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  • How The Trump Campaign Is Embracing Dirty Trickster Roger Stone’s Playbook

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Trump, Stone

    Donald Trump and his campaign are signaling a shift toward an election strategy laid out by conspiracy theorist, dirty trickster, and informal Trump adviser Roger Stone.

    For months, Stone has pushed for Trump to invoke the Clintons’ supposed “war on women,” and both the candidate and campaign staffers have been making the rounds this week indicating that they plan to do so.

    Stone heads a pro-Trump super PAC and previously served as a paid consultant to Trump’s campaign. He has been a key promoter of Trump’s candidacy in the media, particularly on the radio and internet program of 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

    Stone himself is an ardent conspiracy theorist. He recently floated the theory that the Clintons had four people murdered over the summer, which dovetails with his previously stated claim that the couple is “plausibly responsible” for the deaths of roughly 40 people. Stone has also alleged that the Bush family “tried to kill” President Ronald Reagan, that President Lyndon Johnson was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and that the father of Senator Ted Cruz was involved in the killing as well – a theory that was pushed by Donald Trump.

    Stone said he had doubts that Clinton would have the stamina to do an entire 90-minute debate and claimed she was wearing an earpiece during NBC's candidate forum because she “clearly has no memory.” He also claimed Clinton was placed on an oxygen tank immediately after the recent presidential debate and “has some advanced form of epilepsy.”

    Former Trump adviser Michael Caputo, guest hosting on the September 25 edition of WBEN’s Hardline, said he “heard more than one time Donald Trump say” that Stone’s book The Clintons’ War on Women “is his opposition research on the Clintons.” He added that  Trump “has it on his desk.”

    The book, co-authored by fellow conspiracy theorist Robert Morrow, describes itself as a guide to “how Bill and Hillary Clinton systematically abused women and others -- sexually, physically, and psychologically -- in their scramble for power and wealth.”

    Morrow is also a discredited researcher. He has a history of bizarre sexual writings about Hillary Clinton and the Clinton family. Morrow also relishes tweeting the slur “nigger” and was ousted as the chair of the Travis County, TX, Republican Party by “party officials who found him a perpetual embarrassment.”

    Previously, Trump has promoted Morrow and Stone’s book on his Twitter account. In January, after claiming that Bill Clinton was “one of the great woman abusers of all time," Trump cited Stone’s book for his claim that Hillary Clinton "went after the women very, very strongly and very viciously, according to the women and according to other sources."

    Following his poorly received performance in Monday night’s debate, Trump appears ready to again follow Stone’s advice. Politico reported that “threats emanated from Trump Tower on Tuesday that the Republican nominee was preparing to name-check Bill Clinton’s mistresses — alleged or otherwise.”

    Immediately after the debate, Trump told the media, “I'm really happy I was able to hold back on the indiscretions in respect to Bill Clinton. Because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton.” He added, “Maybe I'll tell you at the next debate. We'll see. But I'm very happy.”

    Top Trump campaign surrogate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, “The president of the United States, her husband, disgraced this country with what he did in the Oval Office and she didn’t just stand by him, she attacked Monica Lewinsky. And after being married to Bill Clinton for 20 years, if you didn’t know the moment Monica Lewinsky said that Bill Clinton violated her that she was telling the truth, then you’re too stupid to be president.”

    Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie appeared on Fox & Friends and said, “I think that if you look at Hillary Clinton's background and if you look at her being an enabler, really, in the '90s and really attacking these women, it goes against everything that she now tries to spout as a candidate for president.”

    Eric Trump, the nominee’s son, lauded his father’s “courage” for not bringing up Lewinsky during the debate during a radio appearance.

    The Stone-influenced strategy comes at the same time the Trump campaign is also reportedly receiving advice from Fox News founder and former chairman Roger Ailes, who was ousted from the network after former anchor Gretchen Carlson accused him of sexual harassment and sued him. Soon after, at least 25 women came forward, making very similar allegations about Ailes’ behavior over multiple decades. Recent reports indicate that after the debate debacle, Ailes’ role with the Trump campaign may be expanded.

