Erik Wemple

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  • Wash. Post: Roger Ailes’ "Offensive Style Of Broadcasting” On Display With O’Reilly’s Meltdown Over Slavery

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post journalist Erik Wemple hammered Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly for defending his comments that slaves who built the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodgings,” lambasting both his “offensive” remarks and the “gap” between “historical fact” and O’Reilly’s assertions.

    On July 26, O’Reilly responded to Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention Speech, where the first lady paid homage to the slaves who helped build the White House, by inexplicably adding that they were “well-fed and had decent lodgings by the government.” The media widely criticized O’Reilly’s “morally bankrupt” comments.

    O’Reilly, who has a long and sordid history of racist attacks, responded to the media criticism by doubling down, saying on July 27 that his “commentary” was “100 percent accurate” and “fact.”

    Washington Post’s Erik Wemple excoriated O’Reilly, noting that his remarks fit right in line with the “offensive style of broadcasting” that thrived under recently ousted former Fox President, Roger Ailes. Wemple noted that historians roundly criticized O’Reilly’s false claims, explaining that the real conditions of slaves were unknown because “slaves were not given a choice on what they ate or where they lived.” Wemple added that O’Reilly reached new “extremes” by lashing out at the “far left” and calling for his entire network “to band together … to call out the people who are actively trying to destroy this network” because “they want me dead.” From the July 28 Washington Post article:

    Well, it’s been a week since Ailes left, and his offensive style of broadcasting lives on. On Wednesday night, host Bill O’Reilly took to the network’s airwaves to attempt a defense of his comments of last night regarding first lady Michelle Obama’s Monday night speech here at the Democratic National Convention. She said, in part, “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”


    As the Erik Wemple Blog pointed out this morning, Jesse J. Holland, who wrote the book on slaves and the White House, noted that the slaves were housed in a barn and were provided with food. Yet there’s a gap between that historical fact and what O’Reilly alleged, which, again, is that they were “well fed” and resided in “decent lodgings.”


    Information scarcity notwithstanding, O’Reilly stands by his conclusions about well-fed-decent-lodgings. At this point, it’s incumbent on him to substantiate these judgments or concede that he’s making them without supporting documentation — a common malaise on certain Fox News programs. A smaller point pertains to O’Reilly’s sudden and complete faith in the ability of government to provide sustenance and accommodations for its people. Why does this guy, a small government proponent, all of a sudden think that the public sector can perform such programs with such efficiency?


    Further evidence that O’Reilly has reached new extremes emerged in this comment: “I think the time has come now where this whole network is going to have to band together — all of us — and we are going to have to call out the people who are actively trying to destroy this network by using lies and deception and propaganda. We’re going to have to start to call them out by name because that’s how bad it’s become.” What O’Reilly failed to mention is that the sexual harassment scandal of his former boss — Ailes — is doing far more to destroy Fox News than could any outside critic.

  • Wash. Post’s Erik Wemple: Sean Hannity Is “The Wrong Guy For The Anchor Chair” At RNC

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote that Fox News host Sean Hannity’s refusal to report negative news stories about presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- including Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech -- should disqualify him from anchoring the network’s coverage of the Republican National Convention.

    Hannity has used his Fox News primetime show to defend Trump numerous times including backing him when media have called out Trump’s racist attacks, his delayed contributions to veterans, his unprecedented refusal to release his tax returns, his debunked conspiracy theories, various widely-criticized policy proposals, and for inflaming rhetoric at his campaign rallies. Media have criticized Hannity’s “unapologetic advocacy” for Trump, to which Hannity responded by asserting on his radio show, “I am not a journalist, I’m a talk show host.”

    In a July 19 Washington Post article, Wemple wrote that while CNN and MSNBC reported that Melania Trump plagiarized parts of her convention-headlining speech, Hannity instead issued “pom-pom deployment,” “raving about Trump.” Hannity’s refusal to report bad news about Trump, Wemple wrote, makes him “the wrong guy for the anchor chair” during the convention. From Wemple’s article:

    About 20 minutes after midnight, MSNBC anchors Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow announced a wee-hours breaking story. “We’ve had a remarkable turn of events,” said Maddow. “This started on social media. People on Twitter first started circulating some eyebrow-raising claims about Melania Trump’s speech this evening. That led us . . . to go dig up the archival material and check these claims, and it does appear that there are some unusual similarities, some unusual, very tight parallels between Melania Trump’s speech tonight and Michelle Obama’s speech in a similar position in the 2008 nominating convention for her husband, Barack Obama.”

