PBS

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  • Journalists Call On Debate Moderators To Fact-Check Candidates

    Journalists: Debate Moderators Should “Be Well-Prepared Enough To Assert The Truth In Real Time”

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Prior to the first presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, journalists are advising the debate moderators to “Be well-prepared enough to assert the truth in real time,” and arguing that a moderator should not “abdicate” their “role as a truth-seeker and a journalist” because moderators “play a constructive and vital role” in presidential debates.

  • Media Host Trump Adviser Boris Epshteyn On Russia Without Disclosing His Business Ties

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Media outlets have been hosting Donald Trump senior adviser Boris Epshteyn, who has used the platform to defend Russian President Vladimir Putin from criticism and to claim that the Clintons, not Trump, have “been way too cozy with the Russians.” Outlets have failed to disclose during discussions about Russia that Epshteyn has financial ties to the former Soviet Union, which include consulting for “entities doing business in Eastern Europe” and moderating a Russian-sponsored conference on "investment opportunities in Moscow.” 

  • Census Report On Median Income, Poverty Gives Broadcast News A Chance To Prove Itself

    Generally Strong Coverage Of Census Data Shows TV News Outlets Can Still Cover The Economy Well When They Try

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The major broadcast evening news programs each provided great examples of how network news can still be a source of concise and informative coverage on the economy this week when they covered new data releases from the Census Bureau.

    On September 13, the U.S. Census Bureau released annual updates to its ongoing reports on income and poverty and health insurance coverage in the United States. The reports revealed stunning positive news about the state of the American economy: a record-setting 5.2 percent increase in median household income from 2014 to 2015, median income at its highest point since before the Great Recession, a drop in the official poverty rate of 1.2 percentage points, more than 3.5 million Americans lifted out of poverty, a 1.3 percentage point drop in the uninsured rate, and roughly 4 million fewer uninsured Americans. In response to the data, Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) noted that 2015 marked just the second year since 1988 “that brought simultaneous progress on poverty, median income, and health insurance.”

    Print and online coverage of the Census data was overwhelmingly positive, with CNNMoney writer Tami Luhby and Washington Post contributor Paul Waldman both noting that the data undermine a key (albeit, “false”) talking point frequently used by Republicans: that there has been wage stagnation, and President Obama is to blame.

    Just as importantly, the positive coverage continued during the September 13 editions of major nightly broadcast news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS, which collectively draw more than 20 million daily viewers. Only ABC failed to note all three of the key Census data findings -- the increase in median income, the drop in poverty, and the drop in the uninsured rate -- during its reporting.

    As is often the case, PBS NewsHour offered the most in-depth and detailed discussion of the Census reports. Correspondent Lisa Desjardins spent just under three minutes detailing the data and discussing its possible political ramifications and effect on the upcoming election. The segment even included some cautionary notes, including reasons that some Americans have not seen a boost in take-home pay despite the surge in median earnings and some potential problems faced by customers on the private insurance market.

    Next in terms of quality of coverage were CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News, both of which discussed all of the key takeaways from the data. CBS anchor Scott Pelley said the Census reports were “great news” and stood as proof that “more Americans are cashing in on the recovery.” NBC anchor Lester Holt added that “middle class incomes had their fastest rate of growth ever recorded” and “incomes increased across all racial groups.”

    ABC’s World News spent the least amount of time on the topic, mentioning the Census data as just part of a discussion about the stock market, but anchor David Muir still noted that the 5.2 percent median income increase was “the largest rise in nearly 50 years.”

    The individual segments might not seem like cause for celebration, but, according to recent Media Matters analyses of broadcast news coverage, each segment should serve as an example of how these programs can adequately discuss the economy.

    Overall coverage of the economy fell considerably from the first to second quarter of 2016, as the major networks focused more of their limited time on horse-race political coverage detached from the economic issues that actually drive voter behavior. Coverage of economic inequality and poverty also decreased from the first to second quarter of the year overall -- only ABC and CBS focused more attention on those crucial subjects from April through June than they had in the first three months of the year:

    Unfortunately, throughout the first half of the year, major news outlets have been focusing less and less attention on the economy, creating a void that can easily be filled with misinformation. As broadcast and cable outlets retreated from covering the economy, misleading and biased stories emanating from Fox News and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump accounted for a higher proportion of coverage.

    Broadcast evening news shows face considerable challenges in trimming segments down to fit abbreviated commercial schedules, but their coverage on September 13 demonstrated that the flagship programs can still balance brevity and substance when they try.

  • STUDY: Networks Focus Less On Poverty As Coverage Of Inequality Drops

    PBS Sets Itself Apart From Broadcast Outlets On Inequality And Poverty, Fox News Remains Major Source Of Misleading Coverage

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    In the second quarter of 2016, prime-time and evening weekday news programs on the largest broadcast and cable outlets dedicated significantly less time to economic inequality and poverty than they had in the first quarter of the year. The weekday drop-off was led by CNN and MSNBC, which dramatically reduced their programming on inequality. PBS remained the gold standard among broadcast outlets in terms of covering inequality and poverty, while Fox News remained a prevalent source of misinformation on the same topics.

  • TV News Misses Golden Opportunity To Recognize Title IX During Rio Olympics

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    As thousands of athletes from around the world descended on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics, broadcast and cable news programming missed a golden opportunity to discuss the incredible legacy of the legislative reform largely responsible for the growth and success of women’s sports in the United States and around the world -- Title IX.

    One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2016 Summer Olympics was the sheer dominance of American athletes in general, and American women in particular. American swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles finished the games with four gold medals each (and five medals overall) and, at just 19 years old, they both are widely considered the most dominant athletes in their respective sports. Meanwhile, as the United States men’s basketball team struggled before coalescing in the gold medal match, the American women’s team blasted every opponent en route to a sixth consecutive Olympic championship.

    According to The New York Times, the United States brought home 121 medals from Rio, far outpacing China (70) and Great Britain (67) for first place, and became the first nation in 40 years to lead all nations in each medal category: gold, silver, and bronze. As was the case in 2012, more than half of that total medal haul (61) was won by American women, whose unparalleled athletic success would have been unlikely without the unique progressive legacy of the Title IX provision in federal education policy, which prevents sex discrimination in federally funded programs like school sports. From the Times:

    The United States is one of the few countries to embed sports within the public education system. And equal access to sports for women comes with legal protections, gained with the education amendment known as Title IX in 1972 and the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act in 1978.

    About one of every two American girls participates in sports in high school. Of the 213 American medalists in individual and team sports in Rio, according to the [United States Olympic Committee], nearly 85 percent participated in university-funded sports.

    “Those things don’t exist elsewhere in the world,” said Donna Lopiano, a former executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “We have the largest base of athletic development. Our women are going to dominate, not only because of their legal rights but because women in other parts of the world are discriminated against.”

    Broadcast And Cable News Ignored Importance Of Title IX Despite Flood Of Olympic Coverage

    A Media Matters review of broadcast evening news coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS, as well as cable evening and prime-time coverage on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between the days of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics revealed only two substantive mentions of Title IX as it relates to current or former American or international Olympians. A similar lack of interest was on display on the major Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC.**

    A review of available Nexis transcripts from August 5 through August 21 returned 259 results mentioning the Olympics in Rio, including just two references to Title IX’s role in encouraging and supporting female athletes and women’s sports: NBC Nightly News and PBS NewsHour each mentioned the legislation during Olympic segments on August 18 and August 19, respectively. By contrast, there were dozens of mentions of American swimmer Ryan Lochte’s infamous and unsubstantiated story of being robbed at gunpoint outside a Rio gas station.

    Major print outlets including like The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today gave Title IX special attention in 2016, but their television counterparts once again dropped the ball. Title IX was also conspicuously absent from print and television coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics, according to a February 2014 Media Matters analysis.

    Title IX’s Global Legacy At The Olympic Games

    As noted above, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which was authored by Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN) and Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI) and signed into law by President Richard Nixon, has left an indelible mark on women's sports over the past 44 years. But American women aren't the only beneficiaries of the legislation; Title IX’s prohibition against gender discrimination at most educational institutions is a major contributing factor in making American universities a magnet for athletes from around the world.

    Stanford University, the most successful athletic institution in the world this year in terms of Olympic medals, produced a number of American women medalists -- including burgeoning swimming stars Ledecky, Maya DiRado, and Simone Manuel. It also produced Greek pole vault gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi. If not for Ledecky, the most successful women’s swimmer of the summer would have been Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, an alumna of the University of Southern California. (Controversial Russian swimmer and two-time silver medalist Yulia Efimova, though not an alumna of the school, is coached by Southern Cal head coach Dave Salo.) Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller, an alumna of the University of Georgia, edged out former Southern Cal sprinter Allyson Felix to win gold in the women’s 400-meter. Canadian swimmer Chantal van Landeghem, another Georgia alum, took home a bronze medal in the women’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay alongside teammate and Ohio State University graduate Michelle Williams. Canadian track and field star Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who won a bronze medal in the heptathlon, attended the University of Oregon.

    This is just a snapshot of the Title IX impact that was on display at the 2016 Summer Olympics, but broadcast and cable news almost completely ignored the success story, despite offering a torrent of Olympic-centered stories and features.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening and prime-time (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, and network broadcast news (ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS) from August 5, 2016, through August 21, 2016. Media Matters also reviewed Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC during the same time period. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: olympics or rio or title nine or title 9 or title ix.

    The following programs were included in the data: World News Tonight, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press**, PBS NewsHour, The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight, The Five, Special Report, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The O'Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, Hannity, MTP Daily, With All Due Respect, Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.

    **NBCUniversal pre-empted Meet the Press on August 14 and August 21 to air exclusive coverage of the Olympics on NBC.

  • Nightly Newscasts Ignore Climate Change In Coverage Of Worst U.S. Weather Disaster Since Hurricane Sandy

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    UPDATE (8/18/16): After this piece was published, PBS NewsHour aired an August 17 segment with Louisiana state climatologist Barry Keim and Columbia University professor Adam Sobel that discussed how the Louisiana flooding and Blue Cut wildfire in California are “related to climate change.”

    ORIGINAL POST:

    The major U.S. broadcast news networks have all ignored climate change in their nightly news coverage of Louisiana's recent record-breaking rainfall and flooding. The New York Times and The Washington Post, by contrast, have explained how the extreme weather and flooding in Louisiana are in line with the predicted impacts of a warming planet.

    The disaster in Louisiana killed at least 11 people and displaced thousands more. The American Red Cross described the state’s flooding as “the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy,” and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association classified the record rainfall as a once-in-every-500-years event -- the eighth such event to take place in the U.S. since May 2015.

    Climate Nexus’ Climate Signals, a tool designed to “[e]xplore how climate change affects your world by searching events, impacts, and related climate signals,” explained how Louisiana’s increased atmospheric moisture and unusually heavy rainfall were “classic signals of climate change”:

    At least nine people have died in what the American Red Cross is calling the "worst disaster since Superstorm Sandy." On August 11, a measure of atmospheric moisture, precipitable water, was in historic territory at 2.78 inches, a measurement higher than during some past hurricanes in the region. Increased moisture in the air and unusually heavy rainfall are classic signals of climate change. As the world warms, storms are able to feed on warmer ocean waters, and the air is able to hold and dump more water. These trends have led to a pronounced increase in intense rainfall events and an increase in flooding risk. In the Southeastern US, extreme precipitation has increased 27 percent from 1958 to 2012.

    [...]

    The storm in the Southeastern US was supercharged by running over a warmer ocean and through an atmosphere made wetter by global warming. 

    Climate change is now responsible for 17 percent of moderate extreme rainfall events, i.e. one-in-a-thousand day events. The more extreme the event, the more likely climate change was responsible, as climate change affects the frequency of the extreme events the most.

    However, the major broadcast networks’ nightly newscasts have ignored climate change in their otherwise extensive coverage of the floods. NBC Nightly News aired five segments on the floods without mentioning climate change, while ABC’s World News Tonight and CBS Evening News each aired three such segments and PBS NewsHour aired two.

    By contrast, two major newspapers have noted how Louisiana’s deadly floods are in line with expectations for a warming planet. In an August 15 Washington Post article, Chris Mooney wrote that climate researchers were affirming that the heavy rainfall Louisiana experienced is “precisely the sort of event that you’d expect to see more of on a warming planet,” and quoted climate researcher Katharine Hayhoe explaining, “Louisiana is always at risk of floods, naturally, but climate change is exacerbating that risk, weighting the dice against us.” Moreover, an August 16 article in The New York Times quoted Texas’ state climatologist stating, “There’s definitely an increase in heavy rainfall due to climate change.” And another August 16 Times article -- headlined “Flooding in the South Looks a Lot Like Climate Change” -- quoted David Easterling, a director at the National Centers for Environmental Information, stating that Louisiana's heavy rainfall and flooding “is consistent with what we expect to see in the future if you look at climate models.”

    Media Mattersannual study of how the major networks cover climate change found that PBS, CBS, and NBC frequently addressed the link between climate change and extreme weather in their nightly newscasts in 2015. However, the broadcast networks appear to have regressed in their extreme weather coverage this year, with every major TV network ignoring the role of human-induced climate change in their coverage of Texas’ record rainfall and flooding throughout April and May, despite both NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News explaining the climate connection in their coverage of similarly drastic Texas floods the year before. The nightly newscasts’ omission of climate change in their coverage of Louisiana’s horrific flooding marks a continuation of that discouraging trend.

  • STUDY: Brexit Crisis Forces Cable And Broadcast News To Host Economists

    Economists Made Up More Than 7 Percent Of Guests In The Second Quarter Of 2016

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Economic news in the second quarter of 2016 bore striking similarities to trends established in the first quarter, as the presidential candidates’ economic platforms increasingly shaped the news. Coverage of inequality slipped from a high point last quarter, but the unprecedented economic crisis created by the United Kingdom’s so-called “Brexit” referendum did boost participation from economists to the highest point ever recorded by Media Matters.

  • How The Nightly Network News Covered The Supreme Court's Rejection Of Texas' Anti-Choice Law

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    After the landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, two network evening news programs allowed anti-abortion activists to spin the ruling as a “loss for women’s health and safety.” But in actuality, the Supreme Court found that the requirements imposed by the Texas law addressed “no significant health-related problem” and are “nearly arbitrary” -- findings that two other networks highlighted.

  • TV Networks Backslide By Omitting Link Between Climate Change And Destructive Texas Floods

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    The major broadcast news networks ignored climate change in their coverage of Texas’ recent disastrous flooding, despite the well-documented link between global warming and extreme precipitation events. This omission marks a deterioration in network coverage from one year ago, when both CBS and NBC covered the science connecting climate change to similarly devastating floods pummeling Texas at the time.

  • STUDY: Sunday Shows Less Likely Than Weekday Competitors To Discuss Poverty

    Fox News Talks A Lot About Inequality And Poverty, But Promotes Policies That Would Make The Problems Worse

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    In the first quarter of 2016, prime-time and evening weekday news programs on the largest cable and broadcast outlets mentioned poverty during roughly 55 percent of their discussions of economic inequality in the United States. During the same time period, Sunday political talk shows mentioned poverty in only 33 percent of discussions of economic inequality.

  • PBS Gave Troy Newman A Platform To Whitewash His Anti-Choice Record -- And That’s Exactly What He Did

    PBS Fails To Call Out Newman’s Radical History During Gun Safety Town Hall

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On May 10, PBS hosted a town hall conversation about gun violence and faith in America and invited anti-choice extremist Troy Newman to participate. During the town hall, PBS and host Michel Martin failed to identify Newman’s history of extremism and allowed him to downplay his organization’s role in harassing abortion providers.

    Newman is the long-serving president of Operation Rescue and is best known for his ties to extreme anti-choice groups and history of harassing abortion providers with violent rhetoric. A 2014 Rolling Stone profile called Newman “one of the nation's most prominent anti-abortion activists.” His reputation is so infamous that in 2015 Australia deported Newman out of concern that his “presence would be ‘a threat to good order’” and that he would “compromise the safety and wellbeing” of abortion providers and those seeking care.

    A number of reproductive rights groups warned PBS that giving Newman a national platform to “whitewash” his history of anti-choice extremism was “not only irresponsible” but also “downright frightening and potentially dangerous.” NARAL Pro-Choice America senior vice president Sasha Bruce argued that given the unprecedented uptick in anti-choice violence over the past year, “PBS should be ashamed of itself for giving weight to Troy Newman's dangerous opinions."

    Despite all of this, PBS provided Newman a platform to downplay his history of anti-choice extremism -- and that’s exactly what he did.

    At the beginning of the town hall, Martin identified Newman as the “president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue” with no explanation of the group’s extreme history or current work. For the rest of the town hall Newman was identified on screen exclusively as a “Presbyterian Minister” with no further mention of Operation Rescue.

    Similarly, at the conclusion of the town hall, Martin allowed Newman to spread misinformation about the safety of abortion and mischaracterize Operation Rescue’s goal of ending patient access to the procedure. In his final remarks, Newman claimed that because of abortion, “the most dangerous place to be in America today is in the womb.” Martin did not challenge Newman, allowing him to continue that Operation Rescue’s goal is to “close abortion clinics through peaceful non-violent means”:

    TROY NEWMAN: I have to say yes and amen to that. Preach it. I will continue to do what I have done for the past 25 years and that is advocate for the least of these among us. We talk about violence. The most violent place or the most dangerous place to be in America today is in the womb. Over 1 million babies die from abortion. And I will continue to advocate for their lives. And you talk about beating your swords into plowshares, what we do is we close abortion clinics through peaceful non-violent means, so that’s what I will continue to do. I will continue to preach non-violence everywhere it rears its ugly head. And I would just close by saying this: I so appreciate this forum, I appreciate all of you, I appreciate the discourse.

    Although Newman has claimed Operation Rescue is peaceful, this characterization ignores the organization’s history and current pattern of harassment against abortion providers.

    For example, in 1987, Operation Rescue vice president Cheryl Sullenger was sentenced to prison for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic. Sullenger also communicated with Scott Roeder, the convicted assassin of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, providing him information about Tiller's schedule and location.

    Far from Newman’s characterization, Rolling Stone’s profile explained Operation Rescue’s strategy as a “smear campaign … to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting.” The article said Operation Rescue members “rummage through employees’ garbage … tail them around town as they run errands … picket clinic staffers at restaurants while they’re inside having dinner and castigate them while they’re in line at Starbucks.”

    Newman also told Rolling Stone that he wanted providers and clinic employees to know that, “As long as they're embedded in the abortion industry receiving blood money, they can't live a normal life.” Treating abortion as abnormal or shameful reinforces abortion stigma -- the “shared understanding that abortion is morally wrong and/or socially unacceptable." Abortion is both common and overwhelmingly safe, but Newman’s demonization of abortion providers is part of a larger strategy by anti-choice groups to “exploit the stigma of abortion” in order to deter patients from accessing this essential health care service.

    By failing to identify Newman’s history or call out the extreme nature of his anti-choice views, PBS and Michel Martin gave him a free platform to stigmatize abortion and normalize the further harassment of abortion providers.

  • Reproductive Rights Organizations Call Out PBS For Giving Anti-Choice Extremist A Town Hall Platform

    Groups Call Inclusion Of Troy Newman In PBS Town Hall “Disappointing,” “Downright Frightening And Potentially Dangerous”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following a showing of the pro-gun-safety documentary “The Armor of Light” on May 10, PBS is airing a town hall discussion on guns and faith including known anti-choice extremist Troy Newman.

    In response, a number of reproductive rights organizations have criticized PBS for giving a national platform to Newman, who is best known for his ties to extreme anti-choice groups and history of harassing abortion providers with violent rhetoric.

    Reproaction, a “direct action group” fighting to increase abortion access and advancing reproductive justice, said in a statement on its website, “It is incredibly disappointing that PBS would give a man whose organization has terrorized abortion providers a platform for anything, much less to support gun rights with no restrictions.” Reproaction further detailed Newman’s history of anti-choice activism and criticized PBS for giving “a terrorist whose rhetoric has spawned violence against abortion providers ... a national platform to state an extremist view on guns.”

    There has been an unprecedented uptick in anti-choice violence since David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) – of which Newman was a board member -- released their deceptively edited videos attacking Planned Parenthood. The videos constituted a smear campaign so fraudulent it earned CMP the title of Media Matters2015 Misinformer of the Year.

    Citing this increased threat to abortion providers and clinics, Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, criticized PBS in a statement sent to Media Matters. She wrote that giving “Newman this platform to advocate for the carrying of guns is not only irresponsible, it is downright frightening and potentially dangerous.”

    Smeal noted that Newman was an especially inappropriate choice given his defense of other anti-choice extremists who have murdered abortion providers. For example, in discussing the 2003 execution of Paul Hill for murdering Dr. John Bayard Britton and his clinic escort, Newman argued “that ‘there are many examples of where taking the life in defense of human beings is legally justified and permissible under the law.’”

    Karin Roland, chief campaigns officer at UltraViolet, also pointed to Newman’s “long history of anti-choice extremism” and defense of violence against abortion providers as reasons PBS should have excluded him from the panel. She told Media Matters that “by giving Newman a platform, on a panel about gun violence in America no less, PBS is providing Newman with an opportunity to whitewash his history of extremism and violence.”

    According to Sasha Bruce, senior vice president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, “Troy Newman is a man who believes that the murder of abortion providers can be a justifiable action.” She wrote, “Despite these horrifying facts, PBS still chose to include him in its town hall about how we tackle the epidemic of gun violence in this country.” In her statement to Media Matters, Bruce concluded that “PBS should be ashamed of itself for giving weight to Troy Newman's dangerous opinions."

  • Meet Troy Newman -- The Anti-Choice Extremist PBS Is Hosting To Talk About Guns

    Newman And His Associates Have A Long History Of Spouting Violent Rhetoric And Harassing Abortion Providers

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On May 10, PBS will air the documentary “The Armor of Light” and host an accompanying town hall encouraging audiences to examine “the relationship between guns and faith in America.” Notably, PBS’ town hall participants include Troy Newman, best known for harassing abortion providers and serving on Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s pro-life coalition.

    “The Armor of Light” is an anti-gun-violence documentary that “profiles the faith journeys of two Christians as they fight gun violence.” One of these Christians is the Rev.  Rob Schenck, an anti-choice minister trying to “preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America” to communities that largely favor gun ownership.

    Newman appears in a single scene of “The Armor of Light” as a contrast to Schenck’s pro-gun-safety views. In this scene, Newman parrots NRA talking points, such as leader Wayne LaPierre’s statement that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Despite this minor role in the film, PBS invited Newman to appear in a post-screening discussion.

    Membership in Cruz’s pro-life coalition is only Newman’s most recent credential. He has long served as the president of Operation Rescue -- an anti-choice group with a history of spouting violent rhetoric, and harassing abortion providers.

    For example, Operation Rescue vice president Cheryl Sullenger was sentenced to prison in 1987 for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic. Sullenger also communicated with Scott Roeder, the convicted assassin of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, providing him information about Tiller's schedule and location. A Rolling Stone profile of Operation Rescue described the organization’s strategy as a “smear campaign … to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting.” The article said Operation Rescue members “rummage through employees’ garbage … tail them around town as they run errands … picket clinic staffers at restaurants while they’re inside having dinner and castigate them while they’re in line at Starbucks.” Newman’s explanation for this harassment was that he wanted providers and clinic employees to know that “they can’t live a normal life.”

    To further  this strategy, Newman has trained others and supported the development of spin-off groups that continue Operation Rescue’s work across the country. Newman previously served as a board member for the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization responsible for propagating a smear campaign against Planned Parenthood so fraudulent that CMP earned the title of Media Matters' 2015 Misinformer of the Year. CMP’s  deceptively edited videos purporting to show the illegal sale of fetal tissue have been repeatedly discredited, while numerous state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

    Newman claims that Operation Rescue has never endorsed violence yet in his book Their Blood Cries Out, Newman wrote that U.S. government had “abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty,” which would involve “executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes.” Similarly, when Paul Jennings Hill was executed for the murder of an abortion provider and a clinic escort, Newman argued that Hill should have been able to mount the defense that it was “necessary” to kill the providers in order to save "the lives of pre-born babies."

    Beyond his work with Operation Rescue, Newman also has a personal history of harassing providers -- a reputation that caused Australia to deport him out of concern that his “presence would be ‘a threat to good order’” and that he would “compromise the safety and wellbeing” of abortion providers and those seeking care.

    Harassment, violence, and threats against abortion providers and clinics have all been increasing. According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” against abortion providers. In September 2015, the FBI released an intelligence assessment that warned of an uptick in violence against abortion providers and clinics. This prediction was borne out tragically in November 2015 when Robert Dear killed three people and injured several more at a Colorado Planned Parenthood health care center.

    Given this alarming trend of anti-choice violence, PBS’ decision to invite Newman’s participation while also failing to disclose his long history of harassment is as puzzling as it is troubling.

  • STUDY: Cable And Broadcast News Try To Cover The Economy Without Economists

    Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.