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  • 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.

  • No, The NRA Is Not Actually The United States’ “Oldest Civil Rights Organization”

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association is holding its four-day annual meeting April 27-30 in Atlanta, GA.

    In promotional materials for the meeting, the NRA wrote: “Georgia was a pivotal location in the civil rights movement. So, it is fitting that the NRA, the oldest civil rights organization in the country, is holding its 146th Annual Meeting of Members in Atlanta.”

    The NRA has repeatedly hyped itself as both the oldest and the largest civil rights organization in the country. But in fact when the organization was founded in 1871, its primary goal was to “‘promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.’” It did not actively begin lobbying for gun rights until nearly six decades later in 1934, when its Legislative Affairs Division was formed “‘in response to repeated attacks on the Second Amendment Rights,’” according to an analysis by the National Association for the Deaf (NAD). Both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded in 1909 and NAD founded in 1880 are older civil rights organizations than the NRA.

    Although the NRA praised Atlanta as the location for this year’s meeting because of its history with the civil rights movement, the NRA has previously lobbed multiple attacks against Atlanta-based congressman and civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). On June 22, 2016, following a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, Lewis led a sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to protest gun violence and push for gun safety legislation. During the sit-in, NRATV host Cam Edwards compared Lewis and other participants to “criminals and terrorists," because like terrorists, the sit-in participants were not following the rules. During a subsequent broadcast, Edwards lectured his audience on “what sit-ins were about in the civil rights movement” in an attempt to separate Lewis’ actions from the civil rights movement.

    In January 2017, Lewis took a stand against President Donald Trump, calling him illegitimate and said he planned on skipping the inauguration ceremony. During the January 16 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield claimed, “Dr. King would be ashamed of John Lewis” and said that Lewis has “forgotten what Dr. King stood for.” During an interview with NRA commentator and spokesperson Dana Loesch, Stinchfield called Lewis' refusal to attend the inauguration “anti-American,” “unpatriotic,” and “sad.” Loesch agreed with him and called Lewis’ comments “unfortunate” and “a threat to democracy.”

    Despite targeting a civil rights hero, the NRA has routinely attempted to co-opt the civil rights movement by, among other things, calling gun regulations “equally as unconstitutional” as Jim Crow laws and bemoaning that “too many Americans don’t think of the Second Amendment as a civil rights issue.” In August 2015, NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action media liaison Lars Dalseide compared a Seattle ordinance that would fund gun violence research by imposing a tax on the sale of guns and ammunition to Jim Crow-era poll taxes.

    In March 2014, NRA board member Ted Nugent wrote in a column for conspiracy website WorldNetDaily that gun owners “must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns,” in response to a law that banned assault weapons following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Nugent went on to call Rosa Parks his “hero” and has previously called himself “Rosa Parks with a Gibson.” 

  • Fox Contributor: Gay Men In Bars Should Expect To Be Assaulted And Women Shouldn’t Breastfeed In Church

    Erick Erickson: “Spare Me The Tirade About" Matthew Shepard, “The Dude Wearing The Tutu Shoulders Some Of The Responsibility”

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    In a blog post for The Resurgent, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson defended Sen. Mike Enzi’s (R-WY) claim that “a guy who wears a tutu and goes to bars...asks for it” if he is assaulted, writing, “I’m really damn tired of all the people running around making other people extremely uncomfortable … yes, the dude wearing the tutu shoulders some of the responsibility” for being assaulted.

    After mocking the LGBTQ community in his April 27 post as “the BLT&GQ community,” Erickson argued gay men should “know better.” Erickson added, “spare me the tirade about Matthew Shepherd [sic],” referring to Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old man in Wyoming who was tortured and killed because of his sexuality:

    You know, I’m really damn tired of all the people running around making other people extremely uncomfortable then screaming about their rights and privileges when called out. If you want to go around making people uncomfortable, you’ve got the problem, not the rest of us.

