Reliable Sources

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  • Trump's Last Resort: Right-Wing Media Lies About Voter Fraud

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the presidential election will be “rigged” because of widespread voter fraud is based on a series of myths that the right-wing media has pushed for years -- including the arguments that strict voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, that dead people are voting, and that there is widespread noncitizen voting.

  • Meet Jill Harth, One Of The Trump Sexual Assault Accusers His Media Surrogates Ignore

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    After the release of a 2005 recording of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault, Trump surrogates appearing in the media are defending the nominee by suggesting that the recording reveals just "words” and that he did not act on them. As proof, these surrogates claim the nominee has never been accused of committing sexual assault. But Jill Harth, a former Trump business associate, filed an unresolved lawsuit alleging that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s and is now speaking out again. 

  • Mainstream Media Echo Conservatives’ Claim That Clinton’s Pneumonia Legitimizes Their Conspiracy Theories

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media across the spectrum are claiming that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s diagnosis of pneumonia “vindicated” conservative conspiracy theorists who have long made baseless assertions about Clinton’s health. These claims have recently been mainstreamed by non-partisan outlets despite having been debunked time and time again.

  • After Clinton Feels Overheated At 9/11 Event, Media Issue “Special Reports” And Continue To Mainstream Health Conspiracies

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    NBC News Special Reports have usually been about significant international issues like the terrorist attack in Nice, France, the attempted coup in Turkey, the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba after being closed for over fifty years, or significant events like the arrival of the Pope, the death of singer Prince, and reports of mass shootings.

    On September 11, the network issued two special reports because Hillary Clinton felt overheated at a memorial event.

    While attending the memorial service commemorating the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Clinton left early after feeling “overheated,” according to campaign spokesman Nick Merrill. In a statement, Merrill said, “Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for just an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen. During the ceremony, she felt overheated, so departed to go to her daughter's apartment and is feeling much better.”

    A few hours later, Clinton left Chelsea Clinton’s apartment. She was filmed waving to the crowd and told the press assembled outside, “It’s a beautiful day,” and said she was “feeling great.” She then posed for a photo with a young girl.

    In addition to NBC’s Special Reports, the media took the incident as an opportunity to continue to legitimize conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health that have circulated in the conservative media.

    Fox’s Sean Hannity has perhaps been beating the drum the loudest, claiming that “coughing fits” from Clinton are signs of a serious medical condition, while also claiming that it is possible that she had a “stroke.” Rush Limbaugh, along with the Drudge Report, Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory website Infowars, and others recently pushed an internet survey from a fringe conspiracy group to claim that Clinton’s health disqualifies her from the presidency. Trump campaign surrogates have also promoted baseless health conspiracies in appearances on cable news.

    At the same time, reporters who have been in frequent contact with Clinton on the campaign trail have said that the allegations and conspiracies are baseless.

    Despite this background, several media outlets used news of Clinton’s overheating to give the conspiracy theories more oxygen.

    On Meet the Press, NBC News Special Correspondent Tom Brokaw referenced the “very vigorous campaign both aboveground and belowground” by Republicans to “raise questions about her health,” and said he thought Clinton should “go to a hospital” and “see a neurologist and get a clean report if it’s available to her.”

    The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote a piece headlined, “Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign.” He said the episode had “changed the conversation in the race about Clinton’s health” and would “catapult questions about her health from the ranks of conservative conspiracy theory to perhaps the central debate in the presidential race over the coming days.” Cillizza went on to claim, “Taking the Clinton team's word for it on her health -- in light of the episode on Sunday morning -- is no longer enough.”

    New York Times Los Angeles bureau Chief Adam Nagourney tweeted that it “Feels like a good day for Clinton to release her medical records and call on Trump to do same.”

    During CNN’s coverage, correspondent Jeff Zeleny said, “You have to wonder: Will they be sort of forced to release more medical records here because she is being criticized by her opponents here. The questions have been out there: Is she healthy?”

    Both Zeleny and NBC’s Chuck Todd noted in their reporting that Clinton has released more of her medical information than Donald Trump has. Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter noted the media “should not give oxygen to” conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health that have appeared online and in supermarket tabloids, but made the distinction that “there are legitimate questions” to be asked by reporters about Clinton’s health.

    Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik told Reliable Sources the possible implications of inaccurate reporting on the topic would be “awful” and “on something like this, Brian, you wait until you have at least two sources you’re comfortable with.”

  • Trump Adviser Can’t Decide If Candidate Is “Too Specific” Or Intentionally Vague

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Just a week after the Associated Press quoted Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying Trump’s policy proposals are actually designed to be vague, Moore proclaimed that Trump’s economic plan is the “most detailed” plan from any candidate in decades and may even be “too specific.”

    During the September 9 episode of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney asked Moore to respond to a September 4 Washington Post editorial titled “Donald Trump’s bet: We are all chumps.” In it, the paper slammed the GOP candidate for his lack of accountability, his penchant for lying, and his refusal to share “basic information” with voters such as medical records, tax returns, and “serious policy proposals.” After opening the segment by suggesting that Trump had “surely released a detailed economic plan, amongst other detailed plans,” Varney ceded the discussion to Moore, who claimed that the Trump campaign has “put forward the most detailed economic plan, I think, of any candidate in 40 years.” Moore went on to claim that Trump’s plan may be “too specific,” and that Trump has “an extremely detailed plan” available to the public on the campaign’s website. From Varney & Co.:

    STEPHEN MOORE: But, back to this idea that there's no detailed plan, because I never really answered your question about that. We've put forward the most detailed economic plan, I think, of any candidate in 40 years. I mean, we've got a very detailed tax plan.

    You look at his website about how we're going to replace Obamacare, you look at his energy plan -- the media didn't pay any attention to that. We're going to drill for resources, we’re going to put coal miners back into the jobs they lost. I mean, this is a very, very -- in fact, I would say, a lot of our political people say we're being too specific, we're giving too many targets for the, for our opponents to shoot at. Because we have an extremely detailed plan, and anybody who wants to look at it, go to the website, and you're going to see -- you know, compare that with what Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton has come out with. I mean, Hillary is all bluster. She doesn't have any plan at all.

    Moore’s bizarre claim that Trump’s economic plan is “very detailed” and potentially even “too specific” comes just days after an August 29 article from the Associated Press (AP) quoted Moore claiming that Trump’s plans are supposed to be “visionary stuff” and have been left intentionally vague to avoid “a big debate” over small details. From the AP:

    But Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who has worked with Trump to shape his tax and economic plans, says the vagueness on Trump's economic policies was by design.

    "We want to talk about the big visionary stuff. We don't want to have a big debate about this loophole, that loophole," he said. "This is a campaign, it's not a write-up of a tax bill in the Ways and Means Committee."

    Contrary to Moore’s claim that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “doesn’t have any plan at all,” the same AP article found that while Trump had “just seven policy proposals on his website, totaling just over 9,000 words,” Clinton’s campaign site outlined 38 specific issues and contained 65 policy papers totaling 112,735 words. CNN’s Reliable Sources examined the AP’s exposé on Trump’s lack of policy specifics on September 4, and host Brian Stelter even tweeted about the sharp difference.

  • CBS’ John Dickerson Is Only Sunday Host To Cover Trump Foundation’s Proven Lawbreaking

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    A Washington Post report that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 fine after his charitable foundation illegally gave a political contribution went mostly ignored by the cable and network Sunday political talk show hosts, with only CBS’ John Dickerson questioning a Trump surrogate about the story.

    The September 1 Post article reported that the Donald J. Trump Foundation had “violated tax laws” with a $25,000 political contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who at the time was deciding whether or not to take action against Trump University. The report also highlighted an error, “which had the effect of obscuring the political gift from the IRS.” According to the Post’s article, the Trump Foundation is still out of compliance because “under IRS rules, it appears that the Trump Foundation must seek to get the money back” from the group which should never have received it:

    Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year, an official at Trump's company said, after it was revealed that Trump's charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida's attorney general.

    The improper donation, a $25,000 gift from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, was made in 2013. At the time, Attorney General Pam Bondi was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. She decided not to pursue the case.

    Earlier this year, The Washington Post and a liberal watchdog group raised new questions about the three-year-old gift. The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a complaint with the IRS — noting that, as a registered nonprofit, the Trump Foundation was not allowed to make political donations.

    The Post reported another error, which had the effect of obscuring the political gift from the IRS.

    In that year's tax filings, The Post reported, the Trump Foundation did not notify the IRS of this political donation. Instead, Trump's foundation listed a donation — also for $25,000 — to a Kansas charity with a name similar to that of Bondi's political group. In fact, Trump's foundation had not given the Kansas group any money.

    The prohibited gift was, in effect, replaced with an innocent-sounding but nonexistent donation.

    With the breathless media hyping of every new detail about the Clinton Foundation, despite the lack of anything illegal occurring, one would think that the proof of lawbreaking by a charitable foundation founded and named for one of the two major party presidential nominees would attract significant attention from the media. But Face the Nation host John Dickerson was the only Sunday political talk show host to bring up the Post’s findings.

    During his interview with Trump campaign surrogate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Dickerson cited the Post story to ask if it was an example of Trump knowing “how to use political donations to get the system to work for him” because in this situation Trump “gave the money then the investigation didn’t happen”:

    JOHN DICKERSON (HOST): I want to ask you about a report in The Washington Post this week about Donald Trump's foundation paying a fine to the IRS for a $25,000 donation it had given to a political committee supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013. She was looking into maybe investigating Trump University, ultimately didn't. Donald Trump has said he knew better than anybody how to use the system, how to use political donations to get the system to work for him. Is that an instance of that in that situation, gave the money then the investigation didn't happen?

    ABC’s This Week guest host Martha Raddatz had a similar opportunity to question the Trump campaign about the story when speaking with campaign manager Kellyanne Conway during a 7 minute interview, but failed to bring it up. Fox News’ MediaBuzz and CNN’s Reliable Sources also both failed to even mention the news that Trump paid a fine for his foundation’s illegal act.

    On the other Sunday shows where this story was mentioned, it was up to the guests to mention it, usually in the context of the media’s double standard in reporting on the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s emails. When Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden said “we just learned this week that Donald Trump was engaged in a pay to play” with Florida’s attorney general, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace repeatedly interrupted her, before casting the story aside.

    On NBC’s Meet the Press, MSNBC contributor Maria Teresa Kumar brought up the report, saying Trump “basically took his foundation money and actually wrote a check to a campaign. That is actually illegal, and he had to pay a fine.”

    And on CNN’s State of the Union, commentator Bakari Sellers was the only one to even allude to the story, saying, “we know that Donald Trump actually had a foundation that was pay to play, and we’re back to [Clinton] emails.”