A new Media Matters study has found that outside of MSNBC, major broadcast and cable television outlets are failing to fact-check climate science denial by presidential candidates 75 percent of the time. But it's worth taking a closer look at how television program hosts have handled their face-to-face interviews with presidential candidates, since these high-profile interviews often get a substantial amount of attention and can shape media discussions for days or even weeks to come.
So how are TV hosts responding when presidential candidates spout climate science denial in real time? It depends which channel you're watching.
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.
Fox News hosts are rallying to defend Donald Trump after NBC severed business ties with the GOP presidential hopeful following his offensive campaign announcement speech in which he referred to Mexican immigrants as criminals and "rapists."
Television and radio host Sean Hannity defended GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who faced widespread backlash by media outlets following comments made during a speech where he called Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "murderers." Hannity agreed with Trump arguing that immigrants wouldn't leave their home countries if they were successful.
On June 16, Trump announced that he was running for the Republican nomination for president. During his speech, Trump railed against Mexican immigration, claiming that the "U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems," and referred to people coming across the southern border as "rapists" and criminals:
When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Trump faced widespread outrage following his incendiary remarks. In a June 25 press release, Univision announced their intention to cut ties with Trump and drop Trump's Miss Universe pageant, in response to his "insulting remarks" about Latino immigrants. And in a June 29 statement released by NBC, the company expressed its intentions to no longer air Trump's Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants and to exclude him from participating in NBC's reality-show The Apprentice, because of his "derogatory statements" regarding immigrants.
But on the June 29 edition of his radio show, Sean Hannity defended Trump's incendiary rhetoric. After highlighting NBC's announcement that they will be cutting ties with Trump, Hannity asserted that Trump was correct, immigrants coming to the U.S. are criminals, and argued that they would not be leaving their country if they were successful (emphasis added):
HANNITY: We've got a problem in this country. If he [Trump] can make that statement and CNN refers to it as "racially-tinged," because [inaudible...] could play this on TV. Floor to ceiling drugs confiscated by people crossing our southern border. You want to talk about crime? Well what do you think -- who's coming from Latin America and Mexico? Are they rich, successful Mexicans, Nicaraguans, El Salvador residents? No! Why would they leave if they're so successful? It's people who have not had opportunity in Mexico and so they will raise all this money and give it to these human traffickers, human traffickers take full advantage of them, take every penny they've got and then maybe get them across the border in a perilous journey which some people don't make it. Now if we really care about our fellow human beings, we owe it to them not to put that -- sort of like a sign up that says "Take a risk you can try and come across because we're gonna make it easy for you" and it turns out not to be so easy. But if we had a fence, if we wanted to secure the border, it wouldn't be a problem. So when Trump says, "are they sending their best, their brightest?" In other words, if you have a pool of people, if we opened up America's borders, and who would apply to come to America? We probably would have our choice of doctors, and lawyers, and computer programmers, everybody wants to come to America. You know that's a great thing, we're not building a fence to keep people in, we're building a fence to prevent people from coming in because the world would flood here, which they've been doing.
From the June 26 edition of Premiere Radio Networks The Sean Hannity Show:
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Fox News host Sean Hannity praised Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's "great record as governor" during an exclusive interview following the official launch of Jindal's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Hannity ignored the massive budget deficit created by Jindal's tax cuts, as well as the economic woes his policies have inflicted on constituents in his state.
From the June 25 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the June 24 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Fox News' immediate response to the deadly shooting at a black Charleston church was to repeatedly push the prospect that the massacre was a religious hate crime, rather than a racially motivated one.
At around 9 p.m. on June 17, a white man named Dylann Roof entered a prayer service at the historic black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., and murdered nine black people with a gun. Roof is said to have left one witness alive, to "tell the story of what had happened," and reports soon surfaced that Roof told his victims, ranging in age from 26 to 87, that "you rape our women and are taking over our country, and you have to go." Charleston police chief Gregg Mullen was quick to describe the shooting as a hate crime, calling the crime "senseless" in a news conference that same evening.
The church was founded in 1816, and after a founding member of the church, Denmark Vesey, organized a slave revolt in 1822, the church was burned in retaliation. One of the shooting victims, state senator and pastor Clementa Pinckney, previously said, "This site, this area, has been tied to the history and life of African Americans since about the early 1800s."
On the morning after the shooting, Fox News' coverage scrambled to suggest the shooting may not have been racially-motivated, but was perhaps a religious hate crime.
Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy stated that it was extraordinary the massacre was being labeled a hate crime, positing, "It was a church, so maybe that's what they're talking about" and citing "hostility towards Christians." Guest Bishop E. W. Jackson agreed that "most people jump to conclusions about race," and that "we don't know why he went into a church, but he didn't choose a bar" or "basketballc ourt." Later, frequent Fox guest and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani theorized that "we don't know the motivation of the person who did this," saying "maybe he hates Christian churches." And later that day on Fox News Radio, Brian Kilmeade speculated that maybe the shooter "hates Christian churches" or possibly just the state of South Carolina.
After Dylann Roof was arrested, he reportedly confessed to investigators that his motivation for the shooting was to "start a race war." Additional evidence emerged of his racist, white supremacist beliefs -- A Facebook photo showed Roof wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and the former nation of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, which have been "adopted as emblems by modern-day white supremacists." And friend of Roof's said that he "was saying all this stuff about how the races should be segregated, that whites should be with whites," and that he wanted to "start a civil war."
Fox has a long history of concocting alternative explanations for events others see as examples of racism and its effects. When Eric Garner died at the hands of police in Staten Island last year, Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Greg Gutfeld blamed New York's high cigarette taxes for leading Eric Garner to sell black market cigarettes, the crime for which police were arresting him when he was killed; Hannity described it as the "root cause" of his death. Host Bill O'Reilly has attributed the disproportionate imprisonment of black people to "the culture" in "ghetto neighborhoods," while contributor Geraldo Rivera once said that Trayvon Martin's hoodie was "as much to blame" for his death as George Zimmerman was. And Fox host Eric Bolling has said he simply doesn't "think there's racism" in America, because we have a black president.
Conservative media outlets are using the mass shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church to push myths about guns and criticize President Obama for highlighting the need for responsible gun safety legislation.
Donald Trump's presidential announcement and likely involvement in the Republican Party's presidential debate on Fox has prompted criticism of the network's debate criteria, which would prioritize Trump over elected officials.
Trump announced on June 16 that he would be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, saying that "the American dream is dead" and that he would "build a great wall" on the southern border and "have Mexico pay" for it.
Fox News announced that its scheduled August 6 presidential debate would include candidates "in the top 10 of an average of the five most recent national polls." Current polling indicates that Trump would make the cut of the top 10. RealClearPolitics' average of recent polls shows Trump with 3.6% support, higher than figures like Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, and Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Fox figures have begun promoting the debate as the "Cleveland Primary" and as more important to the nomination process than the traditional electoral process in Iowa and New Hampshire. Candidates like Fiorina are pushing their supporters to donate to her campaign so that she can raise her visibility and qualify for inclusion in the debate.
Republicans began to push back on the criteria.
A report from the New York Times said "[m]any Republicans" were worried about Trump's likely inclusion because it would "squeeze out" more legitimate candidates. Then, a coalition of prominent New Hampshire Republicans asked the network to reconsider the criteria for the debate. In response, Fox announced that it would hold a separate debate for those candidates on the second tier of the race.
Trump's announcement has prompted a new wave of concerns for conservatives.
As Bloomberg reported, Trump appearing in the debates "is a nightmare scenario for the Republican establishment, which risks having its presidential field look more like an unwieldy circus of a reality TV show than the self-styled embarrassment of riches."
The conservative Club for Growth PAC issued a press release calling for Trump's exclusion from the debate. They described him as "not a serious Republican candidate," adding that "it would also be unfortunate if he takes away a spot at even one Republican debate."
Tom Rath, a Republican and former attorney general of New Hampshire, told the Wall Street Journal that excluding governors and senators -- some of them currently in office -- from the debate in exchange for Trump "doesn't make sense to me."
Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin argued that "it would be wise to keep Trump at bay," and complained that "Fox News's criteria of using national polls to gain entry into the debates was a flawed mechanism from the start," because it "rewards celebrity candidates." She instead advocated for using state polling since it would make it "harder for Trump and other cranks to qualify."
As Media Matters has often documented, in recent years Trump has become a regular fixture in conservative media, particularly on Fox News. Despite indulging in birther conspiracy theories about President Obama, calling climate change a "hoax," promoting a false connection between vaccines and autism, and calling for a revolution after Obama's re-election, Trump was never turned away. He was invited on multiple occasions to address the conservative CPAC conference (including one year where New Jersey governor Chris Christie was excluded from the proceedings).
Trump was among the most frequent guests on Fox News among probable presidential candidates. He appeared on the network 48 times between January 2013 and April of this year, well ahead of figures like Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush. In May, Trump appeared on Fox for 51 minutes, ahead of all but two likely presidential candidates.
After Trump's presidential announcement, several Fox News figures heaped praise on him. Host Neil Cavuto said he would be "a force to be reckoned with," while Sean Hannity compared him to Ronald Reagan. After hosting him for a prime time interview, Bill O'Reilly said, "I'd rather have the straight talk of Donald Trump than the obfuscation of Hillary Clinton any day, at any time."
Fox's Sean Hannity gave 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush a platform to claim that the gun policies he supported as governor of Florida helped create "a less violent society," even though he signed the nation's first "Stand Your Ground" law, which studies show has actually contributed to more violence.
Bush appeared on the June 16 broadcast of Hannity for a wide-ranging interview in front of a studio audience. Hannity asked, "Should citizens, if they are law-abiding, no records, have the right to carry a weapon?"
Bush responded, "Absolutely, and in Florida, you know who leads the nation in concealed weapons permits by far? Over a million. It's Florida. It creates a ... less violent society and crime goes down when law-abiding citizens that don't commit crimes have guns."
But experts say controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws, like the one the jury used to acquit George Zimmerman of killing unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012, make society more violent.
Sean Hannity promoted the concealed carrying of handguns during his Fox News interviews with Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Hannity is a paid spokesman for the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), a financial relationship he repeatedly failed to disclose.
During his February 26 program, Hannity asked Walker: "Let's talk about guns. Should law-abiding citizens -- for example, it's very hard to get a carry permit in a state like New York. Should they be allowed to carry weapons if they're law-abiding citizens?" Walker replied, "Absolutely."
Hannity asked Bush during his June 16 Fox News interview: "Should citizens if they are law-abiding, no records, have the right to carry a weapon?" To applause from the audience, Bush replied that people should "absolutely" have that right.
But Hannity's interest in concealed carrying of guns isn't just political -- it's financial.
The United States Concealed Carry Association claims it is "the first & largest member-owned association dedicated to educating, training, and insuring responsibly armed Americans." Hannity is heavily involved with USCCA. The front page of the organization's website features Hannity's endorsement and a "training package" for his fans.
The website HannityForUSCCA.com includes a prominent quote from Hannity professing that he has "peace of mind knowing that if I ever have to use my weapon to save the life of my loved one, they will be in my corner." The Hannity training package features materials with "critical, life-saving information that will better prepare you and your loved ones for a home invasion or violent encounter."
An ad for USCCA featuring Hannity aired during his June 16 radio program -- the day of his Bush interview -- according to a search of TVEyes.com. Hannity stated in the ad that he's a "proud member of the United States Concealed Carry Association" and he's "been working closely with them" to create a "special" training package for his fans.
This isn't the first time Hannity has promoted the interests of his radio sponsors. Last year, Hannity used his Fox News program to promote the fundraising efforts of the Tea Party Patriots.
Hannity is a favorite destination for Republican candidates who have just announced they're officially running for president. Hannity's website has even adopted Politico reporter Dylan Byers' description of him as the "conservative kingmaker" in the Republican primary.
UPDATE: Hannity again pushed concealed carry during his June 17 Fox News interview with Donald Trump. Hannity complained that it's "almost impossible" to get a concealed carry permit in New York City. Trump replied that he's "a huge Second Amendment person."
Several Fox News figures trumpeted news that real estate mogul Donald Trump officially declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination in 2016, lauding him as "a winner" and even comparing him to former President Ronald Reagan.
Sean Hannity claimed that he couldn't "find any instance" of Hillary Clinton calling out Middle Eastern countries for discriminating against women, suggesting that the former secretary of state's silence had been "bought" in exchange for donations to her foundation. But Clinton has repeatedly advocated for women in Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region -- regardless of any donations to the Clinton Foundation.
During the June 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity and GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) discussed Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state. Drawing from unsubstantiated pay-to-play allegations made by discredited Republican activist Peter Schweizer in his much disputed book Clinton Cash, the two suggested that donations to the Clinton Foundation from countries in the Middle East may have influenced her actions as secretary of state. Hannity claimed that countries like "Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, have atrocious human rights records for women, gays, and lesbians" but that Hillary Clinton has "never uttered a word about how bad these records are." Asking if they had "[bought] her silence," Hannity went on to question if Clinton could really claim to be a champion for these groups, claiming that he couldn't "find any instance" where Clinton had criticized the policies of the countries he had named:
She's specifically addressed women's rights in precisely the countries Hannity named -- During her time as secretary of state, Clinton criticized Saudi Arabia for not allowing women to drive, asserting that women fighting against the country's ban were "brave and what they are seeking is right," despite the country's previous donations to her foundation. Clinton similarly delivered a scathing critique of Arab leaders for oppressing women in a 2011 speech.
Under Hillary Clinton's tenure, the State Department did not shy away from criticizing countries with poor records on women's and LGBT rights. In 2011 reports on human rights, State criticized Saudi Arabia for violating the basic rights of women with "significant human rights problems," writing that the country had issues with "violence against women and a lack of equal rights for women ...and discrimination on the basis of gender." The State Department similarly condemned the United Arab Emirates for "[d]omestic abuse of women .... [and] allegations that police sometimes enabled domestic abuse," writing that "[l]egal and societal discrimination against women and noncitizens was pervasive" in the country.