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  • Mainstream Outlets Rush To Give Trump Credit For Vague Tweets About His Business

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media allowed President-elect Donald Trump to, once again, take over the news narrative with his Twitter activity -- this time with a series of vague tweets in which he claimed he would be leaving his business to avoid conflicts of interest. The announcement, however, provides no details about what will become of his business holdings and distracts from news that highlights the degree to which those holdings are ripe for future conflicts.

    In a series of tweets on November 30, Trump announced that he will be “holding a major news conference” on December 15 to discuss his plans for “leaving” his “great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country.” Trump added that while he is “not mandated” to “do this under any law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”

    As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out, “The only real news in those Trump tweets is that he’ll actually be doing a press conference,” given that Trump has already said that he would hand off management of his businesses to his children. The tweets included no new information on how Trump’s business dealings would be handled after he, allegedly, leaves them behind. But that reality didn’t stop media from making a story out of the tweets and leading with it.

    USA Today:

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    The tweets do nothing to squash mounting concerns over the conflicts of interest Trump could face as president, and it’s unclear whether his promised response would address these conflicts. Shortly after the election, a Trump Organization spokesperson told CNN that Trump was planning to transfer “‘management of The Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump,’” his children. But as ethics experts explained to Politico, “installing Trump’s adult children as caretakers doesn’t eliminate conflict questions, since he’d still know what his interests were, and he’d presumably still be in contact with his children.”

    With his tweetstorm, Trump also continued his pattern of hijacking the media narrative when it suits him. In this case, Trump’s tweets give media outlets an excuse to downplay or ignore reports about the “ethical concerns” raised after the Kingdom of Bahrain reserved space in Trump’s D.C. hotel. Trump also used his tweets to continue to disseminate information on his own terms, which in the past has allowed him to avoid hard interviews and limit his press conferences.

    Media are falling into Trump’s trap again by giving his tweets the front-page treatment.

  • Evening News Virtually Ignores Paul Ryan’s Medicare Privatization Plan

    MSNBC Only Outlet To Vet Ryan's Scheme To Gut The Social Safety Net

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Weekday evening programming on the largest cable and broadcast news outlets almost completely ignored a long-standing Medicare privatization scheme favored by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) in the days since he first resurrected the idea of radically reshaping the American health care system toward for-profit interests.

    During a November 10 interview with Fox News host Bret Baier, Ryan misleadingly claimed that due to mounting “fiscal pressures” created by the Affordable Care Act, the Republican-led Congress would be forced to engage with what Baier called “entitlement reform” sometime next year. Ryan falsely claimed that “because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke” and that the popular health insurance system for American seniors will have to be changed as part of any legislation to “repeal and replace” President Obama’s health care reform legacy. From Special Report with Bret Baier:

    According to a Media Matters analysis of broadcast and cable evening news coverage from November 10 to November 27, Ryan’s plan to privatize the nationwide, single-payer health care coverage currently enjoyed by millions of seniors has gone unmentioned on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News. Ryan’s so-called “premium support” plan was briefly mentioned on the November 22 edition of PBS NewsHour when co-host Judy Woodruff pressed President-elect Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, as to whether Trump would accept Ryan’s privatization proposal. By comparison, during the same time period, MSNBC ran six prime-time segments exposing Ryan’s privatization agenda:

    According to a July 19 issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation, conservative lawmakers are likely to pursue “a proposal to gradually transform Medicare into a system of premium supports, building on proposals” adopted by Ryan when he served as chairman of the House Budget Committee. These so-called “premium supports” would provide each Medicare beneficiary with a “voucher” that can be used for the purchase of private health insurance; they represent “a significant change from the current system” that pays health care providers directly for services rendered.

    In essence, Ryan’s plan would privatize Medicare and redirect hundreds of billions of tax dollars that currently go to doctors, hospitals, and other medical service providers through the costly private health insurance market.

    This startling scheme bears similarities to a failed 2005 attempt by the Bush administration to partially privatize Social Security. Democratic members of Congress are already aligning themselves against Ryan’s throwback plan to gut Medicare, and it’s not actually clear if Trump is supportive of the initiative, which he refused to fully endorse on the campaign trail.

    As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) pointed out last July, claims that Medicare is “nearing ‘bankruptcy’ are highly misleading,” and Ryan’s specific charge that Medicare is “broke” because of the ACA is completely wrong. President Obama’s health care reform law greatly improved Medicare’s long-term finances and extended the hospital insurance trust fund’s solvency by 11 years.

    The looming fight over the future of Medicare, which serves over 55 million beneficiaries and accounted for 15 percent of the entire federal budget in 2015, has been well-documented, but it has garnered almost no attention on major television news programs.

    Millions of Americans who rely on broadcast and cable evening news are completely unaware of the stakes in this health care policy fight. They are also unaware that Ryan’s privatization scheme would leave millions of retirees at the whims of the same private insurance market that right-wing media are currently attacking because of increased rates.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of weekday network broadcast evening news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS and weekday prime-time news programming (defined as 8 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from November 10, 2016, through November 27, 2016. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any mention of “Medicare.”

  • Broadcast Morning Shows Mostly Ignore New Reports Detailing Trump’s Potential Conflicts Of Interests

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CYDNEY HARGIS

    Broadcast morning news shows mostly ignored multiple new reports highlighting potential conflicts of interests involving President-elect Donald Trump. In doing so, broadcast news outlets are continuing a pattern of ignoring important revelations about Trump’s business practices.

    On November 21, multiple stories broke detailing “new questions about Mr. Trump’s willingness to use the power of the presidency to advance his business interests.” The New York Times noted that experts in legal ethics claim Trump’s business “arrangements could easily run afoul of” a constitutional clause that protects against conflicts of interest “if [the arrangements] continue after Mr. Trump takes office.” The Times and The Hill both detailed specific incidents during Trump’s transition to the presidency that have “raised concerns about conflicts of interest between his future White House and his private enterprises,” but broadcast news outlets have chosen to ignore the new reports by and large.

    Media Matters searched video and transcripts of the November 22 broadcast morning news shows -- ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning -- for reports on Trump’s conflicts of interest and found that the shows devoted less than two minutes combined to the newest reports of the president-elect’s business dealings overseas. NBC’s Today did not mention the potential conflicts of interest at all, while CBS This Morning had only 23 seconds worth of coverage, and ABC’s Good Morning America spent one minute and 31 seconds on the issue.

    Inadequate reporting of Trump’s inherent conflicts of interest has been a consistent problem, despite concerns that his business entanglements will be a “national security nightmare.” News networks for the most part sidelined reporting on Trump’s conflicts of interest until after his election. Between September 14 and Election Day, the networks aired approximately seven minutes of stories about or at least mentioning Trump’s various conflicts of interest, and in the week after the election, they aired approximately 14 minutes of coverage about conflicts ranging from Trump’s foreign business ties to Ivanka Trump’s company pushing a $10,000-plus bracelet that she wore in a recent 60 Minutes interview.

    Trump’s lack of transparency when it comes to divulging his business dealings makes it imperative that network news shows raise awareness about these conflicts of interest -- but so far, they’re failing.

  • News Networks Sidelined Trump's Conflicts Of Interest Until His Election

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO

    The broadcast networks’ flagship evening news programs failed to inform their viewers about the inherent conflicts of interest a potential Donald Trump presidency would bring in the months leading up to Election Day, and have not given the subject the urgency it deserves in the wake of his election, according to a Media Matters review.

    Between September 14 and Election Day, the networks only aired approximately seven minutes of stories about or at least mentioning a conflict of interest. In the week after the election, they aired approximately 14 minutes -- but only half of that explicitly called the issues “conflicts.”

    Trump has said throughout his campaign and following his election that he intends for his children to run his business empire while he is president. But on September 14, Newsweek reported that if Trump and his family don’t cut ties to the family’s business conglomerate, Trump would “be the most conflicted president in American history, one whose business interests will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” due to the Trump Organization’s relationships and financial entanglements with foreign interests.” Responding to that story, Richard Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, told Media Matters that the only way to avoid serious conflicts of interest would be for Trump and his family to sell all of their holdings in the Trump Organization. Painter also stressed that the issue was a “serious problem” that warrants increased media attention.

    Painter sounded some of the earliest alarms about Trump’s conflicts. Speaking with Mother Jones in June, he explained that the idea of a sitting president holding any debt owed to an entity that the government regulates should disturb the public: “[H]aving a president who owes a lot of money to banks, particularly when it's on negotiable terms -- it puts them at the mercy of the banks and the banks are at the mercy of regulators.”

    The flood of potential and actual conflicts of interest have been made manifest following Trump’s election. A Washington Post investigation recently revealed a sprawling, globe-trotting Trump empire, showing that the president-elect’s real estate, management, and branding companies have business interests in at least 18 countries or territories. The Post also reported over the weekend that foreign diplomats had flocked to an event at the Trump International Hotel, located just a few blocks from the White House, seeking “to curry favor or access with the next president.”

