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  • This Is How Media Botched ACA Headlines Again

    Media Need To Stop Falling For The Trump Soundbite Trap

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    News outlets rushed to report on President Donald Trump’s executive order on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without knowing what exactly it entailed, resulting in botched headlines that uncritically repeated the false claims made by the Trump Administration.

    Late on Friday night, Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that Trump had signed his first executive order on the ACA claiming that it would “ease the burden of Obamacare as we transition from repeal and replace.” Even before the official text of the executive order was released, reporters rushed to file stories with wildly inaccurate headlines such as Politico’s “Trump signs sweeping order that could gut Obamacare” and The Washington Post’s “Trump signs executive order that could effectively gut Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.” Others just uncritically repeated Spicer’s framing, like NPR’s headline “Trump Signs Executive Order To 'Ease The Burdens Of Obamacare'.”

    In contrast to headlines suggesting an immediate, dramatic change to the ACA, the text of the executive order reveals that it amounts to a symbolic gesture indicating the dedication of the Trump Administration to dismantling the health care law -- a commitment already known, and one that Trump’s appointees could act on even without the order. These inaccurate headlines are the newest episode in a repeated pattern of news organizations failing to report the truth when covering Trump’s false and self-serving talking points.In the health care context, this pattern is particularly problematic given the massive impact of repealing the law and the degree to which Americans are uninformed about health care.

    These headlines falsely inflated the actual impact of the executive order even as the substance of many of these articles emphasized that the vague wording of the action cast doubt on its actual effects. For example, that same NPR article noted “it's not clear what kind of relief the executive order envisions.” The flawed Politico article emphasized “the order changes nothing immediately and doesn't spell out exactly what Trump would like his government to do,” an important piece of information that was left out of the article's headline.

    Numerous health care policy experts called out the news outlets for their flawed analyses, and underscored that this executive order caused no immediate policy changes and instead reflected “recycled campaign talking points” that amounted to a symbolic gesture until further action is taken. For example, Larry Levitt, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said “this order doesn’t in and of itself do anything tangible” but it sends “a signal that the Trump Administration is not waiting for Congress” on dismantling the ACA. Tim Jost, health law expert and law professor at Washington and Lee College, emphasized that law “doesn’t allow [Trump] to repeal the Affordable Care Act unilaterally” and noted that no action was likely “until the heads of HHS, Treasury, and probably Labor, as well as the CMS Administration and IRS Commissioner are in place.” Five Thirty Eight’s Anna Maria Barry-Jester explained that the executive action “does very little because it doesn’t grant the administration any powers that it didn’t already have” but that it did telegraph “that change is coming.”

    The flawed coverage of Trump’s first executive order is the latest in a trend of inadequate headlines in the coverage of the Republican Party’s moves on the ACA. During an interview with The Washington Post, Trump promised his ACA replacement will guarantee “insurance for everyone,” prompting a spate of headlines that uncritically repeated his vow, despite the fact that he has released no policy details, and all existing GOP replacement ideas would result in millions losing coverage. Similarly, when Trump’s nominee for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, declared that “nobody is interested in pulling the rug out from under anybody,” news outlets made the headline his “vow” to not take away health care coverage, when in reality, Price’s own health care policy proposals would gut coverage and seriously degrade the health care system.

    News organizations repeatedly publishing flawed headlines are doing a disservice to their audiences, even if underlying reporting in their articles may accurately contextualize the headlining statements. 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.”

    The gravity of repealing the ACA and the relative lack of public comprehension of health care policy highlights the need for news outlets to do a better job in crafting their ACA headlines. The repeal of the ACA will result in millions losing health care, allow the return of medical underwriting which discriminates against women for being women and against individuals with pre-existing conditions, and will disproportionately impact the marginalized and vulnerable. ACA repeal affects all Americans, regardless of whether or not they get their insurance through the exchanges.

    Additionally, Americans remain confused about what the ACA actually does, as polls show high approval ratings for many individual parts of the ACA while largely disapproving of the law as a whole. A recent NPR poll showed that while most people knew the ACA covered individuals with pre-existing conditions, more than half of the respondents “didn't know that the ACA reduced the number of people who are uninsured to a record low” -- one of the biggest accomplishments of the law. The combination of the enormous impact of repeal combined with the confusion that pervades the health law means that news outlets must be more diligent in crafting headlines for ACA stories, since often that headline will be the only thing the general public reads.

