Howard Kurtz

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  • Pundits Who Question The Timing Of Sexual Assault Allegations Against Trump Are Just Stigmatizing The Victims

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Several right-wing media figures are lending credence to attempts by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign and surrogates to undermine accusations from a growing number of women that the candidate sexually assaulted them by calling into question the timing of the stories. Some right-wing media figures are calling the timing “fishy” and saying that “it’s good to be skeptical,” but the reports all explain the timing: Trump’s denial at the second presidential debate that he had committed sexual assault was the catalyst for the women to come forward. The Trump campaign’s false timing talking point also ignores the many valid reasons women don’t report sexual assault.

    On October 12, three newspapers published accounts from four women who say Trump sexually assaulted them The New York Times told the stories of two women who say Trump “touched them inappropriately,” one of them reporting that he groped her on a plane, and the other saying he kissed her without her consent. A People magazine writer recounted Trump “pushing [her] against the wall and forcing his tongue down [her] throat.” And a fourth woman told The Palm Beach Post that she was “groped by Trump at Mar-a-Lago.”

    These reports came just days after Trump, during the October 9 presidential debate told CNN’s Anderson Cooper “No, I have not” assaulted women as he described in a recently released 2005 Access Hollywood video. In the video, Trump bragged about kissing and grabbing women and said, “I don’t even wait. … When you’re a star, they let you do anything.”

    Trump’s campaign has denied the accusations, calling the Times report a “coordinated character assassination” and claiming that to “reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault.” Numerous right-wing media figures are helping to carry water for these claims. On the October 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Trump surrogate Ben Carson, “You’re wondering why now, the timing?” and Carson claimed, “There's an atmosphere that's been created by The New York Times and others that says, look, if you’re willing to come out and say something, we'll give you fame, we'll give you whatever you need.” CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager who is still a campaign adviser, also questioned the timing of the reports, saying, “What I do find very interesting is the timing of this. … They wait until 25 days before an election to bring out an incident.”

    Other right-wing media figures and outlets have picked up this line as well. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough argued that “it’s good to be skeptical when you have stories that are 30 years old that come out days before an election.” He added that, while he’s “not skeptical of the stories,” “if this had happened to me 30 years ago, I would say, ‘This would be a really good time for me to come forward.’ Right? Right? Instead of now.” Fox’s Howard Kurtz said, “I think it’s fair to question why is this coming out now. ... It does sort of raise questions about the timing.” The right-wing blog HotAir asked, “Are we simply going to ignore the awfully convenient timing of this batch of accusations in defiance of reason and the normal rules of engagement in political warfare?” And Townhall’s Matt Vespa wrote that the timing of the reports “sounds like a coordinated effort by the Democrat-media complex,” adding that “there’s something incredibly fishy about all of these incidents coming out now as opposed to over a year ago” during the primaries or after the Republican National Convention when Trump’s campaign was struggling.

    This defense of Trump reflects tactics used to defend former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes -- who is currently advising Trump -- after former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Carlson alleged that she was fired from Fox “because she refused to sleep with” Ailes. Defenders of Ailes attacked Carlson’s account by suggesting it was suspicious that her allegations came after she was terminated.

    All of the reports giving voices to Trump’s accusers explained that the Access Hollywood video and Trump’s denial at the presidential debate were the trigger for the women coming forward. According to the Times, a friend of one of the women, Jessica Leeds, “encouraged her to tell her story to the news media. Ms. Leeds had resisted until Sunday’s debate, which she watched with Ms. Ross.” And People’s Natasha Stoynoff explained in her personal account why she did not come forward at the time and hasn’t spoken publicly until now:

    But, like many women, I was ashamed and blamed myself for his transgression. I minimized it (“It’s not like he raped me…”); I doubted my recollection and my reaction. I was afraid that a famous, powerful, wealthy man could and would discredit and destroy me, especially if I got his coveted PEOPLE feature killed


    Now he’s running for president of our country. The other day, I listened to him talk about how he treats women on the Access Hollywood tape. I felt a strong mix of emotions, but shock wasn’t one of them.

    I was relieved. I finally understood for sure that I was not to blame for his inappropriate behavior. I had not been singled out. As he explained to Billy Bush, it was his usual modus operandi with women. I felt deep regret for not speaking out at the time. What if he had done worse to other female reporters at the magazine since then because I hadn’t warned them?

    And lastly, I felt violated and muzzled all over again.

    During the presidential debate, Donald Trump lied about kissing women without their consent. I should know. His actions made me feel bad for a very long time.

    They still do.

    CNN’s New Day modeled how media must reject Trump’s defense -- which is based on disparaging the victims’ characters -- while reporting on these stories: The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich pointed out that the women who came forward all explained that Trump’s debate answer motivated them to do so, and co-host Alisyn Camerota noted that women often do not report sexual assault because they are “embarrassed and humiliated.”

    CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): Jackie, the big pushback from the campaign thus far -- other than we're going to sue, this is all a lie -- is why now? Why did they wait so long to come forward? Conveniently timed to hurt our campaign here towards the end of the election. What do you make of that?

    JACKIE KUCINICH: Well, in the New York Times story, what these women said was that after they heard Donald Trump make that denial during the debate is when they felt like they were compelled to come forward. So, that seems to be the answer to that question. And, if women were calling different news outlets, there's a story in The Palm Beach Post, there’s the People magazine story. Once you’re seeing that, it does seem to be triggered by what Donald Trump said in the debate.

    ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): And there’s another reason, and that is that women are afraid to come forward -- not afraid, women are embarrassed, women are humiliated. This is an experience that you do not relish ever telling in public and that is what this same entertainment reporter from People magazine writes about.

  • Fox’s Kurtz Pushes Fake Clinton Quote That A Different Fox Host Already Apologized For Airing

    Multiple Outlets Already Reported Leaked “Bucket Of Losers” Quote Is Fake

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News’ media critic Howard Kurtz attributed a fake quote to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, predicting that she would have to answer in tonight’s presidential debate for calling primary opponent Bernie Sanders’ supporters a “bucket of losers.” But and BuzzFeed have already reported that this quote -- originally posted at a fake news site -- is fabricated, and Fox host Megyn Kelly apologized on Friday for pushing the quote on her own show.

    On the October 9 edition of MediaBuzz, Kurtz said Clinton is certain to face debate questions about quotes taken from stolen emails that were recently released by WikiLeaks:

    HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): Hillary Clinton will undoubtedly face a new line of questioning at tonight's debate here in St. Louis about her highly lucrative Wall Street speeches, parts of which were made public in hacked emails obtained by WikiLeaks. While running to the left against Bernie Sanders, she had said in these speeches that she favored, quote, “open trade and open borders,” a stunning contradiction with her public position. She also called Sanders' supporters a “bucket of losers.” And despite her tough on big banks rhetoric, Clinton said this in one speech: “Wall Street insiders are what is needed to fix Wall Street.” Clinton's spokesman said the, quote, “stolen documents” could have been orchestrated by Russian officials trying to help Donald Trump, but would not say they were fake.

    But at least one of those quotes was fake. On October 7, BuzzFeed reported that the “bucket of losers” quote is from a fake transcript “published by the totally dubious site,” and that “the transcript is clearly a hoax.” BuzzFeed also showed that the fake quote was published before WikiLeaks released the stolen emails containing speech excerpts. On October 8, internet rumor debunking website called this claim that Clinton demeaned progressive voters as a “bucket of losers” false, adding that right-wing media outlets including InfoWars, Gateway Pundit, and Fox News were duped into reporting the fake quote as true. Both websites credited the progressive website Crooks and Liars for publishing video of Fox host Megyn Kelly apologizing for airing the quote. Kelly admitted at the end of her show, “That was apparently a doctored quote and not real. And we apologize for that error.”

    Kurtz should immediately do the same for airing a fake quote that his network already admitted was not real. And maybe he should read executive vice president John Moody’s January 2007 memo in response to a false Fox & Friends story about President Obama, which states in part: “For the record: seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC.”

  • Following Widespread Derision Of Debate Performance, Trump Returns To Fox Cocoon While Surrogates Do Real Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump retreated to Fox News’ Fox & Friends for a friendly interview following widespread criticism of his September 26 presidential debate performance which was deemed a loss for Trump, while his campaign surrogates took real interviews on other cable and broadcast news networks.

    Journalists across the political spectrum lambasted Trump’s September 26 presidential debate performance, criticizing the false statements he made -- and that debate moderator Lester Holt repeatedly challenged -- on numerous issues including the Iraq War, birtherism, and his tax returns.  Reporters noted that Trump spent much of the debate on the defensive regarding those issues and that he repeatedly interrupted both Holt and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Other media figures slammed Trump for bragging that he got President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate and for his false claim that Clinton’s 2008 campaign started the racist birther conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace. Voters and commentators proclaimed that Trump had lost the debate to Clinton, with some calling the performance “an unmitigated disaster” and a “terrible night” for Trump.

    The following day, Trump retreated to Fox News to discuss the debate with the hosts of Fox & Friends. The show has a history of buddying up with Trump, giving him a platform to push false claims including that President Obama was not born in the United States, and Trump has lauded the show’s hosts in return. The show’s September 27 interview with Trump continued its softball history with the candidate. Rather than challenging Trump on any of his false statements, the hosts asked questions such as, “So how do you think it went last night?” and, “Do you feel that Lester Holt asked Hillary Clinton an equal number of hostile questions?” The hosts joined Trump in criticizing Holt, with co-host Steve Doocy claiming he “leaned a little over into the left lane” in contrast to Matt Lauer’s “fair and balanced” performance at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum (for which Lauer has been widely criticized). Co-host Ainsley Earhardt even praised Trump for his response to Clinton’s accurate claim that the federal government had sued him for housing discrimination, saying, “I did like how you responded to that, though, because when they throw those things at you, and you’re -- being in the audience, I didn't know about that. And then when you explain it, then you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, well that makes sense.’” The hosts also gave Trump space to attack, without any pushback, a former Miss Universe winner and to insult her weight.

    In contrast with Trump’s cocoon on Fox’s morning show, Trump surrogates took harder interviews at other networks. Hosts on NBC’s Today and CBS This Morning challenged Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), about why Trump took credit for spurring President Obama to release his birth certificate, about whether Trump “lie[d]” when he falsely claimed he never said climate change was a hoax, and why Trump bragged about possibly not paying taxes. On CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the hosts pressed Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway over whether Trump’s birther answer was appropriate and whether he would apologize for his birther campaign. They also asked about Trump’s climate change stance and the quality of Trump’s debate performance overall.

    Trump’s retreat to Fox News continues a recent trend. Fox media reporter Howard Kurtz reported in June that Trump was scaling back on interviews with networks other than Fox. A Media Matters analysis found that between September 7, when Trump appeared on NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum, and September 22, Trump gave seven interviews to Fox News, totaling more than 1 hour and 40 minutes of airtime. During the same time frame, he had not appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, or MSNBC. Given Trump’s withdrawal to a network that repeatedly delivers softball interviews, it perhaps is not surprising that he struggled when he was actually fact-checked by a journalist at the debate. Responding to CNN host Carol Costello’s observation that Trump’s Fox & Friends interview did not include “difficult questions,” CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter noted that Trump had “mostly sheltered himself within conservative media” and said that he had “doubts about whether it's a winning strategy now.” And as The New York Times’ Alex Burns noted of the Fox & Friends interview, “[T]his is how you end up unprepared for real questions and real heat in a debate.”

  • Trump Can’t Make Up His Mind On Lester Holt’s Debate Performance 

    Trump Reverses Course On Praise Of Holt After Right-Wing Media Find Fault

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Less than 12 hours after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his campaign praised NBC’s Lester Holt for asking “very fair” questions during the first presidential debate, Trump walked back his support of Holt, stating that he asked “very unfair questions at the end” of the debate. Trump’s reversal echoed right-wing media figures who claimed Holt was tougher on Trump than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and argued that Holt should have brought up Clinton’s emails and the Clinton Foundation. 

  • Neither Fox News Nor Donald Trump Wants Debate Moderators To Fact-Check Candidates

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox figures are supporting fellow Fox host and debate moderator Chris Wallace and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s argument that moderators should not fact-check candidates during the presidential debates, suggesting that “it’s not the job” of moderators and that it would be “crazy” to think otherwise. Yet fact-checking services have found that 70 percent of Trump’s claims are “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire” lies.

  • The Bar Gets Lower: Media Reinforce Double Standard For Trump Ahead Of First Debate

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    As the first presidential debate approaches, media figures across the political spectrum are actively lowering the bar for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, both by setting lower standards themselves and by pushing the lower-standard narrative. Yet at the same time, many media figures are acknowledging that the press is employing a double standard in its treatment of Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

  • Fox Figures Step Up Participation In Trump's Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The close-knit relationship between Fox News and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has strengthened in recent days, as several Fox figures have stepped up their participation in Trump’s campaign. Fox’s intimacy with the Trump campaign has been central to the candidate’s overwhelming media presence and his propagation of lies.

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who rejoined Fox News as a contributor in August, introduced Trump at a September 19 campaign rally, lauding him as “someone who … can genuinely change history.” Gingrich has long had a foot in both camps, serving at one point as a Fox contributor while under consideration as Trump’s running mate. Gingrich currently serves as a close Trump ally and has been reportedly offered a job in Trump’s potential administration. 

    Fox host and avid Trump supporter Sean Hannity recently appeared in an ad for Trump, listing several reasons why “I’m supporting Donald Trump this year.” Hannity has been one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders throughout the election, using his prime-time show to openly shill for Trump and advance his lies.

    Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes wasted no time transitioning into the role of a top Trump adviser following his ouster, perhaps the most glaring example of the Fox-Trump lovefest. Ailes is reportedly advising Trump for the presidential debates, Trump has said he “would think about” hiring his “friend” Ailes as a campaign consultant, and the two reportedly “counseled each other in multiple phone calls” during the fallout over Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment. As part of his resignation deal, Ailes also serves as an adviser to Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch. 

    Fox figures’ intimate involvement in the Trump campaign comes as the candidate has limited his media appearances to be almost exclusively on Fox. Trump has retreated “to friendly media ground” to “[limit] the candidate's exposure to hard-hitting questions,” writes CNN’s Brian Stelter:

    Donald Trump's reputation for being always available to reporters is way out of date.

    Trump is saying "yes" to Fox News almost every day but saying "no" to most other major networks and news organizations -- a highly unusual strategy for a presidential nominee.

    He called into "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning, he is booked on "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday night, and he has another town hall with Sean Hannity coming up on Wednesday.

    Even Fox’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, admitted that Trump is “refusing to appear on many television outlets” outside of Fox because those “interviews entail too much risk” for Trump to misstep. 

    The continued Fox-Trump relationship is in keeping with the network's role thus far as a mouthpiece for the Trump campaign: During the Republican primary, Fox gave Trump more than twice as much airtime as the other Republican candidates.

    UPDATE: In a statement to The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, a Fox spokesperson said, "We had no knowledge that Sean Hannity was participating in this" Trump ad "and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election.”

  • Trump Is On A Crusade To Influence The Presidential Debate Moderators

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump continued his effort to manipulate the upcoming presidential debates, claiming on Fox News that they are “a rigged system” and thus debate moderators will be unfairly hard on him to avoid being “hammered” with criticism. Trump is attempting to ensure that either debate moderators fail to hold him accountable for his lies, bigotry, and conflicts of interest, or that if they do he can attack them as biased during or after the debates.

    On September 18, Trump phoned into Fox’s Sunday morning media criticism show, MediaBuzz, and complained to host Howard Kurtz that the debates are “a rigged system,” pointing to recent criticism of NBC’s Matt Lauer, who moderated the September 7 Commander-In-Chief Forum. Lauer was widely panned for his fact-challenged effort, in which he failed to challenge Trump on his lie about his position on the Iraq war. Trump told Kurtz that “they hammered Lauer” to “game the system” so that the presidential debate moderators will “go after Trump.” Trump’s solution, he told Kurtz, is to “not even have a host.” Asked by Kurtz if debate moderators Lester Holt of NBC News, Martha Raddatz of ABC News, Anderson Cooper of CNN, and Chris Wallace of Fox News are currently being “pressured into not being fair” to him, Trump replied “sure.”

    This is a textbook example of what The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers has explained as Trump “working the refs.” Trump previously went after Cooper in a September 15 interview with The Washington Post, accusing him of bias and saying “I don’t think he should be a moderator. CNN is the Clinton News Network and Anderson Cooper, I don’t think he can be fair.” Borchers explained that this is a deliberate strategy by Trump: by criticizing Cooper, Trump is trying to prevent tough questioning from the moderators:

    To understand why Donald Trump took a shot at Anderson Cooper in an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday, you have to go back to something he said three days earlier. Reflecting on last week's Commander-in-Chief Forum, moderated by NBC's Matt Lauer, Trump said Monday on CNBC that "everyone's saying that [Lauer] was soft on Trump" — which is pretty much true.

    Trump then explained what he thinks criticism of Lauer means for the upcoming presidential debates: "Now the new person is going to be really hard on Trump just to show the establishment what he can do."

    Clearly the Republican nominee is worried about the political equivalent of a make-up call in sports. He knows many journalists believe Lauer blew the call, so to speak, by failing to whistle Trump for claiming falsely that he opposed the invasion of Iraq. And he thinks Cooper and the other debate moderators — Lester Holt, Martha Raddatz and Chris Wallace — will overcompensate by being extra tough.

    Trump wants to prevent that from happening. So he's working the refs.

    Trump appears to have already managed to influence the Commission on Presidential Debates’ selection of moderators. The commission reportedly struggled to choose journalists because of Trump’s “aggressive attacks on the media and complaints about unfair treatment.” According to network news executives, NBC’s Holt and Fox’s Wallace -- who faces a massive conflict of interest due to his close relationship to Trump adviser Roger Ailes --  were chosen to “appease” Trump.

    Wallace has already announced he has no intention of calling out candidates if they lie during the debate. Trump, who expressed his support for Wallace’s decision not to do his job, is now trying to manipulate the other debate moderators into following Wallace’s lead.