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  • Leaked Fox Memo Says Online Polls "Do Not Meet Our Editorial Standards"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Business Insider reported that the Fox News vice president for public-opinion research sent an internal memo “reminding television producers and the politics team that unscientific online polls ‘do not meet our editorial standards.’” 

    After the September 26 presidential debate, Fox News hosts and contributors repeatedly cited online polls, which largely favored Republican nominee Donald Trump, to defend Trump’s widely panned performance. Fox & Friends continued to hype online polls on September 28, the day after the internal Fox memo was sent, with co-host Brian Kilmeade stating that “the online polls show [Trump] winning an overwhelming margin.” In fact, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton dominated in scientific polls. 

    The September 27 memo, sent by Dana Blanton, Fox News’ vice president of public-opinion research, noted that “quick vote items posted on the web are nonsense, not true measures of public opinion.” Blanton wrote that "the sample obviously can't be representative of the electorate because they only reflect the views of those Internet users who have chosen to participate.” From the September 28 Business Insider article:

    A Fox News executive sent a memo Tuesday afternoon reminding television producers and the politics team that unscientific online polls "do not meet our editorial standards."

    Dana Blanton, the vice president of public-opinion research at Fox News, explained in the memo obtained by Business Insider that "online 'polls' like the one on Drudge, Time, etc. where people can opt-in or self-select … are really just for fun."

    "As most of the publications themselves clearly state, the sample obviously can't be representative of the electorate because they only reflect the views of those Internet users who have chosen to participate," Blanton wrote.

    As the Fox News executive pointed out, users who participate in such polls must have internet access, be online at the time of the poll, be fans of the website in question, and self-select to participate.

    "Another problem — we know some campaigns/groups of supporters encourage people to vote in online polls and flood the results," she wrote. "These quickie click items do not meet our editorial standards."

    At least three Fox News hosts cited unscientific online polls in the hours following Monday's presidential debate to suggest Donald Trump emerged as the winner of the political showdown.

    While Trump did, in fact, come out ahead in a slew of online polls, the polls were all unscientific, meaning the sample of participants did not accurately reflect the sample of viewers who watched the debate. Such polls are almost always discounted by professional pollsters and analysts.

    The only scientific survey conducted in the immediate aftermath was the CNN/ORC instant poll, which showed viewers thought Hillary Clinton handily defeated Trump. Respondents to a Morning Consult poll released Wednesday also said, by a 49% to 26% margin, that Clinton bested Trump in the debate.

    "News networks and other organizations go to great effort and rigor to conduct scientific polls — for good reason," Blanton wrote in the memo. "They know quick vote items posted on the web are nonsense, not true measures of public opinion."

  • 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.

  • Report: Trump Campaign Continues To Pay CNN’s Corey Lewandowski For Consulting Work

    Consulting Payment Appears To Differ From Severance From Trump Campaign, Which CNN Discloses

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN political commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “was paid $20,000 in August” by the Republican presidential nominee's campaign for “‘strategy consulting,’” according to The Washington Post. The payment escalates CNN’s unprecedented conflict of interest in which Lewandowski is on the payroll of both CNN and the campaign, and it raises questions about the extent of Lewandowski’s role in the Trump campaign.

    Lewandowski, who was hired by CNN as a political commentator in June, is still currently receiving severance from the campaign. Lewandowski’s firm was also paid a “regular $20,000 monthly fee” for “advice” in July by the Trump campaign.

    The ethical morass that has accompanied Lewandowski’s appearances on CNN given that he still advising, traveling with, and drawing payment from Trump has drawn sustained outcry from journalists and media ethicists. CNN President Jeff Zucker recently defended Lewandowski’s hiring and admitted that he was aware that the former campaign manager continued to receive severance payments from the campaign at the time of his hiring.

    The Washington Post reported on September 21 that Lewandowski “was paid $20,000 in August by the campaign for what it described as ‘strategy consulting,’” once again raising “anew the conflict of interest issue that has dogged the cable network’s hiring of Lewandowski.” The Post wrote that although CNN has been “introducing [Lewandowski’s] appearances … by mentioning that he receives severance from Trump,” the August payment for “‘strategy consulting’” suggests “that Lewandowski is playing a more active and current role in the campaign than ‘severance’ would suggest.” The Post further noted that if CNN is in fact paying Lewandoski to comment on a candidate and campaign he is compensated by, that would be “a conflict that most journalistic organizations prohibit.” From the September 21 Washington Post article:

    CNN commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was paid $20,000 in August by the campaign for what it described as “strategy consulting,” raising anew the conflict of interest issue that has dogged the cable network’s hiring of Lewandowski.

    CNN has said previously that Trump’s payments to Lewandowski and his consulting firm were “severance” for his employment by Trump. It began introducing his appearances on the air last month by mentioning that he receives severance from Trump.

    But the payments continued in August, according to Trump’s campaign expenditure filing released Tuesday night. The description used by Trump’s campaign in the filing — “strategy consulting” — also suggested that Lewandowski is playing a more active and current role in the campaign than “severance” would suggest.

    If so, it would put CNN in the position of employing a person who is also compensated by the campaign and the candidate he comments on — a conflict that most journalistic organizations prohibit.

    Representatives of CNN and Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment early Wednesday.

    Lewandowski has apparently maintained close ties with the campaign despite being fired by Trump and escorted from Trump Tower by security officers in June. Various news reports have described him as an “informal” adviser to the campaign.

    CNN chairman Jeff Zucker has repeatedly defended the hiring of Lewandowski, most recently at an employee town hall meeting on Tuesday, according to the Huffington Post. Zucker has said the network needed to add pro-Trump voices to balance the stable of commentators who support Hillary Clinton and that Lewandowski brought inside knowledge of Trump’s campaign.

    For information on Media Matters’ petition for CNN to cut ties with Lewandowski, please click here.