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  • CNN Just Discovered Why You Don’t Negotiate With Blackmailers

    Blog ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    The Trump administration's blacklisting of CNN continues, with Vice President Mike Pence skipping the network as he made the rounds the day after the president's address to Congress. This exclusion came days after CNN made moves to play nice with the administration, proving that "access journalism" means nothing under President Donald Trump.

    Despite the glowing praise that Trump received from CNN, among other outlets, for his February 28 speech before a joint session of Congress, the network was the only one that Pence did not visit the next morning. Pence appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe , Fox News’ Fox & Friends, NBC’s Today, CBS’ CBS This Morning, and ABC’s Good Morning America. Pence also made appearances on conservative talk radio shows The Laura Ingraham Show and The Rush Limbaugh Show, and he will be appearing on Michael Savage’s A Savage Nation.

    This isn’t the first time that CNN has been burned by Trump and his team. Trump has tried to make the network the punchline to every joke during his administration, in part as retaliation for CNN’s coverage of allegations that he and his campaign had ties to Russia. Trump has called CNN “fake news,” attempted to embarrass reporter Jim Acosta during a briefing, refused to send White House officials to appear on CNN’s Sunday show since the Inauguration, and attacked anchor Don Lemon as “dumb” and a “lightweight.”And the latest move comes on the heels of a “ bait and switch” in which Trump told CNN and other television anchors in a private meeting that he was interested in creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but then dropped the issue “when he was actually out there speaking to the American public.” The administration has admitted it “was a misdirection play,” according to CNN’s Sara Murray.

    CNN was also one of the outlets that was denied entry during last week’s media gaggle, along with The New York Times, Politico, BuzzFeed News, and the Los Angeles Times, in favor of Trump-friendly outlets Breitbart, The Washington Times, and One America News Network.

    CNN is being singled out as a punching bag by the Trump administration, and even when the network tried to play nice it was blacklisted and fed bad information.

  • Daily Caller Mocks Anti-Semitic Graffiti: "FINALLY! The First Poop Swastika Of 2017"

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Pro-Trump right-wing web outlet The Daily Caller mocked an incident in which a swastika drawn with human feces was found in a gender-neutral bathroom at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), posting a piece with the headline “FINALLY! The First Poop Swastika Of 2017 Appears On An American College Campus.”

    The vandalism was found in a gender-neutral dorm bathroom over the weekend of February 18. The school’s public safety officials said that they are investigating the incident as “both an act of vandalism and potentially a crime of hate.” The anti-Semitic and possibly anti-LGBTQ incident came during a continuing national surge in anti-Semitic threats and hate crimes. Some RISD students also told local outlet NBC 10 that this is the latest in “a string of incidents with feces.”

    Notoriously anti-LGBTQ and misogynist Daily Caller reporter Eric Owens mocked the anti-Semitic vandalism in a February 27 article headlined “FINALLY! The First Poop Swastika Of 2017 Appears On An American College Campus.” Owens repeatedly referred to the feces as “poop,” writing that RISD students were “unsure about the meaning of the poop swastika.” Owens connected RISD’s anti-Semitic crime with a similar incident in October 2015, when a swastika drawn in feces was found in a dorm bathroom at the University of Missouri during a period of racial tension and protest on campus. The Daily Caller had repeatedly mocked the University of Missouri vandalism, using the tag “poop swastika” and running articles like “Who Is The Poop Nazi?” accompanied by an image of the infamous “Soup Nazi” from NBC’s Seinfeld.

    From the February 27 Daily Caller article: 

    A swastika created out of human feces appeared in a gender-neutral bathroom at a residence hall at Rhode Island School of Design last week.

    Officials at the highly selective art school just down the street from Brown University notified students that the swastika was, in fact, composed of human waste, according to local NBC affiliate WJAR.

    “It’s pretty shocking because I think everybody is wondering, you know, who it is,” Rhode Island School of Design student Cooper Thompson told WJAR.

    Students on the RISD campus were unsure about the meaning of the poop swastika.

    “You don’t know if it’s somebody who actually has a mental illness or you don’t know if it’s somebody who’s just trying to play a prank or they actually are anti-Semitic,” one student, Afi Goncalves, told the station.

    A third student, Rory Hernandez, noted that unauthorized poop art has become a trend at RISD lately.

    [...]

    America’s last campus poop swastika kerfuffle occurred in October 2015 on the campus of the University of Missouri.

