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  • Near Absence Of Trump Campaign’s Latest Russia Problem From Sunday Shows Follows A Familiar Pattern

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    CNN’s Jake Tapper was the only Sunday show host on September 25 to discuss a report that American intelligence officials are probing Russian government ties to a man Trump has identified as a foreign policy adviser, Carter Page. This latest revelation is yet another missed opportunity by the Sunday political talk shows to feature investigative stories about Trump and his campaign over the past month.

    On September 23, Yahoo! News’ Michael Isikoff reported that “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials.” Among the problematic contacts Page has reportedly had with aides to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is Igor Diveykin, who “is believed by U.S. officials to have responsibility for intelligence collected by Russian agencies about the U.S. election.” The article also quoted a Trump spokesperson calling Page an “‘informal foreign adviser’” to Trump.

    In an interview with Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on CNN’s State of the Union, Tapper cited the Yahoo! News article and questioned Conway if the campaign had talked to Page about his meetings with Russian officials. Conway denied that Page was part of the Trump campaign at this time and said that he was not authorized to talk to Russia on the campaign’s behalf.

    The other Sunday hosts -- NBC’s Chuck Todd, CBS’ John Dickerson, Fox’s Chris Wallace, and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos -- who interviewed Trump adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence, and Conway, respectively -- all failed to question their Trump surrogate guests about the report. The only other mentions of the report on the Sunday shows were from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s surrogates, with Clinton running mate Tim Kaine alluding to the “news of this past week [that] shows us a whole series of very serious questions about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia” on CBS’ Face the Nation, and Clinton’s press secretary Brian Fallon mentioning Page on CNN’s Reliable Sources.

    The near blackout of this story from the Sunday shows is turning into a familiar pattern regarding investigative reports on Trump. Over the past month, the Sunday political talk shows have repeatedly failed to feature new reporting that reflects poorly on Trump. On September 4, just days after The Washington Post broke the story that Trump’s foundation illegally gave a political donation in 2013 and that Trump paid the IRS a penalty for it, only CBS’ Dickerson brought it up; on other shows, guests were forced to mention it. The next week, as they were all covering the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, every Sunday show completely ignored the New York Daily News’ investigation that revealed Trump unethically accepted $150,000 in government aid after the attacks and that Trump bragged that one of his buildings was now the largest in the area just hours after the 9/11 attacks. And just last week, the Sunday shows again mostly omitted new reporting on Trump, specifically the news that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was investigating Trump’s charitable foundation over concerns of impropriety and Kurt Eichenwald’s Newsweek report that detailed the “serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires” that would be present in the foreign policy of a President Trump due to his deep business ties to foreign countries and businesspeople.

    The report on Page also follows Trump’s repeated praise of Putin, who he has called “highly respected within his own country and beyond,” later adding that if Putin “says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.” Journalists have slammed Trump for his remarks, noting the country has targeted and murdered journalists.

  • This Is How Moderators Can Debunk Trump's Excuses For His Iraq War Support

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Donald Trump has attempted, and media have often allowed him, to advance the false claim that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, but evidence Trump regularly cites as proof of his opposition occurred after the war’s authorization and after the war had already begun. Ahead of the first presidential debate, moderators should be aware of his chronologically impossible excuses and be prepared to debunk them, such as his citing of a 2004 Esquire interview where he opposed the war, claiming he said the war was “a mess” at a 2003 party, claiming he expressed some concern in a January 2003 Fox interview, and his excuse that he “was not a politician” when he made his original remarks supporting the war.

  • Myths & Facts: A Debate Guide To Donald Trump’s Most Common Lies About The Economy

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s penchant for promoting right-wing media myths and other misleading claims presents a unique challenge heading into the first presidential debate of the general election. If the September 26 debate is anything like the opening debates of 2008 and 2012, it will focus heavily on issues relating to the American economy, and both moderator and audience should be prepared for a torrent of misinformation from the GOP standard-bearer.

  • La Opinión Reports On Exclusion Of Latinos In The Media

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    La Opinión reported on a Media Matters study that found that Latinos made up only a small fraction of guests invited on cable news shows to discuss Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s Mexican heritage. The article featured input from Media Matters Hispanic media researcher Cristina López, who explained that this finding is representative of a larger tendency in the media to marginalize the Latino perspective in their reporting, which could have serious “negative effects” and “perpetuate damaging stereotypes” about Latinos.

    The September 21 report focused on a Media Matters quantitative study of guest diversity on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC that found that only 11.5 percent of guests discussing Trump’s racist attacks against a Latino judge were Hispanic, while the majority of those discussing the topic -- 88.5 percent -- were non-Hispanic. The article cited previous Media Matters studies that confirmed the media’s “broader pattern” of marginalizing Latinos’ voices “even when the [Latino] community is attacked” and often relegating them to the single issue of immigration.

    Media MattersCristina López pointed out that a failure to effectively include the Latino perspective on issues that affect them “can have negative effects on the narratives that come out of news shows” and explained that “without the inclusion of Latino voices in the discussion of topics of the day, including those that most affect them, we run the risk of having imprecise information that perpetuates damaging stereotypes.” Translated from the September 21 article (emphasis original):

    Latinos are the largest minority in the country and even when the community is attacked, they do not have a voice on cable news networks [to comment] on the electoral bloc’s most pressing topics, according to what a "Media Matters" study reported this Wednesday.

    [...]

    In statements to this newspaper, researcher Cristina López explained that the low representation of Latinos “can have negative effects on the narrative that come out of news shows.”

    “Without the inclusion of Latino voices in the discussion of topics of the day, including those that most affect them, we run the risk of having imprecise information that perpetuates damaging stereotypes” about Hispanics, she said.

    For López, it’s urgent that TV producers and executives improve the participation of Latinos and other minorities, especially in a hostile environment in which racist attacks have changed the current of the national dialogue.

    “Latinos have demonstrated, with campaigns like #AskMeMás, that they are anxious and capable of discussing issues that affect them most and being part of broader conversations. The ball is in the court of the news channels,” López stated.

    According to Media Matters, the lack of inclusion of Latino voices on national programs is not isolated but rather makes up a part of a broader pattern: after the massacre in a gay club in Orlando (Florida), none of the major cable channels included a significant number of Hispanic guests, despite the fact that 90% of the victims were of Latino origin.

    And an analysis of Sunday shows, in English and Spanish, left proof that Latinos are only sought out to comment about immigration issues, ignoring the diversity of opinions about other topics of life nationally.

    Although much is spoken about the importance of the Latino vote in this election year, the cable channels “rarely include Hispanics” in their news shows, Media Matters said.

  • Media Matters’ Do’s And Don’ts For Moderators And Media Covering The 2016 Presidential Debates

    ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    The 2016 presidential debates will kick off on September 26, giving voters one of their last chances to judge the candidates on the substance and breadth of their policy proposals. With over 100 million people expected to watch, the stakes could not be higher. Voters are mere months away from selecting the person who will become the president of the United States and whose actions will have an immense impact on their everyday lives. Informing this decision is a responsibility that media cannot afford to take lightly.

  • WATCH: Three Minutes Of Race Baiting From CNN’s Paid “Law Enforcement Analyst” Harry Houck

    "Where Is The Crime? African American Neighborhoods. Hispanic Neighborhoods."

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    On September 22, CNN’s law enforcement analyst Harry Houck attempted to defend the police shooting of Terence Crutcher, the unarmed black man who was killed in Tulsa, OK, after his car broke down on the road. Houck argued Crutcher was being uncooperative and might have been making a “furtive move” for a weapon in his car. Prior to that appearance, Houck accused critics of the shooting of “playing [the] race card,” describing outrage over Crutcher’s death as part of “the war on police.”

    Since being hired as CNN’s law enforcement analyst in May 2015, Houck has used his national platform to defend police officers accused of violence and other misconduct by peddling racist tropes about black criminality, demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement, and blaming black victims of police violence.

    One month after the death of Freddie Gray -- as cable news networks debated racial bias in the criminal justice system -- CNN hired former New York Police Department Detective Harry Houck as a “law enforcement analyst.” During one of his first appearances on the network as a paid analyst, Houck specifically thanked anchor Anderson Cooper for helping get him the job, saying, “This man is responsible for this occurrence.”

    Houck appeared on CNN 204 times between May 18, 2015, and August 1, 2016. And while he’s often invited to discuss crime stories like active shooter situations, Houck is best known for his absurd defenses of police officers accused of mistreating African-Americans. In dozens of segments, Houck has found ways to blame black victims of police violence, deny the existence of racial profiling in law enforcement, and peddle racist tropes about black criminality.

    Race Baiting And Black Criminality

    Houck has repeatedly suggested that African-American and Hispanic communities are policed more aggressively than white communities because “they’re not behaving.” He frequently echoes the racist myth that people of color are more likely to commit crimes, prompting pushback from other CNN guests who have repeatedly had to respond to his race-baiting remarks. During the July 11, 2016, edition of New Day, when asked by a fellow guest if he was suggesting that black people are “prone to criminality,” Houck responded, “They are!”

    Houck also downplays the reality of racial profiling in the criminal justice system, calling it “something that somebody made up.” He regularly dismisses evidence showing unequal treatment for minorities in the criminal justice system, mocking comprehensive studies and academic research showing that African-Americans are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. In Houck’s view, African-Americans are targeted by law enforcement because they’re the ones committing crime.

    On Twitter, Houck is even less subtle about his race baiting. He regularly tweets about the threat posed by “black thugs,” decries what he calls “black thug privilage” (sic), and even tweeted a link to a white supremacist website. In July, Houck posted a link to a video from “men’s rights” activist Tommy Sotomayor calling on President Obama to “ban niggas.”

    Victim Blaming

    Houck has also used his CNN platform to blame high-profile African-American victims of police violence, going to absurd lengths to defend police officers while denying the existence of racial bias. Houck consistently finds ways to blame black victims for their mistreatment by police -- in his view, Eric Garner was resisting arrest, Sandra Bland was being “arrogant” and “uncooperative,” and Alton Sterling wasn’t complying with officers. He defended the police killing of Tamir Rice, saying officers “didn’t have a choice” but to shoot the 12-year-old boy. He defended a police officer who grabbed a South Carolina high school student and yanked her from her classroom desk, claiming the student “probably has no respect at home or on the street.”

    Houck’s victim-blaming often leads him to make blatantly false statements about these incidents on national television, like falsely claiming Bland refused to identify herself to police, and falsely claiming an officer informed a pregnant California woman she was being arrested before attempting to arrest her.

    Criticizing Black Lives Matter

    Houck has also used his CNN platform to demonize the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Houck has described the movement as part of the progressive “war on police,” claiming that “the left does not give a damn about police officers’ lives.” During the August 30, 2015, edition of CNN Newsroom, Houck compared BLM to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Houck also blames the murder of police officers on protests against police brutality. After the December 2014 killing of two NYPD police officers, Houck went on CNN and declared, “Two dead police officers, and I guess Al Sharpton got what he wanted.”

    Houck has also used Twitter to attack BLM, describing it as a “thug group” and a movement to “turn criminals into victims and cops into criminals.” On August 15, 2016, Houck retweeted an image calling BLM “the new KKK.”

    Petition To Drop Houck

    CNN’s decision to continue employing Houck has been criticized by the group ColorOfChange, which launched a petition in October 2015 asking CNN to stop hosting him. ColorOfChange criticized Houck’s “character assassination” of the black 16-year-old South Carolina student who was thrown from her desk by a police officer, also noting Houck’s “blind hero worshiping of the officer.”

    In July 2016, following Houck’s comments about black criminality, ColorOfChange again asked the network to stop inviting him to discuss racial bias in law enforcement, writing:

    Racist statements like this drive the attitudes and stereotypes that lead police officers to regularly commit brutal acts of violence that result in Black people like Alton Sterling and Philando Sterling being killed.

    We are sick of CNN contributor and ex-NYPD detective Harry Houck’s one-man crusade against Black victims of law enforcement violence. Houck’s blind support of police abuse and reinforcement of racist stereotypes is dangerous.

    The group’s petition has garnered over 70,000 signatures, but that hasn’t stopped CNN from continuing to employ Houck as the network’s “law enforcement analyst.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters used iQ media and Nexis to search CNN transcripts for the name “Houck” between May 18, 2015 -- Houck’s first appearance as a network “law enforcement analyst” -- and August 1, 2016. Reruns and snippets from pre-recorded interviews were excluded. For blocks of ongoing coverage of active shooter situations, segments were counted only when the host would begin by introducing and identifying Houck for the audience.

    Top image created by Sarah Wasko.

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

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

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

  • CNN Law Enforcement Analyst: Outrage Over Terence Crutcher Shooting Is Part Of "The War On Police"

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    CNN law enforcement analyst Harry Houck accused Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton of playing the “race card for black votes” following her comments about the police shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, OK, describing the comments as part of "the war on police."

    On September 20, Clinton commented on several recent police shootings of black men, including Crutcher, who was unarmed when he was killed. Clinton lamented the shootings, calling Crutcher’s death “unbearable” and saying the country must “tackle systemic racism.”

    Following Clinton’s remarks, Houck took to Twitter to accuse her of playing the “race card for black votes”:

    Houck’s comments came shortly before he appeared on the September 22 edition of CNN’s New Day to discuss Crutcher’s death. During the segment, Houck argued that Crutcher wasn’t being compliant with the officer and that he might have been making a “furtive move” for a weapon -- continuing Houck’s long history of blaming black victims of police violence:

    On Twitter, Houck also attempted to defend the Tulsa officer’s decision to shoot Crutcher, writing:

    If there was a gun in the car, and he was reaching for it, and the officers waited until they saw it, then an officer might be dead right now. This is why you must comply with officer’s commands.

    Houck also appeared on Newsmax TV, where he defended the shooting of Crutcher as well as the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a black man who was killed by police in Charlotte, N.C. “This is a disgusting display of alleged leadership,” Houck said of Clinton’s comments, adding, “This is all part of the war on police that I always talk about”:

    Houck has been a constant source of race baiting and police apologism on CNN, repeatedly suggesting that black people are prone to criminality and blaming victims of police brutality for their own mistreatment.

    In July 2015, the group ColorOfChange launched a petition asking CNN to “Drop Harry Houck.”

  • Why Won't CNN Answer These Questions About Corey Lewandowski?

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    CNN and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign are unsuccessfully attempting to defuse the explosive new details surrounding ongoing payments from the campaign to former campaign manager and current CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski.

    As reported by The Washington Post, Trump’s recent campaign filing disclosed that Lewandowski “was paid $20,000 in August by the campaign for what it described as ‘strategy consulting’” through his firm Green Monster Consulting. The Post also reported that “CNN has said previously that Trump’s payments to Lewandowski and his consulting firm were ‘severance’ for his employment by Trump.” However, as explained by the Post, “the description used by Trump’s campaign in the filing -- ‘strategy consulting’ -- also suggested that Lewandowski is playing a more active and current role in the campaign than ‘severance’ would suggest.” Responding to the allegations, campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks maintained that Lewandowski is “no longer involved in the campaign [and] continues to receive monthly severance payments.”

    Hicks’ statements on Lewandowski’s role and CNN’s ongoing employment of someone who is still being paid in some form by the campaign leave several unanswered questions: Where is the money for severance documented, given that the Trump campaign filings call payments to Lewandowski “strategy consulting,” the same term that they used to describe his work while he was employed by the campaign for the last year and a half? Has Lewandowski been double dipping -- i.e. taking money from the Trump campaign for work while also receiving severance? Was CNN aware that Lewandowski was still receiving "strategy consulting" payments from the campaign? Most significantly, why hasn’t CNN suspended Lewandowski already -- or, better yet, fired him?

    As The New York Times noted, the fact that in its most recent FEC filing the Trump campaign listed the August payment “as ‘strategy consulting’” raises “questions about whether [CNN] in effect has a Trump campaign strategist on its payroll.” Politico’s Ken Vogel pointed out a similar issue on Twitter, writing that Trump’s payments to Lewandowski “in AUGUST” appears to be “awfully long after his firing for him to be collecting old fees” and that he couldn’t “remember any [other campaigns] paying severance to fired staff.” The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple also raises the question of why Lewandowski is still receiving severance months after being let go from the campaign. Wemple quotes an employment lawyer suggesting the payments may be spread out as a way to “muzzle or control” Lewandowski:

    A look at the timeline reveals that Lewandowski’s firing from Camp Trump occurred on June 20, or nearly three months ago. That’s a protracted severance-paying period, no?

    It sure is, says employment lawyer Debra Katz of Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP. “The vast majority of severance agreements that we’ve negotiated are lump-sum payments,” says Katz, especially if the firms have the financial wherewithal to pay them. So structuring the severance payments over a number of months could be the approach of a cash-starved organization.

    There’s another motive, however. “It is not uncommon to string them out as a way to muzzle or control the person who’s receiving the funds,” says Katz.

    It's not just the recent filings in which Lewandowski was paid for “strategy consulting." According to Trump's FCC filings, Lewandowski has received the same type of payment for “strategy consulting” since April 1, 2015 -- before and after he was reportedly fired by the campaign and before and after he began his employment with CNN. It appears Lewandowski has never been paid directly by the Trump campaign, but instead those uninterrupted funds went to the firm registered to him.

    As reported by the Post in August, this isn’t the first time the Trump campaign’s FEC filings did not seem to match how CNN explained -- and justified -- Lewandowski’s employment and the continued payments he was receiving from the campaign. On August 21, the Post noted in passing that FEC filings showed “Lewandowski received his regular $20,000 monthly fee on July 6 – two weeks after he was jettisoned and had been hired by CNN as a political commentator.”

    But the Post’s new report based on the new FEC filings highlights something different -- and far more damning.

    The July 6 disbursement to Lewandowski’s firm reported by the Post in August was a payment for the 2016 primary -- and could technically be for campaign work done in June, before he was a CNN employee. The newly discovered August 11 payment to Lewandowski is a “strategy consulting” disbursement for the 2016 general election, while Lewandowski was being paid by CNN to shill for Trump -- almost a full two months after he was supposedly fired by the candidate.

    So is Lewandowski being paid three times? Twice by the campaign, once by CNN, and all for the same job?

    Lewandowski will reportedly be on CNN later today. If neither the network nor the campaign can explain these discrepancies and answer basic questions about this ridiculous conflict of interest, maybe he will.

  • Before Lewandowski, CNN Said Contributors Getting “Paid” By A Campaign “Would Not Be Permitted”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    CNN’s decision to continue employing Corey Lewandowski, who is being simultaneously paid by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, clashes with its own years-long stated policies. The network has previously said that a person being "paid" by a campaign “would not be permitted to be a CNN contributor.”

    Trump’s recently filed Federal Elections Commission report revealed that Lewandowski received $20,000 for “strategy consulting” in August through his company Green Monster Consulting LLC. CNN hired Lewandowski as a paid contributor in late June after he was fired from the Trump campaign. The new payment from Trump renewed criticism of CNN for continuing to employ the Trump insider, who is reportedly still advising the Republican nominee.

    The Trump campaign has claimed the disbursements are for “monthly severance payments,” but a spokesperson did not respond to a New York Times question about “why the payments were not described as severance to the F.E.C.”

    CNN’s defense of its Lewandowski employment clashes with its own stated policies toward contributors over the years.

    In 2011, the New York Daily News raised questions about whether Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher could simultaneously work for President Obama’s campaign and CNN. The news network responded by stating that if a contributor gets “paid” by a campaign, that person “would not be permitted to be a CNN contributor”:

    Belcher did not respond to requests for comment, but a CNN spokeswoman tells us the pollster is currently "not being paid by the Obama campaign. If he were," she added, "he would not be permitted to be a CNN contributor."

    Presumably, Belcher will cease to appear on CNN when his work for Obama's campaign begins.

    In 2010, Media Matters documented that the Republican National Committee paid $12,000 to CNN contributor Alex Castellanos for “consulting.” Castellanos said he returned the payment because it went against “CNN's preference and policy.”

    In October 15, 2009, the Republican National Committee paid $12,000 to CNN contributor Alex Castellanos, a payment that apparently violated CNN's stated policy. When contacted last week by Media Matters, Castellanos said he was initially unaware of the payment and returned it last year when he "found out."

    "I was not aware of the payment because ours is a large business and an employee who handles and processes payments for me dealt with the RNC transaction," Castellanos said.

    "CNN's preference and policy is that I don't work for the RNC or political candidates. When I found out that I was being paid by the RNC, I returned it," Castellanos said. "I wish I could keep it. I would like to add to the economic recovery."

    The New York Times reported at the time that CNN said contributors could continue working for the network as long as they weren’t getting paid by candidates or political parties:

    Mr. Castellanos, who previously drew criticism from Democrats for owning a firm that produced advertisements for the Chamber of Commerce and health insurance companies, was named this week as an image consultant for the Republican National Committee.

    On Tuesday, a CNN spokeswoman said the appointment would not disqualify Mr. Castellanos for working as a paid commentator because his job for the R.N.C. was an unpaid position. The spokeswoman, Edie Emery, said CNN had allowed Democratic political advisers like Paul Begala to continue working as long as the jobs they did for the party or candidates were unpaid.

    In July, CNN temporarily suspended its contributor contract with Donna Brazile after she became the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. Brazile is reportedly being compensated by the DNC for serving as interim chair.

    CNN is overturning years of precedent by employing Lewandowski -- yet another reason the network should cut ties with him immediately.