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  • Vox’s Matthew Yglesias Explains The Need For Journalists To Contextualize Clinton Stories

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Vox’s Matthew Yglesias used the example of former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s charitable organization to show that journalists need to properly contextualize their reporting on Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation because such scrutiny “can be misleading” in a media environment where Clinton is presumed to be corrupt and “every decision she makes and every relationship she has is cast in the most negative possible light,” while others who pursue similar actions are given “the presumption of innocence.”

    Over the past few weeks, new information about Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation has beenscandalized by the media, with coverage focused on “optics when they find no evidence of wrongdoing, and misrepresenting stories that lack proper context. The sensationalist reporting on Clinton has sparked serious criticism of the media coverage, illustrating double standards and flawed reporting.

    In an August 30 article, Yglesias argues that the media must properly contextualize stories about Hillary Clinton, because while “it’s natural to assume that where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” in the instance of the Clinton Foundation, “the smoke… is not a naturally occurring phenomenon” but rather “the result of … editorial decisions by the managers of major news organizations to dedicate resources to running down every possible Clinton email lead.” He criticizes the media for extending the “presumption of innocence” to politicians like Colin Powell, who turned his charity -- which accepted corporate donations -- over to his spouse while he served as secretary of state, while they depict Hillary Clinton as “a uniquely corrupt specimen operating with wildly unusual financial arrangements and substantive practices” because “people ‘know’ she is corrupt”:

    The value of the presumption of innocence

    Because Colin Powell did not have the reputation in the mid- to late ’90s of being a corrupt or shady character, his decision to launch a charity in 1997 was considered laudable. Nobody would deny that the purpose of the charity was, in part, to keep his name in the spotlight and keep his options open for future political office. Nor would anybody deny that this wasn’t exactly a case of Powell having super-relevant expertise. What he had to offer was basically celebrity and his good name. By supporting Powell’s charity, your company could participate in Powell’s halo.

    But when the press thinks of you as a good guy, leveraging your good reputation in this way is considered a good thing to do. And since the charity was considered a good thing to do, keeping the charity going when Powell was in office as secretary of state was also considered a good thing to do. And since Powell was presumed to be innocent — and since Democrats did not make attacks on Powell part of their partisan strategy — his charity was never the subject of a lengthy investigation.

    [...]

    The perception that Clinton is corrupt is one of her most profound handicaps as a politician. And what’s particularly crippling about it is that evidence of her corruption is so widespread exactly because everyone knows she’s corrupt.

    Because people “know” that she is corrupt, every decision she makes and every relationship she has is cast in the most negative possible light. When she doesn’t allow her policy decisions to be driven by donors, she’s greeted by headlines like “Hillary Blasts For-Profit Colleges, But Bill Took Millions From One.”

    [...]

    Hillary Clinton is running for president. Her opponent, Donald Trump, is unusually weak and will probably lose. Scrutinizing her, her activities, and her associations is appropriate, and it’s difficult for any responsible citizen to argue that the likely next most powerful person on the planet is under too much scrutiny.

    But the mere fact of scrutiny can be misleading.

    It’s natural to assume that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But the smoke emanating from the Clinton Foundation is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. It is the result of a reasonably well-funded dedicated partisan opposition research campaign, and of editorial decisions by the managers of major news organizations to dedicate resources to running down every possible Clinton email lead in the universe.

    Whatever one thinks of that decision, it’s at least appropriate to ask editors and writers to put their findings on these matters into some kind of context for readers’ benefit. To the extent that Clinton is an example of the routinized way in which economic elites exert disproportionate voice in the political process, that’s a story worth telling. But it’s a very different story from a one in which Clinton is a uniquely corrupt specimen operating with wildly unusual financial arrangements and substantive practices.

    Much of what we’ve seen over the past 18 months is journalists doing reporting that supports the former story, and then writing leads and headlines that imply the latter. But people deserve to know what’s actually going on.

  • ABC Reports Corey Lewandowski “Is Back In The Fold” With Trump Campaign While Remaining Paid CNN Contributor

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Lewandowski
    ABC News reports that Corey Lewandowski is “still involved” in Trump’s campaign, highlighting CNN’s ongoing ethical nightmare in hiring Lewandowski as a paid contributor.

    “Lewandowski is back in the fold,” according to a report released by ABC News from campaign sources that describe Lewandowski’s relationship with Trump as “stronger than ever.” Despite his contract with CNN Lewandowski talks with and advises Trump “almost every day,” according to a “senior level campaign staffer”:

    As Donald Trump arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire, for a rally a week ago, he stepped out of his motorcade and was greeted by a familiar face: Corey Lewandowski.

