As Donald Trump continues to wage a public fight with Fox News, several of his GOP primary rivals spoke with Media Matters at this weekend's Values Voter Summit about his feud with the conservative network and media coverage of the Republican primary.
Trump and Fox have been in a back and forth fight for much of the past two months. Last week, Trump announced that he was planning to boycott Fox News "for the foreseeable future" because the network has supposedly been treating him "very unfairly." Fox chief Roger Ailes and other "senior Fox editorial executives" are reportedly set to meet with Trump this week in an effort to smooth things over.
"All you have to do is look at the airtime, look at the airtime," former Fox News contributor Rick Santorum told Media Matters when asked about the Trump effect.
As Media Matters has documented, despite Trump's regular complaints about Fox's coverage of his campaign, he has dominated his Republican rivals in interview airtime on the network. From May through August, Trump garnered 10 hours and 21 minutes of interview airtime, more than three times as much as Santorum, who had just over 3 hours.
Asked by Media Matters when he would return to Fox, Trump said, "We'll see, we'll see. They have to treat me fairly and I'm sure they will. I'm sure they will."
Such a return is likely to keep the overwhelming media focus on Trump, prompting mixed reactions from his rivals.
"They're like a moth drawn to the flame," South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said about Fox's Trump coverage. "You can't help but cover it."
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal objected to candidates decrying media coverage, saying, "Any Republican or conservative that complains about the media, I think that's foolishness. There's nothing you can do about that, go out and talk directly to voters. "
While he was critical of Trump, Jindal conceded that he is "great for ratings."
"I've said over and over I think Trump is an egomaniac, he's not a conservative, he's not a liberal, he's not an independent," Jindal said. "He only believes in himself, I think he's great entertainment, he's great for ratings."
Former Fox News employee Dr. Ben Carson indicated he was happy with Fox News' primary coverage so far, telling Media Matters, "I've never had any problems with Fox News, I don't feel any problem, I am happy with what's going on."
Carson has good reason to be happy. Earlier this month, New York magazine reporter and Roger Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman reported that Ailes "has been impressed by Carson, a former Fox pundit, and is promoting his candidacy inside the network." Sherman also quoted an anonymous Fox personality telling him, "Roger has told producers to push Carson and put him on whenever he wants to go on."
Ron Reagan is discounting Bill O'Reilly's newest book, Killing Reagan, calling O'Reilly a "snake oil salesman" who doesn't care about truth.
O'Reilly's Killing Reagan, the latest in his ongoing series with co-author Martin Dugard, was released on September 22. Their previous books have repeatedly been called out for shoddy scholarship.
"Bill O'Reilly is not somebody who as far as I can tell really invests a lot of time or energy in the truth," Reagan told Media Matters in a phone interview on Monday. "He's a snake oil salesman, he's a huckster, he's a carnival barker, but that's about it. He's not a journalist. I don't consider him to be that. Is it annoying when anyone writes crap about your parents or your family members, loved ones? Yeah."
The president's son also criticized many of today's conservative commentators and presidential candidates for invoking his father's name and legacy to support their own views.
"It bothers me, yes, that they're using him for whatever purpose they have in mind," Reagan said. "They'll just take whatever idea they have and they'll just slap his name on it and hope that that just gets them over. Certainly I don't feel good about that. I don't pay all that much mind to it any more than I pay to, say, Bill O'Reilly's forays into history."
Reagan, who was 22 when his father was shot in 1981 by John Hinckley, Jr., said he was not aware of the book about the failed assassination attempt, telling Media Matters, "I didn't know my father was the next one to get killed in Mr. O'Reilly's universe."
According to Reagan, he's "not interested in his theories," so he does not plan to read O'Reilly's book.
Reagan thinks his father would have had a harsh view of prominent conservative media figures. "I can't imagine that he wouldn't have found them bigoted, homophobic and all the rest as they appear to be," he said. "I also think that he would find people like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity to be just hucksters. I don't think that he would be impressed by their sincerity or their intellect. I don't think that either one of them are really serious about what they say."
He also criticized the candidates for pandering to conservative media figures, something he says his father would not have done.
According to Reagan, "Unlike a lot of politicians today, he didn't need the imprimatur of some talk show host, he was very much his own man. He wouldn't be worrying about what Rush Limbaugh said about him."
The president's son said it's wrong for many of the Republican candidates and right-wing media figures to assume Reagan would have agreed with them.
"Most of the people who claim to be his followers have never even met him, never knew him," the junior Reagan said. "You see that a lot. Did Ted Cruz hang out with my father? I don't think so. The broader issue I think is the Republican Party now has become a very different animal than it was when my father was president. It doesn't make sense either to start bringing up my father -- who left office a quarter of a century ago -- and styling yourself as you'd like people to think after him. They're always asking themselves 'what would Ronald Reagan do?' in these circumstances and miraculously it always turns out that he would do exactly what they were intending to do; so clearly they're just using him to sort of validate whatever policy they have in mind."
He also agreed with the view of many observers that his father would not be welcomed into the Republican Party of today.
"That's true if you compare his record then with their rhetoric and policies now, it would seem that Ronald Reagan really wouldn't be a good fit," he said. "That's absolutely right. I don't see him being more conservative now than he was then. I don't see him if he had lived to be 100 and whatever continuing a progression in his politics that mirrors that of the Republican Party today -- it is a mean-spirited party.
"But more than that it's a party that's no longer a legitimate political party because it's forsaken any interest in governance. This is a party that when Obama came into office, of course, [party leaders] famously met ... and said 'we're going to oppose everything he does, even if it's things that we want to do, we're going to oppose it because the best way to get him out of office in four years is to just make it seem as if he can't do anything.' So that's what they set out to do, screw the country. They didn't care about that."
Asked about Reagan's immigration views, for example, his son said, "He had no hostility towards Latinos, Hispanics. He admired their culture, enjoyed it very much ... There was no kind of xenophobia of that type in him. He would've I'm sure said, 'we have a right to control our borders' and things like that and if there were issues with people just flooding across the border that that was something that needed to be dealt with but he was not hostile toward these people ... He would have been looking for a sensible, workable solution for this, not relying on the kind of jingoistic, bigoted stuff that you hear coming from Donald Trump and some of the others."
On gun violence, Reagan thinks his father would disapprove of how far to the right the National Rifle Association has driven the party on the issue, saying, "This is an instance where they have simply moved so far beyond him that he couldn't stomach it anymore ... I think he would see the NRA as becoming extremist and I think he would probably recognize as well, I'd like to hope so anyway, that they're really just shills for the gun industry."
Reagan also thinks his father would not have approved of Republicans' recent threats to shut down the government: "I think he'd be appalled actually at ... the idea of shutting down the government because you want to defund Planned Parenthood. What are these, children? As if government doesn't do anything good."
A major advertiser is distancing itself from Jan Mickelson's radio show. Last month, the Iowa radio host caused widespread controversy by suggesting undocumented immigrants should "become property of the state" if they do not leave.
Hy-Vee, a Des Moines-based grocery store chain that boasts more than 230 stores in eight states, revealed it has asked WHO radio, Mickelson's employer, to stop promoting the company on his show.
"Hy-Vee has asked WHO Radio to no longer air the recorded announcement referencing the Hy-Vee studio name during the Jan Mickelson show," Tara Deering-Hansen, Hy-Vee's Group Vice President, Communications, said in a statement issued Friday. "We have also instructed WHO Radio to no longer air pre-recorded Hy-Vee commercials during his program. We will continue our overall sponsorship with WHO Radio. And we will continue to own the naming rights to the studio, which is governed by a legal contract that does not specify the sponsoring of Mickelson's show. As with all programming, we neither support nor endorse the views expressed by a show's host or listeners."
Despite Hy-Vee's statement, an advertisement for the company recorded by WHO hosts Van and Bonnie aired on today's edition of Mickelson's program. Hy-Vee told Media Matters they are "checking into" what happened.
The move away from Mickelson's show comes after the host laid out a plan on his August 17 program that included posting signs warning undocumented immigrants they would "become property of the state" if they did not leave before a chosen deadline.
He said, in part, "So if you are here without our permission, and we have given you two months to leave, and you're still here, and we find that you're still here after we we've given you the deadline to leave, then you become property of the State of Iowa. And we have a job for you. And we start using compelled labor, the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability and we start inventing jobs for them to do."
A second advertiser is also taking steps to distance its brand from Mickelson. When contacted by Media Matters about its ad running on Mickelson's program, a representative for Bankers Trust said, "I believe there has been a misunderstanding, as we have not been an advertiser on Mr. Mickelson's show. When we were made aware that an ad was aired by mistake we notified the station. We were assured it would not happen again."
It was a big week for Jessica Mendoza, who became the first woman to work a Major League Baseball broadcast for ESPN. And she did it twice.
On August 24, she filled in for Aaron Boone on the network's Cardinals-Diamondbacks game. Sunday night, she replaced suspended analyst Curt Schilling on Sunday Night Baseball's Dodgers-Cubs match-up. (According to ESPN, Schilling is set to return to the booth this coming Sunday.)
Unfortunately, Mendoza's groundbreaking broadcasts are still the rare exception. Women remain mostly on the outs when it comes to doing the actual play-by-play of sports.
"I just want to get to a point where it's like, 'oh she knows what she's talking about, he knows what he's talking about,' so it's not this huge deal," Mendoza told ThinkProgress last week. "On the other hand, I don't want it to be such a big deal because I want it to be the norm. How far are we right now from this being the norm?"
Apparently, pretty far.
While women are found on the sidelines and in the studio more than in the past, their place in the booth remains embarrassingly limited.
"It's mind-boggling," said Christine Brennan, who is the national sports columnist for USA Today and among the top sports scribes in the country. "I don't understand why the networks are thinking of not putting women in the booth. It's 2015, I don't understand it. Studies show the NFL audience is 40 percent women now."
Brennan broke her own barriers when she became the first Miami Herald female sports reporter in 1981, and later the first woman to cover the Washington Redskins in 1985 for The Washington Post.
"There has to be a first to have a second, or third. Why hasn't this happened before?" Brennan added. "I would hope that we are past the notion that if you did not play that specific game you cannot broadcast it. I always thought it's ridiculous in any sport."
Some strides have been made in sports, on and off the air, for women just this year. The Arizona Cardinals hired the first NFL female assistant coach, Jen Welter, last month, while the NBA's San Antonio Spurs summer league team was coached by one of its assistants, Becky Hammon, who led them to the league championship.
And two weeks before Jessica Mendoza called the ESPN games, Beth Mowins announced an Oakland Raiders pre-season NFL game. As the Associated Press points out, Mowins was actually the second woman to do play-by-play for an NFL game, following a nearly thirty-year gap after Gayle Sierens announced a game for NBC in 1987.
But female TV booth announcers and analysts in PGA Golf, NASCAR, NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball can be counted on one hand in most of those leagues, and never in their top championship events.
Tune in to Monday Night Football or the NBA Finals and the only women are usually the sideline reporters, often relegated to the quick few words during time-outs.
This limits the pool of competent, skilled, and well-spoken play-by-play announcers to just half of the population. And at a time when women have made strides in many other areas of sports journalism, the two-person or three-person broadcast booth crews should be the next natural step toward equality.
"The first thing they say is, 'how does she know about football?'" said Joan Ryan, who became the first full-time female sports columnist of a major daily newspaper when she joined the San Francisco Examiner in 1985. "But how does Bob Costas know about football? He didn't play it. How did Al Michaels know about football? Most political reporters haven't run for president or for any office and yet they cover politics. There's no question in my mind that it will change, but it will just take time."
Women in sports coverage have faced opposition going back decades, to the lawsuit filed against Major League Baseball by Sports Illustrated writer Melissa Ludtke after she was banned from the locker room during the 1977 World Series. A federal court ruling a year later forced the ban to be lifted.
"They have the women where they want them," Ludtke told Media Matters on Monday when asked about the TV booth barriers. "They have them on the sidelines, where they can dress them and talk to them in their ear."
She later added, "Until we get a place where hearing a woman's voice talking about what is predominantly male sports and believe that that voice holds authority it's going to be very difficult for them to find their way there."
The locker room case was met with the sexist claim that women just wanted to be in there to see and meet men. Others simply claimed the women who wanted key roles in TV sports journalism did not know enough about sports to cover them, even though they were already reporting on the biggest events for their news and sports outlets across the country.
The court order did a great deal to destroy those myths and prove that they were doing their jobs, the same as men. Women now cover teams in nearly every big city.
New York Yankees radio analyst Suzyn Waldman and New Jersey Devils hockey announcer Sherry Ross hold top spots in the New York market, for example, but both are on radio, not television. For some reason, the most prestigious TV sports broadcasting remains male-dominated.
Women have earned acclaim and status in most other areas of broadcasting and news. Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer have held the coveted network news anchor chairs, and women currently hold co-anchor spots on all three major network morning news programs, although they are absent as hosts from the networks' influential Sunday talk shows.
Women have reached the top editing posts at The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Associated Press, among other major news outlets over the years. The last two presidents of the White House Correspondents Association were women, as were about half of the Pulitzer Prize winners announced this year.
At ESPN, meanwhile, women have been anchoring the channel's flagship Sportscenter program at various times for years. It is really a non-issue in almost all other areas of sports broadcasting.
But game-time announcing is still something of a mancave.
Veteran female sports reporters say if you really want to serve the listening and viewing fan, be it a man or a woman, finding the best person for the job is still the best way.
And then, when Jessica Mendoza calls a Major League Baseball game on the nation's biggest sports network, it will not be a story at all.
"Wouldn't it be great if she became the Lou Gehrig of replacements," said Brennan, referring to the great New York Yankee who went on to set a record for consecutive Major League games played after he replaced the injured Wally Pipp. "She should be a full-time voice on ESPN broadcasts. I am hoping that we have reached a turning point."
Veteran ESPN ombudsmen are weighing in on ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling's "hurtful" comments comparing Muslims to Nazis, including one who labeled him a "right-wing dummy." They're also urging the sprawling sports media empire to bring back the ombudsman position that has not been filled since late 2014.
"I think an internal critic is really, really healthy," said George Solomon, who was named the first ESPN ombudsman in 2005 and served for 21 months. "Having someone in that role is a good thing and I would hope they would reinstitute it. I think they should have kept the position, it's good to have an internal critic."
Schilling kicked off a controversy this week after a Twitter post in which he compared Muslims to Nazis, a move that caused ESPN to pull him from its Little League World Series coverage and this week's edition of Sunday Night Baseball. After ESPN announced disciplinary measures, Schilling tweeted, "I understand and accept my suspension. 100% my fault. Bad choices have bad consequences and this was a bad decision in every way on my part."
But the offending tweet wasn't a momentary lapse in judgment. Schilling has a history of posting and sharing incendiary material on social media, including suggesting Hillary Clinton is a drunk murderer, defending the confederate flag, and criticizing civil rights leaders.
Josh Krulewitz, ESPN vice president of communications, declined to say if more discipline would occur.
The incident took place at a time when ESPN has been without an ombudsman for more than eight months, having failed to replace Robert Lipsyte when his term ended in December 2014.
Lipsyte was one of three former ESPN ombudsmen who spoke to Media Matters Wednesday about Schilling, calling him a "right-wing dummy" and saying his views hurt his image on the network.
"My feeling is that if Curt Schilling can make the kind of comments that he does outside the white lines then I don't trust anything he has to say about anything," Lipsyte said. "He's obviously a right-wing dummy."
He later added, "Everybody in journalism these days is under pressure to be on social media, which also reflects on your employer. There are no personal tweets. You are reflecting whoever you represent and Curt Schilling is representing ESPN."
George Solomon, the first ESPN ombudsman hired in 2005 for 21 months, said the Muslim/Nazi comparison "can be quite hurtful to a number of people."
He added, "ESPN gives its employees, particularly its commentators, a lot of leeway and it seems sometimes that causes a problem and in Schilling's case it seems to be a problem that ESPN will have to deal with, looking at his whole body of work ... ESPN will have to decide, 'Do we want Mr. Schilling to represent us with these comments?' Coming from an era where Twitter was not a factor and social media was not part of my life that can be difficult because people who represent ESPN or other networks will put things on Twitter and other social media outlets that they would not say that can be a problem."
Asked what he would do if he was still the ombudsman, Solomon said, "I would probably comment on the remarks. To compare the Muslims with the Nazis is a stretch."
The network had employed an ombudsman regularly since 2005, with five people holding the job through the years. But the position has been empty since Lipsyte left.
Krulewitz said the network has not ruled out bringing the position back, but stopped short of offering any firm plans: "We're in the process of determining our plans for our next ombudsman. We're exploring what our options are ... we're in the midst of the process now."
Asked if the latest Schilling situation would change the plans to expedite the ombudsman, he said, "no."
"The ombudsman is an independent, someone we hire independently to review and discuss her or his viewpoint of ESPN," Krulewitz said. "We're going to go through the process and we obviously want to do the process the right way."
But the former ombudsmen who spoke to Media Matters said the position is needed, perhaps now more than ever given the recent Schilling situation.
"I can't understand what's taking them so long, with all the things," said Lipsyte. "When I left ESPN, my exit interview, the takeaway was 'why should we pay for criticism when we get so much for free.' That doesn't sound to me like an organization that really wants independent oversight. Everybody needs an ombudsman."
Solomon agreed: "I've said that from the start. Taking myself out of the mix, the ombudsmen they've had have been really valuable and informative and really good."
He also added, "I think ESPN was sensitive to what the ombudsmen, including myself, had to say. They listened, they paid attention, they were very responsive when I did the reporting for my column."
Le Anne Schreiber, another ESPN ombudsman who served from 2007-2009, urged the position's return, saying they helped many of the network's journalists who conduct in-depth reporting.
"Some of the employees are very, very serious journalists," she said. "The ombudsmen have always had their backs. Many of them said to me how much moral support they felt in their place in the institution by the presence of the ombudsman, if only for that reason. Just being a watchdog and just being a voice raised the traditional journalist values. It gave a lot of aid comfort and support to the serious journalists who are there and who deserved it."
She also said the network needs specific policies about what is allowed and what the punishment will be for these type of actions.
"ESPN needs to have a very clarified policy about what is acceptable and what is not on their airwaves and ESPN.com," Schreiber said. "ESPN should stop dealing with these ad hoc, making them up in response to public heat of the moment; make a very clear policy. It really is about a consistency of policy."
Influential Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson -- whose show is a frequent destination for Republican presidential candidates -- is standing by his plan to make undocumented immigrants "property of the state" if they refuse to leave the country after an allotted period of time. In comments to Media Matters, Mickelson described his plan as "constitutionally defensible, legally defensible, morally defensible, biblically defensible and historically defensible."
On his August 17 radio show, Mickelson laid out his proposal for forcing undocumented immigrants out of Iowa. According to Mickelson, he would "put up some signs" alerting undocumented immigrants that they would be forced into "compelled labor" if they did not leave before a stated deadline. He continued, "the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability and we start inventing jobs for them to do." After a caller raised a concern that "everybody would believe it sounds like slavery," Mickelson replied, "well, what's wrong with slavery?"
Mickelson strongly defended his proposal during a Wednesday interview with Media Matters.
"All you have to do is put up a sign on the border," Mickelson said. "Just put up a sign that says 'After 60 days from this date certain if you're in the state of Iowa and you are here without legal status and you are criminally in the state of Iowa, you will become the property of the state and we will compel labor from you because you are a criminal and the 13th Amendment allows us.'"
Mickelson tweeted today that he's hosted "everyone" from the Republican presidential field on his radio program except Jeb Bush.
Asked if he believed any of the GOP candidates would agree with his plan, Mickelson claimed, "most of them would understand my point isn't serious, the point is philosophical." (Mickelson told a caller during his radio show, "you think I'm just pulling your leg. I am not.")
He claimed that the intention of the plan was to scare people out of the state, but conceded that you may have to force "one or two people" into servitude to make a point.
"If you actually did it you would never have to do that, all you have to do is put up a sign," he claimed. "It is the cheapest." But he later stressed that "maybe one or two people" would have to be forced to work in a "highly visible fashion, the problem solves itself. You'll have a vast sucking sound of illegals departing the state."
Mickelson also said Republican presidential candidates "would understand it from a historical and intellectual point of view. Because most of these people have a good understanding of western law, they would understand the 13th Amendment as it's written. Most of the states following the Civil War have criminal restitution as part of our civil code."
Mickelson explained he does not currently have any interviews with Republican candidates scheduled, but added, "They'll come, they'll pursue it and say 'can we come on,' and 'sure,' I don't chase them around looking for them to come on, they usually call and ask me."
The host later expanded on his defense, saying, "The Constitution, 13th Amendment said indentured servitude, it is one of the most ancient ways that western culture has collected restitution for crime."
"You can't just enslave people, go around to become bigger and stronger and more powerful than you are ... the Torah says that's man stealing, that's a capital offense," he said.
"Indentured servitude, however, was the choice for debt collection. If you couldn't pay a loan you took out from someone you ended up working for that person until the loan was paid off." He added, "If you were criminal and caused property damage to someone either by mistake or on purpose you're indentured to that person and had to pay that person back four-fold."
According to Mickelson, "I'm not looking to start another tobacco farm or plantation or cotton farm here in Iowa, I'm just looking to hold people accountable for their behavior."
Veteran presidential campaign correspondents and media experts are criticizing Fox News' unprecedented role as a gatekeeper in the Republican primary.
This week, Fox News will host the first primary debate of the cycle. The event is something of a coup for the network, which has been exerting increasing control over the Republican electoral process over the past decade. The debate will be limited to 10 candidates, based on their standing in a series of national polls that Fox itself is selecting. Fox News' debate rules have been criticized by several candidates and Republican activists for a variety of reasons, including that the network is overriding the importance of early voting primary states by essentially narrowing the field several months early.
People inside the network have also expressed frustration with the debate process with an anonymous Fox personality reportedly telling New York magazine that it's "crazy stuff" to have Fox News head Roger Ailes essentially "deciding who is in - and out - of a debate."
In comments to Media Matters, veteran campaign reporters, media reporters, and ethicists criticized Fox's influence.
"Should Fox be playing this role?" asked Eric Engberg, a former CBS News correspondent who covered presidential campaigns from 1976 to 2000. "I think given Fox's ideological bent and that Roger Ailes has spent most of his career working on political campaigns, this whole thing is a sham."
As Media Matters has documented, candidates have been flocking to the network to get face time with its influential hosts and reach its conservative audience, which in turn boosts interest in Fox. In some cases, candidates and groups supporting them have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Fox ads to help bolster their image and hopefully increase their national polling ahead of the debate.
In a segment laying out how super PACs supporting former Texas Gov. Rick Perry had made a large ad buy on Fox News and other cable networks ahead of the debate, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explained, "So, Fox News set that rule for the Republican Party, and now, Fox News gets to cash in on that rule by getting all of the Rick Perry super PAC money in the form of his national ads. It's a nice racket, right?"
"That sounds to me like either extortion or bribery, I don't know which," Engberg said. "You don't know whether Fox has indicated to these people that they would be wise to buy more advertising. It has a smell of corruption about it because it mixes money with open political campaigning."
The New York Times reported on June 4 that Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire "fear candidates are too focused on getting on television to enhance their poll standing, when they should be out meeting voters in town halls and greasy spoons." Former chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa Matt Strawn lamented that "now we have put network executives, quite frankly, in charge of winnowing the field instead of actual voters." Newspapers in early primary states have also "mounted an insurrection against Fox News" by co-sponsoring a candidate forum before the Fox debate.
"It's obvious that the early primary states and the Iowa caucuses have suffered a blow from the way Fox is managing things," Engberg added. "There is less focus on Iowa and New Hampshire because all of the candidates' staffs felt the most important thing is going to be this televised debate on Fox, especially if it is going to be the first ... We can call it the Roger Ailes primary. One television executive has taken control of the process of deciding. It has a smell of one-man rule about it."
David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun TV critic, called the Fox control of the debate "a game changer."
"Instead of going to the states where the primaries and caucuses are held, they are spending money on TV to reach a mass audience," he said. "Worse, and this is the part that's really kind of mind-boggling, is that Fox is going to pick the 10 people based on the polls and there's a line in there that says they judge the polls and they're picking them. And now you have people like Rick Perry and [Marco] Rubio saying that the way to reach the line it takes to be picked by Fox is spend millions of dollars to advertise on Fox ... This is not an appearance of conflict it is a straight conflict."
Adam Clymer, a former New York Times political correspondent between 1972 and 2000, called the approach "inevitably messy," later stating, "Fox is both an advertising and news media for them, with the fact that some of them have been paid commentators before. In theory you would like to have somebody making the decision about who participates who is not involved in covering the news."
Walter Mears, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Associated Press campaign reporter who covered every general election presidential debate from 1976 to 2000, was also a panelist for the 1976 vice presidential debate. He urged an "impartial organization" running the debate.
"Some of them have been Fox commentators, and now they're players," he said of the candidates. "In the worst case you would have conservative sweetheart questions directed to these guys. I would suspect that they will go to some lengths to try to appear impartial and appear even-handed so that it won't look to be contrived and controlled. The shift to the right compelled by Fox News has changed the definition of what's an impartial producer for a debate."
Marvin Kalb, former host of Meet the Press, said Republican candidates have drifted ideologically to Fox, and Fox to them: "Buying time to win acceptance to a debate is only the latest twist in a long-standing drama. Up until now, buying time provided face time; now, in addition, it may win a place in a debate whose ground rules the network sets."