  • Trump Is Trying To Divert The Media From His Disastrous Debate, And CNN Just Admitted It’s Working

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has tried to divert media attention from his poor debate performance, claiming that he “eased up” on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and suggesting that he would use personal indiscretions of former President Bill Clinton to attack her in the future. By attempting to change the media conversation, Trump seeks to deflect attention from not only his performance, but also from issues raised during the debate such as his taxes, his birtherism, and his attacks on a former Miss Universe.

    And news outlets have fallen for his manipulation, a media misstep that a CNN panel acknowledged while discussing the matter.

    Trump’s September 26 debate performance has been widely panned, with some calling it “an unmitigated disaster” and saying Trump had a “terrible night.” Trump since then has tried to offer excuses for his performance by criticizing moderator Lester Holt and complaining about his debate microphone. During an interview on September 27 with Fox News' Fox & Friends, Trump put out another attempted distraction, claiming he had “eased up” on Clinton during the debate because of her feelings and saying he would have mentioned “the many affairs that Bill Clinton had” if their daughter Chelsea Clinton had not been in the room. The following day, also speaking to Fox, Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie accused Clinton of being “an enabler” of her husband’s infidelities, saying, “If you look at Hillary Clinton's background and if you look at her being an enabler, really, in the '90s and really attacking these women, it goes against everything that she now tries to spout as a candidate for president.”

    Various media outlets have played right into Trump’s plan by sharing the remarks, reporting that Trump said he “held back” by not bringing up Bill Clinton’s past, repeating Bossie’s claim, and devoting time to the claims on cable news shows. When journalists report on what Trump didn’t do during the debate, they play into Trump’s plan to avoid additional scrutiny of his answers on “not paying his taxes or stiffing his workers,” as Jon Favreau pointed out.

    Discussing Trump and Bossie’s remarks in a roundtable discussion on CNN’s At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan on September 28, co-host Kate Bolduan asked whether Trump was “just changing the subject from he didn’t have a good debate,” and New York Times reporter Alex Burns responded that “this is the version of changing the subject … that worked for Trump so well” before. Additionally, Democratic strategist Edward Espinoza pointed out that the Trump campaign was injecting the subject of Bill Clinton’s personal indiscretions into the campaign by having his surrogates bring it up in media, and that it was working because “we’re talking about it right now”:

    EDWARD ESPINOZA: This is not a new issue for them. So for Donald [Trump] to bring something like this up -- and by the way, his surrogates bringing it up in the media right now is their way of getting it out without him having to get it out. We’re talking about it right now. But they’re prepared --

    KATE BOLDUAN (CO-HOST): Is it getting out or just changing the subject from he didn’t have a good debate? Because we’ve seen kind of this tactic in the past.

    ALEX BURNS: This is the version of changing the subject that Trump -- that worked for Trump so well when he ended up down 12 points in August, right? That when you careen from one fight that's charged with issues of race and gender from the next all summer, that's not what he's been doing for the last few weeks when he has drawn closer in the polls. And a return to that just because it sort of changes the subject and feels good in the short term, the people who see him as having made progress in the race badly do not want him to go there.

    CNN’s panel was playing into exactly what the Trump campaign wanted -- and Espinoza admitted it. The panelists were discussing Bill Clinton’s indiscretions without forcing Trump to be part of the conversation, while also helping Trump in “changing the subject” from his debate performance.

    Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump has been able to manipulate the press to cover what he wants in the way he wants and to ignore issues he has not wanted covered. In May, he held a press conference on his alleged donations to veterans groups, hijacking cable news discussions and largely avoiding coverage of an update regarding the lawsuit against Trump University. Earlier in September, Trump got free live cable news coverage of his Washington, D.C., hotel by teasing a “major announcement” on his birther campaign. The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel has also noted that Trump has released “less policy detail than any candidate for president in my lifetime,” but because he “never fail[s] to offer enough detail to fit in a headline or cable news chyron,” he’s been able to “get credit — and the headline, and the chyron — for what other candidates would consider less than a bare minimum.” And as Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson noted earlier this year, “Trump can mainline his latest hot take into the mainstream media, basically any time of night or day” through his use of Twitter.

  • Breitbart Slammed For “Anti-Semitic” Attack On Washington Post Columnist Anne Applebaum

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Breitbart

    A Breitbart News column attacking Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum is being criticized for, in the words of one critic, going “full anti-Semite.”

    Stephen Bannon, who took a temporary leave of absence as chairman of Breitbart News to work as the Trump campaign’s chief executive, described the site as “the platform for the alt-right.” The “alt-right” is a rebranding of the white nationalist movement, and a part of the conservative movement that opposes immigration and embraces racism, sexism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and anti-Semitism.

    The column, written by Matthew Tyrmand, who is Jewish, describes Applebaum as a “Washington Post columnist and political revisionist” who is “on the warpath against the rising populist forces doing electoral damage to her establishment friends and allies across the world.” Discussing Applebaum, Tyrmand adds, “hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.”

    Applebaum criticized the Breitbart.com piece for being “full of obvious falsehoods, bizarre claims and convoluted chronology,” adding, “but the alt-right doesn't believe in fact-checking either.”

    The piece has been condemned by several writers and columnists on Twitter, some of them from conservative outlets.

    New York Post columnist John Podhoretz said the column was “disgusting” and described Matthew Tyrmand as a “foul, rotten human being.”

    Tablet Magazine’s Yair Rosenberg said, “Breitbart goes full anti-Semite,” and later wrote, “Today’s anti-Semitic Breitbart eruption is a reminder that a vote for Trump is a vote for mainstreaming anti-Semites.”

    Wall Street Journal opinion writer Sohrab Ahmari said Breitbart “goes full Daily Stormer,” a reference to the notoriously anti-Semitic white nationalist website. He also said, “Breitbart is increasingly indistinguishable from outlets on the white-power fringe.”

    Columnist Jamie Kirchick described the column as an “anti-Semitic attack” and “anti-Semitic filth.”

    Commentary’s Ben Cohen said the piece was an “anti-Semitic screed” in a “Nazi rag.”

  • Trump's Media Surrogates Claim "Contractual Obligations" Justify Trump's Fat-Shaming Comments About Alicia Machado -- They Don't

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Right-wing media surrogates defended Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s fat-shaming comments about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado by suggesting she had a contractual obligation to stay thin. This excuse falls far short of justifying the public shaming Machado has endured from Trump.

    Trump has a long history of sexism and a penchant for belittling women. Trump attacked Fox anchor Megyn Kelly for her critical coverage, calling her “Crazy Megyn” and suggesting you could see “blood coming out of her wherever” following her tough questioning in Fox News’ Republican primary debate. Trump claimed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton got “schlonged” by President Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. He defended former Fox CEO Roger Ailes against claims of sexual harassment, and now the notoriously sexist Ailes serves as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign.

    Clinton attacked Trump’s history of sexism during the presidential debates, in part referencing the story of Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe winner, and saying Trump is “a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs.” Trump went on Fox News’ Fox & Friends the next day and doubled down on his comments, calling Machado the “worst, the absolute worst” and saying she was “impossible” because “she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.” Numerous Trump surrogates in the media have attempted to defend Trump’s blatant sexism by suggesting that Machado had a contractual obligation to stay fit. From the September 28 edition of CNN’s New Day:

    ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): I have to ask you. Because I know your lovely, smart, beautiful Hispanic wife, I just have to ask -- what does Mercedes think about what Trump said?

