CNBC allowed senior contributor and potential Republican Senate candidate Larry Kudlow to conduct a softball interview with Donald Trump. During the February 8 interview, Trump thanked Kudlow for endorsing his tax plan and Kudlow backed Trump's anti-refugee proposal.
When Trump released his tax plan in September, Kudlow responded: "I really like Trump's plan. ... One of the things I just love about it is the 15 percent corporate tax rate." Trump reacted by tweeting, "Highly respected economist @Larry_Kudlow is a big fan of my tax plan--thank you Larry."
During CNBC's October 29 Republican debate, Trump cited Kudlow's support as evidence he has a serious tax plan:
JOHN HARWOOD: Let's be honest. Is this a comic book version of a Presidential campaign?
TRUMP: It's not a comic book, and it's not a very nicely asked question, the way you say that. Larry Kudlow, as an example, who I have a lot of respect for, loves my tax plan. We are reducing taxes to 15 percent. We're bringing corporate taxes down, bringing money back in, corporate inversions. We have $2-1/2 trillion outside of the United States, which we want to bring back in.
When co-moderator John Harwood pointed out that economists have called the plan unrealistic, Trump replied: "Then you have to get rid of Larry Kudlow, who sits on your panel, who is a great guy, who came out the other day and said, 'I love Trump's tax plan.'"
Kudlow affirmed his support for Trump's tax plan following the debate, stating: "I've endorsed Donald's 15 percent corporate tax rate many times. ... He's spot on. And I'm honored that he mentioned me. Honored." The CNBC contributor has tweeted that Trump is a "first-rate person. I could vote for him."
During a February 8 New Hampshire town hall, Trump rebutted criticism from Jeb Bush by citing Kudlow: "I just talked to Larry Kudlow, the great economist, and he was saying Trump has the best tax plan, I'm doing the biggest tax cut."
CNBC tasked Kudlow with interviewing Trump on the February 8 edition of Power Lunch.
During the interview, Trump again thanked Kudlow for supporting his tax plan: "You gave us very high marks, which I appreciate. You've seen it."
Kudlow later backed Trump's plan to ban Syrian refugees, telling him: "In effect, a wartime moratorium. I mean I think that we have to do to protect the homeland."
Kudlow has been interviewing several Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire for CNBC.
CNBC has allowed Kudlow to remain on its airwaves even as he is "moving toward" running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut. Veteran journalism experts and two former NBC News presidents have criticized the financial network for allowing Kudlow to use his platform to help his potential campaign.
CNBC anchors have appeared to embrace Kudlow's Senate aspirations. During the February 8 broadcast of Closing Bell, co-anchor Bill Griffeth closed by calling Kudlow "senator" and added, "Was that out loud?" On February 1, Squawk Box co-anchor Joe Kernen called Kudlow "senator-designate."
The channel has claimed that "Kudlow is not a CNBC employee and no longer anchors a show and hasn't since March 28, 2014. He is now a senior contributor." Despite being a purported non-employee, CNBC has had him "report" on the presidential primary, called him one of its "top" contributors, included him in its October debate coverage, and now allows him to throw softballs at Donald Trump.
Veteran journalism experts and two former NBC News presidents are urging CNBC to remove senior contributor Larry Kudlow from the channel as he lays the groundwork for a potential campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Kudlow has said he is "moving toward" a Senate run in Connecticut with no apparent action from the network.
Among Kudlow's steps are interviewing potential campaign staff, creating strategy, and promoting "a test-the-water committee, which would become the campaign." At the same time, CNBC has allowed Kudlow to use its platform to attack potential Democratic opponent Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
In 2010, when Kudlow was also rumored to be weighing a run for office, CNBC said it would "change" Kudlow's status with the network if he started "seriously considering" running.
Asked about Kudlow's latest apparent political aspirations, a CNBC spokesperson told Media Matters on Monday, "Larry Kudlow is not a CNBC employee and no longer anchors a show and hasn't since March 28, 2014. He is now a senior contributor."
CNBC offered the same response to the Washington Examiner when the paper asked about Kudlow in September. The Examiner noted at the time, "Kudlow is, however, under contract with CNBC. The spokesperson would not comment on the terms of that arrangement, Kudlow's compensation, or when exactly CNBC would make a decision on its relationship with him as he considers a run for public office."
