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While publicist Maria Sliwa attempts to mitigate the negative coverage surrounding Stephen Bannon, President-elect Donald Trump’s newly appointed chief adviser and the former head of the “alt-right” Breitbart News, one of the men she suggested could speak on Bannon’s behalf recently claimed that Japanese internment camps are Trump’s “precedent” for a Muslim registry.
A November 16 article from The Wrap explained that after Trump announced Bannon as a member of his administration, Bannon received “lots of bad press, some of it accusing him of racism, sexism and anti-Semitism,” and that Sliwa is working to make over his image (though she says she isn’t working for Bannon but has “a client who is”). While the funding behind the rehab campaign is unclear, the piece said Sliwa “sent out two emails to reporters offering interviews with two men available to talk about Bannon: U.S. Navy Seal (Ret.) Carl Higbie, and Breitbart Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein.”
While members of the media were reading Sliwa’s pitch, Higbie was making his own news. On the November 16 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File, Higbie justified Trump's possible Muslim registry by suggesting that there is some “precedent” for it because the United States interned Japanese-Americans during World War II. Higbie continued, “Look, the president needs to protect America first, and if that means having people that are not protected under our Constitution have some sort of registry so we can understand, until we can identify the true threat and where it's coming from, I support it.”
Backlash to the comments has already started. This morning, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) released a statement calling on Trump to “denounce the comments” and pointing out the dark history of Japanese-American internment:
“The imprisonment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II, including my parents and grandparents, is widely understood to be one of the darkest chapters in American history. More than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were accused of no crimes and received no trial before being relocated, interned, and stripped of their possessions.”
In September, Higbie attempted to defend Trump’s attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado -- who the now-president-elect called “Miss Piggy” for gaining weight after she won the crown -- by claiming that Trump was helping her by putting her through a “luxury exercise program.”
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Conservative media are defending Stephen Bannon, who was recently appointed as President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist, amid growing backlash over his ties to anti-Semitism and white nationalists. While Bannon’s appointment has been hailed as a victory by white nationalists, the push to normalize Bannon was aided by major newspapers that downplayed and ignored his extreme ties.
Media Emphasis On Tax Returns Overshadows Outrageous Tax Policies
According to Media Matters’ ongoing quarterly analyses of prime-time weekday cable news coverage of the economy, cable outlets more frequently discussed Republican nominee Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns than any economic topic from July through September. Amid the flurry of coverage focused on Trump’s tax secrecy, the major cable networks missed an opportunity to also thoroughly discuss how Trump’s unworkable tax policy proposals would adversely affect the American public.
With just one day left before Election Day, Trump has yet to release his tax returns during his run for president of the United States. According to The Huffington Post, “the writing has been on the wall for months now” that Trump would not release his tax returns before November 8. Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax returns makes him the first major party nominee to do so since 1976. Media have floated many theories for why Trump has refused to release his tax information: He may be hiding the fact that he has not paid federal income taxes; he could be covering up the news that he makes less money than he claims; or he might be trying to disguise the fact that he improperly used funds from his nonprofit foundation for personal expenses.
In the third quarter of the year, evening cable news shows featured 63 segments dedicated to Trump’s tax returns -- more than the number of segments on actual tax policy (49) or any other economic subject. Media Matters tracked the number of segments each of the three major cable news networks -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- committed to Trump’s tax returns. Then we compared those figures to the other economic topics tracked as part of our quarterly report on coverage of the economy -- economic inequality, economic growth, tax policy, the federal deficit and national debt, health care, and the minimum wage:
Fox News spent much of the third quarter ignoring Trump’s tax returns while promoting his embrace of failed trickle-down economic policies. Fox aired the fewest segments discussing Trump’s tax returns (11) -- fewer segments than the network spent on economic inequality (38), economic growth (33), taxes (29), the debt and deficit (15) -- and the same number as network devoted to health care (11). The only economic topic Fox News had fewer segments on was the minimum wage (5).
Fox’s economic coverage largely pushed economic claims aligned with Trump’s policies. Of the 76 segments Fox aired discussing the economy, almost one-third (24) specifically discussed the supposed benefits of cutting taxes -- a major part of Trump’s tax plan. Fox’s Hannity frequently used persistent economic inequality as a foil against Trump’s political opponents to claim progressive economic policies under President Obama had failed.
Despite airing the fewest segments about Trump’s tax returns, the majority of Fox’s segments actually attempted to defend Trump’s decision not to release his tax returns -- and Fox was the only network that attempted to defend Trump. Out of 11 segments, Media Matters identified seven that were either attempts by the host to defend Trump’s actions or were appearances by Trump where he defended not releasing his tax returns. Five of these seven segments were on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor.
Coverage of Trump’s tax returns on MSNBC eclipsed all other economic coverage. Much of MSNBC’s relentless drumbeat for transparency came from The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, which accounted for over half of all coverage at the network, with 17 segments, followed by All In with Chris Hayes (10), and The Rachel Maddow Show (3). In total, the network discussed Trump’s tax returns in 30 segments, more than all economic segments combined (25).
While MSNBC dedicated more coverage in the third quarter to Trump’s failure to release his tax returns than any other network, it also provided the least amount of coverage on the economy (25 segments) compared to CNN (35) and Fox News (76). MSNBC did discuss tax policy in relation to Trump's tax returns once and was the only network to do so. As was the case with CNN and Fox, MSNBC could have used more of its segments on Trump’s tax returns to provide more context on how Trump’s actual tax policy plans would increase the deficit and neglect the middle class while giving the largest tax reductions to high-income individuals. Unfortunately, MSNBC covered tax policy only 12 times:
CNN featured twice as many segments discussing Trump’s tax returns (22) as Fox News (11). CNN also discussed the economy (35) more than MSNBC (25). Yet, while CNN did have more economic coverage than MSNBC, the network did not produce as many segments discussing tax policy (8) as MSNBC (12). And while none of MSNBC’s coverage on tax policy pushed debunked trickle-down economics, CNN did have three segments promoting the supposed benefits of tax cuts.
CNN covered Trump’s taxes more than any single economic topic: economic inequality (16), economic growth (17), tax policy (8), the debt and deficit (4), the minimum wage (5), and health care (5). Slightly over half of the segments on Trump’s tax returns were from Anderson Cooper 360 (12). In one exchange with Trump senior adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sanders claimed Trump could not release his tax returns because he is being audited, and host Anderson Cooper answered that “what you are saying doesn't make sense.” From the September 9 edition of Anderson Cooper 360:
Scrutiny of Trump's missing tax returns was necessary given the possible reasons for his unprecedented breach of political norms. Trump has tried to falsely claim that he cannot release his tax returns while under audit by the IRS, but even President Richard Nixon released his tax returns during his re-election campaign in 1972, when he was under audit by the IRS.
Trump’s tax returns are just one aspect of the concerns media and experts have had with his extreme and unconventional campaign. Trump’s economic plan has been blasted as “pie in the sky” and “magical thinking” by experts on both sides of the aisle. The conservative-leaning Tax Foundation found Trump’s proposed tax cuts will explode the deficit by $2.6 to $3.9 trillion. Media Matters identified 19 economic myths Trump has spread during this election cycle. Trump’s actions even moved 370 economists, including eight Nobel laureates, to sign a letter denouncing his repeated lies about the economy.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of network broadcast news and cable prime-time (defined as 8 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from July 1, 2016, through September 30, 2016. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: econom! or jobs or growth or debt or deficit or minimum wage or inequality or taxes or poverty or low income or low-income or obamacare or aca or affordable care act or health care.
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While promoting the release of her upcoming memoir on her Fox News show, Megyn Kelly has remained silent on her reported allegations in the book that she was sexually harassed and assaulted by network founder and former CEO Roger Ailes. This raises questions about whether the network will allow Kelly to discuss these allegations on their airwaves.
During the November 3 edition of her Fox News show, Kelly noted a last-minute revision she made to her forthcoming autobiography, Settle For More, about former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who is currently under investigation for an alleged inappropriate relationship with an underage girl. She also highlighted the “many contentious exchanges” with Weiner throughout her time as a Fox News host.
But Kelly did not mention the news that broke earlier that day about the book: Kelly reportedly reveals “explosive new charges against the network’s founder, Roger Ailes." In her book, Kelly claims Ailes “tried to sexually assault her in his New York office and hinted she would be fired when she ‘pushed him away’” according to Radar Online, which received an advance copy. Kelly claims she “was approached several times, and several times I refused,” and Ailes’ harassment didn’t stop until she reported him to her supervisor:
Kelly claims in the book that he started to harass her, too, in the summer of 2005, a few months after she was hired as a legal correspondent in Fox’s Washington bureau.
She writes that she was informed by her managing editor that she’d “captured the attention of Mr. Ailes” and she was summoned to the first of a series of meetings in his Manhattan office.
“Roger began pushing the limits,” she alleges. “There was a pattern to his behavior. I would be called into Roger’s office, he would shut the door, and over the next hour or two, he would engage in a kind of cat-and-mouse game with me — veering between obviously inappropriate sexually charged comments (e.g. about the ‘very sexy bras’ I must have and how he’d like to see me in them) and legitimate professional advice.”
He offered to advance her career “in exchange for sexual favors,” she writes, and even though she says she rejected “every single one,” she claims he tried “physical advances.”
But in January 2006, she claims, he “crossed a new line — trying to grab me repeatedly and kiss me on the lips.” When she shoved him away, she alleges, “he asked me an ominous question: ‘When is your contract up?’ And then, for the third time, he tried to kiss me.”
The Wall Street Journal, Fox News' corporate cousin, confirmed Radar Online's report.
Roger Ailes, the former chairman and CEO of Fox News, resigned his position at Fox following allegations from multiple women of sexual harassment and assault by the executive. Former host Gretchen Carlson first accused Ailes of “sexual harassment/retaliation” in a lawsuit after being abruptly fired by the network. Dozens of women have since accused Ailes of similar harassment, including Kelly. While these claims have been widely reported by the media, Fox has remained mostly silent about the reports of harassment on their airwaves, which speaks to the culture of sexism and misogyny at the network.
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A Media Matters analysis of cable news prime-time coverage of voter fraud and voter suppression efforts between October 27 and November 2 found that Fox News completely ignored or dismissed voter suppression in this time period while fearmongering about rare and isolated threats of voter fraud. MSNBC dedicated 10 segments to voter suppression and debunking claims of widespread voter fraud, while CNN discussed voter suppression twice and voter fraud once.
Over the past week, Fox News discussed voter suppression once once, during a November 1 O’Reilly Factor segment (via Nexis) where host Bill O’Reilly and The Five host Kimberly Guilfoyle dismissed concerns of voter intimidation. The two criticized a lawsuit alleging that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign was intimidating voters by calling on supporters to challenge the qualifications of voters at the polls. During the segment, O’Reilly questioned, “How can you intimidate someone after they have already voted?” later calling the lawsuit “a total publicity stunt.” Guilfoyle asked what the “point of the lawsuit” was and asserted that it was “going to fail.”
In contrast, Fox News devoted two segments to fearmongering about voter fraud, one on The Kelly File and another on The O’Reilly Factor. On the October 27 edition of The Kelly File (via Nexis), Fox’s Trace Gallagher reported on “voting machines flipping votes” in Texas and “a few other states,” alleging that votes for Republicans had been suspiciously flipped to votes for Democrats. NPR also reported on this story but added the context that the likely problem with voting machines is that they are old, that voters “see it happen right in front of them on the voting machine screen” in the “handful” of reports, and that voters can easily fix the error:
Voters can usually change the selection to the right one before their ballot is cast. If not, they can let a poll worker know there's a problem so they can move to a machine that works. In many places, such machines also have paper ballot backups, if there's ever a question about the vote.
Trump appeared on the October 27 edition of The O’Reilly Factor (via Nexis), where he alleged that “there are 1.8 million people who are dead who are registered to vote, and some of those people vote.” O’Reilly did ask Trump to provide data or facts on vote flipping in Texas, which Trump could not do: “No, they just call in,” he said, presumably referring to people who have reported that their votes were flipped.
On MSNBC, however, hosts Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes primarily focused on the threats of voter suppression in the 2016 election, with Maddow’s show covering the topic in every episode over the course of a week and Hayes covering it during four of five episodes of his show All In. Last Word host Lawrence O’Donnell covered it once, combining to make a total of 10 discussions on the topic on MSNBC. When the shows covered voter fraud, the hosts always debunked the myth that it is widespread. For example, on the November 1 edition of Maddow’s show, Maddow discussed the controversial Voter Integrity Project in North Carolina, which “famously claimed they had identified 30,000 dead people who were registered to vote” in the state and whose website once ran a piece headlined “Raping the Retard Vote.” Maddow debunked the group's claims, stating:
RACHEL MADDOW (HOST): That story did get awkward when these supposedly dead people in North Carolina started turning up, raising their hands, talking to the press, making a pretty convincing case that they were, in fact, not dead. They were alive. We hosted an elections official in North Carolina at the time who confessed to us how many man-hours, how much work, how many resources the state was having to put in to chasing down these supposedly 30,000 dead people on the rolls after they got so much press.
Ultimately, they were not able to find a single instance of voter fraud despite all those headlines. They hadn`t been able to find any real dead people really voting.
MSNBC’s hosts also noted that many of these voter suppression efforts have a disproportionate impact on minorities. During the October 31 edition of his show (via Nexis), Hayes explained that a North Carolina voter ID law was struck down for “deliberately target[ting] African-Americans with almost surgical precision in an effort to depress and suppress black turnout at the polls.” Hayes noted that the Republican-controlled state and local government there targeted “the means of voting that they know will be disproportionately used by black voters.”
Although CNN only discussed voter suppression twice, Don Lemon devoted a substantial portion of the November 2 edition of his show (via Nexis), CNN Tonight, to voter suppression in North Carolina and a lawsuit there brought by the NAACP. The lawsuit claimed that the “restrictive voting laws” in the state “are really designed to keep African-Americans from casting their ballots.” Guest Irving Joyner, a professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law, highlighted the case of 100-year-old Grace Bell Hardison, an African-American woman who was nearly wrongfully purged from the voter registration rolls because a postcard the Voter Integrity Project sent her was returned unanswered.
CNN also had one significant discussion on voter fraud during the October 27 edition of CNN Tonight, where Lemon asked CNN contributor and Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany what was “behind this rigging theme from the Trump campaign.” Lemon pushed back on McEnany’s claims that Obama said “people who are in power tend to tilt things their way,” noting that is “very different than saying the entire system is rigged.”
Media Matters searched CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News prime-time (8 p.m. through 11 p.m.) transcripts on Nexis between October 27 and November 2 for the following terms or variations of terms within 50 words of the terms and variations of “vote,” “ballot,” “poll,” and “election”: “suppress,” “intimidate,” “fraud,” “impersonate,” “dead,” “fake,” “watch,” “monitor,” “imposter,” “improper,” “integrity,” “security,” or “switch.” Media Matters counted segments where voter suppression or fraud was the stated topic of conversation or monologue or there was an exchange of two or more people discussing the point in an exchange. These segments do not include mentions of voter suppression relating to voter enthusiasm.
Writing at The Daily Beast, Wayne Barrett takes note of the pipeline between conservative FBI agents (both active and retired) and Fox News. Figures like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor and current Donald Trump surrogate, as well as James Kallstrom, the former head of the New York City FBI office, have appeared on the network and used its air to amplify the grievances of these agents.
Barrett reports that Kallstrom has “been on an anti-Comey romp for months, most often on Fox, where he’s called the Clintons as a ‘crime family.’” Appearing on The Kelly File, Kallstrom claimed that agents involved in the Clinton investigation were “P.O.’d” that President Obama said the Clinton emails weren’t a national security issue and compared the statement to “someone driving another nail in the coffin of the criminal justice system.”
After FBI Director James Comey cleared Clinton of wrongdoing in the email investigation, Kallstrom made more appearances on Fox News and alleged that agents “both on the job and off the job” were “worried about the reputation of the agency they love.” Kallstrom again used Fox as a platform for his views, endorsing Trump on Stuart Varney’s Fox Business show, describing Clinton as a “pathological liar.”
Kallstrom responded to Comey’s letter to congressional leaders telling them that the agency would be reviewing newly discovered emails with yet another Fox appearance.
Kallstrom’s victory tour this weekend also included an appearance on Fox with former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, another close associate of Pataki’s, who complained on air that she’d been the victim in 2006 when word emerged that the U.S attorney and FBI were probing her in the midst of a race she eventually lost to Andrew Cuomo to become New York Attorney General.
Her concern about the political impact of law enforcement leaks, though, didn’t extend to Democrat Hillary Clinton. “He couldn’t hold on to this any longer,” Kallstrom said of Comey. “Who knows, maybe the locals would’ve done it,” he added, a reference to leaks that elicited glee from Pirro, who echoed: “New York City, that’s my thing!”
He declined to explain why Megyn Kelly stated as a fact that he was in contact with agents “involved” in the case. Asked in a follow up email if he suggested or encouraged any particular actions in his exchanges with active agents, Kallstrom replied: “No.”
“Now, I’m supporting Comey,” Kallstrom told me on the phone, adding that he can’t do or say anything else before election day. “He can’t characterize” what the bureau has from the Weiner emails. “The FBI can’t say anything without having all the information,” Kallstrom contends, just after telling me he supports the FBI director who’s under fire for having done just that.
It’s clear enough, though, why when Comey sent a note to FBI staff on Friday explaining his decision to inform Congress about the renewed Clinton probe, the scoop about that internal memo went to Fox News. Why Kallstrom gets booked to talked about the Clintons a “crime family.” Why Clinton Cash author Peter Schweitzer, caught in a web of Breitbart and Trump conflicts, would announce on Fox that he was asked in August to sit down with New York office FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation (with The New York Times reporting this week that the agents were relying largely on his discredited work when they pitched a fullscale probe).
Fox is the pipeline for the fifth column inside the bureau, a battalion that says it’s doing God’s work, chasing justice against those who are obstructing it, while, in fact, it’s doing GOP work, even on the eve of a presidential election.
Economists Made Up Roughly 8 Percent Of Guests In Third Quarter Of 2016 Amid Rampant Misinformation From Trump Campaign
Cable and broadcast news outlets dedicated considerably less airtime to the economy in the third quarter of 2016 compared to the previous three-month period, as media focused increasingly on the presidential horserace. The proportion of economic news segments touching on economic inequality increased relative to the previous quarter, but the tone of coverage revealed problematic trends toward misinformation as Fox News assumed an even more prominent role in shaping the dialogue. The relative proportion of economists featured as guests during qualifying segments reached an all-time high during the third quarter as outlets struggled to keep up with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s shifting and often-contradictory tax and economic policy proposals.
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