The New York Times failed to disclose Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz's financial ties to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in an op-ed it published on Cantor's loss.
On June 11, the Times offered Luntz a platform to analyze the surprise primary defeat of Cantor by challenger Dave Brat and discuss the failings of polls, which had predicted a Cantor victory. At the end of the op-ed, the Times noted that Luntz works as "a communications adviser and Republican pollster" and "is president of Luntz Global Partners, a consulting firm," but did not disclose Luntz's direct ties to the Cantor camp.
What the Times didn't mention is that Luntz Global has received more than $15,000 in consulting fees from Cantor's campaign since 2012. According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, Cantor paid Luntz Global $2,354 for "seminar expenses" on February 27, $5,000 for "speech consulting" on December 12, and $8,000 for "speech writing" on April 9, 2012.
CBS News has already come under fire for a similar failure to disclose Luntz's connections to the Cantor campaign after it turned to Luntz for political analysis of Cantor's loss. As Media Matters reported, veteran media critics and reporters slammed the omission: former New York Times media writer and director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University Alex S. Jones said that the lack of disclosure was either "bad" or "corrupt" journalism, and former Washington Post ombudsman Andy Alexander said:
It's Journalism 101. Anything that could impact the credibility of the person being interviewed should be disclosed. It's a matter of being honest and transparent with your audience.
Other media experts made similar points.
New York Times reporter Derek Willis responded to the Luntz piece by tweeting, "Did we really publish an oped from Frank Luntz without telling readers he *worked* for Cantor's campaign?"
Did we really publish an oped from Frank Luntz without telling readers he *worked* for Cantor's campaign? http://t.co/XMIFHoELUI-- Derek Willis (@derekwillis) June 12, 2014
Veteran news ethicists and observers are criticizing CBS News and pollster Frank Luntz for failing to disclose Luntz's financial ties to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor during an appearance on CBS This Morning today to discuss Cantor's surprise primary defeat.
Luntz, a CBS News political analyst, said during the interview that Cantor's defeat was "a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country." But at no point did CBS News or Luntz disclose that Luntz's firm, Luntz Global, had received more than $15,000 in consulting fees since 2012 from Cantor's congressional campaign.
CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair claimed the network had provided adequate disclosure during the broadcast, telling Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple: "His work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
That explanation doesn't satisfy veteran media critics and reporters. They slammed CBS in interviews with Media Matters, saying that the specific Cantor connection should have been revealed.
"I think it is a classic case of a conflict of interest and CBS was remiss in not knowing it," said Alex S. Jones, former media writer for The New York Times and director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. "If CBS did know it and didn't mention it, then they are bad journalists. If they did know and agreed not to mention it as a condition for getting Luntz on the show, then they were not only bad, but corrupt."
Andy Alexander, former Washington Post ombudsman, agreed.
"It's Journalism 101. Anything that could impact the credibility of the person being interviewed should be disclosed," he said in an email about Luntz. "It's a matter of being honest and transparent with your audience."
Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker, said such non-disclosures are becoming too common: "He should have disclosed he got paid and CBS should have disclosed he got paid," Auletta said in a phone interview. "This is very common now in television to have political consultants as talking heads."
David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun television writer, called the lack of disclosure "outrageous."
"I can't imagine how anyone would think it is ok NOT to clearly explain that conflict of interest," he said via email. "And CBS wants to sell this show as somehow being the journalistically solid viewing choice."
For Alicia Shepard, former NPR ombudsman, such action is a form of deception by CBS: "When CBS viewers learn -- and they will -- that Luntz worked for Cantor, they will feel deceived. None of us likes that feeling. CBS loses nothing by acknowledging that Luntz worked for Cantor. Why not be transparent? "
Kevin Smith, chair of the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, offered a similar thumbs down: "This constant parade of pundits and analysts on network TV with insider interests needs to stop. Clearly, CBS and others are not willing to be forthcoming about these conflicts and share them in a transparent manner with the viewers."
This isn't the first time CBS has had disclosure problems with Luntz, who has been an analyst for the network since 2012. The GOP strategist appeared on CBS in October and November of that year to discuss Republican vice presidential candidate and Rep. Paul Ryan without disclosing Luntz Global had received money from Ryan's congressional campaign.
UPDATE: CBS News responded to this post by suggesting it doesn't need to disclose if its on-air talent is being paid by the people they're analyzing.
CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair claimed the network had provided adequate disclosure during the broadcasting, telling Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple: "His work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
Wemple found that explanation wanting, writing that journalism ethics would require CBS to disclose the specific "consultant-client relationship" between Luntz and Cantor:
There's some logic here: Saying that Luntz strategizes for Republicans could be interpreted to encompass his work for Cantor, who is a Republican certainly in need of political strategy.
