have defended him as being “within his mandate” as president and claimed the constitutionality of the order is “crystal clear,” but the recent federal appeals court decision against his order proves otherwise. Here are some of the right-wing media myths -- and the corresponding facts -- on Trump’s Muslim ban:

  • The Muslim Ban Is A Religious Test Built On A False Premise

    Right-Wing Media Adopt Trump’s Absurd Claim That His Executive Order Is Not A Muslim Ban

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    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.

  • This Is How Media Botched ACA Headlines Again

    Media Need To Stop Falling For The Trump Soundbite Trap

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    News outlets rushed to report on President Donald Trump’s executive order on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without knowing what exactly it entailed, resulting in botched headlines that uncritically repeated the false claims made by the Trump Administration.

    Late on Friday night, Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that Trump had signed his first executive order on the ACA claiming that it would “ease the burden of Obamacare as we transition from repeal and replace.” Even before the official text of the executive order was released, reporters rushed to file stories with wildly inaccurate headlines such as Politico’s “Trump signs sweeping order that could gut Obamacare” and The Washington Post’s “Trump signs executive order that could effectively gut Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.” Others just uncritically repeated Spicer’s framing, like NPR’s headline “Trump Signs Executive Order To 'Ease The Burdens Of Obamacare'.”

    In contrast to headlines suggesting an immediate, dramatic change to the ACA, the text of the executive order reveals that it amounts to a symbolic gesture indicating the dedication of the Trump Administration to dismantling the health care law -- a commitment already known, and one that Trump’s appointees could act on even without the order. These inaccurate headlines are the newest episode in a repeated pattern of news organizations failing to report the truth when covering Trump’s false and self-serving talking points.In the health care context, this pattern is particularly problematic given the massive impact of repealing the law and the degree to which Americans are uninformed about health care.

    These headlines falsely inflated the actual impact of the executive order even as the substance of many of these articles emphasized that the vague wording of the action cast doubt on its actual effects. For example, that same NPR article noted “it's not clear what kind of relief the executive order envisions.” The flawed Politico article emphasized “the order changes nothing immediately and doesn't spell out exactly what Trump would like his government to do,” an important piece of information that was left out of the article's headline.

    Numerous health care policy experts called out the news outlets for their flawed analyses, and underscored that this executive order caused no immediate policy changes and instead reflected “recycled campaign talking points” that amounted to a symbolic gesture until further action is taken. For example, Larry Levitt, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said “this order doesn’t in and of itself do anything tangible” but it sends “a signal that the Trump Administration is not waiting for Congress” on dismantling the ACA. Tim Jost, health law expert and law professor at Washington and Lee College, emphasized that law “doesn’t allow [Trump] to repeal the Affordable Care Act unilaterally” and noted that no action was likely “until the heads of HHS, Treasury, and probably Labor, as well as the CMS Administration and IRS Commissioner are in place.” Five Thirty Eight’s Anna Maria Barry-Jester explained that the executive action “does very little because it doesn’t grant the administration any powers that it didn’t already have” but that it did telegraph “that change is coming.”

    The flawed coverage of Trump’s first executive order is the latest in a trend of inadequate headlines in the coverage of the Republican Party’s moves on the ACA. During an interview with The Washington Post, Trump promised his ACA replacement will guarantee “insurance for everyone,” prompting a spate of headlines that uncritically repeated his vow, despite the fact that he has released no policy details, and all existing GOP replacement ideas would result in millions losing coverage. Similarly, when Trump’s nominee for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, declared that “nobody is interested in pulling the rug out from under anybody,” news outlets made the headline his “vow” to not take away health care coverage, when in reality, Price’s own health care policy proposals would gut coverage and seriously degrade the health care system.

    News organizations repeatedly publishing flawed headlines are doing a disservice to their audiences, even if underlying reporting in their articles may accurately contextualize the headlining statements. As The Washington Post reported, “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week,” and “that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won't want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.”

    The gravity of repealing the ACA and the relative lack of public comprehension of health care policy highlights the need for news outlets to do a better job in crafting their ACA headlines. The repeal of the ACA will result in millions losing health care, allow the return of medical underwriting which discriminates against women for being women and against individuals with pre-existing conditions, and will disproportionately impact the marginalized and vulnerable. ACA repeal affects all Americans, regardless of whether or not they get their insurance through the exchanges.

    Additionally, Americans remain confused about what the ACA actually does, as polls show high approval ratings for many individual parts of the ACA while largely disapproving of the law as a whole. A recent NPR poll showed that while most people knew the ACA covered individuals with pre-existing conditions, more than half of the respondents “didn't know that the ACA reduced the number of people who are uninsured to a record low” -- one of the biggest accomplishments of the law. The combination of the enormous impact of repeal combined with the confusion that pervades the health law means that news outlets must be more diligent in crafting headlines for ACA stories, since often that headline will be the only thing the general public reads.

  • Right-Wing Civil War: Megyn Kelly Trades Barbs With Breitbart Editor-At-Large Over Dangers Of Empowering "Alt-Right"

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Fox News host Megyn Kelly and Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak traded attacks about the "alt-right’s" “potentially dangerous” influence in media and their role in the 2016 presidential campaign.

    In a December 7 interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, host Terry Gross discussed the misogynistic attacks and threats from Trump supporters which made it necessary for Kelly to use security for the entire year. Kelly also spoke about the dangers of empowering the "alt-right," and noted the problems one young woman had with Breitbart.com and their "alt-right" supporters when she dared “to say something about the fact that Corey Lewandowski laid hands on her.“ Kelly praised Breitbart’s founder Andrew Breitbart, but said, “if you look at what’s happened to Breitbart over the past three years, it’s shocking:”

    TERRY GROSS (HOST): This is an example of how the “alt-right” -- and the “alt-right” is a rebranding of white nationalists and people who are misogynist, racist -- so, the alt-right has kind of gone after you, ever since your dust-up with Trump at the debate. Are you concerned that president-elect Trump seems to have empowered these people?

    MEGYN KELLY: Well, I do think they are a potentially dangerous force. And you know, even when it comes to the book review -- look, I have a powerful platform. I can come talk to Terry Gross for an hour, but a lot of authors who are on the wrong side of Trump -- take Michelle Fields, right? The one who alleged that Corey Lewandowski had physically assaulted her, Trump’s old campaign manager, she had a book. She doesn’t have the powerful platform.

    She worked for Breitbart, and left when they failed to defend her, and she got targeted by these folks on Amazon, and they killed her book, and that’s not okay. Alright? This woman hasn’t done anything wrong, anything, other than find herself on the wrong end of these folks, for whom she used to work. But even that wasn’t enough to engender any loyalty, or affection for her, because she decided to say something about the fact that Corey Lewandowski laid hands on her. This is a man who threatened me explicitly as well.

    And look, Trump’s got bigger things to worry about than this particular group, but it is also a dangerous game to empower them, as clearly has happened. I mean, Steve Bannon is -- he’s chief advisor to our president-elect. And I understand the argument that he’s just a provocateur, and he comes up with these crazy headlines, and they want clicks, but if you look at what's happened to Breitbart [News] over the past three years, it's shocking.

    I knew Andrew Breitbart very well and he was great. I loved him. He was a true provocateur who would be fun about it, you know. He'd show up at a democratic protest and engage with the protesters and then he'd go have a beer with them. This is something else entirely, and I don't know that Trump can stop it. I don't know who, if anyone, can stop it.

    GROSS: How do you see your role as a journalist in covering the “alt-right?”

    KELLY: It’s precarious, because they will come after you. I mean, they will target you, and they will be relentless about it. But -- so I, again, have this great platform, and I have this powerful company behind me, and I’m lucky to have a company that can look at it with that perspective. I think other organizations need to keep that in mind, that it doesn’t -- when I say you’re going to have to steel your spine, you know, to cover this White House and deal with some of Trump’s supporters, I mean it could affect your pocketbook as a news organization.

    [...]

    KELLY: Look at my case, Terry. If somebody gets targeted by this group physically, and they have death threats, how much money can a news organization expend to provide that person with a bodyguard? At some point, real dollars get involved here in these decisions. And, you know, that’s -- that’s when these news organizations are going to have to find their inner strength.

    In response to Kelly’s criticism of Breitbart and its elevation of “alt-right” white nationalist movement, Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak tweeted Kelly “bashes Breitbart. I’ve never been a critic. Until now, maybe. Would she dare let me defend? I doubt it.”

    The conflict between Megyn Kelly and Breitbart revives long-standing tensions between the Fox News host and the far-right outlet. In March, Kelly invited Michelle Fields, a former Breitbart employee who spoke out against Breitbart leadership’s attempts at “smearing” her reputation. In return, Breitbart has run articles with headlines such as “Steve Bannon: I Warned Roger Ailes That Megyn Kelly Would Turn On Him,” and described Newt Gingrich’s insult-laden rant against Kelly as “Gingrich Slams Megyn Kelly For Treatment Of Trump -- ‘You Are Fascinated With Sex And You Don’t Care About Public Policy.”