The final installment of the U.N.'s top climate report, which calls for prompt, extensive action to avoid calamitous impacts from climate change, garnered relatively little attention from the major print, cable and broadcast media outlets compared to the first installment. However, coverage of the third report rightfully gave far less space to those who cast doubt on the science.
The Department of Energy's clean energy loan program helped fuel the achievements of electric car company Tesla Motors, yet the major broadcast, cable and print media only mentioned the loan in 20 percent of their coverage of Tesla in 2013 (and in only 7 percent of coverage of Nissan's best-selling electric car, the Leaf). Meanwhile, 84 percent of coverage of Fisker, an electric car company that declared bankruptcy, mentioned its federal loan. This skewed coverage may have misinformed the public about the overwhelmingly positive success rate of the program.
Cokie Roberts said she was surprised to hear women comprised less than 30 percent of guests last year on Sunday morning broadcast political talk shows like her former program, ABC's This Week. But she did not believe that disparity was a problem, stating, "there are plenty of women there."
According to data compiled by Media Matters, the four major broadcast Sunday shows hosted men at least 72 percent of the time in 2013, with women guests making up less than 30 percent on each program.
Those numbers haven't changed since Media Matters examined the programs in 2008. And women were even less likely to be chosen for the coveted solo newsmaker interviews, receiving no more than 15 percent of time devoted to such appearances.
"I didn't even notice it," Roberts said during an appearance at a bookstore in New Jersey Tuesday to promote her children's book, Founding Mothers, which is about the unsung women of early American history. "I'm surprised at that because there seem to be a lot more than there were when I started."
Asked if she believes it is a problem to have such a low ratio of women guests, Roberts, who co-anchored ABC's Sunday morning political talk show from 1996-2002 and has been a regular guest in the years since, sought to defend the process the shows used.
"It seems to me that the attempt is always to have a little of this, a little of that," she said. "Someone just has to balance whatever, whether it's a conservative slot that needs to be filled or a minority slot that needs to be filled. It's the luck of the draw how any given week goes."
Still, she said the gender gap had not been apparent to her.
"I haven't noticed it," she said. "I am surprised to have you even say it. It doesn't look that way to me. It is always better to have more women, but to me in thinking about the shows there are plenty of women there."
Below are charts showing the gender diversity on the four broadcast Sunday shows, as well as similar programs on CNN and MSNBC:
Women accounted for a small share of total guests featured during weekday evening economic coverage on the three major cable news networks, despite a renewed focus on economic discussions that significantly affect American women.
A Media Matters analysis conducted over the past year revealed that women comprised just 28.4 percent of total guests featured in weekday evening segments dedicated to economic news and policy debates on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.
Women make up slightly more than half of the total United States population and represent a significant majority of the voting public, but their voices remain vastly underrepresented in cable news segments on the economy.
Previous Media Matters studies have shown that weekday evening cable news coverage of the economy in particular fails to feature economists and experts. This failure is more shocking when measured in terms of gender -- women made up less than 10 percent of economist appearances in the past year.
Given that women make up more than 50 percent of the country, all economic issues are women's issues, and the lack of adequate female representation in these segments is a significant failure. But it is particularly glaring given the recent emphasis from policy makers and advocates across the political spectrum to highlight economic issues that disproportionately affect American women.
For example, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), roughly 56 percent of minimum wage workers are women, and recently dozens of women in the economics profession signed a public letter circulated by EPI imploring lawmakers to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Raising the minimum wage to this level and tying it to inflation now has the support of congressional Democrats and the White House, but weekday cable guest lists have mostly not included female economists whose research and advocacy support the effort.
The lack of adequate female guest representation in economic discussions is not a result of a lack of available and qualified candidates. Heidi Hartmann, the president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), is a prominent advocate for public policies focused on issues of particular importance to women. Economists Heidi Shierholz and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute have written extensively on the impact of low wages on women and the importance of health care reform. Jeanneatte Wicks-Lim of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) also specializes on studying policy effects on low-wage workers. Michigan State University economist Lisa Cook has been a recurring guest on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry in the past, but did not appear during MSNBC's evening weekday lineup in the past year. Christina Romer of the University of California, Berkeley is the former chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and co-authored President Obama's economic recovery plan in 2009 with economist Jared Bernstein, himself a regular guest on MSNBC.
The economics profession produces more than enough women with the talent necessary to advocate policies or comment on research in the cable news sphere. It is time for guest lists to start reflecting the diversity of opinion and expertise held by women in the field.
Less than two months after national media outlets spotlighted the debate over Arizona's proposed license-to-discriminate measure, CNN and Fox News completely ignored the passage of a similar measure in Mississippi that effectively sanctions the refusal of services to LGBT people.
On April 3, two days after the state legislature sent the bill to his desk, Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS) signed the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a private ceremony attended by anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC). The law prohibits state actions that "substantially burden a person's right to the exercise of religion." According to legal experts, the law could allow, say, a health care worker to refuse fertility treatment to same-sex couples on the grounds that providing such care constituted a substantial burden on the worker's religion.
Like the Arizona measure, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed, the Mississippi law doesn't explicitly mention gay people. And unlike in Arizona, Mississippi lawmakers stripped language pertaining to businesses, conferring protections only on individuals.
But that was good enough for the FRC's Perkins, who lavishly praised the bill as a defense of religious liberty against things like same-sex marriage.
During the debate over Arizona's SB 1062, cable news networks extensively covered the controversy surrounding the measure. CNN ran multiple segments highlighting the anti-gay group behind the measure and grilled supporters of the bill about its impact on gay and lesbian customers. Even Fox News noted that the law might be an example of right-wing overreach, calling it "profoundly unconstitutional" and "potentially dangerous."
But that concern hasn't carried over into coverage of Mississippi's anti-gay law. According to an Equality Matters analysis, CNN and Fox News have both entirely ignored the passage of Mississippi's Religious Freedom Restoration Act:
Over the past year, weekday evening cable news shows have hosted significantly more male than female guests to discuss the economy, and have hosted only a handful of female economists.
Weekday broadcast and cable evening news covered a variety of economic topics including deficit reduction, economic growth, and effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) throughout the first quarter of 2014. A Media Matters analysis shows that many of these segments lacked proper context or input from economists, with Fox News continuing to advance the erroneous notion that the ACA and the minimum wage are causes of poor job growth.
A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed major cable network coverage of climate change in 2013, and found that CNN covered the topic even less than Fox News, and that both featured a significant amount of misleading coverage that "weaken[s] the public's ability to understand and grapple with the risks of climate change."
The latest media analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found (perhaps unsurprisingly) that Fox News misinformed their audience a great majority of the time when discussing climate change. Meanwhile, CNN devoted a paltry amount of airtime to global warming in 2013, and when they did cover the topic, the network frequently presented the science demonstrating global warming as an issue up for debate by pundits. Here are some of UCS' most significant findings:
UCS found that even though Fox News overwhelmingly misled their audience on climate science, the network still covered the topic more than CNN in 2013. On the primetime weekday shows and weekend morning programs that UCS examined, CNN aired 43 segments on climate change, Fox News aired 50 segments, and MSNBC towered over the two with 133 segments -- more coverage than the CNN and Fox combined:
According to UCS' analysis, MSNBC's coverage was 92 percent accurate; the analysis labeled 8 percent of MSNBC's coverage "inaccurate," saying these segments overstated the connection between certain extreme weather events and manmade global warming or the severity of sea level rise.
CNN devoted less than two minutes to a report by top international climate experts, who warned of hunger problems, coastal flooding and other calamitous impacts if climate change is left unchecked. The network's coverage stands in stark contrast to other cable news networks, which devoted an average of over 22 minutes to the report, and broadcast nightly news programs, some of which led with the report.
From the March 30 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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In honor of Women's History Month, Media Matters looked back at seven examples of women standing up for their rights on cable news, be it in response to right-wing opposition or simply to further awareness of gender disparities.
Right-wing media have spent nearly a decade making false claims about birth control -- and now those falsehoods have found their way into the mouths of Supreme Court justices.
The Supreme Court on March 25 heard consolidated arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, which examine whether for-profit businesses can deny employees health insurance coverage based on the owners' personal religious beliefs, a radical revision of First Amendment and corporate law. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga argue they should not be forced by the government to provide their employees insurance which covers certain forms of contraception, because they believe those types of birth control can cause abortions.
The owners are wrong. Medical experts have confirmed they are wrong, repeatedly and strenuously, including experts at the National Institute of Health, the Mayo Clinic and the International Federation of Gynecology. The contraceptives Hobby Lobby objects to -- which include emergency contraceptives like Plan B and long-term contraceptives like Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) -- delay an egg from being fertilized, and as the former assistant commissioner for women's health at the FDA noted, "their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one."
Despite this overwhelming medical evidence, the myth that some of the contested forms of birth control are "abortifacients" has gone all the way to the Supreme Court -- and now has been repeated by some of the justices themselves. During the oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, Justice Antonin Scalia responded to a point made by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the lawyer for the government, by referring to "birth controls ... that are abortifacient."
JUSTICE SCALIA: You're talking about, what, three or four birth controls, not all of them, just those that are abortifacient. That's not terribly expensive stuff, is it?
GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, to the contrary. And two points to make about that. First, of course the -- one of the methods of contraception they object to here is the IUD. And that is by far and away the method of contraception that is most effective, but has the highest upfront cost and creates precisely the kind of cost barrier that the preventive services provision is trying to break down.
Justice Stephen Breyer, while describing the position of the Hobby Lobby owners, also referred to "abortifacient contraceptives."
This misunderstanding matters because it could determine the outcome of the case. In order to win, a majority of justices may have to understand there is a compelling government interest in facilitating equal access to contraceptives across health insurance plans. It is an entirely different and more difficult question if the justices examine whether there is a compelling interest in the government facilitating access to abortion. Even though federal law explicitly prohibits federal funding of abortion and these birth control methods are not abortifacients, if the justices mistakenly think abortion is involved, this case becomes far more dangerous.
So whether the employees of for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby are guaranteed access to basic preventative health care could ultimately come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions. Whether for-profit companies are considered religious persons, a drastic change to constitutional corporate law, could come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions. Whether the rights of gay and lesbian employees are respected, and whether taxes, vaccines requirements, minimum wage, overtime laws are all upheld could come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions.
This simple lie about birth control could set up a chain of events that drastically alter health care by rewriting First Amendment and corporate law in this country -- and it's a lie that comes straight from the media, who have been pushing it for almost a decade.
Studies came out as early as 2004 pushing back on the idea that Plan B caused abortions, but Media Matters has repeatedly noted the tendency of journalists to get their facts wrong when addressing the issue. In 2005, CNN host Carol Costello gave a platform to a pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for birth control pills because she thought they were equivalent to "chemical abortion." In 2007, Time magazine called the morning-after pill "abortion-inducing," while an AP article pushed the false Republican claims that emergency contraception destroys "developing human fetuses." In 2010, The Washington Times repeatedly equated emergency contraception to abortion.
And there was Lila Rose, the anti-abortion activist who in 2011 released videos heavily edited to deceptively portray practices at Planned Parenthood clinics, and who has equated contraception to "abortion-inducing drugs" which she claims exploit women. Rose and her mentor, James O'Keefe, defended their manipulation and falsification of evidence as "tactics" against the "genocide" of abortion, and she was supported and promoted on The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity's America, The Glenn Beck Show, The Laura Ingraham Show, while her work was been featured by Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, and National Review.
When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, and medical experts including the Institute of Medicine recommended including comprehensive coverage for contraception as part of the preventative care provisions, right-wing media freaked out, calling it "immoral" and "a way to eradicate the poor." Fox News ignored the overwhelming support for the resulting contraception policy, instead pretending that Catholic hospitals and employers were being victimized -- even as exemptions and accommodations were included for churches and religious nonprofits. By 2012, Fox News' Michelle Malkin was referring to the contraception regulations as an "abortion mandate." Now, right-wing media figures have used the Hobby Lobby case and others to bring back this lie, from Fox News to the Wall Street Journal, while Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have become particularly fond of discussing these "abortifacients."
As Media Matters has previously explained, right-wing talking points demonizing birth control made their way into the amicus briefs presented to the court before the case was even argued, and Justice Scalia in particular has been known to repeat verbatim right-wing myths, such as the dubious idea that if the Supreme Court upheld the ACA the federal government could ultimately require consumers to purchase broccoli.
But the presence of the "abortifacient" lie during oral arguments takes this worrying tendency to a new level, raising the prospect that right-wing media's lies could potentially determine the outcome of a crucial case for religious and corporate law, hugely damaging reproductive rights in the process. If women lose the guarantee for their basic preventative health care, and corporations are granted even more flexibility as "persons" with religious rights, right-wing media will be partly to blame.
From the March 23 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
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When the State Department released its final Environmental Impact Statement, nearly all the headlines read the same: "Report Opens Way to Approval for Keystone Pipeline" and "State Dept. Keystone XL Would Have Little Impact On Climate Change." Yet after Reuters broke the news last week that the State Department was wrong in its predictions of greatly expanded rail capacity, undermining its claim of no climate impact, no major media outlet amplified the report.
In a report released late on Friday, January 31, the State Department concluded that Keystone XL was "unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas" based on the assumption that if the pipeline were not built, the equivalent amount of tar sands would instead be transported by rail. It was this finding that the media trumpeted, largely ignoring that buried in the analysis, the State Department for the first time acknowledged that under some studied scenarios, the project could have the equivalent climate impact of adding 5.7 million new cars to the road. The idea that the Keystone XL would not harm the climate led many to declare that President Barack Obama should approve the pipeline, even spurring MSNBC host Ed Schultz to call for approval (before later reversing his stance) and liberal commentator James Carville to predict that the pipeline would be built.
On March 5, Reuters added to skepticism that locking in infrastructure enabling tar sands extraction would have no climate impact, reporting that the State Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had significantly overestimated the amount of tar sands that would move by rail from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The draft EIS projected that about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) would be moved along this route by rail before the end of 2013. However, a Reuters analysis found that "even in December, when deliveries were near their highest for the year, that tally did not top 40,000 bpd" -- less than a quarter of the State Department's prediction. The final EIS removed any specific projections of movement by rail.
Not a single major media outlet has reported on Reuters' finding, according to a Media Matters search.* In fact, some continued to repeat the State Department's claim that Keystone XL could be replaced by rail without mentioning the report.
Much of the initial coverage of the State Department's final EIS left out that an investigation at the time was looking into whether the contractor that wrote the report for the State Department had a conflict of interest in part because it was a member of the pro-pipeline American Petroleum Institute (API). The investigation later concluded that it did not, but environmentalists still contended it was based on too low of a bar. In fact, API told reporters prior to the final EIS release that it received news from inside the State Department about the timing and conclusions of the report, allowing it to spin the findings to reporters beforehand.
From the March 9 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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