    Around that time, Fox News’s Sean Hannity was raving about Trump. “First of all, she’s an amazing woman ... smart, charming, kind nice.”


    And so it went for the next half-hour. CNN and MSNBC went into cable-news monofocus, breaking down the issue in all of its particulars: Who wrote the speech? How did this happen? What are the implications?

    Fox News viewers might not have known what was happening, because of Hannity. He was busy with non-Trump-speech-purloining material, including a chat with two mothers whose sons were killed by illegal immigrants and a panel on race. Signing off from his program, Hannity proclaimed that it had been a “great first night.” Such pom-pom deployment is what you might expect from Hannity, who is a self-professed Donald Trump supporter. So much so that he once orchestrated a round of applause from a live audience for Donald Trump’s proposal to ban entry by Muslims into the United States. Ever a transportation helper, Hannity flew Newt Gingrich to Indiana to meet with Trump as part of the vice-presidential interview process, according to CNN.

    When bad news is breaking on the Trump campaign, in other words, Hannity is the wrong guy for the anchor chair.

  • Wash. Post's Wemple Calls Out Hannity's Clear Conflict Of Interest Acting As News Host And GOP Campaigner

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called out Fox News host Sean Hannity for ignoring clear conflict of interest rules by furnishing a private jet for Donald Trump vice presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. Wemple explained that Hannity’s actions creates a “helpful case in point” for “anyone wishing to make the case that Fox News serves as an organ of the Republican Party.”

    In a July 14 column, Wemple wrote that “Hannity apparently considers himself exempt from conflict-of-interest rules binding on the rest of the industry” because he is a “talk show” host. Wemple noted that despite Hannity assertions, Hannity is not exempt from those rules “as long as his employer continues to bill his program” as part of “Fox News.” Wemple concluded, “Anyone wishing to make that case that Fox News serves as an organ of the Republican Party just found a helpful case in point”:

    Here come CNN’s Dana Bash and Dylan Byers with an authentic media-oriented exclusive: Newt Gingrich, a vice-presidential short-lister for Donald Trump’s campaign, flew out to Indianapolis on a private jet furnished by Fox News host Sean Hannity, the CNNers report. The purpose of the trip, which took place on Wednesday morning, was a meeting with Trump himself.


    Hannity’s colleagues, of course, know full well that when you work for a news outlet, favors for friends who double as possible vice presidents are the entire organization’s business. Having previously protested that he’s a “talk show” host, Hannity apparently considers himself exempt from conflict-of-interest rules binding on the rest of the industry. He’s not, at least not as long as his employer continues to bill his program as depicted below. Focus on the red circle added to the screenshot:

    See? It says “Fox News,” not “Fox Corrupt and Conflicted Talk Shows.” Anyone wishing to make that case that Fox News serves as an organ of the Republican Party just found a helpful case in point.

  • Wash. Post Highlights How Ailes And O'Reilly Save Each Other During Scandals

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted how Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and chairman and CEO Roger Ailes have defended each other during scandals, with O’Reilly defending Ailes against sexual harassment allegations by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson.

    In 2015, Media Matters reported on numerous inconsistent and false stories told by O’Reilly, including his claim that he witnessed a “firefight” in El Salvador and that he heard a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Veteran war reporters asserted that his misleading reports that he covered a riot where “many were killed” during the 1982 Falklands War violated “Journalism 101.” O’Reilly responded to these allegations by claiming that Fox News was under attack for political reasons.

    In a July 13 appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, O’Reilly called Ailes “a target” and called Carlson’s lawsuit -- which alleged that Ailes suggested that Carlson have a “sexual relationship” with him and made “frequent sexually-charged comments” -- a “frivolous lawsuit.”