    [...]

    Partly in response to the Gateway Hall poop swastika, a days-long protest ensued on Mizzou’s Columbia, Mo. campus.

    The protests centered on a group called Concerned Students 1950 and Jonathan Butler, a twentysomething graduate student and the son of a millionaire railroad executive, who went on a six-day hunger strike in November 2015.

    Previously: 

    Why Did The New York Times Call The Daily Caller “Moderate”?

    Campbell Brown's "Non-Partisan" News Site Hires Contributor With Long Anti-LGBT History

    Daily Caller Mocks Transgender Students "Running For Homecoming King, Queen, Whatever"

  • CNN's New "Senior Economics Analyst" Embarrassed His Network By Spewing Lies About The Economy

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Discredited economic pundit and former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore -- who currently serves as the “chief economist” at the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation -- bombarded CNN viewers with debunked right-wing media talking points about the American economy last night. Moore’s prominent role as CNN’s new “senior economics analyst” hinders the network’s credibility, undermining its ability to cover the economy in an honest and accountable way.

    During a February 28 panel discussion analyzing President Donald Trump’s speech before a joint session of Congress, Moore sparred with fellow panelists in an attempt to defend Trump’s reckless budgetary, economic, and fiscal policies. Across a spectrum of issues relating to economic growth, job creation, taxes, and regulations, Moore pushed tired and disproven myths pulled directly from right-wing media.

    When pressed on how Trump could increase spending while cutting taxes for corporations and high income earners without ballooning the deficit, Moore regurgitated the absurd fallacy that tax cuts would pay for themselves by stoking economic growth to at least 3.5 percent annually. Economist Marc Goldwein of the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget dismissed the 3.5 percent growth target as “pie in the sky” and “pretty much impossible” during the presidential campaign. There is a mountain of evidence from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the Brookings Institution, and elsewhere demonstrating that tax cuts don’t generate new revenue through economic growth. Furthermore, economists across the political spectrum view Trump’s proposed restrictions on immigration and international trade as a detriment to economic growth regardless of tax policy shifts.

    Moore’s assertion that the economy can achieve 3.5 percent annual growth isn’t just wrong on the arithmetic, it’s also arbitrary. Former presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) were chided by economists and experts for floating similar targets, and the fixation on getting economic growth above 3 percent was a core of Fox News’ misinformation campaign against the Obama administration. (Last October, Moore told Fox Business viewers that stronger-than-expected economic growth in the prior quarter was “still pretty lousy” simply because it was measured at 2.9 percent instead of 3.)

    After falsely claiming that Trump could stoke economic growth by following a tax cut strategy supposedly modeled after former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, Moore pushed the misleading notion that regulatory burdens are holding the economy back. This claim, popularized by the right-wing editorial board of The Wall Street Journal (a former employer of Moore’s), is also not backed up by the facts.

    After being rebuffed on regulations, Moore tried another right-wing media myth: that it has been “15 years since the average American worker has had a pay raise.” Fox News has spent years blaming President Barack Obama for supposedly stagnant median incomes in the United States, always neglecting to mention that the stagnation began under President George W. Bush and was driven into free fall by the recession Obama inherited. Median incomes are lower than they were 15 years ago thanks to two Bush-era recessions but had gradually improved during Obama’s final years in office -- a fact absent from right-wing coverage of the subject.

    Moore concluded his embarrassing performance by recycling false right-wing media talking points blaming environmental protections for declining employment in the coal industry. The fallacy that protecting the environment is killing jobs in the energy sector is so unsubstantiated that even conservative Forbes columnist Tim Worstall has rebuffed it. A recent study from the Brookings Institution concluded that the overwhelming reason for declining employment in the mining and manufacturing industries is automation, a trend that “has been eating coal jobs over a long period of time -- [since] years before concerns about climate change” stiffened environmental protections. Right-wing pundits, including Moore, love to exaggerate the threat of automation while opposing the minimum wage. They rarely mention that machines, not burdensome regulations, are driving well-paid blue collar mining jobs into extinction.

    Steve Moore’s short tenure at CNN thus far has been a disaster for the network, which decided to hire arguably the world’s worst economist away from Fox News on January 30. Moore’s unflinching partisan agenda colors all of his commentary and can be easily dismantled by any analyst with a basic competency in economics.

