Fleeing from terror and indiscriminate violence in parts of the Middle East, millions of people have packed up and left their homes to start safer lives for themselves and their families elsewhere. But if you tuned into Fox News anytime in the last year, you'd think the refugees themselves -- many of them Muslim -- were responsible for the violence. In fact, painting Muslims as terrorists, radicals, and tacit supporters of ISIS, baseless demonization of Islam was the channel's modus operandi in 2015. And it wasn't just right-wing media. CNN also joined the smears, asking a Muslim human rights lawyer if he supports ISIS, questioning a Michigan mayor if she's afraid of her majority Muslim-American city council, and forcing responsibility for the recent attacks in Paris onto an innocent French Muslim.
From berating a teenager for his interest in technology to inventing so-called "no-go zones," watch how the media fearmongered about Muslims in 2015:
As Columbia Journalism Review explains in their annual list of the worst journalism in 2015, the media has a special responsibility to get these stories right and not perpetuate Islamophobia, as inaccurate and "reactionary coverage" can "influence policy makers to take drastic measures under the guise of popular fears."
Hillary Clinton said during the December 19 Democratic presidential primary debate that ISIS is using Donald Trump's inflammatory anti-Muslim comments "to recruit more radical jihadists." Although experts say that ISIS and other terrorist groups are using Trump's remarks to attract recruits on social media, journalists have ignored that fact and fixated on Clinton's specific statement that the terrorists use Trump's comments in recruitment "videos" to suggest that Clinton "made the stuff up about Trump and ISIS."
From the December 15 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom:
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Discredited gun researcher John Lott called CNN host Carol Costello's citation of the fact that there have been 355 mass shootings in the United States in 2015 "inflammatory," causing an incredulous Costello tell Lott to "be serious" about the problem of mass shootings.
Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics, who found serious flaws in his research.
On the December 3 edition of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, Costello asked Lott how Democrats and Republicans can "come up with a plan together" to stop mass shootings, noting that according to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have been 355 shootings in the United States this year where four or more people were shot. Lott characterized Costello's citation of the figure as "inflammatory," causing a visibly exasperated Costello to tell Lott to "be serious" because "there are too many mass shootings in this country":
CAROL COSTELLO (HOST): That's how this incident is being reported overseas. The BBC calling it "just another day of gun violence in the United States." And according to at least one unofficial tally, the numbers support that claim. ShootingTracker.com -- which defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people, including the gunman, are killed or injured by gunfire -- says San Bernardino was 355th. The 355th mass shooting this year alone. It was also, according to ShootingTracker's definition, the second worst mass shooting in the United States. The first took place early Wednesday morning in Savannah, Georgia, where a gunman killed one and wounded three others. So, let's talk about guns in America. John Lott is the founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of More Guns, Less Crimes. Good morning, John.
JOHN LOTT: Good morning.
COSTELLO: John, you know gun rights advocates and those in favor of more gun laws, they always talk at cross purposes. They can't seem to get on the same page. And I guess I don't feel like having an argument with you this morning. I kind of just want to find out how we can stop these shootings together. How can both sides come up with a plan together?
LOTT: Well, sure. I mean, if you have proposals you want to talk about, I'm happy to do so. I suppose, part of it, though, is inflammatory claims, such as the two that you just went through from the BBC, as well as the tracking numbers there. I mean, first of all, these occur at about the same rate in Europe --
COSTELLO: Oh, John, let's be serious. There are too many mass shootings in this country. John, let's be clear. There are too many shootings in this country.
LOTT: Well, I'm just saying --
COSTELLO: We've seen several in the past couple of weeks.
LOTT: We should be accurate.
COSTELLO: So let's just concentrate on that. There's a lot of gun violence in this country. We can all agree on that.
LOTT: But the point was, I was just saying in order -- there's a reason why you started with those two things. I'm just saying, just to be accurate, Europe has about the same rate of mass public shootings as we have here in the United States. France, this year, has had 508 people killed or wounded in mass public shootings. In the entire Obama presidency, there has been a total of 424. And this tracking number that you just had, the vast majority of those are gang fights, which are bad. Gang fights over drug turf are bad things. But it's, I think, misleading.
COSTELLO: John, let's just concentrate on the matter at hand: gun violence in the United States and how we can stop it. And how we can prevent these mass shootings, how we can prevent mentally imbalanced people from getting a hold of guns. How can we do that? How can we all get on the same page?
