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  • As Print Critics Savage Kelly’s Trump Interview, Networks Cover For Her

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Cable and broadcast networks are reporting that Fox host Megyn Kelly’s interview with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump made him look look “restrained” and “softer,” but they are playing down the role Kelly played in that depiction.

    Print and online media critics have been submitting withering critiques of Kelly’s heavily touted sit-down. For New York Times TV critic James Poniewozick, Kelly’s questions were so nonsubstantive that they don’t even deserve to be described as softballs. Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara wrote that Kelly failed to “hold his question-dodging feet to some sort of fire,” instead preferring to have him “costar in an hourlong infomercial for her new book.” The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik wrote that Kelly “provided Trump a kind of sanction with some women that he could never buy” and added, “I’m surprised they didn’t exchange air kisses.” The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple homed in on the “scandalous” way that Kelly “withheld details of her ordeal” with Trump “in a performance that assisted Trump with his general-election pivot” in order to boost sales of her forthcoming book. The list goes on and on.

    But similar criticisms of Kelly’s journalism were absent from the coverage of the interview on the broadcast and cable news morning shows. Instead, NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning highlighted Trump’s effort to show a “softer side” during the interview, but made no mention of how Kelly helped him in that effort. CNN’s New Day completely ignored the interview, with the network’s media commentators instead appearing for a segment about Trump’s attacks on The New York Times.

    It’s possible that one reason the networks are loathe to go after Kelly’s performance is that they are looking to hire her. Her contract with Fox News is up for renewal next year, she has openly said she will consider other offers, and news reports suggest that several networks will try to lure her away.

    It would be awkward for executives to pitch Kelly on a move to their networks after their on-air talent ripped apart her effort to broaden her brand -- and even more awkward for that on-air talent to run into Kelly in the newsroom.

  • An Extensive Guide To The Fact Checks, Debunks, And Criticisms Of Trump’s Various Problematic Policy Proposals

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & JARED HOLT

    Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.

  • Trump Tours Morning Shows To Hype Conspiracy Theory From National Enquirer

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Hours after he was declared the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump took to the broadcast network morning shows to defend a conspiracy theory from the National Enquirer, the tabloid with which Trump has a cozy relationship.

    Trump took a victory lap early on May 4 after Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his campaign and Trump was declared the presumptive GOP nominee, giving interviews on NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America. During the interviews, which took place over the phone, hosts asked Trump about a conspiracy theory he pushed from the National Enquirer, which claimed that Cruz’s father was linked to Lee Harvey Oswald three months before Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Trump had hyped the conspiracy theory on his May 3 phone-in appearance on Fox & Friends. During the May 4 interviews, Trump continued to push the conspiracy theory as “a major story in a major publication,” and he falsely claimed that the Cruz campaign “didn’t deny” the allegations.

    Reporters have slammed the conspiracy theory as “inflammatory,” and even conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called it “kooky” and “absurd.”

    CNN’s senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, pointed out that this is not the first time Trump has repeated “something from a highly questionable source as if it’s fact,” noting that the “Enquirer has a checkered history.” After the tabloid asserted on March 23 that Cruz was “hiding FIVE different mistresses,” Trump defended the publication, saying that while he had “no idea whether or not” the Cruz affair story “is true or not,” the National Enquirer was “right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others.”

    Trump has a cozy relationship with the National Enquirer. In March, the publication gave the nod to Trump in its first ever presidential endorsement. Trump has also written for the tabloid on multiple occasions. According to New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, Trump and David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, “have been friends for years.” In 2013, Trump tweeted that Pecker should become the CEO of Time magazine, writing, “nobody could bring it back like David!”

  • Trump Kicks Off General Campaign With Phone Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Donald Trump phoned in to the morning news programs on ABC, MSNBC, NBC, and Fox News for interviews following his victory in the May 3 Indiana primary, which cemented his role as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for the general election. Journalists and media critics have called out cable and broadcast news shows for allowing Trump this “shocking” “advantage,” and several programs -- including CBS’s morning show -- have banned the practice.

    Trump’s most recent round of phone interviews is only the latest example of a newly common type of media malpractice unique to the candidate. The practice of letting a presidential candidate largely eschew on-camera interviews in favor of phoning in is unprecedented in American politics. News networks have overwhelmingly allowed Trump -- and Trump only -- to call in to Sunday morning political talk shows. In total, Trump conducted 69 phone interviews on news programs in the first 69 days of 2016.

    In March, CBS This Morning and NBC’s Meet The Press announced they would no longer allow Trump to phone in for interviews, joining Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday. During that same month, 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.

    Media critics and prominent journalists have criticized the media’s willingness to grant Trump phone interviews, noting that the practice "is a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump." Trump’s phone interviews have given him 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.

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

  • 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."