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Chuck Todd, host of NBC's Sunday morning political talk show, Meet the Press, told The New York Times he will no longer allow Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to call in to the show in lieu of appearing on camera, taking away a media advantage that has been solely granted to Trump thus far this campaign season.
Trump has dominated the Sunday morning political talk shows since the beginning of 2015, appearing more than any other candidate, (63 times) including 28 interviews by phone -- a privilege the shows have not allowed any of the other four remaining presidential candidates. Media critics, who say the format gives Trump an upper hand, have called out the practice noting that allowing him to interview by phone "is a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump."
According to a March 20 New York Times column, NBC's Chuck Todd told The Times' Jim Rutenberg that he "will no longer allow Mr. Trump to do prescheduled interviews by phone." Rutenberg noted that Fox's Chris Wallace has also refused to allow Trump to phone in. From the article:
Then there are the Sunday morning public affairs programs. For decades they have served as proving grounds where candidates must show up on camera, ideally in person, to handle questions without aides slipping them notes, their facial reactions and body language on full display. It's why the programs were named "Face the Nation" and "Meet the Press" -- not "Call the Nation" or "Phone the Press."
And yet, as the campaign began in earnest, all of the shows went along with Mr. Trump's insistence that he "appear" by phone -- all except one, "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace."
"I just thought even if we took a ratings hit -- and to some degree we did -- it was a line worth holding," Mr. Wallace told me.
On Friday, Chuck Todd, the moderator of "Meet the Press," told me he had only grudgingly allowed Mr. Trump to call in to his show earlier in the campaign, determining that he would rather have Mr. Trump take questions via phone than not at all.
Now, Mr. Todd said, he will no longer allow Mr. Trump to do prescheduled interviews by phone on the NBC program. And CNN told me it would think twice before giving full coverage to a Trump news conference that devolves into an infomercial.
I thought I might be witnessing a midcampaign course correction. But then I tuned in to "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" on ABC and there was Mr. Trump, or, that is, his disembodied voice.
The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg and Jackie Calmes lead off their article today by writing:
The White House on Monday started a new Web site to fight questionable but potentially damaging charges that President Obama's proposed overhaul of the nation's health care system would inevitably lead to "socialized medicine," "rationed care" and even forced euthanasia for the elderly.
But in introducing the Web site, White House officials were tacitly acknowledging a difficult reality: they are suddenly at risk of losing control of the public debate over a signature issue for Mr. Obama and are now playing defense in a way they have not since last year's campaign.
That's one way to interpret the White House's decision to roll out their new website debunking health care smears. Here's another: The White House is doing it because they realize that the media is unwilling or unable to call those smears false, instead – just to pull an example out of thin air – referring to misleading-to-ridiculous claims that Democratic proposals "would inevitably lead to 'socialized medicine,' 'rationed care' and even forced euthanasia for the elderly" as "questionable but potentially damaging charges."
What makes this particular case even more absurd is that just yesterday, the Times published "A Primer on the Details of Health Care Reform." Unfortunately, Rutenberg and Calmes don't seem to have read it.
If they had, they might have written that claims that health care reform would lead to "socialized medicine" "seem overblown" because "[m]ajor versions of the legislation all rely heavily on a continuation of private health plans" and the CBO has found that under the House bill, 3 million more people would have employer-sponsored insurance in 2016 than would be expected under current law. They also might have called the "euthanasia" claims "unfounded" or noted that the AARP says they're "flat-out lies."
But instead, we get "questionable but potentially damaging." The claims might be true; they might not be? Who can say? What we can say is that repeating them without debunking them – as we just did in our article in The New York Times -- could hurt reform's chances.
As Jamison noted in June:
Following up on my post this morning about combating misinformation by eliminating the incentives for lying, another stumbling block is that a lot of reporters and news organizations seem to think it is adequate to tell the truth once.
That is, if a politician runs around saying something that isn't true -- like that she said "thanks but no thanks" to "bridge to nowhere" funding -- many news organizations will debunk the false claim once. But then they'll go right on quoting the false claim when it is made again and again, without bothering to point out that it is false. And when challenged on this, they'll point out that they did debunk it, three weeks ago.
That isn't good enough, for reasons that should be incredibly obvious. It isn't good enough to tell the truth once.
The Times told the truth yesterday. Today, they don't seem to know what the truth is. Unfortunately for them, their job is to tell the truth every day.