In an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl this weekend, Donald Trump was asked for one word to describe himself. His response? "Smart." (At least he didn't say "humble.")
In terms of press savvy, Trump is smart enough to once again fool the media into another few years of conversations about whether he'll run for president.
It's clear there is a significant constituency of individuals in the Republican Party that would like to see Trump run -- and not just for the laughs. He strikes a tone that perfectly captures the essence of the modern conservative movement: He is smart enough to be dumb.
Ignorance is not a state of mind but, rather, a potent political strategy of the right. Mother Jones reported last week on a new study on media coverage of climate change published in the journal Public Understanding of Science that found "watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh both increase one's level of distrust of these scientific experts. Or as the paper puts it, '[C]onservative media use decreases trust in scientists.' "
On This Week ABC's Karl, his voice elevating in pitch as he traveled down the rabbit hole of rationality, asked Trump: "But you don't still question [Barack Obama] was born in the United States, do you?"
"I have no idea," Trump replied. "Was there a birth certificate? You tell me. You know, some people say that was not his birth certificate. I'm saying I don't know. Nobody knows and you don't know either, Jonathan."
In its online post of the interview, ABC felt compelled to label Trump's birtherism "a conspiracy theory that has been proven false."
From the August 11 edition of ABC's This Week:
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ABC News is scheduled to host Donald Trump on this Sunday's edition of This Week to discuss whether he plans "to run for president." If ABC wants to waste airtime on Trump, will the network challenge the reality show star about his baseless conspiracy theories, and habit of using the false promise of running for president as a vehicle for self-promotion?
ABC promoted Trump's appearance with a tweet asking, "Is @realDonaldTrump planning to run for president in 2016? We ask him Sunday on #ThisWeek." But as ABC has itself reported, Trump has previously floated the prospect of a presidential run in order to promote himself and his related business ventures.
Trump insists he's serious, but experts in branding and politics are dubious, saying the art of this deal for The Donald is simple: gaining favorable exposure.
It's not that he needs fame. Trump already is one of the most well-known people on the planet. Rather, they said, flirting with an idea of a presidential campaign helps to burnish the Trump name, the foundation of his business.
Trump is unlikely to be an actual candidate in this election or any other, and never has been- why would ABC News allow itself to be used for yet another round of promotional appearances for a charlatan?
In the first six months of 2013, white men dominated the guest lists on the broadcast network Sunday shows and CNN's State of the Union. MSNBC was the only network achieving notable diversity in its guests, particularly on Melissa Harris-Perry's show. Republicans and conservatives are hosted significantly more on the broadcast Sunday shows than Democrats and progressives.
Broadcast and cable evening news coverage touched upon a variety of economic topics, including deficit reduction, economic growth, and entitlement reform throughout the second quarter of 2013. A Media Matters analysis shows that many segments lacked proper context or input from economists, while some topics went largely underreported.
Throughout the first half of 2013, broadcast and cable nightly news overwhelmingly discussed Social Security in an unbalanced and negative light by repeatedly insisting that the program is insolvent, must be cut, or poses a risk to long-term fiscal security.
In the weeks leading up to an automatic doubling of federal student loan interest rates, broadcast and cable nightly and weekend news devoted little time explaining the effects of the rate hike and the expiration of other programs designed to help American students, graduates and families with increasingly high education costs.
In 2007, Congress passed a law to reduce interest rates on federal subsidized student loans, the Stafford Loan program, to 3.4 percent. The law was intended to reduce college costs and increase access to higher education. The Budget Control Act of 2011 ended several provisions of previous law; foremost setting an expiration date of July 1, 2013, for Stafford Loan interest rates. Today, those rates automatically double to their previous 6.8 percent.
Media Matters research found the looming student loan deadline has been largely ignored by major news networks in the past several weeks. Since May 23, the date the House of Representatives passed a party line student loan plan of its own, primetime and weekend television news has offered just 13 brief segments on student loan issues.
Absent from media analysis has been any real discussion of economists' recommendations for dealing with student debt. Many economists, including Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, have supported various efforts to defray college costs, expand federal funding, and provide restructuring and refinancing options for student and family borrowers.
In May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report on student loan affordability. It found that expanded refinancing options for student debt could have a simulative effect on economic growth, household formation and homeownership among borrowers. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York had previously found that student debt was a driving force in decreasing home and automotive purchases among recent graduates.
The rate increase set to take effect on July 1 will directly affect millions of Americans while making college less affordable for prospective students. The Congressional Research Service estimated that the higher rate could cost average borrowers more than $1,000 to take out a subsidized federal loan. College graduates are saddled with an enormous debt burden - more than $1 trillion through 2013, according to The New York Times.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of Sunday and evening (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) programs on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and network broadcast news from May 23 through June 30. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: student loan, college loan, student debt, college debt, student, debt, loan, and college.
The following programs were included in the data: World News with Diane Sawyer, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Evening News (CBS), Face the Nation, Nightly News with Brian Williams, Meet the Press with David Gregory, Fox News Sunday, The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, Piers Morgan Live, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air re-runs (such as Anderson Cooper 360 and Hardball with Chris Matthews), only the first airing was included in data retrieval.
Media Matters only included segments that had substantial discussion of increasing student debt or the July 1 interest rate deadline. We did not include teasers or clips of news events, and re-broadcasts of news packages that were already counted on their initial broadcast in the 5p.m. to 11p.m. window.
Associations representing the OB/GYNs and hospitals of Texas say that a Texas bill mandating new restrictions on on doctors and clinics that provide abortions does nothing to improve women's health care and has no medical basis, but conservative media figures are ignoring that medical opinion to claim the bill is needed to protect the health of women seeking abortions.
A Texas bill that is being reintroduced in a July 1 special legislative session would mandate new regulations that would force all but five of the 47 clinics providing abortions in the state to close and require doctors who perform abortions to have admittance privileges at a local hospital. Texas Republicans argued that they introduced the bill not to restrict access to legal abortions, but to improve the safety of women obtaining them. On the June 30 edition of ABC's This Week, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan parroted these claims, saying "the bill does not specifically try to close abortion clinics, it says they have to meet certain medical standards in order to operate."
But the Texas District of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has expressed opposition to the bill, which it says imposes requirements on doctors and facilities providing abortions "that are unnecessary and unsupported by scientific evidence" and have no "basis in public health or safety." The organization's June 25 statement further stated:
The Texas District of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) opposes SB 5/HB 60 and other legislative proposals that are not based on sound science or that attempt to prescribe how physicians should care for their individual patients. As a District of the Nation's leading authority in women's health, our role is to ensure that policy proposals accurately reflect the best available medical knowledge.
SB 5/HB 60 will not enhance patient safety or improve the quality of care that women receive. This bill does not promote women's health, but erodes it by denying women in Texas the benefits of well-researched, safe, and proven protocols.
Texas-ACOG further states that the bill creates "over reacting requirements for abortion facilities" that "does not promote the public health objective it claims to enhance," and calls the requirement that doctors who provide abortions have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles "unneccesary."
Additionally, the Texas Hospital Association (THA) issued a statement about the hospital admittance requirement, arguing that it does nothing to improve women's health because emergency room physicians would be the ones to treat a woman who needs emergency care due to complications from an abortion. From the statement:
THA agrees that women should receive high-quality care and that physicians should be held accountable for acts that violate their license. However, a requirement that physicians who perform one particular outpatient procedure, abortion, be privileged at a hospital is not the appropriate way to accomplish these goals.
Should a woman develop complications from an abortion or any other procedure performed outside the hospital and need emergency care, she should present to a hospital emergency department. Requiring that a doctor have privileges at a particular hospital does not guarantee that this physician will be at the hospital when the woman arrives. She will appropriately be treated by the physician staffing the emergency room when she presents there. If the emergency room physician needs to consult with the physician who performed the abortion, the treating physician can contact the doctor telephonically, which is often done in other emergency situations.
Image Credit: Whole Women's Health
Despite a number of significant economic developments, major network and cable Sunday shows have been largely silent on the economy.
Media Matters research reveals that from May 12 to June 9, five major Sunday shows devoted only approximately 35 minutes of economic coverage.
During this time period, the Sunday shows were silent on the economy and missed an opportunity to cover significant developments.
Despite the various economic developments over this period, CNN and major network Sunday shows devoted little time to those stories. Only during the week of June 2 did coverage of the economy rise above five minutes, which provided three-quarters of the coverage for the entire five-week period.
In recent weeks, Sunday morning network news programs have virtually ignored economic issues, instead devoting hours of coverage to the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya; improper targeting of conservative nonprofits by the Internal Revenue Service; controversial federal investigations of national security leaks; and new revelations about National Security Agency surveillance programs.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren lamented that "we do nothing about the poor," but has repeatedly hosted guests who have attacked the federal food stamp program, which helps keep millions out of poverty and limits the effects of poverty and unemployment.
On the June 9 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Van Susteren decried a lack of attention to impoverished Americans, saying, "The thing that disturbs me is that the economy I see is a three legged stool: the rich, the middle class, and the poor. And all three have to be winning and surviving, and we do nothing about the poor. You know, we play with all these numbers and look at all the unemployment but we still aren't digging into the inner city and going into the poverty, the huge poverty at the bottom in this city."
But Van Susteren's concern for the poor is inconsistent with attacks by guests on her show on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the federal food stamp program that is designed to keep people out of poverty.
Media coverage of the automatic spending cuts commonly known as sequestration has tapered off since the policies went into effect on March 1. This drop in coverage comes as more Americans report having personally felt the effects of the cuts.
Sunday talk shows on NBC, CBS, and ABC compared reports that the Internal Review Service (IRS) applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups to President Nixon's Watergate scandal, a comparison which people who worked on both sides of the Watergate scandal agree is baseless.
Evening news coverage throughout April touched upon several economic issues, including income inequality, deficit reduction, and entitlement cuts. A Media Matters analysis of this coverage reveals that many of these segments lacked proper context or necessary input from economists, while some networks ignored certain issues entirely.
ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl is helping to promote a dishonest narrative regarding why then-CIA director Gen. David Petraeus expressed disapproval for a set of talking points written in response to the September attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Karl's reporting on the issue has ignored the central reason Petraeus said that he didn't like the talking points: he thought they didn't do enough to connect the attacks to demonstrations in Cairo that were triggered by an anti-Islam video. Since right-wing media and Republicans in Congress have spent months accusing the Obama administration of politically-motivated lying for stating that there was a link between the attacks and the video, this point is crucial.
According to CBS News, in a September 15 email, Petraeus wrote that "he doesn't like the talking points and he would 'just assume they not use them... This is not what [Rep.] Ruppersberger asked for. We couldn't even mention the Cairo warning. But it's their call.'"
The "Cairo warning" Petraeus mentioned appears to refer to the following sentence that CBS News reported was added to the original talking points but subsequently removed:
On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the Embassy [in Cairo] and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy."
As has been extensively reported, the September demonstrations in Cairo, Egypt, were part of a series of global riots and protests in Muslim countries that came in response to increasing awareness of the anti-Islam video. In the days and weeks following the attack, President Obama both referred to the attacks as an "act of terror" and offered criticism of that video for "spark[ing] outrage through the Muslim world."
It was not unreasonable for Petraeus and Obama to cite a link between the attacks and the video - according to the New York Times, the Benghazi attackers told bystanders that "that they were attacking the compound because they were angry about the video." In fact, the original set of talking points prepared by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis stated that the attacks "were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo."
But in reporting on the same Petraeus email, Karl has left out Petraeus' stated reason for disliking the talking points and in one case allowed his interviewer to suggest that Petraeus actually opposed linking the attacks to the video.