Since the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, media have scandalized the administration's negotiations with the Taliban, conducted through a third-party, despite the fact that foreign policy experts and military leaders have long acknowledged the necessity of such negotiations.
In the year since the Supreme Court invalidated the core of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor, over a dozen district courts have struck down state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, marking a historic shift in the legal debate over marriage equality. But coverage of the marriage equality revolution has been largely absent from Fox News, where most of the decisions have received less than a minute of coverage.
In late June of 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA, finding that prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages served "no legitimate purpose." While the Court didn't establish a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in Windsor, that ruling has proven pivotal in a dozen district courts' and the New Jersey Superior Court's subsequent decisions to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage. As a result, four more states now have marriage equality, with a host of other decisions being appealed.
The rash of court rulings - in blue states like Oregon and crimson-red states like Oklahoma - suggest that marriage equality is likely headed back to the Supreme Court, with the potential for a sweeping ruling on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans by June 2015. And with a 13-0 record in the courts since Windsor, some experts predict that marriage equality could soon effectively become the law of the land even without the High Court.
But if you've been watching Fox News, this legal revolution for marriage equality may well have escaped your notice.
Fox News has spent just over 10 minutes covering the 13 court decisions in favor of marriage equality since Windsor, according to an Equality Matters analysis examining the five-day windows after each decision, during which period these decisions were actual news stories, with the bulk of the network's coverage devoted to one state, Utah. New Mexico and Michigan's decisions received no coverage at all, and the majority of the decisions received less than a minute of attention:
For the four states - New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania - where same-sex marriage has taken effect as a result of court rulings post-Windsor, Fox News has provided a scant two minutes and 14 seconds of coverage, compared with nearly 16 minutes from CNN and more than an hour from MSNBC:
From the June 3 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper:
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CNN's Chris Cuomo missed a prime opportunity to challenge Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on his inconsistency regarding support for a prisoner swap with the Taliban in exchange for the release of a captive American solider.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American captive held by the Taliban since 2009, was released on May 31, pursuant to an agreement between the White House, the government of Qatar (acting as an intermediary), and the Taliban that secured the release of five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
On the June 3 edition of CNN's New Day, Sen. McCain railed against the exchange as "incomprehensible," arguing that it allows the Taliban "to pick the dream team" who will end up "back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger." Host Chris Cuomo noted that the exchange had "been in the works for years," prompting McCain to double-down on his argument that the exchange was inappropriate:
MCCAIN: The problem that I have, and many others have, is what we paid for that release, and that is, releasing five of the most hardened, anti-American killers, brutal killers, who are, by the way, are also wanted by the international criminal court for their incredible brutality, and the fact that within a very short time, if the past proves true, they'll be back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger in the future. And that's what most of us find incomprehensible, that the Taliban should be allowed to pick the 'dream team,' as my friend Lindsey Graham called it, and send them to Qatar, and obviously, they will be back in the fight. Thirty percent of those who have already been released from Guantanamo have reentered the fight, and this is the top. These are the people that have blood of thousands on their hands, at least in one case. And so you have to understand what was done in exchange for the release of Sergeant Bergdahl.
CUOMO: The issue of surprise and shock comes up here, Senator. This deal has been in the works for years. The president says he consulted with Congress about this potential trade. Were you consulted with?
MCCAIN: No, and I've talked to members of the intelligence committee, Congressman Rogers, Senator Chambliss. We were at the meeting where they were talking about releasing some Taliban as confidence measures to move negotiations forward, as long as two years ago. There was never discussion that any of us know about this straight-up and all of the aspects of this trade for Sergeant Bergdahl. And that's just a fact.
CUOMO: On whose side, Senator? Is the president hiding the ball of what types of Taliban guys were involved? Or is your side hiding the ball that you knew but you didn't know everything, so you're going to say that you knew nothing?
MCCAIN: Well, we were never told there would be an exchange here of Sergeant Bergdahl for five Taliban. We told they were considering, and we steadfastly, both Republican and Democrats, rejected the notion that they were going to release some of these Taliban in exchange for, "confidence building measures" so that negotiations could continue. What we were briefed on was an entirely different scenario from the one that took place. Look, I'm not one who believes that Congress should bind the hands of the president particularly as commander-in-chief. That's not my problem. My problem is, what we did in exchange, which could put the lives of American servicemen and women in grave danger in the future, unless you believe that this conflict is over and that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have stop wanting to destroy America and repeat of 9/11, then, fine. But they've not, and they're not, and they are growing, despite what the administration says.
The conservative Benghazi conspiracy theory has gotten so dense that it's almost impossible for even a well-intentioned, aggressive reporter to get through an interview with a GOP congressman leaving his audience better-informed than it was at the start.
Take the following interview CNN's Jake Tapper did on Friday with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Chaffetz is a member of the Oversight Committee who makes regular media appearances accusing the Obama administration of wrongdoing during and after the attack on our diplomatic facility 20 months ago. Tapper is clearly doing his best to fact-check Chaffetz's claims in real time, repeatedly pushing back against false claims. But Chaffetz is throwing out so many falsehoods and half-truths that it's impossible for him to get them all.
Tapper is right to push back against Chaffetz's attacks on Hillary Clinton for linking the Benghazi attack to an anti-Islam video and his suggestion that no one in the State Department was punished for the security failure. Unfortunately, there were many more misleading and false claims that went unaddressed, including:
None of this is a knock on Tapper, who clearly attempted to hold Chaffetz accountable during the interview. But because there are so many lies at the center of the Benghazi conspiracy, and because conservatives are so willing to promote those lies in interview after interview, some of them will inevitably get through and mislead the audience.
This is a vulnerability in the media environment without an easy solution. But it's becoming increasingly clear that the current strategy for journalists of litigating and re-litigating Benghazi with congressional Republicans isn't going to leave their viewers better-informed.
Media responded to the news that the Obama administration secured the release of prisoner of war (POW) Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban by parsing whether or not the administration violated longstanding policy by negotiating Bergdahl's release. In reality, experts say the U.S. has a long history of such negotiations, and Bergdahl's release was conducted using an intermediary nation.
From the May 28 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
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From the May 25 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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CNN president Jeff Zucker raised some eyebrows this week when, asked about the news channel's increasingly slim coverage of climate change, he commented the network hasn't "figured out how to engage the audience in that story in a meaningful way." He added: "When we do do those stories, there does tend to be a tremendous amount of lack of interest on the audience's part."
Zucker acknowledged that climate change "deserves more attention," but suggested that the issue isn't receiving that attention on his network because CNN needs the topic to generate ratings, or "interest," in order to receive more airtime.
I'm not sure I've ever heard an executive at a news organization speak so openly about what appears to be a company-wide decision to pay less attention to a completely legitimate news story because it doesn't generate ratings; because it's not good for business. For Zucker to suggest CNN doesn't cover a pressing public issue because it doesn't grab eyeballs goes against the basic tenet of journalism, which is, of course, to inform. CNN should be less concerned about engaging viewers and more concerned abut informing them.
Zucker's climate coverage comments seem especially odd given that he said in the same interview that his network's coverage of the Benghazi select committee would be driven by whether it is of "real news value"; he did not address whether such coverage would need to meet an "interest" threshold from the audience.
I'm not a purist when it comes to cable news. I understand CNN is a business and that increasingly it falls within ever-expanding sphere of the entertainment business. Cable news has changed dramatically over the last two decades, the scramble for the limited audience of viewers is fierce, and passive programming is not an option for commercial success. I get that the diet of cable news today includes large dollops of fatty foods buffeted by smaller servings of vegetables.
But suggesting you're not covering an extraordinarily important and possibly life-changing topic because viewers don't "engage"? That's wandering into dangerous ethical territory. What other dire topics is CNN shying away from for fear of boring its news consumers? Do CNN editorial meetings revolve around gauging which news topic will generate minutes-long spikes in the channel's ratings?
Conservative media have sought to legitimize the House's new select committee on Benghazi by claiming only it could answer questions about Benghazi that have already been answered, a tactic that appeared to spill over to CNN on May 22.
Anchor Wolf Blitzer hosted Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a newly announced member of the House committee, and pressed him on why Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi on the day of the attack. Even though this matter has been repeatedly investigated in the public record, Blitzer asserted, "Maybe you'll get the answer" as to why during the House's latest investigation:
CNN President Jeff Zucker reportedly said his network would not "to be shamed into" covering the new special House committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi by "others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums."
Zucker discussed his plans for the network at the Deadline Club's May 19 annual awards dinner during an interview with New York Times television reporter Bill Carter, Capital New York reported. When asked about the new select committee formed by House Republicans this month to yet again investigate the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities, Zucker criticized "other news organizations" who attempt to "shame" journalists, adding, "If it's of real news value, we'll cover it":
And will it cover the special committee hearings by House Republicans to probe the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack? Zucker told Carter he didn't know yet.
"We're not going to be shamed into it by others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums to shame other news organizations into covering something," he said. "If it's of real news value, we'll cover it."
Fox News has been the primary media force behind the Benghazi hoax since September 2012. In addition to consistently pushing phony outrage and misinformation about Benghazi, Fox has frequently issued attacks on "mainstream media" for supposedly failing to adequately cover the story. The network began pushing for the establishment of a select committee in July 2013; after one was announced in early May, the network bragged that their coverage was in part responsible. Fox has since attempted to dictate the terms of Democratic cooperation with the investigation.
Despite their excitement, the questions Fox insists the new committee will "answer" have already been well-documented and explained, and given that the attacks have already been examined by an independent State Department panel as well as at least five House and three Senate committees, whether the new committee finds anything Zucker would deem "of real news value" remains to be seen.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) ringing endorsement last week of Truvada, the "miracle drug" that blocks HIV infection, presents news outlets with a prime opportunity to cover an historic development in the three-decade struggle against HIV/AIDS. So far, however, media organizations have largely ignored the story.
Truvada is a 10-year-old pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment combining two different antiviral drugs. Taken daily, it prevents infection of HIV. Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug back in July 2012, it hasn't exactly caught on; a September 2013 report by Gilead Sciences found that only 1,774 people had filled Truvada prescriptions from January 2011 through March 2013. Nearly half of users were women, even though gay men are the demographic group most at risk for HIV/AIDS.
Part of the reason Truvada has been slow to gain steam is, undoubtedly, the stigma attached to those who use it. Gay men who use the drug have been derided as "Truvada Whores," a term many users have sought to reclaim. Some HIV/AIDS advocates, including Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, have cast doubt on Truvada's effectiveness, noting that it won't block infection unless users strictly adhere to taking it daily.
But advocates who hail Truvada as a watershed development in the struggle against HIV/AIDS got a huge boost on May 14, when the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report called on doctors to prescribe the pill for patients deemed at risk of HIV/AIDS - men who have sex with men, heterosexuals with at-risk partners, anyone whose partners they know are infected, and those who use drugs or share needles.
As The New York Times noted, if doctors follow the CDC's advice, Truvada prescriptions would increase to an estimated 500,000 annually.
On May 15, the Times gave the CDC's historic report prime placement on its front page:
But the Times and The Washington Post were the only major newspapers outlets to cover the CDC's report:
From the May 19 edition of CNN's New Day:
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From the May 14 edition of CNN's OutFront:
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The news that an Antarctic ice sheet is disintegrating and could contribute to a dramatic rise in sea level was ignored on CNN, in contrast to other major television networks.
Two new studies found that a large section of the West Antarctica ice sheet is deteriorating due to warm ocean waters and that its loss appears to be unstoppable. Many news outlets recognized it was a rare moment in climate change reporting, with the story making the front page of The New York Times, the evening broadcasts for all the major networks and even The Weather Channel's coverage.*
On cable news, MSNBC covered the ice sheet's disintegration in six separate shows, Al Jazeera in two, and even Fox News covered it once, when anchor Shepard Smith declared that "climate change -- it is real, the science is true":
However, CNN U.S. failed to cover the story at all. Only CNN International covered the story in a segment that was simulcast on CNN U.S. at 3 a.m. on Tuesday. This is not the first time that CNN did not cover a major climate story, leading Jon Stewart to mock it for favoring sensationalist news over more important topics like climate change.
Meanwhile, the Daily Caller tried to distract from this harrowing news by pointing to Antarctic sea ice, which has grown slightly in recent decades despite warming in the Southern Ocean. The Daily Caller used this growth to claim that "[g]lobal [c]ooling" is taking place and that the "South Pole isn't melting." However, as NASA, which conducted one of the studies, explained in an online quiz, "sea ice loss in the Arctic dwarfs any gains in the Antarctic."
If the Antarctic sea ice were melting it would not measurably contribute to sea level rise -- just as if ice cubes in a glass melted, they would not raise the level of the water. By contrast, the melting Antarctic ice sheets mean that "a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries," according to The New York Times, but cutting our carbon emissions can slow the rise and avoid greater sea level rise.