Erik Wemple

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  • 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.

  • Wash. Post's Wemple Explains How Fox's "Love Affair" With 13 Hours Is Actually About Attacking Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post's Erik Wemple highlighted how Fox News' coverage of Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi "is promoting the Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton" during her presidential run, and how the network, in doing so, is "acting as an advocacy organization."

    Fox News has hyped 13 Hours repeatedly, claiming that the film would "raise a lot of questions" about the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic post and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi. In addition to using the movie to push the debunked "stand down order" myth, Fox has argued that Bay's film could "pose a threat" to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Fox's Andrea Tantaros argued, "if anyone sees this movie ... and then goes on to vote for Hillary Clinton, they're a criminal." Prime-time host Megyn Kelly, during a segment that pushed multiple Benghazi myths, said the movie "reintroduces Benghazi as a potential campaign issue that cannot be helpful to Mrs. Clinton." Kelly also attacked Wemple for a blog post that called out Kelly and her network's "obsession" with the Benghazi attacks and their potential political implications for Clinton. 

    In a January 19 piece for The Washington Post's Erik Wemple blog, Wemple explained again how 13 Hours "is giving the network a do-over opportunity" to "attempt to elevate the flick as a political watershed" and "revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton." Wemple noted that by "rooting for the movie to tilt the contemporary political debate," Fox has failed at "acting as a news organization, which reports events as they arise." Wemple concluded that any movie that negatively highlighted the Obama administration "could surely bank on similar excitement from the country's No. 1 cable news outfit":

    On her program, [Megyn] Kelly criticized the Erik Wemple Blog for a Jan. 5 post we'd written about the love affair of Fox News with the new Michael Bay movie "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi." That movie is based on a book of similar title written by Boston University professor Mitchell Zuckoff and a team of security operators who were on the ground on the night of the tragic Benghazi, Libya, attacks of Sept. 11, 2012. The book carried a number of revelations -- including the claim of the security contractors that they were told to "stand down" before rushing to assist personnel at the besieged U.S. diplomatic outpost -- that made news upon its publication in 2014. Fox News was particularly aggressive in promoting the book.

    "13 Hours" the movie is giving the network a do-over opportunity. The network is frequently running clips of the movie, interviewing the security operators -- particularly Mark "Oz" Geist, Kris "Tanto" Paronto and John "Tig" Tiegen -- and otherwise attempting to elevate the flick as a political watershed. On her Jan. 4 program, Kelly herself led into an interview with this trio by saying, "Breaking tonight a 'Kelly File' exclusive on the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House." There was really nothing "breaking" that night -- just a rehash of the same news threads that had been aired at the time of the book's release.

    On her program last night, Kelly disagreed with that point of view. "Wemple of the Washington Post seems to have an issue," said the host in a segment with Fox Newsers Chris Stirewalt and Howard Kurtz. "We did that interview with those three heroes and the feedback we received from the viewers was extraordinary. They wanted to know more. They wanted to know how they could help these guys. They couldn't wait to see this movie. Wemple has a different reaction, which was, '[dismissive sound effect] What did we learn that was new?' I've got news for you, Erik Wemple. You go and you sit through '13 Hours.' You sit there, white-knuckled. When you can't move at the end of it, and a tear comes to your eye, unless you're not human. And you tell me whether this is going to have no impact on the story of Benghazi, which is relevant in this 2016 presidential campaign."

    [...]

    Now to the heart of Kelly's criticism. She demands, "And you tell me whether this is going to have no impact on the story of Benghazi, which is relevant in this 2016 presidential campaign." We have no opinion or projection on whether or not the "13 Hours" movie will have an impact on the ongoing presidential race, nor whether it should have such an impact. Our point is narrower: That Fox News, even after hyping the bona fide revelations in the book version of "13 Hours," is promoting the Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton. In so doing, Fox News isn't acting as a news organization, which reports events as they arise; it's acting as an advocacy organization, verily rooting for the movie to tilt the contemporary political debate. If Bay could only produce a Hollywood reenactment of Obamacare's lowest moments or of the failures of the president's Islamic State policy, he could surely bank on similar excitement from the country's No. 1 cable news outfit. 

  • Wash. Post's Wemple Tries To Get Answers From Loesch And CNN About Obama-Madrassa Smear

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a blog post today, The Washington Post's Erik Wemple reported on an email exchange he had with CNN's Dana Loesch following her revival yesterday of the long-debunked smear that President Obama attended a "madrassa" as a boy, which was first reported by Media Matters.

    From Wemple's post:

    To get Loesch's take on her invocation of "madrassa," I sent along these questions to her:

    Hi Ms. Loesch: I am a media reporter for the Washington Post and have a few questions about your comments about President Obama having attended a madrassa. 1) What do you think of reports that have vacated his claim? Are you skeptical of them? 2) Have you discussed this matter with CNN? 3) Do you plan to address this again? 4) What is your view of the criticism from [Media Matters]?

    That inquiry fetched this response from Loesch:

    When MMfA acknowledges that they're under fire for repeatedly publishing antisemitic content, when they can explain why they coincidently received money from SEIU to target black conservatives in the wake of Kenneth Gladney, when they clarify what they meant when they accused the US of bombing Al Jazeera, and when they detail how often they convene with the White House on strategy (i.e. DOJ story), then I'll be interested in responding on a nonstory from this joke of a far-left propaganda smear site. Until then, I'm more interested in seeing stories on why we have 300 dead Mexicans and two dead border agents on Eric Holder's watch.

    Thanks for reaching out, it is genuinely appreciated.

    OK, so that explains how Loesch feels about Media Matters. But I pinged her back: "But do you have any response to the non-MMFA portions of my inquiry?" Her response: "The entire thing is an MMfA portion." In another blast, she wrote that " 'madrassa,' doesn't mean 'terrorist school.' I made this point on air, by the way, that it's similar to a Sunday school. Why was that not included in their smear? I find it interesting that the first response from MMfA is to think 'terrorism.' That says more about them, and their ignorance of the word and religion, than me."

    There's no way that this blogger is burrowing into the "madrassa" semantic rabbit hole with Loesch. You do not need to be a scholar on world religious education and culture to capture the essence of her exchange with the "Koran" caller. She was expressing ideological kinship with him. The only part of her response that matters is the words "Well, yeah."

  • Wash. Post's Wemple Calls Out Fox's Kelly For "Sidestep[ping] Blame" In Washington Monument Reporting

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a blog post today, The Washington Post's Erik Wemple criticized the reporting of Fox "straight news" anchor Megyn Kelly following the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that shook the east coast yesterday afternoon -- namely, that Kelly reported that the Washington Monument was tilting without first investigating the claim. From Wemple's post:

    Give Megyn Kelly credit for communicating gravitas in the aftermath of the earthquake. Yesterday afternoon on Fox News, she reported:

    "They are concerned that the Washington Monument may be tilting."

    Then she slowed down a bit and said:

    "They are concerned that the Washington Monument may be tilting."

    Blockbuster, huh?

    So who is "they"? Engineers with the National Park Service? White House officials who've been briefed on the teetering national symbol?

    Nope -- for this most momentous of scoops on D.C.'s federal core, Fox News was relying on the words of some "D.C. police officer."

    [...]

    Bill Line, a spokesman with the National Park Service, says he knows of no outlet other than Fox that pushed the tilt. And he says Fox never contacted the Park Service before putting out its rumor. "We never received a phone call from Fox asking us about that," he says. "I learned about it on their Web site." Asks Line: "Wouldn't it be incumbent on a news organization to check out the facts?" People called into the Park Service worried about the possibly unstable Washington Monument, says Line. "We said the information is wrong .... We told them the Washington Monument is closed, but that's not the same thing as it's tilting."

    In a follow-up post titled "Fox sidesteps blame in monumental tilt," Wemple wrote that Kelly today "addressed the question of her network's faulty report" on the monument but "took no blame whatsoever for the erroneous reporting."