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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.

  • 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.

  • STUDY: How TV News Ignores The Prescription Drug Price Problem

    Evening News Programs On Cable And Broadcast News Rarely Cover Escalating Drug Prices

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    A Media Matters review of weekday evening news coverage on cable and broadcast networks since December reveals that the evening programs largely ignored the problem of escalating prescription drug prices in the United States, even though lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed to address the issue. 

  • Al Roker Debunks EPA Head Scott Pruitt’s Stunning Denial On Human-Caused Climate Change

    Roker: “No Credible Science Or Scientist” Would Support Pruitt’s Assertion CO2 Is Not A Primary Contributor To Global Warming

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    NBC weatherman Al Roker debunked EPA head Scott Pruitt’s false claim that carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming during an appearance on MSNBC Live, explaining that there is “no credible science or scientist” to support Pruitt’s statement.

    During the March 10 segment, Roker addressed Pruitt’s comments on the March 9 edition CNBC’s Squawk Box in which Pruitt said “I would not agree” that CO2 is “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see” -- a statement completely at odds with the consensus among climate scientists that human activity is the primary cause of climate change.

    To rebut Pruitt’s statements, Roker referenced an interview he recently conducted with climate scientist Dr. Marshall Shepherd, who explained that “greenhouse gases are in fact the primary forcing function on a warming climate system. … their fingerprint is there on our naturally varying climate in the same way steroids were on the naturally varying cycle of home runs during the Major League Baseball era.”

    Roker also stated “there is no credible science or scientist” that would back up Pruitt’s assertion. Indeed, a number of climate scientists have weighed in on Pruitt’s statement, stating Pruitt’s denial “demonstrated that he is unqualified to run the EPA or any agency” and suggesting that Pruitt “talk with his own scientists and read the National Climate Assessment.”

    Notably, however, NBC did not address Pruitt’s climate denial on the widely viewed Today show the same day, nor NBC Nightly News air a segment on Pruitt’s climate denial on March 9 -- even though Pruitt’s denial received widespread attention across mainstream media.

    From the March 10 edition of MSNBC Live:

    KATY TUR (HOST): The head of the Environment Protection Agency stunned many when he denied carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.

    [...]

    TUR: Today show host and weatherman, a man who needs no introduction, Al Roker joins me now. “Stunned many” is a bit of an understatement, said most almost all, gosh, CO2 is not a factor when it comes to climate change. Was all of the schooling that I had as a child and into my adult life completely wrong, Al Roker?

    AL ROKER: No, it wasn't wrong and there is no credible science or scientist who will tell you the contrary. The fact is, carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gases is responsible for climate change.

    TUR: No scientist will say this, but we’re having the EPA head say this?

    ROKER: Well, look, this is America and you can make whatever statements you want to, but everybody will pretty much agree -- in fact, just about an hour ago I interviewed one of the leading climate scientists in this country, Dr. Marshall Shepherd, and here's what he had to say about it.

    [BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

    MARSHALL SHEPHERD (DIRECTOR FOR UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA’S PROGRAM IN ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES): The basic physics of the atmosphere suggest that greenhouse gases are in fact the primary forcing function on a warming climate system. Greenhouse gases and the impacts post-industrial age or -- industrial revolution are certainly -- their fingerprint is there on our naturally varying climate in the same way steroids were on the naturally varying cycle of home runs during the Major League Bbaseball era.

    [END VIDEO CLIP]

    ROKER: I think that pretty much sums it it up.

    TUR: Yeah, so where -- if the EPA head is saying there needs to be more research, but the EPA is losing money to do research, give me the consequences. How important is it and how significant is it to have the EPA head deny something like this?

    ROKER: Well I think hopefully cooler heads will prevail upon him to say we need to continue to research this. We need to continue what we've been doing because if you look, we've got a graphic that basically right around the industrial revolution, we had -- there's been no time in this history of our planet where CO2, even naturally occurring or not, was above 290 parts per million. Alright, now you look at the temperature, we put the temperature on top of that, you can see from the 1880s into the 1940s, temperatures are below average, below the global average, but once we really start to see that red line go up, as the CO2 starts to increase, you can see those average global temperatures continue to rise, and they peaked last year, the warmest temperature ever on record for this planet. So as we continue to add those greenhouse gases -- now, that's not to say that -- the greenhouse gases allow us to live on this planet. Without them completely, we would freeze to death. At night we would die. So there has to be some small amount of greenhouse gases. We're just adding too much.

  • When Discussing Trump's Muslim Ban 2.0, Cable News Largely Excluded Muslim Guests Again

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Cable news once again virtually ignored Muslim voices when hosting guests to discuss President Donald Trump’s revised Muslim ban that now blocks migrants from six majority-Muslim nations (instead of seven), a pattern which has been consistent in cable news reporting since the election of Trump.

    On March 6, Trump signed a new executive order temporarily banning U.S. entry for immigrants and refugees from six majority-Muslim countries. The new order, which is set to take effect on March 16, was issued six weeks after Trump’s original January 27 order was blocked by a federal court. While the new order excludes Iraq, replaces the indefinite ban on refugees from Syria with a 120-day freeze, drops the explicit exception for religious minorities, and exempts permanent residents and visa holders, experts and advocates agree that the new order still amounts to religious discrimination and is thus still potentially unconstitutional. Legal experts and advocates like the ACLU’s Omar Jadwat note that “it’s just another run at a Muslim ban …. They can’t unring the bell,” and that Trump’s stated intent is still the same. The state of Hawaii on March 8 issued the first formal legal challenge to the new ban, and other states are considering filing suits as well.

