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  • 10 Facts Reporters Should Include In Stories About Efforts To Repeal Obamacare

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    The press failed to accurately convey the implications of a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the lead-up to the election. Now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, media must improve their health care coverage by contextualizing their stories about a potential ACA repeal and explaining the impact it would have on millions of Americans and the health care system as a whole.

    A recent Media Matters study found that in the weeks leading up to the election, television journalists overwhelmingly failed to ask any substantive questions about Trump’s health care policies or the consequences of repealing the ACA. In the two weeks before Election Day, there were only four instances of broadcast or cable news hosts or reporters bringing up a substantive question about Trump’s supposed Obamacare replacement amid 77 segments ostensibly focused on health care. This was not the first time media failed to inform the public about the Republican Party’s extremist health care policy agenda. Another Media Matters study found that evening news shows virtually ignored Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s resurrection of his Medicare privatization scheme, a proposal that could have dangerous consequences for a program relied on by more than 55 million Americans.

    During the campaign, media outlets also lauded Trump for giving a so-called “policy” speech on health care, ignoring that the actual speech contained little to no policy specifics. This lack of attention to detail reflects a broader theme in election coverage, as studies found media overwhelmingly avoided substantive discussion of policy, focusing instead on “scandals” plaguing the Republican and Democratic nominees.

    While cable and broadcast news tended to avoid robust discussions of the impact of health care policy, right-wing media filled the void with rampant misinformation. Since the ACA passed in 2010, conservative news outlets have consistently attacked the health law with complete fictions, claiming it will explode the budget, create death panels, bankrupt Medicare, end in adeath spiral,” and facilitate a government takeover of the health care system.

    Today, media outlets regularly provide Trump surrogates with free airtime to push misinformation and avoid substantive discussion. In a series of January 3 interviews, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway was given a free pass on health care policy by ABC’s Good Morning America, which neglected to even bring up the looming repeal of Obamacare. NBC’s Today and CNBC’s Squawk Box failed to push Conway with follow-up questions about how exactly the incoming administration plans to maintain popular health care reforms while repealing the law that created them. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Conway was allowed to push vague proposals for creating health savings accounts and allowing insurers to sell across state lines (both proposals have been highly criticized). When asked if the replacement plan is “ready to go,” Conway deflected by suggesting that planning could not start until Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, is confirmed. The Morning Joe hosts failed to raise questions about the potential impact of the policies she promoted and allowed her to deflect from questions about the replacement plan to the irrelevant question of cabinet nominations.

    Trump and congressional Republicans pledged to make repeal of the ACA one of their top priorities, which means the press must immediately rethink its strategy when covering health care policy and focus on specifics. Media outlets must contextualize the impact of repealing Obamacare in terms of the gains that have already been achieved and how those improvements will be affected or reversed by Republican policies. Health care policy is inherently complex and confusing -- it’s the media’s job to break down the complexity and explain how repealing Obamacare will impact the lives of every American.

    1. Passage Of The ACA Has Resulted In The Lowest Uninsured Rate In Recent History

    The implementation of the ACA resulted in a record low number of uninsured Americans -- 8.6 percent in September 2016, down from 16 percent in 2010. According to estimates from the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 20 million Americans have gained health care coverage as a result of the law.

    These gains would be reversed and the uninsured rate would surpass 2010 levels if the ACA is repealed.

    2. The ACA Medicaid Expansion Provided Health Care Access For Millions Of The Most Vulnerable Americans

    The ACA’s expansion of Medicaid extended health care coverage to more than 14 million low-income Americans. Studies of the expansion showed that it helped to combat income- and race-based coverage disparities in the insurance market, improved access to coverage for people with disabilities, and significantly improved state budgets in states that accepted federal funds for the expansion.

    Conversely, proposals to repeal the expansion or reform Medicaid into block grants would gut coverage for at-risk populations and strip insurance coverage from millions of Americans.

    3. The ACA Tangibly Improved Women’s Health Care Coverage

    The implementation of the ACA significantly improved the condition of women’s health care coverage in the U.S. The ACA’s preventive services provision greatly improved access to birth control by eliminating copays -- expanding coverage to millions of women and dramatically reducing out-of-pocket costs. The ACA banned sex discrimination in health care, and put a stop to the widespread practice of “gender rating” in which health insurance companies charged women higher rates for comparable plans made available to men. The law also improved access to maternity care by classifying it as an essential service.

    Repeal of the ACA would permit the return of discriminatory practices like gender rating, reducing overall access to health care and significantly increasing out-of-pocket health care costs for women.

    4. The ACA Helped America Take Huge Steps Toward LGBTQ Equality

    The ACA helped the fight in achieving LGBTQ equality by dramatically improving access to health care for LGBTQ patients often targeted by discriminatory practices (like dropping individuals with pre-existing conditions), prohibiting sex discrimination, and guaranteeing protections to married same-sex couples regardless of the state in which they reside. Studies have shown that the ACA has reduced the number of uninsured LGBTQ people and decreased health disparities in the LGBTQ community. The law provided marketplace insurance subsidies to nearly 732,000 individuals, and its expansion of Medicaid was particularly beneficial to LGBTQ youth, who are disproportionately likely to experience poverty and homelessness.

    Repeal of the ACA would allow insurance companies to discriminate on the basis of gender, strip coverage for transgender people and transition-related care, and increase the number of uninsured people by repealing the marketplace subsidies and Medicaid expansion.

    5. Contrary To Popular Belief, The ACA Extended The Solvency Of Medicare By Over 10 Years

    The ACA has extended the solvency of Medicare by over 10 years, despite false claims to the contrary from right-wing opponents of the program. Discussions of Medicare’s budget outlook typically refer to Medicare’s Hospital Insurance program -- which covers hospital visits, nursing care, and other medical costs. Studies have shown that the ACA has extended the full budgetary solvency of the Hospital Insurance program through 2028, after which “payroll taxes and other revenue will still cover 87 percent of Medicare hospital insurance costs.” In addition to enhancing Medicare’s budget outlook, the ACA improved senior care by reducing prescription costs and extending coverage to key services.

    Medicare spending will increase by $350 billion over the next decade if Congress repeals the ACA, accelerating the program’s insolvency. Potential plans to privatize Medicare will gut access to care and cause skyrocketing health care costs for the elderly.

    6. The ACA Reduced The Budget Deficit, Reined In Medical Costs, And Reduced Economic Inequality

    Implementation of the ACA has reduced the budget deficit even more than was originally predicted by the Congressional Budget Office. Studies have shown that since the implementation of the ACA, while premiums have increased steadily, the number of individuals struggling to pay medical bills has steadily declined. While costs overall increase, they have increased by a much smaller margin than they would have if the ACA had not been enacted. Additionally, the ACA helps to combat economic inequality in the U.S., as it increases incomes in low-income households by reducing health care costs through mechanisms like the Medicaid expansion.

    Repeal of the ACA will remove vital checks on health care costs and explode the budget, adding billions of dollars to the national debt over the next 10 years.

    7. The ACA Improved Health Care Access For Minority Communities.

    The ACA helps to fight the significant health disparities among Americans, expanding minority access to free preventive care, improving the overall quality of care in minority communities, and reducing the number of uninsured persons of color. The ACA invested in community health centers, whose patients are primarily minorities. The ACA provided the foundation for other efforts to combat inequities in the health care system for communities of color, including the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.

    Repeal of the ACA would significantly increase the number of uninsured people in minority communities and undo the gains made in reducing health disparities thus far.

    8. The ACA Banned Discrimination Against Those With Pre-Existing Conditions

    The ACA banned health insurance companies from engaging in medical underwriting, most commonly known as discriminating against individuals for pre-existing conditions. If the ACA were repealed, an estimated 50 to 129 million individuals -- or between 19 and 50 percent of non-elderly Americans -- could be denied access to affordable health care coverage for a pre-existing condition. This fundamental reform protects millions of Americans from being needlessly priced out of the insurance market or denied coverage for common conditions like acne or cataracts.

    Despite some claims that a Republican-sponsored replacement package could maintain the pre-existing conditions ban, existing potential plans significantly weaken consumer protections and fail to maintain the same level of coverage provided by the ACA.

    9. The ACA Provided Crucial Insurance To Young Adults

    The ACA substantially increased the number of insured young adults -- by 5.5 million individuals -- by allowing them to remain on their parent’s health insurance plan until the age of 26. Given the high unemployment rate for people ages 18-29, this provision provides a crucial lifeline to that demographic.

    While this rule is one of the most popular parts of the ACA, proponents of repeal have yet to explain how they could keep this provision while getting rid of the other parts (like the insurance mandate) that help pay for it.

    10. The ACA Resulted In The Biggest Expansion Of Mental Health Care Services In Decades

    The ACA greatly expanded coverage of mental health care services by requiring that most plans -- including all plans sold in the HealthCare.gov insurance marketplaces -- cover mental health services, classifying them as essential services. By eliminating medical underwriting and requiring parity between mental and physical health services, the ACA extended coverage to those who were previously refused on the basis of their mental health issues.

    While the mental health coverage in the ACA is far from perfect, repeal will undercut the law’s achievements, gut coverage for tens of millions of people with mental illnesses, and roll back other positive gains in related mental health legislation.

  • Broadcast News Ignores NC GOP's “Unprecedented Power Grab”

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Broadcast news completely ignored an unprecedented move by North Carolina Republicans to limit the power of the state’s incoming Democratic governor. A series of measures put forth by the Republican-controlled legislature have been criticized as a way to “subvert the will of the voters,” and an elections law expert noted that they could spur legal challenges.

    Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly held a special session on December 14 in which they proposed a series of laws to strip away power from the state’s incoming Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, including a bill that “removes partisan control of the state and county election boards from the governor,” according to The New York Times. Instead, the Times noted, “a Republican will lead the state board during election years and a Democrat in nonelection years.” A CNN.com report outlined other proposed legislation from the “unprecedented power grab,” including bills to slow the judicial process for the governor to bring legal battles to the state Supreme Court, to block Cooper from appointing members to the state Board of Education and the board of trustees for the University of North Carolina, and to reduce the number of appointments in the Cooper administration from 1,200 to 300.

    The special session was a surprise, called suddenly and immediately after the conclusion of another special session to address disaster relief. As The Atlantic noted, “legislators used the same obscure maneuver they did when they passed HB2,” an anti-LGBTQ law that governs access to public bathrooms, “calling themselves back into session with the support of three-fifths of legislators.” Several media figures have pointed out that the backlash against HB 2 -- which invalidated local governments' ability to provide legal protections for LGBTQ people -- was likely a deciding factor in Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent re-election loss. The Atlantic article also explained that Republican House Speaker Tim Moore claimed “the decision to open the second special session had been made only Wednesday,” December 14, which was “a lie that was quickly revealed by the list of signatures from legislators needed to call the session, dated December 12.”

    None of these details, however, have been reported on any national broadcast news programs since Wednesday. A review of the December 14 and 15 editions of ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, NBC’s Nightly News, and of the December 15 and 16 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today found no mentions of the attempted power grab. Local affiliates of all three networks did cover the story.

    Other national and internet media outlets also covered the unprecedented moves. As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote, “This last-minute power grab marks an alarming departure from basic democratic norms” and is “a blatant attempt to overturn the results of an election by curtailing judicial independence and restructuring the government to seize authority lawfully delegated to the incoming Democratic governor.” The New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards criticized the North Carolina Republicans for “resorting to a novel strategy to subvert the will of the voters” and attempting a “graceless power grab.” CNN and MSNBC have also covered what MSNBC’s Chris Hayes described as a “legislative coup.” New York magazine reported that the bills will get a vote on December 20, but that the new measures may spur a larger battle. As elections law expert Rick Hasen explained, some of the measures would spur “potential Voting Rights Act and federal constitutional challenges.”

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched Snapstream and iQ media for mentions of “North Carolina” on the December 14 and 15 editions of ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, and NBC’s Nightly News and the December 15 and 16 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today.

  • Supporters Of Rex Tillerson, Trump's Pick For State, Have Exxon Ties Of Their Own

    Mainstream Outlets Tout Support Of Gates, Rice, And Baker, But Ignore Their Stakes In Exxon

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    After President-elect Donald Trump announced ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his pick for secretary of state, morning news shows and newspapers noted that prominent figures including James Baker III, Robert M. Gates, and Condoleezza Rice have expressed support for Tillerson, with some mentioning that such support adds credibility to the pick. But those outlets failed to disclose that all three figures have considerable financial ties through their businesses to Tillerson, ExxonMobil, and the oil company’s Russian business ventures.

  • TV News Takes The Bait On Trump’s Climate Remarks, Ignoring Ample Warning Signs

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    When President-elect Donald Trump made seemingly open-minded remarks about climate change during a November 22 meeting with staff of The New York Times, it set off a wave of television coverage about how Trump had supposedly “reversed course” on climate change. But few of these reports addressed any of the substantive reasons that is highly unlikely, such as his transition team’s plan to abandon the Obama administration’s landmark climate policy, indications that he will dismantle NASA’s climate research program, and his appointment of fossil fuel industry allies as transition team advisers -- not to mention the full context of Trump’s remarks to the Times.

    In his interview with reporters, editors and opinion columnists from the Times, Trump contradicted his long-held stance that climate change is a “hoax” by stating that he thinks “there is some connectivity” between human activities and climate change (although even that statement doesn’t fully reflect the consensus view of climate scientists that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming). Trump also declined to reaffirm his earlier statements that he would “renegotiate” or “cancel” the international climate agreement reached in Paris last year, instead saying that he has an “open mind” about how he will approach the Paris agreement.

    But there are many reasons to take these comments with a grain of salt. For one, Trump has given no indication that he will preserve the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is the linchpin of the United States’ emissions reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement. To the contrary, The Associated Press reported that internal documents from Trump’s transition team “show the new administration plans to stop defending the Clean Power Plan and other recent Obama-era environmental regulations that have been the subject of long-running legal challenges filed by Republican-led states and the fossil fuel industry.” Moreover, a senior Trump space policy adviser recently indicated that the Trump administration plans to eliminate NASA’s climate change research program, a move that would likely be accompanied by significant funding cuts to climate research.

    Additionally, Trump has appointed Myron Ebell, a climate science denier from the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, to lead his EPA transition team, and two other close allies of the fossil fuel industry, Kathleen Hartnett White and Scott Pruitt, are reportedly Trump’s leading contenders to run the EPA. Trump also named Thomas Pyle, president of the fossil fuel-funded American Energy Alliance, to head his Energy Department transition team. According to The Washington Post, “Hartnett-White, Pyle and Ebell have all expressed doubt about climate change and have criticized the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

    Then there are Trump’s Times comments themselves, which have been “wildly misinterpreted” in the media, as Grist’s Rebecca Leber has explained. In addition to saying there is “some connectivity” between human activities and climate change, Trump said during the Times interview that there are “a lot of smart people” on the “other side” of the issue, and added: “You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views.” Trump also appeared to reference the thoroughly debunked “Climategate” scandal about emails among climate scientists at a U.K. university, stating, “They say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists.”

    Nonetheless, Trump’s two seemingly climate-friendly remarks to the Times -- that he has an “open mind” about the Paris climate agreement and that humans play some role in climate change -- generated a tremendous amount of uncritical television coverage:

    • ABC: On the November 23 edition of ABC’s morning show, Good Morning America, correspondent David Wright stated that Trump “hit hard” on climate change during the campaign but is “now more noncommittal” about it. Later that day, on the network’s evening news program, World News Tonight, congressional correspondent Mary Bruce reported that Trump was “softening on a host of campaign promises,” including his pledge to “pull out of the Paris climate change deal.” And in an interview with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on the November 27 edition of ABC’s Sunday news show, This Week, chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz said that Trump had “changed his tune” on climate change.
    • CBS: On the November 22 edition of CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley stated that Trump “revised” his position on climate change, and national correspondent Chip Reid reported that Trump “changed his tune on the issue of climate change, and whether it`s caused by human activity.” The following morning, on CBS Morning News, correspondent Hena Daniels said that Trump “reversed course on the issue of climate change,” and on that day’s episode of CBS This Morning, co-host Gayle King similarly said that Trump is “reversing” his campaign position on climate change.
    • NBC: On the November 27 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked: “From the border wall to global warming, is there a change in the air?” Todd also listed climate change as one of the issues on which Trump “has either backed away from some of the rhetoric or just stayed silent.”

    Trump’s climate remarks also received wall-to-wall coverage on cable news, although unlike the broadcast networks’ reports, several of the cable segments did feature pushback on the notion that Trump had actually changed his position on the issue.

    Trump’s climate comments were uncritically covered on several CNN programs, including New Day, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon. And on the November 27 edition of Inside Politics, host John King and senior political reporter Manu Raju agreed that Trump’s climate remarks were a “big deal.” Some of these programs included speculation about whether Trump truly meant what he said to the Times or whether it was a negotiating ploy, but none mentioned any specific steps Trump has taken since the election that undermine claims that he has reversed course on climate change.

    By contrast, several other CNN programs included pushback on the notion that Trump had “softened” or “reversed” his position on climate change. For instance, on the November 23 edition of Erin Burnett Outfront, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein cited Trump’s plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan as evidence that although Trump is “signaling a different tone” on climate change, “when you get into the guts of the policy, he is going in the same direction”:

    Brownstein made the same point during appearances on the November 22 edition of CNN’s The Situation Room and the November 27 edition of CNN Newsroom.

    Similarly, in an interview with NextGen Climate founder Tom Steyer on the November 27 edition of Fareed Zakaria GPS, host Zakaria noted that despite his comments to the Times, Trump “still has a leading climate change denier [Myron Ebell] as the head of his EPA transition, [and] his actions and contradictory words have climate change activists concerned.” Zakaria added that Trump “does say he's going to reverse a lot of these executive actions that Obama has taken, whether it's on coal-fired plants or vehicle emissions.”

    A couple of CNN guests also challenged the premise that Trump had shifted his stance on climate change. On the November 22 edition of CNN’s Wolf, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) said of Trump’s climate remarks to the Times, “The real test is who is he appointing and what will his policies be.” And on the November 23 edition of CNN’s At This Hour, Michael Needham of Heritage Action for America (the sister organization of the fossil fuel industry-funded Heritage Foundation), pointed to other remarks Trump made to the Times in order to dispute the idea that Trump had accepted that climate change is “settled science.” Needham stated:

    I read the actual transcript of this thing. If you look at what [Trump] says on climate change, it's pretty much what we would have said at Heritage. He said there are questions that need to be looked at, there's research on both sides of the issue, this is not settled science the way some people on the left want to say.

    Finally, all of the prime-time MSNBC shows that featured substantial discussions of Trump’s climate remarks included proper context. For instance, on the December 2 edition of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Hayes explained that incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had “clarif[ied]” that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is “that most of it is a bunch of bunk.” Hayes also explained that a senior Trump adviser had indicated that “NASA would be limited to exploring other planets rather than providing satellite information and data about what’s happening on the only planet we currently inhabit”:

    Similarly, on the November 30 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews, Matthews aired a clip of Priebus confirming that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is that “most of it is a bunch of bunk.” And on the November 22 edition of MTP Daily, guest host Andrea Mitchell pointed out that Trump “appointed somebody from a very conservative, climate-denying, Koch-sponsored organization, policy institute, to lead the transition on energy and climate issues,” although Mitchell nonetheless maintained that Trump’s statement that he is now open to the Paris climate agreement was “a very big signal internationally.”

  • Broadcast Morning Shows Mostly Ignore New Reports Detailing Trump’s Potential Conflicts Of Interests

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CYDNEY HARGIS

    Broadcast morning news shows mostly ignored multiple new reports highlighting potential conflicts of interests involving President-elect Donald Trump. In doing so, broadcast news outlets are continuing a pattern of ignoring important revelations about Trump’s business practices.

    On November 21, multiple stories broke detailing “new questions about Mr. Trump’s willingness to use the power of the presidency to advance his business interests.” The New York Times noted that experts in legal ethics claim Trump’s business “arrangements could easily run afoul of” a constitutional clause that protects against conflicts of interest “if [the arrangements] continue after Mr. Trump takes office.” The Times and The Hill both detailed specific incidents during Trump’s transition to the presidency that have “raised concerns about conflicts of interest between his future White House and his private enterprises,” but broadcast news outlets have chosen to ignore the new reports by and large.

    Media Matters searched video and transcripts of the November 22 broadcast morning news shows -- ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning -- for reports on Trump’s conflicts of interest and found that the shows devoted less than two minutes combined to the newest reports of the president-elect’s business dealings overseas. NBC’s Today did not mention the potential conflicts of interest at all, while CBS This Morning had only 23 seconds worth of coverage, and ABC’s Good Morning America spent one minute and 31 seconds on the issue.

    Inadequate reporting of Trump’s inherent conflicts of interest has been a consistent problem, despite concerns that his business entanglements will be a “national security nightmare.” News networks for the most part sidelined reporting on Trump’s conflicts of interest until after his election. Between September 14 and Election Day, the networks aired approximately seven minutes of stories about or at least mentioning Trump’s various conflicts of interest, and in the week after the election, they aired approximately 14 minutes of coverage about conflicts ranging from Trump’s foreign business ties to Ivanka Trump’s company pushing a $10,000-plus bracelet that she wore in a recent 60 Minutes interview.

    Trump’s lack of transparency when it comes to divulging his business dealings makes it imperative that network news shows raise awareness about these conflicts of interest -- but so far, they’re failing.

  • Right-Wing Media Tout Trump’s “Lobbying Ban” As Draining The Swamp, While Other Outlets Question Ban’s Efficacy

    Emphasis On Ban Also Ignores Trump’s Many Other Conflicts Of Interest

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are touting new “promises” from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team to implement five-year “bans on having folks go and lobby after being in the administration” -- and to allow no registered lobbyists on his transition team -- as “a signal that he's going to do the draining of the swamp he said he'd do.” But other media have explained why the ban wouldn’t necessarily work, as lobbyists could just avoid registering as such, and transition team members could undo their lobbyist registration. In addition, the proposed “ban” does nothing to address the “tidal wave of potential conflicts of interest” that “will arrive with” a Trump administration.

  • Conservative Media Attempt To Sanitize Stephen Bannon’s Ties To White Nationalism And Anti-Semitism

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Conservative media are defending Stephen Bannon, who was recently appointed as President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist, amid growing backlash over his ties to anti-Semitism and white nationalists. While Bannon’s appointment has been hailed as a victory by white nationalists, the push to normalize Bannon was aided by major newspapers that downplayed and ignored his extreme ties.

  • Network Morning Shows Barely Acknowledge Trump’s Possibly Illegal Tax Avoidance

    ABC, NBC, And CBS Morning Shows Cover Days-Old Clinton Email Story 15 Times More Than New Report On Trump’s Tax Avoidance Scheme

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & ALEX KAPLAN

    The network morning shows spent nearly half an hour covering the four-day-old story that the FBI found emails that may be pertinent to an investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, but less than two minutes on a new report detailing possibly illegal actions Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took in the 1990s to avoid reporting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxable income.

    On October 28, FBI Director James Comey defied Justice Department rules and precedent to issue a short and vague letter informing Congress that the bureau had obtained and was seeking to review emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. Comey’s decision drew criticism from media figures from across the political spectrum and former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials. Yet during the morning of November 1, ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning spent a combined total of nearly 30 minutes on this story and the impact it might have on election polls.

    Just yesterday, The New York Times explained that “thanks to a” possibly illegal tax maneuver Trump used in the early 1990s, he “potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes” (emphasis added):

    [N]ewly obtained documents show that in the early 1990s, as he scrambled to stave off financial ruin, Mr. Trump avoided reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income by using a tax avoidance maneuver so legally dubious his own lawyers advised him that the Internal Revenue Service would most likely declare it improper if he were audited.

    Thanks to this one maneuver, which was later outlawed by Congress, Mr. Trump potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes. It is impossible to know for sure because Mr. Trump has declined to release his tax returns, or even a summary of his returns, breaking a practice followed by every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate for more than four decades.

    Tax experts who reviewed the newly obtained documents for The New York Times said Mr. Trump’s tax avoidance maneuver, conjured from ambiguous provisions of highly technical tax court rulings, clearly pushed the edge of the envelope of what tax laws permitted at the time. “Whatever loophole existed was not ‘exploited’ here, but stretched beyond any recognition,” said Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center who helped draft tax legislation in the early 1990s.

    Yet Good Morning America was the only broadcast morning show to cover this detailed reporting on the Republican presidential nominee possibly committing a crime, devoting two interview segments to the issue for a scant airtime of 1 minute and 47 seconds. The other two morning shows did not mention the Times report or Trump’s tax avoidance at all.

    The networks’ Sunday shows have demonstrated a pattern of ignoring investigative reporting about Trump in favor of hyping any recent news about Clinton. Now the networks’ weekday morning shows seem to be following the same pattern.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream transcripts for ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning, with the keywords “Clinton,” “FBI,” “email,” and “Comey” for any comments about the Clinton email story, and the keywords “tax” and “taxes” for any comments about the Trump tax story. Any comments on either subject were then measured for time. At least one discussion covered both topics simultaneously.

  • Trump Avoided Confronting His Scandals In The Media, Save For George Stephanopoulos

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was the only national reporter who questioned Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about the many scandals that have dogged his campaign during his weeks-long appearance hiatus on all major cable news networks outside of Fox News.

    As the presidential debates approached, Trump deliberately retreated to Fox News, where he received softball interviews from friendly hosts such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Since the debates began, Trump has rarely appeared outside of conservative news outlets. Prior to interviews this week, Trump had not appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, or MSNBC since September 7.

    Trump reappeared on mainstream networks after the ribbon-cutting ceremony for his new hotel in Washington, D.C., but of the five outlets that received access, Stephanopoulos was the only reporter to ask Trump about the numerous scandals plaguing his presidential campaign.

    Stephanopoulos, unlike any other media figure who received one-on-one access at the hotel, pressed Trump on his threat to file lawsuits against the numerous women who have accused him of sexual assault and his assertion that the Clinton campaign orchestrated the women to lie about the allegations. He also forced Trump to answer to his claim that FBI director James Comey is corrupt, asked if he thinks he owes Judge Gonzalo Curiel and the family of Khizr Khan apologies, and corrected his false claim that he opposed the Iraq war from the start.

    Bloomberg News editor Mark Halperin and CNN reporter Dana Bash also spoke with Trump after his hotel ribbon cutting, but neither confronted problems that have weighed down Trump’s campaign in recent weeks, although Bash did question whether it was a good idea for Trump to take time out of campaigning to open his hotel. Halperin avoided the topics entirely, instead tossing Trump softball questions about his confidence in polling data and if he was feeling “under the weather” because he reportedly ate a throat lozenge.

    Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony, Trump granted interviews to only two non-Fox News sources. Trump phoned into radio host Rush Limbaugh’s show unannounced on October 25. Limbaugh sympathized with Trump’s claims that the media is conspiring against him and praised Trump for “fighting back” against his critics. Limbaugh also asked Trump how he would approach the Affordable Care Act. Christian Broadcasting Networks’ Pat Robertson also recieved on-camera time with Trump for The 700 Club on October 24, but chose to ask Trump about hiring employees, appointing women to his administration, nominating Supreme Court justices, and growing the economy through proposed tax cuts, rather than addressing any controversies surrounding his campaign.

    Trump’s strategy of retreating to conservative media outlets and blacking out interviews with non-Fox News media figures allowed him to bypass many of the scandals he created for himself, and to d successfully avoid being held accountable during the peak of each scandal. Interviewers who neglected to press Trump on his numerous scandals t failed in their fundamental duty of holding Trump accountable for the events that happen during his campaign.

  • Trump’s Anti-Establishment Campaign Was Conservative Media’s Dream Come True, But Now It’s Failing Him

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Journalists are pointing out that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “extraordinary display of personal animus” against Republicans leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), is a deliberate campaign strategy that was pushed by Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon -- and encouraged by conservative media for years -- but that it could cost Trump and the GOP the election.

  • Broadcast News Allow Trump To Drown His New Scandals With A Tweetstorm

    Network News Virtually Ignored Breaking Reports Into Illegal Practices By His Business And Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump successfully deflected the media’s attention away from damaging new investigative reports into illegal practices by his foundation and business with a late night tweetstorm continuing his denigration of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.

    The September 29 and 30 editions of broadcast morning shows and nightly news programs -- NBC’s Today and Nightly News, ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, and CBS’ CBS This Morning and Evening News -- spent merely 2 minutes and 28 seconds on a Newsweek report explaining that “a company controlled by Donald Trump … secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal.” The same shows almost entirely ignored a Washington Post investigation that found that the Trump foundation illegally escaped an annual audit because it “never obtained the certification that New York requires before charities can solicit money from the public,” devoting only 27 seconds of coverage to it. In contrast, coverage of a series of tweets Trump sent early in the morning on September 30 criticizing former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, calling her “disgusting” and claiming that she has a “terrible” past, which includes a “sex tape,” amounted to 10 minutes and 39 seconds.

    In his much-criticized September 30 tweetstorm, Trump rehashed his false and sexist attacks on Machado, including the debunked right-wing media smear that she was involved in a “sex tape.” In his recent national media appearances -- almost all of which have taken place inside “the conservative media cocoon” of Fox News -- Trump has repeatedly tried to justify his attacks on Machado, claiming that “she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.” Trump has had help from his conservative media allies, including Bill O’Reilly -- who asked if it was a “cheap shot” for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to bring up his criticism of Machado’s body at the debate -- and Rush Limbaugh, who claimed that “this Alicia Machado thing was a set up … planned by the Clinton campaign.”

    The investigative reports that were cast aside by broadcast news offer new insights into how Trump ran his foundation as essentially a slush fund and tax evasion scheme, and ignored federal laws in his business operations. In his September 29 Newsweek report, reporter Kurt Eichenwald explained that a company on behalf of Donald Trump “spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval.” The report published correspondence between Trump and consulting firm Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. in which the firm “instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.” Additionally, the former Trump executive admitted that they had taken a trip to Cuba “to give Trump’s company a foothold should Washington loosen or lift the trade restrictions.” As Eichenwald explained, “the fact that Seven Arrows spent the money and then received reimbursement from Trump Hotels does not mitigate any potential corporate liability for violating the Cuban embargo.”

    In a September 29 investigation in The Washington Post, David Fahrenthold once again discovered that Trump’s charity had skirted the law, this time violating a New York state law which requires “any charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year from the public must obtain a special kind of registration beforehand.” In an appearance on CNN, Fahrenthold explained that if Trump “had done this the right way … he would have to get an audit” and accountants would ask if he was “spending the foundation’s money in ways that benefited himself.” Farenthold has previously reported that this was exactly what Trump did, revelations that have led the New York attorney general to open a new investigation into the foundation. Trump campaign surrogates floundered when asked about the report on cable news, and lashed out at Fahrenthold claiming that “he’s pretty much a Clinton surrogate at this point.” Only CBS covered Fahrenthold’s report, while NBC and ABC failed to mention it. (Conversely, CBS ignored the Cuba report that its competitors covered.)

