Media Structures & Regulations

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  • Donald Trump Praises The Media After A Nearly Year-Long Attack On The Press

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump praised the media in his victory speech and in morning show interviews after sweeping all five April 26 GOP primaries, a sharp shift in his campaign’s history of attacking journalists and news outlets.

    During an April 26 victory speech, Trump said, “I want to thank the media. The media’s really covered me very fair for the last two hours.” Trump continued, “They’ve been really very fair over the last few weeks.” The following morning, Trump made the morning news show circuit, telling the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the show's coverage of him has been "great." (Morning Joe has previously been widely criticized by other members of the media for their soft Trump coverage.) Trump added that hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski had given him a "hard time" in some cases, to which Brzezinski responded, "We gave you a hard time on things we disagreed with, but we always thought your candidacy was successful." On CNN’s New Day, Trump asserted that “CNN’s doing a very good job" of covering the election.

    During the morning of April 27, ABC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all allowed Trump to phone in for interviews. Networks' unprecedented practice of allowing Trump to regularly do phone interviews rather than make in person or satellite appearances offers Trump an advantage against probing and hard-hitting interviews.

    Trump’s tone towards the media is markedly different from his consistent attacks on the press throughout the entirety of his nearly year-long campaign. Trump’s history of attacking journalists and news outlets includes blacklisting multiple reporters from his events, kicking Univision anchor Jorge Ramos out of a news conference, and mocking a reporter’s disability after receiving supposedly unfavorable coverage. Multiple reporters and photographers have been reportedly threatened or injured by Trump campaign officials and security. Trump’s favorable comments to CNN directly contrast with his threats last month to skip a March 29 CNN town hall, where he cited “one-sided and unfair reporting” from the network.

    Trump infamously attacked Fox News host Megyn Kelly for months after she asked a question about his history of sexism during the August 6 Fox Republican presidential debate, culminating in his boycott of Fox's January 28 debate. In an interview after the August 6 debate, Trump said that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” during the debate, later retweeted a comment calling Kelly a “bimbo,” and called her “Crazy Megyn.”

    During a February 26 press conference, Trump promised to sue the media for negative stories about him if he’s elected president, saying he would “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money." The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called those statements a “threat to American democracy” and a “logical extension” of Trump’s attacks on the press.

    In recent weeks several media figures have fallen for claims that Trump has evolved to demonstrate a more "presidential" tone, while other journalists have urged their colleagues not to forget his history of insulting and extreme statements.

  • Donald Trump Returning To Hannity For Another Softball Interview

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox News’ Sean Hannity is slated to interview Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on the April 25 edition of his show, for Trump’s reaction “to Kasich and Cruz teaming up against him” in upcoming primary elections. Hannity has received widespread criticism for his relationship with Donald Trump and has repeatedly admitted he gives “soft” interviews to Republican candidates.

    Hannity has received widespread and bipartisan criticism for giving Trump a “friendly outlet” and treating him “in a way that’s gentle in order to get him to come back.” On April 11,ThinkProgress pointed out that Trump has appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show “an astonishing 41 times since he announced his campaign,” giving him a nearly yearlong platform to target GOP voters. Conservative website RedState claimed ThinkProgress' report showed that Hannity “has become, for all intents and purposes, part of Trump’s campaign apparatus.” On April 23, the Associated Press reported that Hannity had a “nasty spat” with Cruz “following criticism from both the left and right about his interviews with Donald Trump" (Hannity will also interview Cruz tonight).

    After being criticized for being a “very soft interviewer,” Hannity defended himself by asserting, “I’m not a journalist, I’m a talk show host.” Hannity doubled down on his radio show, saying he’s not critical of Trump or Cruz because he wants the Republican nominee to win. He has also said he “absolutely plead[s] guilty” to “going soft in interviews on Republicans.”

    Indeed, the neologism "Hannitize" was coined to describe efforts by conservatives "to clean up a messy situation with a softball interview, typically one conducted by Sean Hannity." Trump has frequently appeared on Hannity's program to receive positive treatment for his efforts to rebound from gaffes or scandals.

  • Sean Hannity Goes On Twitter Tirade After Contentious Interview With Ted Cruz

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Radio host Sean Hannity responded to critics on Twitter after his contentious interview with GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) where Cruz called Hannity a Trump supporter for questioning the delegate process.

    On the April 19 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity asked Cruz about his recent election victories and whether his delegate wins raise questions about the "integrity of the election," which received immediate condemnation from Cruz. During the argument, Hannity pushed back against Cruz claiming that "Every time I have you on the air, and I ask a legitimate question, you try to throw this in my face," prompting Cruz to respond that "as I travel the country, nobody is asking me this, other than the Trumpsters and the people repeating it."

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I think the number one question on the minds of Republicans right now is what is going on with the delegates. For example, if you can explain to people that your campaign, that you have every right within the rules, to talk to candidates that are pledged on a first ballot, to Candidate A or Candidate C, you being Candidate B, and that -- tell us what that process is. You are assuming this is going to the convention, you told me that in the last two interviews. So as part of that, you’re hoping to get to a second ballot. In other words, in a second ballot people that support Donald Trump or John Kasich or Marco Rubio, if those delegates are still relevant, can then switch their votes. So you are in the process of talking to delegates and it seems to be very extensive. Can you explain to people what's going on?

    TED CRUZ: Sean, with all respect, that's not what people are concerned about. I'm campaigning every day, people are concerned about bringing jobs back to America. People are concerned about raising wages. People are concerned about getting the federal government off the backs of small businesses, and people are concerned about beating Hillary. And the media loves to obsess about process, this process, and this whining from the Trump campaign, it's all silly. It's very, very simple --

    HANNITY: Senator, I'm -- hang on a second, I'm on social media with millions of people. I have 550 radio stations, and I have the top rated cable show in my hour, all across the board. And I am telling you that people are telling me that they find this whole process confusing. You know, I can read the articles, for example, about -- you know, people want to know about what actually happened in Georgia this weekend, where people that have, I guess, on the first ballot are going to Donald Trump, but representatives of yours talked to them, and are persuading them to vote for you on a second ballot. That is an important question, because I think most of people would like to know how this works, and I'm really am asking you more than a process question. It's an integrity of the election question, and everybody's asking me this question. So I'm giving you an opportunity to explain it.

    CRUZ: Sean, the only people asking this question are the hardcore Donald Trump supporters.

    HANNITY: Why do you -- but senator, why do you do this? Every single time I -- no, you gotta stop. Every time I have you on the air, and I ask a legitimate question, you try to throw this in my face. I'm getting sick of it. I've had you on more than any other candidate, on radio and TV. So if I ask you senator, a legitimate question that would explain to the audience, why wouldn't you just answer it?

    CRUZ: Sean, can I answer your question without being interrupted?

    HANNITY: Go ahead.

    CRUZ: In the last three weeks, there have been five elections in five states. Utah, North Dakota, WIsconsin, Colorado, Wyoming. We've won all five, over 1.3 million people voted in those five states, we won all five. All of this noise and complaining and whining has come from the Trump campaign, because they don't like the fact that they've lost five elections in a row, that Republicans are uniting behind our campaign, so they are screaming on Drudge, and it's getting echoed, this notion of voterless election. It is nonsense that they are making it up. Over 1.3 million people voted, we won landslides in all five. Now, there is a second component beyond the elections, which is the individual delegates are elected by the people. Donald Trump's campaign does not know how to organize on the grassroots.

    [...]

    We are winning election after election after election, and nobody, as I travel the country, nobody is asking me this, other than the Trumpsters and the people repeating it.

    After the interview, Hannity went on a tirade on Twitter explaining his contentious interview to journalists and followers:

  • Why Won't The New York Times Tell The Truth About "Bathroom Predators" In Its Reporting?

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTIANO LIMA

    The New York Times has failed to debunk the "bathroom predator" myth in its reporting on North Carolina's anti-LGBT bathroom law, despite its own editorial board acknowledging that the myth "exists only in the imagination of bigots."

    On March 23, North Carolina legislators passed a law, House Bill 2 (HB2), barring transgender people from certain bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificates. Proponents of the law falsely claim it’s needed to stop sexual predators from sneaking into women's restrooms by claiming to be transgender.

    The New York Times' own editorial board has described that talking point as baseless, writing in a March 25 editorial (emphasis added):

    Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the bill into law late Wednesday, said it was necessary to undo Charlotte’s ordinance, which included protections for gay and transgender people, because it allowed “men to use women’s bathroom/locker room.” Proponents of so-called bathroom bills, which have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, have peddled them by spuriously portraying transgender women as potential rapists.

    That threat exists only in the imagination of bigots. Supporters of the measures have been unable to point to a single case that justifies the need to legislate where people should be allowed to use the toilet. North Carolina is the first state to pass such a provision.

    [...]

    By promoting the ludicrous idea that transgender women are inherently dangerous, the law endangers citizens who are already disproportionately vulnerable to violence and stigmatization.

    Despite this, the Times has failed to debunk the "bathroom predator" myth in its reporting on HB2, choosing instead to create a false equivalency by uncritically presenting comments from both opponents and supporters of the law.

    • On March 28, the Times reported that "some conservatives complained that the [North Carolina] ordinance would endanger women and girls by allowing people who are anatomically male to use their restrooms," adding that "transgender advocates dismiss that as nonsense, saying that transgender people have been using their chosen bathrooms for years without incident."

    • On March 29, the Times reported that lawmakers focused on “the contention that it might allow men dressed as women to enter bathrooms and commit assaults,” and noted that “critics say there is no evidence that has happened elsewhere.”

    • On April 1, the newspaper reported that "lawmakers had said that they were trying to prevent men from dressing as women to enter bathrooms and commit assaults," adding that "Critics said there was no evidence that had happened."

    • On April 11, the Times quoted Lt. Gov. Dan Forest who perpetuated the myth stating, “If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, it was worth it,” yet failed to include any pushback to Forest's claim.

    The Times adopted that same false equivalency in its reporting on anti-discrimination ordinances in cites like Jacksonville, FL and Houston, TX despite its editorial board acknowledging that the "bathroom predator" myth is "completely unfounded."

    That kind of false balance is a form of misinformation -- it distorts reality and makes it harder for readers to figure out the truth. In 2012, The New York Times' Public Editor Margaret Sullivan called attention to the issue of false balance and encouraged journalists “to make every effort to get beyond the spin and help readers know what to believe,” writing:

    Simply put, false balance is the journalistic practice of giving equal weight to both sides of a story, regardless of an established truth on one side. And many people are fed up with it. They don’t want to hear lies or half-truths given credence on one side, and shot down on the other. They want some real answers.

    […]

    It ought to go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: Journalists need to make every effort to get beyond the spin and help readers know what to believe, to help them make their way through complicated and contentious subjects.

    The more news organizations can state established truths and stand by them, the better off the readership — and the democracy — will be.

    The Times' editorial board has correctly and repeatedly stated that the "bathroom predator" talking point is baseless and harmful. But that kind of truth-telling needs to show up in its reporting on laws like North Carolina's, rather than being relegated to its opinion section.

  • Rupert Murdoch’s NY Post Joins National Enquirer And Paper Owned By Trump’s Son-In-Law In Endorsing Trump

    New York Post Editorial Board: “Trump Is Now An Imperfect Messenger Carrying A Vital Message”

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post endorsed GOP candidate Donald Trump in the Republican race for the White House, joining The National Enquirer and The New York Observer as the only publications to endorse Trump in the Republican primary.

    Ahead of the April 19 New York GOP primary contest, the New York Post editorial board released a statement endorsing Trump as “an imperfect messenger carrying a vital message.” The Post ignored what it called Trump’s “amateurish, divisive — and downright coarse” rhetoric to praise his “political incorrectness”:

    Trump’s language, too, has too often been amateurish, divisive — and downright coarse.

    But what else to expect from someone who’s never been a professional politician and reflects common-man passions?

    Indeed, his political incorrectness is one of his great attractions — it proves he’s not one of “them.” He’s challenging the victim culture that has turned into a victimizing culture.

    In the general election, we’d expect Trump to stay true to his voters — while reaching out to those he hasn’t won yet.

    Trump is now an imperfect messenger carrying a vital message. But he reflects the best of “New York values” — and offers the best hope for all Americans who rightly feel betrayed by the political class.

    He has the potential — the skills, the know-how, the values — to live up to his campaign slogan: to make America great again.

    For those reasons, The Post today endorses Donald Trump in the GOP primary.

    Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the Post and the executive chairman of the Post’s parent company, News Corp. has supported Trump throughout the primary and called for GOP candidates to “close ranks to fight the real enemy.” News Corp. is also the parent company of Fox News, which has given Trump a disproportionate amount of media coverage and favorable interviews.

    The Post joins the The National Enquirer and The New York Observer as the only publications to endorse Trump in the election. The endorsements both received scrutiny due to the relationships Trump shares with both publications. Trump’s son-in-law is the publisher of The Observer and it has been reported that Trump is close friends with David Pecker, the CEO of The Enquirer’s publisher American Media, Inc.

  • "I'm Not A Journalist": Sean Hannity Attacks Critics For Calling Out His Softball Interviews With Trump

    Hannity Claims He Gives Softball Interviews To All Republicans Because He Agrees With Them

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Fox's Sean Hannity responded to criticism of his coverage of GOP front-runner Donald Trump by publishing data showing that he has dedicated more than over four hours of interviews to Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and more than 30 interviews to each on his Fox News show. Hannity also explained that his softball interviews were based on his agreement with the Republican vision, not a bias in favor of any one candidate.

    In an April 11 piece, ThinkProgress pointed out that Trump has appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show “an astonishing 41 times since he announced his campaign, giving him a nearly yearlong platform to target GOP voters. Conservative website RedState claimed ThinkProgress' report showed that Hannity “has become, for all intents and purposes, part of Trump’s campaign apparatus.”

    Hannity’s executive producer, Lynda McLaughlin published an April 14 blog on his website responding to both pieces by highlighting the amount of total airtime he has given the all the Republican candidates:

    To put this plainly, there is no conspiracy here to give one candidate more time over another. The candidates have an open invitation to come on the show, and it is their choice to take that offer or ignore it. Here is the breakdown of candidate times on the radio show since they announced through March of this year (limited to the last top 4 candidates):

    Texas Senator Ted Cruz: 188:39
    Florida Senator Marco Rubio: 141:00
    Businessman and Entrepreneur Donald Trump: 112:28
    Governor of Ohio John Kasich: 87:52

    Time on 'Hannity' TV Show since each candidate announced:

    Texas Senator Ted Cruz: 34 appearances
    Businessman and Entrepreneur Donald Trump: 32 appearances
    Governor John Kasich of Ohio: 20 appearances

    In an accompanying video, Hannity defended his softball interviews with Donald Trump and other candidates, claiming that ThinkProgress and RedState cherry-picked his interviews. Later Hannity admitted that he would interview Hillary Clinton “a hundred times harder than any Republican, because I believe the Republicans represent, and have a far better vision, one that I agree with, I just have less disagreement with them,” concluding "I'm not a journalist, I'm a talk show host" (emphasis added):

    SEAN HANNITY: Here's a website, ThinkProgress, remember they did the structural imbalance of talk radio so many years ago? And then they did this hit piece, "Hannity Interviewed Donald Trump 41 Times, And Never Made News," or something to that effect, which is just not true. And they picked some of the easier questions that I asked Donald Trump, which they could have done with any other candidate that I have interviewed. I'll be honest, I'm not sitting here -- If I'm interviewing Hillary Clinton, it's gonna be a hundred times harder than any Republican, because I believe the Republicans represent, and have a far better vision, one that I agree with, I just have less disagreement with them. I'm not a journalist, I'm a talk show host. I can't think of any question that has come up, that I have wanted to ask these candidates, that was relevant to ask these candidates, that I haven't asked them. I've asked them everything.

    Media Matters study found that in 2015, Hannity hosted 35 percent of all total interviews of Trump on Fox News. Hannity also gave Trump the vast majority of interviews compared to other GOP candidates in 2015 at 35 percent with over 8 hours of total airtime: