The New York Times

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  • When Journalists Investigated Trump's Nominee For Education Secretary, They Found Scores Of Unanswered Questions

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & PAM VOGEL

    Journalists have spent months investigating the complicated connections of education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, attempting to untangle her financial dealings and ideological stances on public education. In light of DeVos’ January 17 Senate committee confirmation hearing, Media Matters highlights some of the findings from quality investigative reporting on the billionaire Republican mega-donor. 

  • Meryl Streep, Trump’s Attack On A Reporter’s Disability, And Reality

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    On November 25, 2015, during a speech before thousands of supporters in South Carolina, Donald Trump mocked the disability of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.

    This is not a controversial statement, or one up for debate. It is a reflection of reality.

    Here’s the video. The despicable attack came as Trump was attempting to rebut Kovaleski’s work debunking Trump’s false claim that he saw “thousands” of Americans cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center. You can see Trump holding his right hand at an angle while flailing about in cruel mimicry of Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, which limits the functioning of his joints.

    Following criticism of his vicious attack on Kovaleski, Trump claimed he had not been mocking the reporter’s disability. He lied. Part of his defense was that he had never met Kovaleski and didn’t know what he looked like. That was false. Here’s PolitiFact’s ruling that his denials were false. Here’s The Washington Post FactChecker’s.

    This is not in question. So why is The New York Times itself helping Trump redefine reality?

    During a speech at The Golden Globes on Sunday, Meryl Streep criticized the “instinct to humiliate” on display during Trump’s attack on Kovaleski. The Times’ Patrick Healy called Trump up for his reaction, then authored an article depicting the exchange as a she said/he said: Streep had called attention to a speech in which Trump was “seeming to mock” its reporter and Trump had “flatly denied” the claim.

    The Times knows better. When Trump first attacked Kovaleski in July 2015, the paper responded, “We’re outraged that he would ridicule the physical appearance of one of our reporters.”

    This is what Trump and his allies do. When Trump says something that exposes a real vulnerability, they outright lie about what he said and why. Trump lies habitually, so unwinding the rationale behind any particular falsehood is difficult. But the result is a news environment in which facts become unstable, reality is constantly under attack, and both journalists and news consumers are unable to process new information within a coherent collective framework.

    If the paper of record won’t stand up for the truth about an attack on one of its own reporters, I have to question whether the Times will be able to do so regarding key issues of policy and politics. And that’s a real concern as the next administration unfolds.

  • The Media Keep Failing To Publish Accurate Headlines About Trump: An Updated List

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Before and since the election, media outlets have repeatedly failed to write headlines that adequately contextualize President-elect Donald Trump’s lies. Simply echoing his statements normalizes his behavior and can spread disinformation, particularly given the high proportion of people who read only headlines. Below is an ongoing list documenting the media’s failure to contextualize Trump’s actions in headlines and sometimes on social media. Some of the initial versions were subsequently altered (and these are marked with an asterisk), but many of the updates still failed to adequately contextualize Trump’s remarks.

  • It’s Time To Banish “Trump Says” Headlines; They Don’t Work

    Stop Giving A Liar The Benefit Of The Doubt

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The New York Times made the same headline misstep twice in four days.

    Typing up reports based on President-elect Donald Trump’s tweets and staged announcements, the Times presented as breaking news -- and in a very Trump-friendly manner -- the contents of his latest utterances:  

    • “Trump Says He Has Hacking Information Others ‘Don’t Know'” (December 31)
    • “Trump Says Intelligence Officials Delayed Briefing on Russian Hacking” (January 3)

    Obviously, public pronouncements from incoming presidents can, and should, be treated as news. The problem with the “Trump says” formula (and similar variations) that the Times and other news outlets have adopted since Election Day is that what Trump said was, at best, either baseless or openly disputed.

    There’s no indication Trump will ever reveal new information about U.S. government allegations that Russians unleashed cyberattacks against the Democratic Party. (And it certainly didn’t happen on “Tuesday or Wednesday” this week, as Trump originally suggested.) An aide quickly downplayed the notion that Trump would even try.

    And while Trump claimed his intelligence briefing on the hacking topic was “delayed” from Tuesday until Friday, as the Times article itself makes clear, “senior administration officials disputed it, saying that no meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday.”

    Trump’s claims falling apart shouldn’t be a surprise, though, since the president-elect has shown himself to be a committed liar who will falsify all kinds of information. 

    And therein lies two ongoing problems. One: How does the press treat a new president who is a habitual liar, the likes of which we’ve never seen in U.S. presidential politics? And two: How does the press treat an incoming president whose primary form of communication is Twitter, which means he refuses to take most press questions or be held publicly accountable for his claims?

    Those parallel-track problems then produce a third one: lazy, misleading headlines that play right into Trump’s strategy of routinely lying while also being historically inaccessible to reporters. Within that sphere, I’d suggest there’s a very specific headline problem -- the “Trump says” formula. Solution? Ban uncritical, context-free "Trump says" headlines. It’s a good first step.

    Yes, most politicians, on occasion, like to bend and twist the truth to their favor. But Trump has been cracking the truth in half, and in full public view, since he entered the presidential race in June 2015. (Here’s a list of 560 documented falsehoods Trump told in the span of only four weeks during the campaign.) People like that don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, and benefit of the doubt is what drives “Trump says” headlines.

    The headlines often revolve around what Trump has stated on Twitter. Or misstated on Twitter, to be more accurate. With no real access to him, journalists are reduced to a this-is-what-Trump-said-today style of reporting, as if they’re covering the utterances of a reclusive royal family member.

    If Trump’s tweeted claims are almost always disputed and often proven wrong, the dispute should be the headline; that’s what the news of the day is, not the fact that Trump floated some new nonsense; not what “Trump says.” If Trump tweeted that the moon was made of cheese, news organizations shouldn’t produce a “Trump says” headline for him, while also quoting experts in the article itself who confirm the moon is not a dairy-based orbital.

    As Times columnist Paul Krugman noted this week:

    Another problem is that the timid mentality behind “Trump says” headlines often leads to timid reporting.

    Note that last week Trump made news when he claimed responsibility for Sprint bringing back 5,000 jobs to the United States. Trump insisted that the jobs were coming back “because of me.”

    That boast immediately produced a rash of Trump-friendly headlines. And yes, it produced plenty of “Trump says” headlines:

    WSJ: “Trump Says Sprint Bringing 5,000 Jobs Back to U.S.”

    New York Post: "Trump says Sprint is bringing 5,000 jobs back to US”                                

    Reuters: "Trump says Sprint to bring 5,000 jobs back to U.S." 

    But those Sprint jobs were part of a previously announced, pre-election jobs initiative by the telecommunications giant. Which means this Bloomberg headline was perhaps the most accurate: “Trump Seeks Credit for 5,000 Sprint Jobs Already Touted.”

    By choking off access with the press, Trump has produced a media thirst for presidential pronouncements and tidbits of news; tidbits that now arrive on the form of inaccurate tweets. The press needs to stop rewarding Trump’s strategy with passive and misleading “Trump says” headlines.

  • How The Media Elevated Anti-Immigrant Nativist Groups

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Throughout 2016, media outlets were complicit in mainstreaming the “nativist lobby,” made up of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA, groups with ties to white supremacists whose mission is to drastically limit both legal and illegal immigration. Even though these groups have a record of producing shoddy research and pushing misinformation about immigrants, their agenda has now inspired many of President-elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Many mainstream media outlets contributed to the normalization of these nativist groups by repeatedly referencing them under the pretense of balance while failing to acknowledge their insidious anti-immigrant agenda or provide context about their nativist origins.

  • Supporters Of Rex Tillerson, Trump's Pick For State, Have Exxon Ties Of Their Own

    Mainstream Outlets Tout Support Of Gates, Rice, And Baker, But Ignore Their Stakes In Exxon

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    After President-elect Donald Trump announced ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his pick for secretary of state, morning news shows and newspapers noted that prominent figures including James Baker III, Robert M. Gates, and Condoleezza Rice have expressed support for Tillerson, with some mentioning that such support adds credibility to the pick. But those outlets failed to disclose that all three figures have considerable financial ties through their businesses to Tillerson, ExxonMobil, and the oil company’s Russian business ventures.

  • Right-Wing Media Are Using The Term “Fake News” To Attack Credible News Sources

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Some right-wing media figures and outlets are attempting to twist and confuse the term “fake news” -- a specific phenomenon in which information is clearly and demonstrably fabricated, then packaged and distributed to appear as a legitimate source of news -- to attack outlets they disagree with. By redefining fake news in their own terms and claiming that reporting by outlets such as The New York Times and CNN constitute fake news, right-wing media figures are bolstering President-elect Donald Trump’s continued efforts to delegitimize mainstream news sources and their reporting, and muddling real concerns about fake news used as a weapon of active disinformation.