    This is not the first time media has allowed Trump to drive the coverage, nor is it the first time media have ignored damaging investigations into Trump's scandals. Previously, Trump successfully hijacked the news cycle by appearing on The Dr. Oz Show to reveal bits and pieces of a report on his health. Trump also successfully dominated news coverage after he tweeted a picture of himself eating a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo. While dedicating disproportionate coverage to the candidate’s antics, the media has undercovered:

    • A USA Today report that found that “Trump doesn’t pay his bills.”

    • Revelations about his illegal political donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    • Reports highlighting Trump lies and inappropriate comments about the Sept. 11 attacks.

    • Allegations that Trump’s modeling agency “profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here.”

    • The report that the Trump Foundation “may have violated laws against ‘self-dealing.’”

    • Trump’s former campaign chairman’s ties to pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of Trump from the September 29 and 30 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, NBC’s Today and Nightly News, and CBS’ CBS This Morning and Evening News and counted the length of segments relating to Trump’s tweetstom, the Newsweek report into Trump’s business entanglements in Cuba, and the Washington Post report on the Trump Foundation’s lack of proper registration.

  • Cosmopolitan Set The Standard On Ivanka Trump Interviews

    Unlike ABC and Fox, Cosmopolitan Challenged Ivanka Trump On The Intricacies Of Her Father’s Child Care Plan

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & KATIE SULLIVAN

    After appearing alongside her father, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, while he announced his child care plan on September 13, Ivanka Trump sat for several interviews, including with ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News’ The Kelly File and Fox & Friends, and Cosmopolitan magazine. But only Cosmopolitan successfully asked important follow-up questions and challenged Trump on the apparent inconsistencies and inadequacies of her father’s plan.

    Ivanka Trump has become an important surrogate for her father, often stepping in to sanitize his outrageous remarks, particularly those about women. When critics pointed out the GOP nominee’s misogyny, Ivanka described him as a “fighter” for women and an “equal opportunity offender,” and after her father offered a victim-blaming defense of former Fox CEO Roger Ailes, who was ousted from Fox following a sexual harassment lawsuit, she went on Fox to claim that the Trump Organization has “a very strong HR team … who is equipped to deal with these issues if they arise.” As The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum explained, Trump has chosen to “deodorize the stink of her father’s misogyny, to suggest that because he loves her that means he loves women -- to erase the actual policies he supports.”

    This was the role ABC and Fox allowed Ivanka Trump to play.

    Donald Trump’s child care plan lacks details on how it would be funded, and while Fox’s Megyn Kelly and Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt asked Ivanka about the fiscal aspects of the plan, they settled for her answer that everything would be clarified in her father’s September 15 economic speech. Both Fox interviews were fawning, with Kelly marveling at Trump’s (millionaire) working-mother status -- “I don’t know how you do it” -- and Earhardt focusing part of the 10-minute interview on Trump’s relationship with her father: “Tell me some stories. What’s he like? And what do the kids call him?” Kelly also let Trump get away with the lie that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton does not have a child care policy on her website.

    ABC’s Amy Robach did question Trump on why her father’s plan excludes paternity leave, and she clarified that Clinton does have a child care plan on her website. But she also allowed Ivanka to push her talking points unchallenged and say the Trump Organization offers paid maternity leave and adoption leave for all of its employees, a claim that Trump employees are now challenging.

    It was Cosmopolitan’s Prachi Gupta who successfully challenged Trump by questioning specifics of her father’s plan, like the fact that it doesn’t include same-sex parents when both of the partners are men. She also brought up (and readily provided the source for) Donald Trump’s 2004 statement that pregnancy is inconvenient for business. Gupta thoroughly questioned the financial feasibility of Trump’s child care plan by pointing out that the Republican candidate has promised both tax cuts and increases in infrastructure spending, while also saying he wants to build a border wall. Politico and Vox reported on Ivanka’s interview with Cosmopolitan, noting that she accused “the writer of ‘editorializing’ and instilling ‘hostility’” in her questions and pointing out that she got “combative” after being challenged.

    Nussbaum’s article about Ivanka’s speech at the July Republican National Convention highlighted that Ivanka has “stepped forward to blind female voters to who her father is and what he stands for.” Gupta defied this spin, and her Cosmopolitan interview got in Ivanka’s way as she tried to sanitize her father’s record, while exemplifying that women’s magazines and websites have been an undervalued asset in political coverage.