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Right-wing media have waged a months-long attempt to discredit the 35-page dossier produced by a former British intelligence officer that contains allegations of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Various right-wing commentators have described its contents as “unreliable,” “discredited,” “largely debunked,” and "evidence of ... collusion between Democrats and Russian disinformation," including a Washington Times story that Trump promoted this week. But, according to numerous reports, American intelligence officials have “verified” various “core” aspects of the dossier.
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When Republicans’ Senate health care bill looked like it was hurtling toward a vote two weeks ago, prime-time cable news largely neglected to cover several negative consequences of the bill and instead spent a disproportionate amount of time on the political process surrounding the legislation.
Media Matters reviewed the two nights of cable news coverage -- from 5 to 11 p.m. -- between the release of the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) score of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2016 (BCRA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) announcement that the bill would be temporarily tabled until after congressional recess. We analyzed Nexis transcripts for individual statements -- defined as a single sentence -- about a wide range of reported negative impacts of the bill (including cuts to Medicaid funding, potential cuts to essential health benefits (EHBs), and a one-year freeze in federal funding for Planned Parenthood) and compared those to statements about the process surrounding the potential vote on the bill. We also reviewed coverage to see whether it included personal stories about people who would be impacted by the bill.
During those two nights of coverage -- when media outlets were under the impression the bill was imminently coming up for a vote and potentially taking a major step toward becoming law -- process overwhelmed policy:
CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News made more than four times as many statements about process as they did about the negative impacts of the bill.
There were over 33 times more statements about process than personal stories of those who would be most affected by the law.
None of the three networks featured statements about potential cuts to mental health benefits, special education programs, or the negative impact of the proposed legislation on people with HIV.
While the process surrounding the bill is a crucial part of the discussion (McConnell intentionally kept the drafting process secret and has been trying to rush the bill through the Senate), the extent to which process discussion eclipsed coverage of the impacts of the bill was staggering. On Fox News, the ratio between statements about process and statements about the negative impact of the bill was roughly 10-to-1, while on MSNBC and CNN, that ratio was nearly 5-to-1.
Over the two-day period, prime-time cable news made 1,835 statements about the process of passing the bill through the Senate. CNN made 792, Fox News made 274, and MSNBC made 769.
CNBC reported that out of approximately 11.2 million children in the U.S. who have special needs, “nearly 5 million rely on coverage from Medicaid and its Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.” The BCRA’s cuts to Medicaid, made by phasing out the ACA’s Medicaid expansion program, threaten the funding for this program. The Washington Post noted trepidation among school districts that say that in order “to fill the hole they anticipate would be left by the Republican push to restructure Medicaid, they would either have to cut those services or downsize general education programs that serve all students.” There were no statements made about these cuts on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC.
Cuts to Medicaid and a rollback on essential health benefits (EHBs) means that people with mental illness would be receiving “less coverage for more money,” according to HuffPost. As the Center for American Progress (CAP) noted, “The CBO’s prediction matches the reality of the pre-ACA insurance market,” when “a significant number of people did not have coverage for … mental health services.” There were no statements about these cuts on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC.
The GOP Senate bill called for freezing federal funds to Planned Parenthood for one year, blocking access to family planning and related women’s health services that the clinics offer to millions of Americans. Defunding Planned Parenthood on a state level has had detrimental effects on public health. When Indiana shuttered five Planned Parenthood facilities -- at least one of which did not offer abortion services -- in 2015, the state experienced “an unprecedented HIV epidemic caused by intravenous drug use” due to a lack of access to preventative and testing measures. In Texas, after cuts to Planned Parenthood funding, fewer women “received contraceptive services, fewer use highly effective methods, some have had unintended pregnancies, and some have had abortions they would not have had if not for these policies." There were nine statements about this freeze on CNN and two on Fox News. There were no statements about it on MSNBC.
Three members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) resigned in the wake of the proposed Senate bill. One of the former members, Scott Schoettes, told BuzzFeed News that the bill will “kill people” and force more Americans into bankruptcy due to high medical emergency costs. The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) condemned the bill, calling it “catastrophic for our nation’s health care system,” specifically by causing people living with or at risk of HIV and STDs to suffer and by impeding efforts to end the HIV and STD epidemics. There was no statement made about this impact on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC.
As CBS reported, the CBO found that “for low-income people ... ‘the premium for a silver plan would typically be a relatively high percent of income,’ while the deductible for a bronze plan ‘would be a significantly higher percentage of income. As a result, despite being eligible for premium tax credits, few low-income people would purchase any plan.’” Vox noted that this would result in “making poor people pay more for less health insurance.” Additionally, The Washington Post pointed out that “by adjusting subsidy numbers and implementing policies that are projected to increase premiums, low-income people by and large end up with higher health-care costs.” There were seven statements made about these increases on CNN, one on Fox News, and five on MSNBC.
The Senate bill “allows states to use a waiver to opt out of covering the essential health benefits package” that was put in place by the ACA, The Washington Post reported. The ACA provision requires insurers to cover things such as ambulatory care, hospital visits, and maternity care. Vox explained that in order for a state to opt out of a certain essential health benefit requirement under the ACA, it “has to show that its alternative plan would allow it to cover as many people, with coverage as generous, without increasing federal spending.” But the Senate bill “removes the guardrails that ensured state-based alternatives would offer strong coverage.” Without these standards, many patients “are likely to drop their coverage,” which, as one health care expert noted, would not serve to reduce costs because cost burden would shift entirely to the individuals who need the coverage. CNN made two statements about these cuts, and Fox News and MSNBC made zero.
As The Atlantic pointed out, decreasing the requirements that a state must meet to waive coverage for essential health benefits would create a “backdoor way” to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Los Angeles Times columnist Jon Healey wrote that, while the bill does not “directly” remove coverage for pre-existing conditions, it “would leave” those with pre-existing conditions “open to indirect attack by state officials eager to cut insurance premiums the easy way: by allowing insurers to cater to the customers they really want to serve, which are the ones who don’t need healthcare.” As CAP’s Topher Spiro summed up, under the Senate bill, “coverage would be eviscerated for millions of people with preexisting conditions.” There was one statement about these impacts on CNN and one on Fox News, and there were seven on MSNBC.
Time reported that if the Senate bill’s proposed changes to state essential health benefits waivers were implemented, “insurers may not continue to cover … out or inpatient substance use disorder services.” And while the BCRA “offer[s] $2 billion in funding to help combat the ongoing opioid epidemic,” lawmakers and activists for addressing substance use disorders have said that “much more money is needed”; one health economics professor told Mother Jones that the opioid epidemic funding allocation is merely “a joke.” Mother Jones also pointed out that slashes to Medicaid, which is “the largest payer for addiction services across the country,” would be “crippling,” particularly “for many of the communities that voted Trump into office.” CNN made 13 statements about these cuts, and MSNBC made nine. Fox made none.
PBS reported that under the Senate bill, the wealthiest Americans will receive an average annual tax cut of nearly $52,000, according to analysis by the Tax Policy Center. The bill would repeal the Obama-era tax on wealthy investors, as well as repeal a Medicare payroll tax on high-income families. There were 20 statements about these tax cuts on CNN, two on Fox News, and 22 on MSNBC.
NPR reported that the Senate bill “could even bring back lifetime caps on how much an insurer would pay for such services for a particular patient.” According to an estimate by CAP, “About 20 million people with employer-based coverage would face lifetime limits on coverage.” There was one statement about these caps made on CNN and there were five on MSNBC. There were no statements made on Fox News.
The CBO report projected that the Senate health care bill would cut $772 billion in federal money from Medicaid over a 10-year period. Between 14 and 15 million people would reportedly lose their health insurance under this drastic cut. According to CAP, under the Senate bill, “many states would face serious funding shortages for their Medicaid programs.” There were 58 statements about these cuts on CNN, four on Fox News, and 54 on MSNBC.
According to the CBO report, under the Senate bill, the number of people without health insurance would increase by 22 million over the next 10 years. There were 66 statements made about the increase in uninsured people on CNN, 15 on Fox News, and 67 on MSNBC.
Media Matters searched news transcripts in the Nexis database on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for the following programs: CNN’s The Situation Room, Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360, and the 10 p.m. hour of CNN Tonight; Fox News’ The Fox News Specialists, Special Report with Bret Baier, The Story with Martha MacCallum, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Five, and Hannity; and MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily, For the Record with Greta Van Susteren, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. We searched for any of the following terms in the body of the text: health care, Better Care Reconciliation Act, BCRA, Senate health, GOP health, Republican health, Affordable Care Act, ACA, Obama care, or Obamacare.
Segments were included in the study if the Better Care Reconciliation Act was the stated topic of discussion or if two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the BCRA with one another. If a speaker mentioned the BCRA in a multitopic segment and no other speaker in that segment engaged with the comment, then it was excluded from the analysis as a passing mention. All teasers of upcoming segments about the BCRA were also excluded from the analysis.
For each segment we included in the study, two researchers independently coded the number of statements -- defined as a single sentence -- that included:
Mentions of a personal narrative that contextualized how the BCRA would impact the subject of the narrative.
Mentions of the process, e.g., how the bill would pass, how members of the Senate would or would not vote, how Senators would negotiate for votes, the optics of the bill, and anything that could influence a Senator’s vote for or against the BCRA.
Mentions of the following negative impacts of the BCRA:
Mentions of cuts to Medicaid.
Mentions of the increase in premiums or out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans.
Mentions of the potential elimination of essential health benefits.
Mentions of the impact of persons with pre-existing conditions.
Mentions of potential cuts to mental health care.
Mentions of cuts to substance abuse treatment.
Mentions of how cuts to Medicaid would impact special education programs in schools.
Mentions of cuts to Planned Parenthood.
Mentions of the impact of the BCRA on persons with HIV.
Mentions that the BCRA would provide significate tax cuts to wealthy or high-income Americans.
Mentions that the BCRA would allow insurers to reinstate lifetime caps.
Mentions of the reduction of the total number of insured Americans.
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Fox has a history of shaming low-income Americans
In defense of the Senate Republican health care bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Fox News is shaming the bill’s beneficiaries, claiming it helps “people who didn’t need it,” people who Fox claims get “handouts” and “goodies.” Fox News has a history of shaming recipients of public assistance, such as subsidized health insurance and nutritional assistance programs.
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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.
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After a report on the Senate health care legislation by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showed that the Republican plan would lead to 22 million more uninsured Americans than under the Affordable Care Act, right-wing media figures either tried to spin the CBO report by saying it was “extremely positive,” or attacked and undermined the CBO’s integrity. From an East Germany analogy to the suggestion that senators simply “forget” the millions that will be uninsured, here are 13 of the worst right-wing CBO takes.
Based on reporting and the people themselves, Trump is on the phone with right-wing media and fringe figures a lot
“Trump gave me a call, and I told him, ‘Mr. President-elect, you’re too busy, we don’t need to talk.’ But we still spent over five minutes -- he said, 'Listen, Alex, I just talked to the kings and queens of the world -- world leaders, you name it.' But he said, 'It doesn’t matter, I wanted to talk to you to thank your audience, and I’ll be on in the next few weeks to thank them.'” Jones added that Trump indicated it was not a “private call” and told him, “I want to thank your viewers, thank your listeners for standing up for this republic. We know what you did early on and throughout this campaign to stand up for what’s right.” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 11/14/16]
“As I said in one speech, ‘I’m sorry I missed Trump’s call.’ I know the numbers. I know when he calls. He calls like three times in a row. I was on air. He gets confused. He called me and I missed the calls and I just feel guilty because who knows what it was about. And I know Trump doesn’t -- I’ll tell the enemy this because Trump knows it’s true. They need to know this. Trump just wants to connect with a spirit that is good. He needs that energy.” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 2/24/17]
“You and others have reached out and said, “If you talk to Trump, tell him this.” Half the time I’ve missed the calls and other ones, early on, calls were like 15 minutes long. We really talk. Now it’s like, “Alex. Lot of folks watching.” He knows everything he’s saying is being recorded. “Keep it up, great job. How’s the family? Just keep it up, you know I’m delivering. Are you happy?” It’s mainly a pat on the head, and I get that -- but then I talk to folks that have to go have private meetings with him and he’s just literally just like -- and I can’t get into it.” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 4/5/17]
“You know why the FBI admits a month ago in Congress that I’m under investigation and that I’m being wiretapped? Because I talk to the president and I talk to people that talk to the president every day. And they want to be able to say, ‘Mr. President, he’s under investigation -- you can’t talk to Alex Jones.’” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 4/12/17]
“But the fact is I know from the White House that no one in media talks to President [Donald] Trump more than Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity talks to President Trump two or three times a day, sometimes at length, and I'll just tell you right now, Sean Hannity is currently the main leader of the resistance against the globalists outside of Trump and then, of course, myself.” -- Alex Jones [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 6/22/17]
“Ruddy has been a ubiquitous presence in Trump’s sphere over the past several months, the ‘Zelig’ of the administration, as the Atlantic’s Rosie Gray wrote. He converses regularly with Trump and White House officials, and says he has given the president advice on everything from health care to Chinese relations to fake news.” [The Washington Post, 6/15/17]
“President Donald Trump personally reached out to two of his former campaign aides – his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and his deputy campaign manager, David Bossie – to sound them out about working with the administration as crisis managers, according to two people familiar with the situation.” [Politico, 5/22/17]
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): I don't think this is a deal that anybody should be crying about. Like we said, it's nonbinding, and the United States is already a clean energy, oil and gas leader. So, we can keep doing what we're doing, we can keep reducing our emissions. Why would we in fact put ourselves at an economic disadvantage, giving and subsidizing an economic windfall to other countries, in sort of a climate redistribution of wealth scheme? It makes no sense to me. I think he did the brave and courageous thing, and in fact, I told him that this morning at 8 a.m., when he called. And I spoke to him about it, and this was something very much so on his mind, but he seemed like--
GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): Wait a second, who called you?
GUILFOYLE: The president.
DANA PERINO (CO-HOST): To ask about climate change?
GUTFELD: Why did he call you?
GUILFOYLE: Climate change, taxes. The Five. [Fox News, The Five, 6/1/17]
GUEST CO-HOST: When was the last time you talked to him?
ROGER STONE: Been a little while now. I would say -- I don’t want to characterize it, but less than a week ago.
GUEST CO-HOST: Good talk?
STONE: From time to time. He’s easier to find on the weekends. He’s got more time on his hands. But I’m happy to say after I was on with George Stephanopoulos, he called. After I was on with Chuck Todd, he called. After the Netflix document trailer was released, he called.
GUEST CO-HOST: What’d he say?
STONE: Well, I mean, he was certainly pleased with those appearances because, of course, I was happy to defend Donald Trump. [SiriusXM Patriot, The David Webb Show, 5/5/17]
“On May 11th Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s on-again, off-again political adviser for several decades, had just wrapped up a pair of morning television appearances when, according to two sources with direct knowledge, he received a call from the President. ... As Stone left the studio on May 11th, the President, who the evening before had essentially pretended not to know him anymore, had a simple message: good job.” [The New Yorker, 5/31/17]
“Fox News host Eric Bolling said he’s talked to President Donald Trump about how to best go about “draining the swamp” — one of Trump’s top campaign promises and the central topic of the cable-news star’s latest book. [...] Bolling said the president has read his book, and he’s had several discussions with him about how to best go about fighting corruption.” [The Daily Caller, 6/26/17]
“The president’s relationship with Mr. Murdoch is deeper and more enduring than most in his life, and the two commiserate and plot strategy in their phone calls, according to people close to both.” [The New York Times, 4/22/17]
Co-hosts of Fox News’ The Five took a tweet by Rob Reiner out of context, claiming Reiner called “for ‘all out war’ to resist Trump,” ignoring Reiner’s quote was a reference to repeated instances where Fox News attempted to justify possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
When Fox says that DT colluding with the enemy is not a crime, the fight to save Democracy is now an all out war. US-Stay strong. #Treason
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) June 25, 2017
Reiner’s tweet was a reference to prominent Fox News hosts repeatedly attempting to justify any collusion that may or may not have occurred between the Trump campaign and Russia during the presidential election. Fox News hosts Gregg Jarrett, Brit Hume and Sean Hannity have all attempted to justify potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s government, as has Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera.
But the co-hosts of The Five ignored this criticism of their colleagues and instead mocked Reiner’s claim without providing any context. From the June 26 edition of Fox News’ The Five:
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Hollywood is, of course doing what it can to help fuel the resistance movement. Actor and director Rob Reiner, best known as “Meathead” from All In The Family, is encouraging his fellow resisters on Twitter to fight an “all out war” to save democracy.
GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): And what exactly is an all out war from Rob Reiner? Is he going to load up his Prius with water balloons? He’s gonna write a really scathing piece in Huffington Post and then order a pie, and get all the crust in his beard?