    As public discussions about fake news reach critical mass, right-wing media figures and outlets have attempted to redefine “fake news” completely, downplaying the problem it poses. Rush Limbaugh claimed that fake news is largely “satire and parody that liberals don’t understand because they don’t have a sense of humor.” The Washington Free Beacon’s Bill McMorris described fake news as “whatever people living in the liberal bubble determine to be believed by the right.”

    Other conservatives are even using fake news to describe reporting from credible news outlets with which they disagree. Fringe right-wing conspiracy site Infowars.com declared that “The mainstream media is the primary source of the most harmful, most inaccurate news ever,” and included outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, and Politico (and Media Matters, for good measure) on their “full list of fake news outlets.” Fox contributor Newt Gingrich lamented the Times’ reporting on the fake news phenomenon, arguing,“The idea of The New York Times being worried about fake news is really weird. The New York Times is fake news.” Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham -- a contender for Trump’s press secretary -- lashed out at CNN while appearing on Fox News’ Hannity, stating “the folks over at CNN” and “the kind of little games they’re playing are so transparent … they’re the fake news organizations.”

    While there isn’t an official, universally accepted definition of fake news, a variety of outlets and experts across the ideological spectrum have identified common themes. BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman, one of the first to report frequently and extensively on the fake news phenomenon, defines fake news as “false … stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs.” The New York Times’ Sabrina Tavernese wrote that, “Narrowly defined, ‘fake news’ means a made-up story with an intention to deceive, often geared toward getting clicks." David Mikkelson, the founder of the fact-checking website Snopes.com, describes fake news as “completely fabricated information that has little or no intersection with real-world events.” Mikkelson goes on to explain, “not all bad news reporting is ‘fake,’ and that distinction should be kept clear.” Slate senior technology writer Will Oremus argues fake news is “fabricated,” “sensational stories” that imitate “the style and appearance of real news articles.” Fox media analyst Howard Kurtz defines fake news as “made-up-stuff being merchandized for clicks and profits,” clarifying that he doesn’t “mean the major media stories that some ... find unfair or exaggerated.” And CNN and Conservative Review’s Amanda Carpenter wrote that “fake news is malicious, false information that somehow becomes credible” often “printed on what appears to be a professional looking website.” Carpenter also distinguished fake news from “commentary that never purported to be straight news in the first place” or “political speech someone doesn’t happen to agree with.”

    None of these definitions are even remotely similar to how right-wing media figures are trying to redefine fake news.

    Right-wing media’s attempt to conflate fake news with reporting from legitimate journalistic institutions feeds into a larger conservative effort, led by President-elect Trump, to delegitimize mainstream media outlets. Trump, who has long waged a war on the press, has consistently expressed his contempt for journalists and news organizations and violated the norms of any president or president-elect when it comes to his relations with the media. During the month of November, Trump repeatedly attacked media outlets, calling The New York Times “dishonest,” decrying the “the crooked media” for investigating his unprecedented business conflicts of interest, and suggesting that CNN has gotten “worse” since the election. In a December 7 interview on NBC’s Today, Trump admitted he uses Twitter to bypass the media and “dishonest reporters.”

    Some experts have suggested Trump’s attacks on the media are part of a concerted effort to discredit journalists and outlets and thereby “inoculate” himself from reporting that could be damaging. On CNN’s Reliable Sources, former Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief John Huey argued that Trump used “demagogic techniques” that “smack of authoritarianism” during the campaign because “the media poses a real threat to him.”

    Attacking mainstream outlets as “fake” is the latest step in a conservative-media-fueled campaign to delegitimize credible news sources -- a dangerous path in a media landscape where people are already too willing to accept actual fake news, but are hard-pressed to believe real reporting. 

  • Wall Street Journal Virtually Alone In Defending Trump’s Pick For Labor Secretary

    Even Breitbart Opposes Fast-Food CEO Andy Puzder Running The Department Of Labor

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal editorial board stands virtually alone in defense of President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, Andy Puzder, a notoriously anti-worker fast-food CEO and frequent right-wing op-ed contributor to the Journal.

    The Journal’s editorial board published a defense of Puzder on December 8, praising his opposition to raising the federal minimum wage, expanding Obamacare, and strengthening overtime protections for workers. The editorial board continued that they hoped Puzder would roll back other progressive advances for working-class Americans, including reversing an executive order mandating paid sick leave for federal contractors and undoing the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule requiring investment brokers to act in a client's best interests. From the Journal:

    Donald Trump’s selection of CKE CEO Andy Puzder to lead his Labor Department has incited a tantrum on the left, which is a good sign. The burger maven once told us that he often picked up litter around his restaurants, and departing chief Tom Perez is leaving plenty to clean up.

    [...]

    He is also the rare executive who promotes free markets rather than merely his narrow business interests. Mr. Puzder has expounded in these pages on the unintended consequences of ObamaCare’s mandates and a $15 minimum wage. He’s also detailed how the Obama Administration has contributed to the shrinking labor force and large number of underemployed workers.

    The Journal was one of the few voices to speak in support of Puzder’s nomination for secretary of labor. During a December 9 segment on Fox Business, host Stuart Varney used the controversy surrounding the nomination as “an excuse to run those racy ads” objectifying women, which Puzder’s company has become known for.

    One of the only other defenders of Puzder is Stephen Moore -- a discredited economist, Trump economic adviser, and a former Journal editorial board member -- who, while defending his boss’ pick, attacked Media Matters and “the big unions” for what he called “a loud and libelous campaign” to damage Puzder’s nomination.

    Controversy has been mounting over Puzder’s nomination after initial reporting failed to note the many right-wing media myths he has pushed to support his anti-worker agenda. The New York Times blasted Puzder in an editorial on December 8 titled “Andrew Puzder Is The Wrong Choice For Labor Secretary” for his stances on worker rights, and for Puzder’s companies' -- Carl's Jr. and Hardee’s -- record of labor law violations. From The New York Times:

    Here is the record at those restaurants. When the Obama Labor Department looked at thousands of complaints involving fast-food workers, it found labor law violations in 60 percent of the investigations at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, usually for failure to pay the minimum wage or time and a half for overtime.

    MSNBC’s Morning Joe mocked Puzder on December 9 for his statement to Business Insider that machines are preferable to workers, and co-host Mika Brzezinski reported that opposition to Puzder came from both the left and from the alt-right website Breitbart News, which had been instrumental in helping Trump get elected.

    Puzder has a history supporting anti-worker policies and had claimed that replacing people with machines would be preferable because machines “never take a vacation” or complain when discriminated against. Puzder opposes new overtime rules proposed by the Department of Labor that would extend guaranteed overtime pay to millions of American workers. Puzder has also misleadingly claimed that stronger wages and benefits actually hurt workers, frequently attacking the push to raise the minimum wage, and Obamacare’s health insurance expansion.

    Finally, as Gary Legum pointed out in a column published by Salon, if Puzder is confirmed, he may be the “least qualified labor secretary” since the early 1980s, when the Reagan administration appointed construction magnate Raymond Donovan to the same post.

  • New York Times: Alleged Pizzagate Gunman Listens To Trump Ally And Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times interviewed Edgar Welch, the alleged armed gunman who went to Washington, D.C’s Comet Ping-Pong pizzeria in a self-described attempt to investigate the false “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory repeatedly pushed by Donald Trump ally and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

    Jones has been described as “more responsible than any other person for the spread of ‘Pizzagate,’” and has bragged about his private conversations with Trump and their close ideological beliefs. In the Times interview, Welch admitted to being a listener to Alex Jones and claimed that “he touches on some issues that are viable,” but even the alleged gunman admitted that sometimes Jones “goes off the deep end.” 

    He said he did not believe in conspiracy theories, but then added that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks needed to be re-examined. He has listened to Alex Jones, whose radio show traffics in conspiracy theories and who once said that Mrs. Clinton “has personally murdered and chopped up” children. “He’s a bit eccentric,” Mr. Welch said. “He touches on some issues that are viable but goes off the deep end on some things.”

  • AP Got This Trump Headline Right; Other Mainstream Outlets Didn't

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Multiple media outlets published headlines that uncritically echoed a claim from President-elect Donald Trump’s spokesperson that Trump had sold his stocks, even though Trump’s team offered no actual proof that he had done so. The Associated Press correctly characterized the news by noting the lack of evidence in its headline, but many others continued a disturbing pattern of uncritically parroting false or unsubstantiated claims by Trump and his aides in their headlines, in effect giving Trump favorable coverage when he offers vague details or even spouts verifiable lies.

    Trump on December 6 tweeted that the aircraft manufacturer Boeing was “building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion,” adding, “Cancel order!” In a conference call later that day, a reporter asked Trump spokesperson Jason Miller if Trump “had investments in Boeing,” and Miller “said the president-elect had sold all of his stocks in June,” according to The Associated Press (AP).

    But there is no proof that Miller’s claim is true, given that Trump has not submitted any kind of financial disclosure since May and that, as the AP noted, Trump didn’t announce he was selling his stocks at the time. Transition officials have also refused to provide evidence of the sales:

    Trump's campaign did not announce the sell-off at the time, despite the fact that it could have been politically advantageous for the businessman to be seen taking steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

    Miller, as well as other transition officials and lawyers from the Trump Organization, did not respond to requests from The Associated Press to provide evidence of the transactions.

    The AP published this report with a headline that accurately paired Miller’s claim with the crucial context that he “provides no evidence”:

    But other major outlets did not note the lack of evidence in their headlines, instead reporting Miller’s comments without necessary context:

    Reuters:

    The New York Times:

    The Washington Post:

    The Wall Street Journal:

    CNN:

    These headlines continue a mainstream media pattern of publishing article titles that are favorable for Trump and that promote his claims, even when those claims are false or unsubstantiated. When Trump on November 18 falsely claimed that he prevented a Kentucky Ford plant from moving to Mexico -- even though there were never plans to move the plant -- multiple headlines ran with Trump’s bogus statement. When Trump on November 27 falsely claimed that “millions of people” illegally voted in the election, multiple mainstream outlet quoted Trump’s words in headlines and on social media without noting that they were false. And when Trump on November 30 sent a series of tweets claiming he would be leaving his business to avoid conflicts of interest, headlines ran with his statement, even though Trump offered no new information on how he would actually carry out the plan. As ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum noted, Trump has been “able to generate whatever headlines he wants based on substance-free tweets” and claims.

    It is crucial that headlines accurately explain a story because, for most people, the phrase at the top of a piece is the only part of the article they will actually read. As The Washington Post reported, “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week,” and “that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won't want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.”

    Trump has been a documented liar throughout the course of his presidential campaign and transition. When his claims lack proof or are demonstrably false, headlines should reflect that reality, rather than giving a serial misinformer the benefit of the doubt.

  • Too Little, Too Late: Weeks After Election, Media See Trump's Conflicts, Potential Self-Dealings, And Corruption

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    New York Times editors and reporters might’ve thought they were going to be congratulated by readers for Sunday’s front-page, six-reporter expose on President-elect Donald Trump’s nearly endless business conflicts. But a chorus of media observers and critics had other ideas.

    Rather than applaud the Times for its report, lots of commentators wondered why the newspaper waited until after the election to wave large red flags about Trump’s obvious conflicts, especially when the Times -- and so much of the campaign press -- spent an extraordinary amount of energy obsessing over potential conflicts of interest, and possible ethical lapses, supposedly surrounding Hillary Clinton.

    Looking back, there certainly seems to be a perception that the political press didn’t really care about Trump’s looming, impossible-to-miss conflicts or the bad “optics” they might produce. And it appears that the press was overly infatuated with conflict questions about Clinton -- questions today that seem quaint compared to Trump’s far-flung business dealings, which represent a possible gateway to corruption.

    That’s not to say the topic wasn’t addressed or that some journalists didn’t tackle it in real time during the campaign season. Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek produced a helpful deep dive back in September. And the business press was urgent and upfront in detailing the unprecedented nature of Trump’s looming problem. Bloomberg in June: “Conflicts of Interest? President Trump's Would Be Amazing.”

    But in general, the political press seemed less engaged with this issue and appeared reluctant to tag the obvious Trump storyline as a campaign priority. There didn’t seem to be an institutional commitment to pursuing and documenting that storyline, even though the potential problems for Trump were obvious and the story might have disqualified him.

    Even today, the story isn’t being treated with the urgency it deserves. Yes, more new organizations are tepidly acknowledging the colossal conflicts and looming inside deals, but so much of the coverage still lacks resolve. Question for journalists: If Clinton arrived at the White House with open and boundless business conflicts, how would you cover that story? What kind of outraged, lecturing tone would you take? Now treat the Trump story the same way.

    Newsrooms need to learn from their lackluster campaign coverage and treat the unfolding Trump controversy as a permanent beat inside newsrooms for the next four years. It certainly demands that kind of attention and focus.

    Note that aside from the Times’ big Sunday Trump conflict piece, the newspaper also published detailed articles on the topic November 21 and 14, and before the election on November 5. But aside from a few exceptions, in the months prior to Election Day, when voters were assessing the candidates, the intense focus on Trump’s conflicts just wasn’t there. (As Media Matters reported, the same trend played out on network newscasts, which devoted scant time to Trump’s conflicts of interest before the election only to ramp up coverage after Trump’s victory.)

    Where was there lots of media campaign interest? (And also lots of bad journalism?) Trying to detail Clinton’s possible conflicts, a storyline forever deemed by the press to be a Very Big Deal.

    Recall that the Times and The Washington Post considered potential Clinton conflicts stemming from the family charity to be so pressing that both newspapers entered into unusual exclusive editorial agreements with Peter Schweizer, the partisan Republican author who wrote the Breitbart-backed book Clinton Cash. (The Times also breathlessly hyped the book in its news pages.)

    And that was 18 months before Election Day. The topic remained a media priority throughout the campaign.

    Clinton Cash, a hodgepodge of innuendo and connect-the-dot allegations, was riddled with errorsU.S. News & World Report described the book as a "somewhat problematic" look at the Clintons' financial dealings, while Time noted that one of the book’s central claims was "based on little evidence.”

    Yet Clinton’s alleged conflicts were considered to be so important inside newsrooms -- and it was deemed so crucial for the Beltway press to suss out every conceivable detail -- that the Times and the Post were willing to make dubious alliances with GOP operatives.

    Needless to say, no such partisan unions were formed to report out Trump’s massive business conflicts. Indeed, most news consumers would be hard-pressed to suggest Trump’s obvious business conflicts constituted a centerpiece of his campaign coverage for the previous 18 months.

    Meanwhile, recall that lots of media elites demanded Clinton take action before the election in order to eliminate the supposed conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation. During August and September, that topic created yet another wave of frenzied Clinton coverage, fueled by the media’s “optics” obsession

    At the time, NBC’s Chuck Todd perfectly summed up the media’s weird pursuit when he announced, “Let’s be clear, this is all innuendo at this point. No pay for play has been proven. No smoking gun has been found.” Todd then quickly added, “But like many of these Clinton scandals, it looks bad.”

    From NPR:

    There's no question the optics are bad for Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. But no proof has emerged that any official favors -- regulations, government contracts, international deals -- were curried in exchange for donations or pledges.

    And from Time:

    If she didn’t do anything wrong, why won’t she defend herself? By avoiding taking responsibility, Clinton only exacerbates the perception she is dishonest and untrustworthy, the primary hurdle on her path to the White House. Optics matter when the issue is transparency.

    According to the media mantra, Clinton’s possible big-money conflicts looked really, really bad. Reporters hammered the theme for weeks and months, while only occasionally glancing over in the direction of Trump’s concrete conflicts.

    Today, coverage of Trump’s conflicts and self-dealing has belatedly arrived. But it often comes with an odd sense of delayed wonder, as if journalists are just now realizing the epic size of the pay-for-play problem at hand for the country, while still hedging their bets. 

    For instance, the headline for the Post’s November 25 article announced, “Trump’s Presidency, Overseas Business Deals And Relations With Foreign Governments Could All Become Intertwined.”

    Could? The president-elect’s business dealing could be a conflict for U.S. foreign policy? That Post framing seems to dramatically underplay what’s currently unfolding. As the Post itself has reported, “Trump has done little to set boundaries between his personal and official business since winning the presidency.”

    Indeed, Trump’s refusal to divest himself from a sprawling array of business interests is certain to create an ethical morass that even Republican attorneys insist will produce endless, possibly debilitating, conflicts for Trump.

    The media mostly missed this pressing story once during the campaign. They can’t afford to overlook it a second time. 

  • NY Times Cites Anti-Immigrant Groups, Doesn't Mention Their Ties To White Supremacists

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A New York Times article cited anti-immigrant groups Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and ignored their ties to nativists while reporting on sanctuary cities’ efforts to combat costly federal immigration proposals.

    The November 27 Times report cited FAIR president Dan Stein and Center for Immigration Studies director of policy Jessica Vaughan. Both took the opportunity to advocate for President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities unless they enforce immigration policy, a role that historically falls under the responsibility of the federal government. The article identified FAIR as a group that “opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants” and said the Center for Immigration Studies “supports reduced immigration.”

    FAIR, which has already influenced Trump’s immigration proposals, has ties to white supremacists and was labeled an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The founder of FAIR also helped launch the Center for Immigration Studies, which, like FAIR, uses the veneer of impartiality to inject lies about immigration into mainstream media. By including commentary from nativist groups while failing to properly identify them, the Times is recycling misinformation and robbing its audience of essential context. From the November 27 New York Times report:

    Across the nation, officials in sanctuary cities are gearing up to oppose President-elect Donald J. Trump if he follows through on a campaign promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants. They are promising to maintain their policies of limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agents.

    [...]

    Supporters of tougher immigration policies, however, expect a swift response. Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants, predicted “a very aggressive, no-holds-barred support for using the full power of the federal government to discourage this kind of interference.”

    “These local politicians take it upon themselves to allow people who have been here for a long time to stay here and receive services,” Mr. Stein said. “The Trump administration is basically saying, ‘If you want to accommodate, don’t expect the rest of us to pay for your services.’”

    Some believe Mr. Trump could go further than simply pulling federal funding, perhaps fighting such policies in court or even prosecuting city leaders.

    “This is uncharted territory in some ways, to see if they’re just playing chicken, or see if they will relent,” said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports reduced immigration.

    Cities have “gotten away with this for a long time because the federal government has never attempted to crack down on them,” Ms. Vaughan said. [The New York Times, 11/27/16]

  • Right-Wing Media's Failed Attempt To Downplay The Impact Of North Carolina's Anti-LGBTQ Law In Governor's Race

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Right-wing media outlets are attempting to deny the impact of North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law House Bill 2 (HB 2) in the state’s still too-close-to-call gubernatorial race between incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper. Mainstream journalists and political scientists have repeatedly pointed to the “politically obvious” costs of the discriminatory HB 2 as a “key issue” in the governor’s race, the outcome of which could mark a potential “watershed” moment for LGBTQ equality. 

  • Google Announces Steps To Ban Fake News From Using Its Ad Service, Bolder Steps Needed For Facebook

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times reports “Google announced it would ban websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising service, a decision that comes as concerns mount over the impact online hoaxes may have had on the presidential election.” Facebook has also faced criticism over the proliferation of fake news on the site, but will need to take larger steps to address their problem.

    According to the Times, Google decided to “extend its ban on misrepresentative content to the websites its advertisements run on.”

    Google announced it would ban websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising service, a decision that comes as concerns mount over the impact online hoaxes may have had on the presidential election.

    The decision relates to the Google AdSense system that independent web publishers use to display advertising on their sites, generating revenue when ads are seen or clicked on. The advertisers pay Google, and Google pays a portion of those proceeds to the publishers. More than two million publishers use Google’s advertising network.

    For some time, Google has had policies in place prohibiting misleading advertisements from its system, including promotions for counterfeit goods and weight-loss scams. Google’s new policy, which it said would go into effect “imminently,” will extend its ban on misrepresentative content to the websites its advertisements run on.

    [...]

    Facebook has been at the epicenter of that debate, accused by some commentators of swinging some voters in favor of President-elect Donald J. Trump through misleading and outright false stories that spread quickly via the social network. One such false story claimed that Pope Francis had endorsed Mr. Trump.

    [...]

    Google, too, faced criticism after last week’s election for giving prominence to false news stories. On Sunday, the site Mediaite reported that the top result on a Google search for the words “final election vote count 2016” was a link to a story on a website called 70News that falsely stated that Mr. Trump, who won the Electoral College, was ahead of his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, in the popular vote.

    By Monday evening, the fake story had fallen to the No. 2 position in a search for those terms.

    Facebook also announced that it will ban “fake news sites form using the company’s advertising network to generate revenue,” after facing intense criticism following election of Trump because of the fake right-wing news that spread on the site throughout the campaign. But Facebook still allows fake news to be spread on users’ feeds where they can still generate revenue. Facebook officials even admit that the site could have updated their News Feed feature which would have identified fake news stories but claimed it would have “disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds.”

    Join Media Matters in calling for Facebook to fix their fake news problem.

  • Now That The Election Is Over, Megyn Kelly Reveals The Pro-Trump Conspiracy At Fox

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Megyn Kelly

    Fox News host Megyn Kelly waited until after the election to reveal that Donald Trump had inside information from Fox News about the question she would ask him at the first Republican primary debate, and to confirm that during the campaign former network chairman Roger Ailes was shilling for more positive coverage of the now president-elect.

    Kelly’s revelations came not on her news program before the presidential election when they would have mattered most for the American public, but in her forthcoming book, according to the New York Times review published November 10.

    According to the Times’ Jennifer Senior, Kelly writes in her book that Ailes repeatedly called her during the campaign to suggest that she was being unfair to Trump. Kelly’s book indicates that Trump had prior, accurate knowledge that Kelly would ask him a “very pointed question” at Fox’s August 2015 primary debate. Senior writes that this indicates that “parts of Fox -- or at the very least, Roger Ailes… seemed to be nakedly colluding with the Republican presidential nominee”:

    Then, the day before the first presidential debate, Mr. Trump was in a lather again, Ms. Kelly writes. He called Fox executives, saying he’d heard that her first question “was a very pointed question directed at him.” This disconcerted her, because it was true: It was about his history of using disparaging language about women.
     
    She doesn’t speculate where the leak came from. (She reports. You decide.) But that’s another unambiguous takeaway from this book: Parts of Fox — or at the very least, Roger Ailes, the network’s chairman until July, when he was given the boot after several allegations of sexual harassment were made against him — seemed to be nakedly colluding with the Republican presidential nominee.

    Kelly’s book comes as she seeks to negotiate a new contract. Fox News is pushing to sign her, reportedly offering more than $20 million a year. Executives at other networks are reportedly interested, but have not made offers.

    Several journalists have reported that Ailes was advising Trump while running Fox News, but Kelly’s after-the-fact acknowledgement of such blatant collusion is the first time a Fox employee has publicly admitted that Ailes was seeking to use his role at the network to aid his preferred candidate. Ailes’ role as an informal Trump advisor continued after Ailes was forced to resign after numerous women at Fox -- including Kelly -- accused him of a decades-long pattern of sexual harrasment.

    Senior unfortunately seems completely nonplussed at the journalistic ethics of holding such bombshells until after the election. Instead, she lauds Kelly as “this presidential election’s unlikely feminist hero,” “the intrepid gal reporter,” “the hen in the Fox house,” “fabulous, shrewd and self-possessed,” a “superstar,” and a “metabolic anomaly” who “willed herself into her own spectacular existence.” As is typical for such glowing accounts of Kelly, the review comes with no acknowledgment  of the actual content of Kelly’s show, which regularly traffics in the same misinformation, fearmongering, and racial anxiety as the rest of the network’s programming.

    For her part, Kelly appears to have realized the journalistic peril caused by her post-election revelations and is seeking to do some damage control after her damning admissions circulated on social media:

    Kelly wants to avoid the suggestion that Trump received actual debate questions from Fox because, in addition to the confirmation of collusion between the news organization and then-candidate Trump, her story raises specific questions of hypocrisy. Kelly provided harsh questioning and criticism of Democratic National Committee interim chair Donna Brazile, whose resignation from CNN was announced "amid fresh revelations that she sent questions to Hillary Clinton's campaign in advance of a CNN debate and a CNN-TV One town hall." “Can you imagine if this were a Republican had been fed a question by Fox News?” Kelly asked earlier this month. “You know, the different reaction we’d be seeing in the media?”

    Following Brazile’s resignation, Fox media critic Howard Kurtz commented that CNN “can’t resolve the matter without the kind of transparency that news organizations regularly demand from politicians. And that means disclosing the results of the internal investigation and what steps CNN is taking to ensure such an ethical breach doesn’t happen again.”

    Meanwhile, we now know Fox’s chief was advising the Republican presidential candidate and using his position to sway coverage in his favor. What kind of "transparency" will Fox provide, and what steps will the network take "to ensure such an ethical breach doesn't happen again"?

    CORRECTION: This post originally indicated Brazile was fired by CNN. In fact, she resigned.