Government

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  • The Huge Media Failure Behind The Latest Clinton Global Initiative Pseudo-Scandal

    Despite Reporting, Bahraini Crown Prince Didn’t Give $32 Million To CGI

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Numerous media outlets covering released State Department emails pushed by the conservative group Judicial Watch falsely claimed that Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain gave the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) tens of millions of dollars, which they suggested was linked to him meeting with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In fact, none of the money in question went to the Clinton Global Initiative -- the crown prince made a “Commitment to Action” to fund the scholarship program at a Clinton Global Initiative event, and the money raised from business donors in Bahrain and elsewhere went to the crown prince’s scholarship program to educate Bahraini students.

  • 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.”

     
  • 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 Sunday Shows Baselessly Suggest Clinton Gave Favors To Foundation Donors

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News’ Sunday shows continued to hype the claim by the conservative group Judicial Watch that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton gave favors to a Clinton Foundation donor when she was secretary of state. The Fox reports ignored that the emails provide no evidence of the donor seeking to benefit from the State Department and that the person the donor asked to meet has “never met nor spoken” with him.

  • Right-Wing Media Attempt To Scandalize Cheryl Mills Volunteer Trip For Clinton Foundation, Ignoring Undermining Evidence

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    A CNN investigation alleged that former Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills potentially violated ethics rules by traveling to New York for the Clinton Foundation while also employed by the State Department -- yet it also noted that she was doing unpaid volunteer work on the trip, thus debunking its own claim. Numerous right-wing media outlets reported on the matter either without mentioning or by glossing over the volunteer aspect.

  • Myths & Facts: $400 Million Payment To Iran

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are distorting a new report in The Wall Street Journal detailing a payment of $400 million from the United States government to the Iranian government to resolve an arms sale dispute dating to 1981. Conservative outlets are suggesting the payment “was definitely ransom” paid for American prisoners held in Iran, claiming “the administration did not reveal this to the public,” suggesting that Hillary Clinton was wrong to say the report is “old news,” and that airlifting cash to make the payment was essentially “money laundering.” But past reporting and explanations from the administration reveal “no concrete evidence that the cash payment was, in fact, a ransom,” that many of the details of the payments were made public in January, Clinton correctly noted the payment has been public for “seven or eight months,” and making the payment in cash was the only way to legally do it due to economic sanctions against Iran.

  • Wash. Post Editorial Board Excoriates Trump’s “Ignorance” And “Contempt For The Constitution”

    Post Editorial Board: “A Trump Presidency Would Be Dangerous For The Nation And The World”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an editorial titled “Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy,” The Washington Post’s editorial board excoriated the Republican nominee, warning “his contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.”

    Following Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention in which he accepted the Republican nomination for president, media called out Trump’s “campaign of fear,” with some saying the Republican Party “died” as a result of Trump’s nomination.

    After Trump’s acceptance speech, The Washington Post’s editorial board flatly stated that they “cannot salute the Republican nominee” because of Trump’s “contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends.” The Post’s editorial board added that Trump “doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power” and that electing “Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject [the United States’ democratic system] to threat.” From the July 22 editorial:

    Donald J. Trump, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.

    Any one of these characteristics would be disqualifying; together, they make Mr. Trump a peril. We recognize that this is not the usual moment to make such a statement. In an ordinary election year, we would acknowledge the Republican nominee, move on to the Democratic convention and spend the following months, like other voters, evaluating the candidates’ performance in debates, on the stump and in position papers. This year we will follow the campaign as always, offering honest views on all the candidates. But we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.

    [...]

    Given his ignorance, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Trump offers no coherence when it comes to policy. In years past, he supported immigration reform, gun control and legal abortion; as candidate, he became a hard-line opponent of all three. Even in the course of the campaign, he has flip-flopped on issues such as whether Muslims should be banned from entering the United States and whether women who have abortions should be punished . Worse than the flip-flops is the absence of any substance in his agenda. Existing trade deals are “stupid,” but Mr. Trump does not say how they could be improved. The Islamic State must be destroyed, but the candidate offers no strategy for doing so. Eleven million undocumented immigrants must be deported, but Mr. Trump does not tell us how he would accomplish this legally or practically.

    [...]

    Most alarming is Mr. Trump’s contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends. He doesn’t know what is in the nation’s founding document. When asked by a member of Congress about Article I, which enumerates congressional powers, the candidate responded, “I am going to abide by the Constitution whether it’s number 1, number 2, number 12, number 9.” The charter has seven articles.

    Worse, he doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power. He has threatened that those who criticize him will suffer when he is president. He has vowed to torture suspected terrorists and bomb their innocent relatives, no matter the illegality of either act. He has vowed to constrict the independent press. He went after a judge whose rulings angered him, exacerbating his contempt for the independence of the judiciary by insisting that the judge should be disqualified because of his Mexican heritage. Mr. Trump has encouraged and celebrated violence at his rallies. The U.S. democratic system is strong and has proved resilient when it has been tested before. We have faith in it. But to elect Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject it to threat.

  • Media Stunned As Cruz's Non-Endorsement Tears Apart RNC Convention: “What A Disaster”

    Media Note Cruz “Body Slammed” Trump’s Convention And “Ruined” The Night

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY, NICK FERNANDEZ & BRENDAN KARET

    Media figures expressed disbelief over Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) refusal to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, calling him a “sore loser” who “ruined” the night.

  • Colorado Editorial Board Fails To Disclose Conflict Of Interest While Heralding Senate Candidate Darryl Glenn

    ››› ››› MARLEE PITTMAN

    The editorial board of The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs, CO, has consistently praised U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn (R) without ever disclosing the financial ties between the editorial board and the campaign. Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show that the wife of Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen received over $3,000 for campaign consulting services in 2015.

  • GOP Lawmakers Latch Onto Fox’s Unsubstantiated Claims About A Clinton Foundation Investigation

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    GOP lawmakers reportedly circulated a letter requesting several federal agencies investigate the Clinton Foundation, parroting “unresolved media reports” to allege that the nonprofit was a “lawless ‘pay to play’ enterprise.” This latest move echoes months of unsubstantiated assertions from Fox News that the foundation was already under investigation for supposed abuses during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.