Joe Strupp

Author ››› Joe Strupp
  • Medical Experts: TV Doctors’ Diagnoses Of Clinton Are “Dangerous” And “Unethical”

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Medical experts and ethicists are harshly criticizing news outlets and doctors who continue to spread false conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s health, warning that such irresponsible “diagnoses” are both unprofessional and dangerous.

    Republican nominee Donald Trump and his campaign have been pushing the conspiracy theory that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is secretly suffering from severe health problems. Trump’s allies in the conservative media, including Fox News host Sean Hannity, have also promoted the Clinton health conspiracy theory.

    And even some medical professionals, like Dr. Drew Pinsky, have appeared in the media and attempted to diagnose health problems with Clinton.

    But medical experts, some who represent hundreds of medical professionals, are warning that trying to diagnose Clinton without having examined her or researched her entire medical history is simply wrong.

    “Diagnosing a person who is not your patient without ever examining that person or reviewing his or her entire medical record, signifies a huge ethical lapse on the part of a physician,” said Len Bruzzese, executive director of the Association of Health Care Journalists. “Shopping for doctors willing to do this anyway, signifies a huge ethical lapse on the part of a journalist.”

    “To attempt to diagnose an individual without that information does them a disservice and can harm the individual with an inaccurate label or diagnosis which can negatively impact them,” said Dr. Robert Wergin, chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Board of Directors. “It can lead to speculation regarding the individual that could be far from the truth."

    Dr. Art Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, said, “unless you believe in psychic diagnosis it is completely irresponsible and unprofessional to do it.”

    He later added, “The bottom line danger is you are likely to be wrong. Second, you are just playing along with the politics. That is what is driving this. They don’t care about these people, they are just calling doctors to push the partisanship. ... I think it's lousy journalism ethics. You shouldn’t be fostering the notion that somehow these are experts who can divine the health status of people they’ve never met, talked to, or have no sense of their medical history. It’s farcical and to indulge it is one more example of journalists not knowing how to cover this campaign.”

    Lawrence McGinty, chair of the Medical Journalists’ Association, a British medical association, called such diagnoses “dangerous.”

    “My advice to doctors would be simply ‘Don't.’ And as a TV news journalist for three decades, my advice to journalists would be, ‘Don't ask.’"

    Karl Stark, a Philadelphia Inquirer health and science journalist and president of the Association of Health Care Journalists, added, “Guessing may be a staple of astrology but it's bad for medicine and bad for journalism.”

    Andrew Holtz, a former CNN medical correspondent and editor of The Holtz Report, agreed: “When reporters call up a doctor and ask for something, like diagnosis by video clip, that is beyond their expertise, they should refuse to play along … and tell the reporter or producer why they can’t do it.”

    Dr. Paul K. Bronston, National Chairman of the Ethics and Professional Policy Committee of the American College of Medical Quality, is a veteran medical expert in legal matters. He said such an approach would be dangerous in court, let alone on television.

    “I think it’s outrageous and it's irresponsible and it's unethical,” Bronston said of the unauthorized opinions. “They have no business doing that if they haven’t reviewed their medical records, haven’t listened to appropriate doctors who are taking care of her, and they have to have the requisite specialty to comment on that.”

    He cited Dr. Drew Pinsky’s recent claims as an example of one of the worst offenders.

    “I am very concerned about Dr. Drew making medical evaluations and a diagnosis regarding Hillary Clinton’s alleged medical problems in areas outside his medical expertise,” Bronston said. “I also believe that he would probably be disqualified to give medical testimony in certain areas of Hillary’s medical condition in a California court. What he is doing is unethical.”

    Jonathan Moreno, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, also cited doctor-patient ethics.

    “Ethically, unless you have entered into a therapeutic relationship with a patient, you are not supposed to diagnose their medical condition,” he said. “And if you do that you are not supposed to reveal it under the doctor-patient relationship. It doesn’t do the profession any favors when you do these things.”

    Dr. Richard Allen Williams, president of the National Medical Association, which represents African-American doctors, noted Trump’s role in the spread of accusations about Clinton.

    “In the case of the particular political campaigns, it seems that most of the commentary regarding one’s health status has flowed from the Trump side to the Clinton side,” Williams said. “We do not see that as action that would be warranted and it is unethical from the standpoint of someone making a medical comment without having examined the individual or having knowledge of that person.”

  • Experts: “The Line Between Trump And The Extreme Right Has Just Gone From Fuzzy To Virtually Non-Existent”

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Organizations and activists that monitor extremism on the right are warning about the implications of the Trump campaign’s hiring of Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon, saying the move signals that “the line between Trump and the extreme right has just gone from fuzzy to virtually non-existent.”

    Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Bannon would be joining his campaign as its new chief executive; Bannon is reportedly taking a leave of absence from the aggressively pro-Trump Breitbart News site while he works for the campaign. As CNN’s Brian Stelter explained, Bannon’s hiring indicates that “we're going to see the most fringy ideas, the most right-wing ideas bubble up to the surface in a way we haven't even seen before in this election.” 

    Several experts on hate and extremism in conservative circles tell Media Matters that the Bannon move is troubling and exemplifies the Trump campaign’s full embrace of ugly nativism. 

    “Breitbart News consistently provides a platform for extremist voices, most notably anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim figures. But since 2015, Breitbart has gone one step further -- championing the racist rhetoric of the alternative-right while at the same time singing the praises of Donald Trump,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. She added, “Trump’s move to hire Breitbart’s Steve Bannon is not surprising considering the media outlet’s steadfast support of the GOP nominee. With this move, the line between Trump and the extreme right has just gone from fuzzy to virtually non-existent.”

    Lindsay Schubiner, senior program manager at the national research and advocacy organization Center for New Community, also highlighted how Breitbart News “has provided a high-profile outlet for virulently nativist individuals for years.” According to Schubiner, “With Bannon now at the helm, Trump is likely to double down on his provocative and openly bigoted appeals for support. Bringing Bannon on board can be seen as a clear rebuke of RNC officials' efforts to encourage Trump to moderate his tone in the pivot to the general election.”

    She concluded, “In other words, Bannon’s hire represents a full-stop embrace of the dangerous and virulent nativism on which Trump has predicated his campaign since day one.”

    Center for American Progress Action Fund senior fellow Henry Fernandez raised questions about Breitbart’s embrace of the “alt-right” movement, “an extremist branch of conservatism that includes white nationalists and anti-Semites,” and said the Bannon hire “may indicate a willingness to further engage with these groups.”

    Fernandez also pointed out that Breitbart News has been "going after conservatives for calling out anti-Semitism and racism," which suggests the Bannon hiring is both a potential embrace of alt-right extremists and also about "sending a signal within the conservative movement about conservatives who are willing to stand up and say this is a real problem."

    Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, called the hiring a “perfect match”: “It is the clearest indication possible that Trump has no intention of taking a higher road between now and Election Day. In some ways this is a perfect match because Breitbart traffics in the same kind of half-truths and falsehoods and attacks on people who disagree with them.”

  • Former Breitbart News Spokesman Rails Against New Trump CEO: A "Pathological Liar"

    Kurt Bardella: Campaign Is About To Become More "Dangerous," "Combative," And "Divisive"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Former Breitbart News spokesman Kurt Bardella says his old boss Stephen Bannon, who yesterday took a leave of absence from the right-wing news site to serve as chief executive of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, is a “pathological liar” whose hiring signals a “dangerous" and “combative” turn for the campaign.

    Bardella served as a spokesman for Breitbart News from 2013 to early 2016. He cut ties after Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields accused then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of grabbing her arm.

    He said then he objected to Breitbart’s treatment of Fields, whose accounts of the incident were questioned by Breitbart News LLC CEO Bannon. She eventually left the website.

    “It signals a dangerous and, even more so, combative and divisive turn,” Bardella told Media Matters about the hiring of Bannon by Trump. “It’s an indication that this campaign, as negative as it has been, is going to be even more so going forward. If the media thought that their relationship with the Trump campaign was challenging before this, it’s going to be 10 times worse now."

    Indeed, Breitbart News' editorial stance has been defined by its bigotry and sycophantic coverage of Donald Trump. 

    Bardella also described Bannon as a “pathological liar who has a temperament that governs by bullying and intimidation and functions very much like a dictator at Breitbart.”

    He said voters should take note of what this says about Trump’s judgement and approach as a leader.

    “If anything, it is an indication of the types of people that Trump will listen to, and when people vote in November they need to measure that very seriously, that this is becoming an escalatingly dangerous situation for our country,” Bardella said. “And I don’t mean that in a hyperbolic sense. It is incredibly troubling that one of the people that is going to have the most influence with the would-be commander in chief is someone like that. If you thought Trump’s temperament and proclivity for saying outrageous things and saying things for shock value, that is just the tip of the iceberg when you have someone like Bannon running the show.”

    He later added, “For those who didn’t enjoy working for Corey Lewandowski because of his temperament, Stephen Bannon makes Corey look like a golden doodle."

    Asked what this will mean to the campaign and those who cover it, Bardella said, “Anyone who works for that campaign should be ready for regularly scheduled profanity-laced tirades against them.”

  • Journalists At The RNC: The Trump Campaign’s Press Treatment Raises “Serious Questions” About How President Trump Would Treat The Media

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Journalists at this week’s Republican National Convention warn that the Trump campaign’s treatment of the press raises serious questions about how his administration would treat the media, with one calling the Republican nominee a “dictator-in-waiting.”

    The Republican nominee and his campaign have waged a long-running war on the press, including banning critical outlets from events, promising to “open up our libel laws” if Trump is elected, and regularly personally insulting reporters.

    In interviews with Media Matters at the RNC, several journalists criticized Trump's approach to the media. 

    “He’s a dictator-in-waiting, it doesn’t surprise me the way he is,” Foreign Policy Initiative fellow and former New Republic reporter James Kirchick said. 

    Kriston Capps, a writer for The Atlantic, said Trump “despises [the press], but he can’t break an addiction to the press.” He added, “I think it would be a huge change in tone for the United States; to have a president calling people liars for doing their jobs would be unprecedented.”

    Trump’s press treatment has been the subject of widespread criticism, including from journalism rights groups that have warned a Trump presidency could curtail press freedom and former White House press secretaries who think Trump might poison White House press relations.

    “My assumption is that a Trump presidency will see the same kind of behavior that we have seen in the past 10 months and 10 years,” said Jeff Greenfield, an Emmy Award-winning journalist. “It becomes very difficult [to continue that behavior] when you are the chief executive of the United States, that’s when you get some very serious questions.”

    Jim Payne, a news anchor for WESH, NBC’s Orlando, FL, affiliate, argued that Trump “demonizes the media and blames us for not getting the message out the way he wants it.” He added, “But he needs the media. Most of what he is proposing goes against the constitution anyway.”

    Philadelphia Sunday Sun journalist Denise Clay said: “In order to be an effective president, it would help if you knew how the Constitution works. When Mr. Trump made the remark that he would make it easier to sue [reporters] and make it harder for reporters to do their job, he doesn’t know the First Amendment.”

  • “The End Of This Fox”: Journalists At The Republican Convention React To News Of Ailes’ Likely Departure

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Journalists covering the Republican National Convention expressed surprise over the news that Roger Ailes is reportedly negotiating his exit from Fox News due to ongoing fallout from a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson, with one saying his departure could mean “the end” of this version of Fox News.

    In a chaotic series of events Tuesday afternoon, The Drudge Report splashed a headline on its website beneath its signature breaking news siren announcing an “Exclusive” that Ailes was leaving Fox News. The news was quickly confirmed by the network to The Daily Beast, only to subsequently be walked back. Drudge soon pulled his “Exclusive” headline as conflicting reports emerged over Ailes’ status. The New York Times reported on Tuesday night, “Mr. Ailes and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent company, are in the advanced stages of discussions that would lead to his departure as chairman.”

    As the news was unfolding, Media Matters discussed Ailes’ apparently imminent departure with several journalists attending BuzzFeed’s “Red, White & Blacklisted” party at the Republican National Convention (which was held to highlight the Trump campaign’s penchant for denying press credentials to critical media outlets).

    It means the end of this Fox,” said Washington Post writer Erik Wemple, who frequently criticizes Fox News for its coverage and regular ethical lapses. “But we don’t really know what is Ailes’ day-to-day impact to the organization, if his lieutenants can carry it forward. What matters to me is that they did this because of internal consideration, not journalism.”

    Michael Calderone, senior media reporter for The Huffington Post, told Media Matters Ailes’ exit could drastically change the network: “We’re going to see probably a very different Fox News in a couple of years. You may not want to tear it down, but now we are imagining a future without him. It could change dramatically.”

    Stephen A. Nuño, an NBC News Latino contributor and associate professor at Northern Arizona University, wondered if the network “may actually do news now.” He continued, “Fox has a business model that seems to work. If he leaves, I don’t know what that does to the business model.”

    Daily Beast deputy social media editor Asawin Suebsaeng pointed out that “It’s so rare that powerful men are held accountable.”

    Several journalists were skeptical Ailes’ likely departure would harm Fox News, though.

    “He created Fox, but there are others who can continue that vision,” said Alfonso Aguilar, a political commentator and the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. He added, “Fox will continue to grow. People don’t watch Fox because of Roger Ailes.”

    One staffer for rival network CNN claimed Fox’s future success will hinge solely on the quality of its programming: “If they maintain the same mandate, they still will have the audience. If the quality plummets, they won’t. How many people watch Fox News for Roger Ailes?”

    "I don’t think anything means the end of Fox, but who knows," Shani Hilton, executive editor for Buzzfeed News told Media Matters. 

    “Fox will go on; it doesn’t just die,” said Deadspin and GQ writer Drew Magary. 

  • RNC Rally Attendees Explain How Alex Jones Sold Them On President Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Fans of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones who attended Monday’s pro-Trump RNC rally in Cleveland say Jones’ avid support for Trump helped convince them to back the real estate mogul’s presidential campaign.

    On Monday, Jones spoke at the “America First Unity Rally” co-hosted by longtime Trump adviser and Jones friend Roger Stone. Jones and Stone for months teamed up to promote the rally, which was originally billed as a gathering to stop Republican elites from “stealing” the nomination from Trump.

    Jones is probably America’s leading conspiracy theorist, having helped launch the conspiracy that the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job” by the U.S. government. Jones also promotes toxic conspiracies about government involvement in a wide range of national tragedies, including the Oklahoma City bombing and the mass shootings in Aurora, CO, and Sandy Hook, CT.

    Jones has actively promoted Trump’s candidacy, and the Trump campaign has returned the favor by courting Jones’ audience, including Trump appearing on Jones’ show last December and praising the host’s “amazing” reputation.   

    Several Jones fans that heeded his calls to attend the “Unity” rally credit the radio host with bringing them into Trump’s camp.

    “It definitely caused me to look at Trump more,” said Frank Constantino, a Jones listener from Elyria, Ohio, who joined others at the rally in Cleveland’s Settler’s Landing Monday, just blocks from the Republican National Convention location. “I was not a fan of Trump, I was not a fan for a while. But when I looked at what we have, it was an easy choice for me.”

    Emmy Andersen, a Jones listener from New Hampshire, agreed: “He’s doing a real good job in Trump support. Jones has definitely helped Trump.”

