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How Sean Hannity And Tucker Carlson Are (Still) Ignoring The Health Care Debate

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

As Senate Republicans began holding votes to take away health care from tens of millions of Americans, Fox News’ Sean Hannity still chose to focus primarily on phony Clinton pseudo-scandals. Similarly, Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight focused on irrelevant and often offensive stories while largely ignoring health care. Even The Five, which did discuss health care at length, made time for a segment hyping Democratic frustrations with Hillary Clinton.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on July 24 that the Senate would be holding a vote on whether to proceed to debate on the various Republican proposals to repeal and, in some cases, replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which have been projected to take away health care from upward of 22 million people (“straight repeal” would strip away insurance from 32 million). On July 25, the Senate narrowly approved a motion to proceed to debate and then rejected the first plan McConnell put up to a vote.

Despite the new actions on health care, Fox News’ prime-time shows focused nearly as much on bogus Clinton scandals and political intrigue as they did on health care on July 24 and July 25. A Media Matters analysis found that Fox’s prime-time line-up of HannityThe Five, and Tucker Carlson Tonight spent 35 minutes and 49 seconds discussing health care while devoting 34 minutes and 56 seconds to discussions of the Clintons.

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Of the three programs, Hannity’s coverage, unsurprisingly, was the most skewed. Over the two-day period, Hannity spent 13 minutes and 4 seconds on health care while devoting 30 minutes and 42 seconds to the Clintons. Even as senators were taking votes on health care, Hannity ran two full segments on the Clintons and spoke about health care in brief spurts of less than two minutes throughout the show.

Meanwhile, while the Senate was voting on health care, Tucker Carlson avoided discussing it at all. On the July 25 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host went live to President Donald Trump’s rally in Ohio for 10 minutes and 57 seconds. Carlson did manage to spend 17 seconds on health care during his July 24 broadcast, which was mainly a video of Trump lamenting Obamacare.

Instead of covering health care or the Clintons, Carlson focused his attention on stories that were either offensive or non-urgent.

Unlike the other prime-time shows, Fox News’ The Five spent a significant amount of time discussing the health care bills. But the hosts also made time for a segment on Democrats criticizing Hillary Clinton.

Methodology

Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of health care, healthcare, Better Care Reconciliation Act, BCRA, Senate health, GOP health, or Republican health, Affordable Care Act, ACA, Obama care, and Obamacare, as well as Bill, Hillary, and Clinton on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson TonightThe Five, and Hannity on July 24 and 25.

Conversations were included in this study if health care or the Clintons was the stated topic or discussion or if two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed health care or the Clintons with one another. If a speaker mentioned health care or the Clintons in a multitopic segment and no other speaker in that segment engaged with the comment, then it was excluded from the analysis as a passing mention. All teasers of upcoming segments about health care or the Clintons were excluded from the analysis.

The amount of time spent on Trump’s rally was calculated by monitoring it from beginning to end on Tucker Carlson Tonight.

 

What Pundits Call A “Moderate” Senate Health Care Bill Will Kill People

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

As Senate Republicans unveil the draft of their health care proposal, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, media have already taken to framing the Senate GOP’s attempt at destroying the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as “more moderate” than a similar bill passed by the House last month. But comparing the Senate bill to the House bill whitewashes the portions of the proposal that are in fact at least as extreme as the previous one and the immense harm they would do to American people if this bill became law.

After drafting the bill with an “almost-unprecedented opacity,” Senate Republicans finally publicly introduced their health care proposal on June 22. The Senate draft comes over a month after the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on May 4. Several reports on the Senate health care bill, however, are deceptively framed as they suggest that the bill is “more moderate” than its counterpart passed by the House. The New York Times wrote that the Senate version was “in some respects, more moderate than the House bill” because it offers “more financial assistance to some lower-income people to help them defray the rapidly rising cost of private health insurance.” USA Today speculated that if the Senate passes the bill, it would “likely to be more moderate than what the House passed.” Additionally, Fox News’ Peter Doocy stated the bill appeared “more moderate than the House version” because it would “let states that took more Medicaid money” under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion “keep more of it for longer than the House bill would.”

