Joe Strupp

Author ››› Joe Strupp
  • Election Experts: Trump Ally Roger Stone’s Exit Polling Plan Smacks Of “Intimidation”

    Expert: "There Is Little Doubt That Any Such ‘Exit Polling’ Would Be Extremely Biased"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Election experts and polling veterans tell Media Matters that the plan by longtime Donald Trump adviser and friend Roger Stone to unleash hundreds of untrained “exit poll” watchers in search of vote theft on Election Day risks intimidating voters in the targeted communities. They also explain that unprofessional exit polling is a nonsensical way to discover alleged voter fraud and vote rigging, which is "extremely rare" in the first place.

    Stone, an ardent conspiracy theorist and devoted Trump ally, has for months been warning that Democrats are planning to “rig” and “steal” the election for Hillary Clinton. (Trump has echoed this warning in numerous campaign rallies.)

    Stone heads the 527 group Stop the Steal, which has announced plans to conduct “targeted EXIT-POLLING in targeted states and targeted localities that we believe the Democrats could manipulate based on their local control, to determine if the results of the vote have been skewed by manipulation.” The Guardian, in a piece that quoted several experts raising concerns about Stone’s proposal, noted that Stone and his group plan to “conduct exit polling in Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte, Richmond and Fayetteville – all locations in pivotal swing states." Stone has been recruiting volunteers for the project from far-right sources like the audience of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio program. 

    After the Huffington Post raised concerns about plans listed on Stop the Steal to have election-watchers wear official-looking ID badges and videotape inside polling places, Stone said he “ordered them taken down” from the site and stressed that he would “operate within the confines of election law.”

    But the underlying plan to conduct amateur exit polling is still extremely problematic, several election law experts and polling veterans told Media Matters.  

    “From what I’ve read about it, this doesn’t sound like exit polling of the traditional sense, it sounds to me as if there is a targeting of certain communities, primarily minority communities and we fear this is going to have an intimidating effect,” Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said in an interview. “Voters are supposed to be free in their voting. This seems to be pointed in absolutely the wrong direction.”

    He later added, “We certainly do have a fear of intimidation when they focus on areas of disproportionately large minority populations. It is just wrong. It has an intimidating effect.”

    Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political science professor and author of Voice of the People: Elections and Voting Behavior in the United States, said he was “very skeptical about the accuracy of any exit polling conducted by Mr. Stone and his allies. He is a well-known right-wing provocateur and there is little doubt that any such ‘exit polling’ would be extremely biased.”

    “The kind of vote fraud Trump and Stone have been warning about is, in fact, extremely rare. There are lots of real problems with the way elections are conducted in the U.S., but that is not one of them," Abramowitz said. 

    Rick Hasen, a professor and political campaign expert at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, likened Stone’s plan to a “goon squad.”

    ”It does not sound like a sensible exit polling strategy,” he said. “Why target only these nine cities? Exit polling is best to get a snapshot of the electorate, not to ferret out supposed voter fraud. Impersonation fraud -- the kind of fraud Trump and his allies have been talking about -- is extremely rare and I can’t find evidence it has been used to try to sway an election at least since the 1980s.”

    Richard Benedetto, professor of journalism at American University School of Public Affairs, disputed that any of Stone’s methods could wind up helping a legal challenge of the election results.

    “It won’t be an admissible thing in court, you need to be able to prove real fraud, not hearsay stuff,” Benedetto said. “That the people who voted were not the actual people, you have to have evidence of that. There is a lot of exit polling that goes on and most of it is pretty bad, most of it is unscientific. You have to have a scientific sample.”

    Lorraine Minnite, a professor of public policy at Rutgers University, Camden, conducted exit polls in New York as a political science professor at Barnard College. She said Stone’s lack of credibility hurts any such effort by him to examine the voting.

    “It doesn’t sound like what they are doing is an exit poll,” she said in an interview. “He is not a credible person when it comes to elections and campaign tactics.”

    As for claims of voter fraud, she said, “That’s not factually accurate and there is no evidence to support a claim like that. It doesn’t make any sense. If what is happening is voter imposters, I don’t understand how somebody doing an exit poll is going to uncover that.” 

    Nate Persily is a Stanford Law School professor and elections expert who also served as the Senior Research Director for the Presidential Commission on Election Administration after the 2012 election. He called in person voter fraud “incredibly rare.”

    “In person voter fraud at polling places … is a terribly inefficient (and easily discoverable) way to rig an election,” Persily said via email. “It would require enlisting hordes of voters to go from polling place to polling place pretending to be someone they are not.”

  • Jewish Leaders Call Out New Breitbart Radio Host Curt Schilling For His “Offensive” And “Bigoted” Commentary

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Breitbart News’ hiring of disgraced broadcaster Curt Schilling for an online radio show is drawing criticism from Jewish leaders who contend his history of anti-Semitic and offensive commentary should disqualify him from the job.

    Schilling is a former baseball star who was fired from ESPN in April after he shared an anti-transgender image on Facebook. He had previously been suspended from the network for comparing Muslims to Nazis on Twitter.

    In other social media postings, Schilling has repeatedly demonized Muslims as killers, shared a picture calling Hillary Clinton a drunk murderer, and suggested civil rights leaders like Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) aren't patriotic.

    Schilling, who plans to run for the Senate in Massachusetts as a Republican, recently drew criticism for asking CNN anchor Jake Tapper to explain how “as a person who is practicing the Jewish faith … people of Jewish faith can back the Democratic Party” given that the party has supposedly been “so clearly anti-Jewish Israel.” Tapper responded that while he doesn’t “speak for Jews,” he believes that Jewish Americans prioritize what they see as the interests of their own country over those of Israel.

    Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, called his remarks “tone-deaf.”

    “Curt Schilling may have been a major league pitcher, but he’s a bush league commentator,” Moline said. “His tone-deaf remarks about Jewish Americans are just the latest in a long line of offensive statements that call into question his judgment and values. His Facebook page alone, where he has compared Muslims to Nazis and praised the Confederacy, renders him unfit for public office. Sadly we should expect no better from Schilling after he joins on with Breitbart – an outlet that wears its bigotry as a badge of honor.”

    Ben Shnider, national political director of J Street, said the only way Schilling could get on the air now is through discredited groups like Breitbart.

    “It’s clear that mainstream media outlets would not hire him,” Shnider said. “His comments to Jake Tapper were incredibly offensive. He has a long track record of incredibly offensive statements whether it’s about our community or other Americans. It’s simply unthinkable that any outlet would give him a mouthpiece.”

    Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, echoed that view.

    "Schilling, Breitbart, Breitbart's former-CEO-turned-Trump-campaign-manager Steve Bannon, and Trump himself all have two things in common: a love of Donald Trump and a willingness to employ bigoted statements and images about Muslims, Jews and members of the LGBTQ community that resonate with the alt-right,” she said in a statement. “The elevation of someone as blatantly bigoted and anti-Semitic as Schilling to a national media position is yet another side effect of the Trump campaign and a preview of what a Trump presidency could look like, and that is why Bend the Arc Jewish Action has been working so hard for over a year to oppose Trump's campaign."

    Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judiasm, also called out Schilling, saying, “Of course, Breitbart is free to hire whoever they would like. Curt Schilling has expressed simplistic, offensive and bigoted perspectives about Jews, Muslims, women, transgender people and civil rights activists.”

    He added of Schilling’s recent comments to Jake Tapper (and his subsequent appearance on MSNBC to defend himself), “I disagree with Schilling’s analysis of the US-Israel relationship. American Jews, like every other religious group in our country, hold diverse political views. Many of us are focused on the ongoing work of racial justice, economic opportunity, religious freedom and pluralism, women’s rights, environmental protection and the full inclusion of transgender people in our religious and civic institutions. These are values and issues that many American Jews reflect on when they decide which candidates to support for elected office.”


    Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director for T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, also criticized Schilling in a statement to Media Matters: 

    Curt Schilling’s remarks over the weekend to Jake Tapper on the political preferences of American Jews demonstrate a lack of awareness and understanding both of the issues that matter to our community, and of what it means to be pro-Israel. American Jews, as a whole, support public policies that protect those who are most vulnerable -- including racial, ethnic, and religious minorities; immigrants and refugees; women, and LGBT people -- as well as the long-term security of Israel, living in peace with its neighbors. Schilling has shown that he is out of his depth in the political arena and should stick to commentary on baseball.

  • Journalists Who Covered Florida Recount Say There's No Comparison Between Gore And Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Donald Trump supporters have been defending the presidential nominee’s warnings about a “rigged” election and refusal to say he will accept the results in November by claiming Trump is merely doing the same thing former Vice President Al Gore did in 2000. But reporters who covered that year’s Florida recount tell Media Matters that the people pushing that comparison either “haven’t done their homework or they are being disingenuous.”

    During Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate, Trump sparked widespread criticism by telling moderator Chris Wallace that he will “keep you in suspense” over whether he will accept the outcome of the election.

    Immediately following the debate, Trump surrogates, media allies, and campaign officials quickly went to work pretending that Trump’s assertion -- which journalists and experts have called “horrifying” and “disqualifying” -- was actually no big deal, because he was merely doing the same thing Gore did following the 2000 election.

    But for reporters and editors who covered the Florida recount, there is no comparison.

    “The two situations are not even remotely similar," recalled Martin Merzer, a former Miami Herald senior writer who was among the lead recount journalists at the time. "In 2000, the recount was mandated by the state because of the narrowness of the margin. They haven’t done their homework or they are being disingenuous. At no point before, during, or after that election was voter fraud an issue and at no point three weeks before the election did any candidate refuse to accept the result.”

    He also had a warning for journalists who might try to compare the two this year: “Any reporter who just does a he said/she said on this is not doing his or her work because the cases are not similar and a little bit of research could show how dissimilar they are.”

    Trump, echoing his conspiracy theorist media allies, has spent months warning his supporters that the November results might be “rigged” against him.

    Tim Nickens, who was the St. Petersburg Times political editor in 2000, agreed that the situations are not similar. 

    “I don’t think it’s the same at all,” Nickens, now editorial page editor at the renamed Tampa Bay Times, said. “Gore was never claiming the election was rigged as I recall, certainly not right out of the box. You may remember in the pre-dawn hours he was heading to concede.

    “As the things unfolded, Gore raised questions in specific counties, not the entire state,” Nickens said. “And then after 36 days of this and the court ruled, he could have continued to dispute it then in a P.R. sort of a way and he didn’t do that. Trump has no evidence or anything other than saying, ‘If I lose, I should have won.’”

    Adam Clymer, a former New York Times political reporter who covered elements of the recount, points out that Gore never questioned the validity of the process and certainly not in advance.

    “He didn’t announce in advance that he didn’t trust it,” Clymer remembers, later adding, “I don’t think it’s comparable. People have always challenged results when they thought there were irregularities. What is different about Trump is announcing in advance he may not accept the results.”

    John Zarrella, a former CNN correspondent on the Florida recount, said there was no pre-vote claim of rigging as there is with Trump.

    “In 2000, the result was not called into question until after the votes were cast,” he said via email. “And only after an automatic machine recount was triggered in Florida. So at this point, what is there to compare?”

    George Bennett, a Palm Beach Post reporter who was on the recount story, said that was only disputed afterward and because it was “freakishly close.”

    “There was a lot of dispute over what the rules would be over recounting ballots,” Bennett said. “It was contested after the fact and not beforehand. Trump is saying something three weeks before. The 2000 recount was hotly contested, but it was after the election.”

    Tom Fiedler, former Miami Herald political editor and editorial page editor in 2000, said anyone seeking to compare Trump’s actions with Gore is displaying “either an ignorance of the facts or a deliberate attempt to distort them.”

    “The Gore campaign never alleged that the system was rigged or the outcome in any way unfair,” Fiedler added via email. “Again, the entire series of lawsuits and court hearings was about the determining voter intent on the uncounted ballots.”

  • Experts: Trump’s Legal Threat Against NY Times For Reporting On Alleged Sexual Assault "A Pure Loser"

    Media Experts Say Trump's Threats Are Just Latest Warning Sign Of How A Trump Administration Would Deal With The Press

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s threats to The New York Times for reporting allegations that he committed sexual assault are legally far-fetched and provide a troubling portrait of how a Trump administration would handle the press, according to experts interviewed by Media Matters.

    In just the past 24 hours, outlets including The New York TimesPalm Beach Post, and People magazine have detailed accounts of Trump groping and making other unwanted sexual advances toward women.

    Trump’s lawyers shot back with threats of legal action against the Times, claiming in a letter that its article was “reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se.”

    Aggression toward media figures and outlets -- especially those who have been critical of him and his candidacy -- has been a hallmark of both Trump's presidential campaign and his business career. In an “unprecedented” announcement, the Committee to Protect Journalists warned today that “a Donald Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom,” saying Trump has “consistently betrayed First Amendment values.”

    Several experts tell Media Matters his latest threats of legal action against the Times are further evidence of what would likely be a problematic relationship between the press and Trump if he were to be elected president.

    “It just confirms how difficult he would be with the press and how he would view the press as an enemy,” George Freeman, Media Law Resource Center executive director and former New York Times assistant legal counsel, said about the latest attack. “It would be a very contentious relationship in all probability, particularly in that his whole character is built on beating up anyone who attacks him.”

    Mizell Stewart III, president of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and vice president of news operations for USA Today Network, agreed.

    “I think it is clear he would take an adversarial position with the press as president,” Stewart said. “Mr. Trump has decided that an aggressive posture is his way of dealing with the media. We have seen that in him in dealing with news outlets and coverage.”

    “From ASNE’s perspective, these are tactics that people employ when they choose to try to intimidate the press. We have watched as newsroom leaders across the country have chosen to oppose that intimidation.”

    David Hudson, a Vanderbilt University law professor and First Amendment expert, said: “It is fair to say it would not be the coziest relationship between the press and the president.”

    “These are not good signs,” Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said about the legal threats“It is certainly not positive. There have not been any positive signs of how he would interact with the press.”

    Leslie and others also said Trump would have a nearly impossible time proving libel or slander for these news reports.

    “It’s pretty clear that he would have a very difficult battle if he brought this as a libel suit. He is one of the biggest public figures and would have to prove they acted with malice, which is one of the toughest to prove,” Leslie said.

    Hudson added, “As a public figure he has a very high standard to meet. He would have to show that not only are the statements false, but the media would have published them knowing they are false.”

    “A lot of times people say they are going to sue as an intimidation tactic,” he explained. “I would not want to print allegations like that unless I had some concrete evidence of it. [The New York Times] is a very respected newspaper; I would assume they have their own attorneys and vet things like this.”

    Lucy Dalglish, an attorney and dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, said the Times article seemingly went beyond what was necessary to avoid such litigation.

    “Because he’s a public figure, he would have to show it put him in a bad light and [was done] with malice and with the knowledge it was false and reckless disregard,” she said. “It seems to me the Times went well beyond with people who remembered being told about these incidents virtually immediately or in an acceptable amount of time. … He has to prove that the statement that was made was false. The burden of proof is on him to show it is false.”

    Freeman of the Media Law Resource Center called the legal claim “a pure loser.”

    “I think it’s all bluster,” he said. “But it’s not surprising given that he is always threatening litigation. As a presidential candidate, he would have to prove actual malice. … It seems to me it would be virtually impossible for Trump to even come close to showing the Times had serious doubts about the claims of groping when the women seem so credible and it was confirmed and substantiated by many other people they had spoken to.”

    The Times' legal team responded to the lawsuit threat in a letter concluding that if Trump "believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight."

  • Publications Broke With Tradition To Endorse Clinton Because Trump Is “Unfit” And “Dangerous”

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    As the list of publications breaking with tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump continues to grow, editors at those publications tell Media Matters they opted to endorse Clinton because Trump is “unfit,” “reckless,” “dangerous,” “racist,” and “misogynistic.”

    Weeks after a string of newspapers, including the The Arizona Republic, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and The Dallas Morning News, made historic endorsements of Clinton -- marking the first time some ever went with a Democrat -- several more publications released surprising recommendations urging readers to support Clinton.

    Those include The San Diego Union-Tribune, which endorsed Clinton on October 1 -- the first time in its 148-year history it has supported a Democrat -- while The Columbus Dispatch and Foreign Policy magazine joined the effort this past weekend. 

    “It’s unusual in that it’s historic,” said Alan D. Miller, editor of The Columbus Dispatch, which posted its endorsement of Clinton on Sunday. “We haven’t endorsed a Democrat since Woodrow Wilson in 1916, but we have been very critical of Trump all along. We wrote an editorial in December saying he is unfit to be president and nothing has changed since then.”

    Miller said the seven-member editorial board was nearly unanimous on the idea and wanted to avoid simply offering no endorsement or a third party option.

    “Third party options are tempting,” he said. “But in reality the third party candidates don’t have a chance of winning. It would not have been enough to just say, ‘Don’t vote for Trump.’ For those who are going to pick somebody there really is only one option in our view and that’s how we arrived at Hillary.”

    He added that Clinton is “a seasoned veteran leader who has a wealth of experience starting with having been first lady," and he noted that she has been "heavily involved in politics and leadership from the time Bill Clinton was governor, to the time she became a senator and secretary of state.”

    Miller said the editorial was already done when audio leaked last Friday of Trump boasting about committing sexual assault: “We didn’t need to add anything from that.”

    At Foreign Policy, endorsing in a U.S. presidential race was a first. And the magazine used the historic moment to back Clinton.

    “We think this is an extraordinary election,” said David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy’s CEO and editor. “We cover global risks and risks facing the United States and in the judgement of the editors we are facing special risks. We felt that it warranted special action.

    “One is possibly the most, certainly one of the most experienced candidates to run for president on national security issues in the modern world, and the other is undoubtedly the least experienced and [he's] reckless,” Rothkopf said about the candidates. “We discussed the available options and this was the best way forward. There is a consensus of both points, a consensus that Trump is racist, misogynistic, reckless and wholly unsuited for the office of the presidency. We felt that she was highly qualified, highly experienced, highly intelligent and had a very good record as a manager at the State Department.”

    He also said the decision was made prior to Friday’s news: “Donald Trump has demonstrated repeatedly before and after Friday that he’s kind of a repellent person.”

    The Union-Tribune, meanwhile, offered its first-ever Democratic presidential endorsement dating back to the launch of the then-San Diego Union in 1868, according to Matt Hall, editorial and opinion director.

    “When it came time for the general [election], I personally felt we had to take a position,” Hall told Media Matters. “Partly because Trump is so dangerous and partly because it is a responsibility of an editorial board to make tough decisions. Voting is the most important thing we do as Americans. We need to tell you who we think you should choose from who is on the ballot.”

    The paper included a video explaining why it sought to oppose Trump.

    Hall said the paper’s opposition to Trump dates back months, noting that in June the paper told California primary voters to write in Ronald Reagan. 

  • VA Reiterates That NRA Violated Ban On “Partisan Activities” By Filming Political Ad At Military Cemetery

    VA’s National Cemetery Administration: Political Ads Filmed At Cemeteries “Are Not Compatible With Preserving The Dignity And Tranquility Of The National Cemeteries”


    As the National Rifle Association continues to use footage it filmed at a national cemetery in political attack ads, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration (NCA) reiterated to Media Matters that had the NRA asked permission to film, the request would have been denied.

    So far, the NRA has used footage it filmed at Alexandria National Cemetery in political ads targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Florida Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy. In the ad targeting Clinton, which was released in June, Mark Geist, a survivor of the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, terror attacks, criticized Clinton’s handling of the attacks while walking next to gravestones. Footage from the same cemetery again appeared in a September Benghazi-themed ad targeting Murphy that the NRA is spending nearly $900,000 to air.

    Asked about the NRA’s continued use of the footage, NCA spokesperson Jessica Schiefer told Media Matters, “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.”

    As Schiefer explained, “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.”

    According to NCA filming rules, “Political activities, including filming of campaign ads, are not permitted on cemetery grounds.” also criticized the NRA’s continued use of the footage, telling Media Matters that “the NRA is doubling down” on “this despicable approach to campaigning.” In its full statement, encouraged people to sign its petition asking for the NRA to pull its ad:

    Earlier this year, the National Rifle Association ran a television ad attacking Hillary Clinton that was filmed inside of a veterans' cemetery.

    It was a disgrace. The Veterans of Foreign Wars even took steps to condemn the ad by saying they "don't want any candidate using our dead to score political points."

    But the NRA is doubling down, and this week they released a second ad in Florida featuring military graves, but this time in addition to attacking Hillary Clinton, the spot also trains its sights on Democrat Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign.

    This is deplorable, and we hope that if we can bring light to this despicable approach to campaigning we can get the NRA to pull the spot.

    Sign VoteVets' petition calling on the National Rifle Association to apologize for their ads featuring military graves, and to pull them from wherever they're running on television and the internet.

    When John McCain's ad team did the same in 1999, the Senator admitted wrongdoing and removed the footage. Further, the spots violate Veterans Affairs policies. Hopefully by making our voices heard, the NRA will pull the spots from the air.

    Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Veterans of Foreign Wars repeated its past criticism of the NRA for filming in military cemeteries, which stated, “Don’t use our dead to score political points. We fought for everybody’s First Amendment rights and everything, but we don’t want any candidate using our dead to score political points.”

  • Asian American Journalists Association President Criticizes Fox News For Segment “Rife With Racist Stereotypes”

    More Groups Condemn Fox’s "Racist" And "Offensive" Segment

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The president of the Asian American Journalists Association is heavily criticizing Fox News for airing a segment that “was rife with racist stereotypes.”   

    Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor aired an October 3 segment featuring correspondent Jesse Watters visiting New York’s Chinatown neighborhood to purportedly get residents' “political opinion.” The segment instead became, as Vox explained, an excuse to make “fun of the people he encountered with the broadest, dumbest Asian stereotypes imaginable.”

    Paul Cheung, the president of the Asian American Journalists Association and director of Interactive and Digital News Production at The Associated Press, strongly criticized Fox News for the segment.

    “The segment was rife with racist stereotypes, drew on thoughtless tropes and openly ridiculed Asian Americans,” Cheung told Media Matters. “Fox missed a real opportunity to investigate the Asian American vote, a topic not often covered in the mainstream news media.”

    Numerous other journalists, including Asian-Americans reporters, took to Twitter to criticize the segment for its “disgusting” and “anti-Asian” ridicule.

    UPDATE: The Asian American Journalists Association issued a formal statement about the segment, saying that “We should be far beyond tired, racist stereotypes and targeting an ethnic group for humiliation and objectification on the basis of their race. Sadly, Fox News proves it has a long way to go in reporting on communities of color in a respectful and fair manner.” The association said its MediaWatch committee is demanding “an apology from Fox News to our community and a meeting with the show’s producers to understand how this segment was conceived and greenlit to air. More importantly, we want an explanation for how this type of coverage will be prevented in the future.”

    Gregory A. Cendana, the executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and Institute for Asian Pacific American Leadership & Advancement, told Media Matters:

    Though it’s not surprising that The O’Reilly Factor did such a segment, we’re still extremely disappointed in the racist and stereotypical coverage of Chinese Americans on a major outlet. The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, for one, is not a monolith nor a model minority nor a perpetual foreigner. It was inappropriate for Watters to ask about Chinese herbs for performance. It was inappropriate for Watters to make fun of Chinese elder who did not answer his question. So much of that coverage played into the exoticization and the status of perpetual foreign of the AAPI community, which continue to be an issue in the media today. And it’s a shame that this segment had to exacerbate that.

    Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice and a former Minnesota state senator, issued the following statement to Media Matters:

    Advancing Justice | AAJC is outraged by the blatant, racist and offensive stereotypes of Chinese Americans portrayed in a recent Fox News segment during The O’Reilly Factor.  The fact that O’Reilly termed this as “gentle fun” and Watters believed it was “all in good fun” only demonstrates a complete lack of a moral compass.  It is unconscionable that a news organization would sanction a segment that laughs at a community of people, including Watters ridiculing elderly Asian Americans who were limited English proficient. 

    Although The O’Reilly Factor may believe this was 'all in good fun,' the segment does nothing more than play up every offensive stereotype of Asian Americans that the community has fought against for decades. What they should have done is to talk about the important role that Asian Americans can play in this upcoming election.  There are more than 9.3 million newly eligible voters this year, and 37% of Asian American respondents in our 2016 Voter Survey identify themselves as independents.  Our community stands to play an important role in this election and the future of politics as the fastest growing racial group in the United States.  We as a community refuse to be mocked and trivialized.

    Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund wrote of the segment on its Twitter account:

    Christopher Kang, national director for the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans told, Media Matters: 

    This segment is so clearly racist and offensive, it is impossible to understand how it was aired at all, much less as a supposed news piece. If Bill O'Reilly wants to report on the views of Asian Americans, he could cover today's survey that shows Asian Americans favor Secretary Clinton to Mr. Trump by a margin of 55%-14%. Instead, this segment insults Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and demeans people of limited English proficiency in a shockingly callous manner. The next time Bill O'Reilly realizes his segment is "going to get letters," he should demonstrate a little judgment and not air it.

  • Tax Experts: Trump Surrogates’ Defense Of His Tax Avoidance Is “Silly” And “Nonsense”

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    After The New York Times published tax documents from 1995 revealing that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump lost nearly a billion dollars and could as a result have avoided paying any federal income tax for “up to 18 years,” Trump and his campaign surrogates have claimed he had a “fiduciary responsibility” to reduce his personal tax liability to the smallest amount possible under law. Veteran tax law experts tell Media Matters this explanation is “silly,” “complete nonsense,” and “almost incomprehensibly incoherent.”

    In a front page Sunday article, the Times reported, “The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.”

    The Trump campaign issued a statement in response that said, among other things, that Trump “has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required." Leading campaign surrogates including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani have made similar claims during media appearances. Giuliani told CNN, "If you have a set of laws, you live by those laws. And the reality is, you are ignoring completely the fiduciary obligation he has to all the people around him to run his business at the lowest possible expense."

    But respected tax attorneys and others who teach tax law said this defense doesn’t pass the smell test.

    “That’s nonsense,” said Rutheford B Campbell, a corporate law professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law. “He has a fiduciary responsibility to reduce the corporation’s tax liability. … The notion that somehow he owes an obligation to the corporation to reduce his own taxes doesn’t make sense.”

    Jeff Scroggin, a tax attorney with Scroggin & Co., P.C. of Roswell, GA., agreed.

    “I don’t see that as a legitimate argument,” said Scroggin. “The only way I can see that argument working is to say he is going to take the dollars he saves and invest them back in the business and I doubt seriously he is doing that. I doubt seriously anyone is expecting him to do that, take the savings and put them back in the business.”

    He later added, “If you lose a billion dollars can you really be a successful businessman? It has to raise questions about the viability of what he’s been doing over those years.”

    Martin McMahon, co-author of law school textbook Federal Income Taxation of Individuals, said having the responsibility to pay as little corporate taxes as possible does not extend to personal taxes.

    “I’ve never heard of any legal principle that the owner of a business has an obligation to the employees of the business or the directors to minimize the owner’s personal tax liability,” McMahon said, calling it, “complete nonsense, there is absolutely no legal principle to support that.”

    Edward Kleinbard, a tax law professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, echoed that view.

    “He owes no fiduciary duty to anyone else not to pay personal income tax. It is an almost incomprehensibly incoherent argument,” Kleinbard said via email. “No, it’s just plain silly. No one is under a fiduciary duty to lose nearly $1 billion of other people’s money. He made very bad investment decisions, he skirted with bankruptcy, his lenders forced him to unload several of his properties at pennies on the dollar, and as a result he claimed a $900+ million tax loss attributable to losing his lenders’ money. What’s hard about that?”

    Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at The Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, called Trump’s claim “kind of odd.”

    “It is his own tax return, he is the one who personally benefits from it,” Williams said. “He has this other income that normally people would have to pay tax on.”

  • Conservative Newspapers Explain Why They Refused To Endorse “Frightening” Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Opinion editors at three major newspapers that have routinely endorsed Republicans for president -- dating back more than a century in some cases -- tell Media Matters they endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton because Republican nominee Donald Trump is “frightening” and potentially “dangerous.”

    Political observers and veteran news experts, meanwhile, say such a dramatic move by longtime Republican-friendly publications could have a greater impact on the race than more expected endorsements.   

    “We have been traditionally considered a conservative newspaper, having endorsed Republicans for the last hundred years,” said Cindi Andrews, editorial page editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, which endorsed Clinton on September 23. “For me personally, the two biggest concerns come down to temperament; how he would be on the world stage, his demeanor, his language he uses about citizens in our own country of different races and genders, as well as immigrants. It is fundamentally what we’re about as Americans.”

    The Enquirer, owned by Gannett Company, had last endorsed a Democrat in 1916 when it backed Woodrow Wilson. Andrews said the five-member editorial board was unanimous in their choice, adding that a non-endorsement was not an option.

    “We felt that fundamentally not endorsing in any race we are looking at is a pretty lame approach,” she said. “Because somebody has to decide who the next president is and voters have to make a decision, it felt a like a dereliction of duty.”

    The Enquirer wasn’t the first traditionally Republican paper to endorse Clinton. The Dallas Morning News ended 80 years of GOP presidential endorsements on September 7 when it backed Clinton.

    “We had recommended John Kasich in the primary and were disappointed that his campaign didn’t catch more fire,” said Keven Ann Willey, Morning News editorial page editor since 2002 and a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board. “Over that time Donald Trump just became more and more difficult to tolerate. The thought of him as the leader of our country just became anathema. On issues ranging from immigration to foreign relations to tax policy, it was hard to find much to align with him on. He is really not a conservative, he is a Republican of convenience.”

    Willey said the nine-member editorial board was unanimous in their choice of Clinton, another unusual occurrence.

    “It was a long and deliberative process,” she said, adding that opposition to Trump was based on many things such as his “name-calling of people and groups of people and the tone, the ramifications of that are just frightening.”

    The most recent and perhaps most surprising case was the Arizona Republic, which gave Clinton the nod this week. That marked the first time it had endorsed a Democrat in its history, which dates back to 1890 went it launched as the Arizona Republican.

    Editorial Page Editor Phil Boas said the nine-member editorial board began criticizing Trump nearly a year ago.

    For him, the tide started to turn against Trump when Trump supporters “started kicking and punching” a protester at a rally in Birmingham, AL, in November 2015 and Trump yelled, “get him the hell out of here.” Trump later doubled down on his rhetoric in an interview the same week, telling Fox News, “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

    “That’s when I sat down and wrote an editorial that these are sort of the ominous base notes of authoritarianism,” said Boas, an admitted lifelong conservative Republican. “It was a sign and alarm that this guy might be dangerous.”

    Since then, the paper has routinely criticized Trump, endorsing John Kasich in the Arizona primary and hitting the businessman in numerous editorials

    “Because this is probably the most unusual election in our lifetimes, the process was different than what I’m used to and for us,” Boas explained. “It really evolved over a year on our pages, a conversation with our readers. I don’t think any loyal reader of our editorial pages are that surprised that we endorse Clinton. For a year now we have been writing scalding editorials about Donald Trump.”

    Boas also cited Trump’s mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski’s disability. “I was just appalled by it,” he said. “He made fun of a disabled man, he mocked him. … To behave that way is disrespectful of the office. This became bigger than party, bigger than team.”

    Asked why they chose to endorse Clinton and not just decline to endorse a candidate, he said, “She conducts herself in a way that’s responsible, she is not going to scare off our allies and create an international incident.”

    While newspaper endorsements are seen as having less impact in recent years, political and newspaper observers said such sharp changes in these normally conservative publications could be influential.

    “This is hugely significant,” said Poynter Institute President Tim Franklin, a former editor and editorial board member of the Indianapolis StarThe Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun. “Most newspapers develop a core set of beliefs and values and then they stick to those core beliefs and values for years. That is a covenant with the audience.”

    Citing the key undecided voters, Franklin added, “These endorsements could have an impact on what seems to be a very small undecided group.”

    Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, also saw the potential for an impact if more conservative papers go with Clinton.

    “They are attracting lots of attention, for sure,” Sabato said via email. “If enough GOP papers endorse their first Democratic presidential candidate ever, that might cause some voters to ask a logical question: Why is this happening. The answer is obvious: Donald Trump.”

    Matt Dallek, associate professor at the George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management, said the endorsement switch can be impactful. 

    “It is newsworthy that in some cases, like the Arizona Republic, it is the first time they haven’t endorsed a Republican and that I think generates additional stories, additional attention beyond the editorials themselves,” Dallek said. “Even voters who don’t necessarily see that headline, it gins up attention in subsequent stories and people hear about it.”

    He added, “These endorsements from these newspapers will likely have more impact than, say, Henry Paulson writing an Op-Ed saying he’s voting for Clinton. I’m not sure that really penetrates with people in places like Ohio like it does coming from the hometown paper.

    David Yepsen, former Des Moines Register political columnist, said, “One thing Trump has to do is get moderate and wavering Republicans to ‘come home.’ When Republican papers endorse Hillary Clinton, those endorsements become something that might continue to give those Republicans pause about him.”

    David Boardman, a former Seattle Times editor and currently dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University, said, “It reflects something about how most opinion journalists see this election, clearly their level of distaste for Trump is compelling them to take positions different from what they did in the past.”

    Among those known for a long history of Republican presidential support who have yet to offer their choice are The Indianapolis Star and The Orange County Register. The Wall Street Journal does not normally endorse in presidential races.

    USA Today, which has "never taken sides" in a presidential race before, declared Trump "unfit for the presidency" in an editorial this morning.

  • Veteran Political Scribes: Failure To Follow Trump Scandals Is "Bad Journalism"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The failure of many news outlets to follow up on some of the most important investigative reports on Donald Trump, while repeatedly rehashing the same overblown stories about Hillary Clinton, is drawing scrutiny from veteran political reporters and other journalists following the race.

    In interviews with Media Matters, many reporters and editors who have covered past races say the national press has not done enough to question Trump and follow up on major investigative pieces about the Republican nominee, including questions over his modeling agency’s alleged improper use of visas, his illegal campaign contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and his handling of $150,000 in 9/11 funds, among others.

    Most recently, Newsweek published a lengthy investigation into many of Trump’s foreign dealings, noting they could cause serious conflicts if he is president. Also notably, The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has been doggedly reporting on the shady practices of the Trump Foundation, Trump’s charitable foundation. These stories, like many other Trump controversies, have been the subject of wider media attention this week.

    But if the rest of the election is any indication, they are likely to quickly fade from view in favor of media focus on Trump’s outrageous comment du jour or endless relitigating of Clinton pseudo-scandals, like her use of email and her health.

    Many experienced political reporters say this disconnect is a major failing of the political press so far this election.

    “It’s bad journalism,” said Bill Kovach, former Washington bureau chief for The New York Times, who later added, “To keep bringing up the same story in order to achieve what you feel like you need to call balance is sloppy journalism, it’s lazy journalism and it’s wrong in an election of this sort, with the kinds of issues the country is facing.”

    As for Trump stories, he agreed many news outlets engage in “one shot” reporting on Trump scandals. “I don’t get it,” Kovach added. “They disappear. If you were asking what the thing they remember most about Donald Trump, today it might be whatever today’s story is. Two days from now, that’s disappeared. But if you talk about Hillary Clinton, it’s the emails, the emails, the emails.”

    Walter Shapiro, a veteran who has covered numerous presidential campaigns for Time, Newsweek and The Washington Post, has long complained about the press’ lack of challenge to Trump’s lies. He said this imbalance is almost as bad.

    “I believe that the email scandal is badly overhyped and the Pam Bondi story is quite worthy of further scrutiny,” he said.

    Former Meet the Press host Marvin Kalb, who covered presidential campaigns from 1980 to 1988 for NBC News, said many reporters have been “seduced” by Trump.

    Asked if the press should do a better job following up on many Trump scandals, he said, “It absolutely should and it must, but it hasn’t and that to me is an illustration of the failure of the mainstream media in the United States, to treat him as they would any other candidate -- they treat him differently.”

    Clark Hoyt, former Washington bureau chief for Knight Ridder and past New York Times public editor, said Trump’s failure to release his tax returns is among the most important issues the press needs to focus on.

    “To the degree that isn’t being done it is a problem,” said Hoyt. “There has to be a concerted effort to get those returns released and there should be an ongoing enterprise effort to find out more about his wealth, his finances, his associates, his charitable contributions.”

    Veteran campaign scribes point to several reasons for the imbalance in follow-up stories. Some say that there are so many Trump transgressions and scandals that reporters do not know how to keep up, while others contend many in the press corps still do not believe Trump can win and therefore do not take such investigations seriously.

    “I don’t think it’s deliberate, but it exists,” said Christopher Cooper, a former Wall Street Journal political reporter who covered the Obama campaign in 2008. “I don’t think in their hearts they think he’s going to win.”

    Cooper added, “every morning you wake up and Trump has done something else and it kind of gets lost in the forest I think.”

    David Yepsen, a former Des Moines Register politics reporter, agreed.

    He said reporters “still don’t think he’s going to be president. … There’s still an attitude, you see it in talk shows and things, that her path is easier than his so if I am a reporter and an expectation that someone is going to get the job and someone is the clown and has no chance at winning, you do treat them differently. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but that’s the way that is.”

    Jill Abramson, former New York Times executive editor and a one-time Washington bureau chief, agreed there are so many Trump issues to investigate that some reporters may not know where to begin.

    “I think some reporters are staying on them, but there’s just such a wide array of different controversies and ethical imbroglios that no particular one gets through,” Abramson said. “With Clinton, she’s been scrubbed many times and the controversies seem to have boiled down to the ones … that get repeat attention. My overall criticism of the coverage of any of these incidents is that they get disproportional coverage in the moment and then they don’t get much serious follow up; I think that that point is true. The stories lack the impact that they otherwise might get. … They get washed away by the speed of the news cycle”

    She added, “Trump has a stunning array of unethical, really troubling different ventures. He hasn’t been in public life so the number of deals and such that he’s involved in is much broader.”

    Tom Fiedler, former Miami Herald executive editor and political editor, said many in the press get caught up in the changing daily narrative and fail to research bigger investigations further.

    “Despite the gravity of many of the transgressions reported about Trump, he invariably commits a still-newer outrage within a news cycle or two, thus driving the previous story from current discussion,” said Fiedler, who is currently dean of the College of Communication at Boston University. “The even older outrages -- perhaps committed just three or four news cycles earlier -- are buried even further under the newer ones.”

    Fielder also said, “because the news media -- and particularly television -- remains locked in the culture of false balance, whenever Trump commits his latest outrage the media feels obligated to ‘balance’ that by repeating whatever may be conveniently available from Clinton.”

    Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller said all of these realities mix together to create the problematic difference in how Clinton and Trump are being investigated and reported upon.

    “First and foremost, Trump is a master at changing the subject. Some news outlet unearths a nugget of scandal? No problem. Trump just says something outrageous (‘Hillary is a bigot!’ ‘Obama and Hillary are the founders of Isis!’) and recaptures the headlines,” Keller said via email. “The press (to be grossly generalistic...) can't resist the lure of a bright shiny new object. Second, the sheer volume of scandal-bombs … makes it difficult to focus on any one. Third, to some extent Trump gets away with stuff because much of it plays to his theme: I can fix the rigged system because I've been working that system my whole life.”

    He later said of the coverage of Clinton: “Where Trump changes the subject -- or just flat lies -- Hillary hunkers down. She responds incrementally and defensively, which prolongs the misery.”

    Finally, Keller said many in the press may seek to fight back against the claims of liberal bias by over-covering Clinton’s issues and not challenging Trump: “I think some media, aware that they are accused of being in the tank for Hillary, recycle the emails to prove they are not playing favorites.”