Broadcast and cable Sunday political talk shows featured previously debunked myths about the September 11, 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
As Midwestern states assess the damage wrought by record flooding in recent weeks, scientists tell Media Matters that the media has missed an important part of the story: the impact of climate change. A Media Matters analysis finds that less than 3 percent of television and print coverage of the flooding mentioned climate change, which has increased the frequency of large rain storms and exacerbated flood risks.
Seven out of eight scientists interviewed by Media Matters agreed that climate change is pertinent to coverage of recent flooding in the Midwest. Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer told Media Matters it is "not only appropriate, but advisable" for the press to note that rainstorms in the Midwest are increasing in frequency and that climate models "suggest this trend will continue," which will contribute to more flooding. Aquatic ecologist Don Scavia added that this is the "new normal," and that the media is "missing an important piece of information" by ignoring this trend.
Indeed, climate change has been almost entirely absent from national and local reporting on the floods. Only one of 74 television segments mentioned climate change, on CBS News. ABC, NBC and CNN never mentioned the connection.
Meanwhile, USA TODAY was the only national print outlet to report on Midwest floods in the context of climate change. USA TODAY also created a video, featured above, explaining the connection as part of a year-long series on the impacts of climate change.
The Midwest has experienced near record flooding this spring, resulting in four deaths, extensive property damage, and disruptions of agriculture and transportation. Evidence suggests that manmade climate change has increased the frequency of heavy downpours, and will continue to increase flooding risks. But in their ample coverage of Midwestern flooding, major media outlets rarely mentioned climate change.
From the April 28 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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All three cable news networks failed to highlight a West, Texas, fertilizer plant's storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate -- 1,350 times the amount allowed without disclosure to the federal government -- in reporting on the April 17 explosion at that plant. The networks also virtually ignored the plant's history of violating state and federal regulations.
An April 20 Reuters report noted that fertilizer plants and depots must report to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) whenever they hold 400 pounds or more of ammonium nitrate, a potentially explosive chemical that can be used in bomb making. Reuters reported, however, that the plant that owned the company, West Fertilizer, "did not tell [DHS] about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principle regulators of ammonium nitrate ... unaware of any danger there."
Reuters quoted Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) as saying, "It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid. ... This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount ... yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up."
A Media Matters study found that following the Reuters report, CNN's coverage of the explosion never mentioned that West Fertilizer violated federal regulations by failing to disclose their storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, and MSNBC and Fox News rarely mentioned the violation.
In reporting on the factory explosion in West, Texas, cable news virtually ignored the fertilizer company's storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate at the plant, which is 1,350 times the amount that is allowed to be stored without disclosure to the federal government.
A Media Matters analysis of news coverage of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline since the 2012 election shows that the media continue to largely ignore the risk of an oil spill, while promoting the economic benefits of the project. Meanwhile, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal have dismissed Keystone XL's climate impacts, instead serving as a platform for the pipeline's champions.
The research consistently cited by media figures to support cutting government spending has recently been invalidated, raising questions about how mainstream coverage of economic policy promoted incorrect data.
In January 2010, economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff released a study that suggested when countries reach debt levels of 90 percent relative to GDP, economic growth would be compromised. Conservatives in politics and media alike repeatedly cited the figure in discussions about the economy.
A study released on April 16, however, found that the conclusions reached by Reinhart and Rogoff were based on data that was riddled with errors. Reinhart and Rogoff's response to the critique -- in which they maintain they never implied that rising debt caused lower growth, just that the two were associated -- shows that media's handling of the figure was wrong all along.
These new developments show that media consistently used an apparently incorrect figure for the past few years to call for austerity measures. Here's a look back at how major cable networks cited the figure in its coverage of the budget and economic policy:
Video by Alan Pyke.
A wide swath of media figures have cited economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff's January 2010 finding that a country's economic growth becomes impaired when its debt level exceeds 90 percent of gross domestic product. But the Reinhart-Rogoff paper is premised on an Excel error, revealed when other researchers reviewed the data underlying the commonly-cited debt-to-GDP threshold claim.
Austerity proponents, such as House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), frequently claim that a debt-to-GDP ratio of 90 percent signals economic doom, using Reinhart and Rogoff's work as leverage for imposing sharp cuts that economists agree would do serious harm to economic growth. Media coverage of budget and economic policy throughout the past three years has also repeated that claim, often without a direct connection to the Reinhart-Rogoff work from which the notion derives.
But that work, arguably the lynchpin of the case for imposing austerity in order to deliver economic growth, is crippled by basic errors, as the Roosevelt Institute's Mike Konczal explains:
From the beginning there have been complaints that Reinhart and Rogoff weren't releasing the data for their results (e.g. Dean Baker). I knew of several people trying to replicate the results who were bumping into walls left and right - it couldn't be done.
In a new paper, "Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff," Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst successfully replicate the results. After trying to replicate the Reinhart-Rogoff results and failing, they reached out to Reinhart and Rogoff and they were willing to share their data spreadhseet. This allowed Herndon et al. to see how how Reinhart and Rogoff's data was constructed.
They find that three main issues stand out. First, Reinhart and Rogoff selectively exclude years of high debt and average growth. Second, they use a debatable method to weight the countries. Third, there also appears to be a coding error that excludes high-debt and average-growth countries. All three bias in favor of their result, and without them you don't get their controversial result. [...]
So what do Herndon-Ash-Pollin conclude? They find "the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent, not -0.1 percent as [Reinhart-Rogoff claim]." Going further into the data, they are unable to find a breakpoint where growth falls quickly and significantly.
Rogoff and Reinhart responded to the criticism, which has since been criticized as a weak rebuttal. But now that those numbers are known to be wrong, the litany of media outlets which have cited them have an opportunity to reexamine their coverage of the austerity premise. Print media, notably The Weekly Standard, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, have frequently reproduced the Reinhart-Rogoff thesis in covering budget and economic policy. Television and radio media have made frequent use of the Reinhart-Rogoff paper, including prominent mentions on NPR, CNN, and Fox Business.
The Reinhart-Rogoff threshold has long been challenged by fellow economists, such as former Federal Reserve economist Joseph Gagnon, Paul Krugman, and Josh Bivens and John Irons of the Economic Policy Institute, on the grounds that it gets the directionality of causation exactly wrong. These and other economists argue that high debt levels are a consequence of prolonged weak GDP growth, rather than its cause.
As the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker notes, however, the newly discovered errors obviate these more intricate economist responses to Reinhart-Rogoff: "we need not concern ourselves with any arguments this complicated. The basic R&R story was simply the result of them getting their own numbers wrong."
CNN's Erin Burnett suggested that media "on the left" may have failed to cover the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell for political reasons -- even though Burnett herself had never previously covered Gosnell's story.
Gosnell is currently on trial for murder, accused of grotesque behavior in providing illegal late-term abortions. Conservative media have been engaged in a campaign to pressure the media for providing what they consider insufficient coverage to the trial.
On the April 12 broadcast of her show, Burnett hosted a segment to examine why the story "hasn't gotten much attention in the media at all, it seems." While discussing the trial with Salon reporter Irin Carmon, Burnett said:
BURNETT: [T]here are many people out there, as you're aware, on the right who are saying, "Look, it's pro-choice people on the left who aren't going to cover this story, because they're pro-choice and this hurts their agenda. It's such an awful, horrific thing. It'll make people more adverse to abortion. That's bad for them, so they're not covering it." What do you say to those people as someone who reports on this issue?
Burnett then acknowledged that CNN's own research showed there were almost no media outlets that had run stories "which mentioned [Gosnell's] name more than three times," indicating that the story wasn't being covered "only on the right, obviously."
Yet moments later, she asked guest Donna Brazile, "Do you reject the argument that is being made by many on the right ... that, they say, the mainstream media and those who are pro-choice have ignored this story because it makes abortion look horrific?"
According to a Nexis search, Burnett's own show has never, before this broadcast, covered Gosnell's story.
CNN host Erin Burnett didn't ask NRA board member Ted Nugent a single question about his recent violent remarks concerning gun policy, which included doubling down on his previous claim that he would be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected.
Burnett hosted Nugent on the April 11 broadcast of her show Erin Burnett OutFront to discuss pending gun safety legislation.
At no point did Burnett ask Nugent about comments he made during an April 8 interview on NRA News, when he complained that not enough was done to stop Obama's reelection and asked, "When I kick the door down in the enemy's camp, would you help me shoot somebody?" Nugent clarified that his reference to shooting people was "a metaphor" and that he's "not recommending shooting anybody." He also doubled down on his claim last year that he would be "either dead or in jail" in a year if the president was reelected.
