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Kelly Downplays Her Obsessive, Race-Baiting New Black Panther Coverage As She Competes For Contracts
In an interview with The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple Blog, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly -- who is reportedly competing for a new contract among networks -- downplayed her role in pushing the pseudo-scandal that the Department of Justice was covering up voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party and admitted she could not name any African-American people on her staff.
In 2010, Kelly devoted more than 3.5 hours of her then-show America Live to hyping a contrived scandal about the Justice Department. The claim was that the department engaged in racially charged “corruption” in its handling of voter-intimidation claims about two members of the New Black Panther Party who appeared in a video standing outside a Philadelphia polling station during the 2008 election, one of them holding a nightstick; the other was a registered Democratic poll watcher. No one came forward to say he or she was intimidated by the two men. The story resurfaced during the 2016 election when supporters of Donald Trump used it to defend his false “rigged election” claim.
Kelly was sharply criticized for her sensationalistic coverage of the supposed scandal, with Dave Weigel -- then of The Atlantic -- calling Kelly’s coverage a “minstrel show.” Kelly’s focus on the Black Panthers constitutes just one part of her consistently insensitive and out-of-touch coverage on race issues.
During the interview, Wemple asked Kelly if it was a “fair reading” to use the Black Panthers incident to justify “Trump’s claims of the possibility of a rigged election.” Wemple, linking to Media Matters’ research in the transcript, also asked Kelly if her “pushing” of the incident “is where people draw their memory from,” to which Kelly responded, “next question.” Kelly also conceded that her show The Kelly File may not employee any African-Americans “at the moment.” Kelly’s deflection on her record comes as she is reportedly competing for contracts between networks. From the December 19 article:
[ERIK WEMPLE BLOG]: I was interested to see the photographs in your book. And you have a photograph of your staff and it sprung a question for me: You do all kinds of aggressive coverage, including on race. That staffing picture looked pretty much white, although there could be a couple of minorities in there. Do you think that for as aggressive as you are on racial issues, that you could use more diversity on the staff?
[MEGYN] KELLY: Well, I don’t know about the first part of your question. That’s not the reason. The reason to have more racial diversity on any team is because it’s helpful to have different perspectives on any issue. And I also believe that. It’s easier said than done, unfortunately. At Fox we started — this is one of Roger’s good legacies, the Ailes Apprentice Program, and that’s been pretty good about getting more people of color into the TV news ranks. But we don’t have enough, that’s just a fact. We don’t. And we can do better at that, just like most of the news networks can.
EWB: Do you have anyone who’s African American on the staff at this point?
KELLY: Not at the moment. Don’t hold me to that, Erik, because I’m probably forgetting somebody. Definitely we have some crew who work with me who are African American but . . . to be perfectly honest with you, I have never asked. We . . . have a couple of mixed-race people . . . I don’t know if they identify as mixed race or African American, so I don’t want to guess.
EWB: Obviously you know a lot about the whole New Black Panther issue, Philadelphia; you were famous for that. I didn’t see much mention in the book, but now, eight years later, a couple CNN pro-Trump commentators cited that incident sort of in the context of Trump talking about a rigged election. Do you think that’s a fair reading of the New Black Panther issue, sort of as grist for justifying Trump’s claims of the possibility of a rigged election?
KELLY: What do you mean, that guys like those New Black Panthers [inaudible] at the polls?
EWB: I believe Kayleigh McEnany said something to the effect that Trump “doesn’t want a scenario where there’s New Black Panthers outside with guns, essentially like intimidating people from coming into the polls.”
KELLY: That was not a widespread incident as far as we knew. That was a couple of rabble-rousers who showed up causing a bunch of nonsense at one Philadelphia polling station. I wouldn’t say you could extrapolate that to a general concern, especially because I don’t believe we saw it again in 2012. I believe it was these two guys trying to make a point in 2008; their point was made and I assume they understood the ramifications of it after the Department of Justice got involved.
EWB: Do you think that your pushing that incident is where people draw their memory from?
KELLY: Come on, Erik, next question.
EWB: No? I just wondered. I mean, you did scores of segments on it.
KELLY: You should take those scores of segments numbers with a huge grain of salt because that was some tabulation done by Media Matters that included teases. Teases!
Controversial Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord will keep his platform at CNN through 2017 according to a report from The Washington Post. Lord was a staunch Trump apologist who used his paid position at CNN to spew hateful rhetoric and defend Donald Trump throughout the 2016 campaign.
On December 2, The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reported that Lord "re-signed with the network through 2017," noting that he “was one of about seven commentators that CNN brought on to articulate Trump positions.”
CNN has faced harsh criticism for hiring controversial Trump defenders including Corey Lewandowski, Jeffrey Lord, Scottie Nell Hughes, and Kayleigh McEnany. With the renewal of Lord’s contract, CNN has made clear it will continue to give representation to xenophobes who defend Trump regardless of facts and public opinion.
Jeffrey Lord made a name for himself as an anti-immigrant contributing editor of The American Spectator who during his career claimed Obama should be impeached, called the Ku Klux Klan a leftist organization, and compared his critics to Nazis.
Lord’s presence at CNN has been defined by false, inflammatory remarks. Lord has claimed that “David Duke is a hardcore leftist,” called the Ku Klux Klan “a non-entity,” and asked a black co-panelist to answer for whether Democrats would ever “get around to apologizing for slavery.” Lord has also argued that America has a “Muslim problem,” defended Trump’s attacks on a Muslim Gold Star family, and smeared Huma Abedin by falsely claiming she was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.
In extending Lord’s contract, CNN will continue to have one of Trump’s strongest defenders on the network “to carry Donald Trump’s decidedly fetid water every day.”
Wemple: O'Reilly’s Refusal To Discuss “Unsavory Matters” About The Network, Ensures No Internal Reform Will Happen At The Network
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.
O’Reilly And His Killing Books Have A History Of Historical Inaccuracies
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reported “factual problems” with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Reagan, which examined the attempted assassination of former President Ronald Reagan. Killing Reagan in particular drew intense criticism from Reagan biographers and aides, who said the “garbage, total BS” book “does a disservice to history.” The criticism led to an extended feud with conservative columnist and former Reagan speechwriter George Will after Will called O’Reilly “a hack” who “slander[ed]” Reagan.
On October 20, Wemple examined a passage in Killing Reagan alleging that during a 1984 photo-op, “Reagan faltered under tough questioning from commonly tough questioner Sam Donaldson” of ABC News, because of injuries related to the assassination attempt. However, Donaldson told Wemple himself that he “wasn’t there” at the photo-op. Wemple “requested video of the press availability from the Ronald Reagan Library” and found that pool reporters who quizzed the president didn’t “get very far” because “the entire Q&A lasted less than a minute.” Contrary to O’Reilly’s characterization, the exchange “doesn’t come off very dramatically,” and O’Reilly’s “confrontation” was “was merely [a journalist] asking a reasonable question and then following up very quickly with a clarification.”
As this blog noted on Saturday, this passage has factual problems. Donaldson, for one, tells the Erik Wemple Blog, “I wasn’t there.” The 82-year-old retired newsman says he was in Santa Barbara with other members of the press, while a small contingent of rotating pool members went to the ranch to photograph and question Reagan. Charles Bierbauer, a former CNN correspondent who covered Reagan, told us that he, in fact, was the one who’d asked these questions.
Eager to learn a bit more about this episode, the Erik Wemple Blog requested video of the press availability from the Ronald Reagan Library. It’s embedded at the top of this post. Starting at the 1:38 mark, pool reporters begin quizzing the president about various topics. They don’t get very far. “I’m not going to take any questions at a — at a photo opportunity,” says Reagan at one point.
The entire Q & A took less than a minute. And contrary to the “action-packed” description in “Killing Reagan,” it doesn’t come off very dramatically, either. (Efforts to secure comment from O’Reilly, Dugard and the publisher of “Killing Reagan” have failed). It sounds like a few journalists trying to get a snippet of newsworthy material from the president on a midsummer day. Where O’Reilly sees Donaldson in “full confrontational mode,” the video indicates that Bierbauer — now dean of the College of Information and Communications at the University of South Carolina — was merely asking a reasonable question and then following up very quickly with a clarification.
O’Reilly and his Killing series of books have both come under repeated scrutiny for misrepresenting or lying about the history he sets out to examine. O’Reilly himself has been widely criticized for lying about his experiences during multiple historical events, including the Falklands War, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, terrorist bombings in Northern Ireland, and the execution of four Americans in El Salvador.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called out CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker for skirting the issue of hiring former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski by offering a dishonest defense of the decision.
CNN hired the Republican presidential nominee’s former campaign manager in June, a week after he was fired from the campaign for allegedly manhandling a reporter. Since joining the news organization, Lewandowski has echoed and defended Trump’s most questionable statements, including reviving Trump’s birther claims against President Obama and recommending that the Republican nominee sue The New York Times “into oblivion.”
Jeff Zucker’s decision to hire Lewandowski came under fire after it was discovered that he was still being paid by the Trump campaign, which CNN said was severance pay. In August, Lewandowski announced on Twitter he was joining Donald Trump and his campaign in New Hampshire. In September, The Washington Post discovered Lewandowski was doing “consulting work” for Trump, and he recently joined the campaign for more events in Maine and New Jersey.
Zucker defended hiring Corey Lewandowski during an October 14 interview at the Harvard Institute of Politics, claiming it is necessary to have someone who represents the “14 million people who voted for” Donald Trump, and that opposition to Lewandowski’s presence at CNN is “because they don’t like the idea of the Trump candidacy.” Wemple discounted Zucker’s defense, explaining that “the critical case against” employing Lewandowski “rests on ethical considerations.” From Wemple’s October 17 Washington Post blog post:
In an extensive interview on Friday at the Harvard Institute of Politics, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker faced a question about the No. 1 ethical issue facing the 24/7 cable network over the course of campaign 2016. “What was your thought process in hiring [Donald] Trump’s former campaign manager and surrogates in general and where do you draw the line for CNN between reporting on the campaign and becoming a mouthpiece for the campaigns?” asked a member of the audience.
No stranger to tough questions about CNN’s moves, Zucker, a Harvard graduate, took this one in stride. For months, critics of the channel have ripped the June decision to hire Corey Lewandowski just after he’d been fired from his job as Donald Trump’s campaign manager. As he broke into the CNN commentating lineup, he was asked about any nondisclosure and non disparagement clauses that might swamp his candor. His responses were unconvincing. Then CNN revealed that he was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign — payments that continued in July and August; a final pay-out occurred last month.
Speaking specifically to the Lewandowski situation, Zucker said this: “So, look, you know — the Trump surrogate voices, including Corey Lewandowski … are there to represent those 13-14 million voters who have voted for him. Now, I know that there’s are a lot of people who don’t like Corey Lewandowski or the other Trump surrogates that we have on staff,” he said. “I think a lot of that is because they don’t like the idea of the Trump candidacy and that’s just a projection of ‘How could you have those people on the set?’ Well, we have them on the set because somebody’s got to represent 14 million people who voted for the guy. I understand that there are people who might not like that, who might not like those people who are supporting him, but that’s what happened.”
CNN is entitled to rejigger its lineup of commentators in reaction to political events. Such is its prerogative. What it may not do, however, is recast the controversy over Lewandowski’s employment as a matter of taste. Though some folks surely object to Lewandowski because they simply do not like him, the critical case against the move rests on ethical considerations. Lewandowski was hired fresh off the Trump campaign, and evidence is strong that he remains part of its inner circle, as both Politico and the New York Times reported last month.
