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Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace ignored the role Fox News played in paving the ascent of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump while suggesting former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney "legitimiz[ed]" Trump by accepting his endorsement during the 2012 election.
On March 3, Romney delivered a speech highly critical of Trump, saying that, if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president, "the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished." Romney criticized Trump's economic plans, his past business failures, and his foreign policy stances, and called Trump "a con man, a fake" who is "playing the members of the American public for suckers."
During a March 6 interview on Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked Romney whether his "legitimizing" of Trump by accepting his endorsement in 2012 -- given Trump's past business failures and history of "making the birther argument" against President Obama -- was partially responsible for his current status as Republican presidential front-runner (emphasis added):
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): While you took down Donald Trump pretty hard this week, you had a very different view of him four years ago when he endorsed you. Take a look.
MITT ROMNEY (VIDEO CLIP): There are some things that you just can't imagine happening in your life. This is one of them. Being in Donald Trump's magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. Donald Trump has shown an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works, to create jobs for the American people.
WALLACE: Governor, what changed?
ROMNEY: Oh, let me tell you, this is a guy, if we look at the past, this is a guy who was very successful, made a lot of money for himself. But at the same time, take a very close look and look how many small people he crushed along the way and how many failures he had. And so we can talk about the past at great length. I had a lot of people who endorsed me who I wouldn't endorse for president. Donald Trump just happens to be one of those who endorsed me I do not want to see as president of the United States. And there's a long list of those who are endorsers. Sixty-one million people voted for me. I don't think all 61 million people ought to be president of the United States.
WALLACE: But you were talking at the time about his extraordinary ability to create jobs, his understanding of the economy. I mean, it's not like everything that Donald Trump that you believe he did wrong has happened in the last four years. A lot of those business failures that you talk about happened before 2012. Before 2012 he was making the birther argument that President Obama needed to show his birth certificate because he wasn't born in the United States. I guess part of the question is, by legitimizing him back then, were you part of the reason he's where he is now?
But Fox News shares guilt for legitimizing Donald Trump. In 2011, Trump became a fixture on Fox & Friends when the cable news channel announced that Trump would have a regular weekly segment called "Monday Mornings with Trump" on its flagship morning show. In March and April 2011, multiple Fox News hosts and personalities hyped Trump's fallacious demands that President Obama release his birth certificate and promoted Trump's birther myths in at least 52 segments.
Since May 2015, Fox News has given Donald Trump more than double the airtime than any other Republican presidential candidate. And since Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015, Fox hosts have repeatedly defended the worst of his toxic rhetoric and controversies, including his failure to disavow support from the Ku Klux Klan.
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Noah: "It Is Nonsense That This 'Helmethead' Is Trying To Link The Klan To Modern Day Democrats"
From the March 3 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah:
TREVOR NOAH (HOST): A big question you may be asking yourself why is Mitt Romney speaking out against Trump? Well, a good part of that is a week ago the KKK grand wizard emeritus David Duke, he told his followers to vote for Donald Trump. And Donald Trump was coy about disavowing Duke's support right?
NOAH: Now obviously a grand wizard of the KKK praising the Republican front-runner is going to stir up a lot of emotion. And we saw that on CNN. As a Trump supporter and a Democrat faced off as the Super Tuesday results were coming in.
NOAH: One minute they were talking about whether Trump was cool with racism. The next thing you know, the Trump supporter basically blaming the Klan on liberals.
NOAH: A lot of people like to skip over the fact that when it comes to race relations, historically Republicans and Democrats switched positions. Yeah, Republicans were basically Democrats and the Democrats were basically Republicans.
NOAH: What happened was, Lincoln, way back in the day, the first Republican president. He did free the slaves and the Democrats of the time spent the next eighty years busting on black people, instituting segregation and founding terrorist groups like the KKK who hated black people and proper spelling.
NOAH: So basically in this argument what 'helmethead' saying about the KKK being a Democratic group, that was true in like 1910, but then after World War II, Democratic presidents like Truman and Johnson, they started supporting civil rights laws and that lead to a mass exodus of racists from the Democratic party.
NOAH: So now that we know all of this, we can see why it is nonsense that this 'helmethead' is trying to link the Klan to modern day Democrats, because everything has changed since then.
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Right-wing media figures are blasting Mitt Romney's anti-Trump "State of the Race" speech, saying the 2012 Republican presidential nominee "has no business lecturing voters on electability or conservatism" and that for establishment Republicans, "Mount Romney is the hill they've chosen to die on."
Does anyone remember the rope line kerfuffle that broke out between reporters and Mitt Romney's campaign team in May 2012? After the Republican nominee addressed supporters in St. Petersburg, Florida, campaign aides tried to restrict reporters from getting to the rope line where the candidate was greeting audience members.
As the incident unfolded, Kasie Hunt from the Associated Press tweeted, "Campaign staff and volunteers trying to physically prevent reporters from approaching the rope line to ask questions of Romney." And from CNN's Jim Acosta: "Romney campaign and Secret Service attempted to keep press off ropeline so no q's to candidate on Bain." (Bain Capital is the investment firm Romney co-founded.)
Contrast that with the media wildfire that broke out over the Fourth of July weekend this summer when Hillary Clinton marched in the Gorham, New Hampshire parade. Surrounded by throngs of reporters who jumped into the parade route to cover the event, Clinton's aides created a moving roped-off zone around Clinton to give her more space.
The maneuver produced images of journalists temporarily corralled behind a rope, which most observers agreed made for bad campaign optics.
Note that like Romney's episode on the rope line when reporters objected to being barred from overhearing the candidate interact with voters, journalists in New Hampshire were upset they couldn't hear Clinton greet parade spectators. But this story was hardly a minor one. It created an avalanche of coverage -- nearly two weeks later journalists still reference it as a major event.
It's interesting to note that during his 2012 campaign, Romney often distanced himself from the campaign press and provided limited access, the same allegations being made against Clinton this year. But the way the press covered the two media strategies stands in stark contrast.
That's not to suggest Romney's avoidance of the press wasn't covered as news four years ago. It clearly was. But looking back, it's impossible to miss the difference in tone, and the sheer tonnage of the coverage. Four years ago the campaign press calmly detailed Romney's attempts to sidestep the national press (minus Fox News), versus the very emotional, often angry ("reporters are being penned off like farm animals"), and just weirdly personal dispatches regarding Hillary's press strategy.
In a 2011 article, the Huffington Post interviewed reporters about how Romney was employing a much more closed-off press strategy compared to his 2008 campaign. The article featured quotes from Beltway journalists like the Washington Post's Dan Balz saying that while Romney had been more "open and available" in his 2008 campaign, during the 2012 cycle, "In general, I think they have kept him as much as possible out of the press spotlight ... And I think it's part of what has been their overall strategy, which has been to act like a frontrunner and not do a lot of interviews."
By contrast, the New York Times, reporting on Clinton's press relationship, recently described her as a "regal" "freak" who "seems less a presidential candidate than a historical figure, returning to claim what is rightfully hers." Slate noted "the political press has turned noticeably hostile in the face of her silence." And the Daily Beast wanted to know why Clinton was so "determined" to "infuriate the press."
So when Clinton's standoffish with the press, she's deliberately trying to "infuriate" journalists. But when Romney was standoffish, he was just employing a frontrunner strategy.
Why the blatant double standard? Why the steeper grading curve for the Democrat?
Are the Romney and Clinton press scenarios identical? Probably not. But they do seem awfully similar. Note that in February 2012, ABC News reported that "Romney last held a press conference in Atlanta on Feb. 8, and has not done so again since. Wednesday is the two week mark." Two months later, not much had changed: "Reporters yelled questions at Romney yesterday on the rope line after a speech prebutting this summer's Democratic National Convention -- to no avail. Romney has not taken questions from the press since March 16 in Puerto Rico."
That dispatch came on April 19, which meant at the time Romney hadn't taken a question from the national press in more than a month, and that was during the heart of the Republican primary season. But where was the Washington Post's running clock to document the last time Romney fielded a question, and the New York Times special section to feature hypothetical questions to ask Romney if and when he next spoke to the press?
When Romney ignored the national media for more than a month in 2012 the press mostly shrugged. When Hillary did something similar this year, the press went bonkers, sparking "an existential crisis among the national press corps," according to Slate.
And that may be an understatement. The coverage of Clinton's treatment of the press has become a truly boundless genre of commentary. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
And that's just a sampling.
For whatever reason, the Beltway press signaled a long time ago that the press was going to be a central topic during the Clinton campaign and the press was going to write a lot about how the press felt about Clinton's relationship with the press. (Media critic Jay Rosen has dismissed some of the media's campaign complaints as being nonsensical.)
We've certainly never seen anything like this in modern campaigns. And it certainly did not happen with Romney four years ago.
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ABC And CBS Uncritically Repeat Romney Attacks On Clinton
ABC News and CBS News helped potential GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney dredge up discredited attacks on Hillary Clinton in their reports on an upcoming speech by Romney. The attacks smear Clinton's diplomatic work with Russia as secretary of state and scandalize comments she made on trickle-down economics that were taken out of context by the media.
Reports from two news networks hyped excerpts from Romney's planned speech at Mississippi State University on Wednesday night that will be targeted at Clinton. Both ABC and CBS News articles uncritically reported that Romney will be criticizing Clinton's "clueless" efforts to "reset" U.S.-Russia relations during Mr. Obama's first term.
But the "reset" moment that media outlets frequently cite as the primary example of Clinton's dealings with Russia while serving as secretary of state does not accurately portray her tenure. Clinton's successful negotiations with Russia resulted in in an agreement that allows the "U.S. military planes to transport lethal materiel over Russia to Afghanistan," reducing reliance on Pakistan for transporting cargo. Clinton also expressed serious concerns with Russia's 2011 elections, and warned that Russia was trying to "re-Sovietize" Eastern Europe and that Vladimir Putin would attempt to consolidate Russian control over eastern Ukraine if the opportunity presented itself.
Both ABC and CBS also highlighted another misleading attack against Clinton from Romney's upcoming speech, where he will assert that Clinton "doesn't know where jobs come from in the first place," an apparent reference to a scandal invented by the media over Clinton's statement that tax breaks for the rich don't cause companies to create jobs. CBS portrayed Clinton's remarks on tax breaks for the rich as a slip-up:
In his speech text, Romney takes a swipe at Hillary Clinton for telling voters during the 2014 midterm campaign, "Don't let anybody tell you it's corporations and businesses that create jobs."
"How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn't know where jobs come from in the first place?" Romney is expected to ask. "We need a president who will do what it takes to bring more good paying jobs to the placement offices of our college campuses."
After her remarks sparked a round of mockery from her opponents on the right, Clinton claimed she misspoke and said she meant to say that the economy grows when companies create good-paying jobs in America, "not when we hand out tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs or stash their profits overseas."
This attack on Clinton's remarks, omits crucial context used by right-wing media outlets to scandalize the comments. The full context shows that Clinton's statement was in reference to tax breaks for the rich, and argued that trickle-down economics is not successful at creating jobs (emphasis added):
CLINTON: Don't let anybody tell you that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs. They always say that. I've been through this. My husband gave working families a raise in the 1990s. I voted to raise the minimum wage and guess what? Millions of jobs were created or paid better and more families were more secure. That's what we want to see here, and that's what we want to see across the country.
And don't let anybody tell you, that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know, that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried. That has failed. That has failed rather spectacularly.
One of the things my husband says, when people say, what did you bring to Washington? He says, well I brought arithmetic. And part of it was he demonstrated why trickle down should be consigned to the trash bin of history. More tax cuts for the top and for companies that ship jobs over seas while taxpayers and voters are stuck paying the freight just doesn't add up.
Or Do Different Rules Apply For Women?
"In American politics, there's a sense you want to be new. You don't want to be too familiar. You want to be something fresh. You don't want to be something old and stale." Karl Rove discussing Hillary Clinton on Fox News, May 26, 2014.
Mitt Romney's reemergence as a possible top-tier Republican contender for the 2016 White House race has created an awkward situation for some Republicans and conservative commentators who have been dwelling on Hillary Clinton's age in recent months. The development also poses a potentially thorny issue for journalists in terms of how they treat male and female politicians.
To date, Republicans have been eager to highlight Clinton's age. "Republican strategists and presidential hopefuls, in ways subtle and overt, are eager to focus a spotlight on Mrs. Clinton's age," the New York Times reported in 2013. Just this week, conservative Washington Post contributor Ed Rogers mocked Clinton for being stuck in a cultural "time warp," circa the "tie-dye" 1960s.
So why the newfound awkwardness for spotlighting Clinton's age? Because Mitt Romney's the same age as Hillary Clinton. They're both 67 years old. (Actually, Romney's older than Clinton by seven months.)
The fact that early polling suggests the possible Republican front runner is the same age as Clinton raises interesting questions for the political press, which has carved out plenty of time and space in recent years to analyze the question of Clinton's age and to repeat Republican allegations that she might be too old for the job of president. Going forward, will the same press corps devote a similar amount of time and space asking the same questions about Romney? And if not, why not? (A recent Boston Globe article actually positioned Romney's age as a plus for the Republican: "Supporters have also noted that Romney would be 69 years old in 2016 -- the same age as Reagan when he was sworn into his first term.")
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Media are promoting Republican gains in the House and Senate in Tuesday's midterm elections as evidence that the country has shifted to the "center-right" on political issues, despite the fact that ballot initiatives and national polling reveal broad support for progressive positions.
The Washington Post updated a piece from columnist Marc Thiessen to note his financial ties to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and indicated the need for better disclosure in future Thiessen columns on the 2016 presidential campaign, in response to inquiries from Media Matters.
On September 1, the Post published a column from Thiessen criticizing the idea of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney running for president again in 2016. In the piece, Thiessen identified Scott Walker as one of several "successful governors" that would be a preferable candidate. Thiessen co-authored Walker's 2013 book, a fact the columnist has previously disclosed when writing about the governor for the Post but which went unmentioned in his latest column.
Media Matters published a piece criticizing the Post and reached out to the paper's editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, who indicated that Thiessen's mention of Walker was "so glancing" that it did not warrant disclosure. But the Post subsequently reversed course, adding text to the column explaining, "Full disclosure: I co-authored a book with Walker."
Hiatt told Media Matters that he intends to meet with Thiessen to discuss the need for a "best approach" to disclosure in future columns touching on the 2016 presidential campaign.
"You are right that he has disclosed the relationship with Walker whenever he writes about Walker. In this case the reference to Walker was so glancing that I didn't think the co-authorship needed to be re-disclosed," Hiatt said in an email. "But you ask a reasonable question, and as the campaign proceeds I will talk with Marc about what the best approach will be."
The original lack of disclosure drew criticism from media ethicists who said leaving out the fact that Thiessen had co-authored a book with Walker is misleading to readers.
"I think this kind of entanglement is unacceptable," said Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. "Where you don't know if a particular writer's column is a payback for favors done in the past or auditions for jobs sought in the future. The reader is not in a place to make any intelligent decisions based on the off-screen relationships. The fact that he is getting money off screen is just not compatible with that."
As Wasserman suggested, Thiessen's extensive political career would make him a plausible hire in a Walker administration. The two have "developed a bond," according to the Post's own reporting.
Kevin Smith, ethics committee chair of the Society of Professional Journalists, said such financial connections "widen an already large divide between the journalist and the public's right to be accurately and fairly informed."