    Wemple explained that Ailes similarly defended O’Reilly against allegations that he “either embellished or told falsehoods or outright lied about various reporting exploits” uncovered by Media Matters and Mother Jones. As O’Reilly’s past statements were being scrutinized, Ailes issued a statement that he “and all senior management are in full support of Bill O’Reilly”:

    [O’Reilly] was saddened by the misfortune of the true victim here: “I’ve worked for Roger Ailes for 20 years. Best boss I’ve ever had. Straight shooter. Always honest with me. And I believe that over the years — he’s been in the business for 50 years — 95 percent of the people who have worked for Roger Ailes would say exactly the same thing I just told you,” said O’Reilly, leaving unanswered just what that other 5 percent might say. “In this country, every famous, powerful or wealthy person is a target. You’re a target,” he said to Meyers. “I’m a target. Anytime somebody could come out and sue us, attack us, go to the press or anything like that. Until America — and that’s a deplorable situation….adopts the English system of civil law whereby if you file a frivolous lawsuit and you lose, the judge has a right to make you pay all court costs. Until we adopt that very fair proposition, we’re going to have this out-of-control tabloid society that is tremendously destructive. I stand behind Roger 100 percent.”


    It was just last year that O’Reilly’s own career appeared in doubt, as outlets like Mother Jones (disclosure: the wife of the Erik Wemple Blog works there as a staff writer) and Media Matters, among others, documented how O’Reilly had either embellished or told falsehoods or outright lied about various reporting exploits from his extensive career in journalism. The King of Cable News, it turned out, had a knack for placing himself closer to the action than his peers and colleagues recollected. The discrepancies were substantive, serial and damaging.

    Not within Fox News, however. Whereas other network bosses might have fired up an internal investigation and declared that we take these allegations seriously, Ailes plied a different course. “Fox News Chairman & CEO Roger Ailes and all senior management are in full support of Bill O’Reilly,” asserted a statement from the network.  Behind such defiance — not to mention angry and absurd denials by O’Reilly himself — the network waited out the siege. Media reporters eventually moved on to other topics. O’Reilly stayed in his seat, thanks to Ailes.

    Now, on late-night television, he returns the favor. This is loyalty, Fox News style.

  • Media Fell For Bogus “New Information” Spin In GOP Benghazi Report

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Several media outlets falsely reported that the final report released by Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi contained “new information,” when in fact all of the “key findings” in the report had been previously reported. Committee Republicans reportedly released “embargoed ‘exclusives’” strategically to manipulate reporters into presenting details in the releases as new information.

  • Wash. Post’s Wemple Highlights Yet Another Conflict Of Interest In CNN’s Hiring Of Trump’s Former Campaign Manager

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted that, among the various ethical concerns with CNN’s hiring of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, an ongoing defamation lawsuit involving Trump and Lewandowski could pose “another conflict of interest” for CNN’s new hire. Wemple wrote that Lewandowski’s hiring has “reduced” CNN to a “pitiful reality” in which they must warn viewers “that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised.”

    On June 23, CNN hired Lewandowski as a “salaried” political commentator days after he had been fired as Trump’s campaign manager. CNN employees and other reporters immediately raised concerns both over potential ethical problems associated with Lewandowski’s hiring and the way Lewandowski has aggressively handled the press in the past.

    Wemple noted possible conflicts of interest in a June 24 Washington Post article writing that an ongoing defamation suit against Trump and Lewandowski by a Republican consultant could be another “possible [source] of taint” for CNN’s arrangement. Wemple highlighted questions which have arisen about whether Trump is “footing the bill” for the both of them, noting how the “entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty” to provide analysis about Trump. Wemple added that this concern, among several others, is forcing other CNN employees interviewing Lewandowski “to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised.” Wemple ultimately wrote that “Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes”:

    In his first appearance as a CNN contributor, former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski showed an unsurprising reverence for his ex-boss. Appearing last night with host Erin Burnett, Lewandowski was careful to refer to “Mr. Trump,” the proper honorific for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He leveled no criticisms of the candidate. And he said this, too: “I am fully committed in my private time with my family and my friends and telling everybody that I know that Donald Trump is the only person that is going to save this country for my children and hopefully their children someday.”


