Associated Press

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  • How Reporters And Civil Servants Can Team Up To Thwart Trump’s Anti-Transparency Agenda

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    On January 24, two anonymous sources at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told Reuters that the Trump administration had instructed EPA officials to remove the data-heavy climate change page from the agency’s website, and that the page could be taken down as soon as the following day. A public backlash quickly ensued, and the Trump administration at least temporarily backed away from its plan to shut down the website on January 25, as E&E News reported.

    Whether the Trump-led EPA will ultimately remove the website remains to be seen, but regardless, the episode represents a victory for open data and a guide for how whistleblowers can work with reporters to push back against Trump administration gag orders that have alarmed science and transparency advocates.

    And judging from their initial response, major media outlets seem to recognize that seeking out whistleblowers is particularly important in the current political landscape.

    On the same day that the EPA employees alerted Reuters of Trump’s plan to shut down the EPA climate website, Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein reminded government scientists and officials that they can “securely and confidentially” send tips and documents to the AP via its SecureDrop service. The Washington Post also ran through its version of SecureDrop in a January 25 article titled, “Here’s how to leak government documents to The Post.”

    Meanwhile, the staff at InsideClimate News (ICN) provided whistleblowers with a list of do’s and don’ts for revealing internal documents and information to ICN without compromising themselves.

    It is safe to say that there is already widespread concern among civil servants about government transparency under the Trump administration, as a series of rogue climate-related tweets from National Park Service employees clearly demonstrates. But this battle over information is really just beginning, and it’s more important than ever that reporters work with whistleblowers to hold the White House accountable.

  • STUDY: Mainstream Media Use Anti-Immigrant Slur In Discussions Of Undocumented Immigrants

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Media Matters study counted the number of instances in which cable and broadcast news programs used, without pushback, the anti-immigrant slur "illegal immigrant" or variations of the term to describe undocumented immigrants, a practice that has been increasingly rejected by journalistic organizations, style critics, and other institutions. Starting from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's September 2016 speech on immigration that used the slur through his election and into the transition, Media Matters found variations of "illegal immigrant" used on both evening and Sunday cable and broadcast news shows: ABC was the only network to avoid using such terminology entirely, while Fox News was by far the worst offender.

  • The Media Keep Failing To Publish Accurate Headlines About Trump: An Updated List

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Before and since the election, media outlets have repeatedly failed to write headlines that adequately contextualize President-elect Donald Trump’s lies. Simply echoing his statements normalizes his behavior and can spread disinformation, particularly given the high proportion of people who read only headlines. Below is an ongoing list documenting the media’s failure to contextualize Trump’s actions in headlines and sometimes on social media. Some of the initial versions were subsequently altered (and these are marked with an asterisk), but many of the updates still failed to adequately contextualize Trump’s remarks.

  • Oakland Fire Highlights Need For Greater Media Accountability And Respect For Trans People In Life And Death

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    A fire in an Oakland warehouse claimed the lives of 36 people, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office who released the official list of victims names that erroneously included the birth name of a transgender woman, Feral Pines. As a result, the initial media misidentified and misgendered Pines, which prompted loved ones and advocacy organizations to call for journalists to update stories with her correct name. Advocacy efforts ultimately yielded proper reporting, but the steps required to get there highlight the need for media outlets to take greater care in accurately reporting on transgender people.

    On December 2, a fire broke out at an Oakland art collective’s warehouse, killing 36 people including several members of the LGBTQ community. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office later released a list of victims’ names, incorrectly identifying one transgender victim, Feral Pines, by her name given at birth, which she hadn’t used in over a decade. Her loved ones asked that officials correct the list, and the sheriff’s office eventually apologized and deleted tweets of the original list. But by that point journalists had already begun using the list as a reference for their reporting, meaning much of the initial coverage misgendered Pines and included an incorrect name for her.

    When the media uses the birth name of a trans person -- a practice sometimes known as “deadnaming” -- it harms the entire transgender community, as a December 7 article published by The San Francisco Chronicle noted, quoting Eliza Wicks-Frank, Pines’ former partner of five years:

    “The impact that this lack of dignity and awareness has on the community of trans people who are alive right now is it tells them that their fight is irrelevant, that they’re going to be disrespected regardless of how they fight to live their lives.”

    On December 6, GLAAD issued a statement urging the media to follow established guidelines for covering news about trans victims -- including using the “gender and pronoun that corresponds with the way the victim identified” -- and clarified protocol around conflicting information, urging outlets to “listen to the friends who did know about the victim’s trans identity, and respect the way a victim identified a the time of the incident.” On December 7, a joint statement released by a coalition of LGBTQ advocacy organizations -- Equality California, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBTQ Task Force, Transgender Law Center and the Trans Assistance Project -- called on both the Oakland authorities and the media to honor the correct name and gender of the transgender fire victims.

    In addition, Pines’ loved ones contacted dozens of journalists and news outlets that used her birth name and asked them to use the correct name. The Guardian published an article highlighting transgender people’s struggle for respect and accurate identification, both in life and in death. Scout Wolfcave, Pine’s friend who has been working closely with media and authorities to ensure the trans victims are described properly, told the Guardian:

    “We fight hard enough every single day to be seen as our authentic selves and to be treated with respect. In death, you can’t defend yourself anymore, so it falls on your friends to do it for you.”

    By the end of the week, almost all of the stories that incorrectly identified Pines had been corrected thanks to the efforts of Wolfcave and an extended network of loved ones.

    The Associated Press reported on confusion around identifying Pines, noting that she was called different names by friends and family. While Pines’ friends and family may have known her by two different names, her identity as a transgender woman was clear and neither of the monikers she used was the name she was given at birth. Building on existing guidelines issued by GLAAD, the article acknowledges that while sometimes identifying and discussing trans people who’ve lost their lives will be difficult, proper naming remains "critical." The need for greater media accountability and responsible journalism is clear, according to American Civil Liberties Union lawyer and trans advocate Chase Strangio:

    "Being referred to as one’s proper gender and name is not a preference. It is not a choice that a journalist can make and still accurately report on the subject. When trans people are misgendered, when our old names are used, we disappear. Because at that point, our truth is taken away. A truth that we fought hard to claim."

  • AP Got This Trump Headline Right; Other Mainstream Outlets Didn't

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Multiple media outlets published headlines that uncritically echoed a claim from President-elect Donald Trump’s spokesperson that Trump had sold his stocks, even though Trump’s team offered no actual proof that he had done so. The Associated Press correctly characterized the news by noting the lack of evidence in its headline, but many others continued a disturbing pattern of uncritically parroting false or unsubstantiated claims by Trump and his aides in their headlines, in effect giving Trump favorable coverage when he offers vague details or even spouts verifiable lies.

    Trump on December 6 tweeted that the aircraft manufacturer Boeing was “building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion,” adding, “Cancel order!” In a conference call later that day, a reporter asked Trump spokesperson Jason Miller if Trump “had investments in Boeing,” and Miller “said the president-elect had sold all of his stocks in June,” according to The Associated Press (AP).

    But there is no proof that Miller’s claim is true, given that Trump has not submitted any kind of financial disclosure since May and that, as the AP noted, Trump didn’t announce he was selling his stocks at the time. Transition officials have also refused to provide evidence of the sales:

    Trump's campaign did not announce the sell-off at the time, despite the fact that it could have been politically advantageous for the businessman to be seen taking steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

    Miller, as well as other transition officials and lawyers from the Trump Organization, did not respond to requests from The Associated Press to provide evidence of the transactions.

    The AP published this report with a headline that accurately paired Miller’s claim with the crucial context that he “provides no evidence”:

    But other major outlets did not note the lack of evidence in their headlines, instead reporting Miller’s comments without necessary context:

    Reuters:

    The New York Times:

    The Washington Post:

    The Wall Street Journal:

    CNN:

    These headlines continue a mainstream media pattern of publishing article titles that are favorable for Trump and that promote his claims, even when those claims are false or unsubstantiated. When Trump on November 18 falsely claimed that he prevented a Kentucky Ford plant from moving to Mexico -- even though there were never plans to move the plant -- multiple headlines ran with Trump’s bogus statement. When Trump on November 27 falsely claimed that “millions of people” illegally voted in the election, multiple mainstream outlet quoted Trump’s words in headlines and on social media without noting that they were false. And when Trump on November 30 sent a series of tweets claiming he would be leaving his business to avoid conflicts of interest, headlines ran with his statement, even though Trump offered no new information on how he would actually carry out the plan. As ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum noted, Trump has been “able to generate whatever headlines he wants based on substance-free tweets” and claims.

    It is crucial that headlines accurately explain a story because, for most people, the phrase at the top of a piece is the only part of the article they will actually read. As The Washington Post reported, “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week,” and “that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won't want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.”

    Trump has been a documented liar throughout the course of his presidential campaign and transition. When his claims lack proof or are demonstrably false, headlines should reflect that reality, rather than giving a serial misinformer the benefit of the doubt.

  • Mainstream Outlets Rush To Give Trump Credit For Vague Tweets About His Business

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media allowed President-elect Donald Trump to, once again, take over the news narrative with his Twitter activity -- this time with a series of vague tweets in which he claimed he would be leaving his business to avoid conflicts of interest. The announcement, however, provides no details about what will become of his business holdings and distracts from news that highlights the degree to which those holdings are ripe for future conflicts.

    In a series of tweets on November 30, Trump announced that he will be “holding a major news conference” on December 15 to discuss his plans for “leaving” his “great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country.” Trump added that while he is “not mandated” to “do this under any law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”

    As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out, “The only real news in those Trump tweets is that he’ll actually be doing a press conference,” given that Trump has already said that he would hand off management of his businesses to his children. The tweets included no new information on how Trump’s business dealings would be handled after he, allegedly, leaves them behind. But that reality didn’t stop media from making a story out of the tweets and leading with it.

    USA Today:

    CNN:

    The Associated Press:

    ABC News:

    CBS News:

    NBC News:

    The tweets do nothing to squash mounting concerns over the conflicts of interest Trump could face as president, and it’s unclear whether his promised response would address these conflicts. Shortly after the election, a Trump Organization spokesperson told CNN that Trump was planning to transfer “‘management of The Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump,’” his children. But as ethics experts explained to Politico, “installing Trump’s adult children as caretakers doesn’t eliminate conflict questions, since he’d still know what his interests were, and he’d presumably still be in contact with his children.”

    With his tweetstorm, Trump also continued his pattern of hijacking the media narrative when it suits him. In this case, Trump’s tweets give media outlets an excuse to downplay or ignore reports about the “ethical concerns” raised after the Kingdom of Bahrain reserved space in Trump’s D.C. hotel. Trump also used his tweets to continue to disseminate information on his own terms, which in the past has allowed him to avoid hard interviews and limit his press conferences.

    Media are falling into Trump’s trap again by giving his tweets the front-page treatment.

  • Right-Wing Media's Failed Attempt To Downplay The Impact Of North Carolina's Anti-LGBTQ Law In Governor's Race

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Right-wing media outlets are attempting to deny the impact of North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law House Bill 2 (HB 2) in the state’s still too-close-to-call gubernatorial race between incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper. Mainstream journalists and political scientists have repeatedly pointed to the “politically obvious” costs of the discriminatory HB 2 as a “key issue” in the governor’s race, the outcome of which could mark a potential “watershed” moment for LGBTQ equality. 

  • Conservatives Run With NY Post Story About Maid Printing Clinton's Emails, Botch Classification History

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    The New York Post published a front page report alleging that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “routinely asked her maid to print out sensitive government e-mails and documents -- including ones containing classified information,” but ignored the fact the emails in question were classified years after the fact. The report cited only two classified emails, both of which were retroactively classified at the lowest level of classification, a practice which is consistent with past State Department actions. Additionally, in both confidential emails Clinton did not request that her maid print the emails. The author of the report has a history of inaccurate reporting when it comes to Clinton’s emails.

  • The Guide To Donald Trump's War On The Press (So Far)

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.

  • The AP Claims Trump Apologized For His Despicable Comments About Women. He Didn’t.

    Update: AP Deletes Tweet, Admits It Lacked "Full Context"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Associated Press is falsely claiming that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has apologized after the release of a 2005 video in which Trump discussed how he “just start[s] kissing” women he is attracted to because “when you’re a star… you can do anything” including “grab them by the pussy.” In fact, Trump said in a statement “I apologize if anyone was offended.”

    As The Washington Post reported:

    Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone — saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it” — according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

    [...]

    “I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says.“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

    “And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

    “Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

    “Grab them by the p---y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

    In a statement released by his campaign, Trump did not apologize for his comments, which appear to describe sexual assault, but rather apologized “if anyone was offended”:

    This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course - not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.

    As CNN’s Jackie Kucinich explained, “That's not an apology. That's not, ‘I'm sorry.’ That's like, ‘If you're offended by that I guess I'm sorry about that, that you're offended.’ Not that you're sorry about what you said. And he's done this before in other -- Donald Trump doesn't apologize. He sort of tries to -- he sounds like he's apologizing but that's not an apology.”

    The AP, however, described Trump’s comments as a “rare apology."

    UPDATE: Following the publication of this post, the AP deleted its tweet because "it didn't contain the full context of what the candidate said," and produced a new tweet that accurately stated Trump apologized "if anyone was offended." 

  • AP Relies On Discredited Anti-LGBT Junk Science To Attack Transgender People

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    The Associated Press published quotes from discredited doctor Paul McHugh attacking the legitimacy of transgender identities and transgender people’s right to health care without providing any context on his reputation or history of peddling anti-LGBT junk science. Faculty members at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently disassociated themselves from McHugh -- condemning him for “mischaracterizing” scientific evidence to “further stigmatize and harm” LGBT people -- and have urged the university to do the same.

    In Pennsylvania, three transgender students are suing their school district for prohibiting them from using the appropriate restroom for their gender identity, according to The Associated Press. The October 6 article featured a quote from a 2014 essay written by Johns Hopkins professor Paul McHugh in which he argued that transgender identities are “confusions” that should not be affirmed. McHugh’s depiction of transgender people as mentally ill and in need of “prevention” treatments contradicts expert medical consensus agreed on by national organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    McHugh has a long history of peddling anti-LGBT pseudoscience and ignoring established evidence-based best practices for providing physical and mental health care for LGBT people. Most recently, McHugh published a report that smeared LGBT people with faulty attacks based on questionable analysis of existing research. McHugh’s colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found the report and methodology so “troubling” that they published an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun condemning the report for “mischaracterizing” scientific evidence in a way that will “further stigmatize and harm the health of LGBTQ communities.” In addition, nearly 700 members of the Johns Hopkins community -- including more than 30 faculty members, 264 Hopkins alumni, and more than 100 staff, medical interns, medical residents and fellows -- have formally called for Hopkins to distance itself from McHugh’s latest “misguided, misinformed attack on LGBT communities.”

    But the Associated Press article introduced McHugh as an “expert” even though he has been widely discredited, and it made no mention of his history of peddling anti-LGBT junk science, nor the controversy surrounding his recent report.

    From the October 6 AP article:

    Three transgender seniors at a Pennsylvania high school, including the oldest sibling of teen singing star Jackie Evancho, have sued their school district for making them use restrooms corresponding to their biological sex.

    [...]

    The lawsuit contends they were "designated" male or female on their birth certificates and are being discriminated against by the new policy, which their federal lawsuit seeks to reverse. They're also seeking unspecified monetary damages, other policies to avoid transgender discrimination and training for administrators.

    "The reality is Juliet is a girl, Elissa is a girl and A.S. is a boy," Gonzalez-Pagan said, noting that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has weighed in on the need to allow people to pursue their true gender identity.

    Some experts disagree, notably Paul McHugh, the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which pioneered sexual reassignment surgery but later discontinued the practice as harmful.

    "(P)olicy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention," McHugh originally wrote in a 2014 editorial essay that's been reprinted in several publications.

  • What Media Need To Know About Mike Pence’s Economic Record

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) will face off on October 4 in a debate at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. As media outlets prepare for the only vice presidential debate of the 2016 election, they should have all facts about how Indiana really fared during Pence’s governorship.

  • This Is How Moderators Can Debunk Trump's Excuses For His Iraq War Support

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Donald Trump has attempted, and media have often allowed him, to advance the false claim that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, but evidence Trump regularly cites as proof of his opposition occurred after the war’s authorization and after the war had already begun. Ahead of the first presidential debate, moderators should be aware of his chronologically impossible excuses and be prepared to debunk them, such as his citing of a 2004 Esquire interview where he opposed the war, claiming he said the war was “a mess” at a 2003 party, claiming he expressed some concern in a January 2003 Fox interview, and his excuse that he “was not a politician” when he made his original remarks supporting the war.

  • Myths & Facts: A Debate Guide To Donald Trump’s Most Common Lies About The Economy

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s penchant for promoting right-wing media myths and other misleading claims presents a unique challenge heading into the first presidential debate of the general election. If the September 26 debate is anything like the opening debates of 2008 and 2012, it will focus heavily on issues relating to the American economy, and both moderator and audience should be prepared for a torrent of misinformation from the GOP standard-bearer.