LOTT: Right. Well, I think you're going to have a hard time stopping terrorists or others from getting a hold of weapons. I mean, if you really believe someone is a danger to others, you should lock them up. But simply going and telling them they're not going to be able to legally buy a gun when these individuals, such as the ones in San Bernardino, I wouldn't be surprised if they were planning this a year or more in advance. It's very common for these types of mass public shootings to be planned at least six months, and sometimes even a couple years in advance. And if somebody's planning that long in advance, they're going to make the pipe bombs. They're gonna go and get a hold of the other the weapons that are there and this is very difficult to stop them. The question is, what's your backup plan? What do you do when you can't stop these individuals from making these types of weapons? And I hope we're beginning to get to the place where we allow individuals to go and defend themselves. California, it's extremely difficult for anybody to go and get a concealed carry permit, to be able to go and defend themselves against these types of attacks. The type of attack that occurred at Planned Parenthood on Friday or this or at the Oregon school or all places where --
COSTELLO: But let's be honest about one thing, John. Two of the weapons that these suspects used were purchased legally. In fact, all the guns, as far as we know, were purchased legally. So even though there are tight gun controls in the state of California, it's still easy to buy a high-powered weapon in the United States. And that's because there are so many guns out there. Over the Thanksgiving Day holiday, 185,000 firearms were purchased. That's a record for the holiday season. Lots and lots of people have guns in this country. Yet these mass shootings keep happening. So, how can more guns be the answer?
LOTT: Well, the question is where people are allowed to have guns. If you ban guns from certain areas, people like these killers don't -- aren't stopped by the bans. The people who obey the laws are law abiding good citizens, who are no longer able to defend themselves, who are essentially sitting ducks. You make it safer for the attackers to go and commit these crimes because they don't have to worry about law-abiding citizens being able to stop them.
COSTELLO: Alright. I have to leave it there, John.
A Michigan mayor who was asked by a CNN anchor whether she is "afraid" to govern "a majority Muslim-American city" told Media Matters she was caught "completely by surprise" by the line of questioning.
Karen Majewski, mayor of Hamtramck, Michigan, appeared November 23 on CNN Newsroom and was asked by anchor Carol Costello, "You govern a majority Muslim-American city. Are you afraid?" Majewski responded by explaining that she is "not afraid," and clarifying that she does not think the city is actually majority Muslim population-wise, though it did recently elect a majority-Muslim city council.
"I was very surprised," Majewski said of Costello's questioning during a Monday interview with Media Matters. "What I had expected and what people usually ask me about is the diversity of this city and the changing demographics and something about the way that reflects changing American demographics in general. So the focus on terrorism and fear caught me completely by surprise."
"We just never think about it in those terms and we don't think of our Muslim neighbors in those terms," she added. "There may be tensions, but they're not tensions over something like terrorism."
Majewski, who has served as mayor since 2006 and runs a vintage clothing shop in town, said CNN producers did not tell her beforehand about the terrorism-focused line of questioning.
"No, they didn't," she said. "I just assumed it was about the election and the kind of change from a Polish-dominated city to a city where the demographic is changing."
"I didn't ask and they didn't tell me that there was a kind of national security person who was going to be the co-interviewee," she added. "If I had known that it might have clued me to what kind of angle they were going to take." (The other person on the panel was Buck Sexton, a conservative radio host for Glenn Beck's The Blaze and CNN political commentator.)
Majewski speculated that the interview focus might have been prompted by a November 21 Washington Post article that she contends misstated that the city's population was now Muslim-majority, not just the city council, and raised unfounded terrorism fears.
"I think the misinterpretation came from the headline of The Washington Post article," Majewski said. "The article itself seemed truncated and cut off at the knees and the headline was completely misleading."
Asked if CNN or Costello had reached out to apologize or discuss the interview, Majewski said, "I imagine she might be getting some flack. I wouldn't expect any kind of apology. I just thought it was an odd line of questioning."
CNN's interview of Majewski:
CNN anchor Carol Costello suggested there may be something for the residents of Hamtramck, Michigan to be "afraid" of after they elected in November a majority Muslim-American city council. Speaking to the city mayor, Karen Majewski, on CNN Newsroom about police surveillance of Muslims amid terrorist concerns, Costello said, "You govern a majority-Muslim-American city. Are you afraid?" Costello also asked whether the Muslim-majority city council "concern[s] some of your citizens." From the November 23 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom With Carol Costello:
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The false conservative media talking point that Umpqua Community College (UCC) was a "gun-free zone" was frequently pushed on CNN and Fox News in the aftermath of an October 1 mass shooting where a gunman killed nine and wounded several others on the Roseburg, Oregon, campus.
Conservative media figures often claim that mass shootings tend to happen in so-called "gun-free zones" in order to advocate for less restrictive gun laws. In reality, most mass shootings occur where firearms are allowed, and a Mother Jones review of mass public shootings over a 30-year period concluded, "In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. And in other recent (but less lethal) rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, those civilians not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed."
Within the first two hours of breaking news reporting on the UCC shooting, claims that UCC was a "gun-free zone" began to appear on CNN and Fox News. The claim, however, was untrue under any reasonable definition of what a "gun-free zone" could be. According to a Newsweek interview of more than a dozen people connected with UCC, it was "common knowledge" that "many students carried guns" on UCC's campus.
Under Oregon law, individuals with concealed carry permits are allowed to carry guns on the grounds of public colleges and universities. Public colleges and universities can create a policy to not allow guns within campus buildings. UCC did not allow guns in buildings "except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations," which was apparently interpreted by students as allowing concealed carry with a lawfully issued permit.
As one student explained to Newsweek, "You are allowed to conceal and carry on that campus. It's not a gun-free zone":
"You are allowed to conceal and carry on that campus," said Umpqua student and part-time wildland firefighter Jeremy Smith, 24. "It's not a gun-free zone."
Smith said he would never return to campus without a handgun.
"I'm an avid gun owner," he said. "I carry, like just about anybody else does."
Although Oregon state law allows concealed weapons, Umpqua's student handbook says firearms are prohibited on college property "except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations."
The school includes firearms training in its criminal justice program for people accepted into a Police Reserve Academy. Students use the Roseburg Rod and Gun Club, a short drive from campus, to shoot or get help registering for a concealed-carry permit, an employee there said.
While there were two unarmed security guards at the sprawling campus, several current and former students said legally carrying concealed handguns was not unusual, particularly among the hundreds of military veterans who attend classes and frequent the Student Veterans Center.
News reports also established that there were indeed armed students on campus at the time of the shooting. A student who also happened to be a U.S. military veteran described on MSNBC why he and other veterans he was with decided not to intervene, explaining, "Not knowing where SWAT was on their response time, they wouldn't have known who we were, if we had our guns ready to shoot they could think we were bad guys."
Despite this plethora of evidence that UCC was not a "gun-free zone," CNN and Fox News continued to advance the falsehood in the week after the shooting.
According to a review of internal Media Matters video archives of coverage between October 1 and October 6, the "gun-free zone" falsehood as it relates to UCC was mentioned 23 times on Fox News, with just two instances where it was explained that UCC was not a "gun-free zone." The falsehood appeared 25 times on CNN, with four of those instances being debunked with accurate information.
By contrast, the falsehood was advanced just once on MSNBC without pushback, and in two instances the "gun-free zone" claim was pro-actively debunked without someone first pushing the myth:
Fox News ran 23 segments where it was claimed that UCC was a "gun-free zone." The claims came from Fox News reporters, hosts, guests and soundbites of GOP presidential candidates making the claim. The claim was debunked in only two cases.
In one of these instances, during the October 1 broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor, guest David Jaques, the publisher of the Roseburg Beacon News, explained "it's not a gun-free zone," citing a statement from UCC's past president.
False claims about UCC being a "gun-free zone" were not limited to conservative punditry on Fox News. During breaking news coverage of the shooting on October 1, Fox News correspondent and breaking news anchor Trace Gallagher falsely reported, "As we know, and have been reporting, Umpqua Community College is a gun-free zone."
On October 2, Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse falsely reported UCC was a "gun-free zone" during several news reports. During the October 2 broadcast of Happening Now, La Jeunesse falsely reported, "This was a gun-free zone." Later on Outnumbered, La Jeunesse editorialized further, saying, "This was a gun-free zone, so the gunman had no fear of being shot himself by other students."
CNN ran 25 segments that included claims that UCC was a "gun-free zone," with claims coming from CNN hosts, guests, and unchallenged soundbites of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump pushing the falsehood during a speech.
In four instances, other on-air individuals corrected the claim that UCC was a "gun-free zone."
During the early morning hours of October 2, CNN ran a report several times that erroneously reported UCC was "technically ... a gun-free zone" in a botched attempt to explain Oregon law and UCC policies.
The claim that UCC was a "gun-free zone" was made just once on MSNBC, by co-host Willie Geist during the October 2 broadcast of Morning Joe.
In two other instances, the notion that UCC was a "gun-free zone" was preemptively debunked, once by Mark Kelly, whose wife, then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting, and once by MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff who explained, "This was not a so-called gun-free zone" while relaying reports of concealed carry on campus and students who were carrying guns during the shooting.
Media Matters reviewed internal video archives for MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News beginning at 2 P.M. EST on October 1 and ending at 11:59 P.M. EST on October 6, searching for the term "gun-free zone." Segments that included this term were reviewed to determine whether the claim that UCC was a "gun-free zone" was either advanced, debunked, or both advanced and debunked. Segments that referenced Oregon gun law or UCC gun policy but ultimately concluded that UCC was a "gun-free zone" were coded as "Segments Pushing 'Gun-Free Zones' Myth."
Chart by Craig Harrington.
From the September 2 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom With Carol Costello:
Conservative media defended Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's recent claim -- that President Obama's negotiated agreement with Iran over its nuclear program will take Israelis "to the door of the oven" -- by praising the Holocaust comparison as "absolutely true" and "an accurate description."
A popular right-wing activist with extreme, discredited views about LGBT people is making the media rounds to talk about Caitlyn Jenner, peddling the myth that many transgender people end up regretting transitioning.
Walt Heyer, contributor for the rabidly anti-LGBT web magazine The Federalist, appeared on the June 2 edition of CNN Newsroom to comment on Vanity Fair's cover story about Caitlyn Jenner's decision to publicly identify as a transgender woman.
Heyer's life story has made him a pseudo-celebrity in anti-LGBT circles; in his forties, he decided to transition to living life as a woman, only to transition back to living as a man less than a decade later. Since then, he's pushed the debunked claim that transgender people often experience regret after transitioning, arguing that what transgender people actually need is "psychiatric or psychological help."
On CNN, Heyer warned that Jenner might regret her decision to transition, comparing transitioning to "going down to the bar" and "wak[ing] up with a hangover":
CNN glossed over how harmful Republican policies threaten women in order to question why female members of the GOP aren't typically considered feminists.
During the May 27 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Carol Costello interviewed former media strategist for the Republican National Committee (RNC), Molly Finn, to discuss why more conservative women aren't considered feminists. Framing the discussion around presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (D) and Carly Fiorina (R), Costello asked "why conservative women rarely come to mind when we think about feminist leaders," while Finn argued, "Just because some people are not necessarily aligning with the feminist label doesn't mean they aren't advocates for women's equality and success." Finn went on to claim that the "women's organizations that came out of the feminist movements of the 60s and 70s, it was kind of a narrow conversation. Women's power, women's political power might have been limited to talking about reproductive rights." Costello then asked whether feminism is "outdated," wondering if "that word feminism [is] sort of deepening the chasm between liberal women and conservative women":
Such a conversation on feminism and conservatism misses an opportunity to examine why conservative women are not generally labeled as feminists in the first place -- their policies and legislation often hurt women. Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, whom Costello cited as an example, is roundly in support of policies that are detrimental to women, opposing legislation to address the gender pay gap, access to reproductive health services, and the Affordable Care Act which "greatly improves women's access" to health care. Republicans more broadly have spent years in a concentrated effort to roll back women's access to reproductive health care, general health care and equal pay.
From the May 4 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom With Carol Costello:
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CNN highlighted religious support for LGBT equality in its coverage of Indiana's "religious freedom" law, avoiding the common 'God versus Gays' trope that typically defines coverage of debates over LGBT issues. CNN's coverage is in line with polls that show increasing support for marriage equality and LGBT rights by a variety of major religious groups.
During the April 1 edition of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, Costello invited Matthew Vines, a gay Evangelical Christian, to discuss Indiana's widely-criticized "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA). The law has been at the center of controversy over concern that it provides a legal defense for individuals or businesses to cite religious beliefs as a justification for refusing service to LGBT people.
From the March 23 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom With Carol Costello:
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Media are promoting Republican gains in the House and Senate in Tuesday's midterm elections as evidence that the country has shifted to the "center-right" on political issues, despite the fact that ballot initiatives and national polling reveal broad support for progressive positions.