Julie Alderman

Author ››› Julie Alderman
  • STUDY: Nightly Broadcast News Virtually Ignores Rise In Anti-Semitic Threats

    Among Cable Outlets, Fox Had By The Far The Least Prime-Time Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Nightly broadcast news shows have proven incredibly reluctant to cover the spate of anti-Semitic threats and attacks made since President Donald Trump’s election. Cable outlets provided a bit more coverage during prime-time, with Fox News as the exception, clocking just one segment on the topic. Given the rise of the “alt-right” and white nationalist groups -- and given Trump’s repeated reluctance to discuss the rise of anti-Semitism -- it’s particularly important for news media to provide audiences with information on the threats and attacks which have targeted Jewish institutions across the country.

    Anti-Semitic Threats And Attacks Have Been On The Rise

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recorded 100 anti-Semitic incidents in the days following now-President Donald Trump’s election. And as Vox’s Sarah Wildman pointed out, the number “may be enormously underreported because, as with all hate crime statistics, the incidents were largely self-reported by groups that may not feel comfortable talking to law enforcement.” In addition, SPLC’s report did not take into account online harassment, which was rampant during the election.

    This wave of anti-Semitic hate has not gone away. Since January, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Association of North America’s members have received 68 bomb threats at 53 facilities in 26 states and one Canadian province. And in February, vandals damaged more than 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis, echoing the vandalism committed by Nazis during World War II.

    Nightly Broadcast And Prime-Time Cable News Have Largely Neglected The Trend

    Despite the fear among many Americans, broadcast news outlets have drastically undercovered these stories. Since the election, ABC’s World News has spent 5 minutes and 45 seconds on the threats, while CBS’ Evening News and NBC’s Nightly News have spent 3 minutes and 1 second and 3 minutes and 6 seconds, respectively on the topic. Out of the eight segments the newscasts aired in the four-month period, four aired on NBC, and two aired on each ABC and CBS. NBC was the only network to report on the trend in January; all the other segments took place in February.

    Prime-time shows (between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.) on CNN and MSNBC fared slightly better. In total, CNN aired 10 segments on the trend, devoting a total of 45 minutes and 38 seconds to it, while MSNBC’s five segments clocked in at 20 minutes and 23 seconds. All of the segments, except one that MSNBC aired in November, took place between February 17 and 22.

    Fox News’ coverage, on the other hand, was especially abysmal. Since November 9, the network has only aired one segment on the trend, on the February 21 edition of Hannity, and host Sean Hannity used it to segue into a smear campaign against Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).

    Now More Than Ever, Media Must Highlight These Incidents

    Especially now, media must devote significant attention to these hate incidents and threats. During the election, the anti-Semitic white nationalist movement known as the “alt-right” rose from the fringe to become one of the most significant factions in conservative media. Trump’s candidacy and subsequent election have also elevated the white nationalist movement.

    And media cannot rely on Trump to bring up these incidents himself. It was only after he came under increasing pressure -- and some reporters made failed attempts to broach the subject -- that Trump finally acknowledged and denounced the rising violence aimed at Jews, on February 21. If media continue to wait for Trump to acknowledge these incidents before reporting on them, viewers may never know that they are happening.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for mentions of “Jewish,” “cemetery,” “JCC,” “anti-Semitism,” “anti-Semite,” “anti-Semitic,” “St. Louis,” “University City,” and “Chesed Shel Emeth Society” on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS November 9 through February 22. Mentions on cable news must have taken place between 8 and 11 p.m. on weekdays and mentions on broadcast news must have taken place during the nightly newscasts on a weekday. Segments included in the analysis featured a significant discussion of a specific incident or threat or a significant discussion of the overall trend in anti-Semitic threats and incidents.

  • Trump Team Uses Debunked Right-Wing Media Smear To Deflect From Russia Scandals

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President Donald Trump and Sebastian Gorka, Trump's deputy assistant and the former national security editor for Breitbart.com, claimed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “approve[d] the sale of 20 percent of our uranium to Russia” in an attempt to deflect from the administration’s ongoing scandals involving Russia. The claim, which originally came from discredited Clinton Cash author and Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, has been repeated by right-wing media but, repeatedly debunked by other sources. This is not the first time Trump has cited the debunked claim and Gorka has a history of pushing conspiracy theories.

  • Trump Has Called Dozens Of Things Fake News. None Of Them Are.

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President Donald Trump has attacked news outlets, individuals, and reports that portray him in an unflattering light as “fake news.” But in doing so he’s continuing conservative media’s bastardization of the term, as none of the things he points to actually constitute “fake news.” At the same time, several people close to Trump have propagated fake news through social media.

  • Morning Shows Largely Ignore Trump Adviser's Possibly Illegal Communications With Russia

    Fox News And NBC Ignored The Reports, While CNN’s Coverage Led The Way

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Morning news programs on cable and broadcast television largely ignored reports that President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn seemingly engaged in “inappropriate and potentially illegal” communications with the Russian government, spending less than 30 minutes on it across 15 hours of programming.

    The Washington Post reported on February 9 that Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office.” The Post explained that “Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin.” The New York Times pointed out that the conversations “raise the prospect that Mr. Flynn violated a law against private citizens’ engaging in diplomacy, and directly contradict statements made by Trump advisers.”

    However, the story was all but neglected on morning shows across broadcast and cable news networks, with the exception of CNN. The February 10 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today spent a combined total of 2 minutes and 26 seconds on the story, with Good Morning America spending 1 minute and 32 seconds on it and CBS This Morning devoting only 54 seconds to the story. The story wasn’t mentioned at all on NBC’s Today.

    On cable news, Fox News’ Fox & Friends also spent no time on the reports during the February 10 edition. MSNBC’s Morning Joe barely fared better, discussing the story for only 3 minutes and 3 seconds during the three hour show. CNN’s New Day, on the other hand, led the pack, spending 20 minutes and 2 seconds discussing the new reports.

    Fox News and NBC’s decisions to ignore a story that is problematic for the Trump administration on their morning shows also fits into their patterns of providing favorable coverage to Trump and normalizing his incredibly abnormal administration.

    During the campaign, broadcast and cable news were reluctant to devote a significant amount of time to investigative reports about Trump and those around him. Instead, outlets consistently allowed Trump to hijack the media narrative and drown out negative coverage through his tweets and antics.

    Graphs by Sarah Wasko

  • When Discussing Trump's Muslim Ban, Cable News Excluded Muslims

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & NINA MAST

    Prime-time cable news shows virtually ignored Muslim voices when they hosted guests to discuss the fallout from President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. This failure fits into a larger media pattern of ignoring Muslims when discussing issues that are particularly impactful to them, while at the same time painting false portraits based on stereotypes. Given how few Americans actually know a Muslim person -- and that the religion is already incredibly vilified -- cable news would do better to follow the precedent set by print media and highlight personal stories from Muslims who have been impacted by the ban.

    On January 27, Trump signed an executive order that banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days. While the order does not specifically single out Muslims, media figures and experts agreed that it’s a Muslim ban. That intent seems particularly clear given that during the campaign Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and that Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani boasted on Fox News that Trump asked him to show him “the right way” to “legally” implement a “Muslim ban.”

    In the week after Trump signed the executive order, prime-time cable news programs hosted 176 guests (some repeat) for significant discussions about the policy, but only 14 guest appearances were Muslim. CNN hosted seven Muslim guests while MSNBC hosted two. Fox News hosted five Muslims, all during the February 3 edition of The First 100 Days. Of CNN’s guests, anchor Fareed Zakaria accounted for two of the seven appearances.

