Video ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
Loading the player reg...
Loading the player reg...
Similar Media Support Helped Enable Iraq War
After President Donald Trump launched airstrikes against Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in that country, media figures from across the political spectrum praised his “beautiful” attack, with many also linking the action to the growing threat that another country -- North Korea -- poses to the United States. Effusive media support of military conflict was a key precursor to the Iraq War; the danger of such uncritically hawkish commentary has multiplied under Trump, who sources policy ideas -- and defenses for his conduct -- directly from media.
After a number of events forced President Donald Trump to temper his tone on U.S. domestic and foreign policy, many media outlets were quick to praise him for “adjusting his position” to a more “moderate agenda,” ignoring the president’s extremist policies that are playing out in the background.
One week before the 2016 presidential election, Chris Matthews posed a question on his MSNBC program. Why, Matthews asked, was Donald Trump’s campaign so feckless? Why wasn’t he on the stump every day asking voters questions like, “Do you like this string of stupid wars from Iraq to Libya to Syria?” Such a strategy, Matthews suggested, would provide the country with a clear choice: If “you want to keep all this the way it is, vote for Hillary Clinton,” but voting for Trump would “shake the system to its roots.”
Last night, Trump’s administration launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for the Syrian military’s reported murder of its citizens with chemical weapons. The strikes further enmesh the nation in a civil war with no easy solutions.
By itself, the attack is the sort of “pinprick” that Republicans would likely scorn if it had been ordered by a Democratic president, threatening neither the survival of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime nor his ability to use such weapons in the future. If, as seems likely, this fails to change Assad’s behavior, it could lead to an unpredictable, escalating series of military actions against a close Russian strategic ally. There's little indication that the White House has considered the potential cost of that fight or who would lead Syria if Assad falls.
It seems like Trump is leading us into what Matthews might call a “stupid war.” And that comes after escalations in U.S. uses of military force in Iraq and Yemen, both at the cost of civilian loss of life.
To be clear, the argument that Trump was some sort of non-interventionist dove -- a dead letter since his ascendency to the presidency, especially in light of last night’s attack -- made no sense at the time.
Trump supported U.S. military attacks on Iraq and Libya before he told the world he was against them. During the campaign, he said that we “have no choice” but to deploy tens of thousands of ground troops into Syria “to knock out ISIS,” backed military action against Iran, and refused to take using nuclear weapons in the Middle East and Europe off the table.
Beyond the garden-variety, off-the-cuff calls for military force, Trump has explicitly supported using the armed forces for war crimes. For years, he has said that we should “take” Iraq’s oil as a way to “pay ourselves back” for the invasion. He promised to kill the families of terrorists in order to defeat ISIS. He said that he would bring back banned interrogation techniques because “torture works,” and “only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work,” and terrorists “deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.”
But somehow, as Trump and Clinton clinched their party’s nominations and the general election campaign began last spring, the political media’s savviest pundits were determined to cast the Republican as the race’s national security dove. By cherry-picking comments in which Trump presented himself as a foe of nation-building, misreading his attacks on bedrock U.S. foreign alliances as evidence of a coherent ideological framework, and ignoring his grotesque sabre-rattling and threats of violence, these journalists created a narrative that wandered far from reality.
Trump has not “demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has,” New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler reported on April 21. He “wants the United States to spend less to underwrite NATO and has talked about withdrawing the American security umbrella from Asia, even if that means Japan and South Korea would acquire nuclear weapons to defend themselves.” Thus, Landler concluded, the election could “present voters with an unfamiliar choice: a Democratic hawk versus a Republican reluctant warrior.”
Over the next month, two of Landler’s colleagues expressed similar sentiments. Columnist Maureen Dowd declared that “On some foreign policy issues, the roles are reversed for the candidates and their parties. It’s Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove.” According to Dowd, “Trump seems less macho than Hillary,” given that he “thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea” (that isn’t true).
And Times senior editor of politics Carolyn Ryan struck a similar tone during an appearance on MSNBC, suggesting that Trump's foreign policy positions will "redraw the typical ideological lines."