Yet this is an on-air title, not an on-air disclosure. When it comes to getting people to say favorable things about other people, there's nothing like a consultant-client relationship to facilitate things. When money changes hands, journalism ethics must pay heed.
CBS This Morning hosted its political analyst Frank Luntz to discuss House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Republican primary loss to Dave Brat. An upset Luntz said that Cantor's defeat was "a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country." But at no point did CBS News or Luntz disclose a major conflict of interest: Cantor has paid Luntz's firm thousands of dollars for consulting.
Frank Luntz is the CEO of the political consulting firm Luntz Global (Luntz sold his majority stake in the company in January, but continues to serve as an executive). According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, Luntz Global has received over $15,000 in consulting fees since 2012 from Cantor for Congress: On February 27, Cantor paid Luntz Global $2,354 for "seminar expenses"; on December 12, Cantor paid Luntz Global $5,000 for "speech consulting"; on April 9, 2012, Cantor paid Luntz Global $8,000 for "speech writing."
CBS This Morning hosts Norah O'Donnell and Charlie Rose did not note the CBS News political analyst's financial connections to Cantor. Luntz hailed Cantor as a hero to the country whose loss shatters the "cooperation" between House Republicans and the White House. From the June 11 edition of CBS' CBS This Morning:
LUNTZ: Well you had Eric Cantor, who had a very good relationship with Joe Biden. Had open lines of communication. I think for the GOP it's going to be very dangerous now for a Republican to talk to Democrats, as it was Democrats to talk to Republicans a few years ago. That this a blow for conversation. This is a blow for some sort of cooperation and I think it's bad for the country, not just bad for the Republicans.
LUNTZ: I think this is such a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country. Eric Cantor had the ability to negotiate. Eric Cantor had the ability to sit toe to toe and make concessions and make agreements. And maybe that hurt him in the primary, but that's exactly what we need in Washington, and now we're losing him.
After Rose noted Cantor "was a pipeline to Wall Street too in raising money," Luntz replied, "He was also a pipeline to Americans who just wanted people to get things done. And we've lost that leadership in Washington."
The Daily Caller and Rush Limbaugh accused the First Lady and her healthy eating initiative of 'forcing' the White House pastry chef to resign, conveniently omitting the fact that the chef is leaving to pursue his own healthy eating initiative.
Upon news that White House executive pastry chef Bill Yosses plans to leave the White House in June to join his husband in New York City, the Daily Caller accused Michelle Obama of pushing Yosses out with her healthy eating initiatives. According to the conservative site, the pastry chef resigned after Michelle Obama "fundamentally changed his job duties to focus on healthier foods," though Yosses "was never fully committed to the new policy."
On March 19 Rush Limbaugh hyped the Daily Caller's claims, declaring that Yosses "has been forced out" by Michelle Obama:
LIMBAUGH: Michelle Obama still told him, "I don't' care what you're good at. You're not going to use butter in the White House. And you're not going to use cream, and you're not going to use sugar, and you're not going to use eggs. So this guy had to come up with fruit puree as a sugar substitute in his baked goods. And he finally threw up his hands and said, 'The heck with it, I'm out of here.'
The truth is nearly the opposite - Yosses' departure is actually due in part to a new found interest in "the relationship between food and health," according to The New York Times, a passion that he discovered after beginning to work with healthier ingredients during his time at the White House. He reportedly plans to begin working on a food literacy program to promote "delicious food as healthy food," citing how he had been inspired by the first lady's requests for healthier desserts:
Hired by Laura Bush in 2007, when he was already acclaimed in New York for the raspberry and pear soufflés he created at restaurants like Montrachet and Bouley, Mr. Yosses began moving beyond the traditional sugar sculptures and cookie plates after Mrs. Obama arrived at the White House. He was directed to make more healthful desserts, and in smaller portions, that were to be served only sparingly to the first family.
Mr. Yosses began experimenting with alternatives to what he called "the usual blitzkrieg" of butter and cream. Now, he said, "we replace butter with fruit purée, which gives some body." He often uses honey and agave in place of sugar, has added whole grains to desserts and is considering heirloom varieties of whole wheat without the bitterness of wheat bran and germ in modern whole-wheat flour.
Mr. Yosses has also been inspired by the White House garden, where he has chosen from a cornucopia of strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, figs, papaya, carrots, sweet potatoes and herbs like lemon thyme flowers, lavender and pineapple sage. Nearby is honey from the White House beehives. The result -- oatmeal bars, baked apples and pear-quince cobblers, among many others -- will have a lasting impact on his eating habits, as will Mrs. Obama.
Even the Blaze, Glenn Beck's website, called out The Daily Caller for distorting the pastry chef's departure, writing that "Yosses' reasons for leaving are actually quite the opposite" of what the Daily Caller wrote.
From the January 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday:
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A new study confirms that Fox News consistently used slanted language when covering the debate over health care reform. Unlike other networks, Fox used language mirroring GOP-friendly phrases promoted by conservative messaging guru Frank Luntz more often than they did neutral descriptors.
In the latest salvo in a Republican Party civil war that shows no signs of stopping, CBS political analyst and GOP consultant Frank Luntz criticized Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and others in right-wing talk radio for attacking Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) over his support for immigration reform.
Luntz's comments came during an April 22 talk at the University of Pennsylvania. According to Mother Jones, Luntz asked to go off the record after being questioned about political polarization because he was concerned his comments could have repercussions. One of the students in the audience then started to record Luntz without the consultant's knowledge.
In that video, Luntz says:
And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it's really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It's only on the Republican side...[inaudible]. [Democrats have] got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what's driving it. If you take -- Marco Rubio's getting his ass kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He's getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He's trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That's what's causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy.
Since the 2012 election, Republican media figures and activists have been engaged in often intense debates over who to blame for the party's electoral failures and what the party's future direction should be. Luntz's comments provide more fuel for that fire.
Fox News has often claimed that "liberals" stopped using the term "global warming" in favor of the term "climate change" because the planet is no longer warming. Fox News' The Five, for instance, celebrated Earth Day 2013 by trotting out this talking point to deny global warming - even though 2000-2009 was the warmest decade on record and each of the 12 hottest years on record have come in the last 15 years. In reality, it was Republican consultant Frank Luntz -- now a Fox News contributor -- who advised Republicans in a 2002 memo to use the term "climate change" because "'climate change' is less frightening than 'global warming.'"
The term "climate change" was used long before Luntz's memo, particularly in the scientific literature. For instance, a 1970 paper published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was titled "Carbon Dioxide and its Role in Climate Change" and discussed how emissions of carbon dioxide warm the atmosphere.
Scientists use "global warming" when speaking about the increase in average global surface temperatures. They use "climate change" to refer to all the other disruptions that greenhouse gas emissions are causing -- from rising sea levels, to abruptly changing precipitation patterns that increase the likelihood of droughts and wildfires in certain areas and extreme flooding in others, to acidifying oceans that disturb the marine food web.
John Kerr created the video in this report.
Fox News contributor and Republican pollster Frank Luntz praised the ability of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to communicate without disclosing that both men were past clients of his.
During a Fox & Friends appearance on Wednesday, communications strategist Luntz claimed that "almost no politician is connecting right now" with voters because "the American people are so angry and frustrated with Washington." He then highlighted the supposed ability of Rubio and Ryan to connect with voters, highlighting real-time responses given by his focus group as Rubio talked about immigration and Ryan talked about federal debt.
Luntz claimed that the tone Rubio used in the remarks Luntz selected for the focus group is "why he is becoming one of the most popular politicians in America today." Luntz added that the Ryan remarks he selected for the focus group proved that Ryan "has this ability to transcend traditional partisan politics":
Luntz did not disclose that both lawmakers were formerly his clients. According to a January 2012 Wall Street Journal article, Rubio hired Luntz to help him craft his "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future" when he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives:
Mr. Rubio, a budding GOP activist in Miami when Mr. Gingrich unveiled the Contract With America in 1994, modeled his speakership on Mr. Gingrich's. He recruited Frank Luntz, who did polling work for the Contract With America, to help him craft his "100 Innovative Ideas." In a 2006 speech before the Florida House, Mr. Gingrich singled out Mr. Rubio, who was about to become the state's first Cuban-American speaker, as a potential national figure.
"Rubio's approach...came straight from the concept of the Contract," Mr. Luntz said, adding that Messrs. Rubio and Gingrich "shared a similar approach to governing."
And according to Federal Election Commission filings from the 2012 election cycle, Luntz received $45,000 from Ryan's congressional campaign for polling and consulting services.
Luntz previously praised Ryan in his capacity as CBS analyst while failing to disclose his financial ties to the Ryan campaign. Luntz also praised an American Crossroads anti-Obama ad during the 2012 presidential election without disclosing that Crossroads paid him for surveying and polling services.
From the December 3 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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From the November 10 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
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Fox News hosted GOP pollster Frank Luntz to praise a recent anti-Obama ad as "powerful" and "one of the best ads of the campaign." Neither Luntz nor the Fox hosts mentioned that the ad was produced by the super PAC American Crossroads, a group co-founded by Fox News political analyst Karl Rove, or that Crossroads has paid Luntz's firm this election cycle.
Luntz's November 5 Fox & Friends appearance kicked off with a series of interviews he had conducted at Romney campaign events with parents of young children. As explained by Luntz, these parents were worried that their children "would not grow up in the America they grew up in." Luntz then transitioned to a political ad he had "dial-tested" a week ago, labeling it "one of the best ads of the campaign and it does focus on this inter-generational concern and anxiety."
Fox News then aired the ad in full, with the exception of the disclosure at the end indicating its creator. In fact, the ad was released by Rove's American Crossroads last month. Onscreen text identified it as a "Political Ad" and a "Romney Ad." Both Luntz and the Fox & Friends crew failed to mention that it came from a Fox employee's political group:
CBS News can't seem to decide whether CBS News analyst Frank Luntz is still a Republican pollster and strategist.
CBS This Morning has contradictorily introduced Luntz as both a "Republican pollster" or strategist and "former Republican" pollster or strategist during numerous segments in recent months (see video and transcript below). There shouldn't be any confusion: Luntz is a Republican pollster and strategist whose firm has received money from Republican groups this election cycle, according to a Media Matters review.
Luntz, who was hired by CBS earlier this month, helped lay the ground for Republican efforts to win back the U.S. Congress and White House. New York Times Magazine contributor Robert Draper reported in his recent book that Luntz "organized a dinner" on President Obama's inauguration night featuring several of "the Republican Party's most energetic thinkers." During the meeting, Republicans formulated a plan which involved showing "united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies."
According to a search of Federal Election Commission records, Luntz and his firm Luntz Global LLC have received payments from several Republican groups this cycle:
CBS News has reportedly hired Frank Luntz, the Republican strategist and pollster best known for helping Republicans craft often-deceptive messaging to torpedo liberal policies. In his post announcing the move, Politico media reporter Dylan Byers writes that Luntz will "make a number of appearances across the network between now and Election Day." Luntz's hiring comes only a few months after New York Times Magazine contributor Robert Draper reported that Luntz orchestrated a 2009 meeting where prominent Republicans formulated a plan to win back Congress and the White House.
In his book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, Draper reported that Luntz "organized a dinner" on Obama's inauguration night featuring a handful of "the Republican Party's most energetic thinkers." The attendees -- which included current vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan -- reportedly emerged from the nearly four hour dinner "almost giddily" after having agreed on "a way forward."
According to Draper, the Republican plan involved showing "united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies," with an eventual goal of defeating Obama and taking back the Senate in 2012:
Luntz had organized the dinner -- telling the invitees, "You'll have nothing to do that night, and right now we don't matter anyway, so let's all be irrelevant together." He had selected these men because they were among the Republican Party's most energetic thinkers -- and because they all got along with Luntz, who could be difficult. Three times during the 2008 election cycle, Sean Hannity had thrown him off the set at Fox Studios. The top Republican in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, had nurtured a dislike of Luntz for more than a decade. No one had to ask why Boehner wasn't at the Caucus Room that evening.
The dinner lasted nearly four hours. They parted company almost giddily. The Republicans had agreed on a way forward:
Go after Geithner. (And indeed Kyl did, the next day: "Would you answer my question rather than dancing around it - please?")
Show united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama's economic stimulus plan.)
Begin attacking vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves. (The first National Republican Congressional Committee attack ads would run in less than two months.)
Win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012.
"You will remember this day," Newt Gingrich proclaimed to the others as they said goodbye. "You'll remember this days as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown." [Do Not Ask What Good We Do, pp. xvi-xix]
The inauguration night dinner was also reported in Election 2012: The Battle Begins by Real Clear Politics reporters Tom Bevan and Carl Cannon.
Now, less than four years after this meeting, CBS will be inviting Luntz onto their airwaves as an "analyst."
In a July 19 article headlined, "Romney drives a truck through Obama's 'build that' remark," CNN.com reported on a new ad from the Mitt Romney campaign that attacked President Obama over his recent remarks about small businesses, without pointing out that the ad dishonestly edited Obama's comments to portray him as anti-business.
Furthermore, here's the way CNN described the Romney ad: " 'These Hands' [is] about an owner in charge of a family business who challenges Obama's claim that his family did not build their business on their own." Again, CNN did not inform readers that Obama made no such claim in his remarks.
In the Romney campaign ad, Obama is heard saying:
If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be 'cause I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something: If you've got a business, that -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.
As the Washington Post's Greg Sargent noted, however, a big chunk of Obama's words was removed from that excerpt, making it seem as if Obama said what he said there concurrently:
In the video, the speech is made to sound as if Obama continued straight from "let me tell you something" to "if you've got a business, you didn't build that." But here are the words that Obama said between those two sentences that were cut out (the missing sentences are in bold):
Let me tell you something. There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that.
CNN reported none of this, instead sticking to the he said/she said style of journalism that has been so thoroughly criticized. CNN reported simply that the "dueling presidential candidates and their campaigns dispute each other's interpretation," adding:
To drive home their point, Obama's re-election team released a rebuttal video with more lines from the president's speech to provide context to nuggets Republicans keep repeating.