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  • Report: Trump's Campaign Resources Could Help Him Launch A Media Outlet "To Carry On His Movement"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A Bloomberg Businessweek report brought to light the possibility that if Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump loses the election, he could capitalize on his campaign resources and partner with Breitbart News to launch a Trump TV network using his list of supporters to “gain a platform from which to carry on his movement” and strengthen the global “cross-pollination of right-wing populist media and politics.”  

    Trump’s campaign has constantly lashed out against the media, even Fox News, despite his retreat to the network and their efforts to rehabilitate his image. The Trump campaign also announced proposals to “break up” media companies that Trump disapproves of, and “open up our libel laws” to make it easier to sue outlets and journalists. At the same time, Trump has also parroted anti-Semitic talking points from white nationalist “alt-right” media, including Breitbart News, which is the website of his campaign CEO Stephen Bannon. Recently, the Trump campaign launched a nightly Facebook Live show “to circumvent mainstream media,” an effort many journalists understood as “a Trump TV dry run.”

    The October 27 Bloomberg Businessweek article explained that Trump is uniquely positioned to launch his own TV network -- which reportedly began as a threat to Fox News’ Roger Ailes to gain more favorable coverage of the candidate -- given his readymade audience of the campaign supporters he paid for, who will “buy into his claim that the election was rigged and stolen from him.” As the report noted,  “the easiest move would be for Trump to partner with Bannon’s global Breitbart News Network” to launch “a platform from which to carry on his movement.” The report  also noted that “this cross-pollination of right-wing populist media and politics” is already happening in Great Britain, where Raheem Kassam -- editor-in-chief of Bannon’s Breitbart London -- is a candidate to become the leader of the UK Independence Party, with the slogan “Make UKIP Great Again.” From the article:

    According to a source close to Trump, the idea of a Trump TV network originated during the Republican primaries as a threat [Trump’s son-in-law Jared] Kushner issued to Roger Ailes when Trump’s inner circle was unhappy with the tenor of Fox News’s coverage. The warring factions eventually reconciled. But Trump became enamored by the power of his draw after five media companies expressed interest. “One thing Jared always tells Donald is that if the New York Times and cable news mattered, he would be at 1 percent in the polls,” says the source. “Trump supporters really don’t have a media outlet where they feel they’re represented—CNN has gone fully against Trump, MSNBC is assumed to be against Trump, and Fox is somewhere in the middle. What we found is that our people have organized incredibly well on the web. Reddit literally had to change their rules because it was becoming all Trump. Growing the digital footprint has really allowed us to take his message directly to the people.”

    It’s not clear how much of this digital audience will remain in Trump’s thrall if he loses. But the number should be substantial. “Trump will get 40 percent of the vote, and half that number at least will buy into his claim that the election was rigged and stolen from him,” says Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign chief and an outspoken Trump critic. “That is more than enough people to support a multibillion-dollar media business and a powerful presence in American politics.”

    Digital strategists typically value contact lists at $3 to $8 per e-mail, which would price Trump’s list of supporters anywhere from $36 million to $112 million. The Trump enterprise could benefit from it in any number of ways. The easiest move would be for Trump to partner with Bannon’s global Breitbart News Network, which already has a grip on the rising generation of populist Republicans. Along with a new venture, Trump would gain a platform from which to carry on his movement, built upon the millions of names housed in Project Alamo. “This is the pipe that makes the connection between Trump and the people,” says Bannon. “He has an apparatus that connects him to an ever-expanding audience of followers.”

    As it happens, this cross-pollination of right-wing populist media and politics is already occurring overseas—and Trump’s influence on it is unmistakable. In early October, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart London, Raheem Kassam, a former adviser to Nigel Farage, announced he would run for leader of UKIP. His slogan: “Make UKIP Great Again.”

  • Trump Campaign Manager Tells "Dream Team" Of Pro-Trump Paid CNN Contributors To "Stay Strong" 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, tweeted out encouragement and praise to the campaign’s “dream team” of pro-Trump CNN contributors, underscoring CNN’s ongoing Trump surrogate problem.

    Over the course of the 2016 election, CNN hired four Trump supporters -- Kayleigh McEnany, Scottie Nell Hughes, Jeffrey Lord and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski -- explicitly to defend Trump on air. While on CNN, Lord defended Trump’s attacks against a Gold Star family and turned a discussion of Trump’s hesitance to disavow David Duke into an argument about whether Democrats used to support the KKK. Lewandowski has revived Trump’s birther claims against President Obama and recommending that the Republican nominee sue The New York Times “into oblivion.” McEnany defended Trump’s claim that Obama is the “founder of ISIS,” Hughes attacked Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine’s use of Spanish, and both Hughes and McEnany have defended Trump against multiple sexual assault accusations.

    Lewandowski in particular has been an ethical nightmare for CNN; he likely has a non-disparagement agreement with the Trump campaign, was hired while he was still being paid severance by Trump’s campaign, has continued to do “consulting work” for Trump, and recently joined the campaign for events in Maine and New Jersey.

    Jeff Zucker, the network’s president, defend hiring Trump surrogates as paid CNN contributors, claiming they represent the “14 million people who voted for” Trump.


    On October 27, Conway praised the “members of our @CNN Dream Team” for “battling a daily deluge of spin & sophistry,” and urged them to “stay strong”:

  • Election Experts: Trump Ally Roger Stone’s Exit Polling Plan Smacks Of “Intimidation”

    Expert: "There Is Little Doubt That Any Such ‘Exit Polling’ Would Be Extremely Biased"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Election experts and polling veterans tell Media Matters that the plan by longtime Donald Trump adviser and friend Roger Stone to unleash hundreds of untrained “exit poll” watchers in search of vote theft on Election Day risks intimidating voters in the targeted communities. They also explain that unprofessional exit polling is a nonsensical way to discover alleged voter fraud and vote rigging, which is "extremely rare" in the first place.

    Stone, an ardent conspiracy theorist and devoted Trump ally, has for months been warning that Democrats are planning to “rig” and “steal” the election for Hillary Clinton. (Trump has echoed this warning in numerous campaign rallies.)

    Stone heads the 527 group Stop the Steal, which has announced plans to conduct “targeted EXIT-POLLING in targeted states and targeted localities that we believe the Democrats could manipulate based on their local control, to determine if the results of the vote have been skewed by manipulation.” The Guardian, in a piece that quoted several experts raising concerns about Stone’s proposal, noted that Stone and his group plan to “conduct exit polling in Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte, Richmond and Fayetteville – all locations in pivotal swing states." Stone has been recruiting volunteers for the project from far-right sources like the audience of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio program. 

    After the Huffington Post raised concerns about plans listed on Stop the Steal to have election-watchers wear official-looking ID badges and videotape inside polling places, Stone said he “ordered them taken down” from the site and stressed that he would “operate within the confines of election law.”

    But the underlying plan to conduct amateur exit polling is still extremely problematic, several election law experts and polling veterans told Media Matters.  

    “From what I’ve read about it, this doesn’t sound like exit polling of the traditional sense, it sounds to me as if there is a targeting of certain communities, primarily minority communities and we fear this is going to have an intimidating effect,” Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said in an interview. “Voters are supposed to be free in their voting. This seems to be pointed in absolutely the wrong direction.”

    He later added, “We certainly do have a fear of intimidation when they focus on areas of disproportionately large minority populations. It is just wrong. It has an intimidating effect.”

    Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political science professor and author of Voice of the People: Elections and Voting Behavior in the United States, said he was “very skeptical about the accuracy of any exit polling conducted by Mr. Stone and his allies. He is a well-known right-wing provocateur and there is little doubt that any such ‘exit polling’ would be extremely biased.”

    “The kind of vote fraud Trump and Stone have been warning about is, in fact, extremely rare. There are lots of real problems with the way elections are conducted in the U.S., but that is not one of them," Abramowitz said. 

    Rick Hasen, a professor and political campaign expert at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, likened Stone’s plan to a “goon squad.”

    ”It does not sound like a sensible exit polling strategy,” he said. “Why target only these nine cities? Exit polling is best to get a snapshot of the electorate, not to ferret out supposed voter fraud. Impersonation fraud -- the kind of fraud Trump and his allies have been talking about -- is extremely rare and I can’t find evidence it has been used to try to sway an election at least since the 1980s.”

    Richard Benedetto, professor of journalism at American University School of Public Affairs, disputed that any of Stone’s methods could wind up helping a legal challenge of the election results.

    “It won’t be an admissible thing in court, you need to be able to prove real fraud, not hearsay stuff,” Benedetto said. “That the people who voted were not the actual people, you have to have evidence of that. There is a lot of exit polling that goes on and most of it is pretty bad, most of it is unscientific. You have to have a scientific sample.”

    Lorraine Minnite, a professor of public policy at Rutgers University, Camden, conducted exit polls in New York as a political science professor at Barnard College. She said Stone’s lack of credibility hurts any such effort by him to examine the voting.

    “It doesn’t sound like what they are doing is an exit poll,” she said in an interview. “He is not a credible person when it comes to elections and campaign tactics.”

    As for claims of voter fraud, she said, “That’s not factually accurate and there is no evidence to support a claim like that. It doesn’t make any sense. If what is happening is voter imposters, I don’t understand how somebody doing an exit poll is going to uncover that.” 

    Nate Persily is a Stanford Law School professor and elections expert who also served as the Senior Research Director for the Presidential Commission on Election Administration after the 2012 election. He called in person voter fraud “incredibly rare.”

    “In person voter fraud at polling places … is a terribly inefficient (and easily discoverable) way to rig an election,” Persily said via email. “It would require enlisting hordes of voters to go from polling place to polling place pretending to be someone they are not.”