Matt Gertz

Author ››› Matt Gertz
  • How Donald Trump Dodged A Media Discussion Over Trump University

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Trump

    Donald Trump used a press conference about millions of dollars in donations he says he raised for veterans’ groups to hijack the cable news discussion and largely avoid coverage of an anticipated document release today as part of  a lawsuit alleging misrepresentation by his now-defunct Trump University business. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News devoted more than five hours to previewing, airing, and discussing Trump’s press conference between 6 am and 4 pm, compared to less than one hour of discussion of the Trump University lawsuit.

    After intense and admirable pressure from the press, Trump last week finally took steps toward personally donating $1 million to a veterans’ charity, four months after he falsely claimed he had done so. Trump had organized a January 28 nationally televised fundraiser as a substitute for appearing at a debate moderated by Fox News, which Trump was feuding with at the time. That night, he claimed to have raised $6 million, including his own gift. He subsequently avoided repeated questions about where the donations had gone.

    Trump’s campaign originally scheduled a press conference for May 30 to discuss the donations. But on May 29, he moved the appearance to today.

    It’s not hard to see why. On May 27, a federal judge ordered the release this week of internal documents from Trump University, a Trump-owned real estate seminar business that is facing several pending fraud and misrepresentation lawsuits brought by former students and by the state of New York. CNN reported that the documents would begin coming out today.

    Donald Trump does not want the media talking about whether he defrauded thousands of people who trusted his company to give them good business advice. By moving his veterans event to today, Trump was able to use what The New York Times has termed his “unrivaled ability to hijack a news cycle,” ensuring that the media would spend the day focusing on his comments rather than coming back from the holiday weekend with a focus on the contents of the pending Trump University lawsuits.

    All three cable news networks broadcast the entirety of Trump’s 40-minute press conference live, and devoted substantial time afterwards discussing his comments, which included both a detailed list of donations he had channeled to veterans and attacks on the press. As Politico noted, Trump “game[d] the media, again.”

    While the cable news coverage of the Trump event was by no means universally flattering, with many journalists criticizing the candidate’s attacks on the press, it did move the subject of that coverage to Trump’s preferred topic. As CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield noted after one such segment, “The question needs to be asked: what about this news conference and what happened, and is it overshadowing another case?”

    It did. While both CNN and MSNBC devoted segments to discussing Trump University -- and CNN’s Jim Acosta used a question during the press conference itself to ask Trump about the lawsuits -- all three networks devoted significantly more time to discussing Trump’s veterans event. (Acosta’s question and Trump’s response during the press conference, and a single 11-second tease on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, represented the entirety of that network’s coverage of Trump University.)

    And that’s exactly what Trump wanted to see happen.

    Research by Rob Savillo and Cydney Hargis, graph by Sarah Wasko.

    Methodology. Media Matters​ reviewed our internal video archive for discussion of Trump's press conference about raising money to donate to veterans’ organizations and discussion of the allegations against Trump University. We reviewed all mentions of "Trump" for these two topics between 6:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC, and we then timed the relevant discussion. Trump's press conference was included in the data, with all discussion related to veterans during the event coded as time devoted to the Trump Veterans Presser and all discussion of Trump University during the event coded as time devoted to Trump University.

  • In Reporting On Hillary Clinton, Media Get Facts Wrong On Colin Powell's Private Email Use

    Report Found Powell Also Used Private Email On An “Exclusive Basis”

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Journalists are suggesting that a recent State Department report proves that Hillary Clinton was the first secretary of state to exclusively use a private email account for government work, contradicting Clinton’s statements. In fact, the report states that former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used a personal email account “on an exclusive basis for day-to-day operations.”

  • The Fall Of The GOP Establishment In Jennifer Rubin Headlines, Continued

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    When last we left GOP establishment mainstay and Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, she was engaging in a hairpin turn from deriding Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for standing in the way of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) presidential run to praising Cruz and urging Rubio to drop out in order to stop Donald Trump from gaining the Republican presidential nomination.

    Since then, the establishment’s collapse has only accelerated. Trump has gained enough delegates to clinch the nomination, the Republican Party’s elected leaders are rallying around him, and the #NeverTrump crowd has failed miserably in its efforts to find a “true conservative” candidate willing to run as an independent.

    Rubin has responded with increasingly frantic suggestions, calls, and most recently demands for someone -- anyone -- to step up and save the GOP establishment now that GOP primary voters have kicked it to the curb. Watch the progression through a sampling of headlines from Rubin's Washington Post Right Turn blog over the past 10 days, from her statement that she is “breaking up” with the GOP to today's declaration that Mitt Romney is “out of excuses” not to “save the country” with a third run for president:

    May 16:

     

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  • BEDLAM: Trump Campaign Suggests Top Ally Stone Lied About Willey Payments

    Trump Campaign Responds To Media Matters Report

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Trump and Stone

    Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is reportedly denying a claim from his top ally Roger Stone that Trump gave Kathleen Willey money so she could attack the Clintons.

    Yesterday Media Matters reported exclusively that in a February radio interview, Stone said that Trump had contributed an undisclosed amount to help pay off Willey’s mortgage “so she can hit the road and start speaking out on Hillary.” Stone urged listeners to join Trump in sending money to Willey, citing a GoFundMe page and unidentified “numerous receptacles” through which donors could give.

    Willey’s accusation that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her in 1993 -- which was investigated by the Office of the Independent Counsel -- was the subject of a web video Trump’s campaign released yesterday.

    Fox News’ John Roberts, who highlighted Stone’s comments earlier today, reported that the Trump campaign said “there’s no truth” to the assertion that Trump “contributed to [the] Willey mortgage GoFundMe campaign.”

    It is unclear whether Trump contributed through one of the other “receptacles” Stone cited in the interview, or if Stone was lying.

    Stone is a longtime friend and ally of Trump who says he speaks regularly with the candidate. He has a decades-long history of dirty political tricks, and regularly spouts violent, racist, and sexist rhetoric and conspiracy theories about the Clintons.

  • Roger Stone: Trump Paid Kathleen Willey So She Could Trash Clintons

    Media Matters Releases Video Of Trump Insider Boasting About Trump Giving Willey Money

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The media is highlighting a new web video from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign that features former White House aide Kathleen Willey accusing Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s. In video obtained by Media Matters -- published here for the first time -- close Trump ally Roger Stone says Trump himself gave money to Willey so she would be able to attack the Clintons during Hillary Clinton’s current presidential run. The Office of the Independent Counsel reviewed Willey’s allegations but declined to press charges after determining that Willey repeatedly shifted her story, lied to the FBI, and urged a friend to falsely support her story. She subsequently suggested that the Clintons had murdered her husband in the same way they supposedly murdered former White House aide Vince Foster.

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

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Megyn Kelly Con Should End With Trump’s Softball Interview

    The Interview Was Complete Garbage -- And Trump Loved It

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    For years, reporters have granted Fox News host Megyn Kelly glowing coverage praising her for providing dogged interviews and tough journalism. Tonight’s heavily-touted primetime sit-down with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump should end that con.

    Donald Trump was never remotely fazed by the Fox host during their session, batting down her softball questions with aplomb. While Trump introduced the interview by saying that nothing was “off the table,” Trump’s history of violent and incendiary rhetoric, his rapidly-shifting and extreme policy positions, and his numerous lies were all either mentioned in passing or ignored altogether.

    Instead, Kelly devoted significant time with the man who may be the next leader of the free world discussing whether he had ever been bullied and if he had learned anything from his divorces. Trump's favorite movie and book and whether he had really boycotted her show all came up.

    Kelly framed the interview around Trump’s vicious, sexist, months-long campaign of attacks on her, asking him several questions about their feud. But even with those queries she largely provided him a platform to explain away his actions. They even laughed together about his tweeting technique.

    Megyn Kelly made Donald Trump look downright presidential, and he appreciated it. As the interview aired, he retweeted his followers praising their discussion ("best interview I have ever seen") and even denied that the questions had been soft.

    In short, it was an interview Sean Hannity could love.

    But Megyn Kelly is supposed to be more than Sean Hannity. While he is widely recognized as a GOP shill and conservative mouthpiece, she has sought to carve out a reputation as a real journalist with a "reputation for asking tough questions to anyone,” as one of the spate of laudatory profiles she has received over the past few years put it. A handful of video clips where Kelly actually challenged her network’s conservative narratives were regularly cited as the norm, with profilers largely ignoring her record of promoting misinformation and race-baiting.

    It has been a brilliantly-executed PR strategy. And the Trump interview exposes it as a lie.

    After Kelly asked Trump a tough question about his history of misogyny during Fox’s August GOP debate, he lashed out at her with a series of brutal, sexist attacks. Media observers rushed to Kelly’s defense, rightfully castigating Trump for his actions, but also praising Kelly as a tough journalist. A pause in hostilities led to the scheduling of Kelly’s interview, with many suggesting that Kelly would offer up a serious challenge for the GOP nominee.

    But Kelly herself tamped down those expectations, saying after she taped the interview that she doesn’t “feel any need to go in there and try to take down Trump” and calling her goal “to have an interesting, compelling exchange with him.” At the same time, Fox News has largely gotten behind the nominee, with New York magazine’s Gabe Sherman reporting today that Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company, “has signaled he plans to fully back Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton.” According to Sherman’s reporting, “the message from Roger Ailes's executives is they need to go easy on Trump.”

    Tonight’s interview certainly shows that Megyn Kelly got those marching orders.

    At least she got to plug her new book. She'll reveal the details of her experience being attacked by Trump -- after the election is over.

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

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

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

  • Why Trump’s Supermarket Tabloid Alliance Poses A Problem For The Press

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Donald Trump’s campaign has a symbiotic relationship with supermarket tabloids, which have been sliming his political foes with stories that are either flatly unbelievable or impossible for any other outlet to confirm. Trump’s allies are feeding many of these stories to the outlets, and Trump himself has used his tremendous media megaphone to amplify the sketchy allegations. That's forcing the press to figure out how to deal with tabloid conspiracies when they go mainstream.

    Roger Stone, the longtime friend and ally of Trump who was a paid consultant to his campaign in 2015 and now heads a pro-Trump super PAC, is playing a key role in pushing pro-Trump stories to the tabloids. They’re frequently quoting him and at times he seems to serve as the source for their anonymously sourced hit pieces. Stone has a decades-long history of political dirty tricks, as well as violent, racist, and sexist rhetoric.

    Trump has a “very cozy relationship” to the National Enquirer, as The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers has detailed. The presumptive Republican nominee is also reportedly “very close” to the tabloid’s chief executive, David Pecker, with whom he has reportedly been “friends for years.”

    That friendship with Pecker has “paid dividends” for Trump, according to New York magazine. Gabriel Sherman reported in October that while Trump’s “scandal-filled personal life would be yuge! for the supermarket tabloid,” he has been “exclusively celebrated in the Enquirer’s pages.” Trump himself has gotten in on the act, writing op-eds for the tabloid extolling his own virtues. The paper endorsed him in March with an editorial that Borchers writes “read[s] like one of the candidate's stump speeches.”

    Meanwhile, the tabloid has spent the last nine months savaging Trump’s opponents, and Trump’s ally Stone has been the source for many of the most sordid accusations. The Enquirer cited Stone in multiple pieces: in a report claiming that Jeb Bush used cocaine on the night his father became president; in a piece claiming that Bill Clinton is addicted to cocaine and Hillary Clinton covered it up; in a story alleging that Chelsea Clinton has received cosmetic surgery so that she does not resemble a friend of the Clintons whom Stone claims is her real father; and in an article claiming that Ted Cruz has had affairs with several women.

    Trump’s campaign has also been boosted by the Enquirer’s neighbor on the supermarket check-out line, the Globe (both are owned by American Media Inc.). Globe headlines have included “Donald Trump Schools The Pope On Vital American Security” and “Donald Trump Exposes Evil Liar Hillary Clinton.” In addition to calling Clinton a liar, the tabloid’s headlines have termed Clinton “Ruthless & Vicious,” a self-confessed “Alcoholic,” and a “Crook” who is “Gay.” Stone has been cited in the Globe’s pages as well; the tabloid wrote up his allegation that Chelsea Clinton is not Bill Clinton’s daughter.

    In addition to the on-the-record citations of Stone, Trump’s campaign and Stone himself have both been accused of planting unfavorable stories in the tabloids about Trump’s Republican rivals. These are plausible allegations given Stone’s long history of dirty tricks.

    Under other circumstances, Stone’s use of the tabloids to bolster his smear jobs would simply be more evidence that he is a despicable character. But the media’s fractured environment and Trump’s unique willingness to promote those claims is bringing those tabloid conspiracies to the masses.

    Earlier this month, Trump highlighted an Enquirer story linking Cruz’s father to the assassination of President Kennedy, praising the tabloid’s reporting in nationally televised interviews and triggering a maelstrom of coverage. The story had cited anonymous “D.C. insiders” confirming the story; Stone has a long history of promoting conspiracy theories about the assassination, and he claimed on Twitter that the tale was accurate.

    This points to a potential media strategy the Trump camp could employ in the months to come. First, Stone uses a combination of noncredible opposition research and outright lies to plant in the tabloids stories that no real, credible, media outlet would take. Then Trump’s allies or even Trump himself can push the stories into the mainstream, bringing them up in media appearances. This forces the rest of the press to decide whether and how to cover thinly sourced stories that they can’t confirm but that are now being pushed by a major party’s presidential candidate.

    That matters because Stone has pledged that his anti-Clinton smear book, which portrays “Bill as a serial rapist [and] Hillary as an enabler,” will be the Trump team’s playbook during the general election; Trump has already praised the book and cited its conclusions on the campaign trail. While the press criticized Trump’s elevation of the Enquirer story about Ted Cruz’s father, Trump’s Stone-based accusations about the Clintons have regularly appeared in reports on his strategy without that level of skepticism.

    The latest editions of the Enquirer and Globe both feature cover stories that smear Clinton with either anonymous claims that closely resemble ones previously pushed by Stone or with direct statements from the Trump ally.

    The Globe’s “explosive exclusive” claims that Trump “is planning swift vengeance on sleazebag Republican rivals Ted Cruz, John Kasich, co-conspirator Carly Fiorina, AND Hillary Clinton.” The story is based solely on the claims of an anonymous “insider.”

    That “insider” claims that Clinton is “under scrutiny for money laundering as a result of donations to the Clinton Global Initiative” because of “talk the cash is being secretly funneled into Hillary’s campaign and into the family’s pockets!” The “insider” concludes that after Trump is elected, “Hillary will face prison.” The anonymous allegations echo Stone’s claim in his book that the Clintons have used “the Clinton Foundation to line their own pockets.”

    The insider also alleges to the Globe, absent any corroborating evidence, that Kasich “appeared to be living as a couple” with another man for 14 years between his first and second marriages, that the Justice Department under Trump will investigate Cruz’s father for being a “phony preacher intent on ripping off American taxpayers,” and that Fiorina is a “homewrecker.”

    The Enquirer cover story purports to detail the results of a “12 Month Investigation” that follows Stone’s thesis precisely and quotes him claiming that Bill Clinton has had affairs with 2,000 women (not a typo) and that Hillary Clinton “bullied and intimidated them in an attempt to cover up her husband’s misdeeds.” The story cites “36 unfortunate women who crossed paths with the predator president”; of them, 18 were mentioned in Stone’s book (seven of those are anonymous); the stories of 19 of the women are cited as coming from anonymous sources or rumor.

    Trump has already made clear that sloppy allegations about the Clintons’ personal lives will be at the center of his campaign. His alliance with the tabloids will prove a boon to that effort.

  • Fox News Resorts To Anonymous Sources In Attempt To Revive Debunked Benghazi Claim

    Network Is Still Trying To Turn Terrorist Attacks Into A Campaign Issue

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News is attempting to revive the 2012 Benghazi attacks as a campaign issue with a new report that contrasts what it describes as statements from Hillary Clinton and the State Department that all possible efforts were made to save lives that night with statements from two anonymous members of the military on duty that night who disagree. In fact, reports from House and Senate committees as well as the secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chiefs at the time of the attack and their predecessors all back up the State conclusion that no other military response would have yielded better results.