    MATT SCHLAPP: We talked about it last night. Let me tell you, throughout this whole very interesting political year, we're often each other's counselor at the end of the day when interesting things happen on the trail. And I guess her reaction was -- she's in the news business, Alisyn, as you are, and it's not uncommon for women and men, but a lot of times women, in the news business or in the acting business to have actual language in their contracts that their physical appearance has to maintain some kind of standard. And people might not like that, but it's in contracts. And I'm not going to ask people if it's in their contracts or not, but she understands that. Is it fair, is it  not fair? Let's face it, TV, Miss Universe pageants, movies, it's a lot about their physical appearance. Alisyn I can tell you, in my case, thank God I don't have that, because that's not exactly one of my strengths in life.

    [...]

    SCHLAPP: Now, come on, let's all be candid here. People who are beautiful get involved in Miss Universe pageants and part of that is their physical appearance. And I think this is when it gets to like common sense. People in America have been watching pageants for decades and they understand that's a part of it, it's a part of the culture. Is that a culture my wife has been involved with? No. But you have every right to be involved in that culture if you want. And if you sign a contract, you've got to follow it.

    Even if Machado’s contract did include a requirement to stay below a certain weight, it certainly wouldn’t justify the sexist and insulting episodes of body-shaming Trump has forced her to endure. It is highly unlikely her contract compelled her to participate in a 1997 press conference that centered on Machado’s exercise regimen, a stunt BBC’s Katty Kay rightly denounced as “the most grotesque exercise in humiliation of a woman.”

  • Leaked Fox Memo Says Online Polls "Do Not Meet Our Editorial Standards"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Business Insider reported that the Fox News vice president for public-opinion research sent an internal memo “reminding television producers and the politics team that unscientific online polls ‘do not meet our editorial standards.’” 

    After the September 26 presidential debate, Fox News hosts and contributors repeatedly cited online polls, which largely favored Republican nominee Donald Trump, to defend Trump’s widely panned performance. Fox & Friends continued to hype online polls on September 28, the day after the internal Fox memo was sent, with co-host Brian Kilmeade stating that “the online polls show [Trump] winning an overwhelming margin.” In fact, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton dominated in scientific polls. 

    The September 27 memo, sent by Dana Blanton, Fox News’ vice president of public-opinion research, noted that “quick vote items posted on the web are nonsense, not true measures of public opinion.” Blanton wrote that "the sample obviously can't be representative of the electorate because they only reflect the views of those Internet users who have chosen to participate.” From the September 28 Business Insider article:

    A Fox News executive sent a memo Tuesday afternoon reminding television producers and the politics team that unscientific online polls "do not meet our editorial standards."

    Dana Blanton, the vice president of public-opinion research at Fox News, explained in the memo obtained by Business Insider that "online 'polls' like the one on Drudge, Time, etc. where people can opt-in or self-select … are really just for fun."

    "As most of the publications themselves clearly state, the sample obviously can't be representative of the electorate because they only reflect the views of those Internet users who have chosen to participate," Blanton wrote.

    As the Fox News executive pointed out, users who participate in such polls must have internet access, be online at the time of the poll, be fans of the website in question, and self-select to participate.

    "Another problem — we know some campaigns/groups of supporters encourage people to vote in online polls and flood the results," she wrote. "These quickie click items do not meet our editorial standards."

    At least three Fox News hosts cited unscientific online polls in the hours following Monday's presidential debate to suggest Donald Trump emerged as the winner of the political showdown.

    While Trump did, in fact, come out ahead in a slew of online polls, the polls were all unscientific, meaning the sample of participants did not accurately reflect the sample of viewers who watched the debate. Such polls are almost always discounted by professional pollsters and analysts.

    The only scientific survey conducted in the immediate aftermath was the CNN/ORC instant poll, which showed viewers thought Hillary Clinton handily defeated Trump. Respondents to a Morning Consult poll released Wednesday also said, by a 49% to 26% margin, that Clinton bested Trump in the debate.

    "News networks and other organizations go to great effort and rigor to conduct scientific polls — for good reason," Blanton wrote in the memo. "They know quick vote items posted on the web are nonsense, not true measures of public opinion."

  • VIDEO: Trump Backers Alex Jones And Roger Stone Humiliated Themselves During Their Debate Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› COLEMAN LOWNDES & TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Trump supporter Alex Jones and Trump adviser Roger Stone pushed bizarre conspiracy theories about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s health during Jones’ coverage of the first presidential debate.

    During the live-stream of the debate at Jones' Infowars.com, Jones and Stone told viewers that Clinton suffered a series of medical incidents before, during, and after the debate, even as the footage of the debate belied their claims.

    Jones, one of the founders of the 9/11 truther movement and America’s leading conspiracy theorist, has been at the forefront of pushing conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health that have spread to conservative media and in some cases been legitimized by mainstream outlets. Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, has claimed that Clinton suffers from amnesia and other serious medical conditions.

    Following the September 26 debate, political observers, focus groups, and scientific polls all concluded that with her confident performance, Clinton won a decisive victory over Republican nominee Donald Trump.

    But Stone, Jones, and other members of the Infowars.com broadcast team claimed that Clinton, suffering from an “advanced form of epilespy,” arrived in a “medical van,” that the debate started several minutes late because Clinton was having a “diaper change,” that Clinton was “hopped up” on “anti-seizure medication” causing her to “barely keep her eyes open” during the debate, and that after the debate Clinton could “barely walk” so she “immediately” left the stage to go on an “oxygen tank.” Infowars’ own live-stream of the debate contradicted these descriptions. For example, instead of leaving “immediately” following the debate, Clinton was seen on the Infowars stream talking and shaking hands on the stage.

    Clinton’s performance in the debate has left Clinton health conspiracy theorists scrambling. The morning after the debate, the Drudge Report published a video titled “HILLARY MORNING AFTER: Both hands on rail…” In the video, a smiling Clinton is seen briefly placing both of her hands on the railing of an airstair before removing her hands to gesture toward a member of the press as she ascends the stairs:

  • Politico’s False Equivalency On Election Rigging

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Politico perpetuated a false equivalency between claims from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of a “rigged” election, which are grounded in conspiracy theories and right-wing myths, and worries from Democrats, including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, that Russia is attempting to interfere with the election, which are based on recent precedent and intelligence.

    In a September 28 article claiming both Clinton and Trump are engaging in a “conspiracy theory” and “feed[ing] the rigged-election charge,” Politico explained that Trump and his allies have been “sounding the alarm since summer that the results in battleground states – from Ohio to Florida – will be fixed so he’ll lose.” The report went on to erroneously equate Trump’s claim with worries from Democrats, including Clinton, that Russia could be “‘attempting to influence the outcome of the election,’” writing:

    But Trump isn’t the only one who warns the election is being tampered with.

    Clinton’s campaign contends that the Republican’s shadowy connections to Russia may be tied to the slow release of hacked emails meant to embarrass the Democrat to the point that she loses in November. While Obama said in an NBC interview in July that “anything’s possible” when it comes to Russia’s attempts to influence the presidential election, the U.S. government still hasn’t officially named a culprit in the hackings.

    “It’s a fascinating question, and an important question, and an alarming question when the Russian government appears to be attempting to influence the outcome of the election,” Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin said in a recent interview.

    At an August 1 rally, Trump baselessly asserted that he’s “afraid the election’s going to be rigged.” Trump went on to double down on his claim, adding that without voter ID laws, people “are going to vote 10 times.” Trump was widely denounced by journalists for his claims. The New York Times editorial board called his comments “not just ludicrous, but dangerous.” And Talking Points Memo editor John Marshall wrote that Trump used “this canard to lay the groundwork for rejecting the result of a national election.”

    Trump’s claims are grounded in conspiracy theories and misinformation. Trump ally and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones asserted on August 1 that Clinton “stole the primary” and is “going to try to steal the general election.” Fellow conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Roger Stone urged Trump to raise the issue of a “rigged” election on the July 29 edition of The Milo Yiannopoulos Show, saying, “I think we have widespread voter fraud, but the first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about it constantly.” Fox News hosts and contributors helped mainstream these conspiracy theories, arguing that talking about the possibility of rigged elections is “an important discussion to have going into the election.”

    Trump’s claims are linked to conservative myths used to push for discriminatory voter ID laws. Right-wing media have repeatedly pushed myths about in-person voter fraud, arguing that denying voter fraud exists “is to frankly deny reality.” Academic studies, however, have found that “voter fraud is vanishingly rare” and that voter ID laws largely disenfranchise minority voters.

    Concerns that Democrats, including Clinton, have raised about Russian interference in the election, however, are grounded in recent precedent and government intelligence. The New York Times reported that intelligence officials “have ‘high confidence’ that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee” this summer. Russia is also suspected of having hacked into the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s computer system.

    The FBI also said there is evidence that Russian hackers “targeted voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona.” In addition, on September 22, the Democratic ranking members on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees warned, “Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the US election.” Given Trump’s reported ties to Russia, including the connections of some of his current and former senior campaign staff, the idea that Russia would want to sway the election is not unrealistic.

    Politico’s false equivalence of these two accusations is made more incredulous by the article’s acknowledgment that “Clinton and many other election watchers are not flying blind in making this allegation” about Russian interference, and the article detailed some of the evidence behind the concern.

    But this is hardly the first time media outlets have applied false equivalency during this election. For example, numerous reports claimed that Trump and Clinton were “exchang[ing] racially charged attacks” after Trump claimed that Clinton is a “bigot.” But Trump’s remarks consisted only of outlandish, evidence-free insults while Clinton reasonably and accurately described Trump’s racist rhetoric and very real ties to white nationalists and the "alt-right."

    False equivalency is a dangerous practice journalists use to give both sides equal weight, even when there is a clear right and wrong. By perpetuating in this false dichotomy, media outlets are doing disservice to their audiences.

  • Trump Becomes Latest GOP Nominee To Get Lost Inside The Fox News Bubble

    Trump Expands on Romney’s Failed Strategy

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Looking to make the media rounds on Tuesday morning in an attempt to clean up his Monday night debate mess, Republican nominee Donald Trump actually had only one destination on his schedule: Fox News, of course.

    Calling into his allies and supporters on Fox & Friends, Trump promptly made things worse for his campaign. First, he suggested there might have been a debate conspiracy afoot to fit him with a faulty microphone, as a way to explain his shaky performance. (“My microphone was terrible.”) Then Trump got even further sidetracked from campaign messaging by fat-shaming a former winner of his Miss Universe pageant: “She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.”

    For a candidate who was nearly unanimously crowned the loser of the first presidential debate (except for in unscientific online polls he and Fox News have been desperately promoting), Trump’s attempt at damage control via Fox News was like the captain of the Titanic circling around the iceberg for a second look. 

    But of course, they loved Trump on Fox News, even after his debate loss. “A very good night for Donald Trump,” announced Sean Hannity. And from news anchor Bret Baier: “I do think he gets credit for just being on the stage.” They also tried to spin away his debate lies and conjure up reasons for his lopsided loss.

    And that’s why Trump’s campaign now resembles a Fox News cocoon, or a hermetically sealed bubble. Since the summer, Trump has basically only spoken to Fox News. Gone is the much-touted Trump media accessibility from the Republican primary. It’s been replaced with the Trump bunker strategy, where only friendly questioners are allowed and the Republican candidate is able to expound in a fact-free Fox zone.

    It’s a bubble where Trump doesn’t have to explain his long-running birther pursuit, nobody cares about his tax returns, where Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is admired for his strong leadership, and where bigotry is celebrated.

    The Fox News bubble is a welcoming, comforting place for Trump, but it doesn’t reflect the reality of American politics today. And this week, that Fox-friendly strategy caught up with Trump. Reportedly uninterested in debate prep, Trump was confronted by a skilled opponent who accessed facts at will and spoke in complete paragraphs.

    Meanwhile, “Trump was scattered, swaggering and stumbling,” wrote  TPM’s Josh Marshall. “Just a mix of easily demonstrable lies and nonsensical statements.”

    Doesn’t that sound like another morning with Fox & Friends? Trump represents a presidential nominee who exhibits no intellectual curiosity, nor any commitment to facts. He’s the Fox News id.

    And while Trump is getting pummeled from all sides for his no-show debate performance, it’s Fox News architect Roger Ailes who probably deserves a lot of the blame for the GOP’s unfolding calamity.

    Not only did Ailes reportedly play a role in Trump’s disastrous debate preparation, but Ailes, of course, provided the nominee with a Fox News platform to launch into American politics back in 2011. Since then, Ailes and Trump have been inexorably linked.

    Today, Fox News gifts Trump with so many softball interviews you’d think Rupert Murdoch himself were the nominee. Even Republican Sen. Ted Cruz lamented that Ailes had “turned Fox News into the Donald Trump network, 24/7” during the primary season.

    What’s so astonishing today is knowing that four years ago, all the warning flags for the GOP were whipping in the wind when Mitt Romney tried to run a Fox News campaign to the White House. Romney veered hard to right and adopted the right-wing media’s contempt for the lazy “47 percent” of Americans who supposedly live off government handouts. Romney even embraced reality TV show host-turned Fox News favorite Donald Trump, who was fresh off his bogus investigation into whether the first African-American president was allowed to sit in the Oval Office.

    Following the second debate in 2012, when the GOP nominee adopted Fox spin and bungled the facts of the previous month’s Benghazi terror attack, I wrote that, “Married to the conservative media and all their bogus claims and conspiracies, Romney runs the risk of coming across as badly out of touch with the truth, the way he did last night.”

    Then, following the GOP’s defeat in November, which the Fox bubble never saw coming:

    This grand experiment of marrying a political movement around a cable TV channel was a grand failure in 2012. But there's little indication that enough Republicans will have the courage, or even the desire, to break free from Fox's firm grip on branding the party.

    In the wake of Romney’s defeat, some Republican operatives did vow to venture beyond the friendly confines of Fox News. And the Republican National Committee’s post-election autopsy even stressed the need for the Republican Party to “stop talking to itself.” (That’s what Fox News is very good at.)

    While I knew Fox News had a vice-like grip on the GOP, and the GOP was in love with the angry rhetoric and the free media the cable channel provided, in 2012 I couldn’t have imagined four years later the party would not only embrace their failed Fox News strategy, but they’d inject it with steroids and nominate Trump. Or that the GOP nominee would then effectively barricade himself behind Fox News interviews during the general election campaign.

    The punchline today? Reports suggest that in the wake of Trump’s failed debate performance, Ailes’ campaign role may be expanding. The Republican Party now appears to be trapped in a Fox News cycle that chews up GOP nominees.

  • “Movement Afoot” To Expand Roger Ailes’ Role In The Trump Campaign  

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    “There is a movement afoot” to bring ousted Fox News CEO and alleged sexual harasser Roger Ailes “more into the process” of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, according to Washington Post reporter Robert Costa. Ailes, who currently serves as an informal but influential adviser to Trump, reportedly helped the GOP nominee prepare for the first presidential debate.

    After Trump’s disastrous debate performance on September 26, Costa tweeted that “top [Republicans] … wonder who, if anyone, can get Trump to fully [prepare] for the [second] debate.” He subsequently tweeted, “There is a movement afoot by at least 2 Trump allies to bring Ailes more into the process.”

    BuzzFeed News’ McKay Coppins reported before the debate that Ailes “is playing a much larger backstage role in handling Trump than most people realize.” Other media outlets have highlighted the influential role Ailes is playing in Trump’s debate prep.

    After allegations of harassment by more than two dozen women, Ailes settled a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit for $20 million which was paid by Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox. Following his firing from Fox News, which included a $40 million severance package, Ailes transitioned almost immediately into the role of informal Trump adviser. The two reportedly “counseled each other in multiple phone calls” during the fallout over Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment, and Trump has said he “would think about” hiring his “friend” Ailes as a campaign consultant, though Ailes is already reportedly offering Trump advertising and leadership guidance.

  • Vox Slams Media For Placing Style Over Substance In Aftermath Of Trump's Debate Meltdown

    Ezra Klein: Trade “Was Trump’s Best Portion Of The Debate … But He Didn’t Know What He Was Talking About”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Even as they criticized the rest of his performance for its lies and a general incoherence on basic policy specifics, mainstream and conservative media personalities are largely in agreement that Republican nominee Donald Trump earned more style points than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the first half of their presidential debate on September 26, which focused on the economy and international trade.

    But as Vox editor-in-chief Ezra Klein argued in a September 27 blog, the belief among journalists and pundits that Trump “won” the opening economic portion -- or any portion -- of the debate only holds water if you grade the candidate’s braggadocious style as more important than his vacant substance (emphasis added):

    This is how it felt to me, too. Stylistically, this section was Trump’s best portion of the debate. He kept slamming Clinton on NAFTA — "the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere” — and spoke with the confidence of a man who knew what he was talking about.

    But he didn’t know what he was talking about.

    What was stylistically Trump’s best portion of the debate was substantively among his worst (I say among his worst because it is hard to beat the section where he said he both would and would not honor the NATO treaty, and then said he both would and would not adhere to the first-strike doctrine on nuclear weapons). Trump was arguing the central economic theory of his campaign — and he was just wrong. In a section that began with him demanding solutions for our economic woes, he showed himself completely confused as to the nature of not just our economic problems, but the underlying labor market.

    The tone of his voice and the confidence of his delivery shouldn’t distract us from the hollowness of his remarks.

    From his introductory remarks, Trump unleashed a torrent of falsehoods during the first presidential debate of the general election. Journalists and commentators from across the political spectrum slammed the GOP nominee for his seeming lack of preparation and inability to execute a clear debate strategy. Focus groups of undecided voters conducted by CNN and by conservative pollster Frank Luntz agreed that Clinton trounced Trump on the stage, and a national poll fielded by CNN showed that debate viewers came away thinking Trump had lost “overwhelmingly.” Trump was even needled by reporters for revealing “his famously thin skin” and for failing to control his impulses and “los[ing] the battle against himself.”

    And yet, somehow, numerous professional debate-watchers seemed to think Trump actually performed well during the opening portion of the debate, when he attacked Clinton and President Obama on the economy. Ignoring that the country Trump was describing doesn’t actually exist, journalists largely seemed to agree that Trump’s jeremiad was nonetheless effective.

    Professional economists who watched the debate, on the other hand, savaged Trump for his repeated lies about the American economy. Trump falsely claimed the American labor market is being hollowed out by trade even when job creation is steady, he reiterated a false right-wing media claim that American incomes are stagnant when they are rising, he repeated his own false claim that the Federal Reserve is acting “politically” to prop up the economic recovery while claiming at the same time that the economy isn’t really recovering, and he lied about his impossible plan to pay down the national debt. And Trump did all of these things during a segment of the debate that commentators currently argue he won.

    For months, media critics have lamented how Trump is often graded “on a curve” for his performances and public statements, noting that he is “held to a different standard than Clinton” and his other political counterparts. The widespread perception that Trump outdid himself during the opening minutes of the debate while spouting a laundry list of lies about the economy and trade, proves how persistent this problem remains.