    Watch the full segment from the February 28 edition of CNN Tonight here:

  • Trump Advocated White Nationalism With An "Indoor Voice," And Pundits Loved It 

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    After President Donald Trump gave a speech to joint members of Congress filled with exaggerations, lies, and policy plans that contained no specifics -- and in many cases were based on propagating fear about and demonizing immigrants -- the takeaway from pundits and talking heads was somehow that he sounded “presidential.”

    That's how low the bar has been set. So low that because the president sounded like an adult for an hour and refrained from transparently attacking people of color, allies, or the press, media figures forgot the glaring abnormalities of Trump’s presidency thus far. To some in the media, the speech was a “reset” for the new president.

    As soon as he finished speaking, the accolades from pundits began to roll in. Fox’s Chris Wallace said, “I feel like tonight, Donald Trump became the president of the United States.” ABC’s Alex Castellanos similarly said Trump “became president tonight. I think we saw the long-awaited pivot.” MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki claimed that Trump had “a more presidential tone, a more optimistic tone,” and Fox’s Chris Stirewalt said Trump “did sound like the president, look like the president, act like the president.” They weren’t the only ones.

    It wasn’t just pundits on TV either. Newspaper headlines also lauded “a more temperate Trump,” his supposed “milder tones,” and his call for an “end to ‘trivial fights.’”

    Essentially, the media set the bar so low for the speech that when Trump, the president of the United States, sounded like the president of the United States, it was lauded as a victory.

    Not only was that an absurd measure, but the praise delivered by pundits across the broadcast and cable news stations, for the most part, entirely lacked context. One prominent example of this failure was the reaction to Trump’s comments about a slain Navy SEAL officer, William “Ryan” Owens. During his speech, Trump acknowledged Owens’ widow and said that “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.” That portion of the speech was cited by many as a highlight and an “extraordinary moment”:

    CNN’s Van Jones: “He became president of the United States in that moment, period.”

    Politico’s John Bresnahan: “That was a Reaganesque moment for Trump.”

    CNN’s Jim Acosta: “Powerful moment.”

    But there’s a lot more to this story. As NBC’s Katy Tur properly noted, while it was an emotional moment in the speech, it “came after Trump seemed to blame his generals/Obama for Owen’s death” just that morning, and after NBC reported that “senior intelligence sources dispute” the White House’s “characterization of [the] raid as a success.” As Tur pointed out, NBC’s reporting “would mean that Trump isn’t being honest with a grieving wife. And that is anything BUT presidential.”

    The praise also ignored the actual content of Trump’s address. Those lauding the speech as “normal” ignored what was extraordinarily abnormal about it of it. As The Washington Post’s Fact Checker noted, “President Trump’s maiden address to Congress was notable because it was filled with numerous inaccuracies.” And while large parts of the speech simply featured Trump touting what he’s done so far as president, not much about those actions is normal either. According to a New York Times analysis, most of the significant actions and events in Trump’s presidency thus far have been “abnormal.” 

    Those praising parts of the speech also seemed unable to acknowledge the startling differences between the Trump who gave that speech and the Trump from just that morning. Some examples:

    • Some pundits praised Trump for addressing the recent wave of threats against Jewish Community centers. But just hours prior to the address, Trump seemed to imply that those threats could be false flags -- a suggestion he has made before.
    • Many pundits cheered Trump for honoring the Navy SEAL killed in the Yemen raid. Yet earlier that day, Trump blamed the military for Owens’ death, telling Fox & Friends hosts, “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals. ... And they lost Ryan.”
    • And all those cheering how “presidential” and “normal” the speech was must have missed the stark and pervasive demonization of immigrants -- from Trump’s announcement that he would set up an office for “victims of immigration crime” to his decision to bring three guests whose family members had been killed by immigrants.

    These remarks, particularly on immigration, served a clear purpose that the fawning punditry seemed to miss. Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, talking to a “senior White House official,” reported that the aide said the speech was aimed to be “‘nationalism with an indoor voice,’” and that Trump “backed off exactly none of his previous policies.”

    Perhaps because Trump’s speech didn’t indicate any real change in policy, the high praise from the press has apparently even caught some of his aides off guard. According to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, even “some sources in [the White House] are frankly surprised at how pundits are warming to the speech,” noting that “Trump has not changed,” and there is “no big shift in policy coming."

