Matt Gertz

Author ››› Matt Gertz
  • What We Do And Don't Know About CNN's Corey Lewandowski Ethics Nightmare

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Corey Lewandowski

    Yesterday, CNN announced that it had hired Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager of Donald Trump’s campaign who was fired on Monday. Based on what we already know, the hire presents an ethical nightmare for CNN. But there are still many unanswered questions about the hire that could make things worse.

    Lewandowski was known during his tenure with the campaign as Trump’s anti-press enforcer, drawing criticism for physical altercations with at least two reporters (one of whom worked for CNN) as well as reportedly making “unwanted romantic advances” and “sexually suggestive and at times vulgar comments to -- and about -- female journalists.”

    Here’s what we know -- and don’t know -- about the Lewandowski hire:

    We know:

    Lewandowski has a non-disclosure agreement. During Lewandowski’s first appearance on CNN as a contributor, host Erin Burnett asked him if he had signed a nondisclosure agreement when he worked for the Trump campaign. He replied that he had.

    He won’t say if he has a non-disparagement agreement. Burnett also noted that CNN had previously obtained a copy of the agreement that Trump campaign staff signed and that it included language stating that “during the term of your service and at all times thereafter, you hereby promise and agree not to demean or disparage publicly the company, Mr. Trump, any Trump company, any family member or any family member company.” Lewandowski refused to directly answer Burnett’s question as to whether his agreement included such a clause.

    At least one outlet decided not to make an offer to Lewandowski over ethical concerns. CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that according to a source at MSNBC, the network’s executives had also met with Lewandowski to discuss hiring him as a contributor but ultimately decided against making an offer, “mainly due to ethical concerns.”

    Journalists across the political spectrum hate this hire. After Politico broke the news, reporters and pundits from the left, right, and center condemned CNN for hiring Lewandowski. They highlighted his past history with journalists, particularly female ones, and questioned the ethics of the hire.

    Including at CNN. Stelter reported that Lewandowski’s hiring was “highly controversial, even within the newsroom, in part because he has a reputation for being hostile toward journalists.” Politico’s Hadas Gold similarly reported, “Some CNN staffers were privately grumbling on Thursday about Lewandowski's hiring, especially in light of how he has treated journalists.” The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove reported that CNN staffers are “furious with” CNN president Jeff Zucker.

    Media critics agree. In the words of former CNN bureau chief Frank Sesno, who now directs George Washington University’s media and public affairs department, “Lewandowski’s credibility becomes CNN’s credibility. If he peddles talking points and lies, then CNN will be peddling talking points and lies—to their own peril.”

    We don’t know:

    Whether Lewandowski actually has a non-disparagement agreement. Can Lewandowski criticize Trump, his family members, or his company without violating the terms of his contract with the presumptive GOP nominee? Based on Lewandowski’s responses to questions about the campaign, it sure seems like the answer is no. But we don’t know for sure.

    Whether CNN knows if Lewandowski has a non-disparagement agreement. It seems unbelievable that CNN’s executives would have hired Lewandowski without knowing the terms of his contract with the Trump campaign. But if they do know about it, they haven’t passed that information on to their reporters, who have been forced to ask Lewandowski about it and watch him evade the question.

    Whether CNN’s executives considered Lewandowski’s behavior toward journalists, particularly women, in the hiring process. Does the network care that the person they have hired to do commentary reportedly physically pushed one of their own producers when he tried to ask Trump a question? Did they take into account his reported behavior with female journalists when they were considering hiring him? As Michelle Fields, who was manhandled by Lewandowski, put it, “My heart goes out to all his new female coworkers who will have to deal with him daily. I imagine CNN HR will be busy this year.”

    What role Trump played in Lewandowski’s hiring. A Deadline source claims that “Trump was involved in brokering the deal” between Lewandowski and CNN. The network previously hired Jeffrey Lord as a contributor on Trump’s recommendation, Lord said.

    Who is paying for the lawsuit against Trump and Lewandowski. GOP operative Cheri Jacobus is currently suing Trump and Lewandowski together in a $4 million defamation suit. If Trump is funding the defense in whole, that would represent a massive conflict of interest for Lewandowski.

    What Lewandowski offers CNN that its current Trump backers don’t. CNN already employs two commentators who were hired specifically because they support Trump: Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany. If Lewandowski can’t tell CNN’s audience what he saw while running Trump’s campaign, and can’t provide candid criticism of the candidate without violating a contract, what does he offer the network other than another voice pushing canned talking points?

  • Trump’s Reportedly Preferred Super PAC Funded By Major Investor In Breitbart News

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Donald Trump’s GOP presidential campaign is reportedly telling donors to give to a Super PAC backed by hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, who is also reportedly a major investor in the pro-Trump Breitbart News Network.

    Trump’s national finance chairman has directed a least one major donor to give to Make America Number I (also known as “Defeat Crooked Hillary PAC”), which is funded by Mercer, according to a June 23 Wall Street Journal report:

    Tech billionaire Darwin Deason, along with his son, Doug, and wife, Katerina, met with Mr. Trump and his top aides during the New York businessman’s swing through Texas last week, Doug Deason said in an interview. During the meeting, the Deasons asked Mr. Trump and his aides whether the campaign planned to endorse one of the several super PACs that have said they’re raising money to back him.

    In response, Steven Mnuchin, Mr. Trump’s national finance chairman, said the campaign preferred donors give to the Mercer-backed super PAC, Mr. Deason said.

    “He said that’ll be the one,” Mr. Deason said, adding that he hadn’t previously known about the group.

    [...]

    A spokeswoman for the super PAC said Mr. Mercer would be the primary funder for the group, but that it would also solicit other donations. The group will air ads primarily against Democrat Hillary Clinton, rather than promoting Mr. Trump.

    Make America Number I is likely to be among the best-funded super PACs backing Mr. Trump.

    In an April 2015 article on Mercer’s support for a super PAC that backed Sen. Ted Cruz, Politico reported that Mercer “is also one of the most generous backers for Breitbart News Network, a group of right-wing news and opinion site that command considerable influence among the conservative base.”

    Breitbart News’ ridiculous shilling for Trump has been widely disparaged by media observers throughout his presidential campaign.

  • Conservative Media Run With Faulty ABC Report To Allege Hillary Clinton “Sold A Seat” On An Intelligence Advisory Board

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Conservative media figures are running with an ABC News report to claim that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “sold a seat” on the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) to Rajiv K. Fernando, a donor to the Clinton Foundation who was allegedly unqualified for the position. But the appointee in question is an expert in financial systems and serves on other national security boards. Contrary to ABC News’ implications, ISAB’s work includes financial security, and a general who works works with Fernando -- and who also currently sits on the ISAB -- says Fernando’s ”expertise in cyber-security is a great asset to our national security.”

  • What To Do When The Trump Campaign Is Gaslighting Your Network

    When His Surrogates Lie About His Racism, Roll The Tape

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Donald Trump’s campaign is rolling out a new strategy to try to tamp down the widespread criticism from the media and his fellow Republicans of Trump’s racist comments about a federal judge: flat-out lie about what he said and why. There’s one simple thing that news producers and anchors should be prepared to do in order to hold the presumptive Republican presidential nominee accountable: show video of Trump’s own words on the subject.

    For weeks, Trump has falsely suggested that Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing lawsuits regarding his defunct Trump University business, could not be trusted to act fairly because his Mexican heritage presents a conflict of interest, given Trump’s proposal to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Yesterday, Trump released a statement in which he argued that his comments about Curiel had been “misconstrued.” According to the statement, while Trump does not “feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial,” he feels “justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.” It also states that “questions were raised” regarding Curiel’s “impartiality” because of the judge’s past rulings and his “reported associations with certain professional organizations.”

    Trump is simply lying about what he has said about the judge. And his other claims are bogus too: Experts say that the judge’s rulings have been fair; Trump’s description of the judge’s associations are false; and Trump’s own lead lawyer for the case has said that he will not ask the judge to recuse himself because he is “doing his job.”

    Nonetheless, Trump’s supporters are now actively lying about Trump’s comments during television appearances, backing up his statement by claiming that his comments were never really about Curiel’s heritage.

    Trump senior advisor Tana Goertz made one such attempt this morning on CNN. Asked whether Trump feels sorry for his comments, she said, “Mr. Trump was just bringing up that there's a conflict of interest with the judge's ties to La Raza. That’s bottom line. We’ve been down this road a million times.”

    To her credit, anchor Kate Bolduan pushed back immediately, saying, “No, that’s actually not the case, Tana. And you know that. He’s the one who first brought up the fact that he says, ‘I believe he’s Mexican. That’s OK.’ And then he said it was not OK.”

    But that didn’t stop Goertz, who replied, “I’m very aware of how it went down,” before claiming that Trump “does not run from issues … when he knows he’s right.”

    Viewers ended up hearing a debate between the anchor and the Trump surrogate over what Trump said and why.

     

    There’s a better way. Knowing that Trump’s surrogates are going to lie about what Trump said, network anchors should be prepared to run video of the presumptive GOP nominee’s statements.

    In an interview last week, CNN’s Jake Tapper pressed Trump about his racist comments more than 20 times. If Trump or one of his surrogates starts lying about what he’s been saying about Curiel, anchors should play this clip:

    JAKE TAPPER (HOST): But you're invoking his race when talking about whether or not he can do his job?

    DONALD TRUMP: Jake, I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall. I'm trying to keep business out of Mexico. Mexico’s fine. There's nothing --

    TAPPER: But he's American. He’s an American.

    TRUMP: He's of Mexican heritage, and he's proud of it, as I am of where I come from.

    Or this one:

    TAPPER: Is it not -- when Hillary Clinton says this is a racist attack, you reject that, if you are saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?

    TRUMP: No. I don't think so at all. He's proud of his heritage. I respect him for that.

    TAPPER: But you’re say he can't do his job because of that.

    TRUMP: Look, he's proud of his heritage. I'm building a wall.

    Or this one:

    TRUMP: This is a case that should have ended. This judge is giving us unfair rulings. Now, I say why? Well, I'm building a wall, OK? And it's a wall between Mexico, not another country and --

    TAPPER: But he's not from Mexico, he's from Indiana.

    TRUMP: Mexican heritage. And he's very proud of it.

    Trump is trying to gaslight the media. It’s their responsibility to expose these lies for what they are.

  • Trump Banned BuzzFeed Reporter From Speech, Credentialed InfoWars

    InfoWars Is The Nation's Leading Conspiracy Theory Website

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    BuzzFeed’s D.C. bureau chief reported on Twitter that he was barred from attending Donald Trump’s June 7 speech.

    Trump’s campaign did provide credentials to InfoWars, the conspiracy theory website headed by Alex Jones.

    Jones has heavily promoted Trump’s campaign on his show. In return, Trump has personally praised Jones’ “amazing” reputation, and Roger Stone, a key Trump ally, regularly appears on Jones’ show. Jones is a self-described “founding father” of the “9/11 truth movement” who believes that the terrorist attacks were a “false flag.” Jones has also suggested that the government orchestrated a variety of horrific events including the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting.

    The Trump campaign’s banning of Stanton from its event is part of its larger war on the media. In addition to regularly banning reporters from his events after their outlets publish pieces damaging to his campaign, the presumptive Republican candidate has pledged to “open up our libel laws,” threatened to retaliate against media outlets with the power of government agencies, issued scathing personal insults against journalists, and repeatedly sued or threatened to sue media figures.

  • GOP Civil War: Conservative Pundit Attacks Mitch McConnell For Not Calling Trump’s Judge Attacks “Racism”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Conservative pundit Erick Erickson is attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) after McConnell repeatedly refused to describe as “racist” Donald Trump’s repeated claims that a federal judge is biased against him in court because of the judge’s Mexican heritage.

    Judge Gonzalo Curiel is presiding over two lawsuits pending against the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s now-defunct Trump University real estate seminar business. Trump has identified Curiel as a “Mexican” and “Hispanic” while criticizing his actions in the case, suggesting that the judge is treating Trump with hostility because of Curiel’s heritage and Trump’s position on immigration. In a June 3 interview on CNN’s The Lead, Trump said, “This judge is giving us unfair rulings. Now, I say why? Well, I'm building a wall, ok?”

    Erickson criticized several media outlets for terming the attacks “racially charged” or “racially tinged,” writing in a June 4 post for The Resurgent, “These were not racially tinged or racially charged attacks. This was racism, plain and simple.” He added, “the Party of Lincoln intends to circle the wagons around a racist. Damn them for that.”

    NBC’s Chuck Todd asked McConnell to respond to Erickson’s post during a June 5 Meet The Press interview. McConnell replied: “I think the party of Lincoln wants to win the White House. The right-of-center world needs to respect the fact that the primary voters have spoken.”

    That response is not sitting well with Erickson.

     

     

    Dear Mitch McConnell...

    A photo posted by Erick Erickson (@ewerickson) on

  • 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:

     

    May 17:

     

    May 18:

     

    May 19:

     

    May 20:

     

    May 23:

     

    May 25:

     

    May 26:

     
     
  • 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.