Media Buzz

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  • CNN Explores Implications Of Carlson Sexual Harassment Suit, Fox Merely Repeats Ailes' Own Defense (Again)

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Cable news giants Fox News and CNN displayed markedly different approaches to the bombshell allegations of sexual harassment brought by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson against Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. While CNN began investigating the claims made by Carlson and other women previously employed by Fox, the network itself simply reiterated Ailes’ own self-defense before launching a predictable campaign to discredit his accusers.

    On July 6, Carlson announced a “sexual harassment/retaliation lawsuit” against Ailes. Carlson claims that Ailes refused to renew her contract after she rebuffed multiple unwanted sexual advances from him over several years. Ailes is notorious for his sexist behavior and vulgar treatment of women at the network, and six more current and former Fox employees have reportedly contacted Carlson’s law firm alleging they were also sexually harassed by Ailes.

    On July 10, CNN’s Reliable Sources devoted the first half of the hour-long program to discussing the lawsuit and its implications for the future of Ailes and Fox News. Host Brian Stelter interviewed New York magazine correspondent Gabriel Sherman, author of the 2014 Fox exposé The Loudest Voice In The Room, about harassment allegations he uncovered while researching for his book, as well as the veracity of six new allegations against Ailes, which Sherman contended “fit a pattern of behavior” from the Fox News chief. Sherman also predicted that “Fox News’ PR machine” will work to “discredit” Carlson and any other accusers for Ailes, as they have in the past.

    Stelter also hosted NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik to discuss how News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, are responding to the allegations against Ailes “a little differently” than they have with prior harassment claims against Fox personalities. Folkenflik noted that the Murdochs “have not denied reports that they are hiring outside counsel” to handle the suit, as opposed to past cases involving Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan, where “they did not appoint an outside counsel” to deal with the complaints. Folkenflik concluded that this move may be tied to “the Murdoch sons' desire for their company to be truly a 21st century company, as opposed to run with the mores of the Don Draper era.”

    Meanwhile, on Fox News’ MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz mentioned his former colleague’s lawsuit in a brief, three-minute segment devoted to defending Ailes and attacking Carlson. Kurtz simply read Ailes’ personal statement in response to the lawsuit (as Fox News anchor Shepard Smith already had three days prior), mentioned that Ailes tried to move the suit into internal arbitration, and attacked Gretchen Carlson’s ratings as the real excuse for her termination. Kurtz pointedly refused to cover the story beyond that, dismissing other outlets’ coverage as simply “quoting anonymous sources” in a veiled shot at CNN and New York magazine. 

    Kurtz was the first Fox News reporter to come to Ailes’ defense against the harassment allegations made by Carlson. In the past, Kurtz has attacked Hillary Clinton for acknowledging media treatment that was “petty, sensationalist, often unfair and sometimes mean,” and he defended Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) when the then presidential candidate mocked and shushed CNBC’s Kelly Evans during a critical line of questioning in which he told her to “calm down.” In addition to his long track record of excusing sexist and bullying behavior toward women in the media, Kurtz has his own history of boorish behavior toward women.

  • CNN And Fox News’ Sunday Media Criticism Shows Note Ethical Issues With CNN’s Lewandowski Hire

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures on CNN’s Reliable Sources and Fox News’ MediaBuzz criticized CNN’s decision to hire Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Hosts and guests on the two media criticism programs highlighted the various “ethical” and “controversial” issues surrounding Lewandowski’s hiring, including Lewandowski’s history of aggressively handling the press and the ambiguity surrounding his possible non-disparagement agreements with Trump.

    On June 23, CNN hired Lewandowski as a salaried political commentator days after he had been fired as Trump’s campaign manager. CNN employees and other reporters immediately raised concerns over the various potential ethical problems associated with Lewandowski’s hiring.

    There are still several unknowns about Lewandowski's new position: whether he signed a non-disparagement agreement with Trump, which would preclude Lewandowski from criticizing his former boss; whether Lewandowski’s history of aggressive behavior toward journalists was taken into account during the hiring process; and whether an ongoing defamation suit against Trump and Lewandowski is a conflict of interest for CNN.

    CNN’s Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s media criticism program Reliable Sources, said on June 26 that Lewandowski is “the most controversial addition to CNN in several years,” noting that his “hostile” behavior toward reporters and the uncertainty regarding any non-disparagement agreements raise “ethical questions.”

    Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik shamed CNN on Reliable Sources for hiring a “weasel to tell you about” “what’s going on inside the Trump campaign,” and told CNN to “give your money back.”

    Fox News’ media critic Howard Kurtz also slammed CNN on his program MediaBuzz, calling the decision a “sad move” that doesn’t help “CNN’s credibility in covering Donald Trump.” Kurtz specifically noted Lewandowski’s non-disclosure agreement and “rough relations with some reporters.”

    CNN’s own staff have heavily criticized Lewandowski for his “inexcusable” and “unprofessional” behavior. Media Matters has noted, though, that Lewandowski’s hire is at odds with how the network has responded to previous attacks on employees: in February, Trump ally Roger Stone was banned from the network after he wrote a series of offensive, incendiary tweets attacking CNN media figures.

  • After Trump Says Obama May Sympathize With Terrorists, Howard Kurtz Worries About The Press Being Too Harsh On Trump

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz defended presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump from criticism after The Washington Post accurately reported incendiary remarks made by the candidate during an appearance on Fox & Friends. Trump used a phone-in interview about the June 12 mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub as an excuse to attack President Obama, and suggest the president sympathized with terrorists.

  • Why Won't Interviewers Ask Trump About Campaign Manager's Alleged Assault Of Reporter?

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Sunday political talk shows on NBC, CNN, Fox, and CBS all failed to ask Donald Trump during interviews about the allegation that his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, roughed up Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields.

    According to Fields, she was "grabbed" and "yanked" down while attempting to ask Trump a question as the GOP front-runner left a March 8 press conference. Audio of the incident obtained by Politico indicates that Fields told Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, "That was insane. You should have felt how hard he grabbed me," and that Terris identified Lewandowski as the assailant.

    Fields filed charges against Lewandowski but is encountering blowback from the Trump campaign, which denies the incident ever occurred, and from her own employer Breitbart News. Critics have noted that Breitbart News has an especially cozy relationship with the Trump campaign and have pointed out that the news organization has failed to strongly take Fields' side in the controversy.

    Although Sunday news shows Meet the Press, State of the Union, Fox News Sunday, and Face the Nation all asked Trump about his condoning of violence at his rallies during March 13 broadcasts, none of the shows asked Trump about Fields' assault allegation.

    By contrast, the two Sunday media criticism shows, CNN's Reliable Sources and Fox News' MediaBuzz, both mentioned the incident.

    On Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter provided an update on the story, reporting Fields "is hiring an attorney, she's the Breitbart reporter who was roughed up by someone, possibly Trump's campaign manager, at a press conference earlier in the week. The campaign denied that the campaign manager was involved, suggesting she made it all up."

    While Fox's MediaBuzz did air a pre-recorded interview with Trump where host Howard Kurtz did not ask Trump about Fields, later in the show Kurtz brought the incident up during a panel discussion.

    During that discussion, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky slammed Breitbart News, saying, "I don't think, of the 25 years I've been doing this, I don't think I've ever heard a news organization not stand by its reporter in a situation like this. It's just an unbelievable thing to me. It makes them a not a news organization, it makes them a Trump organization, at least with respect to this incident. It's just unbelievable."

  • Fox's Howard Kurtz Lets Frank Luntz Praise Marco Rubio Without Disclosing Past Financial Ties

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Fox News host Howard Kurtz invited Republican pollster Frank Luntz onto his show to praise Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) without disclosing Luntz's past financial ties to Rubio.

    During the February 28 edition of MediaBuzz, Kurtz spoke to Luntz about his focus groups with Republican primary voters and the media's coverage of the Republican presidential primary.

    Kurtz said there had been a notion that Rubio was "a media darling," but that "everybody in the media beat up on him and some practically said he was finished" after coming in fifth place in the New Hampshire GOP primary. Luntz in response said Rubio was "a great communicator," and that people thought "because he always sounds good, because he always sounds reasonable, therefore the media's in bed with him. That's not the case." Luntz also said that Rubio had "won the last two out of three debates," according to focus groups conducted by Luntz:

    HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): So people are convinced that Fox or some other channel or some other network is for or against Rubio or Trump or Cruz. As if there's -- everyone is getting marching orders.

    FRANK LUNTZ: I give you credit for putting that -- I'm shocked. That would never be on CNN. That would never be on MSNBC.

    KURTZ: If it were about that network.

    LUNTZ: If it were about their own network. So good for you for putting that on. Yes. And I get it all the time. If I go to the Trump blogs, then Fox is in the pockets of Rubio. If you go to Cruz blogs, it's in the pockets of Trump. If you go to the Rubio blogs, it's in the pockets of everybody else. People see what they want to see and they disregard the rest. We are all seeing things through rose colored glasses and it becomes almost impossible to be fair, which is why these debates are so important. Because it's the one time when you can actually hold the candidates accountable.

    KURTZ: But just briefly on Rubio. The notion he's a media darling, after he had that performance where he was sort of hammered for being robotic and then finished fifth in New Hampshire, everybody in the media beat up on him and some practically said he was finished. So it's not like the entire business is pumping up this guy.

    LUNTZ: He's a great communicator. And that's - they're conflating good communication with support from the media. They think that because he always sounds good, because he always sounds reasonable, therefore the media's in bed with him and that's not the case. But Rubio has won the last two out of three debates.

    KURTZ: In your view or the view of the public?

    LUNTZ: In the view of the focus groups and yet it hasn't moved numbers.

    A January 2012 Wall Street Journal article reported that Rubio hired Luntz to assist in writing his book 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future when he was in the Florida House of Representatives, which Kurtz failed to disclose.  

    Fox News has repeatedly failed to disclose Luntz's ties to Rubio while allowing him to praise the presidential candidate. Host Neil Cavuto let Luntz in January claim that Rubio "is the most optimistic, the most focused on the American dream of any of the candidates" and "what the public needs right now." The Kelly File later that month had Luntz host a focus group after a GOP debate in which he advised them to "watch how well [Rubio] did on immigration." And in early February host Megyn Kelly again invited Luntz on to discuss Rubio, where Luntz claimed "Rubio is in perfect position" to do well in upcoming primaries.