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  • James O’Keefe Is Still Not a Journalist

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Since 2009, self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe has repeatedly embarrassed himself while attempting to launch undercover stings targeting government agencies, media outlets, and  liberal organizations and institutions.

  • Trump Suddenly Encounters Media Attention He Doesn’t Want

    Citing “Sensationalism,” Trump’s Lawyers Fight To Keep Trump U. Videos Away From Media

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A media coalition is pushing for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to release video of his depositions in lawsuits against Trump University, his now-defunct real estate seminar business, but the candidate’s lawyers have expressed concern that the footage would be “used by media and others in connection with the presidential campaign.”

    On June 11, a coalition of media organizations filed a motion seeking the public release of video footage from Trump’s taped depositions connected to two of the three lawsuits Trump University currently faces. The coalition included all major television networks, aside from Fox News, and several major newspaper publishers. Fox News joined the effort yesterday.

    In response, Trump’s lawyers in the two related class-action lawsuits presided over by Judge Gonzalo Curiel -- whom Trump himself has attacked with racist remarks -- argued that media and rival groups would use the video footage out of context to smear Trump. As Politico reported:

    In a court filing late Wednesday night, Trump's attorneys argued explicitly for the first time that the deposition videos should be kept under wraps because they would become weapons in the ongoing presidential contest.

    "Undoubtedly, these videos...will be used by the media and others in connection with the presidential campaign," Trump's attorneys wrote in a motion filed with U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego.

    "'[V]ideotapes are subject to a higher degree of potential abuse than transcripts. They can be cut and spliced and used as "soundbites" on the evening news or sports shows....' And unlike in other cases where it was unclear that 'out of context snippets' would be broadcast because the 'media frenzy' around the case had died down...the 'media frenzy' surrounding this case is certain to continue through the election," Trump's legal team added, quoting cases from federal trial courts in Indiana and New York.

    [...]

    "The need to prevent such 'sensationalism' is particularly acute here because of Mr. Trump’s unique circumstances in running for President of the United States," wrote Trump attorneys Daniel Petrocelli and David Kirman of law firm O'Melveny & Myers and in-house Trump lawyer Jill Martin. They cited a federal appeals court ruling rejecting a media bid for access to videos of President Bill Clinton's testimony played in court during a criminal case related to the Whitewater affair.

    This is a notable shift from the Trump campaign’s previous attitude about the huge amount of media attention he receives. In March, The New York Times released a study showing that Trump had racked up $2 billion worth of free earned media throughout his presidential campaign to that point, and the paper stated that “he is far better than any other candidate -- maybe than any candidate ever -- at earning media.” Trump won the Fox Primary, doubling any other Republican presidential primary candidate in airtime on the news channel. Trump’s campaign has bragged about all the free media he has received, and it reportedly plans to “just use earned media to compete on the airwaves” instead of raising money for ads. But perhaps what Trump truly wants is only adulation, not actual scrutiny from the media.

     
  • Fox News Joins Media Coalition Asking For Release Of Trump U. Depositions

    Fox’s Move Ensures Right-Wing Media Spin Of Trump Deposition

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News joined a media coalition asking the judge in the Trump U. fraud case to release videos of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump being questioned over the real estate program. The move by Fox comes after defending Trump from allegations of fraud surrounding the Trump U. controversy.

    On June 11 Politico reported that a number of media organizations asked Judge Gonzalo Curiel to release video of Trump’s testimony in the Trump U. case. Lawyers for the media coalition argued that the lawsuit “has become a prominent election issue” and that Trump himself had cited Trump U. “as an example of his business success.” The initial coalition included all major TV news networks except for Fox News, as well as newspaper publishers from The New York Times, Washington Post, and Tribune Publishing.

    On June 15, Politico reported that Fox News joined the effort, stating that they were not aware of the request and became interested in joining as soon as they learned of the move:

    Fox News is joining a media coalition seeking to obtain full access to depositions presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave in a class-action lawsuit over his Trump University real estate seminar program.

    When an array of news organizations moved last week to loosen restrictions on the deposition transcripts and videos, all the major news networks were part of the effort, except for Fox. Also on board were the New York Times, the Washington Post and Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

    In a filing Wednesday with U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego, lawyers for the media coalition said Fox was joining the consortium supporting the drive to remove confidential designations on parts of Trump's testimony. If those restrictions are lifted, either side in the case would be free to release the transcripts in their entirety and likely the videos of the depositions as well.

    Fox News’ decision to join the media coalition now ensures that right-wing media can continue their struggle to defend Trump by selectively using any video released.

  • Right-Wing Media Fearmonger Over Washington State’s New LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Conservative media are fearmongering over Washington state public schools’ new LGBT-inclusive education standards that aim to teach students “the importance of treating others with respect regarding gender identity.” Outlets are reporting that the state will soon begin to “teach transgenderism to kindergartners” and suggesting that Washington is promoting transgender “recruitment.” But education professionals and advocacy groups say students benefit from learning about gender identity at an early age.

  • Hannity Answers Trump’s Call To Attack Detractors Of His Racist Attacks On Federal Judge

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    A day after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump ordered his surrogates to “go after” critics of his racist attacks against the federal overhearing the Trump U. case, Fox News host Sean Hannity took to his radio show and attacked Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for their “willingness” to go criticize Trump, but being “too weak, too timid, too afraid” to criticize President Obama.

    On June 6, Bloomberg Politics reported that during a conference call, Trump instructed his surrogates to “go at” the people criticizing his racist attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, and described his detractors as “racists.”

    The following day, on the June 7 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity defended Trump by attacking Republicans who have criticized Trump’s racist attacks:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): How do you explain Hillary saying that Robert "the former Klansman" Byrd was her mentor? Or that J. William Fulbright, a known segregationist, was Bill Clinton's mentor. Oh, we can ignore those little happenings in the past, why shouldn’t we, that's not textbook. We got Hillary's brother in law on tape, Roger Clinton, using the N word 15 times.

    [...]

    OK I don't want to hear it, I can't stand hearing people that are ignorant like that. I just can't. So, there's a lot of political conflicts galore here. You got a judge, anyway, the federal judge here who actually takes this thing to class action, this is a judge that probably should have recused himself. This is a judge who is part of a radical, or at least associated with the radical wing of La Raza and I think Trump's mistake was making it not about what it was, which was politics. I think that’s what it should have been about from the beginning. And he pretty much said as much and it’s time to move on. But not in the minds of Republicans. Republicans want to hit the self-destruct button. Republicans want to teach we, you, the people a lesson because you didn't vote for any of the candidates of their choice. So they’re just jumping on the bandwagon, admitting as quickly as possible things they'd never do against Obama.

    [...]

    I see more willingness to fight Trump by Republican leaders than I do in their willingness , in any of the eight years Obama has been in office now, to fight and stop Obama’s radical agenda. Starting with the campaign in ‘07 and ‘08. They were too timid, and too weak, too afraid to bring up anything involving Obama's radical past. Well, you know what? What's worse? Trump's comments about this judge, which was obviously inarticulate, I didn't hear Paul Ryan talk about Reverend Wright being racist, I didn’t hear Paul Ryan making the case that somebody that hangs out with, gave speeches with,sits on boards with and starts his political career in the home of a domestic -- unrepentant domestic terrorist isn't fit for the job. I didn’t hear Lindsey Graham make that case either and it was his buddy John McCain running at the time.

    Anything that they can do; I didn’t see the stuff in his two books Audacity of Hope or Dreams of My Father, “white man’s greed runs the world in need” Obama said? Is that worse than Trump’s comments? Everybody’s got selective moral outrage. Everybody’s all offended by words but it only depends on who utters the words that offends them. Because they’ll make all sorts of excuses, time and time again, if they don't want to pick that particular political fight.

    Hannity’s reputation as a Trump sycophant has been widely criticized and mocked, with media outlets calling out Hannity’s “unapologetic advocacy” for Trump,  including Hannity telling Trump during an interview that he was a supporter of his and stating that “I don’t hold back that I’ll be voting for Donald Trump.”

  • Review-Journal Drums Up College Debt Myths To Blame Borrowers For Student Debt Crisis

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    An editorial published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal insisted that student debt is “manageable for most students” and recycled previously debunked conservative talking points to fault student loan forgiveness programs and federal aid for America’s college debt crisis. The paper also echoed right-wing myths to argue that tuition “costs inevitably go up” in response to low-interest federal loans and dismiss progressive concerns about for-profit schools.

  • Conservative Media Struggles To Defend Trump And His Widening University Scam Scandal

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    What good is having a right-wing echo chamber if it’s not cranked up and blaring out a disciplined message during the presidential campaign? The conservative movement continues to grapple with that propaganda question in the wake of Donald Trump clinching the nomination, which has created deep fissures within the right-wing media and its historically united front.

    For decades, conservatives have taken pride in their media bubble that not only keeps Republican fans selectively informed about breaking news, but also bashes away at all political foes. In full-fledged campaign mode, the right-wing media can effectively serve as a battering ram that Republicans use to attack their enemies or fend off in-coming volleys.

    But Trump has scrambled that long-held equation. Embracing positions that often fall outside the orthodoxy of modern-day conservatism, while simultaneously rolling out non-stop insults, Trump has presented conservative pundits with a monumental headache: How do you defend a creation like Trump? Or as one National Review Trump headline lamented last month, “What’s a Conservative to Do?”

    That riddle is especially tricky when Trump puts would-be allies in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the truly indefensible, like the widening scandal surrounding Trump University, the presumptive nominee’s former real estate seminar business. Over the years the dubious venture has been the subject of several ongoing fraud investigations and lawsuits, including one by the state of New York on behalf of 5,000 alleged victims.

    “It’s fraud. … straight-up fraud,” the state’s Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reiterated during an MSNBC interview last week after a judge unsealed court documents from one of the Trump U. lawsuits and allowed for a more detailed look into the allegations of deceit.

    The strange part? Some key conservative voices agree with the Democrat’s legal assessment. That’s why back in February, a National Review writer denounced the Trump seminars as “a massive scam.” And last month, The Weekly Standard warned that Trump U. represented a “political time bomb” that could doom the candidate’s November chances: “Democrats will see to that.” (Both magazines have opposed Trump for months and have pointed to Trump U. as a reason for their opposition.)

    That’s what’s so startling about watching the conservative media this campaign season: It’s been completely knocked off its game. Known for its regimented messaging and willingness to almost robotically defend any Republican front-runner and nominee, Trump is finding only a smattering of defenders when it comes to damning allegations about his scam seminars.

    And when Trump recently escalated the Trump U. story by attacking Judge Gonzalo Curiel and insisted he couldn’t be impartial because of his “Mexican heritage,” the presumptive nominee found himself even further isolated within the conservative movement. (The Wall Street Journal editorial page called Trump’s judiciary attack “offensive” and “truly odious”; Bill O'Reilly did defend Trump last night.)

    As for the scamming allegations, even for members of the conservative media who are willing to try to assist Trump, there’s very little to grab on to in terms of defending the scandal-plagued Trump U. Based on mountains of allegations and complaints from angry students -- students with no partisan political ax to grind -- all indications point to a widespread fraud operating under Trump’s name and one that bilked victims out of millions of dollars.

    As The Atlantic noted after reviewing previously secret training materials for Trump U., “the playbook focuses on the seminars’ real purpose: to browbeat attendees into purchasing expensive Trump University course packages.” According to an affidavit from former student Richard Hewson, he and his wife “concluded that we had paid over $20,000 for nothing, based on our belief in Donald Trump and the promises made at the free seminar and three-day workshop.”

    The con appeared to touch every aspect of the real estate selling events. Instead of getting an implied, in-person meeting with Trump at one three-day seminar, some attendees were allowed to take their picture with a cardboard cutout of him. That’s one reason Schneiderman dubbed the whole program an “elaborate bait-and-switch” scheme. (Trump’s personal, immersed involvement was a key selling point.)

    Still, some loyal conservative have tried to explain away the allegations. Last week on Fox, Tucker Carlson tried to downplay the damage by wondering if Trump U. was a “scam” the same way Princeton is a “scam.” Over at Outnumbered, co-host Jedediah Bila asked if Trump U.’s allegedly fraudulent practices weren’t just good "aggressive sales tactics.” She added, “I mean when the public hears this story, I'm wondering do they just see this as non-story?”

    Bila’s co-host Melissa Francis also didn’t see what the big deal was: “You know, it goes to the story of him as an aggressive businessperson who wanted to sort of profit at all costs which is kind of what business is all about.”

    And former Republican candidate Ben Carson assured Sean Hannity that, “I recently talked to a physician who went to Trump University, and this man is very wealthy, but he's not wealthy from being a physician. He's wealthy from what he learned at Trump University and learning how to do investments.”

    Note that many of Trump’s other friends at Fox have been a bit more suspect on the matter. “Trump has a simple assignment, find five people who are graduates who are willing to go on TV and say, you know, my life was improved, my income went up, it was a good experience,” announced Newt Gingrich on Sean Hannity’s show, rather than categorically defending the dubious seminars. (To date, Trump has struggled to produce a multitude of satisfied graduates.)

    Conservative talk show host Larry Elder also appeared on Hannity’s show last week to discuss Trump U. and insisted that while it was a “minor issue,” nonetheless “Trump should have settled this a long time ago.”

    Even Trump’s fiercest media defender, Breitbart.com, has taken a timid approach to the Trump U. fraud story, with the site refusing to offer up a full-throated defense of the alleged scam.

    The ferocious conservative echo chamber isn’t built for nuance and it’s not designed for internal debate. But by sparking so much general dissention and by putting conservatives in the position of having to defend something as noxious as Trump U., the nominee is helping to mute the right-wing media voice this campaign season.