Several months into the 2016 presidential campaign, the media is frequently failing to fact-check statements by presidential candidates denying the science of climate change. Seven major newspapers and wire services surveyed by Media Matters have thus far failed to indicate that candidates' statements conflict with the scientific consensus in approximately 43 percent of their coverage, while the major broadcast and cable news outlets other than MSNBC have failed to do so 75 percent of the time.
From the June 21 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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Although there have been several major campaign finance stories this year, so far the media has paid significant attention only to one: the retired postal worker from Florida who landed his gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn to raise awareness about the need for reform -- and the coverage has barely noted his motivations.
On April 15, Doug Hughes landed his gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn "to save our democracy," as he wrote in The Washington Post, because "91 percent of Americans see the corrosive influence of money in our political system as a problem that demands attention." Hughes continued:
It is clear these issues will be among the most important in the 2016 election, when every candidate for any office needs to answer one simple question: Which approaches to reducing money's corrupting influence on our democracy do you support? Journalists, especially at the local level, need to ask tough questions, then report the truth and let people decide.
Sadly, most Americans don't know about [campaign finance reform] solutions or how to engage. That's why I chose civil disobedience, taking 535 stamped letters and my message to the seat of power where the problem is. Big money is a threat to our democracy just as security threats are.
Hughes is right -- according to Bloomberg, "spending by candidates, parties and outside groups and individuals" in the run-up to the 2016 election "may approach $10 billion." Thanks to a series of Supreme Court decisions that have relaxed Watergate-era campaign finance reform laws, it's easier than ever for an elite few to exercise disproportionate influence in the democratic process.
Hughes' landing was marginally successful in getting some media coverage of campaign finance reform in the days following. A Media Matters analysis of the network evening news broadcasts and the Sunday political talk shows found 17 total segments dedicated to Hughes and the gyrocopter landing. But other than a discussion on the April 19 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, none of the Sunday shows or evening news broadcasts dedicated any substantive coverage to the message behind Hughes' protest. Understandably, most of these segments focused on the security issues raised by the fact that Hughes was able to fly undetected into the District of Columbia's no-fly zone, rather than his reasons for his flight in the first place.
Mainstream media are highlighting the Clintons' recent disclosure of their personal finances to suggest that Hillary Clinton will not be able to address poverty and income inequality as a 2016 presidential candidate, ignoring how her past policies and work have helped to alleviate these issues.
Several 2016 presidential candidates were interviewed for Sunday morning's political talk shows on Mother's Day, and not one of them was asked about how they might fix America's poor standing on maternal and child health and education.
A new report ranked the United States 61st globally in maternal health, worst among developed nations. From CBS News:
Save the Children, a global nonprofit organization aimed at improving the health of children worldwide, ranked 179 countries based on five indicators: maternal health, children's well-being, and education, economic, and political status. When taking all of these factors into account, the United States slid to 33rd place worldwide, down two spots in the rankings compared to last year.
While the United States performed well on economic and educational status -- 9th and 16th best, respectively -- in addition to its poor standing in maternal health, it ranked 42nd in children's well-being and 89th in political status, as measured by women's representation in national government.
Republicans Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Ben Carson, as well as Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, all appeared on political talk shows during Mother's Day, but none of them were asked about how they might address the nation's tragic infant mortality rate, reproductive health discrimination, or the fact that the United States is the only industrialized nation without paid maternity leave.
NBC's Meet the Press tackled the topic in a Mother's Day-themed panel at the end of its show, but host Chuck Todd neglected to ask Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina about what her approach would be to correct the U.S.'s maternal failings if she were to be elected. Instead of discussing Fiorina's dubious claims about the origins of gender pay equity, the two discussed free trade, her business record, and her lack of political experience. Todd did wish the candidate a "Happy Mother's Day."
Carson appeared on Fox's Fox News Sunday, where host Chris Wallace began an interview by asking Carson about his ailing mother and asking the candidate to describe how she raised Carson out of "dire poverty" in Detroit. Carson answered that his mother encouraged him to read, and that access to books made all the difference. But Wallace failed to ask Carson how he might increase the chances for other mothers and their children to thrive.
CBS' Bob Schieffer interviewed a pair of 2016 presidential candidates on the Mother's Day edition of Face the Nation, but he failed to ask either Mike Huckabee or Bernie Sanders about policy stances affecting U.S. mothers. Schieffer pressed Huckabee on the threat of ISIS, reforming Social Security, and his past hawking of fake diabetes cures, while focusing most of his discussion with Sanders on Hillary Clinton. Sanders nevertheless took the opportunity to cite Mother's Day and raise concerns about the U.S.'s child care system, which he called a "total disaster."
Republicans have regularly opposed measures that would alleviate some of the ways the nation's current policies have failed American moms. After President Obama called for mandating paid maternity leave in his 2015 State of the Union address, Republicans "didn't join in the applause" that followed and have publicly panned the idea. The Hill further noted that current Republican leadership also opposed the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said at the time would have devastating consequences.
From the May 10 edition of NBC News' Meet The Press:
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From the March 15 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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Los programas dominicales, tanto en inglés como en español, tratan a los hispanos como un bloque monotemático, enfocado mayormente en la inmigración, según un análisis de Media Matters que examinó las discusiones hechas y los invitados a programas desde el 31 de agosto al 28 de diciembre de 2014. A pesar de que los latinos constituyen más del 17 por ciento de la población estadounidense, el reporte encontró que solamente siete por ciento de los invitados a los programas dominicales en inglés, son hispanos, de los que un 46 por ciento habló específicamente sobre inmigración. El reporte también señaló que a pesar de que los programas dominicales en español dedican atención significativa al tema migratorio, cubren muchísimo menos otros temas de similar importancia para la comunidad latina. Confinar las perspectivas de los latinos a un único tema va en detrimento de su habilidad de involucrarse en discusiones sobre otros temas que les afectan tanto a ellos, como al electorado en general.
Sunday shows in both English and Spanish treat Hispanics as a single-issue constituency focused on immigration, according to a Media Matters analysis that examined the shows' discussions and guests from August 31 to December 28, 2014. While Latinos make up more than 17 percent of the U.S. population, the report found that only 7 percent of guests on English-language Sunday shows were Hispanic, of which 46 percent spoke specifically about immigration. The report also found that while the Spanish-language Sunday shows devoted great attention to immigration, they gave much less coverage to issues of similar importance to the Latino community. Confining Latinos' perspectives to a single issue damages their ability to engage in discussions about the other equally important issues that affect them and the general electorate.
From the February 22 edition of NBC News' Meet The Press:
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In the four months after Chuck Todd took the reins of NBC's Meet the Press, guest diversity on the program showed notable improvement, with the show under his tenure becoming more diverse than its competitors on the other three broadcast networks and CNN. Todd tells Media Matters the show is striving to reflect the reality of 21st century politics while also crediting his young staff for urging the program to not only rely on a "white male perspective."
As part of our annual analysis of the Sunday morning political shows, Media Matters found that only 54 percent of Meet the Press guests were white men from when Todd took over hosting duties from David Gregory on September 7 through the end of 2014.
While that number is high relative to the overall population, it represents a seven-point drop compared to 2014 guests during Gregory's tenure. The figure also made Todd's Meet the Press more diverse by that measure than CNN's State of the Union, ABC's This Week, Fox's Fox News Sunday, or CBS' Face the Nation -- beating the latter two programs by more than ten percentage points.
Breaking the numbers down further, 28 percent of Todd's guests were women and 28 percent were people of color, both improvements from Gregory's totals and more diverse by those measures than the other four programs.
White men overwhelmingly dominated guest appearances on five Sunday morning political talk shows in 2014 - like they did in 2013 - according to a Media Matters analysis.
On January 28, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) released a statement in response to Media Matters' study detailing how the major broadcast networks covered climate change in 2014. The Media Matters analysis found that although the networks increased their coverage of climate change, the Sunday shows still underrepresented scientists and most of them provided a platform for climate science deniers.
Sen. Schatz stated that the networks' increase in climate coverage is "not enough," and that he "remain[s] deeply concerned about both the lack and the quality of the coverage." He concluded: "It is time for broadcasters to stop creating a false debate about the reality of climate change and engage in the real debate about how we can solve it."
Sen. Schatz's full press release read:
Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i) today released the following statement in response to a new Media Matters report detailing how broadcast networks covered climate change in 2014:
"While I am pleased that broadcast media coverage of climate change has increased this year, it is not enough," said Senator Schatz. "I remain deeply concerned about both the lack and the quality of the coverage. This new report shows that Sunday shows still aired segments that misled audiences and ignored the scientific consensus by framing the facts of climate change as a "debate". The debate is over. Human-caused climate change is accepted by Fortune 500 companies, school-teachers, religious groups, the United States military, nurses and doctors, professional sports leagues, the majority of other countries, and over 97 percent of climate scientists. It is time for broadcasters to stop creating a false debate about the reality of climate change and engage in the real debate about how we can solve it."
The total coverage of climate change on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox continued to increase for the third consecutive year, according to a Media Matters analysis, yet still remained below the level seen in 2009. Coverage on the networks' Sunday shows reached a six-year high after a group of senators demanded they provide more coverage of the issue, but the Sunday shows still infrequently interviewed scientists.
This January marks the fifth anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court case that expanded the idea of "corporate personhood" by ruling that the First Amendment protects a corporation's right to make unlimited expenditures in support of political candidates as a form of speech. Network news coverage of its legal impact, however, has largely ignored how the Supreme Court continues to aggressively expand the decision.
This expansion of corporate rights has wide-ranging consequences, even outside of the context of campaign finance deregulation. The court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, for example, seemed to embrace the idea that corporations are capable of morally objecting to contraception coverage, co-opting yet another constitutional right -- that of religion -- that had previously been reserved for people, not businesses.
In terms of election law, the conservative justices further dismantled campaign finance restrictions in 2014's McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down aggregate campaign donation limits and allowed wealthy donors to contribute money to a virtually unlimited number of candidates and political parties. The court will hear yet another campaign finance case on January 20 called Williams-Yulee v. the Florida Bar, which could strike down a Florida rule that prohibits judicial candidates from directly soliciting money from donors -- a rule that was put in place in response to a serious corruption scandal that resulted in the resignations of four Florida Supreme Court justices.
Yet despite the cascade of decisions from conservative justices intent on dismantling campaign finance regulations and rewriting corporate rights -- and the majority of Americans who support a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United -- the media have largely underreported this story.
Here are four graphics that illustrate this failure.