In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney suggested that Barack Obama was unqualified to be president because he didn't have enough experience working in a business. In reporting this claim, media outlets have not noted that Romney selected a vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, who has worked almost exclusively in the public sector.
Two recent falsehoods from the Mitt Romney campaign have received media attention: the false claim that President Obama removed the work requirement from welfare, and the false claim that the health care reform bill "cuts" $716 billion from Medicare. While many mainstream media outlets debunked the false claims in much of their coverage, several -- particularly Fox News and The Wall Street Journal -- repeatedly failed to debunk the falsehoods.
In his speech to the Republican National Convention last night, New Jersey governor Chris Christie declared that would-be president Mitt Romney will share "hard truths" with the nation on debt and the economy. "Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth and create good paying private sector jobs again in America. Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy," said Christie.
Christie's praise for Romney was reported by a number of media outlets. Less remarked upon was the fact that Christie's promise of economic "hard truths" from Romney is undercut by the Romney campaign's stated and steadfast refusal to release details of their economic proposals.
Christie's remarks were quoted by the Associated Press as part of his "broad indictment of Democrats." The Los Angeles Times reported: "After detailing his own accomplishments for some time, Christie pivoted to Romney, saying he would 'tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth.'" CBS News noted simply that Christie "called on Americans to face the nation's 'hard truths' this November, and embrace a 'new era of truth-telling' when deciding the country's political future."
On Wednesday, scientists announced that melting over the Greenland ice sheet has already "shattered the seasonal record" set in 2010, with four weeks left before the end of the melting season. Scientists say this record melting is driven by rising Arctic temperatures and could have serious consequences for the environment and coastal communities. But the major media outlets are once again failing to report on clear evidence that our climate is changing.
Professor Marco Tedesco, whose research was sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation, examined satellite data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center and found that Greenland has "experienced extreme melting in nearly every region" this year. He concluded: "With more yet to come in August, this year's overall melting will fall way above the old records. That's a goliath year - the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979."
Tedesco looked at the extent and duration of melting to determine the "cumulative melting index," which measures the "strength" of the melting season. The following chart illustrates that by early August, Greenland's melting index was already higher than at any time in the past 30 years:
Tedesco attributed his findings to rising temperatures in the Arctic, noting that accelerated melting and ice sheet thinning are consistent with models of the effects of climate change. But, he added, "the difference is how quickly this seems to be happening."
Scientists say that human-induced climate change made this year's record heat more likely, and project that extreme heat will become more common in the United States. But a Media Matters analysis of media coverage of record-breaking heat in July finds that major television outlets rarely made the connection between heat waves and a changing climate.
A Media Matters analysis of wildfire coverage in July finds that nearly 14 percent of articles and segments mentioned climate change -- over four times more than in previous months.
While numerous factors determine the frequency, severity and cost of wildfires, scientific research indicates that human-induced climate change increases fire risks in parts of the Western U.S. by promoting warmer and drier conditions. Seven of nine fire experts contacted by Media Matters agreed journalists should explain the relationship between climate change and wildfires. But an analysis of recent coverage suggests mainstream media outlets are not up to the task -- only 3 percent of news reports on wildfires in the West mentioned climate change.
Following the announced bankruptcy of Abound Solar, which borrowed about $70 million against a $400 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, the Associated Press is giving oxygen to attacks from Republicans saying the clean energy program shows the Obama administration "wasting taxpayer dollars." While passing along GOP talking points, AP forgot to report these key facts:
1. Abound Solar was one of the few higher-risk loan guarantees. Over 87 percent of the funds for the Department of Energy's 1705 loan guarantee program went to low-risk power generation projects, which are required to secure contracts with power purchasers before receiving a loan guarantee, virtually eliminating the risk of default. Like Solyndra, Abound Solar built solar panels and struggled to compete with Chinese manufacturers.
