Brian Stelter

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  • The Bar Gets Lower: Media Reinforce Double Standard For Trump Ahead Of First Debate

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    As the first presidential debate approaches, media figures across the political spectrum are actively lowering the bar for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, both by setting lower standards themselves and by pushing the lower-standard narrative. Yet at the same time, many media figures are acknowledging that the press is employing a double standard in its treatment of Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

  • Fox Figures Step Up Participation In Trump's Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The close-knit relationship between Fox News and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has strengthened in recent days, as several Fox figures have stepped up their participation in Trump’s campaign. Fox’s intimacy with the Trump campaign has been central to the candidate’s overwhelming media presence and his propagation of lies.

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who rejoined Fox News as a contributor in August, introduced Trump at a September 19 campaign rally, lauding him as “someone who … can genuinely change history.” Gingrich has long had a foot in both camps, serving at one point as a Fox contributor while under consideration as Trump’s running mate. Gingrich currently serves as a close Trump ally and has been reportedly offered a job in Trump’s potential administration. 

    Fox host and avid Trump supporter Sean Hannity recently appeared in an ad for Trump, listing several reasons why “I’m supporting Donald Trump this year.” Hannity has been one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders throughout the election, using his prime-time show to openly shill for Trump and advance his lies.

    Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes wasted no time transitioning into the role of a top Trump adviser following his ouster, perhaps the most glaring example of the Fox-Trump lovefest. Ailes is reportedly advising Trump for the presidential debates, Trump has said he “would think about” hiring his “friend” Ailes as a campaign consultant, and the two reportedly “counseled each other in multiple phone calls” during the fallout over Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment. As part of his resignation deal, Ailes also serves as an adviser to Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch. 

    Fox figures’ intimate involvement in the Trump campaign comes as the candidate has limited his media appearances to be almost exclusively on Fox. Trump has retreated “to friendly media ground” to “[limit] the candidate's exposure to hard-hitting questions,” writes CNN’s Brian Stelter:

    Donald Trump's reputation for being always available to reporters is way out of date.

    Trump is saying "yes" to Fox News almost every day but saying "no" to most other major networks and news organizations -- a highly unusual strategy for a presidential nominee.

    He called into "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning, he is booked on "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday night, and he has another town hall with Sean Hannity coming up on Wednesday.

    Even Fox’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, admitted that Trump is “refusing to appear on many television outlets” outside of Fox because those “interviews entail too much risk” for Trump to misstep. 

    The continued Fox-Trump relationship is in keeping with the network's role thus far as a mouthpiece for the Trump campaign: During the Republican primary, Fox gave Trump more than twice as much airtime as the other Republican candidates.

    UPDATE: In a statement to The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, a Fox spokesperson said, "We had no knowledge that Sean Hannity was participating in this" Trump ad "and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election.”

  • CNN’s Brian Stelter Highlights Trump’s Media Retreat To Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN’s Brian Stelter detailed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s new strategy of restricting his press accessibility almost exclusively to the friendly outlet of Fox News.

    Trump has a long history of favorable coverage from Fox News. He received nearly double the airtime from Fox News than any other network in July, and he received the vast majority of Fox’s coverage during the GOP primary

    CNN’s senior media correspondent Brian Stelter highlighted Trump’s new strategy of “saying ‘yes’ to Fox News almost every day but saying ‘no’ to most other major networks” in a September 19 article. Stelter explained that this decision to avoid mainstream news outlets and limit general press accessibility “limits the candidate’s exposure to hard-hitting questions.” Stelter also noted Trump’s highly favorable coverage from Trump sycophant, Fox host Sean Hannity, who acts as “the best symbol of how the candidate gets out his message on his own terms”:

    Donald Trump's reputation for being always available to reporters is way out of date.

    Trump is saying "yes" to Fox News almost every day but saying "no" to most other major networks and news organizations -- a highly unusual strategy for a presidential nominee.

    He called into "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning, he is booked on "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday night, and he has another town hall with Sean Hannity coming up on Wednesday.

    Rousing the base instead of reaching out to undecided voters may ultimately pay off for Trump. If nothing else, it limits the candidate's exposure to hard-hitting questions -- while fueling frustration among journalists.

    [...]

    "Trump used to be very, very accessible to the press. At the beginning of his campaign, he was extremely accessible," CNN politics reporter Jeremy Diamond said on Sunday's "Reliable Sources." "You could catch him for quick interviews on the way in and out of rallies. And that has really changed."

