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  • TV News Coverage Of Trump’s Policies Overwhelmed By His Wiretapping Lie

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Broadcast and cable news coverage of ruinous economic policies rolled out by the White House last week was overwhelmed by the president’s false accusation that his predecessor illegally wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

    On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that up to 24 million Americans would lose access to health insurance over the next 10 years if the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare goes into effect. On that same day, the Trump administration unveiled an overlooked executive order that encourages cabinet secretaries and agency directors to create a plan to completely reshape a federal bureaucracy of over 2.8 million employees. And on March 16, the Trump administration unveiled its budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year, featuring proposed “massive cuts” to nondefense spending. The proposed cuts, which would offset an increase in spending on military programs and a border wall, would hit almost every facet of the federal government, but they would come down particularly hard on funding for small programs including Meals on Wheels, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS.

    Yet according to Media Matters research, from March 13 to 17, President Donald Trump’s false wiretap claim dominated TV news coverage, overshadowing discussion of these important policy moves. While Trump’s lie certainly merits extensive media coverage, it’s also crucial to share details of his policymaking with the public.

    Trump ignited a media firestorm in early March when he repeatedly accused former President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping him in the midst of last year's election. Right-wing media, led by Fox News, sprang to his defense even though the president offered no evidence to support his claim. Meanwhile, legitimate reporters exposed the bizarre accusation’s source as “the right-wing fever swamps” of fringe media and reported that it was pushed by a Russian state-sponsored news network. During March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey put Trump’s wiretapping lie to rest, telling the committee, “I have no information that supports those tweets.”

    Yet nearly two weeks after Trump initially made the claim, his smear of Obama still had such an influence on television news coverage that it overshadowed every other discussion about Trump’s policy agenda last week. Media Matters identified 226 segments from March 13 through 17 that focused on Trump during evening programming on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC and major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. Of those segments, 64 focused on Trump’s wiretapping allegations -- a figure that dwarfed every other major issue Media Matters identified. Coverage of Trump’s health care plan came in a distant second place, with 37 segments, and stories related to the portion of Trump’s 2005 tax returns obtained by Rachel Maddow ranked third (26 segments). Trump’s proposed budget outline was discussed in just 14 segments, and his executive order to reshape the federal workforce registered just four mentions.

    With television news forced to dissect and debunk Trump’s outrageous claims, coverage of pressing economic issues was eclipsed. Coverage of the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- which health care experts have said would be particularly harmful to low-income Americans, seniors, and people dealing with illnesses -- could not overtake that of Trump’s wiretapping tweet, even with the Trump administration attempting to smear the CBO numbers in the press. The executive order, which was described by CNN reporter Stephen Collinson as part of Trump’s larger goal to “dismember government one dollar at a time,” barely registered in news coverage at all. And Trump’s budget cuts, which would decimate social safety net programs, were discussed 14 times during evening news coverage on March 16 and 17, while Trump’s lie about wiretapping was discussed 35 times on those two days.

    Trump’s promotion of a discredited lie accusing his predecessor of illegal conduct while in office merits extensive media coverage, but the policies he has enacted or plans to enact can be just as destructive as the misinformation he spreads. Media cannot afford to let Trump's misleading claims dominate the news cycle, drowning out crucial coverage of the pain his policies may cause the United States.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening news programming (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, as well as the major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, from March 13, 2017, through March 17, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Trump or executive order or federal government or federal employ! or federal worker or federal workers or civil service or government workers or government worker or federal government or budget.

    The following programs were included in the data: ABC's World News Tonight, CBS' Evening News, NBC's Nightly News, and PBS' NewsHour, as well as CNN's The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight, Fox News' Special Report, The First 100 Days, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity, and MSNBC's For The Record, Hardball, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval. This survey includes CNN’s second live hour of Anderson Cooper 360 during the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot.

    For this study, Media Matters included only those segments that contained substantial discussions of Donald Trump. We defined a "substantial discussion" as any segment where a host dedicates a monologue, or portion of a monologue, to Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States, or any segment where two or more guests discuss Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States. We did not include teasers or clips of news events, or rebroadcasts of news packages that were already counted when they first aired in the 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. survey window.

  • FBI Director Puts To Rest Two Weeks Of Fox Lies About Trump's False Wiretap Claim

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Since March 4, President Donald Trump and Fox News have been feeding each other evidence and defenses to back up Trump’s false claim that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, ordered a “wiretap” at Trump Tower. Fox figures, including Andrew Napolitano, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly, have been backing up Trump’s claim, and Trump and White House press secretary Sean Spicer have in turn recycled their comments in their attempts to substantiate the original claim. On March 20, FBI Director James Comey debunked Trump’s original tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping, unequivocally stating, “I have no information that supports those tweets. … The Department [of Justice] has no information that supports those tweets.”

  • Trump’s Interview On Fox Was A Good Reminder Of Why NBC Needs To Cut Ties With Him

    On CNN’s New Day, Poppy Harlow Questions Trump’s Logic Of Attacking NBC’s Coverage Because He “Makes Money For The Network”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an interview with Fox News, President Donald Trump called NBC “despicable” for their coverage of him because he “made a fortune for NBC with The Apprentice,” demonstrating once more why NBC needs to end its financial relationship with the president immediately.

    CNN’s New Day highlighted the conflict of interest, with guest host Poppy Harlow questioning Trump’s logic that he should get favorable coverage from NBC because he “makes money for the network.” CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter added, “It seems he thinks NBC is on the hook now with him forever. It's a reflection of his business mindset, his business relationships.”

    NBC allowed Trump to remain as an executive producer of The Celebrity Apprentice, which raises a conflict of interest for the network as they have an incentive to weigh the costs of aggressively reporting on the president against the revenue that could be lost if Trump’s reputation is damaged.

    Contrary to Trump’s complaining about NBC News, many at the network have gone out of their way to normalize Trump. Indeed, on the same day that Trump complained about NBC, Trump was accompanied on Air Force One by MSNBC contributor Mark Halperin.

    From the March 16 edition of CNN’s New Day:

    POPPY HARLOW (CO-HOST): Also I want to get your guys’ take on this interview [Trump] did. He’s done very few, but the ones he’s done have been with friendly outlets. Here’s what he told Tucker Carlson on Fox just last night about how he talks to the American people. Listen.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    DONALD TRUMP: I think that maybe I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Twitter because I get such a fake press, such a dishonest press. I mean, if you look at -- and I'm not including Fox because I think Fox has been fair to me -- but if you look at CNN and if you look at these other networks, NBC -- I made a fortune for NBC with The Apprentice. I was very good to NBC, and they are despicable. They're despicable in their coverage. CBS, ABC, -- you take a look at what's going on, I call it the fake press, the fake media. It is a disgrace, what's happening.

    [END VIDEO]

    HARLOW: So let me get this straight, Brian Stelter. If one makes money for a network, that entity should not objectively cover that said person who happens to be commander in chief. What kind of logic is that?

    STELTER: It seems he thinks NBC is on the hook now with him forever. It's a reflection of his business mindset, his business relationships. This is a president who uses language differently than other presidents. But now, as Bill was saying, that’s coming back to haunt him in various ways. There’s even moments where President Trump tries to parse language when it benefits him. He said to Tucker Carlson, “When I was talking about wiretapping, I used the word wiretap in quotes so it could mean many different things.” Well, actually, in his tweets he did quote the word wiretap once, didn’t quote it twice -- two other times. So he was trying to use a sort of predictable presidential parsing of language when it benefits him, but at other times he’s so loose with words. I noticed at his rally last night, what he’s doing is saying “We will do this, we will do this,” still acting -- still talking like he’s campaigning.

    Click here to tell NBC to Dump Trump

  • Trump Praises Fox & Friends: "I Like That Group Of Three People"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    At a campaign rally in Nashville, Tennessee on March 15, President Donald Trump repeatedly attacked the press, saying, “They’re bad people, folks!” and calling the press “the fake, fake media.” Minutes after the rally, Trump appeared in a pre-taped interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and praised the hosts of the network’s morning show, Fox & Friends. In the past, Trump has credited Fox & Friends as a significant aide in his becoming president.

    DONALD TRUMP: I saw this morning on Fox & Friends, I watch -- I like that group of three people, but they had a man who was saying "Trump is the greatest president ever, and there will never be one like him." Now, the thing is, I've only been there for like 50 days, but he was very enthusiastic, but he was talking -- he is a manufacturer, and I have taken off regulations by the thousands. And we are just -- we are just starting. We are just starting. So, there is great optimism about the economy, but we have to get the taxes reduced.

  • Trump Sycophant Tucker Carlson Legitimized Trump’s Wiretap Lie And Got Rewarded With An Interview

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN & BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox host Tucker Carlson is scheduled to interview President Donald Trump for an interview to air tonight on Fox News. The interview comes after Carlson legitimized Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower -- an assertion that the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has rejected. Carlson has admitted that Trump’s claim was not “literally accurate,” but called it “plausible” and said there was “a lot of evidence” supporting it.

  • Tucker Carlson Hosted Anti-Muslim Columnist Who Has Called For Gunships To Stop Refugees

    Trump Has Praised Katie Hopkins’ Columns

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY & BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson hosted UK Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins who wrote a column allegedly detailing the many women in Sweden who fear being assaulted by immigrants. Hopkins’ writing and tweets exemplify hate-mongering anti-Muslim bigotry and in the past she has called for the murder of refugees and referred to them as “cockroaches.”