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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.

  • These Four Outlets Are A Welcome Exception To Media's Failure To Appropriately Label This Anti-Immigrant Hate Group

    Media Need To Stop Helping The Center Of Immigration Studies Sanitize Its Nativist Image

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The media’s problem of citing the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) as merely "conservative" -- and effectively elevating it as a legitimate source -- has allowed for the proliferation of anti-immigrant extremist groups in mainstream media. However, some outlets have become a welcome exception by appropriately describing “the nativist lobby” of CIS and its sister organizations, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has dubbed these three groups “the nativist lobby” for their ties to white supremacists. It has also specifically singled out CIS and FAIR as hate groups in its latest annual hate group census, listing them as among “the most extreme of the hundreds of nativist and vigilante groups that have proliferated since the late 1990s.” CIS is referred to as the “think tank” arm of the Nativist Lobby because it attempts to mask its extremist agenda under a veil of academic discipline. CIS produces studies that routinely use flawed methodologies, distort reputable research, and demonize immigrants despite its attempt to cast itself as being “low-immigration, pro-immigrant.

    Media have aided the group in sanitizing its image. Major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Politico, and others have all cited CIS within the last year without accurately exposing the group’s anti-immigrant agenda and unreliable research. USA Today routinely publishes articles written by CIS members that misinform readers about immigrants and refugees; the paper justifies the platform as “the opposing view,” offering the space as a counterpoint to the paper’s editorials. CIS is also no stranger to mainstream cable news outlets like CNN.

    But a handful of outlets are offering a refreshing exception to this media pitfall. The New Yorker, New Republic, and La Opinión have recently joined The Daily Beast in exposing the CIS anti-immigration campaign that is having tangible effects via President Donald Trump's administration. The New Yorker zeroed in on the group’s growing influence, calling it one of the most “prominent nativist groups” and writing, “Under the Trump Administration, the relationships between anti-immigrant stalwarts and Border Patrol are being strengthened, and formalized, as never before.” New Republic lambasted CIS for bolstering Trump’s border wall proposal with false statistics, noting that the group has been “Trump’s go-to source for research about migrants and the dangers they pose.” La Opinión pointed to CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA as “the pillar organizations of the nativist movement today,” noting that their roots “emerge from their concern that Latinos bring maladies and defects that damage [American] society.”

    Articles like these are welcome nuggets of truth in a political climate often devoid of facts, especially when it comes to immigration. CIS responded to the New Yorker and New Republic articles, attempting to discredit the outlets as well as the SPLC, which the articles cited. The group’s response underscores the need for other media outlets to ditch the “conservative” label when mentioning CIS and its cohorts and apply the proper name: “anti-immigrant hate groups.” Failure to provide audiences with the complete truth about the nativist lobby will only serve to further their already established influence within the administration and throughout government.

  • CNN’s Dana Bash Debunks All Of Tom Price’s Inaccurate Claims About Planned Parenthood -- Except One

    During CNN’s Health Care Town Hall, Only Price’s Misleading Claim About The Fungibility Of Planned Parenthood’s Funds Goes Unchecked 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    During CNN's March 15 town hall with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, CNN's Dana Bash soundly debunked Price's inaccurate arguments about Planned Parenthood in all instances but one: Price's claim that money given to Planned Parenthood was "fungible."

    Price -- who has a long history of pushing disastrous health care policies -- used the town hall as an opportunity to mislead viewers about the accessibility of essential care without Planned Parenthood, arguing that community health centers (CHCs) can handle the demands of providing essential care services. He also claimed that defunding Planned Parenthood is necessary because some Americans are concerned that “their federal tax dollars [are] used for abortion services.” Bash rebuked several of Price’s assertions, noting that the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding for abortion and that CHCs could not possibly fill the gap left behind by defunding Planned Parenthood. Bash explained that “105 counties across the country have Planned Parenthood and that is the only clinic offering a full range of contraceptive methods to women.”

    Unfortunately, Bash and co-moderator Wolf Blitzer did allow Price to get away with one inaccuracy by letting him claim -- uncorrected -- that eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood is necessary because “that money is fungible," implying that federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood support abortion, even if indirectly. Despite providing robust pushback and asking important follow-up questions during the rest of the forum, Bash and Blitzer moved on from this comment without addressing Price’s dangerous claim.

    Voices on the right have long used the argument that money is fungible to discredit Planned Parenthood and call for the defunding of its clinics across the country, suggesting that federal support for the organization’s services indirectly enables or contributes to its ability to provide abortions. But as the Guttmacher Institute points out, this logic is flawed: “Fungibility is an inherent possibility when involving the private sector in any government-subsidized activity, and the only way to avoid it would be for government agencies to exclusively provide any and all such services.” The organization also notes that it is “hypocritical” to claim the “fungibility” problem only in relation to abortion providers, but not with regard to other federally subsidized organizations including religious groups and charities. 

    Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans nationally, 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through programs including Medicaid. When this many people risk losing access to care, it is imperative for media to use extreme care in addressing the topic, including correcting those like Price when they spread misinformation about the consequences of Republicans’ efforts to upend the American health care system. 

  • 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

  • Experts Explain How GOP Repeal Of The ACA Will Hurt Americans

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Cable networks have hosted a variety of health care experts to discuss the negative impact that the Republican health care bill and repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have on different aspects of the American health care system, including coverage, health care costs, Medicaid, and women’s health care.

  • 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.

  • This Is How Easy It Would Be For CNN To Fact-Check Tom Price's Trumpcare Lies

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    CNN moderators Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer should aggressively fact-check Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price during the network’s March 15 town hall, given the Trump administration’s penchant for spreading misinformation on health care. The town hall format amplifies the need for follow-up questions by the moderators who are informed enough on the issues to actively fact-check misleading claims.

    CNN is holding a town hall featuring Price that “will focus on the GOP’s health care bill.” This is just one of several special events CNN has held about the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Given that the network has a new emphasis on “showcasing special events,” it is particularly important for CNN moderators to fact-check participants so these events don’t simply turn into platforms for conservatives to spread misinformation.

    CNN has a unique opportunity during this town hall to hold the Trump administration accountable for the predicted effects of its proposed bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), particularly given that this is will be Price’s first prime-time cable appearance outside the friendly confines of Fox News. (Price has done the rounds on Fox, giving interviews to Bret Baier, Neil Cavuto, and Trump sycophant Sean Hannity).

    Given Price’s history of pushing disastrous health care policies and the tendency for Republican politicians to push misinformation about their health care agenda during CNN’s special events, Bash and Blitzer must utilize this opportunity to ask follow-up questions and fact-check the secretary. Here are the five ways that Price is most likely to spread misinformation given his history and the Trump administration’s official positions: 

    1. Claiming That The CBO Report On The AHCA Is Wrong Or Biased

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reviewed the AHCA and reported that it would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 14 million in 2018, and 24 million in 2026. A consistent theme in the conservative reaction to the CBO review revolves around attacking the credibility of the organization as a mechanism for undercutting its predictions. Price echoed these attacks, tweeting that “the CBO report defies logic” and issuing an official statement claiming that the “assumptions” of the report “do not translate to the real world.”

    Despite these attacks, the CBO has a long history of making accurate predictions about health care reform legislation. Vox’s Andrew Prokop notes that the CBO’s influence derives from its “reputation as a politically neutral arbiter” and that it is viewed as “the gold standard.” In contrast to the GOP’s claims that the CBO made inaccurate predictions about the ACA, the Commonwealth Fund emphasized that the CBO was “reasonably accurate” and that its “projections were closer to realized experience than other prominent forecasters’ estimates were.” FactCheck.org’s Brooks Jackson debunked the anti-CBO talking points, illustrating that “the CBO actually nailed the overall impact of the law on the uninsured pretty closely” and “got the big picture right” on coverage estimates. Bash and Blitzer should be ready to correct attempts by Price to smear the CBO to salvage the AHCA’s chances of passage.

