Elections

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  • The Press Concocted A Clinton Caricature, But That’s Not Who Showed Up At The Debate

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Hillary Clinton sure didn’t look like an “awful” candidate up on the debate stage this week.

    “Awful” was how ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd derided the Democratic nominee over the summer on This Week. “She is an awful candidate. Everybody knows it,” he stressed.

    Dowd was hardly alone. The Beltway pundit class has relentlessly portrayed Clinton as someone who’s supremely uncomfortable in her own skin and ill-suited to be the Democratic nominee or the next president.

    But that’s not what 80-plus million viewers saw when they tuned into the debate. Poised, confident and in control, Clinton walked away with a clear victory, according to all scientific polling.

    So why the huge disconnect between the way the press portrays Clinton, often with a relentlessly caustic and cynical eye, and the reality of who Clinton is as a candidate, as seen during the debate? A large chunk of viewers, regardless of whether they support her or not, must have been genuinely confused by the person they watched for 90 minutes, and the person they’ve seen depicted in the press throughout this campaign.

    She certainly didn’t resemble the supposedly phony, unlikeable, calculating politician the press has been describing most of this year. She didn’t come across as the deeply secretive, distant, “scripted,” figure who can’t connect with voters. (Fact: Clinton accumulated more votes than any other candidate during the presidential primaries.)

    Aside from her agenda and her politics, the press has been nearly universal in the way they’ve described Clinton as a person and as a candidate. She’s “afraid to say what she thinks about anything for fear of alienating this or that constituency,” explained The Washington Post, while emphasizing, “She often comes across as inauthentic or lacking a basic core of beliefs.”

    Bottom line: Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate, and possibly a deeply flawed person.

    And that has been the nearly universal media theme since the beginning of this campaign. Last summer, The Wall Street Journal suggested Clinton sounds too "scripted and poll-tested," while Politico this year marked her victory in the Kentucky primary with the downer headline, “Hillary Clinton’s Joyless Victory.”

    But instead of that scheming Clinton caricature showing up at the debate, viewers saw a confident, at-ease candidate who at one point even shimmied with delight on the national stage.

    “[T]ens of millions of Americans saw the candidates in action, directly, without a media filter,” noted New York Times columnist Paul Krugman following the debate. “For many, the revelation wasn’t Mr. Trump’s performance, but Mrs. Clinton’s: The woman they saw bore little resemblance to the cold, joyless drone they’d been told to expect.”

    Indeed.

    Unfortunately, as Media Matters has been noting for years, there has existed over time an almost open contempt for Clinton from the press corps. Last year there was even talk about how journalists were primed to “take down” her campaign.

    Obsessive Clinton tormentor Maureen Dowd at the Times, for example, has spent years looking past what Clinton stands for (does Dowd even care?) in order to belittle her as a person. Over two decades, Dowd has robotically represented Clinton as an unlikeable, power-hungry, phony.

    Author Neal Gabler made this key point over the summer (emphasis added):

    Hillary Clinton has always been under a media microscope. They assess her pantsuits, her hairdos, her gestures, her expressions, her “grating” voice. They assume that there is always some ulterior motive or calculation to everything she says and does — as if there isn’t for any presidential candidate. Whether you like Hillary Clinton or not, she labors under the media’s presumption of guilt.

    And again, the most troubling aspect is that so much of the press pile-on regarding Clinton is oddly personal, and rarely revolves around her politics. (Except when it comes to her emails, which journalists have been weirdly obsessive about.) The press seems utterly determined to portray the nominee as a blemished individual.  

    And that’s one of the reasons why presidential debates are so important: They force the campaign press to get off the national stage for 90 minutes and allow candidates to speak directly to viewers, without a heavy-handed media filter and without journalists trying to fit everything into preferred narratives.

    Meanwhile, did you notice how few members of the Beltway media’s elite foresaw Clinton’s lopsided debate win?

    Think about all the hours and days of pre-debate commentary, all the analysis on radio, television and in print that commentators provided during the run up to the debate. Did you see, hear, or read many (any?) pundits confidently predict that Clinton would, as it turned out, easily win the debate and it wouldn’t even be a close call?

    Seemingly committed to the Clinton narrative that she’s a cautious, calculating pol who can’t connect with voters, lots of commentators seemed certain Trump would be able to equal her debate parries, even as they lowered the expectations for him to absurd depths.

    But even graded on an entirely different and gentler scale, Trump still wasn’t able to construct a coherent performance. With the media’s nasty Clinton caricature set aside for the duration of the debate, viewers were able to make up their own minds about the candidate.

  • Conservative Newspapers Explain Why They Refused To Endorse “Frightening” Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Opinion editors at three major newspapers that have routinely endorsed Republicans for president -- dating back more than a century in some cases -- tell Media Matters they endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton because Republican nominee Donald Trump is “frightening” and potentially “dangerous.”

    Political observers and veteran news experts, meanwhile, say such a dramatic move by longtime Republican-friendly publications could have a greater impact on the race than more expected endorsements.   

    “We have been traditionally considered a conservative newspaper, having endorsed Republicans for the last hundred years,” said Cindi Andrews, editorial page editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, which endorsed Clinton on September 23. “For me personally, the two biggest concerns come down to temperament; how he would be on the world stage, his demeanor, his language he uses about citizens in our own country of different races and genders, as well as immigrants. It is fundamentally what we’re about as Americans.”

    The Enquirer, owned by Gannett Company, had last endorsed a Democrat in 1916 when it backed Woodrow Wilson. Andrews said the five-member editorial board was unanimous in their choice, adding that a non-endorsement was not an option.

    “We felt that fundamentally not endorsing in any race we are looking at is a pretty lame approach,” she said. “Because somebody has to decide who the next president is and voters have to make a decision, it felt a like a dereliction of duty.”

    The Enquirer wasn’t the first traditionally Republican paper to endorse Clinton. The Dallas Morning News ended 80 years of GOP presidential endorsements on September 7 when it backed Clinton.

    “We had recommended John Kasich in the primary and were disappointed that his campaign didn’t catch more fire,” said Keven Ann Willey, Morning News editorial page editor since 2002 and a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board. “Over that time Donald Trump just became more and more difficult to tolerate. The thought of him as the leader of our country just became anathema. On issues ranging from immigration to foreign relations to tax policy, it was hard to find much to align with him on. He is really not a conservative, he is a Republican of convenience.”

    Willey said the nine-member editorial board was unanimous in their choice of Clinton, another unusual occurrence.

    “It was a long and deliberative process,” she said, adding that opposition to Trump was based on many things such as his “name-calling of people and groups of people and the tone, the ramifications of that are just frightening.”

    The most recent and perhaps most surprising case was the Arizona Republic, which gave Clinton the nod this week. That marked the first time it had endorsed a Democrat in its history, which dates back to 1890 went it launched as the Arizona Republican.

    Editorial Page Editor Phil Boas said the nine-member editorial board began criticizing Trump nearly a year ago.

    For him, the tide started to turn against Trump when Trump supporters “started kicking and punching” a protester at a rally in Birmingham, AL, in November 2015 and Trump yelled, “get him the hell out of here.” Trump later doubled down on his rhetoric in an interview the same week, telling Fox News, “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

    “That’s when I sat down and wrote an editorial that these are sort of the ominous base notes of authoritarianism,” said Boas, an admitted lifelong conservative Republican. “It was a sign and alarm that this guy might be dangerous.”

    Since then, the paper has routinely criticized Trump, endorsing John Kasich in the Arizona primary and hitting the businessman in numerous editorials

    “Because this is probably the most unusual election in our lifetimes, the process was different than what I’m used to and for us,” Boas explained. “It really evolved over a year on our pages, a conversation with our readers. I don’t think any loyal reader of our editorial pages are that surprised that we endorse Clinton. For a year now we have been writing scalding editorials about Donald Trump.”

    Boas also cited Trump’s mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski’s disability. “I was just appalled by it,” he said. “He made fun of a disabled man, he mocked him. … To behave that way is disrespectful of the office. This became bigger than party, bigger than team.”

    Asked why they chose to endorse Clinton and not just decline to endorse a candidate, he said, “She conducts herself in a way that’s responsible, she is not going to scare off our allies and create an international incident.”

    While newspaper endorsements are seen as having less impact in recent years, political and newspaper observers said such sharp changes in these normally conservative publications could be influential.

    “This is hugely significant,” said Poynter Institute President Tim Franklin, a former editor and editorial board member of the Indianapolis StarThe Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun. “Most newspapers develop a core set of beliefs and values and then they stick to those core beliefs and values for years. That is a covenant with the audience.”

    Citing the key undecided voters, Franklin added, “These endorsements could have an impact on what seems to be a very small undecided group.”

    Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, also saw the potential for an impact if more conservative papers go with Clinton.

    “They are attracting lots of attention, for sure,” Sabato said via email. “If enough GOP papers endorse their first Democratic presidential candidate ever, that might cause some voters to ask a logical question: Why is this happening. The answer is obvious: Donald Trump.”

    Matt Dallek, associate professor at the George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management, said the endorsement switch can be impactful. 

    “It is newsworthy that in some cases, like the Arizona Republic, it is the first time they haven’t endorsed a Republican and that I think generates additional stories, additional attention beyond the editorials themselves,” Dallek said. “Even voters who don’t necessarily see that headline, it gins up attention in subsequent stories and people hear about it.”

    He added, “These endorsements from these newspapers will likely have more impact than, say, Henry Paulson writing an Op-Ed saying he’s voting for Clinton. I’m not sure that really penetrates with people in places like Ohio like it does coming from the hometown paper.

    David Yepsen, former Des Moines Register political columnist, said, “One thing Trump has to do is get moderate and wavering Republicans to ‘come home.’ When Republican papers endorse Hillary Clinton, those endorsements become something that might continue to give those Republicans pause about him.”

    David Boardman, a former Seattle Times editor and currently dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University, said, “It reflects something about how most opinion journalists see this election, clearly their level of distaste for Trump is compelling them to take positions different from what they did in the past.”

    Among those known for a long history of Republican presidential support who have yet to offer their choice are The Indianapolis Star and The Orange County Register. The Wall Street Journal does not normally endorse in presidential races.

    USA Today, which has "never taken sides" in a presidential race before, declared Trump "unfit for the presidency" in an editorial this morning.

  • Hannity Spurns Fox Executives, Hypes Online Polls After After Internal Memo Says They Don't Meet Fox Standards

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News host Sean Hannity cited post-debate online polls to show that people "vote so overwhelmingly for [Donald] Trump," just two days after Fox's vice president of public-opinion research sent an internal memo “reminding television producers and the politics team that unscientific online polls ‘do not meet our editorial standards.’” Scientific polls showed Clinton overwhelmingly won the debate, with the NBC/SurveyMonkey poll showing Trump came in third place in the two-person debate, finishing both behind Clinton and "neither." Hannity has gone to great lengths to shill for Trump, including recently appearing in a Trump campaign ad, which Fox executives were neither aware of nor happy about. From the September 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I know that people hate when I cite online polling. But when you see The Hill, and you see Slate, and Time.com, these are not mainstream conservative polling or websites. And when they vote after a debate so overwhelmingly for Trump, it's telling me something. It's more than Trump's base that I think people feel how bad things are and that's what they're voting on. 

  • Morning Joe Inaccurately Hypes Latino Support For Trump In Nevada With A Misleading Poll Report

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    MSNBC’s Morning Joe hyped one poll to suggest 30 percent of Latino Nevada voters support Trump, but the survey’s participants who fit the description of Latino likely voters provided such a small sample size that Morning Joe’s blanket statement was likely inaccurate.

    On the September 29 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski and correspondent Jacob Soboroff reported that an NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll found 30 percent of Latinos supported Trump. Soboroff, after referring to the results as “surprising” and “frankly puzzling,” went to see if “Latinos for Trump” were “a real thing” by interviewing callers on Jesus Marquez’s radio show on the Las Vegas station La Voz de Nevada.

    Marquez is one of the remaining members of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council -- several of them quit, calling the group a “scam” and denouncing Trump’s August 31 anti-immigrant speech as “horrible,” “dishonest,” and “tone-deaf.” Marquez often makes media appearances as a Trump surrogate, so callers to his pro-Trump radio show aren’t likely to be the most representative sample of Latino voters in Nevada.

    The problem with MSNBC’s reporting was explained by Futuro Media Group’s Julio Ricardo Varela shortly after the report aired. In an article on NPR’s Latino USA, Varela explained that the poll MSNBC was citing did not contain a large enough sample of Latinos to be representative. Varela dug into the poll’s methodology to explain that the poll surveyed 1,090 adults, only 627 of whom were likely voters, and only 17 percent, or 107, were Latino. Varela laid out the significance of MSNBC’s botched reporting (which also aired on the September 28 edition of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, according to Nexis):

    This would mean that Morning Joe did not accurately represent the poll’s data and methodology, and no one at the table challenged the data. It also raises questions about whether a sample of 107 likely Latino voters in Nevada is even large enough to make a confident conclusion that Trump has 30% of the Latino vote in Nevada, especially when a national NBC News/Telemundo/WSJ poll has Trump’s Latino support in the high teens.

    One particularly misleading graphic, titled “Among Nevada Latino Likely Voters,” showed the breakdown of the 107 people the poll surveyed who fit that description, but at the bottom noted the total number of people polled, 1,090. The graphic could have left viewers with the impression that 1,090 Latino likely voters were surveyed, instead of 107:

    Later in the day, Soboroff acknowledged he was receiving “blowback” for his reporting, but instead of addressing the criticism, he doubled down. Soboroff said, “I actually got a lot of feedback, a lot of blowback online from folks saying that that 30 number percent looked high. That’s the number that we got in our NBC News poll here.”

    MSNBC is not the first network to fumble reports about the Latino vote: Earlier this year, Telemundo also based a report that Latinos could be warming to Trump on flawed polling. Given the lousy attempts that Trump has made at Latino outreach, his anti-immigrant rhetoric, and the fact that even his Latino supporters have admitted his Latino outreach is doomed -- as well as the media’s penchant for misrepresenting Latino voters-- a poll that shows a large number of Latinos supporting Trump should be met with skepticism.

    According to Stephen A. Nuño, an associate professor at Northern Arizona University, media reporting on the Latino vote can “often be contradictory, confusing, and outright nonsensical” because sloppy methodology is often used when polling Latinos. Nuño explained that sample sizes are often too small to be representative, polls are frequently not conducted bilingually, and polls are not representative of age, country of origin, and gender.

    In a June 10 guest appearance on NPR’s Latino USA, Nuño talked about the number of things that can go wrong when polling Latinos and interpreting the numbers:

  • Rush Limbaugh Falsely Denies He Called Alicia Machado A Porn Star, Then Repeats The Claim

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh denied, then repeated, the false claim that former Miss Universe Alicia Machado is a “former porn star,” an accusation right-wing media have adopted to attack her.

    On the September 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh said that he “didn’t call [Machado] a porn star”:

    RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): And they say that "Rush Limbaugh the other day called her a porn [star]." I didn't call her a porn star. I was reading a news report in which she was referred to as a porn star. I don't watch porn. I don't know if she's done porn or not. I have no idea if she’s a -- I read what one of your colleagues in the drive-by media wrote about her. She's worse than a porn star. Because she's a woman and this and this is 2016 and women are getting bullied and raped on college campuses, ostensibly. You got to be very, very careful here.

    So Trump calls her Miss Piggy. There is a character called Miss Piggy, proudly called Miss Piggy. One of the Muppets. Looks like somebody in American politics today, I might add. If you can't figure it out, I'll leave it up to you at some point to see.

    However, on the September 28 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh did refer to Machado as “a porn star” and “the porn star Miss Piggy.” The claim -- which is actually false -- had been pushed by right-wing media outlets in order to delegitimize Machado after she reported that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump called her “Miss Piggy” and publicly humiliated her for gaining weight.

    Mere minutes after making his denial, Limbaugh resumed his name-calling, referring to her, once again, as a “former porn star”:

    RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): You would think if the [Clinton campaign] thought they won [the debate] hands-down, slam dunk, that they would start hammering Trump on any number of things that include issues. And instead they bring up this former porn star and this whole sordid thing that happened 20 years ago with the Miss [Universe] pageant.

    This is hardly the first time Limbaugh has resorted to slut-shaming to attack a woman. In 2012, he infamously attacked then-Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying before Congress in favor of requiring that health insurance plans cover birth control. He also demanded that she post sex “videos online so we can all watch.” Limbaugh’s disgusting attacks, in that case, led to a decline in his affiliates, advertisers, and political influence.