    Lewandowski had been fired in late-June after serving as Trump’s first campaign manager. Given the internal fighting, Trump’s losing ground in the polls, and the candidate’s and his family’s alleged lack of confidence in Lewandowski, the campaign cut him loose June 20.

    [...]

    Now, a few weeks and a lucrative cable network contract later, Lewandowski is back in the fold, according to multiple campaign sources. They describe Lewandowski’s relationship with the candidate as “stronger than ever.”

    Each day, Trump wakes up, usually in his Fifth Avenue penthouse, and has a routine round of calls, sources say, that includes his campaign leadership (which has changed in recent weeks), his children, some close allies and someone else quite frequently: Lewandowski.

    CNN has been roundly criticized for ethical issues surrounding the hiring of Lewandowski and the subsequent nightmare he has caused the network. CNN has given Lewandowski a platform to defend Trump at every turn, while Lewandowski travels with the Trump campaign and receives paid severance from Trump , while having a non-disclosure agreement with the Trump campaign.

    And despite persistent calls for CNN to cut ties with Lewandowski, the network has stood by him as a contributor.

  • NBC Reveals Yet Another Contradiction In Trump's Tax Plan

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was blasted by NBC after it was revealed that the candidate’s latest campaign ad cites two distinct and contradictory tax plans, neither of which are Trump’s current plan. This “confusion” follows months of Trump contradicting himself on economic policy.

    On August 29, MSNBC and NBC News political reporter Benjy Sarlin reported that Trump's new campaign ad, which is part of a $10 million ad buy in key swing states, seems to make promises about lower taxes, boosted job creation, and economic growth that are "generic enough for a Republican politician." Yet, on closer inspection, Trump's promises are actually buttressed by citations linking to two different tax plans that he has either disavowed or has not endorsed.

    The ad's promises of wage growth and a thriving business community are based on a September 2015 analysis by the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation of Trump's original tax plan, which he replaced with a different and less detailed plan on August 8. Meanwhile, the ad's promise of tax relief for working families and increased job creation is based on a Tax Foundation analysis of the 2016 tax reform plan outlined by House Republicans, which Trump has yet to endorse. From NBC News:

    Trump has not endorsed the House GOP plan outright, but his new proposal,announced earlier this month, has some similarities. Most notably, they both advocate collapsing the tax code into three brackets with rates of 12%, 25%, and 33%. But there are also important differences: Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan reported that Trump's plan would preserve a deduction on business loans that the House GOP plan would scrap that would save up to $1.2 trillion in revenue over 10 years.

    NBC’s Sarlin later reported that the Trump campaign was still issuing press releases containing the tax policy discrepancies even after they were revealed, and noted a half-hearted defense from the Trump campaign’s deputy policy director:

    Numerous other journalists picked up on Trump’s contradictory campaign ad, noting that it was “odd for Trump to cite the House GOP’s plan as if it were his own,” and arguing that the confusion might stem from Trump’s refusal to “fill[] in all the details” for his latest plan.

    Trump's inconsistency with the facts and noncommittal approach to his own economic policy outlines has become a feature of his presidential campaign. Trump’s latest tax plan was blasted by the media for being “light on details” and “ridden with more of the same empty tropes” exemplified during his previous economic policy speeches. Economists trashed the plan as “nonsense” and an attempt to re-write his previous tax and economic policy plan into just more of the “standard voodoo” economics frequently pushed by Republican supply-side advocates.

    At the outset of his campaign last year, Trump frequently said he would raise taxes on wealthy people like himself, but his initial plan overwhelmingly favored the very rich. Despite publishing a tax plan that included tax cuts for millionaires, he spent months falsely claiming the opposite was true. Trump has claimed for months that the only reason he has not released his tax returns is because they are under audit from the IRS, but the candidate has actually released his returns in the midst of an audit before, and continues to defy media inquires into tax years that are no longer under IRS review.

  • NRA Calls Libertarian VP Nom. “Anti-Gun” For Having Same Positions On Guns As Trump

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm attacked former Massachusetts governor and Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee Bill Weld as “anti-gun” because of statements Weld made about assault weapons and allowing gun sales to suspected terrorists. Weld’s positions on those issues are similar to positions held by GOP nominee Donald Trump, whom the NRA has endorsed.