    This failure falls into a broader pattern of cable news neglecting to present representative voices, especially of Muslims. In the 24 hours after the June 12, 2016, mass shooting in Orlando, FL, in which a Muslim man killed 49 people and injured 50 after opening fire at an LGBTQ nightclub, cable news hosted only a few Muslim guests. In the month after the election, only 21 percent of the guests who appeared on evening cable news to discuss Islam were Muslim.

    A 2014 Pew Study found that only 38 percent of Americans know someone who is Muslim, and it’s likely that even fewer know anyone impacted by Trump’s ban. Thus for many Americans, media portrayals are the only way they can get to know the Muslim community, yet the media often falsely frame Muslims as criminals. A 2015 YouGov poll found that 55 percent of Americans have a “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” opinion of Islam, while 50 percent said they understand the religion “not too well” or “not well at all.”

    There were several segments on cable news -- not just during prime-time -- discussing the ban that could have used a Muslim guest to add perspective and personal experience to the conversation. On Fox News’ The Five, for example, hosts suggested that those who were affected by Trump’s ban “don’t have rights”:

    CNN hosted Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which is part of what the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated “the nativist lobby.” Krikorian used his platform to defend the ban and baselessly claim that “there are plenty of people with Iraqi nationality who want to commit terrorist acts in the United States”:

    On his show, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly stated that he doesn’t care if “any Muslim … is alienated by the United States” due to the ban while speaking to two non-Muslim guests:

    While cable news has utterly failed at providing a representative view of people impacted by the ban, online and print media have done a much better job speaking to Muslims who experienced firsthand the impact of this policy and reporting their stories:

    • The New York Times put together a series of vignettes about people impacted by the ban, including Fuad Shareef, who worked with American officials as a translator after the invasion of Iraq. After selling the family home and car and spending $5,000 on flights, he was told that he could not go as planned to resettle in the United States.

    • BuzzFeed collected stories from LGBTQ refugees who “felt their dreams crushed as they heard the news” of the ban. Hamid, a gay man who fled his home in Iran and was cleared to resettle in the U.S., told BuzzFeed that he was “going to die here” while hiding out in Turkey.

    • ThinkProgress relayed the story of Roozbeh Aliabadi, a soon-to-be doctoral student who said the “order is keeping him from his wife, who lives in Iran.” Aliabadi told ThinkProgress, “‘I haven’t seen my wife for about seven months, and this, in a way, gives us two options. Number 1: I have to move out of the U.S. Or we have to get divorced. I don’t think the latter is an option.’”

    Methodology

    Media Matters used Nexis to search for all guests appearing on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. from January 30 through February 3 in segments where there was significant discussion of Trump’s travel ban, using the phrases "refugee," "ban," "Muslim," "Islam," and "vetting." Network anchors like Fareed Zakaria who appeared as a guest on a program that they did not anchor were coded as guests in the analysis. Network analysts were also included as guests. Network correspondents and reporters were not counted as guests. Pre-taped interviews where there was no significant dialogue between the reporter and guest were excluded from the analysis. Reruns of interviews from previous programming were excluded from the analysis. Guest appearances were coded for whether the guests self-identified as Muslim either in the segment or prominently elsewhere in the media. Guests were counted once per episode.

    Graph by Sarah Wasko

  • One Type Of Terrorism Really Is Underreported -- Right-Wing Terrorism

    Many Of The Cases Trump Omitted Were Inspired By Conservative Misinformation And The American "Alt-Right"

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Following President Donald Trump’s false claim that the press purposefully fails to report on terror attacks, his team released a list of attacks that were supposedly “underreported." The list supplied, however, was entirely devoid of attacks by right-wing extremists and those inspired by the “alt-right.”

    During a February 6 speech at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the central military command based in MacDill Air Force base near Tampa, FL, Trump lied when he claimed that “the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report” on terror attacks. Trump added that the media “have their reasons” for not reporting on the events. Following the speech to military leaders, the White House released a list of 78 terror attacks that officials claim were “underreported” by the media. The list only furthered the lie. According to the audience engagement tool Chartbeat, four of the top 20 most “engaging news stories of 2015 (defined as those that held audiences’ attention for the longest) were events from the list. As CNN’s Chris Cuomo pointed out, none of the events listed “have less than 100 media hits.”

