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  • WaPo’s The Fix Highlights Journalists “Counseling” Trump Through Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s The Fix highlighted CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s observation that journalists are “counseling [Trump] through interviews,” suggesting answers “instead of asking wide-open questions that force the presumptive Republican nominee to clarify all on his own.”

    Cuomo has noted that during interviews with Donald Trump, interviewers ask questions framed to push him toward a better answer, saying that journalists suggest to Trump, “When you say this, you know, so you mean like you would just kind of do it this way?” instead of asking open-ended questions. Other journalists such as CNN’s Brian Stelter have criticized media for not pressing Trump hard enough. Stelter said that “we have to address” Trump’s misinformation “head-on as journalists."

    Trump has benefited from countless softball interviews. For example, on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the hosts asked Trump questions such as “Were you right?” following the Brussels terrorist attack. In addition, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly came under fire for her “fluff” interview with Trump on her Fox Broadcasting special, Megyn Kelly Presents. A May 22 panel on CNN’s Reliable Sources criticized her “softball” interview, repeatedly noting that “she didn’t press him” on a number of issues. Many of her questions directly echoed queries that her colleagues at Fox had asked Trump over the past year.

    In The Washington Post’s The Fix blog, politics and media reporter Callum Borchers highlighted Cuomo’s critique of the way Trump is interviewed and asserted that journalists play an additional role in vetting Donald Trump: “counselors.” Borchers noted that “interviewers do Trump’s job for him -- suggesting what he must have really meant, instead of asking wide-open questions.” After an analysis of Trump’s interviews on controversial subjects, Borchers said, “Cuomo has a point. Whether they mean to or not, journalists often nudge the billionaire toward safer ground when he ventures down what looks like a politically dangerous path.” From the May 23 article (emphasis original):

    It's the media's job to vet presidential candidates, so journalists often serve as critics, pointing out inconsistencies and potential weaknesses voters should know about.

    But with Donald Trump, they also play another role, according to CNN's Chris Cuomo: counselors.

    Discussing media coverage on Trump with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Friday, the "New Day" co-host observed what he called "the dynamic of kind of counseling [Trump] through interviews." Cuomo offered a generic example of the kinds questions he's talking about: "Like, when you say this, you know, so you mean like you would just kind of do it this way?"

    Cuomo's observation is that his fellow interviewers do Trump's job for him — suggesting what he must have really meant, instead of asking wide-open questions that force the presumptive Republican nominee to clarify all on his own.

    A review of Trump interviews on controversial subjects suggests Cuomo has a point. Whether they mean to or not, journalists often nudge the billionaire toward safer ground when he ventures down what looks like a politically dangerous path.

    Trump, of course, doesn't always take the hint or doesn't care. And it's possible — or perhaps even likely — that reporters aren't so much trying to protect him as simply reacting with disbelief to the often-unprecedented and surprising things he's saying.

    Whatever the cause, the result is that questions to Trump often come with the "right" answer built in. And this habit of throwing him a line could help explain why some voters believe the media have been too soft on the real estate magnate.

    [...]

    The challenge for journalists is to suppress their shock and let Trump speak for himself. Are you endorsing internment camps? Was the Heidi Cruz retweet a mistake? Do you want the KKK's support?

  • Trump Called NYT Story About His Treatment Of Women “Libelous” But Hasn't Officially Requested A Retraction

    Erik Wemple: This Is “More Corroboration That The Trump Campaign Is Running A Media-Obsessed, Substance-Averse Campaign”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump’s campaign has not asked The New York Times for a correction following its feature on Trump’s behavior with women, according to The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.

    Trump’s campaign highly criticized a New York Timesfeature, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private,” which highlighted multiple women who revealed “unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct” from the Republican presidential frontrunner. Trump responded to the story, tweeting that the Times “lied” and wrote a “malicious & libelous story” on him. Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “They need to do a retraction and they need to actually be fair, because they’re destroying their paper.”

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote on May 20 that campaigns “that seek a retraction from a news organization generally lay out their case in writing,” noting that “no such letter has issued from the Trump camp.” Wemple continued that the campaign’s public response and lack of an official request to the Times was “more corroboration that the Trump campaign is running a media-obsessed, substance-averse campaign”:

    Campaigns, celebrities, companies and institutions that seek a retraction from a news organization generally lay out their case in writing. Anyone in media is familiar with this species of communication — stern, scolding and sometimes nasty in tone, the letters explain the alleged lapses in reporting, the impact of the alleged lapses in reporting, and the request: A full retraction of the story’s central thesis. Or something along those lines.

    No such letter has issued from the Trump camp, according to the New York Times. “Since the story was published, we have not received any direct communication from the Trump people*. They did not seek a correction or initiate any other action,” writes New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha in an email to the Erik Wemple Blog.

    More corroboration that the Trump campaign is running a media-obsessed, substance-averse campaign. Were the Trump people authentically interested in securing a correction or retraction from the New York Times, they would have sent a letter and sought a meeting. Such an effort would have been a slog, for sure: The New York Times has stood by its story and even issued a statement rebuffing Brewer Lane’s complaints. “Ms. Brewer Lane was quoted fairly, accurately and at length,” noted the statement, in part. As this blog wrote this week, the Trump case against the women story was weak. Yet campaigns that put their gripes in written form can reap significant benefits, as the Clinton campaign demonstrated last summer in blasting the New York Times for its story about Hillary Clinton’s email.

    Perhaps Trump didn’t have the time to muster a retraction request, after all. He may have been too busy calling into a CNN control room to orchestrate favorable media coverage.

    *After this story was published, the New York Times sent a clarification of the circumstances: “A lawyer in Trump’s office called [Executive Editor] Dean Baquet earlier this week. The lawyer did not seek a correction or dispute any facts or quotes in the story. The Times has received no formal requests for a correction or any other action.” The headline was amended to account for this change.

  • Media Slam Trump's "Totally Irresponsible" Response To EgyptAir Crash, While Fox Defends It

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media figures criticized Donald Trump’s response to the EgyptAir crash saying that it was “totally irresponsible” and “bad practice” for Trump to blame the crash on terrorism despite having no information at the time. Meanwhile, Fox News defended Trump’s “strong statement,” and praised him for saying “exactly what’s on everyone’s mind.”

  • As Print Critics Savage Kelly’s Trump Interview, Networks Cover For Her

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Cable and broadcast networks are reporting that Fox host Megyn Kelly’s interview with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump made him look look “restrained” and “softer,” but they are playing down the role Kelly played in that depiction.

    Print and online media critics have been submitting withering critiques of Kelly’s heavily touted sit-down. For New York Times TV critic James Poniewozick, Kelly’s questions were so nonsubstantive that they don’t even deserve to be described as softballs. Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara wrote that Kelly failed to “hold his question-dodging feet to some sort of fire,” instead preferring to have him “costar in an hourlong infomercial for her new book.” The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik wrote that Kelly “provided Trump a kind of sanction with some women that he could never buy” and added, “I’m surprised they didn’t exchange air kisses.” The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple homed in on the “scandalous” way that Kelly “withheld details of her ordeal” with Trump “in a performance that assisted Trump with his general-election pivot” in order to boost sales of her forthcoming book. The list goes on and on.

    But similar criticisms of Kelly’s journalism were absent from the coverage of the interview on the broadcast and cable news morning shows. Instead, NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning highlighted Trump’s effort to show a “softer side” during the interview, but made no mention of how Kelly helped him in that effort. CNN’s New Day completely ignored the interview, with the network’s media commentators instead appearing for a segment about Trump’s attacks on The New York Times.

    It’s possible that one reason the networks are loathe to go after Kelly’s performance is that they are looking to hire her. Her contract with Fox News is up for renewal next year, she has openly said she will consider other offers, and news reports suggest that several networks will try to lure her away.

    It would be awkward for executives to pitch Kelly on a move to their networks after their on-air talent ripped apart her effort to broaden her brand -- and even more awkward for that on-air talent to run into Kelly in the newsroom.