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  • After John McCain Told A Few Jokes, Politico Declared The Return Of The “Straight Talk Express”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    John McCain

    Politico’s report on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) re-election fight could not have been more flattering to the candidate if his press staff had authored it.

    Based on attending a single day of events with McCain, Politico published an August 23 story headlined “The return of ‘Straight Talk’ McCain” that claimed that, at least for that day, he was again “the loose, accessible, happy warrior of Straight Talk Express yesteryear” and was “at ease on the trail” while “running what might be his last campaign in vintage plainspoken style.”

    The fawning article relayed anecdotes from reporter Burgess Everett’s travel to a series of McCain campaign events that day. Readers learn that McCain told several jokes over the course of the day, that he was “relaxed enough to kid around about ethnic jokes” during one event and told a light joke at Everett’s expense at another. Everett also reported that McCain criticized Congress and President Obama, and that when asked about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the “straight-talker” first dodged the question before eventually saying,“I believe we should do everything we can as Republicans to steer Mr. Trump in the right direction.”

    Somehow the article never mentioned that McCain has endorsed Trump. And despite the paeans to the “plainspoken” McCain, it never found space to bring up how the senator hemmed and hawed his way through a stammering nonanswer after being asked earlier this month if he is comfortable with his choice for president of the United States controlling the nuclear arsenal:

    The Straight Talk Express is back! Congrats to the senator’s campaign press operation.

    Thanks to an intensive, decades-long effort to cultivate the press, McCain has received an unearned reputation from reporters as a maverick and a straight-talker, as detailed in Media Matters’ 2008 book, Free Ride: John McCain and the Media. Yet after his words and actions make clear that he is a Republican like any other, the press regularly finds ways to declare that the “old” McCain is “back.”

     
  • In The Name Of Optics, Beltway Press Renews Its War On The Clinton Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This Sunday’s New York Times front page delivered a curious pair of campaign bookends when the newspaper presented what it framed as problematic reports for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

    In the Trump dispatch, the Times detailed how the businesses run by the self-described billionaire are mired in at least $650 million of debt, and stressed “how much of Mr. Trump’s business remains shrouded in mystery.” For a candidate running on his supposed commerce wizardry, the report was highly damaging.

    As for that day’s Clinton campaign woes? According to the Times’ front page, the troubles come in the form of the Clinton family’s global charity: “Foundation Ties Bedevil Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign.”

    The newspaper was never able to explain how the issue was bedeviling or sidelining her campaign, considering her White House run boasts some of the largest summertime presidential leads in decades, but the Times was sure that “the funding of the sprawling philanthropy has become an Achilles’ heel for her campaign.” 

    Republicans have echoed the spin in recent days, and dialed it up to 11. Trump called for a special prosecutor to investigate the foundation’s supposed criminal ways, and Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani suggested the charity be indicted as a “racketeering enterprise.” 

    Is it possible a charity could emerge as bad news, or represent bad optics, for a presidential candidate? Certainly. For instance, if a politician is connected to a foundation that’s been caught ripping people off, siphoning off contributions, or misleading donors about the work being done. But none of that applies to the uniquely transparent Clinton Foundation. (See here for helpful context that’s usually overlooked in Beltway press coverage.)

    The charity represents a thriving philanthropic operation that assists people around the world, while brandishing esteemed charitable credentials. It’s a charity that’s helped more than nine million people get lower-cost HIV/AIDS medicine, and a foundation that also tries to improve global health and fights against economic inequalitychildhood obesity, and climate change.

    And it’s a charity that boasts an “A” rating (the frequent conservative refrain that the foundation spends 85 percent of its budget on "overhead" represents a lazy smear).

    That’s what the Times dubs Clinton’s “Achilles' heel”? It’s almost like someone posed a collective challenge to the press: Try to turn landmark charitable giving into a bad-news story for the Clintons. (Boy, have they tried.)

    How did we get to this absurd place -- to this absurd disconnect -- where the press depicts a wildly successful and transparent charity as some sort of ominous web of political deceit supposedly drenched in shadowy payments? And why do optics trump humanitarianism when it comes to the Clinton endeavors? 

    This truly does feel like a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. Keep in mind, when the Clintons left the White House in January 2001, they could have chosen virtually any path they wanted. But they didn’t start a hedge fund, they don’t speculate on real estate, and they’re not charging $800 an hour as D.C. lawyers or lobbyists. They founded a charity. (And yes, they give speeches.)

    The Clintons in recent days have taken steps to address what would be clear conflicts of interests with the foundation if she were elected president. The Clinton family announced the foundation would stop accepting money from foreign donors. Also, after the election the charity will seek out partners to absorb much of the foundation’s work, leaving it dramatically smaller in size and scope.

    Still, the media’s latest hand-wringing foundation pile-on (i.e. shut it down!) represents a textbook example of the press joining forces with Republicans to push talking points about the Clintons and dubious ‘scandals.’ Eventually after much chasing and little success, the press usually retreats and presents the supposedly scandalous affair as bad optics, or complains that it raises troubling questions.

    In the last two years, the Times and Washington Post have published more than 200 articles about the Clinton Foundation, according to Nexis. I’m guessing if there were any blockbuster revelations to be found, we’d know about them by now.

    Like the endlessly monotonous email pursuit, the press long ago lost sight of what the actual Clinton Foundation wrongdoing was supposed to be. Last year, the overexcited headlines insisted foundation donors had influenced Clinton while she served as secretary of state, to the point where she altered U.S. policy to please fat cat supporters.

    But that’s never been proven to be true. Not even close.  (Time has conceded, “The suggestion of outside influence over U.S. decision-making is based on little evidence.”)

    Those allegations of heavy-handed influence peddling and favor-granting have faded and now, at least this week, the supposed foundation ‘scandal’ revolves around how meetings at the State Department were scheduled by Clinton aides. Talk about a major downgrade.

    Like clockwork, the press is treating as very big, and troubling, news the Associated Press report from Tuesday, which claims that of the non-government workers and foreign representatives Clinton met with or phoned with as secretary of state, 85 of them were Clinton donors. The implication being that if you gave to the foundation you were then granted special access to the State Department.

    Even if the contact between donors produced no wrongdoing (and there’s no suggestion it did), “it’s the number” of meetings that is causing Clinton “some heartburn,” according to CBS News.

    But why? Clinton ran the State Department for approximately 1,400 days and during that time she met or phoned 85 people who have donated to the Clinton Foundation. Why is that supposed to be scandalous? The AP also omitted key context, such as how many of those donors gave to the foundation years before anyone knew Clinton would become secretary of state? And how many of those donors were also granted meetings with previous Republican administration secretaries of state?

    We don’t know. Instead, we’re left with breathless reporting about how meetings were scheduled at the State Department. That’s the controversy. Talk about the ultimate process story.

    Yet incredibly, it’s the Clintons’ charity success that still warrants long-running, and often microscopic, coverage. It’s the Clinton Foundation that raises ‘troubling questions,’ not the fact that Donald Trump lies about his charitable giving.

    Note: If Hillary Clinton bragged about giving tens of millions of dollars to charities but only actually gave $10,000 of her own money, the way Trump apparently did, the outraged D.C. press corps would denounce her for days and all but demand she drop out of the race.

    But the foreign funding!, cries the press. The possible conflicts of interest! It’s all so uniquely Clinton-esque we’re told.

    But is it? As David Corn noted in Mother Jones last year:

    Anyone who wanted to gain favor with the Bush clan while George W. Bush was president could have anonymously donated an unlimited amount of money to his father’s foundation, and now that Jeb Bush is in the hunt, anyone looking to fashion a relationship with the Bushes can contribute millions to either of these Bush foundations and keep that connection a secret.

    So yes, the Bush family foundations can receive millions from foreign donors. And the Bush family foundations don’t reveal who the donors are. But it’s the Clinton Foundation that’s criticized in the press for disclosing all of its donors.

    Trying make sense of that pretzel logic. You can’t. It’s simply the press demanding there be a separate, higher, and often hysterical standard for the Clintons.

  • Muhammad Yunus Is A Decades-Long Clinton Friend And A Nobel Prize Winner. Donations Aren't Why She Met With Him.

    The "Scandal" Requires Reducing International Business And Non-Profit Leaders To "Clinton Foundation Donors"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Associated Press is reporting that “more than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation” and scandalizing the information as “an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.” That report is currently rocketing through the media.

    This level of media hysteria would make sense if favors were being granted to individuals because they were donors. But that speculation falls apart when the story gets down to specific cases, because many Clinton Foundation donors are internationally prominent figures in the business or non-profit worlds – the very sort of people one would expect to be meeting with a secretary of state in any administration.

    According to the AP’s review of State Department calendars released to the organization so far, covering roughly half of Clinton’s tenure at State, “[a]t least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.”

    So who are these Clinton Foundation donors that the AP  notes met with Clinton? Famed Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus is one, and eleven paragraphs of the AP story detail meetings and interactions between the internationally known figure and Clinton and her staff over assistance he sought that was first reported last October.

    Yes, Yunus-controlled organizations have donated between $125,000 and $300,000 to the Clinton Foundation, mostly as annual fees to attend Clinton Global Initiative meetings. But it’s completely absurd to suggest that “Clinton Foundation donor” is a major part of Yunus’ identity, or the reason why he might command attention from the secretary of state.

    As the AP notes, Yunus “won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest ‘microcredit’ for poor business owners.” He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is incredibly well-credentialed and almost universally celebrated. According to the Financial Times, beginning in 2007, tensions began between Yunus and Bangladesh’s government when Yunus “suggested he might establish his own political party to clean up Bangladesh’s public life.” Yunus was ultimately forced out of his managing director position at Grameen Bank in 2011 just months after the prime minister publicly denigrated microlenders as “bloodsuckers of the poor.” During that period, Clinton repeatedly received requests for help from Yunus, spoke with him on the phone, and after he was ousted met with him and publicly urged the government to halt their efforts to “seize control of Grameen Bank's effort to find new leaders.”

    And this wasn’t Clinton’s first encounter with Yunus - the Clintons have ties to the economist that go back decades before the foundation even existed. They brought Yunus to Arkansas in 1983 to learn more about how microfinance could be used in the state, and Bill Clinton talked about his work during his 1992 presidential campaign.

    Politico’s Blake Hounshell pointed out the oddity of portraying Yunus as a “Clinton crony” rather than a victim deserving of Clinton’s aid:

    In addition to Yunus, here are the other people who met with Clinton detailed in the report:

    • S. Daniel Abraham, the “billionaire behind the Slim-Fast diet and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace.”
    • Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, one of the largest private equity companies in the world, with a massive charitable giving arm to match.
    • Nancy Mahon “of the MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder,” whom the AP suggests met with Clinton to discuss “a State Department partnership to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention.”
    • Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda, whose “company made a commitment to CGI in 2013 with four other organizations to help survivors of sexual slavery in Cambodia.”

    All are Clinton Foundation donors or work for organizations that have donated to the Clinton Foundation. But they are also exactly the sort of people you would expect to meet with any secretary of state. The suggestion of malfeasance only makes sense if you ignore any reason Clinton could have to meet with these individuals other than their status as donors to an international charity.

  • Fox Claim That Half Of Clinton State Dept. Visitors Were Donors Undermined By AP Report

    Associated Press Explains That Report Only Includes Her Meetings With People Outside The Government

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News personalities deceptively cited an Associated Press report to claim that half of all of Hillary Clinton’s visitors during her tenure as secretary of state were donors to the Clinton Foundation. But the AP only included her meetings with people “outside the government,” and the report made clear that her actions do not appear to violate the law. 

    A review of State Department calendars showed “at least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton … donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs,”  according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press.

    Fox News argued the report was proof of “influence peddling,” claiming it found over 50 percent of all Clinton’s meetings at the State Department were with Clinton Foundation donors. Stuart Varney, guest host of Your World with Neil Cavuto, called the AP report “clear evidence” of “a round robin of influence peddling” because Clinton “holds meetings half the time” with donors: 

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): This late report from the AP, roughly half the people who had meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had contributed money to the foundation. That is clear evidence, it seems, of influence peddling, doesn't it? You can't laugh that off, can you? 

    [...]

    You give money to a foundation. The foundation is headed by the Clintons. Hillary Clinton is secretary of state. She holds meetings half the time with with people who have given money to the foundation. That's a round robin of influence peddling. 

    The AP report makes clear that the meetings “do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former President Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009.” Additionally, AP explains that 154 meetings “did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives”:

    More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

    At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. 

    [...]

    The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. 

    [...]

    The 154 did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives. Clinton met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity, but they were not included in AP's calculations because such meetings would presumably have been part of her diplomatic duties.

  • TV News Misses Golden Opportunity To Recognize Title IX During Rio Olympics

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    As thousands of athletes from around the world descended on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics, broadcast and cable news programming missed a golden opportunity to discuss the incredible legacy of the legislative reform largely responsible for the growth and success of women’s sports in the United States and around the world -- Title IX.

    One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2016 Summer Olympics was the sheer dominance of American athletes in general, and American women in particular. American swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles finished the games with four gold medals each (and five medals overall) and, at just 19 years old, they both are widely considered the most dominant athletes in their respective sports. Meanwhile, as the United States men’s basketball team struggled before coalescing in the gold medal match, the American women’s team blasted every opponent en route to a sixth consecutive Olympic championship.

    According to The New York Times, the United States brought home 121 medals from Rio, far outpacing China (70) and Great Britain (67) for first place, and became the first nation in 40 years to lead all nations in each medal category: gold, silver, and bronze. As was the case in 2012, more than half of that total medal haul (61) was won by American women, whose unparalleled athletic success would have been unlikely without the unique progressive legacy of the Title IX provision in federal education policy, which prevents sex discrimination in federally funded programs like school sports. From the Times:

    The United States is one of the few countries to embed sports within the public education system. And equal access to sports for women comes with legal protections, gained with the education amendment known as Title IX in 1972 and the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act in 1978.

    About one of every two American girls participates in sports in high school. Of the 213 American medalists in individual and team sports in Rio, according to the [United States Olympic Committee], nearly 85 percent participated in university-funded sports.

    “Those things don’t exist elsewhere in the world,” said Donna Lopiano, a former executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “We have the largest base of athletic development. Our women are going to dominate, not only because of their legal rights but because women in other parts of the world are discriminated against.”

    Broadcast And Cable News Ignored Importance Of Title IX Despite Flood Of Olympic Coverage

    A Media Matters review of broadcast evening news coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS, as well as cable evening and prime-time coverage on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between the days of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics revealed only two substantive mentions of Title IX as it relates to current or former American or international Olympians. A similar lack of interest was on display on the major Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC.**

    A review of available Nexis transcripts from August 5 through August 21 returned 259 results mentioning the Olympics in Rio, including just two references to Title IX’s role in encouraging and supporting female athletes and women’s sports: NBC Nightly News and PBS NewsHour each mentioned the legislation during Olympic segments on August 18 and August 19, respectively. By contrast, there were dozens of mentions of American swimmer Ryan Lochte’s infamous and unsubstantiated story of being robbed at gunpoint outside a Rio gas station.

    Major print outlets including like The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today gave Title IX special attention in 2016, but their television counterparts once again dropped the ball. Title IX was also conspicuously absent from print and television coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics, according to a February 2014 Media Matters analysis.

    Title IX’s Global Legacy At The Olympic Games

    As noted above, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which was authored by Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN) and Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI) and signed into law by President Richard Nixon, has left an indelible mark on women's sports over the past 44 years. But American women aren't the only beneficiaries of the legislation; Title IX’s prohibition against gender discrimination at most educational institutions is a major contributing factor in making American universities a magnet for athletes from around the world.