    It all starts with Mike Enzi who has enraged the BLT&GQ community by declaring a simple fact. If a guy walks into a bar in Wyoming, he’s probably going to get punched. Enzi said the person would deserve it, which he apologized for, and the guy would not deserve it. But it is probably going to happen and yes, the dude wearing the tutu shoulders some of the responsibility. He should have known better.

    And spare me the tirade about Matthew Shepherd.

    I know liberals in their coastal bubbles of homogenized whiteness and skinny jeans think everyone else has to think like them — not does, but has to — but the reality is we don’t. We are a culturally heterogeneous nation with diverse cultural norms. If a guy walks into a bar in Wyoming wearing make up and a tutu, he’s probably going to be asked to leave, if not picked on or punched. If you don’t like that, don’t go to a bar in Wyoming wearing a tutu. It really is that simple. This is not a justification of violence, but let’s not kid ourselves that there won’t be an expectation of violence, however unjustified.

    Not satisfied with arguing gay men are responsible for being assaulted, Erickson subsequently shamed a mother for “making a church full of people uncomfortable” by breastfeeding. Erickson derided the woman as “rude and inconsiderate of others,” saying, “if you want to breastfeed in public, go to a different chuch [sic].” Erickson concluded, “stop your bitching that others have to go along with your ‘rights.’ Get over yourself”:

    Now the latest outrage is a mom who decided to openly breast feed in church. While I have no problem with a mother doing this, a lot of people do. It is why even freaking Obamacare demanded businesses have lactation rooms where women could breastfeed in private.

    But what does this mom do? Instead of realizing she was making a church full of people uncomfortable, she ran to the internet to shame the church. Lady, you are not a victim. You are just rude and inconsiderate of others. And now you’re going to lawyer up against a church? The rest of the congregants have a right not to be made uncomfortable by one self-centered mother.

    If you want to breastfeed in public, go to a different chuch.

    If you want to wear a tutu in a bar, go to San Francisco.

    But stop your bitching that others have to go along with your “rights.” Get over yourself.

  • MSNBC's Ali Velshi Outlines The "Built-In Unfairness" Of Trump's Tax Plan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC outlined the major problems in President Donald Trump's proposed tax cut plan, which drastically reduces the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent while lowering personal tax rates for high-income individuals at expense of almost all tax deductions that benefit the middle class.

    On the April 27 edition of MSNBC's MSNBC Live, host Katy Tur discussed Trump's tax outline with correspondent Ali Velshi and conservative economist Peter Morici, outlining how the plan could greatly reduce the president's personal and business tax burden while saving the Trump family billions of dollars in future estate taxes. Velshi argued the proposed reductions in corporate tax rates and creation of a new income loophole for some contractors and business owners created "built-in unfairness" in the tax system. Morici added that Trump's plan would not assist the middle class and complained that the administration had only produced a one-page memo "with a lot of white space" despite having five months to craft substantial tax reform proposals:

    During the next hour of MSNBC Live, Velshi introduced another segment on the proposed tax cuts by noting that Trump is making "a frantic last push for what has eluded him in his first 100 days: a major legislative accomplishment." Joined by MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, Velshi noted that "we don't actually know" what Trump's tax agenda is to which Sykes responded, "this is not a bill, it's basically a press release ... there is no meat to the substance." Sykes added that, while he leans toward conservative tax policy, he does not think "there is any rational way" to claim Trump's plan helps the middle class or can avoid "blow[ing] an enormous hole in the federal deficit." After Velshi detailed a laundry list of middle-class tax credits that "could go away" under the plan, McMahon highlighted that Trump's plan "is going to be an absolutely huge windfall for very wealthy people":

  • Sean Hannity: A Bill Shine Departure May Be The “Total End” Of Fox News

    Hannity Tweets Support Of Sexual Harassment Enabler Amid Questions Of Shine’s Future At The Network

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Following a report that Fox News co-president Bill Shine “is expressing concern about his future at the network,” Fox host Sean Hannity expressed support for Shine on Twitter, suggesting that if he departs Fox, “that’s the total end of FNC as we know it.”