    2. Attempting To Downplay The Fact That The AHCA Will Cause 24 Million Individuals To Lose Their Insurance By 2026

    Price has consistently misled the public during interviews about the AHCA’s impact on insurance coverage. When asked by Cavuto if he thought it was “inevitable” that “some” people who gained insurance through the ACA marketplaces would lose it, Price said, “No. I just simply don’t believe that.” He went further during a Meet the Press interview, claiming that “we have a great opportunity to increase coverage over where we are right now.” His remark echoed misleading claims made by Trump about providing “insurance for everybody.”

    In reality, the CBO report predicts that “in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured” and that that number would rise to “24 million in 2026.” Vox explained that the AHCA’s provision to end Medicaid expansion in 2020 “would contribute to one in five Americans being uninsured.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) emphasized that “all of the historic coverage gains expected under the ACA would disappear and the uninsured rate among the non-elderly would be at or above its 2010 levels.” The CNN moderators must be aggressive in holding Price accountable for the real impacts the proposed legislation will have on millions of Americans who are currently benefitting from Obamacare.

    3. Defending His Assertion That “Nobody Will Be Worse Off Financially” Thanks To Trump’s Health Care Agenda

    The AHCA would eliminate the ACA’s means-tested subsidies and replace them with age-rated refundable tax credits. During Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked, “Can you say for certain that once this bill is passed, nobody will be worse off financially when it comes to paying for health care?” Price initially ducked the question but when Todd pressed him again, he declared, “I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially.”

    Despite Price’s bold claims, the CBO report shows that the AHCA will increase premiums for older, low-income Americans by “more than 750%.” Families USA noted that “lower income families could see their deductibles increase by as much as $5,500.” The Washington Post’s Max Ehrenfreund explained that the AHCA “is a mass transfer of income” from working-class and middle-class Americans that cuts taxes for the wealthiest Americans while cutting federal benefits for the middle and working class.” Bash and Blitzer should expect Price to try to spin his previous statements and must be ready to push back on any false characterizations of the AHCA’s impact on health care costs.

    4. Attempting To Minimize The Impact That Defunding Planned Parenthood Would Have On Women’s Health Care

    Price has a history of discounting the importance of women’s health care and has previously advocated legislation to roll back the ACA’s birth control mandate and to defund Planned Parenthood. Trump administration officials have defended the provision of the AHCA that defunds Planned Parenthood by claiming that it’s “not about denying women access to care” because they would reallocate the money to “federally qualified health care clinics.”

    Experts have debunked the conservative lie that Planned Parenthood can be replaced by community health care centers, calling it a “gross misrepresentation.” A Guttmacher Institute study found that in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety-net health center” with accessible contraception services. Funding cuts to Planned Parenthood in Indiana and Texas resulted in severely negative impacts on community health, contributing to HIV outbreaks. The Washington Post reported that defunding Planned Parenthood “would leave many women without services to help them avoid pregnancy, resulting in thousands of additional births.” The CBO report found that “15 percent” of people in low-income communities “would lose access to care” as a result of defunding Planned Parenthood. CNN should use this town hall as an opportunity to press Price on reproductive rights generally and on the detrimental impact the GOP’s health care bill would have on women’s health care.

    5. Trying To Spin The AHCA’s Severe Medicaid Cuts As Boosting State “Innovation” Or “Flexibility”

    The AHCA would dramatically alter Medicaid by instituting a per capita cap on federal Medicaid spending and ending the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in 2020. During his interview with Cavuto, Price claimed that the AHCA would return “flexibility” to the states and allow them “the ability … to determine what is the right kind of program to care for their Medicaid population.”

    While conservatives often claim Medicaid caps -- also known as “block grants” -- will increase state “flexibility,” in reality such proposals result in the loss of services and coverage for the most vulnerable. A CBPP analysis showed that a per capita cap would result in the “loss of health coverage and less access to needed health care for tens of millions of low-income Americans.” The Kaiser Family Foundation explained that federal caps could lead states to “restrict benefits” and “result in eligibility restrictions and cost shifts to beneficiaries.” Vox noted that the rollback of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion would take “4 million to 6 million people off the rolls” and, combined with the per capita cap, would result in “a $370 billion cut to federal funding to Medicaid over 10 years.” Given the devastating impact the AHCA will have on Medicaid, Bash and Blitzer must follow up on any general assertions of increasing state innovation.