Bret Stephens

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  • Will Bret Stephens' Climate Denial Threaten The Integrity Of The NYT Opinion Section?

    The NY Times’ Climate Denial-Free Opinion Section Is Unique Among Major Newspapers, But Bret Stephens Could Change That

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    A Media Matters study conducted last year found that over a year-and-a-half period, The New York Times was the only one of four top U.S. newspapers that did not publish climate science denial and misinformation about climate change in its opinion pages. But the paper’s recent hire of Wall Street Journal columnist and climate denier Bret Stephens may tarnish the Times’ otherwise stellar record when it comes to covering climate change.

    On April 12, the Times announced that it was hiring Stephens as its newest columnist. The paper’s editorial page editor defended the decision, saying characterizations of Stephens as a climate denialist were “unfair” because “millions of people” agree with him (an argument that has rightly been criticized for presenting a false equivalency on the reality of climate change). In a statement to The Huffington Post regarding his hiring, Stephens described himself as “climate agnostic,” adding that it “seems to be the case” that “man-made carbon emissions” are “probably largely” causing the earth to warm (an understatement given that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists say human activity is the primary cause of global warming).

    But Stephens’ attempt to cast himself as occupying some sort of middle ground on climate change belies his lengthy record of outright climate denial in The Wall Street Journal, where he often made extreme comments about climate change, calling it a “sick-souled religion,” comparing those who accept and are concerned about global warming to “closet Stalinists,” and declaring in 2010 that “global warming is dead.” Stephens has also promoted the myth that climate scientists predicted global cooling in the 1970s and cited fiction writer Michael Crichton to discount the scientific consensus on global warming. And as recently as 2015, Stephens dismissed climate change as an “imaginary enemy.”

    Stephens’ hiring is especially worrying considering that a Media Matters study examining the opinion pages of four national newspapers -- the Times, the Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today -- found that the Times was the only one that avoided publishing climate science denial in its opinion pages. Notably, for the newspaper with the next-lowest amount of climate science denial, The Washington Post, all three instances of denial came from a single columnist: George Will.

    In addition to tarring the Times’ opinion pages, the paper’s hiring of Stephens could also mar the The New York Times’ stellar climate coverage. The Times has provided readers with explainers on the position of 2016 presidential candidates and current administration and elected officials on climate change, employed visual storytelling to detail on-the-ground climate impacts, chronicled local responses to climate change, and conducted an in-depth investigation of the troubled Kemper project in Mississippi to build a first-of-its-kind “clean coal” power plant.

    Just this week, the New York Times magazine devoted an issue to climate change that covered topics such as geoengineering, climate change-induced migration in regions around the world, the threat rising sea levels pose for coastal properties, and an increase in “the potential for viruses like Zika” due to climate change.

    And at a time where broadcast network coverage of climate change is seeing a drastic decline, the Times has been expanding its climate team. While announcing that Hannah Fairfield was joining the paper as the new climate editor in January, Times editors wrote, “No topic is more vital than climate change. … With Hannah’s appointment, we aim to build on what has already been dominant coverage of climate change and to establish The Times as a guide to readers on this most important issue.”

    Let’s just hope that Bret Stephens’ “agnosticism” doesn’t misguide those very same readers. 

  • From The Iraq War To Climate Change To Sexual Assault, NY Times' New Op-Ed Columnist, Bret Stephens, Is A Serial Misinformer

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times hired Wall Street Journal deputy editor Bret Stephens as its newest opinion columnist, claiming he “will bring a new perspective to bear on the news.” Stephens has a long history of promoting misinformation, including on climate science, foreign policy, and sexual assault.

  • On CNN, Journalists Provide Historical Context For Criticism Of Trump's Attacks On The Media

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the February 26 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, journalists warned about the parallels between attacks on the free press from President Donald Trump and his administration and similar strategies used by President Richard Nixon and authoritarian regimes.

    Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor and conservative columnist Bret Stephens stated that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s decision to exclude certain outlets from a February 24 press gaggle is part of a strategy by the administration to “bully the press” and “manipulate coverage,” saying he “would call it Nixonian, except I think that would be unfair to the memory of President Nixon.” Stephens added, “if the administration is going try to boycott certain news outlets, then perhaps we should, as news organizations, return the favor to this administration”:

    BRIAN STELTER (HOST): When you invite a channel called One America News Network, which is so small it doesn't have Nielsen ratings, but then you exclude CNN, it's clearly a premeditated decision. So let me ask you Bret about this, does this feel like part of a strategy by the White House?

    BRET STEPHENS: Yeah, it seems, I would call it "Nixonian," except I think that would be unfair to the memory of President Nixon. This is an attempt to bully the press by using access as a weapon to manipulate coverage. And, I think The Wall Street Journal put out a statement that I thought was very clear: that if we had known what was happening we wouldn't have participated in that meeting with Mr. Spicer. And I think that's the right attitude for the rest of the press to take, that if the administration is going try to boycott certain news outlets, then perhaps we should, as news organizations, return the favor to this administration.

    In a later segment, columnist Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News compared Trump’s relations with the media to that of “right-wing authoritarians in Europe in the 1930s” and “Hugo Chavez in Venezuela on the left in the 21st century,” stating, “the first thing authoritarian governments do is go after the media”:

    STELTER: Will, you wrote for the Philly Daily News that this language, “enemy of the people,” that it has historical parallels. Tell us about that.

    WILL BUNCH: Yeah, absolutely. If you look back, Brian, the last 100 years going all the way back to the rise of right-wing authoritarians in Europe in the 1930s, but follow a straight line all the way to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela on the left in the 21st century, and you’ll see that the first thing that authoritarian governments do is go after the media. And there's been concerns about Donald Trump, going back to the campaign, that he was going to try and run the government in an authoritarian fashion. And I think when he calls the press the "enemy of the American people," I think he’s playing exactly into the worst of what people feared from a Trump administration. Not to get too Orwellian here, but I think what's going on big picture is the Trump administration and his advisers like Steve Bannon and Donald Trump himself are in a war to control what is the truth. When they tell repeated lies like about the murder rate in America or even about little stuff like the number of people at his inauguration, they’re trying to create a scenario where they, and not the media, are the ones defining the truth. And so tearing down the media is also part of the strategy. And some of it doesn’t matter now, but in the months ahead there’s going to be big crises. We’re going to see his signature programs, like mass deportation implemented over the coming months. And the truth is going to become more and more important. And you know, just like Orwell warned in "1984", he who controls the truth is in control and I think that’s the big strategy here.

    Click here to tell the White House Press Corps to stand up Trump’s media blacklist.

  • The Continuing Conservative Media Civil War Zeroes In On Sean Hannity

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    In the latest development in the conservative media civil war over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity, a staunch Trump supporter, is battling other conservative media figures over his unapologetic and unconditional defense of the candidate, with those media figures now calling his shilling for Trump “slavish” and “disgraceful.”

  • BEDLAM: Hannity, National Review, WSJ Editor Go To War Over Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    In what was supposed to be a moment of unity within the Republican Party following the national convention, presidential nominee Donald Trump has fostered a party consumed by infighting, much of which is taking place within right-wing media. Fox News anchor Sean Hannity has been at the center of the brawl, going to battle against conservative magazine National Review and an editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spurred a civil war among the Republican Party following a week where the campaign has been rocked by Trump’s extended fight with a Gold Star family, staff firings, his refusal to endorse several Republican leaders, a variety of additional bizarre and extreme comments, and cratering poll numbers. NBC’s Chuck Todd has described this as a “crisis” faced by the campaign, stemming from Trump’s “36 hours of total and complete chaos.” Several Congressional Republicans have refused to endorse Trump, with Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) announcing he will vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    The disarray is not limited to the Republican Party. Infighting also broke out within conservative media circles this week over the GOP nominee. Sean Hannity, a fervent Trump supporter and defender, along with Breitbart News, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, and Ann Coulter lashed out against what they called “establishment Republicans” who tepidly endorsed the nominee and the Republicans who refuse to support Trump, saying they would be to blame if Trump loses in November. Several right-wing media figures, including George Will, Erick Erickson, and radio host Charlie Sykes, have said they would not support Trump.

    National Review, a conservative publication that once called Trump “the very epitome of vulgarity,” blamed Hannity, Fox News, and conservative talk radio for the rise of Trump, saying “they have created an intellectual ghetto that no one else wants to visit.”

    Hannity also drew ire from Wall Street Journal editor Bret Stephens, who called him “Fox News’ dumbest anchor.” Hannity subsequently went after Stephens in a tweetstorm, calling him an “arrogant” and “elitist” “enabler[].” He also proclaimed that “If Hillary wins I will hold assholes like you accountable.”

    UPDATE: Stephens responded to Hannity’s criticism in an August 8 column, calling Hannity’s “excuses” for Trump “disgraceful” and writing that “Today’s GOP is on the road to self-immolation, thanks in part to the veneration of ignorance typified by” Hannity. Stephens added that Hannity “proved my point” that Hannity is Fox’s “dumbest anchor” by retweeting Stephens. He also labeled Hannity’s Twitter tirade a “tantrum” and wrote that Hannity calling him a “dumba-- with his head up his a--” showed “he can’t even swear competently.”

  • Media Slam The Republican Leaders Disavowing Trump’s Feud With Khans But Not Rescinding Their Endorsements

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media figures are criticizing Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for refusing to rescind endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while condemning his attacks on the Khans, an American Muslim family whose son was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. They are calling the statements refusing to flat-out disavow Trump “acts of cowardice,” “less than worthless,” and “empty words.”

  • Wall Street Journal Columnist Blasts Rush Limbaugh And Mark Levin For Helping Build Up Donald Trump

    Bret Stephens: Levin And Limbaugh Are "Ideological Drunks Who, When They Knew Better, Cheered The Donald On"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump

    Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens slammed right-wing radio hosts Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh for providing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump "with the margin of respectability he needed in the early months to make his campaign credible with Republican voters."

    In his February 22 column, Stephens criticized right wing talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin for creating the environment in Republican Party politics that paved the way for Donald Trump's rise.

    So where were Messrs. Limbaugh and Levin last summer, when the Trump candidacy was still a big soap bubble, waiting to be popped by the likes of them?

    In July, Mr. Trump said of John McCain, "He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." The Donald's trademark insult--coyly calibrated to appeal to voters who lack the brains or the decency to be appalled--should have been the tombstone of his campaign. But it wasn't, thanks not least to a loud assist from Mr. Limbaugh.

    "Trump can survive this. Trump is surviving this," Mr. Limbaugh exalted. "The American people haven't seen something like this in a long time. They have not seen an embattled public figure stand up for himself, double down and tell everybody to go to hell."

    In fact, Americans have often seen such figures: Marcus Garvey, Henry Wallace, Joe McCarthy, Lyndon LaRouche. We just used to have the good sense to dismiss them as eccentrics, lowlifes or clowns. What we haven't seen are the modern-day keepers of mainstream conservatism developing schoolgirl crushes on the bad boy of the GOP class. "The Republicans are impotent!" swooned Mr. Levin in one September broadcast. "And now this guy [Mr. Trump], who may not be a down-the-line conservative, is standing up to them. And he's kicking them all over the place."

    Mr. Levin has since become more critical of Mr. Trump, though Mr. Limbaugh seems to be hedging his bets. But both men provided Mr. Trump with the margin of respectability he needed in the early months to make his campaign credible with Republican voters.

    So Mr. Trump had once supported socialized medicine? That didn't matter, said Mr. Levin, because the candidate opposed ObamaCare now. So Mr. Trump was conspicuously ignorant about major foreign-policy issues? Who cares, since he was passionate about the "invasion," as Mr. Limbaugh calls it, of Latin American migrants. So Mr. Trump wants to ban Muslim immigration? Well, Mr. Levin says, at least "Trump has opened the way" to a "national discussion."

    [...]

    It's a lucky thing for conservatives that the likeliest alternative to Mr. Trump for the nomination is the very "establishment Republican" Marco Rubio, the non-jerk of the season who could actually win in November. Too bad his task will be that much harder thanks to the ideological drunks who, when they knew better, cheered the Donald on.

    Creative Commons Image via Flickr / Matt Johnson

  • INFOGRAPHIC: The Conservative Civil War Over Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative pundits are bickering over Donald Trump's campaign, especially after National Review's "Against Trump" issue and the backlash it engendered. On one side are pundits who want to stop Trump's candidacy in its tracks. On the other are conservatives who are lauding Trump's candidacy, even if they have not officially endorsed him. Media Matters breaks down exactly who is on which side (click for the full-sized image):

    Civil War over Donald Trump

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko, Research by Eric Hananoki
     
  • Mark Levin Attacks Wall Street Journal Editorial Highlighting The Uncompromising Conservative Media Standard For GOP Candidates

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Radio host Mark Levin responded to an editorial from The Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens that criticized right-wing media for their obsession with electing an ideologically pure conservative candidate at the expense of electability. Levin attacked Stephens as a "mouthpiece for amnesty" and "a jester for big government Republicans."

    In a December 21 editorial, Stephens claimed conservatives are building a wall around the Republican Party by supporting a frontrunner who insults "Mexicans, Muslims ... and others." Stephens highlighted conservative desire to elect a candidate that "has passed all the Conservative Purity Tests (CPTs), meaning we've upheld the honor of our politically hopeless cause." Stephens concluded that this nonsensical ideology would alienate "not just Hispanics, or Asian-Americans or gays and lesbians, but also moderates turned off by loudmouth vulgarians" and lose elections.

    Mark Levin responded in a Facebook post attacking Stephens, calling him a "mouthpiece for amnesty" and claiming "the WSJ helped deliver us two terms of Obama with their early and constant propaganda for McCain and Romney":

    Funny. Last week I posted that Fox's attacks on conservatives are going to elect Hillary. Next thing you know, a WSJ editorial page staffer, paid by Murdoch who also owns Fox, accuses me of the same thing. Bret Stephens is a mouthpiece for amnesty, like the rest of the amnesty ideologues at the WSJ. And he's a jester for big government Republicans and corporatists. He's part of the same lame crowd that trashed the Tea Party over the debt. That would be the Tea Party that delivered the GOP both houses of Congress and record state legislative and gubernatorial victories. Conversely, Stephens and his ilk backed Boehner to the end as they back McConnell and Ryan now. Even Ryan is criticizing the Boehner budget process. And the WSJ helped deliver us two terms of Obama with their early and constant propaganda for McCain and Romney.

    Meanwhile, the GOP and Stephens celebrate one of the lousiest budgets in modern times and, of course, attack conservative critics as purest hellbent on electing Hillary. Does it get any dumber than these guys? Delusional. Unprincipled. Cronies. I'll have more to say upon my return to the airwaves early next year.

  • NY Mag's Jonathan Chait Highlights How Right-Wing Media Helps Push The GOP To Deny Climate Science

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait explained how conservative media personalities helped coerce the GOP into climate-science denialism.

    In a December 1 article, Jonathan Chait discussed the way right-wing media has bullied the GOP to adopt climate-science denialism or face the "AM radio interrogation" from conservative radio hosts. Chait wrote that "GOP politicians that understand climate science [are] cowed into submission by an angry minority," and media figures like Fox News contributors George Will and Charles Krauthammer, and The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens. 

    Though it was surely not his intention to do so, David Brooks' column today has made an airtight case for why no sane person would support any Republican candidate for president next year.Brooks begins his column by conceding that climate-science deniers have a hammerlock on public discourse within the party. "On this issue the G.O.P. has come to resemble a Soviet dictatorship," he writes, "a vast majority of Republican politicians can't publicly say what they know about the truth of climate change because they're afraid the thought police will knock on their door and drag them off to an AM radio interrogation." Brooks uses this observation as a launching point to tout glimmerings of moderate (or, at any rate, less extreme) thought within the party. 

    [...]

    In fact, as terrifying as the reality depicted by Brooks may sound, matters are actually worse. Brooks presents the situation as a "vast majority" of GOP politicians that understand climate science cowed into submission by an angry minority. Perhaps the vast majority of Republican politicians who confide their private beliefs to Brooks feel this way, but this is probably not a representative cross section. It is clear that a large proportion of party elites proclaim themselves to be climate-science skeptics for reasons purely of their own volition. Nor is this sentiment confined to talk-radio shouters. Esteemed chin-strokers and collectors of awards, like George F. Will and Charles Krauthammer, broadcast their disdain for the findings of the climate-science field.

    [...]

    Here is a typical example at hand in Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens's offering today, which dismisses climate change as an imaginary problem. "The hysteria generated by an imperceptible temperature rise of 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880--as if the trend is bound to continue forever, or is not a product of natural variation, or cannot be mitigated except by drastic policy interventions. The hyping of flimsy studies--melting Himalayan glaciers; vanishing polar ice--to press the political point." 

    [...]

    Parties operate by coalescing around mutually agreeable policies. The presidential nominee may downplay the most outlandish anti-scientific conspiracy theories, but the party's agenda will have to accommodate the beliefs expounded by the likes of Smith, Inhofe, Will, Krauthammer, Stephens, and many others. 

    This week conservative media personalities also attacked the U.N. climate summit in Paris. Conservative radio and Fox News host Sean Hannity called those who believed in climate change "idiots." Fox host Bill Hemmer  pointed to increasing snowfall in Alaska to dismiss the summit entirely. And radio host Rush Limbaugh said that the climate summit is "an attack on capitalism" and is "about weakening the United States."

  • Too Much, Too Little, Or Just Right: To Conservative Media, Any Amount Of Snow Debunks Climate Change

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS & KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Some conservative media figures have touted the intensity of the recent blizzard that hit the northeast, some have claimed that it is no different than snow storms from the past, and others have deemed the blizzard much less severe than originally forecast. But the one thing they all agree on is that the blizzard somehow disproves the firmly established science of global warming.