Nightly network newscasts and Sunday morning talk shows have largely failed to connect two recent Supreme Court decisions to Citizens United v. FEC, the case that radically expanded the legal concept of "corporate personhood" -- the idea that corporations have constitutional rights. This has left viewers with an incomplete understanding of how the Court applied this dangerous precedent to campaign finance and reproductive rights law.
From the July 27 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
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After calling for major network news outlets to air more reporting about climate change, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) praised the finding that Sunday morning news shows dramatically increased their coverage of the climate crisis.
"This is a step in the right direction. Global warming is the most serious environmental crisis facing our planet," Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a written statement.
A Media Matters analysis found that ABC's This Week, CBS' Face The Nation, NBC's Meet The Press and FOX Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday included 1 hour, 5 minutes of reporting related to climate change during the first six months of 2014 -- as much as these outlets aired in the previous four years combined.
In response to a year of lackluster coverage assessed in a 2013 Media Matters study, a group of nine U.S. senators demanded that Sunday morning news shows broadcast more reporting about global warming in a January 16 letter to executives at the major broadcast networks. In the letter, they decried how "shockingly little discussion" the Sunday shows devoted to climate change, which poses a "huge threat" to the United States and planet as was confirmed this year in reports issued by the federal government, international climate experts and the business community. From the letter:
We are writing to express our deep concern about the lack of attention to climate change on such Sunday news shows as ABC's "This Week," NBC's "Meet the Press," CBS's "Face the Nation," and "Fox News Sunday."
According to the scientific community, climate change is the most serious environmental crisis facing our planet. The scientists who have studied this issue are virtually unanimous in the view that climate change is occurring, that it poses a huge threat to our nation and the global community, and that it is caused by human activity. In fact, 97% of researchers actively publishing in this field agree with these conclusions.
The scientific community and governmental leaders around the world rightly worry about the horrific dangers we face if we do not address climate change. Sea level rise will take its toll on coastal states. Communities will be increasingly at risk of billions of dollars in damages from more extreme weather. And farmers may see crops and livestock destroyed as worsening drought sets in. Yet, despite these warnings, there has been shockingly little discussion on the Sunday morning news shows about this critically important issue. This is disturbing not only because the millions of viewers who watch these shows deserve to hear that discussion, but because the Sunday shows often have an impact on news coverage in other media throughout the week.
One month later, on February 16, every major Sunday show offered at least one substantial mention of climate change in a shift that Sanders' office noted at the time. However, some segments used false balance to frame their climate coverage. These broadcasts misled audiences with flawed debates that allowed guests to question the very premise of global warming, contrary to the overwhelming scientific consensus that man-made climate change is real. In fact, nearly 30 minutes of all Sunday segments included false balance. CBS' Face the Nation was the only Sunday show that avoided introducing false balance into its program during the first half of 2014. In light of that change in coverage, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) told the National Journal that: "It's time to move on from treating climate change as a debate and talk about what we can do about it for people's lives and businesses."
In April, while standing on the Senate Floor, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) stressed the need for more climate coverage and the danger of airing false balance on the science behind global warming, saying, "The denier castle is crumbling."
When is the U.S. economy not a topic worth addressing on the Sunday morning talk shows? Apparently when there's lots of good news to discuss.
At least it seemed that way this past Sunday when all four of the network Sunday morning talk shows ignored last week's surprisingly strong jobs report, which indicated nearly 300,000 news jobs were created in the month of June. Consequently, the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent, the lowest level since September 2008.
The jobs surge meant America had logged its highest January-through-June job-growth rate since 1999. (The U.S. has added 1.4 million jobs since December, making it the best half-year since the recession ended.) And over the past 52 months of jobs growth, businesses have created nearly 10 million jobs.
Also ignored by all the Sunday hosts and guests was the fact that the Dow Jones stock exchange on Thursday for the first time surpassed the 17,000 mark, "another in a string of records for the index that has lifted portfolios in a five-year bull market for stocks," according to the Associated Press. Indeed, "The Dow has climbed more than 10,500 points since its Great Recession low of 6,547.05 on March 9, 2009."
More from the AP:
The jobs report is the latest piece of data to show the economy continues to improve steadily. On Wednesday, payroll processor ADP said private businesses added 281,000 jobs in June, up from 179,000 in May. Also this week, the Institute for Supply Management said the U.S. manufacturing expanded for the 13th consecutive month.
Keep in mind, none of this was discussed on Face The Nation, Fox News Sunday, Meet The Press, or This Week; shows which, in theory, debate and analyze the weeks' most important news developments. But do they?
Two weeks ago I noted the same Sunday shows completely ignored news of the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, an alleged ringleader of the Benghazi terror attack of 2012. For nearly two years, the topic of Benghazi had been endlessly debated and discussed on the Sunday shows via hundreds of segments, very often casting the Obama administration in a negative light. But when good news emerged about apprehending a possible key suspect, the Sunday shows all turned away.
The Benghazi capture reflected positively on the Obama administration. It was news that the Republican Party did not seem happy about. And it was news that the Sunday shows deemed to be un-newsworthy. Coincidence?
Increasingly, the Sunday shows seem to revolve around inviting Republican guests onto the shows and letting them vent about whatever they think the Obama administration is doing wrong. Period. But when the U.S. economy shows signs of robust growth? When the stock market continues to hit new historic highs? Republicans aren't very interested in talking about Obama successes so, it turns out, neither are the Sunday shows.
Here are some of the topics that were discussed this week on the Sunday programs, instead of strong employment gains and an historic stock market performance:
*Summer reading lists
*"The story of trailblazing chef Leah Chase [who] took a stand against Jim Crow"
*Conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza new documentary, America
*A poll suggesting Obama is "worst president" since World War II
*The World Cup soccer tournament
*Martha-Ann Alito's volunteer activities
*"An author who has made an unusual career at finding American history in everyday places."
The Washington Post debunked a right-wing conspiracy theory promoted by Fox News tying the crash of former IRS official Lois Lerner's computer to a letter the IRS received from the House Ways and Means committee 10 days earlier. The Post pointed out that the letter addressed a different subject than the controversy linked to Lerner.
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 June 1 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
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Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers debunked the suggestion that problems at the Veterans Health Administration bode ill for those insured under President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
On May 15, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testified before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee after the VA's inspector general launched an investigation into what The Washington Post described as "multiple reports of alleged preventable deaths and attempts to cover up treatment delays at VA health clinics." Conservative media have suggested these events prove government provides inferior health care and have attacked Obamacare and pushed for the privatization of the VA's health system.
On the May 25 edition of Fox News Sunday, George Will echoed these claims, stating that the unfolding story shows that "big government is too big for meaningful oversight and effective management" and citing the Postal Service and Amtrak as other examples.
Asked by host Chris Wallace whether she agrees with the notion that "it's the VA now and it will be Obamacare later," Powers pointed out that Obamacare and the veterans health system are very different. She went on to explain that "this idea that somehow putting things off into the private sector is going to make everything work also doesn't work if you consider your experiences, at least experiences I've had with insurance companies, health insurance companies," and noted that Republicans "funnel" all their arguments through the notion that "big government is a problem." Watch:
POWERS: They're not the same thing. Of course, the VA is really government-run health care where you have the government controlling everything. That's not what Obamacare is. Obamacare is more like insurance. You don't have the doctors working for Obamacare. So I don't think it's the same thing. I also think the private sector has a lot of problems. You know, Amtrak, if you have a problem with Amtrak, well I have a lot of problems with USAir and American and United. So this idea that somehow putting things off into the private sector is going to make everything work also doesn't work if you consider your experiences, at least experiences I've had with insurance companies, health insurance companies. So this is not a surprising argument coming from Republicans. It is always their argument. Take anything that is happening in the world and this is the argument that they funnel it through. It's always proof that big government is a problem. So it's not surprising.
As The Washington Post editorial board noted, "studies have shown that the VA system, which serves almost 6.5 million veterans annually, as a whole outperforms the rest of the health care system by just about every metric." Indeed, VA hospital patients consistently receive better care than individuals in the private sector and have higher customer satisfaction.
From the May 18 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Right-wing media have criticized the Obama administration's participation in the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign to raise awareness about the recent kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, claiming that "hashtag diplomacy" is not enough. But these allegations ignore the fact that the administration has offered Nigeria assistance from the start, and has sent a team of specialists to aid the search.
Fox News' attempt to connect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the brutality of extremist group Boko Haram was demolished by former United States Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, an appointee of President George W. Bush.
