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  • As Print Critics Savage Kelly’s Trump Interview, Networks Cover For Her

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Cable and broadcast networks are reporting that Fox host Megyn Kelly’s interview with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump made him look look “restrained” and “softer,” but they are playing down the role Kelly played in that depiction.

    Print and online media critics have been submitting withering critiques of Kelly’s heavily touted sit-down. For New York Times TV critic James Poniewozick, Kelly’s questions were so nonsubstantive that they don’t even deserve to be described as softballs. Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara wrote that Kelly failed to “hold his question-dodging feet to some sort of fire,” instead preferring to have him “costar in an hourlong infomercial for her new book.” The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik wrote that Kelly “provided Trump a kind of sanction with some women that he could never buy” and added, “I’m surprised they didn’t exchange air kisses.” The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple homed in on the “scandalous” way that Kelly “withheld details of her ordeal” with Trump “in a performance that assisted Trump with his general-election pivot” in order to boost sales of her forthcoming book. The list goes on and on.

    But similar criticisms of Kelly’s journalism were absent from the coverage of the interview on the broadcast and cable news morning shows. Instead, NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning highlighted Trump’s effort to show a “softer side” during the interview, but made no mention of how Kelly helped him in that effort. CNN’s New Day completely ignored the interview, with the network’s media commentators instead appearing for a segment about Trump’s attacks on The New York Times.

    It’s possible that one reason the networks are loathe to go after Kelly’s performance is that they are looking to hire her. Her contract with Fox News is up for renewal next year, she has openly said she will consider other offers, and news reports suggest that several networks will try to lure her away.

    It would be awkward for executives to pitch Kelly on a move to their networks after their on-air talent ripped apart her effort to broaden her brand -- and even more awkward for that on-air talent to run into Kelly in the newsroom.

  • NY Post’s “Blond Bombshell” Story Is Ripped From Pages Of National Enquirer

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    A New York Post cover story that has been highlighted on Fox News claimed that the Clinton Global Initiative “doled out” $2 million to a company partly owned by a woman the paper insinuated is “rumored” to be Bill Clinton’s mistress. The foundation did not actually give money to the firm, and the rumors in question come from a single anonymous source in the National Enquirer.

  • Trump Tours Morning Shows To Hype Conspiracy Theory From National Enquirer

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Hours after he was declared the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump took to the broadcast network morning shows to defend a conspiracy theory from the National Enquirer, the tabloid with which Trump has a cozy relationship.

    Trump took a victory lap early on May 4 after Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his campaign and Trump was declared the presumptive GOP nominee, giving interviews on NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America. During the interviews, which took place over the phone, hosts asked Trump about a conspiracy theory he pushed from the National Enquirer, which claimed that Cruz’s father was linked to Lee Harvey Oswald three months before Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Trump had hyped the conspiracy theory on his May 3 phone-in appearance on Fox & Friends. During the May 4 interviews, Trump continued to push the conspiracy theory as “a major story in a major publication,” and he falsely claimed that the Cruz campaign “didn’t deny” the allegations.

    Reporters have slammed the conspiracy theory as “inflammatory,” and even conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called it “kooky” and “absurd.”

    CNN’s senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, pointed out that this is not the first time Trump has repeated “something from a highly questionable source as if it’s fact,” noting that the “Enquirer has a checkered history.” After the tabloid asserted on March 23 that Cruz was “hiding FIVE different mistresses,” Trump defended the publication, saying that while he had “no idea whether or not” the Cruz affair story “is true or not,” the National Enquirer was “right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others.”

    Trump has a cozy relationship with the National Enquirer. In March, the publication gave the nod to Trump in its first ever presidential endorsement. Trump has also written for the tabloid on multiple occasions. According to New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, Trump and David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, “have been friends for years.” In 2013, Trump tweeted that Pecker should become the CEO of Time magazine, writing, “nobody could bring it back like David!”

  • Trump's Unprecedented Phone Privileges Are Helping Him Smear Michelle Fields

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    GMA

    Broadcast network hosts are finally starting to ask Donald Trump about his campaign manager's alleged battery against a reporter, but the GOP presidential front-runner's unprecedented phone privileges are helping him control the narrative and smear the victim.

    Donald Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was arrested and charged with battery on March 29 after then-Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields alleged that he "grabbed" her arm and "yanked" her following a press conference. Video evidence was subsequently released showing Lewandowski grabbing Fields. Following the arrest, Trump defended Lewandowski, claiming that the tapes show "nothing" and threatening to "press charges" against Fields.

    On March 30, Fox News' Fox & Friends, NBC's Today, and ABC's Good Morning America conducted live interviews by phone with Trump. Though the hosts, to varying degrees, sparred with Trump over the incident and his smears against Fields, the phone interview format enabled him to dominate the conversation, victim-blaming Fields and steamrolling the hosts' pushback.

    During Trump's 11-minute phone interview on Fox & Friends, the three hosts allowed Trump to sully Fields' accusations by reinterpreting the video evidence. They let him claim the tape "shows very little" in terms of what Lewandowski did, claim instead that it showed Fields being "a very aggressive person ... grabbing at me and touching me." After co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Trump, "Why is a campaign manager even touching a reporter?" Trump again flipped the script and without interruption excused Lewandowski's actions because Fields was "grabbing" at him.

    Similarly, Trump's phone interview on NBC's Today allowed him to dodge and steamroll Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie's questioning over the incident. Though Lauer and Guthrie repeatedly attempted to correct Trump's spin about the incident and his baseless allegations against Fields, he consistently overpowered them, yelling into the phone that Fields deserved the alleged assault because she "was asking me questions she wasn't supposed to." After Lauer pressed him on whether this whole situation would have been resolved if Lewandowski apologized initially, Trump responded, "I think she would have pressed charges anyway because I think she likes it."

    And during Trump's phone interview on ABC's Good Morning America, guest host David Muir allowed Trump to talk at length, uninterrupted, about the situation and to call Fields' accusations a "disgrace."

    The practice of letting a presidential candidate eschew on-camera interviews in favor of calling in by phone is both unprecedented in American politics and unique to Donald Trump. Broadcast networks have overwhelmingly allowed Trump -- and Trump only -- to call in to Sunday morning political talk shows. In total, Trump conducted 69 phone interviews in the first 69 days of 2016.

    Earlier this month, CBS This Morning announced it would no longer allow Trump to phone in for interviews. It is likely no coincidence that Trump skipped the show altogether today while phoning in to its broadcast competitors.

    Media critics have spoken against the call-in practice, noting that allowing Trump to interview by phone "is a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump." They contend that phone interviews give Trump an obvious advantage over his rivals, allowing him to ignore hosts' visual cues and body language, dodge or shout over interviewers' questions, and avoid awkward confrontations.

    Trump's phone privileges are helping him to victim-blame Michelle Fields and excuse Corey Lewandowski's alleged battery, even when interviewers try their best to push back.

    By shouting into the phone instead of engaging in person, Trump controls the interviews, whether his hosts know it or not. How much longer will the broadcast networks and cable news channels stand for it?

    You can add your voice to Media Matters' petition for the media to end Trump's phone privilege by signing here.

  • Media, Experts, And Civil Rights Groups Condemn Ted Cruz's "Blatantly Unconstitutional" Anti-Muslim Proposal

    Cruz's Call To "Patrol And Secure Muslims Neighborhoods" Met With Widespread Criticism

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media, experts, and civil rights groups are all criticizing Ted Cruz's call to "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods" in the wake of terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium, seemingly inspired by ISIS. The plan has been called "counterproductive and unconstitutional" and "the exact opposite of what we need to do."