    For Jones fan Jared McGregor, the talk show host’s push for Trump changed his mind. “I was not fully on board [with Trump] until I spent some time listening [to Jones],” he said. “I’ve been following Alex Jones for a long time.”

    Staged just a few feet from the Cuyahoga River, the rally included appearances by Jones and Stone, but not together.

    The crowd included gun-toting Trump supporters who took advantage of Ohio’s open carry law. Several said Jones helped them into the Trump camp.

    “A lot of Jones supporters are going to vote for Trump,” said Sam Kuric of Pennsylvania with a handgun strapped to his side. “I like how he wants to protect our borders.”

    His friend Derrick Leeds, also carrying a sidearm, echoed that view. “He’s taking people away from Hillary,” Leeds said of Trump. “I think the mainstream media holds a lot back from the facts.”

    Al Baldasaro, a Trump delegate from New Hampshire, where he is a state legislator, said of Jones’ Trump support: “I think he did an awesome job.”

    Corrogan Vaughn, a Maryland Trump delegate who is running for Congress against Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, said the fact that a white nationalist website had been a sponsor of the event did not matter to him. (The website dropped its sponsorship after it was reported by Media Matters.) “Everyone talks about white supremacists, black supremacists, this is America. It doesn’t say anything.”   

  • What Indiana Journalists Want You To Know About Mike Pence

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Donald Trump is reportedly set to announce Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate. Pence has had a “divisive” tenure as governor thanks in part to his efforts to limit reproductive rights in his home state and his support for a controversial “religious freedom” bill that could have given businesses license to discriminate against LGBT people, according to Indiana journalists who have covered him for years.

    In interviews with Media Matters in recent days, several Indiana journalists highlighted that Pence currently sports a low favorability rating for an incumbent Republican in the state. Most of his support problems stem from a handful of unpopular policies, the first being an attempt to create what amounted to a government-run news service in 2013 in which the state would have sought to collect and filter news for reporters.

    “The state tried to create this misnamed statewide news service called Just In that would essentially consolidate a lot of the state news services and give the governor an opportunity to put his spin on the kind of stories that should be covered,” recalled Ed Feigenbaum, who writes the popular Indiana Legislative Insight newsletter.

    “Unfortunately, the media got a hold of the memo and the content before he was able to define it. His people were poorly equipped to respond to that, it was really the first misstep of his governorship.”

    After that idea was dropped, Pence found himself at the center of a nationwide controversy for signing legislation that was widely viewed as an opportunity to “make it easier for religious conservatives to refuse service to gay couples.”

    The anti-LGBT law, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, was enacted more than a year ago, but was quickly amended to mitigate the law's impact after it caused a firestorm. But reporters say the anger it sparked from residents and business leaders still has not subsided. Many were upset when it sparked boycotts of local events and caused some major companies to rethink expansion plans in Indiana.

    “It’s something that has cost him support, has cost him campaign contributions,” said Jim Shella, a political reporter at WISH-TV in Indianapolis. “RFRA was seen as a threat to the business community here. It’s caused him to lose support from Republicans, from donors and certainly made him a divisive character here from the perspective of Democrats and a lot of independents.”

    More recently, he championed an abortion bill that was seen as among the strictest in the country and even drew complaints from some Republicans in the state legislature, according to reporters.

    The law, which was recently blocked by a federal judge following a legal challenge by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, includes provisions that would bar abortions sought due to genetic abnormalities and require that all fetal remains from abortions or miscarriages at any stage of pregnancy be buried or cremated.

    “With the RFRA debate here and the latest abortion bill, it definitely has solidified his support on the conservative side,” said Niki Kelly, a 17-year statehouse reporter for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. “But it also abandoned some of the moderates and independents and made it tough for him here.”

    Shella agreed: “Even some of the people who voted for the bill predicted it was unconstitutional. There were a number of pro-life Republican women who got up to speak against the bill in the Indiana state House of Representatives."