For Walter Shapiro, who covered nine presidential campaigns dating back to 1980 for The Washington Post, Newsweek, Salon and others, the Republican Party is also to blame for "the total abject surrender to the TV networks."
"By going first, Fox has made a mockery of the debates and it is because [Republican National Committee Chair] Reince Priebus punted and the RNC punted and said to Fox, 'you figure it out,' that much is clear," Shapiro said. "This is a Republican forum."
He later added, "Fox played a major role in making Donald Trump the central story on the Republican side. This is the moment where Republicans should begin to realize that Fox is a business entity concerned with ratings, with the elevation of Trump to the detriment of the rest of the Republican party."
It's been more than 12 years since The New York Times suffered perhaps its biggest black eye when the Jayson Blair scandal turned the paper's credibility upside down, sparked a special report, and forced the paper's two top editors to resign in disgrace.
Blair, then a 27-year-old rising reporter, committed a string of journalistic sins -- from plagiarism to outright lying about being at events he had supposedly covered.
The Gray Lady's credibility was in doubt until it set in place a list of changes aimed at correcting the systemic mistakes that had allowed Blair to get away with his lies. Among those changes was hiring its first public editor, an ombudsman positon that would independently review the paper's work and freely write about it for readers.
Soon after, in 2004, the Times issued a Policy on Confidential Sources. It stated, among other things, that the identity of anonymous sources must be known by at least one editor before a story is published, and that the paper must explain as much as possible to readers why the anonymity was granted and why the source is credible.
Oddly, that policy, cited in numerous public editor columns through the years, does not appear to currently be online at the Times website.
The Times' Ethical Journalism handbook says only that the paper has a "distaste for anonymous sourcing," and mentions the Policy on Confidential Sources, saying it is "available from the office of the associate managing editor for news administration or on the Newsroom home page under Policies."
The Times did not respond to a request for the latest version of the policy this week. Past links to the 2004 policy reach a dead page.
Since Daniel Okrent served as the first public editor from December 2003 to May 2005, four others have held that role (including Margaret Sullivan, who currently occupies the position).
Despite the public editor post and the confidential source policy, the paper has not overcome its problems with sources that seek anonymity.
The most recent example is the poor reporting on a supposed "criminal investigation" targeting Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state, which appeared in the paper last week sourced to anonymous "senior government officials." After publication, the Times had to issue corrections walking back two of the story's central claims -- that the requested probe was targeting Clinton herself, and that it was "criminal" in nature.
Stretching back to when the paper initially updated the story without issuing a formal correction, the Times has generally done a poor job managing the debacle.
The latest attempt at damage control was an editor's note issued Tuesday that said the approach to correcting the story had "left readers with a confused picture." But it did not explain how or why the paper got so much wrong.
It is clear, however, that one of the problems was relying on anonymous sources, and poor ones at that.
Sullivan wrote that two Times editors involved with the story -- executive editor Dean Baquet and deputy executive editor Matt Purdy -- agreed "that special care has to come with the use of anonymous sources." But Baquet was also quoted pinning much of the story's failure on those sources -- rather than Times staffers -- telling Sullivan, "You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral ... I'm not sure what they could have done differently on that."
As part of her prescription for how the paper could learn from the fiasco, Sullivan suggested the Times should discuss "the rampant use of anonymous sources."
This is far from the first time a public editor has pointed to anonymous sourcing as a pressing issue at the paper. A review of public editor columns dating back to Okrent's days finds numerous incidents in which the public editor at the time had to take the paper to task for its use, or misuse, of confidential sources.
"This post is the inaugural edition of an effort to point out some of the more regrettable examples of anonymous quotations in The Times," she wrote when it launched on March 18, 2014. "I've written about this from time to time, as have my predecessors, to little or no avail."
"My view isn't black and white: I recognize that there are stories -- especially those on the national security beat -- in which using confidential sources is important," Sullivan wrote in a June 2014 column. "And I acknowledge that some of the most important stories in the past several decades would have been impossible without their use. But, in my view, they are allowed too often and for reasons that don't clear the bar of acceptability, which should be set very high."
As Sullivan explained in an October 12, 2013, column, the Times' stylebook says, "Anonymity is a last resort."
Okrent, during his first year on the job in 2004, penned a lengthy review of anonymous sourcing, noting at the time the problems the paper had with properly explaining who sources were, adding, "The easiest reform to institute would turn the use of unidentified sources into an exceptional event."
He later stated, "it's worth reconsidering the entire nature of reportorial authority and responsibility. In other words, why quote anonymous sources at all? Do their words take on more credibility because they're flanked with quotation marks?"
Byron Calame, who held the public editor post from May 2005 to May 2007, also took anonymous sourcing to task on a few occasions.
In a November 30, 2005, column urging more transparency on such sources, Calame wrote, "Anonymous sourcing can be both a blessing and a curse for journalism -- and for readers," adding that top editors' "commitment to top-level oversight, and to providing sufficient editing attention to ignite those 'daily conversations' about sources, has to be sustained long after the recent clamor over the paper's use of anonymous sourcing has faded away."
He wrote on July 30, 2006, "Some realities of anonymous sourcing negotiations deserve to be noted, even if some people think they're obvious. When reporters accept anonymity demands, it's almost always because of one overriding reason that is seldom explicitly acknowledged: the reporter wanted or needed information that a reluctant source possessed. That's probably one reason some of The Times's past explanations for anonymity have been so absurd."
Clark Hoyt, who served as public editor from May 2007 to June 2010, broached the subject numerous times -- usually with sharp demands for skepticism and rarity in the use of such sourcing.
"The Times continues to hurt itself with readers by misusing anonymous sources," Hoyt wrote on April 17, 2010, in a column laying out a list of problematic examples. "Despite written ground rules to the contrary and promises by top editors to do better, The Times continues to use anonymous sources for information available elsewhere on the record. It allows unnamed people to provide quotes of marginal news value and to remain hidden with little real explanation of their motives, their reliability, or the reasons why they must be anonymous."
On March 21, 2009, Hoyt objected again to the overuse of confidential voices, stating, "The Times has a tough policy on anonymous sources, but continues to fall down in living up to it. That's my conclusion after scanning a sampling of articles published in all sections of the paper since the first of the year. This will not surprise the many readers who complain to me that the paper lets too many of its sources hide from public view."
The public editor prior to Sullivan was Arthur Brisbane, who served in the role from August 2010 to August 2012. He opined on the issue only a handful of times, according to Times archives.
Since Sullivan took over, however, she has made the issue a key part of her regular reviews, with the Clinton email reporting problems a clear example that the paper has not followed its own guidelines and has not adhered to the Times' legendary history of correcting even the most minute details.
When Dean Baquet says that it's hard to know what the reporters and editors on the botched Clinton story "could have done differently," he is failing to take into account the anonymous source lessons of the past, and the rebukes from public editors over the years.
Veteran newspaper editors and other longtime journalists are harshly criticizing how The New York Times has handled its recent botched story related to Hillary Clinton's emails, calling out the paper for failing to take responsibility for its errors and for being slow to offer corrections for its mistakes sparked by anonymous sourcing.
The concerns stem from the July 23 story originally headlined "Criminal Inquiry Sought In Clinton's Use Of Email," which stated that "[t]wo inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state."
The Times has since issued two corrections, noting that the referral in question was not criminal and did not specifically request an investigation into Clinton herself. Critics noted that the Times did not issue corrections in either case until long after it was clear they could not support their reporting.
Media observers have criticized the Times' reporting and its poor attempts to explain its mistakes, with some stating that the events indicate that the paper "has a problem covering Hillary Clinton." Norm Ornstein in The Atlantic called it a "huge embarrassment," while former Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald referred to the story as "bungled" in Newsweek.
Times public editor Margaret Sullivan has written that there were "at least two major journalistic problems" in the crafting of the story, calling the paper's handling of the story "a mess." Meanwhile, in an interview with Sullivan, Times executive editor Dean Baquet expressed regret that the paper had been slow to issue public corrections, but defended his editors and reporters, saying, "I'm not sure what they could have done differently" on the story.
Such actions and reactions are not sitting well with some of the news industry's top journalists and former editors, who point to the problems such anonymous sourcing can create and the Times' lack of professionalism in failing to swiftly own up to them.
"I agree with the public editor that if you are The New York Times you need to be sure-footed and walk cautiously and accurately," said Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington correspondent and current director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University. "I hope this is not a harbinger of a rapid-fire news cycle in campaign 2016 where news organizations are competing so fiercely and so rapidly that this sort of thing happens again. They are correcting it reluctantly and sloppily. You have to have a culture of transparency and a culture of accountability."
Sesno added that he found it "extraordinary" that "they got so many elements wrong and they got the correction wrong, in the way they revealed what had happened and why."
Tom Fiedler, former editor of The Miami Herald and a one-time political reporter for that paper, also cited the Times appearing to favor speed over accuracy.
"Although I have no inside information, I think The Times staff is increasingly inclined to do these 'ready-fire-aim' stories about Hillary because they feel the hot breath of the WSJ [Wall Street Journal] on their necks, especially when it comes to stories that slam Hillary," he said via email. "The WSJ could care less about a Times' story that puts Hillary in a positive light. But the WSJ will go nuts if The Times scoops them with an HRC hatchet job. So all the incentive in the Times' newsroom is to wield that hatchet if only to annoy the WSJ. Just a theory."
Fiedler also speculated that Baquet may be privately criticizing the reporters and editors involved in the story's production while defending them publicly, saying that he engaged in such behavior when his own reporters had "screwed up."
Tim Franklin, past editor of the Indianapolis Star, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun, said he understands Baquet supporting his reporters. But he said that it is also necessary in such cases for papers to be prompt with corrections.
"I think in this case, we live in a media environment where stories get shared, we are also talking about a story involving alleged criminal activity of a presidential candidate," Franklin said. "So there is a premium on transparency in these cases. You don't want to leave the impression among readers that you are trying to bury a mistake."
He later added, "I think in this situation the editors need to do forensics with reporters; What did you have? What did your source tell you? Who are your sources and what do we need to do now to get accurate information? It is a first step you need to take quickly. It is apparent you need to correct this story and append the story at the top and an explanation as to why."
Kelly McBride, an ethics instructor at The Poynter Institute, said the Times did not take into account the readers who likely saw the incorrect story via a mobile device, but not the corrections.
