Matt Gertz

Author ››› Matt Gertz
  • CNN And Fox Push Trump’s Baseless “Pay To Play” Accusation Against Clinton For Morocco Speech She Didn’t Give


    CNN’s Jake Tapper and Fox News’ Chris Wallace pushed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s baseless accusation that stolen emails released by WikiLeaks shows former secretary of state Hillary Clinton engaged in “pay to play” with the Moroccan government.

    The two January 2015 emails in question show a discussion between aides Robby Mook and Huma Abedin about whether Clinton would participate in an upcoming Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) summit in Morocco. Abedin expressed concern about Clinton cancelling her appearance, saying that Moroccan king Mohammed VI pledged $12 million to the Clinton Foundation’s charitable efforts and was expecting Clinton’s participation.

    On October 21, Trump said during a rally in North Carolina, “Now from WikiLeaks, we just learned she tried to get 12 million (dollars) from the king of Morocco for an appearance. More pay for play." On October 23, Tapper and Wallace questioned Mook, who is now Clinton's campaign manager, about the emails released by WikiLeaks. On State of the Union, Tapper, although noting that Clinton didn’t go to Morocco, insisted that “this is a real issue ... pay to play.” And on Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked, “why wasn’t that classic pay to play?”

    The suggestion that Clinton’s activities with regard to Morocco are a corrupt pay to play are dubious for three reasons.

    First, there is no evidence that Clinton offered Morocco’s leadership any government action. In fact, she was in no position to do so, as the summit was scheduled for more than two years after she stepped down as secretary of state.

    Second, in spite of Abedin’s concerns, Clinton did not actually attend the summit and it went forward anyway.

    Third, according to ABC News, “Clinton Foundation records do not show any direct pledge of funding from the king or government of Morocco to the charity.” ABC suggests that this is because the $12 million pledge was actually a commitment to CGI, which are “agreements only to aid the program's international projects, not to directly fund the Clinton Foundation itself.”

    CNN’s own report of Trump’s remarks shows why his accusation is baseless (emphasis added):

    The accusation is just the latest Trump has leveled against Clinton as he's argued she engaged in "pay for play" schemes involving the Clinton Foundation during her time as secretary of state. But the Clinton Global Initiative summit in Morocco that Clinton was set to attend in exchange for the $12 million pledge took place in May 2015 and was discussed in emails by Clinton's top aides in November 2014, after her tenure as secretary of state ended.

    Clinton did not end up attending the summit.

    Because Clinton did not attend the summit, was not in the employ of the government at the time, and the funds would not have gone to the Clinton Foundation directly, there is no “pay for play” here, despite claims by Trump and some in the media. Instead, this is just the latest in a string of reporting failures regarding Clinton Foundation donations.

  • Breitbart News To Hire Curt Schilling Days After He Was Criticized By The Head Of The Anti-Defamation League

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The “alt-right” website Breitbart News is reportedly set to announce that they have hired former ESPN analyst Curt Schilling to host a conservative talk radio show. Schilling was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League on Friday for “positioning Israel as a partisan issue” after he pushed the anti-Semitic trope that American Jewish people should all support Republicans because that party is supposedly more supportive of Israel.

    New York magazine reported Sunday that Schilling, a Donald Trump supporter and former MLB pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Boston Red Sox, “will begin hosting a daily online radio show featuring political commentary and calls from listeners” for Breitbart News. New York quoted Breitbart News editor in chief Alex Marlow explaining, “He got kicked off ESPN for his conservative views. He’s a really talented broadcaster.”

    In fact, Schilling was fired from ESPN after he shared an anti-transgender image on Facebook; he had previously been suspended 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.

    The announcement that Schilling will join Breitbart News comes just days after the retired pitcher, failed businessman, and would-be Senate candidate drew criticism for asking CNN anchor Jake Tapper “as a person who is practicing the Jewish faith” how he explains “how 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.

    After I posted video of the exchange on Twitter, ADL National Director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt responded, “I liked Curt Schilling more when he was winning World Series for my #RedSox rather than positioning #Israel as a partisan issue.”



    The Democratic Party is not anti-Israel; the 2016 party platform states that “a strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism.” Moreover, the notion that Jewish people prioritize the state of Israel and Jews collectively over the countries in which they reside is a classic anti-Semitic trope.

    Breitbart News has been repeatedly criticized for publishing anti-Semitic discourse. Stephen Bannon, who has taken a leave of absence as chairman of the outlet to serve as CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign, has played a leading role in mainstreaming the anti-Semitic “alt-right” movement.

  • The James O’Keefe - Donald Trump - Breitbart News Nexus

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Weeks before Election Day, convicted criminal James O’Keefe has come forward with a new set of heavily edited video tapes that he claims prove the conservative myth of widespread voter fraud. Republican nominee Donald Trump is already incorporating the charge into what appears to be his campaign’s closing argument -- that he is the victim of a “rigged” election system, and the only way he can lose is if the election is stolen from him.

    Halfway through October, it is clear that Trump is reading from campaign CEO and Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon’s playbook.

    O’Keefe, the right-wing videographer behind the nonprofits Project Veritas and Project Veritas Action, is currently rolling out a series of videos based on footage captured by undercover operatives who wore hidden cameras while interviewing Democratic political operatives. The heavily edited videos focus on the Democrats discussing efforts to have activists disrupt Trump events and discussing a proposal -- made by the O’Keefe operatives filming them -- to engage in a voter fraud plot.

    O’Keefe has a long history of engaging in criminal, misogynistic, ethically dubious, and bizarre behavior related to his video stunts. He has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering a government office under false pretenses; sought to set up a video “sting” in which he would lure a female CNN reporter onto a boat filled with sex toys and attempt to seduce the reporter on camera; and had to pay a former video target $100,000 and publicly apologize in a legal settlement.

    O’Keefe’s videos often make a big splash, but they fall apart under scrutiny by reporters and state investigations. His past work attempting to document the ease of voter fraud is no different. In 2012, Project Veritas released videos that O’Keefe claimed proved “widespread voter fraud” in several states and the District of Columbia. But the videos did not show any instances of voter fraud -- or voting at all. Instead, the videos showed actors almost committing a crime by attempting to obtain the ballots of other people under false pretenses, and they accidentally illustrated how difficult it would be to commit actual voter fraud. O’Keefe claimed that another video showed voter fraud in North Carolina, including “ballots being offered out in the name of the dead” and “non-citizens voting." But the “dead” voter from the video was not actually dead, and the “non-citizen” in the video had become a U.S. citizen decades earlier.

    Media outlets were able to point out O’Keefe’s deceptive edits because Project Veritas previously released unedited raw footage from its hidden camera stings. The group has not done so for its latest election projects. Instead, media outlets reporting on the videos are relying solely on the snippets of video and the context that O’Keefe provides.

    That matters because O’Keefe’s two latest videos edit down footage from undercover operatives working over a period of several months into 34 minutes of narrated video purporting to show progressive operatives “rigging the election.” “The editing raises questions about what was said and what may come out later,” as The Washington Post’s David Weigel pointed out.

    As Time magazine’s Philip Elliott noted following a review of the videos, “Without the full context” omitted by the O’Keefe videos, “it’s impossible to know” what one operative meant in a quote featured in one of the videos, and that “there’s no way of telling if that person said what the tape purports” in another case. He says that exculpatory information showing operatives refusing to engage in voter fraud appears to have been excised; he notes that while some such commentary remains, it comes “long after viewers are convinced they are watching Watergate unfold in real time.”

    That’s the review from a reporter who is viewing the tapes skeptically. No such skepticism is in evidence at the launching pad for the videos: Breitbart News. The right-wing website, which has been among Trump’s biggest boosters, received the exclusive on the first the videos O’Keefe released this week and has produced several stories on the allegations.

    Trump has been mired in a downward spiral for the past several days, repeatedly claiming that the election has been rigged against him by the media and voter fraud. His claims have been rejected across the spectrum, including by Republican election lawyers and officials who have described the allegations as “unfounded” and “irresponsible” and said they could have “a destabilizing effect on the orderly administration of the election.”

    The Trump campaign -- headed by Bannon, who is on a leave of absence from his job running Breitbart News -- has clung to O’Keefe’s videos as evidence that its candidate is actually right about the election being rigged. Bannon himself was investigated by Florida prosecutors earlier this year following a report that he “was registered in a home in Miami that he rented for his ex-wife.”

    Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway claimed during an interview on Fox News’ Hannity that the voter fraud video shows that “Donald Trump was ahead of his time. … He's been talking about this for the last couple days. People have been criticizing him. He has no evidence. And here we see it goes right to the top.” Campaign surrogate Newt Gingrich said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should call on the FBI to open an investigation.

    At a speech yesterday, Trump highlighted O’Keefe’s video on activists disrupting his rallies. It seems likely that he will use the “voter fraud” video to bolster his bogus claims of a rigged election at tonight’s final presidential debate.

  • What To Expect From Fox News’ Chris Wallace At Tonight’s Presidential Debate

    If Wallace Acts The Way He Said He Would, Viewers Are In Trouble

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News played a key role in Donald Trump’s ascension to the Republican presidential nomination. Now one of the network’s hosts, Chris Wallace, is preparing to moderate tonight’s final debate of the election cycle.

    Trump used regular appearances on Fox to build a political following during and following his 2011 birther crusade. During the Republican primary, the network gave him more than double the interview time of any other candidate, regularly providing him a friendly venue to speak to its conservative audience. In recent months, Trump has retreated almost completely to Fox News, with Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and the network’s Fox & Friends hosts providing virtually all of his national TV interviews.

    The Commission on Presidential Debates responded by granting a Fox employee a coveted role as a presidential debate moderator for the first time in the network’s history.

    As Media Matters and others have pointed out, Wallace has a massive conflict of interest. Over the summer, Fox News founder Roger Ailes was removed from his position as network chief following allegations from dozens of women that he had engaged in a pattern of workplace sexual harassment. Following Ailes’ resignation, Wallace praised him as a mentor and personal friend. Ailes is now reportedly advising both the Trump campaign and Wallace’s boss, Rupert Murdoch.

    Wallace’s defenders have cited his tough interview style and the “grilling” he gave Trump during the Republican primary debates. Media Matters has at times highlighted tough questions that Wallace has asked Republicans on his Fox News Sunday program. But in recent interviews, Wallace has explicitly said that he has no intention of providing such a forum tonight, claiming that the proper role of a moderator is as a “timekeeper,” not a “truth squad.”

    Given the constraints Wallace says he has placed on himself -- and his network’s history of conservative misinformation -- here’s what we expect to see at tonight’s debate.

    With No Moderator Fact-Checking, Trump Has Free Rein To Lie With Abandon

    The only way for viewers to get accurate information when Trump is a participant in a debate is for the moderator to “fact-check him” “in real time.” That’s what Wallace said after the Fox host deployed a series of pre-made graphics about some of Trump’s most common lies during a March primary debate.

    Wallace is right. Trump lies constantly, in a manner unprecedented for a presidential candidate. If he lies on the debate stage and the other candidate is the only one prepared to respond, viewers will be left without a clear answer on matters of simple fact.

    But since being named a general election moderator, Wallace has changed his tune. Asked last month how he would respond if the nominees “make assertions that you know to be untrue,” Wallace replied, “That's not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It's up to the other person to catch them on that.” He later added that such “truth squading” is “a step too far.”

    Trump will benefit from this stance, which is likely why he praised Wallace’s comments.

    Trump Will Run Wild If Wallace Just Acts As “A Timekeeper”

    The last two debates have seen the moderators stretched to their limits as they tried to get Trump to answer their questions and he evaded them and countered with seemingly endless tangential attacks on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

    Trump doesn’t have to worry about that this time. Wallace said during a Sunday interview that as a moderator, “you're there as a timekeeper, but you're not a participant. You're there just to make sure that they engage in the most interesting and fairest way possible.”

    If that’s the case, we could see a version of Trump completely unhindered by any restrictions, at a time when he’s shown a willingness to descend to the most conspiratorial depths.

    Wallace’s Questions Will Set Up A False Equivalence Between Clinton And Trump

    Wallace has decided that one of the six 15-minute debate periods will be devoted to the issue of each nominee's “fitness to be president.” This will likely involve both Clinton and Trump fielding questions from the moderator about issues that suggest they are not fit to be president.

    This sets up a classic false equivalence trap.

    Trump is an unprecedented major party nominee. He has received support from white nationalists; called for an unconstitutional Muslim ban; issued racist attacks on Mexican immigrants; fomented violence against protestors and the press; shown little interest in policy or the constraints of the presidency; and operated a foundation as a self-dealing scam. He has a long history of failed business ventures that left everyone else holding the bag, and he is currently responding to allegations of sexual assault from at least 10 women by declaring that a massive conspiracy by the media, as well as unsubstantiated voter fraud, are all that can keep him from the presidency. He has drawn opposition from numerous Republican and conservative leaders as well as newspaper editorial boards that have supported every GOP nominee for decades.

    Meanwhile, Clinton is a well-known politician with decades of experience in public service who has drawn scrutiny from the press regarding her email setup and foundation.

    If Wallace devotes equal attention to the “fitness” of both candidates, he cannot help but mislead his audience.

    Wallace Will Bring Up Benghazi

    It seems overwhelmingly unlikely that the first Fox News-hosted presidential debate will ignore the topic that has consumed that network since 2012: the attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. Fox has sought to keep the “scandal” alive with myth after myth for too long to let it go on the biggest possible stage. Indeed, after the first debate, Wallace’s colleagues complained that the the terror attack hadn’t come up.

    There Will Be No Mention Of The Elephant In The Room

    It should be impossible for Wallace to avoid asking Trump about the many women who have come forward over the past 10 days and said that the 2005 video of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women was consistent with their experiences with the GOP nominee.

    But one factor is unlikely to come up: the Trump campaign advisor who was forced out of his previous job after dozens of women came forward to say that he had sexually harassed them. The founder of Wallace’s place of employment. The man Wallace called “the best boss I’ve had” and said he “loved” and for whom he has shed tears. The man who built the conservative media infrastructure and modern Republican Party in which a man like Trump could claim the nomination. Roger Ailes.

  • Will Megyn Kelly Stand Up Against Donald Trump’s Racial Voter Intimidation?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Megyn Kelly devoted weeks of her Fox News program in 2010 to pushing fraudulent claims that the Justice Department engaged in racially charged corruption by failing to act against two members of the New Black Panther Party who had supposedly intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling station during the 2008 election. Will she devote similar coverage to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s declarations that his overwhelmingly white supporters should engage in “racial voter intimidation on Election Day” to prevent nonexistent voter fraud?

    On Election Day 2008, two members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside a polling station in Philadelphia dressed in all-black clothing displaying the group’s characteristic insignia. One carried a nightstick; the other was a registered Democratic poll watcher. After video of the pair went viral and Republican poll watchers complained, the Justice Department opened an investigation. While no individual ever came forward to say they had been intimidated from voting, the Obama Justice Department sought and received default judgment against the New Black Panther member who had carried the nightstick, dropping initial cases against the other one, as well as the organization and its leader.

    This should have been a local news story detailing a single interaction at one of the tens of thousands of polling places across the country. But because the defendants, the new president elected that day, and the attorney general he would nominate to lead the Department of Justice (DOJ) were all black, it became a cause celebre on the right.

    The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, whose board had been packed with conservatives under President George W. Bush, opened an investigation, even as the group’s vice chair warned that the case was “small potatoes.” And J. Christian Adams, a Republican activist who had been hired as part of the Bush administration’s effort to politicize the Justice Department, left government and publicly declared that the case was an indication of racially charged corruption at President Obama’s DOJ.

    Adams would find a ready champion for his baseless accusations at Fox News: Megyn Kelly. Days after he first leveled his allegations in a Washington Times op-ed, he sat for a two-part interview with the Fox daytime anchor. Those were the first of an astonishing 45 segments Kelly would run on the story over the next two weeks, totaling more than three and a half hours of airtime. The rest of the network would support her effort to manufacture a scandal, with Fox evening shows devoting an additional 50 segments to the story over the same period. A year later, she would devote just 20 seconds to an independent review of the case, which concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred.

    Critics pointed out that that Kelly’s obsession with the case crossed the line into “embarrassing race-baiting” and a “minstrel show,” which resulted in “fear and distrust of their DOJ [caused] by round-the-clock videos of one racist idiot brandishing a nightstick for a couple hours in 2008.” Even on her own show, Fox personalities criticized Kelly for “doing the scary black man thing” and noted that she had no evidence for her claims of misconduct by a supposedly corrupt or racially biased Obama administration.

    Kelly’s obsession with nonexistent voter intimidation supposedly perpetrated by black men raises questions about how she will react now that the Republican nominee for president is suggesting that his supporters engage in a nationwide campaign of voter intimidation in minority neighborhoods.

    Trump has been warning his supporters since at least August that the “election is going to be rigged” and that they need to be “watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.” During a rally earlier this month in central Pennsylvania, he revived the argument, urging his fans to band together and “watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas. I hear too many bad stories and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.” On Twitter, he has warned of “large scale voter fraud” at “many polling places.”

    As Slate chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie has noted, Trump’s “rhetorical time bombs... could be the catalyst for actual intimidation and violence, before and after Election Day. And if that violence and intimidation strikes, it will be against the chief targets of Trump’s campaign: people of color.”

    During the debate over the New Black Panthers case, Kelly furiously denied claims that she was less concerned about voter intimidation against people of color than intimidation against white people. And in the past, she has openly admitted that there is no “overwhelming” evidence of voter fraud in U.S. elections. Those positions require her to denounce Trump’s push for voter intimidation.

    If she doesn’t, it will suggest that she’s fully bought into Fox’s race-war mentality.

  • Hannity’s Trump Defense Is Dead. What Will He Do Now?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    For the last three nights, Fox News’ Sean Hannity has defended Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who was caught on a hot mic bragging about sexual assault, by saying that while the comments were shameful, they were only “words,” compared to the “actions” of the Clintons.

    What will he do now that numerous women have come forward to accuse Trump of assaulting them in the exact fashion the nominee boasted about?

    Hannity’s response to the release of a tape of Trump bragging in 2005 that he can “grab” women against their consent because he is a “star” has been to concede that the comments are indefensible, but to argue that they are just  “words.” After making this initial dismissal, the Fox host pivots to contrasting the Trump tape with accusations of sexual assault that Bill Clinton has faced. Here’s what he said on his October 10 show:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): So going into last night's presidential showdown, there was a media firestorm over comments that Donald Trump made over 11 years ago. Look, nobody is going to defend what Donald Trump said. They shouldn't.

    But here's the thing. Last night, we watched the debate, and those moderators needled and repeatedly pressed Donald Trump over his words from over a decade ago while completely ignoring the actions of Hillary Clinton and her husband against women that accused the president, the former president, of rape, sexual harassment and public shaming.

    Now, here's the difference in all of this. Trump said offensive things, and he apologized, said he was sorry and embarrassed, while the Clintons actually did them and never apologized.

    Hannity made similar, but briefer, comments on his October 11 and October 12 broadcasts.

    Trump already had a lengthy history of engaging in sexual harassment, and he had been accused of assault before  -- which Hannity’s comments ignored. But last night, several women came forward and reported that they had been sexual assaulted by Trump, triggering a firestorm of coverage that Hannity will not be able to avoid. And Trump’s campaign has responded to these accusations by seeking to undermine the women’s stories -- stories about the very sorts of “actions” Hannity has accused the Clintons of perpetrating.

    Tonight, Hannity is scheduled to interview three of Bill Clinton’s accusers. He was also scheduled to interview Trump himself, but apparently the campaign canceled that meeting.

    Now that Hannity’s Trump defense has dissolved, what will he do? Have we finally reached a point where even Hannity is no longer capable of defending Trump?

  • The NY Post Lies About The Clinton Foundation And Haiti

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The New York Post editorial board claimed that the Clinton Foundation “isn’t even denying” the claim that foundation donors got “special treatment” from Hillary Clinton’s State Department during the response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. But the story the editorial cites as evidence quotes the chairman of the Foundation’s board explicitly saying that donors received “no special treatment.”

    The editorial board writes:

    Long-secret e-mails just caught Team Hillary in another blatant lie — namely, the claim that Clinton Foundation donors got no special treatment from Clinton’s State Department. In fact, ABC’s “case study” of the 2010 Haiti-relief feeding frenzy may be the most damning foundation scoop yet.

    And the foundation isn’t even denying it.

    ABC News got the e-mails via a Freedom of Information lawsuit. They show that, after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, a top Hillary aide repeatedly gave special attention to “Friends of Bill” looking to cash in.

    The Post is lying. The ABC News story the paper links to does include a denial of the claim that donors received special treatment:

    Bruce Lindsey, the chairman of the board of the Clinton Foundation, told ABC News in a written statement that “no special treatment was expected or given.”

    “This was a time of dire need, and we mobilized our network and wanted to make sure that any help offered was put to good use,” Lindsey said. “Many had been involved in disaster response before, in New Orleans after Katrina or after the tsunami, and again sought to help.”

    In his October 11 press briefing, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the department had reviewed the issue and found “no evidence that preferential treatment was given to any particular entity or organization with respect to contracts” with regard to Haiti:

    QUESTION: There’s a report that just came out a little while ago, an ABC report based on the – some emails. And I haven’t had a chance to read it closely enough yet to know if it actually makes the allegation or just suggests that there might have been – there might be some impropriety. So let me just ask the question that I think it hints at: What’s – in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, did the department give preference to people or companies that donated – that had donated to the Clinton Foundation in terms of contracts to help Haiti recover from the earthquake?

    MR KIRBY: No, we looked into this with this – when ABC was working this story. We found no evidence that preferential treatment was given to any particular entity or organization with respect to contracts.

    QUESTION: So in other words, you’re saying that although these emails show that people were flagged as being friends of the former president or their companies were – they – your – you looked – your review found that that didn’t actually translate into any favoritism?

    MR KIRBY: Right, right. In preparing our response for that story, we looked into that and didn’t find any evidence that preferential treatment or – in a – for contracts was given.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MR KIRBY: But I don’t think it should – with President Clinton being the – designated by the United Nations as a special envoy for Haiti, I don’t think it would come as a shock to anybody that the people associated with or friends of him or the Clinton Foundation would also in a time of great need want to contribute. But I see no evidence of any preferential or special treatment.

  • Major Newspaper Headlines Absurdly Blame Both Candidates For “Personal Attacks” At Debate

    Trump Attacked Clinton’s Marriage, Said He’d Seek To Imprison Her If Elected

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Major newspaper headlines presented the second presidential debate as generally dominated by “slurs,” “intensely personal attacks,” and “tawdry accusations,” even as their articles pointed out that it was Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump lobbing an unprecedented series of smears at Hillary Clinton.

    Prior to the second presidential debate on October 9, Trump hosted a press conference with women who had accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault and harassment. They were his guests at the debate itself, and Trump highlighted their accusations in an effort to deflect from his 2005 acknowledgement that he regularly commits sexual assault.

    During the debate itself, Trump said that if he is elected he would appoint a special prosecutor to ensure Clinton is put in jail, a statement condemned by journalists as “a new low in American democracy.” He also accused Clinton of having “tremendous hate in her heart” and being “a liar” and “the Devil.”

    The best indicators the newspapers could muster to suggest Clinton was similarly responsible for tone at the debate were her accurately pointing out that Trump was saying things that weren’t true, and her suggestion that Trump openly acknowledging he had committed sexual assault made him unfit to be president.

    But while their articles overwhelmingly show that the actions of the candidates were disproportionate, with Trump responsible for the debate’s “dark turn” due to his indefensible, obscene rhetoric, the headlines left readers thinking that both candidates behaved equally poorly.

    Yet again, the asymmetry between the two candidates has left journalists flat-footed with regard to their ability to accurately describe events.

    Here are a few examples:

  • Trump's Debate Strategy: Revive Conservative Smear That Undermines The American Justice System

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Donald Trump is signaling that during the October 9 debate, he will adopt the Washington Free Beacon's smear of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her work in 1975 as a court-appointed attorney for an indigent defendant alleged to have raped a 12-year-old girl, a case she detailed in her memoir a decade ago. As Republican lawyers and the American Bar Association have previously noted, such criticisms undermine the American system of justice.

  • NBC News And The Trump-Bush Tape

    Network Sought To Shield Billy Bush From Scrutiny, Will Not Reprimand Him

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    NBC News’ actions surrounding a recently-released tape of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and current Today show host Billy Bush discussing Trump’s predilection for sexual assault raise questions about the degree to which the network sought to protect their current and former employees from public scrutiny.

    On October 7, The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold published 2005 audio and video in which Trump was captured on a hot microphone having a conversation with Bush, then host of Access Hollywood, as they arrived on the set of Days of Our Lives to produce a segment about Trump’s cameo on the soap opera. In the video, Trump discusses how he can sexually assault women and get away with it because he’s a “star.”

    Shortly after the Post published the story, MSNBC began reporting on the video. But, as many commentators have noticed, NBC News was somehow scooped on a story that was based on video that had resided in its own archives for 11 years.

    The tape was first unearthed by the Access Hollywood staff on Monday, but, according to an NBC executive who provided “the network’s account” to the Post, publication was delayed because the story “first had to undergo a review by the company’s lawyers.” This story does not appear to hold up -- NBC delayed for several days even though they were “unaware of any specific legal issue raised by airing an 11-year-old recording of a presidential candidate who was apparently aware at the time that he was being recorded by a TV program.” Meanwhile, the Post was able to turn around the story within hours after receiving the tape, and MSNBC began reporting on it minutes after the Post story went live, suggesting that any legal concerns were overblown.

    There are of course other possible factors that could have delayed NBC’s publication of the tape. “Complicating matters was the presence in the tape of Billy Bush, one of NBC’s most important on-air personalities,” as The New York Times reported.

    Much of the media conversation regarding the tape has rightfully been centered on the conduct of the GOP presidential nominee. But Bush’s role has also sparked outrage. In the tape, as the Times put it, Bush “can be heard ogling a woman’s legs and laughing along with Mr. Trump as he jokes about kissing women, and grabbing their genitalia, without their consent.” At the tape’s conclusion, having emerged from the privacy of their tour bus, he asks actress Arianne Zucker to give hugs to both Trump and himself and asks her what she would do “if she had to choose” between the two of them for a date.

    Following the release of the tape, Bush, who was at least 33 years old at the time of the events depicted in the video, released a statement in which he said: “Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago—I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry.” NBC is reportedly planning to leave it there, with no plans to reprimand Bush in any way.

    In fact, NBC has sought to shield Bush from scrutiny. The Access Hollywood segment released after the Post beat NBC to their own story excises Bush saying of Zucker, "Your girl's hot as shit in the purple” and "The Donald has scored. Woah, my man,” as well as their subsequent interactions with her.

    Bush will reportedly address the tape on the Monday edition of the Today show. NBC News has a responsibility to explain what happened as well.

    UPDATE: CNN's Brian Stelter is reporting that Bush will not appear on Monday's edition of Today.

    Stelter later reported that Bush has been suspended from Today pending further review.