    The hiring of Lewandowski, accordingly, has reduced CNN to this pitiful reality: A true journalist like Burnett is forced to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised. Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes.

    Yet there are other possible sources of taint for Lewandowski and his former boss. These two fellows worked together on a presidential campaign for a year, gathering some enemies along the way. One of them is Cheri Jacobus, a Republican consultant and PR adviser.


    A defamation suit filed by Jacobus in New York County claims that those representations are false. It was the Trump camp, contends Jacobus’s complaint, that wooed her. She’s seeking $4 million in damages, just for starters.

    Why mention this suit in the context of Lewandowski’s work for CNN? Because both he and Trump are named as defendants in the civil action. And according to court documents, a single law firm — LaRocca Hornik Rosen Greenberg & Blaha — is representing both of these men. Defending a defamation suit can cost significant sums. This blog has asked the Trump campaign as well as Lewandowski how the pay arrangements are proceeding. Is Trump footing the bill? Is Lewandowski? Have there been any changes in how the costs are handled since Lewandowski left the campaign?

    Inquiries to Lewandowski, the Trump campaign, CNN and the law firm haven’t yet fetched a single response.

    Little extrapolation is required to appreciate how this entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty to call balls and strikes on CNN. If Trump is paying for legal representation, for instance, why would Lewandowski call a bunch of balls and imperil the arrangement?

    Those considerations stand apart, of course, from another set of considerations: That Lewandowski, with a big assist from his boss, slimed someone who dared to criticize Trump — and comes away with the reward of a CNN contributor gig.

  • Wash. Post’s Wemple: Bill O’Reilly Is “Following Trump Into A Racist Abyss”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post’s Erik Wemple lambasted Fox host Bill O’Reilly for excusing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “racist” attacks on the federal judge presiding over the Trump University lawsuit.

    O’Reilly used his primetime Fox show to call on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the judge presiding over lawsuits against the now-defunct Trump U., to “recuse himself,” following Trump’s statement that Curiel has “an absolute conflict” because of his Mexican heritage. Trump faced widespread backlash for his “racist” and “highly offensive” remarks, and media figures on MSNBC and CNN condemned Bill O’Reilly for defending Trump’s “attack on the Constitution.”

    In a June 7th article, Wemple criticized O’Reilly for “following Trump into a racist abyss,” by defending “Trump’s argument that a judge cannot do his work because of his heritage — an argument that is bigoted, racist, misanthropic and dumb.” From Wemple’s article:

    In Bill O’Reilly’s world, friends excuse friends for being racist.

    The King of Cable News is a good old pal of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. They’ve attended ballgames together. They’ve shared an untold number of vanilla milkshakes. They’re so tight that O’Reilly at one point used his association with Trump to put rival Ted Cruz in his place. “I’ve known him for about 30 years. I think he’s an honest man,” said O’Reilly. Settled!


    Reasonable people on both sides of this country’s political divide have condemned Trump’s argument that a judge cannot do his work because of his heritage — an argument that is bigoted, racist, misanthropic and dumb. O’Reilly is not one of those reasonable people. On his program last night, he attempted a a delicate rhetorical operation in which he called for Curiel’s recusal from the case without repeating Trump’s rationale word for word.


    Let’s lay out this un-theoretical argument: With those words, O’Reilly is explicitly following Trump into a racist abyss, one where an upstanding federal judge stands accused, somehow, of political biases just because of his ancestry. In nearly a year of campaign-trail outrages, this is one of Trump’s most sinister offenses — straight-up prejudice masquerading as highfalutin ethics. Ignorance of court precedent enters the mix as well. As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick wrote, “Despite multiple sad efforts to conflict out black and female judges in discrimination cases in the late 1970s and ’80s—and more recent efforts to conflict out a gay judge in a marriage equality case—courts have consistently ruled judges are no more inherently biased if they are black, or female, or gay than they would be inherently fair if they were white, or male, or straight.”


    If only O’Reilly applied his own standards of ethical purity to his own work: What would he say about a journalist covering frequently and approvingly on a longtime pal? We may never know.

    Next time O’Reilly wants a little insight on conflicts of interest, he should take to heart what his colleague Megyn Kelly said on her program last night: “You can’t create a conflict of interest about a judge just by complaining about him.”

  • 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.

  • Washington Post’s Erik Wemple Slams Megyn Kelly’s “Unfortunate” And “Scandalous” Trump Interview

    Wemple: Kelly “Withheld Details Of Her Ordeal In A Performance That Assisted Trump With His General-Election Pivot”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted the “downright scandalous” nature of Megyn Kelly’s highly anticipated interview with Trump, noting that she held back details from her highly publicized spat with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in an effort to push her upcoming book – which will be available only after the general election in November.

    Kelly’s May 17 debut of Megyn Kelly Presents on the Fox Broadcasting Network was widely criticized for the lack of substance and the softball questions she lobbed at Trump. During the special, Kelly promoted her new book Settle For More, which she claimed will have more details about her experience with Trump.

    After the interview, Wemple wrote that Kelly is entitled to deal with “Trump’s Twitter offensive” on her own schedule, “unless that schedule…is dictated by a book launch.” Wemple went on to describe her decision to withhold details as “unfortunate” and “scandalous” and to point out that the publishing company that gave her a multimillion-dollar contract, which is part of Fox News’ parent company, News Corp, “appear poised to postpone the whole Kelly-Trump story until after the election.”

    What was missing from this interview was Kelly getting personal about what Trump had done to her. She came close with this question: “Have you given any thought in this position to the power that your messaging has on the lives of the people you target and the millions of people who take their cue from you?” Trump responded that he was indeed cognizant of his power.

    Deference is generally appropriate in these situations — Kelly’s ordeal at the hands of Trump’s Twitter offensive is still pretty fresh, so she’s entitled to deal with it on her own schedule. Unless that schedule…is dictated by a book launch. At the end of “Megyn Kelly Presents,” the host said this: “In addition to the ‘Kelly File,’ I’ve been working on a project: A book which I’m unveiling right now. It’s called ‘Settle for More,'” said Kelly. In the book, continued Kelly, “For the first time, I’ll speak openly about my year with Donald Trump. You can pre-order it now wherever books are sold.”

    No problem, right? If the book comes out in a couple of months, readers can get the full story detailing the impact of Trump’s sexism on the life of one of American journalism’s biggest names. They can then use the information to assist them at the voting booth! Oh, wait: The election is Nov. 8, and the publication date is Nov. 15.

    It’s unfortunate enough that Kelly apparently withheld details of her ordeal in a performance that assisted Trump with his general-election pivot. It’s downright scandalous that Kelly, Fox News and the publishing company that gave her the multimillion dollar contract — HarperCollins, a unit of News Corp., part of the Fox News extended corporate family — appear poised to postpone the whole Kelly-Trump story until after the election.

  • Wash. Post's Erik Wemple Calls Out Donald Trump's Attacks On Freedom Of The Press

    Wemple: "Donald Trump Just Declared His Intent To Destroy American Democracy"

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    The Washington Post's Erik Wemple explained how Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's promise, that if elected president, he would change libel laws to sue media outlets that write negative stories about him is a "threat to American democracy" and a "logical extension" of Trump's attacks on the press.

    During a February 26 press conference, Trump announced his intention to fight against unfavorable news coverage, pledging that if elected president, he would "open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money."

    Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple pointed out that Trump's plan to attack media law is a "threat to American democracy" that he would definitely carry out given his rhetoric and treatment of reporters during his campaign:

    An attack on media law is a logical extension of Trump's rhetoric, not to mention a threat to American democracy. After all, he has displayed a highly undemocratic annoyance with the idea that the media is independent. For months he has been attempting to get the cameras at his rallies to properly pan around the thronged arenas, the better to capture his out-of-control popularity, even when the camera operators' job is to stay on him. He has ridiculed reporter after reporter for reporting the facts of Trump's march through the GOP primaries. Whenever he has been busted out by investigative journalism, he has attacked the institutions that have compiled it.

    Though Trump in his remarks issued no specifics -- he never does -- about the shortcomings of existing policy or the exact changes he'd make, he appears to be upset with the degree to which media outlets are protected by longstanding First Amendment law. And protected they are, especially when reporting on people like Donald Trump, the sort of person that libel law sees as "public figures." Media types can go after public figures with a great deal of aggressiveness because the law of the land sees those in the public eye as inviting scrutiny and thrusting themselves into the glare of accountability.


    What's so comical and pathetic about Trump is how, as per usual, he speaks so loudly without knowing anything about the topic. Roll back the tape on one part of his riff: "I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money."

    Trump wouldn't need to "open up our libel laws" in order to accomplish this end. As currently laid out, our libel laws enable him to do just that. In fact, the "actual malice" standard discussed above applies almost precisely to those instances when news outlets write "purposely negative and horrible and false articles."

    Read carefully, in other words, Trump's words delivered a thundering endorsement of the status quo in libel jurisprudence. Surely he didn't mean as much -- if elected he would doubtless move ahead with this plan to make it harder for news outlets to call him out. Though for a guy who spends much of his day writing over-the-top slams of other public officials, maybe Trump should give thanks for the First Amendment.

    Since announcing his candidacy, Trump has repeatedly attacked reporters that challenged him. In November, Trump was roundly criticized for mocking the disability of a New York Times reporter who helped debunk Trump's claim that "thousands" of Muslim-Americans celebrated in New York City after 9/11. In January, Trump called NBC News correspondent Katy Tur, "Little Katy, third-rate journalist" after she reported on Black Lives Matter protesters at his events. Trump has been criticized by reporters at his events for "overly aggressive" tactics, sequestering reporters until they pledge not to speak to his supporters. And Trump has even removed reporters from events for publishing articles and asking questions unfavorable to him.

  • Wash. Post's Erik Wemple Doubles-Down On Criticism Of Morning Joe's Donald Trump "Puff Session"

    MSNBC Hosts Were "Essentially Giving [Trump] A Pass" By Glossing Over His "Record Of Offenses And Outrages"

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTIANO LIMA

    The Washington Post's Erik Wemple defended his criticism of MSNBC Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski for their "puff session" interview with Donald Trump during the network's exclusive February 17 town hall with the Republican presidential candidate.

    In a February 17 piece, Wemple criticized MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski for not questioning "Trump's shameful record of racism, bigotry and rampant disrespect" during a one-hour presidential town hall that evening. Wemple asserted that "any hour-long session with Donald Trump that doesn't ask him about those obscenities is a puff session" and that the MSNBC duo's failure to challenge Trump was a "journalistic shortfall." Wemple joined a chorus of media critics calling out the "softball" treatment of Trump. After receiving direct criticism from Scarborough and Brzezinski, Wemple issued a satirical apology in which he reasserted that he stood "by every word of our review of the Scarborough-Brzezinski Trump town hall."

    On the February 21 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, Wemple again doubled-down on his criticism of the MSNBC hosts, saying that "it's the media's role" to keep bringing up Trump's "record of offenses and outrages of racist, and sexist, and bigoted nature":

    BRIAN STELTER (HOST): The campaign trail wars have nothing on the cable news wars. The latest example, dueling town halls. CNN airing a town hall with three GOP candidates while MSNBC set up an hour-long town hall with Donald Trump moderated by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Now, Scarborough was criticized for some of the questions in his town hall. Let me show you one of the examples here. This is from Erik Wemple of The Washington Post. He said that "MSNBC and Morning Joe hosts let Trump skate on bigotry and racism." Well, Erik Wemple of The Washington Post joins me now in Washington. Erik, I want you to respond to Scarborough because, as you and I both know, he's been the subject of media coverage, including here at CNN, describing a -- maybe a cozy relationship with Donald Trump. He's been defending himself and dismissing those criticisms. Let's take a look at what he said about you on his show the other day.


    So he says he's being tough on Trump. You said he let Trump "skate."

    ERIK WEMPLE: Right, I mean, I think that there -- it's one of these great Washington situations where both sides can sort of claim, "hey, look at this question, look at at that question." My point here Brian is sort of a larger one, and that is if you allow Donald Trump -- if you engage him only on like say Social Security, Iraq, and the issues, and how he's going to unite the Republican Party, you're essentially giving him a a pass. You're allowing him into the polite company of a presidential election. Where I think that there's a bigger issue here, and that is that he has compiled this record of offenses and outrages of racist, and sexist, and bigoted nature. And I think that if you have an hour to spend with him, and you don't talk about any of that, a lot of it came in 2015 -- I think that some media people have moved on. But I think Donald Trump has never apologized for any of his outrages. He's never made amends, he's never adequately explained any of it. And I don't think that it's the media's role to sort of let that go by the wayside. I think it's the media's role to keep bringing that up. Now, The Huffington Post has this footer that they attach to every story on Donald Trump where they recite all his various outrages and they link to supporting documentation.

  • WaPo's Wemple Explains How The "Great Conservative Tradition" Of Bemoaning Media Bias Has Now Backfired On Fox

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Washington Post's Erik Wemple pointed out the irony in how "accusations of media bias," a ploy often used by Fox to boost "its own ratings" and undermine criticisms against conservatives, are what Donald Trump claims is motivating his boycott of Thursday's GOP primary debate.

    During a January 26 press conference GOP presidential front runner Donald Trump announced that he will not participate in Thursday night's Fox News-hosted GOP presidential primary debate, because of alleged bias against him by Fox News host and debate moderator, Megyn Kelly.

    Fox has given Trump over 24 hours of free airtime since May, significantly more than his fellow GOP candidates and has furnished several of the talking points Trump uses on the campaign trail. However, the network has stood by Kelly and several Fox News figures have attacked Trump over his decision to pull out of the debate.

    Despite the massive amount of coverage given to Trump's campaign, Trump still maintains there is a bias against him, using a tactic Fox News helped create. As The Washington Post's Erik Wemple wrote in a January 26 blog post, Trump's accusations of media bias against him mirror the "great conservative tradition" of accusing the media of an anti-Republican bias. According to Wemple, Trump has taken advantage of the media bias trope to deflect "just about anything that has been critical of him", and now, he is using this narrative against the network that helped create it, making "the ironies here circular." (emphasis original):

    Tempting though it is to game out the PR and political calculations between Fox News and Trump, there's something bigger going down here. Momentous, even: The right-wing penchant for nonstop media criticism is swerving across the median, zigzagging around the road, about to wrap itself around that oak tree around the curve. Like other planks of the conservative canon -- e.g., foreign-policy hawkishness -- it has been invoked and ultimately abused by Trump. Such that it can no longer stand on its own.

    See any good -- or bad -- conservative politician on the stump, and listen for the broadsides against the liberal mainstream media. They don't give Republicans a chance; they distort things; they give weight to trivial stories that harm conservatives and ignore big stories that favor them -- it's a viewpoint that stretches back at least to a seminal anti-MSM speech by Spiro Agnew in 1969.


    Into this tradition of media criticism stomped Trump's presidential campaign. Whereas previous practitioners of the critique looked for quite specific signs of bias in the media, Trump has found bias or misconduct in just about anything that has been critical of him. He has railed against Politico for pointing out various truths; he has railed against CNN and just about every other broadcaster for the bias of not showing the full extent of his crowds; he has ripped pundits -- and Post columnists -- such as Charles Krauthammer and George F. Will for reasons that haven't stuck with the Erik Wemple Blog; he has gone back and forth on whether Chuck Todd of NBC News is a nice guy; and so on.

    All of which tees up the Kelly thing. "Megyn Kelly's really biased against me," said Trump in an Instagram video. "She knows that, I know that, everybody knows that. Do you really think she can be fair at a debate?" (Bold text added to highlight another clumsy Trump effort to co-opt a great conservative tradition.)


    The ironies here are circular. Over the years, Fox News has boosted its own ratings by frequently airing accusations of media bias. Now its ratings -- at least for Thursday night's debate -- stand to suffer over just such an accusation. Everyone tunes in to see just how Trump will bring out the worst in those who surround him. And the National Review got tossed from hosting a February debate because it dared to exercise its prerogative as an opinion journal to editorialize against Trump.