    It’s not the first time the media has fallen for this ruse. Over the past year, media figures have repeatedly either predicted that Trump would finally start acting more respectable or claimed that it had already happened -- that he had finally pivoted. Yet time and time again Trump has reverted back to his usual style, leaving the media the Charlie Brown to Trump’s football-wielding Lucy.

    So yes, Trump may have sounded more like a president than we expected. But a normal-sounding speech isn’t nearly enough to erase the first month of his presidency, which was distinguished by abnormal -- and extremely problematic -- actions, attacks, and rhetoric. With promises of worse to come, it’s crucial that media stop setting the bar so low and start demanding more.

  • Chris Cillizza Demonstrates Why "Optics" Punditry Is Fundamentally Useless

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Before, during, and after President Donald Trump’s speech last night to a joint session of Congress, political journalists and pundits shamelessly prioritized the speech’s optics over its content. Focusing on the president’s “tone,” they rushed to declare that Trump had finally “pivoted,” giving a “presidential” speech.

    That obsession with style over substance drew swift criticism from other commentators. And Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza isn’t happy that pundits are being called out for saying Trump did an awesome job:

    These are dumb questions. Of course Trump can be praised for “delivering a good speech.” In fact, you don’t need to be a savvy pundit or political journalist to watch the speech and decide whether the speech is good!

    And that’s the problem. As Greg Sargent suggests, the real question is whether journalists are actually giving their audience useful information when they obsess over the president’s tone instead of the content of his speech.

    Do readers and viewers learn anything, for example, when they see Cillizza praising Trump for giving the best speech of his political life and complaining on cable news that “the worst thing, I think, for our politics is this assumption, and you see it over and over again in a speech like this, is that Donald Trump can do nothing good and nothing can be accomplished while Donald Trump is president”? (Really, that’s the absolute worst thing Cillizza can think of that can happen to our politics?)

    Americans need journalists to dig into whether anything Trump said last night could possibly be converted to policy (nope). They need journalists to interrogate Trump’s claims and determine whether they were true (they weren’t). They need journalists to put Trump’s speech into the context of his actions and explain whether he’s needlessly fearmongering about immigrant communities (my god, yes).

    And it’s helpful to learn that even the White House is shocked at how eager the press has been to praise Trump’s speech:

    Endless discussion of the optics of Trump’s speech, on the other hand, is entirely useless. There is no value in providing the “winners and losers” from last night in a way that treats Trump’s mendacity as a throwaway line.

    Of course, Cillizza’s entire oeuvre is based on the concept that he is a savvy pundit who tells people what they really need to know about politics based on a surface-level, optics-first approach.

    While he’s certainly one of the worst examples of the genre, he’s not alone -- at times, cable news seems to exist solely so Mark Halperin and Joe Scarborough and Gloria Borger and David Gergen and their ilk can pontificate about nonsense. They present value judgments and opinion dressed up as koans of wisdom.

    At best, content like this is ephemeral garbage that lasts a news cycle and is forgotten, but provides traffic that supports the work of actual reporters.

    At worst, this sort of fact-free punditry creates false narratives that can alter the public’s perception of political figures (see: the press’s obsession with Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 election cycle, which paved the way for Trump’s election).

    President Trump’s first weeks have been a shitshow of incompetence and extremism. The American public needs more from the press than meaningless dreck.

  • Media Fall For Trump’s Shameless Act Regarding Failed Yemen Raid

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President Donald Trump shamelessly and publicly deceived the widow of a fallen U.S. serviceman about her husband’s death in order to diffuse widespread concerns about the raid that resulted in his death, and journalists are rewarding him by praising his actions as “presidential.”

    During his February 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump recognized the sacrifice of William "Ryan" Owens, a Navy SEAL who was killed during a botched January 29 raid on a terrorist camp in Yemen. Trump said that according to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Owens participated in a “highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy." Trump’s praise of Owens, with the SEAL’s wife in the audience, drew a nearly two-minute long standing ovation from the crowd.

    It was an incredibly moving moment, and a triumph for political optics. It was also a deeply deceptive political ploy aimed at pushing back against numerous criticisms of the Trump administration’s handling of the raid -- the first covert counterterrorism operation of Trump’s presidency. These include:

    • Due to insufficient intelligence and preparation, “the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.” This led to U.S. casualties and civilian deaths.
    • Trump was not in the White House situation room for the raid -- his Twitter account tweeted and deleted a promotion for an upcoming interview while the attack was ongoing. He approved the action over dinner at a meeting that included political staffers.
    • Contrary to Trump’s claim that the raid was a successful intelligence gathering mission, reports suggest part of its purpose was actually to kill a top leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who “either slipped away or was not at the location.” The raid reportedly produced “no significant intelligence” according to U.S. officials who contradicted Pentagon statements in comments to NBC News. The only intelligence from the raid the Pentagon has produced is a 10-year-old video.