With the Times taking the lead, the accolades for Trump’s purported dovishness piled up over the following months. Trump’s “Republican isolationism” would “ground the drones.” (Since taking office, Trump has actually sought to “make it easier for the CIA and the military to target terrorists with drone strikes, even if it means tolerating more civilian casualties.”) He could “be the military-industrial complex’s worst nightmare.” (He’s currently seeking a $54 billion increase in spending for the Defense Department.)
“On more than one issue, GOP's Trump sounds like a Democrat,” the Associated Press reported May 15. On national defense, “the billionaire businessman could even find himself running to the left of Hillary Clinton.”
Before the first 100 days of the Trump administration has ended, their isolationist dove has escalated U.S. fighting in at least three countries, with more trouble spots looming.
Just don’t expect them to learn anything from the experience.
NRA To Launch Ads Against The “Anti-Freedom” “Propaganda Machine” New York Times
The National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV announced a new “series of messages” against The New York Times that will air on the Fox News Channel beginning Monday. The NRA previewed the ad with the claim that the newspaper has “gone on the offensive to take away your liberties.”
The new NRA ad evidences a new phenomenon since the election of President Donald Trump where the gun group now routinely labels protected speech reporting that it doesn’t like as oppositional to traditional democratic values.
On the April 7 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield called the Times “a liberal propaganda machine that is out of control,” and claimed the newspaper has carried out an “assault on journalism.” He then played a preview of a message featuring NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre in which LaPierre claimed the media has “weaponized the First Amendment against the Second,” and that America “would have fallen long ago” had people placed their trust in the “failing American news media.”
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Well, they will lie, they will deceive, they will exploit the ignorance of so many Americans, all with one goal. They will lie, deceive it all, all with the goal to push an anti-freedom agenda that includes an assault on your Second Amendment rights. I’m talking, of course, about The New York Times. A liberal propaganda machine that is out of control. This machine has gone on the offensive to take away your liberties. This machine has gone on the offensive to make an assault on journalism and weaponize it. The New York Times is upping its fight, so are we here at NRATV. So sit back, we are going on the offensive with a series of messages that will air on Fox News Channel starting Monday. Here is a preview.
WAYNE LAPIERRE (NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CEO): To every dishonest member of the failing American news media, let me explain why you’ve never been less trusted, less credible, or less respected. For decades you ignored calls from millions of gun owners to just tell the truth. All you had to do was just get the facts right about our guns, and our freedom. But you never even pretended to listen. Instead, you weaponized the First Amendment against the Second. And now the whole country sees you for the mockery we’ve always known. Your claim to the truth is as legitimate as a thief’s. If the fate of individual freedom had rested in your hands, America would have fallen long ago. But Americans put their trust somewhere else, and now in that place stands the most trusted defender of individual freedom in American history. We’re the National Rifle Association of America, and we’re freedom’s safest place.
The NRA has previously run messages against The New York Times for fact-checking the Trump administration. On February 3, after the newspaper corrected Trump aide Kellyanne Conway for her “Bowling Green Massacre” falsehood, NRATV issued a tweet that claimed the Times was “aiding terrorists” by correcting Conway as opposed to covering the “threat of ISIS.”
— NRATV (@NRATV) February 3, 2017
On February 27, days after the Times aired a promotional TV ad during the Oscars about the importance of journalism in the Trump era, the NRA fired back with its own 75 second ad claiming Americans have “stopped looking to The New York Times for the truth.” The NRA ad claimed the Times ignored several major news stories because they didn’t show liberals in a positive light, but according to a February 28 ThinkProgress post, the ad missed “that the newspaper did, in fact, cover every event it mentions, often with extensive reporting.”
Since Trump was elected, NRATV has effectively become a pro-Trump propaganda arm that routinely labels protected speech fact-checking and reporting on the president as an “assault against freedom and the Constitution,” and a plot to destroy the United States. Stinchfield has gone as far as to say the reports raising critical questions about Trump’s transition team were “anti-patriotic.”
A timeline depicting the reports of sexual harassment many women with professional careers at Fox News have made about powerful network figures over the years shows a pattern of corporate retaliation, victim-blaming, and million-dollar payouts for silence.
President Donald Trump pushed a claim hyped by right-wing media that former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime and could face legal jeopardy for “unmasking” Trump associates caught in surveillance.