2. Congress set aside $2.47 billion to cover defaults. For a loan guarantee, the DOE is only on the hook if the company defaults on the loan, and the DOE is not able to recover the funds during the bankruptcy process. Even if all of the higher-risk (non-generation) projects defaulted on the full amount of their loan guarantees and "no assets were to be recovered, the DOE would still have $446 million remaining to cover additional project losses," according to a Bloomberg Government analysis. Here is a chart comparing the amount that Congress budgeted for the 1705 program versus the current losses:
3. Four Indiana Republicans pressed the Energy Department to support Abound. In addition to the four Indiana Republican Congressmen who urged DOE to grant the loan guarantee to Abound, Mitch Daniels supported a tax credit for the company and two major Republican donors were Abound investors.
Carbon dioxide emissions are not just warming up our atmosphere, they're also changing the chemistry of our oceans. This phenomenon is known as ocean acidification, or sometimes as global warming's "evil twin" or the "osteoporosis of the sea." Scientists have warned that it poses a serious threat to ocean life. Yet major American
news outlets covered the Kardashians over 40 times more often than ocean acidification over the past year and a half.
Rising carbon dioxide emissions have caused the oceans to become around 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, and if we do not lower the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the ocean surface could be up to 150 percent more acidic by 2100. At that level, the shells of some plankton would dissolve, large parts of the ocean would become inhospitable to coral reef growth, and the rapidity of the change could threaten much of the marine food web. According to the National Research Council, the chemical changes are taking place "at an unprecedented rate and magnitude" and are "practically irreversible on a time scale of centuries."
Despite a boom of recent scientific research documenting this threat, there has been a blackout on the topic at most media outlets. Since the end of 2010, ABC, NBC, and Fox News have completely ignored ocean acidification, and the Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN, and CBS have barely mentioned it at all.
Natural gas can help the U.S. transition away from reliance on coal in the near-term if it is produced responsibly. But conservative media have dismissed the risks involved with the rapid spread of natural gas extraction to push for deregulation, attack the Obama administration, and ignore the need for a comprehensive energy policy to transition to renewable energy.
As anti-immigrant legislation has flooded state houses from coast to coast over the past two years -- culminating most notably with the Supreme Court's review of Arizona's controversial SB 1070 -- the nation's print media have given voice to the anti-immigrant special interest groups cheerleading (and in some cases orchestrating) these initiatives. Many of these groups have ties to white nationalist organizations and racists, and at least one has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. These extremist ties have not prevented the nation's most respected newspapers, as well as the Associated Press and Reuters, from citing the institutions as authorities on the immigration debate.
In fact, a Media Matters analysis of news coverage since SB 1070's introduction in January 2010 has discovered that the nation's top five newspapers (New York Times, L.A. Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post), the Associated Press, and Reuters have cited these groups over 250 times. Over that period, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia, among other states, have introduced strict immigration bills that -- by their introduction alone -- have been met with a measure of success.
If print media plays a part in shaping public opinion, isn't it fair to ask whether the normalization of these extremist groups in the pages of America's daily papers has advantaged the ability of anti-immigrant measures to reach fruition?
For details on the methodology and other information in the Media Matters report, click here.
Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB 1070, was introduced in January 2010. Since then, in their coverage of immigration issues America's top five newspapers and the Associated Press and Reuters newswires have cited anti-immigrant organizations with ties to white supremacists and racists -- including one that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- over 250 times.
An Associated Press article about President Obama speaking at a June 14 fundraiser in New York omitted key context to portray Obama as having said that the celebrities in attendance are the "ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes." In fact, Obama said that the attendees and "the American people" are the "tie-breaker" and the "ultimate arbiter" of the country's direction.
Right-wing blogs and Fox News ran wild with the AP's distortion of Obama's comments.
From the AP article:
President Barack Obama soaked in the support, and the campaign cash, of Manhattan's elite entertainers Thursday as his re-election team sought to fill its fundraising coffers.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama made a rare joint fundraising appearance when they visited the home of actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. The intimate dinner banked about $2 million, with 50 people paying $40,000 each.
The dinner was the Obama campaign's latest attempt to bank on celebrities for fundraising help in countering the growing donor enthusiasm from Republicans supporting Mitt Romney's presidential bid.
Speaking in a dimly lighted, art-filled room, Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation's future.
"You're the tie-breaker," he said. "You're the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes."
Among the celebrities on hand to hear Obama's remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who moderated a private question-and-answer session between the president and the guests. Broderick, who was starring in a Broadway musical, was absent. [emphasis added]
From the White House website's transcript of the event:
In some ways, this election is more important than 2008 -- because in 2008, as much as I disagreed with Mr. McCain, he believed in climate change. He believed in campaign finance reform. He believed in immigration reform. And now what we have is a Republican nominee and a Republican Party that has moved fundamentally away from what used to be a bipartisan consensus about how you build an economy; that has said our entire agenda is based on cutting taxes even more for people who don't need them and weren't asking for them; slashing our commitment to things like education or science or infrastructure or a basic social safety net for seniors and the disabled and the infirm; that wants to gut regulations for polluters or those who are taking advantage of consumers.
So they've got a very specific theory about how you grow the economy. It's not very different from the one that actually got us into this mess in the first place. And what we're going to have to do is to present very clearly to the American people that choice. Because ultimately you guys and the American people, you're the tie-breaker. You're the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes in. Do we go in a direction where we're all in this together and we share in prosperity, or do we believe that everybody is on their own and we'll see how it plays out? [emphasis added]
Media have overwhelmingly repeated claims by Republican politicians and corporations that government policies are "job killers" without citing any evidence for this claim according to a new study. And today's news reporting demonstrates the study's point.
Occidental College professor Peter Dreier and University of Northern Iowa professor Christopher Martin found media stories in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Associated Press with the phrase "job killer" have spiked since President Obama took office and that since 1984, "in 91.6% of the stories alleging that a government policy was or would be a 'job killer,' the media failed to cite any evidence for this claim or to quote an authoritative source with any evidence for this claim."
Dreier and Martin pointed out that "[w]ith little or no fact checking of 'job killer' allegations, Americans have no way to know if there is any evidence for these claims."
The study also found that the majority of these stories involved allegations by Republicans or business spokespersons, and that the phrase was used most often to attack tax policies, health care reform, and policies to protect the environment, workers, or consumers.
The study findings are borne out by the facts. A study from NYU's Institute for Policy Integrity found that usage of the phrase "job-killing regulation" in newspapers has increased 17,550% between 2007 and 2011. And media figures have indeed thrown around the phrase "job killers" or similar terms to attack progressive government policies. Furthermore, media figures have repeatedly launched misleading attacks on Obama's jobs record.
The Associated Press published an article implying that Democrats are not focused on jobs and the economy, and are instead pandering to women by pushing a measure to protect women from workplace discrimination. In contrast, AP reported that the Republican agenda focuses on job creation.
The article, written by Laurie Kellman, reported on Senate Republicans' efforts to successfully block a law that would have required equal pay for women. The piece included a passage that strongly suggests that Democrats are not focused on jobs, while portraying concerns over fair pay to be hollow:
The vote was the latest effort by Democrats to protect their lead among critical women voters this presidential and congressional election year. Republicans are focusing on the No. 1 concern for all voters: jobs and the economy.
In suggesting that Democrats are not focused on jobs and the economy, AP ignores President Obama's repeated calls for Congress to pass a jobs bill. Friday, when the Labor Department reported that jobs growth slowed during May, the president again called on Congress to "get to work" and pass a jobs bill that economists say could create 2 million jobs.
Moreover, Kellman didn't bother to provide any evidence that Republicans were "focusing on ... jobs and the economy." Just last week, the GOP staged a vote on a bill that would have banned sex-selective abortions. That vote is particularly noteworthy when considering that gender-based abortion is not a problem in the United States - gender rates at birth in the United States are in line with what public health experts say is normal, and more than 90 percent of all abortions happen before gender can be determined.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed the bill and made no mention that it would create any jobs.
In May, AP's Charles Babington explored the question of whether Republicans were engaged in economic sabotage in order to damage a sitting president. Now AP has given Republicans an out, portraying the GOP as focused on economic growth - despite all evidence to the contrary - and increasing the likelihood that voters will not get a national conversation about GOP sabotage.
UPDATE: Associated Press has since updated the article, now reporting:
Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a Democratic bill calling for equal pay in the workplace. But President Barack Obama and his congressional allies aren't finished appealing to women on the No. 1 concern for all voters: the cash in their wallets on the heels of recession.
Original AP article after the jump.