  • NBC News Latino Debunks Conservative Falsehood That “The Number Of Uninsured Hispanics” Grew Under ACA 

    Other Publications Uncritically Ran With The American Action Network’s False Claims

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Unlike other media outlets that uncritically parroted the conservative American Action Network’s false claims about Latino coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), NBC News Latino showed evidence disproving the political group’s false statement that “the number of uninsured Hispanics has grown” under the ACA. This statement was based on the group’s misinterpretation of a report that actually found that more Hispanics have gained health insurance under the ACA.

    In an effort to boost the Republican effort to repeal the ACA, the American Action Network -- a conservative political group affiliated with the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC -- announced that in addition to English-language television ads, it would also be launching Spanish-language television ads to garner opposition to the ACA among Hispanics. In the press release, AAN executive director Corry Bliss falsely asserted that “Obamacare supporters claimed this law helps Hispanics, yet the number of uninsured Hispanics has grown.” In reality, the ACA has expanded minority access to free preventive care, improved the overall quality of care in minority communities, and reduced the number of uninsured persons of color.

    The Washington Post repeated Bliss’ claim uncritically, noting that “AAN cited a study last year by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund … that found that the share of Latinos without health-care coverage grew from 29 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2016, higher than other racial or ethnic groups.” The Hill also echoed AAN’s misinterpretation of the Commonwealth Fund report.

    On the other hand, NBC Latino accurately interpreted the report and corrected AAN’s misleading statement by explaining that “American Action Network's press release points to an NBC Latino story that cites a Commonwealth Fund report that found that the share, though not the number, of uninsured Hispanics grew.” That means that even though Hispanics make up a larger share of the uninsured, the number of Hispanics who gained health insurance under the ACA grew, albeit slower than other groups. The article pointed out that Republican states that “opted to not expand Medicaid under Obamacare” have large Latino populations, which, among other reasons, explained why Latinos’ uninsured rate decreased more slowly than other groups’ rates. From the January 18 NBC News Latino report:

    In a news release, Bliss asserted that "the number of uninsured Hispanics has grown."

    In fact, the number of Hispanics without health care has dropped, meaning the percentage of Hispanics without insurance has gone down.

    [...]

    American Action Network's press release points to a an NBC Latino story that cites a Commonwealth Fund report that found that the share, though not the number, of uninsured Hispanics grew. Latinos are 40 percent of all uninsured, including whites and blacks, a share that grew from 29 percent in part because Hispanics gained coverage at a slower rate than whites.

    The report cites several reasons why Latinos are a growing share of the uninsured, among them:

    - Many uninsured Latinos live in states such as Texas and Florida that opted to not expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

    -- There is a disproportionate share of Latinos who are poorer or lower income but not eligible for Medicaid either because their state didn't expand the program or they are not aware of eligibility.

    -- There are Latinos who are legal residents and their state restricts access of legal immigrants who have not had legal residency for at least five years, as the Affordable Care Act allows. (The uninsured rate among U.S. born Latinos is about 12 percent but for foreign born Latinos, it is 39 percent.)

    -- Many Latinos are immigrants who don't have legal status and therefore are not eligible for Obamacare. Immigrants who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, program also are not eligible for Obamacare. (Attempts to extend Obamacare to immigrants without legal status drew heavy Republican opposition while the law was being debated.)

    -- There are Latinos who qualify for coverage under Obamacare but won't sign up out of fear that their family members who lack legal status may be found out by the government and detained and deported. The fear of turning over information to the government has increased with the election of Donald Trump.

    These are factors that would have to be addressed in order to make a dent in the number of Hispanics who are uninsured.

  • 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. 

  • Internet Trolls Unleash Attacks On Washington Post Reporter Following Completely Made Up Right-Wing Media Smear

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    A false right-wing media report targeting The Washington Post’s Doris Truong has resulted in what she described as her “own personal Pizzagate” in which she was erroneously identified as being at Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing and surreptitiously taking photos of pieces of paper he left behind.

    Following Tillerson’s January 11 confirmation hearing for his nomination to serve as the next secretary of state, a photo of an unidentified woman seemingly taking photos of notes left behind at Tillerson’s empty seat began circulating on Twitter. Notoriously dishonest, and consistently wrong, right-wing blogger Jim Hoft then posted the photo and a video of the incident identifying the woman as Truong. Hoft has since updated his post and admitted that the woman pictured was not Truong, but the URL still reads “sick-wapo-reporter-caught-sneaking-photos,” a reference to Hoft’s original misleading headline. From there, the false claim was pushed by other right-wing media personalities like former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and linked to by The Drudge Report, driving even more traffic to the story and leading to widespread harassment of Truong at the hands of internet trolls.

    From Truong’s January 12 account of the episode published by The Washington Post:

    By the time I woke up, trolls had commented on social media channels besides Twitter. My Facebook feed had dozens of angry messages from people I didn’t know, as did comments on my Instagram account. Even my rarely used YouTube channel attracted attention. My emails and my voicemail included messages calling me “pathetic” and a “sneaky thief.”

    A lot of the comments also focused on my Chinese heritage, implying — or outright stating — that I must be spying for China. Some called for an FBI investigation of what they deemed illegal behavior.

    […]

    Even more bizarrely, one Twitter user insisted that “facial software on the video” led to the “almost positive” conclusion that the woman was me.

    But even if people believed that the person at the hearing wasn’t me, they wanted to know who she was. And that’s what’s particularly alarming about this time in our society: Why are people so quick to look for someone to condemn? And during the confusion about the woman’s identity, why is it presumed that she is a journalist? Or that taking pictures of notes in an open hearing is illegal? Or, for that matter, that she was even taking pictures of Tillerson’s notes?

    Despite his admission that he has no idea who the woman is, Hoft is still identifying her as a “reporter” and pushing the unsubstantiated claim that she was “sneaking photos” without any supporting evidence.

    Truong’s encounter with the far-right online fringe shares startling similarities with so-called “Pizzagate,” a fake news conspiracy theory perpetuated by Trump ally and right-wing radio host Alex Jones that eventually led one alt-right adherent to shoot inside a pizzeria in Washington, D.C. and engage in an armed standoff with police. In fact, Jim Hoft credited one of the leaders of the “pizzagate” fake news conspiracy in his original attack on Truong; right-wing blogger and sexual assault apologist Mike Cernovich, who recently directed an online harassment campaign against political satirist and video editor Vic Berger.

    As was the case with “pizzagate,” wherein an armed conspiracy theorist held up a pizza parlor while he “investigated” the veracity of absurd claims he read online, many of Truong’s online harassers are demanding that she get to the bottom of this story, and identify the woman herself, before they’ll accept that it wasn’t her.

  • Why We Should Keep Using The Term "Fake News"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fake NewsThe Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan uses her latest column to call for journalists to stop using the phrase “fake news,” a term reporters and activists have used over the past few months to describe a form of politicized misinformation that had at least some impact on the 2016 presidential election. She reasons that “though the term hasn’t been around long, its meaning already is lost” in the wake of a deliberate effort by conservatives to co-opt the term.

    Sullivan is one of the best media critics currently working, with a keen sense of the media’s responsibility for calling out lies and a well-earned wide following. That’s what makes her missive so troubling.

    If conservatives succeed in their effort to dilute the meaning of “fake news,” the result will not be the clearer discourse that Sullivan hopes to inspire. Instead, critics will lose a common term used to identify and accurately describe a real and specific problem, while conservatives will take that victory and apply the strategy behind it to other fights, making it even harder to describe the challenges in a “post-truth” news environment.

    “Fake news” describes a unique phenomenon. Sullivan’s definition is “deliberately constructed lies, in the form of news articles, meant to mislead the public.” This largely mirrors Media Matters’ own description: “information that is clearly and demonstrably fabricated and that has been packaged and distributed to appear as legitimate news.”

    The term gained prominence after conservative and “alt-right” social media accounts and Russian intelligence services weaponized fake news during the 2016 presidential election, leading to an extensive discussion in the press over fake news content, its purveyors and beneficiaries, and the information ecosystem that allows it to flourish.

    Some conservatives have been trying to delegitimize the term by broadening it to encompass virtually all information with which they disagree. Breitbart, the right-wing, white nationalist website run by top Trump aide Stephen Bannon, was among the first to adopt that formula; it has deployed it dozens of times since to criticize stories by a litany of legitimate news outlets like CNN and The New York Times as “fake news.”

    For Sullivan, the term has been so “tainted” by these conservative efforts that it’s no longer of value. “Let’s get out the hook and pull that baby off stage. Yes: Simply stop using it,” she writes. “Instead, call a lie a lie. Call a hoax a hoax. Call a conspiracy theory by its rightful name.”

    Sullivan is right that conservative efforts to redefine “fake news” in order to delegitimize the press are a real problem. But her solution is to let the conservatives win.

    What would happen next? As she notes, fake news has a “real meaning” and identifies a pernicious form of discourse. No other term currently encapsulates its parameters. If we want to be able to reduce fake news’ influence, we need to be able to identify what it is and how it differs from different, better-known types of misinformation, such as lies, propaganda and conspiracy theories -- or from run-of-the-mill errors in reporting.

    The term “fake news” may be “imprecise,” as Sullivan writes. But that is because it describes an immensely complex ecosystem of actors.

    Moreover, Sullivan errs in assuming that taking “fake news” off the table will allow the press to operate on more favorable lexical battlefields. There is little evidence that the conservatives who deliberately distorted the meaning of “fake news” will simply move on if the term is dropped.

    Why would they? As Sullivan has correctly assessed, Donald Trump’s supporters are engaged in an unprecedented effort to create a “post-truth world.” If they can blow up the term “fake news” with such ease, won’t they learn that similar efforts may be similarly rewarded? Won’t they seek to redefine the very terms Sullivan urges journalists to use instead?

    For a glimpse of where conservatives could move next after spiking “fake news,” I’d recommend “10 Conspiracy Theories That Came True,” an Infowars piece co-authored by Alex Jones. Jones, a Trump ally who has said that the government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon, has been widely and accurately derided as a conspiracy theorist.

    And so in his 2014 article, he redefines “conspiracy theory” as a term “weaponized by the establishment as a perjorative (sic) slur against anyone who questions the official narrative of any government pronouncement.” He includes the U.S. role in the 1953 coup in Iran and the Gulf of Tonkin among their numbers.

    It’s not only in the interest of conspiracy theorists like Jones to tarnish that phrase -- the Trump administration will also benefit from stretching the term to encompass any criticism of the incoming president.

    Trump himself responded to December reports that the CIA had identified Russian intelligence efforts to bolster his campaign by terming the finding a “conspiracy theory.”

    Sullivan is right that journalists need to be willing to call out lies, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories.

    But “fake news” has a place on that list as well. Let’s defend it rather than folding under the first wave of conservative pressure.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • O'Reilly’s Refusal To Discuss “Unsavory” Allegations Against Roger Ailes Makes Him “The Ultimate Fox News Tool”

    Wemple: O'Reilly’s Refusal To Discuss “Unsavory Matters” About The Network, Ensures No Internal Reform Will Happen At The Network 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple wrote that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s refusal to address recent sexual harassment scandals at Fox News proves O’Reilly to be a “loyal soldier” to the network’s internal culture of suppressing “unsavory matters,” including allegations of sexual harassment that continues to plague the network.

    During an interview on CBS This Morning, O’Reilly refused to answer questions from CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell about Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s allegations she was sexually harassed by former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes because he was “not interested” in making Fox News “look bad.” O’Reilly insisted that Fox is “a good place to work” and said he was “not going to buy into let’s use the Fox News Channel as a piñata.”

    Wemple criticized O’Reilly’s stance, writing that his refusal to address Fox News’ sexual harassment issues is the “very mentality enabled Ailes for decades” of “keeping allegedly harassed women and their colleagues from going public.” Despite Ailes having resigned, Wemple wrote, “O’Reilly is working as his party apparatchik” to “suppress dissent.” From the November 15 article:

    After concluding the discussion of childhood civility, co-host Norah O’Donnell pressed [Bill] O’Reilly on whether he’d read “Settle for More,” the memoir by Fox News host Megyn Kelly in which she recounts experiencing sexual harassment at Fox News at the hands of Ailes, who lost his job over the summer following a plume of such allegations. Kelly writes that he tried to grab and kiss her, then asked her when her contract was up — an “ominous” question, in Kelly’s tale. (Ailes has denied all of this.) Another accuser, former host Gretchen Carlson, received a $20 million settlement from Fox News’s parent company, and former host Andrea Tantaros’s litigation — also for sexual harassment allegedly from Ailes — remains active.

    [...]

    Had O’Reilly been the editor of “Settle for More,” however, readers would have had to settle for less. “I want to be very candid here: I’m not that interested in this,” said O’Reilly in his “CBS This Morning” interview. Pressed on whether he was saying he wasn’t interested in sexual harassment, O’Reilly made plain, “I’m not interested in basically litigating something that is finished that makes my network look bad, okay, I’m not interested in making my network look bad at all. That doesn’t interest me one bit. I’m not going to even bother with it. I’ve got a country that’s in a political transition. I’ve got a kids book that I want millions of kids to look at. That’s what I’m interested in, not making my network look bad.”

    A few points here:

    *O’Reilly, your network already looks bad. A full-on sexual harassment crisis swept through its halls this past summer. More than a dozen women who’d allegedly been harassed or demeaned by Ailes came forward to tell their stories. Nothing that Kelly puts in her book will exacerbate that set of facts.

    *This very mentality enabled Ailes for decades. The message from O’Reilly here is this: Shut the heck up, colleagues. Don’t discuss in public unsavory matters that could lead to internal reform. Suppress dissent. Over his two decades atop Fox News, Ailes enforced just those rules, keeping allegedly harassed women and their colleagues from going public. Though Ailes is gone from Fox News, O’Reilly is working as his party apparatchik. A loyal soldier to the end.

  • Journalists Condemn CNN's Lewandowski Embarrassment After Trump Campaign Manager's "#teamwork" Tweet

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    CNN’s ethical dilemma over its employment of Corey Lewandowski, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, as a political analyst was on display once again when current campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a picture of her and Lewandowski with the caption “#teamwork #NH.”

    CNN’s use of on-air Trump surrogates has drawn widespread condemnation, with media critics pointing out that the practice has undercut the “work of [CNN’s] journalists.” Despite these concerns, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker has stood by the network’s decision to give Trump surrogates a platform to spread lies and derogatory rhetoric, claiming that CNN has a responsibility “to represent those 13-14 million voters who have voted for” Trump, rather than to provide viewers with accurate analysis.

    Lewandowski has been at the center of CNN’s ethical dilemma, with many criticizing the network for employing him as an analyst while he was still receiving payments from the Trump campaign, advising the Trump campaign, working on debate prep for the Trump campaign, traveling with the Trump campaign, and campaigning with Trump.

    A week after calling on the “@CNN Dream Team” of Trump surrogates to “stay strong,” on November 4, current Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a picture of her, press secretary Hope Hicks, and Lewandowski, captioning the tweet “#teamwork.” The tweet spurred criticism from members of the media, with The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple saying it “should shame everyone at CNN” and noting that “now we know that officially and unequivocally, the Trump campaign regards a paid CNN commentator as part of the team.” Others called the tweet -- and what it signifies about the relationship between a CNN analyst and the Trump campaign -- “totally inappropriate.”

    Sign Media Matters petition and tell CNN to cut ties with Corey Lewandowski immediately.

  • Right-Wing Media Revive Discriminatory Effort To Discourage Early Voting

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Several Fox News hosts have recently been critical of early voting, a process that is especially important to voters of color who face systemic barriers to voting on Election Day. Fox hosts baselessly claimed that voters who already took advantage of early voting now want to change their votes and suggested voters “don’t know all of the information” prior to voting, which raises questions about “the wisdom of early voting.” Right-wing media figures’ contempt for early voting is not new.

  • Journalists Blast The FBI For Meddling In 2016 Election

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Media outlets and journalists sharply criticized the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for interfering in the presidential election after Director James Comey violated precedent and policy by sending a letter to Congress saying the agency is reviewing newly discovered emails surrounding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state. That announcement was followed by a series of additional leaks from the FBI.

  • Pundits Credited Trump With Not Creating His Own Controversy This Weekend. Here's What They Ignored.

    Joe Scarborough, Brian Kilmeade Congratulate Trump For Not Making A Mess

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Some media figures praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for not making “himself the story” this past weekend and thus allowing the press to focus on the news regarding the FBI’s investigation of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server. But in doing so they ignored a series of outrageous claims Trump made, including his baseless comment that Clinton could “triple the size of our country in one week” by admitting “650 million” immigrants, his call to reinstate banned torture techniques, and his accusation that Twitter, Google, and Facebook are burying new developments in the FBI probe.