    As these questions have mounted, Democrats on the Hill and Owens’ father have called for an investigation into the raid. And this morning, Trump drew new controversy when he passed the buck, claiming that it “was a mission that started before I got here” and blaming the military for Owens’ death, saying, “They explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. My generals are the most respected we've had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

    All of that context has vanished for some journalists, who have instead rushed to praise Trump for his comments during his address to Congress.

    CNN’s panel was full of accolades for Trump following his speech.

    Anderson Cooper kicked things off by praising the “extraordinary moment.” Van Jones declared that Trump “became president of the United States in that moment. Period.” Gloria Borger credulously highlighted Trump’s claims that the raid had been successful. And of course, pro-Trump pundits Rick Santorum and Jeffrey Lord gushed over Trump’s “healing moment” and “soaring … inspirational” speech.

    CNN’s journalists weren’t alone in failing to put the moment in context.

    As Erick Erickson pointed out, this is the response Trump is looking for -- he is deliberately trying to use this speech to neutralize potential criticism of the raid.

    Reporters don’t need to fall into this trap. They can recognize the emotional moment in the Capitol, while still giving their audiences the facts.

  • Media Outlets Cave In To Trump’s Request To Speak On Background Days After He Blasts Use Of Anonymous Sources

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    BuzzFeed News reported that President Donald Trump met with national news anchors “on background,” and that those outlets quoted him as a “senior administration official.” Trump had recently criticized the use of anonymous sources in the media.

    Though Trump has relentlessly and repeatedly attacked the media, many outlets and journalists have bent over backwards to get access to his administration. Trump has blacklisted some outlets for unfavorable coverage and simultaneously propped up right-wing ones. Media Matters President Angelo Carusone issued a statement calling on media to stand up to Trump’s blacklisting. But according to BuzzFeed, national outlets allowed Trump to speak anonymously just days after he criticized some coverage that relied on anonymous sources.

    CNN was the first to quote Trump as a “senior administration official,” with other outlets picking up the story. In its report on the situation, BuzzFeed wrote that Trump “went on background with reporters as a ‘senior administration official’ to discuss issues like immigration.” Afterward, reporters “were allowed to put some of Trump’s comments back on the record.” Just days before, Trump said that the media “shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name,” demanding that “their name be put out there.” BuzzFeed called background meetings between reporters and administration officials “commonplace,” noting that some are even “entirely off the record,” but it also highlighted Trump’s hypocrisy. From the February 28 report:

    Donald Trump on Friday railed against the media’s use of anonymous sources in stories. Four days later, he was one.

    In a private meeting with national news anchors ahead of his address to Congress Tuesday night, Trump went on background with reporters as a “senior administration official” to discuss issues like immigration, telling attendees that it was time for a legislative compromise from both parties.

    “There’s got to be a coming together,” an “official” said, according to CNN. As BuzzFeed News reported, citing attendees at the meeting, Trump was the one to make that remark, among others attributed to the official.

    Reporters were allowed to put some of Trump’s comments back on the record at 6 p.m., according to a person familiar with the terms of the meeting. CNN later updated its story, for instance, with a quote from Trump. “The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides,” he said.

    [...]

    Tuesday’s meeting comes during weeks of blistering media criticisms from Trump, who in a speech at CPAC on Friday said that some media outlets “make up sources” and have “very dishonest people.”

    Trump took issue in particular with the use of anonymous sources in stories about the administration. “They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there,” he said. “A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being — let them say it to my face. Let there be no more sources.”

  • Economists And Experts Hammer Trump's Plan To Increase Military Spending At Expense Of Nearly Everything Else

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump’s plan to beef up the defense budget by an additional $54 billion at the expense of civilian domestic spending, which he will unveil tonight before a joint session of Congress, has been derided by economists and experts for being "wholly unrealistic" and “voodoo” economics.

    Bloomberg reported on February 26, that Trump’s first budget proposal would call for a $54 billion -- more than 9 percent -- increase in defense spending to be paid for with reductions to discretionary domestic spending, which Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) described as the budgetary equivalent of taking “a meat ax to programs that benefit the middle-class.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed reports of the president’s budget priorities in a February 27 press briefing, adding that Trump would discuss his budget plan in more detail during his February 28 address to Congress.

    Economists and experts have hammered Trump for months for proposing dramatic and seemingly unnecessary increases in defense spending. An October 19 article in New York magazine described Trump’s promises of new defense expenditures as “a random grab bag of military goodies, untethered to any coherent argument” because he lacked any vision or purpose for increasing funding to the military. According to figures compiled by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, American defense spending already eclipses the military spending of the next seven countries combined:

    The reception for Trump’s new budget outline has been similarly harsh. New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman derided the president’s claim that a “revved up economy” could fund new tax cuts and spending increases as “deep voodoo” -- alluding to Trump’s embrace of trickle-down economics. Washington Post contributor and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) senior fellow Jared Bernstein slammed Trump’s “wholly unrealistic” budget outline in a February 28 column and chided the president for claiming that he can simultaneously increase military spending, cut taxes on high-income earners and corporations, and reduce the federal deficit -- all while leaving vital entitlement programs alone. In order to even approach a balanced budget in 10 years, Trump would have to remove almost everything else in the budget:

    According to a February 27 analysis from the CBPP, Trump's proposal, when coupled with his plan to boost infrastructure investments, would mean nondefense spending would see a whopping 15 percent reduction. The reason for the outsized hit to nondefense discretionary spending is that the programs covered by that part of the federal budget -- education, energy, affordable housing, infrastructure investments, law enforcement, foreign aid, some veterans' benefits, etc. -- only account for a small part of all federal spending. The largest part of the federal budget is mandatory spending for entitlement programs including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other veterans's benefits, and unemployment insurance. From the Congressional Budget Office:

    Trump’s proposed cuts to the State Department are so onerous that more than 120 retired generals signed an open letter to congressional leaders warning of their ramifications. One co-signer told CBS News that such steep cuts would be “consigning us to a generational war,” and the letter itself quoted Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who argued during his time at the head of U.S. Central Command that “if you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

    ThinkProgress blasted Trump’s proposals to cut the State Department along with domestic spending in the name of increasing national defense because such cuts would actually undermine national security. The article cited recent congressional testimony from Center for American Progress senior fellow Larry Korb, who testified that “our national security will suffer” if the federal budget prioritized the Pentagon at the expense of other agencies.

    Trump is notorious for pushing bogus claims about the economy and the federal budget. He has been derided by hundreds of economists for pushing right-wing myths about the economy and the federal debt, and routine criticisms of his unfounded claims were a mainstay of the presidential campaign in 2016. As was the case last year, the budgetary, fiscal, and tax policies Trump has supported since taking office simply don’t add up.

  • Study Finds Right-Wing Media Routinely Criminalize Immigrants In Coverage

    Skewed Portrayals Have Dangerous Effects In Politics

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The nonprofit Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) surveyed coverage of immigration detention -- or stories about immigrants detained by the U.S. government -- in “a variety of media outlets” from 2009 to 2016 and found evidence that right-wing outlets routinely criminalize immigrants in their coverage. The study also found that the nativist Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is cited more than other data sources.

    CIVIC’s report demonstrates that while issues surrounding immigration detention are increasingly visible in the media, coverage in right-wing media outlets like Breitbart.com, The Washington Times, and FoxNews.com is more likely than reports in mainstream media to focus on immigrant criminality.

    The survey also found that Breitbart.com reports on immigration detentions at a higher rate than other “new media” outlets do.

    While it’s positive that immigration stories are now more visible in the press, the routine criminalization of immigrants in right-wing media narratives has long been a problem and has dangerous consequences. As a paper from Harvard University’s Kennedy School demonstrated, conservative media portrayals of immigrants have had a profound impact on Republican politics, leaving no room for "compassionate conservatism" and creating a space in which anti-immigrant sentiment can be exploited for political gain.

    Additionally, the study showed that the nativist group CIS outpaces other immigration data sources in terms of press citations, which is problematic given its perspective. CIS, which has been categorized a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), was founded by John Tanton, whose record includes advocating for a “European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” CIS has pushed white-nationalist literature, and, according to the SPLC, in 2016 “the group hit a new low” by commissioning Jason Richwine, whose doctoral dissertation “endorses the idea of IQ differences between the races,” to write reports and blog pieces. The reliance on CIS shows that media are helping to sanitize the group by elevating its voice and providing its leaders with platforms to spew anti-immigrant narratives based on shoddy research

    The study’s authors also pointed out to a “lack of first-hand migrant accounts in media narratives,” an issue Media Matters has documented in the past.

    Find a press release with the CIVIC survey results here, and the full report here.

  • Prime-Time Cable Largely Excluded Town Hall Attendees From "Resistance Recess" Interviews

    Talking Heads Drown Out Personal Stories Of Americans Threatened By Obamacare Repeal

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Cable news outlets dedicated considerable attention to the “Resistance Recess” that swept through congressional town hall meetings over the past week, as tens of thousands of Americans voiced their fear and disapproval of Republican plans to dismantle health care reform, among other issues. Yet evening and prime-time coverage of the grass-roots groundswell largely failed to include perspectives from those attendees opposed to efforts to roll back reforms.

    The week of February 18-26 marked the first congressional recess period of 2017 and created an ideal opportunity for American voters concerned with the trajectory of their government to directly petition elected officials face to face. Americans capitalized on this opportunity by flooding in-district town hall events across the country demanding that representatives on both sides of the aisle stand up to President Trump’s radical agenda. Among attendees’ demands was that elected officials present viable solutions to further the cause of health care reform beyond merely “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    Cable news outlets used the town hall turmoil as the basis for 53 evening and prime-time news segments from the start of the recess period through February 27 discussing how the demonstrations might affect the future of health care reform in the United States. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these discussions failed to include input from people voicing disapproval with Republican plans to repeal or significantly alter the ACA at those town halls. Media Matters identified 88 guests during evening and prime-time cable programming related to the town halls -- mostly reporters and political pundits. Only three of the 88 guests were town hall attendees affected by the outcome of this health care debate.

    The February 27 edition of MSNBC’s All In did feature an impassioned interview with cancer survivor and Boing Boing editor Xeni Jardin, who, though not identified as a town hall participant, outlined how the ACA granted her access to what would have otherwise been prohibitively expensive life-saving treatments. All three of the actual town hall attendees were featured in two segments aired during the February 22 edition of MSNBC’s For the Record, which featured constituents who attended town halls hosted by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). In the first segment, an Arkansas constituent named Suzie Bell, who co-founded a rural free health clinic, questioned why Cotton wanted to restrict access for the patients she serves. In the next segment, Louisiana constituents Laura Kelley and Shawon Bernard expressed the collective “frustration” of fellow attendees about a laundry list of issues, including the future of the ACA:

    MSNBC featured the most guests (46) and the most segments (29) focused on the town halls, but only two segments featured the three aforementioned town hall attendees. CNN featured 30 guests across 18 segments, but no town hall attendees in prime-time. Fox News lagged far behind the competition, featuring just 12 guests during 6 segments discussing the town hall protests and also failed to include any attendees.

    CNN's failure to book any town hall attendees during evening or prime-time slots is particularly perplexing given that the network did interview town hall attendees outside of the influential prime-time window. On the February 22 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Brooke Baldwin interviewed Rose Perkins, whose dressing down of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at a town hall the day before had already become a viral sensation. Meanwhile, CNN Tonight host Don Lemon interviewed Kati McFarland, a young woman who credits the ACA with keeping her alive despite her chronic, life-threatening illness and whose heartfelt plea to Cotton created an uproar. But the piece didn’t air until 12:19 a.m. on Saturday, February 25. (McFarland was also interviewed by MSNBC’s Ali Velshi during daytime programming on February 23.)

    The nationwide coalition of demonstrators, which progressive groups like MoveOn.org have dubbed the “Resistance Recess,” found many Republican members of Congress unprepared to face tough questions. That shouldn’t be surprising, given that many constituents stand to lose their health insurance or see their premiums soar if Trump and the GOP succeed in gutting the ACA. Rather than simply reporting on the abstract optics of these demonstrations, media outlets need to focus on the human beings who dedicated their time to safeguard legislation that benefits millions of Americans every day.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis and SnapStream search of transcripts of cable evening and prime-time (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from February 18 through February 27, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: affordable care act or aca or obamacare or healthcare or health care or protester or demonstrator or townhall or town hall.

    The following programs were included in the data: The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight, Special Report, The First 100 Days, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, Hardball, For the Record, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.