In a press release announcing its October 2015 Republican debate coverage, CNBC called Kudlow one of its "top" contributors and touted his involvement in the network's "special programming" surrounding the debate. He has recently been covering the Republican primary for the network from Iowa and New Hampshire.
In comments to Media Matters, news veterans criticized Kudlow and the network.
"If I were still there I would not allow it," said William Small, who served as NBC News president from 1979-1982. "It's a misuse of a news division, a news division is not supposed to take sides. There are a lot of people, especially at Fox, who do, but it never happened on my shift. That's a conflict of interest. I'm surprised that CNBC would allow that."
Richard Wald, a former NBC News president from 1972-1977, said CNBC should make Kudlow clarify what he is doing and act accordingly by taking him off the air if he is running.
"The first step is for the management of the network to sit down with Mr. Kudlow and find out his intentions and his timing. They should not skirt the ethical positions by deliberately not knowing," Wald said via email. "He can't use the network for political advantage if he is going into electoral politics. If the network finds that he is about to join the contest, or will do so on a date certain, then they should be prepared -- as you say they have stated before -- to take him off the air until the election is over."
Several former network news reporters agreed.
"Anchors/reporters/'contributors' should not -- and should not be allowed -- to use a network to advance their political ambitions," Marvin Kalb, a 30-year Washington reporter and former host of Meet the Press, said via email. "This is done regularly on Fox, and it should not now spread to CNBC. If anyone, Kudlow included, wants to prepare a campaign for political office, it should not be from his or her perch atop a network."
Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington correspondent and current director of the School of Media & Public Affairs at George Washington University, said Kudlow's actions are a "very bright red flag" for CNBC management.
"The network cannot, should not, doesn't want to be used as a crass launching pad for someone's political future," Sesno said. "If he hasn't had meetings with network executives, if he hasn't he's overdue. If he hasn't crossed the line, he's very, very close to it. This is not hard, if you are the head of the network you call the guy in and ask if he is running, if he says 'yes,' he is off the air. If he says 'no,' he goes back to work."
Kelly McBride, ethics instructor the Poynter Institute, echoed that view.
"CNBC should step in here and tell Larry he can't use his on-air platform as an exploratory committee because that's not in the best interests of the network and its audience," she said. "They should force him to make his decision and get on with it, now that he's already mentioned it. At the very least, he shouldn't talk about it on air again."
Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, said CNBC's problem is that anything Kudlow says, especially related to financial interests that might be funding his campaign down the road, is tainted.
"It is a straight-up conflict of interest," Wasserman said. "The reality is that he cannot help but filter and decide what he is going to put on the air in light of how it's going to serve that ambition. And once he's done that, he is a classic conflict of interest, his judgment is impaired by a classic outside entanglement."
With Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton facing a barrage of criticisms over the tone of her voice during a recent speech, Media Matters looks back at the rampant sexism she faced from the media during her 2008 presidential bid.
CNBC senior contributor Larry Kudlow has said he is "moving toward" running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut with no apparent response from the network, even though CNBC previously said it would have to change its relationship with Kudlow if he seriously considered running. Kudlow has taken several steps that appear to violate the network's previous standard for employees exploring campaigns, including interviewing potential campaign staff, creating strategy, and promoting "a test-the-water committee, which would become the campaign." At the same time, CNBC has allowed Kudlow to use its platform to attack potential Democratic opponent Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Student loan debt in America has reached a staggering $1.3 trillion, surpassing even credit card debt. But right-wing media figures have criticized efforts to combat student loan debt by pushing misinformation and blaming students for pursuing higher education.
Conservative media have labeled higher education as a "privilege" and suggested students ought to choose fictional cheaper colleges. Some outlets have even defended schools that take advantage of students and leave them with significant debt. But research shows college matters now more than ever, and the cost to attend is rising across the board. The student debt crisis is especially damaging for poor students and students of color, who more frequently attend cheaper open-access and community colleges and are still forced to borrow in higher numbers to pay for their education.
Blaming students for the student loan debt crisis ignores the facts and distracts from finding real solutions to America's skyrocketing student debt burden.
From the January 27 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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It is long past time for a presidential debate in which the candidates thoroughly address the most pressing science-related topics, says the non-profit group ScienceDebate.org. And now the organization has a new video featuring a group of children who agree that it's critically important for the presidential candidates to debate science.
Science Debate, which is backed by Nobel Laureates and hundreds of other leaders in science, academics, business, government, and media, is running a campaign calling for at least one presidential debate that is exclusively focused on science, health, tech, and environmental issues. The group points to a recent Zogby Analytics poll that Science Debate commissioned with the health research-focused non-profit Research!America, which found that 86 percent of U.S. adults think the presidential candidates "should participate in a debate to discuss key science-based challenges facing the United States."
Thus far, the media figures moderating the presidential debates have rarely asked the candidates about one of the most pressing science-related topics: climate change. In a press release announcing its new video, Science Debate noted that neither CNN nor ABC moderators asked "a single question about climate change" during the Republican and Democratic debates that took place "in the days immediately following the historic Paris climate change summit, where 195 countries reached an agreement to begin shifting the world economy off carbon."
A new Media Matters analysis provides further evidence that presidential debate moderators are short-changing climate change. Our review of the first eight presidential primary debates found that the moderators have thus far asked the candidates more than ten times as many questions about the political horserace and other non-substantive issues as they have asked about climate change.
Reached for comment, Science Debate chair Shawn Otto expressed concern over the Media Matters study's findings, saying that "it's the science issues--from climate change to the Internet, from the war on drugs to a sustainable economy--that are driving most of today's major policy challenges, and the American people deserve answers."
The full statement by Shawn Otto, chair of Science Debate, as provided in an email to Media Matters:
Out of all the questions Media Matters analyzed from the debates so far, just 9 were about climate change. Ninety-four questions, or over ten times as many, were about non-substantive issues. Yet it's the science issues--from climate change to the Internet, from the war on drugs to a sustainable economy--that are driving most of today's major policy challenges, and the American people deserve answers. We have presidential debates dedicated to economics and to foreign policy. It's time we had a presidential debate dedicated to science, health, tech and the environment.
CNBC reported that a study published by the journal Health Affairs "found little evidence that the ACA has caused increases in part-time employment as of 2015," debunking a long time conservative media attack on President Obama's health care law.
Despite being repeatedly debunked, right-wing pundits have continued to push the false claim that the Affordable Care Act would negatively effect American employment, claiming its enactment would drive losses in full-time jobs while increasing part-time employment -- though no data has supported this assertion.
A January 5 article from CNBC reported that despite Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) assertion that the ACA has "forced millions of people into part-time work," "the analysis did not find such a shift to a reduction in work hours," and this speculative claim "isn't borne out by reality":
A new study further undercuts a major claim by critics of the Affordable Care Act, who contended that the law would encourage companies to slash full-time workers' hours and shift them into part-time work in order to avoid having to offer them health insurance.
The research "found little evidence that the ACA had caused increases in part-time employment as of 2015," according to a summary of the findings published in the journal Health Affairs on Tuesday.
"We can say with a large degree of confidence that there is nothing we can see nationwide when we look at the whole workforce" that would support a claim that the so-called employer mandate or other Obamacare features have led to increases in part-time employment at the expense of full-time jobs, said Kosali Simon, a professor at Indiana University, and a co-author of the report.
Critics of the law have said that many employers, rather than subsidize workers' insurance plans or pay the Obamacare fine, would instead cut workers' hours so that they fell below the 30-hour-per-week threshold that would trigger the penalty.
"There doesn't appear to be any substantial changes in the labor market as a result of Obamacare. The anecdotes are real, but I think it's just not happening in large numbers." -Larry Levitt, senior vice president, Kaiser Family Foundation
But the research published Tuesday in Health Affairs strongly suggests that such "speculation that employers would reduce work hours to avoid the mandate that they must offer health insurance to full-time employees" isn't borne out by reality.
"If this were true, one would expect to find increases in employment at the 'kink' just below the thirty-hour threshold," the paper noted.
Mientras CNN se prepara para producir el quinto debate presidencial de las primarias republicanas el 15 de diciembre, un análisis de Media Matters demuestra que los moderadores de anteriores debates republicanos no le han preguntado al senador Marco Rubio (R-FL) sobre sus cambios de postura acerca de una reforma migratoria, mientras a otros candidatos sí les han preguntado sobre sus posiciones en el tema migratorio.
As CNN prepares to host the fifth GOP presidential primary debate on December 15, a Media Matters analysis has determined that moderators of the past GOP debates have not asked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) about his shifting positions on immigration reform, while other candidates have been asked about their immigration stances.
Veteran media observers and political journalists are criticizing the Republican Party's recent pullout of an upcoming NBC primary debate and its push to dictate terms of the event, with one journalist calling it an effort to "bully the press."
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced last week that the party had withdrawn from the NBC debate set for February 26, 2016. He said the debate would still occur, but not on the network, adding it was in response to the recent CNBC debate that was allegedly "conducted in bad faith."
In recent days, some Republican presidential campaigns have begun circulating a letter of demands to the television networks for future debates, which include control over the "parity and integrity" of questions, graphics, and time allowed for opening and closing statements. Donald Trump is reportedly planning to negotiate on his own with network executives.
For media critics and veteran political reporters, such a move by the GOP is unacceptable and will lead to debates that are not true journalism or helpful to voters.
"It's not a way to run a debate," said Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker. "It's a way to present a candidate's talking points. A debate is meant to draw out what the candidates think about a range of issues, including where they differ. That's what journalists are meant to do. And while the questions and mock-superior tone of debate reporters is lamentably worthy of criticism, unworthy is the effort by candidates to intimidate journalists to lob softball questions or to ask, as some candidates have, if the reporters have ever voted in a Republican primary."
Marvin Kalb, former host of Meet the Press and a panelist for the 1984 general election debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, agreed.
"It's political bravado," he said. "If the RNC wants to commit suicide they are free to do so. They need the networks, but they want them on their terms. The networks have the opportunity to stand tall on principle and stick to what they do best."
Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University and a former CNN White House correspondent, called such party demands "completely unreasonable."
"The negotiations should be done in such a way that citizens are put first, not candidates and not networks," he said.
He also said the RNC making such moves to retaliate for CNBC's debate is unfair: "It's wrong what the RNC is doing, it's responding to the pressure it's under from its base. They know NBC and MSNBC are independent from CNBC. If we want to be grown up about this we'll recognize that having 10 candidates at a time and a partisan audience further complicate the challenge to having a coherent rational conversation or debate."
David Zurawik, TV critic at The Baltimore Sun, said the debates have become such a ratings grab for networks that the revenue may make it hard for them to say no to candidate demands.
"This is a big deal, we are at a crucial point right now and maybe it's because Donald Trump is part of the mix and the audiences are exponentially larger and these debates are making so much money for these cable channels," he said. "Money changes everything. They are going to demand all kinds of stuff and if they get their way we will have nothing but campaign ads up at these podiums. Who are these debates supposed to serve? They are supposed to serve the public and I don't think they are if they go down this road."
Tim McGuire, a journalism chair at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, said the RNC's actions are bully tactics.
"Certainly the GOP is trying to bully the press but that's been going on since there were pols and reporters. The issue of approved questions is quite another matter," he said. "If candidates insist on approving questions, the press should not cover the debates -- at all."
Ed Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, mirrored that view: "Obviously, it's a tremendous affront to the notion that the media are there to be independent arbiters and asking the questions that the people would ask, they are representatives of the voters."
He said if the candidates can dictate terms, "it loses all pretense of being a discussion that is determined by disinterested questions asked by knowledgeable moderators. It loses all of the spontaneity and all of the qualities of what is supposed to be illuminated. It's gone."
For Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former political editor at The Miami Herald, such actions will turn it into a "party showcase."
"If the GOP chooses the format and the moderators, this event will cease to be a 'debate,'" he said, later adding, "in that case, the networks should treat such a program in the same way that they treat infomercials -- as sponsored programming suitable only for broadcast in the dead of night."
Republicans now have a list of demands.
Still reeling from what Republican Party chief Reince Priebus called "gotcha" questions last week in the CNBC primary debate that were "petty and mean-spirited in tone," campaign operatives huddled over the weekend to address the Great Debate crisis of 2015.
Indeed, by suspending a Feb. 26 debate scheduled to be hosted by NBC News and the NBC-owned, Spanish-language network Telemundo, Republicans signaled that the latest bout of media catcalls from the right -- catcalls that have been part of working the refs for decades -- have attained almost mythical status.
