Tampa Bay Times

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  • Spanish Language Networks Left Out Important Context Regarding Marco Rubio Running For Re-election

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In their coverage of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) announcement that he will seek re-election the two major Hispanic TV news networks, Univision and Telemundo, failed to report the senator’s dismal record on issues that matter to their Latino audiences -- issues local Florida papers, in contrast, rightly highlighted.

    On June 22, Rubio took to Fox News to announce his re-election bid, claiming the June 12 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando motivated his reentry into the Senate race. Previously, Rubio had declared he would be “leaving the Senate,” calling it dysfunctional. Florida papers criticized Rubio’s “thin record” and “absenteeism” from the Senate during his first term, as well as his recent votes against stricter gun safety legislation in the aftermath of the Orlando attack. The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith called Rubio an “opportunist” and chided him for using his seat in the Senate to prepare for a “political comeback.” The Miami Herald editorial board wrote that Rubio was taking advantage of the Orlando tragedy to launch his re-election campaign and criticized him for “voting the straight NRA line this week by nixing all efforts to impose sensible control on firearms.”

    In contrast, coverage by the two major Hispanic TV news networks, Univision and Telemundo, failed to provide such context while reporting on Rubio’s decision to run. On the June 22 edition of Univision’s Noticiero Univision, coverage of Rubio’s bid spanned less than 30 seconds and consisted mainly of anchor Jorge Ramos reading from Rubio’s official statement. Telemundo’s Noticiero Telemundo also limited its coverage to Rubio’s basic talking points and the senator’s own justification for running.

    The networks’ failure to point out that Rubio’s record includes missing votes and hearings, as well as inaction on gun legislation, flip-flops on immigration, lies about undocumented immigrants, and opposition to women’s reproductive rights -- all issues that disproportionately affect the Hispanic community.

  • Tampa Bay Times: Trump Speech “Resorted To Bombastic Demagoguery” While Clinton’s Offered “Somber Steadiness”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    An editorial in the Tampa Bay Times praised presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s response to the June 12 terror attack in which a gunman entered an Orlando gay nightclub and murdered 49 people, saying “the contrast” to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s response “could not be starker nor the stakes higher for the nation’s future.”  

    Following Trump’s speech, media quickly criticized his response, calling it “horrifying,” “the scariest political speech,” and “outright fascism.” On the same day, media also criticized Trump for insinuating that Obama sympathizes with terrorists and for revoking the press credentials of The Washington Post following what Trump called “incredibly inaccurate coverage.”

    The Tampa Bay Times’ June 13 editorial took issue with Trump’s speech, stressing the need for a “sophisticated approach” to addressing the complex issue of terrorism both foreign and domestic. The paper said Trump’s “rambling” response was littered with oversimplifications of the issues and included false accusations against Clinton and President Obama. By comparison, the editorial called Clinton’s statement more “responsible” and said that it offered a more detailed policy response. From the Tampa Bay Times:

    Even as the names of those killed in the Orlando massacre continued to be released Monday, the political debate resumed over how to fight terrorism and hatred. Hillary Clinton provided somber steadiness and a thoughtful way forward. Donald Trump resorted to bombastic demagoguery, profiling and reckless political attacks. The contrast could not be starker nor the stakes higher for the nation's future.


    Fighting terrorism and hatred, keeping this nation safe and preserving our constitutional freedoms requires a sophisticated approach at home and abroad. Yet Trump has suggested President Barack Obama resign and declared Monday the nation is "led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he's got something else in mind.'' It's hard to imagine any other presidential candidate making such a sinister insinuation about an incumbent after such a national tragedy.

    In a rambling speech Monday afternoon, Trump repeated he would unilaterally ban immigration from multiple nations to stop terrorism. He insisted Muslims in this country know who the terrorists are and should stop protecting them, and he rejected accepting any Syrian refugees regardless of their backgrounds. He mocked any new gun control initiatives, falsely alleged that Clinton wants to repeal the Second Amendment and vowed not to succumb to political correctness. Such a defiant tone and simplistic approach is not comforting to an anxious nation or a world where cultivating alliances and nurturing relationships with law-abiding members of all religions has never been more important.

    In tone and substance, Clinton provided a more detailed, responsible vision. She methodically delivered a three-pronged strategy focused on strengthening alliances to fight terrorism abroad, tightening gun controls at home and calling on Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to work with the United States to counter the radical rhetoric of Islamic extremists. These are the sorts of policy questions that should be the focus of the presidential campaign, rather than the name-calling and bigotry embraced by Trump.

  • "Do Your Job": Editorials Implore Senate GOP To Rise Above "Obstruction" And Act On Merrick Garland


    Newspaper editorials roundly urged Senate Republicans to stop obstructing the nomination process of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court vacancy. The editorials chastised "obstructionist" senators for their "stupendous show of political malfeasance" and warned that the obstruction is "out of sync with the nation's best interests," among other criticisms.

  • Newspaper Editorial Boards Overwhelmingly Urge Senate To "Do Your Job" And Vote On Obama's SCOTUS Nominee

    ››› ››› KATE SARNA

    Newspaper editorial boards are overwhelmingly urging GOP Senate leadership to hold hearings and vote on President Obama's Supreme Court nomination to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. A vast number of the boards have called GOP pledges to block a nomination "outrageous," "irresponsible," obstructionism rooted in "partisan self-interest" which "deeply damages the operation of the Judiciary Branch" and "represents an act of disrespect to Justice Scalia."

  • Major State Newspapers Failed To Cover The Higher Cost Burden Assumed By States That Opted Out Of Expanding Medicaid


    An October 15 Kaiser Family Foundation study highlighted the increased health care cost burden for states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yet, in the three non-expansion states with the highest number of individuals who would benefit from expansion, the highest-circulating state newspapers failed to mention the increased state cost associated with the lack of expansion.

  • How The Florida Governor's Office Manipulated Media By Altering The Findings Of An Investigation Into Planned Parenthood

    ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    The Florida agency tasked with investigating Planned Parenthood clinics in that state found no evidence that they were mishandling fetal remains, but Gov. Rick Scott's office altered the agency's statements to remove language that exonerated Planned Parenthood, and added new language that made the organization look guilty of wrongdoing. Several media outlets unwittingly quoted the statements before the misleading edits were discovered.

  • Media Uncritically Report Jeb Bush's "Nonsense" Economic Policies


    Several media outlets parroted Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's economic message after he claimed his administration would oversee 4 percent economic growth and the creation of up to 19 million new jobs. But economists argue that his goals are unrealistic, and question the impact any single president can have on "decades-long trends."

  • New York Times Digs In On Email Double Standard And Gives Jeb Bush A Pass

    Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN


    The New York Times is holding Jeb Bush to a lower standard over his selective release of emails from his time as governor of Florida, taking Bush's word for it that enough emails have been "made public" despite reports that Bush hand-picked the emails he would release. At the same time, the Times is insisting that Hillary Clinton lay out the process she used to release emails from her tenure as secretary of state.

    "Under Florida's records laws, emails from Mr. Bush's personal account have been made public," the Times reported. "'His emails were available via public records requests throughout his time in office and have remained available,' Ms. Campbell [a Bush spokesperson] said."

    That's it. That's all the Times had to say about Jeb Bush's use of a non-government email account during his tenure as governor.

  • Florida Journalists: Stand Your Ground Changes Will Hurt Reporting

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Florida journalists are speaking out after their state's legislature passed a proposal making it far more difficult to report on cases involving the controversial Stand Your Ground law.  

    Florida's Stand Your Ground law has repeatedly made national headlines because of its role in the deaths of teenagers Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. On Thursday, the Florida House passed an NRA-backed proposal that includes an amendment which would expand the Stand Your Ground defense to those who fire warning shots to deter potential attacks. The bill also allows for the expunging of records in Stand Your Ground cases where charges were eventually dropped. The bill is now headed to the Florida Senate.

    As the bill makes its way through the legislative process, top Sunshine State journalists are worried that making these records unavailable to the public will damage their ability to do proper journalism. 

    Among those speaking out are top reporters and editors at the Tampa Bay Times, which conducted a lengthy 2012 investigation into Stand Your Ground that won industry praise and raised concerns about the applications of the law, including the fact that in nearly four out of every five cases involving a Stand Your Ground defense, homicides were deemed justified if the victim was black. 

    "Closing records and putting controversial cases that involve violence into the dark is a bad idea, it is against democracy," said Neil Brown, Times editor and vice president. "This would have inhibited our work further. Our work was done based on court records as well as the stories of the incidents when they occurred." 

  • STUDY: Top Florida Papers Leave Out Key Benefits Of Medicaid Expansion Ahead Of State Session

    ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    Media Matters analysis found that Florida newspapers including, The Orlando Sentinel, The Sun-Sentinel, The Tampa Bay Times, and The Tampa Tribune, largely failed to cover the key details of Medicaid expansion in the lead up to the state's legislative session, including the specific benefits of expansion and the negative impact the failure to expand would have on the state and Floridians.

  • Tampa Bay Times Largely Ignores Anti-Muslim Extremist's Influence On Anti-Sharia Bill


    The Tampa Bay Times failed to note the extremist past of David Yerushalmi -- an anti-Muslim lawyer and activist -- who authored the model legislation for a Florida bill which would attempt to ban Sharia law in the state.  

    Florida's largest paper focused its coverage of the anti-Sharia bill on the comments made by politicians on both sides of the debate in a "he said, she said" fashion, including those of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Larry Metz (R-Yalaha), who couldn't name an instance when the law would be needed, instead calling it a preventative measure.  In addition, while the paper mentioned that Yerushalmi drafted the model legislation in a blog post, it failed to go in depth into Yerushalmi's history with anti-Sharia laws and racist rhetoric. His role was not included at all in any of the paper's print coverage of the anti-Sharia bill.

    Yerushalmi, who founded the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) and is senior counsel to anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, wrote the model legislation for the Florida bill and bills in several other states, entitled "American Laws for American Courts."

    However, Yerushalmi has a history of negative rhetoric towards immigrants, Muslims and African-Americans. As the Anti-Defamation League pointed out in a report calling Yerushalmi "a driving force behind anti-Sharia efforts in the U.S.," he has previously called for creating "special criminal camps" to house undocumented immigrants, said that African-Americans are a "relatively murderous race killing itself" and discussed how some races are better "in Western societies and some better in tribal ones." He's also claimed that Muslims are our enemies and that "Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization," while demonizing millions of Muslims worldwide:

    Yerushalmi has created a characterization of Shari'a law (i.e., Islamic law) that declares there are "hundreds of millions" of Muslims who are either "fully committed mujahideen" or "still dangerous but lesser committed jihad sympathizers" who, because of Shari'a law, would be willing to murder all non-believers unwilling to convert, in order to "impose a worldwide political hegemony."

    Yerushalmi's group, SANE, has previously called on Congress to declare war on the Muslim nation and asked them to define Muslim undocumented immigrants as "alien enemies 'subject to immediate deportation.'"

    Yerushalmi also has strong connections with other anti-Muslim activists including Pamela Geller and Gaffney, both of whom have been criticized for their extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions and were quoted in the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a Norwegian mass murder to allegedly prevent "Islamization."

    The Tampa Bay Times' oversight in not reporting Yerushalmi's influence on the Florida bill leaves its readers unaware that the bill is not a "preventative" measure as the bill's sponsor claims, but rather a systematic attempt to rid the United States of Islam by an anti-Muslim activist. 

  • Two Major Florida Newspapers Ignore ALEC Connection In Pension Coverage


    The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times failed to connect the American Legislative Exchange Council model legislation to the current efforts to change the pension plans of Floridians.

    Ashley Lopez of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting highlighted a piece in The Palm Beach Post that had a lengthy description of ALEC's role in the process to overhaul the state's pension system:

    Critics trace the campaign back two years -- to New Orleans, where dozens of Florida lawmakers gathered for a conference hosted by a controversial advocacy group that helps corporations and conservative interest groups write bills for legislatures across the country.

    Jonathan Williams, a policy director for the American Legislative Exchange Council, told The Palm Beach Post that the organization's three days of meetings in August 2011 helped affirm the need among many legislators to take a hard look at public employee benefits.

    "The momentum for pension reform is stronger today because many governments are still seeing the effects of the recession on investment returns," Williams said. "It's going to be a long time before things improve. Florida legislators are aware of this."

    While the Post made the link to ALEC clear, neither The Miami Herald nor the Tampa Bay Times made the connection in any of the pieces they wrote on pensions.

    Currently, the Florida pension fund is 87 percent funded. Employees already contribute 3 percent of their paychecks to the pension fund and have the option to enroll in a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan. However, under the Florida House version of the bill to change the plan, new employees would be forced to enroll in a 401(k)-style defined-contribution pension plan instead of the current defined-benefit plan that has more than 500,000 state workers enrolled. However, in the Senate version, new employees would be automatically enrolled in the new defined-contribution 401(k)-style plan unless they request to be in the current defined-benefit plan that most pensioners use.

  • Mainstream Media's Fixation With Anti-Immigrant Commentator Mark Krikorian


    Now that the Obama administration and Congress are engaged in a debate over immigration policy, a Media Matters review of major news outlets has found that when it comes to immigration coverage, anti-immigrant commentator Mark Krikorian continues to be the media's preferred conservative voice. Krikorian heads the Center for Immigration Studies, a group associated with notorious nativist John Tanton and whose research has been called into question -- but these facts are routinely ignored in coverage of his remarks.