On April 2, “alt-right” leader Mike Cernovich originally wrote that the White House Counsel’s office had “identified Rice as the person responsible for the unmasking [of Trump transition officials incidentally captured in legal surveillance] after examining Rice’s document log requests.” Cernovich’s post, which cited no other source for the claim other than the White House, noted that Rice would have been “authorized” to request that the names be unmasked, and did not claim she broke any laws. Cernovich’s post was amplified by fringe “alt-right” outlets, conservative media, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, and the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.
But some right-wing media figures, including Rush Limbaugh, have taken the still unconfirmed claim a step further, suggesting that Rice’s actions were illegal. However, that claim has been debunked by numerous national security experts who explained that nothing reported so far indicates that Rice violated the law, and that if she did unmask these officials, she would have been carrying out her duty as national security advisor. Former National Security Director Michael Hayden said it was “absolutely lawful. Even somewhat routine,” and, “There are very plausible, legitimate reasons why she would request such information.” Former CIA Acting Director John McLaughlin also defended Rice, saying, “she was doing her job. That’s what national security advisors are expected to do.”
But Trump has now parroted the claim that Rice may have acted illegally, commenting on the issue in an April 5 interview with The New York Times. The president said “‘I think’” Rice had committed a crime "by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were mentioned on intercepted communications," adding that “‘it’s going to be the biggest story’” for “our country and the world.’” From the article:
President Trump said on Wednesday that he thought that the former national security adviser Susan E. Rice may have committed a crime by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were mentioned on intercepted communications and that other Obama administration officials may also have been involved.
“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Mr. Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office, declining repeated requests for evidence for his allegations or the names of other Obama administration officials. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”
He declined to say if he had personally reviewed new intelligence to bolster his claim but pledged to explain himself “at the right time.”
When asked if Ms. Rice, who has denied leaking the names of Trump associates under surveillance by United States intelligence agencies, had committed a crime, the president said, “Do I think? Yes, I think.”
President Donald Trump, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, and former Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes all have at least one thing in common: Multiple women have accused each of them of sexual harassment in the context of the workplace. In addition, they have defended each other over those allegations, with O’Reilly dismissing the accusations against Trump, and Trump reciprocating by defending the alleged harassers at Fox News.
During an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Trump took time to single “out Fox News and the host Bill O’Reilly for praise” and to defend the host in light of the recent Times reporting that the network settled five lawsuits with women claiming he engaged in sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. Trump said of O’Reilly, “I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” and weighed in on the allegations by adding, “I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
The president’s defense seemed to come in reciprocation for O’Reilly’s support last fall, when he excused and minimized Trump’s comments about grabbing women by their genitalia. O’Reilly dismissed Trump’s comments as “guy talk” and attacked The Washington Post, the outlet that broke the story.
The Times interview wasn’t the first time Trump has defended an alleged sexual harasser at Fox News. Amid the 2016 scandal in which former Fox host Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment and several other women came forward with similar complaints, Trump dismissed the serious allegations as “unfounded” during an interview with the Washington Examiner. He told the Examiner, "Totally unfounded, based on what I read." O’Reilly also publicly stood “behind Roger 100 percent,” paying back Ailes for years of protection from public scrutiny.
Despite mounting evidence that Fox News continues to be a “cesspool of sexual harassment,” its white-glove treatment of the Trump administration has clearly guaranteed the network a powerful ally, one whose own history with sexual harassment accusations seems to indicate he cares as little as Fox does about respecting women.
Image by Sarah Wasko
The New York Times omitted critical context in reporting on a recently enacted Arkansas law that requires doctors to determine whether a person is choosing an abortion based on sex preference -- an approach based on the false premise that the practice is widespread.
On March 30, Arkansas enacted a law requiring medical providers to ask a patient seeking an abortion whether she knows the sex of the fetus. If she does, she must be informed that sex-selective abortions are prohibited, and the doctor must also have access to her complete pregnancy history. In describing this legislation, the Times failed to include critical context about so-called “sex-selective” abortions -- a term used by anti-choice legislators as justification to restrict abortion even though there is little scientific evidence supporting the necessity of a ban on the practice. The Times also failed to mention that “sex-selective” abortion bans could have discriminatory effects on Asian Americans because of assumptions about their preferences based on stereotypes, which could effectively deny them access to abortion.