"While they corrected it in their traditional correction format, they pushed that story out on mobile," she said. "They never sent out a mobile push that said the correction, and 'we got it wrong.' By not sending out a correction in mobile they lost a huge swath of the audience that received the push alert but didn't swipe through to the story."
For Lucy Dalglish, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, the corrective needs are obvious: "If you have an anonymous source, you usually have confidence in what that source says and if you get it wrong, you have to correct yourself."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination this week, may appear moderate. But according to reporters who cover him regularly, the former Fox News host's tenure in the statehouse has included efforts to reduce collective bargaining, limit abortion rights, and fight marriage equality.
Ohio reporters who have covered Kasich closely raise several areas of interest for national media that have less experience covering him.
His efforts to cut state spending and balance the budget did reduce taxes, but put more of a burden on local governments, Ohio journalists point out. They also note his off-the-cuff style can lead to wandering speeches and incidents like the revelation that he called a police officer an "idiot" during a 2008 traffic stop.
"He can be quite a character sometimes, the national press doesn't know how to take him," said Shane Stegmiller of Hannah News Service and president of the Ohio Legislative Correspondents Association. "You never know what he's going to say."
Stegmiller cited the "idiot" incident, which occurred before Kasich's 2010 election, but became public in 2011: "It blew up on him pretty big."
Then there are his often-forgotten fights against abortion and gay rights, according to Chrissie Thompson, a Cincinnati Enquirer state government reporter since 2013.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide stemmed from the Ohio-based Obergefell vs. Hodges case, in which plaintiff Jim Obergefell sued to be listed on his spouse's death certificate as the surviving spouse. Defendant Richard Hodges, the Ohio director of public health, is a Kasich appointee.
"The department of health was the lead defendant in Obergefell vs. Hodges in the gay marriage debate," Thompson said. "Kasich opposed same-sex marriage and he authorized the fight to protect our gay marriage ban."
"He had signed some abortion restrictions and those have resulted in the closure of some of our abortion clinics in Ohio," Thompson said. "He does not like to talk about it a lot."
Another issue that occurred during his first year in office was the proposal known as Senate Bill 5, Kasich's effort to clamp down on collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. Similar to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's more publicized union fight, the Kasich measure was passed and signed into law, but drew harsh criticism. It was eventually voted down overwhelmingly via a ballot referendum later that year.
"Senate Bill 5 was hugely controversial," recalls Laura Bischoff, a 14-year statehouse reporter with the Dayton Daily News. "They wanted to really gut collective bargaining rights for public employees and it sparked huge protests at the statehouse, bigger than I've ever seen."
Marc Kovac, statehouse bureau chief for Dix Newspapers and The Vindicator of Youngstown, agreed.
"Kasich was a staunch supporter of public employee collective bargaining reform, signing the former Senate Bill 5 into law and setting off a massive referendum effort that blocked that law from taking effect," he said.
Bischoff also pointed to Kasich's privatizing of some prisons, a move that drew corrections officer complaints about conditions and resulted in an audit that found 47 violations in one private institution.
"There is a question as to whether it saved money more than projected, the union that represents corrections officers said it was bad," Bischoff said. "There was one audit report that was really bad about conditions the inmates were living in."
Kasich's economic stimulus program, JobsOhio, is another point of contention, according to reporters. The private, non-profit agency was created to help spark job growth, but in a secretive fashion that exempts it from state open public record laws and limits state audit oversight.
"People didn't like the fact that it's now somewhat shrouded in secrecy with public money," said Jim Siegel, a Columbus Dispatch statehouse reporter since 1998. "There are concerns it could be used for cronyism. He believes in the private sector and letting the private sector do as much as possible on things. He's made efforts to privatize as much as he can."
And the job growth has been less than successful, Stegmiller says, noting the state's job growth rate for the past 32 months is at 1.73%, below the national average of 2.09%.
"While Ohio had gained back a lot of jobs, it lags a lot of states in job recovery," he said.
The state budget, meanwhile, is something Kasich touts as a success, journalists say. But the impact may be less positive than he lets on.
Reporters cite the claim that Kasich eliminated an $8 billion deficit and shored up the state's "rainy day" surplus fund. But in reality, he cut funding to local governments and school districts, forcing many to increase their own taxes and fees.
"By reducing their funding, now they are having to go to voters and ask for local levies to help make that up," said Jackie Borchardt of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. "The local government or school district is having to raise more revenue that way. In his first budget, he did slash spending for education. He cut it and local governments have said they continue to chip away at their funding."
And the $8 billion deficit Kasich touts wasn't really a deficit, according to the Enquirer's Thompson: "We never actually had a deficit, he used the word deficit and it was a projected shortfall."
Kasich supporters also brag about his big re-election victory in 2014, in which he beat Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald nearly 2 to 1. But what is often lost is that FitzGerald, then the Cuyahoga County Executive, was hit with a very public scandal after it was revealed the married candidate was found by police in a parking lot at 4:30 a.m. with another woman.
The circumstances of that incident remain unclear. But things got worse when it was found he had been driving without a license for about 10 years.
"He won 86 out of 88 counties in 2014, but he was running against a very weak opponent," Thompson said about Kasich's last election.