Elections

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  • Huffington Post: CNN's Zucker Continues To Defend Hiring Of Corey Lewandowski

    Zucker Acknowledges Knowing That Lewandowski Was Receiving Payment From Trump Campaign While Working As Paid Analyst On CNN

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN CEO Jeff Zucker defended the hiring of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as a paid CNN political analyst while also noting he was aware of the former aide continuing to receive payment from the campaign at the time of his hiring.

    Lewandowski, who is still currently receiving severance from the campaign was hired by CNN as a political commentator in June. Since joining CNN, Lewandowski has used his platform to relentlessly defend Trump, including defending his attacks on a Gold Star family, claiming Trump’s solicitations of foreign donation are legal, and reviving Trump’s birther conspiracy theory.

    Further complicating CNN’s ethical dilemma, Lewandowski has admitted to traveling with the Trump campaign and is reportedly advising Trump in preparation for the upcoming debates.

    In a September 20 article, The Huffington Post highlighted Jeff Zucker's continuing defense of Lewandowski, and despite knowing at the time of his hiring that Lewandowski was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign while CNN is paying him for his analysis. According to the Huffington Post article:

    Lewandowski, who presumably can’t speak candidly about the Trump campaign due to a non-disclosure agreement, was flowing with praise for his former boss right out of the gate.

    In mid-July, CNN began to disclose that Lewandowski was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign during his on-air appearances, though the network didn’t explain why it began doing so then.

    At Tuesday’s town hall, Zucker said the network was aware of Lewandowski’s severance from the start of his employment.

    [...]

    Zucker has a long history with Trump given that he ran NBC during the launch of Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice.” The veteran TV executive faced criticism early in the 2016 election for the attention CNN paid to Trump, who now rarely appears on the network and routinely bashes it as favoring Hillary Clinton.

    CNN, which already employed several prominent conservative commentators, added several pro-Trump pundits this cycle, including Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany and Scottie Nell Hughes. Zucker publicly praised Lewandowski as having “done a really nice job” in an August interview that ran the same day the Republican operative revived Trump’s toxic birtherism.

    CNN host Jake Tapper, who moderated Tuesday’s employee town hall, also emphasized that many of the network’s stable of conservative pundits were Trump critics and that it’s important to have people on air representing the views of the tens of millions of Americans expected to vote for the Republican nominee.

    For information on Media Matters’ petition for CNN to cut ties with Lewandowski, please click here.

  • Donald Trump Jr. Has Become A Hero To Neo-Nazi Websites

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    In recent weeks, Donald Trump Jr. has made a “gas chamber” reference, retweeted an anti-Semitic author, and compared Syrian refugees to Skittles. Trump Jr.’s actions have endeared him to neo-Nazi websites, which have celebrated the Republican nominee’s son for having “hit a nerve” with the “Jew Media” and for indicating that “a part of him has been with us since day one.”

    Members of the “alt-right” and white nationalist movement have been heavily supporting Trump’s campaign. Meanwhile, the candidate and his team have been courting members of the movement, appearing in white nationalist media, refusing to denounce them, and retweeting their messages.

    The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote that a “lot of Donald Trump Jr.’s trail missteps seem to involve white nationalists and Nazis.” The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff noted that Trump Jr. is “Trump’s worst surrogate,” citing his “penchant for interacting with the alt-right.”

    During this presidential campaign, Trump Jr.:

    • posted an image celebrating “Pepe the Frog, a symbol that has been co-opted by white supremacists and nationalists.” 
    • said during a radio interview that the media would be “warming up the gas chamber” if Trump lied like Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has.
    • retweeted anti-Semitic writer Kevin MacDonald, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “the neo-Nazi movement's favorite academic.”
    • gave an interview to white nationalist radio host James Edwards, during which Edwards and Trump Jr. complained about “political correctness.”

    Trump Jr.’s latest gift to white nationalists is his tweet comparing Syrian refugees to Skittles. Talking Points Memo’s Allegra Kirkland noted that “Trump Jr. borrowed an analogy popular among anti-immigrant activists and white nationalists for his meme likening Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles.” The Intercept and The Independent pointed out that the symbolism in Trump Jr.’s tweet is a dog whistle that dates back to the Nazis.

    The Trump campaign defended Trump Jr.’s tweet, claiming that “Speaking the truth might upset those who would rather be politically correct than safe.”

    Neo-Nazis have been thrilled with Trump Jr.’s actions in the past several weeks.

    The Daily Stormer is a virulently anti-Semitic website that celebrates Nazism, purports to document the “Jewish Problem,” and attacks “kikes.” Writer “Azzmador” wrote a September 20 post headlined “Jew Media Deplores Trump Jr.’s Holocaust of Skittles.” The writer claimed: “When the Jews put a pack of apes in suits to call you ‘ignorant,’ you know you’ve hit a nerve!” and added:

    Certain people just can’t handle the truth. They are known as “stupid people.”

    The Jews depend on their media’s ability to cultivate good goy opinions among these ignoramuses. Without them and their votes, democracy isn’t nearly so deadly a weapon as they like.

    […]

    Perfectly reasonable, if you asked me, and personally, I think 3 Skittles in the bowl is an outrageously charitable underestimate. So, in the midst of all these stabbings and explosions happening courtesy of your freshly-minted American Kebabs, what is the most riveting story (according to the MSM) concerning the current presidential race?

    The Daily Stormer also celebrated other Trump Jr. incidents. “Zeigel” wrote a September 15 post headlined “YES: Donald Trump Jr. Makes Casual Joke About Gas Chambers!” “Zeigel” wrote that Trump Jr.’s reference to the gas chamber is “the sort of metaphor that someone on the Alt-Right would use instinctively. … It’s language that immediately sends signals to both Nazis and Jews. But normal people wouldn’t even understand what he’s talking about.” The writer further added:

    So this remark is either a very calculated stunt to get media Jews riled up about nothing, or an innocent comment by someone who’s hiding his power level.

    And considering the other events involving Trump Jr. during this campaign, I would tend to favor the latter hypothesis.

    If Trump’s own son is a Nazi, what are the odds that he himself isn’t red-pilled?

    The Daily Stormer also praised Trump Jr.’s retweeting of Kevin MacDonald, writing, “There is no way Donald Trump Jr. didn’t know” MacDonald is an anti-Semite:

    MacDonald is definitely an anti-Semite. And everyone knows this. He wrote three huge books about how Jews are screwing over the goyim, for God’s sake.

    There is no way Donald Trump Jr. didn’t know about this when he retweeted him. I mean, a quick look at Dr. MacDonald’s twitter feed will dispel any doubts that he’s basically a Nazi.

    [...]

    Just the fact that Trump Jr. retweeted him should bring a lot of attention to Kevin MacDonald’s work. It’s quite surprising, in fact, that the mainstream media isn’t exploding at this event.

    Infostormer -- a neo-Nazi website with the slogan “destroying Jewish tyranny” -- wrote a September 15 post with the headline “LOL: Donald Trump Jr. Attacked By Jews For Making Gas Chamber Joke On Radio Show.” The website regularly posts anti-Semitic material and slurs like “kike” and its background image is a picture of a Nazi rally. The post about Trump Jr. by “Marcus Cicero” stated:

    The transformation of our society into one dominated by the Shitlord continues to progress rather smoothly, and I’m rather pleased to announce that the eldest son of our next President is now officially aboard the LULZ EXPRESS.

    […]

    Actually, I feel that a part of him has been with us since day one, and we’ve only seen bits and pieces of the true Kek-Master rise forth from the ether.

    The website also posted an August 31 article celebrating Trump Jr.’s retweet of MacDonald, writing:

    OK so MacDonald is more than just a Jew critic, he absolutely hates them lol.

    I doubt that this was done intentionally, but who knows.  I’m just surprised that more hasn’t been made out of this yet.  You’d figure the Jew media would be running around with their heads cut off trying to psychoanalyze every aspect of this.

  • “Always A Good Point”: Fox News Anchor Boosts NRA’s New False Attack Ad On Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News aired a new attack ad from the NRA that misrepresents Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s record to falsely claim she “could take away” your “right to self-defense.” Before and after airing the ad, Fox personalities gave credence to its faulty premise.

    A new $5 million ad buy from the NRA depicts a home invasion attack where a woman is awoken in her home as a man kicks in her door. The woman begins to open a gun safe to retrieve a weapon but the gun vanishes as a narrator says, “Hillary Clinton could take away her right to self-defense.” The premise of the ad, which suggests Clinton would ban gun ownership, is false: Clinton has repeatedly said that legitimate Second Amendment rights should be protected while she advocated for expanding background checks on gun sales and other measures to prevent dangerous people from accessing guns. She has also explained that you can call for stronger gun laws “and still support the right of people to own guns.” Fact-checkers have repeatedly rated as false the claims that Clinton opposes gun ownership by law-abiding Americans and that she would abolish the Second Amendment.

    Fox’s The Real Story aired the NRA ad on September 20. Fox News national correspondent John Roberts credulously gave credence to the ad’s claim with his lead-in: “It's a $5 million buy in five battleground states in which they take aim at Hillary Clinton and her push for new gun control and what that means -- might mean, rather, for people's safety. Watch this.”

    After the ad aired, Roberts said an NRA representative told him that “this ad is particularly timely right now considering what happened in New York City and New Jersey over the weekend and the fact that Donald Trump last week called out Hillary Clinton for wanting to implement new gun controls while at the same time keeping a phalanx of armed guards around her.”

    Real Story host Melissa Francis responded, “Right. Right. Always a good point.”

    In fact, the Republican nominee's claim that Clinton’s Secret Service detail should disarm, which echoes a common NRA attack on Clinton, is also based on the falsehood that Clinton opposes private gun ownership.

    From the September 20 edition of The Real Story:

     

  • Flashback: Trump Was Silent When The NRA Cased A Real Mall To Show How To Carry Out The “Perfect” Terrorist Attack

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump recently suggested that “freedom of the press” should be limited because of the existence of magazines that show terrorists how to build bombs, but had nothing to say in July when the NRA released a video in which they cased an Oklahoma mall to demonstrate how to carry out a successful terrorist attack.

    While discussing the weekend bombings in New Jersey and New York on Fox News, Trump made critical statements about “freedom of the press” and “freedom of expression,” claiming, “It’s called ‘freedom of the press,’ where you buy magazines and they tell you how to make these same bombs that I saw.” Trump added, “we should arrest the people that do that because they’re participating in crime”:

    The Huffington Post called Trump’s remarks “chilling” because of Trump’s “casual dismissal of ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of speech,’ bedrocks of American democracy, as potentially disposable in fighting terrorism.” Fusion also criticized Trump’s remarks, noting that they should be examined in the context of Trump’s widely panned past comments about wanting to “open” up libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists.

    Despite Trump’s recent comments connecting terrorism and "freedom of the press," Trump was not as critical in July when the National Rifle Association, which has endorsed Trump for president, released a video where an NRA employee cased a real shopping mall in Oklahoma to show how to carry out the “perfect” mass shooting terrorist attack.

    In the video, released as part of an online series, NRA News commentator Dom Raso warned of a hypothetical, forthcoming mass shooting at a shopping mall carried about by “a radical Islamic terrorist” who “is looking for gun-free zones in states and cities where politicians have reduced our Second Amendment freedoms.”

    Although there is no evidence that mass shooters choose their targets based on whether or not guns can be legally carried at those locations, the NRA attempted to illustrate its point by sending a member of its video crew to record cell phone video footage showing how to case a shopping mall.

    The NRA video blurred out some faces and store signs, but not others, making the mall identifiable as Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City, OK, which is less than a mile from the offices of Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s ad firm.

    As footage of the mall and shoppers was shown in the NRA video, Raso explained how to maximize casualties in a mass shooting incident, describing a would-be shooter’s planning, “As he walks through nearby shopping malls, he’s looking at the exits. He wants them to be few and far between -- hard to find in a panic, and easy to block. He wants lots of open area, high ground, and places to channelize people.”

  • Fox Figures Step Up Participation In Trump's Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The close-knit relationship between Fox News and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has strengthened in recent days, as several Fox figures have stepped up their participation in Trump’s campaign. Fox’s intimacy with the Trump campaign has been central to the candidate’s overwhelming media presence and his propagation of lies.

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who rejoined Fox News as a contributor in August, introduced Trump at a September 19 campaign rally, lauding him as “someone who … can genuinely change history.” Gingrich has long had a foot in both camps, serving at one point as a Fox contributor while under consideration as Trump’s running mate. Gingrich currently serves as a close Trump ally and has been reportedly offered a job in Trump’s potential administration. 

    Fox host and avid Trump supporter Sean Hannity recently appeared in an ad for Trump, listing several reasons why “I’m supporting Donald Trump this year.” Hannity has been one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders throughout the election, using his prime-time show to openly shill for Trump and advance his lies.

    Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes wasted no time transitioning into the role of a top Trump adviser following his ouster, perhaps the most glaring example of the Fox-Trump lovefest. Ailes is reportedly advising Trump for the presidential debates, Trump has said he “would think about” hiring his “friend” Ailes as a campaign consultant, and the two reportedly “counseled each other in multiple phone calls” during the fallout over Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment. As part of his resignation deal, Ailes also serves as an adviser to Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch. 

    Fox figures’ intimate involvement in the Trump campaign comes as the candidate has limited his media appearances to be almost exclusively on Fox. Trump has retreated “to friendly media ground” to “[limit] the candidate's exposure to hard-hitting questions,” writes CNN’s Brian Stelter:

    Donald Trump's reputation for being always available to reporters is way out of date.

    Trump is saying "yes" to Fox News almost every day but saying "no" to most other major networks and news organizations -- a highly unusual strategy for a presidential nominee.

    He called into "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning, he is booked on "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday night, and he has another town hall with Sean Hannity coming up on Wednesday.

    Even Fox’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, admitted that Trump is “refusing to appear on many television outlets” outside of Fox because those “interviews entail too much risk” for Trump to misstep. 

    The continued Fox-Trump relationship is in keeping with the network's role thus far as a mouthpiece for the Trump campaign: During the Republican primary, Fox gave Trump more than twice as much airtime as the other Republican candidates.

    UPDATE: In a statement to The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, a Fox spokesperson said, "We had no knowledge that Sean Hannity was participating in this" Trump ad "and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election.”

  • NRA Ad Uses Home Invasion Footage To Lie And Fearmonger About Clinton And Guns

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A new attack ad from the National Rifle Association (NRA) depicting a woman as a victim of a home invasion falsely claims Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “could take away” your “right to self-defense.”

    The ad is false because Clinton has repeatedly said that she favors allowing law-abiding gun ownership and that she supports the Second Amendment while also calling for measures to prevent dangerous people from accessing weapons. Fact-checkers have ripped a previous false ad that claimed Clinton “doesn’t believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense” and the false claim by Republican nominee Donald Trump that Clinton “wants to abolish the Second Amendment.”

    The NRA’s new September 19 ad depicts a woman being awoken in her home as a man kicks in her door. She begins to open a gun safe to retrieve a weapon but the gun vanishes into thin air as a narrator says, “Hillary Clinton could take away her right to self-defense”:

    NARRATOR: She’ll call 911. Average response time: 11 minutes. Too late. She keeps a firearm in this safe for protection, but Hillary Clinton could take away her right to self-defense. And with Supreme Court justices, Hillary can. Don’t let Hillary leave you protected with nothing but a phone.

    According to The Guardian, the ad is part of a $15 million effort by the NRA, which has endorsed Trump, to defeat Clinton. Federal Election Commission documents indicate that the NRA, through its Political Victory Fund and Institute for Legislative Action, has been the second biggest spender on independent expenditures opposing Clinton, only second to pro-Trump Super PAC Rebuilding America Now.

    The ad is premised on the lie that Clinton opposes gun ownership by law-abiding Americans. Clinton has never said she opposes gun ownership. In fact, Clinton’s campaign website says she “knows that gun ownership is part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities.”

    And in recent months Clinton has repeatedly said that legitimate Second Amendment rights should be protected while she advocated for expanding background checks on gun sales and other measures. She has also explained that you can call for stronger gun laws “and still support the right of people to own guns.” (According to PolitiFact, Clinton’s legal view of the Second Amendment appears similar to the Bush administration's position “recognizing the right but allowing reasonable curtailment.”)

    During her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton said, “I’m not here to take away your guns. I just don’t want you to be shot by someone who shouldn’t have a gun in the first place.”

    In May, PolitiFact rated the claim Clinton “wants to abolish the Second Amendment” false, finding “no evidence of Clinton ever saying verbatim or suggesting explicitly that she wants to abolish the Second Amendment, and the bulk of Clinton’s comments suggest the opposite.”

    The previous NRA ad claiming Clinton “doesn’t believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense,” which ran throughout August, was rated as false by PolitiFact North Carolina and The Washington Post Fact Checker, with PolitiFact noting “Clinton has never said that” and Glenn Kessler at the Post writing that the ad is “a classic example of a fear-mongering ad based on little evidence but leaps of logic.”

    The juxtaposition of images of a home invasion with false claims about a candidate’s record is a common tactic in NRA election ads. Earlier this month the NRA launched a home invasion-themed ad that used the same b-roll seen in the NRA’s new Clinton ad to falsely claim that Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Jason Kander “voted against your right” to “protect your home with a firearm.” (Kander, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, responded with a viral ad of his own showing him assembling a firearm blindfolded while talking about the need to protect Second Amendment rights while keeping guns away from terrorists.)

    In 2014, an NRA ad showed the same home invasion footage while claiming that then-Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu “voted to take away your gun rights.” In that ad, the NRA cited Landrieu’s vote in favor of expanding background checks on gun sales following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.

    PolitiFact rated the ad “pants on fire,” calling it “downright scary” and noting that it “can only be described as fear mongering.” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker similarly gave the ad “Four Pinocchios” -- its worst rating -- citing the “hyperbolic disconnect between the images on the screen and the practical impact of the law in question.”

  • Ditch The Trump Double Standard For The Debates

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Like cigarette smokers who have admitted they have a nicotine problem but can’t stop puffing, can journalists who have already admitted they use a weaker standard to score Republican nominee Donald Trump make a clean break while grading the Republican’s debate performance next week?

    By all indications, reporters know using the double standard is wrong, and that it’s not okay to demand Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton regularly clear higher hurdles than her opponent. They know adopting different standards to grade presidential candidates disregards rules of campaign fair play for the press.

    Yet even though the double standard has been widely acknowledged in recent weeks, there’s still a likelihood it will be employed for debate analysis. That’s how strong the allure seems to be.

    Already we’re hearing rumblings that Clinton has more to lose at the debate, and that if Trump manages to not insult large portions of the electorate, the event will represent a victory for him. What’s doubly concerning is that Trump already appears to be actively trying to intimidate the debate moderators in hopes they’ll go easy on him. (According to network news executives, moderators Lester Holt from NBC and Fox’s Chris Wallace were chosen to “appease” Trump.)

    If Trump bullies the moderators and the press uses a weaker standard to grade him, then the debates are no longer fair campaign fights because a media-sanctioned ‘victory’ for Clinton will be that much harder to obtain.

    “He won't have to win policy arguments or outshine Clinton's qualifications – anyone who's been watching this race will already know he can't do either,” noted U.S. News & World Report contributor Cary Gibson, who noted that Trump is “generally held to a lower bar than Clinton and this dynamic is likely to prevail during the debates.” She continued, “But if he makes it through the debates with no major gaffes and his composure intact, his performance could get high marks anyway.”

    Must be nice.

    And from CNN’s Dana Bash:

    But I do think that the stakes are much higher in this debate and all the debates for Hillary Clinton because the expectations are higher for her because she is a seasoned politician, she is a seasoned debater. Yes, we saw Donald Trump in the primaries debate for the first time, but he is a first-time politician. So for lots of reasons, maybe it's not fair but it's the way it is, the onus is on her. 

    Fact: Republicans opted to nominate a political novice as their nominee, knowing the possible drawbacks. There’s no reason the Republican nominee should then get special treatment from the press for being a political novice.

    Meanwhile, I certainly can’t recall any presidential election where so many journalists conceded, in real time, the double standard at play in the unfolding coverage. In the past, journalists almost always denied that one candidate was being treated differently -- being graded easier -- than the other. To make that admission was to admit a complete unfairness in the coverage.

    But this year the acknowledgments keep coming simply because the double standard in play has been so obvious: 

    MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough: “Donald Trump is held to a lower standard. He just is.” 

    Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin: “Trump is doing things that if Clinton did, she would be hit a lot harder. We shouldn’t do that.”

    New York Times’ Maggie Haberman: “The bar has been lowered for Trump repeatedly.”

    CNN’s Brian Stelter: “It is true that Trump is held to a different standard than Clinton.”

    The evidence of this is everywhere. When The Washington Post reported that the Trump Foundation had to pay a fine to the IRS for making an illegal $25,000 donation to a PAC supporting the re-election campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, broadcast news networks devoted just a third as much time to the story as they did to a recent flawed Associated Press story on the Clinton Foundation that proved no ethical misconduct.

    Meanwhile, Clinton this month has been regularly attacked in the press for not being transparent, when in fact she’s been far more transparent via personal disclosures than Trump has been.

    And recall how last week The New York Times reported on Trump’s proposal for child-care and maternity leave plan and noted, “But in selling his case, Mr. Trump stretched the truth, saying that his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, has no such plan of her own and ‘never will.’”

    Trump didn’t “stretch the truth.” He flat out lied: Clinton does have a plan of her own and she unveiled it last year.

    Concerns about the media embracing a double standard for debate coverage were rekindled following the NBC’s televised presidential forum earlier this month, and how commentators often rewarded Trump for doing far less than Clinton. The event was hosted Matt Lauer, who came under withering criticism for the drastically different approaches he took to interviewing each candidate that night.

    “Lauer’s gentle questioning of Trump — after grilling Clinton over her use of the private email server and her 2003 vote in favor of the Iraq War — is but one example of television journalists treating the GOP nominee with kid gloves,” noted Politico in a piece headlined, “Why Donald Trump Gets A Pass.”

    But again, the media schizophrenia remains ever present: Just days before, Politico used a sliding scale for analyzing the NBC forum. Politico stressed both candidates did poorly because “she look[ed] uncertain while he sound[ed] uninformed.” And “Clinton wobbled on style. Trump stumbled on substance.” (Why not hold both accountable for style and substance?) 

    So one day after Politico clearly graded the two candidates using a different scale, Politico conceded the media uses a different scale when grading the two candidates.

    Please ditch this for the debate.