Tamron Hall

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  • Here Is How NBC News Is Catering To Trump’s Presidency

    As Trump Feuds With CNN, NBC Is Elevating Voices That Are Accommodating Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    A lot of attention in recent days has been paid to the Trump administration’s decision to freeze out CNN. Rather than focusing on why Trump is lashing out at CNN, a better question to ask is: Why does the Trump administration feel so comfortable with NBC and MSNBC?

    It was clear back in early January that NBC was building a Trump normalization machine when the network brought on former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, MSNBC brought on former Fox host Greta Van Susteren, and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough started talking daily about his chats with the president. Two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, it turns out that things are even worse than imagined.

    Kelly has yet to start at NBC (and reportedly won’t for several months). Yet to make space for the former face of Fox News, NBC is removing Al Roker and Tamron Hall as co-hosts of the third hour of Today. Kelly, who, like Trump, built her name on racial demagoguery, is thus taking the space of two of the few people of color who host NBC news shows. Tamron Hall has since announced that she is leaving NBC. (Indeed, in recent years, Ann Curry, Alex Wagner, Karen Finney, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Michael Eric Dyson have all left NBC News shows, raising concerns that the network was marginalizing people of color). In short, maybe NBC should treat diversity as more than just a Twitter account.

    As for Scarborough, Morning Joe of late is best understood as not just its own show but also a window into the heart of the Trump administration. Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski are regularly meeting with and advising Trump. Scarborough defends some of Trump’s worst instincts. And, of course, there’s the obnoxious infighting with other advisers whom Scarborough blames when things go wrong. Trump himself watches the show. Even on the rare day when he criticizes Trump, Scarborough will say something apparently intended to protect his relationship with the president. If Trump’s administration is Apocalypse Now, Morning Joe is Hearts of Darkness.

    Van Susteren, who debuted on the network with an effusive introduction from Rachel Maddow (“Greta Van Susteren is great!”) has continued her schtick of trading access for the type of softball questions and deferential approach you would expect from someone actually employed by the people she is interviewing. The show is clearly more concerned with booking big guests than with answering big questions. Van Susteren’s deferential interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan exemplified this approach, as was especially notable when she brought back the torture-substitute phrase “enhanced interrogation.” Somehow, the most newsworthy thing from a 22-minute interview with the speaker of the House was Ryan speculating about how Trump might eventually get Mexico to pay for the border wall.

    Van Susteren’s interview with Trump aide Stephen Miller about the Muslim ban was even worse. Where to even begin? Van Susteren’s first question to Miller was literally, “Have at it!” It somehow managed to get worse from there.

    The problem is not that Van Susteren is too far left or right. It’s that her style of access journalism itself enables misinformation. We are living in a post-truth era with an administration that lies even on routine matters. Giving deferential interviews to these liars only makes Van Susteren an accomplice. That she will do similar interviews with Democrats (or, one can imagine, with the few “Never Trump” Republicans left) is no defense. Journalism at its best speaks truth to power. Van Susteren’s show does the opposite.

    NBC’s leading figures seem eager for politics to get back to some sort of “normal” -- to the point that they sometimes seem in denial about who Trump really is. When the intelligence community briefed then-President Obama and then-President-elect Trump on alleged ties between Trump and Russia, leading figures at NBC and MSNBC united to downplay the claims.

    Andrea Mitchell praised the “reboot” of Sean Spicer’s first press conference (following his bizarre harangue directed at the media about inauguration size two days before), as if the Trump camp’s years-long war on the press was just a Hollywood franchise that needed a new beginning:

    Chuck Todd bizarrely claimed during the inauguration that former Breitbart chief Stephen Bannon was “not ideological.” When Trump organized a reality TV-style circus to announce a Supreme Court nomination, Todd gushed over the presentation, saying Neil Gorsuch made “an incredible first impression.”

    This is not to say that everyone at NBC and MSNBC is uniformly problematic. There are good reports coming from people working there.

    When NBC News chairman Andrew Lack began to make changes at MSNBC in late 2015, at first he was understandably putting more emphasis on breaking news capability. But things slowly began to change. Lack then touted extensive coverage of Trump on MSNBC even as the network was under fire for running a ridiculous number of Trump rallies. He also offered an assessment of geopolitics that was far more in line with Trump’s apocalyptic rhetoric than with reality. When Matt Lauer interviewed both candidates during a widely panned forum, two of the very few people who praised Lauer were Lack and Trump himself. The network botched coverage of Trump on tape bragging about sexual assault, even though it owned the footage. And just yesterday, NBC News president Deborah Turness was spotted in the West Wing.

    It looks to a lot of people like NBC and MSNBC are shifting right in order to compete for the GOP audience and appeal to Trump himself. The Trump administration’s increasing comfort with MSNBC and NBC only reinforces this theory. But as Fox News could tell them, once you start giving in and moving to the right, you may have a hard time stopping.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • Media Call Out Donald Trump's Sequester Flip-Flop

    Trump Claimed Sequestration Was "Over-Exaggerated" In 2013

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Media are calling out Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for flip-flopping on the 2013 federal spending sequester after Trump pledged to “eliminate the defense sequester” and increase military spending during a September 7 speech. Back in 2013, Trump supported the congressionally imposed sequester, saying “Frankly, this is a very minor amount of the cuts that have to be made.”

  • Why The Clinton Email Case Is Substantially Different From David Petraeus' Crimes

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In response to FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the FBI is not recommending criminal charges in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email as secretary of state, right-wing media fell back on the already debunked claim that former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus was charged in a similar case. Other media outlets pointed out the many differences between the Petraeus case -- which involved the general intentionally sharing classified information with his biographer -- from the Clinton case, noting that it is “flatly wrong” to compare the two.

  • Does MSNBC Know It's Giving A Platform To An Anti-Gay Hate Group?

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    MSNBC hosted a spokeswoman from a notorious anti-gay hate group twice in one day to discuss controversial "religious freedom" legislation, failing to identify her as an extremist who has opposed the decriminalization of gay sex.

    On April 1, American Family Association (AFA) spokeswoman Sandy Rios appeared twice on MSNBC during segments discussing a number of controversial "religious freedom" laws being debated in state legislatures. The AFA has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its history of anti-gay extremism, including blaming gay men for the Holocaust and supporting the criminalization of homosexuality.

    Rios herself is an anti-gay extremist who has denied that homophobia motivated Matthew Shepard's murder, opposed a Supreme Court decision decriminalizing gay sex, believes people can choose to "stop being gay," and has stated that being gay is "broken hearts, it's disease."

    Rios appeared on NewsNation with Tamron Hall to defend Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), where she falsely claimed that RFRAs weren't intended to allow for anti-LGBT discrimination:

  • When will MSNBC learn to stop aiding liars?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    MSNBC has been paying much more attention to Rep. Joe Wilson -- the Republican congressman who yelled "You lie" during last night's presidential address to congress -- this morning, at the expense of actually covering health care policy. No surprise, really, but it doesn't serve their viewers well.

    Even worse, MSNBC just aired comments from Wilson earlier this morning in which he reiterated his claim that President Obama isn't telling the truth about whether proposed health insurance reforms would cover those who are in the country illegally.

    Wilson is wrong; Obama is right. But that wasn't made clear to MSNBC viewers. MSNBC aired Wilson speaking, without interruption, for more than two minutes. During those two minutes, Wilson claimed again and again that illegal immigrants would be covered, referring to amendments and what he claims are third-party validators of his position. MSNBC's debunking of Wilson consisted entirely of Tamron Hall saying -- a full minute after the clip of Wilson ended -- "there's also been a number of fact-checkers who said that Congressman Wilson is wrong, that there was nothing to indicate."

    That's it. MSNBC played Wilson going on for two minutes about amendments and the Congressional Research Service validating his position, then "debunked" him by saying "there's also been a number of fact-checkers who said that Congressman Wilson is wrong, that there was nothing to indicate." (That's the full sentence, by the way: Hall just stopped mid-thought, not making clear what Wilson was wrong about.)

    How does that segment look to a typical viewer? I suspect many viewers -- particularly those who lean to the right -- come away from the segment believing Wilson. He seemed to be offering specifics, he claimed to have the support of the Congressional Research Service, and the "rebuttal" of him was laughably vague; it wasn't even a full sentence. And it came well after viewers saw Wilson's claims.

    It's bad enough that MSNBC is allowing Wilson's outburst last night to drive the day's discussion of health care; it's indefensible that in doing so they are doing such a poor job of debunking his underlying claims.

    UPDATE: Just 15 minutes after the segment about Wilson, MSNBC is right back at it, playing a clip of him and devoting a large chunk of their health care coverage to this sideshow. And how long do you think it'll be before MSNBC anchors express shock that the American people don't understand health care? This. Is. Why.

    UPDATE 2: ... And 8 minutes later, more focus on Wilson.

    UPDATE 3: At least two more segments have mentioned Wilson, bringing the total to at least four -- in the past hour alone.