The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Want To Talk About Abortion On Fox? It Helps To Be A White Man

In segments discussing the Supreme Court draft opinion revealing the court has decided to repeal Roe v. Wade, Fox News hosted an overwhelming number of men and white people, largely excluding voices most heavily affected by the decision to strike down abortion rights in the United States. In contrast, CNN and MSNBC hosted a majority of women to discuss the news.

Key Findings

In cable news segments that discussed Roe or the draft opinion between May 2, when Politico published the leaked decision, through 5 p.m. EDT on May 5:

  • Men made up nearly two-thirds of all guest appearances on Fox News (64 percent).
  • The majority of guest appearances on CNN (63 percent) and MSNBC (69 percent) were by women.
  • White people made up 87 percent of guest appearances on Fox.
  • CNN and MSNBC featured white people in 70 percent and 62 percent of such guest appearances, respectively.
  • Across the three cable news networks, 21 percent of guest appearances were by women of color — 24 percent of appearances on CNN, 30 percent on MSNBC, and just seven percent on Fox News.
On the evening of May 2, Politico reported a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, revealing the court is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The possible repeal would roll back the clock nearly half a century and return abortion law to each state. It would trigger legislation banning abortion in 13 states and would lay the groundwork for an additional 19 states to enforce pre-Roe abortion bans that are still on the books or to institute regressive laws banning abortion extremely early, in the weeks before fetal viability.

The potential ruling would impact people of color the most, and it has already been criticized not only for standing on flimsy and unprecedented legal ground, but also for defying broad and categorical public opinion. In the communities that would be most affected, 63 percent of women, 68 percent of Black adults, and 60 percent of Hispanic adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Even though this decision impacts women and people of color the most, Fox News predominately hosted men and white guests in segments that discussed the end of Roe: 87 percent of guest appearances in such segments were of white people, 64 percent were by men, and 58 percent were by white men. Only 36 percent were by women.

CNN and MSNBC fared slightly better when it came to featuring a diversity of voices. Both networks featured more guest appearances of women than men in segments on Roe, with CNN featuring women in 63 percent and MSNBC featuring them in 69 percent of such segments.

Across the three cable news networks, 21 percent of guest appearances were by women of color — 24 percent of appearances on CNN, 30 percent on MSNBC, and just seven percent on Fox News.

Black guests also comprised much larger proportions of guest appearances on CNN and MSNBC than on Fox. Approximately 22 percent of guest appearances in segments discussing the decision on CNN and 27 percent on MSNBC were of Black guests. By contrast, only five percent of such appearances on Fox were of Black guests.

All other races and ethnicities – Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Latino/Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and mutiracial guests – were featured in 6% or less of guest appearances on any of the three networks.

It should be noted, however, that MSNBC chose to platform anti-abortion activists in its programming, featuring segments with Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life and Marjorie Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony List. In her appearance, Hawkins was allowed to spread anti-abortion misinformation unchecked.

Fox’s decision to host mostly men and white people in segments discussing the opinion might explain why the network’s coverage was largely focused on the leak rather than the damaging impact from the repeal of Roe. Rather than airing segments featuring guests who could describe the genuine impacts of such a decision, Fox News shows like Hannity featured panels of white men to feign outrage over the leak.

When cable media outlets – particularly Fox News – fail to feature guests who can speak to the personal impacts of the story, they fail to adequately inform their viewers about the horrifying ramifications of overturning Roe.

Additional research contributions from Erin Kee

Methodology

Media Matters searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC (shows airing from 6 a.m. through midnight) from May 2, 2022, when the report of the draft opinion came out, through 5 p.m. EDT May 5, 2022, for guest segments that touched on the leaked Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.

Media Matters searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC (shows airing from 6 a.m. through midnight) from May 2, 2022, when the report of the draft opinion came out, through 5 p.m. EDT May 5, 2022, for guest segments that touched on the leaked Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.

We reviewed all guest participants in the identified segments for their sex or gender and their race or ethnicity. We classified an individual as “male” or “female” based on their self-identification or publicly available biographical information; no participants in this study publicly identified as nonbinary. We based an individual’s race or ethnicity on their self-identification or publicly available biographical information. If a guest participant’s race or ethnicity could not be determined through such means, we coded them as “unknown.” For guests who identified with multiple races or ethnicities, we coded them as “multiracial.” We used categories as defined by the U.S. Census with the addition of “Middle Eastern” as defined by the U.S. State Department.


We coded guest participants as “white” if they self-identify as white or are of European descent; as “Black” if they self-identify as African American or Black or are of African descent; as “Latinx/Hispanic” if they self-identify as Latino/Latina or Hispanic or are of Spanish/Latin American descent; as “Asian American/Pacific Islander” if they self-identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander or are of Asian descent or Pacific Island descent; or as “Middle Eastern” if they self-identify as Middle Eastern or are of Middle Eastern descent.

We rounded all percentages to the nearest whole.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox News Drops Durham Smear After Clinton Hints At 'Actual Malice'

In the days after special counsel John Durham, tasked with investigating the FBI probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, filed a pretrial motion on February 11, Fox News provided an astounding amount of coverage at a breakneck pace, falsely claiming it proved 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spied on the Trump campaign. However, coverage of the story slowed dramatically after Clinton accused the network of “getting awfully close to actual malice” in its reporting.

A Media Matters review of Fox News transcripts found that from February 11 through February 24, 2022, Fox's total coverage of the Durham filing was more than 11 hours over 149 segments. Eighty-five percent of that was before Clinton alleged Fox of “malice”; just 15 percent was after.

Contrary to framing from right-wing media, which generally ran hog wild with the story, Durham’s filing alleges that a lawyer linked to the Clinton campaign shared internet traffic data from networks near the White House and Trump Tower with the CIA. The filing does not allege that the data were obtained illegally or that the Clinton campaign directed the effort, nor does it provide evidence that the data were collected after former President Donald Trump was sworn into office.

From February 13, when Fox first mentioned the story, through the 3 p.m. EST hour on February 17, when Clinton commented about the network's coverage approaching “malice,” Fox covered the story for 9 hours and 23 minutes total. From then onward through February 20, Fox spent 1 hour and 40 minutes on the story: The network covered it for 5 minutes on February 18, 17 minutes on February 19, and 56 minutes on February 20.

  • Fox News coverage of Durham investigation "bombshell" falsely alleging Clinton spied on Trump

A significant portion of Fox’s coverage after Clinton’s “malice” comment was on the February 20 edition of Life, Liberty & Levin, where host Mark Levin spent 35 minutes on the Durham investigation and false allegations from Trump that the Obama administration or the Clinton campaign spied on his own. Levin has been making these unsubstantiated accusations for years. Since then, Fox appears to have dropped the subject entirely; there was only a single mention of the story which Trump made during an interview on February 23’s The Ingraham Angle.

In between accusing mainstream media of ignoring the story, Fox and other right-wing media’s coverage falsely framed the Durham filing as a “bombshell” proving Clinton is a “certified political criminal,” and “the real insurrectionist” who “tried to steal the election by spreading misinformation.” Meanwhile, Durham attempted to distance himself from right-wing coverage of his filing.

Such pontificating was not relegated to the network’s opinion programming; Fox’s straight-“news” shows were just as culpable in pushing the false narratives of the Durham filing. Nearly 4 hours of coverage was on so-called “news” shows like The Story with Martha MacCallum (44 minutes), America Reports with John Roberts and Sandra Smith (37), Special Report with Bret Baier (33), and America’s Newsroom with Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino (32).

But Fox’s opinion shows provided the most coverage with more than 7 hours in total. Leading the pack was the network’s premiere weekday morning talk show Fox & Friends with 1 hour and 3 minutes. Following closely behind was Hannity (58 minutes), Fox & Friends First (50), and Fox & Friends Weekend (43).


  • Fox News coverage of Durham investigation "bombshell" falsely alleging Clinton spied on Trump

Clinton’s accusation of “actual malice” holds real legal meaning: The 1964 decision in The New York Times v. Sullivan established “actual malice” as the legal threshold to prove defamation of a public figure; 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times hinges on the same legal standard. This wouldn’t be the first time Fox found itself in legal hot water for its reporting: Dominion Voting Systems Corp. and Smartmatic are suing the network for knowingly pushing false information about election fraud.

Methodology

Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “Durham” (including misspellings), “Special Counsel,” or “Clinton” not within close proximity to “Bill” each within close proximity to any of the terms “Trump,” “Russia,” “Sussmann,” “White House,” or “server” from February 11, 2022, through February 24, 2022.

We included segments, which we defined as instances when Durham’s investigation was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the investigation. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the investigation with one another. We also included mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker discussed the investigation without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the investigation scheduled to air later in the broadcast. We rounded all times to the nearest minute.

We split Fox programs into “news” and “opinion” sides. We defined “news” programs as those with anchors, such as Bret Baier or Shannon Bream, while we defined “opinion” programs as those with hosts, such as Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham, at the helm. We used the designations from each anchor’s or host’s FoxNews.com author page. We also considered the format of the program; we defined those using a panel format, such as Outnumbered and The Five, as “opinion.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters


Fox News Alarm Over Seattle Zone Contrasts With Friendly Coverage Of Bundy Gang

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

When Americans are at odds with the government, Fox News has a lot to say -- but which side Fox figures take in such cases seemingly depends on the politics and race of those involved.

As peaceful protests against police brutality and racism in the U.S. continue to unfold nationwide, Fox News has been laser-focused on demonizing the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), a recently formed six-block radius zone in Seattle, Washington, that is free of police. Fox has framed CHOP protesters as engaging in "anarchy," "outright insurrection," and an "occupation."

Read Now Show less

How Fox News Embraced And Boosted Coronavirus Protests

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

  • While state governors have attempted to slow the coronavirus outbreak through a number of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, right-wing activists have organized a series of protests across the country calling for the reopening of businesses and the end of social distancing orders. Fox News has given extensive coverage to these protests -- promoting the events, praising and encouraging the protesters, as well as hosting rally organizers -- despite warnings from medical experts that opening up the country too soon could backfire, setting everyone back in the fight against coronavirus.
  • In one week, from April 13 through 19, Fox News devoted 69 segments to the story, spending 4 hours and 23 minutes covering the protests.
Read Now Show less

News Networks Failed To Report Trump’s Conflicts Of Interest

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

The broadcast networks’ flagship evening news programs failed to inform their viewers about the inherent conflicts of interest a potential Donald Trump presidency would bring in the months leading up to Election Day, and have not given the subject the urgency it deserves in the wake of his election, according to a Media Matters review.

Between September 14 and Election Day, the networks only aired approximately seven minutes of stories about or at least mentioning a conflict of interest. In the week after the election, they aired approximately 14 minutes — but only half of that explicitly called the issues “conflicts.”

Trump has said throughout his campaign and following his election that he intends for his children to run his business empire while he is president. But on September 14, Newsweek reported that if Trump and his family don’t cut ties to the family’s business conglomerate, Trump would “be the most conflicted president in American history, one whose business interests will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” due to the Trump Organization’s relationships and financial entanglements with foreign interests.” Responding to that story, Richard Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, told Media Matters that the only way to avoid serious conflicts of interest would be for Trump and his family to sell all of their holdings in the Trump Organization. Painter also stressed that the issue was a “serious problem” that warrants increased media attention.

Painter sounded some of the earliest alarms about Trump’s conflicts. Speaking with Mother Jones in June, he explained that the idea of a sitting president holding any debt owed to an entity that the government regulates should disturb the public: “[H]aving a president who owes a lot of money to banks, particularly when it’s on negotiable terms — it puts them at the mercy of the banks and the banks are at the mercy of regulators.”

The flood of potential and actual conflicts of interest have been made manifest following Trump’s election. A Washington Post investigation recently revealed a sprawling, globe-trotting Trump empire, showing that the president-elect’s real estate, management, and branding companies have business interests in at least 18 countries or territories. The Post also reported over the weekend that foreign diplomats had flocked to an event at the Trump International Hotel, located just a few blocks from the White House, seeking “to curry favor or access with the next president.”

The New York Times reported that developers of Trump Towers Pune, located in Pune, India, flew to New York last week to meet with the Trumps during the president-elect’s initial stages of his transition to the White House. Pranav R. Bhakta, a consultant who helped Trump establish a foothold in the Indian market five years ago, told the Times, “To say, ‘I have a Trump flat or residence’ — it’s president-elect branded. It’s that recall value. If they didn’t know Trump before, they definitely know him now.”

These recent events should have come as no surprise, yet the network news hardly mentioned the conflicts of interest inherent in Trump’s global business ties before or after the election.

Media Matters looked at ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir, CBS’ Evening News with Scott Pelley, and NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt for reports on Trump’s conflicts of interest — including the Trump Organization’s ties to foreign governments or businesses, Trump promoting his own businesses through the presidency, plans for Trump’s children taking over the Trump Organization through a “blind” trust or attempting to access security clearances, and Trump’s children using their access to the president-elect to promote their own businesses — starting from Newsweek’s September 14 article.

From then until Election Day, the networks spent approximately seven minutes on stories about or at least mentioning a conflict of interest. NBC aired a three-minute segment, and ABC aired a three-and-a-half-minute segment. Both were about Trump using his campaign to promote his own businesses; however, neither explicitly pointed to potential upcoming conflicts of interest should Trump win the election. NBC briefly mentioned theNewsweek report in a segment about corruption in the Trump Foundation, and the night before the election, the network again briefly mentioned the conflict of interest of Trump’s business ties for about eight seconds.

In the week after the election, the networks have devoted more coverage to these conflicts of interest, but it hasn’t been enough. From November 9 to 16, the networks spent approximately 14 minutes on stories about or at least mentioning a conflict of interest, but only half of those explicitly called them conflicts. They spent a total of about seven minutes on Trump’s foreign business ties, six minutes on Trump’s children helping with the president-elect’s transition or vying for security clearances, and two minutes on Ivanka Trump using a photo of herself in Trump’s recent 60 Minutes interview to sell a bracelet that retails for over $10,000.

Methodology

Media Matters searched news transcripts from the Nexis database for mentions of any variations of “conflict,” “corrupt,” “organization,” “trust,” “business,” “interest,” “cabinet,” “transition,” or “divest” within the same paragraph as “Trump” for ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir, CBS’ Evening News with Scott Pelley, and NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt from September 14 through November 16. We reviewed video to determine length of coverage.

IMAGE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump attend a campaign event in Washington, DC, U.S., October 26 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri