During the second GOP presidential candidate debate on September 16, Carly Fiorina falsely claimed that the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress' videos targeting Planned Parenthood contained footage of "a fully formed fetus on the table...while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." Even though multiple fact checkers subsequently noted that the videos contained no such footage, CNN nevertheless rated the false claim as "true, but misleading."
CNN will host the second GOP presidential primary debate tonight, September 16. The network has an inconsistent track record on how it has covered GOP candidates' stances on climate change -- debate host Jake Tapper has fact-checked candidates' climate denial, but the network's coverage of the issue has been problematic at times. Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly ways CNN has covered the GOP presidential candidates' positions on climate change so far this year.
CNN.com misleadingly framed the result of its latest poll to claim that Americans are pessimistic about the recently signed nuclear agreement with Iran, and downplayed how its own polling shows that support for the deal has risen, and opposition to it has fallen, since July. CNN also didn't provide the same background information in this latest poll as it did in its August poll, which turned up more support for the deal.
Conservative media figures are attacking Fox News and Megyn Kelly to defend Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, claiming the network and Kelly were "out to get" Trump in Fox News' first Republican primary debate.
Several Fox News figures are attempting to shift partial blame onto Samuel DuBose for his own death at the hands of a Cincinnati police officer during a traffic stop, arguing DuBose should have cooperated with the officer's instructions if he wanted to avoid "danger."
A July 14 CNN.com article promoted the thoroughly debunked right-wing claim that, according to a group of scientists, a decrease in solar activity over the next 15 years could lead to a "deep freeze." In reality, the scientists' findings about the "irregular heartbeat of the Sun" did not include any analysis of how it might impact global temperatures, and several recent studies that did address the issue found that any cooling from decreased solar activity would be far outweighed by increased warming due to greenhouse gas pollution.
In a July 9 press release, the British Royal Astronomical Society stated that professor Valentina Zharkova and her colleagues had created a model that suggests "solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the 'mini ice age' that began in 1645." That line was quickly distorted by conservative media outlets on both sides of the Atlantic, such as the UK's Telegraph and The Washington Times, which claimed the scientists had found that the earth is likely heading for a "mini ice age."
Zharkova herself did not help matters when she hesitantly answered, "Yes, indeed" when asked during a July 13 interview with Radio New Zealand whether she was "saying we've got 15 years before there's an ice age?" Zharkova, who is a professor of mathematics at Northumbria University in England, clarified later in the interview that she doesn't "do atmospheric research" and "can't say for sure" what impact the phenomenon she has predicted, known as a grand solar minimum, will have on the earth's climate relative to global warming.
However, studies that specifically researched the potential climate impact of a grand solar minimum have found that it would be very small compared to the continued warming that will occur as a result of man-made climate change, a fact that appeared in several publications before CNN.com posted its article.
In 2013, The Guardian's Dana Nuccitelli cited several studies on the impact a grand solar minimum would have on global temperatures, concluding, "A new grand solar minimum would not trigger another [Little Ice Age]; in fact, the maximum 0.3°C cooling would barely make a dent in the human-caused global warming over the next century." More recently, The Washington Post reported on July 14 that "several other recent studies of a possible solar minimum have concluded that whatever climate effects the phenomenon may have will be dwarfed by the warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions." Similarly, blog posts by Slate's Phil Plait and the websites ...and Then There's Physics and HotWhopper each cited one of those studies, which was published in Nature Communications and found that "[a]ny reduction in global mean near-surface temperature due to a future decline in solar activity is likely to be a small fraction of projected anthropogenic warming."
Moreover, Think Progress's Joe Romm has pointed out that that the planet actually faces the opposite of a "mini ice age" in the decades ahead, as recent studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory indicate that "[t]he Earth is headed toward an imminent speed-up in global warming" (emphasis original).
Despite all of this evidence to the contrary, CNN.com headlined its story, "Scientists: Sun's irregular 'heartbeat' could mean future freeze." The article did acknowledge lower down that the scientists' research has not been published or peer reviewed and "needs a closer look," and also reported that NOAA's Doug Biesecker "said the research shouldn't give anyone the idea that because the weather may cool, climate change is not something to be worried about." But these acknowledgements raise the question of why CNN.com ran this story in the first place.