    Diamond said "he is less accessible I think, in many regards, than Hillary Clinton at this point."

    [...]

    This conservative-focused media strategy is also gaining attention among Trump's critics. "He pretty much exclusively appears on Fox News now," Judd Legum, editor of the liberal news site ThinkProgress, tweeted on Monday.

    Trump's relationship with Hannity is perhaps the best symbol of how the candidate gets out his message on his own terms. Trump has taped numerous town halls with the conservative commentator.

  • Media Finally Admit The Bar Is Lower For Trump. But Can They Fix It?

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Memo to the media: You cannot have it both ways on the double standard applied to presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

    After NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum, reporters and pundits proclaimed that media have held the two presidential nominees to different standards of knowledge and conduct, yet these media figures have also perpetuated the double standard by excusing Trump’s behavior and applauding him any time he shows a veneer of conventionality.

    Numerous media figures criticized Matt Lauer, host of the September 7 forum, for employing different questioning toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Lauer allowed Trump to lie about opposing the Iraq war, yet he used eight of his first nine questions for Clinton to grill her over her emails. Several media figures said Lauer’s line of questioning embodied the “double standard” that reporters across the board use to analyze the two candidates.

    If Media Figures Note The Double Standard ... 

    • MSNBC's Mike Barnicle: Trump Is The "Continued Beneficiary Of A Huge Double Standard." The morning after the forum, MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle told Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough that Lauer interviewed Trump “as if he were the co-host or the host of The Apprentice,” rather than a presidential candidate, noting, “Syria wasn’t mentioned. Aleppo wasn’t mentioned. The refugee crisis wasn’t mentioned.” He noted that the forum showed Trump is the “continued beneficiary of a huge double standard.”
       
    • Wash. Post Contributor Paul Waldman: “Hillary Clinton Gets Examined In A Very Different Way Than Donald Trump Does.” Following the forum, Washington Post contributor Paul Waldman explained that Clinton “gets examined in a very different way than Trump does” by the media. Speaking on the September 7 edition of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Waldman faulted media for taking an “all hands on deck mentality” when reporting Clinton news -- saying that “everybody will investigate every nook and cranny to see if there’s anything there that looks untoward. And even if there isn’t, it becomes this story that drags out over the course of days and even weeks” -- as opposed to “strings of issues” about Trump that are reported once and then forgotten.
       
    • Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin: “Trump Is Being Held To A Less High Standard.” ” Prior to the forum, Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin told co-host John Heilemann that “the Clinton campaign is right” that “Trump is being held to a less high standard” by reporters and that “the press is just not holding him accountable.” Halperin continued, “Trump is doing things that if Clinton did, she would be hit a lot harder,” and he urged media to “work on fixing that.” Co-host John Heilemann agreed with Halperin, despite having defended the double standard the week prior, when he said that “sometimes … you have to set the bar low” for Trump.
       
    • NY Times' Maggie Haberman: "The Bar Has Been Lowered For Trump Repeatedly." New York Times political correspondent Maggie Haberman said on CNN’s New Day leading up to the forum that Trump “keeps getting graded on a curve” and “the bar has been lowered for Trump repeatedly.” Haberman criticized media figures who assess Trump by asking, “Does he merely pass?” And then if he does, they record it as Trump “did very well.”
       
    • NY Times’ James Poniewozik Slams Lauer For Questioning Trump On A Curve. New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik scolded Lauer for treating Clinton “like someone running for president” but Trump “like someone running to figure out how to be president, eventually.” Poniewozik wrote that after grilling Clinton on her private email server, Lauer pitched Trump “the kind of whiffle ball job-interview” questions “you ask the boss’s nephew you know you have to hire anyway.”
       
    • CNN’s Brian Stelter: “It Is True That Trump Is Held To A Different Standard Than Clinton.” The day after the forum, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter told CNN host Ashleigh Banfield that “it is true that Trump is held to a different standard than Clinton” and said that “no doubt, at the forum, there was different treatment for Trump versus Clinton.”

    ... But Have Perpetuated It ...

    Despite all this commentary, media figures have consistently perpetuated the double standard, holding Trump to a lower bar than they do Clinton in terms of behavioral and ethical conduct -- and in measures of veracity. Most recently, when a report came out that Trump paid a fine to the IRS for making an illegal $25,000 donation to the 2013 re-election campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, broadcast news networks devoted a third as much as time to the matter as they provided to a flawed Associated Press story on the Clinton Foundation that proved no ethics breaches.

    Media figures have previously repeatedly pardoned Trump’s widely criticized rhetoric, policy flip-flops, and divisive comments because he’s “not a politician” and is “learning as he goes”:

    • Fox Hosts Excused Trump's Abortion Comments Because "He's Learning As He Goes." Hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends excused Trump’s statement in March that there should be some kind of punishment for women who obtain abortions, suggesting that Trump should not be expected to answer questions about abortion because they’re usually reserved for more experienced politicians. Co-host Steve Doocy excused Trump, saying, “He only became a politician about six or seven months ago.”
       
    • CNN’s Mark Preston: “You Have To Expect” Trump Will Abandon His Positions; He Can’t Be Thought Of In “Conventional Terms.” CNN political executive editor Mark Preston told New Day host Chris Cuomo in May that he was not surprised the presumptive nominee “took a half-step back” on banning Muslim immigrants because he can't be thought of in “conventional terms,” but rather “in Donald Trump terms.”
       
    • The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich: “Consistency Should Be An Argument Against Donald Trump,” But Trump “Isn’t A Normal Candidate.” Daily Beast Washington bureau chief Jackie Kucinich claimed in May that while “consistency should be an argument against” Trump “in a normal political system,” Trump is “not a normal candidate” and thus his policy reversals might not affect him.

    Media have also absurdly applauded Trump any time he has appeared to assume even the slightest veneer of conventional, tempered behavior:

    • Reading A Speech From A Teleprompter: Media figures praised Trump as “presidential” in early June for delivering one speech with the aid of a teleprompter. Fox anchor Megyn Kelly praised Trump for being “a little bit more controlled using the teleprompter, which is something we almost never see him do, staying on message.”
       
    • Delivering One Speech Devoid Of Racist Attacks: Following the same speech, media figures also praised Trump as “presidential” for refraining from launching racist attacks against the federal judge presiding over Trump University lawsuits, which Trump had done for multiple days prior. CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.”
       
    • Rebutting A Joke About His Penis Size: Fox doctor Keith Ablow praised Donald Trump for “show[ing] an incredible degree of psychological strength” in responding to a joke about the size of his hands by referencing the size of his penis.
       
    • Not Calling Then-Opponent Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted”: Following Trump’s April victory in the New York primary, Fox’s Megyn Kelly and ABC’s Tom Llamas said Trump was becoming “more presidential” and “trying out a more presidential style” because he did not call his opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), “Lyin’ Ted.” Trump returned to using the phrase the next day.

    ... Will They Change? 

    Now that political media have admitted their own shortcomings in the cautionary tale of Lauer, will they level the playing field between Clinton and Trump?

    Researcher Tyler Cherry contributed research to this post.

  • Trump Adviser Can’t Decide If Candidate Is “Too Specific” Or Intentionally Vague

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Just a week after the Associated Press quoted Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying Trump’s policy proposals are actually designed to be vague, Moore proclaimed that Trump’s economic plan is the “most detailed” plan from any candidate in decades and may even be “too specific.”

    During the September 9 episode of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney asked Moore to respond to a September 4 Washington Post editorial titled “Donald Trump’s bet: We are all chumps.” In it, the paper slammed the GOP candidate for his lack of accountability, his penchant for lying, and his refusal to share “basic information” with voters such as medical records, tax returns, and “serious policy proposals.” After opening the segment by suggesting that Trump had “surely released a detailed economic plan, amongst other detailed plans,” Varney ceded the discussion to Moore, who claimed that the Trump campaign has “put forward the most detailed economic plan, I think, of any candidate in 40 years.” Moore went on to claim that Trump’s plan may be “too specific,” and that Trump has “an extremely detailed plan” available to the public on the campaign’s website. From Varney & Co.:

    STEPHEN MOORE: But, back to this idea that there's no detailed plan, because I never really answered your question about that. We've put forward the most detailed economic plan, I think, of any candidate in 40 years. I mean, we've got a very detailed tax plan.

    You look at his website about how we're going to replace Obamacare, you look at his energy plan -- the media didn't pay any attention to that. We're going to drill for resources, we’re going to put coal miners back into the jobs they lost. I mean, this is a very, very -- in fact, I would say, a lot of our political people say we're being too specific, we're giving too many targets for the, for our opponents to shoot at. Because we have an extremely detailed plan, and anybody who wants to look at it, go to the website, and you're going to see -- you know, compare that with what Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton has come out with. I mean, Hillary is all bluster. She doesn't have any plan at all.

    Moore’s bizarre claim that Trump’s economic plan is “very detailed” and potentially even “too specific” comes just days after an August 29 article from the Associated Press (AP) quoted Moore claiming that Trump’s plans are supposed to be “visionary stuff” and have been left intentionally vague to avoid “a big debate” over small details. From the AP:

    But Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who has worked with Trump to shape his tax and economic plans, says the vagueness on Trump's economic policies was by design.

    "We want to talk about the big visionary stuff. We don't want to have a big debate about this loophole, that loophole," he said. "This is a campaign, it's not a write-up of a tax bill in the Ways and Means Committee."

    Contrary to Moore’s claim that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “doesn’t have any plan at all,” the same AP article found that while Trump had “just seven policy proposals on his website, totaling just over 9,000 words,” Clinton’s campaign site outlined 38 specific issues and contained 65 policy papers totaling 112,735 words. CNN’s Reliable Sources examined the AP’s exposé on Trump’s lack of policy specifics on September 4, and host Brian Stelter even tweeted about the sharp difference.

  • Fox Hosts Attack CNN’s Brian Stelter and Univision’s Jorge Ramos For Calling On Media To Improve Coverage Of Trump

    Harris Faulkner: “Everybody's Looking For Their Moment, And They're Going To Do It With A Series Of Gotcha Questions”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the August 31 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:

    SANDRA SMITH (CO-HOST): So much for an impartial media. According to the Washington Examiner, several media figures actively lobbying their peers to challenge Donald Trump more aggressively when interviewing him or his surrogates. Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, who has had some high profile scrapes with Trump saying, quote, “I think in this case neutrality is really not an option. I think we have to take a stand and in this case, Donald Trump is a unique figure in American politics. We haven't seen this in decades since probably Senator Joe McCarthy.” And this from CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter, quote, “We can't just let it seep into the discourse like it's normal. We have to stop and fact check and contextualize. Right now it’s the Republican candidate for president who is trying to delegitimize our democratic process without proof. It is unpatriotic for any journalist or any interviewer to help him.” Harris, go to you first on this.

    HARRIS FAULKNER (CO-HOST): That makes me uncomfortable because it really tells me that, first of all, everybody's looking for their moment, and they're going to do it with a series of gotcha questions, which is exactly why the American public says that they don't trust journalists right now. They think that we're all cut from that cloth. But the other thing that’s really nasty about this whole thing is that they're not going to apply that to both sides. Like if they want that kind of -- I call it apoplectic, but I guess there's another word we could use that is nicer than that, but it just seems out of line -- then apply it equally. If they're going to do that, if they’re going to act -- 

    SMITH: Is there a double standard that exists? 

    GUY BENSON: There's always a double standard with Republicans and Democrats. It may be more pronounced this year for a number of reasons. And I'm all for the media very aggressively going after Trump and following up and holding him to account, but they have to do it to Hillary Clinton as well. 

    [...]

    RACHEL CAMPOS-DUFFY (CO-HOST): If you think it's bad on the English side of the media, let's talk about Spanish-language media. They are so ideologically liberal and they’re unapologetic.

    FAULKNER: You can hear it from Jorge.

    CAMPOS-DUFFY: You hear it from Jorge, who is really the spokesperson for all of Spanish media in a lot of ways. And let me tell you this, there's an opening -- at least on the English side of news, we have Fox News, which is fair and balanced, it gives people a different perspective. There's nothing like that on the Spanish side, and that is why not just Donald Trump but all Republicans have had a difficult moment.

    Previously:

    Jorge Ramos Urges Fellow Journalists Not To “Stay Silent On Donald Trump”

    After Jorge Ramos Makes Multiple Interview Requests, Trump Asks Him For Money

    Univision's Jorge Ramos Reminds Audiences That Trump Continues To Deny His Interview Requests

    Sean Hannity Attacks Jorge Ramos For Pointing Out Trump's Bigoted, Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric