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  • Morning Shows Grant Trump Phone Privileges Following Primary Wins

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The morning news programs on ABC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all allowed Donald Trump to phone in for interviews following his victories in the April 26 Republican primaries. Journalists and media critics have called out cable and broadcast news shows for allowing Trump this “shocking” “advantage,” and several programs have banned the practice.

    In March, the six major broadcast and cable news networks allowed Trump to phone in for 39 of his 63 interviews. On ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News, more than half of Trump's interviews were conducted by phone.

    The Associated Press has explained how television media’s unprecedented practice of allowing Trump to regularly call in gives him an advantage:

    Except in news emergencies, producers usually avoid phoners because television is a visual medium -- a face-to-face discussion between a newsmaker and questioner is preferable to a picture of an anchor listening to a disembodied voice.

    It's easy to see why Trump likes them. There's no travel or TV makeup involved; if he wishes to, Trump can talk to Matt Lauer without changing out of his pajamas. They often put an interviewer at a disadvantage, since it's harder to interrupt or ask follow-up questions, and impossible to tell if a subject is being coached.

    Face-to-face interviews let viewers see a candidate physically react to a tough question and think on his feet, said Chris Licht, executive producer of "CBS This Morning." Sometimes that's as important as what is being said.

    Several prominent journalists and media critics have panned the media’s willingness to grant Trump phone interviews. CBS This Morning, NBC’s Meet The Press, and Fox News Sunday have all banned the practice, requiring Trump to appear in person or via satellite.

    To sign Media Matters’ petition calling on media outlets to take away Trump’s special phone privilege, click here.

  • Media Criticize Trump's Plan To Force Mexico To Pay For His Border Wall By Threatening To Block Remittances

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    The Washington Post reported that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said he would compel Mexico to pay for his proposed border wall by threatening to block money that Mexican immigrants send to their home country, commonly known as remittances. The Post called the proposal's legality "unclear," while other media outlets, including the digital news division for the largest Spanish-language network, Univision, also cast doubt on the plan's feasibility and ethics.

  • Trump's Unprecedented Phone Privileges Are Helping Him Smear Michelle Fields

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    GMA

    Broadcast network hosts are finally starting to ask Donald Trump about his campaign manager's alleged battery against a reporter, but the GOP presidential front-runner's unprecedented phone privileges are helping him control the narrative and smear the victim.

    Donald Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was arrested and charged with battery on March 29 after then-Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields alleged that he "grabbed" her arm and "yanked" her following a press conference. Video evidence was subsequently released showing Lewandowski grabbing Fields. Following the arrest, Trump defended Lewandowski, claiming that the tapes show "nothing" and threatening to "press charges" against Fields.

    On March 30, Fox News' Fox & Friends, NBC's Today, and ABC's Good Morning America conducted live interviews by phone with Trump. Though the hosts, to varying degrees, sparred with Trump over the incident and his smears against Fields, the phone interview format enabled him to dominate the conversation, victim-blaming Fields and steamrolling the hosts' pushback.

    During Trump's 11-minute phone interview on Fox & Friends, the three hosts allowed Trump to sully Fields' accusations by reinterpreting the video evidence. They let him claim the tape "shows very little" in terms of what Lewandowski did, claim instead that it showed Fields being "a very aggressive person ... grabbing at me and touching me." After co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Trump, "Why is a campaign manager even touching a reporter?" Trump again flipped the script and without interruption excused Lewandowski's actions because Fields was "grabbing" at him.

    Similarly, Trump's phone interview on NBC's Today allowed him to dodge and steamroll Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie's questioning over the incident. Though Lauer and Guthrie repeatedly attempted to correct Trump's spin about the incident and his baseless allegations against Fields, he consistently overpowered them, yelling into the phone that Fields deserved the alleged assault because she "was asking me questions she wasn't supposed to." After Lauer pressed him on whether this whole situation would have been resolved if Lewandowski apologized initially, Trump responded, "I think she would have pressed charges anyway because I think she likes it."

    And during Trump's phone interview on ABC's Good Morning America, guest host David Muir allowed Trump to talk at length, uninterrupted, about the situation and to call Fields' accusations a "disgrace."

    The practice of letting a presidential candidate eschew on-camera interviews in favor of calling in by phone is both unprecedented in American politics and unique to Donald Trump. Broadcast networks have overwhelmingly allowed Trump -- and Trump only -- to call in to Sunday morning political talk shows. In total, Trump conducted 69 phone interviews in the first 69 days of 2016.

    Earlier this month, CBS This Morning announced it would no longer allow Trump to phone in for interviews. It is likely no coincidence that Trump skipped the show altogether today while phoning in to its broadcast competitors.

    Media critics have spoken against the call-in practice, noting that allowing Trump to interview by phone "is a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump." They contend that phone interviews give Trump an obvious advantage over his rivals, allowing him to ignore hosts' visual cues and body language, dodge or shout over interviewers' questions, and avoid awkward confrontations.

    Trump's phone privileges are helping him to victim-blame Michelle Fields and excuse Corey Lewandowski's alleged battery, even when interviewers try their best to push back.

    By shouting into the phone instead of engaging in person, Trump controls the interviews, whether his hosts know it or not. How much longer will the broadcast networks and cable news channels stand for it?

    You can add your voice to Media Matters' petition for the media to end Trump's phone privilege by signing here.

  • Media, Experts, And Civil Rights Groups Condemn Ted Cruz's "Blatantly Unconstitutional" Anti-Muslim Proposal

    Cruz's Call To "Patrol And Secure Muslims Neighborhoods" Met With Widespread Criticism

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media, experts, and civil rights groups are all criticizing Ted Cruz's call to "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods" in the wake of terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium, seemingly inspired by ISIS. The plan has been called "counterproductive and unconstitutional" and "the exact opposite of what we need to do."

  • Conservative Media Call For Cruz-Rubio Ticket To Stop Trump

    As Political Journalists Say Contested Convention Needed To Stop Trump, Conservatives Call For Unity Ticket

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Political journalists are declaring that the only way now to prevent Trump from winning the Republican presidential nomination after his Super Tuesday victories is to have a contested Republican National Convention, in which delegates would vote by secret ballot to determine the nominee, rather than choosing the candidate they were originally pledged to support. Meanwhile, right-wing media figures are reacting to Trump's success by suggesting a joint ticket featuring Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) to stop Trump.

  • What Megyn Kelly's Positive Press Tour Keeps Getting Wrong

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL & BRENNAN SUEN

    The Fox News PR machine has capitalized on Megyn Kelly's charade as a debate moderator, parlaying it into high-profile interviews on late night talk shows and morning news shows, and a new book she has in the works promises another round of media attention later this year. These interviews provide the media with an opportunity to question her about the misinformation she promotes on her own show, when she's out of the national spotlight, but few are taking advantage.

    Kelly's supposed persona as a breath of fresh air and an unbiased journalist on Fox News -- bolstered by her position moderating the network's presidential debates -- has led to a series of laudatory profiles that have often willfully ignored her troubled past pushing conservative misinformation and bigotry.

    Kelly has been called a "take-no-prisoners newswoman" who "isn't afraid to throw hardballs at Republicans" and "the brightest star at Fox News." That pretense was reinforced by the journalists and pundits across the political spectrum who stepped up to defend Kelly after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attacked her, kicking off a feud with the network and then declining to participate in its January 28 presidential debate.

    Late night talk shows and morning news shows have not been immune to Kelly's hardball-throwing façade.

    On the February 5 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, host George Stephanopoulos gave Kelly a platform to gratuitously boost her credibility as a political journalist and respond to Donald Trump's attacks without asking about any of her controversial remarks.

    Kelly has also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and has an upcoming high-profile scheduled appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert's post-Super Bowl episode, as well as a new book deal. In his interview, Fallon told Kelly that he didn't "really know your work as much until I saw you for the first Republican debate -- you were fantastic in that ... People that don't know you have to be like, 'Oh who is this person? She's phenomenal.'"

    Megyn Kelly's so-called "phenomenal" reputation in the media lacks important context, found in the full spectrum of her time at Fox, including her problematic history on subjects including race and gender.

    In the first two weeks of 2016, Kelly spent over 1 hour and 22 minutes promoting Michael Bay's myth-filled Benghazi movie "13 Hours" as "the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House." She's used her prime-time Fox show to push falsehoods about Planned Parenthood, most recently asking whether a "political hit job" was at play in the grand jury indictment of two members of the group that released deceptively edited smear videos to attack the organization.

    She regularly hosts Tony Perkins, the leader of an anti-LGBT hate group, and has shown a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric on race, ranging from blaming a 14-year-old black teenager who was the victim of a police officer's use of excessive force to calling Black Lives Matter protesters "beyond the bounds of decency."

    When positive press praises Kelly's "occasionally, yet highly entertaining, bucking of the conservative party line," they downplay the fact that her show "is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows." Even the writer of Vanity Fair's glowing cover story, after making those observations, eventually noted that Kelly's "talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own. She, after all, is considered by many to be the reasonable one at Fox."

  • Network Evening News Programs Yet To Address What Exxon Knew About Climate Change

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    In recent months, media investigations have revealed that Exxon Mobil peddled climate science denial for years after its scientists recognized that burning fossil fuels causes global warming, prompting New York's Attorney General to issue a subpoena to Exxon and all three Democratic presidential candidates to call for a federal probe of the company. But despite these developments, the nightly news programs of all three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have failed to air a single segment addressing the evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived its shareholders and the public about climate change.