    Several Hoosier State reporters say Pence, who has been in office since 2013 after a decade in Congress, is not always forthcoming to reporters beyond talking points.

    “It is hard to get a direct answer out of him,” said Zach Osowski, statehouse reporter for the Evansville Courier & Press.He comes up with what he wants to say and he sticks to it. It’s frustrating for some people. It’s kind of robotic.”

    Osowski said national reporters should know “he is going to stick to the talking points. If he is picked, [the Trump campaign] will pick how to approach things and he will not deviate from that, he is a hard-line party guy.”

    Brandon Smith, statehouse bureau chief for Indiana Public Broadcasting, agreed.

    “He sticks to his talking points, but he does it almost to his own detriment,” said Smith. “When he needs to break from those and give a real answer, he seems unwilling or perhaps even unable to do that. … It’s been frustrating for us because you only get one or two lines from him and they don’t change.”

    Due to a state law, Pence will now have to abandon his reelection campaign this year, though state reporters say he might be glad to given the current state of the race.

    He is polling in the 40% range and is in “a virtual dead heat” with Democrat John Gregg, a former state speaker of the house whom he beat four years ago.

    “For a guy to be a solid Republican and in a state that is solidly red running against a guy that he beat four years ago and he’s in trouble in the polls tells me he’s been divisive,” said Shella of WISH-TV. “His leadership is being questioned.”

    Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting said those issues and Pence’s general approach has lowered his popularity.

    “While he was highly-regarded coming into the job of governor, the perception has been that his handling of the job of governor has not been great,” said Smith. “While he is leading in most polls, he is struggling and not leading by that much. His unfavorables are higher than his favorables. In such a Republican state as Indiana … it says that the perception of him as governor has not been favorable.”

  • Veterans’ Groups Call Out The NRA: "Don't Use Our Dead To Score Political Points"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Veterans’ groups are criticizing the National Rifle Association for releasing a pro-Donald Trump ad that was apparently filmed at a national cemetery in violation of government policy, calling for the ad to be taken down and accusing the gun group of “using our dead to score political points.”

    The ad, launched Thursday by the NRA Political Victory Fund, features veteran Mark Geist –- a survivor of the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks -- as he walks in and stands in front of a national cemetery; the graves of military personnel are featured prominently.

    During the ad, Geist attacks the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, saying, “Hillary as President? No thanks. I served in Benghazi. My friends didn’t make it. They did their part. Do yours.” The ad ends with a graphic supporting Trump.

    As ABC News reported, the ad is in apparent violation of Department of Veterans Affairs’ “strict prohibition of filming campaign ads on national cemetery property that contains the graves of military personnel, veterans and their spouses.”

    Jessica Schiefer, public affairs officer for the National Cemetery Administration, told Media Matters the NRA did not seek permission to film at a national cemetery, and that they would have rejected the request had they received one.

    “To date, the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration (NCA) has not received or approved any filming requests of this nature,” she said via email. “NCA did not receive a request from the NRA to film the subject advertisement. If we had received such a request, we would have denied it based on the partisan content. Partisan activities are prohibited on national cemetery grounds as they are not compatible with preserving the dignity and tranquility of the national cemeteries as national shrines."

    She added, “As always, our Veterans, their families and survivors are our top priority. To maintain the sanctity and decorum of VA National Cemeteries as national shrines, our filming policy states that filming may not be used for the expression of partisan or political viewpoints, or for uses that are (or may be interpreted as) an endorsement of a commercial entity.”

    NRA officials did not respond to several requests for comment, but told ABC News the ad was filmed outside of the cemetery, although they declined to reveal where exactly it was made. (The NRA’s attempt to claim the ad was filmed “outside” the cemetery makes little sense, considering Geist is shown walking among headstones.)

    In addition to the apparent violation of government policy, the NRA ad has triggered outrage among some veterans groups, who contend it is improper. 

    “Don’t use our dead to score political points,” Joe Davis, a Veterans of Foreign Wars national spokesman and an Air Force veteran of Desert Storm, told Media Matters. “We fought for everybody’s First Amendment rights and everything, but we don’t want any candidate using our dead to score political points.”

    Jon Soltz, an Iraq War Veteran and chairman of, responded with a statement that said, "This ad should be taken down immediately. It is insensitive to those buried at the cemetery -- most, if not all, of whom died before Benghazi, and many of whom may not have been NRA supporters. Further, it violates Veterans Affairs policy. It should be taken down."

    Despite apparently violating government policy, there is no indication the NRA plans to pull the advertisement, which is reportedly being backed by $2 million and is scheduled to run in several key battleground states over the next two weeks.

    In contrast to the NRA, several previous political ads that aired images and footage from national cemeteries were either altered or removed. In 1999, Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign aired an ad featuring unauthorized footage filmed at Arlington National cemetery -- the campaign apologized and recut the ad to remove the footage. More recently, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) pulled a 2014 ad that was filmed at a North Dakota veterans’ cemetery.

  • Media Experts Rip CNN For “Profoundly Disturbing” Lewandowski Hiring

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Veteran journalists and media ethicists are slamming CNN for hiring former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as a paid contributor, saying his hostile treatment of the press and the lack of clarity over whether he signed a non-disparagement agreement with the campaign make his hiring a “new high of immorality.”

    Lewandowksi, who was fired by Trump on June 20, has long had a troubling relationship with reporters, including being investigated by police in March after grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields, threatening to pull credentials of CNN’s own Noah Gray, and being accused of making “unwanted romantic advances” and “sexually suggestive and at times vulgar comments to -- and about -- female journalists.”

    CNN has already been widely criticized for hiring Lewandowski. In interviews with Media Matters, several media observers and veteran journalists added their voices to the chorussaying the move raises ethical issues and harms CNN’s credibility.

    “CNN’s decision to hire Lewandowski is problematic in a number of ways,” said Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former editor of The Miami Herald. “First, and perhaps most important, is his failure to respond to the question about signing a non-disparagement agreement, which can only be interpreted as meaning that he did sign one.”

    Lewandowski was asked in his first interview as an official CNN contributor whether he signed such an agreement, and he dodged the question.

    “Unless and until he can counter that interpretation, he must be perceived as being totally compromised in his commentary -- put bluntly, a Trump shill,” Fiedler added. “But even putting that issue aside, the fact that CNN would give a prominent platform (not to mention a paycheck) to an individual whose personal and professional behavior includes bullying and misogyny at best and assault at worst, baffles me. Can his insights into the presidential campaign and into the candidates be so valuable as to enable CNN to overlook this well-documented record?” 

    Former CNN White House correspondent Frank Sesno, who is currently director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, said hiring Lewandowski is different from other former political operatives joining a network.

    “In this case, CNN has hired an outspoken adversary of journalism,” Sesno said. “Someone who has challenged its role, attacked reporters and represented a candidate who was openly hostile to journalism and the First Amendment itself.”

    Paul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University and author of the book New New Mediasaid hiring Lewandowski “is a new high of immorality in the relationship between our media and our political system.”

    He later added, “It would be one thing if he had just been fired for whatever reason, things happen. As we know, and CNN covering all of the details, Corey Lewandowski was investigated" for the incident with Fields. "The police got into it, it was a serious issue and that combined with the fact that Lewandowski’s relationship with the Trump campaign even now isn’t clear.”

    For Tim McGuire, former Arizona State University media professor and past president of American Society of News Editors, CNN’s hiring of Lewandowski is “profoundly disturbing. The terms of that agreement are crucial. If it truly is a non-disparagement agreement this hire is totally wrong.”

    Clark Hoyt, former New York Times public editor and one-time Washington Bureau chief for Knight Ridder, said he was “surprised that any news organization with aspirations to credibility would hire Cory Lewandowski in any capacity.”

    Hoyt also said, “His well-documented hostility to journalists and the role of a free press aside, he comes to his new role as a paid political commentator bound by some kind of contract with Donald Trump. Whether it contains a non-disparagement clause or not, it bars Lewandowski from disclosing exactly the kind of information that a news network should be trying to get to help inform voters. CNN ought to put up a disclaimer every time he appears on camera.”

  • How The Media Helped Donald Trump Boost His Candidacy

    Harvard Professor Gives Insight Into New Shorenstein Report About How The Media Helped Trump And Hurt Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The author of a new Harvard study on the media’s coverage of the presidential primary says the press clearly helped Donald Trump on his path to becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.

    This week, Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy released a detailed report on the media’s coverage of the presidential race in 2015, the year leading up to the first primaries. The study found that “Trump is arguably the first bona fide media-created presidential nominee. Although he subsequently tapped a political nerve, journalists fueled his launch."

    The study’s author, Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson, told Media Matters in an interview that the massive amount of Trump coverage -- as well as its largely positive tone -- predated Trump’s rise in the polls and “helped position him to make a stronger run.”

    “In the past, to get a lot of coverage pre-Iowa you had to be pretty high in the polls, and they started to give him heavy coverage when he was way down there, in the single digits,” Patterson said in an interview. “It is virtually impossible when you go back through all the races before 2016 when you were in a multi-candidate field and you were down where he was you are almost an afterthought to journalists.”

    The study looked at coverage of the candidates prior to the caucus and primary votes by Fox News, CBS, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

    Equating the Trump coverage to advertising dollars, Patterson’s report found that Trump received about $55 million worth of positive and neutral coverage in the eight outlets studied, well ahead of the second place candidate, Jeb Bush, at $36 million.

    “It’s gold, it works in every way in [his] favor,” Patterson said. “As you start to go up in the polls, there is a circular pattern, you can raise money and it becomes easier to pull voters into your column. What was abnormal was this extraordinary amount of attention Trump got early on even though he did not appear on paper to be a credible candidate. He was far down in the polls, but he made statements that made for great stories.”

    The study found that all eight of the news outlets studied gave Trump predominantly positive or neutral coverage, from The New York Times, where 63% of stories about Trump were positive or neutral, to USA Today, which led the way with 74%.

    By the same token, Clinton received largely negative coverage across the eight news outlets during 2015. The report argues of this disparity, "Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump, it helped tear down Clinton. Trump’s positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end." 

    Patterson pointed to reporting on Clinton's use of a private email account while secretary of state and Republicans' ongoing focus on the 2012 Benghazi attacks as two of the most negatives stories.

    “In her case, the emails and the questions about the emails, how big an issue is this actually, that was a big part of her coverage,” Patterson said. “Benghazi was a bigger part of the news early on and then she had that day-long session with Congress that a lot of people thought she did quite well with. Of all the candidates of recent decades who have been front-runners, she has had the strongest headwinds of negative coverage.”

    But Patterson said the press may have over-covered the email issue and failed to put it in proper context.

    “How big an issue is the email controversy in the context of the candidate’s preparedness and ability to be president of the states?” he asked. “I think you would get some who say it is a molehill into a mountain. My own sense is that as a standalone issue the emails are pretty small potatoes in the realm of presidential preparedness. It has been a common practice in Congress and among cabinet officers to combine them one way or another. She is not an outlier on this and you could ask why the press has not brought that part of the story into it.”

    Patterson added that even apart from those controversies, Clinton’s “substantive issue coverage was more negative than the other candidates.”

    Despite the helping hand the media gave Trump during the primaries, Patterson notes that “in the past few weeks, Trump has gotten the kind of press scrutiny that if it had come earlier it would have been a drag of some kind on his candidacy, perhaps enough to make it hard for him to go into the convention with a majority.”