CNN.com is not the only mainstream media outlet to help advance this climate denial myth; as climate advocate Miles Grant noted, ABC News affiliates in both the Bay Area and Chicago also reported that "scientists say [the] Earth will enter a 'mini ice age' by 2030." Hopefully other media outlets won't make the same mistake.
Image at top via Flickr user Justin Kern using a Creative Commons License.
Some media outlets are distorting comments made by President Obama claiming he admitted he doesn't have a "complete strategy" to fight the terrorist group the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). But the full context of the remarks -- which were reported correctly by a number of media outlets -- shows that Obama was only referencing the complete strategy of training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers.
CNN uncritically advanced presidential candidate Rand Paul's contention that he is "a different kind of Republican" who wants to protect the environment -- ignoring Paul's long track record of voting against environmental protections and denying the science of climate change.
In a May 26 article about Sen. Paul's (R-KY) new book, "Taking a Stand," CNN.com echoed Paul's claim in the book that he is a "tree hugger" who "want[s] our regulatory bodies to protect both our land and water." CNN.com further reported that Paul, who is trying to distinguish himself from a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates, invoked past conservationist Republican presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln while expressing surprise that the GOP has "been branded as a party that doesn't like the environment."
CNN has quietly revised a sloppy report on the cost and difficulty of reviewing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails, adding to an increasing list of media outlets that have been forced to walk back over-hyped, seemingly-scandalous reports on the topic.
Clinton's emails have come under scrutiny because she used a personal email account, rather than an official government state.gov account, during her time at the State Department. This was legal and in line with State Department regulations at the time, but a misleading New York Times report has set off a media frenzy. Outlets seem desperate to find a scandal, which is leading them to publish stories before they have all the facts straight.
On March 11, CNN published an article (which is still available in its original version on Yahoo) noting that Clinton's emails have been submitted for review for public release as printed-out hard copies, rather than electronic documents. The article compares Clinton to trial lawyers engaging in a "data dump" that is designed "to slowdown opponents by drowning them in unorganized information that's difficult to comb through." Elsewhere, CNN claimed of the printed emails (emphasis added):
By doing it that way, Clinton has made it harder and more expensive for the federal government to quickly review her emails and decide what's OK for the public and what's not.
As of this morning, however, this inaccurate sentence has been removed from the CNN article, and a key fact was added that was not in the original report (emphasis added):
[A] State Department official said that printing emails is common practice because they would have to print Clinton's emails in their normal review process.
The CNN article includes no mention that anything has been updated.
CNN is adopting flawed right-wing media logic that seeks to downplay the numbers of school shootings in the last 18 months.
Following an incident at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon where a 15-year-old student armed with an AR-15 assault weapon and a handgun killed a fellow student before taking his own life, gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety circulated a graphic that identified the locations of 74 school shootings since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School:
How Everytown reached the 74 school shooting figure is no mystery. On its website, the gun safety group clearly explains its methodology: "Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts. This includes assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings."
The right-wing media has sought to debunk this statistic in order to downplay the prevalence of school shootings. Criticism of Everytown's graphic began on June 10 with a lengthy series of tweets from conservative journalist Charles C. Johnson that purported to debunk many of the 74 shootings as "fake shooting[s]."
Shootings that Johnson believed had been mischaracterized as school shootings included incidents where, in his own words, "A gunman ran onto campus, was chased by police, shot student accidentally," "Honors student shoots self in front of class," and, "Northwest High School principal shot by her ex-husband on campus":
Another fake shooting listed by everytown. A gunman ran onto campus, was chased by police, shot student accidentally. http://t.co/Q5M4iS3hhF-- Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) June 10, 2014
Another fake school shooting listed by everytown. Honors student shoots self in front of class. http://t.co/8BHLTASxyT-- Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) June 10, 2014
Another fake school shooting listed by Everytown. Northwest High School principal shot by her ex-husband on campus. http://t.co/RwwVbPmbL5-- Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) June 10, 2014
According to Johnson, "It's not a school shooting when someone goes and shoots a specific person on campus. It's a shooting that happens to take place at school."
