A Media Matters analysis finds that news coverage of climate change on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX remained low in 2012 despite record temperatures and a series of extreme weather events in the U.S. When the Sunday shows did discuss climate change, scientists were shut out of the debate while Republican politicians were given a platform to question the science.
From the January 6 edition of NBC's Meet The Press:
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Most cable news and major news networks were silent on the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and House Republicans' failure to reauthorize the law for the first time since 1994. However, MSNBC provided its viewers with extensive coverage of reauthorization, repeatedly warning that the law was set to expire if Congress did not act and exposing the GOP's obstructionism.
After the Senate voted 68-31 to approve the bipartisan VAWA in April, 2012, the bill was sent to the House where Republicans allowed the act to expire. House Republicans reportedly blocked the reauthorization due to objections over the law's expanded provisions to protect Native American women, undocumented immigrants, and LGBT victims of domestic violence. House Republicans later proposed their own version of the bill that stripped the Senate's added protections.
Media Matters looked at the month leading up to the expiration of the VAWA and found that both Fox News and CNN failed to cover the need to reauthorize the act, while MSNBC informed its viewers of the law's status. A search on Nexis for segments referring to the Violence Against Women Act on Fox News and CNN between December 1, 2012 and January 2 found only one mention between the two networks. In comparison, a search of MSNBC transcripts turned up ten references to the expiring VAWA and House Republicans' efforts to block the reauthorization along with another two brief mentions of the law in broad discussion.
In fact, during the December 16, 2012 edition of MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes, host Chris Hayes devoted two segments to the importance of House Republicans' refusal to approve the law. The panel noted the danger that the GOP's obstructionism posed to women victims of domestic violence across the country.
The National Rifle Association refused to answer questions at what it had claimed was a "press conference" today in response to the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Instead, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre gave a speech calling for armed police officers at all schools and blaming violent video games for mass shootings, rather than the ability of those shooters to obtain a firearm.
Notably, an armed police officer was present at Columbine High School at the time of the mass shooting there. After attempting to fire on one of the shooters with his pistol, he was quickly pinned down by the greater firepower of the shooter's assault weapon.
This puts special pressure on the hosts of NBC's Meet The Press and CBS' Face The Nation, who will host LaPierre and NRA president David Keene on Sunday, to ask the questions that the rest of the press corps was unable to.
Any such interview should address the conspiratorial language that LaPierre typically uses in speaking to his base, notably his claim that President Obama plans to use his second term to "erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights."
The hosts of Fox News Sunday and Meet The Press pushed the myth that Democratic support for gun violence prevention measures was a significant factor in their 1994 and 2000 electoral defeats.
These claims echo a false media narrative that the National Rifle Association is able to influence electoral outcomes and punish politicians who refuse to line up with the pro-gun organization. This narrative is faltering following the 2012 elections where the NRA spent tens of millions of dollars in a largely unsuccessful attempt to defeat candidates in favor of gun violence prevention policies. Furthermore, there is strong public support for specific gun violence prevention measures and claims that Democrats paid a price for supporting gun violence prevention in 1994 and 2000 are overblown.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace claimed during an interview with Al Gore's 2000 running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who advocated for universal background checks on gun sales and renewal of the assault weapons ban on the show, that support for such policies contributed to his 2000 defeat:
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Back in the 90's you supported the Brady law which called for a five day waiting period.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN: Right.
WALLACE: You supported the assault weapons ban. Then in 2000 you and Al Gore campaigned around the country and you lost, and a lot of people took as a lesson, part of it was in states like Tennessee and West Virginia, the fact that you were pro-gun control. And quite frankly ever since Democrats have been scared of touching that issue.
Instead of helping viewers understand the substance and real-world impacts of year-end budget negotiations, television news outlets are shutting economists out of their coverage and relying on political journalists to answer a less important question: Who's winning?
A study released Thursday found that cable and broadcast news organizations brought actual economists on air just 22 times in 337 segments on the negotiations from November 7 to 28, effectively barring economics from the conversation. Viewers without cable missed economic experts completely, as ABC, CBS and NBC failed to include them in dozens of segments.
Taxes and spending cuts were mentioned in many of the approximately 80 percent of segments that failed to discuss real-world economic impacts of austerity, but only in the context of figuring out which side has the upper hand in negotiations. Correspondents focused on how the day's inside-the-beltway developments impacted the likelihood of a deal or speculated on the political palatability of a deal for each party.
The November 26 edition of Fox News' Special Report, for example, featured back-to-back reports on the day's negotiating maneuvers, highlighting that various GOP legislators may defy Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform pledge and various developments in the budget talks made by both parties. However, neither segment discussed broader economic implications.
On the November 7 edition of CBS' Evening News, reporter Wyatt Andrews said Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had "started a public negotiation with the President," and that President Obama's stance on taxes "was his core argument in the campaign," but that Boehner failed to "sell Republicans on that upper income tax increase" in 2011. A followup segment with CBS' John Dickerson focused exclusively on how the election might have changed the two parties' "motivations," and "political fortunes." Neither segment mentioned economic impacts.
Recent Media Matters research revealed the overwhelming absence of economists and economic debate in television coverage of year-end budget negotiations. The lack of expert opinion has led to an over reliance on easily digested phrases such as "fiscal cliff," which many economists feel is a misleading term.
A Media Matters study found that economists have been sorely lacking in media discussions of budget negotiations, accounting for only 4.4 percent of guests brought on to address the topic. Their scant presence has steered most discussions toward non-economic issues, such as political leverage in negotiations.
Of course, since budget issues are inherently economic, removing the economics from the discussion entirely is not possible. Instead of providing substantive context, the media seem to have taken the tack of relying on misleading buzzwords to do the explaining.
The so-called "fiscal cliff" describes a combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, could cause the U.S. economy to experience recession in 2013. The origins of the current use of the phrase "fiscal cliff" apparently stem from comments made by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in February 2012.
Since Bernanke's use of the phrase, it has become ubiquitous in media coverage of budget negotiations. Media Matters found that in 337 segments across cable and network news, the term "fiscal cliff" was used to frame discussions 287 times.
A Media Matters study found that economists have been strangely absent from discussions on budget negotiations, following a typical pattern of the media's inability to host experts to discuss complex issues. This lack of expert analysis has steered the debate toward politics and away from core economic concerns.
In a recently published study of news segments discussing current budget negotiations, Media Matters found that the presence of economists was sorely lacking - out of 503 total guests in the 337 segments analyzed, only 22 were economists. The lack of appearances by economists is spread across all networks:
The results of this study are in line with previous Media Matters research. In media discussions of the debt-ceiling debate in the summer of 2011, only 4.1 percent of guests on news programs were identified as economists. The findings of the most recent study reinforce the notion that the media have a tendency to ignore expert opinion when discussing complex issues, such as the economy and climate change.
In recent weeks, media outlets have focused heavily on current budget negotiations regarding automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect on January 1, 2013 if an alternative agreement is not reached. But major television news outlets are inadequately reporting on year-end budget negotiations, rarely hosting economists and favoring inflammatory rhetoric about the so-called "fiscal cliff," according to a Media Matters analysis. Furthermore, most television segments have completely ignored the possible economic effects of potential tax increases and spending cuts.
From the November 18 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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A new Media Matters study documents how TV news outlets -- with the exception of MSNBC -- all but ignored climate change during the 2012 election season, even covering Joe Biden's smile in the vice presidential debate more often. This blackout fit perfectly into the right's climate change playbook.
When we saw events that illustrated the impacts of climate change in the lead-up to the election, the right tried to get the media to look the other way. As wildfires raged this summer, experts said that journalists should be explaining how climate change worsens the risk of wildfires in the West. But once the media finally began to make those connections, the conservative Media Research Center lashed out at them.
When Arctic sea ice loss broke records this summer, conservative media sought to distract their mainstream counterparts by pointing to Antarctic sea ice. Nevermind that the Associated Press had explained that Antarctic sea ice gains did not undermine global warming and were in fact anticipated -- MRC claimed that AP's report was not to be trusted because it "predictably cited scientists." In the end, the record Arctic sea ice loss received little attention from TV media.
And when Hurricane Sandy hit a week before the election, the right attacked the media for even raising global warming. Fox's media criticism show, Fox News Watch, called the media "liberal" for noting the scientific connections between Sandy's destruction and climate change:
JON SCOTT: It didn't take long, though, for liberal media to trot out climate change as the reason behind this storm?
RICHARD GRENELL, FMR. ROMNEY SPOKESMAN: Yes, and that is silly, right.
While TV media's election coverage of climate change ramped up after Sandy, the coverage still totaled less than an hour on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox.
Climate change was almost entirely absent from the political discourse this election season, receiving less than an hour of TV coverage over three months from the major cable and broadcast networks excluding MSNBC. By contrast, those outlets devoted nearly twice as much coverage to Vice President Joe Biden's demeanor during his debate with Rep. Paul Ryan. When climate change was addressed, print and TV media outlets often failed to note the scientific consensus or speak to scientists.
NBC's David Gregory showed Mitt Romney claiming that President Obama said he would lower unemployment to 5.2 percent and presented this statement as representative of Obama's economic record. But independent fact-checkers have rated the charge that Obama promised an unemployment rate of around 5 percent as false and misleading.
While economists working with Obama projected in 2009 that one version of a stimulus bill would lower the unemployment to that level, the severity of the recession wasn't fully understood at that time, and Obama never promised that level of unemployment would be achieved.
While interviewing White House senior adviser David Plouffe on Sunday's Meet The Press, Gregory aired a clip of Romney saying during a stump speech that President Obama said he would "bring the unemployment rate down to 5.2 percent by now" and that "unemployment today is higher than when Barack Obama took office." Gregory said Romney's argument was that "the unemployment rate [is] higher than when the president took office."
Gregory then paraphrased Romney's message as, "if you've got anxiety about the economy, this is the president's record -- you have to be disappointed."
Romney's statement is a reference to a report produced by Obama's economic advisers in January 2009, before Obama took office, predicting that unemployment would be near 5 percent in 2012 and that it would not exceed 8 percent if the stimulus was passed. But the report was produced before the release of data showing the recession was much worse than was thought at the time.
Indeed, in August 2011, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that real gross domestic product had declined by 8.9 percent during the fourth quarter of 2008 -- over twice as much as BEA's initial estimate of 3.8 percent. These revisions made the economic contraction in 2008 the worst single-quarter decline in GDP since 1958.
Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and independent economists show that Obama's stimulus plan significantly raised employment and increased GDP, and lowered the unemployment rate from the recession's peak. There are also more Americans employed now than when Obama took office in January 2009.
Meet the Press host David Gregory helped Republican Governors Scott Walker (WI) and John Kasich (OH) take undeserved credit for the job recoveries in their states. In separate Meet the Press interviews, both governors took credit for an increase in jobs during their term, but Gregory did not point out that jobs were already on the upswing before either of them came into office.
From the October 28 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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