Nugent is not a credible voice in the gun policy debate, as evidenced by his long history of inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation about gun violence. Nevertheless, Burnett has attempted to mainstream Nugent before. In February, Burnett's show featured an interview with Nugent where he suggested the government could confiscate firearms, a conspiracy theory that Burnett and CNN reporter Deb Feyerick later treated as a serious argument.
During the April 11 interview, Burnett experienced some of Nugent's inflammatory rhetoric firsthand when Nugent asked Burnett if she would "support my recommendation that we arrest Eric Holder" in order to "stop gun trafficking."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent will reportedly appear tonight on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront to discuss firearm policy, despite his history of inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation about gun violence. In February, OutFront featured an interview with Nugent where he suggested the government could confiscate firearms, a conspiracy theory that host Erin Burnett and CNN reporter Deb Feyerick later treated as a serious argument.
Nugent's appearance comes just days after he doubled down on his infamous comments that he would be "dead or in jail" because of President Obama's gun policies. During that interview on NRA News, Nugent also complained that not enough was done to stop the reelection of Obama, asking, "When I kick the door down in the enemy's camp, would you help me shoot somebody?" Nugent clarified that his reference to shooting people was "a metaphor" and that he's "not recommending shooting anybody."
Nugent is not a credible figure in the debate over gun laws.
In a February 13 column for birther website WND, Nugent revived false reports to allege that the perpetrator of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre used handguns rather than an assault weapon during his attack. Nugent's claim was based on an erroneous news report often cited by individuals promoting the conspiracy theory that the mass shooting was a hoax. In that same column, Nugent also downplayed the damage done by assault weapons by falsely claiming the AR-15 has more in common with a "squirrel rifle" than a military assault rifle.
In addition to his long history of hateful rhetoric on the topic of race, Nugent has compared the alleged plight of gun owners to civil rights icon Rosa Parks and blamed gun violence on "leftist stooges." By contrast, Nugent has also compared Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder to serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer after they were chosen to lead the administration's gun violence prevention efforts. No stranger to violent rhetoric, Nugent claimed in January that the Obama administration "is attempting to re-implement the tyranny of King George" and that "if you want another Concord Bridge, I got some buddies."
CNN has repeatedly portrayed stimulus funding for high-speed rail as a "boondoggle" because much of the money has gone to upgrading existing rail lines rather than new bullet trains. But the untold story is that Republican obstructionism has halted progress on new high-speed rail lines, which require a long-term investment of time and money.
The Situation Room aired a report by Drew Griffin on Tuesday claiming that high-speed rail is "turning into a pipe dream," pointing to a rail improvement project in Washington state that has received $800 million in stimulus funding. The project is on track to achieve its goal of improving schedule reliability, increasing trips and reducing travel times between Seattle and Portland to serve an increasing ridership. But as CNN noted, Washington never intended to use that funding to build a new rail line for high-speed bullet trains. Griffin's report, which follows a series on Anderson Cooper 360 that criticized projects in Vermont and California, led guest anchor Joe Johns to conclude that taxpayers are "not getting much out of their investment" in high-speed rail:
In fact, the stimulus has supported 150 planning and construction projects across the country, "jumpstart[ing]" a "renaissance" for passenger rail, according to a Brookings Institution report. This progress comes despite Republican efforts to prevent high-speed rail projects from moving forward. Republican governors in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida rejected stimulus grants for new high-speed rail projects in their states, citing the cost to taxpayers. But when some of that money was diverted to Amtrak upgrades (including the Washington state project highlighted by CNN), some of those same governors sought funding for rail improvement projects. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress blocked President Obama's six-year, $53 billion budget request for high-speed rail, dismissing it as just a "fun thing." CNN overlooked these roadblocks, which have slowed the progress of high-speed rail.
Fox News chose not to air live coverage of press events immediately following the Supreme Court's consideration of a historic marriage equality case, while MSNBC and CNN both covered the event live.
The Supreme Court was hearing arguments for and against California's Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage. The landmark case, Hollingsworth vs. Perry, examines whether Prop 8 "unconstitutionally discriminates against gays and lesbians." After oral arguments wrapped up, a press conference took place on the steps of the Supreme Court during which attorneys and plaintiffs in the case spoke to the media.
Here's what Fox News aired instead of the live press conference (11:45 AM):
During the same minutes, MSNBC and CNN aired the following:
CNN (11:45 AM)
MSNBC (11:42 AM)