At least 16 U.S. newspapers have recently published op-eds by state officials of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers' political advocacy group, urging state legislatures to oppose the EPA's plan to address climate change by limiting carbon pollution from power plants. These newspapers have consistently failed to disclose the authors' oil industry ties, and the op-eds themselves "misleadingly" cite statistics on electricity prices from an industry-funded study, as a media fact-checker has explained.
The Arizona Republic recently published an editorial promoting Concerned Veterans for America's efforts to privatize much of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While the group is presented by the Republic as an impartial veterans organization, it is actually a right-wing group backed by Charles and David Koch and headed by a Fox News contributor.
In a March 12 editorial, the Republic editorial board highlighted President Obama's visit to the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital, during which he reportedly plans to hold a round table to discuss reforming the VA. The editorial board lamented that the president has allegedly failed to invite any "real reformers" to the meeting, holding up Concerned Veterans for America as an example:
If there is to be any genuine, lasting and positive reform coming from this failure to care for American veterans, the real reformers need to gain the president's ear. The president needs to hear from more than those who advocate more of the same, albeit with a lot more money.
But they don't appear to have been invited to the president's round table Friday.
Concerned Veterans for America has produced the most significant reform proposal for the VA hospital system, advocating that the enormous government division turn over much of its operations to the private sector while emphasizing care of maladies unique to the military.
No CVA representative was invited to the president's table at the Phoenix VA, although the Washington-based group expressed its eagerness to participate.
In expressing support for the Concerned Veterans of America (CVA), the Republic failed to provide the important context that the group is heavily backed by the Koch brothers. In 2014, The Washington Post identified CVA as an "organization that is part of the of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers' political network." The paper also listed CVA as part of a "coalition of allied conservative groups" that were "backed by a donor network organized by the industrialists Charles and David Koch" that raised more than $400 million during the 2012 election cycle. The group was also active in the 2014 midterm elections, conducting a "10-city 'Defend Freedom Summer Tour,'" and airing misleading ads targeting Democratic congressional candidates.
The Sunlight Foundation reported that during the 2014 campaign cycle, Freedom Partners, another Koch-affiliated group, transferred "valuable" local television ad contracts to CVA, which the organization argued "illustrates just how tightly some organizations connected to the Koch brothers operate."
The group's partisanship on VA issues caused Stars and Stripes columnist Tom Philpott to write that "in my 37 years covering veterans' issues, I have never seen veteran issues used more cynically or politicized more thoroughly than during the past several years." Philpott lambasted CVA for "posing as a vet advocacy group and being rewarded for it":
In the thick of this is Concerned Veterans for America, posing as a vet advocacy group and being rewarded for it. CVA press releases usually are partisan attacks. Its spokesman, Pete Hegseth, an Iraq war vet and Republican who ran for a U.S. Senate in 2012, is quoted often by major news outlets without mention of press reports associating CVA with the Koch brothers, libertarian billionaires who create public interest groups to oppose big government. That's fine. That's protected speech. A CVA spokesman told me last year it won't reveal donor information.
What should upset vets is the use of select facts about VA and its programs to reinforce fears rather than give reliable information. Last week a CVA press release hit a new low in purporting to document "lies" Shinseki told in congressional testimony, dropping any veil of respect for a decorated, combat-disabled soldier with a long and stellar career.
Conservative media are calling the Environmental Protection Agency's clarification of the Clean Water Act an "unprecedented land grab" that will regulate "nearly every drop of water." However, the proposed revision, which will help protect the drinking water of 117 million Americans, will not add any new categories of waters but will clarify that upstream sources will be protected from pollution.
Numerous local newspapers failed to identify the fossil fuel funding behind Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, while allowing him to publish op-eds across the country misleadingly attacking a potential tax credit for wind power, while ignoring subsidies for the oil and gas industries.
As some of the most destructive wildfires in history ravage the Southwest, major newspapers in the area have documented the way climate change makes blazes more likely less than half as often as national newspapers.
Recent fires have taken a massive toll as the hottest, driest parts of the U.S. become even hotter and drier. In Arizona, 19 firefighters perished in the worst American wildfire disaster in decades, a quick-moving inferno that destroyed a small town. Months ago, fire season began early in California, and it has since been called the state's worst ever. Colorado recently experienced the most destructive wildfire in its history, bringing the total area set aflame this season within the state to about 180 square miles, larger than the area of Barbados. New Mexico and Utah have lately faced "unprecedented" and "potentially explosive" fires, respectively.
Fires like these must be sparked (by anything from lightning to a stray rifle shot), but research indicates that climate change, and the extreme heat and drought conditions it propagates in the Southwest, boosts the chances that they will happen and cause significant damage. Indeed, seven out of nine fire scientists contacted by Media Matters as part of a 2012 study agreed that journalists should detail the role of climate change in worsening risk when they report on such fires.
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.
In my column this week I looked at the terrain of the media landscape faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans noting, in part:
...despite increased public acceptance and the passage of some basic legal protections, not only is sexual orientation still a taboo for many in the media, all too often it serves as a focal point for hate, ridicule, and misinformation.
Looking back now, I should have also noted that, in addition to the "taboo," "hate, ridicule, and misinformation," LGBT Americans regularly face something far more insidious in the media: silence.
This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which are largely credited with sparking the modern LGBT civil rights movement. For those unfamiliar with this seminal moment in gay history (I don't blame you, so little attention has been paid to the event by the media) here's the gist of it from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights:
[In 1969], there were not many places where people could be openly gay. New York had laws prohibiting homosexuality in public, and private businesses and gay establishments were regularly raided and shut down.
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a group of gay customers at a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn, who had grown angry at the harassment by police, took a stand and a riot broke out. As word spread throughout the city about the demonstration, the customers of the inn were soon joined by other gay men and women who started throwing objects at the policemen, shouting "gay power."
Police reinforcements arrived and beat the crowd away, but the next night, the crowd returned, even larger than the night before, with numbers reaching over 1000. For hours, protesters rioted outside the Stonewall Inn until the police sent a riot-control squad to disperse the crowd. For days following, demonstrations of varying intensity took place throughout the city.
In the wake of the riots, intense discussions about civil rights were held among New York's LGBT people, which led to the formation of various advocacy groups such as the short-lived Gay Liberation Front, which was the first group to use the word "gay" in its name, and a city-wide newspaper called Gay. On the 1st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first gay pride parades in U.S. history took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and near the Stonewall Inn in New York.
The Stonewall riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States.
Well, according to a search of TVeyes.com and Nexis, scant attention this week has been paid by the media to this historic civil rights anniversary.
CABLE NEWS: Since Monday, TVeyes.com turns up exactly four mentions of Stonewall on CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business News, MSNBC and CNBC. All four mentions occurred on the June 23 broadcast of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. Double checked on Nexis – same results.
NETWORK NEWS (Morning Shows/Nightly News): Since Monday, TVeyes.com hasn't turned up a single mention of Stonewall on ABC's Good Morning America or World News, CBS' Early Show or Evening News, or NBC's Today Show or Nightly News. Double checked on Nexis – same results.
MAJOR NEWSPAPERS: Since Monday, a search of Nexis turns up 2 stories discussing Stonewall in any substantive way printed in America's top ten daily newspapers – USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle and Arizona Republic. A search of these newspapers' websites confirm the results. What exactly did these publications print about the anniversary?
USA Today: Nothing
Wall Street Journal: Nothing
New York Times: Passing reference to Stonewall in story about the lack of a national leader in the gay right's movement.
Los Angeles Times: Nothing
New York Daily News: Two good stories about the Stonewall anniversary.
Washington Post: Printed an AP story titled "Today in History" that lists Stonewall as one of 13 events and 18 birthdays worth noting this week.
Chicago Tribune: Passing reference to Stonewall in story about a senior center for gay seniors.
Houston Chronicle: Printed an AP story titled "Today in History" that lists Stonewall as one of 13 events and 18 birthdays worth noting this week.
Arizona Republic: Nothing
Of America's top ten daily newspapers, only the New York Daily News spent much time at all discussing the Stonewall anniversary this week – the rest either make passing reference with little context or, worse yet, print nothing at all.
So, the 40th anniversary of Stonewall has been granted one cable news segment and 2 print stories this week. Surely such an historic milestone merits more serious attention, not just from cable and network news outlets but from newspapers as well.
UPDATE: It's nice to see the AARP doing so much with its various media arms to commemorate Stonewall.
UPDATE 2: Newsweek.com has a good package up on Stonewall. Hopefully they'll follow suit with something equally substantive in the print edition.
Fox News and The Wall Street Journal uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's claim that he originally voted against the Bush tax cuts because they were not paired with spending cuts. And in its endorsement of McCain, The Arizona Republic wrote that McCain "opposed the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 because they arrived with no commensurate spending cuts." But in a floor statement during the Senate debate on the 2001 tax cut bill, McCain did not mention the absence of offsetting spending cuts; rather, he stated, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief."
In defending Sen. George Allen against a new television advertisement criticizing his 2003 vote on a Democratic amendment that would have increased National Guard funding for body armor, The Arizona Republic falsely suggested -- and the website FactCheck.org falsely asserted -- that Allen and his Republican colleagues have never voted against supplemental funding for body armor.