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CNN political commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski attempted to smear former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, by claiming that she “has been part of a murder.” While no charges were brought against Machado and she long ago denied involvement, Lewandowski ignored the role of Don King in Trump’s campaign -- the former boxing promoter who was “found guilty of second-degree murder for killing a gambling associate who owed him $600.”
Lewandowski attempted to deflect from the criticism over Trump’s public shaming of Machado by smearing her on the September 29 edition of CNN’s New Day, asserting that “The Clinton campaign took a person and brought her into a debate who has been part of a murder.”
While Machado “was accused of being an accomplice to an attempted murder” in 1998, according to a Los Angeles Times report, “A judge later said there was insufficient evidence to arrest her and ordered only her boyfriend’s arrest.” New Day co-host Alisyn Camerota explained to Lewandowski that Machado was “never charged, never indicted,” and “never convicted” of the accusations, facts reported by The New York Times as well.
In his attack on Machado, Lewandowski ignored that Trump has leaned on Don King in efforts to court minority voters, who in 1966 was found guilty of murder for reportedly stomping his employee to death. King also shot and killed a man in 1954 (later ruled a “justifiable homicide”) who, according to ESPN.com, “tried to rob one of his gambling houses.” King’s 1966 murder charges were reduced by the judge at sentencing to manslaughter, and King was later pardoned in 1983.
Lewandowski’s attempt to smear Machado while ignoring the role of King in Trump’s campaign isn’t surprising given his sycophantic support for Trump. Despite being a paid CNN contributor, Lewandowski is still very much involved in the Trump campaign. Lewandowski’s company Green Monster Consulting LLC received $20,000 for “strategy consulting” for the Trump campaign in August, which the campaign claimed was “severance.” Lewandowski announced September 29 that he is no longer receiving payments from the Trump campaign and it is reported that “the campaign paid off the remainder of his contract in one lump sum.” Lewandowski’s claim cannot be confirmed until future rounds of FEC filings.
After months of simultaneously receiving payments from the Trump campaign for his continued involvement and strategic advice while employed as a CNN political commentator, Corey Lewandowski now claims he has stopped receiving severance payments from the Trump campaign, more than three months after being fired from his position as campaign manager. But Lewandowski’s claim that he has stopped receiving severance payments does not negate the ethical disaster CNN has on its hands by employing Lewandowski in the first place.
On the September 29 edition of CNN’s New Day host Alisyn Camerota announced that it is “no longer the case” that Lewandowski is still receiving severance payments from the Trump campaign. Lewandowski confirmed Camerota’s statement, calling the news “amazing” and sarcastically adding, “40 days to go in the election, and now this is the breaking news of the day.”
ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): CNN political commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Now, in previous appearances, we have told you that Corey was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign, but that is no longer the case we are told. Are you done with those payments, Corey?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Amazing, right? Everything comes to an end. Everything comes to an end.
CAMEROTA: I didn't think those would ever run out.
LEWANDOWSKI: 40 days to go in the election, and now this is the breaking news of the day.
CAMEROTA: But you're not getting any more payments from the campaign?
But Lewandowski’s employment at CNN is still an ethical debacle. Trump “campaign officials” admitted less than a week ago that Lewandowski “will continue receiving his $20,000 monthly pay as severance until the end of the year,” a contradiction to Lewandowski’s statement this morning. Lewandowski’s continued involvement with the Trump campaign, his likely non-disparagement agreement with Trump, and his penchant for pushing Trump talking points on air all continue to raise serious questions about his continued employment at CNN.
Still, CNN refuses to answer basic questions about Lewandowski’s apparent simultaneous relationship with the cable network and the Trump campaign. It is known that CNN CEO Jeff Zucker was aware that Lewandowski was receiving severance payments from the Trump campaign while CNN was paying him for his analysis, but still defended Lewandowski’s employment, saying he has “done a really nice job” with the network. CNN’s decision to continue employing Corey Lewandowski clashes with its own years-long stated policy that a person being "paid" by a campaign “would not be permitted to be a CNN contributor.”
Sign Media Matters’ petition and tell CNN to cut ties with Corey Lewandowski immediately.
Politico reported on September 29 that a CNN source confirmed Lewandowski “is no longer receiving monthly severance payments from the campaign” because “the campaign paid off the remainder of his contract in one lump sum.”
This post has been update with additional information
Following the first 2016 presidential debate, Fox News defended Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s poor debate performance with an array of excuses and misinformation including misleading charts, “unscientific” online polling, and attacks on moderator Lester Holt. The network also offered Trump an immediate post-debate refuge with host Sean Hannity.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has tried to divert media attention from his poor debate performance, claiming that he “eased up” on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and suggesting that he would use personal indiscretions of former President Bill Clinton to attack her in the future. By attempting to change the media conversation, Trump seeks to deflect attention from not only his performance, but also from issues raised during the debate such as his taxes, his birtherism, and his attacks on a former Miss Universe.
And news outlets have fallen for his manipulation, a media misstep that a CNN panel acknowledged while discussing the matter.
Trump’s September 26 debate performance has been widely panned, with some calling it “an unmitigated disaster” and saying Trump had a “terrible night.” Trump since then has tried to offer excuses for his performance by criticizing moderator Lester Holt and complaining about his debate microphone. During an interview on September 27 with Fox News' Fox & Friends, Trump put out another attempted distraction, claiming he had “eased up” on Clinton during the debate because of her feelings and saying he would have mentioned “the many affairs that Bill Clinton had” if their daughter Chelsea Clinton had not been in the room. The following day, also speaking to Fox, Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie accused Clinton of being “an enabler” of her husband’s infidelities, saying, “If you look at Hillary Clinton's background and if you look at her being an enabler, really, in the '90s and really attacking these women, it goes against everything that she now tries to spout as a candidate for president.”
Various media outlets have played right into Trump’s plan by sharing the remarks, reporting that Trump said he “held back” by not bringing up Bill Clinton’s past, repeating Bossie’s claim, and devoting time to the claims on cable news shows. When journalists report on what Trump didn’t do during the debate, they play into Trump’s plan to avoid additional scrutiny of his answers on “not paying his taxes or stiffing his workers,” as Jon Favreau pointed out.
Discussing Trump and Bossie’s remarks in a roundtable discussion on CNN’s At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan on September 28, co-host Kate Bolduan asked whether Trump was “just changing the subject from he didn’t have a good debate,” and New York Times reporter Alex Burns responded that “this is the version of changing the subject … that worked for Trump so well” before. Additionally, Democratic strategist Edward Espinoza pointed out that the Trump campaign was injecting the subject of Bill Clinton’s personal indiscretions into the campaign by having his surrogates bring it up in media, and that it was working because “we’re talking about it right now”:
EDWARD ESPINOZA: This is not a new issue for them. So for Donald [Trump] to bring something like this up -- and by the way, his surrogates bringing it up in the media right now is their way of getting it out without him having to get it out. We’re talking about it right now. But they’re prepared --
KATE BOLDUAN (CO-HOST): Is it getting out or just changing the subject from he didn’t have a good debate? Because we’ve seen kind of this tactic in the past.
ALEX BURNS: This is the version of changing the subject that Trump -- that worked for Trump so well when he ended up down 12 points in August, right? That when you careen from one fight that's charged with issues of race and gender from the next all summer, that's not what he's been doing for the last few weeks when he has drawn closer in the polls. And a return to that just because it sort of changes the subject and feels good in the short term, the people who see him as having made progress in the race badly do not want him to go there.
CNN’s panel was playing into exactly what the Trump campaign wanted -- and Espinoza admitted it. The panelists were discussing Bill Clinton’s indiscretions without forcing Trump to be part of the conversation, while also helping Trump in “changing the subject” from his debate performance.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump has been able to manipulate the press to cover what he wants in the way he wants and to ignore issues he has not wanted covered. In May, he held a press conference on his alleged donations to veterans groups, hijacking cable news discussions and largely avoiding coverage of an update regarding the lawsuit against Trump University. Earlier in September, Trump got free live cable news coverage of his Washington, D.C., hotel by teasing a “major announcement” on his birther campaign. The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel has also noted that Trump has released “less policy detail than any candidate for president in my lifetime,” but because he “never fail[s] to offer enough detail to fit in a headline or cable news chyron,” he’s been able to “get credit — and the headline, and the chyron — for what other candidates would consider less than a bare minimum.” And as Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson noted earlier this year, “Trump can mainline his latest hot take into the mainstream media, basically any time of night or day” through his use of Twitter.
Right-wing media surrogates defended Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s fat-shaming comments about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado by suggesting she had a contractual obligation to stay thin. This excuse falls far short of justifying the public shaming Machado has endured from Trump.
Trump has a long history of sexism and a penchant for belittling women. Trump attacked Fox anchor Megyn Kelly for her critical coverage, calling her “Crazy Megyn” and suggesting you could see “blood coming out of her wherever” following her tough questioning in Fox News’ Republican primary debate. Trump claimed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton got “schlonged” by President Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. He defended former Fox CEO Roger Ailes against claims of sexual harassment, and now the notoriously sexist Ailes serves as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign.
Clinton attacked Trump’s history of sexism during the presidential debates, in part referencing the story of Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe winner, and saying Trump is “a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs.” Trump went on Fox News’ Fox & Friends the next day and doubled down on his comments, calling Machado the “worst, the absolute worst” and saying she was “impossible” because “she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.” Numerous Trump surrogates in the media have attempted to defend Trump’s blatant sexism by suggesting that Machado had a contractual obligation to stay fit. From the September 28 edition of CNN’s New Day:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): I have to ask you. Because I know your lovely, smart, beautiful Hispanic wife, I just have to ask -- what does Mercedes think about what Trump said?
MATT SCHLAPP: We talked about it last night. Let me tell you, throughout this whole very interesting political year, we're often each other's counselor at the end of the day when interesting things happen on the trail. And I guess her reaction was -- she's in the news business, Alisyn, as you are, and it's not uncommon for women and men, but a lot of times women, in the news business or in the acting business to have actual language in their contracts that their physical appearance has to maintain some kind of standard. And people might not like that, but it's in contracts. And I'm not going to ask people if it's in their contracts or not, but she understands that. Is it fair, is it not fair? Let's face it, TV, Miss Universe pageants, movies, it's a lot about their physical appearance. Alisyn I can tell you, in my case, thank God I don't have that, because that's not exactly one of my strengths in life.
SCHLAPP: Now, come on, let's all be candid here. People who are beautiful get involved in Miss Universe pageants and part of that is their physical appearance. And I think this is when it gets to like common sense. People in America have been watching pageants for decades and they understand that's a part of it, it's a part of the culture. Is that a culture my wife has been involved with? No. But you have every right to be involved in that culture if you want. And if you sign a contract, you've got to follow it.
Even if Machado’s contract did include a requirement to stay below a certain weight, it certainly wouldn’t justify the sexist and insulting episodes of body-shaming Trump has forced her to endure. It is highly unlikely her contract compelled her to participate in a 1997 press conference that centered on Machado’s exercise regimen, a stunt BBC’s Katty Kay rightly denounced as “the most grotesque exercise in humiliation of a woman.”
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Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski refused to answer questions from Media Matters about the ongoing payments he is receiving from the Trump campaign while he serves as a CNN contributor, claiming he can’t answer media questions without network approval. While CNN apparently won’t let Lewandowski talk to the press, the network doesn’t seem to mind him continuing to coordinate with and advise the Trump campaign.
Media Matters president Bradley Beychok approached Lewandowski at the site of the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, and questioned him about the monthly payments he has been receiving from the campaign.
In response, Lewandowski said, “You’ve got to talk to CNN because I can’t do any media without getting their approval. So if you can check in with those guys, that’d be great.”
Asked if he believed there was a conflict of interest in his role, where he is doing political commentary on Trump’s presidential campaign while still being paid by them, Lewandowski again referred questions to CNN.
CNN’s continued employment of Lewandowski runs contrary to their previously stated policy that a person being “paid” by a campaign “would not be permitted to be a CNN contributor.”
In the Trump campaign’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, it was revealed that Lewandowski’s company Green Monster Consulting LLC received $20,000 for “strategy consulting.” That payment was made in August, while Lewandowski was hired by CNN in June. The campaign has claimed the payments to Lewandowski are for “severance,” but did not explain to the New York Times “why the payments were not described as severance to the F.E.C.”
While he serves as a CNN contributor and continues to draw a monthly 5-figure payday from the campaign, Lewandowski has continued to work with Trump -- he was reportedly involved in helping to prepare the Republican nominee for this week’s debate.
On the same day he declined to answer Media Matters’ questions, Lewandowski appeared on CNN and blamed debate moderator Lester Holt for Trump’s poor performance in the event.
CNN should cut its ties with Lewandowski immediately.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump retreated to Fox News’ Fox & Friends for a friendly interview following widespread criticism of his September 26 presidential debate performance which was deemed a loss for Trump, while his campaign surrogates took real interviews on other cable and broadcast news networks.
Journalists across the political spectrum lambasted Trump’s September 26 presidential debate performance, criticizing the false statements he made -- and that debate moderator Lester Holt repeatedly challenged -- on numerous issues including the Iraq War, birtherism, and his tax returns. Reporters noted that Trump spent much of the debate on the defensive regarding those issues and that he repeatedly interrupted both Holt and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Other media figures slammed Trump for bragging that he got President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate and for his false claim that Clinton’s 2008 campaign started the racist birther conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace. Voters and commentators proclaimed that Trump had lost the debate to Clinton, with some calling the performance “an unmitigated disaster” and a “terrible night” for Trump.
The following day, Trump retreated to Fox News to discuss the debate with the hosts of Fox & Friends. The show has a history of buddying up with Trump, giving him a platform to push false claims including that President Obama was not born in the United States, and Trump has lauded the show’s hosts in return. The show’s September 27 interview with Trump continued its softball history with the candidate. Rather than challenging Trump on any of his false statements, the hosts asked questions such as, “So how do you think it went last night?” and, “Do you feel that Lester Holt asked Hillary Clinton an equal number of hostile questions?” The hosts joined Trump in criticizing Holt, with co-host Steve Doocy claiming he “leaned a little over into the left lane” in contrast to Matt Lauer’s “fair and balanced” performance at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum (for which Lauer has been widely criticized). Co-host Ainsley Earhardt even praised Trump for his response to Clinton’s accurate claim that the federal government had sued him for housing discrimination, saying, “I did like how you responded to that, though, because when they throw those things at you, and you’re -- being in the audience, I didn't know about that. And then when you explain it, then you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, well that makes sense.’” The hosts also gave Trump space to attack, without any pushback, a former Miss Universe winner and to insult her weight.
In contrast with Trump’s cocoon on Fox’s morning show, Trump surrogates took harder interviews at other networks. Hosts on NBC’s Today and CBS This Morning challenged Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), about why Trump took credit for spurring President Obama to release his birth certificate, about whether Trump “lie[d]” when he falsely claimed he never said climate change was a hoax, and why Trump bragged about possibly not paying taxes. On CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the hosts pressed Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway over whether Trump’s birther answer was appropriate and whether he would apologize for his birther campaign. They also asked about Trump’s climate change stance and the quality of Trump’s debate performance overall.
Trump’s retreat to Fox News continues a recent trend. Fox media reporter Howard Kurtz reported in June that Trump was scaling back on interviews with networks other than Fox. A Media Matters analysis found that between September 7, when Trump appeared on NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum, and September 22, Trump gave seven interviews to Fox News, totaling more than 1 hour and 40 minutes of airtime. During the same time frame, he had not appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, or MSNBC. Given Trump’s withdrawal to a network that repeatedly delivers softball interviews, it perhaps is not surprising that he struggled when he was actually fact-checked by a journalist at the debate. Responding to CNN host Carol Costello’s observation that Trump’s Fox & Friends interview did not include “difficult questions,” CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter noted that Trump had “mostly sheltered himself within conservative media” and said that he had “doubts about whether it's a winning strategy now.” And as The New York Times’ Alex Burns noted of the Fox & Friends interview, “[T]his is how you end up unprepared for real questions and real heat in a debate.”
Right-wing media figures criticized presidential debate moderator Lester Holt for interrupting Republican nominee Donald Trump more than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Yet Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times -- three times as often as Clinton interrupted Trump -- and repeatedly went over his allotted time and made numerous factually inaccurate statements.
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Prominent right-wing media figures slammed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s performance during the first presidential debate, calling it “an unmitigated disaster” and arguing that he “didn’t stand up to the test” of being President of the United States.