    The New York Times reported that developers of Trump Towers Pune, located in Pune, India, flew to New York last week to meet with the Trumps during the president-elect’s initial stages of his transition to the White House. Pranav R. Bhakta, a consultant who helped Trump establish a foothold in the Indian market five years ago, told the Times, “To say, ‘I have a Trump flat or residence’ -- it’s president-elect branded. It’s that recall value. If they didn’t know Trump before, they definitely know him now.”

    These recent events should have come as no surprise, yet the network news hardly mentioned the conflicts of interest inherent in Trump’s global business ties before or after the election.

    Media Matters looked at ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir, CBS’ Evening News with Scott Pelley, and NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt for reports on Trump’s conflicts of interest -- including the Trump Organization’s ties to foreign governments or businesses, Trump promoting his own businesses through the presidency, plans for Trump’s children taking over the Trump Organization through a “blind” trust or attempting to access security clearances, and Trump’s children using their access to the president-elect to promote their own businesses -- starting from Newsweek’s September 14 article.

    From then until Election Day, the networks spent approximately seven minutes on stories about or at least mentioning a conflict of interest. NBC aired a three-minute segment, and ABC aired a three-and-a-half-minute segment. Both were about Trump using his campaign to promote his own businesses; however, neither explicitly pointed to potential upcoming conflicts of interest should Trump win the election. NBC briefly mentioned the Newsweek report in a segment about corruption in the Trump Foundation, and the night before the election, the network again briefly mentioned the conflict of interest of Trump’s business ties for about eight seconds.

    In the week after the election, the networks have devoted more coverage to these conflicts of interest, but it hasn’t been enough. From November 9 to 16, the networks spent approximately 14 minutes on stories about or at least mentioning a conflict of interest, but only half of those explicitly called them conflicts. They spent a total of about seven minutes on Trump’s foreign business ties, six minutes on Trump’s children helping with the president-elect’s transition or vying for security clearances, and two minutes on Ivanka Trump using a photo of herself in Trump’s recent 60 Minutes interview to sell a bracelet that retails for over $10,000.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched news transcripts from the Nexis database for mentions of any variations of “conflict,” “corrupt,” “organization,” “trust,” “business,” “interest,” “cabinet,” “transition,” or “divest” within the same paragraph as “Trump” for ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir, CBS’ Evening News with Scott Pelley, and NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt from September 14 through November 16. We reviewed video to determine length of coverage.

  • Fox News Peddles Misleading Deficit Hysteria To Undercut Obama’s Economic Record

    Confused Fox & Friends Host Claims Trump Is Not Inheriting “A Healthy Economy” From President Obama

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox & Friends misinterpreted a nuanced statement about long-term federal budget deficits from the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) while falsely claiming that President-elect Donald Trump “is inheriting the worst economy since Truman.” The comments demonstrate the continued right-wing media effort to diminish the economic successes of the Obama administration.

    During the November 20 edition of CBS’ Face the Nation, an all-conservative panel lamented the supposed failure of President Obama to rein in the federal budget deficit. CRFB president Maya MacGuineas -- whom Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has labeled “the queen of the deficit scolds” -- argued that the incoming Trump administration will inherit “the worst fiscal situation of any president” since Truman, “as judged by the debt relative to the economy.” MacGuineas’ point about the so-called “debt-to-GDP ratio” was part of a larger argument highlighting that the tax and economic policy proposals put forward by Trump and his GOP counterparts during the campaign are entirely at odds with their promises to reduce the federal budget deficit and national debt. From Face the Nation:

    As MacGuineas pointed out, Trump’s proposals would add “over $5 trillion to the national debt,” on top of $9 trillion that was already projected to accumulate over the next decade. CRFB says Trump’s proposals are significantly more expensive than those that were put forward by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton based on an analysis that assumes his proposed tax cuts generate economic growth. In fact, decades of evidence show no stimulative effects from tax cuts.

    It is true that the debt-to-GDP ratio is currently at its highest point since the end of World War II, but there is no reason to believe the current national debt is untenable. MacGuineas clarified her point later on Twitter, reiterating that Trump actually promises to make the “fiscal situation” worse and conceding that Obama actually inherited “one of the worst economic situations” in history:

    MacGuineas’ nuanced, but probably not very useful, argument about “fiscal situations” and Trump’s irresponsible approach to the federal budget was entirely lost on the crew of Fox & Friends, which misinterpreted her remark while falsely claiming that the overall economy is in poor health.

    During a November 21 interview with former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, co-host Brian Kilmeade butchered MacGuineas’ argument, stating, “This president-elect is inheriting the worst economy since Truman,” and, “It is not a healthy economy.” Conway agreed with Kilmeade’s hollow argument, slamming the Obama administration for the pace of debt accumulation over the past eight years while neglecting to mention that even the most favorable estimates concede that debt accumulation under Trump will far exceed Obama. From Fox & Friends:

    This is not the first time that Fox & Friends has lamented the supposed fiscal shortfalls of Democratic politicians while completely ignoring the reality that Trump’s plans are demonstrably worse by the same standards.

    Deficit hysteria used to be a cause célèbre of conservative media figures, who routinely slammed Obama’s alleged negligence with the nation’s finances. In 2010, an error-filled paper from two conservative Harvard economists, which falsely claimed that debt-to-GDP ratios exceeding 90 percent immediately result in domestic economic stagnation, generated unceasing criticism of the Obama administration. For years, deficit-obsessed right-wing outlets promoted the absurd claim that the national debt was pushing the United States to the verge of collapse, and right-wing politicians who are now aligned with Trump unfavorably compared the U.S. to crisis-stricken European countries.

    It remains to be seen how sincere conservative media personalities are about the need to balance the budget and reduce the debt -- but we’ll find out the answer if Trump has the opportunity to enact budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations in the world.

  • Sunday Shows Gloss Over, Ignore Trump U. Settlement

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Sunday morning political shows barely addressed -- or completely ignored -- the recent settlement in the class-action fraud lawsuit against Trump University and President-elect Donald Trump. In doing so, these outlets are continuing a pattern by broadcast and cable news of ignoring important revelations about Trump’s business and charitable practices.

    On November 18, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle the class-action fraud lawsuit against the now-defunct Trump University in which the defendants alleged, according to the Los Angeles Times, that Trump “defrauded customers into thinking they would learn real estate secrets from professors he had ‘handpicked.’ The students said they learned little and instead were subjected to hard-sell tactics urging them to spend thousands of dollars on classes.”

    As NBC reported, “The settlement likely means that Trump will avoid becoming possibly the first sitting president to testify in open court.” The New York Times called the settlement “a remarkable concession” for Trump, “who derides legal settlements and has mocked fellow businessmen who agree to them.” The Times also pointed out that the settlement is a “significant reversal from Mr. Trump, who had steadfastly rejected the allegations and vowed to fight the lawsuits,” and that he “doubled down” on that response when “political opponents pressed him on the claims during the campaign, saying he would eventually reopen Trump University.”

    Despite the unusual nature of a president-elect settling a multimillion-dollar fraud lawsuit, the November 20 editions of the Sunday morning political talk shows -- including ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press -- barely covered the settlement. Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday did not mention the settlement at all, while This Week, State of the Union, and Meet the Press spent a combined total of merely four minutes and eight seconds on the news.

    The omission provides yet another example of media continuously ignoring new revelations and investigative reporting about Trump.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis and Snapstream for mentions of Trump University or Trump U. on the November 20 editions of ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press. Mentions were coded and timed for length on Snapstream.

  • CBS Evening News Provides Platform For White Nationalist To Spin, Without Pressing Him On Racist Views

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    CBS News provided alt-right white nationalist Richard Spencer with a platform to normalize his racist political movement and praise President-elect Trump without pressing him on his racists comments and stances.

    After noting Twitter’s recent suspension of several prominent white nationalist accounts associated with hate speech, CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan asked Richard Spencer if he was “an advocate for an all-white United States of America,” and allowed Spencer to respond “No, I don’t think that is going to happen,” without offering a follow-up question or pressing him on his past racist comments. From the November 17 edition of CBS' CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley:

    JOHN DICKERSON (GUEST HOST): In Germany today, President Obama called the spread of fake news online a threat to democracy. Facebook and other social media sites are being criticized for not doing enough to stop bogus stories that seem to dominate the election cycle. Jericka Duncan has more on this.

    JERICKA DUNCAN: When a satirical web site headlined a story "Pope Francis shocked the world, backs Trump," the fake news went viral. Waves of false headlines on social media have turned readers into believers. This week, social media giants Facebook and Google said they will go after hoax websites by restricting ad revenue. Facebook is also planning to launch a program allowing users to flag fake news. Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis.

    JEFF JARVIS: The slope is very slick if we try the make Facebook and Google and company into censors. You can't fight a position that just because somebody doesn't like it and doesn't trust it, it gets killed, it would be very dangerous to have blacklists and to ban sites, I think.

    DUNCAN: Twitter is taking a different approach. A new feature rolling out this week allows users to mute key words, phrases and even entire conversations. Tuesday, it suspended several accounts supported by white nationalists, including Richard Spencer's, a leader of the alt-right movement which is based on white identity.

    Are you an advocate for an all-white United States of America?

    RICHARD SPENCER: No. I don't think that is going to happen. I want to first raise consciousness of who we are amongst Europeans in the United States, and second, I want to promote policies that really have a realistic chance of being implemented by the Donald Trump administration.

    DUNCAN: Twitter's rules prohibit violent threats, harassment and hateful conduct. A spokesperson from Twitter says they don't comment on accounts they've suspended for privacy and security reasons. John?

    The Associated Press has reported however that Spencer has “matter-of-factly called for removing African-Americans, Hispanics, and Jews from the United States,” declaring “We’ll help them go somewhere else.”

    Duncan’s failure to press Spencer helped normalize a bigot that founded the white nationalist website Alternative Right, where one contributor wrote that “low-IQ Mexican immigration is the greatest threat to America,” and that “we should be heartened that white teenage girls aren’t passing themselves around in black neighborhoods.”

     

  • Trump Says He Wants Roe v. Wade Overturned, Mainstream Media Ignore The Draconian Effects That Would Have

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During a November 13 interview on CBS News’ 60 Minutes, president-elect Donald Trump promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, upending a longstanding constitutional right to abortion access. Rather than calling out this extreme position and explaining its potential consequences for millions of Americans, outlets instead attempted to normalize and downplay Trump’s commitment to roll back legal abortion access in the United States.

  • Bill O’Reilly: “I’m Not Interested In” Allegations Of Sexual Harassment At Fox Because It “Makes My Network Look Bad”

    O'Reilly: "I've Got A Kids Book That I Want Millions Of Kids To Look At. That's What I'm Interested In, Not Making My Network Look Bad."

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly lashed out when asked about fellow Fox host Megyn Kelly’s allegations in her new book that she was sexually harassed by former Fox CEO Roger Ailes, saying, “I'm not interested in making my network look bad.” O’Reilly, who himself once settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with a Fox employee, insisted that Fox is “a good place to work.”

    On the November 15 edition of CBS This Morning, O’Reilly was asked about Kelly’s book, in which she describes being sexually harassed by Ailes. O’Reilly initially responded calmly, calling Kelly smart and saying he hadn’t read the book, but he became agitated and defensive when pressed by CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell about the sexual harassment allegations. O’Reilly insisted that Fox is “a good place to work,” said that he’s “not interested in basically litigating something that is finished,” and he’s “not going to buy into let’s use the Fox News Channel as a piñata.” From CBS This Morning:

    BILL O'REILLY: I want to be very candid here, I'm not that interested in this.

    GAYLE KING (CO-HOST): No?

    O'REILLY: No, I mean, it’s over for me.

    NORAH O’DONNELL (CO-HOST): In sexual harassment? You’re not interested in sexual harassment?

    ​O'REILLY: I’m not interested in basically litigating something that is finished, that makes my network look bad. OK? I'm not interested in making my network look bad. At all. That doesn't interest me one bit.

    O'DONNELL: Is that what she's doing?

    ​O'REILLY: I don’t know, but I’m not going to even bother with it. I've got a country that's in a transition, political transition. All right? I've got a kids book that I want millions of kids to look at. That's what I'm interested in, not making my network look bad.

    ​[...]

    O’REILLY: Look, it's open season, let's whack the Fox News Channel. I've had enough of it. It's a good place to work, all right? We do good work. We do honest work there. So, I'm not going to buy into let’s use the Fox News Channel as a piñata. I don’t think it’s right.

    O’Reilly was one of many Fox personalities who defended Ailes in the wake of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former host Gretchen Carlson in July, saying in an interview, “I stand behind Roger 100 percent,” and calling Carlson’s lawsuit “frivolous.” After Ailes resigned amid building public pressure, O’Reilly falsely claimed that he hadn’t commented on the sexual harassment claims against Ailes.

    Since Ailes’ resignation, it has become clear that sexual harassment is an institutional problem at the network. Kelly was one of over two dozen women who came forward after Carlson filed her lawsuit alleging that they had been harassed by Ailes. Former host Andrea Tantaros also filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, naming not only Ailes, but several high-level executives and the Fox News Channel as defendants. Tantaros claimed that her “tenure at Fox News devolved into a nightmare of sexual harassment by Ailes, Fox News’s then-President, and others, followed by retaliation by Ailes and others despite multiple ongoing complaints by Tantaros.” One of the Fox executives named as a defendant in Tantaros’ suit was Bill Shine, who, according to the lawsuit, responded to Tantaros’ complaint that she was being harassed by telling her “that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’” Shine was promoted to co-president of Fox News after Ailes’ resignation.

    The New York Times reported in July that Fox News has “a broader problem in the workplace” that went beyond Ailes. According to the Times, about a dozen women “said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News or the Fox Business Network, and half a dozen more who said they had witnessed it. Two of them cited Mr. Ailes and the rest cited other supervisors.”

    O’Reilly himself settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by then-Fox producer Andrea Mackris in 2004, which alleged that O’Reilly made “a series of explicit phone calls to her, advised her to use a vibrator and told her about sexual fantasies involving her.” O’Reilly reportedly settled the lawsuit for “anywhere from $2 million to $10 million.” O'Reilly was also named in Tantaros' suit, though he was not listed as a defendant. She alleged that he sexually harassed her by "asking her to come to stay with him on Long Island where it would be 'very private,'" and by "telling her on more than one occasion that he could 'see [her] as a wild girl,' and that he believed that she had a 'wild side.'”

  • 60 Minutes Is Already Helping Normalize Trump’s Presidency

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    60 Minutes gave a master class in normalizing a dangerous demagogue -- inviting President-elect  Donald Trump to reintroduce himself as a reasonable politician while glossing over the most dangerous features and promises of his recent campaign, including his reliance on the chief of the white nationalist “alt-right” website Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon, who has just been named White House senior counselor.

    During the November 13 edition of CBS’s 60 Minutes, Donald Trump gave correspondent Lesley Stahl his first extensive interview since winning the presidential election. The interview was a disturbing start for journalism in a Trump presidency -- asking softball questions, fixating on Trump’s personal feelings about becoming president, and repeatedly minimizing Trump’s most dangerous promises as mere campaign talk.

    Do You Mean What You Said?

    Throughout the interview, Stahl repeatedly invited Trump to distance himself from the extreme positions he took during the campaign. Stahl introduced the interview by telling viewers that 60 Minutes had discovered many of Trump’s signature campaign promises were, in fact, “not meant to be taken literally, but as opening bids for negotiation.” (A sentiment Trump himself did not express during the taped interview.)

    That framing continued throughout the interview. “Are people going to be surprised about how you conduct yourself as president?,” Stahl asked, suggesting that the Trump Americans had come to know on the campaign trail might have been an act. Asking about Trump’s campaign rhetoric, Stahl wondered if the president-elect would “have that same rhetoric you had on the stump or are you going to rein it in?”

    The bulk of Stahl’s policy questions focused on whether Trump was going to follow through on a given campaign position or “change it in any way.”

    That approach -- essentially asking Trump ‘did you really mean what you said?’ rather than holding him accountable for the platform he ran on -- allowed Trump to reintroduce himself as a reasonable politician, distance himself from positions like putting his political opponent in prison or reversing marriage equality, and avoid having to answer substantive questions about how he planned to implement proposals like building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border or repealing and replacing Obamacare.

    Fixating On The Personal

    Stahl also focused on Trump’s personal reaction to being elected president, asking if he was surprised by his victory, if he realized the enormity of his victory, if he was “intimidated” or “scared” by the burden of the presidency, if it was awkward meeting with President Obama, etc. Asking about Trump’s first meeting with the president, Stahl wondered “You looked pretty sober sitting there in the Oval Office. Did something wash over you?”

    In a 60 Minutes Overtime segment, Stahl explained that she believed Trump had become “much more subdued, much more serious” in the days since winning the presidency:

    “I really did have the feeling that the sense of gravity, and how big the problems are — it was sinking in, washing over him,” she says. “I think he wanted the public to know that he understood that he had to shift gears and pay attention to the responsibilities now.”

    Again, Stahl’s framing assumes that the Trump who will soon be leading the country is not going to be the same Trump who ran one of the most divisive, undisciplined, and dangerous presidential campaigns in modern American history.

    And those questions about Trump’s personal feelings came at the expense of more serious questions about what he actually plans to do as president, especially in light of his shameful positions as a candidate: his pledge to ban Muslims from entering the country or engage in war crimes, for example. They also came at the expense of questions about ongoing controversies, lawsuits, and conflicts of interest surrounding the president-elect, including  charges of fraud over Trump University, his promise to sue the many women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault, the anti-semitic positions of his campaign and reports of the same surrounding his new senior counselor, and Trump’s ties to white nationalists at home and Russian interests abroad.

    Is this how major news networks will spend the next four years normalizing Trump’s extremism? Treat it like an act, assume he doesn’t mean what he says, fixate on the sensationalism of his ascendancy, and play nice in order to maintain access? The same thing happened during the campaign, when journalists spent months predicting a Trump “pivot” that never came.

    It is the responsibility of news networks to describe the world as it is, not as they hope it turns out. 60 Minutes’ apparent blind faith or unwillingness to take Trump’s campaign promises seriously -- to acknowledge that the most powerful office in the country is about to be occupied by someone who demonstrates no regard for basic democratic norms -- highlights the frightening possibility that many news networks simply aren’t prepared to  speak truth to power during a Trump presidency.

  • Days Before The Election, Sunday Shows Turn Almost Exclusively To White Guests

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    In their final editions before the 2016 election, over 80 percent of guests on the five Sunday morning political talk shows were white. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s racism has been a consistent theme of the race, but those shows hosted only 10 people of color out of 53 total guests.

    CBS’s Face The Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday each hosted only one person of color on the November 6 edition of their show, with Jamelle Bouie, Van Jones, and Juan Williams each appearing in panel discussions. NBC’s Meet The Press hosted three people of color: reporter Kristen Welker and panelists Jose Diaz-Balart and Fred Yang. ABC’s This Week set a higher bar, with four out of 12 guests being people of color. Two of those guests, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), appeared in a panel discussion.

    Here are the major political panels on each of those programs:

    Trump’s historic racism has been well documented. He began his recent political career in 2011 by spreading the racist and baseless accusation that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; used his first campaign speech to call Mexicans criminals and rapists; said a federal judge could not be fair to him because of his “Mexican heritage”; lashed out at Muslim Gold Star parents; has been celebrated by white nationalists; hired Steve Bannon, who oversaw Breitbart News’ attempts to normalize and embrace the white nationalist movement; and last week was endorsed by “one of the most prominent newspapers of the Ku Klux Klan.”

    Indeed, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria opened the November 6 edition of his show by highlighting Trump’s unprecedented racism as part of “the core views of Donald Trump,” noting that “Trump has consistently expressed himself -- in word and deed -- in ways that can only be described as racist.” Zakaria expanded on Trump’s history of racism, including being sued by the Justice Department for “allegedly denying housing to qualified black people” and his “striking[]” refusal to accept the innocence of the Central Park Five.

    In 2015, Media Matters’ annual Sunday shows report found that white men represented more than 50 percent of all guests on the five shows and that white persons in general made up more than 75 percent of the guests on each show.

  • STUDY: Cable And Broadcast Coverage Of The Economy Stumbles In Election Season

    Economists Made Up Roughly 8 Percent Of Guests In Third Quarter Of 2016 Amid Rampant Misinformation From Trump Campaign

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Cable and broadcast news outlets dedicated considerably less airtime to the economy in the third quarter of 2016 compared to the previous three-month period, as media focused increasingly on the presidential horserace. The proportion of economic news segments touching on economic inequality increased relative to the previous quarter, but the tone of coverage revealed problematic trends toward misinformation as Fox News assumed an even more prominent role in shaping the dialogue. The relative proportion of economists featured as guests during qualifying segments reached an all-time high during the third quarter as outlets struggled to keep up with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s shifting and often-contradictory tax and economic policy proposals.

  • Network Morning Shows Barely Acknowledge Trump’s Possibly Illegal Tax Avoidance

    ABC, NBC, And CBS Morning Shows Cover Days-Old Clinton Email Story 15 Times More Than New Report On Trump’s Tax Avoidance Scheme

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & ALEX KAPLAN

    The network morning shows spent nearly half an hour covering the four-day-old story that the FBI found emails that may be pertinent to an investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, but less than two minutes on a new report detailing possibly illegal actions Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took in the 1990s to avoid reporting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxable income.

    On October 28, FBI Director James Comey defied Justice Department rules and precedent to issue a short and vague letter informing Congress that the bureau had obtained and was seeking to review emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. Comey’s decision drew criticism from media figures from across the political spectrum and former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials. Yet during the morning of November 1, ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning spent a combined total of nearly 30 minutes on this story and the impact it might have on election polls.

    Just yesterday, The New York Times explained that “thanks to a” possibly illegal tax maneuver Trump used in the early 1990s, he “potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes” (emphasis added):

    [N]ewly obtained documents show that in the early 1990s, as he scrambled to stave off financial ruin, Mr. Trump avoided reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income by using a tax avoidance maneuver so legally dubious his own lawyers advised him that the Internal Revenue Service would most likely declare it improper if he were audited.

    Thanks to this one maneuver, which was later outlawed by Congress, Mr. Trump potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes. It is impossible to know for sure because Mr. Trump has declined to release his tax returns, or even a summary of his returns, breaking a practice followed by every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate for more than four decades.

    Tax experts who reviewed the newly obtained documents for The New York Times said Mr. Trump’s tax avoidance maneuver, conjured from ambiguous provisions of highly technical tax court rulings, clearly pushed the edge of the envelope of what tax laws permitted at the time. “Whatever loophole existed was not ‘exploited’ here, but stretched beyond any recognition,” said Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center who helped draft tax legislation in the early 1990s.

    Yet Good Morning America was the only broadcast morning show to cover this detailed reporting on the Republican presidential nominee possibly committing a crime, devoting two interview segments to the issue for a scant airtime of 1 minute and 47 seconds. The other two morning shows did not mention the Times report or Trump’s tax avoidance at all.

    The networks’ Sunday shows have demonstrated a pattern of ignoring investigative reporting about Trump in favor of hyping any recent news about Clinton. Now the networks’ weekday morning shows seem to be following the same pattern.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream transcripts for ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning, with the keywords “Clinton,” “FBI,” “email,” and “Comey” for any comments about the Clinton email story, and the keywords “tax” and “taxes” for any comments about the Trump tax story. Any comments on either subject were then measured for time. At least one discussion covered both topics simultaneously.

  • Interviewers Prioritize FBI Letter, Ignore New Investigative Reports About Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Hosts of the Sunday morning political shows neglected to press surrogates for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on new investigative reports detailing how Trump humiliated and sexually assaulted women, lied about his charitable givings, and may have offered NJ Gov. Chris Christie the vice presidential running mate position before rescinding it. The hosts instead allowed FBI Director James Comey’s letter to congressional leaders regarding the bureau’s investigation of Clinton’s email server to dominate the shows.

    Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway appeared on the October 30 editions of Fox News’ MediaBuzz, ABC’s This Week, and CNN’s State of the Union. Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’ Face the Nation, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday. During their appearances, the Trump surrogates were given platforms to capitalize on Comey’s letter indicating that the bureau is reviewing newly discovered emails that may or may not be relevant to their investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server. Conway and Pence both rehashed the false claim from Republican lawmakers that the FBI was “reopening” the investigation into Clinton’s email server.

    During the appearances, the Sunday show hosts largely let Comey’s letter drive the conversation, ignoring several new pieces of investigative reporting that detail Trump’s treatment of women and his lies about charitable giving. These investigative reports include:

    • An October 28 Huffington Post report which included video of Trump in 2011 “sexually humiliating” a Miss Universe pageant winner on stage in front of thousands of onlookers.

    • A report from The Telegraph on October 27 which detailed accusations from former Miss Finland, Ninni Laaksonen, that Trump sexually assaulted her, making her the 12th woman to accuse Trump of sexual assault.

    • An October 30 article from The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold in which he explained Trump’s pattern of having “sought credit for charity he had not given — or had claimed other people’s giving as his own.”

    • An October 30 New York Post report that alleged “Donald Trump initially offered the vice-presidential running-mate slot to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie but then withdrew it,” before offering the position to Pence.

    ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was the only host to challenge a Trump surrogate on any of these reports. Stephanopoulos cited the Washington Post piece to ask Conway if Trump would release his tax returns to verify any of his alleged charitable giving.

    The Sunday shows and other broadcast and cable programs have repeatedly overlooked many investigative reports about Trump, including those detailing his sketchy business practices and his foundation’s illegal activities, and allowed Trump to hijack the narrative away from damaging reports.