CNN falsely reported that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law played no role in the trial of Michael Dunn for the killing of Jordan Davis, a black teenager.
While visiting a Jacksonville gas station in November 2012, Dunn fired ten shots into an SUV full of black teenagers after they refused to turn down the volume of their music. The shots killed Davis, who was unarmed. Dunn subsequently claimed that Davis threatened him, drawing comparisons to George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin and reviving media attention on the role of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which was drafted with the help of the National Rifle Association and allows a person who believes his life or safety is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat in some circumstances.
On February 15, Dunn was found guilty on four charges, including three for attempted second-degree murder on the other teens in the car, but the jury could not come to a decision on the first-degree murder charge tied to Davis' death. In their article on the verdict, CNN inaccurately reported that "stand your ground wasn't used by Dunn":
The incomplete finale to this emotional, hot-button trial -- partly because of the fact Dunn is white and the teenagers who were shot at, including Davis, are black -- echoed George Zimmerman's trial for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin about 120 miles down the road in Sanford, Florida. While stand your ground wasn't used by Dunn, his lawyers did argue that he fired in self-defense.
In fact, "Stand Your Ground" is embedded in the Florida statute dealing with the "use of deadly force" in self-defense, and was specifically cited by Dunn's lawyer and noted in the judge's instructions to the jury. During closing arguments, Dunn's lawyer Cory Strolla explained, "His honor will further tell you that if Michael Dunn was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in a public place where he had a legal right to be, a public parking lot asking for a common courtesy, saying thank you, trying to tell the guy I said thank you. He had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force." Strolla later added of the law, "It's not because I wrote it. It's not cause I like it. We're not here to change it and we're not here to fight it. We're here to apply it."
CNN previously reported that "Stand Your Ground" played no role in the Zimmerman trial, even though the jury instructions in the case specifically mention that "If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground" and use deadly force. A Zimmerman juror subsequently told CNN that they had found Zimmerman not guilty because Zimmerman had "a right to defend himself" by killing Martin under "Stand Your Ground."
A study of wildfire coverage from April through July 1 finds that print and TV media only mentioned climate change in 6 percent of coverage, although this was double the amount of coverage from a year ago. While many factors must come together for wildfires to occur, climate change has led to hotter and drier conditions in parts of the West that have increased the risk of wildfires.
Promoting a recent poll, CNN is treating climate change as a matter of opinion, saying Americans are divided over whether or not it is real. But the network itself has fueled such confusion, often failing to report that manmade emissions are driving climate change or giving credence to those who deny the science behind it.
The CNN/ORC International survey, released the morning after President Obama's inaugural address highlighted the need to address climate change, found that 49 percent of Americans accept that climate change is "a proven fact" and caused by manmade emissions. This represented a seven-point drop since 2007. A CNN blog suggested that this showed Americans do not "agree with Obama on climate change," and failed to clarify that decades of research have led the vast majority of climate scientists to agree that manmade emissions are causing climate change.
As President Obama seeks to fill judicial vacancies, the media have failed to acknowledge the unprecedented obstructionism of his nominees by Republican senators, a complete reversal of their former insistence that then-President George W. Bush's judicial nominees receive up-or-down votes.
On January 3, Obama re-nominated 33 previously-stalled judicial nominees to the federal courts, in an attempt to fill the 75 vacancies in the federal judiciary - 20 more than when Obama took office. Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative appointed by Bush, described 27 of the vacancies as presenting "judicial emergencies" in his annual report on the judiciary.
Media coverage of the re-nominations continues to fail to contrast GOP obstruction of Obama's nominees to Senate Democrats' treatment of Bush's nominees. CNN.com described the nominations as "likely to reignite the political battle over judges," particularly due to the re-nomination of NRA-opposed former Solicitor General of New York, Caitlin Halligan. But CNN.com failed to note that Bush similarly resubmitted his preferred judicial nominees in bulk following the Congressional elections of 2002. At that time, the Democratic-controlled Senate allowed an up-or-down vote and confirmed 20 judicial nominees -- including controversial picks -- in five days.
The Washington Times also ignored the unprecedented Republican treatment of Obama's nominees. Instead, the Times obscured the fact that Senate Republicans have made filibustering of all judicial picks routine, and described as commonplace the current situation wherein "60 [Senate votes] are needed to proceed to a floor vote." In fact, all-out Congressional obstructionism is a development unique to the Obama presidency, and the hypocrisy of Republicans attacking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's efforts to limit the use of a filibuster for judicial nominations is apparent in light of their exact reverse position after Bush's re-election.
Furthermore, both CNN.com and the Times highlight Halligan as an example of the judicial picks Republicans have denied an up-or-down vote, and uncritically repeat Sen. Mitch McConnell's accusations that Halligan -- the current General Counsel for the Manhattan District Attorney's office -- is the sort of "activist" vulnerable to the "extraordinary circumstances" test, which allows for filibusters of judicial nominees in extreme cases. But this coverage fails to note that Republicans are now engaged in unprecedented filibustering of all nominees, not just Halligan, even noncontroversial ones who have bipartisan support.
More importantly, the attacks on Halligan have been repeatedly debunked as cover for the NRA's opposition to the lawsuits Halligan was involved in prior to the passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, when she successfully pressured the gun industry to accept responsibility for business practices that funnel guns to criminals. Far from an "activist," Halligan was instead fulfilling her responsibilities as the legal representative of New York in her attempts to protect the state's citizens from illegal gun violence.
The right-wing media, however, is already dredging up this discredited NRA attack, even recycling Republican Sen. Charles Grassley's opposition to Halligan because she supported current constitutional law - such as affirmative action - with which he personally disagrees. CNSNews.com's repetition of Sen. Grassley's confused description of Halligan's support for recent Supreme Court precedent as "not a mainstream position," is an example of how the right-wing media have stretched in support of their blanket opposition to Obama's judicial nominees.
As reported by legal expert Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times, the Halligan example reveals the opposition is certainly not because of the nominees' qualifications:
[T]he N.R.A. has begun to involve itself in lower court nominations as well, where it can work its will in the shadows. It has effectively blocked President Obama's nomination of Caitlin J. Halligan to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that has been vacant since September 2005, when John G. Roberts Jr. moved to a courthouse up the street. The president has submitted the name of the superbly qualified Ms. Halligan to the Senate three times.
When I wrote a year ago about the fate of Caitlin Halligan's appeals court nomination, I tried to puzzle out the basis for the opposition. Silly me, I thought it had something to do with Republicans not wanting a young (she had just turned 45), highly qualified judge sitting in the D.C. Circuit's famous launch position (hello, John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Warren Burger . . .)
Now I realize it's not about anything so sophisticated. It's about the N.R.A., which announced its opposition days before the cloture vote last December...In a previous job as New York State's solicitor general, Ms. Halligan, a former Supreme Court law clerk who is now general counsel to the Manhattan district attorney, had represented the state in a lawsuit against gun manufacturers. So much for her.
This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that July was the hottest month on record for the contiguous U.S. and that so far this year is the warmest on record. Scientists say that this record heat is partially driven by manmade climate change, yet Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, CNN.com, CBS Evening News, and USA TODAY did not mention climate change at all in their reports on NOAA's announcement.
These heat extremes are occurring in the context of rising global temperatures, which the vast majority of scientists agree are driven by greenhouse gas emissions. As the National Research Council explained, extensive climate research indicates that heat waves will become "more intense, more frequent, and longer-lasting" in the United States and around the globe as a result of human-induced climate change.
But not everyone in the media failed to mention these facts. The Associated Press' Seth Borenstein spoke to climate scientists, who noted that July's record heat alone would not be evidence of climate change, but that the broader pattern of record breaking heat shows global warming at work: