Matt Gertz

Author ››› Matt Gertz
  • Why Is NBC Nightly News Broadcasting From Trump Tower?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    NBC Nightly News will be anchored tonight from Trump Tower, where Lestor Holt will interview Donald Trump, in the latest example of how the television news media has bent over backwards to accommodate the presumptive GOP nominee. It’s unclear why NBC News would go to Trump’s office instead of demanding that he travel the half-mile south to their studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

    On Twitter, the news drew surprise and criticism:

    Cable and broadcast news programs have frequently allowed Trump unprecedented opportunities to regularly call in to their programs, rather than appearing in person or by satellite -- a practice that has drawn criticism from media critics and prominent journalists. .

  • RedState Editors: With Trump As GOP Nominee, Senate Should Confirm Merrick Garland

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Editors of the conservative RedState blog are warning that since Donald Trump is now the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president, Senate Republicans should move to confirm Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland “before it is too late.”

    Redstate Managing Editor Leon H. Wolf, who has said that he will never vote for Trump, wrote in a May 4 post that Garland “is not a great choice, but is not a terrible one, either.” He continued that Senate Republicans should thus confirm Garland rather than allowing Hillary Clinton to name her own nominee after what he depicted as Trump's almost certain defeat in November. Fellow editors Ben Howe and Dan McLaughlin have also expressed support for the position. Wolf concluded:

    In fact, if I were the Republicans, my main concern right now would be that Barack Obama would withdraw Garland’s nomination today. The fact that Merrick Garland still exists as an option right now is a gift that should not be squandered.

    The calculus has changed – confirm Merrick Garland before it is too late.

  • Break Out The Popcorn: Bill Kristol Goes After WSJ Editorial Board Over Trump Support

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Kristol and Trump

    The editor of one of the conservative establishment’s most influential magazines is now lashing out at the nation’s most prominent right-wing newspaper editorial board over whether conservatives should run a third-party candidate if Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee.

    With Trump on the verge of clinching his party’s nomination, the conservative movement is in shambles. Dozens of right-wing commentators have come forward to say that they will never vote for Trump, either due to his bigotry and authoritarian tendencies or because of his alleged progressive positions. Those conservatives have said they will stay home, vote for the Democratic candidate, or support a third-party candidate.

    Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard and a prominent conservative activist who bears significant responsibility for Sarah Palin ending up on a national ticket, is part of that faction. In February, he said that he “would try to recruit a real conservative” to run an independent campaign if Trump became the Republican nominee.

    But a large group of conservatives are either openly rooting for the New York businessman or have come to terms with the likelihood that he will be their party’s standard-bearer.

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined that final group this morning, with a piece criticizing any effort to enlist a third-party candidate (Rupert Murdoch, the paper’s owner, has said that the party would be “mad not to unify” around Trump). The editors write:

    Readers know our doubts about Mr. Trump, on policy and as an autumn candidate. His nomination still isn’t guaranteed, and the polls show him badly trailing Mrs. Clinton, despite her many flaws. Third-party advocates say the right candidate would give conservatives an honorable alternative to Trump-Hillary. They say a third-party candidate could win enough states to throw the election into the House of Representatives, which would then presumably choose the non-Trump Republican.

    This isn’t impossible, but then again it almost never happens. The usual presidential result is that the party that splinters hands the election to the other, more united party. 

    The editors conclude that a third-party conservative candidate would be devastating to the party’s House and Senate candidates: “[D]ueling presidential candidates would put House and Senate Republican candidates in a perilous spot. Do they support Mr. Trump or the third-party conservative? If they are forced to choose, they could alienate enough GOP voters to ensure defeat.”

    Hours later, Kristol threw down the gauntlet at the Journal. Pointing to Trump’s “crazed” comments this morning linking Sen. Ted Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Kristol declared that “serious people, including serious conservatives, cannot acquiesce in Donald Trump as their candidate.”

    Kristol savaged the Journal for prioritizing “political prudence,” concluding that regardless of the political implications, “Donald Trump should not be president of the United States. The Wall Street Journal cannot bring itself to say that. We can say it, we do say it, and we are proud to act accordingly.”

    The Journal and Kristol may both be right: Giving conservatives no choice but to support Trump in the general election may be better for the party’s congressional candidates (though it also makes it impossible for them to distance themselves from their incredibly unpopular nominee). But supporting Trump in spite of what the Journal gingerly describes as their “doubts” about his candidacy is quite obviously an act of raw political cowardice.

    It’s only May, and the looming Trump candidacy is already dividing even the establishment’s stalwarts. Who knows what the next six months will bring. But it will surely be fun to watch from the outside.

  • Morning Shows Grant Trump Phone Privileges Following Primary Wins

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The morning news programs on ABC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all allowed Donald Trump to phone in for interviews following his victories in the April 26 Republican primaries. Journalists and media critics have called out cable and broadcast news shows for allowing Trump this “shocking” “advantage,” and several programs have banned the practice.

    In March, the six major broadcast and cable news networks allowed Trump to phone in for 39 of his 63 interviews. On ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News, more than half of Trump's interviews were conducted by phone.

    The Associated Press has explained how television media’s unprecedented practice of allowing Trump to regularly call in gives him an advantage:

    Except in news emergencies, producers usually avoid phoners because television is a visual medium -- a face-to-face discussion between a newsmaker and questioner is preferable to a picture of an anchor listening to a disembodied voice.

    It's easy to see why Trump likes them. There's no travel or TV makeup involved; if he wishes to, Trump can talk to Matt Lauer without changing out of his pajamas. They often put an interviewer at a disadvantage, since it's harder to interrupt or ask follow-up questions, and impossible to tell if a subject is being coached.

    Face-to-face interviews let viewers see a candidate physically react to a tough question and think on his feet, said Chris Licht, executive producer of "CBS This Morning." Sometimes that's as important as what is being said.

    Several prominent journalists and media critics have panned the media’s willingness to grant Trump phone interviews. CBS This Morning, NBC’s Meet The Press, and Fox News Sunday have all banned the practice, requiring Trump to appear in person or via satellite.

    To sign Media Matters’ petition calling on media outlets to take away Trump’s special phone privilege, click here.

  • This False And Sloppy Smear Links Hillary Clinton To The Sandy Hook Massacre

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & THOMAS BISHOP

    Hillary Clinton

    UPDATE: IBT has changed its headline to remove the reference to 2012 and updated its article to mention the State Department's statutory authority to review arms deals under the Arms Export Control Act. 

    In an effort to challenge Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's progressive position on gun violence prevention, the International Business Times baselessly linked her to the 2012 murder of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the publication misread the documents it used to claim the connection.

    IBT’s tenuous and bizarre argument is that the State Department’s role in approving military arms sales to foreign governments somehow undermines Clinton’s support for allowing families of victims to sue companies that sell military-style firearms to civilians who subsequently use them in mass shootings. Specifically, the outlet reported that when Clinton was secretary of state, the State Department “helped approve” a $4.2 million arms contract between Remington Arms Company, whose subsidiary Bushmaster manufactured the gun used by Adam Lanza in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, and the government of Afghanistan.

    IBT did not explain precisely how the State Department “helped approve” the contract, citing only a Defense Department report. Moreover, in order to draw the connection between Clinton and the massacre, IBT claims in its headline, “Hillary Clinton State Department Approved Weapons Sales In 2012 For Company That Made Sandy Hook Rifle.” But the sale in question did not occur in 2012.

    The April 18 article criticized Clinton for “present[ing] herself as a tough advocate for gun control” and supporting “laws that could hold gun manufacturers liable for mass shootings.” It suggested that those positions are undercut because during Clinton’s tenure, the State Department “helped approve more than $100 million in weapons sales for a handful of companies — including the manufacturer of the AR-15 semi-automatic that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children in Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.” The article continued:

    The sales to foreign nations, noted in Defense Department documents, include $4.2 million in receipts from the Remington Arms Co., which was sued by families of the Sandy Hook victims. They argued that the company was culpable because it marketed military-grade weapons to civilians.

    It is not explained in the article what the connection is between the contract and the State Department, as IBT links only to documents related to a reporting requirement of the Department of Defense. The State Department does in fact have certain authority to control the export of U.S. munitions and other defense articles and services under the Arms Export Control Act, but IBT cites an annual report of Defense, not State.

    Additionally, a review of the Defense Department document reveals that IBT’s claim that the Remington sale occurred in 2012 -- the same year as the Sandy Hook shooting -- is inaccurate. The report was issued May 17, 2012 -- seven months before the shooting -- but it details sales that occurred in fiscal year 2011, which runs from October 2010 through September 2011.

  • The Familial Ties That Bind The Anti-Garland Judicial Crisis Network To Its Dark Money Funder

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & ZACHARY PLEAT

    A Media Matters investigation of the discredited right-wing group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), the main source of baseless smears against, and false characterizations of, Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, reveals a familial web of self-dealing between the organization, a major dark money funder of JCN called the Wellspring Committee, and a third nonprofit that also receives funding from Wellspring.

    Judicial Crisis Network and Wellspring Committee

    Video by John Kerr, image by Sarah Wasko.

    JCN Has Emerged As Right-Wing Media's Primary Source Of Supreme Court Misinformation

    The Judicial Crisis Network Rebranded Itself To Whitewash Its Lack Of Credibility. In the weeks following the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) re-emerged as a major source of misinformation about potential nominees rumored to be under consideration by the Obama administration. JCN was founded as the Judicial Confirmation Network during the second Bush administration; its aim was to obfuscate the often-far-right records of that administration's judicial nominees in a push to guarantee an "up or down vote" on "every nominee." During the Obama administration, JCN pivoted to smearing nominations for the Supreme Court as well as nominees for other federal and state-level openings. [Media Matters, 3/18/16]

    JCN Has Falsely Characterized Merrick Garland's Record On Guns. On March 11, after the news broke that Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland was one of President Obama's likely choices to fill the court vacancy, JCN chief counsel and discredited right-wing legal analyst Carrie Severino published a column in National Review falsely claiming that Garland has a "very liberal view on gun rights." She also claimed that he upheld an "illegal Clinton-era regulation" that would have created a registry of gun owners. Numerous judicial experts noted that JCN and Severino had mischaracterized Garland's past decisions, but the false accusations were still promoted by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Bill O'Reilly, and used as talking points on ABC's This Week and Fox's Fox News Sunday. [Media Matters, 3/21/16]

    Dark Money Group Wellspring Committee Is A Major Funder Of JCN

    The Wellspring Committee Has Been Directly Funding JCN Since 2010. A March 23, 2015, Daily Beast story explained that a dark money group called the Wellspring Committee, created by political operatives tied to the industrialist Koch brothers for the purpose of "pumping funds to other dark money Koch-backed groups," has been a major source of JCN's funding, directly funding the organization since 2010. [The Daily Beast, 3/23/15]

    Wellspring Was Reportedly Founded By The Koch Brothers. A March 29 Daily Beast story reported that Wellspring was founded "in 2008 by none other than the infamous Charles and David Koch, together with their political Svengali, Richard Fink." The article cited Politico investigative reporter Kenneth Vogel in reporting that "Wellspring raised $10 million from attendees at the Kochs' donor seminars, right after it was founded." [The Daily Beast, 3/29/16]

    JCN Received Over $9 Million In Grants From Wellspring Between 2012 And 2014. Wellspring's Form 990 financial disclosure documents show that from 2012 through 2014, Wellspring granted over $9 million to JCN. According to the forms, Wellspring granted $1.155 million to JCN in 2012, $1.435 million in 2013, and $6.665 million in 2014. In each of those years, JCN was by far the largest grantee of the Wellspring Committee, receiving 53 percent, 40 percent, and 80 percent of Wellspring's granted funds, respectively. [GuideStar.org, accessed 3/21/16]

    Wellspring Grants Represented 30 Percent Of JCN's Revenue In 2012 And 25 Percent In 2013. JCN's 990 financial disclosure forms show that the grants reported in Wellspring's 990 forms comprised approximately 30 percent of JCN's revenue in 2012 ($4.99 million total) and 25 percent ($5.775 million total) of its revenue in 2013. JCN's 2014 Form 990 was unavailable. [Foundation Center, accessed 3/21/16]

    Wellspring Received All Of Its 2014 Revenue -- $7.8 Million -- From Just Three Undisclosed Donors. A November 24 article from the Center for Responsive Politics on Wellspring's $6.6 million grant in 2014 to JCN explained in part how Wellspring is funded: "Wellspring received all of its 2014 revenue of $7.8 million from just three contributions -- one of which was a transfer of $6.95 million, according to the annual form 990 it filed this month. Like other (c)(4) organizations, Wellspring is not required to disclose the identities of its donors." [Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org, 11/24/15]

    Wellspring, And JCN Have Family Ties Among Officers And Through Another Wellspring Recipient, The Catholic Association Inc.

    Wellspring's President Helped Launch JCN And Is Married To JCN's Treasurer. The November 24 article from the Center for Responsive Politics reported on Wellspring and JCN's family ties, explaining, "Wellspring was founded and is still headed by Ann Corkery, a lawyer who for years has been involved in conservative fundraising and also helped launch JCN. Her husband, Neil, is JCN's treasurer. Their daughter, Kathleen, is on Wellspring's board. [Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org, 11/24/15]

    JCN Paid Wellspring President's Husband $98,000 In 2011-13. JCN's financial disclosure forms show that between 2011 and 2013, it paid $98,000 in compensation to Neil Corkery, the treasurer of the organization, who is married to Wellspring's president Ann Corkery. [Foundation Center, accessed 3/30/16]

    Wellspring Granted Over $1 Million To Catholic Association Inc. Between 2012 And 2014. Wellspring's 990 financial disclosure forms show that from 2012 through 2014, Wellspring granted more than $1 million to the Catholic Association Inc. According to the forms, Wellspring granted $440,000 to the group in 2012, $60,000 in 2013, and $650,000 in 2014. [GuideStar.org, accessed 3/21/16]

    Wellspring Secretary And Treasurer Michael Casey Is Son Of JCN Board Member And Catholic Association Inc. Officer Dan Casey. Michael Casey, who is listed on Wellspring's 990 financial disclosure forms as its secretary and treasurer, is the son of Republican operative Dan Casey, who is a member of JCN's board and is reportedly "the political and PR brains" of the organization. Dan Casey is also listed on the Catholic Association Inc.'s 990 financial disclosure forms as its secretary and one of its directors. [GuideStar.org, accessed 3/21/16; The Daily Beast, 3/23/15]

    Catholic Association Inc. Paid Wellspring President's Husband And JCN Treasurer Neil Corkery $50,000 Over 2013 And 2014. The Catholic Association Inc.'s 990 financial disclosure forms show that in 2013, it paid $20,000 in compensation to Neil Corkery, and in 2014 it paid $30,000 in compensation. Neil Corkery was listed as the Catholic Association Inc.'s treasurer and one of its directors. [GuideStar.org, accessed 3/21/16]

  • What Comes Next After The Washington Post Corrected Its Faulty Clinton Email Report

    It's Time For The Paper To Fix Its Anonymous Sourcing Problem

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    147 agents?The Washington Post has joined The New York Times in issuing a correction to a major, anonymously sourced exclusive on the investigations into the email server Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state. It is long past time for the press to stop granting anonymity to congressional sources who make uncorroborated claims smearing Clinton.

    Clinton has been the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination for years. Congressional Republicans are so intent on preventing her from being elected that they formed a Benghazi select committee with the apparent aim of damaging her poll numbers. 

    Under those circumstances, it seems impossible for a journalist to justify taking claims about Clinton from Capitol Hill sources at face value, as a Republican source's obvious motivation will be to twist the truth to cause political blowback for Clinton's campaign. To publish such a claim from a single anonymous, uncorroborated source would seem to be an exercise in journalistic malfeasance.

    And yet, two of the nation's most prominent papers have made that very error over the past year, and both were forced to issue embarrassing corrections after anonymously sourced stories about Clinton's emails fell apart.

    On March 27, The Washington Post published a front-page report on the FBI's investigation into Clinton's private email server that stated, "One hundred forty-seven FBI agents have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey." The Post gave no indication of why it had granted that lawmaker anonymity, whether it had attempted to confirm that number with other sources, or whether the lawmaker had actually told the reporter that the figure came from Comey.

    Yesterday, the paper issued a correction, saying, "Two U.S. law enforcement officials have since told The Washington Post that figure is too high. ...  the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50."

    The Post's article was roughly 5,000 words long. But reporters across the spectrum fixated on the now-retracted claim that nearly 150 FBI agents were working the email case.

    In a post originally headlined "There are 147 FBI agents involved in the Hillary Clinton email investigation," the Post's Chris Cillizza highlighted why that "eye-popping" figure was so important, reacting to the claim with surprise:

    W-H-A-T?

    One hundred and forty seven agents? Doesn't that seem like a ton for a story that Clinton has always insisted was really, at heart, a right-wing Republican creation?

    It sure seems that way to me.

    Last night, Cillizza noted the Post's correction, apologized for the error, and changed the piece's headline.

    The Post has issued its correction. What will the paper's leaders do now to make sure something like this doesn't happen again?

    In July, The New York Times published a front-page, anonymously sourced story on an investigation into Clinton's emails that quickly fell apart. After the paper corrected the story twice, public editor Margaret Sullivan weighed in with a blistering column calling the article a "mess" caused by "too much speed and not enough caution." She urged the paper to undertake an analysis of "the rampant use of anonymous sources, and the need to slow down and employ what might seem an excess of caution before publishing a political blockbuster based on shadowy sources."

    Earlier this month, the Times laid out a new policy requiring "one of three top editors to review and sign off on articles that depend primarily on information from unnamed sources." In an email to the newsroom, executive editor Dean Baquet, deputy executive editor Matt Purdy, and standards editor Philip Corbett explained:

    At best, granting anonymity allows us to reveal the atrocities of terror groups, government abuses or other situations where sources may risk their lives, freedom or careers by talking to us. In sensitive areas like national security reporting, it can be unavoidable. But in other cases, readers question whether anonymity allows unnamed people to skew a story in favor of their own agenda. In rare cases, we have published information from anonymous sources without enough questions or skepticism - and it has turned out to be wrong.

    Now it is the Post's turn for introspection into how it could produce such a failure.

    So far, the signs are not positive. The updated version of the story now states that only "dozens" of FBI agents are assigned to the case -- but it suggests that the still-anonymous lawmaker gave the paper the correct information: "Dozens of FBI personnel have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey."

    One of two things might be happening here: Either the Post is sloppily covering for its source but changing the article to suggest the source actually gave the correct information initially, or the paper went back to the source after hearing from the U.S. officials, the lawmaker changed their story, and the Post replaced the language without explaining that the source had walked back their initial claim.

    Neither of those options makes the Post look good. If the Post is still protecting sources who editors know led their reporter astray, how can the paper -- or its readers -- trust that future anonymous sources will be honest?

  • Will Interviewers Ask Donald Trump About His Campaign Manager's Alleged Assault Now?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fields/Trump/LewandowskiDonald Trump's campaign manager has reportedly been arrested and charged with battery for allegedly grabbing the arm of a reporter during a campaign event, raising the question of whether Trump's interviewers will ask him about the charges.

    Then-Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields alleged in a March 10 Breitbart.com piece that she was "grabbed" and "yanked" down while attempting to ask a question of Trump after his March 8 press conference. A reporter on the scene identified the alleged assailant as Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a claim later confirmed by video of the incident but denied by both Trump and his aide. On March 11, Fields filed charges against Lewandowski. After her own outlet questioned whether Lewandowski had grabbed her, Fields resigned.

    Journalists have harshly criticized Trump and Lewandowski over their treatment of Fields, yet in numerous on-air interviews with Trump, they've shied away from asking him about the alleged assault.

    On the Sunday after the incident, Trump appeared on four of the Sunday morning political talk shows. But the anchors of NBC's Meet the Press, CNN's State of the UnionFox News Sunday, and CBS' Face the Nation all failed to ask Trump about the alleged assault of a reporter by his campaign manager.

    Huffington Post's Michael Calderone reported on March 17 that "Fields' charge hasn't come up once" in "more than a dozen TV interviews [with Trump] amounting to over two and a half hours of airtime" on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN. It also went unmentioned during Trump's March 21 interview with the Washington Post editorial board.

    Now that Lewandowski has been charged it is even more important that Trump's interlocutors ask him why he continues to employ the disgraced aide.

    UPDATE: All three major cable news networks have the opportunity to ask about Lewandowski over the next two days. Trump is scheduled for an interview tonight on Fox News' Hannity, where the host is so well-known for giving conservatives a chance to clean up their political messes that he spawned the neologism "Hannitization" to describe such softball interviews. Trump is also scheduled tonight for a town hall on CNN anchored by Anderson Cooper, and a town hall tomorrow on MSNBC anchored by Chris Matthews.

  • The Free Beacon's Hollow Attack On Judge Garland's Bipartisan Credentials

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Washington Free Beacon attacked Judge Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court because he volunteered for Democratic presidential candidates more than 20 years ago. However, Chief Justice John Roberts, who was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2005, served on campaign organizations for both Bush and his father. Roberts also "assisted those working on behalf of George W. Bush" during litigation over the 2000 recount in Florida.