Savannah Guthrie

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  • NBC’s Today Ignores Possible Lawbreaking In Interview With Trump Campaign Chairman

    Speechwriter Who Claims To Have Helped With Melania Trump’s Speech May Only Work For Trump Organization

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    NBC Today hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie did not press Paul Manafort, chairman of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, in an interview about whether the speechwriter who took responsibility for plagiarism in Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech was employed by the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization. If it’s the latter, that may be a violation of federal law.

    The Trump campaign has come under fire for the July 18 speech by the candidate’s wife, which plagiarized portions of Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention. The campaign and Manafort initially lied, claiming that “no cribbing” occurred and and to claim that it did is “crazy.” On July 20, the campaign released a statement in which an “in-house staff writer at the Trump Organization” named Meredith McIver took responsibility for the plagiarism and said she had offered her resignation but that Donald Trump did not accept it. The statement was also written on the letterhead of Trump’s conglomerate the Trump Organization, not the Trump campaign.

    According to The Washington Post, if Trump’s campaign “used corporate resources” to help with Melania Trump’s speech, “that could be illegal.” The Post quoted Lawrence Noble, general counsel for the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, and reported, “If the campaign used corporate resources ‘willingly and knowingly,’ the offense is a criminal one.” The paper explained Noble’s rationale: “If she was working for the campaign,” it would have been legal, “but it seems clear that she offered to resign from her theoretically unrelated Trump Organization job.”

    Discussing the controversy during the July 21 edition of Today, Manafort conceded that McIver “was somebody who was not part of the campaign,” and Lauer noted she was “part of the Trump Organization.” Manafort added that he “didn't even know [McIver] was involved in the process” and “didn't even know of her existence.” Rather than pressing Manafort about the specific arrangement of McIver’s role in the campaign, Lauer transitioned to discussing Trump’s upcoming convention speech:

    MATT LAUER (CO-HOST): Let me just go back to something we talked to you about on Monday morning -- or Tuesday morning, excuse me, the morning after Melania Trump's speech where it was widely believed she had plagiarized portions of that speech. You came onto other shows and this show. You said, "No, there was no plagiarizing. There was no cribbing." You even went as far as to blame Hillary Clinton. We now know in the last 24 [hours] that yeah, it was a mistake on the part of a speechwriter. That person has taken the blame for it. So when you said, "When Hillary Clinton is threatened by a female, the first thing she does is try to destroy that person," would you offer Secretary Clinton an apology for blaming her?

    PAUL MANAFORT: First of all, you have to put the situation in context. It wasn't a speechwriter. This was somebody who was not a part of the campaign.

    LAUER: Part of the Trump Organization.

    MANAFORT: And I didn't even know she was involved in the process. When I spoke to Melania Trump, she said, and she believes and still does, that she did not put those words in there. She did not know that they were words from Michelle Obama, those specific words.

    [...]

    SAVANNAH GUTHRIE (CO-HOST): Sorry, but that statement says the exact opposite. And Trump told The New York Times he knew two days ago that in fact Melania had said the speech -- the question is really not about whether she did or she didn't. It's really a matter of candor and whether you knew that those words came from Michelle Obama's speech.

    MANAFORT: And I did not know. I was told by Mrs. Trump and I believe Mrs. Trump and I don't think Mrs. Trump still believes she personally put those words in that speech. And as far as Ms. [McIver's] concern, I didn't even know of her existence. I asked the speechwriters if they had done it. They said no. I asked Mrs. Trump. She said no. And as far as I was concerned, there was no one else in the process and so therefore that was my position.

    LAUER: Huge night for your candidate tonight. What’s he going to say, what do you want him to say?

  • Media Must Not Let Trump Reduce The Orlando Conversation To Semantics About “Radical Islam”

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Several media figures allowed presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to set the terms of the conversation following the terror attack at an Orlando gay nightclub, reducing the tragedy to a counterproductive conversation about “radical Islam” semantics, and eclipsing conversation about anti-LGBT violence, gun safety, and national security efforts at home and abroad.

    On June 12, a gunman stormed into an Orlando gay nightclub and murdered 49 people, leading to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

    In the wake of this senseless but targeted attack, Trump immediately resorted to a routine right-wing media talking point in an attempt to undermine President Obama and drum up anti-Muslim fear: that Obama and others won’t use the phrase “radical Islam,” and that the failure to do so is crippling national security efforts. Trump repeated the talking point on Fox News to attack Hillary Clinton, telling Steve Doocy that her inability to “utter the words” radical Islamic terror is “just following [Obama’s] exact line,” and that “unless you know the words and unless you know what’s going on, you’re never going to solve the problem.”

    Following Trump’s Fox interview, media figures questioned Clinton on Trump’s critiques, effectively letting Trump dictate and distort the terms of the conversation about the shooting.

    On NBC’s Today, host Savannah Guthrie asked Clinton, “Donald Trump in particular called you out … for not using a certain term to describe the acts: the term radical Islam. The question is, why not?”

    Similarly, on CNN’s New Day, host Chris Cuomo asked Clinton, “you are now coming under scrutiny about what you will call this … Do you believe that this is radical Islamism or radical Islamic terror? Will you use those words?” Clinton said she was not opposed to using similar terms but would not demonize an entire religion.

    Foreign policy experts and other media figures have repeatedly criticized Trump for “feed[ing] into the ISIS narrative” with his rhetoric. And foreign policy experts and government officials have also noted that trumpeting the phrase “radical Islam” alienates allies and is counterproductive to defeating terrorism at home and abroad. Not only does the U.S. practice to refrain from using the phrase “radical Islam” extend back to the George W. Bush administration, but not conflating Islam and terror is also part of a global strategy to avoid dignifying terrorists

    CNN political commentator Errol Louis poured cold water on those elevating Trump's focus on "radical Islam," asserting that Trump's "baby talk" critiques are "not something that should be taken seriously or frankly even repeated. This is the kind of chitchat you hear on right-wing radio day and night, mostly night, but it doesn't belong on a presidential debate."

    Right-wing criticism of Obama, Clinton, and others for not using this one specific phrase is a frequent and tired ploy that whips up anti-Muslim sentiments and distracts from the myriad issues at hand. Instead of embracing Trump’s critiques as the standard for conversation about Orlando -- which reduces the tragedy to semantic particulars -- media must focus on pushing politicians to find solutions. 

  • Media, Experts, And Civil Rights Groups Condemn Ted Cruz's "Blatantly Unconstitutional" Anti-Muslim Proposal

    Cruz's Call To "Patrol And Secure Muslims Neighborhoods" Met With Widespread Criticism

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media, experts, and civil rights groups are all criticizing Ted Cruz's call to "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods" in the wake of terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium, seemingly inspired by ISIS. The plan has been called "counterproductive and unconstitutional" and "the exact opposite of what we need to do."

  • Media Keeps Up False Equivalency Reporting On Government Shutdown

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media outlets continue their campaign of false equivalency to misleadingly assign President Obama an equal share of the blame for not negotiating with Republicans to repeal, defund, or delay the Affordable Care Act to end the government shutdown. But polls show the American people overwhelmingly disapprove of GOP actions that led to the shutdown.