From the May 13 edition of CNN's OutFront:
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CNN hosted an anti-gay hate group to discuss the nationally televised kiss between gay NFL draftee Michael Sam and his boyfriend, resulting in a segment that included questions about whether homosexuality is a sin and a choice.
On May 11, the St. Louis Rams announced that they had drafted the former University of Missouri defensive end, who made national headlines when he came out in February. The Rams' pick means Sam will be the first openly gay active player in NFL history.
In an emotional moment captured by ESPN, Sam received word of his selection by phone, sharing a kiss with boyfriend Vito Cammisano shortly thereafter. The kiss sparked homophobic outrage from the likes of former Super Bowl champion Derrick Ward, who tweeted that Sam "is no bueno for doing that on national TV."
During the May 12 edition of CNN Tonight, anchor Bill Weir invited local anchor Dale Hansen, whose February speech in support of Sam created an Internet sensation, and the Family Research Council's (FRC) Ken Blackwell to discuss the controversy. The segment - during which Blackwell asserted that Sam kissed his boyfriend to help push an "agenda" and speculated that the kiss was a "political prophylactic" to protect Sam from getting fired - disintegrated into a back-and-forth over whether homosexuality is a choice and a sin, highlighting precisely why it's never a good idea for national outlets to provide a platform to hate groups like the FRC:
From the May 12 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
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A Media Matters analysis of major cable news coverage of the National Climate Assessment (NCA) revealed that CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News devoted more than three hours of total coverage to the report on its release date, May 6, and the day after. Some reporting, however, gave false balance a national platform, and cable news outlets were more likely to interview politicians than scientists about the threat of global warming.
Mainstream media outlets attempted to cast doubt on White House press secretary Jay Carney's explanation that a memo advising Susan Rice on her TV appearances referred to global protests as opposed to the September 11 attack specifically. However Sunday news coverage from Rice's press tour demonstrates that discussions of Benghazi did include broader context of anti-American protests in the region, as Carney had asserted.
Fox News devoted no airtime to a report issued by the White House on protecting college students from sexual assault, while CNN dedicated fewer than 2 minutes of coverage. The networks' coverage paled in comparison to that of MSNBC.
The Washington Post reported over the weekend that several top tea party groups have spent "just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting" candidates, instead devoting most of their money to fundraising and consultants. The questionable spending has been aided by media outlets like CNN and Fox News, which, in the words of one of the shady groups in question, have given the tea partiers "great television news coverage" to promote their efforts.
Over the years, CNN and Fox News have frequently promoted tea party events and hosted group spokespersons. CNN partnered with one dubious group for a presidential debate, while Fox News host Sean Hannity is a radio partner with another group. In turn, tea partiers have used the favorable coverage to increase name recognition and solicit more funds.
The Post wrote that the Tea Party Patriots (TPP), the Tea Party Express (TPE) and the Madison Project "have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle." The spending "contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians."
While candidates are receiving relatively little money, tea party leaders are cashing in. TPP leader Jenny Beth Martin is "on track to make more than $450,000 this year"; TPP national finance director Richard Norman "is paid $15,000 a month," and his firms have received "at least $2.7 million since June 2012"; and the Tea Party Express has paid "$2.75 million since the beginning of 2013" to the firm of leader Sal Russo, "while donating just $45,000 to candidates and spending less than $162,000 on ads and bus tours supporting their election."
The Post report follows years of scrutiny from other outlets, including Media Matters, about lavish spending by tea party groups. In many instances, the criticism has come from other tea party groups, who have complained about the hypocritical nature of the consultant spending.
Mother Jones' Stephanie Mencimer reported in 2011 that TPP's "coterie of consultants and fundraisers" have "sparked bitter complaints by affiliated tea party groups" who view the group as "morphing into the very type of slick, DC-centric special interest group they have been fighting against." Politico's Ken Vogel reported in 2010 that tea party leaders "are suspicious of its [TPE's] big payments to Russo Marsh, view the bus tours as distractions from meaningful grass-roots organizing headed into the 2010 midterm elections and say the Republican ties of both the firm and PAC are wrong."
Despite years of reporting on the dubious nature of these tea party groups, media outlets like CNN and Fox News continue to give a publicity boost to the groups.
From the April 27 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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From the April 25 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom:
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From the April 24 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
CNN's senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar tipped the scales in favor of the conservative meme that Hillary Clinton has "no major achievements to point to" as Secretary of State.
In an April 22 post on CNN's Political Ticker blog, Keilar highlighted conservatives who are attempting to "fill the political vacuum with repeated criticism of her diplomatic record, which polls show is a positive with voters ahead of a potential 2016 White House run." Keilar noted that the effort to diminish Clinton's accomplishments was politically important to conservatives, and she's right. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, RNC chairman Reince Priebus strongly suggested that the GOP would focus on defining what Clinton has "done or hasn't done."
Although she noted that Clinton allies had documented her accomplishments as secretary, Keilar concluded the post by largely rehashing the conservative spin, claiming Clinton is "without major achievements to point to":
The group points to a list of 11 achievements on its website. It credits her with restoring America's leadership and standing in the world, building and maintaining a coalition to enact unprecedented sanctions against Iran, her role in a nuclear missile reduction treaty with Russia and her support for the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
"And, yes, you can also find information on her implementation of (audit)-inspired reforms, including the integration of women into the secretary of state policy framework and ensuring our economic, energy, and environmental goals serve U.S. national security interests," senior adviser Burns Strider told CNN.
But without major achievements to point to, like progress on Mideast peace, and U.S.-Russian relations at a post-Cold War low despite her attempt to reset them, arguments for her accomplishments are modest.
Even Clinton herself has struggled to clearly articulate concrete examples of her success.
"I really see my role as secretary, and, in fact, leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race," Clinton told an audience at a recent event in New York when she was asked about her triumphs in that job. "You run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton."
By using her own voice to characterize Clinton's record as lacking in major achievements, Keilar is ceding the high ground to right-wing talking points at the expense of the assessment of foreign policy experts, who have praised Clinton for repairing the badly damaged relationship between the United States and the rest of the world that resulted from the presidency of George W. Bush. As foreign policy journalist Michael Hirsch noted in the National Journal:
It is not that Clinton can't point to some notable and enduring achievements. Because of her worldwide popularity and tireless travel -- she set a new record for a secretary of state by visiting 112 countries -- Clinton helped undo the damage that the habitual unilateralism of the George W. Bush administration had done to the global image of the United States. As Clinton put it to me in a 2010 interview, "My big-picture commitment is to restore American leadership, and I think that's about as big a job as you can get. And everything I've done is in furtherance of that."
Clinton's individual accomplishments have been recorded in various outlets despite their exclusion in Keilar's post. These include avoiding war in Gaza by negotiating a cease-fire, extensive diplomacy in Russia, imposing the toughest sanctions in Iran's history, restarting diplomatic relations with Myanmar, and advocacy for women's rights worldwide.
Significant steps have been taken in the fight against HIV/AIDS over the past several years, but media coverage of the issue all too often fixates on stories that sensationalize the spread of the disease and even encourage the criminalization of people with HIV.
A new Equality Matters report examining evening cable news coverage of HIV/AIDS stories found that cable news networks largely ignored some of the most significant developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS in 2013:
But even while news outlets have ignored major progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, many continue to highlight crime stories that sensationalize the spread of HIV. A look at CNN's evening coverage of HIV/AIDS stories in 2013, for example, reveals that, after the story of a baby who's HIV was in remission after early antiretroviral drug treatment, the network's top two HIV/AIDS topics were about a Missouri man who knowingly infected sex partners with the virus and an Oklahoma dentist whose unsanitary equipment may have infected patients:
Sensationalist news coverage, especially when it comes at the expense of serious reporting on the fight against HIV/AIDS, has real and damaging consequences for people living with the disease. As the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD notes, stories like the case of the Missouri man are used "to justify salacious and vilifying coverage that perpetuate stereotypes against HIV+ and LGBT communities":
This story directly relates to the matter of treating people who have HIV as criminals, while overlooking many of the realities with which such people struggle, like stigma and fear. Many media outlets have effectively reinforced the very issues they fail to acknowledge.
Rather than inform the public of the realities of living with HIV/AIDS, these kinds of stories encourage panic and further stigmatize an already marginalized community, which in turn worsens the problem of attempting to combat the spread of HIV.
Despite major developments in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and research in 2013, cable evening news shows devoted scant time to covering developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS in 2013. The lack of coverage of HIV/AIDS stories has continued into the first quarter of 2014.
Two Media Matters analyses suggest that over 85 percent of those quoted in the media about climate change are men. Several top women in the field denounced this disparity, noting that women will be disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change.
A review of a recent Media Matters analysis of print and television coverage of the U.N. climate reports found that women made up less than 15 percent of interviewees. A look back at our analysis of broadcast coverage of climate change unearthed the same stark disparity: less than 14 percent of those quoted on the nightly news shows and Sunday shows in 2013 were women.
Allison Chin, the former president of the Sierra Club, decried this gender gap in a statement to Media Matters:
The gender imbalance among those quoted on the climate crisis is striking, particularly since women around the world are more vulnerable to the dangers of climate disruption and among the most active in the movement for solutions. Globally, existing inequalities give women less access and less control over resources and make them more susceptible to the worst effects of extreme weather. The last thing the media should do is amplify that divide by only covering one set of perspectives.
Rebecca Lefton, senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress and an expert in international climate change policy and gender equality agreed, telling Media Matters that this is an environmental justice issue because "women are disproportionately impacted by climate change, especially in developing countries." Indeed, studies show, for instance, that women disproportionately suffer the impacts of extreme weather disasters, some of which are exacerbated by climate change, in part because they are more likely to be poor. Lefton added, "Without women's voices we lose the perspective of half of the population and without women's participation, the transition to a cleaner economy will be slower."
The lack of women's voices in climate change conversations in the media is not due to a shortage of powerful women in climate policy and communications. U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres, who is in charge of negotiating a global climate treaty, noted in March that "women often bear the brunt in places where the impacts of climate change are already being felt." The last two heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is slated to come out with carbon pollution standards for future power plants, were both women -- current administrator Gina McCarthy and former administrator Lisa Jackson.
Media Matters has previously found that women make up only about a quarter of guests on the Sunday morning talk shows and weekday evening cable news segments on the economy. However, the gender gap on climate change conversations is even starker. One contributing factor may be that the climate sciences have experienced a "female brain drain," according to Scientific American, as have many other scientific fields. This "female brain drain" is also evident in the largely male leadership of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Women that do enter the field often face discrimination. Two prominent female climate scientists, Heidi Cullen and Katherine Hayhoe, have both been dismissed by Rush Limbaugh as "babe[s]." Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian who is one of the stars of a new Showtime series on climate change, told E&E News that much of the internet harassment she receives focuses on her gender:
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.