Elections

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  • Sean Hannity Has Given Donald Trump $31 Million In Free Publicity

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS, CARLOS MAZA & BEN DIMIERO

    Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has been informally advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign while serving as its primary media cheerleader, has effectively turned his nightly prime-time show into Trump’s second campaign headquarters. According to a Media Matters analysis, Hannity’s program has given Trump what amounts to more than $31 million in free advertising in the form of dozens of fawning interviews with the candidate since Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015.

    Hannity has devoted just over 22 hours of airtime to broadcasting interviews with Trump since the launch of Trump’s campaign. That airtime is worth more than $31 million according to advertising value calculated by media monitoring service iQ Media. That coverage includes 51 original interviews and over a dozen re-airings of previously aired interviews. This year alone, Hannity has aired thirteen and a half hours of Trump interviews, four and a half hours of which have come since Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the Republican primary in early May, effectively ending the race.

    IQ Media uses Nielsen data to determine the viewership of a given program and price data for advertising from Sqad to come up with an equivalent advertising rate.

    These numbers only count the amount of time Hannity spent airing interviews featuring Donald Trump -- they do not include the countless time Hannity spends carrying the Trump campaign's water without the candidate present, including similarly fawning interviews with Trump family members, surrogates, and supporters.

    Hannity has repeatedly faced criticism for his obsequious Trump coverage, including from conservatives who have mocked Hannity for his “slavish” Trump cheerleading and accused him of hosting a “nightly infomercial” for Trump’s campaign.

    According to a previous Media Matters study, Hannity devoted far more airtime to interviews with Trump than with any of his 16 Republican presidential primary opponents. Just before dropping out of the race, Cruz complained that Rupert Murdoch and former network head Roger Ailes had “turned Fox News into the Donald Trump network.”

    New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg recently reported that, in addition to serving as “Trump’s biggest media booster,” Hannity has “for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging.” Hannity defended himself by telling the Times that he’s “never claimed to be a journalist” and that he is “not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.”

    Hannity’s efforts to promote Trump's candidacy aren't ending anytime soon -- he’s slated to host the second half of a two-hour Trump town hall tonight.

    Methodology

    Media Matters used iQ Media to ascertain the monetary value of Donald Trump's appearances on Hannity from May 1, 2015-August 23, 2015. The study includes all original appearances in Hannity’s usual 10 p.m. EST time slot -- repeat and reaired appearances were counted if they aired on a new day between 6 a.m. and midnight (overnight reairings of Hannity were not included). Trump interviews during early morning post-debate Hannity specials were counted. Interviews with Hannity guest hosts and guest interviewers were included if they aired on the program.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • NRA’s Ted Nugent Makes “Vote For Donald Trump” Pitch: Hillary Clinton Is A “Lying Hypocrite Bitch”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent urged his supporters to vote for GOP nominee Donald Trump in a racially charged rant that labeled Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton a “lying hypocrite bitch.”

    In a August 24 post on his Facebook page, Nugent claimed that gun-related homicides “are largely the result of recidivistic, gangster, ‘black lives don’t matter’ punks killing other recidivistic gangster, ‘black lives don’t matter’ punks.”

    “Not you. Not me. Leave us the hell alone!” Nugent added.

    In fact, according to an analysis of a Centers for Disease Control study, “more than 80 percent of gun homicides are non-gang related.”

    Nugent then downplayed the danger to the public posed by assault weapons, ignoring their ubiquitous involvement in public mass shootings, before calling Clinton a “Scammaster lying hypocrite bitch.” He concluded his post by writing, “Vote for Donald Trump and make America Great Again”:

    This year Nugent has called for Clinton, along with President Obama, to be hanged for treason and also shared a fake video of Clinton being shot to death, writing, “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!”

    Both the NRA and Nugent have endorsed Trump for president. 

  • Jorge Ramos Urges Fellow Journalists Not To “Stay Silent On Donald Trump”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Jorge Ramos, one of Hispanic media’s most prominent journalists, is asking the media not to “stay silent on Donald Trump” and to avoid “hid[ing] in the principle of neutrality.”

    Ramos has had a tenuous relationship with the Republican presidential nominee, which has highlighted Trump’s problem with Hispanic media.  In June 2015, Trump responded to an interview request from Ramos by publishing the anchor’s personal contact information on social media. Following that, Ramos was ejected from a Trump event after challenging the candidate, and more recently, Trump sent the anchor a “personal” letter with a bumper sticker and a donation request. Ramos and other Univision journalists have expressed their concern regarding Trump’s confrontational relationship with the media, pointing out how it’s similar in style to dictatorial regimes in Latin America.

    In an August 23 piece in Time magazine, the Univision and Fusion anchor notes that, “when it comes to racism, discrimination, corruption, public lies, dictatorships and the violation of human rights,” media have to “take a stand” and realize that “providing both points of view is not enough.” Ramos criticized Trump for questioning “judge Gonzalo Curiel’s capacity to rule in a case” “simply because of his Hispanic ethnicity” and for his statements on “the silence of a Muslim-American woman” who had lost her son in Iraq,  and notes that “Judgement day is coming” for journalists “who stay silent on Donald Trump.” From the August 23 article:

    It doesn’t matter who you are—a journalist, a politician or a voter—we’ll all be judged by how we responded to Donald Trump. Like it or not, this election is a plebiscite on the most divisive, polarizing and disrupting figure in American politics in decades. And neutrality is not an option.

    [...]

    Trump has forced journalists to revisit rules of objectivity and fairness. Just providing both points of view is not enough in the current presidential campaign. If a candidate is making racist and sexist remarks, we cannot hide in the principle of neutrality. That’s a false equivalence.

    Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite were right; sometimes you have to take a stand. They did it against the dangerous persecutions of Senator Joe McCarthy and in denouncing the pernicious official spin during the worst years of the Vietnam War.

    Donald Trump’s candidacy has created the same moral dilemma and sense of urgency. So, yes, when it comes to racism, discrimination, corruption, public lies, dictatorships and the violation of human rights, we have to take a stand.

    [...]

    There have been two crucial moments in which even Trump supporters couldn’t defend their own candidate: when he questioned judge Gonzalo Curiel’s capacity to rule in a case in which he was involved simply because of his Hispanic ethnicity and when he criticized the silence of a Muslim-American woman, Ghazala Khan, who had lost her son, a U.S. soldier, in the Iraq war. Those moments proved to be too much even for the most loyal party members.

    [...]

    Even Trump’s jokes aren’t funny. He suggested that “Second Amendment people” do something about Hillary Clinton (which he later insisted was an attempt to motivate them to the polls, not assassinate her). He claimed his multiple comments accusing President Barack Obama of founding ISIS were “sarcastic.”

    Trump, really, is no laughing matter. But he could be the next president. That’s how democracy works.

    Judgment day is coming. Will you have peace of mind come November 9th?

  • The New York Times And Trump’s Loopy Note From His Doctor

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Donald Trump

    With Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his media surrogates making unfounded allegations about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s mental and physical well-being and demanding she release more medical records, The New York Times recently addressed the issue of candidate health. In a story headlined "Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Ages 68 and 70, Share Few Health Details," the newspaper claimed that both Trump and Clinton “have been more secretive and selective than many recent presidential nominees in providing up-to-date details about their personal health.”

    The Times article quickly conceded that Trump has been less forthcoming than Clinton. But it’s wildly misguided to suggest Trump and Clinton have treated the issue of medical disclosures in a remotely similar fashion. Yes, each candidate has released a letter from his or her personal doctor evaluating the candidate’s current health. But it’s fantasy to pretend that the two doctors’ letters are comparable.

    And that’s where the Times examination really stumbled, by trying to take seriously the dubious letter from Trump’s doctor that was released last December -- a letter that has been widely derided as a joke. “It purports to be a medical letter, but it is one of the most ridiculous documents ever to emerge in any political campaign,” Kurt Eichenwald recently wrote for Newsweek.

    So committed was the paper to the narrative that both Clinton and Trump were hiding their medical past, the Times ignored the real story: Trump has released no verifiable information about his medical history. None. Because to date, Trump’s only medical release is his very weird doctor’s letter, which remains a completely useless document.

    The brief, vague letter was released 11 days after Trump vowed in December to make public a “full medical report” about his physical health and fitness to serve as president. He bragged that the medical report would “show perfection.”

    To date, there’s been no medical report, just the weird, uninformative letter penned by Dr. Harold N. Bornstein.

    Accentuated by typos -- including a very odd “To Whom My Concern” salutation -- and featuring a website URL that doesn’t work, Trump’s four-paragraph medical letter was filled with strange terms like “astonishingly excellent,” which convey no medical meaning.  

    Dr. Jennifer Gunter dissected the Trump letter for The Huffington Post, noting that doctors "just don't typically write vague, quasi-medical things in letters. ... I would never write anything this terrible for a jury duty excuse or a back to work note. ... It’s medically illiterate.”

    At one point, Trump’s doctor boasted that the Republican nominee’s “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.” But the doctor never explained how he measured Trump’s stamina and strength. Bornstein also claimed Trump had lost “at least fifteen pounds” in the previous year, but he never listed the candidate’s current weight.

    Another gaping hole, as noted by Eichenwald:

    The letter from the Trump campaign mentions nothing about family history, as any normal letter assessing someone’s medical condition would. (Clinton’s does.) Family history is critical in understanding possible diseases that may emerge, particularly those with a genetic link. Trump’s father, Fred Trump, died from complications of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

    Meanwhile, Bornstein in the letter says he’s been treating Trump for decades. But note that the physician is a gastroenterologist, a doctor who treats digestive tract problems. If Trump is in such “astonishingly excellent” health, why has he been going to see a gastroenterologist for nearly half his life? (Clinton’s letter of medical evaluation was written by Lisa Bardack, director of internal medicine in the Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical.)

    None of it makes any sense, which is why the Trump letter has been widely derided as a joke. Yet this week the Times opted to treat the letter as legitimate in an effort to portray Trump and Clinton as equally secretive.

    The truth is, Clinton has released about as much medical information as President Obama did when he ran for president in 2008. By contrast, Trump has released only a baffling, useless document from his gastroenterologist. “The letter provides essentially no medical information,” wrote Gunter.

    The Times is right that there is a candidate in this race who’s being “more secretive and selective” about releasing medical information. But it’s not Clinton.

  • 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.