Though many commentators have certain loyalties and affections, Lewandowski is all but prohibited from indulging in Trump-oriented skepticism while on CNN airwaves. That is the problem with Lewandowski. Not that certain people don’t like him.
Fox News Channel, which launched on October 7, 1996, celebrated its 20th anniversary Friday and mentioned the occasion on at least seven different news shows throughout the day. The anniversary tributes included a video featuring two top executives, but notably neglected to mention Fox News founder Roger Ailes.
The former Fox executive was recently ousted from the network due to multiple claims of sexual harassment from female colleagues and subordinates over many years. Ailes is currently advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose candidacy is now in crisis over a 2005 recording of the nominee boasting about sexual assault that was coincidentally released by The Washington Post on Fox News’ anniversary date.
Because the disturbing testimonies from former Fox hosts Gretchen Carlson and Andrea Tantaros, and various other women at the network, about their horrific experiences with Ailes were met with criticism by many who work there, it is not a surprise that Fox would whitewash the channel’s history. For example, prime-time host Bill O’Reilly, who is known for providing cover for Ailes, notably ignored the founder’s principal role in building the outlet. From the October 7 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
This obvious channel-wide omittance did not go unnoticed in the media. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reported that the website commemorating Fox News’ 20th anniversary featured top Fox executives Lachlan Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch but failed to mention the channel’s founder Roger Ailes. From the October 7 report (emphasis original):
This took some doing: 21st Century Fox is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Fox News without even mentioning the founder of Fox News, Roger Ailes. The tribute appears on the website of 21st Century Fox, the cable news network’s parent company, and includes a brief video in which Lachlan Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch, top executives of the company, look back on the world-beating organization that Ailes launched in 1996.
“Fox News came from a point of view of we can do this better,” says Lachlan Murdoch, the company’s executive chairman, in a video. “We can make news more interesting. We can tell stories better. We can tell them with more energy and more color.” Rupert Murdoch notes that he was “very lucky in the people I found. Now it’s … probably our single-biggest profit-maker as an individual channel.”
Bolding added to highlight what has to be a reference to Ailes, the now-76-year-old Republican strategist-turned-television executive who drove Fox News programming decisions with resourcefulness, ruthlessness and shamelessness.
Despite Fox’s best efforts to hush the news around Ailes’ misconduct, the outlet’s own history of hate, misogyny, and smears speaks volumes about its forgotten creator.
Washington Post journalist Erik Wemple hammered Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly for defending his comments that slaves who built the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodgings,” lambasting both his “offensive” remarks and the “gap” between “historical fact” and O’Reilly’s assertions.
On July 26, O’Reilly responded to Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention Speech, where the first lady paid homage to the slaves who helped build the White House, by inexplicably adding that they were “well-fed and had decent lodgings by the government.” The media widely criticized O’Reilly’s “morally bankrupt” comments.
Washington Post’s Erik Wemple excoriated O’Reilly, noting that his remarks fit right in line with the “offensive style of broadcasting” that thrived under recently ousted former Fox President, Roger Ailes. Wemple noted that historians roundly criticized O’Reilly’s false claims, explaining that the real conditions of slaves were unknown because “slaves were not given a choice on what they ate or where they lived.” Wemple added that O’Reilly reached new “extremes” by lashing out at the “far left” and calling for his entire network “to band together … to call out the people who are actively trying to destroy this network” because “they want me dead.” From the July 28 Washington Post article:
Well, it’s been a week since Ailes left, and his offensive style of broadcasting lives on. On Wednesday night, host Bill O’Reilly took to the network’s airwaves to attempt a defense of his comments of last night regarding first lady Michelle Obama’s Monday night speech here at the Democratic National Convention. She said, in part, “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
As the Erik Wemple Blog pointed out this morning, Jesse J. Holland, who wrote the book on slaves and the White House, noted that the slaves were housed in a barn and were provided with food. Yet there’s a gap between that historical fact and what O’Reilly alleged, which, again, is that they were “well fed” and resided in “decent lodgings.”
Information scarcity notwithstanding, O’Reilly stands by his conclusions about well-fed-decent-lodgings. At this point, it’s incumbent on him to substantiate these judgments or concede that he’s making them without supporting documentation — a common malaise on certain Fox News programs. A smaller point pertains to O’Reilly’s sudden and complete faith in the ability of government to provide sustenance and accommodations for its people. Why does this guy, a small government proponent, all of a sudden think that the public sector can perform such programs with such efficiency?
Further evidence that O’Reilly has reached new extremes emerged in this comment: “I think the time has come now where this whole network is going to have to band together — all of us — and we are going to have to call out the people who are actively trying to destroy this network by using lies and deception and propaganda. We’re going to have to start to call them out by name because that’s how bad it’s become.” What O’Reilly failed to mention is that the sexual harassment scandal of his former boss — Ailes — is doing far more to destroy Fox News than could any outside critic.
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The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote that Fox News host Sean Hannity’s refusal to report negative news stories about presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- including Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech -- should disqualify him from anchoring the network’s coverage of the Republican National Convention.
Hannity has used his Fox News primetime show to defend Trump numerous times including backing him when media have called out Trump’s racist attacks, his delayed contributions to veterans, his unprecedented refusal to release his tax returns, his debunked conspiracy theories, various widely-criticized policy proposals, and for inflaming rhetoric at his campaign rallies. Media have criticized Hannity’s “unapologetic advocacy” for Trump, to which Hannity responded by asserting on his radio show, “I am not a journalist, I’m a talk show host.”
In a July 19 Washington Post article, Wemple wrote that while CNN and MSNBC reported that Melania Trump plagiarized parts of her convention-headlining speech, Hannity instead issued “pom-pom deployment,” “raving about Trump.” Hannity’s refusal to report bad news about Trump, Wemple wrote, makes him “the wrong guy for the anchor chair” during the convention. From Wemple’s article:
About 20 minutes after midnight, MSNBC anchors Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow announced a wee-hours breaking story. “We’ve had a remarkable turn of events,” said Maddow. “This started on social media. People on Twitter first started circulating some eyebrow-raising claims about Melania Trump’s speech this evening. That led us . . . to go dig up the archival material and check these claims, and it does appear that there are some unusual similarities, some unusual, very tight parallels between Melania Trump’s speech tonight and Michelle Obama’s speech in a similar position in the 2008 nominating convention for her husband, Barack Obama.”
Around that time, Fox News’s Sean Hannity was raving about Trump. “First of all, she’s an amazing woman ... smart, charming, kind nice.”
And so it went for the next half-hour. CNN and MSNBC went into cable-news monofocus, breaking down the issue in all of its particulars: Who wrote the speech? How did this happen? What are the implications?
Fox News viewers might not have known what was happening, because of Hannity. He was busy with non-Trump-speech-purloining material, including a chat with two mothers whose sons were killed by illegal immigrants and a panel on race. Signing off from his program, Hannity proclaimed that it had been a “great first night.” Such pom-pom deployment is what you might expect from Hannity, who is a self-professed Donald Trump supporter. So much so that he once orchestrated a round of applause from a live audience for Donald Trump’s proposal to ban entry by Muslims into the United States. Ever a transportation helper, Hannity flew Newt Gingrich to Indiana to meet with Trump as part of the vice-presidential interview process, according to CNN.
When bad news is breaking on the Trump campaign, in other words, Hannity is the wrong guy for the anchor chair.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called out Fox News host Sean Hannity for ignoring clear conflict of interest rules by furnishing a private jet for Donald Trump vice presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. Wemple explained that Hannity’s actions creates a “helpful case in point” for “anyone wishing to make the case that Fox News serves as an organ of the Republican Party.”
In a July 14 column, Wemple wrote that “Hannity apparently considers himself exempt from conflict-of-interest rules binding on the rest of the industry” because he is a “talk show” host. Wemple noted that despite Hannity assertions, Hannity is not exempt from those rules “as long as his employer continues to bill his program” as part of “Fox News.” Wemple concluded, “Anyone wishing to make that case that Fox News serves as an organ of the Republican Party just found a helpful case in point”:
Here come CNN’s Dana Bash and Dylan Byers with an authentic media-oriented exclusive: Newt Gingrich, a vice-presidential short-lister for Donald Trump’s campaign, flew out to Indianapolis on a private jet furnished by Fox News host Sean Hannity, the CNNers report. The purpose of the trip, which took place on Wednesday morning, was a meeting with Trump himself.
Hannity’s colleagues, of course, know full well that when you work for a news outlet, favors for friends who double as possible vice presidents are the entire organization’s business. Having previously protested that he’s a “talk show” host, Hannity apparently considers himself exempt from conflict-of-interest rules binding on the rest of the industry. He’s not, at least not as long as his employer continues to bill his program as depicted below. Focus on the red circle added to the screenshot:
See? It says “Fox News,” not “Fox Corrupt and Conflicted Talk Shows.” Anyone wishing to make that case that Fox News serves as an organ of the Republican Party just found a helpful case in point.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted how Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and chairman and CEO Roger Ailes have defended each other during scandals, with O’Reilly defending Ailes against sexual harassment allegations by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson.
In 2015, Media Matters reported on numerous inconsistent and false stories told by O’Reilly, including his claim that he witnessed a “firefight” in El Salvador and that he heard a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Veteran war reporters asserted that his misleading reports that he covered a riot where “many were killed” during the 1982 Falklands War violated “Journalism 101.” O’Reilly responded to these allegations by claiming that Fox News was under attack for political reasons.
In a July 13 appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, O’Reilly called Ailes “a target” and called Carlson’s lawsuit -- which alleged that Ailes suggested that Carlson have a “sexual relationship” with him and made “frequent sexually-charged comments” -- a “frivolous lawsuit.”
Wemple explained that Ailes similarly defended O’Reilly against allegations that he “either embellished or told falsehoods or outright lied about various reporting exploits” uncovered by Media Matters and Mother Jones. As O’Reilly’s past statements were being scrutinized, Ailes issued a statement that he “and all senior management are in full support of Bill O’Reilly”:
[O’Reilly] was saddened by the misfortune of the true victim here: “I’ve worked for Roger Ailes for 20 years. Best boss I’ve ever had. Straight shooter. Always honest with me. And I believe that over the years — he’s been in the business for 50 years — 95 percent of the people who have worked for Roger Ailes would say exactly the same thing I just told you,” said O’Reilly, leaving unanswered just what that other 5 percent might say. “In this country, every famous, powerful or wealthy person is a target. You’re a target,” he said to Meyers. “I’m a target. Anytime somebody could come out and sue us, attack us, go to the press or anything like that. Until America — and that’s a deplorable situation….adopts the English system of civil law whereby if you file a frivolous lawsuit and you lose, the judge has a right to make you pay all court costs. Until we adopt that very fair proposition, we’re going to have this out-of-control tabloid society that is tremendously destructive. I stand behind Roger 100 percent.”
It was just last year that O’Reilly’s own career appeared in doubt, as outlets like Mother Jones (disclosure: the wife of the Erik Wemple Blog works there as a staff writer) and Media Matters, among others, documented how O’Reilly had either embellished or told falsehoods or outright lied about various reporting exploits from his extensive career in journalism. The King of Cable News, it turned out, had a knack for placing himself closer to the action than his peers and colleagues recollected. The discrepancies were substantive, serial and damaging.
Not within Fox News, however. Whereas other network bosses might have fired up an internal investigation and declared that we take these allegations seriously, Ailes plied a different course. “Fox News Chairman & CEO Roger Ailes and all senior management are in full support of Bill O’Reilly,” asserted a statement from the network. Behind such defiance — not to mention angry and absurd denials by O’Reilly himself — the network waited out the siege. Media reporters eventually moved on to other topics. O’Reilly stayed in his seat, thanks to Ailes.
Now, on late-night television, he returns the favor. This is loyalty, Fox News style.
Several media outlets falsely reported that the final report released by Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi contained “new information,” when in fact all of the “key findings” in the report had been previously reported. Committee Republicans reportedly released “embargoed ‘exclusives’” strategically to manipulate reporters into presenting details in the releases as new information.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted that, among the various ethical concerns with CNN’s hiring of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, an ongoing defamation lawsuit involving Trump and Lewandowski could pose “another conflict of interest” for CNN’s new hire. Wemple wrote that Lewandowski’s hiring has “reduced” CNN to a “pitiful reality” in which they must warn viewers “that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised.”
On June 23, CNN hired Lewandowski as a “salaried” political commentator days after he had been fired as Trump’s campaign manager. CNN employees and other reporters immediately raised concerns both over potential ethical problems associated with Lewandowski’s hiring and the way Lewandowski has aggressively handled the press in the past.
Wemple noted possible conflicts of interest in a June 24 Washington Post article writing that an ongoing defamation suit against Trump and Lewandowski by a Republican consultant could be another “possible [source] of taint” for CNN’s arrangement. Wemple highlighted questions which have arisen about whether Trump is “footing the bill” for the both of them, noting how the “entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty” to provide analysis about Trump. Wemple added that this concern, among several others, is forcing other CNN employees interviewing Lewandowski “to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised.” Wemple ultimately wrote that “Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes”:
In his first appearance as a CNN contributor, former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski showed an unsurprising reverence for his ex-boss. Appearing last night with host Erin Burnett, Lewandowski was careful to refer to “Mr. Trump,” the proper honorific for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He leveled no criticisms of the candidate. And he said this, too: “I am fully committed in my private time with my family and my friends and telling everybody that I know that Donald Trump is the only person that is going to save this country for my children and hopefully their children someday.”
The hiring of Lewandowski, accordingly, has reduced CNN to this pitiful reality: A true journalist like Burnett is forced to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised. Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes.
Yet there are other possible sources of taint for Lewandowski and his former boss. These two fellows worked together on a presidential campaign for a year, gathering some enemies along the way. One of them is Cheri Jacobus, a Republican consultant and PR adviser.
A defamation suit filed by Jacobus in New York County claims that those representations are false. It was the Trump camp, contends Jacobus’s complaint, that wooed her. She’s seeking $4 million in damages, just for starters.
Why mention this suit in the context of Lewandowski’s work for CNN? Because both he and Trump are named as defendants in the civil action. And according to court documents, a single law firm — LaRocca Hornik Rosen Greenberg & Blaha — is representing both of these men. Defending a defamation suit can cost significant sums. This blog has asked the Trump campaign as well as Lewandowski how the pay arrangements are proceeding. Is Trump footing the bill? Is Lewandowski? Have there been any changes in how the costs are handled since Lewandowski left the campaign?
Inquiries to Lewandowski, the Trump campaign, CNN and the law firm haven’t yet fetched a single response.
Little extrapolation is required to appreciate how this entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty to call balls and strikes on CNN. If Trump is paying for legal representation, for instance, why would Lewandowski call a bunch of balls and imperil the arrangement?
Those considerations stand apart, of course, from another set of considerations: That Lewandowski, with a big assist from his boss, slimed someone who dared to criticize Trump — and comes away with the reward of a CNN contributor gig.