Calling the Senate bill “more moderate” than the House’s AHCA is a low bar and framing the Senate bill that way is deceptive. First of all, the House bill is nowhere close to moderate. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the AHCA would increase “the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected” under the ACA by 23 million by 2026. Additionally, under the AHCA, those with pre-existing conditions would be in jeopardy of losing coverage. At the very least, those with pre-existing conditions would face skyrocketing premiums. And those who want policies to cover essential health benefits, like maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services, are “likely to be priced out of the market,” according to NBC News. It would be hard to imagine a bill less moderate than the AHCA.

The Senate bill is largely a replica of the AHCA that also includes its own extreme measures. As NBC News reported, the Senate draft “makes deeper cuts” to Medicaid “in the long run” compared to the House bill. And according to the Center for American Progress, the Senate bill’s essential health benefit waivers would “erode or eliminate financial protections for about 27 million workers and their dependents,” including those who are in employer health care plans.

As Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, noted, “The Senate bill needs to be compared to current law, not the House bill.” People will die if this bill becomes law. That’s the context reporters should be using when discussing this new proposal.

 

After the Senate Bill Is Released, Cable News Fails To Offer Diverse Voices On Health Care

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Once again, cable news largely failed to present diverse voices when reporting on the ongoing health care debate, missing an opportunity, yet again, to inform audiences of the personal cost millions of Americans will incur if Republicans pass their bills into law.

Over six weeks after the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on May 4, Senate Republicans finally publicly introduced their health care proposal on June 22. The Senate committee that drafted the bill was roundly criticized for its “almost-unprecedented opacity” and lack of diversity. Leading up to that introduction, cable news coverage of the bill didn’t fare much better. And when cable news did cover the bill prior to its release, the guests were almost always white men.

The day the Senate Republicans released the bill, cable news figures had an opportunity to redeem themselves. Sadly, they did not rise to the challenge:

Sarah Wasko/Media Matters
  • CNN featured 105 guest appearances during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 92, or about 88 percent, were made by white guests. Eight appearances, or nearly 8 percent, were made by African-American guests, and five appearances, or almost 5 percent, were made by Asian-American guests. The network hosted no Hispanic guests to discuss the bill
  • Fox News featured 41 guest appearances during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 37, or just over 90 percent, were made by white guests. Only four appearances, or about 10 percent, were made by African-American guests. The network hosted no Asian-American or Hispanic guests to discuss the bill.
  • MSNBC featured 94 guest appearances during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 84, or just over 89 percent, were made by white guests. Only four appearances, or about 4 percent, were made by African-American guests, and six appearances, or about 6 percent, were made by Asian-American guests. The network hosted no Hispanic guests to discuss the bill.
Sarah Wasko/Media Matters
  • CNN featured 105 guest appearances — 61 appearances by men and 44 by women — during discussions of the bill, meaning men comprised 58 percent of guest appearances, while women comprised about 42 percent.
  • Fox News featured 41 guest appearances — 31 appearances by men and 10 by women — during discussions of the bill. Thus, almost 76 percent of guest appearances were made by men, while only 25 percent were made by women.
  • MSNBC featured 94 guest appearances — 61 appearances by men and 33 by women — during discussions of the bill, meaning men comprised about 65 percent of guest appearances, while women comprised about 35 percent.

It is necessary to include diverse voices in discussions about a bill with such dire consequences. African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, women and low-income people greatly benefited from the Affordable Care Act and stand to lose disproportionately if it is rolled back. Diversifying the discussion on cable news will help bring needed attention to the devastating harm that will occur if the Republican bills become law.

 

Racists, Slavery Apologists, And White Nationalists Knew Exactly What Trump Was Saying About The Civil War

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

President Donald Trump’s comments about the Civil War in a recent interview, in which he diminished the impact of slavery ahead of the war and praised former President Andrew Jackson, echo sentiments of white nationalist media and signify yet another instance of intermingling between Trump and his nativist fans.

During a May 1 interview with the Washington Examiner, Trump claimed that “had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War,” adding that Jackson “was a very tough person but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw with regard to the Civil War.” Trump went on to say, “People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

As Jamelle Bouie, then of The American Prospect wrote, “Civil War historians disagree on many things, but there is a general consensus surrounding the reasons for the war, and slavery is at the top of the list.” Tony Horowitz of The Atlantic stated, “The Civil War today is generally seen as a necessary and ennobling sacrifice, redeemed by the liberation of four million slaves.” And, as noted by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Civil War “ended slavery, and birthed both modern American, and modern black America.”

Trump’s remarks were largely panned for being “puzzling” and “fact-free.” But as historians warned would happen, white nationalist media figures praised his comments, saying that Trump was “right about the UnCivil War” and that “none of the modern wars have advanced the White race and our shared civilization.”

By questioning the cause of the Civil War, Trump was blowing a dog whistle to white nationalist media figures and neo-Confederates, tacitly supporting the revisionist history they promote. The white nationalist website VDare, for example, has claimed that the idea that the Civil War was meant to “preserve the Union and free the slaves” is a “lie.” White nationalists have also attempted to dismiss the traumas of slavery, writing that it “wasn’t as bad as you were taught.” So when Trump suggested that the war could have been avoided or that the cause was unknown, he was echoing the sentiments of white nationalists by diminishing the impact slavery had in the United States.

Additionally, Trump’s repeated praise for Jackson has drawn support of white nationalist media figures who are similarly drawn to Jackson. White nationalist websites like The Daily Stormer have praised Jackson for kicking Native Americans off their land, writing, “They were killing kids, raping and killing women – it was a horrorshow (sic) with these tree-monkeys (sic).” The white nationalist website Infostormer called Jackson “a legitimate bad ass,” writing, “He fought in duels, won the Battle of New Orleans and abolished the Second Bank of the United States,” which Jackson had said was an elitist institution that lacked proper oversight.

When Trump praises Jackson, white nationalists take note. After Trump hung a portrait of the late president in the Oval Office, Infostormer said it was “great news” because “there is a good chance Trump plans on shaping his presidency to be in the same vein as Jackson[’s].” When Trump visited Jackson’s tomb, Infostormer lauded Trump for “recognizing the greatness that was Andrew Jackson.”

Trump has had a long history of interacting with white nationalist media figures. His latest comments are yet another wink and nod to his nativist supporters.

Graphic by Dayanita Ramesh

Neil Gorsuch’s Alarming Relationship With A Serial Voting Rights Misinformer

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Newly released emails from President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, evidence an amicable relationship between the judge and National Review contributor and discredited conservative media legal analyst Hans von Spakovsky. The relationship is a sign that Gorsuch could continue Trump’s assault on civil rights from the high court.

According to emails released by the Senate Judiciary Committee, first reported on by The Nation’s Ari Berman, Gorsuch’s communications with or about von Spakovsky paint a picture of their  friendly relationship. In 2005, Gorsuch wrote “Good for Hans” after then-President George W. Bush nominated von Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission. In another email that year, Gorsuch praised von Spakovsky for participating in a Bush-era Justice Department conference on the election system at a time when “Though the Justice Department was supposed to investigate both voting discrimination and voter fraud, the latter cause took priority and eventually led to Republican US Attorneys’ being wrongly fired from their jobs for refusing to prosecute fraud cases,” as explained by Berman.

As Berman wrote, “the emails suggest Gorsuch was friendly with von Spakovksy. But it’s far more disturbing if Gorsuch shares Von Spakovsky’s views on voting rights.” As Berman previously pointed out, Gorsuch’s “paper trail on civil-rights cases is slim,” and little is known about his views on voting rights. However, this relationship with von Spakovsky does nothing to reassure voting and civil rights advocates.

Von Spakovsky is one of the leading conservative media misinformers on voting rights, frequently hyping the false narrative that voter fraud is widespread. In November, von Spakovsky and his frequent partner, John Fund, rehashed discredited evidence to fearmonger about noncitizen voting in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. The op-ed was published even though noncitizen voting is incredibly rare and studies that claim otherwise have been found to be flawed. Von Spakovsky has also erroneously suggested that double voting is not only a problem, but that it could be solved by strict voter ID laws. In 2012, von Spakovsky and Fund wrote a book filled with lies about voting rights.

Von Spakovsky has used these lies to relentlessly advocate for unnecessarily strict voter ID laws across the nation, which have been shown to systematically disenfranchise voters, especially voters of color. To promote these laws, von Spakovsky has hyped myths and misleading details, claiming that the laws don’tlead to voter disenfranchisement and that they actually speed up the voting process. Additionally, von Spakovsky has also praised blatantly illegal voter suppression tactics.

While von Spakovsky is often held up as a conservative expert on voting rights, his talking points are incredibly misleading and discredited, and his tactics are shady. His apparent disdain for civil rights and access to justice is supported by more than just his disregard for half a century of progressive voting rights jurisprudence. He has called the modern civil rights movement “indistinguishable” from “segregationists.” Von Spakovsky also has been a proponent of forced arbitration clauses, which are when an “employee or consumer is required to waive their right to sue, to participate in a class action lawsuit, or to appeal.” Forced arbitration is terrible for consumers, and according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, gives less consumers eligibility for financial redress than they would have through class-action settlements.

Gorsuch’s friendly emails to and about von Spakovsky should trigger alarms among those who are worried about voting rights and civil rights in general. If confirmed, Gorsuch would be ruling on many of these issues from the bench. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 68 bills have been introduced in 2017 alone to restrict access to the ballot in 27 states — and Trump’s lies about the election and voter fraud are only paving the way for an even wider assault on voting rights. This is to say nothing of Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who has a record of being incredibly hostile toward civil rights, even calling the Voting Rights Act “intrusive.” If Gorsuch’s correspondence with von Spakovsky is any hint, access to basic rights and liberties may only get worse.

One Type Of Terrorism Really Is Underreported — Right-Wing Terrorism

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

Following President Donald Trump’s false claim that the press purposefully fails to report on terror attacks, his team released a list of attacks that were supposedly “underreported.” The list supplied, however, was entirely devoid of attacks by right-wing extremists and those inspired by the “alt-right.”

During a February 6 speech at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the central military command based in MacDill Air Force base near Tampa, FL, Trump lied when he claimed that “the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report” on terror attacks. Trump added that the media “have their reasons” for not reporting on the events. Following the speech to military leaders, the White House released a list of 78 terror attacks that officials claim were “underreported” by the media. The list only furthered the lie. According to the audience engagement tool Chartbeat, four of the top 20 most “engaging news stories of 2015 (defined as those that held audiences’ attention for the longest) were events from the list. As CNN’s Chris Cuomo pointed out, none of the events listed “have less than 100 media hits.”

In attacking the media for allegedly having a selection bias when it comes to terror attacks, the administration neglected numerous cases of terror inspired by right-wing extremism. In many of these cases, the terrorists had direct ties to the white nationalist movement, a key component of what has been coined the “alt-right,” or were inspired by conservative media misinformation. Here are just a few of the examples that didn’t make Trump’s list:

“Alt-Right” Assassin Killed Six At Quebec Mosque

Alexandre Bissonnette killed six people at a Quebec City mosque on January 29. As the BBC reported, political science professor Pierre Martin “says that Bissonette may have been influenced by a mix of global nationalist trends, the so-called ‘alt-right’, and ‘currents within Quebec itself’.” Bissonette was reportedly known to many as a “right-wing ‘troll’ who had previously been combative” online “and also openly shared attacks on women’s rights” — another trademark of the “alt-right.”

Dylann Roof, “Face Of The Radicalized ‘Alt-Right’” Killed Nine At Historically Black Church

The University of Chicago’s Divinity School properly identified Dylann Roof, the man behind the June 17, 2015, shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, SC, as “the face of the radicalized ‘alt-right.’” In a confession video, Roof told an FBI agent that he committed the attack because “Blacks are raping and killing white people on the streets every day.”

According to The Daily Beast, “whole passages from Roof’s manifesto first appeared” on the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. The Daily Beast pointed out, “The parallels between Roof’s manifesto and the comments on The Daily Stormer … suggest that either Roof was the commenter or he visited the site often enough to have plagiarized from it for his manifesto.”

Wired reported that Roof “searched for ‘black on white crime’ and ended up on the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens’ website,” which The Atlantic said has its roots in an organization that “aimed to be a (somewhat) more respectable alternative” to the Ku Klux Klan.

British “White Fascist” Killed Labour MP Jo Cox

Thomas Mair, a British man “with extreme right wing views,” according to CNN, was convicted of murdering British Labour member of parliament Jo Cox in June 2016. According to The Independent, “Reports from the trial proceedings conjure up a profile of a committed right-wing terrorist extremist, with the court hearing details of Mair’s links to white supremacist groups and witness testimony to his exhortations to ‘put Britain First.’” The article went on to say the murder was “an act of political terrorism murder committed by a white fascist.” The Daily Mail reported that jurors in the case were shown the inside of Mair’s home, where he “plotted her murder amongst far-Right literature and a dossier on the MP.”

Man Angered By Debunked Sting Videos Killed Three At Colorado Planned Parenthood

In 2015, Robert Lewis Dear opened fire inside a Colorado Planned Parenthood, killing three people. As Vox noted, when he was arrested Dear mentioned “baby parts,” which was “probably a reference” to the deceptively edited videos meant to slander Planned Parenthood put out by the Center for Medical Progress, which were laden with conservative misinformation. New Republic pointed out that “the narratives he learned from Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and Bill O’Reilly and countless far-right web sites” contributed to his radicalization and his murders.

White Supremacist Gave Nazi Salute After Targeting Jews In Missouri Shooting

Frazier Glenn Miller, a “Missouri man with a long resume of anti-Semitism and white supremacist activism,” according to CNN, killed three people on April 13, 2014, after opening fire on two Jewish centers in Kansas City, MO. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said that just after his arrest, “Miller shouted ‘Heil Hitler’ while handcuffed in the back seat of a police car.” The Kansas City Star also reported that Miller asked the officer, “How many f—— Jews did I kill?” After his arrest, Miller said he “wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died.”

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, told CNN that Miller was “among the most-over-the-top, violent white supremacists” of the 1980s, adding that he “was one of the pioneers in the modern hate world.”

IMAGE: Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Broadcast News Ignores North Carolina GOP’s Unprecedented Power Grab

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Broadcast news completely ignored an unprecedented move by North Carolina Republicans to limit the power of the state’s incoming Democratic governor. A series of measures put forth by the Republican-controlled legislature have been criticized as a way to “subvert the will of the voters,” and an elections law expert noted that they could spur legal challenges.

Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly held a special session on December 14 in which they proposed a series of laws to strip away power from the state’s incoming Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, including a bill that “removes partisan control of the state and county election boards from the governor,” according to The New York Times. Instead, the Times noted, “a Republican will lead the state board during election years and a Democrat in non-election years.” A CNN.com report outlined other proposed legislation from the “unprecedented power grab,” including bills to slow the judicial process for the governor to bring legal battles to the state Supreme Court, to block Cooper from appointing members to the state Board of Education and the board of trustees for the University of North Carolina, and to reduce the number of appointments in the Cooper administration from 1,200 to 300.

The special session was a surprise, called suddenly and immediately after the conclusion of another special session to address disaster relief. As The Atlantic noted, “legislators used the same obscure maneuver they did when they passed HB2,” an anti-LGBTQ law that governs access to public bathrooms, “calling themselves back into session with the support of three-fifths of legislators.” Several media figures have pointed out that the backlash against HB 2 — which invalidated local governments’ ability to provide legal protections for LGBTQ people — was likely a deciding factor in Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent re-election loss. The Atlantic article also explained that Republican House Speaker Tim Moore claimed “the decision to open the second special session had been made only Wednesday,” December 14, which was “a lie that was quickly revealed by the list of signatures from legislators needed to call the session, dated December 12.”

None of these details, however, have been reported on any national broadcast news programs since Wednesday. A review of the December 14 and 15 editions of ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, NBC’s Nightly News, and of the December 15 and 16 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today found no mentions of the attempted power grab. Local affiliates of all three networks did cover the story.

Other national and internet media outlets also covered the unprecedented moves. As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote, “This last-minute power grab marks an alarming departure from basic democratic norms” and is “a blatant attempt to overturn the results of an election by curtailing judicial independence and restructuring the government to seize authority lawfully delegated to the incoming Democratic governor.” The New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards criticized the North Carolina Republicans for “resorting to a novel strategy to subvert the will of the voters” and attempting a “graceless power grab.” CNN and MSNBC have also covered what MSNBC’s Chris Hayes described as a “legislative coup.” New York magazine reported that the bills will get a vote on December 20, but that the new measures may spur a larger battle. As elections law expert Rick Hasen explained, some of the measures would spur “potential Voting Rights Act and federal constitutional challenges.”

Methodology:

Media Matters searched Snapstream and iQ media for mentions of “North Carolina” on the December 14 and 15 editions of ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, and NBC’s Nightly News and the December 15 and 16 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today.

IMAGE: Governor of North Carolina Pat McCrory introduces candidate for U.S. Senate Thom Tillis (R-NC) at a campaign stop in Raleigh, North Carolina October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane 

Right-Wing Media Will Call Anything They Don’t Like ‘Fake News’

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

Conservative media continued to use the phrase “fake news” incorrectly in an attempt to delegitimize news that does not fit their agenda — in this case reports about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In doing so, conservatives are fueling President-elect Donald Trump’s effort to stymie credible news as well as trying to undermine the real concerns about the spread of actual false information packaged as legitimate news.

Right-wing media sought to dismiss news that the CIA concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to actively help Trump by claiming that the report is merely “fake news.” On the December 12 edition of his radio program, Rush Limbaugh asserted, “This whole business of Russia hacking our election is fake news with the imprimatur of intelligence agencies and the CIA, and it’s brought to us by the same newspapers that took out, tried to take out Richard Nixon.” Fox News host Sean Hannity also drew the same conclusion, saying on his radio show that “this is another liberal fake news story that they’re all falling for, and it’s politically motivated.” Right-wing outlets Breitbart and InfoWars ran headlines dismissing the reports as “fake news.”

Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer and Trump adviser and Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich have also tried to hijack the term “fake news,” claiming that reports from legitimate news outlets such as The New York Times were “fake news” in an attempt to delegitimize pieces that did not fit their agenda.

While there is no standard definition for fake news, a variety of outlets and experts have defined these types of pieces as entirely fabricated stories seeking to imitate the style of legitimate news outlets to fool readers. This definition certainly does not apply to the several reports highlighting the CIA’s findings that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election to help Trump, which was reported in The Washington Post and did not seek to intentionally mislead readers.

As The Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus wrote, “there is a difference between inevitably flawed and intentionally false. To deliberately blur this distinction is to seek to undermine the central role of media in a free society.” This pattern from conservatives and right-wing media follows Trump’s use of “demagogic techniques,” as former Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief John Huey argued on CNN’s Reliable Sources, to “inoculate” himself from thorough, investigative reporting. It is also an attempt by purveyors of fake news such as InfoWars to try and whitewash the meaning of “fake news” and downplay the dangers that come from spreading it.

Trump has waged a long term war on the press; it appears that this is just another attempt from his allies in conservative media to delegitimize news they don’t like.

IMAGE: via RushLimbaugh.com

Mainstream Outlets Rush To Amplify Trump

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Media allowed President-elect Donald Trump to, once again, take over the news narrative with his Twitter activity — this time with a series of vague tweets in which he claimed he would be leaving his business to avoid conflicts of interest. The announcement, however, provides no details about what will become of his business holdings and distracts from news that highlights the degree to which those holdings are ripe for future conflicts.

In a series of tweets on November 30, Trump announced that he will be “holding a major news conference” on December 15 to discuss his plans for “leaving” his “great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country.” Trump added that while he is “not mandated” to “do this under any law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”

As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out, “The only real news in those Trump tweets is that he’ll actually be doing a press conference,” given that Trump has already said that he would hand off management of his businesses to his children. The tweets included no new information on how Trump’s business dealings would be handled after he, allegedly, leaves them behind. But that reality didn’t stop media from making a story out of the tweets and leading with it.

USA Today:

CNN:

The Associated Press:

ABC News:

CBS News:

NBC News:

The tweets do nothing to squash mounting concerns over the conflicts of interest Trump could face as president, and it’s unclear whether his promised response would address these conflicts. Shortly after the election, a Trump Organization spokesperson told CNN that Trump was planning to transfer “‘management of The Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump,’” his children. But as ethics experts explained to Politico, “installing Trump’s adult children as caretakers doesn’t eliminate conflict questions, since he’d still know what his interests were, and he’d presumably still be in contact with his children.”

With his tweetstorm, Trump also continued his pattern of hijacking the media narrative when it suits him. In this case, Trump’s tweets give media outlets an excuse to downplay or ignore reports about the “ethical concerns” raised after the Kingdom of Bahrain reserved space in Trump’s D.C. hotel. Trump also used his tweets to continue to disseminate information on his own terms, which in the past has allowed him to avoid hard interviews and limit his press conferences.

Media are falling into Trump’s trap again by giving his tweets the front-page treatment.

IMAGE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump walks off his plane at a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S., September 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

How Mainstream Headlines Have Been Normalizing Donald Trump

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

President-elect Donald Trump is not a normal politician, which is evidenced by his actions, statements, and tendency to make and promote outright lies. But Trump’s break from the norm would not be clear to readers who only glance at headlines, as most do. For months, media have helped normalize Trump with headlines that sanitize his ties to extremists, uncritically echo his lies, and whitewash his incendiary comments. As media prepare to cover a Trump administration, they must work harder to craft headlines that portray Trump’s actions and statements accurately.

Headlines about the appointments Trump has made to his cabinet and White House staff have helped sanitize his nominees, despite their bigoted rhetoric. After Trump appointed Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart.com, to serve as his chief strategist, newspapers labeled Bannon as a “Conservative flame-thrower,” a “conservative firebrand,” and a “tormenter of establishment GOP.” These descriptions downplay the fact that Bannon ran an unabashedly white nationalist and anti-Semitic website, as well as Bannon’s own history of alleged anti-Semitism. Even when The New York Times reported that Bannon “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners,” the headline referred to him as “Combative, Populist Steve Bannon,” ignoring completely his remarks. When Trump appointed Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to serve as his national security adviser, headlines downplayed his Islamophobia and his conflicts of interest and branded him as someone who “brings experience and controversy” and is “not afraid to ruffle feathers.” While the headlines may be accurate, they do not give readers the essential information they need to know about the people who will have Trump’s ear.

Headlines have also left out important context about Trump’s lies. After Trump falsely claimed that he “worked hard” to keep a Ford plant “in Kentucky,” media promoted Trump’s spin in headlines, leaving out the fact that the plant in question was never going to close. After Trump lied in a tweet claiming that he would have “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” mainstream media uncritically echoedhim in their headlines and on social media. Trump is an unprecedented liar, and by simply echoing Trump’s statements, the headlines might as well have come from a Trump press release.

This problem persisted before the election as well. When Trump addressed his history with the birther movement, headlines failed to mention that Trump had not apologized for his years-long crusade to delegitimize President Obama and that he lied by asserting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had started the rumors that President Obama was born in Kenya.

In the run-up to the election, headlines also helped normalize Trump’s behavior, which would be unacceptable for anyone else, let alone a candidate for president. Following the release of a 2005 Access Hollywood video where Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, media headlines characterized the conversation as “lewd.” Lewd is correct, but it misses the point. Trump was talking about imposing himself physically on women without consent. That is sexual assault. Media shouldn’t hide behind creative adjectives to normalize this behavior.

Headlines are indisputably the most important part of an article. As The Washington Post reported, “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week,” and “that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won’t want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.” By continually refusing to use headlines to call out Trump’s ties to extremists, incessant lying, and his atrocious behavior, media are normalizing his actions. There have been pleas from many in media to stop normalizing Trump. Headlines would be a good place to start.

IMAGE: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence speak in an overflow room at a campaign event in Roanoke, Virginia, U.S., July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Sunday News Shows Gloss Over Trump University Settlement

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Sunday morning political shows barely addressed — or completely ignored — the recent settlement in the class-action fraud lawsuit against Trump University and President-elect Donald Trump. In doing so, these outlets are continuing a pattern by broadcast and cable news of ignoring important revelations about Trump’s business and charitable practices.

On November 18, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle the class-action fraud lawsuit against the now-defunct Trump University in which the defendants alleged, according to the Los Angeles Times, that Trump “defrauded customers into thinking they would learn real estate secrets from professors he had ‘handpicked.’ The students said they learned little and instead were subjected to hard-sell tactics urging them to spend thousands of dollars on classes.”

As NBC reported, “The settlement likely means that Trump will avoid becoming possibly the first sitting president to testify in open court.” The New York Times called the settlement “a remarkable concession” for Trump, “who derides legal settlements and has mocked fellow businessmen who agree to them.” The Times also pointed out that the settlement is a “significant reversal from Mr. Trump, who had steadfastly rejected the allegations and vowed to fight the lawsuits,” and that he “doubled down” on that response when “political opponents pressed him on the claims during the campaign, saying he would eventually reopen Trump University.”

Despite the unusual nature of a president-elect settling a multi million-dollar fraud lawsuit, the November 20 editions of the Sunday morning political talk shows — including ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press — barely covered the settlement. Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday did not mention the settlement at all, while This Week, State of the Union, and Meet the Press spent a combined total of merely four minutes and eight seconds on the news.

The omission provides yet another example of media continuously ignoring new revelations and investigative reporting about Trump.

Methodology

Media Matters searched Nexis and Snapstream for mentions of Trump University or Trump U. on the November 20 editions of ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press. Mentions were coded and timed for length on Snapstream.

Trump’s Transition Signals He Will Continue To Be Incredibly Hostile To The Press

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

In the week following the election, President-elect Donald Trump’s actions in curtailing the access of the press and continuing to lash out at media outlets have demonstrated the need for journalists to take a stand before those restrictions and behaviors are codified under a Trump administration.

So far during his transition period, Trump has violated the norms of any president or president-elect when it comes to his relations with the media. Most recently, on November 15, Trump left his home to get dinner without his press pool, after his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, had told reporters that nothing else would happen that day. As the Huffington Post wrote, “Private events, such as family dinners, can be closed to the press, but reporters should be made aware of them.” CNN’s Brian Stelter explained that Trump’s behavior “breaks with well-established norms governing a president’s relationship with the press corps,” adding, “Those same norms are also applicable to the president-elect.” The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Jeff Mason, criticized Trump’s actions as “unacceptable,” while Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, noted on Twitter that Trump should have told the press where he was going and “a press van would normally be included in the motorcade” even if “the pool waits outside” the restaurant.

This was hardly the first instance in the past week where Trump made his hostility to the press known. On November 10, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Trump “refused to allow journalists to travel with him to Washington for his historic first meetings with President Barack Obama and congressional leaders” after his aides “rebuffed news organizations’ requests for a small ‘pool’ of journalists to trail him as he attended the meetings.” The Washington Post noted that later in the day, “Trump ditched the media again” and provided the press with no information about his whereabouts. The White House Correspondents’ Association said in statement at the time that they were “deeply concerned” by his disregard for the press.

Since the election, Trump has taken to Twitter several times to lash out at The New York Times for their “BAD coverage.” In a November 13 tweet, Trump falsely claimed that the Times was “losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage” about him, despite the fact that the paper is adding subscribers.

Trump also has not held a news conference since being elected, which NBC News explained is “the longest any recent president has waited to speak to the press.” In fact, Trump’s last press conference was in July. NBC added, “The media covering the president-elect have also not yet been offered briefings on his transition efforts, which was a typical practice for past presidents that allowed the public to keep apprised of the details of the new government.”

In addition, Trump is reportedly considering conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham to serve as White House press secretary, despite Ingraham’s hostility and disdain towards media, especially Spanish-speaking outlets, which she has claimed are “toxic” and “revile the American experience.”

Trump’s campaign for the White House offered no positive signs for the future of his relationship with media. Trump declared war on the press, which included mocking specific reporters as “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time.” He retreated to softball interviews during the final weeks of the campaign with largely friendly interviewers, Fox News, and fringe media.

Trump also argued in favor of making it easier to sue the media for libel, even threatening to sue The New York Times for a report in which two women say he groped them. The Trump campaign also released a statement threatening that a Trump administration would “break up” media conglomerates that criticized him.

During the campaign, the Committee to Protect Journalists declared Trump an “unprecedented threat” to free press. So far, his transition has indicated that won’t be changing anytime soon.

IMAGE: Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Sacramento, California. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson