A Media Matters study found that economists have been strangely absent from discussions on budget negotiations, following a typical pattern of the media's inability to host experts to discuss complex issues. This lack of expert analysis has steered the debate toward politics and away from core economic concerns.
In a recently published study of news segments discussing current budget negotiations, Media Matters found that the presence of economists was sorely lacking - out of 503 total guests in the 337 segments analyzed, only 22 were economists. The lack of appearances by economists is spread across all networks:
The results of this study are in line with previous Media Matters research. In media discussions of the debt-ceiling debate in the summer of 2011, only 4.1 percent of guests on news programs were identified as economists. The findings of the most recent study reinforce the notion that the media have a tendency to ignore expert opinion when discussing complex issues, such as the economy and climate change.
In recent weeks, media outlets have focused heavily on current budget negotiations regarding automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect on January 1, 2013 if an alternative agreement is not reached. But major television news outlets are inadequately reporting on year-end budget negotiations, rarely hosting economists and favoring inflammatory rhetoric about the so-called "fiscal cliff," according to a Media Matters analysis. Furthermore, most television segments have completely ignored the possible economic effects of potential tax increases and spending cuts.
A new Media Matters study documents how TV news outlets -- with the exception of MSNBC -- all but ignored climate change during the 2012 election season, even covering Joe Biden's smile in the vice presidential debate more often. This blackout fit perfectly into the right's climate change playbook.
When we saw events that illustrated the impacts of climate change in the lead-up to the election, the right tried to get the media to look the other way. As wildfires raged this summer, experts said that journalists should be explaining how climate change worsens the risk of wildfires in the West. But once the media finally began to make those connections, the conservative Media Research Center lashed out at them.
When Arctic sea ice loss broke records this summer, conservative media sought to distract their mainstream counterparts by pointing to Antarctic sea ice. Nevermind that the Associated Press had explained that Antarctic sea ice gains did not undermine global warming and were in fact anticipated -- MRC claimed that AP's report was not to be trusted because it "predictably cited scientists." In the end, the record Arctic sea ice loss received little attention from TV media.
And when Hurricane Sandy hit a week before the election, the right attacked the media for even raising global warming. Fox's media criticism show, Fox News Watch, called the media "liberal" for noting the scientific connections between Sandy's destruction and climate change:
JON SCOTT: It didn't take long, though, for liberal media to trot out climate change as the reason behind this storm?
RICHARD GRENELL, FMR. ROMNEY SPOKESMAN: Yes, and that is silly, right.
While TV media's election coverage of climate change ramped up after Sandy, the coverage still totaled less than an hour on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox.
Climate change was almost entirely absent from the political discourse this election season, receiving less than an hour of TV coverage over three months from the major cable and broadcast networks excluding MSNBC. By contrast, those outlets devoted nearly twice as much coverage to Vice President Joe Biden's demeanor during his debate with Rep. Paul Ryan. When climate change was addressed, print and TV media outlets often failed to note the scientific consensus or speak to scientists.
ABC, CBS, and USA Today ignored a call for strong gun violence prevention laws included in statements by Mark Kelly on behalf of his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at the sentencing hearing for Arizona shooter Jared Lee Loughner.
While ABC, CBS, and USA Today reported on Kelly's statement to Loughner that "you may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place," they ignored his comments about the role of high capacity magazines in the shooting and concerns that he and Giffords have about the enforcement of gun laws.
Washington Post columnist George Will dismissed women's reproductive rights as a small issue because access to contraceptives has been a constitutionally protected right for the past 47 years.
Will stated on ABC's This Week that "professional women with college degrees" resent the "condescension of the Obama campaign, which says" to women: "don't you trouble your pretty little heads about these men's issues like unemployment and all the rest, worry about contraception, which has been a constitutional right for 47 years." Will continued: "It's a distraction. The entire war on women trope, and I think professional, educated women find it offensive."
While it is true that the Supreme Court ruled in the 1965 case of Griswold v. Connecticut that state governments cannot ban access to contraception, Mitt Romney supports the Blunt Amendment, legislation that would allow business owners to withdraw insurance coverage for contraception or any other medical treatment.
Moreover, Clarence Thomas, one of the justices that Romney has said will serve as a model for his judicial nominations, has said that he agreed with the dissenting judge in Griswold, who said that contraception bans are constitutionally valid.
In addition to his stance on contraception, Romney has said that he would appoint Supreme Court justices that would likely try to overturn the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision -- a goal Romney has had since at least 2007. Appointing anti-Roe v. Wade judges to the Supreme Court could have drastic consequences. According to Tony Mauro of USA Today: "If a President Romney gets to appoint replacements for liberals Ginsburg and Breyer, then abortion rights, gay rights, affirmative action and campaign-finance reform could well be in serious jeopardy." Romney has also reportedly opposed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which provides women more legal room to file pay discrimination claims against employers.
The Roe v. Wade decision awarded women a fundamental right in 1973, which Romney has repeatedly promised to revoke, calling it "one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history." To George Will and other conservative media, women's rights remain a "distraction."
PBS' Frontline recently aired a documentary titled "Climate of Doubt," examining how conservative groups, frequently funded by the fossil fuel industry, have pushed Republicans to reject the scientific consensus on manmade global warming. Here, Media Matters looks back at how Fox News has contributed to that "Climate of Doubt," often teaming up with industry to misrepresent science and attack all efforts to address this threat.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter responded to the October 22 presidential debate by referring to President Obama as "the retard." Her comments come one month after she appeared as a panelist on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
In an October 11 interview with ABCNews.com's The Note, Coulter said she did not regret any of the array of controversial and offensive comments she has made on TV or radio. That post referred to Coulter as an "occasional 'This Week' roundtable guest"; she has appeared on the program four times since April 1.
Coulter also appears regularly on Fox News and Fox Business.
A wave of mass shootings have occurred over the past few years, often garnering extensive media coverage. Despite those tragic attacks and the roughly 30,000 deaths by firearms that occur every year, moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS' NewsHour failed to ask the presidential candidates about gun violence during the first presidential debate, the only forum specifically dedicated to domestic policy.
14 mass shootings have been committed over the past four years, according to an analysis by Mother Jones. These include recent tragedies that rocked the American public this year, such as the attack at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and an assault at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Last year, a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, nearly claimed the life of then-U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords.
Nonetheless, in the first presidential debate for the 2012 election, Lehrer asked no questions on the topic of gun violence. This continues the troubling pattern established during the 2008 presidential debates, which similarly featured no discussion of the topic even in the wake of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech the previous year. Past presidential debates have featured this subject regularly: A Media Matters review found that in 1992, the second debate spent over six minutes on it; in 1996, the first debate gave it almost four minutes; in 2000, the second and third debates devoted more than 13 minutes combined; and in 2004, the third debate spent nearly three minutes on it.
Media figures are creating false balance in their coverage of the presidential debate by claiming both candidates lied. But the statements from President Obama they are pointing to are true.
John Fund of National Review and Jonathan Karl of ABC News both used factual statements made by President Obama as examples to claim that he "stretched the truth" during the October 3 presidential debate. Fund cited Obama's comments about the power of an advisory board created by the health care reform law, while Karl pointed to Obama's statement that he has proposed a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. In fact, both statements by President Obama during the debate were true, and have been supported by independent fact-checkers.
As a guest on CBS' Face the Nation Fund claimed "both candidates, I think, told things that stretched the truth." Fund specifically criticized Obama for saying in the debate that the Independent Payments Advisory Board instituted by the health reform law "wasn't going to make any decisions on treatment." According to Fund, that board "has unilateral power, unless Congress overrides it with a supermajority, to basically tell all doctors and hospitals this is how much money you have to treat people. That is incredible power. That is effectively the power to ration health care. So I think the President was stretching the truth in a big part of Obamacare."
During the debate, President Obama disputed Mitt Romney's statement that the health reform law "put in place a board that can tell people ultimately what treatments they're going to receive." Obama described the advisory board as "a group of health care experts, doctors, et cetera" who work "to figure out, how can we reduce the cost of care in the system overall? ... [W]hat this board does is basically identifies best practices and says, let's use the purchasing power of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalize all these good things that we do."
Obama's description is accurate. The health reform law forbids the board from submitting "any recommendation to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits," and multiple fact-checkers have made clear the board "wouldn't make any health care decisions for individual Americans" and "cannot by law make recommendations about what treatments people get." Instead, according to Politifact, "it would make broad policy decisions that affect Medicare's overall cost."
From the October 7 edition of ABC's This Week:
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From the October 7 edition of ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos:
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Last Thursday, Andrew Engeldinger finished his shift at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis, where he'd worked since the late 1990's. In the afternoon, Engeldinger was called into the front office and told he no longer had a job.
According to police, Engeldinger was armed at the time and began to open fire with a 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol. He killed the company's founder and sought out three other sign-making coworkers for execution. The 36-year old shooter also killed a local UPS deliver man who got caught up in the on-site rampage.
When Engeldinger was done, he'd murdered five people. Then he went down into the firm's basement and shot himself in the head. When police arrived they described the scene as chaotic and the carnage as "hellish." When they searched the shooter's apartment, police found packaging for 10,000 rounds of ammunition.
"He obviously had this gun and was practicing how to use this gun," said Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan, describing the deadliest workplace shooting in Minnesota since the state began tracking these types of attacks two decades ago.
For the past two years Engeldinger's family had feared he was slipping into bouts of delusion and mental illness and had urged him, in vain, to seek treatment.
Incredibly, that mass murder story wasn't considered to be especially newsworthy by major news organizations. The shockingly small amount of press coverage the story has received (the New York Times has printed just two clipped AP reports on the shooting, buried in Section A and totaling less than 500 words) highlights the shoulder-shrugging response so many gun rampages now generate inside national newsrooms.
Arctic sea ice is declining much faster than scientists expected, which has important implications for the rate and impacts of climate change. But the major TV news outlets have largely ignored the record sea ice loss this summer, while making ample time to cover Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's physical fitness.
From the September 23 edition of ABC's This Week:
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