Chuck Todd hopes the media has "grown up" and will avoid sexist coverage of Hillary Clinton's potential 2016 presidential run.
In the final installment of Media Matters' three-part interview series with Todd, the new Meet the Press host discusses the challenges facing media outlets covering a possible Clinton White House bid.
During her 2008 presidential run, Clinton faced near-constant sexism from the press. Asked whether things might be different if Clinton chooses to run in 2016, Todd explained he'd "like to think the media's grown up about that." Nonetheless, he cautioned, "Identity politics can sometimes bring out the worst in people on the left and right."
According to Todd, the Clintons' decades-long presence in the public eye presents challenges for both her potential campaign and for reporters that might eventually cover it.
In a September interview with PBS host Charlie Rose, Todd said that the press often misrepresents the idea that there is a "Clinton fatigue problem," explaining that the "fatigue" actually rests with the press and not people in the Democratic Party, with whom the former secretary of state is very popular. Todd expanded on those comments to Media Matters, saying that media outlets need to avoid "'been there, done that' disease."
Todd said that outlets need to utilize their long history of covering Clinton while being wary of "preconceived notions" and employing a "fresh set of eyes."
Clinton herself recently lamented the tendency of the press to focus on "the best angle, quickest hit, the biggest embarrassment" at the expense of more substantive news. Todd agreed with Clinton, saying that "what gets the attention and what gets clicks" for political reporters is "the gotcha moment." But he added that "the media isn't doing it on their own." Pointing to the proliferation of opposition research on both sides, Todd said that while it used to be utilized by the press merely to highlight hypocrisy, it's turned into "where's every negative thing I can find."
"So it doesn't matter how responsible 70 percent of the journalism community is," Todd said. "There's always a 30 percent chunk that is willing to just take whatever's handed them." He added, "it doesn't matter if the mainstream media is responsible when you have the 10,000 other outlets to get below-the-belt stuff out, right?"
Relevant transcript from Todd's Media Matters interview has been published with each part.
Answers covered in part three are below:
As the 2014 midterm election draws near, right-wing media figures have worked to discourage certain groups of people from voting, claiming some are too dumb to make an informed decision. But this isn't new -- conservatives have long advocated for onerous voter ID laws and even prerequisite civics tests, policies that work to suppress the vote, even going so far as to say that women shouldn't be allowed to vote.
Media Matters looked back at the citizens conservative media have deemed unworthy of voting:
Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney resigned from the paper over what he calls a "breach" in the wall that exists "between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published."
McKinney, a 19-year veteran of the Sun-Times, posted an October 22 resignation letter on his personal blog explaining that he co-reported a story examining litigation involving the former company of Bruce Rauner, now the Republican candidate for Illinois governor. The piece, he wrote, was backed by "our editors and supported by sworn testimony and interviews."
However, according to McKinney, prior to publication in early October, "the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block it," including "sending to my boss an opposition-research hit piece-rife with errors-about my wife, Ann Liston. The campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue. It was a last-ditch act of intimidation." Sun-Times publisher and editor Jim Kirk later defended McKinney, calling the allegation "inaccurate and defamatory."
McKinney states that he resigned, however, because he felt the paper didn't have "the backs of reporters like me." He explained that the Sun Times subsequently penalized him and didn't allow him "to do my job the way I had been doing it for almost two decades. Was all this retaliation for breaking an important news story that had the blessing of the paper's editor and publisher, the company's lawyer and our NBC5 partners?"
His former employer also, in his view, "unequivocally embraced the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared a defamatory attack on me" by endorsing Rauner's gubernatorial candidacy. The endorsement was notable because the Republican "used to be an investor in the Sun-Times' ownership group ... The paper's endorsement of Rauner was its first since it announced in 2012 that it would no longer make endorsements."
The Washington Free Beacon was a landing site for the Rauner campaign's attacks against McKinney and his wife. The conservative site, which has financial ties to partisan operatives, wrote an October 19 article with the headline, "The Chicago Way: Democratic Super PAC in Bed with Local Newspaper--Literally."
The Beacon's attacks were amplified by partisan figures like Fox News contributor and former Rep. Allen West, who wrote on his website: "Yep, that kinda smells, but then again it's Democrat business as usual ... Never forget that Chicago is the home of Saul Alinsky, Barack Hussein Obama, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Tony Rezko, Jesse Jackson Sr and Jr, Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, David Plouffe, Bill Ayres, Bernadette Dorn - need I say more?"
Fox News went to bat for a Virginia lobbyist-turned-farmer unhappy with the easement restrictions agreed to as a condition on the purchase of her property, characterizing the execution of the easement as an attempted "land grab" and government invasion.
On the October 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade summarized the story of farmer and right-wing political activist Martha Boneta with the tease, "Caught on camera: A woman's farm invaded by the government." Boneta appeared for an interview to explain how, in the words of co-host Steve Doocy, a "land grab" of her farm was in the works.
Boneta, a GOP donor and so-called "Tea party farmer," complained that because the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) owns conservation easements on her land, the group is conducting "invasive" and "abusive" inspections of the property. She proclaimed, "What we have here is an organization that has the power over thousands of acres of American farm land and yet there is no accountability to the American people or the democratic process."
Conservation easements are legally binding agreements entered into by private parties. And PEC is a private party, with a private property right attached to Boneta's farm that the organization's representatives are responsible for inspecting. Boneta's claim that PEC is "an organization that has the power over thousands of acres of American farm land" is simply her devious way of describing the basic right of a person or organization to purchase and own property and control the conditions upon which they transfer that property.
A BP executive dismissed the environmental impacts of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the company's role in the disaster in an opinion article for Politico Magazine, while the company is attempting to overturn a court decision finding it "grossly negligent." But the effects of one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history are still being felt in the region today.
Four years after BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf, BP's senior vice president of communications and external affairs Geoff Morrell attempted to argue that previous "dire predictions" about the environmental effects of the spill had been overblown. In an October 21 Politico Magazine article, Morell wrote that a yet-to-be-completed environmental assessment -- funded by BP -- will show that "the Gulf environment is rebounding and that most of the environmental impact was of short duration and in a limited geographic area."
But Morrell's Politico Magazine article was misleading. Wildlife in the region is still experiencing the consequences of the spill, according to a recent report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The NWF studied 14 species that have suffered effects from the spill, including the ongoing illness of bottlenose dolphins and a "dramatic increase" in sea turtle deaths. The report concluded that more needs to be done to speed up the region's recovery. CBS reported of its findings: "No matter how much money is exchanged and what efforts are done, there remains no guarantee that the Gulf Coast regions will fully recover to pre-spill conditions."
Morrell also made the mistaken claim that bacteria in the Gulf's waters "adapted over time to feast on oil," which he claimed showed the Gulf's "inherent resilience" in recovering from the spill. But the bacteria's appetite for oil "die[d] down five months" after the oil rig explosion, according to a team of researchers at Rochester University.
BP is currently attempting to overturn the recent court verdict that the company was "grossly negligent" in advance of and in response to the spill. The verdict, which assigns BP the majority of the blame, sets the financial penalties the company may have to pay at as much as $18 billion.
The night before the court decision was first announced, Morrell blamed "opportunistic" environmentalists for over-exaggerating the spill's environmental impacts and journalists for "under-report[ing]" the company's cleanup efforts. He echoed this argument in the October Politico Magazine article, writing that "we should not be accountable for damages caused by the acts of others, or those conjured up by opportunistic advocacy groups."
Politico has touted its magazine, which launched last November, as containing "consequential stories that are not always the stuff of daily headlines" and aiming "to fill a dangerous vacuum in the rapidly transitioning world of journalism, with too few really big takes on big subjects holding leaders in Washington and beyond accountable."
Time Warner Cable News (TWC) orchestrated a phony scandal and boosted Thom Tillis's North Carolina Senate campaign by placing an empty chair for his opponent, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, at an event it billed as a "debate" -- though it had known for months Hagan would not attend. TWC's stunt resulted in widespread negative media coverage of Hagan and helped amplify GOP attacks on the senator in the midst of a race some experts consider a toss-up.
In early July, Hagan announced that she would attend three debates in the North Carolina Senate race, but would not participate in a fourth debate Time Warner Cable News (TWC) planned to host on October 21. TWC acknowledged that Hagan had declined the invitation, but moved forward with the program, still billing it as a "debate," and placed an empty chair next to Tillis during his appearance. Tillis' campaign was quick to attack Hagan's decision not to attend, hyping the "empty chair in Kay Hagan's place."
When the event was initially proposed, it was billed as a debate between Tillis and Hagan and sponsored by TWC and local papers The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer. The two papers withdrew "after learning that an empty chair would be placed on the set," The News & Observer reported. "We wanted to have a serious discussion with Mr. Tillis about the issues without any gimmicks," News & Observer executive editor John Drescher said, citing an "honest miscommunication" with TWC, "My understanding was that we would tell viewers every 15 minutes that Sen. Hagan had declined our invitation but that we would not have an empty chair." Both The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer referred to the event as an "appearance on a cable TV news show" by Tillis rather than a "debate."
TWC's stunt provided the mainstream media a chance to echo the Tillis campaign's criticism. CNN's chief national correspondent John King highlighted Hagan's absence and the empty chair on the October 22 edition of New Day, but didn't note that her absence had been expected for months. King said, "we're waiting for a good explanation from the Hagan campaign, besides she had other things to do." A CNN article similarly hyped Hagan's absence with the headline: "Hagan absent, Tillis faces off against empty chair," and quipped "This is not your Clint Eastwood empty chair moment from the 2012 Republican National Convention -- but it's close." The article highlighted GOP criticism of Hagan's decision, but did note that she "had already declined."
Right-wing media outlets also seized on TWC's gimmick to attack Hagan. Fox News co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed on the October 22 edition of Fox & Friends that Hagan "didn't bother to show up" and asked "Why did Kay Hagan bail?" Breitbart ran the story under the headline "Thom Tillis Debates Empty Chair After Kay Hagan Declines Debate Invitation," and the Washington Free Beacon highlighted her absence, saying "Hagan's empty chair was visible throughout the debate." The Weekly Standard also hyped Hagan's absence, publishing direct quotes from the Republican research firm America Rising attacking Hagan for not attending the event.
TWC's stunt comes in the wake of accusations of a cozy relationship between Tillis and the telecom company. Last year, a Republican lawmaker in the NC legislature resigned his position as chairman of the Finance Committee, accusing Tillis of governing with a conflict of interest and citing a "business relationship with Time Warner." Time Warner has also previously donated money to Tillis.
Bloomberg TV co-host Cory Johnson called out the hypocrisy of activist telecommunications investor Jeff Pulver who misleadingly stoked fears that proponents of net neutrality advocate for regulations that would hamper telecommunications innovations. Johnson pointed out that without an open internet, the CEO might have been unable to create his own business.
Net neutrality, the basic principle that corporate internet providers should provide equal access to content for subscribers, has become a hotly debated issue among telecommunications conglomerates and internet service providers (ISP) who want to charge companies a premium for preferential access and speed for internet consumers.
On the October 21 edition of Bloomberg West, Johnson and co-host Emily Chang invited Pulver, the founder of Vonage, to respond to net neutrality advocates like Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has called on Comcast to strengthen its commitment to net neutrality. Pulver accused net neutrality advocates of "bullying" and hyped fears that committing to neutrality would amount to onerous regulation of data and information services. Pulver also argued that regulating the telecommunications industry to ensure neutrality through Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 would lead to discrimination against businesses that seek to provide faster or more reliable access to certain data services and halt innovation.
Thousands of low-income Detroit residents denied access to water over delinquent bills did not find much sympathy from the hosts of Fox & Friends, who argued, "If you're not paying for water, why should you get it?"
The city of Detroit has shut off water service to more than 27,000 households this year, an effort to address the water department's more than $5 billion in debt in a city where over 50 percent of residents are delinquent on their water bill.
An estimated 2,300 homes are still without water, despite the fact that the city has established a payment plan for some who are unable to afford their water bill. The city says that 33,000 customers are currently enrolled. According to U.N. human rights officials who made an informal visit to Detroit, the water disconnection constitutes a human rights violation.
But to the hosts of Fox & Friends, the water shutoffs were more justified. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt said that it is "devastating" that several thousand Detroit families don't have water and that she's sorry they can't afford to pay their bills, but declared:
EARHARDT: Why is that any different than any other bill that we have to pay? You don't pay your car payment, you don't pay your house payment, you lose your car. You lose your house. If you're not paying for water, why should you get it?
The hosts condemned the U.N. officials' determination that the water shutoffs constituted a human rights violation, claiming the U.N. was making "a deliberate attempt to embarrass the United States."
Fox's indignation didn't extend to the commercial and industrial businesses similarly behind on their water bills -- as of July, the city had not reported which delinquent businesses had seen their service disconnected. According to recent reports, the Detroit Red Wings' hockey arena and the Detroit Lions' stadium owe tens of thousands in unpaid water bills but still have service.
Detroit's water shutoffs take the greatest toll on low-income residents, a significant number of people given that nearly 40 percent of the city lives below the poverty line. People are often forced to choose between paying for rent, electricity, or water, and the water department has recently increased the price of service by almost 10 percent. Beyond water being a basic necessity for life, the lack of access has other repercussions -- it could be grounds for child protective services to remove children from their homes.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat apologized for appearing at a fundraising event for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extreme anti-gay legal group working to criminalize homosexuality.
On October 16, Douthat spoke at "The Price of Citizenship: Losing Religious Freedom in America," an event held by ADF and aimed at drawing attention to a number of popular right-wing horror stories about the threat LGBT equality poses to religious liberty. Douthat spoke alongside radio host Hugh Hewitt and the Benham brothers, who are notorious for their history of extreme anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The event ended with explicit solicitations for donations to support ADF's legal work.
As Media Matters noted, ADF is one of the most extreme anti-gay legal groups in the country, fighting against even basic legal protections for LGBT people and working internationally to repress LGBT human rights, including supporting Belize's draconian law criminalizing gay sex.
On Wednesday, Douthat explained that he did not know ADF's event was a fundraiser and said he plans to decline the honorarium he received from the event.
"I was not aware in advance that this event was a fundraiser and had I known, I would not have agreed to participate," he said in a statement issued to Media Matters through the Times Wednesday. "I was invited by an events organizing group, not by ADF directly. I understood this to be a public conversation about religious liberty. This is my fault for not doing my due diligence, and I will be declining the honorarium."