    Despite the controversy surrounding Trump’s executive order and its consequences for immigrants and refugees, in the day and a half following Trump’s signing of the order cable news programs barely hosted Muslim guests to discuss the ban. Out of 90 total guest appearances across the three networks that included significant discussion of the Muslim ban, only 5 guest appearances featured Muslims. CNN hosted 2 Muslim guests, MSNBC had 3 total appearances by two individual Muslim guests (Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MI) appeared on the network twice), and Fox News hosted 0 Muslim guests.

    This isn’t the first time the cable networks failed to include Muslim voices in discussions about Trump’s Muslim ban, and this consistent failure by the networks is becoming increasingly indefensible. A February 9 Media Matters analysis found that, in the week after Trump signed the first iteration of his Muslim ban, prime-time cable news programs hosted 176 guests (some repeat) for significant discussions about the policy, but only 14 guest appearances were Muslim. In the 24 hours after the June 12, 2016, mass shooting in Orlando, FL, Muslims were villainized by some figures in the media after a Muslim man killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others after opening fire at an LGBTQ nightclub, yet cable news hosted only a few Muslim guests. In the month after the 2016 election, only 21 percent of the guests who appeared on evening cable news to discuss Islam were Muslim.

    What types of guests did the networks include? Mostly journalists, analysts, politicians, and in the case of CNN’s New Day, Dan Stein, the head of a nativist, anti-immigrant, SPLC-designated hate group with ties to white supremacists.

    With anti-Muslim hate crimes on the rise, and an administration attempting to implement government-sanctioned discrimination, the need to feature Muslim and refugee voices on TV is more urgent than ever before.

    Methodology

    Media Matters used Snapstream and Nexis to search for all guests appearing on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC between 12 p.m. (the first full hour of programming after the order was signed) and 11 p.m. on March 6 and between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. on March 7 in segments where the revised Muslim ban was the stated topic or there was significant discussion of Trump’s revised Mulim ban, using the terms "refugee," "travel," "ban," "Muslim," "Islam," "vetting," and "executive order."

    Snapstream was used to code segments from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fox and MSNBC. Nexis was used to code all segments from CNN, as well as Fox and MSNBC segments between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

    "Significant discussion" is defined by a back-and-forth exchange between two or more people. Network correspondents and reporters were not counted as guests, even when they appeared on panels. Pre-taped interviews where there was no significant dialogue between the reporter and guest were excluded from the analysis. Reruns of interviews from previous programming were excluded from the analysis. Guest appearances were coded for whether the guests self-identified as Muslim either in the segment or prominently elsewhere in the media. Guests were counted once per episode.

  • How Trump Manipulates Media Coverage Of His Immigration Policies

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Leading up to his joint address to Congress, media outlets helped President Donald Trump misleadingly cast himself as sympathetic to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, known as “Dreamers,” and other immigrants. Trump’s manipulation tactics became evident again when media outlets uncritically parroted his claim that he was open to comprehensive immigration reform hours before he gave his address, which demonized immigrants as criminals and falsely claimed that they are a drain on the economy. As the Trump White House once again steps up its efforts to misrepresent its immigration stance, it is important media not be spun again.

  • Media Outlets Mention Trump's International Women's Day Tweet, Ignore Allegations Of Sexual Assault Against Him

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & KATIE SULLIVAN

    On International Women’s Day, cable hosts on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox Business Network reported on President Donald Trump’s tweet stating that he has “tremendous respect for women” without mentioning that at least 17 women have accused him of sexual assault or harassment.

    On the morning of March 8, Trump tweeted, “I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy.” He followed that up with a second tweet, writing, “On International Women's Day, join me in honoring the critical role of women here in America & around the world.” At least nine cable news shows reported on Trump’s tweet between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m.: CNN’s New Day, At This Hour, Inside Politics, and Wolf; MSNBC’s Morning Joe, MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, the 11 a.m. hour of MSNBC Live hosted by Ali Velshi, and Andrew Mitchell Reports; and Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo. None of the nine shows mentioned that 17 women have come forward alleging Trump sexually assaulted or harassed them. In fact, no news program on any cable or broadcast network mentioned the accusations at all, according to a Media Matters search.

    In addition to the actual accusations, Trump himself was recorded in 2005 bragging to an Access Hollywood host about sexual assault.  

    While no show that reported on Trump’s tweet mentioned the accusations of sexual misconduct against him -- or that he responded to them with personal attacks, calling one a “horrible woman” and insulting another's’ looks -- The Atlantic’s Molly Ball said on CNN, “we should give him credit for not making a provocation and causing a whole controversy.” Ball claimed that, “because this women's movement has been so focused on opposition to Trump, it has, I think, become much more of a politically polarized occasion,” adding that it was “commendable” for “Trump to rise above it.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. on March 8 of Trump’s tweet using the terms "Trump" and "women” as well as "Trump" and "tweet.” Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage of the sexual assault allegations against Trump using the terms “grab" or "assault."

  • STUDY: Women’s Voices Marginalized In 2016 News Coverage Of Foreign Affairs And National Security

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Women accounted for just one-quarter of total guests discussing foreign affairs and national security in 2016 during prime-time programming on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and on the five major Sunday political talk shows. This stark disparity between women and men is actually a slight improvement over previously established trends for 2015 and 2014, but more work remains to be done to better include perspectives from women.