On the May 11 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace highlighted Fox's latest anti-Clinton smear, attacking the former Secretary of State for not officially designating the Nigerian group Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
This claim has already been thoroughly debunked. As Media Matters has explained, the State Department's initial decision not to issue an official FTO designation stemmed from a reluctance to elevate Boko Haram's profile among militant organizations, which experts say can embolden such groups. Under Clinton, State instead chose to put Boko Haram's top leaders on the terrorist list, offering a $7 million bounty for the organization's leader.
Responding to Wallace, Campbell further demolished the claim:
WALLACE: Secretary Clinton has come under fire this week, because of the fact that back in 2011 she rejected calls by the FBI and the intelligence community to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. As a Bush-appointee to be ambassador, do you think that's fair, the criticism of Secretary Clinton?
CAMPBELL: No I don't think that's fair, and along with a good many other Nigerian experts, at the time, we all opposed designation.
Fox News has hosted Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, at least 65 times in the past two years and will reportedly provide him a platform again as one of the featured guests on Fox News Sunday.
In the wake of the manufactured scandal over a newly-released email sent by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes preparing then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for the Sunday news shows, House Speaker John Boehner announced that the House would "create a new select committee to investigate the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans." On May 5th, the House GOP selected Gowdy, an established Benghazi hoaxer, to lead the committee.
Fox Broadcasting announced that Gowdy would exclusively appear on the May 11 broadcast of Fox News Sunday to "discuss what the committee hopes to accomplish and who they plan to call to testify." Gowdy will reportedly appear along with the head of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA).
Gowdy is one of Fox's favorite guests. A search of Nexis reveals that Gowdy has appeared on Fox's evening and primetime shows and Fox News Sunday 65 times in the past two years. That streak is likely to continue as the network has been one of the most vocal proponents of forming a select committee to investigate Benghazi, especially following the release of the Rhodes email.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of Fox's evening and primetime news coverage and Fox News Sunday between May 8, 2012, and May 8, 2014, using the search term guest:(Gowdy).
From the May 4 edition of Fox Broadcasting's Fox News Sunday:
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From the April 13 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
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Fox host Chris Wallace reacted to a U.S. Senate investigation into the Bush administration's torture policies by claiming he "would have waterboarded" Al Qaeda terrorist "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed myself." Wallace's remark came after it was reported that the investigation concluded waterboarding Mohammed didn't provide critical information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden, as defenders of the technique had claimed.
Last week the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify the executive summary and conclusions of a lengthy report about the Bush-era CIA's detention and interrogation program. The White House will now have to approve the release. The Associated Press reported that aides and people briefed on the report said the investigation found waterboarding was ineffective.
With regard to Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, the AP reported the "Senate report concludes such information wasn't critical" and "confirmed only what investigators already knew":
The most high-profile detainee linked to the bin Laden investigation was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused 9/11 mastermind who was waterboarded 183 times. Mohammed, intelligence officials have noted, confirmed after his 2003 capture that he knew an important al-Qaida courier with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.
The Senate report concludes such information wasn't critical, according to the aides. Mohammed only discussed al-Kuwaiti months after being waterboarded, while he was under standard interrogation, they said. And Mohammed neither acknowledged al-Kuwaiti's significance nor provided interrogators with the courier's real name.
The debate over how investigators put the pieces together is significant because years later, the courier led U.S. intelligence to the sleepy Pakistani military town of Abbottabad. There, in May 2011, Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in a secret mission.
Essentially, they argue, Mohammed, [senior al-Qaida operative Abu Faraj] al-Libi and others subjected to harsh treatment confirmed only what investigators already knew about the courier. And when they denied the courier's significance or provided misleading information, investigators would only have considered that significant if they already presumed the courier's importance.
The classified Senate report adds more support to other national security experts who have concluded that waterboarding and other so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" did not provide effective information leading to bin Laden's capture.
During an April 4 appearance on The Mike Gallagher Show, Wallace previewed Fox News Sunday by saying he'd talk about "enhanced interrogation and whether or not the CIA covered up what was actually going on. I personally, I would have waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed myself." On Fox News Sunday, Wallace noted the investigation's reported conclusion "that the enhanced interrogation produced little intelligence of significance." In 2009, Wallace similarly remarked that when it comes to waterboarding, "I'm with" fictional 24 character "Jack Bauer on this."
Listen to Wallace's remark below: