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  • On Fox's MediaBuzz, Joe Concha Dismisses Trump's Hostility To The Press: "He's Exercising His Right To Free Speech"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the April 30 edition of Fox News’ MediaBuzz, The Hill’s Joe Concha asserted that, “Just because” President Donald Trump has been “criticizing reporters” throughout the 2016 campaign and into his presidency, “doesn’t mean” that Trump is “attacking the First Amendment … because he’s exercising his right to free speech.” Not only did Concha whitewash Trump’s hostile attitude towards the press throughout the 2016 campaign, which, at one point, led to an NBC reporter being harassed by the crowd at a Trump campaign rally, Concha also did not mention that, as president, Trump has repeatedly attacked the press more than 100 times over his first 100 days in office. Moreover, on the day of Concha’s comments defending the president’s stance toward the free press, Trump’s own chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said that the administration has “looked at” changing libel laws to curtail press freedom. From the April 30 edition of Fox News’ MediaBuzz:

    JOE CONCHA: I heard this a lot last night at the White House Correspondents Dinner, "the First Amendment is under attack." Here is what I'll say to that: Press briefings with Sean Spicer have never been more democratic. There are more voices in there than ever before, in terms of reporters, in terms of Skype. Journalists are still on Air Force One. Also, Trump is doing an enormous amount of interviews, not to mention he's tweeted 98 out of 100 times during his first 100 days in office -- 98 days out of 100. But this week alone, Howie, Trump has done interviews Washington PostNew York PostWashington ExaminerNew York Post, CBS News, Reuters, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Fox News. So, does that sounds like the First Amendment is under attack? Just because you criticize reporters doesn't mean you are attacking the First Amendment, actually it's the opposite, because he's exercising his right to free speech.

  • Climate Change Is Getting Worse And So Is Media's Coverage Of It

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, JOHN KERR & KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Broadcast networks are decreasing their climate coverage at a time when the case for reporting on the issue is become more and more compelling. By ignoring this serious matter, media are failing to inform audiences about pressing impacts on human migration patterns, women, and the economy.

    In 2016, media had no shortage of compelling reasons to cover climate change -- from the revelation that it was the third consecutive hottest year on record to the United States’ election of a climate denier to its highest office. Yet broadcast news outlets’ coverage of climate change dropped a whopping 66 percent from 2015 to 2016, making it the third consecutive year of declining coverage.

    When media turn a blind eye to climate change, they ignore an issue that will have devastating impacts and multiply existing threats across the globe. According to The New York Times, unmitigated climate change could displace between 50 million and 200 million people by 2050. But the effects of climate change are already visible. Un the U.S. last year, the federal government allocated $48 million in grants to resettle residents of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, which represents “the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change.”

    Climate change poses a particular threat to women. A whole host of studies have concluded that women will bear the brunt of climate change-induced natural disasters and severe weather events. According to a United Nations analysis, “Women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men—primarily as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.” The analysis also stated, “When coupled with unequal access to resources and to decision-making processes, limited mobility places women in rural areas in a position where they are disproportionately affected by climate change.”

    The prospect of a warming planet also presents a huge risk to the global economy. Researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley found that climate change could "reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality." The National Climate Assessment reported that in the U.S., “more than 5,790 square miles and more than $1 trillion of property are at risk of inundation from sea level rise of two feet above current level by 2050.” Not surprisingly, Bloomberg recently reported that most of the world’s biggest investors now consider climate change when making investment decisions.

    More and more Americans are waking up to the threat of climate change. Recent polls have found that a majority of Americans are concerned about global warming and believe action should be taken to address it. And yet there’s an inverse relationship between Americans’ growing concern about climate and the media’s coverage of it.

    By dropping the ball on climate change, media are doing audiences a huge disservice. As Washington Post Deputy Weather Editor Angela Fritz wrote, “The media have a responsibility to report the facts. If scientists agree an extreme weather event was made worse by climate change, viewers need to know that, not just because it is true, but because people do think it’s a problem. I don’t know whom network news and Congress are serving by turning a blind eye to climate change, but according to these poll results, it’s not the voters.” 

  • How The Press Normalized President Trump: The First 100 Days

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The 2016 presidential campaign broke political journalism, with too many reporters and pundits relentlessly feeding their audiences a dog’s breakfast of false equivalence seasoned with sensationalism. Then came the transition, which saw much of the press watching from the sidelines, parroting Donald Trump’s often-false tweets without sufficient context and failing to hold him accountable for his extreme Cabinet selections.

    There has been no dramatic improvement since Trump took office, with press coverage of the first hundred days of his presidency marred by excessive normalization of a distinctly abnormal chief executive. Far too many members of the political press in the Amtrak corridor -- the journalists and pundits with platforms at major print, digital, and TV outlets who set the tone for coverage of the president through their reporting and commentary on the news of the day -- have kept the same methods, mindsets, and frames of reference under a very different type of president.

    Some suggest that there is no need to change because Trump's election means his presidency is normal by definition. “The states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania ‘normalized’” Trump, New York Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush tweeted earlier this week. His colleagues in the political press cheered him on, scoffing at critics who have argued that papering over Trump’s violations of ethical norms and his history of racism and misogyny poses a threat to the health of our body politic by dramatically shifting our expectations for what is acceptable in public life.

    I have sympathy for reporters who are active on Twitter -- they must often feel like they are in a social media shooting gallery, their every word scrutinized by an ever-changing assembly of critics. I can see how being constantly exhorted not to normalize the president of the United States might quickly grow tiresome. But that does not make the argument against normalization any weaker, or excuse the ways that too many journalists have failed their audience.

    There are any number of explanations for why the political press has not changed in response to Trump. The siren call of access to a president who is willing to grant interviews on a whim is constant. Decades of favoring coverage of style over substance have left the press viewing everything through the lens of optics, rendering them less capable of zooming out and seeing the bigger picture. It is unpleasant and difficult to dwell on the breadth of the president’s apparent stupidity and corruption. Political journalists at major outlets are overwhelmingly white men -- a demographic group mostly not targeted by Trump’s extremism -- creating “a dominant point of view in the press that ... squeezes out other perspectives,” as Oliver Willis has noted. And Trump’s complete failure to pass legislation and his ineptitude in filling out his administration have rightfully consumed much media bandwidth.

    But here’s where Trump has succeeded: He’s shattered political norms and reshaped them in his own image. He’s used the power of the White House to enrich himself and his family in unprecedented ways, with no meaningful separation between the interests of his corporate empire and the country. He’s repeatedly sought to delegitimize any institution -- be it judges, or the press, or the bureaucracy -- that stands in his way. He’s operated amid a legitimacy crisis, constantly fending off new evidence that Russian government efforts to influence the election were tied to his campaign. And he’s demonstrated a palpable lack of concern for his ignorance of world affairs while spending hours live-tweeting cable news broadcasts.

    But faced with these unprecedented strikes at the heart of the democratic system, many reporters and pundits have frequently fallen back on a familiar trope from the campaign -- constantly looking for, and claiming they have found, the elusive Trump pivot to normalcy. In their efforts to normalize Trump, the depth of his extremism and corruption is too often swept aside, as major stories are abandoned while reporters follow the shiny object.

    To be sure, these conditions are not universal. There are bright spots throughout the major bastions of Beltway reporting. And investigative journalists have feasted on the wealth of conflicts of interest throughout the administration, and provided new and expanding insight into the investigations of Russian efforts to impact the 2016 election. I’ve also been impressed with the efforts by many journalists to correct, collate, and categorize the president’s many lies.

    But as The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan has pointed out, “For every great scoop, there’s been an embarrassing moment of declaring the president statesmanlike for giving a speech without a history-making gaffe.”

    Following the president’s February speech to a joint session of Congress, journalists rushed to proclaim that Trump had “hit the reset button” and, before their eyes, “became president of the United States,” in the infamous words of CNN’s Van Jones. Trump is still crowing about the praise he received from the press.

    Five weeks (and numerous mishaps) later, pundits found a new reason to declare that the page had turned and Trump had “truly” become president after he ordered airstrikes against the Syrian government. Those rave reviews so impressed the president that we warned they may actually increase the chances of future military action.

    And indeed, in mid-April the U.S. military dropped its most powerful conventional bomb on an Islamic State complex in Afghanistan, triggering a new round of obsessive, fawning coverage from the cable news networks.

    These periods of over-the-top praise for the president have come even as the Trump administration frequently lashes out at the press in unprecedented ways. Over the past 100 days, the president and his top aides have declared the media to be the “opposition party” and “enemy of the American people,” blacklisted critical news outlets in favor of sycophantic ones, publicly berated individual journalists, and engaged in unusual efforts to deny access to the press.

    News outlets -- led by a White House Correspondents Association that at times seemed most interested in whether Trump would attend its annual dinner -- have often proven unable to respond collectively.

    Press coverage of Trump’s supporters also deserves criticism, whether it be the seemingly endless stream of articles coddling the Trump fans who still like him, or the pieces on the “alt-right” that demonstrate an ignorance of the way white nationalism and misogyny are intrinsic to their worldview.

    NBC News has responded to Trump’s election by hiring and elevating conservative commentators who have accommodated him. CNN’s news hours are politics as sport, built around endless, fruitless debates between fawning professional Trump fans hired by the network to defend literally anything he does, and everyone else. Fox News is almost entirely on the Trump Train, with a lineup dominated by the president’s most fervent supporters, their cheering carefully calibrated to bring in praise from and access to the most powerful man in the country.

    The political press is still not rising to the challenge. They are still normalizing a fundamentally abnormal president. We deserve better.

    Images by Sarah Wasko

  • "Trash," "Scum," And "Spy": How The “Alt-Right”/Fake News Ecosystem Targets And Smears People They Think Are Muslim

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A misinformation ecosystem made up of “alt-right”-connected outlets and forums and websites that spread fake news is repeatedly smearing and attacking people they believe are Muslims or of Middle Eastern descent. Not only have these sites and forums suggested that such people are destroying Western countries and are inherently violent, but they have also targeted specific people, yielding threats and harassment, potential economic harm, and harm to careers.

    One of the biggest smears this loose network has pushed is a persistent questioning of the loyalty of Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent, with outlets often suggesting that they are treasonous or spies. “Alt-right” outlet Breitbart repeatedly smeared a State Department staffer named Sahar Nowrouzzadeh as someone working on behalf of an Iran lobbying group. Fake news purveyors used the misleading smear, which reportedly played a role in Nowrouzzadeh's unwanted job reassignment, to call her “an Iranian agent,” a “Muslim spy,” “treasonous scum,” “an operative for the Iranian government,” and part of a supposed “Muslim infiltration of our government.” The ecosystem also recently targeted Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota state legislator, after she voted against a bill regarding insurance payments and the family of terrorists, claiming that she was “voting in favor of terrorists,” that her vote was “a troubling sign of a dangerous loyalty," and that she was a “piece of trash” who “does not care about the safety of our citizens.” Another figure, Women’s March activist Linda Sarsour, was falsely attacked by these groups for “sending” a “signal to ISIS" and labeled a “terrorist sympathizer.” Sarsour was subsequently harassed on Twitter.

    In conjunction with personal attacks, those attacked by fake news purveyors and the “alt-right” are often accused of trying to promote or impose Sharia law. Many right-wing media figures and anti-Muslim bigots have evoked Sharia law, claiming that it is being pushed by Muslims in America to overtake the United States system of government. Fringe blog The Gateway Pundit accused Sarsour of being “pro-Sharia law with ties to Hamas,” and fake news purveyors claimed she “wants Sharia law in America.” In another instance, former National Security Council staffer Rumana Ahmed was targeted by this ecosystem after she wrote a critical piece about President Donald Trump in The Atlantic. “Alt-right” forums such as certain sections of Reddit and fake news purveyors also accused her of “believ[ing] in sharia law,” along with being a “spy” for someone who once served as an aide to former President Barack Obama.

    Fake news purveyors and "alt-right" figures have also gone after companies and figures who have been supportive of Muslim refugees, falsely linking them to disease and assault. Following an assault of a young girl in Twin Falls, ID, fringe outlets such as Breitbart, various web forums, and fake news purveyors targeted Greek yogurt company Chobani and its founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, falsely connecting them to the assault and to an increase of tuberculosis in the area. One fake news purveyor alleged that officials ignored the assault because of “a Muslim” who “makes Chobani yogurt in the Twin Cities and who has a hankering for bringing in hundreds of these barbarians as worker bees.” The company and its founder subsequently faced death threats.

    Unfortunately, these examples are part of a larger pattern within this ecosystem of dubious claims, conspiracy theories, lies and various harassment campaigns

  • By The Numbers: 100 Days In, A Look At The Trump Administration's Conflicted Relationship With The Media

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    As President Donald Trump reaches his 100th day in office, his administration’s relations with the press have not improved. Here’s a look at some numbers that exemplify the conflicts, 100 days into his tenure:

    • At least 130: number of times Trump or his administration have attacked the press, per Media Matters’ running tally. [Media Matters, 4/27/17]
    • 30: number of times Trump has used the phrase “fake news” on Twitter since his inauguration. [ProPublica, accessed 4/27/17]
    • Eight: number of times Trump has referred to the “dishonest media” since his inauguration. [ProPublica, accessed 4/27/17]
    • 11: number of national TV interviews the president has done between his inauguration and his hundredth day, according to a Media Matters count.
    • Eight out of 11: number of Trump’s national televised interviews that will have aired on Fox News or Fox Business in his first 100 days, according to a Media Matters count.
    • 16: number of press briefings the State Department has held during the first 100 days of the administration. Under President Barack Obama, the State Department had 63 press briefings within the first 100 days. [The State Department Bureau of Public Affairs, accessed 4/24/17, 4/24/17]
    • At least 14: number of times White House press secretary Sean Spicer has lied to the press during his daily press briefings. [Media Matters, 1/25/17]
    • 27: number of times Spicer has called on the conservative news outlet One America News Network during his press briefings in the first 100 days of the administration according to a Media Matters count. During that same time period, Spicer called on Breitbart 12 times.
    • 50: number of “years of practice” from which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departed in his decision to travel on an official foreign trip without a press pool, according to The Associated Press. [The Associated Press, 3/14/17]
    • Approximately six: hours of cable news Trump watches per weekday, according to a report compiled by The Washington Post and Axios. [The Washington Post, 1/24/17]
    • 12: number of times Trump has either tweeted at the program Fox & Friends or retweeted the show’s tweets in his first 100 days in office. [ProPublica, accessed 4/24/17]
    • At least four: number of former Fox News personalities Trump has appointed to serve in his administration (Heather Nauert, Ben Carson, Monica Crowley, and KT McFarland). [Fox News, October 2013; NBC, 11/25/16; CNN, 12/15/16; USA Today, 4/25/17]

    Methodology

    To determine how many times Trump has tweeted the words “fake news” since his inauguration, Media Matters searched ProPublica’s database for Trump’s tweets containing the phrase.

    To determine how many national televised interviews Trump has conducted, Media Matters kept track of all TV appearances and compared the results to a search on Nexis.

    To determine how many times Spicer called on One America News Network and Breitbart during press briefings, Media Matters tracked questions Spicer has answered during the press briefings, coding for the name of the journalist and the outlet the journalist is reporting for.

    To find out how many tweets Trump has sent about Fox & Friends, Media Matters searched the ProPublica database for mentions of “fox” in Trump’s tweets.

  • Gutting Net Neutrality Is A Win For Conservative Media

    The FCC Is Making Right-Wing Media Dreams Come True Under Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now in Republican hands, it has moved quickly to reverse rules that guarantee free and open access to the internet, giving conservative media outlets exactly what they have been asking for.

    During an April 26 speech, Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed rolling back a key provision of the 2015 net neutrality rules enacted by his agency, citing research from an industry-funded front-group to support his claim that open internet protections are a burden on internet service providers. Pai claimed the common carrier rules that enshrined net neutrality were "regulations from the Great Depression meant to micromanage Ma Bell" that should not be applied to the internet. The Wall Street Journal reported that the rollback of net neutrality rules would allow internet service providers to create preferential treatment of data speeds for certain users and corporations linked across their networks. The Journal noted that the Internet Association -- a trade group representing many content providers, including Facebook, Google, and Netflix -- is gearing up to oppose the proposed changes:

    Critics said Mr. Pai’s changes could damage the internet ecosystem, however, by opening the door to paid fast lanes for some services and relegating others to slower speeds. That could increase costs for some big internet companies and their customers, and hurt smaller businesses that can’t afford to pay, critics added.

    [...]

    The net-neutrality rule adopted by the FCC in 2015 basically required internet providers such as cable and wireless firms to treat all traffic equally. One big aim was to prevent internet providers such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. from using their outsize leverage to disadvantage internet firms such as Netflix or Facebook.

    The Republican-led FCC’s decision to roll back Obama-era net neutrality protections is a major win for conservative media outlets. When the FCC authorized net neutrality rules in 2015, Fox News attacked it as a government power grab. Fortune pointed out how gutting net neutrality, combined with Trump’s proposal to slash corporate taxes, counts as a “double win” for “the nation's largest communications companies.”

    The proposed roll-back of net neutrality rules is now the third decision by Pai that seems to ameliorate complaints from conservative media. In February, he decided to impose cuts to the Lifeline program, which conservatives have assailed for years as so-called “Obamaphones,” and his decision earlier this month to ease merger restrictions on certain media companies could materially benefit Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting, conservative outlets firmly allied with the Trump administration.

    Criticism of Pai’s looming decision started before the proposal was even announced. On April 26, The Verge reported that it was “ready to rumble” to keep the protections in place and noted that rescinding the rule would be great for service providers and “terrible news for the rest of us.” The following day, The Verge reported that 800 tech start ups signed a letter opposing changes to net neutrality guidelines, which they believed would dismantle the rules “that allow the startup ecosystem to thrive.” Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also strongly opposes ending net neutrality and was a founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation, an open internet advocacy group committed to net neutrality.

  • Fox’s Legendary Hypocrisy Is On Full Display With Today’s Underwhelming GDP Report

    Meager Growth Under Obama Meant We Were “Sliding Toward Recession”; For Trump, Fox Predicts A “Bounce Back”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The latest report from the Commerce Department found American economic growth in the first quarter of 2017 fell just short of most economists’ expectations. A virtually identical report one year ago was met with a chorus of outrage and hyperbole from the professional antagonists at Fox News, but their doomsaying has mellowed completely with President Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office.

    On April 28, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a report detailing the rate of change in real gross domestic product (GDP) during the first quarter of the year. The report showed GDP had increased just 0.7 percent during the time frame, which was both below expectations and the “weakest growth in three years.” According to The New York Times, the indicator “upset expectations for a Trump bump at the start of 2017,” while The Washington Post added that underwhelming economic performance “highlights the challenge this administration … will face trying to meet its target rate of 3 percent economic growth.” During a segment on CNN’s New Day, chief business correspondent Christine Romans noted that “the main culprit” holding back economic growth is “some nervousness among consumers,” whose spending accounts for more than half of the economy:

    At Fox News, however, the GDP report was met with muted reactions and renewed criticism of the supposedly weak economy Trump inherited from President Obama. Fox Business host Stuart Varney admitted at the outset of the April 28 edition of Varney & Co., that the report was “very, very weak” before predicting “the Left [will blame] President Trump” for sluggish first-quarter growth while guest John Lonski surmised that the economy would “bounce back” in the second quarter of the year. Later in the program, after a guest complained about the economy settling into a cycle of slow growth, Fox Business anchor Ashley Webster pleaded, “It’s just the first three months, give it time,” before predicting higher rates of growth over the next three months stemming from deregulation. Fox Business contributor Elizabeth MacDonald added that “this is an overhang … of the Obama years” while complaining that “this is what the president has inherited.” From Varney & Co.:

    The measured response from Fox’s cast of characters is a far cry from how they responded to a virtually identical GDP report published by the BEA on April 28, 2016. Varney falsely characterized first-quarter GDP growth of last year -- which at 0.5 percent also missed expectations before being upwardly revised -- as proof that the economy was “sliding toward recession” and ignored other indicators showing the economy was improving. One day later, Varney continued lambasting Obama during an appearance on Fox & Friends in which he pushed the unsubstantiated claim that the post-recession recovery was a historic failure.

    This is not the first time a Fox personality has backtracked on mischaracterizations of the economy in order to hype or defend the Trump administration. The network has completely reversed its tone toward the monthly jobs reports since Trump took office, giving him credit for jobs he didn’t create, fawning over job creation that had become routine under Obama, and heaping praise on economic indicators identical to those they had once excoriated.

  • Donald Trump Jr. Interviewed By Racist NRA Commentator At NRA Annual Meeting

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Donald Trump Jr., the son of President Donald Trump, was interviewed by NRATV commentator Bill Whittle during the NRA’s 2017 annual meeting, which is being held in Atlanta, GA.

    In the past, Whittle has promoted the racist notion that black people are inherently intellectually inferior to people of other races, cited a white nationalist to claim people in inner cities “don't have access to cognition,” and claimed African-Americans are compliant “slaves” of the Democratic Party who trade a willingness to engage in voter fraud for welfare.

    Trump will speak later today at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum.

    Whittle interviewed Trump Jr. during NRATV’s broadcast from the NRA annual meeting exhibition hall alongside NRATV host Grant Stinchfield.

    During the interview, Whittle claimed that former President Barack Obama’s administration had “weaponized” the government against “half of the country” and suggested that Obama was a dictator.

    He also suggested that Obama was lazy compared to Trump, telling Trump Jr., “There was a picture, very early, it might have been the very first or second day after the inauguration, where you’re looking at the Oval Office and there is the Resolute Desk and there’s just all these piles of paper. It’s almost like it’s an executive who's got work to do and is ready to actually do some work. There’s one picture I think of Barack Obama where there is a piece of paper on the desk and he is kind of looking down at it disdainfully whether he should grace the presence of this thing. It’s nice to have a businessman, and the hours that he puts in, the organizational skills, it’s making a real difference.”

    During a 2016 appearance on the webshow of libertarian-turned-“alt-right”-commentator Stefan Molyneux, Whittle revealed he accepted theories commonly called “academic” or “scientific” racism that tie together IQ scores, race, and crime.

    In addition to positively citing prominent white nationalist Linda Gottfredson and widely denounced book The Bell Curve in advancing the claim that there are inherent intelligence differences between races, Whittle made a racist comment about aboriginal Australians and cited an episode of Star Trek in trying to explain his belief that races can be divided along the lines of “civilized man” and “barbarian.” (Biologists and anthropologists have long-rejected the theories that Whittle promoted).

    Unsurprisingly, Whittle’s appearance on Molyneux's show was lauded by infamous neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

    In addition to promoting “scientific” racism, Whittle frequently offers racist commentary, particularly on Muslim immigrants and African-Americans.

    While discussing “black America” during a December 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s program, Whittle described African-Americans who support the Democratic Party as literal slaves who prefer to remain in captivity. He said that the party has “30 million” slaves and the “terms of their slavery are very simple -- there’s a word for somebody who is fed, and clothed, and housed, and whose health care is taken care of by another person, and that word is slave.”

    Whittle then suggested that African-Americans commit voter fraud on behalf of Democrats as a condition of their slavery, claiming, “On the voting plantation that the Democratic Party has set up in America, we demand two hours of work from you every two years. Every two years we demand that you go down to the voting places and vote, once, twice, three, four times, however [many] times as you can imagine, or manage, and that’s the work we expect for you in exchange for keeping you in bondage.”

    During another 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s show, Whittle said there is an “Islamic invasion of Europe” which he compared to “inner cities” in America “that are absolutely toxic, violent, enraged, bitter, [and] racist.” He went on to claim Black Lives Matter is “the street muscle” of the Democratic Party and that the group will make sure “everything’s gonna burn” if welfare is reduced.

    Again drawing a comparison between Europe and the United States, Whittle said, “We have the exact same problem here with these same kind of communities. They’re unemployable -- unemployed and unemployable -- they’ve been on assistance their entire lives, they’ve never had to work before,” and he said that these people should get jobs because a job “beats the laziness” out of people and “disciplines” them into “civility.”

    During a January 2016 appearance on Molyneux’s show, Whittle called Obama an “unqualified, unknown individual” who was elected “specifically and only because he is black” and said that electing Obama was “atoning for our slavery.” Moments later he said, “I didn’t own any slaves, and therefore I’m not responsible for slavery. I’m not benefiting from slavery because I never owned any slaves,” and he said, “There’s nothing in this country that survived the Civil War that was the result of slavery.”

    Continuing to discuss the Civil War, Whittle said the “greatest tragedy in American history” is “not slavery, it’s not the Civil War, it’s what happened after,” before complaining about the philosophy of W.E.B. DuBois.

    White nationalists have thrown their support behind Trump and have been particularly fond of Trump Jr. During the presidential campaign, Trump Jr. made a “gas chamber” reference, retweeted an anti-Semitic author, and compared Syrian refugees to Skittles, endearing himself to neo-Nazi websites.

  • Media Are Failing To Note Telecom-Funding Sources Of Anti-Net Neutrality Group

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and media outlets have been citing the work of The Free State Foundation (FSF) to argue against current net neutrality rules. But media have failed to note that the foundation is heavily backed by the telecommunications industry, which has lobbied against the 2015 open internet rules put in place by former President Barack Obama’s administration.

    Net neutrality, as explained by the nonprofit group Free Press, is “the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use.”

    Corporations and Republicans like Pai have been trying to dismantle those rules since President Donald Trump’s election. Pai delivered an April 26 speech detailing his desire to do that and tried to justify his plans by saying of the Communications Act title related to net neutrality: “According to one estimate by the nonprofit Free State Foundation, Title II has already cost our country $5.1 billion in broadband capital investment.”

    Gizmodo staff writer Libby Watson, who previously wrote for the Sunlight Foundation and Media Mattersnoted that Pai’s cost argument is bogus, writing that a Free Press analysis found that internet service providers' "capital expenditure increased more after net neutrality was passed than in the two years before it." She added that “ISPs themselves happily boast of investments when they’re not whining to regulators.”

    FSF has been pushing pro-telecom research while receiving nearly half a million dollars from telecommunications trade associations in recent years.

    CTIA, a group that represents “the U.S. wireless communications industry” and counts AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless as members, issued a statement praising Pai’s recent remarks. The group’s IRS 990 forms state that it gave FSF $63,750 in 2014 (the most recent year available), $58,750 in 2013, and $75,000 in 2012.

    NCTA - The Internet Television Association, whose members include Charter Communications, Comcast Corp., and Cox Communications, gave the FSF $105,000 in 2014, $100,000 in 2013, and $85,000 in 2012. The group also praised Pai’s remarks.

    A statement on the FSF website acknowledges that it receives contributions from “a wide variety of companies in the communications, information services, entertainment, and high-tech marketplaces, among others, as well as from foundations and many individuals.” In an email to Media Matters, a foundation spokesperson said, “All of our support is general support with none earmarked for net neutrality or any other designated project or issue.”

    Following Pai’s speech, outlets such as the Washington Examiner and Daily Caller quoted FSF’s president, Randolph May, praising the FCC chairperson without noting the foundation's telecom backing.

    This has become a familiar pattern since Trump’s election. Outlets such as USA Today (repeatedly), The Hill, and Bloomberg have quoted May praising Trump’s plans to curtail net neutrality. And The Washington Times and The Hill have published opinion pieces by FSF employees arguing against regulation on the telecom industry without disclosing the group’s funding sources.

    Pai, who formerly worked as a lawyer at Verizon, will speak at FSF’s Ninth Annual Telecom Policy Conference on May 31. Other speakers include executives from AT&T, Comcast, and CTIA. Pai also spoke at the group’s 10th anniversary luncheon last December and praised the group for being “a key voice fighting against the FCC’s regulatory overreach in areas such as net neutrality.”

    The telecom industry and anti-net neutrality companies like AT&T have given funding to numerous organizations that criticize regulations and net neutrality in the media (often without disclosure). With the debate over net neutrality reignited, media outlets will have a lot of opportunities to correctly note the funding sources of media-friendly groups that are opposing consumer-friendly rules.

  • New Study Debunks Right-Wing Media Myth That Trump's Deregulation Will Restore Coal Communities

    Columbia University Report Outlines Market Forces Killing The Coal Industry

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    A new Columbia University report adds to a wealth of research disproving the right-wing media myth that President Donald Trump can bring back coal jobs and revitalize coal communities by simply rolling back environmental protections enacted by previous administrations.

    Conservative media outlets, political commentators, and Trump himself have repeatedly argued that undoing Obama-era environmental protections would reverse the decades-long decline in coal mining employment. But a new in-depth analysis published by researchers at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy throws cold water on this notion, concluding, “President Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations will not materially improve economic conditions in America’s coal communities.”

    The report goes into great detail about the factors behind coal’s decline. It finds that the vast majority of the decrease in coal consumption was due to market factors unrelated to federal regulations and that it is “highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.” From the April 2017 report (emphasis added):

    We found that 49 percent of the decline in domestic US coal consumption was due to the drop in natural gas prices, 26 percent was due to lower than expected electricity demand, and 18 percent was due to growth in renewable energy. Environmental regulations contributed to the decline by accelerating coal power plant retirement, but these were a less significant factor. We also found that changes in the global coal market have played a far greater role in the decline of US production and employment than is generally understood. The recent collapse of Chinese coal demand, especially for metallurgical coal, depressed coal prices around the world and reduced the market for US exports. The decline in global coal prices was a particularly important factor in the recent wave of coal company bankruptcies and resulting threats to the healthcare and pension security of retired US coal miners and their dependents.

    Second, the paper examines the prospects for a recovery of US coal production and employment by modeling the impact of President Trump’s executive order and assessing the global coal market outlook. We found that successfully removing President Obama’s environmental regulations has the potential to mitigate the recent decline in US coal consumption, but that will only occur if natural gas prices start to rise. If they remain at current levels, domestic consumption will continue to decline, particularly if renewable energy costs fall faster than expected. We similarly see little prospect of a sustainable recovery in global coal demand growth and seaborne coal prices. Combining our domestic and international market outlook, we believe it is highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.

    The report’s conclusion that undoing environmental protections will have little impact on coal mining employment aligns with what numerous experts and nonideological media analysts have reported. The researchers also found that the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which regulates emissions from coal-fired power plants and which Trump singled out with a March 28 executive order that rolled back environmental regulations, “played no direct role in the reduction of US coal consumption and production experienced over the past few years.” (The Obama administration announced the final version of the CPP in August 2015 but the rules were never actually implemented.)

    The report does note that the decline in coal consumption could be mitigated “if natural gas prices increase going forward,” but the impact on jobs would not be as direct. As Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming, explained to The New York Times, even if coal mines stay open, they are “using more mechanization” and “not hiring people. … So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs.”

    Notably, the Columbia report offers policy recommendations “for how the federal government can support economic diversification in coal communities through infrastructure investment, abandoned mine land reclamation, tax credits, small business incubation, workforce training, and support for locally driven economic development initiatives.”

    But perhaps just as importantly, the researchers offer the following recommendation for lawmakers: “Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going on in the US coal sector—including the causes of coal’s decline and unlikeliness of its resurgence—rather than offer false hope that the glory days can be revived.”