Matt Gertz

Author ››› Matt Gertz
  • Roger Stone: Trump Paid Kathleen Willey So She Could Trash Clintons

    Media Matters Releases Video Of Trump Insider Boasting About Trump Giving Willey Money

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The media is highlighting a new web video from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign that features former White House aide Kathleen Willey accusing Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s. In video obtained by Media Matters -- published here for the first time -- close Trump ally Roger Stone says Trump himself gave money to Willey so she would be able to attack the Clintons during Hillary Clinton’s current presidential run. The Office of the Independent Counsel reviewed Willey’s allegations but declined to press charges after determining that Willey repeatedly shifted her story, lied to the FBI, and urged a friend to falsely support her story. She subsequently suggested that the Clintons had murdered her husband in the same way they supposedly murdered former White House aide Vince Foster.

  • As Print Critics Savage Kelly’s Trump Interview, Networks Cover For Her

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Cable and broadcast networks are reporting that Fox host Megyn Kelly’s interview with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump made him look look “restrained” and “softer,” but they are playing down the role Kelly played in that depiction.

    Print and online media critics have been submitting withering critiques of Kelly’s heavily touted sit-down. For New York Times TV critic James Poniewozick, Kelly’s questions were so nonsubstantive that they don’t even deserve to be described as softballs. Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara wrote that Kelly failed to “hold his question-dodging feet to some sort of fire,” instead preferring to have him “costar in an hourlong infomercial for her new book.” The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik wrote that Kelly “provided Trump a kind of sanction with some women that he could never buy” and added, “I’m surprised they didn’t exchange air kisses.” The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple homed in on the “scandalous” way that Kelly “withheld details of her ordeal” with Trump “in a performance that assisted Trump with his general-election pivot” in order to boost sales of her forthcoming book. The list goes on and on.

    But similar criticisms of Kelly’s journalism were absent from the coverage of the interview on the broadcast and cable news morning shows. Instead, NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning highlighted Trump’s effort to show a “softer side” during the interview, but made no mention of how Kelly helped him in that effort. CNN’s New Day completely ignored the interview, with the network’s media commentators instead appearing for a segment about Trump’s attacks on The New York Times.

    It’s possible that one reason the networks are loathe to go after Kelly’s performance is that they are looking to hire her. Her contract with Fox News is up for renewal next year, she has openly said she will consider other offers, and news reports suggest that several networks will try to lure her away.

    It would be awkward for executives to pitch Kelly on a move to their networks after their on-air talent ripped apart her effort to broaden her brand -- and even more awkward for that on-air talent to run into Kelly in the newsroom.

  • The Megyn Kelly Con Should End With Trump’s Softball Interview

    The Interview Was Complete Garbage -- And Trump Loved It

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    For years, reporters have granted Fox News host Megyn Kelly glowing coverage praising her for providing dogged interviews and tough journalism. Tonight’s heavily-touted primetime sit-down with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump should end that con.

    Donald Trump was never remotely fazed by the Fox host during their session, batting down her softball questions with aplomb. While Trump introduced the interview by saying that nothing was “off the table,” Trump’s history of violent and incendiary rhetoric, his rapidly-shifting and extreme policy positions, and his numerous lies were all either mentioned in passing or ignored altogether.

    Instead, Kelly devoted significant time with the man who may be the next leader of the free world discussing whether he had ever been bullied and if he had learned anything from his divorces. Trump's favorite movie and book and whether he had really boycotted her show all came up.

    Kelly framed the interview around Trump’s vicious, sexist, months-long campaign of attacks on her, asking him several questions about their feud. But even with those queries she largely provided him a platform to explain away his actions. They even laughed together about his tweeting technique.

    Megyn Kelly made Donald Trump look downright presidential, and he appreciated it. As the interview aired, he retweeted his followers praising their discussion ("best interview I have ever seen") and even denied that the questions had been soft.

    In short, it was an interview Sean Hannity could love.

    But Megyn Kelly is supposed to be more than Sean Hannity. While he is widely recognized as a GOP shill and conservative mouthpiece, she has sought to carve out a reputation as a real journalist with a "reputation for asking tough questions to anyone,” as one of the spate of laudatory profiles she has received over the past few years put it. A handful of video clips where Kelly actually challenged her network’s conservative narratives were regularly cited as the norm, with profilers largely ignoring her record of promoting misinformation and race-baiting.

    It has been a brilliantly-executed PR strategy. And the Trump interview exposes it as a lie.

    After Kelly asked Trump a tough question about his history of misogyny during Fox’s August GOP debate, he lashed out at her with a series of brutal, sexist attacks. Media observers rushed to Kelly’s defense, rightfully castigating Trump for his actions, but also praising Kelly as a tough journalist. A pause in hostilities led to the scheduling of Kelly’s interview, with many suggesting that Kelly would offer up a serious challenge for the GOP nominee.

    But Kelly herself tamped down those expectations, saying after she taped the interview that she doesn’t “feel any need to go in there and try to take down Trump” and calling her goal “to have an interesting, compelling exchange with him.” At the same time, Fox News has largely gotten behind the nominee, with New York magazine’s Gabe Sherman reporting today that Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company, “has signaled he plans to fully back Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton.” According to Sherman’s reporting, “the message from Roger Ailes's executives is they need to go easy on Trump.”

    Tonight’s interview certainly shows that Megyn Kelly got those marching orders.

    At least she got to plug her new book. She'll reveal the details of her experience being attacked by Trump -- after the election is over.

  • NY Post’s “Blond Bombshell” Story Is Ripped From Pages Of National Enquirer

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    A New York Post cover story that has been highlighted on Fox News claimed that the Clinton Global Initiative “doled out” $2 million to a company partly owned by a woman the paper insinuated is “rumored” to be Bill Clinton’s mistress. The foundation did not actually give money to the firm, and the rumors in question come from a single anonymous source in the National Enquirer.

  • Why Trump’s Supermarket Tabloid Alliance Poses A Problem For The Press

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Donald Trump’s campaign has a symbiotic relationship with supermarket tabloids, which have been sliming his political foes with stories that are either flatly unbelievable or impossible for any other outlet to confirm. Trump’s allies are feeding many of these stories to the outlets, and Trump himself has used his tremendous media megaphone to amplify the sketchy allegations. That's forcing the press to figure out how to deal with tabloid conspiracies when they go mainstream.

    Roger Stone, the longtime friend and ally of Trump who was a paid consultant to his campaign in 2015 and now heads a pro-Trump super PAC, is playing a key role in pushing pro-Trump stories to the tabloids. They’re frequently quoting him and at times he seems to serve as the source for their anonymously sourced hit pieces. Stone has a decades-long history of political dirty tricks, as well as violent, racist, and sexist rhetoric.

    Trump has a “very cozy relationship” to the National Enquirer, as The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers has detailed. The presumptive Republican nominee is also reportedly “very close” to the tabloid’s chief executive, David Pecker, with whom he has reportedly been “friends for years.”

    That friendship with Pecker has “paid dividends” for Trump, according to New York magazine. Gabriel Sherman reported in October that while Trump’s “scandal-filled personal life would be yuge! for the supermarket tabloid,” he has been “exclusively celebrated in the Enquirer’s pages.” Trump himself has gotten in on the act, writing op-eds for the tabloid extolling his own virtues. The paper endorsed him in March with an editorial that Borchers writes “read[s] like one of the candidate's stump speeches.”

    Meanwhile, the tabloid has spent the last nine months savaging Trump’s opponents, and Trump’s ally Stone has been the source for many of the most sordid accusations. The Enquirer cited Stone in multiple pieces: in a report claiming that Jeb Bush used cocaine on the night his father became president; in a piece claiming that Bill Clinton is addicted to cocaine and Hillary Clinton covered it up; in a story alleging that Chelsea Clinton has received cosmetic surgery so that she does not resemble a friend of the Clintons whom Stone claims is her real father; and in an article claiming that Ted Cruz has had affairs with several women.

    Trump’s campaign has also been boosted by the Enquirer’s neighbor on the supermarket check-out line, the Globe (both are owned by American Media Inc.). Globe headlines have included “Donald Trump Schools The Pope On Vital American Security” and “Donald Trump Exposes Evil Liar Hillary Clinton.” In addition to calling Clinton a liar, the tabloid’s headlines have termed Clinton “Ruthless & Vicious,” a self-confessed “Alcoholic,” and a “Crook” who is “Gay.” Stone has been cited in the Globe’s pages as well; the tabloid wrote up his allegation that Chelsea Clinton is not Bill Clinton’s daughter.

    In addition to the on-the-record citations of Stone, Trump’s campaign and Stone himself have both been accused of planting unfavorable stories in the tabloids about Trump’s Republican rivals. These are plausible allegations given Stone’s long history of dirty tricks.

    Under other circumstances, Stone’s use of the tabloids to bolster his smear jobs would simply be more evidence that he is a despicable character. But the media’s fractured environment and Trump’s unique willingness to promote those claims is bringing those tabloid conspiracies to the masses.

    Earlier this month, Trump highlighted an Enquirer story linking Cruz’s father to the assassination of President Kennedy, praising the tabloid’s reporting in nationally televised interviews and triggering a maelstrom of coverage. The story had cited anonymous “D.C. insiders” confirming the story; Stone has a long history of promoting conspiracy theories about the assassination, and he claimed on Twitter that the tale was accurate.