    Stanford University, the most successful athletic institution in the world this year in terms of Olympic medals, produced a number of American women medalists -- including burgeoning swimming stars Ledecky, Maya DiRado, and Simone Manuel. It also produced Greek pole vault gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi. If not for Ledecky, the most successful women’s swimmer of the summer would have been Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, an alumna of the University of Southern California. (Controversial Russian swimmer and two-time silver medalist Yulia Efimova, though not an alumna of the school, is coached by Southern Cal head coach Dave Salo.) Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller, an alumna of the University of Georgia, edged out former Southern Cal sprinter Allyson Felix to win gold in the women’s 400-meter. Canadian swimmer Chantal van Landeghem, another Georgia alum, took home a bronze medal in the women’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay alongside teammate and Ohio State University graduate Michelle Williams. Canadian track and field star Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who won a bronze medal in the heptathlon, attended the University of Oregon.

    This is just a snapshot of the Title IX impact that was on display at the 2016 Summer Olympics, but broadcast and cable news almost completely ignored the success story, despite offering a torrent of Olympic-centered stories and features.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening and prime-time (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, and network broadcast news (ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS) from August 5, 2016, through August 21, 2016. Media Matters also reviewed Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC during the same time period. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: olympics or rio or title nine or title 9 or title ix.

    The following programs were included in the data: World News Tonight, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press**, PBS NewsHour, The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight, The Five, Special Report, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The O'Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, Hannity, MTP Daily, With All Due Respect, Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.

    **NBCUniversal pre-empted Meet the Press on August 14 and August 21 to air exclusive coverage of the Olympics on NBC.

  • Read These Tweets To Understand How The Media Are Screwing Up Their Clinton Foundation Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Journalist and Yale political science lecturer John Stoehr criticized the media for picking up the latest accusations of pay-to-play behavior at the Clinton Foundation when there is “no evidence to suggest” that such a scheme was established.

    After the conservative activist group Judicial Watch published emails showing supposed pay-to-play behavior by then-Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, media outlets quickly repeated the story despite a lack of evidence that anything improprietous happened. Judicial Watch has a history of conning media into covering bogus Clinton-related stories, leading outlets to ignore new evidence and even undermine their own reporting in the process.

    In a series of tweets, Stoehr criticized the media coverage of Judicial Watch’s allegations, saying it proves the thesis of a 1996 Atlantic piece called “Why Americans Hate the Media.” Midway into his argument, he addressed the idea that Clinton’s actions constitute pay-to-play misbehavior, saying “This is not pay-to play. There’s no evidence to suggest it, no matter how much the right-wing group Judicial Watch urges to the contrary":

  • It's Not Just Roger Ailes: New Claim Alleges Fox News Institutionally Enables Sexual Harassment

    Echoing Past Complaints, Former Fox Host Andrea Tantaros Claims Fox Executive Covered Up For Ailes

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against Fox News, former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and top executives at the network, including the man who replaced Ailes as one of the heads of Fox News. Tantaros is the most recent of several people to accuse high-level Fox News executives and personalities of perpetuating and enabling sexual harassment in the workplace.

    Tantaros’ complaint, filed on August 22, alleges that her “tenure at Fox News devolved into a nightmare of sexual harassment by Ailes, Fox News’s then-President, and others, followed by retaliation by Ailes and others despite multiple ongoing complaints by Tantaros”:

    Plaintiff Andrea Tantaros, by her attorneys, Judd Burstein, P.C., complaining of the Defendants herein, as and for her Complaint, alleges:

    [...]

    2. ... Fox News masquerades as defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny.

    3. In recent months, other women have finally, laudably come forward to reveal Defendant Roger Ailes (“Ailes”) as the sexual predator that he is. However this Complaint is not just about Ailes; it also gives life to the saying that ‘the fish stinks from the head.’ For Ailes did not act alone. He may have been the primary culprit, but his actions were condoned by his most senior lieutenants, who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation, and retaliation.”

    The “concerted effort to silence Tantaros” is nothing new regarding allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News. According to a 2004 sexual harassment suit filed against Fox host Bill O’Reilly, O’Reilly allegedly threatened a former employee, saying, “If any woman ever breathed a word I’ll make her pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born,” and adding, “If you cross FOX NEWS CHANNEL, it’s not just me, it’s [FOX President] Roger Ailes who will go after you.” In another instance in 2005, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court against News Corp.’s Fox News Network LLC” contending that “Joe Chillemi, a Fox vice president who supervised its advertising and promotions departments, sexually harassed and subjected” Kim Weiler, a former Fox employee, and “other women to a hostile work environment, routinely using obscenities and vulgarities to describe women or their body parts.” According to Weiler’s complaint, “Fox retaliated against Weiler for complaining about discrimination.” After settling the EEOC complaint, Fox News agreed not to enable sexual harassment in the workplace by retaliating against victims.

    According to Tantaros’ new complaint, after she reported the sexual harrasment, “Ailes initially retaliated against Tantaros in a host of ways,” such as “crafting and placing insulting stories about Tantaros” on websites, and “arranging for, and giving, Tantaros permission to participate” in an interview in which the interviewer “asked outrageous questions concerning, inter alia, her breasts -- all while a Fox News media relations staffer stood by and made no effort to intercede or stop these entirely inappropriate questions.”

    Tantaros’ lawsuit also names as a defendant Bill Shine, who was named a co-president of Fox News by Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, after Ailes’ resignation. According to the complaint, when Tantaros met with Shine seeking “relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and [Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," Shine “told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’”

    Tantaros’ complaint highlights an apparent larger and pervasive problem throughout Fox News Channel: a workplace culture that reportedly encourages inappropriate behavior and ensures such behavior will be ignored or even covered up. If these reports are accurate, simply removing Roger Ailes from his position as president does not address the ongoing “effort[s] to silence” reports of illegal sexual harassment in the workplace by other Fox News executives and senior staff.

  • The Incredibly Sexist Interview Andrea Tantaros Discusses In Her Lawsuit Against Roger Ailes

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros alleges in a sexual harassment lawsuit that after she rebuffed advances from then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, the network denied requests from “prominent and credible media outlets to interview Tantaros” but arranged for her participation in an interview with “a website reportedly controlled by Ailes” where the interviewer humiliated her with questions about her breasts and other “outrageous” queries.

    The website’s resulting write-up of that interview discussed Tantaros’ “physical attractiveness” repeatedly and in detail and mentioned that the interviewer asked her questions about “frequent” online descriptions of her regarding “her physical attributes.”

    Tantaros’ August 22 lawsuit says that after she rejected repeated unwanted advances from Ailes in 2014, she was given permission by Fox’s media relations department to participate in only a single interview, with “a website reportedly controlled by Ailes,” during which she says she was “humiliated by the interviewer,” who asked her about “her breasts -- all while a Fox News media relations staffer” observed the interview “but did not object.”

    Ailes was forced to resign from Fox in July after dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment. Tantaros’ lawsuit makes similar allegations against Ailes. She also alleges that she was sexually harassed by Fox host Bill O’Reilly and contributor Scott Brown, and that Fox executive Bill Shine, who is also a defendant in the lawsuit, urged her to “let this one go” when she brought her harassment by Ailes to his attention. Shine was promoted to co-president of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox following Ailes’ resignation.

    Tantaros further alleges that after she rebuffed his advances, Ailes retaliated by turning “Fox News’s widely-reported, vindictive media relations department” against her. She cites as one example of this conduct:

    Only arranging for, and giving, Tantaros permission to participate in a single interview -- one with Headline and Global News, a website reportedly controlled by Ailes. At this interview, Tantaros was humiliated by the interviewer, who asked outrageous questions concerning, inter alia, her breasts -- all while a Fox News media relations staffer stood by and made no effort to intercede or stop these entirely inappropriate questions.

    Tantaros’ lawsuit alleges that following the interview, she told Shine that she “believed the interview was a ‘set up’ engineered by Ailes” to “paint her as sex object rather than as a serious journalist.” The lawsuit further states that during that meeting, Tantaros detailed past instances in which she said Ailes had sexually harassed her. At a follow-up meeting a few days later, the lawsuit alleges, Shine suggested to Tantaros that Fox PR boss Irena Briganti had been behind the incident and that Ailes is “a very powerful man” and Tantaros should not “fight this.”

    Headlines & Global News president and editorial director Michael Q. Bullerdick conducted the interview, which was published as a 3,500-word profile on May 4, 2015. While the interview gives no indication that Bullerdick asked Tantaros about her breasts, it does include the following disturbing passages focused on Tantaros’ physical appearance.

    An Extensive Discussion Of Tantaros’ “Curve-Hugging” Outfit:

    TANTAROS IS TELLING me all this on the set of her hit daily Fox News talk show "Outnumbered." Although we met off stage we do the interview seated on the familiar crescent white couch. She is resplendent in a curve-hugging and subtly textured white dress that stops around the knees. This is a departure from the bold colors, particularly rich blues, we're used to seeing her wear. But it contrasts fantastically with her deeper complexion and inky black hair. Tan stilettos boasting a subtle cheetah pattern (or is it giraffe?) round out the day's look, and make her seem taller than I remember from a chance meeting several months ago at a publishing party.

    Bullerdick Saying He Wants To Be “One Of Those ‘Lucky Guys’”:

    The set is empty and she can sit anywhere but she instinctively takes her usual place on my right - one of the two "leg seats," as they're known. I'm a seat's width away in the middle spot normally reserved for each day's male guest host, the one the show has branded "one lucky guy." Later when I tell her how well it seems to suit me and hint that I'd love to be one of those "lucky guys," she ribs me about having a typical male ego.

    Tantaros Passing The “Litmus Test” Of “Being Easy On The Eyes”:

    Being relatable - or "likable" as Fox News network genius Roger Ailes has frequently termed it - is the litmus test his hosts must pass if they are to advance at the network. The other test, no doubt, is being easy on the eyes. If my own pair, along with the outsized Internet inventory of her physical appearance are to be believed, Tantaros has passed that test too.

    Bullerdick Quizzing Tantaros About “The Frequent Description Of Her Online” Regarding “Her Physical Attributes”:

    She laughs politely at first when I run off a list of Google key words associated with a search of her name - ones that include "hot," "legs," and "bikini" (The latter is a hoax so don't bother looking). But she tenses and frowns slightly when I follow that up by mentioning the frequent description of her online as a "Greek goddess" and the pages and pages of Internet threads spooling out of control about her physical attributes and posing questions like "Does she have a boyfriend, husband or is she divorced?" And others like, "Tantaros or Guilfoyle - who's the hotter Fox brunette?"

    "Oh my God," she says, taking a long pause.

    The point in bringing it all up is not to rankle her, which it certainly seems to be doing. It's to determine whether, as a professional who happens to be a woman, she's peeved that - on the Internet at least - her accomplishments from a distinguished, multifaceted career are lagging grossly behind all the attention paid to her physical attractiveness.

    The Claim That Ailes “Mined Broadcast Gold” By Hiring “Beautiful Women” Like Tantaros:

    Granted, answering it is somewhat of a delicate balancing act for her. After all, FNC's mega-success is grounded on a nod to research indicating that while viewers indeed want fair and balanced news along with informative and timely analysis, they prefer it delivered by sublimely good-looking people - in particular, beautiful women.

    Ailes wasn't the first to capitalize on the research that also indicates female viewers are just as captivated by attractive women as their male counterparts. But by institutionalizing the formula and assembling what's come to be known as that bevy of "Fox News Babes," he's mined broadcast gold. This is stating the obvious, of course, even if acknowledging it aloud at the network is frowned upon, say insiders.

  • NY Times Editorial Board: Trump’s Claims Of A Rigged Election Are “Not Just Ludicrous, But Dangerous”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times editorial board criticized Republican nominee Donald Trump for peddling “ludicrous” and “dangerous” claims that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is “rigging this election,” writing that Trump’s insinuations “further demolish[] public confidence in the foundations of our government.”

    Trump has a long history of pushing widely debunked lies and conspiracy theories, many of which have been hyped by his allies. His current focus on claims of a “rigged election” tap into the long-standing right-wing voter fraud myths used to push discriminatory voter ID laws.

    The Times’ editorial board excoriated Trump for his “ludicrous” and “dangerous” claims, writing that he is “setting the stage for an upwelling of right-wing outrage, cuing up a crisis of electoral legitimacy” that will cause four to eight years of “catcalls and loathing” if Clinton wins. The board explained that while “Trump’s brain is a pincushion for conspiracy theories,” this assertion in particular could “further demolish[] public confidence in the foundations of our government”:

    Donald Trump is calling for volunteers to watch the polls in November, and he is making no bones about why.

    “Help me stop Crooked Hillary from rigging this election!” says the application form on his campaign website.

    There are so many lies and delusions flowing daily from the Trump campaign that it’s easy to miss the times when the Republican nominee is being not just ludicrous, but dangerous. This is one.

    [...]

    He is accusing the government he wants to lead of being both victim and perpetrator of a vast conspiracy. And he is setting the stage for an upwelling of right-wing outrage, cuing up a crisis of electoral legitimacy. If Mrs. Clinton wins, get ready for at least four years, maybe eight, of the catcalls and loathing that plagued President Obama’s two terms.

    A more immediate concern is what happens on Nov. 8, when squads of Trump volunteers fan out to defend their candidate’s presumed victory. It does not seem far-fetched to expect that signatures will be pointlessly challenged and citizens intimidated and inconvenienced, that the ruckus of the Trump campaign will spread to polling places around the country.

    [...]

    Mr. Trump’s brain is a pincushion for conspiracy theories, so maybe it’s no surprise that he thinks the Clinton campaign will be sending African-Americans and foreigners into booths across the country to fake their votes over and over, millions of times.

    Now, more than ever, the country needs responsible political leaders and the courts to defend and expand voting rights, rather than sitting silently while Mr. Trump further demolishes public confidence in the foundations of our government.

  • Another Former Fox Host Sues Network, Claims New CEO Helped Ailes Cover Up Her Harassment Claims

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times reported that former Fox host Andrea Tantaros has filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment against disgraced former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes as well as a cover up of her complaints by Bill Shine, one of the men recently named co-president of Fox News. It had previously been reported that Shine “played an integral role in the cover up” of the allegations against Ailes.

    From The New York Times:

    During arbitration, Mr. Burstein said, Fox News offered to pay her a sum “in the seven figures” if she renounced claims against Mr. Ailes and others at the network, including the host Bill O’Reilly. According to the lawsuit, Ms. Tantaros said she had been subjected to unwelcome advances from Mr. O’Reilly, whom she had regarded as a friend and adviser.

    […]

    The lawsuit goes on to say that on Aug. 12, 2014, Mr. Ailes called her into his office and asked if she was planning to marry and have children. “Ailes then started complaining about marriage in general, and also made off-color jokes about being married,” the lawsuit states. It describes Mr. Ailes as speculating on the sexual habits and preferences of 10 Fox News personalities.

    He asked Ms. Tantaros to turn around “so I can get a good look at you,” the lawsuit charges, adding that Ms. Tantaros refused. Soon after, she was moved from “The Five” to a lower-rated show, “Outnumbered,” that aired at midday.

    Mr. Ailes called her back for similar sessions in December 2014 and February 2015, the lawsuit charges, and when she continued to rebuff him, she encountered hostility from the Fox News publicity department. In the February meeting, she said, Mr. Ailes talked about how she would look in a bikini, and accused her of ending a long-term relationship because she had been merely using the man.

    […]

    In April 2015, the lawsuit states, Ms. Tantaros met with Bill Shine, then a senior news executive and close aide to Mr. Ailes. She said that she told him about the meetings with Mr. Ailes and asked if he had told the head of publicity for Fox News, Irena Briganti, to go after her. The lawsuit claims that Mr. Shine “told Tantaros that Briganti is like a rabid dog on a chain that we can’t control. Sometimes that dog gets off the chain.” Then, pointing to a picture of Mr. Ailes on a magazine cover, the lawsuit charges, Mr. Shine told her that “this powerful man has faith in Irena Briganti” and that Ms. Tantaros “needs to let this one go.”

    Mr. Shine, through a spokeswoman, has said that Ms. Tantaros never approached him about Mr. Ailes harassing her.