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  • Near Absence Of Trump Campaign’s Latest Russia Problem From Sunday Shows Follows A Familiar Pattern

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    CNN’s Jake Tapper was the only Sunday show host on September 25 to discuss a report that American intelligence officials are probing Russian government ties to a man Trump has identified as a foreign policy adviser, Carter Page. This latest revelation is yet another missed opportunity by the Sunday political talk shows to feature investigative stories about Trump and his campaign over the past month.

    On September 23, Yahoo! News’ Michael Isikoff reported that “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials.” Among the problematic contacts Page has reportedly had with aides to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is Igor Diveykin, who “is believed by U.S. officials to have responsibility for intelligence collected by Russian agencies about the U.S. election.” The article also quoted a Trump spokesperson calling Page an “‘informal foreign adviser’” to Trump.

    In an interview with Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on CNN’s State of the Union, Tapper cited the Yahoo! News article and questioned Conway if the campaign had talked to Page about his meetings with Russian officials. Conway denied that Page was part of the Trump campaign at this time and said that he was not authorized to talk to Russia on the campaign’s behalf.

    The other Sunday hosts -- NBC’s Chuck Todd, CBS’ John Dickerson, Fox’s Chris Wallace, and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos -- who interviewed Trump adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence, and Conway, respectively -- all failed to question their Trump surrogate guests about the report. The only other mentions of the report on the Sunday shows were from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s surrogates, with Clinton running mate Tim Kaine alluding to the “news of this past week [that] shows us a whole series of very serious questions about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia” on CBS’ Face the Nation, and Clinton’s press secretary Brian Fallon mentioning Page on CNN’s Reliable Sources.

    The near blackout of this story from the Sunday shows is turning into a familiar pattern regarding investigative reports on Trump. Over the past month, the Sunday political talk shows have repeatedly failed to feature new reporting that reflects poorly on Trump. On September 4, just days after The Washington Post broke the story that Trump’s foundation illegally gave a political donation in 2013 and that Trump paid the IRS a penalty for it, only CBS’ Dickerson brought it up; on other shows, guests were forced to mention it. The next week, as they were all covering the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, every Sunday show completely ignored the New York Daily News’ investigation that revealed Trump unethically accepted $150,000 in government aid after the attacks and that Trump bragged that one of his buildings was now the largest in the area just hours after the 9/11 attacks. And just last week, the Sunday shows again mostly omitted new reporting on Trump, specifically the news that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was investigating Trump’s charitable foundation over concerns of impropriety and Kurt Eichenwald’s Newsweek report that detailed the “serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires” that would be present in the foreign policy of a President Trump due to his deep business ties to foreign countries and businesspeople.

    The report on Page also follows Trump’s repeated praise of Putin, who he has called “highly respected within his own country and beyond,” later adding that if Putin “says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.” Journalists have slammed Trump for his remarks, noting the country has targeted and murdered journalists.

  • This Is How Moderators Can Debunk Trump's Excuses For His Iraq War Support

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Donald Trump has attempted, and media have often allowed him, to advance the false claim that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, but evidence Trump regularly cites as proof of his opposition occurred after the war’s authorization and after the war had already begun. Ahead of the first presidential debate, moderators should be aware of his chronologically impossible excuses and be prepared to debunk them, such as his citing of a 2004 Esquire interview where he opposed the war, claiming he said the war was “a mess” at a 2003 party, claiming he expressed some concern in a January 2003 Fox interview, and his excuse that he “was not a politician” when he made his original remarks supporting the war.

  • New Roundups Of Trump’s Lies Prove Why Fact-Checking Is Vital During Presidential Debates

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico all independently published on September 24 and 25 reviews of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies” in just the last week. Given that Trump’s “mishandling of facts and propensity for exaggeration” is so “frequent,” these reports of Trump’s “untruths” bolster the case for debate moderators to fact-check the candidates during the presidential debates.

    Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are set to debate on September 26 in the first of three meetings. Given that Trump has a startling penchant for lying and that Trump’s debate prep team is filled with conspiracy theorists and disreputable political operatives, journalists and veteran debate moderators have called on the moderators to hold the candidates to a high level of truth-telling and fact-check their inaccurate statements.

    Media Matters has also called on the debate moderators to fact-check the candidates in real-time, so a debate over settled fact does not become a “‘he said, she said’” situation. Failing to fact-check Trump’s lies during the debate will also feed into the growing media tendency to lower the bar for Trump and hold the two candidates to different standards.

    Those calls for asking “tough follow-up questions” have been given even more importance with these new studies. Trump, according to a five-day Politico analysis of his most recent remarks, “averaged about one falsehood every three minutes and 15 seconds.” The Politico analysis found 87 different lies of Trump’s, including on issues such as the economy, health care, national security, immigration, and Clinton, among others. The study also noted Trump’s September 16 lie that “he was not the person responsible for the birtherism campaign to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency.” 

    The New York Times also “closely tracked Mr. Trump’s public statements from Sept. 15-21, and assembled a list of his 31 biggest whoppers, many of them uttered repeatedly.” The Times spotlighted Trump’s “most consistent falsehood he tells about himself” -- “that he opposed the war in Iraq from the start” -- which the “evidence shows otherwise.” The Times also highlighted Trump’s “unfounded claims about critics and the news media,” “inaccurate claims about Clinton,” and “stump speech falsehoods.”

    The Washington Post similarly examined “one week of Trump’s speeches, tweets and interviews” and found that Trump “continues to rely heavily on thinly sourced or entirely unsubstantiated claims.” The Post’s roundup of Trump’s recent “false or questionable claims” and “controversial and debunked statements” included his erroneous assertion that the black community is “in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever” and his false claim that law enforcement cannot question a person suspected of carrying an explosive.

    Though print media outlets are becoming increasingly comfortable spotlighting Trump’s compulsive lying, his habit is not new: PolitiFact found that 70 percent of Trump’s assertions throughout his campaign have been “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.” The Times, Post, and Politico’s roundups of Trump’s lying just in the past week show how crucial it is for debate moderators to be vigilant fact-checkers during the debate.

  • In Wash. Post, Experts Warn Mass Deportations Like Trump’s Led To Ethnic Cleansing

    Human Rights Experts: “The Notion That Governments Have Learned How To Conduct Mass Deportations In ‘Humane And Efficient’ Ways Is Ludicrous”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a September 23 Washington Post op-ed, contributing columnist Danielle Allen and Richard Ashby Wilson, a human rights law professor, warned that mass deportations like those repeatedly promised by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump have a dark and dangerous history. As explained by Allen and Wilson, one of the last times a policy like Trump’s was tried in a developed country was in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, an effort that spun out of control and led to ethnic cleansing.

    Allen and Wilson detail how government efforts to target and systematically remove population groups have “repeatedly led to episodes that harm some severely, perhaps even mortally.” Indeed, what makes mass deportations like Trump’s so serious are that they are frequently combined with the same “racially tinged” elements the Republican nominee has encouraged: “heated rhetoric that slurs whole minority groups (“they’re not sending their best . . . they’re rapists”); an activist minority of white nationalists; an armed minority of militiamen; and the ongoing militarization of our police forces.” From the Post:

    The time has come to get serious, really serious, about understanding what’s at stake with Donald Trump’s proposal to deport 5 million to 11 million undocumented immigrants and his promise that 2 million will be deported in “a matter of months” if he is elected.

    In May, former homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff told the New York Times: “I can’t even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years where we don’t have a police state, where the police can’t break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant.” He also said, “Unless you suspend the Constitution and instruct the police to behave as if we live in North Korea, it ain’t happening.”

    [...]

    The Bosnian deportations [in the former Yugoslavia] grew into a systematic policy termed “ethnic cleansing.” The U.N. Security Council declared forcible removal based on ethnicity a crime against humanity in 1994. And eventually there was also accountability for political leaders who enacted deportation policies and incited their followers to hatred and violence. In March 2016, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia found former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The tribunal ruled that his speeches and official propaganda made a significant contribution to an overarching joint criminal enterprise to create an ethnically homogenous state of Bosnian Serbs.

    [...]

    The notion that governments have learned how to conduct mass deportations in “humane and efficient” ways is ludicrous. The removal of millions of members of a minority ethnic or religious group from a territory has been accompanied, in nearly every historical instance, by assault, murder, crimes against humanity and, occasionally, genocide. It has involved armed roadblocks to check papers, the smashing down of doors in the night to drag people out of their homes. It has also involved unrestrained popular violence against a target population.

     
  • CNN's Lewandowski Set To Be Paid Half A Million Dollars By Trump Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post reported that Corey Lewandowski, paid CNN contributor and former campaign manager for Donald Trump, “is set to be paid nearly half a million dollars by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign by the end of the year.” CNN has stood by Lewandowski as a contributor despite his lucrative severance package and reports that he is still advising Trump. 

    CNN’s decision to hire Lewandowski has been widely criticized as an ethical morass by media ethicists and journalists condemning CNN for months. Lewandowski’s continued involvement with the Trump campaign, his likely non-disparagement agreement with Trump, and his penchant for pushing Trump talking points on air all raise serious questions about his continued employment at CNN. Given the clear conflict and CNN’s previous stance that contributors paid by a campaign “would not be permitted,” CNN should cut ties with Lewandowski immediately.

    The Washington Post article detailed the continued connection between the Trump campaign and Lewandowski, as he “is set to be paid nearly half a million dollars… with almost a quarter of his compensation coming after the controversial political operative was ousted” (emphasis added): 

    Corey Lewandowski is set to be paid nearly half a million dollars by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign by the end of the year, with almost a quarter of his compensation coming after the controversial political operative was ousted in June as campaign manager.

    Lewandowski, who is now a paid commentator on CNN, collected at least $415,000 in salary, bonuses and severance from the Trump campaign between April 2015 and August of this year, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal campaign finance filings. Campaign officials said he will continue receiving his $20,000 monthly pay as severance until the end of the year, which would give him a total of $495,000 over two years.

    His compensation appears to be higher than that of his counterparts, though a direct comparison is difficult because Lewandowski is paid a flat fee through a limited-liability company rather than a campaign paycheck.

    [...]

    CNN has faced criticism for giving Lewandowski a regular platform while he is drawing large severance from the Trump campaign. Network officials have said his payments are publicly disclosed when he appears on the air.

    Lewandowski said the severance does not conflict with his role at CNN, saying the arrangement has “been widely known.”