    In attacking the media for allegedly having a selection bias when it comes to terror attacks, the administration neglected numerous cases of terror inspired by right-wing extremism. In many of these cases, the terrorists had direct ties to the white nationalist movement, a key component of what has been coined the “alt-right,” or were inspired by conservative media misinformation. Here are just a few of the examples that didn’t make Trump’s list:

    “Alt-Right” Assassin Killed Six At Quebec Mosque

    Alexandre Bissonnette killed six people at a Quebec City mosque on January 29. As the BBC reported, political science professor Pierre Martin “says that Bissonette may have been influenced by a mix of global nationalist trends, the so-called ‘alt-right’, and ‘currents within Quebec itself’.” Bissonette was reportedly known to many as a “right-wing ‘troll’ who had previously been combative” online “and also openly shared attacks on women’s rights” -- another trademark of the “alt-right.”

    Dylann Roof, “Face Of The Radicalized ‘Alt-Right’” Killed Nine At Historically Black Church

    The University of Chicago’s Divinity School properly identified Dylann Roof, the man behind the June 17, 2015, shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, SC, as “the face of the radicalized ‘alt-right.’” In a confession video, Roof told an FBI agent that he committed the attack because “Blacks are raping and killing white people on the streets every day.”

    According to The Daily Beast, “whole passages from Roof’s manifesto first appeared” on the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. The Daily Beast pointed out, “The parallels between Roof’s manifesto and the comments on The Daily Stormer … suggest that either Roof was the commenter or he visited the site often enough to have plagiarized from it for his manifesto.”

    Wired reported that Roof “searched for ‘black on white crime’ and ended up on the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens’ website,” which The Atlantic said has its roots in an organization that “aimed to be a (somewhat) more respectable alternative” to the Ku Klux Klan.

    British “White Fascist” Killed Labour MP Jo Cox

    Thomas Mair, a British man “with extreme right wing views,” according to CNN, was convicted of murdering British Labour member of parliament Jo Cox in June 2016. According to The Independent, “Reports from the trial proceedings conjure up a profile of a committed right-wing terrorist extremist, with the court hearing details of Mair’s links to white supremacist groups and witness testimony to his exhortations to ‘put Britain First.’” The article went on to say the murder was “an act of political terrorism murder committed by a white fascist.” The Daily Mail reported that jurors in the case were shown the inside of Mair’s home, where he “plotted her murder amongst far-Right literature and a dossier on the MP.”

    Man Angered By Debunked Sting Videos Killed Three At Colorado Planned Parenthood

    In 2015, Robert Lewis Dear opened fire inside a Colorado Planned Parenthood, killing three people. As Vox noted, when he was arrested Dear mentioned “baby parts,” which was “probably a reference” to the deceptively edited videos meant to slander Planned Parenthood put out by the Center for Medical Progress, which were laden with conservative misinformation. New Republic pointed out that “the narratives he learned from Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and Bill O’Reilly and countless far-right web sites” contributed to his radicalization and his murders.

    White Supremacist Gave Nazi Salute After Targeting Jews In Missouri Shooting

    Frazier Glenn Miller, a “Missouri man with a long resume of anti-Semitism and white supremacist activism,” according to CNN, killed three people on April 13, 2014, after opening fire on two Jewish centers in Kansas City, MO. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said that just after his arrest, “Miller shouted ‘Heil Hitler’ while handcuffed in the back seat of a police car.” The Kansas City Star also reported that Miller asked the officer, “How many f------ Jews did I kill?” After his arrest, Miller said he “wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died.”

    Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, told CNN that Miller was “among the most-over-the-top, violent white supremacists” of the 1980s, adding that he “was one of the pioneers in the modern hate world.”

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • Stop Airing Spicer's White House Briefings Live

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Cable news has given White House press secretary Sean Spicer nearly 15 hours of airtime to spout lies on behalf of the administration in the past two weeks, but it’s time for the networks to stop airing his press briefings live. Spicer has shown that he is incapable of living up to his pledge to tell the truth to the press, and cable news should stop giving him a platform to continue lying to the public.

    During his first official question and answer session with the press in the White House, on January 23, Spicer answered in the affirmative when ABC’s Jon Karl asked if he would “always tell the truth from that platform,” saying, “It is never our intention to lie to you, Jonathan. … I’m gonna come out here and tell you the facts as I know them.” This came two days after Spicer’s disastrous first official statement to the press from the White House briefing room, in which he repeatedly lied to reporters about the size of crowds at President Donald Trump’s inauguration and berated the media for not adhering to his falsehoods.

    At the time, CNN chose to not air Spicer’s statement live, a decision CNN media critic Brian Stelter explained as allowing the network to “monitor the statement [and] then report on it.”

    Unfortunately, CNN’s decision to monitor Spicer’s statements before airing them turned out to be the exception instead of the norm. And in the days since Spicer pledged to tell the truth, he has continued to lie from his spot behind the lectern on a variety of topics:

    • He doubled-down on his claims about inauguration viewers, while changing his tune to say he meant total viewership, not just in-person crowds. He said Trump had “the largest-watched inauguration ever,” even though, as The Washington Post reported, “there’s no evidence” to back up even that narrower claim.

    • He blamed the media for starting the “myth” that Trump had a “rift” with the intelligence community, even though, as Politico noted, there are “several specific instances” where Trump “publicly disparaged the intelligence community.”

    • He hyped Trump’s claim that “millions of people ... voted illegally” in the 2016 election, yet when officials searched for cases of voter fraud, they found “next to none,” as The New York Times reported.

    • He asserted that Trump had an “overwhelming” Electoral College victory, winning the most electoral votes of “any Republican since Reagan,” but his tally actually ranked 46th out of 58 elections in terms of the proportion of the electoral vote he received.

    • And he claimed that there had been no changes to the makeup of the National Security Council Principals Committee from prior administrations, though NPR reported that Trump’s decision to include his chief strategist (Stephen Bannon) on the committee is “a departure from any past administration.”

    Despite the lies the press secretary has told from the lectern, cable news networks are still giving Spicer a platform to spout his falsehoods. In nearly two weeks, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC have devoted a combined 14 hours, 58 minutes and 49 seconds of uninterrupted airtime to Spicer’s briefings. Of that total, 3 hours, 19 minutes and 41 seconds were spent on Spicer’s introductions, where he reads, more or less, from a press release and spouts the administration’s talking points. Essentially, cable networks have relinquished airtime to show unfiltered White House propaganda. And it’s not just cable news; some broadcast networks have followed suit, breaking from scheduled midday coverage to listen to Spicer’s lies while other outlets stream the briefings live on Facebook.

    While Spicer is far from the only serial liar working in the White House -- that roster includes the president himself -- he is particularly visible. White House press briefings serve a vital role in fostering transparency and keeping an open dialogue between the administration and the press, but that doesn’t mean networks should air them live -- especially when the administration uses them to spread lies and propaganda. The role of the news media is to accurately inform the public. Giving Spicer an unfiltered platform to spout misinformation daily does a disservice to viewers, and cable news must stop this pattern.

  • What The Media Ignore When They Call Gorsuch "Mainstream"

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Some media have called President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, District Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, “relatively mainstream.” But this label is misleading -- if Trump’s nominee is a “mainstream” conservative judge, it is only because conservative legal thought has shifted to the far right, as The New York Times’ Linda Greenhouse explained. That shift is also reflected in the extreme anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ “originalist” decisions Gorsuch has issued, which have radical impacts that some in the media have downplayed.