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If Wallace Acts The Way He Said He Would, Viewers Are In Trouble
Fox News played a key role in Donald Trump’s ascension to the Republican presidential nomination. Now one of the network’s hosts, Chris Wallace, is preparing to moderate tonight’s final debate of the election cycle.
Trump used regular appearances on Fox to build a political following during and following his 2011 birther crusade. During the Republican primary, the network gave him more than double the interview time of any other candidate, regularly providing him a friendly venue to speak to its conservative audience. In recent months, Trump has retreated almost completely to Fox News, with Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and the network’s Fox & Friends hosts providing virtually all of his national TV interviews.
The Commission on Presidential Debates responded by granting a Fox employee a coveted role as a presidential debate moderator for the first time in the network’s history.
As Media Matters and others have pointed out, Wallace has a massive conflict of interest. Over the summer, Fox News founder Roger Ailes was removed from his position as network chief following allegations from dozens of women that he had engaged in a pattern of workplace sexual harassment. Following Ailes’ resignation, Wallace praised him as a mentor and personal friend. Ailes is now reportedly advising both the Trump campaign and Wallace’s boss, Rupert Murdoch.
Wallace’s defenders have cited his tough interview style and the “grilling” he gave Trump during the Republican primary debates. Media Matters has at times highlighted tough questions that Wallace has asked Republicans on his Fox News Sunday program. But in recent interviews, Wallace has explicitly said that he has no intention of providing such a forum tonight, claiming that the proper role of a moderator is as a “timekeeper,” not a “truth squad.”
Given the constraints Wallace says he has placed on himself -- and his network’s history of conservative misinformation -- here’s what we expect to see at tonight’s debate.
The only way for viewers to get accurate information when Trump is a participant in a debate is for the moderator to “fact-check him” “in real time.” That’s what Wallace said after the Fox host deployed a series of pre-made graphics about some of Trump’s most common lies during a March primary debate.
Wallace is right. Trump lies constantly, in a manner unprecedented for a presidential candidate. If he lies on the debate stage and the other candidate is the only one prepared to respond, viewers will be left without a clear answer on matters of simple fact.
But since being named a general election moderator, Wallace has changed his tune. Asked last month how he would respond if the nominees “make assertions that you know to be untrue,” Wallace replied, “That's not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It's up to the other person to catch them on that.” He later added that such “truth squading” is “a step too far.”
Trump will benefit from this stance, which is likely why he praised Wallace’s comments.
The last two debates have seen the moderators stretched to their limits as they tried to get Trump to answer their questions and he evaded them and countered with seemingly endless tangential attacks on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump doesn’t have to worry about that this time. Wallace said during a Sunday interview that as a moderator, “you're there as a timekeeper, but you're not a participant. You're there just to make sure that they engage in the most interesting and fairest way possible.”
If that’s the case, we could see a version of Trump completely unhindered by any restrictions, at a time when he’s shown a willingness to descend to the most conspiratorial depths.
Wallace has decided that one of the six 15-minute debate periods will be devoted to the issue of each nominee's “fitness to be president.” This will likely involve both Clinton and Trump fielding questions from the moderator about issues that suggest they are not fit to be president.
This sets up a classic false equivalence trap.
Trump is an unprecedented major party nominee. He has received support from white nationalists; called for an unconstitutional Muslim ban; issued racist attacks on Mexican immigrants; fomented violence against protestors and the press; shown little interest in policy or the constraints of the presidency; and operated a foundation as a self-dealing scam. He has a long history of failed business ventures that left everyone else holding the bag, and he is currently responding to allegations of sexual assault from at least 10 women by declaring that a massive conspiracy by the media, as well as unsubstantiated voter fraud, are all that can keep him from the presidency. He has drawn opposition from numerous Republican and conservative leaders as well as newspaper editorial boards that have supported every GOP nominee for decades.
Meanwhile, Clinton is a well-known politician with decades of experience in public service who has drawn scrutiny from the press regarding her email setup and foundation.
If Wallace devotes equal attention to the “fitness” of both candidates, he cannot help but mislead his audience.
It seems overwhelmingly unlikely that the first Fox News-hosted presidential debate will ignore the topic that has consumed that network since 2012: the attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. Fox has sought to keep the “scandal” alive with myth after myth for too long to let it go on the biggest possible stage. Indeed, after the first debate, Wallace’s colleagues complained that the the terror attack hadn’t come up.
It should be impossible for Wallace to avoid asking Trump about the many women who have come forward over the past 10 days and said that the 2005 video of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women was consistent with their experiences with the GOP nominee.
But one factor is unlikely to come up: the Trump campaign advisor who was forced out of his previous job after dozens of women came forward to say that he had sexually harassed them. The founder of Wallace’s place of employment. The man Wallace called “the best boss I’ve had” and said he “loved” and for whom he has shed tears. The man who built the conservative media infrastructure and modern Republican Party in which a man like Trump could claim the nomination. Roger Ailes.
A Donald Trump Interview Will Air On The O’Reilly Factor, On A Network That Ousted Its Founder Over Decades Of Alleged Sexual Harassment
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who was recently accused of sexual harassment by former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros, announced “a Factor world exclusive” with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who would give his “first interview after the debate and the Access Hollywood situation,” referring to a tape in which Trump admitted to committing sexual assault, to The O’Reilly Factor.
A Factor world exclusive: Trump's first interview after the debate and the Access Hollywood situation ... watch @FoxNews @ 8pm ET –BO’R
— Bill O'Reilly (@oreillyfactor) October 11, 2016
On October 7, MSNBC released video of Donald Trump bragging that his star power allowed him to do whatever he wants to women, with or without their consent. While members of the media condemned Trump’s comments, noting that he was admitting to “sexual assault,” O’Reilly rushed to dismiss the tape as “guy talk,” instead choosing to attack The Washington Post.
In his first televised appearance since news of the tape broke, Trump has continued his retreat to Fox News, choosing to speak with O’Reilly who was recently accused of sexual harassment by Tantaros who alleges that O’Reilly invited her to a “very private” stay on Long Island with him and had posited on more than one occasion that she was “wild.”
Furthermore, in 2004 O’Reilly was the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by then-Fox producer Andrea Mackris, which alleged that O’Reilly made “a series of explicit phone calls to her, advised her to use a vibrator and told her about sexual fantasies involving her.” O’Reilly settled the lawsuit in 2004. According to CBS, “The New York Daily News, citing unidentified sources, reported that O'Reilly had agreed to pay Mackris anywhere from $2 million to $10 million."
Beyond accusations leveled at O’Reilly, Fox News itself has recently come under intense criticism for a pervasive culture of sexual harassment. On July 6, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against then-Fox CEO, and current Trump adviser, Roger Ailes. Carlson alleged that Ailes fired her after she rebuffed several unwanted sexual advances. Carlson’s lawsuit led other women at Fox to come forward with similar allegations, culminating in Ailes’ resignation from the network 15 days later. Following the ouster of Ailes, Fox News promoted Bill Shine, an executive who helped cover up Ailes’ decades of abuse, which others said demonstrated that sexual harassment “is pervasive at Fox” and their internal investigation was little more than a PR stunt.
Media should report on the immense hypocrisy of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump levying attacks on former President Bill Clinton’s history with women and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s responses to those women.Trump and several of his closest advisers have long histories of engaging in infidelity, workplace sexual harassment, and misogynistic behavior. Trump himself has also called Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky “totally unimportant,” and, The Washington Post reported, he “repeatedly dismissed and at times mocked” the women who have accused Bill Clinton.
Fox News Channel, which launched on October 7, 1996, celebrated its 20th anniversary Friday and mentioned the occasion on at least seven different news shows throughout the day. The anniversary tributes included a video featuring two top executives, but notably neglected to mention Fox News founder Roger Ailes.
The former Fox executive was recently ousted from the network due to multiple claims of sexual harassment from female colleagues and subordinates over many years. Ailes is currently advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose candidacy is now in crisis over a 2005 recording of the nominee boasting about sexual assault that was coincidentally released by The Washington Post on Fox News’ anniversary date.
Because the disturbing testimonies from former Fox hosts Gretchen Carlson and Andrea Tantaros, and various other women at the network, about their horrific experiences with Ailes were met with criticism by many who work there, it is not a surprise that Fox would whitewash the channel’s history. For example, prime-time host Bill O’Reilly, who is known for providing cover for Ailes, notably ignored the founder’s principal role in building the outlet. From the October 7 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
This obvious channel-wide omittance did not go unnoticed in the media. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reported that the website commemorating Fox News’ 20th anniversary featured top Fox executives Lachlan Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch but failed to mention the channel’s founder Roger Ailes. From the October 7 report (emphasis original):
This took some doing: 21st Century Fox is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Fox News without even mentioning the founder of Fox News, Roger Ailes. The tribute appears on the website of 21st Century Fox, the cable news network’s parent company, and includes a brief video in which Lachlan Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch, top executives of the company, look back on the world-beating organization that Ailes launched in 1996.
“Fox News came from a point of view of we can do this better,” says Lachlan Murdoch, the company’s executive chairman, in a video. “We can make news more interesting. We can tell stories better. We can tell them with more energy and more color.” Rupert Murdoch notes that he was “very lucky in the people I found. Now it’s … probably our single-biggest profit-maker as an individual channel.”
Bolding added to highlight what has to be a reference to Ailes, the now-76-year-old Republican strategist-turned-television executive who drove Fox News programming decisions with resourcefulness, ruthlessness and shamelessness.
Despite Fox’s best efforts to hush the news around Ailes’ misconduct, the outlet’s own history of hate, misogyny, and smears speaks volumes about its forgotten creator.
Spy magazine got it right more than two decades ago, Donald Trump is simply a short-fingered vulgarian.
For any remaining non-believers, this week’s released tape of Trump boasting about his sexual predator behavior eliminated any real doubts. (“Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” and “Grab them by the pussy.”)
In the wake of the ground-shaking campaign bombshell, the Republican Party now faces a political crisis the likes of which it probably has not seen since the days of Watergate. In terms of a political party openly being at war with its presidential nominee one month before Election Day, as a GOP chorus grows demanding Trump step aside, there’s simply no precedent for this in modern American politics.
How did the Republican Party arrive at this cratered-out low point? Simple -- this is what happens when conservatives feast exclusively on Fox News gobbledygook for years, especially for the last eight years under President Barack Obama. It’s what happens when you abandon policy, when you abandon common sense, and when you abandon hope in favor of vulgarity as a party platform.
This Trump fiasco was telegraphed months ago. All of it. It simply wasn’t possible that a vainglorious narcissist like Trump, deeply uninterested in how the world works, would be able to pull off a presidential election campaign without revealing his true identity.
The best case scenario was that Trump would run as sort of a bombastic and obnoxious Mitt Romney, lose, but not do serious lasting damage to the Republican Party. The far more likely scenario, and the one that’s unfolding during the final weeks, was that Trump would reveal himself to be a pathological liar and disturbed sexual predator who thinks fame gives him a license to assault and harass women.
Think about that: The GOP nominated a pathological liar whose moments of truth seem to be when he brags about his sexual predator habits. And even then, when audio and video proof finally confirmed what was long suspected, prominent Fox News hosts immediately sprang into spin control mode, while far-out Fox guests uttered bizarre statements.
Gina Louden: "No one was raped, nobody has died."
Dinesh D'Souza: “In my entire adult lifetime but never before have I seen the media so aggressively huffing and puffing to drag this crooked hag across the finish line.”
The simple truth is the GOP followed Fox News into the ethical and moral abyss long ago. And the GOP did so willingly. Seduced by the millions of dollars (billions of dollars?) worth of free airtime that Fox News provides the party each year, and aroused by the channel’s unvarnished hate rhetoric and its fever swamp attacks, Republicans abdicated party leadership to the now-disgraced Roger Ailes, who then turned around and helped crown Trump the Fox News mascot/presidential nominee.
This train wreck, this dumpster fire, this…..thing now on display in the form of the Trump campaign represents the logical conclusion for a party that decided to walk away from governance and embrace the bottom-of-the-barrel offerings cooked up by Fox News. For a party that opted to nominate in Trump someone who scooped up all that Fox hate rhetoric and made it the very cornerstone of his campaign. And yes, that includes dangerous insurrectionism and the racist smear that Obama’s a foreign-born terrorist sympathizer.
Lots of Republicans have since stood by Trump despite the fact he’s repeatedly denigrated women, African-Americans, Latinos, and the disabled, among others. That’s how the party arrived at its current crisis.
The funny thing is we tried to warn them.
Four years ago, I wrote about how Fox News was destroying the Republican Party. But no, back then I never imagined we’d be witnessing this kind of public disintegration of the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2016.
And that’s what makes this unraveling so stunning. It’s not that the campaign apparatus has fallen apart. It’s not that Trump’s team misread the electorate. It’s that the GOP candidate has fully revealed himself to be a loathsome person who has surrounded himself with equally loathsome people. First and foremost among them is former Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who was forced out this summer amidst a sexual harassment firestorm.
Please keep in mind:
During July, we learned that women claimed men who worked in positions of power at Fox News (namely Ailes, but not exclusively) groped women, kissed women against their will, made wildly inappropriate sexual comments (“Are you wearing any panties? I wish you weren't”), asked about female employees’ sex lives, pressured younger women to date older men in the office, made “jokes” about liking having women on their knees, promised promotions in exchange for sex, and cut short careers of women who took offense.
Twenty years ago on Friday, the same day the predatory Trump tapes were released, Fox News made its national debut, on October 7, 1996. Over the last two decades Fox News has forever changed American politics. And right now, the Republican Party is paying the biggest price.
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As the presidential campaign reaches its closing stages, Republican nominee Donald Trump is retreating to Fox News. As Trump's recent attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado have shown, real journalists should press Trump on is his long track record of misogyny. Here are just a few examples:
But rather than confront Trump, Fox News hosts sit with their heads down as the GOP nominee makes wildly unhinged misogynistic statements. And when he's not on air, Fox News personalities make excuses for him. It's no wonder: not only is there a culture of misogyny at Fox News, but the person responsible for instituting that culture is now advising Trump. Of course, you would never hear about that on Fox News.
After Fox News’ long summer of tawdry revelations about the culture of sexual harassment that permeates the cable outlet, and how women there who raised concerns were often maligned or penalized professionally, you’d think Fox hosts would know better than to lob hypocritical allegations about sexual harassment victim-blaming.
You’d think, but you’d be wrong.
On Monday morning, Fox & Friends hosts hovered on the topic again and again, setting aside nearly 10 minutes of TV airtime to discuss Bill Clinton’s sex life during the 1990s, and specifically to claim that Hillary Clinton doubled as some kind of victims bully.
Using that day’s New York Times piece on the same topic as a springboard, the Fox crew erroneously claimed Hillary had had a starring role in smearing women; that she’s guilty of “sliming the women who came forward,” according to Fox’s Steve Doocy. Doocy also said she “ruthlessly covered up Bill’s many affairs,” and co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed she “went aggressively after” the women involved. Kilmeade even suggested, based on the latest book from discredited Clinton fabulist Ed Klein, that Bill Clinton was still carrying out extramarital affairs in the Clinton Library.
The picture painted on Fox News was vivid: Decades ago, Hillary Clinton viciously attacked accusers in the name of protecting her husband and protecting her political future.
Despite the Times’ best effort to resuscitate the evergreen allegation against Clinton, there’s simply no evidence, as the conservative media have claimed for years, to suggest that as first lady, Clinton was at the head of some sort of heartless, uber-aggressive opposition research team that set out destroy the reputations of women associated with Bill Clinton.
The Fox pile-on, however, does represent part of a larger effort by the Trump campaign to position the Clinton marriage as a political issue for the final weeks of the campaign. Incredibly, it’s an effort led by an array of Republican men, including the Republican nominee himself, who have long histories of infidelity and sexual harassment.
Even more incredible, you know who does have a history of eagerly taking up the role of attack dog and orchestrating offenses against women who made allegations against this abusive and tasteless behavior? You know who set up opposition research teams to spy on his political opponents? Fox News founder -- and current Trump adviser -- Roger Ailes, of course.
So yes, it’s astonishing to watch Fox News hosts, who work at what’s been described as a hotbed of sexual harassment and victim-blaming, now paint Hillary Clinton as the villain.
As Ailes biographer Gabe Sherman tweeted this week:
Incredible that Giuliani is making argument about Hillary attacking Bill's accusers when Ailes smeared women who claimed harassment by Ailes
— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) October 2, 2016
The hypocrisy runs deep, indeed. In fact, Doocy himself, who on Monday leveled allegations against Clinton, has been implicated in the Fox News sexual harassment cover-up culture.
Recall that Roger Ailes was forced to resign from Fox in July after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Subsequently, at least 25 other women detailed similar allegations against Ailes and the cable channel. One former employee even described Ailes as a “predator.” (He reportedly demanded the woman find “whores” for him.)
Carlson’s lawsuit alleged that Ailes “terminat[ed] her employment,” because she would not have a “sexual relationship with him.” It also accused Doocy of “creat[ing] a hostile work environment by regularly treating [Carlson] in a sexist and condescending way.”
Note that in the wake of the Carlson bombshell lawsuit in July, the Fox News cavalry rode to Ailes’ side, while often denouncing the accuser. Bill O’Reilly compared Carlson's allegations to a "frivolous lawsuit," and announced, "I stand behind Roger 100 percent." Greta Van Susteren suggested Carlson may have falsely accused Ailes of sexual harassment because she was “unhappy that her contract wasn’t renewed,” while Jeanine Pirro called Carlson’s allegations “absurd” and tagged Ailes a “no-nonsense guy,” adding, “I just loved him.”
Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that of the women she had spoken to at Fox, “Nobody believed” Carlson’s allegations, adding that Ailes “is a man who champions women.” Brit Hume wondered, “Why didn't she quit & sue instead of suing only after she got fired.”
More: Host Neil Cavuto wrote an op-ed for Business Insider defending "the character of Roger Ailes.” He called the allegations against his former boss “sick,” while Sean Hannity tweeted out this blanket denial, as he ridiculed Carlson’s lawsuit:
Brian talk to the hundreds of woman at Fox that I talked to this week both on air and off. They say it all BS https://t.co/L7JECOMMPD
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) July 9, 2016
Of course, just one month after the lawsuit was filed, Fox News’ parent company reached a $20 million settlement with Carlson and issued an apology regarding Ailes’ decades-long behavior. The corporate concession made a mockery of the staff-wide victim-blaming that went on at Fox News on behalf of Ailes.
In truth, Fox News’ culture of nasty accuser-blaming goes back years.
According to a 2004 sexual harassment suit filed against Fox host O’Reilly, O’Reilly allegedly threatened a former employee, saying, “If any woman ever breathed a word I’ll make her pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born,” and adding, “If you cross FOX NEWS CHANNEL, it’s not just me, it’s [FOX President] Roger Ailes who will go after you.”
The following year, after settling an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the company, Fox News agreed not to enable workplace sexual harassment by retaliating against victims.
And it’s not just Ailes. Doocy and Kilmeade, who leveled the claims against Clinton on Monday, currently work for co-president Bill Shine, who was promoted after Ailes’ ouster. That’s the same Bill Shine who reportedly “played an integral role in the cover up” of sexual harassment claims against Ailes. According to New York’s Sherman, Shine was responsible for “rallying the women to speak out against” Ailes’ accusers. Sherman also reported that Shine played a role in the silencing and “smearing” of reporter Rudi Bakhtiar, who claimed she was fired from Fox News after complaining about sexual harassment.
Additionally, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros, in her sexual harassment lawsuit against the cable channel, claimed that when she met with Shine seeking “relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and [Fox News publicist Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," Shine “told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man,’” and that Tantaros “‘needed to let this one go.’”
Gazing back two decades and focusing on the Clinton marriage, Fox’s Kilmeade this week concluded, “I sense that she knew the truth and wanted to defame the woman and the accuser.”
Lacking keen self-awareness, Kilmeade couldn’t detect the irony. But he was actually describing his former boss, Roger Ailes.
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When media report on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s latest attacks on former President Bill Clinton’s history with women and Hillary Clinton’s responses to those women, they should also mention the immense hypocrisy of Trump levying those claims. Trump and several of his closest advisers have long histories of infidelity, workplace sexual harassment, and misogyny. And Trump himself previously said both that Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky was “totally unimportant” and that people would have been more “forgiving” if Clinton had a relationship “with a really beautiful woman.”