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  • Broadcast Morning Shows Mostly Ignore New Reports Detailing Trump’s Potential Conflicts Of Interests

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CYDNEY HARGIS

    Broadcast morning news shows mostly ignored multiple new reports highlighting potential conflicts of interests involving President-elect Donald Trump. In doing so, broadcast news outlets are continuing a pattern of ignoring important revelations about Trump’s business practices.

    On November 21, multiple stories broke detailing “new questions about Mr. Trump’s willingness to use the power of the presidency to advance his business interests.” The New York Times noted that experts in legal ethics claim Trump’s business “arrangements could easily run afoul of” a constitutional clause that protects against conflicts of interest “if [the arrangements] continue after Mr. Trump takes office.” The Times and The Hill both detailed specific incidents during Trump’s transition to the presidency that have “raised concerns about conflicts of interest between his future White House and his private enterprises,” but broadcast news outlets have chosen to ignore the new reports by and large.

    Media Matters searched video and transcripts of the November 22 broadcast morning news shows -- ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning -- for reports on Trump’s conflicts of interest and found that the shows devoted less than two minutes combined to the newest reports of the president-elect’s business dealings overseas. NBC’s Today did not mention the potential conflicts of interest at all, while CBS This Morning had only 23 seconds worth of coverage, and ABC’s Good Morning America spent one minute and 31 seconds on the issue.

    Inadequate reporting of Trump’s inherent conflicts of interest has been a consistent problem, despite concerns that his business entanglements will be a “national security nightmare.” News networks for the most part sidelined reporting on Trump’s conflicts of interest until after his election. Between September 14 and Election Day, the networks aired approximately seven minutes of stories about or at least mentioning Trump’s various conflicts of interest, and in the week after the election, they aired approximately 14 minutes of coverage about conflicts ranging from Trump’s foreign business ties to Ivanka Trump’s company pushing a $10,000-plus bracelet that she wore in a recent 60 Minutes interview.

    Trump’s lack of transparency when it comes to divulging his business dealings makes it imperative that network news shows raise awareness about these conflicts of interest -- but so far, they’re failing.

  • Right-Wing Media Tout Trump’s “Lobbying Ban” As Draining The Swamp, While Other Outlets Question Ban’s Efficacy

    Emphasis On Ban Also Ignores Trump’s Many Other Conflicts Of Interest

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are touting new “promises” from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team to implement five-year “bans on having folks go and lobby after being in the administration” -- and to allow no registered lobbyists on his transition team -- as “a signal that he's going to do the draining of the swamp he said he'd do.” But other media have explained why the ban wouldn’t necessarily work, as lobbyists could just avoid registering as such, and transition team members could undo their lobbyist registration. In addition, the proposed “ban” does nothing to address the “tidal wave of potential conflicts of interest” that “will arrive with” a Trump administration.

  • Conservative Media Attempt To Sanitize Stephen Bannon’s Ties To White Nationalism And Anti-Semitism

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Conservative media are defending Stephen Bannon, who was recently appointed as President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist, amid growing backlash over his ties to anti-Semitism and white nationalists. While Bannon’s appointment has been hailed as a victory by white nationalists, the push to normalize Bannon was aided by major newspapers that downplayed and ignored his extreme ties.

  • Network Morning Shows Barely Acknowledge Trump’s Possibly Illegal Tax Avoidance

    ABC, NBC, And CBS Morning Shows Cover Days-Old Clinton Email Story 15 Times More Than New Report On Trump’s Tax Avoidance Scheme

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & ALEX KAPLAN

    The network morning shows spent nearly half an hour covering the four-day-old story that the FBI found emails that may be pertinent to an investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, but less than two minutes on a new report detailing possibly illegal actions Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took in the 1990s to avoid reporting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxable income.

    On October 28, FBI Director James Comey defied Justice Department rules and precedent to issue a short and vague letter informing Congress that the bureau had obtained and was seeking to review emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. Comey’s decision drew criticism from media figures from across the political spectrum and former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials. Yet during the morning of November 1, ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning spent a combined total of nearly 30 minutes on this story and the impact it might have on election polls.

    Just yesterday, The New York Times explained that “thanks to a” possibly illegal tax maneuver Trump used in the early 1990s, he “potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes” (emphasis added):

    [N]ewly obtained documents show that in the early 1990s, as he scrambled to stave off financial ruin, Mr. Trump avoided reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income by using a tax avoidance maneuver so legally dubious his own lawyers advised him that the Internal Revenue Service would most likely declare it improper if he were audited.

    Thanks to this one maneuver, which was later outlawed by Congress, Mr. Trump potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes. It is impossible to know for sure because Mr. Trump has declined to release his tax returns, or even a summary of his returns, breaking a practice followed by every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate for more than four decades.

    Tax experts who reviewed the newly obtained documents for The New York Times said Mr. Trump’s tax avoidance maneuver, conjured from ambiguous provisions of highly technical tax court rulings, clearly pushed the edge of the envelope of what tax laws permitted at the time. “Whatever loophole existed was not ‘exploited’ here, but stretched beyond any recognition,” said Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center who helped draft tax legislation in the early 1990s.

    Yet Good Morning America was the only broadcast morning show to cover this detailed reporting on the Republican presidential nominee possibly committing a crime, devoting two interview segments to the issue for a scant airtime of 1 minute and 47 seconds. The other two morning shows did not mention the Times report or Trump’s tax avoidance at all.

    The networks’ Sunday shows have demonstrated a pattern of ignoring investigative reporting about Trump in favor of hyping any recent news about Clinton. Now the networks’ weekday morning shows seem to be following the same pattern.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream transcripts for ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning, with the keywords “Clinton,” “FBI,” “email,” and “Comey” for any comments about the Clinton email story, and the keywords “tax” and “taxes” for any comments about the Trump tax story. Any comments on either subject were then measured for time. At least one discussion covered both topics simultaneously.

  • Trump Avoided Confronting His Scandals In The Media, Save For George Stephanopoulos

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was the only national reporter who questioned Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about the many scandals that have dogged his campaign during his weeks-long appearance hiatus on all major cable news networks outside of Fox News.

    As the presidential debates approached, Trump deliberately retreated to Fox News, where he received softball interviews from friendly hosts such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Since the debates began, Trump has rarely appeared outside of conservative news outlets. Prior to interviews this week, Trump had not appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, or MSNBC since September 7.

    Trump reappeared on mainstream networks after the ribbon-cutting ceremony for his new hotel in Washington, D.C., but of the five outlets that received access, Stephanopoulos was the only reporter to ask Trump about the numerous scandals plaguing his presidential campaign.

    Stephanopoulos, unlike any other media figure who received one-on-one access at the hotel, pressed Trump on his threat to file lawsuits against the numerous women who have accused him of sexual assault and his assertion that the Clinton campaign orchestrated the women to lie about the allegations. He also forced Trump to answer to his claim that FBI director James Comey is corrupt, asked if he thinks he owes Judge Gonzalo Curiel and the family of Khizr Khan apologies, and corrected his false claim that he opposed the Iraq war from the start.

    Bloomberg News editor Mark Halperin and CNN reporter Dana Bash also spoke with Trump after his hotel ribbon cutting, but neither confronted problems that have weighed down Trump’s campaign in recent weeks, although Bash did question whether it was a good idea for Trump to take time out of campaigning to open his hotel. Halperin avoided the topics entirely, instead tossing Trump softball questions about his confidence in polling data and if he was feeling “under the weather” because he reportedly ate a throat lozenge.

    Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony, Trump granted interviews to only two non-Fox News sources. Trump phoned into radio host Rush Limbaugh’s show unannounced on October 25. Limbaugh sympathized with Trump’s claims that the media is conspiring against him and praised Trump for “fighting back” against his critics. Limbaugh also asked Trump how he would approach the Affordable Care Act. Christian Broadcasting Networks’ Pat Robertson also recieved on-camera time with Trump for The 700 Club on October 24, but chose to ask Trump about hiring employees, appointing women to his administration, nominating Supreme Court justices, and growing the economy through proposed tax cuts, rather than addressing any controversies surrounding his campaign.

    Trump’s strategy of retreating to conservative media outlets and blacking out interviews with non-Fox News media figures allowed him to bypass many of the scandals he created for himself, and to d successfully avoid being held accountable during the peak of each scandal. Interviewers who neglected to press Trump on his numerous scandals t failed in their fundamental duty of holding Trump accountable for the events that happen during his campaign.

  • Trump’s Anti-Establishment Campaign Was Conservative Media’s Dream Come True, But Now It’s Failing Him

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Journalists are pointing out that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “extraordinary display of personal animus” against Republicans leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), is a deliberate campaign strategy that was pushed by Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon -- and encouraged by conservative media for years -- but that it could cost Trump and the GOP the election.

  • Broadcast News Allow Trump To Drown His New Scandals With A Tweetstorm

    Network News Virtually Ignored Breaking Reports Into Illegal Practices By His Business And Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump successfully deflected the media’s attention away from damaging new investigative reports into illegal practices by his foundation and business with a late night tweetstorm continuing his denigration of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.

    The September 29 and 30 editions of broadcast morning shows and nightly news programs -- NBC’s Today and Nightly News, ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, and CBS’ CBS This Morning and Evening News -- spent merely 2 minutes and 28 seconds on a Newsweek report explaining that “a company controlled by Donald Trump … secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal.” The same shows almost entirely ignored a Washington Post investigation that found that the Trump foundation illegally escaped an annual audit because it “never obtained the certification that New York requires before charities can solicit money from the public,” devoting only 27 seconds of coverage to it. In contrast, coverage of a series of tweets Trump sent early in the morning on September 30 criticizing former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, calling her “disgusting” and claiming that she has a “terrible” past, which includes a “sex tape,” amounted to 10 minutes and 39 seconds.

    In his much-criticized September 30 tweetstorm, Trump rehashed his false and sexist attacks on Machado, including the debunked right-wing media smear that she was involved in a “sex tape.” In his recent national media appearances -- almost all of which have taken place inside “the conservative media cocoon” of Fox News -- Trump has repeatedly tried to justify his attacks on Machado, claiming that “she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.” Trump has had help from his conservative media allies, including Bill O’Reilly -- who asked if it was a “cheap shot” for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to bring up his criticism of Machado’s body at the debate -- and Rush Limbaugh, who claimed that “this Alicia Machado thing was a set up … planned by the Clinton campaign.”

    The investigative reports that were cast aside by broadcast news offer new insights into how Trump ran his foundation as essentially a slush fund and tax evasion scheme, and ignored federal laws in his business operations. In his September 29 Newsweek report, reporter Kurt Eichenwald explained that a company on behalf of Donald Trump “spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval.” The report published correspondence between Trump and consulting firm Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. in which the firm “instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.” Additionally, the former Trump executive admitted that they had taken a trip to Cuba “to give Trump’s company a foothold should Washington loosen or lift the trade restrictions.” As Eichenwald explained, “the fact that Seven Arrows spent the money and then received reimbursement from Trump Hotels does not mitigate any potential corporate liability for violating the Cuban embargo.”

    In a September 29 investigation in The Washington Post, David Fahrenthold once again discovered that Trump’s charity had skirted the law, this time violating a New York state law which requires “any charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year from the public must obtain a special kind of registration beforehand.” In an appearance on CNN, Fahrenthold explained that if Trump “had done this the right way … he would have to get an audit” and accountants would ask if he was “spending the foundation’s money in ways that benefited himself.” Farenthold has previously reported that this was exactly what Trump did, revelations that have led the New York attorney general to open a new investigation into the foundation. Trump campaign surrogates floundered when asked about the report on cable news, and lashed out at Fahrenthold claiming that “he’s pretty much a Clinton surrogate at this point.” Only CBS covered Fahrenthold’s report, while NBC and ABC failed to mention it. (Conversely, CBS ignored the Cuba report that its competitors covered.)

    This is not the first time media has allowed Trump to drive the coverage, nor is it the first time media have ignored damaging investigations into Trump's scandals. Previously, Trump successfully hijacked the news cycle by appearing on The Dr. Oz Show to reveal bits and pieces of a report on his health. Trump also successfully dominated news coverage after he tweeted a picture of himself eating a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo. While dedicating disproportionate coverage to the candidate’s antics, the media has undercovered:

    • A USA Today report that found that “Trump doesn’t pay his bills.”

    • Revelations about his illegal political donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    • Reports highlighting Trump lies and inappropriate comments about the Sept. 11 attacks.

    • Allegations that Trump’s modeling agency “profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here.”

    • The report that the Trump Foundation “may have violated laws against ‘self-dealing.’”

    • Trump’s former campaign chairman’s ties to pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of Trump from the September 29 and 30 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, NBC’s Today and Nightly News, and CBS’ CBS This Morning and Evening News and counted the length of segments relating to Trump’s tweetstom, the Newsweek report into Trump’s business entanglements in Cuba, and the Washington Post report on the Trump Foundation’s lack of proper registration.

  • Cosmopolitan Set The Standard On Ivanka Trump Interviews

    Unlike ABC and Fox, Cosmopolitan Challenged Ivanka Trump On The Intricacies Of Her Father’s Child Care Plan

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & KATIE SULLIVAN

    After appearing alongside her father, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, while he announced his child care plan on September 13, Ivanka Trump sat for several interviews, including with ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News’ The Kelly File and Fox & Friends, and Cosmopolitan magazine. But only Cosmopolitan successfully asked important follow-up questions and challenged Trump on the apparent inconsistencies and inadequacies of her father’s plan.

    Ivanka Trump has become an important surrogate for her father, often stepping in to sanitize his outrageous remarks, particularly those about women. When critics pointed out the GOP nominee’s misogyny, Ivanka described him as a “fighter” for women and an “equal opportunity offender,” and after her father offered a victim-blaming defense of former Fox CEO Roger Ailes, who was ousted from Fox following a sexual harassment lawsuit, she went on Fox to claim that the Trump Organization has “a very strong HR team … who is equipped to deal with these issues if they arise.” As The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum explained, Trump has chosen to “deodorize the stink of her father’s misogyny, to suggest that because he loves her that means he loves women -- to erase the actual policies he supports.”

    This was the role ABC and Fox allowed Ivanka Trump to play.

    Donald Trump’s child care plan lacks details on how it would be funded, and while Fox’s Megyn Kelly and Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt asked Ivanka about the fiscal aspects of the plan, they settled for her answer that everything would be clarified in her father’s September 15 economic speech. Both Fox interviews were fawning, with Kelly marveling at Trump’s (millionaire) working-mother status -- “I don’t know how you do it” -- and Earhardt focusing part of the 10-minute interview on Trump’s relationship with her father: “Tell me some stories. What’s he like? And what do the kids call him?” Kelly also let Trump get away with the lie that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton does not have a child care policy on her website.

    ABC’s Amy Robach did question Trump on why her father’s plan excludes paternity leave, and she clarified that Clinton does have a child care plan on her website. But she also allowed Ivanka to push her talking points unchallenged and say the Trump Organization offers paid maternity leave and adoption leave for all of its employees, a claim that Trump employees are now challenging.

    It was Cosmopolitan’s Prachi Gupta who successfully challenged Trump by questioning specifics of her father’s plan, like the fact that it doesn’t include same-sex parents when both of the partners are men. She also brought up (and readily provided the source for) Donald Trump’s 2004 statement that pregnancy is inconvenient for business. Gupta thoroughly questioned the financial feasibility of Trump’s child care plan by pointing out that the Republican candidate has promised both tax cuts and increases in infrastructure spending, while also saying he wants to build a border wall. Politico and Vox reported on Ivanka’s interview with Cosmopolitan, noting that she accused “the writer of ‘editorializing’ and instilling ‘hostility’” in her questions and pointing out that she got “combative” after being challenged.

    Nussbaum’s article about Ivanka’s speech at the July Republican National Convention highlighted that Ivanka has “stepped forward to blind female voters to who her father is and what he stands for.” Gupta defied this spin, and her Cosmopolitan interview got in Ivanka’s way as she tried to sanitize her father’s record, while exemplifying that women’s magazines and websites have been an undervalued asset in political coverage.

  • Trump Hijacked The Media Narrative With His Dr. Oz Show Stunt

    Media Turned Away From Covering Damaging Reports About Trump’s Foundation And Business Entanglements

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump successfully deflected media’s attention away from damaging investigative reports about his foreign business practices and his charitable foundation by fashioning a publicity stunt out of an appearance on The Dr. Oz Show.

    On September 14, broadcast morning shows, including NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning spent 14 minutes and 55 seconds on new developments surrounding possible illegal activity from the Trump Foundation. This reporting came the day after New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office is investigating the Trump Foundation “to make sure it’s complying with the laws governing charities in New York.” Schneiderman’s investigation comes amid a series of reports from The Washington Post that examined how the foundation “collects and spends money in a very unusual manner.” Reporter David Fahrenthold found that, unlike with most personal foundations, “The Trump Foundation’s money doesn’t actually come from Trump’s own pocket.” In a September 14 report, Fahrenthold wrote that Trump “may have violated IRS rules against ‘self-dealing,’ which prohibit nonprofit leaders from spending charity money on themselves” when he spent $20,000 from his charity to buy a portrait of himself in 2007.

    The broadcast morning shows also devoted some time, albeit only 46 seconds, to a September 14 Newsweek report that detailed how Trump’s business entanglements have often intersected with unfriendly foreign governments. Reporter Kurt Eichenwald explained his piece on CNN, saying that “there has never been a president in the history of the United States who has had these kinds of conflicts of interest.” He added that Trump’s entanglements “often go directly against the interests of American national security.”

    But news outlets virtually ignored the damaging reports once Trump appeared for a September 14 taping of The Dr. Oz Show in which the “scientifically dubious” Dr. Mehmet Oz examined the results of the Republican nominee’s latest physical. The broadcast nightly news programs, including ABC’s World News Tonight, NBC’s Nightly News, and CBS’ Evening News, spent 7 minutes and 11 seconds on Trump’s publicity stunt. It caused the programs to cast aside the investigative reports, spending only 2minutes and 15 seconds on the reports about the Trump Foundation and 43 seconds on Eichenwald’s look into Trump’s foreign business entanglements.

    On September 15, the broadcast morning news programs all but forgot the reports, instead obsessing over Trump’s appearance with Dr. Oz, which garnered 12 minutes and 5 seconds of coverage between all three shows. Only Today continued to discuss the series of questions raised about the Trump Foundation, spending 2minutes and 48 seconds on the topic. However, that is less than half the time they spent on Trump’s Dr. Oz Show appearance, which accounted for 6 minutes and 30 seconds of airtime.

    By brushing aside the damaging investigative reporting about Trump in order to cover his gimmick with Dr. Oz, the broadcast news shows played right into the candidate’s hands. As CNN media critic Brian Stelter pointed out, Trump’s appearance on Oz’s show “wasn’t actual transparency” about his health -- “it was the appearance, the semblance of transparency.” Stelter added that it “shows Trump’s style, his media savvy” and noted that “we should know this was for show, and it was very effective.”

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of Trump from the September 14 and 15 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS This Morning as well as the September 14 editions of ABC’s World News Tonight, NBC’s Nightly News, and CBS’ Evening News and coded segments relating to new details surrounding Trump’s foundation, the Newsweek report on Trump’s business entanglements, and his appearance on Dr. Oz.

  • Mainstream Media Echo Conservatives’ Claim That Clinton’s Pneumonia Legitimizes Their Conspiracy Theories

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media across the spectrum are claiming that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s diagnosis of pneumonia “vindicated” conservative conspiracy theorists who have long made baseless assertions about Clinton’s health. These claims have recently been mainstreamed by non-partisan outlets despite having been debunked time and time again.

  • NBC News Mainstreams Conspiracy Theories About Hillary Clinton's Health

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    NBC News helped mainstream conservative media conspiracy theories about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s health by devoting an entire article to a "coughing fit" she had. The report -- while widely criticized by members of the media -- was pushed by right-wing media figures who for years have led the charge in spreading debunked conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health.

    On September 5, NBC News reported that Clinton suffered from a "coughing fit" on the campaign trail in an article titled, “Hillary Clinton Fights Back Coughing Attack,” writing:

    Hillary Clinton struggled to fight back a coughing fit while campaigning in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday.

    [...]

    The former secretary of state has suffered from coughing fits at times throughout the Democratic presidential primary.

    However the frog in Clinton's throat on Monday was one of the most aggressive she's had during her 2016 run and left her almost unable to finish her remarks.

    Clinton’s coughing was also brought up on broadcast morning shows on September 6, including NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning, where CBS correspondent Nancy Cordes claimed Clinton’s coughing from seasonal allergies “got the better of her.”

    The NBC News report was embraced by right-wing media figures, who have spent years pushing conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health. The Drudge Report linked to the NBC News story on its banner, blaring the headline: “GETTING WORSE: CLINTON COUGH VIOLENTLY RETURNS,” adding Clinton’s “HEALTH STATUS UP IN THE AIR.” The story was also tweeted out by conservative media figures, with Fox Business host Lou Dobbs writing that “it’s time for answers” about Clinton’s health:

    The piece, however, was widely derided by mainstream media figures declaring “this ain’t news” and asking if NBC “seriously ran this story?”:

    As James Poniewozik, The New York Times’ TV critic, points out, the fact Clinton coughed is “news only [because] of a context of rumor, which NBC is indulging.” The NBC News report sent a dog-whistle to right-wing conspiracy theorists and gave legitimacy to their ridiculous claims that Clinton is suffering from serious health problems. For years, right-wing media have obsessed over Clinton’s bodily functions, including coughing fits and using the restroom.

    More dangerously, mainstream media have also hyped these conspiracies, even when their own outlets have debunked them. Even NBC Nightly News previously dispelled the “conspiracy theories” surrounding Clinton’s health.

    Media figures have recently criticized the right-wing figures promoting these myths. CNN’s Brian Stelter said it “does a disservice” to the audience “by peddling these conspiracy theories.” Michael Smerconish argued “it’s unhealthy for us as a society and electorate to all play armchair physician and go on and make some diagnoses,” especially since these claims have been debunked numerous times.