    This points to a potential media strategy the Trump camp could employ in the months to come. First, Stone uses a combination of noncredible opposition research and outright lies to plant in the tabloids stories that no real, credible, media outlet would take. Then Trump’s allies or even Trump himself can push the stories into the mainstream, bringing them up in media appearances. This forces the rest of the press to decide whether and how to cover thinly sourced stories that they can’t confirm but that are now being pushed by a major party’s presidential candidate.

    That matters because Stone has pledged that his anti-Clinton smear book, which portrays “Bill as a serial rapist [and] Hillary as an enabler,” will be the Trump team’s playbook during the general election; Trump has already praised the book and cited its conclusions on the campaign trail. While the press criticized Trump’s elevation of the Enquirer story about Ted Cruz’s father, Trump’s Stone-based accusations about the Clintons have regularly appeared in reports on his strategy without that level of skepticism.

    The latest editions of the Enquirer and Globe both feature cover stories that smear Clinton with either anonymous claims that closely resemble ones previously pushed by Stone or with direct statements from the Trump ally.

    The Globe’s “explosive exclusive” claims that Trump “is planning swift vengeance on sleazebag Republican rivals Ted Cruz, John Kasich, co-conspirator Carly Fiorina, AND Hillary Clinton.” The story is based solely on the claims of an anonymous “insider.”

    That “insider” claims that Clinton is “under scrutiny for money laundering as a result of donations to the Clinton Global Initiative” because of “talk the cash is being secretly funneled into Hillary’s campaign and into the family’s pockets!” The “insider” concludes that after Trump is elected, “Hillary will face prison.” The anonymous allegations echo Stone’s claim in his book that the Clintons have used “the Clinton Foundation to line their own pockets.”

    The insider also alleges to the Globe, absent any corroborating evidence, that Kasich “appeared to be living as a couple” with another man for 14 years between his first and second marriages, that the Justice Department under Trump will investigate Cruz’s father for being a “phony preacher intent on ripping off American taxpayers,” and that Fiorina is a “homewrecker.”

    The Enquirer cover story purports to detail the results of a “12 Month Investigation” that follows Stone’s thesis precisely and quotes him claiming that Bill Clinton has had affairs with 2,000 women (not a typo) and that Hillary Clinton “bullied and intimidated them in an attempt to cover up her husband’s misdeeds.” The story cites “36 unfortunate women who crossed paths with the predator president”; of them, 18 were mentioned in Stone’s book (seven of those are anonymous); the stories of 19 of the women are cited as coming from anonymous sources or rumor.

    Trump has already made clear that sloppy allegations about the Clintons’ personal lives will be at the center of his campaign. His alliance with the tabloids will prove a boon to that effort.

  • Fox News Resorts To Anonymous Sources In Attempt To Revive Debunked Benghazi Claim

    Network Is Still Trying To Turn Terrorist Attacks Into A Campaign Issue

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News is attempting to revive the 2012 Benghazi attacks as a campaign issue with a new report that contrasts what it describes as statements from Hillary Clinton and the State Department that all possible efforts were made to save lives that night with statements from two anonymous members of the military on duty that night who disagree. In fact, reports from House and Senate committees as well as the secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chiefs at the time of the attack and their predecessors all back up the State conclusion that no other military response would have yielded better results.

  • Why Is NBC Nightly News Broadcasting From Trump Tower?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    NBC Nightly News will be anchored tonight from Trump Tower, where Lestor Holt will interview Donald Trump, in the latest example of how the television news media has bent over backwards to accommodate the presumptive GOP nominee. It’s unclear why NBC News would go to Trump’s office instead of demanding that he travel the half-mile south to their studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

    On Twitter, the news drew surprise and criticism:

    Cable and broadcast news programs have frequently allowed Trump unprecedented opportunities to regularly call in to their programs, rather than appearing in person or by satellite -- a practice that has drawn criticism from media critics and prominent journalists.

  • RedState Editors: With Trump As GOP Nominee, Senate Should Confirm Merrick Garland

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Editors of the conservative RedState blog are warning that since Donald Trump is now the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president, Senate Republicans should move to confirm Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland “before it is too late.”

    Redstate Managing Editor Leon H. Wolf, who has said that he will never vote for Trump, wrote in a May 4 post that Garland “is not a great choice, but is not a terrible one, either.” He continued that Senate Republicans should thus confirm Garland rather than allowing Hillary Clinton to name her own nominee after what he depicted as Trump's almost certain defeat in November. Fellow editors Ben Howe and Dan McLaughlin have also expressed support for the position. Wolf concluded:

    In fact, if I were the Republicans, my main concern right now would be that Barack Obama would withdraw Garland’s nomination today. The fact that Merrick Garland still exists as an option right now is a gift that should not be squandered.

    The calculus has changed – confirm Merrick Garland before it is too late.

  • Break Out The Popcorn: Bill Kristol Goes After WSJ Editorial Board Over Trump Support

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Kristol and Trump

    The editor of one of the conservative establishment’s most influential magazines is now lashing out at the nation’s most prominent right-wing newspaper editorial board over whether conservatives should run a third-party candidate if Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee.

    With Trump on the verge of clinching his party’s nomination, the conservative movement is in shambles. Dozens of right-wing commentators have come forward to say that they will never vote for Trump, either due to his bigotry and authoritarian tendencies or because of his alleged progressive positions. Those conservatives have said they will stay home, vote for the Democratic candidate, or support a third-party candidate.

    Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard and a prominent conservative activist who bears significant responsibility for Sarah Palin ending up on a national ticket, is part of that faction. In February, he said that he “would try to recruit a real conservative” to run an independent campaign if Trump became the Republican nominee.

    But a large group of conservatives are either openly rooting for the New York businessman or have come to terms with the likelihood that he will be their party’s standard-bearer.

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined that final group this morning, with a piece criticizing any effort to enlist a third-party candidate (Rupert Murdoch, the paper’s owner, has said that the party would be “mad not to unify” around Trump). The editors write:

    Readers know our doubts about Mr. Trump, on policy and as an autumn candidate. His nomination still isn’t guaranteed, and the polls show him badly trailing Mrs. Clinton, despite her many flaws. Third-party advocates say the right candidate would give conservatives an honorable alternative to Trump-Hillary. They say a third-party candidate could win enough states to throw the election into the House of Representatives, which would then presumably choose the non-Trump Republican.

    This isn’t impossible, but then again it almost never happens. The usual presidential result is that the party that splinters hands the election to the other, more united party. 

    The editors conclude that a third-party conservative candidate would be devastating to the party’s House and Senate candidates: “[D]ueling presidential candidates would put House and Senate Republican candidates in a perilous spot. Do they support Mr. Trump or the third-party conservative? If they are forced to choose, they could alienate enough GOP voters to ensure defeat.”

    Hours later, Kristol threw down the gauntlet at the Journal. Pointing to Trump’s “crazed” comments this morning linking Sen. Ted Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Kristol declared that “serious people, including serious conservatives, cannot acquiesce in Donald Trump as their candidate.”

    Kristol savaged the Journal for prioritizing “political prudence,” concluding that regardless of the political implications, “Donald Trump should not be president of the United States. The Wall Street Journal cannot bring itself to say that. We can say it, we do say it, and we are proud to act accordingly.”

    The Journal and Kristol may both be right: Giving conservatives no choice but to support Trump in the general election may be better for the party’s congressional candidates (though it also makes it impossible for them to distance themselves from their incredibly unpopular nominee). But supporting Trump in spite of what the Journal gingerly describes as their “doubts” about his candidacy is quite obviously an act of raw political cowardice.

    It’s only May, and the looming Trump candidacy is already dividing even the establishment’s stalwarts. Who knows what the next six months will bring. But it will surely be fun to watch from the outside.

  • Morning Shows Grant Trump Phone Privileges Following Primary Wins

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The morning news programs on ABC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all allowed Donald Trump to phone in for interviews following his victories in the April 26 Republican primaries. Journalists and media critics have called out cable and broadcast news shows for allowing Trump this “shocking” “advantage,” and several programs have banned the practice.

    In March, the six major broadcast and cable news networks allowed Trump to phone in for 39 of his 63 interviews. On ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News, more than half of Trump's interviews were conducted by phone.

    The Associated Press has explained how television media’s unprecedented practice of allowing Trump to regularly call in gives him an advantage:

    Except in news emergencies, producers usually avoid phoners because television is a visual medium -- a face-to-face discussion between a newsmaker and questioner is preferable to a picture of an anchor listening to a disembodied voice.

    It's easy to see why Trump likes them. There's no travel or TV makeup involved; if he wishes to, Trump can talk to Matt Lauer without changing out of his pajamas. They often put an interviewer at a disadvantage, since it's harder to interrupt or ask follow-up questions, and impossible to tell if a subject is being coached.

    Face-to-face interviews let viewers see a candidate physically react to a tough question and think on his feet, said Chris Licht, executive producer of "CBS This Morning." Sometimes that's as important as what is being said.

    Several prominent journalists and media critics have panned the media’s willingness to grant Trump phone interviews. CBS This Morning, NBC’s Meet The Press, and Fox News Sunday have all banned the practice, requiring Trump to appear in person or via satellite.

    To sign Media Matters’ petition calling on media outlets to take away Trump’s special phone privilege, click here.