    Shine was promoted to co-president after former president and CEO Roger Ailes’ ouster in August 2016 over repeated sexual harassment complaints and lawsuits. But Shine has been named in various lawsuits against the network for his “complicity,” and it has previously been reported that Shine played a key role in helping cover up Ailes’ conduct by silencing and “smearing” women who complained.

    On April 27, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that Shine is privately worried about his future at Fox, and that he recently asked James and Lachlan Murdoch, the CEO and co-chairman of Fox parent company 21st Century Fox, “to release a statement in support of him, but they refused to do so.” Sherman wrote that this refusal to publicly back Shine could mean that the Murdochs are finally prepared to clean house at the scandal-ridden network:

    By refusing to back Shine at this tumultuous moment for the network, the Murdochs may finally be signaling that they’re prepared to make the sweeping management changes they’ve so far resisted after forcing out CEO Roger Ailes last summer. Shine’s continued leadership has angered many Fox News employees, especially women, who view him as a product of the misogynistic Ailes culture. Shine joined the network in 1996, served as Sean Hannity’s producer, and rose through the ranks to become Ailes’s deputy. In that role, sources say he had the power to stop multiple instances of sexual harassment, including that of former Fox booker Laurie Luhn, but did not do so. (Through a Fox News spokesperson, Shine denies this.) He’s currently a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed this week by former Fox host Andrea Tantaros.

    In response to the story, Hannity wrote several tweets in defense of his former producer:

  • Heartland's Effort To Bring Climate Denial To Classrooms Earns "F" For False In NY Times Op-Ed

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    An op-ed published in The New York Times takes aim at the Heartland Institute’s campaign to bring its brand of climate denial into classrooms across the country.

    The Heartland Institute, a fossil fuel-funded think tank known for promulgating climate science denial, is now seeking to influence the country’s educators. The think tank plans to mail its book “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming” to 200,000 K-12 and college science teachers across the country. A cover letter accompanying the mailing asks educators to “consider the possibility that the science in fact is not ‘settled’” and argues that the 97 percent consensus among climate scientists “is not only false, but its presence in the debate is an insult to science.”

    In an April 27 op-ed published in The New York Times, paleoclimatologist Curt Stager pushed back against Heartland’s misinformation, writing that “multiple surveys of the scientific literature show that well over 90 percent of published climate scientists have concluded that recent global warming is both real and mostly the result of human activity.” Indeed, in the past decade, there have been numerous surveys by a number of different researchers that confirmed human-caused global warming, and the country’s leading scientific institutions confirm the reality and urge action to address it.

    Stager -- who describes himself as having been “cautiously skeptical myself before reaching the consensus position” on climate change -- further noted that increased scientific understanding over the past several decades “made it clear that the recent warming is not simply a result of natural variability or cycles.”

    Stager also points out the lack of scientific expertise behind Heartland’s book, noting that despite Heartland’s claim that the book’s authors are “highly regarded climate scientists,” none of them “have the publication record of an accomplished expert in the field, though they may be lauded by the conservative media.” Stager could have additionally pointed out that each of the book’s authors’ -- Craig Idso, S. Fred Singer, and Robert M. Carter -- have extensive fossil fuel ties.

    From the April 27 op-ed:

    PAUL SMITHS, N.Y. — The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank known for attacking climate science, has been mailing a slim, glossy book to public school teachers throughout the United States. The institute says it plans to send out as many as 200,000 copies, until virtually every science educator in America has one.

    The book, “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” presents the false premise that the evidence for human-driven climate change is deeply flawed. To understand where the Heartland Institute is coming from, consider a recent comment by its president, Joseph Bast, who called global warming “another fake crisis” for Democrats “to hype to scare voters and raise campaign dollars.”

    [...]

    The cover letter inside, however, made the book’s premise clear. “Claims of a ‘scientific consensus’ ” on climate change, it read, “rest on two college student papers, the writings of a wacky Australian blogger, and a non-peer-reviewed essay by a socialist historian.” In fact, multiple surveys of the scientific literature show that well over 90 percent of published climate scientists have concluded that recent global warming is both real and mostly the result of human activity.

    For example, a study in 2010 found that 97 percent of the 200 most-published authors of climate-related papers held the consensus position, and a survey in 2013 of 4,014 abstracts of peer-reviewed climate papers found 97 percent agreement. The Heartland-distributed book disputes the methods used in these and similar surveys but provides no definitive counterarguments against the overall weight of evidence. The fact is that survey after survey, involving multiple approaches and authors, finds a strong consensus among scientists who are most knowledgeable about climate change.

    This latest edition contains a foreword by Marita Noon, described by the book as a columnist for Breitbart and executive director of Energy Makes America Great.

    Ms. Noon introduces the book’s three authors as “highly regarded climate scientists.” Not quite true. Despite their academic credentials, none have the publication record of an accomplished expert in the field, though they may be lauded by the conservative media.

    Having been cautiously skeptical myself before reaching the consensus position, I remember that some legitimate uncertainty about the human contribution to global warming did exist within my specialty of paleoclimatology several decades ago. Since then, however, high-quality climate reconstructions from ice cores, tree rings, lake sediments and other geological sources, coupled with rigorous analyses of solar activity, volcanism and fossil fuel emissions, have made it clear that the recent warming is not simply a result of natural variability or cycles. Long after the newer, better data convinced me and the vast majority of other climate scientists of the powerful human role in global warming, climate-change deniers still cling to the outdated idea of natural causes.

  • "Oh, Boy": Media Matters Bill O'Reilly Ad In The Hollywood Reporter

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    One week after Fox News was forced to fire Bill O’Reilly after advertisers boycotted his show because of reports of serial sexual harassment, Media Matters for America released its first ad emphasizing that companies must be mindful about where they spend their advertising dollars. This ad is running on page 67 of issue 13 of The Hollywood Reporter.

    The ad features a picture of a forlorn-looking Bill O’Reilly with text that reads: "Harassment, hate, and bigotry are bad for business. Know what you’re sponsoring, and avoid the next crisis."

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.  

  • 4 Women In Sports Journalism Exposing The Truth On Sexual Assault And Domestic Violence In Sports

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Many women reporting on sports in the media have done an incredible job shining a light on the truth regarding the intersection of sports and sexual assault and violence against women. Four women in particular have been unrelenting in their quests to hold those in charge accountable for the systematic mistreatment of women by athletes, some even using their own experiences to better empathize with survivors in their coverage. While women are largely shut out of ESPN’s coverage of these issues, these women deserve recognition for their unique perspectives and insightful commentary.

    Jessica Luther

    Jessica Luther has written extensively on how rape culture intersects with sports, especially at the collegiate level. In her book, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape, Luther outlines what she calls the “playbook" of how universities and their athletic departments respond to cases of domestic violence or sexual assault, and she creates a new one for addressing sexual assault and college football. Writing for The Dallas Morning News, Luther states, “The first play in this new playbook has to be about consent, because we just don't talk about it enough. Honestly, it's hard to imagine that we could talk about it too much.”

    Luther also outlined her own struggles as a Florida State football fan in navigating “the overlapping of football culture and rape culture,” after a female student said quarterback Jameis Winston raped her, writing in Rewire:

    Football culture clouds our ability to see him as anything other than a famous kid with a nice-guy persona and amazing athletic skills. Rape culture demands that we mistrust the victim, question her credibility, and try to poke holes in her story. It creates this familiar narrative in which people who have invested their own hopes and dreams in Winston claim his innocence immediately and refuse to hear anything else.

    Luther’s innovation and public soul-searching make her an invaluable reporter in this area.

    Amelia Rayno

    Amelia Rayno, now a features writer for Minneapolis’ Star Tribune, is a former sports reporter who invoked her own experience to strengthen the newspaper’s coverage of sexual assault and sports. After Norwood Teague, the University of Minnesota athletic director, resigned amid sexual harassment complaints, Rayno wrote for the paper about a time when Teague had harassed her. In the August 11, 2015, piece she explained:

    Teague asked me about my longtime boyfriend, as he often did. My mistake was acknowledging that we had just broken up. The switch flipped. Suddenly, in a public and crowded bar, Teague tried to throw his arm around me. He poked my side. He pinched my hip. He grabbed at me. Stunned and mortified, I swatted his advances and firmly told him to stop. He didn’t.

    “Don’t deny,” he said, “our chemistry.”

    I told him that he was drastically off base, that my only intention in being there was as a reporter – to which he replied: “You’re all strictly business? Nothing else?”

    I walked out. He followed me. I hailed a cab. He followed me in, grabbing at my arm and scooting closer and closer in the dark back cabin until I was pressed against the door. I told him to stop. I told him it was not OK. He laughed. When I reached my apartment, I vomited.

    Later that night he texted: “Night strictly bitness.’’

    Rayno called the accounts from women who said Teague harassed them “troubling,” “gross,” and “more of the same, all over again.” Rayno’s ability to write about her personal experience as a survivor of sexual harassment to empathize with others and give a deeper account of the story makes her writing on this issue especially important.

    Katie Nolan

    Katie Nolan of Fox Sports has been one of the most outspoken advocates for women in all of sports media. In October, Nolan slammed the NFL and the New York Giants for taking more action against a player who abused a kicking net than against John Brown, a Giants player who admitted in his journal that he had physically and emotionally abused his wife. Nolan called on the league to “get serious” about addressing domestic violence and encouraged officials to adopt a policy where players must participate in counseling and support programs.

    Nolan has also called out a lack of agency among women in sports media, saying in a 2014 video:

    KATIE NOLAN: Women in sports television are allowed to read headlines, patrol sidelines, and generally facilitate conversation for their male colleagues. Sometimes, they even let us monitor the internet from a couch. And while the Stephen A. Smiths, Mike Francesas, Dan Patricks and Keith Olbermanns of the world get to weigh in on the issues of the day, we just smile and throw to commercial.

    Nolan also criticized journalists who asked Dallas Cowboys player Greg Hardy, whose girlfriend said he strangled her, if he found particular women “attractive,” saying they failed to “act with just a shred of human decency.” Nolan’s insightful commentary and willingness to call out the media’s role in normalizing violence against women makes her work impactful.

    Julie DiCaro

    Chicago-based journalist Julie DiCaro has done strong work highlighting sexual assault and reporting on the ways female sports journalists are targeted online. DiCaro has written about her own sexual assault and said it helped her understand the struggles survivors go through, writing for HuffPost:

    I don’t know what happened between Jameis Winston and his accuser. I do know that, after a woman is raped, the prospect of a police interrogation and cross-examination second-guessing your behavior is paralyzing frightening. So frightening in fact, that many of us choose to keep quiet. And I know that every time we see one of these “we can’t prove it” press conferences, it confirms what many of us believe: That unless there are severe injuries and/or witnesses to your rape, you might as well not even bother reporting it.

    DiCaro was also one of the two women behind a 2016 viral video which highlighted the barrage of sexual harassment and threats women in sports journalism face on a daily basis, especially online. DiCaro’s empathy and willingness to bring unsavory issues to the forefront makes her a valuable voice in sports journalism.

    Correction: This piece was updated to correctly identify Julie DiCaro's work affiliation.

  • The Press Struggles To Finally Break Its “Populist” Habit For Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Like smokers trying to quit a pack-a-day habit, some journalists are finally trying to drop the long-running practice of portraying President Donald Trump as a “populist.” 

    Sparked specifically by Trump’s blatant economic flip-flops this month regarding trade deals, currency policy concerning China, and the Export-Import Bank, more members of the press seem willing to concede that Trump’s attempt to govern as a populist has quickly ended.  

    Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus announced that Trump’s “populist revolution” is “already over -- at least for now.” The Week agreed that Trump is “beating a hasty retreat from populism.” And even The New York Times, which has been an aggressive promoter of the “populist” meme, recently noted that Trump, “has stocked his administration with billionaires and lobbyists while turning over his economic program to a Wall Street banker.”

    But like any stubborn habit, the “populist” one won’t be easy to quit. Note that while that Times article detailed Trump's obviously non-populist agenda, Times reporters regularly use the label to describe him in other pieces.

    This month alone, the Times has referenced Trump’s “populist appeal,” credited a “populist economic message” for his political rise, grouped him with “fellow populist Marine Le Pen,” and described both him and Turkey’s president as “populist leaders.”

    And the Times isn’t alone in clinging to the narrative. The Christian Science Monitor last week reported, “Trump the populist is back.”

    Reminder: Populism represents a political struggle on behalf of regular people against elite economic forces. Today, Trump’s brand of pro-corporate, anti-worker politics represents the exact opposite.

    The clues have not been hard to find, as Trump quickly stacked his administration with a cavalcade of pro-business multimillionaires and billionaires. But that was just the beginning.

    The president and his Republican allies have spent much of this year trying to repeal health care for 20 million Americans, pass massive new tax cuts for the wealthy, eliminate a State Department program “which sends food to poor countries hit by war or natural disasters,” greatly expand the Pentagon’s budget, potentially block overtime pay for workers making less than $47,000 a year, defund Planned Parenthood, defund public broadcasting, abolish the government block grant program that helps fund Meals on Wheels for the elderly, and roll back rules protecting net neutrality.

    So no, Trump’s not a “populist,” even if he has “styled himself as a man of the people.” (Trump’s residence in New York City, where the first lady currently lives, is an apartment that’s decorated in 24-karat gold.)

    The whole Trump’s-a-populist trope has been a media mess for more than a year now.

    And why “populist”? Why is that almost always the catch phrase journalists reach for when “white nationalist,” “nativist,” and “authoritarian” are likely more accurate descriptions of Trump?

    The truth is, “populist” serves as a crutch. And when it’s still used today, the identifier represents a lazy shorthand used to describe Trump’s grab bag of often contradictory political positions.

    Last year, the narrative served as a campaign mirage: the Brigadoon of American politics. Trump’s “populism” enticed the press and provided journalists with an acceptable, nonthreatening way to address his primary and general election successes. It was a way to downplay white nationalism, race-baiting, and sexism as the driving forces of his campaign. Yes, Trump cynically embraced populist rhetoric. But journalists ought to be able to see beyond campaign ploys like that.

    To this day, the concept allows journalists to engage in more "both sides" analysis, comparing and contrasting Trump’s “populism” with the approach of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who actually does promote a populist, pro-people agenda.  

    Sanders’ signature political crusade revolves around making sure all American have access to health care. By contrast, Trump continues to plot the overthrow of the Affordable Care Act, which would cause millions of Americans to lose their insurance coverage.

    How does any working journalist look at those two sets of facts and conclude, yeah, Trump and Sanders are both populists?

    Even more troubling have been the press pronouncements that some of Trump’s deeply nativist proposals are somehow populist.

    As The New York Times wrote [emphasis added]:

    For the first two months of Mr. Trump's presidency, Mr. Bannon occupied an unassailable perch at the president's side -- ramming through key elements of his eclectic and hard-edge populist agenda, including two executive orders on freezing immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries.

    This is especially upsetting. Trump's goal of banning people from Muslim countries from entering the United States, and his scheme to build a $20 billion wall to fix a nonexistent immigration crisis, have very little to do with “populism.” But they do have a lot to do with nativism and the idea that white America is under siege and that the federal government must take unprecedented action to protect its fragile sovereignty.

    Portraying that as “populism” -- as Trump sticking up for the little guy -- is dangerous and deeply misguided.

  • The Vindication Of Rachel Maddow

    Journalists Panned Her Report On Trump’s Tax Returns, But It Produced The Best Evidence Trump’s Tax Proposal Boosts His Own Bottom Line

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Under pressure to show some sign -- any sign -- that President Donald Trump’s administration hasn’t squandered its first 100 days in office, the White House yesterday released a one-page collection of bullet points billed as a tax plan.

    There are many unanswered questions relevant to the 200-word proposal -- among them whether the massive tax cuts it proposes, channeled mostly to corporations and the wealthy, would be temporary or permanent; whether the tax cuts would be paid for, and how; and how much the proposal would cost. Top administration officials making the rounds on the morning news shows say they don’t know how the plan would affect the budget deficit and can’t guarantee that it wouldn’t raise the taxes of the middle class.

    One thing seems clear, however: If this proposal becomes law, the Trump family will be the big winners.

    As The New York Times’ Neil Irwin noted after detailing the proposal:

    It is striking how many of the categories listed above affect the president and his family. He is a high-income earner. He receives income from 564 business entities, according to his financial disclosure form, and could take advantage of the low rate on ''pass-through'' companies. According to his leaked 2005 tax return, he paid an extra $31 million because of the alternative minimum tax that he seeks to eliminate. And his heirs could eventually enjoy his enormous assets tax-free.

    We don’t know precisely how much Trump will benefit from the policies he supports because he refuses to release his tax returns, breaking decades of precedent and taking a hammer to an important political norm that curbs political corruption. And so as Irwin demonstrates, Trump’s “leaked 2005 tax return” provides the best available evidence of the impact Trump’s proposal will have on his own wallet.

    For that, we have MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and The Daily Beast’s David Cay Johnston to thank. It is a vindication for Maddow in particular, who was widely criticized by political reporters for the way in which she revealed documents that none of them had been able to obtain.

    Six weeks ago, Maddow set the political world on fire with a single tweet issued fewer than 90 minutes before her show began:

    After journalists and political commentators spent nearly an hour burning up Twitter with theories about what precisely Maddow had uncovered, she revealed that her show was going to feature the president’s 1040 form from 2005, which Johnston had obtained.  

    When her show began, Maddow did not open with the contents of the document. Instead, she used her first segment to provide context, detailing the long saga of Trump’s unwillingness to reveal his tax returns and the evidence about his income that had been made public thus far. Only after returning from a commercial did she and Johnston reveal what they had learned: Trump had paid a mere $5.3 million in income taxes -- a rate of less than 4 percent on an income of more than $150 million -- but had to pay $31 million more under the alternative minimum tax, which he had proposed eliminating during the campaign.

    And the political press went wild. Not because they had learned new information about the president’s taxes that he had kept from the public in unprecedented fashion. Not because the tantalizing scraps that Maddow and Johnston had unveiled suggest that Trump’s interest in keeping his returns secret is at least in part because they reveal how much he would benefit from policies he supports.

    No, the press freaked out because reporters had to wait for 20 minutes on a weeknight and watch a cable news program to hear a scoop none of them had been able to get over the previous 20 months, and because the actual content of that scoop didn’t match whatever they were expecting.

    In real time, political media Twitter exploded with criticism for the MSNBC host. Afterward, the critique from journalists seemed to overwhelm the actual news the show had produced.

    Maddow had used “a windup that some fellow journalists, eager for any bombshells, found exceedingly lengthy,” according to the Times. She had “disappoint[ed] many in the political-media establishment with a report that was widely characterized as overhyped,” CNN reported. Her program was a “cynical, self-defeating spectacle.” She “bur[ied] the lede,” having “talked . . . and talked . . . and talked” for what “felt like an eternity.” She had made a “big-time blunder” and her “bombshell” had “fizzled.”

    Poynter.org chief media writer James Warren was one of Maddow’s few defenders on style, excoriating the press for its “mix of impatience and internet-fueled craving for instant gratification” in the face of a garden-variety effort by a media outlet to ensure the largest possible audience for its scoop. As to the revelation’s content, as The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple noted, “The president wants to abolish the part of the tax code that stings him the hardest. In what news world is that not a bombshell?”

    With the White House’s release of a tax proposal that eliminates that part of the tax code, Maddow’s bombshell is more important than ever. But don’t expect to see apologies any time soon -- even news reports that detail how the 2005 1040 shows how Trump would benefit from the proposal don’t give Maddow any credit for unveiling it.

    This post has been updated for clarity.

    Images by Sarah Wasko.