Media Ethics

Tags ››› Media Ethics
  • After America, Breitbart Plans To Infect Politics Across Europe

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After the 2016 election, Breitbart.com announced its plan to expand into France and Germany, and Italy is reportedly now a target as well. Breitbart’s current European bureau, Breitbart London, appears to be in charge of the website’s Europe content and has a close relationship with the nativist UK Independence Party (UKIP). That, coupled with its anti-immigrant content, suggests that the site will try to spread its nativism across Europe by continuing to stoke racist sentiment and allying with anti-immigrant political parties.

  • Rumored Ouster Of White House Press Corps Was Months In The Making

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON, JARED HOLT, CYDNEY HARGIS & ZACHARY PLEAT

    According to reports, the incoming Trump administration has given “serious consideration” to the idea of removing the permanent press corps from the White House. This potential exclusion of the press from White House access has been months in the making, with President-elect Donald Trump, his political allies, and his right-wing media sycophants clamoring for the next administration to restrict access for outlets that have criticized his policies and statements and attacking the press in general. Meanwhile, the president-elect has been building up alternative, pro-Trump outlets.

  • The Media Keep Failing To Publish Accurate Headlines About Trump: An Updated List

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Before and since the election, media outlets have repeatedly failed to write headlines that adequately contextualize President-elect Donald Trump’s lies. Simply echoing his statements normalizes his behavior and can spread disinformation, particularly given the high proportion of people who read only headlines. Below is an ongoing list documenting the media’s failure to contextualize Trump’s actions in headlines and sometimes on social media. Some of the initial versions were subsequently altered (and these are marked with an asterisk), but many of the updates still failed to adequately contextualize Trump’s remarks.

  • The Media Outlets Poised To Become Trump’s Personal Propaganda Machine

    The President-Elect’s Media Allies Are Already Helping Him Control Narratives And Publicly Attack Enemies

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After the 2016 presidential election, President-elect Donald Trump is coalescing a network of supportive right-wing media outlets, including an online publication owned by his son-in-law, a supermarket tabloid, and a new 24-hour news outlet that has been described as “Trump TV.” Since the primaries, these right-wing media outlets have helped push Trump's agenda and have attacked his political opponents.

  • Trump's Son-In-Law Reportedly Moving To Sell The Observer After Using It As A Campaign Weapon for Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is reportedly trying to sell The New York Observer, the media outlet which he used during the presidential campaign to give Trump positive coverage throughout the 2016 election.

    Reuters reported that Kushner, who owned The Observer while simultaneously advising Trump during his presidential bid, is hoping to sell the news site “so that he can focus on his budding political career.”

    Although The Observer did not officially endorse Trump during the presidential campaign, the editorial board did endorse him during the primary campaign. The Observer staff was involved in advising and even writing speeches for candidate Trump, while the outlet itself pedaled pro-Trump content. This only confirmed the outlet’s cozy relationship with the Republican candidate, which led one staffer to resign.

    While Kushner’s role in the Trump campaign has raised concerns, this is another signal that Kushner is using his father-in-law’s election for financial gain and to gain political clout. From the December 21 Reuters report: 

    President-elect Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is looking to sell his newspaper, The New York Observer, the trade newspaper Women's Wear Daily reported on Wednesday.

    [...]

    Kushner may be selling the Observer to focus on his political career, according to the report. His wife, Ivanka Trump, is the president-elect's eldest daughter. Both he and his wife advised Trump during his successful presidential campaign. 

  • Trump Campaign Made A Deal With Media Organization For “Straighter Coverage” During Election

    Trump’s Son-In-Law Admits Trump Team “Struck A Deal With Sinclair Broadcast Group”

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Donald Trump’s campaign made a deal with Sinclair Broadcasting Group for more favorable media coverage during the election, adding to the growing lists of conflicts between Trump and the media.

    President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, a key member of his transition team, “struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage” for Trump in exchange for “more access to Trump and the campaign,” according to Politico.

    On December 16 Politico reported Sinclair Broadcast Group promised Kushner they “would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary” using their “television stations across the country in many swing states.” Scott Livingston, vice president of news at Sinclair, claimed the deal was aimed at “hear[ing] more directly from candidate on the issue instead of hearing all the spin and all the rhetoric”:

    Donald Trump's campaign struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage, his son-in-law Jared Kushner told business executives Friday in Manhattan.

    Kushner said the agreement with Sinclair, which owns television stations across the country in many swing states and often packages news for their affiliates to run, gave them more access to Trump and the campaign, according to six people who heard his remarks.

    In exchange, Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary, Kushner said. Kushner highlighted that Sinclair, in states like Ohio, reaches a much wider audience — around 250,000 listeners — than networks like CNN, which reach somewhere around 30,000.

    [...]

    “Our promise was to give all candidates an opportunity to voice their position share their position with our viewers. Certainly we presented an opportunity so that Mr. Trump could clearly state his position on the key issues,” Livingston said. “Our commitment to our viewers is to go beyond podium, beyond the rhetoric. We’re all about tracking the truth and telling the truth and that’s typically missing in most political coverage.”

    A Trump spokesman said the deal included the interviews running across every affiliate but that no money was exchanged between the network and the campaign. The spokesman said the campaign also worked with other media outlets that had affiliates, like Hearst, to try and spread their message.

    “It was a standard package, but an extended package, extended story where you’d hear more directly from candidate on the issue instead of hearing all the spin and all the rhetoric,” Livingston said.

    [...]

    Sinclair, a Maryland based company, has been labeled in some reports as a conservative leaning local news network. Local stations in the past have been directed to air “must run” stories produced by Sinclair’s Washington bureau that were generally critical of the Barack Obama administration and offered perspectives primarily from conservative think tanks, the Washington Post reported in 2014.

    During the campaign, Donald Trump’s campaign treated the press with unprecedented hostility. As president-elect, he is using media allies like Fox’s Sean Hannity to build support for keeping the mainstream press out of Trump’s way.

    Kushner’s deal with Sinclair Broadcasting Group, an organization with proven right-wing leanings, reveals yet another way the Trump campaign manipulated national and local media to stem the tide of disastrous coverage from Trump’s myriad scandals.

  • Sean Hannity Is Leading The Charge For Trump To Abandon The Press

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Since the presidential election, conservative radio host Sean Hannity has devoted himself to promoting the dangerous and undemocratic notion that President-elect Donald Trump should not have a press office in his White House. The Trump campaign is taking steps to ensure that Hannity’s vision may become a reality. 

    Hannity has used his radio and television shows to urge the incoming president to “rethink how he deals with media,” arguing that mainstream media outlets are “all full of crap." Hannity advised fellow right-wing radio host and potential Trump administration press secretary Laura Ingraham that, if she got the job, she should not "go out and talk with" the media every day. Hannity even suggested to Trump advisor Newt Gingrich that, instead of a press office, Trump should come on The Sean Hannity Show to “take calls from people all over the country.” 

    On December 14, Hannity repeated his offer to allow Trump to have a “fireside chat” using the 550 radio stations that receive his broadcasts instead of Trump taking the media's "inane, idiotic, combative questions every day":

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Journalism’s dead. I honestly could see Trump saying, “we don't need a White House press office anymore. We don’t need” -- He hasn't named a press secretary. Why? Why go out there, the dog-and-phony-pony show? Where you have a bunch of Hillary Clinton supporters in the media, a bunch of propagandists, a bunch of people that colluded with the Clinton campaign, why sit there evwery day and take their inane, idiotic, combative questions every day? What, and then what, run it on MSNBC? Because they can’t get any better programming than that? I think you just say forget it. I’ll do a fireside chat with him. 

    It appears that the Trump administration is listening. On Wednesday Reince Priebus, incoming Trump administration chief of staff, told right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt that “many things have to change” in the relationship between the White House and the press, “including the daily briefing with the White House Press Secretary and the seating chart." According to Politico, Priebus said that "I think that it’s important that we look at all of those traditions that are great, but quite frankly, as you know, don’t really make news and they're just sort of mundane, boring episodes”:

    Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus suggested that major changes are coming to the White House press corps.

    Speaking to radio host Hugh Hewitt, Priebus said "many things have to change" in the White House's relationship and daily traditions with the media, including the daily briefing with the White House Press Secretary and the seating chart.

    "I think that it’s important that we look at all of those traditions that are great, but quite frankly, as you know, don’t really make news and they're just sort of mundane, boring episodes," Priebus said.

    "The point of all of this conversation is that the traditions, while some of them are great, I think it’s time to revisit a lot of these things that have been done in the White House, and I can assure you that change is going to happen, even on things that might seem boring like this topic, but also change as far as how we’re going to approach tax reform, the American worker, how we protect them and business all at the same time why skyrocketing our economy," Priebus told Hewitt.

    Trump is already setting the stage for more favorable press coverage during his presidential tenure. Right Side Broadcasting Network, a new 24-hour conservative media network favorable to Trump has recently announced that they will “be in the White House” and “be at the press briefings” in the Trump administration. And while Trump has been extremely hostile to the press, Trump has maintained his relationship with Hannity. After his election, President-elect Trump was sure to make his first cable TV appearance with Hannity, who not only appeared in a campaign advertisement for Trump before the election but also gave Trump over $31 million in free publicity and over 24 hours in total airtime

  • NBC News Is Struggling To Report On Its Own Trump Problem

    NBC's Financial Relationship With The President-Elect Puts Its Reporters In An Impossible Situation

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    NBC and its parent company, Comcast/NBCUniversal, have put the network’s news division in an impossible situation by entering into a financial agreement with the next president of the United States. As NBC News reporters grapple with the announcement that President-elect Donald Trump will remain an executive producer on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, many aren't discussing the intolerable conflicts of interest this business arrangement poses to NBC. In this deal, NBC will have a fiduciary relationship with the president, making it financially invested in Trump’s reputation -- a situation that threatens to compromise the news division’s political reporting. The arrangement is now providing a case study in how conflicts of interest affect the quality and the integrity of reporting.

    Variety reported on December 8 that Trump will stay on as an executive producer of Celebrity Apprentice. As Media Matters pointed out, because of the business relationship, NBC is now financially invested in Trump's reputation and will have an incentive to weigh aggressive reporting about Trump across its news platforms against what the network mighty lose in revenue if Trump's reputation is damaged. The arrangement implicates NBC News, CNBC, and MSNBC.

    NBC News’ reports on the announcement have generally presented the conflict as a possible problem for Trump, but not for NBC -- and that’s when the network reports on the deal at all. NBC’s flagship Sunday political show, Meet the Press, failed to address the story entirely on the December 11 edition. Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, who also anchors the weekday program Meet the Press Daily, said on December 8 that Trump being “connected to The Apprentice is not news to the American public.” NBC correspondents Kristen Welker and Peter Alexander both characterized the deal as a conflict for Trump, while downplaying NBC’s own conflict. Welker noted that there is “new scrutiny of the president-elect's decision to stay on as executive producer of The Apprentice,” referring to the deal as “Trump’s business entanglements,” and adding, “NBC Entertainment declined to comment, noting MGM owns and produces the show.” Joe Kernen, host of CNBC’s Squawk Box, told a critic, “Don’t bring it to your conflict thing again.” MSNBC’s Ari Melber argued that Trump remaining an executive producer isn’t a conflict, “it’s just … weird,” and made a point of saying that “NBC Entertainment is a separate division of our company” from NBC News.

    MSNBC reporters have also tried to compare Trump’s deal with NBC to Obama receiving royalties for his books. But, as The Associated Press explained, Obama’s “books’ publishers are not financially tied to news divisions.”

    By contrast, other media outlets have noted NBC’s numerous conflicts in this arrangement. On ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked incoming Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus: “The FCC regulates NBC corporate. Corporations could try to curry favor with the president by placing their products on the show, buying advertising. Isn't that an issue?” CNN’s Dylan Byers explained that the business relationship “presents a thorny situation for Comcast/NBCUniversal, which controls the [product integration] deals” that companies make with Celebrity Apprentice, which, according to Byers, often range from $5 million to $9 million. Trump personally profits from those deals, making NBC the middleman through which companies can “curry favor” with the president. And Fortune magazine noted that NBC was already criticized in October “for reportedly sitting on the Access Hollywood footage from 2005 that showed Trump boasting about committing sexual assault,” which the network reportedly withheld due to “fear of spurring yet another lawsuit from Trump.”

    Media and ethics experts have also pointed out the untenable situation NBC has created for itself. Marcy McGinnis, a former CBS News executive and journalism professor, called the arrangement “mind-boggling” and said it’s “a clear conflict of interest” to have a company “that has a news division …. covering the president of the United States” when he “has an interest in a show on that network.” Aly Colon, a journalism ethics expert, noted people’s desire to “believe in an independent news division not affected by business ties,” saying, “A lot of people find it difficult to believe there is a wall between news and entertainment.” And NPR’s David Folkenflik pointed out that, as president, Trump will be appointing the regulators tasked with scrutinizing the media, which NBC has an obvious interest in. Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert explained on MSNBC’s AM Joy that “No amount of disclosure is enough here. Is NBC for the next four years, every time they report on Trump, [going to] say, ‘By the way, our parent company has a financial relationship with Donald Trump’?” Boehlert also asked, "what if a company, in theory, says, 'Let's give The Apprentice $5 million and Trump could get a cut of that?' I mean, we're just paying off the president.”

    NBC cut ties with Trump last summer, declining to air his Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants and stating that the network did not want to be associated with Trump because his bigoted statements had defied its core values. What’s unclear now is whether NBC believes Trump’s values have changed or whether the network believes such statements became acceptable with his election.

    Sign Media Matters’ petition telling NBC to dump Trump.

  • CNN: Trump’s Apprentice Deal With NBC Gives Foreign Companies An Opportunity To “Curry Favor” With Trump 

    NBC Is Providing Foreign Companies, Defense Contractors And Private Equity Firms With A Way To Pay President Trump 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to remain an executive producer of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice as president “could provide him with a cut of the money generated by NBC's product integration deals for the show,” and provides ways for advertisers, foreign companies, defense contractors and private equity firms to “curry favor” with Trump, according to CNN.

    NBC’s decision to retain Trump as an executive producer on The Celebrity Apprentice raises a number of conflict of interest concerns that include advertisers' ability to pay Trump while they have business in front of government, as well as NBC’s financial investment in Trump’s reputation. For these reasons, Media Matters is calling on NBC to end this insurmountable problem and cut ties with President-elect Trump.

    On December 9, CNN’s Dylan Byers quoted “a Hollywood source with direct knowledge” of Trump’s contractual arrangement with NBC to report that “if that arrangement is still in place, it is now a potential avenue of influence for companies.” Reality shows like The Celebrity Apprentice offer “product integration,” better known as product placement, to any number of advertisers, including ”brands owned by foreign companies; private equity firms, which have done deals with the show before; or defense contractors that also produce consumer goods.” In 2011, Byers reports, the integrations cost “between $5 million and $9 million” per episode. Assuming Trump’s deal with NBC has not changed, “the companies buying product integrations on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ will be indirectly paying money to the President-elect.” Byers’ source remarked that "If an advertiser wants to curry favor with Trump, that's the way to do it.":

    For years, Trump has received a portion of the revenue from the show's product integration deals, the source said. If that arrangement is still in place, it is now a potential avenue of influence for companies that want to get the ear of Trump and his administration, and presents a thorny situation for Comcast/NBCUniversal, which controls the deals.

    "If an advertiser wants to curry favor with Trump, that's the way to do it," the source said.
    That could include brands owned by foreign companies; private equity firms, which have done deals with the show before; or defense contractors that also produce consumer goods. Any company like these might have a vested interest in getting in good favor with the 45th President of the United States.

    In reality television, product integration refers to deals in which advertisers pay to place their products in a show. When contestants on "Celebrity Apprentice" are tasked with directing a commercial for a new OnStar product, creating a retail strategy for LifeLock or repackaging Omaha Steaks, that is product integration. In 2011, Ad Age reported that advertisers were paying between $5 million and $9 million to get their product integrated into a single episode.

    The source could not confirm that the terms of the arrangement had not changed. NBC, the network that airs "Celebrity Apprentice," did not respond to requests for comment. MGM, the company that owns the show, declined comment.

    [...]

    There was one agreement covering both "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice," the source said. If that deal is still in place, the companies buying product integrations on "Celebrity Apprentice" will be indirectly paying money to the President-elect.

    Tell NBC to Dump Trump.

  • News Outlet Owned By Trump Son In-Law Posts Op-Ed Calling For FBI Investigation Of Anti-Trump Protests

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    The Observer, a news site owned by President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, posted an op-ed calling for an FBI investigation into the “political thuggery” of anti-Trump protests taking place in the wake of the presidential election.

    Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump threatened and criticized protesters during campaign events, saying of one that he’d like to “punch him in the face” and reminiscing of the “good old days” when protesters would be “carried out on a stretcher.” Trump even threatened to “start pressing charges” against protesters after demonstrations during a Chicago campaign rally caused the event to be postponed after fights broke out between demonstrators and Trump supporters. Now Trump supporters want an FBI investigation of of anti-Trump protests.

    On December 2, the Observer posted an op-ed written by University of Texas in Austin adjunct professor Austin Bay, which called for FBI Director James Comey to conduct a “detailed investigation” into the anti-Trump protests taking place across the country. To make his point, Bay invokes “Kristallnacht,” a 1938 incident in which Nazis burned synagogues, vandalized Jewish-owned businesses and homes, and resulted in 30,000 Jewish men being sent to concentration camps. Bay even cites notorious conspiracy theorist Jim Hoft’s blog post claiming anti-Trump protesters were paid to protest, a claim that gained traction based on a fake news story.

    The posting of the op-ed is extremely concerning given the influence Kushner has on his father-in-law. In July, The New York Times reported that Kushner had “become involved in virtually every facet of the Trump presidential operation” and wrote that many viewed him as the “de facto campaign manager.” Following the election, Kushner also explored legal loopholes that would allow him to bypass federal nepotism laws and join the Trump administration in an official capacity:

    Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President-elect Donald J. Trump, has spoken to a lawyer about the possibility of joining the new administration, a move that could violate federal anti-nepotism law and risk legal challenges and political backlash.

    […]

    Mr. Trump is urging his son-in-law to join him in the White House, according to one of the people briefed. The president-elect’s sentiment is shared by Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist for the White House, and Reince Priebus, who was named chief of staff. Mr. Kushner accompanied Mr. Trump to the White House on Thursday, when the president-elect held his first in-person meeting with President Obama.