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  • Media Criticize Trump's Plan To Force Mexico To Pay For His Border Wall By Threatening To Block Remittances

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    The Washington Post reported that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said he would compel Mexico to pay for his proposed border wall by threatening to block money that Mexican immigrants send to their home country, commonly known as remittances. The Post called the proposal's legality "unclear," while other media outlets, including the digital news division for the largest Spanish-language network, Univision, also cast doubt on the plan's feasibility and ethics.

  • Media Echo Inaccurate GOP Talking Points To Blame Obama And Biden For Republican SCOTUS Obstructionism

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media inaccurately equated President Obama's 2006 Senate filibuster vote of then-Judge Samuel Alito and Vice President Biden's 1992 comments on the Senate floor about a Supreme Court nomination in an election year to Senate Republicans' unprecedented attempts to block the president's nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland.

  • Media Critics: Networks Should Hang Up On Trump Phone Interviews

    "Trump Has Become His Own Executive Producer"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    News outlets that allow Donald Trump to eschew on-camera interviews in favor of phone call-ins are being criticized by television news veterans and media critics who say the format gives Trump an upper hand and can diminish the interview.

    Networks have faced criticism over letting Trump call in to shows for months. In September, Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone explained that thanks to the phone format, Trump "can better control the conversation when he's not facing his interviewer on camera. It's easier for him to speak over the host to change the subject, or to refer to notes."

    The issue returned to the spotlight this week after Trump had been scheduled to do a series of interviews on major morning news shows via satellite, but switched to phone call-ins after he reportedly "didn't like the look of the live shot."

    Several networks allowed Trump to call in, but CBS This Morning declined, citing the show's policy against phone interviews.

    Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace has also barred Trump from calling in to his program, but that has not stopped other Fox shows from allowing Trump to stay off camera and on the phone. According to a count by BuzzFeed, television news outlets have interviewed Trump by phone "an unprecedented 69 times in the last 69 days."

    This week, Media Matters launched a petition calling on news networks to stop conducting phone interviews with Trump.

    Observers contend that a call-in interview lacks the balance of a face-to-face exchange because the audience and the interviewer are not allowed to see Trump's expressions and reactions. They say it is also more difficult to follow-up and put the subject on the spot to answer questions more directly.   

    "It's definitely better because you can control it, you can ask follow-up questions," David Zurawik, media critic with The Baltimore Suntold Media Matters. "On a phone it really shifts control away from the interviewer, I don't think anyone can dispute that. I was really glad CBS said no, but I think the cable channels are addicted to the ratings."

    David Folkenflik, media reporter for National Public Radio, agreed.

    "It is a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump because he is such an unpredictable and explosive figure," he said, adding, "The first order is you want to get somebody in person, so the interviewer and person are together. The anchors and the producers control the setting. You want to do it in person, or on camera remote. When things get really dicey is when you can't do that. Television is a visual media, you want to see their facial expressions, it is worth having that. Trump is so expressive." 

    Folkenflik and others said many outlets are willing to have Trump on by phone because he gets ratings, but say that is not an excuse.

    "They know when Trump comes on ratings spike up. I don't think programmers are too desperate to put John Kasich on a cell phone for an interview," he said. "They let his rallies and other events be on the air for long stretches of time with minimal interruptions because they just don't know what the guy is going to say. There are other candidates -- there are other candidates in the other party and they are not getting anything like that."

    Marvin Kalb, a long-time former NBC News Washington correspondent and one-time Meet the Press host, praised CBS for declining to let Trump call in and said others should do the same.

    "Hooray for CBS," Kalb said. "The way in which this has emerged, Trump has become his own executive producer in American television. The networks appear obediently to go along with his call."

    "It is television and you want to see things," he added. "In his case, he is asking for something that is very special, he is changing the rules of the game, you want to ask yourself why? From the network point of view, it ought to be news value."

    In an interview with Media Matters last month about the media's general failure to properly scrutinize Trump, former New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt called foul on the phone interviews, saying, "Broadcasting and cable maybe aren't being as tough as they should be. I have questioned having him on by telephone, it's deferring to him in a way, letting him set ground rules that they don't for others. You do not see his demeanor and it is not the same as having him sit across from an interrogator."

    Frank Sesno, a former CNN White House correspondent and current director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, said this week that the limited access is a negative.  

    "When Trump is on the phone he can talk over the interviewer, he can do it in his pajamas," Sesno said. "He can get so much free airtime that it starts to challenge us as journalists as to what our role is in providing free media for the candidate."

  • State Dept. Concludes Past Secretaries Of State "Definitively" Handled Classified Information On Private Email

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ABC News detailed a final State Department investigation which concluded that past secretaries of state, including Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice's immediate staff, "handled classified material on unclassified email systems." The findings come as the FBI investigates a private email server used by Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state. 

    For months, conservative media figures have attacked Clinton, baselessly accusing her of wrongdoing for receiving State Department emails on her private email account while secretary of state. On February 4, reports emerged that Colin Powell and aides to Condoleezza Rice also used private email accounts when they served under former President George W. Bush, and some of their emails similarly contained information that was retroactively classified. 

    The March 4 ABC News article reported that "a final memorandum" issued by "[t]he State Department's internal investigation arm" found that former secretaries of state "handled classified material on unclassified email systems." The State Department found that emails handled on private email accounts associated with Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice contain "information classified at the Secret or Confidential levels.'" Former Secretary Powell responded that those identified emails were not marked "'Confidential at the time and they were sent as unclassified,'" seemingly underscoring Secretary Clinton's defense that "the State Department is classifying documents too aggressively" (emphasis added):

    The State Department's internal investigation arm issued a final memorandum today on the email practices of past and current secretaries of state, and it said definitively that past secretaries handled classified material on unclassified email systems.

    The same claims were made in an early February memo when the State Department's inspector general first announced it was conducting a records review related to the email accounts of five secretaries of state -- Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry -- and their immediate staff.

    After closely examining a number of potentially sensitive emails with help from State Department and Intelligence Community officials, the State Department's inspector general concluded that 12 emails contain "national security information classified at the Secret or Confidential levels." Additionally, it was determined none of the emails contained intelligence information, meaning it was classified for other reasons.

    The emails in question, as the inspector general has previously stated, came from Secretary Powell's personal email account and personal email accounts of Secretary Rice's immediate staff.

    In a recent statements to ABC News, Powell disputed the claims.

    "I have reviewed the messages and I do not see what makes them classified." Powell said. "The emails were from my Executive Assistant and forwarded messages sent by two of our Ambassadors to State Department staff members. My Executive Assistant thought I should see them in a timely manner so sent them to my personal account. Both messages were unclassified. There was no reason not to forward them in this manner. ... The Ambassadors did not believe the contents were Confidential at the time and they were sent as unclassified. That is a fact. While they have not yet clarified this point, the State Department cannot now say they were classified then because they weren't. If the Department wishes to say a dozen years later they should have been classified that is an opinion of the Department that I do not share."


    Hillary Clinton, whose campaign has been dogged by her email controversy, has used Powell's reaction to bolster her own opinion that the State Department is classifying documents too aggressively. She has said she wanted all of her private email to be made public, but the State Department redacted over 2,000 of them after determining they containing classified material. And unlike Powell or Rice, 22 of Clinton's emails were upgraded to "top secret," the highest level of classification.

    Current Secretary John Kerry wasn't mentioned in this new memo, but it was revealed that he too sent classified information directly to Secretary Clinton while he was serving in the U.S. Senate. Two emails from his private account had to be upgraded to "secret" and shielded from public release as they were discovered in the trove of Clinton documents.

  • Will Moderators Finally Discuss Voting Rights At Tonight's GOP Debate?

    Republican Candidates Have A Record Of Supporting Measures That Disenfranchise Communities Of Color

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Debate moderators at the nine Republican (and six Democratic) presidential primary debates so far have not asked a single question regarding voting rights or restrictive voter ID policies despite the Republican presidential candidates' long histories of supporting policies that undermine voting rights.

    The February 25 Republican debate, hosted by CNN and Telemundo, presents a particularly important opportunity to question candidates on their stances regarding voting rights, as it will be "the only RNC-sanctioned Republican debate broadcast by a Spanish-language network," catering to an audience that is likely familiar with voting rights discrimination.

    The absence of questions regarding Republican candidates' positions on voting rights and voter ID laws during the first nine Republican debates -- hosted by Fox News, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business, ABC News, and CBS -- was especially jarring during the first one, which was hosted by Fox News on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

    While Democratic debate moderators have not asked questions about voting rights either, it is the Republican candidates who have a long history of undermining voting rights:

    • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) supported a 2012 purge of voter rolls despite concerns that it disproportionately targeted minority and likely Democratic voters, and he "blew off" concerns about the impact of restrictive voter ID laws;
    • Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed off on legislation that rolled back voting rights by limiting early voting and eliminating same-day voter registration;
    • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) not only praised the Supreme Court for a resolution that weakened the Voting Rights Act, but also attempted to amend voter registration laws to require proof of citizenship before registration;
    • Dr. Ben Carson has given voter ID laws an "enthusiastic endorsement" in his book One Vote; and
    • Front-runner Donald Trump has baselessly speculated that the "voting system is out of control" saying that, in his opinion, people "are voting many, many times."

    Evidence strongly discredits the candidates' alarmist rhetoric about voter fraud and the need for voter ID laws, which disproportionately disenfranchise racial and ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged voters. And experts agree that such laws tackle a "virtually non-existent" problem: Voter impersonation is "more rare than getting struck by lightning," data shows that the systems already put in place to verify voters actually work, and election experts have explained both that rare instances of double voting seldom turn out to be fraud and that they would not be prevented by strict voter ID laws.

    There is no shortage of questions moderators could ask Republican presidential candidates about voting rights, given their public support for measures that would make voting more difficult for minorities. Since Spanish-speaking media play a crucial role in informing the increasingly significant Latino vote, tonight's Telemundo debate presents an important opportunity to hold politicians accountable.


    Media Matters searched the Time magazine transcripts of the August 6, 2015, September 16, 2015, November 11, 2015, and January 15, 2016, Republican debates, the Washington Post transcripts of the October 28, 2015, December 15, 2015, January 28, 2016, and February 13, 2016, Republican debates, and the CBS News transcript of the February 6, 2016, Republican debate, as well as the New York Times transcript of the October 14, 2015, Democratic debate, the Time magazine transcripts of the November 14, 2015, February 4, 2016, and February 11, 2016, Democratic debates, and the Washington Post transcripts of the December 19, 2015, and January 17, 2016, Democratic debates for the terms "voting rights," "voter ID," "disenfranchise," and "voter fraud."

  • "Marcobot": Media Rail Against Marco Rubio After His "Disastrous" Debate Gaffe

    Slate's Jamelle Bouie: Rubio's Gaffe Was "One Of The Most Uncomfortable Moments Of The Entire Republican Debate Season"

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media are calling Marco Rubio "robotic," and criticizing his "disastrous Republican debate gaffe" after the presidential hopeful "awkwardly pivoted four times to a well-rehearsed line," in an exchange with Gov. Chris Christie at the final Republican debate before New Hampshire voters cast ballots in the first primary of the election season.

  • Experts Push Back Against Right-Wing Media Claim Clinton Emails Violated Federal Law

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Right-wing media have consistently pushed the dubious claim that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be indicted for using a private email server during her time as secretary of state. However, legal and intelligence experts continue to point out that such claims baselessly speculate that the former secretary intentionally mishandled classified material, a crucial component of criminal charges.

  • ABC Moderators Ignore Climate Change And Planned Parenthood, But Find Time For Presidential Spouse Questions

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    ABC News' moderators did not ask the candidates about climate change or anti-choice domestic terrorism during the December 19 presidential debate, but did find time to inquire about whether the role of the presidential spouse should change.

    On November 27 a gunman killed three at a Planned Parenthood clinic. He subsequently said he was trying to ensure there were "no more baby parts" and described himself as a "warrior for the babies" in court. The attack started a debate over the link between violent rhetoric directed against women's health providers and terrorist attacks on those clinics.

    On December 12, leaders from every country in the world struck a historic climate change agreement in Paris to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

    Moderators David Muir and Martha Raddatz did not raise either of these topics during the debate, but did find time to ask all three candidates about the role their spouses would have if they were elected. CNN's moderators previously ignored both the Planned Parenthood attack and the climate agreement during the December 15 Republican primary debate.

  • ABC World News Tonight Has Devoted Less Than One Minute To Bernie Sanders' Campaign This Year

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT


    Does that ratio seem out of whack? That's the ratio of TV airtime that ABC World News Tonight has devoted to Donald Trump's campaign (81 minutes) versus the amount of TV time World News Tonight has devoted to Bernie Sanders' campaign this year. And even that one minute for Sanders is misleading because the actual number is closer to 20 seconds. 

    For the entire year.

    That's the rather stunning revelation from the Tyndall Report, which tracks the various flagship nightly news programs on NBC, CBS and ABC. The Report's campaign findings cover the network evening newscasts from January 1 through the end of November.

    The results confirm two media extremes in play this year, and not just at ABC News. The network newscasts are wildly overplaying Trump, who regularly attracts between 20-30 percent of primary voter support, while at the same time wildly underplaying Sanders, who regularly attracts between 20-30 percent of primary voter support. (Sanders' supporters have long complained about the candidate's lack of coverage.)

    Obviously, Trump is the GOP frontrunner and its reasonable that he would get more attention than Sanders, who's running second for the Democrats. But 234 total network minutes for Trump compared to just 10 network minutes for Sanders, as the Tyndall Report found?

    Andrew Tyndall provided the breakdown by network of Sanders' 10 minutes of coverage, via email [emphasis added]:

    CBS Evening News: 6.4 minutes

    NBC Nightly News: 2.9 minutes

    ABC World News: 0.3

    But how can they be? ABC News, for instance, clearly devoted more than 20 seconds to covering the Democratic debates, which featured news of Sanders, right?

    As Tyndall explained to me, the number "counts stories filed about the Sanders campaign or from the Sanders campaign. Obviously he is mentioned in passing in other coverage of the Democratic field overall, specifically his performance in the debates."

    So in terms of stand-alone campaign stories this year, it's been 234 minutes for Trump, compared to 10 minutes for Sanders. And at ABC World News Tonight, it's been 81 minutes for Trump and less than one minute for Sanders.

    Other Tyndall Report findings:

    *Trump has received more network coverage than all the Democratic candidates combined.

    *Trump has accounted for 27 percent of all campaign coverage his year.

    *Republican Jeb Bush received 56 minutes of coverage, followed by Ben Carson's 54 minutes and Marco Rubio's 22.

    Did you notice the Bush figure? He's garnered 56 minutes of network news coverage, far outpacing Sanders, even though he is currently wallowing in fifth place in the polls among Republicans. And you know who has also received 56 minutes of network news compared to Sanders' 10? Joe Biden and his decision not to run for president.

    Meanwhile, I can hear supporters of Ted Cruz complaining that based on Tyndall's analysis, the Texas Republican has only received seven minutes of coverage this year and look where he is in the polls. That's a fair point. But also note that Cruz has only recently risen in the primary polls, whereas Sanders has been a solid second for many, many months. (A new poll this week shows Sanders leading the New Hampshire primary.)

    Close observers of trends in network news might also say ABC's paltry Sanders coverage isn't surprising considering the network's flagship news program has recently backed off political coverage, as well as hard news in general.

    From the Washington Post this summer:

    "World News" devoted half as many minutes to Washington stories as CBS did during the first four months of the year, and about 40 percent less than did NBC, according to Andrew Tyndall, who tracks the networks' newscasts through his eponymous newsletter.

    In perhaps a first for a national newscast, "World News" no longer has a full-time correspondent reporting on Congress. Such stories are handled on an ad hoc basis by reporter Jonathan Karl, whose primary beats are the White House and political campaigns.

    In this case though, that explanation doesn't work because while World News Tonight might be shying away from news out of Washington, D.C., Tyndall's analysis shows ABC has produced more campaign coverage this year than CBS Evening News; 261 minutes vs. 247 minutes for CBS.

    Look at that ABC number again: 261 minutes devoted to campaign coverage this year, and less than one minute of that has specifically been for Sanders. How does that even happen?

    So no, Sanders didn't get virtually ignored this year by World News Tonight because the show's cutting back on campaign coverage. Sanders got virtually ignored by ABC because there was a conscious decision to do so.

    And before anyone suggests ABC has somehow been in the pocket of the Clinton campaign and that's why Sanders got slighted, note that World News Tonight has set aside roughly the same amount of time this year to cover Republican-fed controversies surrounding Clinton's email and details about the Benghazi terror attack, as it has to cover Clinton's actual campaign.

    Any way you look at it, 81:1 is a ratio that means there's something very wrong with the campaign coverage.

    Image via Marc Nozell via Creative Commons License

  • Right-Wing Media Take Joint Chiefs Of Staff Chairman's Testimony On ISIS Out Of Context To Claim He Is Contradicting President Obama

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Right-wing media are claiming congressional testimony from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford contradicts President Obama's recent statement that ISIS was "contained." In fact, Dunford and Obama made the same point, with Obama specifically referring to the geographic containment of ISIS in parts of Syria and Iraq, and Dunford noting ISIS has been "tactically" contained "in areas."

  • Media Mock The GOP's "Ridiculous Manifesto" Of Presidential Debate Demands


    Media commentators criticized the Republican presidential candidates' demands to media sponsors for future presidential primary debates, noting that because debates are "a chief means for Americans to hear and weigh the ideas of the candidates," they're "too important to be guided" by a "ridiculous manifesto" of demands from candidates.