Poppy Harlow | Media Matters for America

Poppy Harlow

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  • CNN anchors misleadingly portray popular Democratic proposals such as "Medicare-for-all" and taxing the wealthy as far to the left

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    On Wednessday, CNN anchors Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow portrayed Democratic policy proposals that enjoy high public support as extreme, calling “Medicare-for-all” and a tax on high amounts of wealth “far left of center” and “very far left.”

    Polls have consistently shown high levels of support for these ideas: An August Reuters/Ipsos poll found 70 percent of respondents support “Medicare-for-all,” a January Politico/Harvard poll found 68 percent support a national health care plan like “Medicare-for-all,” and a January Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 56 percent of respondents support “Medicare-for-all.” Additionally, a February Morning Consult poll found 61 percent support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) proposal for a wealth tax on very wealthy households, while a January The Hill-HarrisX survey found 59 percent of registered voters support raising marginal tax rates to 70 percent on income above $10 million.

    From the February 20 edition of CNN’s CNN Newsroom:

    JIM SCIUTTO (CO-ANCHOR): Karen, the focus of the Democratic Party, many of the candidates will say, is on beating Donald Trump. Is this a good look, in effect, for the Democratic Party? Is this the right approach to 2020 to go so far left of center, when polls consistently show that most Americans have more center -- and some polls even show center-right views on some of these key issues?

    KAREN FINNEY (CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR): Well, look, I think we have to take a step back actually, because having just worked on a campaign in the South on Stacey Abrams’ campaign in 2018, and looked at a number of other campaigns, the issue landscape in this country is a little bit different. And so when we talk about things like expanding Medicaid, or we talk about things -- which, you know, some states have not done yet even under Obamacare -- when we talk about, you know, commonsense gun safety measures, those issues poll pretty well in a lot of states where a lot of Americans see that as a more mainstream issue. They don’t see that as a far-left issue. So there’s a lot of things -- like child care, which Sen. [Elizabeth] Warren has been talking about -- that actually appeal to people, working people in particular who struggle with these issues.

    SCIUTTO: True, but that’s different than like 70 percent tax rates. And I’m not saying that’s the whole party, but you have [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)] going down that path.

    FINNEY: Well, she’s not running for president, though.

    SCIUTTO: You know, universal health care, universal health care. You’re talking about background checks. That’s one kind of issue. But I’m talking about issues further to the left of the political spectrum.

    FINNEY: Right, but just because someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House is talking about something that is, you know, that some may perceive as being to the left, that’s not necessarily going to influence what the presidential candidates are talking about. Because I think what they all recognize is, yes, they’re still in Congress, so they’re going to have to, at the right time, comment on some of these things because they may have to vote on them. But they also have to put forward their own visions. So I thought [Sen.] Amy Klobuchar, for example the other night, did a great job when she was talking about college affordability and what she would do. I know that student looked like he was a bit disappointed. So I think what you’re going to see -- and this is why the primary is so important and I think the debates are going to be so important -- you’re going to hear all of these ideas really teased out with similar goals and values at their core but different ideas about how we get there. And I think that’s going to be a really exciting thing for this country is to actually have conversations about ideas and not just tweets attacking people.

    POPPY HARLOW (CO-ANCHOR): And also let’s remember Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, also, you know, proposing that wealth tax on people with any assets over $50 million -- also very far left.

  • Media keep calling the GOP's corporate tax bill a "win" for Trump

    The extraordinarily unpopular bill is built on lies and ignores what we know about economics

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump and his Republican congressional allies are enjoying a round of praise from media commentators for finally getting a legislative “win” on the board as their tax bill closes in on passage before the end of the year. The budget-busting corporate giveaway will enrich the superwealthy and do little for Americans who have to work for a living.

    Republicans finally unveiled the finished version of their tax legislation last Friday evening, and -- despite the public having just days to absorb its 1,097 pages -- both chambers of Congress plan to vote on the bill before the end of the week. If everything goes according to plan, the president will sign the bill into law just in time for members to head home for the holidays.

    After a year plagued by self-destructive outbursts, failed policy changes, unprecedented legal troubles, embarrassing scandals, humiliating legislative defeats, and nationwide political upheaval, many in the press are framing the GOP tax proposal as a crucial “win” for Trump and his party.

    On the December 18 edition of CNN Newsroom, co-host Poppy Harlow wondered how anyone could argue the past year “hasn’t been a win for the president on some big fronts,” given a handful of recent accomplishments, including the new tax bill. Reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns agreed with Harlow’s assessment while noting that such favorable framing fits “the way that the White House has been messaging their own achievements”:

    During an earlier segment on CNN’s New Day, guest A.B. Stoddard suggested that the Republican tax bill, which the Economic Policy Institute has labeled “a scam,” could count as “a great boon for Republicans” and “a win on the board,” if the bill actually fulfilled its over the top promises. (It won’t.) Commentary framing the expected party-line vote as a major victory for the GOP also cropped up in The Associated Press, Politico, The Hill, and The New York Times. Reporters have seemingly gone out of their way to pat Republicans on the back for endorsing legislation so historically unpopular it registers significantly less support than some previous tax hikes:


    FiveThirtyEight.com

    In a December 15 video, Eric Schoenberg of the activist group Patriotic Millionaires explained how the GOP tax bill overwhelming favors wealthy people like him (and the Trump family) while doing little for lower- and middle-class people. Trump and the Republicans continue falsely claiming that the bill will spur business development, boost wages, and stoke renewed economic growth, but the message is such a fantasy even Fox News had to admit there was nothing to it. Previous studies from the Congressional Research Service and the Brookings Institution have demonstrated little relationship between tax cuts for the wealthy and invigorated economic activity, which Trump and the GOP have promised will result from this tax bill.