Instead, the Times wrote only that Arkansas is the eighth state to enact a “sex-selective” abortion ban, explaining that such abortions "occur most frequently where there is a strong gender bias that manifests in a preference for sons." The lack of clarification helps perpetuate a harmful anti-abortion myth that has been frequently parroted in right-wing media.
In the United States, anti-choice legislators often rely on the myth that "sex-selective" abortions are a common practice to justify further restricting access to abortion. In reality, “sex-selective” abortions are rare in the United States. Despite right-wing and anti-choice allegations that protections are needed against so-called “sex-selective” abortions, these bans have no basis in scientific research or the medical practices of abortion providers. In a study conducted in Illinois and Pennsylvania following the enactment of “sex-selective” abortion bans in those states, researchers found that “the bans were not associated with changes in sex ratios at birth.”
Nevertheless, anti-choice lawmakers -- and in particular, those behind the Arkansas bill -- allege that such bans are necessary to protect against sex discrimination and prevent an imbalance of the gender ratio. Setting aside the fact that Arkansas’ population in 2015 was 50.9 percent female, as Vice News explained, “sex-selection abortions aren’t necessarily responsible for distorted gender ratios. Because there are multiple ways to ensure a fetus is a certain gender — for instance, parents are legally able to choose a fetus’s sex during in-vitro fertilization — it’s impossible to pinpoint why there might be more male babies born than female.”
The Arkansas law itself is titled “An Act to Create the Sex Discrimination By Abortion Prohibition Act” -- suggesting that lawmakers are banning a form of sex discrimination. As Slate explained, however, anti-abortion groups have long employed this “kinda-sorta feminist” framing to justify their support for banning “sex-selective” abortions when in reality, “sex-selective abortion in the United States appears to be — you guessed it! — extremely, extremely rare.” Romper called the law “a deceptive masterpiece of legislative word-smithing” in its co-option of gender discrimination as a justification for its anti-choice purpose. For example, the Arkansas law states that “victims of sex-selection abortion are overwhelming female,” yet it offers no data or statistics on “sex-selective” abortions supposedly occurring in the United States.
Beyond failing to clarify the fraudulent basis of “sex-selective” abortion bans, the Times also gave a platform to the Arkansas bill’s sponsor -- Republican Rep. Charlie Collins -- to promote racist stereotypes about non-white childbearers. Collins told the Times that the one-child policy in China prompted him to sponsor the bill, even though he had no evidence of sex-selective abortions occurring in Arkansas, or even in the United States. In fact, as a 2016 report from the Guttmacher Institute explained “in the United States, there is limited and inconclusive evidence that immigrants from [East and South Asia] -- or anywhere else -- are obtaining sex-selective abortions in this country.”
As Rewire noted, the Arkansas bill and others like it effectively turn Asian Americans seeking abortions into “suspects” -- particularly because the law imposes harsh penalties on any medical provider who is found in violation. Rewire further explained that Arkansas’ bill is an example of state legislators using “false stereotypes and misleading language to deny Asian American women the same access to safe, confidential, and comprehensive reproductive care as anyone else.”
By omitting critical context about the lack of evidence behind “sex-selective” abortion bans, as well as their racist underpinnings, The New York Times perpetuated and normalized harmful anti-choice misinformation that has little basis in reality.
The argument, first at a gas station and then outside a home, started over missing car keys.
In the early hours of Monday morning, police stepped in to quell the dispute between Allen Cashe and his girlfriend, Latina Herring, at a Sanford, FL, gas station. Then hours later they responded to a 911 call for an "aggravated battery" and found Cashe arguing with Herring outside on the front yard of her home, WFTV 9 reported.
Just after 6 a.m. that day, the police were summoned once again, but this time they found a blood bath. "The scene was one of the worst scenes our investigators have ever walked into," Sanford police spokeswoman Bianca Gillett told reporters. "It was horrific."
Police say Cashe had shown up that morning armed with an AK-47-style assault weapon, kicked down the door and shot and killed Herring. He then shot her father and her two sons, 7 and 8 years old, who were sleeping on the couch. The 8-year-old subsequently died. Fleeing the scene, Cashe opened fire on two strangers, including an 18-year-old high school student waiting at a nearby bus stop.
That was Monday. One day before, in Cincinnati, OH, 17 people were shot at the Cameo nightclub when a “mini brawl” sparked gunmen to open fire on a crowd of approximately 200 revelers, according to WCPO Cincinnati. It marked the bloodiest shooting in the nation so far this year, according to Cincinnati.com and the Gun Violence Archive.
“The hospital was so crowded, all the seats were taken in the emergency room,” one local pastor told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “The emergency room was literally standing room only." The city’s mayor said the gun rampage marked “one of the worst days in the history of Cincinnati.”
Here’s what was so strange about the media coverage for the mass shootings that unfolded within one day of each other, and which involved 23 shooting victims: There wasn’t very much news coverage at all, outside of the local press attention.
For instance, The New York Times did not cover either gun rampage this week, according to search via Nexis. (Two AP articles were aggregated on the Times' website.)
Broadcast news coverage of the Cincinnati nightclub mass shooting and Sanford shooting was equally light, according to a review of transcripts in Nexis and Snapstream for the terms "Cincinnati" or "nightclub" and "Sanford." The Florida shooting was mentioned on broadcast news just once, on ABC World News Tonight on Monday. CBS mentioned the nightclub tragedy just three times, including during Sunday's evening news broadcast and again Monday morning during CBS This Morning and CBS Morning News. ABC ran two segments on Sunday on the shows Good Morning America and World News Sunday, while NBC mentioned the shooting on its Sunday and Monday editions of Today. The outlets appear to have moved on from 2017's highest victim shooting as of Monday morning.
The timid coverage of these shootings reminds us the extent to which horrific news, and specifically horrific gun-related news, gets quietly tabled and pushed aside.
Gun violence in America represents a raging health epidemic, but you’d never know it based on the news coverage.
That’s important because how can a nation have a debate about gun violence when even mass shootings aren't thoroughly covered as big news?
And please note this: Virtually all of the 23 victims in both the Florida and Ohio gun rampages were people of color. Is it possible the national news media would have devoted more time and resources to the Cincinnati gun rampage if it had occurred at a mostly white nightclub on a college campus? I certainly think it’s likely.
Meanwhile, what else would have triggered wildly different media responses to the Sanford and Cincinnati killings? Answer: any hint of a terrorism angle.
On that front, news consumers know the drill: When a mass shooting involves the possibility of terrorism, media outlets compete to see who can produce more reports and, usually, who can produce the most heated analysis. For instance, it sure seemed to me like cable news interest in the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale, FL, airport in January dropped when it became clear that the gun massacre was committed by a homegrown shooter unrelated to jihad terror.
There’s obviously been a normalization over the years for mass shootings, as the lacking coverage from Sanford and Cincinnati indicates. And who benefits from that normalization? The National Rifle Association and the Republican Party, which supports the gun group’s every radical initiative.
Of course the NRA and the GOP don’t want the press to treat gun violence as the health crisis that it is. And of course the NRA and the GOP do want to the press to casually look away as mass shootings unfold with random deadliness. The conservative movement is in favor of normalizing gun violence and of the media omitting context about the epidemic.
Many conservatives don’t want the press to constantly connect the dots between American gun rampages, or to chronically mention that roughly 100,000 people are shot in America each year. Or that each week, approximately 1,565 patients are treated in emergency rooms for firearm-related injuries. Or that among the world's 23 wealthiest countries, 87 percent of all children killed by guns are American children.
As of March 28, 2017, this year there have been:
-3,516 gun deaths
-6,748 gun injuries
-496 unintentional shootings
-71 mass shootings
— Gun Violence Archive (@GunDeaths) March 28, 2017
Interestingly, just days before the deadly Florida and Ohio shootings, CNN.com did what more news outlets ought to be doing: It published a comprehensive piece that put American gun violence in perspective by detailing the extraordinary economic cost the country pays each year to treat our gun epidemic.
Note that the death toll is likely to rise in coming years because “patients are now more likely to die from a gunshot wound than they were even 10 years ago,” presumably thanks to the increasingly powerful and sophisticated guns being manufactured and sold in the U.S.
“To be blunt, instead of a 2-centimeter hole, you are seeing a 3-centimeter hole with more damage. And there are more wounds, so the team has to repair more damage," the study’s author told CNN.
Following the shootout in Cincinnati, where panicked clubgoers were forced to flee rampaging gunmen, the Cincinnati Enquirer stepped forward with a truth-telling editorial (emphasis added):
We hear a lot from politicians these days about the threat of a foreign enemy, yet terrorism happens every day on city streets around the country. This madness has to stop. Too many lives are lost every year in Cincinnati and nationwide to savage, mindless and inhuman gun violence. Mass shootings in America, tragically, are becoming too commonplace.
One way to address the madness is for the press to see the country’s gun violence for what it is -- a uniquely American epidemic.
Right-wing media figures and fringe outlets are taking a weeks-old interview with Evelyn Farkas, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia under President Barack Obama, out of context to claim she “admitted” that the Obama administration surveilled President Donald Trump’s campaign and that it proves Trump was right when he claimed Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. But Farkas did not mention surveillance in the interview; instead, she discussed a New York Times article about preserving intelligence related to Trump and Russia. The claims are yet another attempt by right-wing and fringe media to bolster Trump’s allegation that Obama wiretapped him, which the intelligence community and government officials have repeatedly debunked.
According to The Washington Post, President Donald Trump has given Fox News more than $5 million in free social media advertising through his positive tweets. But Trump’s $5 million gift to Fox pales in comparison to the network’s promotion of Trump during the 2016 campaign.
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported that Donald Trump has given Fox News more than $5 million in free social media advertising since he announced his candidacy, based on an established valuation by Captiv8, an analytics and social media marketing platform. According to Captiv8’s monetary valuation, one of Trump’s tweets is worth about $60,000, so when he promotes a show on Fox it is “essentially, a gift worth $60,000.” The company also estimated that Trump’s 52 tweets about the “failing @nytimes” could be seen as “the equivalent of $3.1 million in bad publicity.” From The Washington Post:
In other words, that tweet from Trump promoting Pirro’s show was more than a favor to Pirro and her employer, Fox News. It was, essentially, a gift worth $60,000.
With these metrics in mind, we went back through Trump’s social-media posts since he announced his candidacy to see how often he actively encouraged people to watch or buy particular programs or products. Although the list of those posts that appears at the bottom of this article is probably incomplete, it gives a sense of the value that Trump has provided to news networks.
By our estimates, Trump has provided Fox and its affiliated networks (Fox News, Fox Business) with more than $5 million in free advertising
Although no social-media company connects brands to celebrities to have the celebrities disparage them, Subramanian figured that the hit to a company’s value from a negative post would be damaging, perhaps to the extent that a positive tweet or Facebook post was helpful. In other words, Trump’s 52 tweets about the “failing @nytimes” could be thought of as the equivalent of $3.1 million in bad publicity.
Of course, Trump’s relationship with the media is a two-way street. The New York Times reported in March 2016 that Trump had already earned close to $2 billion worth of media attention on television, in print, and online, based on an analysis by mediaQuant, a media coverage tracking firm. Media Matters calculated that, for its part, Fox News gave Trump nearly $30 million in free airtime from May 2015 through December 2015. Another Media Matters analysis found that Fox News host and Trump sycophant Sean Hannity gave Trump more than $31 million in free advertising in the form of fawning interviews with the candidate between June 2015 and August 2016.
The relationship between Trump and the network goes back to before the 2012 election when the network helped promote Trump's political ambitions.Trump has repeatedly praised Fox News, admitted that he may not have been elected president without the network, and appears to get both his news and talking points from the network. For its part, Fox has also repeated Trump’s lines to bolster his spin.
The Washington Post’s analysis shows that Trump’s tweets are not only a way for him to circumvent the press, they also provide him the opportunity to help favorable news networks like Fox with tweets while simultaneously lashing out at news outlets that have been more critical of his presidency.
Since his election, President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed credit for private businesses’ decisions to invest in the United States. His flimsy and misleading boasts have been routinely amplified by compliant media outlets before the claims eventually collapse under scrutiny. Yet the response from mainstream journalists to the president’s latest jobs boast seems to indicate that perhaps some outlets have “caught on” to Trump’s exaggerated pronouncements and have stopped taking them at face value.
On March 27, The Detroit News broke the news that the Ford Motor Co. has announced an investment of “$1.2 billion in three Michigan facilities” and that most of the investment was brokered in 2015 as part of the company’s contract with the United Auto Workers union. Roughly $350 million of that total investment represents new money, but Ford is expected to “add or retain” only 130 jobs -- a marginal amount compared to the 201,000 people the company employs worldwide.
Trump moved early the next day to take credit, tweeting that Ford would announce an investment “in three Michigan plants” and that “car companies [are] coming back to the U.S.” before concluding, “JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!” Later in the day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer pointed to the Ford announcement as proof that “the president’s economic agenda is what American businesses have been waiting for.”
Big announcement by Ford today. Major investment to be made in three Michigan plants. Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2017
In the past few months, Media Matters has chronicled dozens of occasions when outlets stumbled over themselves to credit Trump for creating new American jobs based on his misleading claims of playing a role in private sector business decisions that he had little to do with. (See: Alibaba, Carrier, Ford, SoftBank.)
Trump’s tweet about Ford seemed poised to inspire more of the same media fawning, but journalists who covered the news largely downplayed Trump’s role rather than falling for his boast. The Washington Post, USA Today, Bloomberg, and Reuters all reported that the majority of the Ford investment plan far predated the Trump administration and was part of the company’s long-term restructuring plan for its American factories.
New York Times columnist and MSNBC contributor Steven Rattner noted that “The big news ended up being only 130 jobs” and asked of the president, “When will he stop misleading [people]?” CNBC reporter Jacob Pramuk reported that the “White House on Tuesday promoted a Ford investment in American plants” even though “most of [the money] was part of a plan the automaker first announced in 2015.” Vox senior correspondent Matt Yglesias highlighted that CNBC article on Twitter and commented that reporters were “catching on” to Trump’s game. Washington Post reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee pointed out that the Ford investment “had nothing to do [with] Trump’s election.” Meanwhile, New York Times correspondent Binyamin Appelbaum mocked Trump by writing that the president’s tweet contained “three more exclamation points … than the number of new jobs that Ford created today.” In his write-up of Trump’s announcement, CNNMoney senior writer Chris Isidore added that “Ford isn't bringing any work back to the United States from Mexico, or any other foreign country” -- a blow to Trump’s claim that automakers are “coming back to the U.S.”
In contrast to the sober reporting from mainstream media, right-wing outlets that are aligned with Trump continued to promote his unsubstantiated role in creating jobs for American workers. The “alt-right” website Breitbart.com promoted the Ford story under the banner “TRUMP JOBS BOOM CONTINUES” while the sycophants at Fox News called the investment deal “another win for American workers” and Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy hyped the investment plan by stating, “Oh, it’s so much winning.” From the March 28 edition of Fox & Friends:
As the White House has become embroiled in scandal and legislative failure, Trump has flooded the news cycle with lies far more outrageous than his attempt to take credit for jobs he didn’t create. Journalists, therefore, still need to be mindful of the administration’s attempts to build up the myth of Trump as a unique dealmaker and economic leader.
After the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) added the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) to its annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” report, CIS executive director Mark Krikorian responded in a Washington Post op-ed downplaying the extremism of white nationalism and the white nationalists connected to CIS, including its founder. CIS has a long record of publishing anti-immigrant reports with deeply flawed methodologies, and Krikorian -- who is now saying that labeling his group marginalizes it and thus diminishes public debate -- has in the past assigned his own negative labels to other groups.
In 2016, evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox Broadcast Co.'s Fox News Sunday, collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015, even though there were a host of important climate-related stories, including the announcement of 2015 as the hottest year on record, the signing of the Paris climate agreement, and numerous climate-related extreme weather events. There were also two presidential candidates to cover, and they held diametrically opposed positions on the Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate agreement, and even on whether climate change is a real, human-caused phenomenon. Apart from PBS, the networks also failed to devote significant coverage to climate-related policies, but they still found the time to uncritically air climate denial -- the majority of which came from now-President Donald Trump and his team.