Texas-based radio host Michael Berry, whose racially-charged comments regularly draw widespread criticism, hosted presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on his show to discuss their long friendship and Cruz's new book, but steered clear of controversial issues like Berry's support for the Confederate flag.
During the June 30 episode of The Michael Berry Show, Berry gave Cruz a platform to promote his new book and upcoming book tour. During a discussion about an old nickname Cruz got for being so serious, Cruz confirmed his long friendship with Berry:
BERRY: You're not always so serious.
CRUZ: Well, you have got to have fun. You can't survive a campaign without having fun, without laughing and cutting up. You and I have, more than once, had the opportunity to perhaps kill a few liver cells and laugh at the joy of life.
According to Berry, his friendship with Cruz goes back over a decade. In 2012, after Cruz won the Republican primary in the Texas Senate race, Berry introduced Cruz at the victory party by saying "I am proud to say that Ted Cruz has been my friend for over 10 years." At a 2012 rally, Cruz also singled out and thanked Berry, who was standing beside him.
While Berry's long history of racially-charged, sexist and Islamaphobic remarks haven't caused Cruz to distance himself from his old friend, they have drawn wide criticism. The Texas Observer called Berry "more than your average hatemonger," adding, "He's a notable local figure, a three-term former city councilmember who ran for mayor in 2003" whose Twitter account is "full of racist and xenophobic tweets."
Berry has a history of referring to African-Americans as "animals" and discounting the views of minorities. After the McKinney, Texas pool party that resulted in the controversial arrest of black teenagers, Berry called the teens "jungle animals." In 2014, he said African-American students at UCLA who called for greater campus diversity were "pack animals" and suggested they "get the F over themselves." He has also claimed "black people don't believe black lives matter," and suggested that the election of Barack Obama "prompted the poorest, most violent segment" of African-Americans to clash with police in places like Baltimore.
Comedian Chuck Knipp, who performs in blackface as "Shirley Q. Liquor" has often appeared on The Michael Berry Show. Knipp's act includes making light of welfare recipients and the use of Ebonics. During Knipp's latest performance, right after Berry's June 30 interview with Cruz, the comedian posed mockingly as an Affordable Care Act navigator, doling out incorrect information about the health care law.
Berry has also vehemently defended the Confederate flag, claiming it represents "the heritage" of South Carolina, and has downplayed the racial motivations of the white man accused of the June 17 mass shooting at a black church in Charleston.
During his interview with Cruz, Berry avoided discussion of any of these topics. Cruz has taken pains not to state a firm position on whether the Confederate flag should continue to fly over the South Carolina Statehouse, but his South Carolina campaign co-chair seems to share Berry's views. According to Politico:
State Sen. Lee Bright, Cruz's South Carolina co-chair, has emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of the move. Bright told the Charleston Post and Courier that taking the flag down was akin to a "Stalinist purge," a claim he expanded on in an interview with POLITICO on Tuesday.
"It's not just the flag," Bright said. "They want to take down the Confederate monuments; I've gotten emails from people who want to rename streets. ... Anytime you want to basically remove the symbols of history from a state, that's something that just is very bad. ... These are honorable men who fought for their homes, their home state; to disgrace them in the name of political correctness is just wrong. They're not here to defend themselves."
The full interview between Berry and Cruz, followed by blackface comedian Chuck Knipp, is below:
A new Media Matters study has found that outside of MSNBC, major broadcast and cable television outlets are failing to fact-check climate science denial by presidential candidates 75 percent of the time. But it's worth taking a closer look at how television program hosts have handled their face-to-face interviews with presidential candidates, since these high-profile interviews often get a substantial amount of attention and can shape media discussions for days or even weeks to come.
So how are TV hosts responding when presidential candidates spout climate science denial in real time? It depends which channel you're watching.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's historic marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, media outlets have a chance to break new ground in their coverage of the fight for LGBT equality. In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, journalists should be asking questions that advance the national conversation about LGBT equality while avoiding the pitfalls that plagued coverage of the debate over marriage equality.
For the past several years, media questions about LGBT equality during presidential election seasons have largely focused on where candidates stand on same-sex marriage. These questions typically elicit rehearsed and uninformative sound bite responses; candidates appeal to religion and tradition, which tends to end the discussion about LGBT issues before it even begins.
Now that the Supreme Court has effectively rendered the legal debate over marriage equality moot, news outlets should be prepared to ask the 2016 presidential candidates smarter, tougher questions about the fight for LGBT equality:
The list of important LGBT issues doesn't end there: transgender military service, LGBT youth homelessness, detention of LGBT immigrants, etc. These issues raise important questions about a candidate's support or disdain for the LGBT community without devolving into predictable tropes about tradition and religion.
Political candidates often cite their religious beliefs as a means to avoid being branded as homophobic or transphobic when they hold anti-LGBT policy positions. But citing faith as a way to sidestep tough questions about LGBT equality should be a non-starter; most religious people actually support LGBT equality. Given that media outlets have historically had trouble separating anti-LGBT animus from sincere, mainstream religious beliefs, journalists should be prepared to press candidates who cite religion as their reasons for opposing LGBT equality. What exactly about a candidate's faith motivates him or her to oppose protections for LGBT people, and why does the candidate disagree with the majority of religious Americans?
Candidates who oppose legal protections for LGBT people typically cite concerns about religious liberty or a reluctance to bestow "special rights," among other popular conservative talking points. These concerns have been debunked time and time again, contradicted by the experiences of states and cities that have had similar protections in place for years. Rather than letting candidates get away with their anti-LGBT talking points, journalists should be prepared to ask follow-up questions that force candidates to provide evidence or examples of their horror stories.
In the post-Obergefell media landscape, the fight for LGBT equality will turn its focus to the broader issue of discrimination against LGBT people. Journalists who want to advance the story and avoid rehashing tired debates about same-sex marriage have an unprecedented opportunity to ask smart questions that cut through polished talking points and get to the heart of candidates' positions on LGBT equality.
Photo via Flickr.com user Tony Webster
Fox News host and senior vice president Neil Cavuto responded to President Obama's expansion of federally guaranteed overtime pay to 5 million additional American workers by fear-mongering that the regulatory change would lead the United States down a path toward financial ruin similar to Greece while hurting the workers it is meant to protect.
In a June 29 op-ed in The Huffington Post, President Obama announced his plan to update federal overtime regulations in 2016 by increasing the salary threshold at which qualifying employees are legally guaranteed overtime pay. Under current law, salaried employees earning less than $23,660 annually are legally required to be paid time-and-a-half when their position requires that they work in excess of 40 hours per week. Obama's proposal would more than double the income threshold to qualify for overtime -- covering qualifying employees earning up to $50,400 annually, or roughly 40 percent of the salaried workforce. Current overtime standards only extend to about 8 percent of salaried workers.
In response to the president's proposal, Cavuto expressed concern that paying more Americans for the hours they work could contribute to an economic disaster in the United States. On the June 30 edition of Fox's Your World, Cavuto proclaimed that the U.S. was becoming "Greece on steroids," a reference to the disastrous fiscal and financial circumstances that have unraveled the comparatively tiny European economy for more than six years. Cavuto was joined by discredited economist Art Laffer, who lamented the "huge burden on these companies" that will now be required to adequately pay their employees:
Despite Cavuto's dire predictions, economists expect that expanded overtime protections will be a boon for the American workforce.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the majority of the workers who will directly benefit from the overtime change are women, and nearly 30 percent of affected workers are minorities. In an op-ed co-authored with philanthropist Nick Hanauer, economist Robert Reich blasted overtime opponents for warning of "unintended consequences" from stronger wages "without an ounce of empirical data to back it up." They also likened the policy to a "minimum wage hike for the middle class," and explained that it will either boost workers' pay or give them additional leisure time while adding new jobs. Economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argued in a blog published by The Washington Post that expanding overtime protections is "a critical labor standard with the potential to boost the paychecks of millions of middle-wage workers."
Fox has a long history of attacking overtime protections, recently complaining that the then-rumored proposal amounted to "left-wing economic engineering" and was "probably going to hurt a lot of other people."
The Associated Press' (AP) report on a meeting between lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) completely ignored the nationwide controversy Bundy sparked in 2014 when he made a series of racist comments about "the Negro." Paul himself repudiated Bundy at the time for his "offensive" commentary, a fact that was also missing from the AP article.
According to the AP, Bundy and Paul met during a June 29 campaign event in Mesquite, Nevada. Bundy said of Paul to the AP, "In general, I think we're in tune with each other." Politico additionally reported that the two men spoke for 45 minutes.
In its report, AP described the April 2014 armed standoff between Bundy supporters and federal law enforcement agents as "one of the more dramatic conflicts over land rights in recent years," but made no mention of Bundy's infamous racist commentary or that Paul had previously condemned him:
Paul's meeting with Bundy recalled one of the more dramatic conflicts over land rights in recent years.
Hundreds of armed supporters joined Bundy in April 2013 to stop a roundup of his cattle near Bunkerville about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The Bureau of Land Management says he owes more than $1 million in grazing fees over more than 20 years. Bundy argues the federal government has no authority there.
Indeed, in April 2014 violence nearly broke out as armed militia members pointed guns at federal agents from the Bureau of Land Management over Bundy's decades-long refusal to pay grazing fees for his use of federal land despite several court orders. (While the AP article presents the question of whether Bundy owes fees as an open question, journalists who have covered the Nevada rancher's legal dispute say his claims are baseless.)
Significantly, the AP article made no mention of the major controversy after The New York Times reported on racist remarks made by Bundy. In comments to supporters about "the Negro," Bundy suggested that African-Americans may have been better off as slaves and that "[t]hey abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton." After the Times' report, Media Matters posted video of Bundy's comments, and Bundy's champions in conservative politics and media largely fled his cause.
Sen. Paul was among those who condemned Bundy, releasing a statement saying that the rancher's "remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him." While the AP excluded mention of the controversy and Paul's previous rebuke of Bundy, those details made it into reports on the meeting between Bundy and Paul by Politico and CNN.com. Politico reported that "Paul's presidential campaign did not respond to a request to explain why he held a private meeting with Bundy 14 months" after the controversy.
Watch video of Bundy's infamous comments below:
Fox News downplayed a recent report on questionable business dealings made by Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush after having ignored the story in the days after it broke.
On June 28, The Washington Post reported on Bush's business dealings in the years before and after he was governor of Florida and said Bush "often benefited from his family connections and repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk." As The Post also noted:
Five of his business associates have been convicted of crimes; one remains an international fugitive on fraud charges. In each case, Bush said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing and said some of the people he met as a businessman in Florida took advantage of his naiveté.
On the June 30 edition of Fox & Friends, correspondent Carl Cameron downplayed The Post's reporting, saying Bush, "like any kind of businessman," has had "some ups and some downs" and "some of the downs have been in the press lately." Cameron claimed Bush's decision to release 33 years of tax returns could be a response to reporting on his business dealings:
CAMERON: 33 years of tax returns, that's a lot.
STEVE DOOCY: I'm sure it's just a coincidence it's coming out today, not raining on anybody's parade, just a coincidence, right, Carl?
CAMERON: Wouldn't dream of it. And it's also worth noting, you know, that his business career, he made a lot of money, but, you know, like any kind of businessman, there were some ups and some downs, and some of the downs have been in the press lately, so this may be answering a little bit of that, but it's also sending a message to Chris Christie ... Look out, Hillary Clinton, when it comes to transparency.
Prior to Cameron's remarks, Fox had ignored The Post's reporting completely in its primetime coverage since the story broke.
Fox News Latino's coverage of NBC's decision to sever ties with Donald Trump differed dramatically from Fox News' rush to defend the presidential candidate's incendiary remarks about Mexican immigrants. While Fox hosts praised Trump's stance and reticence to apologize, Fox News Latino characterized NBC's move as a victory for Latino media advocacy leaders.
NBCUniversal announced Monday that it would sever ties with Trump after he characterized Mexican immigrants as criminals and "rapists," explaining in a statement: "At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values. Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump."
Fox News Latino highlighted how Hispanic advocates pressured NBC to end its relationship with Trump, writing that "Latino media advocacy leaders say NBC's decision Monday ... marked a watershed moment for Latinos." In particular, Fox News Latino profiled the efforts of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, whose chairman and co-founder published an op-ed encouraging the network to "dump Trump."
By contrast, Fox News hosts rallied to defend Trump, praising his reluctance to apologize for his offensive remarks and suggesting the backlash unfairly minimized his well-taken points about a so-called border-problem.
On June 25, Univision, the nation's largest Spanish-language network, announced that it would no longer air Trump's Miss Universe pageant. The Mexican channel Televisa and the online outlet Ora TV also abandoned Trump. Before this week, NBC aired Trump's Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, as well as the reality show hosted by Trump, The Celebrity Apprentice. Trump faced widespread criticism following his incendiary campaign speech remarks targeting Mexican immigrants:
TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they are not sending their best. They are not sending you, they are not sending you. They are sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some I assume are good people.
Fox News also covered Trump's speech differently than Fox News Latino. During a June 18 interview with Fox News Latino's Rick Sanchez, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade defended Trump by hyping crime statistics to push the myth that immigrants commit crimes at a disproportionate rate, but Sanchez fought back by pointing out immigrants' far-reaching positive economic impact.
As national media begin to focus their political coverage on campaigning by Republican presidential candidates in the lead-up to the New Hampshire primary, it's incumbent upon journalists to disclose the history of misinformation and conservative bias of the state's top newspaper, the New Hampshire Union Leader, as well as the ties between the Koch brothers and oft-quoted state political expert Charles Arlinghaus.
A June 30 report by Politico highlighted how the crowded field of GOP contenders are viewing next January's first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire as "do or die" and already jostling for position. The piece said, "Never before have so many White House hopefuls bet so much on a single primary," and included quotes from Charles Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Institute, and Drew Cline, editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. But Politico failed to mention Arlinghaus' ties to the Koch brothers and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), or the Union Leader's long history of publishing conservative misinformation.
As other New Hampshire newspapers have been closing their state house bureaus because of budget cuts, the Union Leader's voice in statewide politics has gained prominence. Fox News is co-hosting a debate in August with the paper and presidential candidates are lining up to be interviewed by the Union Leader's publisher via live streaming. With so much access to candidates, and hardly any competition, the Union Leader's outsized influence could push candidates further to the right.
Publisher Joe McQuaid enjoys a prominent role as a must-visit member of the media for presidential primary candidates. In addition to his publishing duties, McQuaid has written sensationalist editorials for the paper, including one that called for a travel ban during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa -- a move most experts agreed would only exacerbate the spread of the virus. As the Daily Beast pointed out in the run-up to the 2012 election, McQuaid "is one of the more influential voices in American politics." McQuaid himself "figures that the Union Leader 'may be able to sway a few percentage points in close elections,'" much of that due to the editorial stance of the paper, which is written by only two people: McQuaid and editor Cline, who also runs the editorial page.
Although the 2012 Union Leader-endorsed candidate, Newt Gingrich, failed to win the primary, Gingrich's polling numbers spiked following the endorsement. However, as Politico explained, because of the way the Union Leader operates, the endorsement the paper gives is more than just a "one-time front-page feature," because the paper "tends to interweave its endorsement with its news coverage, bolstering its pick and attacking the other candidates ... most likely in addition to the opinion columns that tend to run in the paper echoing the official choice."
The two-man editorial board of McQuaid and Cline often echoes national conservative media talking points. The board has fabricated a need for harmful voter ID laws, attacked successful Head Start programs -- which help provide a pre-K education for New Hampshire's children - and even downplayed the impact of sequestration's steep budget cuts.
The Union Leader's editorial board has been attacking President Obama and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since 2010 and published a massive amount of misinformation on the law. The board warned of spiking insurance premium prices that never came to pass, criticized cost-saving measures in the law, and said initial glitches in the rollout of the online exchanges meant the entire law was a failure. The board also attacked Medicaid expansion and promoted a misguided voucher program to privatize the program.
On foreign policy issues, the Union Leader has demonstrated reckless bias by calling opponents of the release of the Senate report on CIA torture "wusses," and pushed a false narrative that blamed Hillary Clinton for the kidnapping of hundreds of African girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Outside of its opinion pages, the Union Leader has also at times blatantly misinformed its readers. In 2013, the paper published a lightly-edited press release authored by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) -- the Koch brothers-funded conservative advocacy group -- attacking the ACA. The article gave free publicity to AFP while helping to fulfill its larger mission, which, according to The Washington Post, is to "spread as much confusion and dishonesty about the [health care] law as possible."
The conservative slant to the Union Leader's news section is also apparent in what the paper chooses not to cover. A 2012 Media Matters study found that it failed to report on the "environmental, health, and economic benefits" of new government regulations in stories that emphasized how they would hurt the economy.
The Union Leader also publishes a regular op-ed by Charles Arlinghaus, the president of the Josiah Bartlett Institute, a think tank with strong connections to the American Legislative Exchange Council's conservative model-legislation mill (ALEC). In 2012, Arlinghaus and ALEC representatives co-hosted an event to denounce the Affordable Care Act.
The Josiah Bartlett Institute is part of the Koch brothers-funded State Policy Network -- state-based think tanks that incubate and legitimize conservative policy ideas that often benefit corporate sponsors. A representative for the Center for Media and Democracy told the Nashua Telegraph that Koch donations associated with Arlinghaus and the institute show that Arlinghaus is "working on a national conservative agenda, not a local, New Hampshire-based agenda."
In response to the Supreme Court's recent marriage equality ruling, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that many people become gay because of "abuse" and "parental issues."
On the June 29 edition of The Erick Erickson Show, Fox's Erickson claimed that it's "not really true in most cases" that people are born gay. Instead, "if you go back to it there's parental issues, there's abuse, and that has a lot to do with it":
ERICKSON: First of all, you're only talking 3 to 5 percent of the population. Now I know a lot of people, a lot of people the thought is that you're born gay. That's actually not really true in most cases. In some cases I think it probably is, but in a lot of cases if you go back to it there are parental issues, there's abuse, and that has a lot to do with it. And as you see a collapse of family - I don't think that it's a coincidence that a collapse of family is - is directly inverse proportional or inversely related to the rise in people who identify as being gay. [Emphasis added]
Erickson has a history of extreme anti-LGBT comments. He has previously said that countries with marriage equality are "bent on suicide," compared gay people to terrorists, and agreed that the "homosexual movement" is "destroying America." Erickson also regularly solicits support for an extreme anti-gay legal group working to criminalize homosexuality internationally.
On August 6-9, Erickson will be hosting the RedState Gathering - a conservative political conference - in Atlanta. A number of GOP presidential hopefuls, including Gov. Jeb Bush and Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, are slated to speak at the event.
The Sportsman Channel has decided to not renew the National Rifle Association's (NRA) weekday news show, Cam & Company, ending the program's two-and-a-half year run on the outdoor-themed network.
The hour-long show served as a vehicle for the NRA's frequent misinformation and extremism on the issue of gun violence. During the June 26 broadcast, host Cam Edwards announced the end of the series, effective that day.
Edwards said, "Beginning next Monday, you will be seeing a different program here at 5 p.m. Eastern on Sportsman Channel. We do want to thank all the folks at Sportsman Channel for our time here on the program. I wish I -- there's no drama, there's no dramatic backstory to this. It's just one of those decisions that has happened."
The NRA's three-hour weekday radio show, also called Cam & Company, will continue to air at NRANews.com and on SiriusXM.
Cam & Company debuted on Sportsman Channel on January 15, 2013. In a press release, the network claimed the show would be "the one and only news-talk series on television that can authoritatively address the issues that are vital to America's more than 80 million sportsmen and sportswomen."
In a nod to the fact that the show debuted just one month after the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, the release stated, "With national passions running high on the issue of firearms ownership and rights in America, the series launch is especially timely."
The NRA's executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre added, "The partnership expansion of these two great American brands, the Sportsman Channel and the NRA, comes at a critical time in the history of preserving our Second Amendment freedom."
The launch of the show kicked off a growing partnership between Sportsman Channel and the NRA, with the network participating in both the 2014 and 2015 NRA annual meetings. In January 2015, Sportsman Channel was acquired by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, a media company that has a "strategic partnership" with the NRA through its Outdoor Channel.
In a June 24 press release, Sportsman Channel announced several changes to its lineup for the third quarter, including 13 new series, beginning on June 29.
Sportsman Channel issued the following statement to Media Matters about the end of the Cam & Company television show:
We have enjoyed our relationship with Cam & Company and appreciate their efforts over the 2 1/2 years they were on our air. Sportsman Channel was proud to be the first network to take the forward step to air a daily show focused on our second amendment rights. Unfortunately, we are not able to continue with the program. We continue to support Cam & Company and the NRA, as well as to air a robust schedule of the best in class firearms programming.
Viewers can continue to watch the Cam & Company show on NRANews.com from 2-5 p.m. each weekday. Also, previously aired shows and interviews are available at http://www.nranews.com/cam/list/cam-company and podcasts can be found on iHeartRadio and iTunes. In addition, Cam & Company is simulcast on SiriusXM.
The complete schedule can be viewed at www.nranews.com/cam/list/cam-and-co-schedule.