Media Structures & Regulations

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  • Fox Contributor:"It's Just Not Fair" To Hold Fox News Accountable For Conspiracy Theories Pushed On-Air

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL


    Fox contributor Lauren Ashburn complained that "it's just not fair" for critics to hold Fox News accountable for any misinformation and biased commentary made on-air by the network's paid hosts and contributors, suggesting the network shouldn't be held responsible for a recent conspiracy theory about the timing of Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala's capture, which originated on Fox.

    Khattala was taken into U.S. custody on June 17 for his role in helping lead the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. 

    Fox News hosts and correspondents began immediately questioning the curious timing of Khattala's capture, speculating that it was intended to help Hillary Clinton's book tour and Fox News interview, ignoring the months of planning and preparation spent prior to Khattala's capture. The network even attempted to legitimize its hosts' conspiracy theories by pretending the speculation originated outside of the network.

    On the June 22 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz, Ashburn defended her network, complaining "it's just not fair" for critics to hold Fox News accountable for the conspiracy theories pushed by its hosts and contributors on-air if their commentary isn't an official statement from the network. Discussing criticisms the network received for questioning the timing of the Benghazi suspect's capture, Ashburn said, "the more outlandish the comments, the more the websites are going to say 'oh my gosh, Fox News said this, and they made this point,' and it's funny because Fox News didn't say that, those individual contributors said that." Ashburn concluded "it's just not fair to do that":

  • National Journal's Major Garrett Whitewashes Hillary Clinton's Record On Women's Rights

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Majoy Garrett

    National Journal correspondent-at-large Major Garrett used Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices book tour to whitewash Clinton's long career championing women's rights and leadership, baselessly accusing Clinton of focusing on women's issues for purely selfish reasons.

    In a June 10 column Garrett attacked Hillary Clinton as selfishly obsessed with the notion "that the presidential glass ceiling" is exclusively hers "to break," and accused Clinton of sitting on a "self-built pedestal of inevitability." Garrett challenged Clinton to "do something interesting" and advised her to seize her "sexism opportunity," as "the glass ceiling halts the progress of all women -- not just yours":

    Start by ending the constricting and unpalatable obsession that the presidential glass ceiling is yours and yours alone to break. It isn't. The longer you pretend otherwise, the longer your road to the White House will become. The glass ceiling halts the progress of all women -- not just yours.

    But Garrett's critique ignores Clinton's longstanding history as a champion of women's rights worldwide as well as her advocacy for all women to break the glass ceiling. 

    Most recently, Clinton cheered the opportunity of a female president in a June 4 interview with People, saying, "I'm certainly in the camp that says we need to break down that highest, hardest glass ceiling in American politics." Clinton stressed that despite her desire to see a female president, she hasn't yet made her "own decision about what I think is right for me," underscoring her belief that she does not necessarily have to be the first woman president.

    In April, Hillary Clinton launched "No Ceilings," a series of conversations that focus on professional discrimination and encourage women to break the glass ceiling. 

    Clinton also highlighted the importance of having a female president of the United States in a December interview with Barbara Walters. Admitting that although she did not know who the first female president may be, Clinton promoted a number of capable female senators "on both sides of the aisle" and asserted:

    CLINTON: It matters because we have half the population that has given so much to building this country, to making it work, and of course I want to see a woman in the White House. Because, if I look at my friends and former colleagues who are now in the Senate, it was the women senators on both sides of the aisle who finally broke the fever over the government shutdown and debt limit debate. They have been working across party lines, and we need more of that.

  • New York Times Fails To Disclose Op-Ed Writer Frank Luntz's Connection To Cantor Camp

    Blog ››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER

    The New York Times failed to disclose Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz's financial ties to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in an op-ed it published on Cantor's loss.

    On June 11, the Times offered Luntz a platform to analyze the surprise primary defeat of Cantor by challenger Dave Brat and discuss the failings of polls, which had predicted a Cantor victory. At the end of the op-ed, the Times noted that Luntz works as "a communications adviser and Republican pollster" and "is president of Luntz Global Partners, a consulting firm," but did not disclose Luntz's direct ties to the Cantor camp.

    What the Times didn't mention is that Luntz Global has received more than $15,000 in consulting fees from Cantor's campaign since 2012. According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, Cantor paid Luntz Global $2,354 for "seminar expenses" on February 27, $5,000 for "speech consulting" on December 12, and $8,000 for "speech writing" on April 9, 2012.

    CBS News has already come under fire for a similar failure to disclose Luntz's connections to the Cantor campaign after it turned to Luntz for political analysis of Cantor's loss. As Media Matters reported, veteran media critics and reporters slammed the omission: former New York Times media writer and director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University Alex S. Jones said that the lack of disclosure was either "bad" or "corrupt" journalism, and former Washington Post ombudsman Andy Alexander said:

    It's Journalism 101. Anything that could impact the credibility of the person being interviewed should be disclosed. It's a matter of being honest and transparent with your audience.

    Other media experts made similar points.

    New York Times reporter Derek Willis responded to the Luntz piece by tweeting, "Did we really publish an oped from Frank Luntz without telling readers he *worked* for Cantor's campaign?"

  • MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski Amends Thoughts On Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Morning Joe

    Following days of ill-informed critiques of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski acknowledged that she is excited about the prospects of what Clinton could do for women as a presidential candidate in light of beginning to read Clinton's new memoir. 

    On the June 11 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski amended previous critiques of Hillary Clinton, noting that after beginning to read Clinton's book Hard Choices, she's "excited" about the valuable impact Clinton could have on women: 

    BRZEZINSKI: I have an amendment to make to the questions I've been asking. I am excited at the prospects of what she can do for women. I really am.

  • REPORT: Fox's Nonstop Benghazi Coverage Is A $124 Million Boon For The GOP

    Blog ››› ››› EMILY ARROWOOD

    Just two weeks of Fox News' Benghazi coverage is worth over $124 million, according to a Media Matters study. 

    Fox's coverage of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya went into overdrive in the wake of House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) announcement on May 2 that Republicans would form a select committee to further investigate the tragedy. The decision marked a victory for the network, which has dedicated months -- and years -- to pushing misinformation and demanding answers to questions already addressed in the public record. 

    According to a Media Matters study of publicity values for Fox programming, the network's never-ending effort to hawk the GOP's Benghazi theories amounts to a public relations windfall for Republicans valued at over $124 million.

    For the two weeks following the select committee announcement, Media Matters reviewed TVEyes Media Monitoring Suite, a subscription-only database of television broadcasts, for Fox's weekday coverage of Benghazi. Data revealed that the network devoted over 16 hours and 27 minutes -- at least 225 segments -- to Benghazi in that time period. According to TVEyes' "national publicity value," which estimates the value of 30-second slots on any given program, this coverage carries a value of approximately $124,234,562.74.

    And yet, given the fervor with which Fox has politicized the tragedy since September 2012, this amount almost certainly represents but a fraction of the publicity value Benghazi scandal mongers have enjoyed from the network's devotion to their phony attacks.

  • "Fox Facts" On The IRS Aren't Facts At All

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Fox's "Fox Facts" on the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) scrutiny of Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status get the facts exactly wrong.

    Judicial Watch released a batch of IRS email correspondence under a Freedom Of Information Act request on May 14. The emails include a chain of correspondence between the Cincinnati IRS office and the Washington, D.C. based office dating back to February 2010, when a Cincinnati IRS employee first flagged a Tea Party group seeking tax-exempt status for further review. The full email chain shows that the Washington, D.C. office's involvement was all in response to the initial inquiry from Cincinnati.

    Yet right-wing media latched onto a midsection of the email chain, from July 2010, to push the conspiracy theory that Washington directed inappropriate targeting of conservative groups.

    The falsehood made its way onto the May 16 edition of Fox News'America's Newsroom in an on-screen graphic presented as "Fox Facts." The on-screen "Fox Facts" falsely claimed that the emails newly revealed by Judicial Watch prove that the targeting of conservative groups stemmed from Washington, D.C. rather than Cincinnati:


    When it comes to manufacturing scandals, Fox isn't one to let facts stand in their way. 

  • When Attempts To Correct Fox's Benghazi Hoax Amount To A Cover-Up

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    In a new variation of what Politico's Michael Hirsh deemed the "Benghazi-industrial complex," Fox News is suggesting that the Obama administration's strategy to push back against the network's Benghazi misinformation amounts to a cover-up.

    Writing in Politico Magazine, Hirsh highlighted what he called the "Benghazi-Industrial Complex," the GOP's tactic to use Benghazi conspiracy theories to make former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "so disgusted by the prospect of running that she'll stay out of the race" for president in 2016. Hirsh explained how Fox News has led the way in this campaign, creating outlandish conspiracy theories such as the claim that "Hillary staged her concussion in 2012" to avoid addressing Benghazi on the Sunday news shows. Hirsh continued:

    Fox, in fact, has made Benghazi a permanent part of its programming, mentioning the word on no fewer than 1,101 programs in the past year, according to Nexis. The chyron "Benghazi" is almost as much of a permanent fixture on Fox as "Breaking News" is on CNN.

    Fox News has worked from the beginning to spread misinformation about the attacks. In the days after the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, the network consistently distorted the Obama administration's responseaccusing the president of "covering-up for al Qaeda." In one of the most egregious attacks on the president in the weeks following the attack, Fox pretended Obama called the "vicious murder of Americans ... just a bump in the road."

    The network's lies about Benghazi could -- and did -- fill novels, and its Benghazi hoax eventually led House Republicans to call a special select committee based the false information reported on Fox.

  • Conservatives Demand GOP Stay In The Right-Wing Media Bubble

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Paul RyanIn December 2012, BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins reported that in the wake of their devastating electoral defeat, Republicans were looking to "break their Fox addiction" by working with mainstream outlets, not just conservatives ones. "As operatives are increasingly realizing," Coppins wrote, "many of these outlets have limited reach beyond the fervent Republican base, and the talking points politicians declaim often resonate only in the conservative echo chamber."

    A year and a half later, the reaction to Coppins' latest piece shows one roadblock to GOP efforts to reach out to mainstream media and the voters who don't get their news from ideological sources: a jealous right-wing media that wants increased access to Republican leaders. 

    Coppins' April 28 BuzzFeed profile chronicled how Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is "doing something rather unprecedented for a Republican: He is spending unchoreographed time with poor people," purportedly in order to inform his policy-making in that arena. The BuzzFeed writer was given exclusive access to Ryan during one such trip to visit the impoverished. His article drew swift criticism from progressives who said that Coppins credulously accepted Ryan's rhetoric on the issue while downplaying the impact that the massive cuts to poverty-fighting programs in Ryan's budget would have on the poor if it were implemented.

    But right-wing outlets have a very different critique of the article: They think it made Ryan look bad, proving that he never should have cooperated with Coppins in the first place.

    Breitbart's Matthew Boyle writes that Ryan "comes across as a deeply awkward millionaire paralyzed by political correctness as he struggles to identify with a black church congregation," citing two anecdotes from the piece. He concludes that Ryan's aides should not have granted Coppins access in the first place. The idea that the Republican congressman from Wisconsin might actually have been awkward in that situation goes unmentioned, with the implication that if Boyle had been the one traveling with Ryan, he'd have reported a more flattering piece.

    Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt likewise writes that the Coppins profile did not "do much or even any good" for Ryan, and bemoans how Republican press aides "resist having their bosses sit down with their natural allies in the center-right press" instead of giving access to mainstream reporters. He provides a list of reporters at The Daily Caller,, the Weekly Standard, and The Washington Free Beacon, concluding, "Don't ask me why they were not invited along with Ryan but McKay was. Part of the ongoing epic fail of Beltway GOP communications strategy. Hopefully it will change before 2016 arrives."

    Boyle and Hewitt are criticizing Ryan for following a strategy that Republican operatives had identified as necessary to improve the party's national standing and win presidential elections.

    The Republican National Committee's analysis of the 2012 election found that if the GOP wanted to win national elections, it had to change the minds of voters who believe the party "does not care about people," particularly those living in poverty. Ryan's effort to speak out on poverty seems consistent with that report's advice.

    But as the operatives Coppins spoke with in 2012 pointed out, it's difficult to shift the poverty narrative if Republicans only talk about the issue with conservative reporters, as Hewitt and Boyle suggest.

    Of course conservative journalists will always want more access and scoops. But demanding them at the expense of mainstream outlets traps the GOP between their conservative media supporters and their desire to win elections.