Republicans, in mid-game, are now trying to dictate the terms of the debates. Donald Trump is even negotiating directly with television executives in an effort to alter the content and format. The unprecedented blitz sends a clear message that if moderators aren't nice to candidates and if there are any objections over "tone," future debates might get yanked.
"What happened in this debate wasn't an attack by the press on the candidates. It was an attack by the candidates on the press," wrote William Saletan at Slate. "Presented with facts and figures that didn't fit their story, the leading Republican candidates accused the moderators of malice and deceit."
But will Republicans get away with it? Early signs look promising for the GOP, less promising for journalism.
Look at how NBC responded to the Republican National Committee's suspension notice: "This is a disappointing development. However, along with our debate broadcast partners at Telemundo we will work in good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party."
Doesn't "work in good faith to resolve this matter" sound a bit like NBC conceding there was something wrong with the CNBC debate and that the network's determined to fix it?
Or look at it this way, does "work in good faith to resolve this matter" sound like a news organization staunchly standing up for its editorial team facing bogus charges of bias? Or does it sound like a network desperate to make nice with the GOP?
Obviously news organizations are wading into treacherous territory if they're willing to let politicians dictate the tone and content after the debate season is already underway; if they're willing to "play nicely" with political parties. As Washington Post associate editor David Maraniss tweeted, "If networks had integrity they would refuse to host or air any debate in which candidates dictated terms. Period."
But this year it's not just about standing up to Republican bullies, it's also about money. Lots and lots of money.
Debates used to be mostly prestige events that news outlets pointed to with pride as symbols of their power and influence. Today, they've ballooned into huge moneymakers for the host cable channels thanks to record-breaking viewership. CNBC normally sells primetime, 30-second ads for $5,000. During last week's debate, CNBC was fetching 50 times that for the same ad time.
Also note that CNBC remains the chief rival of the Fox Business Network, which is hosting the next Republican debate. It seems clear that Fox News had additional motivation to trash CNBC's performance, while touting Fox Business.
Here's the transcript from a commercial that ran on Fox last week:
VOICEOVER: CNBC never asked the real questions, never covered the real issues. That's why on November 10, the real debate about our economy and our future is only on Fox Business Network.
With that allure of debate millions likely comes additional pressure to make sure Republicans are happy; to make sure they don't pick up their ball and go home. One simple solution is to eliminate the commercials all together and air the debates on proudly non-partisan C-SPAN.
Perhaps another solution is to allow Republicans to venture deeper into their information bubble and have debates moderated only by conservatives; only by people who have voted in Republican primaries, as Ted Cruz demanded. (i.e. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc.)
I see at least two drawbacks from that blueprint. First, there's little evidence those type of partisan moderators, who are deeply invested in the failure of Democrats, would provide much insight. During the earlier GOP debate hosted by CNN, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt was invited to ask questions and, as Joan Walsh at The Nation noted, prefaced one of his queries by declaring, "I think all of you are more qualified than former secretary of state Clinton."
Secondly, if Republicans opt for the bubble approach, what are they going to do when it comes time for general election debates? Aren't we going to see the same whiny charade all over again, complete with more hollow allegations of liberal media bias, when non-conservative moderators pose questions that Republicans don't like or can't answer truthfully in October 2016?
From the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell:
Donald Trump denied ever taking a dig at Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, even though the dig in question was on Trump's Web site.
Chris Christie claimed Social Security money was "stolen" and that the system will be "insolvent" in seven to eight years, even though both claims are wrong. Fiorina recycled a statistic about women's job losses that Mitt Romney used in 2012 and subsequently abandoned when it, too, was proved wrong.
And so on.
Over and over Republicans prevaricated while CNBC moderators mostly tried to wade through the misinformation and obfuscations. But after this historic GOP hissy fit, will debate moderators risk their reputations, and possibly their careers, by holding candidates accountable?
On the October 30 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly promoted Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio's debunked claim from the October 28 presidential debate on CNBC that Hillary Clinton "got exposed as a liar" during her recent day-long testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Rubio's remark was given "Two Pinnochios" by The Washington Post's FactChecker, and the senator was unable to defend his claim when pressed during interviews with CBS and CNN. That has not stopped Fox News from repeatedly championing Rubio's false claim. Kelly furthered her network's defense, wondering why Rubio is not "entitled to his opinion that she lied," despite the fact that it is not true. From The Kelly File:
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From the October 30 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:
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