As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker formally enters the presidential race, journalists in his home state say the national press should focus their reporting on his polarizing history fighting abortion rights, gay marriage, and public information disclosure, while also highlighting his push as a state assemblyman for mandatory prison time that has overwhelmed the state's prison system.
Many Badger State scribes also point to the state's poor economic record, while describing Walker as an "extreme" politician whose far-right approach may not work in a national race.
"He is not as charismatic as I think a lot of people think," said John Nichols, an associate editor at the progressive Capital Times in Madison. "The drama, the excitement associated with Scott Walker is that he did some extreme things that scared a lot of people."
"He's a pretty polarizing character," said political reporter Kate Pabich of WMTV, the NBC affiliate in Madison. "If he gets the GOP primary nomination he is going to have a hard time appealing to a national stage. The things he's done, the ultra-conservative things he's done, the 20-week abortion, the stance on gay marriage, will be an issue."
Pablich was referring to the state ban on abortion after 20 weeks, which passed in the Wisconsin Assembly just last week -- with no exceptions for rape or incest, reportedly at Walker's insistence -- and which is likely to get Walker's approval.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel capital reporter Jason Stein said the abortion ban is important because "that could be banned at the national level" if Walker is elected president.
Stein also said media should examine a so-called "right-to-work" law Walker signed in March that strips unions of vital resources by allowing private-sector employees to opt out of paying union dues, as well as his support for a severely restrictive public information overhaul that would have disallowed public access to many state records and documents.
"They were sweeping," Stein said of the public information restrictions. "They would have exempted the vast majority of legislative documents" from review, allowing "the administration as well as any other state agency to withhold deliberative materials used to arrive at a policy decision," he concluded.
After the restrictions were approved in the legislature's Joint Finance Committee, they were shelved following public outcry.
Stein, who co-wrote a book about Walker's 2011 collective bargaining battle with state unions, also urged national reporters to look at Walker's time as Milwaukee County Executive, adding, "There was much more gridlock and his not being able to accomplish what he wanted. He was head-butting a lot with a Democratic County board."
Capital Times' Nichols said Walker's claims about a great economic record in Wisconsin are misleading.
"The Wisconsin economic story is not a particularly good story," he said. "Wisconsin trails a lot of neighboring states in economic vitality; its job growth is not particularly good."
He said Walker promised when he first ran in 2010 to create 250,000 new jobs in his first term. But that fell far short, according to Politifact, which estimates only about 146,000 new jobs created during that time.
"For all of his talk of becoming an economic savior, he is weaker on economics than a lot of people think," Nichols said.
Andy Hall, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and a former longtime reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, agreed.
"He did promise to create 250,000 jobs during his first term, the numbers show he got about half that goal," Hall said. "The economy here continues to concern a lot of people. Yes, jobs are being created, but are they the right kinds of jobs?"
Hall also cited the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC, which Walker created to spark job growth. A state audit in May by the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau found problems with its compliance and practices.
Jim Fitzhenry, a top editor for Gannett Wisconsin Media, which operates newspapers and websites in 10 cities, said few national outlets seem to know about Walker's support for tighter mandatory sentencing that has ballooned the state's prison population.
Known as "Truth-in-Sentencing," the restriction, passed by the Wisconsin state legislature in 1998, requires that many inmates serve their entire sentences without parole and increased the length of prison time for others.
Walker co-sponsored the legislation as a state assemblyman and helped lead it to passage as chair of the state assembly's Committee on Corrections and the Courts, according to a lengthy report on his past prison reform actions in The Nation earlier this year.
"It took away quite a bit of judicial discretion in sentences," Fitzhenry said. "Unlike a lot of his counterparts, Scott is still very much adamant for Truth-in-Sentencing."
The Nation report detailed how Truth-in-Sentencing overburdens the Wisconsin prison system so much that it had to contract with a private prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America, whose executives have also contributed to Walker's campaigns.
A 2004 Journal Sentinel analysis of the law looked at data from Truth-in-Sentencing's first four years in existence and estimated that it would cost the state an additional $1.8 billion through 2025.
Three months after a Columbia University investigation found major journalistic errors in a Rolling Stone report on campus sexual assault at the University of Virginia, major news outlets say they have not adjusted their approach to covering similar stories. But rape survivor advocates say they have seen less coverage of the issue since the failures of the Rolling Stone report came to light, and, in some cases, an increased hesitancy in trusting survivors' accounts.
The November 2014 Rolling Stone article "A Rape on Campus" prominently featured the story of "Jackie," a pseudonymous University of Virginia student who told the outlet she was gang-raped in 2012 at a fraternity party.
After initially receiving praise, the article came under fire for an apparent failure to seek comment from the alleged suspects. Other factual questions arose, prompting Rolling Stone to commission an investigation with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and its dean, Steve Coll.
That investigation, released in early April, found the Rolling Stone story was a "journalistic failure that was avoidable. The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking. The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine's editors to reconsider publishing Jackie's narrative so prominently, if at all."
Though the report outlined specific failures in the Rolling Stone editorial process (while declining to adjudicate exactly what happened to "Jackie"), it also pointed to broader problems in how all outlets cover sexual assault, and offered some suggestions on "how journalists might begin to define best practices when reporting about rape cases on campus or elsewhere." It recommended, for example, that journalists spend time further deliberating how best to balance sensitivity to victims with the demands of verification, and how best to corroborate survivor accounts.
In interviews with Media Matters, editors from The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and other outlets said they have not adjusted their approach to covering the stories of rape survivors in light of the Rolling Stone mess and the resulting Columbia report.
Several editors said that the Rolling Stone saga would not cause them to believe survivors less or hesitate to publicize their stories.
"I don't think that story holds any larger lessons about rape coverage, or whether one should believe alleged assault victims," New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet told Media Matters via email. "It was a poorly-done story ... It doesn't make me any more or less likely to believe a source. We always verify, get the other side, and report the heck out of a story, no matter the subject."
Other editors who spoke with Media Matters maintain their coverage will be unaffected.
"It hasn't, or won't change how we view these stories," said David Callaway, editor of USA Today. "I always thought the idea that news organizations would cut back on their coverage because of one poor example seemed a bit far-fetched. We still get people coming to us with stories or requests for coverage many times a day, and the ones we choose to go after we only pursue if we can verify. We have detailed guidelines on sourcing and fairness in coverage and we have no plans to change those in the wake of the Rolling Stone debacle."
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan believes the paper is making progress when it comes to using the more accurate term "denier" -- rather than "skeptic" -- to refer to those who reject the scientific consensus on climate change.
In an interview with Media Matters, Sullivan described "denier" as the "stronger term" and the appropriate label "when someone is challenging established science." Sullivan said that "the Times is moving in a good direction" on the issue, adding that the newspaper is using the term "denier" more often and "perhaps should be doing it even more."
She also likened the discussion to the Times' process for evaluating whether to refer to "enhanced interrogation techniques" as torture, stating: "After a long time the Times came around to calling it torture and I thought that was a very good thing. I think we're sort of in the same realm with the business about skeptics and deniers."
Sullivan, who briefly addressed the distinction between "skeptics" and "deniers" in her May 7 column, said she doesn't have any immediate plans to return to the topic. But she reiterated that "language choice is something that interests me a lot because I think it's something that matters."
Philip Corbett, the Times' associate managing editor for standards, confirmed to Media Matters that Times staff are "aware of the issue and have discussed it." Corbett said Times reporters and editorial staff "do our best" to keep the proper use of labels in mind "even if the process is not always perfect," and that "[w]e intend to continue scrutinizing future stories with these concerns in mind."
Paul Gigot, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor since 2001, was named chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board on Monday. Under Gigot, the Journal editorial page has had several ethical lapses and has been a regular source of misinformation on climate science, health care, the Iraq War, and a host of other issues.
Pulitzer administrator Mike Pride told Media Matters a new board chair is chosen annually and the board member or members who have served nine years of their 10-year term normally get the post.
Gigot, who is going into his 10th and final year on the board, was the only member in that position this year, Pride said.
"It is really relatively automatic and nine years on the board give you a greater understanding in the way things work."
Pride, a former board member from 1999 to 2008, left in April 2008 after one year as co-chair with Joann Byrd. He is also the former editor of Concord Monitor. Pride became board administrator in September 2014.
But while Gigot's appointment is fairly routine, his position is one of power and influence over the board that distributes the most coveted awards in journalism, Pride said.
"The chair has some powers for sure in deciding which things we emphasize and which things we focus on," Pride said, later adding, "It's not a weak position at all, it's a strong position."
"He is on all the committees and is really involved in everything."
Gigot's appointment comes at a time when the Pulitzer Prizes have undergone sharp changes in recent years. In 2008, the categories were opened up to allow online-only entries, a major shift for the prizes that had previously been limited to newspapers.
And this year marked the first time magazine entries were allowed, in two categories. As board chair, Gigot can influence what changes are made or not, Pride said.
"The chair has a big effect on that so if the chair decides to slow down something the process will slow down," he explained. "If the chair decides to move faster, it will move along. It is a person that helps to determine the future of the prizes."
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen called news of Gigot's new position "strange," noting that the Journal's newsroom "often rolls its eyes at the editorial page's evidentiary standards."
In 2011, Women's Wear Daily reported that the Journal's newsroom "often has objections to Paul Gigot's editorial page." The New York Observer noted that "under editorial-page editor Paul Gigot, opinion writers freely dispute the facts reported in the rest of the paper," while "news staffers disavow the contributions from Mr. Gigot's side."
One staffer told the Observer in 2006 that the editorial section is "wrong all the time" and that "they lack credibility to the point that the emperor has no clothes."
Rosen also noted it should "concern journalists" that the Journal editorial page under Gigot "has been a leader in the manufacture of doubt about climate change." As evidence, he linked to a Journal editorial comparing modern climate research to the party dogma of the Soviet Union.
The Journal's editorial page has also been criticized for ethical lapses under Gigot. In the run-up to the 2012 election, the paper routinely failed to disclose columnist Karl Rove's ties to political organizations acting to prevent President Obama's re-election and published at least 23 different op-eds from various Mitt Romney advisers without disclosing their blatant conflict of interest. (The paper eventually added a mention of Rove's political groups to his bio.)
In addition to its climate coverage and ethical problems, Gigot's editorial page has misled on several issues over the years, including electoral politics, the labor movement, health care, and the economy.
The Journal editorial page's low point under Gigot was probably its role in furthering falsehoods in the run-up to the Iraq War. The Journal routinely promoted the idea that Saddam Hussein either had -- or was on the verge of obtaining or producing -- weapons of mass destruction. A characteristic Wall Street Journal editorial from 2003 claimed that the coalition force would find "nasty weapons and the cheering Iraqis...when it liberates the country."
A Forbes.com contributor says he has resigned after an interview he posted with a women's rights leader was pulled from Forbes' website without his consent. The former contributor told Media Matters he "strongly disagrees" with the editors' reasons for the removal.
Tom Watson, who contributed paid columns each month to the Forbes.com Social Ventures blog, posted a column on Monday, April 27 with the headline, "Sexism And The Media: As Election Heats Up, Are We Nearer To Tipping Point For Equality?"
The center of the piece was an interview with Jamia Wilson, executive director of Women, Action & the Media, which Watson describes as "a nonprofit organization dedicated to 'building a robust, effective, inclusive movement for gender justice in media.'" Watson and Wilson discussed sexist media coverage of Hillary Clinton, the power of "Networked feminism," and "the need to create and improve newsroom standards about how sexual violence is discussed in the media."
"I think that the story, the interview with Jamia Wilson, was important, especially the timing of it given where we are," Watson told Media Matters on April 29. "I do think this is the most important feminist election cycle in U.S. history, win or lose, and I think it's important to step up and comment on that."
Watson said the column was posted at Forbes.com on Monday night, but removed the next morning. (A Google cache version shows the column on the Forbes site that evening.) He said editors informed him via email Tuesday that it had been pulled, but never asked for his consent.
"They took down a post of mine that I felt was worthy of my Social Ventures blog and I couldn't live with that so I resigned," Watson said. "They told me that they had done it [via email]. I was at a faculty meeting at Columbia University, where I teach part-time, and I saw it come in. It kind of wrecked my day."
Watson declined to reveal which editors informed him of the column's removal, but said he was told that "it was outside the parameters of my beat."
He described his beat as "covering social entrepreneurship, non-profits, philanthropy, start-ups and digital activism space."
Asked to comment on Watson's claims, Forbes Senior Manager of Corporate Communications Laura Daunis said via email, "Forbes felt the post was off topic and not aligned with the entrepreneurship channel's mission."
After Forbes.com pulled the column, it was posted on Medium, but with this tagline at the end announcing Watson's concerns and resignation:
Note: I have resigned as a contributor to Forbes.
Yesterday, I posted this interview with Jamia Wilson of Women, Action & the Media, a nonprofit organization dedicated to "building a robust, effective, inclusive movement for gender justice in media." I consider her work, and that of feminist organizers everywhere, to be vitally important to the field of social entrepreneurship and to public life.
The editors found it inappropriate for the section of Forbes I have contributed my Social Ventures column to for the last three years and they removed it this morning. I strongly disagree with their decision and we have parted ways.
Despite this, I appreciate the audience and platform Forbes provided, and am grateful for the opportunity to write about social entrepreneurship, citizens movements, new nonprofit models, and philanthropy. That conversation will continue elsewhere.
Thank you all for supporting my work, it is deeply appreciated.
Princeton Lyman, who served as an ambassador under Republican and Democratic administrations, has rebuked Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer for taking his comments about the Clinton Foundation's work "badly out of context."
Lyman has held numerous senior government positions, including ambassadorships to Nigeria and South Africa under President Reagan and President Clinton, respectively. He's now a senior advisor to the president of the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Schweizer targets the Clinton Foundation's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in his forthcoming book. In a section wondering "how much good has the Clinton Foundation actually done," Schweizer took issue with the foundation's statement that Bill Clinton has helped decrease the cost of HIV/AIDS drugs.
Journalists have suggested that conservative author Peter Schweizer's forthcoming book attacking Hillary Clinton is more credible because he will follow it up with a similar book examining Jeb Bush. But according to his publisher, no such book is in the works: Schweizer's reporting on Bush will be published on the website of his non-profit organization.
Over the past few days numerous media outlets have begun reporting on allegations Schweizer makes in his forthcoming book Clinton Cash about allegedly unethical ties between the Clinton Foundation and actions Hillary Clinton purportedly made as secretary of state. Critics -- including Media Matters -- have noted that Schweizer is a Republican activist and strategist with a history of reporting errors.
Pushing back against this narrative, Bloomberg Politics reported on April 23 that in contrast to the "left-wing clamor that Schweizer is simply out to get Hillary Clinton," "Schweizer is working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush's finances that he expects to publish this summer."
Picking up the story, Politico reported that Schweizer "is reportedly working on another book that he expects to release in the summer. Only this time, he'll be writing about Jeb Bush." CNN likewise reported that the "book on Bush... would be published this summer."
But HarperCollins, the publisher of Clinton Cash, denies that any such book is in the works.
A spokesperson for the publisher told Media Matters that the forthcoming work is "not a book" but rather a "report of the Government Accountability Institute," where Schweizer is president.
"We have nothing to do with it," she added.
Schweizer and GAI did not respond to requests for comment.
Experts in military and veteran suicide issues are criticizing National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent for claiming that veterans are committing suicide because they believe President Obama "is the enemy."
As reported by Right Wing Watch, during a speech at a Lincoln Day Dinner in Arizona last week, Nugent said, "20 - 25 of those guys kill themselves every day, and they haven't told you why, and they haven't told anybody else why, but they told me why: because the Commander-in-Chief is the enemy."
Nugent has made similar claims in the past. In 2013, during an appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, he said that veterans were killing themselves in part because Obama was "violating" the Constitution.
Several experts in military suicides strongly criticized Nugent for distorting the facts and misleading the public with his "ridiculous" commentary.
Creators will suspend Dr. Ben Carson's syndicated column in "about 30 days," according to managing editor David Yontz, who told Media Matters the move follows Carson's description of himself as a presidential candidate in his latest column. Yontz said that Creators has removed the offending column from its website.
In his March 25 column, which was reprinted in conservative outlets like The Washington Times, WND, and Townhall, Carson described the "learning curve of a candidate" and focused on how much he has "to learn in terms of becoming both a better candidate and a better potential president of the United States." Given the many concrete steps Carson has taken towards mounting a presidential run, Media Matters reached out to Creators to inquire about Carson's status as a columnist, given that he was apparently open to using the space to publish pieces that read like campaign press releases.
"In his latest column, Ben Carson talks about what he would do as an official candidate for president of the United States," Yontz said in an email to Media Matters Wednesday. "He ends the column by saying he wanted to communicate his thoughts as he 'consider(s) this monumental step.' But in the same column, he describes himself as a candidate for president. Consequently, we have decided to suspend syndication of the column, effective in about 30 days, until after he is no longer running for president, either officially or unofficially."
Yontz said the syndicate will remove Carson's most recent column from its website because, "though the column was not an announcement and Dr. Carson is still in exploratory mode, we agree that the column was misleading."
Creators' move follows The Washington Times' decision earlier this month to drop Carson as a columnist after the formation of his exploratory committee and Fox News' move last fall to end its relationship with Carson after he released a campaign-style video "introducing himself to the American people."
Yontz estimated the suspension will be completed in "about 30 days" because "it will take us some time to send letters to all of his subscribers." He explained that, "For the next month, the column will be staying away from anything that could be perceived as campaign-related."
Media Matters had initially reached out to Yontz in December after Fox News dropped Carson as a contributor. At that time, Yontz said, "he hasn't officially announced yet, it is looking likely he is going to run. But once he officially announces, we most likely will stop syndicating it, we just have to come up with a solution as to what to do, at that time."
"We have 30-day agreements with the subscribers to Dr. Carson's column," Yontz added Wednesday. "And we will also be offering alternative conservative columnists to his subscribers during this time period."
He would not reveal how many clients take Carson's weekly syndicated column, but called it "substantial"
UPDATE: Carson responded to the Creators Syndicate news in a March 28 statement on Breitbart.com, writing: "While my words may not have been precise, be assured I have not declared my candidacy for president in any shape or form. I have been, and am still, exploring a candidacy as a possibility. In an effort to be straightforward I did not follow each time the political protocol of qualifying my language with appropriate adjectives and caveats."
Project Veritas is "a multi-million dollar non-profit P.R. machine to promote the James O'Keefe brand," according to a former employee who says he was fired after he refused to force a colleague to incite protesters into making violent anti-police comments.
Rich Valdes worked for O'Keefe's Project Veritas from February 2014 to January 2015. A New York Post article this week reported that "former top staffer" Valdes says he was fired from the organization for "being unwilling to strong-arm" another Veritas operative into attending a January anti-police brutality event organized by Al Sharpton's National Action Network. The Post reported that the operative's would-be assignment included telling protestors things like, "I wish I could kill some of these cops," to elicit shocking reactions.
Valdes expanded on the incident that he says led to his dismissal in an interview with Media Matters.
Valdes said O'Keefe wanted him to send the other activist, whom Valdes describes as a "Muslim operative," to a January National Action Network event related to the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after being put in a chokehold by a New York police officer in July 2014.
"In this particular situation, James came to my desk and asked me to send this particular operative into the field," Valdes recalls about the incident, which he says took place in the organization's Mamaroneck, N.Y., offices. "And he was really anxious and he said, 'do whatever it takes, do whatever it takes, tell him to say whatever he's got to say, get me the content.' Content is king."
Media Matters has reached out to the operative for comment, with no response yet. O'Keefe referred questions to a Project Veritas spokesman who confirmed Valdes' past employment, but declined to comment on the controversy or specific details of his work.
"He gave me some examples ... about saying he was a Muslim and kind of commiserating with the folks," Valdes told Media Matters about O'Keefe's pressure. "He tells me, 'tell your guy [to say to others] that, you know, that he had a kid and that he's a Muslim and you don't know what it's like to get stopped by the cops because they think you're a terrorist and they want to search your kid, and that I wish I could have a cop here now.' So as he's saying this at my desk, I'm writing it down."
Valdes said he emailed the operative with the request; he provided Media Matters with copies of the emails.
"He responded very quickly saying that he didn't want to do it, he didn't think it was legal, this, that and the other thing," Valdes recalled about the operative's reaction. "I had a discussion with our producer and with James and the consensus was, 'see what you can do, get him to do it.'"
Valdes said he sent another email and tried to convince the operative "that this is not very different from what you've done in the past, you've posed as someone you weren't in the past to get some undercover response from some people." But he said the man "thought it was really different and he felt it was illegal to talk about killing cops. I myself understood."