Blog

  • 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.

  • Trump And The Pitfalls Of Relying On Stop-And-Frisk Myths Three Years Too Late

     After Lester Holt Fact Check, Trump Now Confused About What Version Of Stop And Frisk He Wants

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    One of the dangers of haphazardly reviving right-wing media myths is that some falsehoods are much trickier than others to walk back. During the first presidential debate of 2016, GOP nominee Donald Trump learned this the hard way, when moderator Lester Holt of NBC News fact-checked him cold about the unconstitutional version of stop and frisk that the Republican presidential nominee recently proposed as a nationwide model.

    During the September 26 debate, Trump once again invoked his support for New York City’s past application of stop and frisk, which was struck down by a federal judge three years ago and abandoned on appeal, much to the disappointment of right-wing media proponents of “order” over constitutional protections. When Holt responded that “stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men,” Trump snapped back, “No, you’re wrong. … If you look at it, throughout the country, there are many places where it's allowed.”

    But Holt was right. And that’s true without even getting into the fact that contrary to Trump’s assertions, the tactic was a proven failure at reducing violent crime in New York City.

    The generalized police practice of stop and frisk may be a common one used across the country, but if the way it’s specifically practiced results in racial profiling, it violates the federal Constitution’s protections against equal protection violations and unlawful search and seizure. That’s exactly what happened in the since-abandoned version practiced in New York City, which was exactly what Holt pointed out. If that’s the version Trump supports, he is supporting an unconstitutional policy that impermissibly discriminates on the basis of race. If he instead merely supports the version that is “allowed” “throughout the country,” then how is that a solution for reducing crime rates when it’s already in effect?

    This issue first cropped up during this campaign season on September 21, when Fox News’ Sean Hannity hosted a town hall for Trump, this one advertised as part of the nominee’s outreach to African-American voters. During the recorded event (which was bumped from airing that night due to protests over another questionable police shooting of a black man, this time in Charlotte, NC), Trump made the surprising proposal that his plan for protecting black residents of the “inner cities” was to bring back the widely reviled New York twist on stop and frisk that was struck down in federal court as unconstitutional racial profiling.

    When Trump’s unaired comments leaked, media outlets immediately began calling out his support for an abandoned and racially discriminatory policing method as a peculiar form of outreach to black voters. In response, the next morning Trump falsely claimed on the September 22 edition of Fox & Friends that he really only meant that it should be brought back in Chicago – a city he apparently was unaware already employs the practice.

    It was these confusing contradictions -- and Trump’s refusal to admit that his much-promoted “outreach” to African-American voters included a promise to stop and search them on the street because of the color of their skin -- that led Holt to try to set the record straight during the debate.

    In the wake of this and the many other aspects of Trump’s disastrous debate performance, the nominee’s supporters began spinning hard, including by making the false claim that Holt had somehow claimed stop and frisk was unconstitutional everywhere. Trump supporter, former New York City mayor, and frequent stop-and-frisk defender Rudolph Giuliani was particularly vocal. First he falsely smeared Holt’s fact check, arguing on Fox News that “Lester Holt's statement was completely ignorant and completely uncalled for, and he shouldn't get involved in a legal issue he doesn't know a darn thing about.” Later, Giuliani added Clinton to his criticism on the issue, saying she’s “totally wrong and completely ignorant” about stop and frisk. He also tried to separate himself from the actions of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who were at the helm when the stop-and-frisk policies they inherited from Giuliani’s mayorship were ruled unconstitutional. “It’s not unconstitutional if you do it the right way -- and that's what [Trump] is talking about, doing it the right way,” said Giuliani. “It was never found unconstitutional when I did it.”

    But Trump has specifically praised Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policies that were ruled unconstitutional – and he recently affirmed (intentionally or not) that this unconstitutional version of the practice still has his support.

    And this was the dilemma Trump faced as Holt accurately fact-checked his embrace of New York City’s past application of unconstitutional stop and frisk. The right-wing media bubble out of which Trump plucked his stop-and-frisk soundbite has regularly been concerned with “order” first and the U.S. Constitution second (if ever). If he stuck with that, at least it would be intellectually honest. On the other hand, the “doing it the right way” stop and frisk approach Giuliani is falling back on to cover up for Trump has been in place for almost 50 years under the Supreme Court decision Terry v. Ohio -- so there’s no need for Trump to claim he’ll bring it back.

    So which one is it?

    It’s not Lester Holt’s fault that Trump and his surrogates can’t or won’t explain themselves. Some myths can’t survive outside the bubble.

  • Fox News’ Sham Effort To Prove Donald Trump Isn’t Lying About Iraq

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    There is no Donald Trump lie better-documented than his constantly repeated falsehood that he opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. During last night’s debate, he was pummeled on the issue by moderator Lester Holt and numerous fact-checkers. Dutifully doing damage control for the Republican nominee, Fox News is now trying to obscure the record, claiming that “history backs The Donald.”

    As numerous fact-checkers have noted, contrary to his claims that he was “totally against the war in Iraq” from the beginning, in 2002, more than six months before the invasion of Iraq, Trump was asked by radio host Howard Stern if he was “for invading Iraq.” He responded, “Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly.”

    Trump struggled to explain why he keeps lying about this during the September 26 debate as Holt repeatedly pointed out that he had originally supported the war. At one point, Trump claimed that he had done “an interview with [Fox News anchor] Neil Cavuto” which he claimed vindicated him.

    But the Cavuto interview in question has been reviewed by numerous fact-checkers that concluded it did not support his claims to be against the war. Fox News, on the other hand, is ready and willing to use the interview to clear Trump of a months-long campaign of lies.

    An unbylined FoxNews.com article claimed Trump was right, reporting that the January 2003 interview “backs up Trump on Iraq War opposition”:

    After all the clamor for moderators to fact-check the candidates during Monday night's presidential debate, Donald Trump flipped the script on Lester Holt by rejecting his assertion Trump backed the war in Iraq - and history backs The Donald.

    [...]

    Cavuto himself picked up the thread post-debate on Fox Business Network, unearthing the clip Trump referenced, from January 28, 2003 – Nearly two months before the Iraq War began on March 20. In the video, Cavuto asks Trump how much time President Bush should spend on the economy vs. on Iraq.

    “Well, I’m starting to think that people are much more focused now on the economy,” Trump said. “They’re getting a little bit tired of hearing ‘We’re going in, we’re not going in.’ Whatever happened to the days of Douglas MacArthur? Either do it or don’t do it.”

    Trump continued: “Perhaps he shouldn’t be doing it yet. And perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations.”

    Fox’s article ignores that Trump’s comments came three months after the war was authorized; that Trump did not explicitly say he opposed the invasion during that interview; or that Trump again did not say that he opposed the invasion in a subsequent interview with Cavuto in March 2003, after the war began, when he said that it “looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint.”

    BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski called the Fox article “embarrassing” and “complete bullshit,” noting that fact-checkers had reviewed the “unearth[ed]” clip and concluded that it did not support Trump’s claims, while Fox had framed it “exactly how Trump wanted you to.” Indeed:

    • CNN has reported that Trump “never said [the war] should not be undertaken” during the Cavuto interview, adding, “It wasn't until August 2004 -- 17 months after the invasion began and the war was being widely criticized -- that Trump came out fully against the war.” CNN concluded that Trump had lied about being against the war from the start.

    • Factcheck.org noted that Trump “offers no opinion on what Bush should do” during the January 2003 Cavuto interview, concluding that there is “no evidence” Trump fought against the invasion.

    • The Washington Post FactChecker blog has repeatedly referenced the Cavuto quote, noting that Trump did not take a position on the invasion during that interview and frequently criticizing Trump’s claims about opposing the war from the beginning as “bogus.”

    • PolitiFact pointed out that Trump “didn’t speak against going to war” during the Cavuto interview, concluding that Trump’s claims about opposing the war are false.

    Only Fox News is willing to claim that the Cavuto interview “backs The Donald.” That’s not surprising given their months-long campaign in support of Trump.

    UPDATE: As Kaczynski and Post Fact Checker reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee have pointed out, Cavuto aired the same January 2003 interview clip in February. But at the time, Cavuto said that Trump's January 2003 comments  "could have left you with a different impression" than Trump's false claim that he had always opposed the war. Cavuto added that Trump was "not bashing the president ... nor is he fully endorsing Iraq, but he's saying some clear decision is required."
     
  • Lewandowski Has CNN Blessing To Work With Trump, Says He Needs Approval To Answer Our Questions

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Lewandowski

    Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski refused to answer questions from Media Matters about the ongoing payments he is receiving from the Trump campaign while he serves as a CNN contributor, claiming he can’t answer media questions without network approval. While CNN apparently won’t let Lewandowski talk to the press, the network doesn’t seem to mind him continuing to coordinate with and advise the Trump campaign.

    Media Matters president Bradley Beychok approached Lewandowski at the site of the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, and questioned him about the monthly payments he has been receiving from the campaign.

    In response, Lewandowski said, “You’ve got to talk to CNN because I can’t do any media without getting their approval. So if you can check in with those guys, that’d be great.”