    The bill permanently cuts taxes for corporations while giving only modest, temporary relief for working people. It loosens tax structures affecting the wealthiest Americans while threatening funds for Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and other initiatives that guarantee basic economic security to low-income families. The bill promises to add another $1.5 trillion to federal budget deficits over the next decade despite years of hysteria about Obama-era revenue shortfalls. The bill also senselessly repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which will likely result in millions of Americans dropping out of the insurance market.

    Rather than praising the Republican Party for ending a remarkably unproductive year by managing to cobble together a tax giveaway to the super rich, journalists should report on what is actually in the bill. Trump and the GOP have definitely enjoyed some "wins" this year, but reporters need to point out that the Republican Party's successes have often resulted in pain and suffering for millions of Americans.

  • Five times in one week cable news couldn't get a Republican to go on TV to talk about Trump

    ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Several times over the past week, cable news hosts reported that Republicans had rejected invitations to appear on their shows to defend or discuss President Donald Trump and his reaction to the August 12 violence in Charlottesville, VA. The president failed to initially condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis responsible for the violence, and later in the week he insisted that there were “very fine people on both sides.”  

  • Media have found their latest Trump pivot: General Kelly

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ & SANAM MALIK

    Media figures promoted the idea that President Donald Trump’s administration is heading towards a reset, this time following the firing of White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci along with the swearing in of former Marine General John F. Kelly as the new White House chief of staff. Kelly’s move to chief of staff is just the latest example of the media’s obsession with the fantasy of a Trump “reset” that will never happen.

  • Male Pundits Think The Problem With Men Writing A Health Care Bill Is Just Optics. They're So Wrong.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Male pundits on CNN are criticizing the all-male Republican working group writing the Senate version of the health care bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they’re right in slamming the panel for excluding women. But they’re wrong in saying that “optics” -- by which they mean the political effects of how something looks -- is the reason excluding women from the group is wrong.

    As reported by The New York Times, the Republican working group on health care comprises 13 senators, none of them women. While discussing the working group on the May 9 edition of CNN’s Inside Politics, host John King speculated about whether Republican leadership should, “for optics purposes, have tinkered with the working group.” Appearing as a guest on the same show, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny agreed with King that excluding women was “optically terrible.” CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson was thankfully at the table to add more substance to the shallow optics argument. She challenged King’s focus on optics as a reason for Republican leadership to change the makeup of the working group, suggesting that gender diversity would be a positive for “For real purposes, right?” and mentioning the female senators whom Republicans could have included in their working group.

    Later on CNN, political correspondent Phil Mattingly focused his report on noting that Republicans “are keenly aware” that the all-male panel is “not a good look” and that it wasn’t a “good public scene” to exclude the five “very talented, very well regarded” Republican women in the Senate. While Mattingly was reporting and not providing commentary, he missed an opportunity to point out that excluding women from a panel working on an issue that directly and disproportionately impacts women is wrong for reasons that go beyond optics.

    In contrast, some of the female journalists at the network did a better job of pointing out the substantive issues linked to leaving women out of the working group. During CNN Newsroom, co-host Poppy Harlow noted that the group’s lack of gender inclusion is “out of the 1920s playbook” and asked her guest Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, to explain what it meant “in terms of policy to not have more diversity.” Sweet pointed out that “a lot of preventative medicine provisions” in Obamacare specifically affect women and are “at risk in Trumpcare:”

    During CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, host Brooke Baldwin and chief political correspondent Dana Bash criticized calling the exclusion of women “an optics problem,” with Bash stating, “It’s also a substance problem,” and Baldwin responding, “An optics problem? It’s a little more than that.”

    While it is true that Republicans in the Senate are overwhelmingly white and male -- slimming down the possibility of any real diversity in the group -- the “optics” angle is especially offensive given the female senators with expertise and experiences that would add value to the discussions on the panel. As USA Today’s Jessica Estepa pointed out, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) “has sat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee since  2015.” In the past, Collins has voiced concerns about defunding access to reproductive health care. Estepa also mentions Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) 10-year track record on the Senate health committee, as well as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) who hails from a state that has seen Medicaid expanded and who could provide insight on how cutting expansions would affect people like her constituents.

    This is just the latest example of “optics” punditry getting in the way of substantive policy analysis. At best, cable news’s obsession with discussing “optics” turns commentary uninformative and shallow, and at worst, it becomes an incentive for political actors to overtly focus on the way political processes look as opposed to their real life effects and the constituents they affect.

    After President Donald Trump’s February 28 address to a joint session of Congress, pundits focusing on optics and “tone” earned criticism from other commentators. The criticism was well-deserved, as pundits should use their platforms to give their audiences useful information, like the consequences of a speech turning into policy and the viability of such policy positions, not superficial analysis that those watching could make for themselves. The punditry optics analysis that came after Trumpcare passed the House also got in the way of media assessing the bill’s real impact on the millions of Americans who could lose health insurance. Audiences tuning in deserve actual analysis of the political process. The focus on optics gets in the way of that.