    Asked if he believed there was a conflict of interest in his role, where he is doing political commentary on Trump’s presidential campaign while still being paid by them, Lewandowski again referred questions to CNN.

    CNN’s continued employment of Lewandowski runs contrary to their previously stated policy that a person being “paid” by a campaign “would not be permitted to be a CNN contributor.”

    In the Trump campaign’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, it was revealed that Lewandowski’s company Green Monster Consulting LLC received $20,000 for “strategy consulting.” That payment was made in August, while Lewandowski was hired by CNN in June. The campaign has claimed the payments to Lewandowski are for “severance,” but did not explain to the New York Times “why the payments were not described as severance to the F.E.C.”

    While he serves as a CNN contributor and continues to draw a monthly 5-figure payday from the campaign, Lewandowski has continued to work with Trump -- he was reportedly involved in helping to prepare the Republican nominee for this week’s debate.

    On the same day he declined to answer Media Matters’ questions, Lewandowski appeared on CNN and blamed debate moderator Lester Holt for Trump’s poor performance in the event.

    CNN should cut its ties with Lewandowski immediately.

  • Following Widespread Derision Of Debate Performance, Trump Returns To Fox Cocoon While Surrogates Do Real Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump retreated to Fox News’ Fox & Friends for a friendly interview following widespread criticism of his September 26 presidential debate performance which was deemed a loss for Trump, while his campaign surrogates took real interviews on other cable and broadcast news networks.

    Journalists across the political spectrum lambasted Trump’s September 26 presidential debate performance, criticizing the false statements he made -- and that debate moderator Lester Holt repeatedly challenged -- on numerous issues including the Iraq War, birtherism, and his tax returns.  Reporters noted that Trump spent much of the debate on the defensive regarding those issues and that he repeatedly interrupted both Holt and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Other media figures slammed Trump for bragging that he got President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate and for his false claim that Clinton’s 2008 campaign started the racist birther conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace. Voters and commentators proclaimed that Trump had lost the debate to Clinton, with some calling the performance “an unmitigated disaster” and a “terrible night” for Trump.

    The following day, Trump retreated to Fox News to discuss the debate with the hosts of Fox & Friends. The show has a history of buddying up with Trump, giving him a platform to push false claims including that President Obama was not born in the United States, and Trump has lauded the show’s hosts in return. The show’s September 27 interview with Trump continued its softball history with the candidate. Rather than challenging Trump on any of his false statements, the hosts asked questions such as, “So how do you think it went last night?” and, “Do you feel that Lester Holt asked Hillary Clinton an equal number of hostile questions?” The hosts joined Trump in criticizing Holt, with co-host Steve Doocy claiming he “leaned a little over into the left lane” in contrast to Matt Lauer’s “fair and balanced” performance at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum (for which Lauer has been widely criticized). Co-host Ainsley Earhardt even praised Trump for his response to Clinton’s accurate claim that the federal government had sued him for housing discrimination, saying, “I did like how you responded to that, though, because when they throw those things at you, and you’re -- being in the audience, I didn't know about that. And then when you explain it, then you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, well that makes sense.’” The hosts also gave Trump space to attack, without any pushback, a former Miss Universe winner and to insult her weight.

    In contrast with Trump’s cocoon on Fox’s morning show, Trump surrogates took harder interviews at other networks. Hosts on NBC’s Today and CBS This Morning challenged Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), about why Trump took credit for spurring President Obama to release his birth certificate, about whether Trump “lie[d]” when he falsely claimed he never said climate change was a hoax, and why Trump bragged about possibly not paying taxes. On CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the hosts pressed Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway over whether Trump’s birther answer was appropriate and whether he would apologize for his birther campaign. They also asked about Trump’s climate change stance and the quality of Trump’s debate performance overall.

    Trump’s retreat to Fox News continues a recent trend. Fox media reporter Howard Kurtz reported in June that Trump was scaling back on interviews with networks other than Fox. A Media Matters analysis found that between September 7, when Trump appeared on NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum, and September 22, Trump gave seven interviews to Fox News, totaling more than 1 hour and 40 minutes of airtime. During the same time frame, he had not appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, or MSNBC. Given Trump’s withdrawal to a network that repeatedly delivers softball interviews, it perhaps is not surprising that he struggled when he was actually fact-checked by a journalist at the debate. Responding to CNN host Carol Costello’s observation that Trump’s Fox & Friends interview did not include “difficult questions,” CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter noted that Trump had “mostly sheltered himself within conservative media” and said that he had “doubts about whether it's a winning strategy now.” And as The New York Times’ Alex Burns noted of the Fox & Friends interview, “[T]his is how you end up unprepared for real questions and real heat in a debate.”

  • Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado Told Univision In May That Trump Treated Her Terribly

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    During the first presidential debate, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton pointed to Republican nominee Donald Trump’s record of mistreating women, highlighting his attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom he referred to as “Miss Piggy.” Trump, who owned the Miss Universe pageant from 1996 to 2015, doubled down the morning after the debate on the September 27 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, saying Machado had “gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem.”

    Machado appeared on Univision’s Al Punto in May after a New York Times report about Trump’s treatment of women in private described the insults and humiliation Trump subjected her to during her time as Miss Universe. Machado told host Jorge Ramos that Trump had treated her terribly and had mocked her appearance, calling her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” and saying she was an “eating machine.” She also said the experience had caused her “huge emotional pain.” From the May 22 edition of Univision’s Al Punto:

    Translated transcript:

    JORGE RAMOS (HOST): What happened? What happened when you win Miss Universe in 1996, you were 18 years old, and then the New York Times report says you had gained weight after. Enter Donald Trump; what happened?

    ALICIA MACHADO: Well, first I want to take advantage of this opportunity to talk to the Hispanic community, with all the love I’ve always had for it in the past 20 years, to tell them that all of what’s happening with my voice is not something I have sought out. It’s something that has come to me. The people from The New York Times have come to me and asked me to speak for this report, along with other women who’ve had the opportunity or had the experience of being close to Trump, women of different socioeconomic status and careers.

    RAMOS: And how did Donald Trump treat you?

    MACHADO: Terribly, and this isn't something new for me to say. I’ve been saying this for 20 years, what I lived through in that year, how that affected me as a person, I suffered a lot of psychological violence.

    RAMOS: We’re going to show a video of you, when you get there, and you told this story to the NYT, you get to the gym--

    MACHADO: Yes and I had no idea any of this was going to happen.

    RAMOS: You didn’t know there was going to be media?

    MACHADO: No, I didn’t know anything at all. All that I can say about Trump is something I can prove, it’s all documented, I’m not making anything up.

    RAMOS: These reporters, you didn't know they would be there.

    MACHADO: No, I didn’t know they were going to be there. This happened about four months -- yes, I think it was around December or November, because I remember it was really cold in New York. And I had won in May, so it wasn’t like I gained weight immediately. I won the best body in Miss Universe that year, I lifted a lot of weights. It was the time where fit bodies were starting to become trendy, “light” things were trendy.

    RAMOS: How did all of this affect you?

    MACHADO: A lot. I'm going to tell you quickly, I went to the company and asked them for help, I went to their office in Los Angeles. I told them I had gained weight, I don't feel happy, if you put me with a nutritionist I can lose this weight quickly. They told me pack your bags you're going to New York. I said great, I go to New York, and the next day they tell me we’re going to a gym, to set me up with a personal trainer, and a diet. And when I arrived at the gym, I find all this [media] circus. And I tell him I don’t want to do it, that I was embarrassed. And he said, "I don't care, I pay you for this, smile.”

    RAMOS: You have a big social media presence. One of your followers asked, "Why did it take you so long to denounce this?"

    MACHADO: Because he wasn't running for president before, I think -- he's not going to run a casino, he's going to run a great nation, the United States. I also had to overcome a huge emotional pain that even now when I remember it I am upset about it --

    RAMOS: You responded saying, "I didn't think he could ever be a presidential candidate and when I was 18 I was afraid [of speaking out]. Without fear." You were scared of Donald Trump?

    MACHADO: Of course. Very afraid, I was very afraid of him. How could I not be, if was coming from a city at 18 years old as a beauty queen, I didn't have a multimillionaire family that could support me against such a powerful man. So I want to take the opportunity to tell voters in this election -- this country and the world does not need a man who can just do business. I also think we need a good human being, a person with a good heart, and I am totally and absolutely convinced that Donald Trump is not a person that has a good heart.

    RAMOS: You will become a citizen of the United States soon?

    MACHADO: Yes, I want to be able to vote, to have the moral authority to be able to fight for the well-being of this country. I forgave Trump for this episode and other things that happened in that time --

    RAMOS: What else did you see, in Donald Trump and his treatment of other people?

    MACHADO: I'm just going to be talking about my own experience. What I lived was not pleasant, it was humiliating. He's a cold, calculating person, he’s a man that has very little consideration for anyone he thinks is inferior.

    RAMOS: He called you Miss Piggy once?

    MACHADO: He called me Miss Piggy, he called me Miss Housekeeping, he called me an eating machine. And I would argue with him saying that I'm Latina and have a little bit more than others.

    RAMOS: You considered in an insult at that time?

    MACHADO: Yes of course, and it was also how he said it. It’s not just what they say to you, it’s also how they say it.